Saturday, January 15, 2011

Political Digest for January 16, 2011

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.

I’m Back
I’ve been off-line with the granddaughter at Disney for three days, so this will be a long digest! Lots of interesting items. Oh, BTW, the Harry Potter ride at Universal is not to be missed!

GOP picks Reince Priebus to lead as it regroups
I don’t think Steele was a bad guy, but he couldn’t manage his mouth, which is job one in politics. ~Bob. Excerpt: GOP leaders began a weekend of strategizing Friday as the Republican National Committee voted out its controversial chairman, Michael S. Steele, in favor of Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin Republican Party chairman, and House members plotted their future at a party retreat in Baltimore.

Unrest continues in Tunisia as President Ben Ali flees country
You see, other countries have term limits, though they are flexible, depending on when the riots start. ~Bob. Excerpt: After four weeks of steadily escalating riots across Tunisia, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali lost his grip on power Friday. The country's prime minister announced that he was taking over to organize early elections and usher in a new government. Ben Ali, 74, fled the North African country. After several hours of mystery over his whereabouts, the office of Saudi King Abdullah confirmed early Saturday that Ben Ali and his family had landed in Saudi Arabia. Although the Saudi announcement did not say how long Ben Ali planned to stay, the day's events suggested that his 23 years as Tunisia's ruler were over, submerged by a wave of unrest set off by economic deprivation, official corruption and political frustration in the mostly Sunni Muslim country.

Is Democracy Cool Again?
Excerpt: Despite the persistent belief to the contrary, centralized states do not always get the trains to run on time. Food prices have been rising the world over and Tunisia was no exception. Making and growing things, not reducing a “carbon footprint” and tootling around on rickety bicycles, may be what the world needs most. Oil at $100 a barrel reminds us that energy prices are the single biggest driver of food price volatility. The focus on Green Energy has not only pushed up the revenues of exiting oil producers to record levels by restricting new production, but has also increased food prices. Windmills don’t do much to grow grain or move food across oceans. They don’t run trains or the trucks that deliver goods and services. The world has been told for a long time that the greatest challenge facing the “planet” is Global Warming. Most people outside of the Western environmental lobby knew that the biggest challenge has always been putting food on the table. But man doth not live by bread alone. He also liveth, as some would have it, through grand bargains with tyrants which alone could bring peace to the world. It became fashionable to admire the Chinese government. Hezbollah was seen as a popular movement. When Iranian protesters were rioting in the streets of Tehran, Washington thought it best to keep quiet. Palestine, not Israel, was the wave of the future in the Middle East. Anyone who had a gun received automatic respect.

Excerpt: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, blew out 40 candles on its birthday cake recently. While EPA administrators and employees were congratulating themselves on some jobs well done—the amount of particulate matter being inhaled by Americans has fallen dramatically under the agency’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act, for example—after being reenergized by President Obama’s support for an activist “green” policy agenda, it also has proposed or already approved new regulations that promise to hobble economic growth and add to the nation’s unemployment problem. Consider the following:

A Price for Raising the Debt Ceiling: Republicans should attach provisions repealing the worst aspects of ObamaCare and financial reform to spending that the president absolutely needs.
Excerpt: Addressing the possibility of the GOP-led Congress not voting to raise the debt ceiling, Austan Goolsbee, President Obama's top economic adviser, histrionically asserted this month: "This is not a game. The debt ceiling is not something to toy with. If we hit the debt ceiling, that's . . . essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history. The impact on the economy would be catastrophic." In context, his comments are more than a bit hypocritical. Over the past four years—including the last two years of the Bush presidency—he and his boss supported every big, misguided spending program they could find, regardless of how much the electorate protested. There wasn't a dollar that didn't burn a hole in their pocket. They supported add-ons to the housing and farm bills in 2007 to stimulate the economy; Larry Summers's $600 per-capita stimulus checks of 2008; the bailout of AIG, the Fed's asset swaps with Bear Stearns; the $700 billion Toxic Asset Relief Program; Mr. Obama's nearly $900 billion stimulus package; the total government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the temporary cash-for-clunkers program; the $8,000 temporary home-buyers' tax credit; the extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks; the Dodd-Frank financial reforms; and of course the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Not only did Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid support all of the above government spending, they also voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006 when George W. Bush was president and the Republicans controlled the House and Senate.

Illinois Exit Fee
Excerpt: Jubilation has broken out in the Midwest—or at least in Wisconsin and Indiana, now that Democrats in neighboring Illinois have rushed their tax increase into law. Late Tuesday night, Democrats in the Illinois house and senate rammed through Governor Pat Quinn's 67% hike in the state income tax and a nearly 50% jump in the state corporate tax. The increase will add $1,400 to the average family's tax bill, and we doubt it will help job creation in a state that has lost 374,000 jobs since 2008. New Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker immediately rolled out a press release inviting Illinois businesses to decamp to the Badger State, contrasting his agenda to reduce taxes and welcome business with the Illinois increase. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels added: "We already had an edge on Illinois in terms of the cost of doing business, and this is going to make it significantly wider." That's for sure. Small businesses will pay the new 5% income tax rate, up from 3%, and the effective corporate tax rate will rise to 9.5%, which, when combined with the federal rate of 35%, will make the Land of Lincoln one of the most expensive places in the world to conduct business. Congratulations. Democrats say the higher rates will raise $7 billion to help close an estimated $14 billion budget gap, though tax hikes rarely raise the revenue that politicians promise. Rather than fix the state's $150 billion unfunded pension problem, the bill also authorizes nearly $4 billion in new debt to fund the state's pension payment this year. (Well, we all have to pay our fair share for Governor Quinn buying re-election by locking the state into expensive new deals with state employee unions. How else could Democrats get re-elected? ~Bob. )

Illinois leads the way to fiscal perfidy
Excerpt: Elections do have consequences. Illinois voters are now being rewarded for electing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to a full term. Quinn replaced the disgraced Rod Blagojevich in 2009, then won a narrow victory to serve a full term in the 2010 election. Now he is about to sign into law a whopping 67 percent personal income tax increase, and a 46 percent business tax hike. The increases were passed at 1:20 a.m. Tuesday at the tail end of a lame-duck session with no votes to spare and not a single Republican in favor. The new legislature, sworn in 12 hours later, would have defeated the scheme. Facing a $15 billion deficit, and lagging $6.8 billion behind in paying its bills, Illinois Democrats argued that raising taxes was the only responsible thing to do. Of course, the responsible thing would have been to spend less in the years before, and to cut spending now rather than boosting taxes. But even in their current crisis, Illinois Democrats prefer to make taxpayers clean up the politicians' mess. In July, for example, Quinn gave 40,000 of the state's unionized and heavily Democratic workers a two-year, 14 percent pay raise. Labor and capital are mobile, and more of each will now relocate to states with more favorable tax climates than Illinois -- two of which, Wisconsin and Indiana -- are a short distance from Chicago. This has already happened elsewhere. In 2008, Maryland instituted a special "millionaire's tax" and within a year a third of its top earners moved out of the state, and state revenues actually fell. Similarly, in 2009, Oregonians approved the highest top income tax rate in the nation, only to see revenues fall by 28 percent in 2010. And in California, 93 percent of the state's drop in tax revenue over the past three years can be attributed to top earners fleeing the state.

Neighboring States Gleeful Over Illinois Tax Increase
Excerpt: While many states consider boosting their economies with tax cuts, Illinois officials are betting on the opposite tactic: dramatically raising taxes to resolve a budget crisis that threatened to cripple state government. Neighboring states gleefully plotted Wednesday to take advantage of what they consider a major economic blunder and lure business away from Illinois. "It's like living next door to `The Simpsons' -- you know, the dysfunctional family down the block," Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in an interview on Chicago's WLS-AM. But economic experts scoffed at images of highways packed with moving vans as businesses leave Illinois. (As usual, the “expert” is both right and wrong. There won’t be highways full of moving vans tomorrow afternoon. Most folks will just stay and suffer, though they may alter their voting habits if they are taxpayers.  Nationally, almost half the population pays no taxes to begin with; there is no reason to suppose Illinois is any better off than other states. Instead, it’ll be businesses that don’t move in, businesses that don’t expand, professional individuals who decide they can do whatever they do just as nicely in another, more friendly tax climate, students who go off to school out of state and never return. As to taxes having little impact on businesses, once upon a time, Massachusetts was at the forefront of manufacturing all sorts of things: furniture, firearms, locks, paper, watches—and all those jobs went elsewhere within the past four decades. Further, regardless of promises, there ain’t no such thing as a “temporary tax.” Once the legislature is used to having—and spending—that money, they’ll never give it back. And everyone knows THAT, too. Ron P.)

House to hold delayed vote on healthcare repeal next week
Excerpt: The House will vote next week on a bill to repeal the healthcare reform law, a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) confirmed Thursday afternoon. The new Republican majority had scheduled a vote for yesterday, but it was delayed after the shooting tragedy in Arizona over the weekend.

The U.S. Loses Ground on Economic Freedom
Excerpt: The 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, released today by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, tells a different story. The Index records countries' commitment to the free enterprise/capitalist system by measuring 10 categories of economic freedom: fiscal soundness and openness to trade and investment, government size, business and labor regulation, property rights, corruption, monetary stability and financial competition. The good news this year? One hundred and seventeen countries, mainly developing and emerging market economies, improved their scores, and the average level of economic freedom around the world improved by about a third of a point on the Index's 0 to 100 scale. Economies that stuck to the principles of economic freedom are recovering more quickly from the recession and financial crisis, and growing faster than countries whose governments tried to spend their way out of trouble. There's an amazing 4.5 percentage point difference in average growth rates between the big spenders and those governments that kept their budgets under control. Markets and electorates have proven wiser than the technocrats and bureaucrats who seem ready to address every societal ill with a new regulation or spending program.

Some Arizona Republican party officials resign after Tucson shooting
Excerpt: While federal lawmakers debate how best to increase safety for themselves and their staff, some Arizona Republican party officials are choosing to leave office in the face of threats. A conflict that has been going on between local Arizona Republicans came to an end in the wake of the shooting in Tucson on Saturday when Arizona's Republican District 20 Chairman Anthony Miller and several others chose to resign. The Arizona Republic reports that Miller, 43, a former campaign worker for Sen. John McCain who was re-elected to a second one-year term last month, has been concerned for his family's safety by constant verbal attacks and blog posts from some local committee members with tea party movement ties. Miller told the state Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen via e-mail that he was quitting. "Today my wife of 20 yrs ask [sic] me do I think that my PCs (Precinct Committee members) will shoot at our home? So with this being said I am stepping down from LD20GOP Chairman...I will make a full statement on Monday."

Energy Should Be Job One for the New Congress
Excerpt: Most people argue that getting the economy back on track should be the new Congress’s first order of business. Yet no one seems to agree on how to do so. I suggest that the 112th Congress look at energy policy as job one to secure the economy for now and the future. Our economy was built on and our lifestyles depend upon relatively inexpensive, abundant, reliable sources of energy. Looking just at the fossil fuels oil and natural gas, they are critical for transportation and, increasingly for electricity, but they also serve as feedstock for plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, lubricants and construction materials. With this in mind, here are a couple of steps Congress could take to improve the reliability and reduce the costs of energy. First, Congress should halt the EPA’s climate regulations in their tracks.

Excerpt: Since the financial crisis, “deregulation” has become a catch-all phrase for everything that went wrong in our financial markets. Unfortunately said deregulation is rarely ever explained, but is rather asserted. To truly inform policy debates, discussions must center on specific instances of deregulation. One such example of banking deregulation that did actually occur was The Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 (imagine that, a Democrat Congress and a Democrat President deregulating the banking industry). The heart of Riegle-Neal was to remove barriers to interstate branching. A recent article in the Journal of Finance looks at the impact of bank branching deregulation on the distribution of income across U.S. States. A working paper version can be found here. The researchers find that as bank deregulation increased competition and improved efficiency, “deregulation materially tightened the distribution of income by boosting incomes in the lower part of the income distribution while having little impact on incomes above the median. Bank deregulation tightened the distribution of income by increasing the relative wage rates and working hours of unskilled workers.” The bottom line is that the increased competition that resulted from deregulation disproportionately benefited those on the bottom of the income distribution. As Washington continues to pile additional new regulations upon the banking industry, we should bear in mind that much of the impact of increased regulation might be felt by those least able to bear it. The extent to which regulatory barriers in banking benefits the rich at the expense of the poor is also illustrated in a forthcoming article, again in the Journal of Finance. In this article, the authors find in the early 20th century, counties where the elite had disproportionately large land holdings had fewer banks per capita, with costlier credit, and more limited access. The authors see this as suggestive that elites restrict financial development in order to limit access to finance, and hence maintain existing income inequalities.

The ObamaCare Fraud: The law will penalize doctors to pay patients and penalize patients to pay doctors.
Excerpt: There are a great many things wrong with Obamacare, but the biggest is perhaps one that neither party is paying any attention to: It is one huge entrapment scheme that will turn patients and providers into criminals. The most blatant example of this is in the “doc fix” that Congress passed with major bipartisan support earlier this month, saving doctors from a nearly 23 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement that they would have otherwise faced this year. Congress has been passing this fix every year since 1997, but this time, in an effort to offset its $20 billion price tag, it has included a little twist to squeeze working families called “exchange recapture subsidy.” Under this provision, the government will go after low-wage families to return any excess subsidies they get under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Number games obscure value of Obamacare repeal
Excerpt: With the House of Representatives scheduled to vote next week on repealing the new health care act, the Congressional Budget Office has announced that eliminating the 2010 health care law, the program that would insure another 32 million people, would cause the deficit to increase by $230 billion over the next decade. Last year CBO came up with the absurd finding that the act would reduce future budget deficits. Just as that projection lacked credibility, so does the inverse, that repeal would expand future deficits. CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf explained that the health care act included Medicare spending cuts and increased revenues from raising taxes. If the act were repealed, Elmendorf wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, "such reductions in spending and increases in revenues would not occur," and federal deficits would increase. But the spending cuts and tax revenues are unlikely to occur. It strains belief that Congress will cut $500 billion from Medicare outlays over the next decade.

How to Cut $100 Billion Without Really Crying
Excerpt: To listen to Democrats, they have new Republican House Speaker John Boehner right where they want him. “The reality of governing is different than the reality of campaigning, and it’s easier to throw out a number than it is to support it,” David Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s outgoing senior strategist, said last week. The number, of course, is the $100 billion in cuts to federal spending that House Republicans have been discussing since they unveiled their 2010 campaign platform last September. Republicans in the House barely had time to adjust to their majority status before facing questions and skepticism about whether and how they can pull that off. Boehner is going to win this one. Government spending has surged so much in the past two years that cutting $100 billion is a piece of cake.

Excerpt: While the nation is mourning one tragedy in Arizona, you may also be aware of another. The state has decided to deny organ transplants to some Medicaid enrollees. I will use this as a segue to focus on three issues I want to revisit anyway: Selective Outrage. On the part of the president, the Congress and almost the entire health policy community: If a private insurer does it, it’s immoral; if a public insurer does it, it’s an unfortunate budget issue. Comparative Effectiveness Research. You didn’t know? That was the excuse Arizona used. Death Panels. Okay, maybe Sarah Palin didn’t know what she was talking about. But what else would you call it when lawmakers effectively deny several dozen people extra months and years of life in order to save some taxpayer dollars? I’ll zero in on the second one, because that, my friends, is what is very much in your future. Since there has been a lot of intellectual dishonesty on both sides of this issue, let me give you a brief overview…..So is CER harmless? Far from it. What few people want to clearly say is that CER from beginning to end is designed to give cover to public and private insurers who want to reduce spending on medical care. In Britain, for example, 25,000 cancer patients die prematurely each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), because they do not get drugs that are routinely available in the United States and continental Europe. Roughly, NICE considers a drug not cost-effective if it involves spending more than about $30,000 to save a year of life.

Bastardi’s Wager
Good article: Excerpt: And he’s disturbed by how the science, which he values for its own sake, has been infected with politics. According to Bastardi, the intelligentsia see new weather developments as an “incessant stream of confirmations” of global warming: “I just took out the New York Times from ten years ago, saying the reason it’s not snowing is global warming. Now you’ve got guys in the Times saying the reason it’s snowing is global warming.” But unlike most climate skeptics, Bastardi is in a position to change the conversation. He’s a meteorologist and forecaster with AccuWeather, and he proposes a wager of sorts. “The scientific approach is you see the other argument, you put forward predictions about where things are going to go, and you test them,” he says. “That is what I have done. I have said the earth will cool .1 to .2 Celsius in the next ten years, according to objective satellite data.” Bastardi’s challenge to his critics — who are legion — is to make their own predictions. And then wait. Climate science, he adds, “is just a big weather forecast.”

Obama showed grace and wisdom in Tucson
Excerpt: President Obama is often criticized in this space, so we think it only fair to point it out when he does something praiseworthy. In his address Wednesday evening in Tucson commemorating the senseless slaying of six people, including a federal judge, and the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabbie Giffords, D-Ariz., Obama performed admirably. He spoke plainly but evocatively in tribute to the dead and wounded, he singled out the heroes of the tragedy for appropriate praise, and, perhaps most important, he diplomatically but forcefully called out all who seek to gain political advantage from such a dark day. Considering the constant distraction of inappropriate yelling and applauding from the audience, Obama's performance was masterful. As he consoled the mourners at the University of Arizona, Obama lamented the state of affairs in which "we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do." He reminded his listeners across the nation that it is always "important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds." He added that "if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud." Obama made precisely the right point: Americans ought never to lose their appreciation for the miracle of democratic civility that most often characterizes our national public policy discourse. There have been and are many nations on this Earth where political assassinations are disturbingly frequent, often undertaken strictly for reasons of political advantage by political rival.

Obama Does Best When He Says Nothing
Excerpt: In Tucson, on Wednesday evening, we saw President Barack Obama in his full Chauncey Gardiner mode. After the drubbing of November 2010, Obama's handlers have come to understand that Obama does best when, like Chauncey, he says nothing at all. Chauncey Gardiner, the reader may recall, is the protagonist of Jerzy Kosinski's 1971 prescient satire, Being There, which was later made into a movie of the same name, co-scripted by Kosinski. As the plot goes, Chance the Gardener, a sheltered simpleton, finds himself thrust into the world upon the death of his wealthy protector, his name now misinterpreted as "Chauncey Gardiner." Forced to interact with society, the supremely bland Chauncey so impresses politicos and the media with banal gardening clichés -- "It is the responsibility of the gardener to adjust to the bad seasons as well as enjoy the good ones" -- that they assume Chauncey means much more than he actually does. Gardiner's amiable emptiness impresses the president and quickly thrusts him onto the national stage. As he becomes a valued economic advisor -- "In a garden, growth has its season" -- the president decides to review Chance's history. To his horror, he finds that that history, much like Obama's, is entirely elusive. "What do you mean, no background?" says the president. "That's impossible -- he's a very well known man!" No matter. As book and movie end, Chance is being considered for the presidency of the United States.

The answer is: Those without shame
Excerpt: I'm retired now, but once upon a time, as a church pastor, I was called on to conduct funerals and memorial services. All too often. I never saw them as opportunities to convert any possible unbelievers in attendance, exaggerate the virtues of the deceased, or advance some localized ecclesiastical agenda. That's not what they're about. Funerals and memorial services are about looking beyond the moment where the cold immediacy of death has taken hold, and toward whatever divine, otherworldly, or transcendent beliefs are held by, most importantly, the family, but also their friends. When the October 2002 memorial service for the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D. MN) turned into a political pep rally, many were offended. But who realistically expected it to be anything other than that? In that extravaganza, dignity was only moderately conspicuous by its absence. To paraphrase Rahm Emanuel: The goal is to never pass up an opportunity to take partisan advantage of a prominent politician's death. It's happened again, this hijacking of mourning for political purposes, but this time the assault on dignity is more egregious. This time the props are innocent murdered civilians. And, this time they include a little girl. Never mind what the President said last night. It was flat, harmless, boilerplate stuff, with no timeless, memorable quotes. It was the overall branding of the event, including special-event T-shirts (who bought them?), accompanied by applause as the various dignitaries entered the arena for the political theater, and the hob-knobbing that accompanies the gather of pols that collectively represented yet another amazing exercise of uncommonly bad taste by our political elite. (When I saw the picture of the auditorium prepared for the memorial service for the little girl, with a dark T-shirt on every chair with the motto "Together We Thrive", I wondered what in hell was going on. Upbeat motto T-shirts are not exactly the norm for a wake or solemn memorial service. Later it became clear that what was going on was a pep rally, which some have called the first campaign speech for the 2012 election. If I were of the girl's family, I would have been apoplectic with rage at what transpired; but of course when the President of the USA comes to supposedly do honor to your child, you pretty much have to go along with it. (I wonder how they feel now about it.) There is no blame for the family, all the blame goes to the politicians, and they should be flat out lying on the ground beating their breasts in abject shame. But of course, no such thing, they undoubtedly figure it was just wonderful what they did. Shows where their heads really are. –Del. Can’t say I ever got a souvenir tee shirt at a wake. ~Bob.) )

Together We Thrive
Turns out “Together we Thrive” is an Obama campaign slogan. But doesn’t every president hand out campaign slogan tee shirts at kids’ funerals? ~Bob.

GOP gears up again to strip NPR of federal funds
Excerpt: For years, Republicans have wanted to cut off federal funding for National Public Radio. They tried and failed in the 1990s, but now, with a new GOP majority in the House, they're ready to try again. It's still a long shot, but they have a fighting chance. There are two reasons House Republicans are more optimistic than before: concern over federal spending and the lingering fallout from NPR's decision to fire commentator Juan Williams. "We're running annual deficits of over a trillion dollars," says Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Colorado Republican who has written a new bill to defund NPR. "With 500 cable TV channels, Internet on people's cell phones, satellite radio, we have so many sources of media that we don't need a government-subsidized source of media."

62 percent say more gun control laws won't prevent shootings
Excerpt: Folks hoping the Tucson Massacre would revive public support for more stringent gun control laws are bound to be disappointed by the results of the latest Rasmussen Reports national survey. A healthy 56 percent of the respondents in the national survey said they oppose stronger gun control laws and an even higher percentage, 62 percent, said stricter gun control laws would not prevent shootings like that which took the lives of six in Tucson, including a federal judge and a nine-year-girl. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, was also critically injured by the gunman.

Liberal Seek Ban on Metaphors in Wake of Arizona Shooting

Excerpt: After the monstrous shooting in Arizona last week, surely we can all agree that we've got to pass Obama's agenda immediately and stop using metaphors. At least I think that's what the mainstream media are trying to tell me. Liberals instantly leapt on the sickening massacre at a Tucson political event over the weekend to accuse tea partiers, Sarah Palin and all conservatives who talk out loud of being complicit in murder by inspiring the shooter, Jared Loughner. 

Dem Congressman who called for GOP Gov. to be put against a wall and shot now pleads for civility
Excerpt: Ex-Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., pens an op-ed in the New York Times today about the proper political response to this weekend's tragedy. I wholeheartedly support the former Congressman (Kanjorski lost his seat in November) when he argues that, following this weekend's shooting, Congressman need to remain open and accessible to the public. However, Kanjorski is rather hypocritical when he climbs up on his soapbox: We all lose an element of freedom when security considerations distance public officials from the people. Therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation. Incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect? Congressman heal thyself! Yesterday, I noted that, according to the Scranton Times, Kanjorski said this about Florida's new Republican Governor Rick Scott on October 23: "That Scott down there that's running for governor of Florida," Mr. Kanjorski said. "Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government and he's running for governor of Florida. He's a millionaire and a billionaire. He's no hero. He's a damn crook. It's just we don't prosecute big crooks."

Liberals in denial about Obama's 'achievements'
Excerpt: If Obama is so much smarter than Bush is, how come he can't come up with new ways to do things but ends up instead with the Bush tax cuts, with the Bush protocols for the war on terror, with the Bush wars, the Bush generals, the Bush surge strategies, and the Bush policies on Guantanamo Bay? How come Bush's approval ratings now match Obama's? How come Bush beat out President Clinton for second place in the annual ranking of men most admired? And how come his memoir sold 2.2 million copies in the two months since it's been published, a little more than Clinton's memoir sold in six years?

Excerpt: The results speak for themselves: 22 new conservative Republicans, including five Latinos and two African-Americans. There were no Latino or African-American Republican members of the Texas House in 2008. Additionally, three Democrats switched sides in 2010. Republicans enter 2011 with 101 members, a supermajority in the Texas House. Odds are very good that Texas will remain staunchly conservative in the decade ahead. But these results were not a foregone conclusion. A systematic, shrewd, well-funded plan brought historically unprecedented success. As recently as 1978, when Texas elected its first modern Republican governor, there were 22 GOP Texas House members, total.

What does it take to end a political career?
Good Review. ~Bob. Excerpt: You know what doesn’t end a political career?

Unequivocal Equivocation
Excerpt: The “null hypothesis” in science is the condition that would result if what you are trying to establish is not true. For example, if your hypothesis is that air pressure affects plant growth rates, the null hypothesis is that air pressure has no effect on plant growth rates. Once you have both hypotheses, then you can see which hypothesis is supported by the evidence. In climate science, the AGW hypothesis states that human GHG emissions significantly affect the climate. As such, the null hypothesis is that human GHG emissions do not significantly affect the climate, that the climate variations are the result of natural processes. This null hypothesis is what Doctor T wants to reverse. As Steve McIntyre has often commented, with these folks you really have to keep your eye on the pea under the walnut shell. These folks seem to have sub-specialties in the “three-card monte” sub-species of science. Did you notice when the pea went from under one walnut shell to another in Dr. T’s quotation above?

To Save the States, Let 'Em Declare Bankruptcy
Excerpt: Facing huge budget difficulties, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been showing other states how to survive -- namely, by taking on the government-employee unions.
Christie's battles with the teachers unions over the past year have produced countless YouTube hits. And last month, he got a law passed to limit wage hikes from labor arbitrations between the state and public-employee unions to an average 2 percent annual increase.
As New Jersey, New York, California and Illinois -- the four with the highest insurance premiums on their bonds -- face life without a compliant Congress to approve their pleas for more cash, they'll increasingly have to follow Christie's example and rein in their unions.
As Margaret Thatcher famously said, the problem with socialism is that sooner or later "you run out of other people's money."

Time to fight the 'madness lobby'
Excerpt: In his Tucson speech, President Obama rightly said that "terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding." Why that morning? Why Gabby Giffords? These and other questions can't be answered, but at a more pedestrian level, the massacre isn't so mysterious: Someone displaying all the symptoms of untreated schizophrenia killed people. This is not an extraordinarily rare or inexplicable occurrence. According to the psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, 4 million people in the United States have serious mental illnesses, and 1.8 million of them go untreated. Two hundred thousand are homeless, and 300,000 are in jail or prison. Tormented by depression or delusions, about 15 percent kill themselves, and they commit about 1,600 murders a year. Obama was too sweeping when he said we shouldn't point fingers. Our ire should be directed at the mental-health "advocates," federal bureaucrats and crusading civil libertarians who fight to maintain a status quo that makes it so hard to treat the mentally ill. They are the madness lobby. They aren't responsible for Jared Loughner or his crimes. They do deserve the blame for a system that willfully lets people fall through the cracks and pretends diseased minds can make rational decisions. At its best, this system is cruel in abandoning the ill to their suffering; in exceptional cases, it is reckless in leaving dangerous people to do harm to themselves or others. The madness lobby helps make the lunatic act of violence a routine part of the American landscape. A group of "anti-psychiatrist" thinkers provided the philosophical impetus for emptying our mental institutions.

Sarah Palin Is Right About 'Blood Libel'
Excerpt: The term "blood libel"—which Sarah Palin invoked this week to describe the suggestions by journalists and politicians that conservative figures like herself are responsible for last weekend's shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.—is fraught with perilous meaning in Jewish history…. Sarah Palin has every right to use it. The expression may be used whenever an amorphous mass is collectively accused of being murderers or accessories to murder. The abominable element of the blood libel is not that it was used to accuse Jews, but that it was used to accuse innocent Jews—their innocence, rather than their Jewishness, being the operative point. Had the Jews been guilty of any of these heinous acts, the charge would not have been a libel.

Poll on Palin’s Comments

Maine Governor Tells NAACP "Kiss my butt"
Excerpt: Newly-elected Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) didn’t mince words when confronted about comments from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) that his actions show a pattern of indifference to blacks. In fact, he had a message for the group: “Tell ‘em to kiss my butt.” (All I can say is that it's about damn time people started standing up to the NCAAP, and that's coming from someone with two African American grandsons. MasterGuns)

Sex in Space: The Final Frontier
Excerpt: Well, it had to come up at some point. With all the recent talk about a possible manned mission to Mars, one topic that hasn't had a lot of discussion is this: If we send colonists to the red planet, will sex in space be a problem? And just how much fun is it to experience zero-gravity nookie? Presumably, if we're going to send people to live on another world, they'll want to have sex somewhere in that final frontier. NASA hasn't said much about the subject, and it raises some questions: Have any astronauts done it already? And do we know if children could be conceived and survive in space? (A not quite tongue-in-cheeks approach to the subject of reproduction away from Mother Earth. You can’t have much of a colony, and certainly nothing permanent, unless children are possible. On the other hand, how might a child develop in null-gravity? As for the mechanics, bungee cords may be useful. Ron P.)

Excerpt: The United States and Immigration Services Office (USCIS) of Public Engagement is holding a new series of seminars aimed at legalizing relatives of legal immigrants. The new “Enlace” webinar is aptly named, “How do I help my relative become a permanent resident in the United States?” The federal government will provide the details only in Spanish, English-only residents will not be addressed at this seminar. The forum is meant to answer questions regarding legalizing family members and will only cover “general” queries.

Hunting Has Been Good This Year
(Ah, the joy of living in a centrally-planned economy! ~Bob. Excerpt: In the north, food has increasingly become the main obsession. That's because there's so little of it. Despite that, there are other problems. Among the upper class (Communist Party officials and military and police commanders), another big issue is growing drug use by their well-off children. Since the late 1990s, pharmacists and other medical personnel have been manufacturing methamphetamines, and selling the stuff to Chinese dealers across the border. This was a vital source of income at a time when starvation was an ever present danger. But in the last few years, more and more of the methamphetamines have been sold inside North Korea, to the children of the ruling class. Angry, and very influential, parents ordered a crackdown earlier this year, which has only been partially successful. Most of the methamphetamines are produced in towns near the Chinese border, but distributors have been found in the capital, and some other major cities. Many of those caught are executed, others are given the fate-worse-than-death and sent to prison. These "labor camps" (which kill a large number of inmates via malnutrition, violence or disease) are overcrowded. Normally built to hold about 150,000 enemies of the people, there are now closer to 200,000 inmates. That is controlled with less food and more violence, but this takes time (less time during the cold seasons). (What an incredible horror that poor nation is. Yet it doesn't matter how unhappy the population is, the army is run by fanatics and they have all the weapons and a ready will to use them on anyone that really steps out of line. It will take either a total collapse of the whole place or some sort of outside interference or just maybe some sort of infighting at the top before there is any chance of change. In a really moral world, the UN would authorize a sudden strike on the palace when the ruling family is there, followed by an amphibious landing just like the one Marines made during the Korean War, and devastating air power to wipe out all their military's air force, tanks, and artillery. And with a lot of propaganda leaflets being dropped to tell the people that the allies were coming to free them, and were bringing lots of food with them for everyone. There would be nothing but welcoming arms from 95% of the people, and the rest would die in futile attacks against the invading forces of liberation. But of course that will never happen. Too bad. --Del)

2011: The year O's bills come due?
Excerpt: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and both the elder and younger George Bush all found the third and fourth years of their presidencies harder than the first and second. The nation and the world tired of speechmaking. The novelty of a new commander in chief faded; poll numbers went south. The same thing is now happening to President Obama. Democrats assured voters that we'd love ObamaCare once it was at last implemented. Republican critics warned that we'd like it even less once we saw it unfold. We'll soon see who is right, as the four-year implementation begins in earnest during 2011. But if 100 organizations and corporations have already obtained exemptions from the Obama administration, how many more will seek to avoid the new law in 2011? Something also has to give on the budget this year. Keynesian spending was supposed to jump-start the economy and bring in more federal revenue. Instead, borrowing another $3 trillion the last two years has not led to much of an improved economy, as unemployment is still well above 9 percent. We'll see a rendezvous with fiscal reality in 2011, since either Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or defense -- 60 percent of the government's yearly budget expenditures -- will have to be trimmed. It's one thing for politicians to give speeches about reckless spending and debt, quite another to freeze Social Security increases, up the retirement age or cut Medicare benefits.

The Other (Endless) Massacre
Excerpt: Since Saturday, our media have reveled in the aftermath of the avoidable slaughter in Tucson, where a young madman--ignored by “tolerant” social, educational and law-enforcement systems—gunned down, among others, a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, while gravely wounding a Congresswoman reaching out to her constituents. Caught out in his incompetence, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona, railed against conservatives, who the “lawman” blamed for the massacre on his turf. Other leftists rushed to blame the Tea Party (conveniently overlooking the murderer’s internet claim that The Communist Manifesto was one of his favorite books—oops!). The fact is that the shooter wasn’t a political creature, but a psychopath. And a hyper-liberal social climate allowed him to go unchecked, despite no end of warning signs and documented complaints from his fellow citizens. Meanwhile, another massacre occurred on the doorstep of our nation’s capital, but the media and left-wing activists ignored it: In the first eleven days of 2011, eleven people were gunned down in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Their deaths were irrelevant to the political discourse—because they were black. We do, indeed, have a violence problem and an intolerable culture of the gun in this country. But it has nothing to do with honest citizens who go hunting every autumn. It’s a creation of the Democratic Party, which will take no serious measures to impose the rule of law and foster quality education systems in minority-populated districts, preferring to keep blacks and Latinos down on their electoral plantations.

Leaders won't force lawmakers to disarm

Excerpt: Their comments come a day after state Sen. Lori Klein, R-Anthem, said she brought her handgun to the Capitol and the busy opening-day ceremonies Monday. The start of the legislative session came two days after a mass shooting in Tucson that left six dead and 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, wounded by gunshots. Klein, who is starting her first term in the Legislature, said she believed lawmakers were exempt from laws restricting guns in public buildings. She said she carried her gun with her everywhere, in her purse, although in more than 10 years, she had never had a need to use it or even brandish it.

8,000 new jobs 'at risk' from SNP's Tesco Tax
Raise taxes, kill jobs. ~Bob. Excerpt: AS MANY as 8,000 jobs could be at risk if the SNP government imposes a controversial supermarket tax, the body representing Scottish retailers has warned. The warning came as the head of one of the UK's biggest stores - Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King - threatened to abandon the supermarket's entire Scottish investment plans unless ministers shelve the tax hike. Plans to open about 20 new stores by the big four supermarkets - Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons - could be "slowed or halted" if the tax hike designed to raise £30 million is introduced, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has claimed.

A Fifth Star for David Petraeus
Excerpt: The general clearly deserves to join the rank held by MacArthur, Marshall and Nimitz. His promotion would also honor our troops and their mission in the war on terror. On a cold December evening in 1783 at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, Gen. George Washington bade farewell to his staff and resigned his command of the Continental Army. One hundred ninety three years later, on America’s Bicentennial, Congress posthumously promoted Washington to five-star “General of the Armies of the United States.” Washington led the Continental Army against the British for eight years, the longest tenure for a combatant (wartime) commander in our history to be awarded a fifth star. But David Petraeus, who begins his eighth year as a combatant commander (presently as theatre commander in Afghanistan), will soon eclipse Washington’s tenure. In appropriate recognition of his long and extraordinary wartime service, the new Congress should authorize a fifth star for Gen. Petraeus, thereby promoting him to “General of the Army”—just below Washington’s rank of “General of the Armies” (plural). (I'm still hoping this nonpolitical general will run for President in 2012. --Del)

Why the Left Lost It
Excerpt: There has been a great effort this week to come to grips with the American left's reaction to the Tucson shooting. Paul Krugman of the New York Times and its editorial page, George Packer of the New Yorker, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek and others, in varying degrees, have linked the murders to the intensity of opposition to the policies and presidency of Barack Obama. As Mr. Krugman asked in his Monday commentary: "Were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?" The "you" would be his audience, and the answer is yes, they thought that in these times "something like this" could happen in the United States. Other media commentators, without a microbe of conservatism in their bloodstreams, have rejected this suggestion. So what was the point? Why attempt the gymnastic logic of asserting that the act of a deranged personality was linked to the tea parties and the American right? Two reasons: Political calculation and personal belief. The calculation flows from the shock of the midterm elections of November 2010. That was no ordinary election. What voters did has the potential to change the content and direction of the U.S. political system, possibly for a generation. Only 24 months after Barack Obama's own historic election and a rising Democratic tide, the country flipped. Not just control of the U.S. House, but deep in the body politic. Republicans now control more state legislative seats than any time since 1928.

U.S. Border Agent Arrested After Illegal Alien Found in Secret Room in His House
Excerpt: A U.S. Border Patrol agent is under arrest after a raid on his California home found that he was harbouring at least one illegal alien. FBI investigators who raided the San Ysidro home of Marcos Gerardo Manzano Jnr, 26, said they found a man in a hidden room - along with evidence of drug dealing. Manzano was arrested on Monday at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station before agents went around to his house. (The Drug Cartels now have the funds to corrupt all but the best. ~Bob.)

Five Hour Police Siege After Central London Bomb Threat
Excerpt: Large parts of central London remained closed to commuters this morning as police aimed to ensure there was no threat to the public following the siege, which ended at 5.15am on Thursday. Police were called to the Accessorize shop in
Regent Street
at 00.20am after an intruder broke into the store, setting off a security alarm. When they arrived, the man inside held up signs warning that he had explosives and making threats to harm himself.

Australian Floods: 'Save My Brother First'
Excerpt: Jordan Rice, 13, was killed in the city of Toowoomba, 80 miles west of Brisbane, as his family car was swamped. The teenager had insisted that rescuers take his 10-year-old brother, Blake, first. Seconds later, Jordan and his mother Donna, 43, were swept away.

A Stranger in My Own Land
Excerpt: To a London reader, born and bred with multiculturalism, I know that my stories may come across as outlandish and exaggerated, and that I must surely be a BNP voter — I have observed people's expressions as they have listened to my tales of life in Brum. When I recently told a friend how a large Taliban flag fluttered gaily on a house near St Andrew's football stadium for some months, her cry of "Can't you tell the police?" made me reflect how far many of our inner cities have been abandoned by our key workers: our doctors and nurses drive in from afar, the police, as mentioned before, have shut down their stations and never venture in unless in extremis — they and ambulance crews have been known to be attacked — even the local Imam lives in a leafier area. Only the priest remains, if you can get one — the thriving but clerically-vacant church down the road has had no applicant in two years.

Christina Taylor Green's Slaying has Profound Impact on Tucson Children
Excerpt: Many children here grow up with firearms as a regular, and safe, facet of daily life. Four blocks from Giffords's district office, two gun shops - the Armory and Second Amendment Sports - coexisted peacefully with an elementary school for decades. They attracted notice only once, when a student tried to persuade a shop to remove a holiday sign depicting Santa with a pistol. On Tuesday, as the city prepared for a visit by President Obama, Dan Cohen brought his 12-year-old daughter to a downtown shooting range to practice hitting targets with his M9 pistol. She learned to shoot two years ago, he said, and he takes her to practice once a week. "I'd rather have a weapon at my side and not need it than need a weapon at my side and not have it," said Cohen, noting that guns are safely stored in their home.

Ecuador's Chevron Shakedown
Excerpt: The case in question involves the former energy giant Texaco, who entered into an agreement to drill for oil in Ecuador beginning in the 1970′s in partnership with the country’s state-run oil company Petroecuador. (Texaco was purchased by Chevron in 2001, inheriting the situation detailed here.) Having only a minority share in the resources, this arrangement continued until the early 90′s when the government of Ecuador “nationalized” the energy industry. Texaco was forced to pull out of the area, leaving the state-run company to continue drilling. At that time, Texaco further agreed to clean up any residual effects at their drill sites, which they did. While that should have been the end of the story, an environmental activist group called the Amazon Defense Coalition (ADC) sprung up, seemingly created from whole cloth with the intent of reaching into Texaco’s deep pockets and seeing what they might find there. They even use a URL name of “texacotoxico” rather than anything to do with the Amazon or environmental concerns. Long story short, the group took Texaco to court in a small town in Ecuador and began proceedings to demand a $27B settlement for the alleged environmental harm. (Yes, that was “billion” with a “B.”)

RFK, Jr.: "You know, my uncle was also shot amidst a climate of right-wing hate."
Excerpt: Nowhere in the post is Oswald mentioned, or his communist sympathies, or the fact that he had tried to kill an ultra-conservative general seven months before he shot JFK. Which, sadly, is not uncommon when an especially unscrupulous left-wing hack writes about Kennedy’s assassination. The “reasoning” here, I guess, is that because conservatives in Dallas hated Kennedy, the otherwise peaceful Oswald — an ideologue so devoted that he actually defected to the Soviet Union in the late 1950s — saw his mind turn from civil political opposition to Kennedy to murderous rage. The “climate” of anger affected him … even though his own political grievances were nothing like the Birchers’. That’s as coherent as I can make this argument, and in any case, I don’t think Junior’s concerned about coherence. He’s practicing voodoo here: Right-wing city –> ??? –> JFK assassinated. Fill in the blank yourself. 9And Oswald was linked with that leftist utopia, Cuba. ~Bob.)

Sarah Palin's Map
Excerpt: OK … An argument could be made that those are cross hairs. But Palin’s office says they were surveyor’s marks. Can that argument be sustained? Here’s a link for you to peruse. The link leads you to a booklet from the U.S. Geological Survey titled “Topographic Map Symbols.” After you’ve clicked on the link start scrolling down the page. About halfway through on the right column you will see “CONTROL DATA AND MONUMENTS.” Now remember .. these are symbols for maps – as in “Sarah Palin’s Map”. The first entry under the title bar is labeled “Principal point,” and there you have it. Just to the right. Just about the exact same symbol that appears on the Palin map. Well, by goodness, it would seem that it is indeed a surveyor’s symbol! A map symbol! Just what you might expect to find on a …. MAP!

Dupnik's Real Outrage: Detroit-on-the-Desert
Excerpt: Clarence Dupnik, extraordinary and courageous law enforcement officer, personally congratulated by our president. That's the portrait of the Pima County sheriff who has become a hero to the national media by blaming the Tucson Safeway massacre on, among others, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party. But reality tells another picture. A little digging and the media that have used the shooting to, as one American Thinker contributor put it, "declare war" on the conservative opposition to Democratic expansion of government would discover a reality completely at odds with the bulk of the reporting by conventional media. But why allow truth to stand in the way of a convenient narrative? Reality: Pima County, the crime capital of Arizona, home of a politicized sheriff's department where progressive ideology and political correctness -- not competence -- rules. The New York Times editorial board has cast the sheriff as a valiant warrior fighting against an epidemic of violence that makes his beloved Pima County the epicenter of "the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country." Meanwhile, MSNBC, the mainstream networks, the Washington Post and others pile on, with the new parent of Newsweek hailing "Arizona's New Star Sherriff" who is "winning raves" for his willingness to blame the shooting on conservatives nationwide. Harvard-trained progressive broadcaster Amy Goodman, from her headquarters in the trendy Chelsea section of Manhattan, contrasts the quality of law enforcement offered by the "humanity" of Democrat Dupnik with the head of law enforcement of neighboring Maricopa County, where the "notorious" Sheriff Joe Arpaio "jails people" -- even, much to the dismay of Attorney General Eric Holder, illegal immigrants -- under "harsh conditions."

Arizona shooting: Pima County Sheriff's Department, college won't release data on suspect
Sheriff's Department and community-college officials in Pima County are refusing to release a wide range of public documents about the man charged in Saturday's shooting rampage that left six dead and more than a dozen wounded. The Pima County Sheriff's Department and Pima Community College have declined to release documents that could shed light on run-ins they had with 22-year-old Jared Loughner in the months prior to the shooting. The Arizona Public Records Law requires that records be "open to inspection by any person at all times" unless officials can prove releasing the information would violate rights of privacy or confidentiality or otherwise harm the best interests of the state. The Arizona Republic requested that records, including incident reports on campus and calls for dispatch of deputies to Loughner's home, be released under the law. Such reports are often released as a matter of course in criminal cases.

ACORN leader avoids prison for voter fraud conspiracy
Excerpt: Judge Donald Mosley sentenced Busefink to two years imprisonment but suspended the jail time provided that she abides by the terms of her probation. She was also fined a total of $4,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. Prosecutors had argued for a fine of just $1,000. Voter fraud, sometimes called electoral fraud, is a blanket term encompassing a host of election-related improprieties. This isn’t the first time Busefink was involved in shady electoral dealings. Even while under indictment in Nevada she ran the 2010 national voter drive for Project Vote, which was President Obama’s employer in 1992. Project Vote and ACORN have long been indistinguishable. Project Vote still operates out of ACORN’s offices in Washington, D.C. Busefink also ran ACORN’s fraud-ridden 2008 voter registration drive. In that drive, officials chucked an astounding 400,000 bogus registrations.

AZ Shooting Survivor Arrested for Death Threat Against Tea Party Leader
Excerpt: On Saturday morning, Fuller and Humphries met during a town hall-style event hosted by ABC’s Christianne Amanpour that featured family members of victims, Tucson citizens and community leaders. Toward the end of the meeting, local news reports that Fuller objected to comments made by Humphries and Arizona state Rep. Terri Proud, a Republican. In response, Fuller took a photo of Humphries and told him, “You’re dead.”

Kill Sarah Palin?
This blog reported liberal death threats on Palin, but YouTube has pulled the clip. ~Bob.

Supreme Court won't hear global warming case
Excerpt: The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday not to review a pivotal global warming case brought by coastal residents seeking damages for property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
In Ned Comer et al. vs. Murphy Oil USA et al., a group of Mississippi property owners alleged that greenhouse gas emissions of Murphy Oil USA—through more than 100 oil, coal and chemical companies—contributed to climate change and furthered the property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The plaintiffs sought damages under Mississippi common law, including public and private nuisance, trespass and negligence allegations. (Read the very brief article. It reads like the plot outline for a Grisham novel. Ron P.

English Defence League: Mission Statement
Boy, radical stuff. ~Bob. Excerpt: 1.Human Rights: Protecting And Promoting Human Rights. The English Defence League (EDL) is a human rights organisation that exists to protect the inalienable rights of all people to protest against radical Islam’s encroachment into the lives of non-Muslims. It also recognises that Muslims themselves are frequently the main victims of some Islamic traditions and practices. The Government should ensure the individual human rights of members of the Muslim community to openly criticise Islamic orthodoxy, to challenge Islamic community leaders without fear of retribution, to receive full equality before the law (including equal rights for Muslim women), and to leave Islam if they see fit and to do so without fear or censure. Muslims have the right to demand reform of their religion to make it more relevant to the needs of the modern world, including the need to fully respect other groups in society without fear of retribution.

Plant will shut after $58m in state aid: Evergreen Solar to cut 800 jobs as it tries to compete with China
And if a politician voted against pouring the $58M down that hole, he’d have been trashed by the media for being against the environment and jobs! ~Bob. Excerpt: Evergreen Solar Inc. will eliminate 800 jobs in Massachusetts and shut its new factory at the former military base in Devens, just two years after it opened the massive facility to great fanfare and with about $58 million in taxpayer subsidies. The company announced yesterday that it will close the plant by the end of March, calling itself a victim of weak demand and competition from cheaper suppliers in China, where the government provides solar companies with generous subsidies…. The Devens closing is a major hit to Governor Deval Patrick’s efforts to make Massachusetts a hub of the emerging clean-energy industry. The administration persuaded Evergreen to build at Devens with a package of grants, land, loans, and other aid originally valued at $76 million. The company ended up taking about $58 million, one of the largest aid packages Massachusetts has provided to a private company, and the governor was the featured guest at Evergreen’s ribbon-cutting in July 2008.

Arizona blocks funeral protests

Excerpt: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed emergency legislation Tuesday establishing “funeral protection zones” to keep protesters away from the memorial services for the victims of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson. Earlier in the day, the Arizona Legislature passed the bill unanimously. The measure - aimed at the Rev. Fred Phelps and other members of the Westboro Baptist Church who announced plans to picket outside the Thursday funeral of 9-year-old victim Christina-Taylor Green - won bipartisan support. It will take effect immediately. “Such despicable acts of emotional terrorism will not be tolerated in the State of Arizona. This legislation will assure that the victims of Saturday’s tragic shooting in Tucson will be laid to rest in peace with the full dignity and respect that they deserve,” the Republican governor said in a statement.

Somali 250,000 Pound benefits cheat Ayan Abdulle described Britain as 'the land of easy money'
Excerpt: Abdulle arrived in London in 2004 with her first five children, now aged eight to 17, and her husband Raghe Adan, and claimed asylum under the name Amina Ali Muse.
In her application, she said militiamen had targeted her home in Somalia on December 1, 1998, shooting her brothers dead. She claimed she had been gang raped while three months pregnant, leading to a miscarriage, and that her niece had been raped, tortured and beaten.
In fact, on that date Abdulle had been in Sweden giving birth to a daughter. Between June 2004 and May 2010, Abdulle, who was living in Neasden, North-West London, claimed £261,358.14 in handouts. The cash came from almost every welfare benefit possible, including income support, disability living allowance, careers’ allowance, jobseekers’ allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit, tax credits and child benefit.

More on the Epistemology Deficit and ‘Moderate’ Islamism
My last two blogs were, respectively, about the Muslim epistemology deficit and the mirage of moderate Islamism. As if the gods of punditry had pulled my name out of a hat for blessings, this week’s news is chock full of dramatic new developments in these very stories. First, on epistemology. I had noted reports in the Palestinian press that the Israeli Mossad had trained rats to infest the homes of Arab residents of Jerusalem while passing over those of their Jewish neighbors and that a high Egyptian official had attributed lethal attacks on bathers to Mossad-trained sharks who apparently avoided Israeli tourists. Now, Saudi news organizations have reported the capture of an Israeli Mossad spy bird. The bird is a vulture, and its exact mission has yet to be deciphered. How did the Saudis discover that this particular vulture was not a run-of-the-mill consumer of carrion, but an Israeli spy? Because the creature wore a leg bracelet on which were imprinted the words “Tel Aviv University.” Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out. What a neat piece of detective work. What makes the whole ploy fiendishly clever is that vultures are not kosher. Who would think that a non-kosher bird would be spying for Israel? And for that matter, sharks and rats aren’t kosher either.

Incoming New Mexico Governor’s First Priority: Revoke Licenses of Illegal Aliens

Excerpt: One of the first priorities for Governor-elect Susana Martinez is to revoke the thousands of drivers’ licenses which have been issued by New Mexico to illegal aliens in recent years. After Arizona passed SB1070, illegal aliens have been flocking to New Mexico which does not currently require proof of citizenship to obtain a license. Outgoing open-borders advocate, Gov. Bill Richardson, made it worse by passing a law banning DMV clerks from asking an applicant if they are in the country legally. As a result, New Mexico had become a favorite with human smugglers and those who make their living from selling fraudulent documents.

Egyptian cleric: Offensive jihad permitted "to extend God's religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it"
Excerpt: In other words, if governments try to resist the Islamization of their societies, Muslims must wage war against them. Here again, an Islamic cleric -- at the world's leading Sunni institution -- confirms what I have been saying about Islam and jihad for years. He must be some kind of Islamophobe. " 'Offensive Jihad Is Permissible to Secure Islam's Borders, to Extend God's Religion, Remove Every Religion but Islam from the Arabian Peninsula,'" from Translating Jihad, January 11:

Pepsi to stop making beverages in Baltimore
Excerpt: The Pepsi plant in Baltimore will no longer make soda, and the company plans to lay off 77 people as officials have decided to stop manufacturing operations — a decision they blame in part on a controversial new beverage tax in the city. The last cans and 2-liter bottles of Pepsi-Cola, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other sodas ran through the production line Monday morning. Executives at Pepsi Beverages Co. told workers in meetings later in the day that production would be halted for good. Pepsi officials said they would work out details regarding the layoffs, including potential severance, with the local Teamsters union.  The company will continue most other functions at the plant on
Union Avenue
in Hampden. An additional 318 workers with positions in sales and in the warehouse will keep their jobs. Pepsi will continue making soda in other parts of the state and the Baltimore plant will get beverages from those facilities as well as others in the Mid-Atlantic region to distribute.

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