Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Political Digest for February 16, 2011

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

Attention to Orders
14 Feb 11: Duncan, Gene, Maj. USMC (Ret) is hereby permanently reassigned to Tank Company, USMC Guard, Heaven and will proceed directly there by most expeditious means available. Travel by air authorized.

Those who follow my blog have seen my reports on Maj. Gene Duncan since he was diagnosed with lung cancer last August and given a month to live. He fought that for six months, in one almost continuous party, and with a positive, fearless Marine attitude, with visiting Marines, some wonderful neighbors, lots of Sea Stories and copious Scotch. Dunc described himself as an “old tank driver.” He was also an author of many Marine books, with Dunc’s Almanac on leadership, and his series of wonderful sea stories, starting with Green Side Out being best known.. He was a frequent lecturer at Marine Birthday Balls, and to young recruits and young officers. He held two Bronze Stars with Vs and two purple hearts with the scars to verify the last one. He volunteered to return to active duty for the first Gulf War. Told that his hearing wasn’t good enough for active service, he responded, “Hell, I don’t want to listen to the Iraqis—I want to kill them!”

I was fortunate to be close enough to visit Dunc several times during his last fight. It was a great privilege to know him and have him call me friend. He fought all the way, as the video below shows.

On the Road Again
I will be at a business conference this week, and will have limited time on line. I’ll leave a couple of things to post, but you should expect very spotty service until next week. I just went through America Airlines Voice Mail Hell, trying to make sure they knew I was flying with oxygen. Nothing says “we don’t give a damn about our customers” like voice mail, which assumes their clerks time is too valuable to waste five minutes on you, while you wasting fifteen punching numbers and talking to a computer is fine.

10 questions with ‘Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny’ director Rick Trank
Excerpt: What do you think Churchill’s legacy is? What lessons does he leave for world leaders today? I think Churchill’s legacy is the importance of staying true to your principles and not being afraid to speak out for what you believe in, even if your views might not be popular at that moment. Many leaders today are too busy consulting polls and consultants before they take a position and that diminishes them as leaders. Churchill stuck to his guns, even when it might have hurt him politically. (This film is now being shown in several areas of the country (not mine, unfortunately). Love him or hate him, Churchill was probably the single most important individual—and, certainly the most eloquent—who stood in opposition to Hitler during the Second World War. He led an amazingly complex life as a genuine war hero (Boer War), war correspondent and author of numerous histories and biographies, Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister (various posts including First Lord of the Admiralty (twice) and Chancellor of the Exchequer), Opposition Leader, and Prime Minister (twice). Had he died early, the world today would be a very different place. While Bob Hall and I were walking in downtown San Diego on liberty, Churchill's death was announced. We had to go to Tijuana to drink him a toast as we were both too young to get a legal drink in California in January, 1965. Ron P. )

'Geezer Bandit’ Wreaks Havoc in California
Excerpt: Known as the ‘Geezer Bandit,’ a bank-robbing old man in California has won the hearts of thousands, reports the Washington Times. Photographs of his wrinkled face taken from surveillance video cameras have been printed on T-shirts and mugs, and his Facebook page has thousands of fans. But authorities say he is armed and dangerous, and his bank-robbing spree is no laughing matter. Still, his popularity grows with every heist, with comments such as “Run Geezer Run” appearing on one of the many Facebook pages set up in honor of the aging crook. (He’s got his own Facebook page? Dillinger and the James Brothers will surely be jealous. Ron P.)

Anthrax report casts doubt on scientific evidence in FBI case against Bruce Ivins
Personally, I blame the “Climate of Hate” created by Sarah Palin. Or Global warming—hard to tell which. Couldn’t have been a member of the “Religion of Peace.” When they commit Allahmurders, they like to claim credit. ~Bob. Excerpt: A panel of prominent scientists is casting new doubt on scientific evidence that was a key part of the FBI's case against Bruce E. Ivins, the deceased Army scientist accused of carrying out the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks. The National Research Council, in a report issued Tuesday, questioned the link between a flask of anthrax bacteria in Ivins's lab at Fort Detrick, Md., and the anthrax-infested letters that killed five people and sickened 17 others. The Justice Department has said genetic testing conclusively linked the letters to spores in the flask - labeled RMR-1029 - found at the laboratory, where Ivins was a longtime researcher before committing suicide in 2008. The government closed the case last year after concluding that Ivins had single-handedly prepared and mailed the deadly anthrax spores, an incident that terrorized a nation still reeling from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Chances up for federal shutdown
I think the Democrats want a “shutdown,” as they saw how, with the connivance of the Leftstream Media, it was blamed on the Republicans in the 1990s. Their position is, let us spend, or get blamed by the media for shutting down the government. But I’m not sure the public wouldn’t cheer a shutdown. ~Bob. The chances of a government shutdown are on the rise. With less than three weeks to strike a deal before government funding for the year is scheduled to expire, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are moving in opposite directions. Lawmakers from both parties stress they want to avoid a rerun of the stalemate that led to a shutdown in late 1995 and early 1996. But the rhetoric on spending has escalated, and Democratic and GOP officials are already prepping for the blame game. Positions have hardened after a revolt last week by House conservatives, who forced GOP leaders to nearly double their proposed spending cuts for 2011. If the cuts pass the House, Senate Democrats say they are dead on arrival in the upper chamber. 

Patriot Act extension passes House, one week after unexpected defeat
Excerpt: The House approved Monday a measure that would extend key provisions of the Patriot Act through December. Their vote came less than a week after House Republicans suffered an embarrassing defeat when the same bill was brought up under fast-track rules and failed by seven votes. The measure passed Monday night on a vote of 275 to 144, two fewer than it received last week. But this time, no two-thirds super-majority was required for passage, only a simple majority. Twenty-seven Republicans joined most Democrats on Monday to vote "no," while 65 Democrats joined with most Republicans to support the measure. The bill would extend three key provisions of the counterterrorism surveillance law that are set to expire Feb. 28, unless Congress moves to reauthorize them.

Clinton to announce new 'AfPak' envoy
Excerpt: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has chosen a new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, after months of delay and disagreements between the White House and the State Department over the parameters of the job that became vacant with the December death of Richard C. Holbrooke, senior officials said. Retired diplomat Marc Grossman is expected to take over as the administration is facing a crucial year for its war strategy in Afghanistan, where it plans to begin U.S. troop withdrawals this summer and to move toward a political settlement including negotiations with the Taliban before the end of 2011.

The Unseen Consequences of "Green Jobs": Will investing in clean energy harm the economy?
Excerpt: Unfortunately, when it comes to green jobs both the president and the Next 10 report are focusing on the seen while ignoring the unseen. In his brilliant essay, “What is Seen and What is Unseen,” 19th century French economist Frederic Bastiat pointed out that the favorable “seen” effects of any policy often produce many disastrous “unseen” later consequences. Bastiat urges us “not to judge things solely by what is seen, but rather by what is not seen.” So let's take a look. Many of the green core economy jobs created in California are the result of policies that restrict the production and use of conventional sources of energy. For example, electricity generators in California are required to produce 20 percent of their supplies using renewable sources by 2010, a requirement that will rise to 33 percent by 2020. In addition, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act will impose steep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions produced by burning fossil fuels. Other green jobs are the result of regulations requiring energy conservation [PDF] in residential and commercial construction. Certainly, these activities provide some benefits, including pollution reduction and energy savings. But let’s focus on the claim that on balance they provide more jobs than they kill.

The War on Profit
Excerpt: Something there is -- to paraphrase Robert Frost -- that doesn't love an oil company. That, in fact, wants to Shake Fat Cat Oilmen Till Their Teeth Rattle, then Make 'Em Pay for Polluting the Skies and the Oceans!! Then ... ah, well, that'll do for starters. Whatever that "something" may be, Barack Obama has at least a mild case of it: his new budget being case in point. Any federal budget, a political document as much as an economic one, is complex, but from it, you get simple hints as to what's on the minds of those who propose it. The Obama budget -- all $3.7 trillion of it -- signals chiefly a desire to achieve political traction by sidestepping cuts that would anger Democratic constituencies; it likewise signals a dismal understanding of how to create jobs and growth -- for instance, by making energy cheaper. The same administration, which earlier shut down new deepwater drilling for a time, wants oil companies to pay new fees and royalty rates (about $3 billion over five years) and to repeal a dozen "special interest loopholes" now benefiting Big Oil (about $46 billion over the next decade). We may assume the intent here isn't to increase U.S. oil production and reduce imports now running at 50 percent of our consumption.

Worth reading: Rocky and Republicans by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Rocky Marciano was the only heavyweight champion who never lost a single fight in his whole career -- and, at the time, he seemed the least likely fighter to do that. In many a boxing match, he was battered, bruised and bleeding. One of the reasons Marciano took so much punishment in the ring was that he had shorter arms than most other heavyweights. It was easier for others to hit him than for him to hit them. In a sense, Republicans today are in a similar position in the political arena. With most of the media heavily tilted toward the Democrats, Republicans are going to get hit far more often than they are going to get in their own punches. The difference is that Rocky Marciano understood from the beginning that he was going to get hit more often, and prepared himself for that kind of fight. His strategy was to concentrate on developing punches powerful enough to nullify his opponents' greater number of punches. Republicans take the opposite approach from that of Rocky Marciano -- and often with opposite results. That may be why they managed to lose both houses of Congress and the White House in recent years, in a country where there are millions more people who call themselves conservatives than there are who call themselves liberals.

The GOP's Defense Dilemma
Too much “defense” spending is actually political spending—but that’s the hardest to cut. So the troops die to get politicians—of both parties—reelected. ~Bob. Excerpt: Tall, affable Buck McKeon sits, gavel in hand, at the turbulent intersection of two conflicting Republican tendencies. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee embodies the party's support for a "strong" defense, which is sometimes measured simply by the size of the Pentagon's budget. But the 35 Republicans on his 62-member committee include 13 first-term legislators, some of whom embody the tea party's zeal for cutting government spending. The United States spends almost as much on military capabilities as the rest of the world spends, and at least six times more than the second-biggest spending nation (China). But McKeon says, "A defense budget in decline portends an America in decline." And: "I've been around a long time and I've seen us cut defense investments over the years after wars. ... But I've never before seen us make cuts during a war. Cuts to defense investment in the midst of two wars is unacceptable." Asked, however, about the immediate future of the defense budget, he says, after a long pause: "It's probably going to be smaller."

Slash gov't to save the economy
Excerpt: When House Republicans pledged to make cutting spending our top priority, we knew it wouldn't be easy. The president and his party remain committed to the notion that the best way to create jobs and prosperity is to raise your taxes, spend your money and then borrow some more money and spend that. After two years, all of this borrowing and spending has not only failed to deliver promised jobs, but also has plunged us deeper into debt. The problem is simple: Many families and businesses look at the size of our debt and the state of our economy and fear that we are heading for a diminished future. If America can't pay its debts, then people, institutions and other nations will stop lending us money, or they will demand such a high rate of interest that our government will be effectively cut off from future borrowing. At that point, spiraling interest rates would force painful tax increases and steep, sudden cuts to vital national priorities. We can avoid this outcome, and we must. Addressing the spending problem now is the key to restoring prosperity. Right now, businesses are holding back on hiring and investment, partly because they are worried that we are headed for a future of large tax hikes and interest-rate spikes. Washington's spending spree has fueled this uncertainty. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Budget Committee last week that one of the best things Congress can do to get businesses hiring and the economy growing again is to demonstrate that we have a serious plan for tackling our fiscal problems.

Police Attack Protesters in Iran, Bahrain as Unrest Spreads
Excerpt: In Bahrain, riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters near the capital, Manama, taking part in today's "Day of Rage.” In Yemen, hundreds of government supporters threw broken bottles, daggers and rocks at protesters. France urged its former colony Algeria to allow peaceful anti-government protests, one day after massive Algerian security forces prevented an estimated 2,000 demonstrators from marching in Algiers, Agence France-Presse reported. (OMG! Where ISN’T the protest spreading? There must be something we can do to help them. Ron P.)

Bahrain police fire at protesters
Excerpt: At least one person has been killed and several others injured after riot police in Bahrain opened fire at protesters holding a funeral service for a man killed during protests in the kingdom a day earlier. Fadhel Ali Almatrook was hit with bird-shotgun in the capital, Manama, on Tuesday morning, Maryam Alkhawaja, head of foreign relations at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera. "This morning the protesters were walking from the hospital to the cemetery and they got attacked by the riot police," Alkhawaja said. "Thousands of people are marching in the streets, demanding the removal of the regime - police fired tear gas and bird shot, using excessive force - that is why people got hurt." At least 25 people were reported to have been treated for injuries in hospital. (There is a famous short novella by Harry Turtledove called “The Last Article” that speculates what might have happened to Gandhi and company if they’d been dealing with true tyranny instead of the British in India. The answer, of course, is the tyrants would’ve simply shot him. All cultures are not equal. Ron P.)

Clinton expresses US support for Iran protesters
Excerpt: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her firm support for the thousands of opposition supporters who protested in Iran's capital on Monday. Mrs. Clinton said they deserved to have "the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt" and that Iran had to "open up" its political system. One person was reportedly shot dead in the violent clashes between protesters and security forces in central Tehran. Dozens were detained, and opposition leaders were placed under house arrest. The BBC received reports of banned demonstrations in other Iranian cities, including Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz. (Well, it's better than saying nothing. –Ron P.)

Seeing the Communist North induces outrage at the senseless deaths and historical lies.
Excerpt: It was difficult to control my emotions — specifically my anger — during my visit to Vietnam last week. The more I came to admire the Vietnamese people — their intelligence, love of life, dignity, and hard work — the more rage I felt for the Communists who brought them (and, of course, us Americans) so much suffering in the second half of the 20th century. Unfortunately, Communists still rule the country. Yet Vietnam today has embraced the only way that exists to escape poverty, let alone to produce prosperity: capitalism and the free market. So what exactly did the 2 million Vietnamese who died in the Vietnam War die for? I would like to ask one of the Communist bosses who run Vietnam that question. “Comrade,” I would say, “you have disowned everything your Communist party stood for: communal property, collectivized agriculture, central planning, and militarism, among other things. Looking back, then, for precisely what did your beloved Ho Chi Minh and your party sacrifice millions of your fellow Vietnamese?” There is no good answer. There are only a lie and a truth, and the truth is not good. The lie is the response offered by the Vietnamese Communists and which was repeated, like virtually all Communist lies, by the world’s non-Communist Left. It was (and continues to be) taught in virtually every Western university, and was (and continues to be) spread by virtually every news medium on the planet: The Vietnam Communists (i.e., the North Vietnamese), and the Viet Cong were merely fighting for national independence against foreign control of their country. First, they fought the French, then the Japanese, and then the Americans. American baby boomers will remember being told over and over that Ho Chi Minh was Vietnam’s George Washington, that he loved the American Constitution after which he modeled his own, and wanted nothing more than Vietnamese independence. Here is the truth: Every Communist dictator in the world has been a megalomaniacal, cult-of-personality, power-hungry, bloodthirsty thug. Ho Chi Minh was no different. He murdered his opponents, tortured only-God-knows-how-many innocent Vietnamese, and threatened millions into fighting for him — yes, for him and his blood-soaked Vietnamese Communist party, backed by the greatest murderer of all time, Mao Tse-tung. But the moral idiots in America chanted “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh” at antiwar rallies and depicted America as the real murderers of Vietnamese — “Hey, Hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?” (At least some see the truth, and proclaim it. –Del)

The Next Black President?
Excerpt: When Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States, even those who opposed his liberal policies secretly had a fleeting moment of patriotic pride. America had elected our first African-American president. Finally, our nation had overcome the injustices of the past and "the dawn of a new day" had arrived where most Americans were no longer judging or being judged based on skin color. Regrettably, the feeling of national dignity was short lived. As it turned out, Barack Obama's goal was to get "others to think [more] highly" of Barack Obama than the nation whose citizens he was elected to lead. What a shame. Truth is, the most unfortunate aspect of having Obama as America's first black president is that it is Obama who is America's first black president. If only the first choice had been an outstanding man of color like Allen West or the spectacular Herman Cain. Both are patriotic individuals who love and recognize their country's greatness. Moreover, despite the reality of past injustices, unlike Barack Obama, Cain and West choose to dwell on the benefits of individual responsibility, unlimited opportunity, and patriotic allegiance to America. One thing is for sure: No one could ever accuse the outspoken Herman Cain of disagreeing with Barry purely because of skin color. Cain is bold as a lion and unafraid to debate Obama on the merits of conservative philosophy. In his 2011 CPAC speech, Mr. Cain rightly identified the three liberal tactics of "shifting the subject, ignoring the facts, and name-calling," which Cain "bundles together with the acronym ‘SIN.'"

The person who has no enemies has no followers. --Don Piatt

NPR, PBS Federal Subsidies Should Go
Among many other things. ~Bob. Excerpt: Last year, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and GOP Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming -- co-chairmen of Obama's bipartisan commission on reducing the national debt -- showed more fortitude. They released their own debt-reduction plan to cut domestic spending by $100 billion. "The current CPB funding is the highest it has ever been," the Bowles-Simpson plan explained. Their plan: Eliminate all of it. I think public broadcasting stations would be better off if they stopped sucking at the public teat. If viewers and listeners thought that they weren't already contributing by paying taxes, perhaps they would be more inclined to pony up during pledge drives. And maybe public broadcasters would lose some of their irritating sense of entitlement. Consider their new website, -- a name that is supposed to represent the NPR and PBS base. If public stations had that kind of support, they wouldn't need to claim they had that kind of support.

Obama's high-speed rail plan is a fiscal pipedream
Excerpt: We suppose every President is entitled to a pipe dream, but President Obama's vow in his State of the Union address that 80% of Americans should have access to high-speed rail in 25 years is a doozy. Vice President Joe Biden has followed up by proposing $53 billion in high-speed rail funding over the next six years. Seriously? On recent evidence, this train is running in reverse. Though the Obama administration has allocated more than $10 billion for high-speed rail projects the past two years, the new Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, Scott Walker and John Kasich, have rejected the federal money. They don't want to put their taxpayers on the hook for projects destined for Insolvency Junction. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is also reconsidering his state's proposed Orlando-Tampa line. Even California, that famous incubator of pipedreams, is having second thoughts. The state has proposed an 800-mile high-speed rail plan from San Diego to San Francisco. Bay area residents are now protesting that the line will damage property values, while Central Valley farmers complain the line will ruin their land. The greater wonder is how the state will pay for a $43 billion train even as it's facing a $28 billion budget gap over the next 18 months and $20 billion annual deficits four years after that.

In Hawaii, a dispiriting glimpse of one-party rule
And I thought it was bad when I was one of only seven Republicans out of 40 members of the Massachusetts senate. ~Bob. Excerpt: In Hawaii, there are 25 members of the state Senate. Twenty-four are Democrats. And then there is Sam Slom. Slom, the lone Senate Republican in the state of President Obama's birth, has represented East Honolulu since 1996. He hasn't always been the only GOP senator; in the last session, there were two. But Republicans fared poorly at the polls in November, and Slom was left alone. Which means that Democratic bills to increase state spending, to impose new regulations and mandates and to create new government departments are often passed on votes of 24-1. "I represent a point of view that would not be represented," the conservative Slom says, "even if it's just one voice."….. Meanwhile, Slom complains, "We're supposed to be doing the budget, we have a major shortfall of $800 million to $1.5 billion, we have underfunded employees' retirement and health care systems and we haven't done anything in terms of providing new jobs or investment or capital improvement."

U.S. officials fear other revolutions won't be bloodless
Excerpt: Inspired by the regime collapses in Egypt and Tunisia, opposition groups in Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, Libya and Algeria are trying to seize what may be a fleeting moment of freedom. But in some of those countries the chances of relatively bloodless revolutions are small, U.S. officials fear. That was evident Monday as groups clashed with security forces attempting to clamp down on protests in several Islamic cities. Four days of protests against longtime Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have led to violent confrontations, including the death of a protestor over the weekend. Protesters marched for the first time to the presidential palace Sunday. On Monday, the anti-government groups fought with pro-government protesters outside Sanaa University. The United States would like to buttress the government in Yemen, an ally in the Gulf and a bulwark against a virulent al Qaeda cell that would flourish in the chaos of a government collapse. But even a new counterterrorism program announced by Pentagon officials Monday to train Yemeni forces against al Qaeda may prove too little too late, a Yemeni diplomat told The Washington Examiner.

Ethanol industry buys a top seed and three key politicians
why cutting spending is so hard. If the government was spending a billion dollars a year train clowns, the clown lobby—and whichever party supported clowns (insert your snide comment here)—would fight desperately to keep the money flowing. ~bob. Excerpt: Excerpt: What's of more direct interest here at the moment is who in Congress has been getting the big bucks from the ethanol industry. According to, an analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics two Republicans and a Democrat of particular interest on the House Agriculture Committee among the list of top 10 recipients. "The committee's ranking Democrat Collin Peterson, D-MN, has taken in $19,500 in contributions, while committee vice-chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, has taken in $19,000," said. "Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-OK, sits amongst the top 10 with $11,000 in contributions. The House Agriculture Committee is tasked with oversight of the Department of Agriculture. Contribution figures date from Jan. 1, 2001-Nov 22, 2010"

1 comment:

  1. I am really sorry to hear of Maj. Duncan's passing. He seemed the sort of officer I would liked to have served under. His books were great fun to read, but they were also wonderfully instructive on what real leadership is all about.

    Semper Fi & good night Gene Duncan!