Friday, February 4, 2011

Political Digest for February 4, 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.

Senate rejects healthcare repeal
Excerpt: The Senate on Wednesday voted down a repeal of President Obama’s healthcare law in a 47-51 party-line vote. The vote came two weeks to the day the Republican House voted 245-189 to repeal the law, and just days after a federal judge ruled Obama’s signature legislative achievement is unconstitutional. Republicans have vowed to carry the fight forward, saying they will seek to de-fund the law as it is implemented. The GOP also has promised Wednesday’s repeal vote will not be the last in this Congress. The vote came on a budgetary point of order, which Republicans needed 60 votes to overcome. Democrats argued repealing healthcare would add an estimated $230 billion to the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called that estimate “preposterous.” (Vote might have been different if we’d had more RINO senators from Delaware, Nevada and a couple of other states, but the Tea Party would rather lose everything than have senators who are not pure on everything. Meanwhile, BO is demanding that in Egypt, the “will of the people” be respected. Why not here?) ~Bob.

Activists slowly chip away at health-care law
Excerpt: Wednesday's vote was another in a series of steps to overturn a law that Shacter and others say eventually will fall. It put Democrats who may be vulnerable in 2012 on record voting against repeal. And it gave tens of thousands of activists still fuming over the health-care legislation a reason to stay passionate, engaged and organized. "I think it definitely will happen," Shacter said in a telephone interview Wednesday, the sound of Rush Limbaugh's radio show audible in the background. "It may take until 2012, or after 2012, when we get rid of Mr. Obama and a lot of these borderline senators that are up for reelection are replaced." The effort to block, repeal, or merely chip away at the health-care law has exploded into a single-minded political industry since Congress and state legislatures across the nation began convening last month. Twenty-eight states have filed or signed onto lawsuits challenging the measure. Thirty-eight legislatures are considering state laws to curtail its effects. Operatives and organizers are spraying their membership lists with action alerts and calls to arms. And an army of activists is writing emails and making phone calls to urge state and federal lawmakers to take the measure down.

McCain rejects CBO healthcare repeal estimates as 'garbage in, garbage out'
Excerpt: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday rejected the CBO's cost estimate of healthcare repeal as "garbage in, garbage out." McCain said the Congressional Budget Office estimate that repealing the healthcare law would increase the deficit by $230 billion relies on flawed assumptions. "So what I'm saying is, garbage in, garbage out," McCain said on the Senate floor. McCain cited two examples of how the CBO's estimate is not properly taking into account the true costs of the healthcare law. First, he noted that the repeated increases in reimbursement levels to Medicare physicians, and the failure to repeatedly let cuts to those payments happen, are estimated to cost $208 billion over 10 years. "Nowhere is that put into the equation," McCain said.

Bumper Sticker Suggestion
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Comment on Egypt
My impression is that the battle in the streets of Cairo is between people who hate Jews, Americans, women and Western democracy and people who really, really hate Jews, Americans, women and Western democracy. –PM

Chris Matthews Says The Panama Canal Is In EGYPT
No, Chris, Egypt is one of the 57 states your tingle-producing hero campaigned in. ~Bob. Excerpt: Chris Matthews Thinks Panama Canal’s in Egypt. Had previously ridiculed Sarah Palin’s and Michele Bachmann’s intelligence.

Obama’s 1979
Excerpt: Obama’s deer-in-the-headlights, finger-to-the-wind, “I can’t believe this is happening to me” initial reaction to the Mubarak implosion has eerie precedents. After the debacle in Vietnam, Watergate, the Nixon resignation, and the Ford WIN buttons, voters were willing to bet on the smiling but unknown hope-and-change reformer from Plains, Georgia. Jimmy Carter’s campaign and his early presidential speeches on resetting foreign policy sounded uplifting. They were certainly a rebuke to the supposedly dark Nixon-Kissinger realpolitik and cloak-and-dagger intrigue. Indeed, Carter’s election marked a return to Wilsonian idealism that predicated American support for other nations on shared commitment to human rights and U.N. values. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance exuded probity and almost seemed to suggest at every stop, “I am not Henry Kissinger.”….Then 1979 came around, and the unfortunate wages of a well-meaning Carterism became all too apparent after only the first two years of its implementation. The world of our Cold War allies proved not to be one of Manichean evil and good, but was revealed as complex and consisting of shades of both. It was perhaps good to press our friends in Argentina, Central America, South Korea, and Iran to reform, but to what degree, to be consistent, were we then to pressure the Soviet Union, the autocratic Arab oil-producing world, or Communist China — all of which had far more blood on their hands than did the Shah or the South Korean anti-Communists — to likewise move toward elections and free speech?

Excerpt: Friend and Author, Andrew Bostom wrote a piece that I felt compelled to share with everyone. His knowledge of Islam, its history and its doctrines give him a level of credibility lacking in all of our media outlets, talking heads and bureaucrats. Do not be fooled into thinking the events in Egypt are somehow not contributory to what may lay ahead for the region. The players at work in Egypt are also busy in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Jordan and others as you read this. Andrew's insight into this is a must if you are going to parse truth from myth as the demonstrations across the region progress. I want to make sure everyone also understands that at the core of the COIN/ROE discussion is our government's failure to understand the fundamentals of Islam and by extension, the enemy.

Iran Sends Defiant Message to West With Claims of Technological Advances
Excerpt: An Iranian supercomputer. New space rockets and satellites carrying the flag of the Islamic Republic. Biotech innovations that include artificial tendons. Iran's claims of scientific advances are coming at a rapid-fire pace these days as the country begins events to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It's become part of annual celebrations of scholarship and military might. But this year, there is an added message to the West after the latest talks over Iran's nuclear program fizzled in January: Tehran's ability to make atomic fuel remains at the heart of the country's drive for home-grown technology. (At this point, it’s impossible to know how much of this is exaggeration. If the media can spare any attention from Egypt, perhaps they’ll cover this, too. Ron P.)

5 fatally shot in 2nd day of bloody clashes; amid outcry, Egyptian PM apologizes
Just when BO comes down on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood protesters, the Empire Strikes Back! ~Bob. Excerpt: At least five anti-government protesters were shot dead in
Tahrir Square
early Thursday and hundreds more were injured, demonstrators said, as the bloody clashes between demonstrators and government loyalists continued for a second day. With rights groups and key allies condemning Wednesday's attacks on protesters, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq offered a highly unusual apology on state television. "I offer my apology for everything that happened yesterday because it's neither logical nor rational," Shafiq said, according to the Associated Press. Shafiq called the attack a "blatant mistake" and promised to investigate "so everyone knows who was behind it." But Reuters quoted a cabinet spokesman denying any government effort to mobilize supporters of President Hosni Mubarak against the protesters. "We were surprised with all these actions," spokesman Magdy Rady told the wire service. "To accuse the government of mobilizing this is a real fiction. That would defeat our object of restoring the calm." And there was more bloodshed Thursday. Protest organizers said Mubarak loyalists opened fire on demonstrators before dawn. Sporadic clashes continued through the morning, though for the most part the pro- and anti-government groups kept their distance from each other, often on opposite sides of a line of military vehicles or personnel.

In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak still has support, from rich and poor
Excerpt: For eight days, pro-democracy demonstrators roared their belief that Egypt's 80 million people were ready to oust President Hosni Mubarak and start anew with elections. But the melee that unfolded Wednesday in the capital when Mubarak supporters stormed the opposition-occupied Tahrir Square suggests that there are many in Egypt who are deeply invested in the current system - and will fight to preserve it.

Egypt's Day of Decision - The U.S. Shouldn't Try to Force Mubarak Out
Excerpt: There are only three ways to deal with the sort of uprising that has occurred in the last week in Egypt: smash it, face it down more or less peacefully, or yield to it. Mobs, even when they are championing a good cause, are cowardly and easily routed by force. Napoleon demonstrated this with his famous “whiff of grapeshot” (cannons loaded with small pellets or other hard objects). So did Deng Xiaoping in Tiananmen Square. Charles de Gaulle wrote the playbook for facing down demonstrators and strikes in 1968: He waited for the bourgeois instincts of the French to bubble up in concern that these antics would actually cost them money, ostentatiously assured himself of the loyalty of the army (after the chief of the Paris police said, in accord with precedent, that the force was no longer reliable), and then spoke to the country for less than five minutes. “As the sole legitimate repository of national and republican power, I have, in the last 24 hours, considered every means, I repeat every means, for the conservation of that power,” he began. He then announced that he would not retire: “I have a mandate from the people; I will fulfill it.” He would not replace the prime minister, “whose value, solidity, and capacity have earned the homage of all,” and had already dissolved the National Assembly for new elections. These would take place in the ways and on the timetable provided by the Constitution, unless the agents of chaos — whom he identified as totalitarian Communists, “colored, at the outset, with the deceiving appearance of discredited politicians who would shortly be discarded” – prevailed. In such an event, it was clear, he would unleash the notoriously heavy-handed French army. (But de Gaulle didn’t have Obama as a friend to advise him. ~Bob.)

The Ugly Truth About Middle-East Populism
Excerpt: Well, that was fast. Reflecting the growing prospect that events in Cairo will not have a happy ending, a top member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says, "The people should be prepared for war against Israel." Muhammad Ghannem also tells an Iranian news outlet that the Suez Canal should be closed immediately and that Egypt should stop the flow of natural gas into Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. The comments rip away the smiley face the Western media has pasted on the push to topple Hosni Mubarak. It is time to temper the heart-tugging romanticism about "the people" in the streets with the ugly truth about what populism usually means in the Mideast

Sudden Split Recasts U.S. Foreign Policy
If you are a US ally, you need to watch your back. ~Bob. Excerpt: After days of delicate public and private diplomacy, the United States openly broke with its most stalwart ally in the Arab world on Wednesday, as the Obama administration strongly condemned violence by allies of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt against protesters and called on him to speed up his exit from power. Egypt’s government hit back swiftly. The Foreign Ministry released a defiant statement saying the calls from “foreign parties” had been “rejected and aimed to incite the internal situation in Egypt.” And Egyptian officials reached out to reporters to make clear how angry they were at their onetime friend. Separately, in an interview, a senior Egyptian government official took aim at President Obama’s call on Tuesday night for a political transition to begin “now” — a call that infuriated Cairo. But the White House was not backing down. “I want to be clear,” said Robert Gibbs, the press secretary. “ ‘Now’ started yesterday.” The Obama administration seemed determined Wednesday to put as much daylight as possible between Mr. Obama and Mr. Mubarak, once considered an unshakable American supporter in a tumultuous region, with Mr. Gibbs once again raising the specter of a cutoff of American aid to the Mubarak government if the Egyptian president failed to bend.

Obama Stands by Muslim Brotherhood Endorsement
For the first time, a U.S. government supports granting a government role to an extremist Islamic organization: the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. On Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Egypt's new government will have to include a "whole host of important non-secular actors." Most prominent among these is clearly the Muslim Brotherhood – which has made Islamic world domination one of its ultimate goals. It also opposes Egypt's 30-year-old peace treaty with Israel. Gibbs said the Muslim Brotherhood must reject violence and recognize democratic goals for the U.S. to be comfortable with it assuming a role in the new government. This caveat does not significantly alter the new American approach, which is very different than that of the previous Administration, in which George W. Bush pushed Mubarak for democratic reforms but never publicly accepted a role for Islamists. Today, new White House chief of staff William Daley moderated the position very slightly, saying the U.S. hopes for a "strong, stable and secular Egyptian government." Noting that the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood is "some people's expectation [and] some people's fear," Daley acknowledged that the situation in Egypt is largely out of American control. Obama's new position, while not totally surprising, is worrisome to many. "The White House appears to be leaving Hosni Mubarak, an ally for three decades and lynchpin of Mideast stability, twisting slowly in the wind," writes David Horowitz of the Freedom Center. "And worse, it appears to be open to allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to play a key role in a 'reformed' Egyptian government, as long as the organization renounces violence and supports democracy. If the Obama White House really believes this is possible, it is even more hopelessly incompetent than we imagined!" (Americans will die to redeem this mistake. ~Bob.)

Egypt's Real Problem: Decades of Authoritarian Socialist Rule
Excerpt: Mubarak, the current dictator of Egypt, can trace his political lineage back to the original Egyptian Arab national socialist, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser rose to power during the Cold-War era in a Soviet-backed officer revolt against the Western-allied monarchy. His foreign policy prominently featured Pan-Arab nationalism and anti-Israeli rhetoric and violence, but his domestic policy was centered on socialist economic policies and ideology: "Nasser announced a list of nationalizations that cut more deeply into the private sector than had occurred in any country outside of Eastern Europe. The decrees nationalized all private banks, all insurance companies, and fifty shipping companies and firms in heavy and basic industries. Eighty-three companies were obliged to sell 50 percent or more of their shares to public agencies.....The nationalization program continued in successive waves through 1962 and 1963 and involved shipping companies, cotton-ginning factories, cotton-exporting companies, pharmaceutical producers, ocean and river transport companies, trucking companies, glass factories, and the largest book-publishing company in Egypt. Between 1952 and 1966, £E7 billion in shared and public assets were transferred to public ownership."

During 2nd day of bloody clashes in Egypt, foreign journalists arrested
Hanging gays, stoning teenage rape victims, treating women as second class citizens, oppressing Christians, marrying 9 year old girls to old men—all okay in the Muslim world. But arrest journalists and you’ll get bad press! ~Bob. Excerpt: As bloody attacks on anti-government demonstrators in central Cairo continued for a second day Thursday, Egypt's new vice president appealed for patience in implementing reforms but warned against unspecified conspiracies and flatly rejected opposition demands that President Hosni Mubarak leave power immediately. The remarks came amid a growing chorus of international condemnation as dozens of foreign journalists and human rights workers were arrested while reporting on violent clashes following attempts by Mubarak supporters to break up anti-government demonstrations. Two Washington Post journalists were among several dozen foreigners who were held for about six hours by the Egyptian military police in Cairo, then bused to a hotel near the capital's airport and told to remain there overnight.

State Department Condemns 'campaign to intimidate' U.S. and Other Journalists [in Egypt]
Excerpt: Anderson Cooper, of CNN, was among the U.S. journalists attacked while reporting Wednesday, but other outlets reported similar attacks. The group Reporters Without Borders condemned what it called "shocking attacks on BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Al-Arabiya and ABC News journalists by Mubarak supporters who were reportedly accompanied by plainclothes police." “The use of violence against media personnel is especially shocking,” secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said in a statement. “Several were directly targeted by the president’s supporters and infiltrated policemen. Several were beaten and their equipment was stolen."

ElBaradei's Role Cast in Doubt
Excerpt: But these people say they see Mr. ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace-prize winner of international standing, as less of a future president than a fair and nonpartisan figurehead and an arbiter capable of refereeing their discussions. Because he has spent much of his life outside the gritty world of domestic politics, he is also seen as posing little threat to these parties should they begin the hardnosed business of vying in earnest for power. Mr. ElBaradei's appearance Sunday night in Cairo's central
Tahrir Square
disappointed many activists, who felt he had failed to seize the moment to rally the crowd. Many protesters said they didn't notice he was there or know that he had spoken. He hasn't shown up to the square since, including for Tuesday's "march of millions," which drew hundreds of thousands of Egyptians to demand Mr. Mubarak's ouster. "The protestors out here in the square are strong and inspiring, and when ElBaradei came he seemed kind of weak next to them, not like someone who would make me follow them," said Heba Sultan, a young democracy activist in Tahrir Square.

Game Over: The Chance for Democracy in Egypt is Lost
Excerpt: While much of American media has termed the events unfolding in Egypt today as "clashes between pro-government and opposition groups," this is not in fact what's happening on the street. The so-called "pro-government" forces are actually Mubarak's cleverly orchestrated goon squads dressed up as pro-Mubarak demonstrators to attack the protesters in Midan Tahrir, with the Army appearing to be a neutral force. The opposition, largely cognizant of the dirty game being played against it, nevertheless has had little choice but to call for protection against the regime's thugs by the regime itself, i.e., the military. And so Mubarak begins to show us just how clever and experienced he truly is. The game is, thus, more or less over. The threat to the military's control of the Egyptian political system is passing. Millions of demonstrators in the street have not broken the chain of command over which President Mubarak presides. Paradoxically the popular uprising has even ensured that the presidential succession will not only be engineered by the military, but that an officer will succeed Mubarak. The only possible civilian candidate, Gamal Mubarak, has been chased into exile, thereby clearing the path for the new vice president, Gen. Omar Suleiman. The military high command, which under no circumstances would submit to rule by civilians rooted in a representative system, can now breathe much more easily than a few days ago. It can neutralize any further political pressure from below by organizing Hosni Mubarak's exile, but that may well be unnecessary.

How much trouble is David Rivera in?
Excerpt: Florida freshman Republican Rep. David Rivera hasn't had a smooth first month in office. To say the least. Last Friday, the Associated Press reported that Rivera paid himself nearly $60,000 in unexplained campaign reimbursements over the eight years he served in the state legislature. He's already under criminal investigation for failing to disclose $137,000 in loans from a company co-owned by his mother. The controversy surrounding Rivera has raised a number of questions regarding his political future.
"We're all anxiously waiting," said Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the state Republican party, of the situation. "I hope the situation clears up in his favor." At least five Republicans have been named as potential replacements for Rivera, should he be forced to resign from the Miami-area 25th district: state Sen. Anitere Flores, former state Sen. Alex Villalobos, state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo and former state Rep. J.C. Planas. Many are longtime rivals who butted heads with Rivera in the state legislature.

Important: AAA Rating Is Tough to Defend as U.S. Debt Soars
A downgrade will, of course, increase the deficit by increasing interest rates. Are you ready for the collapse? ~Bob. Excerpt: Last week, Standard & Poor’s lowered Japan’s bond rating to AA-, the fourth-highest level. By that standard, the U.S. got away with a slap on the wrist from Moody’s Investors Service, which warned merely that “the probability of assigning a negative outlook in the coming two years is rising.” If you look at the U.S. budget trajectory with an eye on the lessons from Japan’s recent history, there’s a strong case that the U.S. rating should be cut immediately. It’s true that the U.S., with total government debt equal to 98.5 percent of gross domestic product, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, has many years of unrestrained deficits ahead before it reaches the crisis point of Japan, which has debt of 204 percent of GDP. A more plausible target, however, is 135.4 percent of GDP. That was Japan’s debt in 2000, just before S&P first downgraded it from AAA in February 2001. If the U.S. makes no fiscal progress, and continues to run annual deficits at the 2011 level of $1.48 trillion dollars, it will take just six years to reach a debt level of 135.3 percent of GDP. The Japan precedent suggests the U.S. would lose its sacrosanct AAA rating at that point, if not sooner.

Free Trade: More than Exports
Excerpt: The case for free trade is much broader than the one that trumpets only export potential. And it is more elegant. The most principled case for free trade is a moral one: voluntary economic exchange is inherently fair, benefits both parties, and allocates scarce resources more efficiently than a system under which government dictates or limits choices. After four years of stasis on the trade front, the new environment is a welcome change. Removing barriers to trade -- in both directions -- is essential to sustained economic recovery and long-term growth, say Daniel Ikenson, associate director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and Scott Lincicome, an international trade attorney. Beyond the moral case for free trade, when people are free to buy from, sell to and invest with one another as they choose, they can achieve far more than when governments attempt to control their decisions. Widening the circle of people with whom we transact brings benefits to consumers in the form of lower prices, greater variety and better quality. It also allows companies to reap the benefits of innovation, specialization and economies of scale that larger markets afford. Free trade creates prosperity and supports rising living standards. It is also essential to America's continued prosperity. As the world's leading producer of goods and services, the United States needs to ensure that production and supply chains remain open in both directions.

Excerpt: Readers might remember that from time to time, I fret about the danger of price inflation due to the frenetic printing of money going on in the world. As a survivor of hyperinflation (Peru, 1980s), I suppose you can’t blame me. In any case, symptoms of price inflation have begun to pop up in many countries. The consumer price index in Britain has officially reached 3.7 percent but many observers think the real figure is above 4 percent, double what the government had forecast. In Europe in general, the annual inflation figure has surpassed what the European Central Bank had targeted. Not to speak of China, where it is almost 5 percent and rising. Bill Gross, who manages the world’s largest bond fund for investment advisers Pimco and whose job is essentially to find debt securities whose yields beat inflation, put it succinctly: “Why would you want to be a bondholder with bond yields so low and that sort of inflationary trend?” Bond investors are simply waiting for a big rise in inflation followed by significant interest rate hikes. The emerging world has been shaken by exploding food prices. Indonesia has just taken measures to lower the prices of 57 different items after it was reported in December that annual inflation had surpassed 7 percent. Through a combination of tariff reductions and cash transfers to families, Indonesian authorities are trying to pre-empt the kinds of food riots we saw in Asia and Africa a few years ago. Indonesia’s central bank is now ready to follow South Korea and Thailand, where interest rates were raised for fear of inflation. India made headlines when it did so too, and Brazil, where a new president came into office pledging to bring about a significant drop in interest rates (her country has by far the highest rates in the emerging world), has just had to increase them.

Excerpt: Government expands on failure. All too often, government failure is treated as evidence that we need more government. Instead, government failure indicates that we should look for alternative results in the competitive marketplace. Unfortunately, the creation of the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) is a near perfect example of how government failure leads to further government interference with markets, in this case the market for new medicines. Over the past 15 years the number of new drugs that have been making it to patients’ bedsides has been falling. In addition, after rising steeply for many years, research spending by large drug makers has recently declined. “I am a little frustrated to see how many of the discoveries that do look as though they have therapeutic implications are waiting for the pharmaceutical industry to follow through with them,” said Francis Collins in The New York Times. Collins, as head of the National Institutes of Health, is spearheading the creation of the NCATS. The problem is that Collins is frustrated with the wrong target. Most of the reason for the decline in new drug discovery can be encapsulated in just three letters: F-D-A. The Food and Drug Administration’s drug approval process has become so onerous and expensive that pharmaceutical companies have been cutting back on the number of new drugs that they submit for approval. In 1996, the FDA approved 53 new chemical entities (novel drugs). New Molecular Entity (NME) approvals by the FDA fell to just 18 in 2007, bumping up to 21 this past year.

House GOP splits difference, offers $74B in cuts to Obama budget
Excerpt: House Republican leaders on Thursday said they would seek to cut $74 billion from President Obama’s 2011 budget request. The announcement sets a spending ceiling for the current fiscal year of $1.055 trillion. The decision sets up a two-front battle with Democrats and President Obama, who have warned that such cuts could damage the economy, and with conservative Tea Party-backed Republicans who want to make deeper cuts to spending.

Judge holds Interior Dept. in contempt over ban
Excerpt: The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling after the Gulf oil spill held the Interior Department in contempt Wednesday, and ordered the federal agency to pay attorneys' fees for several offshore oil companies. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman chided the department for its "dismissive conduct" after he overturned the agency's decision to halt any new permits for deepwater projects and suspend drilling on 33 exploratory wells after the Deepwater Horizon blast, which killed 11 workers and triggered the massive spill. After Feldman overturned the government's moratorium in June, the agency issued a second nearly identical suspension. "Such dismissive conduct, viewed in tandem with the reimposition of a second blanket and substantively identical moratorium and in light of the national importance of this case, provide this court with clear and convincing evidence of the government's contempt of this court's preliminary injunction order," he wrote.

Claire Culwell’s story of grace
Excerpt: (Abortion Survivor) Claire Culwell tells the amazing story of how she came to be here.

Obama Renominates Judge with Record of Racial Double Standards
Excerpt: Graves’ views are very troubling. But President Obama’s renomination of Graves is worse. It shows that the president also apparently sees nothing wrong with such a racial double standard. That attitude should concern Americans who believe in a color-blind society that protects all of its citizens equally under the law. (Then again, maybe Obama isn't really concerned about equal protection under the law for all citizens. MasterGuns. Maybe? ~Bob.)

Bush whistle-blower protector faces jail
Excerpt: A federal judge has ruled that the former head of a federal whistle-blower protection office could face at least one month in prison for withholding information from congressional investigators, a decision that could derail a plea deal with prosecutors. Scott J. Bloch pleaded guilty in April to criminal contempt of Congress for withholding that he ordered private technicians to "scrub" computer files at the Office of Special Counsel in December 2006. His sentencing was set for last July, but it was postponed after watchdog groups criticized an arrangement in which Bloch admitted guilt to a single misdemeanor charge that carries a sentence of up to six months in prison, and prosecutors did not oppose his request for probation.

Senate probe faults Army, FBI for missing warning signs before Fort Hood attack
Excerpt: A Senate investigation into the Fort Hood shooting faults the Army and FBI for missing warning signs and failing to exchange information that could have prevented the massacre. The report concludes that systemic and cultural problems caused military officials to fail to recognize signs that the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was becoming increasingly radical before the 2009 shooting.

Newt Gingrich, underrated
Excerpt: Is it possible that Newt Gingrich -- the most prominent Republican politician on the national stage for much of the 1990s -- is being overlooked as he prepares for a near-certain presidential run in 2012? Amazingly, yes. Gingrich is widely expected to make the race -- the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that he is already scoping out campaign office space in Georgia -- and in most national polling he is one of a quartet of candidates who receives double digit support in a hypothetical 2012 primary matchup.
Gingrich is also a charismatic speaker and able debater, and almost certainly will occupy the "ideas guy" space in the field -- no matter who winds up running. And yet, most GOP political observers seem to regard Gingrich as a pleasant distraction rather than a serious contender. His detractors note that Gingrich is the Icarus of Republican politics -- he flies high but always winds up going just a little too close to the sun. They also point to his turbulent personal life -- he has been married three times -- as a non-starter with many social conservative voters. Maybe. (I like Gingrich. Very smart, right on the Islamist threat. I found his recent Iowa-ethanol pandering off putting, but they may all do that, given our ridiculous nominating process. ~Bob.)

Mark Foley finds forgiveness, ears in hometown
Amazing. He sent salacious e-mails to pages and resigned in disgrace. Of course. Rep. Gerry Studds had sex with a male page, admitted it, defied the Congress and served several more terms. But he was a Democrat. ~Bob. Excerpt: When a local Young Republicans group invited former Congressman Mark Foley to speak to them, the reaction was swift and blunt even within GOP circles. One person involved with the party took to Twitter, asking: "Have you people lost your minds?" Another joked: "Aren't YRs a lil' old for him?" This was the same guy who resigned just before the 2006 election over salacious e-mails to former male congressional pages. For Foley, though, it offered an opportunity to get back in front of a GOP audience for the first time since he went into hiding. His speech got applause, not jeers. And now he's the host of a political talk show on a local radio station.

Planned Parenthood fires worker caught on video
Huh. Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, I believe, who believed in birth control because of “eugenics,” the Progressive effort to limit the number of blacks, Jews and other “defectives” born into our society. Given that blacks have a higher abortion rate than whites, seems to be working. ~Bob. Excerpt: The Planned Parenthood employee caught on tape giving inappropriate advice to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute has been fired, the organization announced Wednesday. The video, taped as part of an undercover sting by an antiabortion group, showed a clinic manager in New Jersey apparently advising the pair on how to obtain services for illegal immigrant prostitutes and sex workers as young as 14.

Why History Will Give Reagan The Last Laugh Policy too. More than might initially seem evident, Reagan's anti-statism and general suspicion of accretions of human power had at its source the same outlook that nurtured his humor. In seeing the human impulse to superintend reality as not only dangerous but amusing he was simply reaffirming that any disposition to laughter is tacit consent to a higher intuition of reality, one that undoes the illusion of human omniscience and sovereignty and the self-deifying impulse of humans that 20th century totalitarianism not only sanctioned but turned into a criminal theology. Reagan liked to quote Whittaker Chambers on the Eden-promise of "Ye shall be as gods" as the root of all human foolishness and a special source of trouble in the modern world. Humor then for him was an implicit assent to the operational paradox of Judaic-Christian meliorism, the one that says only through acknowledgment and acceptance of the permanent intractability of the world and permanent infirmity of humanity can they be altered for the better. For Reagan, righting a planet that was comically -- no, hilariously -- off its axis would depend not only on human interventions but recognition of those beneficent forces he saw at work in the world and whose power he wanted to tap into. Against all this, the current White House's attempt to push a Reagan-Obama parallel -- with one broadcast network helpfully calling the State of the Union speech Obama's "Reagan moment" -- becomes more than a stretch. Of course, presidents tend to invoke successful predecessors. But unlike Reagan, who was amused by human foibles including those of his own administration -- "Sometimes our right hand does not know what our far right hand is doing," he once said -- the current incumbent is unlikely to ever be accused of profligate levity. Having looked into the bourgeois soul of America and found it wanting, Barack Obama is often admonitory but never amused. [Narcissists have no sense of humour. - Kate]

Has the Speaker [of the House of Common's] Wife Gone Too Far This Time? Sally Bercow Lifts Lid On Her Sex Life In Parliament - As She Poses In A Sheet
"When John and I were first courting we used to walk along the South Bank and look at the Houses of Parliament. I never realised how sexy I would find living under Big Ben with the bells chiming." In an interview with ES magazine, out tomorrow, she added that her 47-year-old husband's elevation to the ancient office has made him a hit with women. "Politicians as a breed aren't particularly sexy but I think politics can be sexy because power is an aphrodisiac," she said. "Since John became Speaker, the number of women who hit on him has gone up dramatically. "I don't get jealous because more men have hit on me, too. I think it's hilarious that I have been referred to as the Carla Bruni of British politics." (I feel her pain. When I was a senator, the women never stopped hitting on me. It was so shallow. ~Bob.)

The Future of Reaganism
Excerpt: For some years following his presidency, the narrative of elite opinion boiled down to something like this: In the early 1980s the Reagan administration radically changed U.S. policy on economics, defense, and Cold War strategy. In unrelated developments later in that decade, the stagflation of the 1970s disappeared, capitalism entered a generation-long global boom, and the Cold War came to an end amid the collapse of European communism. Examples of such denialism are still around, in high-school textbooks and other precincts dominated by an American left determined to be unimpressed by anything good that might be traced to the astounding, meteor-like passage of Ronald Reagan through American and global politics. Yet now at his centennial, even many of Reagan’s most implacable critics feel compelled to concede his political gifts and attempt to analyze the “paradox” of how it came to be that a doddering B-movie actor with a view of reality bordering on fantasy could wind up finding (in the bemused 1988 description of a Washington Post editorialist) that when he ventured abroad, it was not just the nation but the world that was his oyster.

Rep. Royce Plans to Push National-Level Version of Contentious Arizona Immigration Law
Excerpt: Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, is planning to introduce a national-level version of contentious Arizona state Senate Bill 1070, The Daily Caller has learned. Royce, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade subcommittee, told TheDC his legislation would give state-level cops and local law enforcement nationwide the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Royce is planning to introduce the new legislation soon and said, in addition to giving state and local law enforcement more authority, it “establishes operational control of the border” by sending more fencing to the border and keeping the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture from over-regulating how Border Patrol officials put together fences and work on federal lands. “All the Border Patrol agents are swearing by it [building a fence and keeping the regulatory powers of the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture at a minimum],” Royce said. “So, that’s part of establishing operational control.”

Opinion: Why Not Mandate Gun Purchases, Too?
Excerpt: With everything else going on in the world, you may have missed a piece of news coming out of South Dakota. It seems that a few legislators in that state have introduced a bill that would require every one of South Dakota's citizens over 21 years of age to own a gun. Can you imagine? Lawmakers insisting that citizens own a gun or buy one if they don't already own one -- under penalty of law, no less! Government can't force people to buy something they don't want, can it? OK, you get it. So do the South Dakota lawmakers. According to State Rep. Hal Wick, one of the bill's five sponsors, "Do I or the other co-sponsors believe that the state of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not. But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance."

Bangladesh: 15-year-old girl dies during punishment straight out of the Qur'an
Excerpt: Qur'an 24:2: "The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment." Cruel and unusual punishment, and orders to suppress a natural aversion to human suffering -- straight out of the mouth of Allah. These are the consequences. ….BANGLADESHI police arrested four people including a Muslim cleric today after a teenage girl, who was accused of having an extra-marital affair with her cousin, was whipped to death. Allah said "flog each of them with a hundred stripes." No word on the man, but they got right to work on the teenage girl. The poor and marginalized consistently bear the brunt of Sharia's brutality. (The next time some leftists feeds you the “all cultures are equally valid” Pabulum, ask if it includes whipping a 15-year-old girl to death. ~Bob.)

Superior Court rules Ontario Human Rights Tribunal hearing was unfair
Offend a Muslim, lose your house. Seems fair to the left. ~Bob. Excerpt: A Mississauga businesswoman whose home was ordered seized to pay an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal award to a former employee can keep her house — for now. The Superior Court struck down the “fatally flawed” decision as so unfair to defendant Maxcine Telfer — who represented herself in the hearing — that it was “simply not possible to logically follow the pathway taken by the adjudicator.” That October 2009 decision ordered Telfer to pay $36,000 to a woman who had been her employee for six weeks. Lawyers wanted the sheriff to seize and sell Telfer’s home to collect the money. The woman who lodged the complaint, Seema Saadi, told the tribunal she felt pressured to wear skirts and heels instead of her hijab. Saadi also said Telfer complained about the smell of food that she warmed in the microwave. The three-judge Superior Court panel ordered the tribunal to hold a new hearing before a different adjudicator, expected to be held in the next six months.

Obama uses Craig Becker to stir up Big Labor
Nice family you got. Shame if you didn’t vote for the union and something happened to them. ~Bob. Excerpt: Labor lawyer Craig Becker's nomination by President Obama to the National Labor Relations Board was stopped dead in its tracks last year by a decisive bipartisan vote against confirmation in the Senate. Chief among the reasons senators opposed Becker were his views on using government agencies to advance union organizing and expanding the political and legal power of the major national union organizations for which he previously served as counsel, the AFL-CIO and the SEIU. An outspoken supporter of "Card Check" -- the union-backed proposal to abolish secret ballots in workplace representation elections -- Becker had helped litigate a case that effectively would have done just that. So Obama gave Becker a recess appointment to the NLRB, which soon began adopting policies designed to circumvent the use of secret ballots, with or without congressional passage of Card Check. For the record, the 111th Congress was never able to approve a Card Check bill, and it is now considered a legislative dead letter with the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives.

Obama issues global warming rules in January, gives GE an exemption in February
Hurry, hurry, hurry, support Obama and get your waivers. Obamacare, greenhouse gasses, we got ‘em all. ~Bob. Excerpt: There's something interesting about the Avenal Power Center: The proposed Avenal Energy project will be a combined-cycle generating plant consisting of two natural gas-fired General Electric 7FA Gas Turbines with Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSG) and one General Electric Steam Turbine. Maybe GE CEO Jeff Immelt's closeness to President Obama, and his broad support for Obama's agenda, had nothing to do with this exemption. But we have no way of knowing that, and given the administration's record of regularly misleading Americans regarding lobbyists, frankly, I wouldn't trust the White House if they told me there was no connection.

EPA Administrator Claims Regulating Drinking Water Supply Prevents Kids from Getting Autism
Where did they find the cargo-cult science to justify this one? I think undertakers cause death and I can show a very high statistical correlation between undertakers and dead bodies. Ron P. Excerpt: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told a Senate panel that preventing children from being exposed to contaminated water could spare them from autism. Jackson made the remark on Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in response to questioning by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who asked if a recent executive order by President Barack Obama about regulations and the regulatory process means that the EPA can put any rules in place if “the benefits outweigh the costs.” (...) According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, autism is a disease that causes abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain and that “the exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown.”

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