Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Political Digest for January 11, 2011

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.

The Spin is In
Well, it’s settled. A Blue Dog Conservative Democrat was shot and a Conservative Republican Federal judge murdered by a nut who says the Communist Manifesto is one of his favorite books, and the left blames—the Tea Party. They were really disappointed when their early speculation that he was an Afghan veteran turned out to be untrue, but he applied for enlistment in the Army and was turned down, so in their twisted view, he’s kind of a vet. All vets are dangerous, you know, except John Kerry of course. Rather like President Kennedy being murdered by a Communist with ties to Castro and Cuban intelligence, and the left blaming the “climate of hate” generated by conservatives. ~Bob. See: “Did Castro OK the Kennedy Assassination?”

Must Read: The progressive “climate of hate:” An illustrated primer, 2000-2010
Excerpt: The Tucson massacre ghouls who are now trying to criminalize conservatism have forced our hand. They need to be reminded. You need to be reminded. Confront them. Don’t be cowed into silence.  And don’t let the media whitewash the sins of the hypocritical Left in their naked attempt to suppress the law-abiding, constitutionally-protected, peaceful, vigorous political speech of the Right. (Wow. I'm not a big Malkin fan, but.... This puts the “violent speech” issue in perspective, and notice these aren't all " extreme, fringe sites." Some of the images may not show properly depending on your "security settings." Ron P.

Good column: The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel
Excerpt: Shortly after November's electoral defeat for the Democrats, pollster Mark Penn appeared on Chris Matthews's TV show and remarked that what President Obama needed to reconnect with the American people was another Oklahoma City bombing. To judge from the reaction to Saturday's tragic shootings in Arizona, many on the left (and in the press) agree, and for a while hoped that Jared Lee Loughner's killing spree might fill the bill. With only the barest outline of events available, pundits and reporters seemed to agree that the massacre had to be the fault of the tea party movement in general, and of Sarah Palin in particular. Why? Because they had created, in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's words, a "climate of hate." The critics were a bit short on particulars as to what that meant. Mrs. Palin has used some martial metaphors—"lock and load"—and talked about "targeting" opponents. But as media writer Howard Kurtz noted in The Daily Beast, such metaphors are common in politics. Palin critic Markos Moulitsas, on his Daily Kos blog, had even included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's district on a list of congressional districts "bullseyed" for primary challenges. When Democrats use language like this—or even harsher language like Mr. Obama's famous remark, in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"—it's just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate. There's a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn't derive from the innocuous use of political clichés. And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source.

Excerpt: We have another brilliant example of how people can be so fundamentally blinded to an obvious contradiction. Ever since Representative Giffords was gunned down in a public parking lot in Arizona two days ago, those bastions of truth have worked at a feverish pitch in the hope of grafting the gunman to any political conservative they can. Even after it was determined that this guy was almost certainly mentally disturbed and was shot down by everything from Army recruiting to the always liberal colleges and even his acquaintances, the media remains staunch in it's efforts to make this someone else's fault. Match that up to the media's handling of Major Nidal Hasan; the 39 year old Islamist plant in the United States Army who killed 13 'fellow' soldiers and wounded another 32, all in the name of Allah. I don't seem to recall any particular outrage focused on any other group - political or religious following the incident and certainly not by the usual media outlets. No; that particular minority group is off limits to such scrutiny and certainly to any charges of misbehavior, even though witnesses heard him cry out 'Allah Akbar' before firing his weapon. No such outbursts were uttered by the shooter, Loughner who in fact seemed stoic if not disaffected by his actions; even disconnected.

Jared Loughner, Alleged Shooter in Gabrielle Giffords Attack, Described by Classmate as "Left-Wing Pothead"
Excerpt: A classmate of the man accused of shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords this morning describes him as "left wing" and a "pot head" in a series of posts on Twitter this afternoon. (Sure, but a Palin-loving, Tea Party leftwing pothead—lots of them there you know. ~Bob.)

Sheriff: 'He specifically targeted the congresswoman'
We used to lock up nuts, but that is no longer PC until after they shoot someone. ~Bob. Excerpt: Federal authorities filed murder charges Sunday against 22-year-old Jared Loughner, as new evidence suggested the alleged gunman in Saturday's rampage had fixated on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) while his mental health deteriorated. Loughner appeared to have planned the shooting, according to court documents. In a safe at his parents' home, investigators found an envelope with the words "I planned ahead" and "my assassination" written on it, along with the name "Giffords.'' Loughner's signature is also believed to be on the envelope, the complaint says…. McGahee said he sought repeatedly for college officials to remove Loughner, but they did not. "They just said, 'Well, he hasn't taken any action to hurt anyone. He hasn't provoked anybody. He hasn't brought any weapons to class,' " McGahee recalled. " 'We'll just wait until he takes that next step.' "

Jared Loughner is a product of Sheriff Dupnik’s office
It will be interesting to see if this is true. I’d rate it “unverified” at this point. ~Bob. Excerpt: Jared Loughner has been making death threats by phone to many people in Pima County including staff of Pima Community College, radio personalities and local bloggers. When Pima County Sheriff’s Office was informed, his deputies assured the victims that he was being well managed by the mental health system. It was also suggested that further pressing of charges would be unnecessary and probably cause more problems than it solved as Jared Loughner has a family member that works for Pima County. Amy Loughner is a Natural Resource specialist for the Pima County Parks and Recreation. My sympathies and my heart goes out to her and the rest of Mr. Loughner’s family. This tragedy must be tearing them up inside wondering if they had done the right things in trying to manage Jared’s obvious mental instability.

Should We Blame Sarah Palin for Gabrielle Giffords' Shooting?
From left-leaning Daily Beast, a surprisingly fair view of the attacks on Palin. By the way, for those who haven't seen the crosshairs, they are on Congressional Districts on a map, not on pictures of any individual candidates for office. --Ron P. Excerpt: It began within hours of Saturday's horrifying shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and nearly 20 others, even before the gunman was identified. One of the first to be dragged into this sickening ritual of guilt by association: Sarah Palin. Last March, the former Alaska governor posted a map on her Facebook page with crosshair targets representing 20 Democratic lawmakers she was singling out for defeat after they voted for President Obama's health care plan. One of them was Giffords. Palin, who touts her caribou-hunting heritage, also tweeted, "Don't retreat, RELOAD!" This kind of rhetoric is highly unfortunate. The use of the crosshairs was dumb. But it's a long stretch from such excessive language and symbols to holding a public official accountable for a murderer who opens fire on a political gathering and kills a half-dozen people, including a 9-year-old girl. (...) Let's be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn't act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence? (Both parties “target” members of the other party for defeat. Not for murder. ~Bob.)

The Ever-Predictable March of the Gun Grabbers
Excerpt: I am pretty wary of people who try to seek political gain out of terrible tragedies. And as sure as the sun comes up, the anti-gun lobby became among the first to run on autopilot and seek to politicize the senseless human killings in Tucson. The anti-gun movement resurrected itself only hours after Saturday’s mayhem. At 10:34 on Saturday night, Politico filed an anti-gun story as Rep. Giffords and others battled for their lives: “Gun control activists slammed Arizona for its gun laws Saturday, which allow almost any adult who can pass a federal background check to purchase a firearm.” Their auto-rant is consistent with their strategy of trying to exploit human heartbreak for political gain, sometimes even before the blood dries. When I heard their tired political calls for gun control, I decided to conduct a thought experiment. As it turns out, Washington, D.C., and Tucson have about equal populations. D.C. has 599,000 residents. Tucson has 544,000. Arizona has some of the most open gun laws, including the right of citizens to carry a concealed weapon, a law passed only last year. In her first year in office, Governor Jan Brewer (R) signed a bill allowing loaded guns in bars and restaurants. D.C. still has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. And despite the 2008 landmark Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia vs. Heller that gun ownership was a constitutional right, the real-world effect in D.C. has been negligible. Despite the headlines, Washington residents can only legally possess a disassembled and locked gun in their homes. Handguns can never leave a residence….So what are the differences in the homicide rates between Tucson and Washington, D.C.? As it turns out, they are staggeringly different. And if you obtain most of your news from liberal sources, you would believe the murder rate winner would go to that city located in the Wild, Wild West: Tucson, Arizona. And you would be wrong. According to Tucson Police Department records, by December 2010, the city – which is located 60 miles north of the Mexican border – experienced 51 murders by the use of guns. Washington police records, meanwhile, recorded 131 homicides in 2010, nearly three times the Tucson rate. In fact, the extraordinarily high 2010 D.C. numbers constituted a decline in the city’s murder rate. A year after permitting D.C. residents to keep a handgun in their homes, the city experienced a 9% drop in killings, down from 144 in 2009.

Appropriators sound support for Israel missile defense
Excerpt: Two key pro-Israel appropriators say that record funding for missile defense systems in the Middle East remains a top priority despite political pressure to make deep spending cuts. Before the last Congress recessed, proponents pushed for $205 million for the Iron Dome, an Israeli defense system that intercepts short-range rockets that can be fired from Gaza or Lebanon, to be included in the yearlong continuing resolution to fund FY 2011. Because of issues unrelated to Israel funding, Democrats and Republicans weren't able to come to an agreement on a long-term resolution and the funding was dropped from the short-term CR. President Obama sought the funds in May on top of $200 million in the CR for the long-range Arrow missile-defense program and other joint U.S.-Israeli anti-missile measures.

Medicaid threatens budgets of states: governors
Gee, you mean mandating increased coverage and more mandates won’t SAVE money? Why knew? ~Bob. Excerpt: State governments cannot handle the current costs of Medicaid, and federal requirements to expand the health insurance program for the poor will create "a perfect storm" in state budgets, a coalition of Republican governors said on Friday. "Every governor, Republican and Democrat, will face unprecedented budget challenges in the coming months," the 33 governors and governors-elect said in a letter to congressional leaders and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They added that efforts by federal health agencies "to regulate state operations impose greater uncertainty on our budgets for oncoming years."

Disorganizing Labor
The money is running out and the “entitled” aren’t going to like it, so this will get worse in the next few years, especially in the Democrat-disaster states. Illinois is facing a huge, job-killing income tax increase, which Governor Quinn made worse by locking the state into union contracts before the election (see the next article) and the public employee unions provided the muscle to put him back in office in a squeaker. ~Bob. Excerpt: Economist Kevin Hassett warns that the snowplow slowdown in New York could be a glimpse of America's future. Some forward-looking states, though, are moving to limit the damage. Last week, in an editorial highlighting the problems created by government-employee unions, we suggested that legislators outlaw collective bargaining for public-sector workers. At about the same time, unionized New York City snowplow drivers helped us make our case. It appears they delayed snowstorm cleanup as a protest against budget and job cuts. City workers deny there was a job action. But the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn has opened a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, Hassett, an adviser to both George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, and now a Bloomberg columnist, speculated that in the snowplow slowdown, "Americans may have had their first taste of" government workers shutting down cities, states and even countries when things don't go their way.

Older story, but why Illinois is facing a possible 75% income tax hike: Union Deal Sparks Ethics Ado in Illinois Gov’s Race
Excerpt: A deal brokered by the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn with one of Illinois’ largest labor unions has provided fresh fodder for a close governor's race centered on the state budget and ethics. Gov. Pat Quinn reached a deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents thousands of state government workers, calling for no layoffs or state facility closure for the next two years in exchange for concessions including salary increases, health-care costs and furlough days. The timing of the announcement, however, has been called into question. The deal was reached just days after the union endorsed the Democratic governor.

Only $279,950,956,705.59 left to spend
Excerpt: Within the next few months, America will reach its credit limit. After blowing through $2.6 trillion in tax dollars, the government will only be able to charge a mere $280 billion extra to future generations - a horrifying prospect that has sent the White House into a panic. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner yesterday urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to restore the president's ability to spend beyond the nation's means. If the new Republican House majority concedes on this point, it will have lost the only hope of restoring fiscal sanity. Less than four years ago, then-Sen Barack Obama accused President George W. Bush of a "leadership failure" for seeking an identical debt-ceiling increase after adding $3.5 trillion in red ink to the books during five years in office. "That's trillion with a 'T'," Mr. Obama emphasized at the time. Of course, now that he is president, Mr. Obama replaced his fiscal bomb-throwing rhetoric with a spending rate double his predecessor's. It only took two years for the current administration to rack up that much debt.

Stealing Pensions
Excerpt: In Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Ireland and France, big government, a demographic death spiral and weak tax revenues have left fiscal coffers in trouble. Unwilling to stand up to voters -- or rioters -- most governments have little taste for doing the right thing: cutting their budgets. So, they're going after pensions to make up for shortfalls, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

Ou Est le 'Cash for Clunkers'?
Excerpt: Most Americans wouldn't know it, but the Cash for Clunkers model originated in Europe in the mid-1980s. The idea was two-fold: (1) get high-polluting and fuel-guzzling "clunkers" off the road and (2) stimulate new car sales. It was called "Prime à la Casse." Over the years, European governments with large national production (Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom) implemented similar programs, and even states with little if any production (Luxembourg, Ireland) joined in, says Victor Dial, former chairman and general manager of Ford France. When the Cash for Clunkers program started in America in 2009, Dial admits he was surprised at the almost immediate outcry from economists, pundits and, yes, citizens, denouncing it as wasteful. They were, of course, right: It pulls forward new car sales, but it also scraps perfectly good, serviceable vehicles, thus lowering supply and driving up used-car prices, says Dial.

A Modest Proposal on Kidney Donation
Excerpt: Here is the idea: A prisoner donates a kidney and receives compensation only when his or her sentence is complete—no shortened sentences, no parole, no special considerations. The organ goes to the next person on the national transplant waiting-list, the way all organs from anonymous donors do. The advantages are considerable. First, a patient languishing on dialysis is rescued. Second, the government realizes tremendous savings; dialysis costs Medicare approximately $72,000 per person each year. Third, a cushion of financial security offers the prisoner a better chance at successful re-entry into society, a notoriously fragile period. (Actually, I’d harvest murderers for all useful organs. Good way for them to pay their debt to society. They would die, but one or more decent persons would live. Seems fair. Put me down for a pair of lungs. ~Bob.)

Rust Belt Revolutionary By George Will
Excerpt: Consensus is scarce but almost everyone agrees with this: The government is dysfunctional and the Internet is splendid. But last month, the Democratic-controlled Federal Communications Commission, on a partisan 3-2 vote, did what a federal court says it has no power to do: It decided to regulate the Internet in the name of "net neutrality." The next morning, a man who can discipline the FCC said: Well, we'll just see about that. "We are going to be a dog to the Frisbee on this issue." Rep. Fred Upton, 57, who represents southwestern Michigan, is now chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He notes that last summer the Progressive Change Campaign Committee got 95 Democratic congressional candidates to pledge support for federal regulation of the Internet. In November, all 95 lost. Upton will try to stymie the FCC's impertinence by using the Congressional Review Act, under which a measure to reverse a regulation gets expedited consideration and cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

Excerpt: I believe John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog is the only place on the Internet that routinely compares the fields of health and education (see previous posts here and here). The reason: lessons from one field are often applicable to the other. The parallels are obvious: In both fields (1) we have systematically suppressed normal market forces; (2) the entity that pays the bill is usually separate from the beneficiaries of the spending; (3) providers of the services see the payers, not the beneficiaries, as their real customers and often shape their practice to satisfy the payers’ demands — even if the beneficiaries are made worse off; (4) even though the providers and the payers are in a constant tug-of-war over what is to be paid for and how much, the beneficiaries are almost never part of these discussions; and (5) there is rampant inefficiency on a scale not found in other markets. Long before there was a Dartmouth Atlas for health care, education researchers found large differences in per pupil spending (more than three to one among large school districts, e.g.) that were unrelated to differences in results. In fact, study after study has found no correlation between education spending and education results.

Most scientific papers are probably wrong
I think perhaps "most" is an overstatement, but for sure "many" would not be too strong an adjective. Best guess is somewhere between 20-40% are probably badly flawed. And whether they're only in somebody's thesis or are worldwide news, the odds may be the same.... or even worse for the worldwide news ones. –Del. I concur with Del that "many" is more likely than "most." However.... As has been said thousands of times, statistics are not proof. If the results cannot be repeated, the hypotheses fails. Period, full stop. It is far easier and cheaper to do a statistical study via computer than to do an actual, physical study to verify an idea works in practice. Engineers—because they are forced to work in the real world, facing real costs and very real consequences of failure—all know this, that's why they make prototypes to verify concepts before trying to design and set up production lines. "Scientists"—who are often no better educated than the engineers—suffer under no such constraint; they see their function as "playing with ideas," without regard to costs or consequences in their quest for "truth." I think the line below that most frightens me is "most working scientists understand the limitations of published research."  Many of the publications aren't aimed at the "working scientist," but at the general public, including reporters, who do NOT understand. Only the general public can provide the economic support for magazines like Nature or Scientific American. At most, the publications refer the study or proposed article to "peer review." The peers don't go repeat the work, they look it over to see if there are any glaring errors; if none are found, the review is complete.  And, as Climategate has shown us, the peer review process itself is subject to all sorts of political and economic pressure, regardless of the merit of the idea being studied. And, this time, that "many/most" difference could be heading in the wrong direction. Unless entry-level scientists are trained to expect rigorous checking and re-checking of their work, why wouldn't they take short cuts that appear to hurt no one? --Ron P. Excerpt: Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings. "We should accept that most research findings will be refuted. Some will be replicated and validated. The replication process is more important than the first discovery," Ioannidis says.

UK: British Exam Board Accused of 'Brainwashing' Pupils with Inaccurate Climate Graph
Excerpt: Britain’s largest exam board has been accused of “brainwashing” pupils by forcing them to use an inaccurate temperature graph that exaggerates the scale of global warming.

Vietnam Confronts Economic Quagmire
Excerpt: Hammer and sickle flags are flying here as Ho Chi Minh City, the seemingly irrepressible bastion of Vietnamese capitalism, dutifully marks the start on Tuesday of the Communist Party’s National Congress, an event held every five years to chart the course of a country that has witnessed an economic miracle in recent decades. But this time, things are different. In a region where governments are swollen with foreign currency reserves and inflation remains relatively tame, Vietnam is an island of economic instability. The country’s economy is still growing at 7 percent a year, but double-digit price increases for food and other essentials are punishing the working class and contributed to a top credit rating agency’s recent decision to downgrade the country’s sovereign debt. Vietnam’s currency is consistently falling below official exchange rates, creating a thriving black market for gold and dollars. And one of the country’s largest state-owned companies is all but insolvent, brought down by debts that are the equivalent of more than 4 percent of the country’s total output. (Gee, you mean an economy run by corrupt bureaucrats and Party apparachniks might run into problems in the long run, even when they abandon real Marxist economics and slide into government controlled capitalism? What a surprise! We can only continue to feel sorry for the Vietnamese people, who suffer badly from this gross mismanagement, while the fat cat Party members and bureaucrats become richer and richer, buy Mercedes and send their kids to school in France and the US. They are like the French nobility before the revolt against them and the monarchy. What a tragedy.... one that none of the proud antiwar figures will ever acknowledge. –Del)

How to Revive the California Dream
Hopeless. The “entitled” (state employees, illegal immigrants and welfare recipients) are firmly in control of the electoral process and at their demand will go on bleeding the high earners, who will go on fleeing the state, until the collapse. ~Bob. Excerpt: California faces its most serious budget crisis since the Great Depression. Newly inaugurated Gov. Jerry Brown is inheriting a deficit that is expected to be at least $28 billion over the next 18 months. Nonpartisan legislative analysts project a long-term structural gap of some $20 billion per year between revenues and expenditures in the state's general fund, on an annual budget that is now $93 billion. Mr. Brown has a brief window of opportunity to take bold steps to put the state government back on a sustainable path. His first budget proposal, which will be submitted this week, should contain aggressive reforms to contain year-by-year increases in state spending. Our greatest concern is that California is no longer the attractive place to live, work and start a business that it was when Mr. Brown was last governor. California's share of the nation's population steadily grew from 2.5% in 1910 to more than 12% in 1990. But the most recent data from the 2010 Census tells us that California's rapid growth came to an end 20 years ago. California lost more than one million residents to other states in each of the past two decades….. In 2007, the last of the "boom" years, a mere 7,000 households with adjusted gross income of more than $5 million paid nearly $11 billion in personal income taxes to the state, or one-fifth of all income tax collections. Two-thirds of all income tax revenue was collected from households with incomes over $200,000. In 2008, after the recession began, there were only 4,700 households in the state with adjusted gross income over $5 million, and revenue from these households fell to less than $7 billion. This $4 billion drop in tax revenue from top earners accounts for fully half of the $8 billion drop in total personal income tax revenue from 2007 to 2008. The decline in tax receipts from those households earning more than $200,000 accounts for fully 93% of the decline in total tax revenues from 2007-08.

Lawmakers start cashing in on health care 'reform'
Excerpt: Democrat Earl Pomeroy's vote for the health care bill may have cost him his seat in Congress, but it also earned him a job on K Street. Last week, on the last day of Pomeroy's 18-year stint as North Dakota's at-large congressman, K Street giant Alston & Bird announced that he was joining the firm's health care lobbying division. The congressman is merely the latest lucky winner in the Great Health Care Cash-out, a tawdry spectacle that further sullies Washington's lobbying culture, and also demolishes President Obama's insistent claims that his health care push was a battle against the special interests. In truth, the bill's subsidies and mandates are a boondoggle for the powerful drug industry and were received warmly by hospitals and the doctors lobby. Congressmen rarely return to their home districts after leaving office, and with Pomeroy there was never a doubt he was headed to K Street. One of the biggest benefactors -- and beneficiaries -- of Pomeroy's congressional career was the life insurance industry, and sure enough, the American Council of Life Insurers twice (in 2003 and in early 2010) considered hiring Pomeroy as president, according to reports by the Associated Press and Roll Call.

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