Friday, December 31, 2010

Political Digest for December 31, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Nor that I disagree with them, of course.

Bliadhna mhath ur!
(Or, for the politically correct: عام سعيد)

New comment on “I’m Tired”
I saw this bit in the Military Press. Originally I thought another white man with issues in America. I finished your article with laughter and tears. Your article is beyond race, culture, and religion. You say you are tired. I say I give up. I have given up for all the reason you printed in your article and then some. I want to say citizens of the United States are supposed to be among the most educated in the world. Educated voices seem to just get lost in racism, hatred, and the ridiculous. I believe your article is one from an educated man. You know the world in which you live. I was a wife of a military man. I support my husband because I believed in the morality of our country. Then we come out of the service. All I could say was, "What The Heck! You kidding me right!" We need America to be America and not be dumbed on by lazy, rude, and uneducated American people that believe our hard work is suppose to pave the way for their crazy ideas, and give to me attitude. People who want good matter race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sexual identity or gender should decide to carry one self with respect. That is what I believe I heard you saying upon reading your article. Good job and great voice. Thank you. –Christian Mom.

GEICO's R. Lee Ermey, appearing on behalf of Toys 4 Tots & USO unloads on President Obama
Excerpt: Well, the old Gunny demonstrates clear and direct communication skills once more. He's got brass ones, because the Hollywood establishment will hold this against him, and that's where a lot of his work has come from in the past. But he IS an old Marine! Semper Fi, Gunny! –Del.

Liberals Give 'Til It Hurts (You)
Excerpt: This week, we'll take a peek at the charitable giving of these champions of the poor. In 2009, the Obamas gave 5.9 percent of their income to charity, about the same as they gave in 2006 and 2007. In the eight years before he became president, Obama gave an average of 3.5 percent of his income to charity, upping that to 6.5 percent in 2008. The Obamas' charitable giving is equally divided between "hope" and "change." George W. Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year he was president, as he did before becoming president. Thus, in 2005, Obama gave about the same dollar amount to charity as President George Bush did, on an income of $1.7 million -- more than twice as much as President Bush's $735,180. Again in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama's. In the decade before Joe Biden became vice president, the Bidens gave a total -- all 10 years combined -- of $3,690 to charity, or 0.2 percent of their income. They gave in a decade what most Americans in their tax bracket give in an average year, or about one row of hair plugs. Of course, even in Biden's stingiest years, he gave more to charity than Sen. John Kerry did in 1995, which was a big fat goose egg. Kerry did, however, spend half a million dollars on a 17th-century Dutch seascape painting that year, as Peter Schweizer reports in his 2008 book, "Makers and Takers."

Excerpt: Most readers will be familiar with the spectacle of mass Muslim prayer on the streets of Paris’ 18th Arrondissement. The following video, however, shows the breathtaking scope of the Islamic occupation of certain districts of Paris.

Army edits its history of the deadly battle of Wanat
Excerpt: An initial draft of the Wanat history, which was obtained by The Washington Post and other media outlets in the summer of 2009, placed the preponderance of blame for the losses on the higher-level battalion and brigade commanders who oversaw the mission, saying they failed to provide the proper resources to the unit in Wanat. The final history, released in recent weeks, drops many of the earlier conclusions and instead focuses on failures of lower-level commanders. The battle of Wanat, which took place in a remote mountain village near the Pakistan border, produced four investigations and sidetracked the careers of several Army officers, whose promotions were either put on hold or canceled. The 230-page Army history is likely to be the military's last word on the episode, and reflects a growing consensus within the ranks that the Army should be cautious in blaming battlefield commanders for failures in demanding wars such as the conflict in Afghanistan. Family members of the deceased at Wanat reacted with anger and disappointment to the final version of the Army history.

Mumbai On The Oresund
Excerpt: According to various media reports, the intention of the would-be Copenhagen Motoon mujahideen was to stage a Mumbai-style attack. They planned storm the Jyllands-Posten building and kill as many people as possible before the police took them out. The latest reports say that only four were “Swedes”; the other was a “Dane”. The Swedish and Danish intelligence services had been following the plot for a long time, and allowed it to mature to the point where the evidence would be sufficient to guarantee convictions on terrorism charges.

Border Patrol’s Battle Against Illicit Activity On Federal Borderlands Suffers From Lack of Resources, Report Says
Excerpt: The U.S. Border Patrol is losing the battle over human and drug smuggling on lands owned and managed by the federal government in the south-west, where illegal entries have outpaced apprehensions, according to a government audit. The “logistical and operational challenges” facing Border Patrol agents responding to unauthorized crossings on federal lands include a lack of resources, rather than access to environmentally-sensitive areas on federal lands as some lawmakers had indicated, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit released last week. “Illegal cross-border activity remains a significant threat to federal lands,” said the report. “On the southwest border, the Tucson sector is the primary entry point for marijuana smugglers and illegal aliens, and over the last 3 years apprehensions on federal lands have not kept pace with Border Patrol estimates of the number of illegal entries, indicating that the threat to federal lands may be increasing.” (But Janet Napolitano told people at the funeral of the murdered BP agent that this Administration under Mr. Obama has done a great job in supporting the effort to control our southern border. Yeah, right. (The family of the dead agent felt she only mouthed empty words.) Clearly nothing will really make this Administration get deadly serious about the border. The BP should be equipped with heavier weapons, better body armor, and be able to call in some form of air support when needed. Maybe a bunch of Predators cruising over the popular smuggling routes would be a really nice idea, for spotting first, and support when needed. Now THAT would get the attention of the smugglers and criminals operating in these regions. –Del)

Owner kills 3 robbers in jewelry store shootout
Excerpt: In the back room of a humble jewelry store and pawn shop in Houston's East End Thursday afternoon, a gunman tied Eva Castillo's wrists tightly — too tightly. She complained of the pain, so he loosened the bindings. Then Castillo's husband was ordered at gunpoint to put his hands behind his back. But Ramon Castillo had a surprise for the gunman and two cohorts, who had announced they were robbing the business. Castillo pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot the gunman dead. Then he grabbed a shotgun from his office and engaged in a shootout with the other two armed robbers. When it was over, all three robbers were dead — and Castillo, though shot at least three times, was still standing, having successfully defended what was rightfully his. (OK Mr. Castillo! Here is someone who knows how to handle threats to his family and his property. This guy should be running for office. Oh, and about that debate on gun ownership.... enough said. --Del)

Prager University: The Middle East Problem
Worth viewing and sharing. ~Bob.

Still Arguing For Civil Trials for the Uncivilized!
Excerpt: Every once in a while, I am questioned about my stand on one element of this ongoing debate or another and the question is almost always couched in such a way as to bring discredit to this particular viewpoint. I find that interesting in general because I am not thin skinned and because this argument is not difficult to follow. Because it is not difficult to follow, it forces people to consider their true nature and their true allegiances. I have always maintained that my sole concern is for our Warriors. This is not some misguided plea to protect Warriors from the dangers of warfare, it is in fact an attempt to protect them from the negligence and agenda of those in our own government. So when I receive the occasional hand wringing diatribe that so often allies the hand wringer with the enemies of this nation and our Warriors, I feel compelled to 'chew butt'. What follows is an answer I gave to one such person who is morally conflicted about the handling of prisoners at Gitmo. Of course she has no particular moral conflict with the way our Warriors are treated by their own government, foreign prosecutors, the national media, the lies perpetrated by dirt bags hiding behind the doctrine of Taqiyya and left wing nut cases that are looking for any opportunity to help dismantle this country.

The People of Ascension Fight to Save Their Town
Pay attention—this is what societal collapse looks like. You will be able to recognize it when it starts here. ~Bob. Excerpt: The small town of Ascensión in the crime ridden state of Chihuahua was being terrorized by a gang of kidnappers who were abducting an average of three women per week. The town of 10,000 residents is situated less than fifty miles south of the U.S. border and in the crosshairs of the brutal gangs and cartels who seek to control the smuggling routes. Amid the violence and hopeless anguish, the citizens of Ascensión found the courage to fight back. According to the El Paso Times, on September 21, a 16 year-old local girl was kidnapped, but this time the people of Ascensión had finally had enough. Hundreds of local residents driven to action gave chase to the criminals and in a moment of vigilante justice they captured and beat two of the eight kidnapping suspects to death. In a country where violence and corruption are commonplace, the law abiding citizens felt they could no longer trust the government to fulfill its responsibility to protect their lives and property. The state of Chihuahua has not prosecuted anyone involved in the vigilante action. An estimated 2,000 people were present as either active participants or witnesses to the attack. Soldiers from the local barracks and police moved in to calm the crowd and restore order. Thelma Diaz Salazar, the 16 year-old who had been abducted was rescued and three more of the alleged kidnappers were arrested. The remaining three suspects are still at large. Today, residents say, they do not want to kill criminals, but they are not going to stand by as townspeople are victimized..

Manmade Famine in America
Statism in full cry. ~Bob. Excerpt: It seems inconceivable, but people in America are going hungry en masse due to a famine caused by political authorities. Fresno, California is not yet a sister city of Kiev, Ukraine, but the two cities, capitals of rich agricultural regions, share a history of mass hunger caused by central governments indifferent to the suffering of their people, in the pursuit of ideological goals. Investor's Business Daily explains: Fresno is the agricultural capital of America. More food per acre in more variety can be grown in the fertile Central Valley surrounding this community than on any other land in America - perhaps in the world. Yet far from being a paradise, Fresno is starting to resemble Zimbabwe or 1930s Ukraine, a victim of a famine machine that is entirely man-made, not by red communists this time, but by greens. State and federal officials, driven by the agenda of environmental extremists, have made it extremely difficult for the valley's farms, introducing costly environmental regulations and cutting off critical water supplies to save the Delta smelt, a bait fish. It's all driving the economy to collapse. In the southwest part of the Central Valley, water allotments as low as 10% of normal have created a visible dust bowl. The knock-on effect can be seen in cities like Fresno, where November's unemployment among the packers, cannery workers and professional fields that make agriculture productive stands at 16.9%.

The Chief of General Staff: “We did not lose the right to defend ourselves”
Excerpt: “We will not allow a situation in which our citizens and towns are being fired at from a safe area among citizens. We did not lose the right to defend ourselves. During the next war, we will do everything we can to minimize injuries amongst civilians as we have done in the past.” The Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi said this on Sunday at a meeting with students from the High School for the Sciences and Arts in Jerusalem while addressing the recent tension in the Gaza Strip.

Is There a Cure for Liberalism?
At least partially satire, this piece still manages to make good points. Ron P. Excerpt: ...[T]here may well be a heightened tendency among conservatives to perceive and assess threats, whereas liberals just assume everybody’s just got the best of intentions at heart. Which, if it’s true, is among the many reasons liberals should never be elected president. A world full of Kim Jong Ils and Vlad Putins and Osama bin Ladens and ayatollahs, Hugo Chavez’s and Castros and other assorted evils in power and in waiting is no place for a smiley face whose natural tendency is to seek the approval of others. We have that now, and it’s not working out so well. A POTUS needs to be geared to defend to the homeland and citizens against threats, as a default response.

The Net Neutrality Coup
Excerpt: The campaign to regulate the Internet was funded by a who's who of left-liberal foundations. The Federal Communications Commission's new "net neutrality" rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility. There's little evidence the public is demanding these rules, which purport to stop the non-problem of phone and cable companies blocking access to websites and interfering with Internet traffic. Over 300 House and Senate members have signed a letter opposing FCC Internet regulation, and there will undoubtedly be even less support in the next Congress.

Islamic Sect Claims Nigeria Attacks, Toll At 86
Didn’t get the “Islam is a Religion of Peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: A radical Islamist sect said on Tuesday it was behind bombings in central Nigeria and attacks on churches in the northeast of the country that led to the deaths of at least 86 people. The police said on Tuesday that 80 people were killed in Christmas Eve bomb attacks and clashes two days later between Muslim and Christian youths in central Nigeria, while more than 100 are wounded in hospitals.

Gitmo Is Not Al Qaeda's 'Number One Recruitment Tool'
Excerpt: President Obama and his surrogates have made this argument before, but they have provided no real evidence that it is true. In fact, al Qaeda’s top leaders rarely mention Guantanamo in their messages to the West, Muslims and the world at large.

European Freedom Alliance - Interview Filip Dewinter
Filip Dewinter is the leader of Vlaams Belang, the party which resists Islam in Belgium.

China Preparing for War 'In Every Strategic Direction'
Excerpt: Peter Foster, a Beijing-based correspondent for the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper, has reported on an interview with Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie published by several state-run media outlets in China. The People's Liberation Army officer is quoted as declaring "In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction. We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away." A series of competing air and naval exercises in the summer and fall conducted by China, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, and the United States have called into question the concept of "peaceful times" and of Beijing's "peaceful rise." Foster notes, China also announced this month that it was preparing to launch its own aircraft carrier next year in a signal that China is determined to punch its weight as a rising superpower. The news came a year earlier than many US defence analysts had predicted.

Jihad Against Australia - A Video For Australian Friends Who Don't 'Get It' Yet
Excerpt: This is what you might call a Counterjihad video for beginners. It’s a short introductory film about jihad, designed for an Australian audience, and does a good job of laying out the basics. The beginning of it is “old material” as far as regular Gates of Vienna readers are concerned. But watch it through to the grueling audio segment from a call-in radio show near the end — Australian readers may want to send this to their friends who don’t “get it” yet. WARNING: some of the images use in this video — particularly those from the Bali bombing — are graphic, and may be disturbing for sensitive people.

California Dispensary Sparks Food Drive w
ith Free Pot
Excerpt: A California medical marijuana dispensary has raked in food donations with a unique offer: free pot. The Granny Purps dispensary in Soquel (soh-KEL’), about 60 miles southeast of San Francisco, offered a complimentary marijuana cigarette for every four cans of food a patient brought in this holiday season. Each patient was limited to a maximum of three cigarettes a day. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that the dispensary took in 11,000 pounds of food and handed out 2,000 marijuana cigarettes between November and Christmas Eve, when the promotion ended. The food was donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Second Harvest spokesman Danny Keith says Granny Purps, which only has eight employees, contributed the amount of food that would normally come from a business with 30 to 40 workers. [It would not amaze me to learn that the food had come from a food bank in the first place. There are often cans of unwanted food left lying on the street around food pantries. I met a man once who told me he had an entire room full of shelves of tinned food he'd got from food banks, and that his neighbours came to his door whenever they needed this, that or the other. What goes around comes around.- Kate.]

Obama bypasses Senate to name new envoys
Didn’t Senator Obama complain about Bush doing this? ~Bob. Excerpt: President Barack Obama has bypassed the Senate and directly appointed four new U.S. ambassadors whose nominations had been stalled or blocked by lawmakers for months. The White House announced Wednesday that Obama would use his power to make recess appointments to fill envoy posts to Azerbaijan, Syria and NATO allies Turkey and the Czech Republic. Recess appointments are made when the Senate is not in session and last only until the end of the next session of Congress. They are frequently used when Senate confirmation is not possible. Specific senators had blocked or refused to consider the confirmations of the nominees for various reasons, including questions about their qualifications. But in the most high-profile case, that of the new envoy to Syria, Robert Ford, a number of senators objected because they believed sending an ambassador to the country would reward it for bad behavior.

'We the people' to open next Congress
Excerpt: The Constitution frequently gets lip service in Congress, but House Republicans next year will make sure it gets a lot more than that - the new rules the incoming majority party proposed this week call for a full reading of the country's founding document on the floor of the House on Jan. 6. The goal, backers said, is to underscore the limited-government rules the Founders imposed on Congress - and to try to bring some of those principles back into everyday legislating.

The R
ight Way t
o Balance the Budget
Excerpt: The federal debt is at its highest level since the aftermath of World War II—and it's projected to rise further. Simply stabilizing debt levels would require an immediate and permanent 23% increase in all federal tax revenues or equivalent cuts in government expenditures, according to Congressional Budget Office forecasts. What's clear is that to avoid a crisis, the federal government must undergo a significant retrenchment, or fiscal consolidation. The question is whether to do so by raising taxes or reducing government spending. Rumors have it that President Obama will propose steps to address growing deficits in his next State of the Union address. The natural impulse of a conciliator might be to split the difference: reduce the deficit with equal parts spending cuts and tax increases. But history suggests that such an approach would be a recipe for failure. In new research that builds on the pioneering work of Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna, we analyzed the history of fiscal consolidations in 21 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development over 37 years. Some of those nations repaired their fiscal problems; many did not. Our goal was to establish a detailed recipe for success. If the United States were to copy past consolidations that succeeded, what would it do?

Homicides fall in large American cities
Excerpt: When Washington debates whether America is safe, the focus now is usually on the increasing threat of terrorism — not violent crime. That has largely obscured some good news about violent crime: Across the nation, homicide rates have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly a generation. And overall violent crime has sunk to its lowest level since 1973, Justice Department statistics show. The reductions have continued despite a grinding recession, a slow economic recovery and spikes in gang membership, according to recently released FBI figures for the first half of 2010. The long-term trend is particularly striking in the nation's three largest cities —New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Homicides in New York have dropped 79% during the past two decades — from 2,245 in 1990 to 471 in 2009, the last full year measured. Chicago is down 46% during that period, from 850 to 458. Los Angeles is down 68%, from 983 to 312. The reductions, especially in New York, have been so dramatic that violent crime virtually has disappeared from the national political discourse.

The Fix's 11 big questions for 2011
Excerpt: The calendar is about to turn on a very active 2010 election cycle, but another one waits just around the corner, with the 2012 election expected to begin shortly after the calendar reads "January." To help you keep track of what's ahead, we came up with 11 key questions that are likely to be answered in 2011, and what they mean for the road ahead. Click through, and once you've had a look at our ideas, let us know what you're watching for. The comments section awaits. Can the tea party and the GOP coexist peacefully?

Dozens of incoming GOP freshmen represent districts carried by Obama
Excerpt: The 2010 election netted Republicans 63 House seats, which means there are plenty of targets for Democrats in 2012 — especially in districts that went for President Obama in the last presidential cycle. There are 31 newly elected Republican representatives who represent districts won by Obama. Add those to the current members and that makes 62 Republican-held House seats that Obama carried in 2008. Here are the 31 incoming GOP members who represent districts won by the president.

Boehner taps Alabama Republican to lead ethics committee in GOP House
Excerpt: Incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has tapped Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) to be chairman of the ethics committee in the GOP-led House. In his announcement, Boehner said Bonner is “widely respected” on both sides of the aisle and has a “deep appreciation for the importance of both ethics education and enforcement in the House.” “The American people have every right to expect the highest standards of ethical conduct from their elected leaders, and it is important for members of both the majority and the minority to work together to ensure that such standards are observed and respected at all times within the institution,” Boehner said in a written statement. “A functioning Ethics Committee will be central to that effort in the 112th Congress.” (Tough job. The Ethics chair needs to be above reproach in his/her own ethics, fair, have the courage to go after anyone regardless of politics, know the rules and law. ~Bob.)

Obama's carbon deals kill jobs, benefit Big Business
Excerpt: Democrats based much of their 2010 midterm congressional election campaign on the risible claim that Republican candidates wanted to "outsource jobs." Set aside the fact that this claim, repeated in literally hundreds of races, was as ineffective as it was ludicrous. More importantly, President Obama's new carbon control scheme, which begins next week, provides conclusive evidence that it was the Democrats who planned to do the outsourcing. Carbon limitation laws will send American manufacturing jobs overseas. Carbon emissions, unlike pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act, can only be reduced significantly through reductions in output, which necessarily means the loss of jobs, increases in prices, or both. As Obama's carbon limitation program begins next week, with new regulations coming into effect over the next two years, energy-intensive industries will begin weighing the costs and benefits of relocating manufacturing operations to countries -- think China and India -- whose governments do not significantly regulate carbon emissions. This is the last idea we should be raising in corporate boardrooms at a time of 9.8 percent unemployment, but it is apparently a higher priority for Obama than preserving American jobs.

China's navy gets bigger, but why?
Excerpt: Building a navy requires a particularly long lead time. The designing, financing and building of ships requires thinking in terms of at least two decades. Providing experienced commanders and trained crews takes longer. The Chinese Navy's expansion program began in the 1990s, as China's fleet began to venture away from China's coast and develop blue water (open ocean) capabilities. Now Chinese submarines encounter U.S. Navy task forces, and Chinese warships turn up in the Indian Ocean. China may launch its first aircraft carrier in 2011. It will take years to produce carrier pilots and crew comparable to those in the Navy, but acquiring the technology is a huge step. What does China intend to do with its carrier? The rest of Asia, from India to Japan, wants to know. For example, Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea conflict sharply with those of Vietnam and the Philippines. A carrier extends China's offensive reach in this contested sea zone. The carrier is one piece of a complex puzzle that includes new surface ships, aircraft and missiles. This week, U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. Robert Willard told a Japanese newspaper that China's Dongfeng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) had achieved "initial operational capability."

The high costs of 50 years of pesticide paranoia
Government overreach led to November's voter revolt and congressional shake-up, but one wonders if President Obama is listening and will rein in his own administration, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been the progressive agenda's vehicle on climate change, pesticide regulation and other orders totaling 29 major regulations and 172 major policy rules, far outpacing previous presidential administrations. The more challenging legislative road ahead could lead the EPA to an even more strident path in its regulatory overreach. This could spell bad news in particular for American farmers, when you consider the shaky foundations on which the EPA builds its regulatory cases. Why does the government increasingly seek to quash the technologies that make the American farmer so phenomenally productive? Thank Rachel Carson. Children are still taught the environmentalist's 1962 book, "Silent Spring," showing DDT thinning out bird eggshells and leading to the American bald eagle's extinction. Despite thorough debunking of the "Silent Spring" morality tale, Carson's pioneering scare tactic has been endlessly replicated against one useful chemical after another. (Carson’s book killed millions of black, brown and yellow people in the third world through Malaria, but that’s a small price to pay if liberals can feel good about themselves for saving birds. ~Bob.)

Surprise! London arrests did have US connection after all
Excerpt: When Director of National Intelligence James Clapper got stumped on national TV by a Diane Sawyer question regarding the arrest of a dozen terrorist suspects in the UK, the Obama administration attempted damage control by claiming that the arrests had nothing to do with “the homeland.” Janet Napolitano made the same argument on Sunday, trying to downplay Clapper’s lack of data (via Weasel Zippers): NAPOLITANO: Well, let’s — let’s be fair. It — I knew. John Brennan knew. We also knew there was no connect that had been perceived to anything going on in the homeland and that we were in perfect connectivity with our — our colleagues in Britain. So one of the things I think that should be very clear to the American people is that those of us in homeland security who needed to know, we knew. There are two problems with that argument. First, the DNI’s scope is not just the “homeland” — it’s global. And the second problem is that the plot busted by the Brits included a threat against the American embassy in London: The U.S. State Department confirms that the 12 terrorism suspects arrested in the United Kingdom last week had targeted the American Embassy in London. …

California's Central Valley: Zimbabwe West?
Excerpt: It isn’t just Fresno, although it appears to have taken the worst of the crisis. Besides Fresno, four other Central Valley cities got listed in the bottom ten of MarketWatch’s 2010 survey on the worst places to do business in the US. Fresno came in dead last at 102 on the list. The collapse has another element to it for Californians as well. The state has a huge budget shortfall, currently estimated around $26 billion, and cannot afford to expand safety-net programs to help the Central Valley. One reason the budget hole is so large is because of the lack of revenue from normally-robust agricultural production in that region. Instead of being a net revenue producer, the Central Valley threatens to become a sinkhole of welfare spending that will hasten the bankruptcy of the nation’s largest state, and an economy that would normally rank among the top 10 in the world if considered as a nation unto itself. This is entirely the result of federal government intervention in agriculture, which might be understandable if it was intended to help agriculture. Instead, it comes as a hostile act to both the people of the region and Americans as a whole. Thanks to the collapse of the Central Valley, food prices will increase as we have to import more from countries with much less strict environmental controls, which is merely an inconvenience. The starvation that has begun is more than an inconvenience — it is a national embarrassment, and a moral outrage.

The American 21st Century
I’m on the doom and gloom side. ~Bob. Excerpt: Two symptoms of all this doom and gloom are constant over the decades. First, America typically goes through periodic bouts of neurotic self-doubt, only to wake up and snap out of it. Indeed, indebted Americans are already bracing for fiscal restraint and parsimony as an antidote to past profligacy. Second, decline is relative and does not occur in a vacuum. As Western economic and scientific values ripple out from Europe and the United States, it is understandable that developing countries like China, India or Brazil can catapult right into the 21st century. But that said, national strength is still found in the underlying hardiness of the patient -- its demography, culture and institutions -- rather than occasional symptoms of ill health. In that regard, America integrates immigrants and assimilates races and ethnicities in a way Europe cannot. Russia, China and Japan are simply not culturally equipped to deal with millions who do not look Slavic, Chinese or Japanese. The Islamic world cannot ensure religious parity to Christians, Jews or Hindus -- or political equality to women. The American Constitution has been tested over 223 years. In contrast, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea do not have constitutional pedigrees of much more than 60 years. The last time Americans killed each other in large numbers was nearly a century and a half ago; most of our rivals have seen millions of their own destroyed in civil strife and internecine warring just this century. In short, a nation's health is not gauged by bouts of recession and self-doubt, but by its time-honored political, economic, military and social foundations. A temporarily ill-seeming America is nevertheless still growing, stable, multiethnic, transparent, individualistic, self-critical and meritocratic; almost all of its apparently healthy rivals in fact are not.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Political Digest for December 30, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

Greenbacks and Ham
A Parody of Pork if you passed this post!

'Free' Lunches Are Killing Us with the Cost by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Economists are the real "Party of No." They keep saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch — and politicians keep on getting elected by promising free lunches. Such promises may seem to be kept, for a while. There are ways the government can juggle money around to make everything look OK, but it is only a matter of time before that money runs out and the ultimate reality hits, that there is no free lunch. We are currently seeing what happens, in fierce riots raging in various countries in Europe, when the money runs out and the brutal truth is finally revealed, that there is no free lunch. You cannot have generous welfare state laws that let people retire on government pensions while they are in their 50s, in an era when most people live decades longer. In the U.S., that kind of generosity exists mostly for members of state government employees' unions — which is why some states are running out of money, and why the Obama administration is bailing them out, in the name of "stimulus."

Tie Debt Ceiling Vote to Balanced Budget Amendment
Excerpt: Next spring, Republicans will be faced with a serious decision over whether to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Failing to do so could signal foreign countries that the U.S. plans to default on our debt--an act that would surely have dire economic repercussions. On the other hand, Tea Party activists -- and other conservatives -- might understandably view such a vote as evidence that Republicans still don’t “get it” -- and that the politicians didn't hear them in November. So what’s the realistic solution to this conundrum? In all likelihood, Republicans will have to reluctantly vote to extend the debt ceiling -- but they should not do so without extracting some serious concessions in return.

Key healthcare provisions take effect as GOP moves into House
Excerpt: Key parts of the new healthcare law will go into effect on Jan. 1, just before a Republican-controlled House returns to Washington. The massive overhaul of healthcare approved by Congress earlier this year will begin to take effect in 2011, though some of the biggest changes prompted by the law — including the mandate that everyone buy insurance, the state insurance exchanges and subsidies to help most Americans buy insurance — don't kick in until 2014. Still, more than 20 provisions of the reform law go into effect in 2011, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation timeline. Republicans taking over the House have vowed to repeal the healthcare law, though that will be difficult with President Obama still in the White House for at least two more years. Democrats also still hold a slim majority in the Senate. As a result, Republicans under Speaker-designate John Boehner (Ohio) are expected to try to withhold funding for the new law, which could impede its implementations. Democrats, however, will fight any efforts at defunding the law aggressively. 

Gangster government, FCC edition
Excerpt: Earlier this year the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in Comcast Corporation v. FCC. "In this case," the Court said, "we must decide whether the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to regulate an Internet service provider's network management practices." It was an important question and the Court scrupulously addressed it in a detailed legal analysis. The Court noted that the FCC did not itself claim express statutory authority for such regulation and rejected the FCC's argument that it possessed ancillary authority. The Court thus held that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate the network management practices of Internet service providers. (Yep, now the Dems are after the Internet and restrictions of freedom there. What a great idea! That's what we need, another expansion of a federal agency that will end up with a bunch of anonymous bureaucrats limiting what people can do in what was founded to be an open system. –Del)

Top-10 reasons why businesses are leaving California

Fifteen Coptic Christians in Austria on Al Qaeda death list
Didn’t get the memo: Excerpt: Today the Austrian tabloid ÖSTERREICH reports that a new Al Qaeda spin-off, Al Daula Al Iraqiyah Al Islamiyah (Islamic State of Iraq), has released a list of death threats against more than a hundred Coptic Christian human rights activists worldwide, including fifteen Copts living in Austria, five of whom are Austrian citizens.

Mexico drug cartels increasingly turn to youths to do bloody work
Excerpt: Cartels are increasingly relying on youths to do their dirty work – trafficking, kidnapping and killing – particularly in regions of the country where the battle for territory has grown fierce, such as Ciudad Juárez and the Texas border region, or where hard economic times have broken down social or family networks. Earlier this month, Mexican authorities caught a 14-year-old suspected of working as an assassin for what remains of the Beltrán Leyva cartel south of Mexico City. The boy, a U.S. citizen, told reporters that he had been working for the cartel since he was 12 and that he had participated in at least four beheadings. His 19-year-old sister is accused of helping him dump the bodies.

India issues nationwide terror alert
Didn’t get the memo. ~bob. Excerpt: Excerpt: Indian authorities have deployed thousands of security personnel following warnings that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group, is planning an attack over the New Year weekend. Police officers and paramilitaries were on high alert across the country, including in India's financial capital, Mumbai, Indian officials said. House-to-house searches were under way in some areas of the city, which was attacked by Lashkar-e-Taiba in November 2008. Airports and railway stations, the city of Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat and the popular beach resort state of Goa were also on high alert following the warning, said to be based on "human" intelligence and received in recent days.

Dems say new GOP plan to repeal healthcare would increase deficit
Of course, the “savings” in Obamacare are things like cutting doctors’ reimbursement under Medicare by 30% which isn’t going to happen, and if it did would mean doctors would flee Medicare, thus eliminating the access of seniors to care. And they might complain to their Congress Critters. ~Bob. Excerpt: Democrats are pouncing on a Republican plan to repeal the healthcare reform law, accusing Republicans of breaking their campaign promise to reduce the deficit. Under new budget rules released by Republicans, the House could repeal the healthcare reform law without offsetting the $143 billion that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it will shave from the deficit over 10 years. The new rules allow the Budget Committee to “make appropriate budget adjustments” to account for the repeal of the reform law before adopting a fiscal 2012 budget plan, House aides explained.

Rep. Kucinich mulls Census options
How sweet it is. Move to a warmer climate and help get a Commie out of Congress. ~Bob. Excerpt: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) suggested Tuesday that he would fight to remain in Congress even if the 2010 Census leads to the elimination of his district. “It really comes down to a pretty hard and fast political equation,” Kucinich told Fox News. “My district could be absorbed into many other districts. It could literally disappear or I could end up with a new district with a core of my district intact. “When I see the map,” he said, “I'll be able to tell you exactly what my next move is and where I'll be running.” Ohio is poised to lose two of its 18 congressional districts based on the Census figures — part of a larger trend in which blue-ish states in the Northeast lost seats to redder states in the South and the West.

Health Care Choice and Competition
Excerpt: Most Americans are in government-subsidized insurance arrangements that largely insulate them from the cost of insurance and care. Open-ended federal support for health insurance coverage through Medicare, Medicaid and the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) plans is the major reason the federal budget today is in deep deficit, and why the long-term outlook is even more daunting. The recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does little, if anything, to break these longstanding policy problems, according to James C. Capretta, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Thomas P. Miller, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Ducking Higher Taxes
The leftists never learn that taxes are not a zero-sum game. A similar tax on “millionaires” in Maryland found the following year a lot fewer millionaires in Maryland. When they left, they took a lot of spending on other goods and taxes with them, resulting in fewer jobs and less tax revenue at the local level. ~Bob. Excerpt: Oregon raised its income tax on the richest 2% of its residents last year to fix its budget hole, but now the state treasury admits it collected nearly one-third less revenue than the bean counters projected. The sun also rose in the east, and the Cubs didn't win the World Series. In 2009 the state legislature raised the tax rate to 10.8% on joint-filer income of between $250,000 and $500,000, and to 11% on income above $500,000. Only New York City's rate is higher. Oregon's liberal voters ratified the tax increase on individuals and another on businesses in January of this year, no doubt feeling good about their "shared sacrifice." Congratulations. Instead of $180 million collected last year from the new tax, the state received $130 million. The Eugene Register-Guard newspaper reports that after the tax was raised "income tax and other revenue collections began plunging so steeply that any gains from the two measures seemed trivial." One reason revenues are so low is that about one-quarter of the rich tax filers seem to have gone missing. The state expected 38,000 Oregonians to pay the higher tax, but only 28,000 did. Funny how that always happens. These numbers are in line with a Cascade Policy Institute study, based on interstate migration patterns, predicting that the tax surcharge would lead to 80,000 fewer wealthy tax filers in Oregon over the next decade.

Three Solutions Where Republicans Can Lead America
Excerpt: Next week when House Republicans are sworn in as a new majority, they will have a greater opportunity to enact real change than any House majority since the Democrats took over in 1930. The American people know we are at both a values and performance crossroads. We know that President Obama is radically out of step with the American people. For instance, a recent USAToday/Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe in American Exceptionalism, and yet nearly 40% are convinced President Obama does not.

Baby look at me, and tell me what you see
Excerpt: He [Assange—RP] wasn’t averse, for example, to taking credit for Climategate. That may yet turn out to be the wrong move. One of the people who isn’t afraid to go intellectually up against Assange is Steve McIntyre, one of the pioneering climate skeptics, who rebuts the Wikileak’s founder’s claim that he broke “Climategate”, the release of the East Anglia emails which showed its scientists conspiring to “hide the decline”. McIntyre wrote, “Assange falsely claimed that the Climategate emails were broken by WikiLeaks” and goes on to prove it by showing the first Wikileaks citation on it came four days after a number of sites had downloaded it from a Russian server. McIntyre had it before Wikileaks “leaked” it. This is obviously untrue as CA [Climate Audit, McIntyre's blog—RP] readers know. I can date WikiLeaks’ entry by contemporary comments. The first notice of the emails at WikiLeaks was 2009/11/21 at 2.50 AM Eastern (12:50 AM blog time). The emails had been downloaded by many people (including me) from a Russian server on Nov 19 and had been downloaded by WUWT moderators on Nov 17. A contemporary comment in a CA thread says that WikiLeaks was down and refers people to megauploads. WikiLeaks has not even been a major reference for Climategate – that belongs to (originally which was up on Nov 20 and provided a searchable database. (If anyone has any doubts about just how self-serving Assange is, please re-read Part 1 of How the climategate emails escaped in The Old Jarhead of 13 Jan 2010. Also, while the materials appeared on-line on 19 Nov 2010, they had been in the hands of several major media outlets—that all refused to use them—as much as four weeks earlier. Ron P.)

Lone Female Police Officer in Mexican Village Still Missing After Being Abducted at Gunpoint
Mexico—where the women have the cojones. ~Bob. Excerpt: The last remaining police officer in a Mexican village plagued by drug-related violence has been kidnapped and is presumed dead. Erika Gandara, 28, a female officer in the village of Guadalupe, was left as the lone lawmaker after her colleagues resigned. She was abducted five days ago when masked gunmen stormed into her home. Gandara was the Mexican border village's entire police force, taking a job no one else wanted in the farming communities in the violent Valley of Juarez. The rural valley is across the border from the Fabens area east of El Paso. It is a busy smuggling corridor. A spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office said that authorities were aware of the incident but there was still no official report of the kidnapping.

Obama Will Make You Pay More at the Pump
Excerpt: “What do you say to people who are losing patience with gas prices at $3 a gallon? And how much of a political price do you think you’re paying for that, right now?” This was a question asked of the president at a press conference in August…of 2006. The president was George W. Bush. In fact, it was a question that was asked in one way or another regularly during the entire eight years of the Bush presidency, regardless of where energy prices stood at that moment. In May 2004, The New York Times reported that congressional Democrats “were stepping up pressure on the Bush Administration to ease gasoline prices,” when prices were still under $2/gallon. In April 2005, at another press conference, a journalist stated: “Mr. President a majority of Americans disapprove of your handling of social security, gas prices…” In 2006, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) exclaimed: “Since George Bush and Dick Cheney took over as president and vice president, gas prices have doubled…They are too cozy with the oil industry” after she drove one less-than-energy-efficient block to a press conference at a local Exxon station.

Excerpt: No Dead Presidents were harmed during the creation of this study. Colorado State University recently completed a study on the economic feasibility of increasing the usage of renewable energy. The results of this study were published in the world-renowned science periodical, The Coloradoan. Another stimulus-funded study of the obvious? No, what we have here is simply a heavy dose of reality for academicians who aren’t willing to match their rhetoric with their pocketbook. Some of the quotes in this article are quite humorous. Fort Collins campus President Tony Frank acknowledges that the 2008 plan to “rapidly” become carbon-neutral won’t be a reality for decades because the university can’t afford to make major changes right now. It took them two years to figure this out? Business owners have been saying for much longer that forcing draconian cuts in emissions would harm their bottom line. Apparently it’s acceptable for businesses to absorb the increased costs, but not a university.

Free or Fair?
Excerpt: At first blush, the mercantilists' call for "free trade but fair trade" sounds reasonable. After all, who can be against fairness? Giving the idea just a bit of thought suggests that fairness as a guide for public policy lays the groundwork for tyranny. You say, "Williams, I've never heard anything so farfetched! Explain yourself." Think about the First Amendment to our Constitution that reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." How many of us would prefer that the Founders had written the First Amendment so as to focus on fairness rather than freedom and instead wrote: Congress shall make no unfair laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the fair exercise thereof; or abridging the fairness of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble in a fair fashion, and to fairly petition the Government for a redress of grievances"?

Government Killed California
Excerpt: Over the past decade, it turns out, next-door Nevada enjoyed the largest percentage population gain of any state, growing by 35 percent -- perhaps because it is the nearest place Californians can flee. Who killed the California dream? Politicians did -- specifically, politicians who pushed a vision of big government that called for redistributing wealth and rewarding indigence while penalizing the hard work and calculated risk-taking that marked Californians of generations past. In October, the Tax Foundation rated all 50 states by how their tax climate treated business. California ranked 49th. Only New York rated worst. The foundation also judged that California had the 48th worst individual income tax system and the 49th worst sales tax system. With established businesses fleeing and new entrepreneurs choosing to go elsewhere, unemployment has been trending up in California for four straight years. It is now at 12.4 percent -- tied with Rust Belt Michigan for the second highest unemployment rate of any state.

Indiana Grandmother, a Muslim Convert, Being Investigated for Possible Terror Link
You’d think when they converted, someone would give them the “Islam is a Religion of peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: A 46-year-old Indiana grandmother is under investigation for her possible ties to suspected and convicted international terrorists, has learned. Muslim-convert Kathie Smith, 46, a U.S. citizen living in Indianapolis who has blogged about her granddaughter, last year married a suspected German jihadist, and has been flying back and forth between the U.S. and Germany as recently as two weeks ago. A pro-jihadist video featuring Smith and her husband – alongside photos of members of the Islamic Jihad Union charged with plotting failed terror attacks against U.S. targets in Germany -- is being investigated by the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center.

Syria helped orchestrate 2006 Mohammed cartoon riots, WikiLeaks cables reveal
Excerpt: The government of Syria was active in organizing the 2006 riots that erupted across the Arab world following the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Oslo daily Aftenposten reported Monday, quoting US diplomatic cables released by website WikiLeaks. The cartoons were originally published in neighboring Denmark in 2005. Their publication resulted in violent protests, including attacks on several embassies in Damascus in early February 2006. Embassies targeted included those of Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Venezuela's Chavez dares US to cut diplomatic ties
The classic tyrant’s ploy—take the people’s mind off their suffering by whipping up fear and hate of an external enemy. ~bob. Excerpt: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dared the United States to expel his ambassador or cut off diplomatic ties in retaliation for his rejection of Washington's choice for ambassador to Caracas. Tensions have been growing over Chavez's refusal to accept American diplomat Larry Palmer and also over U.S. criticisms of a legislative offensive by the president's congressional allies. Lawmakers have granted Chavez expanded powers to enact laws by decree for the next year and a half, a change that opponents condemn as antidemocratic.

Semper Phi
Excerpt: For the past four decades, ROTC has been barred from some of the nation’s most prestigious schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Stanford. The program was first pushed off campus in the 1960s and ’70s in protest of the Vietnam war, and has been kept off campuses in protest of government policy excluding men and women who are openly homosexual from serving in the military. With Congress having now overturned that policy, ROTC’s return to these campuses has become a real possibility. “I look forward to pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of ROTC,” Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. Columbia’s Lee Bollinger likewise celebrated the legislation: “We now have the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services.” Achieving formal recognition for ROTC on elite campuses will be an important victory. Not only will it reduce many of the administrative hurdles that cadets on these campuses currently have to navigate, it will also eliminate some of the more backhanded arrangements the various universities created to justify their acceptance of ROTC dollars. For example, Harvard’s practice has been to “allow” patriotic alumni to pay cadets’ ROTC fees through a private trust fund—a fund established in good measure to give the university “plausible deniability” that it was endorsing ROTC.

A truce in culture wars as voters focus on economy
Excerpt: Back in June, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whom many think would be an attractive 2012 presidential candidate, was quoted by Andrew Ferguson in the Weekly Standard for saying the next president "would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues." That quickly attracted some harsh criticism from opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage. But Daniels has declined to back down, telling the Indianapolis Star the other day that such issues are secondary to the economy and foreign policy. I think both Daniels and his critics have missed the point. The fact is that there is an ongoing truce on the social issues, because for most Americans they have been overshadowed by concerns raised by the weak economy and the Obama Democrats' vast increase in the size and scope of government.

As governments go broke, public employee unions must share the pain
Excerpt: Michigan authorities aren't alone in facing years of collective bargaining agreements that promised public workers far more pay and benefits than taxpayers could afford. The Heritage Foundation's David John observes that "Chicago has only about $22 billion in pension assets to pay for $66 billion in pension promises to its city workers, while New York City has $93 billion available to pay $215 billion in city pension promises, and Boston has only $3.5 billion available to pay $11 billion in promises." The Pew Center for the States estimates total state obligations at $2.8 trillion, with only $2.3 trillion available to cover them. It is no coincidence that President Obama and congressional Democrats want federal taxpayers to bail out state and local governments in order to save municipal jobs and services. The real beneficiaries of the bailouts would be the very public employee unions whose excessively generous pay and benefits caused the fiscal crises. Sooner or later, union leaders must realize the only alternative to major concessions today is facing the reality of no benefits being paid at all tomorrow. And voters should reject politicians who lack the will to confront unions on this issue.
Excerpt: Anthony O’Brien, 69, was head-butted and punched to the ground by the men. The pair then fled. Grandad Mr O’Brien – who had been wearing his RAF blazer and a Remembrance poppy – was treated in hospital for bruising to his face and an injured nose. He said: “The yobs who did this to me are nothing but cowardly scum.” Father-of-two Mr O’Brien, who served in the Sixties, was attacked walking home from the pub in Fallowfield, Manchester, where he and pals had discussed arrangements for an old colleague’s funeral. He said: “I saw these two lads and, as I got near, they started shouting and swearing…. The attack has left him in a wheelchair with heart trouble and breathing problems. PC Michael Seddon, of Greater Manchester Police, described the attack as “brutal” and appealed for information. The suspects were described as Asian or mixed race. (“Asian” is British media PC-speak for “Muslim.” ~Bob.)