Sunday, February 13, 2011

Political Digest for February 13,2011

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.

Egypt’s Military Leaders Face Power Sharing Test
Excerpt: The two military officers who have risen to power in Egypt are members of the very elite that benefited from the reign of President Hosni Mubarak. Now the question being raised here and in Cairo is whether they can figure out a way to share power with a restive population that for decades has had none. Both are members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has rarely met but will run the country at least until elections are held later in the year. Each gained credibility with protesters during the turmoil of the past three weeks by venturing out into the streets and mingling with the crowds, sending strong signals that they would not stand behind the president or order soldiers to fire on the demonstrators. Despite this nod to populism, American military officers who know them say that neither officer is fiercely pro-democracy; in fact one of them, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, is seen as a strident opponent of political change. Both are likely to have calculated that protecting the military’s status and credibility was more important than standing behind an increasingly isolated and weakened president. (An interesting look at the two top leaders of Egypt's military. Oddly, the new Vice President (who is also a general officer) isn't one of them. Ron P.)

Rudderless in the White House
Excerpt: Then of course yesterday, CIA Chief Leon Panetta said Mubarak was probably on his way out, right up until Mubarak said he was staying. Power, however, seems to lie with the Army and Vice President Suleiman — who has held the three-decades-vacant office by appointment for all of twelve days. One wonders if this is what Biden considers “meaningful” or “legitimate.” And then there have been things like the false assurance to Congress by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular,” and Biden’s insistence that Mubarak is not a dictator. Things didn’t get really bad, however, until Obama began insisting, quite publicly, that Mubarak take all those “concrete steps” to leave office. It’s a generally accepted rule of diplomacy that you don’t make demands in public unless you know in advance the answer is Yes, or that you have the means to enforce your demand if the answer is No. We saw this same behavior when the administration was young and still trying to find its footing. Remember when Obama traveled all the way to Denmark to win the Olympics for Chicago, only to get rejected in the first round of voting? Same thing now. If you’d been hoping Obama would grow into the office, those hopes just got dashed against the stones of the Presidential Palace in Cairo. (In the world of diplomacy, perception is everything. It is inconceivable the USA is now perceived as “more effective” than we were three weeks ago. No matter who “wins” now, we will be seen as the “losers” by both allies and enemies. Ron P.)

Mitch Daniels at CPAP
This is well worth the time to watch. He would be a great choice for us. –Steve. I like what he has to say. ~Bob

What do you define as a band of brothers?
Excerpt: The bond does last forever regardless of the generation or war they fought in or coast they went to boot camp. The Marine brotherhood is a unique bond that usually is boasted about in bars but always demonstrated on the battlefield. (I had the pleasure of serving with my brother, even participating in pinning on his SSgt chevrons. And yes, I did it without having the retaining clips on the posts, and they were metal chevrons, not the flimsy plastic ones. MasterGuns)

Marine Receives Navy Cross for Actions in Vietnam War
Excerpt: Nearly 45 years after he saved almost an entire company of fellow Marines in Vietnam, a Marine Corps veteran was formally recognized today for his actions. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus presented Ned E. Seath with the Navy Cross -- the second-highest award a Marine can receive for valor -- in a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va. Then a lance corporal, Seath was serving as a machine gun team leader with the 3rd Marine Division’s Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, when he halted an assault of North Vietnamese soldiers July 16, 1966, using an M-60 machine gun he reassembled from spare parts. But his story of heroism was tucked away when his service in the Marine Corps ended. Seven years ago, his story resurfaced during a battalion reunion, leading to a movement started by Bill Hutton, who served with Seath, to recognize Seath’s heroism. “All I could think was they’re going to be overrun us and they were going to kill us all,” Seath said. “I had Hutton and Bennett on my flanks with fixed bayonets holding them off. They gave me a good two more minutes to make one good gun.” Better late than never... S/F --Del)

CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes? Yeah, Pretty Much.
Excerpt: Of course, many think CliffsNotes a descriptor for laziness and ignorance, with more than a whiff of deception. But those who think this do so because they are inflexible and reactionary and too stuck in their old ways. They are also probably not sufficiently worshipful of Steve Jobs. Anyway, these new “study aides” won’t be dry, talking-head videos either; no sir. They will be “humorous shorts.” And not just humorous, but “irreverent,” too. Yet CliffsNotes says these humorous, irreverent shorts will “still manage to present the plot, characters, and themes” of the assignments — I mean books. (Headstrong horny boy meets hot, impressionable girl; they hook up against their families’ wishes, there’s a big fight and they both die? I’m sorry but I can’t help thinking Shakespeare told it better. Ron P.)

In New California Gold Rush, Old Mines Reopen
Excerpt: “Right there, see? It’s small but it’s very colorful,” Mr. Cochrane said, pointing at a shiny speck no bigger than a seed. “It’s got that nice yellow color.” It was gold, and if people like Mr. Cochrane have their way, gold will soon be big business again in California’s Mother Lode, in the same area of the Sierra — and occasionally the same mines — where the old-time prospectors once used pickaxes, ore carts and burros to chase their riches. (…) Mining largely dried up in California after World War II as price controls made the business model unappealing. But with controls gone, and gold now selling at more than $1,300 an ounce, the math makes sense again. (This will create some interesting conflicts between state and federal law. Mining for evil gold is just a hair behind mining for evil coal in the minds of Greens. Federal law is supposed to be supreme in matters of mining, so after losing their delaying battle in state courts, the Greens are sure to try to pit the EPA against the Department of the Interior. I don’t know which set of beancounters will win, but the potential California miners will be the losers. Ron P.)

Italy warns of an immigration 'emergency' due to North African unrest
Excerpt: Italy appealed to the European Union Friday for help in stemming an immigration "emergency," as hundreds of undocumented immigrants arrived by boat from Tunisia. Italian coast guards have intercepted six boats carrying hundreds of people, most of them from Tunisia. The latest was found Friday, carrying 181 people and has been taken to the tiny island of Lampedusa, where more than 1,000 people have landed in the past three days. ANSA news agency also quoted officials from the Sicilian port of Trapani, saying nine Tunisian immigrants had been rescued Friday by coast guards from a sinking vessel. "There is a risk of a real humanitarian emergency," said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni of the anti-immigration Northern League party. Maroni appealed to the EU presidency Friday for help and made a request for the EU's justice and home affairs council later this month to discuss "the crisis in North Africa and its effects on immigration and internal security in Europe."

High Speed Rail of the future

110 lb clerk captures 250 lb jerk
Great story

"Here's all you really need to know about government reform," he said. "On a given weekend, go to two weddings. Go to one where there's an open bar where the drinks are supposedly free. Then, go to another wedding with a cash bar where people pay for their own drinks. You'll see very, very different behaviors." --Tim Pawlenty

IMF Wants to Dump the US Dollar as World Currency
Excerpt: The International Monetary Fund issued a report Thursday on a possible replacement for the dollar as the world's reserve currency. The IMF said Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, could help stabilize the global financial system. SDRs represent potential claims on the currencies of IMF members. They were created by the IMF in 1969 and can be converted into whatever currency a borrower requires at exchange rates based on a weighted basket of international currencies. The IMF typically lends countries funds denominated in SDRs While they are not a tangible currency, some economists argue that SDRs could be used as a less volatile alternative to the U.S. dollar.

House GOP Policy Chair: It's Up To Obama Whether He Shuts Down Government to Try to Force Republicans to Fund Obamacare
Excerpt: Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, told he is committed to defunding the health care law, and he said a government shutdown over the law is in the hands of President Barack Obama. asked Price, “Since the House Republicans’ budget will not include funds for the health care law and the CR [Continuing Resolution] will not include funds for the health care law, do you think Senate Democrats will shut down the government to force Republicans to fund the health care law?” “That’s a great question. That’s a question to ask them, obviously. What we want to do is make certain that the American people understand and appreciate that we’re putting every single ounce of energy we can into being certain that this law doesn’t come to pass in terms of activity on the American people,” he told on Capitol Hill after delivering the closing address of the “Ronald Reagan’s Vision & Policies” forum, held in honor of the former president’s 100th birthday. “As a physician, I can tell you that it’s destructive to the quality of health care, that it limits accessibility to health care and that it increases costs for virtually every single American out there so it’s incumbent upon us to be responsible and represent our constituents and make certain that it doesn’t get enacted.”

“Fortress Europe”?
Excerpt: The Guardian has a report from the Greek-Turkish frontier - or "Europe's border", as a German member of the 175-strong Frontex security team describes it: In 2009 some 3,600 migrants managed to slip across the frontier not far from this market town; in 2010 that number shot up to 36,000, helping explain why Greece has become the favoured port of entry for 90% of illegals pouring into the EU. "They come at all hours of the night and day," said Orestiada's police chief, Giorgos Salamangas, in his icon-bedecked office. "And they're coming not just from the Middle East and Asia but all of Africa, places I have never heard of before." The Guardian being The Guardian, they headline the piece "Fortress Europe". But it's a fortress you can stroll into: The influx has shattered the rhythm of life in one of Greece's most isolated regions. Farmers in the main, the locals speak of the fear they have felt at suddenly encountering thousands of bedraggled men, women and children from the likes of Afghanistan and Iraq, Algeria and Morocco, India, Palestine, Congo and Somalia. "It's been an unbelievable caravan of humanity. I must have seen at least 10,000 of them pass," said Giorgos Liakides, who runs a little mini-market in Nea Vissa, the first village after the border. "You wake up and find them on your doorstep, and at night when you go to water the fields you find them hiding in the bushes. We understand their plight, we are human as well. But we're afraid. None of us ever used to lock our doors before; now we worry all the time.

Postal workers expensed private travel and 'adult entertainment'
Excerpt: If the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service wants to save money it should ensure that its workers aren't booking pricey hotel rooms and airplane tickets or buying pornography, according to a new watchdog report. Over a two-year period, some postal workers used credit cards meant for travel and lodging expenses to buy family members flights to Spain and Italy, purchase Apple computers and make more than 50 purchases at "adult entertainment" stores. The findings, detailed in a Postal Service Inspector General report, also reveal that USPS didn't cancel 2,491 credit cards issued to former employees, including 53 who were listed as deceased. Two former employees were still using their cards after they left, according to the report.

Who's on offense in the House?
Excerpt: After a historic 63-seat pickup in the 2010 midterm election, House Republicans would be expected to be on defense in the 2012 cycle -- doing everything they can to minimize their losses and keep their 48-seat majority. And, to a large extent, they are. A look at the map shows Republicans have plenty of seats to hold on to. They hold 61 districts that President Obama carried in 2008, while Democrats hold just 12 districts that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried.
But, Republicans have something going for them that they haven't had, well, ever. And that is a major advantage in redistricting. Many of the most vulnerable Republicans elected in 2012 will be running in districts that are being redrawn by their own party. For instance, control of the line-drawing process could help as many as five or six vulnerable Republicans in both Pennsylvania and Ohio alone -- members that otherwise would have been seriously endangered. Democrats don't get much help from redistricting. The party controls the process in only one state where it could draw a map that endangers multiple Republicans: Illinois. Republicans, meanwhile, get to shore up their members and create new opportunities for themselves in many states, including most of the big ones.

Hollister man run over by border patrol SUV near fence
Excerpt: It happened around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when a border patrol surveillance camera observed two suspects illegally crossing the border, in the area of Barbara Worth and Carr roads. A border patrol agent was dispatched to the area and, while looking for the suspects, drove a Chevy Tahoe through heavy brush at 5 mph to 10 mph toward an open clearing, according to the CHP. The agent stopped and got out of the truck to look for footprints, and heard moaning noises coming from behind the sport utility vehicle. The agent located "two illegal border crossers who had been hiding in the brush" and had been run over, according to the CHP, which was notified after the request for medical aid.

Head Case
Excerpt: Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan chopped off his wife's head, and then claimed it was because she'd been spousally abusing him. This was not in Yemen or Waziristan but in Buffalo. Despite the chutzpah (if he'll forgive the expression) of his defense, yesterday the jury took less than an hour to find him guilty of murder. The Hassan case was fascinating not just because his entire public identity was a fraud but because the media so enthusiastically promoted that fraud. Two years ago, in Headless Body In Gutless Press, I wrote: Just asking, but are beheadings common in western New York? I used to spend a lot of time in that neck of the woods and I don’t remember decapitation as a routine form of murder. Yet the killing of Aasiya Hassan seems to have elicited a very muted response. When poor Mrs. Hassan’s husband launched his TV network to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims, he had no difficulty generating column inches, as far afield as The Columbus Dispatch, The Detroit Free Press, The San Jose Mercury News, Variety, NBC News, the Voice of America, and the Canadian Press. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle put the couple on the front page under the headline “Infant TV Network Unveils The Face Of Muslim News”. But, when Muzzammil Hassan kills his wife and “the face of Muslim news” is unveiled rather more literally, detached from her corpse at his TV studios, it’s all he can do to make the local press — page 26 of Newsday, plus The Buffalo News, and a very oddly angled piece in the usually gung-ho New York Post, “Buffalo Beheading: Money Woe Spurred Slay“.

Cities can impound cars driven by unlicensed drivers, court says
Excerpt: The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's decision Tuesday saying that cities, including Escondido, have the authority under state law to impound cars for up to 30 days when people are caught driving without a license. Civil rights attorneys filed the lawsuit in March 2007 on behalf of about 20 plaintiffs, including two people whose cars were impounded by Escondido police, and named then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, and the cities of Riverside, Escondido, Maywood and Los Angeles as defendants. The plaintiffs argued that the state's mandatory 30-day impound law was unconstitutional because it constituted an unreasonable seizure. The court disagreed.

Los Angeles gets tough with political protesters
Excerpt: Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich is throwing the book at dozens of people arrested during recent political demonstrations — a major shift in city policy that has him pressing for jail time in types of cases that previous prosecutors had treated as infractions.
Some of the activists arrested, including eight college students and one military veteran who took part in a Westwood rally last year in support of the DREAM Act, face up to one year in county jail. Trutanich's aggressive stance is the latest episode in the city's decades-long legal struggle over the rights of protesters. The Los Angeles Police Department's treatment of demonstrators at the 2000 Democratic National Convention and at a 2007 May Day rally at MacArthur Park led to lawsuits against the city.

Mubarak resignation creates political vacuum for U.S. in Middle East
Anyone asked to support the US will remember that Mubarak did. ~Bob. Excerpt: President Hosni Mubarak's decision to step down Friday after three decades in power presents the Obama administration with a political vacuum where a stalwart ally once stood, shaking up the Middle East in ways that present as much peril as promise for U.S. interests in the region.

Tea Party wins: $100 billion in cuts in House Republicans' spending bill
Alert the lobbyists! ~Bob. Excerpt: House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) on Friday evening introduced a revised 2011 government spending bill that the GOP said will cut at least $100 billion in spending this fiscal year, bowing to demands by Tea Party-backed House freshmen. The continuing resolution funding the government after March 4 cuts deeply across all areas of domestic spending and singles out many programs for complete elimination.

Funny video on illegal immigration
Go ahead, call him a racist.

Opinion: Why Not Discriminate Against Smokers?
Excerpt: Although smokers seem to have lower lifetime medical expenses than nonsmokers do (because they tend to die younger), they may be more costly to insure during their working years and more likely to take sick days. In addition, medical businesses such as hospitals may see modeling healthy behavior as part of their missions. Whatever their reasons, freedom of contract means people should not be forced to hire smokers, any more than they should be forced to hire nonsmokers. (...) The real threat to our privacy and autonomy does not come from nosy employers. It comes from an increasingly intrusive government that considers promoting "public health" one of its core functions and interprets that concept broadly enough to encompass everything people do that might increase their own risk of disease or injury. That paternalistic tendency is reinforced by the government's ever-expanding role in health care, which gives every taxpayer a financial stake in his neighbor's lifestyle. (Interesting opinion that appears to want it both ways. There are already cities where it is illegal to smoke tobacco—a taxed product legally available for purchase by any adult over the age of 18 anywhere in the United States—inside one's own home. Some of the same cities have legal smoke-on-the-premises shops for “medical marijuana,”—technically illegal in all 50 states, according to the federal government—while at the same time, banning tobacco smoking in all workspaces including smoke-shops, bars, and cigar stores [It would be interesting to see if one could be arrested for smoking tobacco in a medical marijuana smoke-bar.]. No one seems to see any hypocrisy or irony in these positions, either. The good news is that no noticeable effort is being put into enforcement in any of those cities, at least not yet. Can you imagine the dilemma of a jury faced with a case of "secret smoking of tobacco" when more than 20% of the populace sees nothing wrong with an occasional toke of illegal marijuana? Someone once said the point of petty laws isn’t to force compliance, it’s to create criminals who are then easier to control. One of the most basic principles of being a conservative is to mind one’s own business and let the other fellow choose to go to hell in his/her own way. Adults do not always make “good” decisions, but they are still free to make them on their own. Smokers and fat people seem to be the last groups safe to discriminate against. And, alas, I'm in both groups. Ron P. Well, given that I have an eventually-terminal lung disease, I’d prefer not to take in any more second hand smoke that I have to. Non-smokers also have a right to go into public places without having someone else’s smoke hurt them. Everyone has a right to fill up water pistols with cat wiz and shoot them—but not on to other folks. Except on to Nancy Pelosi, where it’s constitutionally-protected political speech. Yeah, I know if someone squirts her, I’ll be blamed because of this joke. ~Bob.)

Excerpt: Because I have been on the road, I did not have chance to comment on Thursday’s editorial in the New York Times entitled, “A Debate Bigger Than Reform” (registration required). It strikes me as significant that the editorial board of the Times now feels the need to address the constitutional objections to the individual mandate, just as the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to hold its first hearing on the constitutionality of the individual mandate more than a year after the Senate passed the bill. Unfortunately, like Akhil Amar and Laurence Tribe, the Times failed to address the actual objections being made by the plaintiffs and the actual reasoning of Judge Roger Vinson. Instead, the Times focuses on my testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This could cause one to suspect that, if Judge Vinson’s actual legal analysis was as weak as alleged, it could be accurately reported and answered forthrightly. Instead we get this:

Short, worth reading: The Superpower as Spectator
Excerpt: This is not a happy ending but the beginning of something potentially very dark. The end of the Mubarak regime is the biggest shift in the region in 60 years, since Nasser overthrew King Farouk's dissolute monarchy and diminished London's influence in Cairo. We are witnessing the unraveling of the American Middle East - that's to say, of the regimes supported by Washington in the waning of British and French imperial power after the Second World War. The American Middle East was an unlovely place, and perhaps the most obviously repellent illustration of the limitations of "He may be an SOB but he's our SOB" thinking. It's "our" SOBs who are in trouble: After the fall of Mubarak, what remains to hold up the Hashemites in Amman? Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood is more radical than Egypt's, the regime is less ruthless, King Abdullah's Arabic is worse than his English, and pretty westernized Queen Rania, who seems so cute when CNN interviewers are fawning all over her, is openly despised outside the palace gates.

Congressmen Alan West keynotes CPAP

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