Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Political Digest for March 9, 2010

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.

Union Myths By Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: The biggest myth about labor unions is that unions are for the workers. Unions are for unions, just as corporations are for corporations and politicians are for politicians.
Nothing shows the utter cynicism of the unions and the politicians who do their bidding like the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act" that the Obama administration tried to push through Congress. Employees' free choice as to whether or not to join a union is precisely what that legislation would destroy. Workers already have a free choice in secret-ballot elections conducted under existing laws. As more and more workers in the private sector have voted to reject having a union represent them, the unions' answer has been to take away secret-ballot elections. Under the "Employee Free Choice Act," unions would not have to win in secret-ballot elections in order to represent the workers. Instead, union representatives could simply collect signatures from the workers until they had a majority. Why do we have secret ballots in the first place, whether in elections for unions or elections for government officials? To prevent intimidation and allow people to vote how they want to, without fear of retaliation.

Mexico: Seven state policemen ambushed and killed
Excerpt: Seven elite state police and three suspects are dead and three wounded, in a series of clashes between armed groups and the army and state police. A convoy of state police were passing near Guasave on the road between Mazatlan and Nogales. They were ambushed by 30 men armed with automatic rifles. Seven of the eight that died were police, and 2 suspects were injured. At least 3 new patrol cars were severely damaged by the attack. (Note: 6 more police were killed in various locales; total of at least 13 over weekend.)

Jeep Grand Cherokee - Armored Vehicle saved her life
Scroll through the pictures and be glad you weren’t driving in your car in Mexico. Article below. ~Bob.

Mexico security official’s convoy ambushed: Four killed, 10 wounded by gunmen with assault rifles, grenades
Excerpt: Gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a convoy carrying the top security official of the western state of Michoacan on Saturday, killing four and wounding 10 in Mexico's second brazen ambush in as many days. Public Safety Secretary Minerva Bautista was among the wounded but was recovering from non-life-threatening injuries, according to the state attorney general's office. She was traveling in a bullet-resistant sport utility vehicle. State Attorney General Jesus Montejano told the local Milenio television station that the attackers used assault rifles, grenades, a grenade launcher and a powerful .50-caliber sniper rifle whose rounds are capable of penetrating bullet-resistant materials.

U.S. agents short-staffed and under the gun in Mexico
Excerpt: U.S. authorities in Mexico charged with stemming the flow of U.S. weapons to drug cartels have been hampered by shortfalls in staffing, agents with limited Spanish skills and the difficulty of recruiting new agents to the dangerous posting because they can't officially carry weapons, current and former staff members say.

The View from Crackerland
Excerpt: Certainly the recent vexation expressed by Eric Holder over being questioned regarding the New Black Panther voter intimidation case -- i.e., his defense of "my people" -- depicts a new low in race relations here in America. The liberal media and many politicians are curiously not outraged at what is an arguably race-based federal civil rights case. We were told of a post-racial era that all Americans would enjoy as the outcome of the election of America's first African-American president. As so eloquently described by one of Mr. Holder's people, this post-racial era is not so evident in the view from here in Crackerland. Post-election of President Obama, the only racial agreement apparent to those of us who reside in Crackerland was Eric Holder's admonition that we are cowards to not discuss awkward racial issues here in America. Here, then, is an offering to contribute to the discussion. Here in Crackerland, there was some consternation when we noticed then-presidential candidate Obama's unique past and the unusual relationships he had throughout his life. There seemed to be an underlying racial anger and confusion as a mixed-race person in his autobiography Dreams from My Father. An example is Mr. Obama's being so moved by the notion that "white folks' greed runs a world in need." (A really lovely dissection of how this Administration has not only reduced racism as a topic and a practice in the nation, but has contributed significantly to increases. Not exactly part of the Hope and Change that we expected. --Del)

5 Reasons why the Talibanization of the Middle East may not be a Bad Thing
The sweep of revolutions across the Middle East has optimists cheering and realists preparing for the worst. And the worst is generally a good thing to prepare for in the region. The regimes targeted by the movement have invariably either been allied to or achieved a stalemate with Western countries, (a statement that applies to Libya despite how loosely it may be interpreted) and did not seek to build an Islamic republic and impose it across the region. This was not about the overthrow of tyranny. Turkey with its tens of thousands of political prisoners got a free pass, so did Syria and the Iranian revolution was once again left to go it alone. The countries targeted invariably were either opposed to Iran, or not aligned with it. Jordan, which might have otherwise been ripe for a protest movement, saw little action, perhaps due to its king's recent visit to Iran. Whatever the media may squeak, this was a victory for Iran and for the Islamists. The course is set for the rise of Islamic republics, but these will not happen at the same time or in the same way. There will be a period of 'Weimar Republic' democracy, chaotic political rivalries and inept governments making way for the revolutionary regimes. In some countries this will occur violently and in others it will be a smooth transition orchestrated from within the system. But the final course is clear. It is no longer a matter of whether, but of when. Yet the Talibanization of the Middle East may not be a wholly unrelieved evil. It will be ugly, but there is another side to it as well.... Every time it seems like we have hit bottom, a new low opens up. But it would have looked that way in the Europe of the 20's and 30's as well. We may be coming to a catastrophic crisis and when the crisis reaches its moment, terrible evils will be unleashed, but also a chance for the nations of the free world to redeem themselves by standing up to evil. Even if that redemption is as belated and incomplete as it was then. (Liberals have always cheered on regimes that were destined to destroy themselves, and they are doing it again, as Daniel Greenfield expertly points out. --DH)

Satire: TSA and Homeland Security

Pump pain for President Obama
The media pilloried Bush over gas prices of $2.78/gallon. Strangely quiet now—couldn’t be biased, could they? ~Bob. Excerpt: Skyrocketing oil prices are creating new political risks for President Obama, who is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to relieve drivers suffering at the pump. Republicans, sensing a winning issue, pounced Monday by announcing new hearings on gas prices and warning that tapping the reserves would provide only temporary help to consumers struggling with high gas prices. Policies backed by the administration and congressional Democrats “have cost jobs, stunted economic growth and stuck American families with higher energy bills,” Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), the chairman of the House GOP Policy Committee, said in a statement Monday. “The rise in gas prices is not merely the consequence of some temporary disruption and will therefore not be solved by some short-term fix,” he said. “It is a problem that requires an all-of-the-above energy strategy and one that should begin immediately.”

 Are College Students Learning?
The cost of college has skyrocketed and a four-year degree has become an ever more essential cornerstone to a middle-class standard of living. But what are America's kids actually learning in college? For an awful lot of students, the answer appears to be not much, according to the new book "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses." The authors, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, cite empirical work showing that the average amount of time spent studying by college students has dropped by more than 50 percent since the early 1960s. But a lack of academic focus has not had much of an effect on grade point averages or the ability of the undergraduates to obtain their degrees, says the New York Times. Thirty-six percent of the students said they studied alone less than five hours a week. Nevertheless, their transcripts showed a collective grade point average of 3.16. Professor Arum says, "It's not the students, really -- they share some of the blame -- but the colleges and universities have set up a system so that there are ways to navigate through it without taking difficult courses and still get the credential." The book is based on a study, led by Professor Arum, that followed more than 2,300 students at a broad range of schools from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009. The study showed that in their first two years of college, 45 percent of the students made no significant improvement in skills related to critical thinking, complex reasoning and communication. After the full four years, 36 percent still had not substantially improved those skills. (The technical name for this 36% is “liberals.” It would be interesting if they surveyed political attitudes with this, but they were probably scared to do so. ~Bob.)

Negative Consequences of Health Reform Already Felt
Excerpt: The negative consequences of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act already are cascading through the health sector. Even though most of the provisions of the health overhaul law do not go into effect until 2014, its destructive impact already is being felt by senior citizens, children, and small and medium-sized employers, says Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute. One of the earliest indications of lost coverage came in June 2010 when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told health insurers that they must write policies for children under age 19, including those with pre-existing conditions, no matter when their parents apply. Rather than face the very real prospect that most parents would wait to buy the coverage when the children had a significant medical condition, many carriers have decided to leave this market altogether. Texas has seen all of its carriers drop child-only health insurance, as have other large states including Florida and Illinois. Seniors were also hit early with the news that their carriers were leaving the market as a direct result of impact of the health overhaul law. More than 11 million seniors have opted to join private Medicare Advantage plans that offer more generous benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs than traditional Medicare. But to pay for expanded entitlements for working-age Americans, the law slashes spending on these private plans. Chief Medicare actuary Richard S. Foster estimates that total enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans will be cut in half, by as many as 7.4 million over the next 10 years. Small businesses are among the first to be negatively impacted in the group insurance market. In Colorado, for example, Aetna will stop selling new health insurance to small groups and is moving existing clients off the plan this year, affecting 1,200 companies and 5,200 employees and their dependents.

Healthcare for all! Unless you’re fat
Excerpt: A few years ago, the National Health Service (NHS) first considered refusing to treat obese people for lifestyle-related illnesses. In the same vein, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the NHS’s guidance body, produced advice that raised the prospect of heavy smokers and obese people being refused healthcare. But that will never happen, many said. Well, it already has. Discriminatory healthcare is the new reality. An NHS health trust now proposes to stop sending obese people and smokers for certain operations. NHS North Yorkshire and York is planning to stop patients who smoke, and those with a body mass index of more than 35, from having routine hip and knee surgeries because their unhealthy lifestyles allegedly lower the chance of the operations’ ‘success’.

Developing a New Housing Finance System in the United States
Excerpt: Implicit in most of the proposals for reforming the U.S. housing finance system is the idea that mortgage-backed securities (MBS) backed by U.S. mortgages cannot be sold unless they are issued by a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), a U.S. government agency, or are otherwise guaranteed by the U.S. government. But continuing U.S. government involvement in the housing finance system will inevitably involve serious losses for the taxpayers, says Peter J. Wallison, codirector of the American Enterprise Institute's program on financial policy studies. A U.S. housing finance system would function well without GSEs or any other form of government financial support simply by ensuring that the mortgages allowed entry into the securitization system are of good quality. The history of government support for housing finance shows that it invariably results in massive taxpayer losses, but produces very few of the benefits for the country -- such as increases in homeownership or lower interest rates for housing finance -- that the government is seeking. Instead of basing the financing of housing on government backing, a robust system of housing finance can be based on ensuring the quality of mortgages. This is how other developed countries generally structure their residential finance systems, and in doing so they achieve better outcomes than the United States without any substantial taxpayer costs. Once this system is adopted, and rules are in place that ensure mortgage quality, the GSEs can be gradually withdrawn from the market by reducing the conforming loan limit over a period of years. As that happens, it is highly likely that the private sector will take over the areas from which the GSEs have withdrawn, says Wallison.

Obama's No Gangster, Bachmann
Excerpt: Michele Bachmann's misfire -- calling the Obama administration a "gangster government" -- isn't so much offensive as it is depressing, says Matt Latimer. When did our political leaders forget how to land a good-spirited punch? Michele Bachmann, our future president, believes she has the apt moniker for the Obama years. It is, she says, "a gangster government." This is, of course, an unconscionable, unprovoked insult to hardworking gangsters everywhere.

Sebelius: Yes, we’re double-counting Medicare savings
Every body knew it, they lied about it to get ObamaCare through, and the media covered for them. ~Bob. Excerpt: Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) pins down HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on one of the most controversial budget tricks in ObamaCare — the $500 billion cut in Medicare that supposedly goes for both cost control and to fund other parts of the program. Medicare’s own actuary blew the whistle on this sleight of hand in August of last year, which makes this admission by Sebelius a no-brainer:…. The admission here should prompt the House to demand a new financial accounting of ObamaCare from the CBO in the context of current data, rather than with the rosy scenarios painted by Democrats that ignored both the “doc fix” they later pushed through Congress and the results of this double-counting.

While Obama Seeks New Ideas, His Bureaucracy Stifles Them
Excerpt: Why not have Medicaid recipients and applicants handle their paperwork online? Using e-mail and a special website rather than paper, Herbert calculated, would save Utah about $6.3 million a year. "It seemed like a no-brainer to us," says the governor. The problem was, going paperless required a rules waiver from the Department of Health and Human Services. And that's where the idea ran into a brick wall. "We tried for eight months to get the waiver," says Herbert. HHS delayed and delayed and delayed -- and then finally said no. "The denial we got back from the secretary of HHS was by e-mail, of all things," Herbert says, pausing a second for the listener to take it in. "The irony is rich." (…) After the event, Herbert approached Obama. "I said, 'You know, we've been trying to get this waiver and go paperless,'" Herbert recounts. "He said, 'That's a great idea.' And I said, 'I think so, too, but we can't seem to get HHS to give us the ability to do it.'" At that moment, Obama spotted HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius nearby. "Kathleen, Kathleen -- come over here," he said, according to Herbert. (…) Herbert is pleased, but a little baffled at why getting an ordinary waiver was so hard. "I appreciate the fact that they've come around after eight months, but does it take a governor having to talk to the president of the United States to make a simple cost-saving change?" he asks. (First, no beancounter would willingly put another beancounter out of a job. Second, when decisions are made for political reasons…. Ron P.)

There's 192 Countries That Exist In The World & We Give Foreign Aid To Over 150 Of Them!" Rep Poe
And many of them hate us. The others look down on us. ~Bob.

Iranian ex-leader Rafsanjani loses powerful role
Excerpt: Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani lost his position on Tuesday as the head of a powerful clerical body charged with choosing or dismissing Iran's supreme leader. Rafsanjani is a bitter enemy of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and tacitly supported his rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, in Iran's bitter dispute over the 2009 presidential elections. Hardliners and supporters of Ahmadinejad had lobbied hard in recent weeks to push Rafsanjani out of the post and supported Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani to replace him as the head of the Assembly of Experts. Kani is a moderate conservative not seen as a supporter of the opposition. The Experts Assembly monitors the all-powerful supreme leader and picks a successor after his death. That makes it potentially one of the most powerful institutions in Iran, although it does not involve itself the daily affairs of state. (This isn’t good news, but isn’t disastrously bad news either. Both of these men would love to see the fall of the US and the destruction of Israel. Both support the “peaceful” nuclear program of Iran. The main difference is that Rafsanjani supports the Greens (and we’ve seen what good that did them) and Kani doesn’t. Ron P.)

US Probes Anonymous Plans For Attack On Marines
Excerpt: US law enforcement authorities are investigating plans by members of the hacking collective Anonymous to disrupt activities at the Marine Corps base in Quantico to protest against the alleged rough treatment given suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. Anonymous gained wide attention last year with attacks on the websites of PayPal and other businesses that had stopped processing donations to anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks as it published thousands of secret US state department cables. Recently, Anonymous members appear to have broadened their targets by suggesting attacks on the US military. On publicly accessible document-sharing sites, they have been discussing plans to target the brig in Quantico, Virginia, where Private Manning is being held under what his attorney said were unjustifiable conditions.

Patriot Post Humor
Some funny stuff today. ~Bob.

The $50,000 Orgasm
Excerpt: In the 1960s and '70s, university education was trashed. Required courses were dropped, as 19-year-old "grown ups" were told that they would now decide what they would study. One could henceforth attend most American universities never having read a word of Shakespeare or one verse of the Bible, never having taken a course on Western civilization or American history, never having heard a symphony or, for that matter, never having experienced anything uplifting or elevating. Whatever was previously deemed great -- as in great men, great literature, great art -- was deconstructed to mean nothing more than some ethnocentric, phallic-centric, culturally biased nonsense. Too many DWEM -- Dead White European Males -- had been studied before. Now students would study Latina lesbian poets. In Bailey's class and Mr. Cubbage's statement, we have reached the logical culmination of the '60s and '70s. Instead of studying Dead White European Males, students get to study a young white living female ejaculating with a f---saw…. By Northwestern's logic, a biology class studying the excretory system would watch a man or woman relieve themselves in front of a hundred students. I cannot think of a single argument the man-is-an-animal crowd could offer against it.

Federal probe identifies “cracks” in ICE
I’d rate this “unverified.” But after the ATF “gun-walker” thing, it’s hard to dismiss anything. ~Bob. Excerpt: There is a major national scandal involving multiple breaches of national security by Muslims working in federal law enforcement positions that you are not hearing about. Through a combination of blatant stupidity and calculated design, we’ve let our enemies inside our “house” and access to our security, which is a situation that is purposely being downplayed by this administration and the complicit corporate media. The very people who embrace the ideology that caused the mass slaughter of 3,000 people nearly ten years ago has infiltrated nearly all agencies of our government, from the White House to various law enforcement agencies. A glimpse into the realm of corruption and the “impossible allegiance” by practicing Muslims to their job and country is illustrated by a recent case involving an intelligence analyst working for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It should provide an indication of just how bad things really are. Last week, testimony in a Texas courtroom disclosed that an investigation of “alleged misconduct” by a “small number of employees” of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is in progress. By all accounts, that is an understatement that is being reported by the corporate media. According to sources close to this author, the number of government employees under suspicion is growing, and most involve Muslims working in positions of law enforcement authority and oversight.

These Companies Support Israel…Let’s Support Them….
Excerpt: Israel ‘s’ country prefix is ’729′ on barcodes. You will typically only see it on imported foods and not the products listed below… as many of the companies below are American companies that financially support ‘ Israel.

Face of Defense: Sailor Earns Bronze Star
 Excerpt: A Navy corpsman didn’t expect hundreds of Marines clad in camouflage utilities to fill an entire field house just for him –- but they did. (I still believe in Major Duncan's definition of a Navy Corpsman - “Usually a young, long haired, bearded, Marine-hatin' Sailor with certain medical skills, who will go through the very gates of Hell to get to a wounded Marine.” Marines hold their "Docs" in high esteem, and if you mess with "Doc", then expect the entire unit to be on your ass PDQ. MasterGuns)

TSA agent arrested for helping drug suspects sneak through security
Excerpt: The reputation of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to plummet with new reports about a scandal involving drug smuggling. Law enforcement officials recently arrested Minnetta Walker, a TSA "behavioral detection officer" from Buffalo Niagara International Airport, for aid drug traffickers in bypassing security. While innocent seniors and families with children were making their way through the naked body scanners and "enhanced" pat down areas, Walker was busy helping drug smugglers bypass them, according to reports. And because of her exclusive position at TSA that permitted her to freely roam the airport and look for suspicious activity, Walker was able to successfully pull it all off quite simply. "TSA screeners generally do not question the activities of a [behavioral detection officer]," said FBI Special Agent Gary P. Jensen, who submitted court papers charging Walker with committing a felony. "This places Walker in a unique position to help individuals bypass security procedures and to detect the presence of law enforcement activity."

Bogus arguments for Tucson ethnic studies finally debunked
Excerpt: The unsupportable claim that the ethnic-studies classes of Tucson Unified School District somehow improve the academic performance of its students has survived a slew of critics. But now, the district's own statisticians have - finally - examined the claims and found them lacking. Can the true believers ignore the district's own findings, too?

Wisconsin Is a Swing State in More Ways Than One
If the Republic is to have a slim hope of surviving, politicians have to worry about the future, not the next election. Good luck with that. ~Bob. Excerpt: One thing to keep in mind as you read about the continuing dispute in Wisconsin: The state is not just a swing state relative to the rest of the country, it’s also a swing state internally. Here are two maps, prepared by the New York Times’s team of graphic journalists, which compare how Barack Obama fared in the state in 2008 to how Governor Scott Walker performed there last year:

Plans to invade Israel prepared
Excerpt: Sources close to the Hezbollah – which Israel and the United States regard as a terrorist group – have told G2Bulletin that the organization has devised military plans to occupy "Galilee," or northern Israel, should the Jewish state attack Lebanon, according to a report from Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin. A few weeks back, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a public speech commemorating Hezbollah "martyrs," particularly Hezbollah operations chief Imad Muganiyeh whom Hezbollah believes Israel assassinated in Syria two years ago, that Hezbollah was prepared to occupy the region.

Republican Sen. Lugar to oppose House GOP's $61B spending cuts
Should bring in a flood of contributions for his primary opponent. ~Bob. Excerpt: Excerpt: Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), the most senior member of the Senate Republican conference, said Tuesday he will oppose the House-passed proposal to make drastic cuts to the federal budget. He is the first Senate Republican to publicly state his opposition to a plan that Democrats have blasted as “reckless.” Lugar, who is facing a Tea Party-backed challenge in the 2012 Indiana Republican primary, is taking a political risk. But he and other centrist Republicans have concerns about steep spending cuts that will eliminate funding for some federal programs in mid-year.

GOP Sen. Lugar says he'll support House Republican spending cuts
Caved before I could post the above story. Not smart politics. ~Bob. Excerpt: Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who faces a Tea Party-backed challenge in his 2012 primary, has withdrawn his stated opposition to House-passed spending cuts. Lugar said Tuesday afternoon that he made a mistake when he told reporters earlier in the day that he would oppose H.R. 1, the House GOP plan to cut an additional $57 billion from the 2011 budget. “I’m going to vote with the Republicans on the issue when H.R. 1 comes up,” Lugar said. “If it’s strictly an affirmative vote, I will be for H.R. 1 because all the Republicans will be voting for H.R. 1.”

State and local workers: Gone but not off the books
Excerpt: Whoever it was who came up with the phrase "golden years" might have had Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. in mind. The retired city administrator of Vernon, Calif., pulls down a pension of $43,320.53 a month - or close to $520,000 a year - through the underfunded California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), which covers about half of all government workers in the state and is the nation's largest public pension administrator. Malkenhorst receives that princely stipend by virtue of having held six four-day-a-week jobs at the same time in Vernon, a speck of an industrial town just south of Los Angeles. He was Vernon's city manager, city clerk, finance director, treasurer, redevelopment agency secretary and director of light and power.

NPR exec calls tea party members racist, xenophobic in secretly recorded video
Excerpt: The former head of NPR's fundraising arm says in a surreptitiously recorded video by a conservative activist that members of the tea party movement are xenophobic and racist and that NPR would prefer to do without subsidies provided by the federal government. NPR executive Ron Schiller disparages conservatives in general and tea party members in particular, saying some of its followers are part of an "anti-intellectual" movement. Schiller and another NPR fundraiser, Betsy Liley, believed that that two of O'Keefe's operatives were representatives of a Muslim philanthropy. The video was shot at Cafe Milano in Georgetown during a lunch meeting set up to discuss a $5 million contribution to NPR by the equally fictitious Muslim Education Action Center, which one of the men tells the NPR executives is connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, a political organization with suspected ties to terrorists. (Schiller is now leaving for a position elsewhere, something reportedly in the works prior to the sting. In any case, having had a person with such incredible bias in charge of NPR certainly keeps the question alive as to how balanced the organization is on the whole. Clearly in Schiller's mind, anyone who is not a card-carrying Liberal/Progressive must be a white, gun-toting, fanatic Christian fundamentalist and (of course!) totally racist. Gee, I think we've heard that kind of talk more than a few times before, but not by people who get part of their revenue from our tax money. --Del)

Defund Obamacare’s Secret Stash
Excerpt: While Obamacare is rightly notorious as a fiscal nightmare, less well known is just how massively it transferred power from Congress to the executive branch. In fact, the full scope of Congress’s abdication is still unknown. What is now known, however, is that deeply buried within Obamacare was a $105 billion slush fund that assures its implementation into the future, no matter what future voters think or want. This makes then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comment to the Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties about Obamacare, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” made a year ago tomorrow, ironically prescient. Just this past month, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) updated an October 2010 report titled “Appropriations and Fund Transfers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).” The new report found that, unbeknownst to almost every Member of Congress, Obamacare contains $105 billion in direct implementation spending that bypasses Congress’s normal appropriations process.

Poll on WI Gov. Walker
Vote early and often. ~Bob.

NPR, PBS campaigns to keep federal funds called unlawful
Excerpt: Interrupting popular programs, the stations air warnings that cuts could end beloved children’s television shows such as “
Sesame Street
.” Some stations urge their audience to call and let Congress know their feelings, while others go further, instructing viewers to “stop the Senate” or “defend federal funding” for public broadcasting. (...) But lawmakers and conservative critics argue the stations are breaking two laws, one that prohibits using taxpayer-funded grants to petition Congress for more taxpayer money and the other that bans nonprofits from doing much lobbying of any kind. (If these actions are illegal, why isn’t someone seeking an injunction to stop them? Ron P.)

Somali defense minister says reports indicate American who joined insurgents killed in battle
Feel-good story of the day. ~Bob. Excerpt: Somalia's defense minister said Tuesday that intelligence reports indicate that an American from Alabama who joined a dangerous militant group may have been killed during an anti-insurgent offensive. Somali Defense Minister Abdihakim Mohamud Haji Fiqi told The Associated Press that Somali officials do not have a body and that the intelligence reports have not yet been confirmed.

Report alters Iran nukes outlook
Excerpt: Disclosure of the change in the report’s language comes as the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in Vienna on Monday that he has new information on the military aspect of Iran’s nuclear program. IAEA Director Yukiya Amano told reporters that doubts about the civilian nature of the Iran program were based on information showing Iran engaged in nuclear weapons activity before and after 2004. “We are not saying that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. We have concerns and we want to clarify the matter,” he said at a news conference. An internal IAEA report from Feb. 25 stated that recent information disclosed “nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” (Unfortunately, the first time we’ll be 100% certain they have a military nuclear program will be right after the mushroom cloud over a city has sprouted. Can we afford to wait that long? Ron P.)

Firehouse flunkies: Justice Department puts political correctness over safety
Excerpt: Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s obsession with racial grievance-mongering could get Americans burnt to a crisp in their own homes. That’s because his Justice Department is trying to force the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) to hire flunkies who got 70 percent wrong on a basic, fire-related multiple-choice, open-book test. The exam was used to screen applicants to the fire academy. More than 90 percent of black and Hispanic test-takers passed, which isn’t enough for liberals addicted to affirmative action. At Justice’s urging, federal district Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis threw out FDNY’s test results - blocking admittance to all successful blacks and Hispanics - and ordered a complicated process to admit more minorities. (This type of thing breeds racism. Which may be the point, because if we eliminated racism, where would the race-baiters be? ~Bob.)

What happened to, “No Blood for Oil”?: How a Libyan No-fly Zone Could Backfire
Excerpt: Calls are growing for a no-fly zone over Libya, but a power or coalition of powers willing to enforce one remains elusive. In evaluating such calls, it is useful to remember that in war, Murphy’s Law always lurks. What can go wrong will go wrong, in Libya as in Iraq or Afghanistan. It has been pointed out that a no-fly zone is not an antiseptic act. In order to protect the aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone, one must begin by suppressing enemy air defenses. This in turn poses an intelligence problem. Precisely what are Libyan air defenses and where are they located? It is possible to assert that Libya has no effective air defenses and that an SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) attack is therefore unnecessary. But that makes assumptions that cannot be demonstrated without testing, and the test is dangerous. At the same time, collecting definitive intelligence on air defenses is not as easy as it might appear — particularly as the opposition and thieves alike have managed to capture heavy weapons and armored vehicles, meaning that air defense assets are on the move and under uncertain control. Therefore, a no-fly zone would begin with airstrikes on known air defense sites. But it would likely continue with sustained patrols by SEAD aircraft armed with anti-radiation missiles poised to rapidly confront any subsequent threat that pops up. Keeping those aircraft on station for an extended period of time would be necessary, along with an unknown number of strikes. It is uncertain where the radars and missiles are located, and those airstrikes would not be without error. When search radars and especially targeting radars are turned on, the response must be instantaneous, while the radar is radiating (and therefore vulnerable) and before it can engage. That means there will be no opportunity to determine whether the sites are located in residential areas or close to public facilities such as schools or hospitals. Previous regimes, hoping to garner international support, have deliberately placed their systems near such facilities to force what the international media would consider an atrocity. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi does not seem like someone who would hesitate to cause civilian casualties for political advantage.

Character Building Website
Okay, so I slipped through. Otherwise good. ~Bob.

Barack Obama loving Republican rivals to death?
Former Senate President Bill Bulger (D-Boston), with whom I was friends, used to offer to come out to my district when I had opposition. “I’ll endorse you or attack you,” he said,” Whichever helps most!” ~Bob. Excerpt: President Barack Obama has come to praise his Republican challengers - and to bury them. Over the last few weeks, Obama and his top allies couldn’t seem to stop applauding several of the GOP’s potential 2012 contenders. To listen to them tell it, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a health care visionary and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is a loyal foot soldier of the administration. The political calculus behind that praise is straightforward: by wrapping their arms around some of the GOP’s most credible and deep-pocketed potential challengers, Democrats undermine the party’s attempt to win over its conservative base in the primary. Obama aides deny that they’re wading into the Republican contest, but they’ve sought to intervene in GOP politics in the past, if on a smaller scale. Part of the benefit of sending Huntsman to Beijing was the hope that it would remove a moderate and wealthy Republican from the 2012 field, just as appointing Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y) as Secretary of the Army and attempting to place Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) in the administration would have freed up GOP-held seats.

Newt Gingrich on 'the first day' as president
Excerpt: Team Newt is using Monday's Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering to bolster his social conservative and tea party cred by passing out a leaflet listing four executive orders that Gingrich thinks the next president should issue upon being sworn in. Under a bold header of "On the First Day," Gingrich proposes to: "Eliminate the thirty-nine White House 'Czar' positions created during the current administration" (fact-checkers have taken issue with claims that put the number this high). "'Mexico City Policy' of Respect for Life" (to stop taxpayer dollars from used to fund abortions abroad). "Restore conscience clause protections for Healthcare Worker" (to let those in medicine to opt out of any procedure, including abortion, they found ethically or religiously objectionable). "Respect Each Sovereign Nation's Choice of its Capital" (moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem)

DHS Caught and Released 369 Nigerians in 9 Months After Flight 253 Attack; 15 Became Fugitives
Excerpt: Shortly after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, attempted to detonate an underwear bomb aboard Northwest Flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009, the Homeland Security Department's Transportation Security Administration mandated heightened security checks (including full body patdowns) for all nationals of Nigeria and 13 other countries who boarded flights bound for the U.S. As the New York Times reported on Jan. 4, 2010, this heightened security screening was predicated on the U.S. government’s conclusion that the population of these countries “would more likely include terrorism suspects.” Yet in the months following the attack on Flight 253, DHS continued to routinely release many of the Nigerians it initially detained in the United States on suspected immigration violations.

Women's Surprising Defenders
Excerpt: During their courtship, Dana’s husband showed her every courtesy. After their marriage, he began regularly beating her and kept her under around the clock surveillance. A visit to Yad L’Achim’s website makes clear that her story is anything but unique. Yad L’Achim’s work in saving Jewish women from violent Muslim husbands is especially notable given the nature of the organization. It is an anti-missionary haredi organization led by Rabbi Dov Lipshitz. It is not feminism that motivates its members to save these women. It is Jewish law. And specifically, the halachic command of the ransoming of Jewish hostages. According to the organization, it carries out scores of rescue missions like the one that rescued Dana every year. The question naturally arises, why do haredim dominate what by rights ought to be a field occupied by secular feminists? Why aren’t Israeli and American Jewish feminists at the forefront of efforts to save these women from their violent husbands? Where, for instance, is the New Israel Fund? Its website brags, “The New Israel Fund founded or funded most of Israel’s women’s rights organizations and networks.”

Women harassed, attacked in
Tahrir Square
during International Women's Day protests
Excerpt: This wasn’t the only ominous confrontation today in Egypt: Crowds of Muslims and Coptic Christians ended up throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at each other after a protest over a church-burning over the weekend. I want to focus on the women’s protest, though, partly because of the location, partly because it’s International Women’s Day, and partly because I got to “watch” it happen, sort of, in real time this morning. (More on that below.) CNN is reporting what happened as a case of “shouting matches” between women in the Square demanding equal rights and men opposed to them, but things went waaaay beyond that.

U.S.: Raids have taken out 900 Taliban leaders
Excerpt: “We are getting indications that the (insurgency) is struggling to find replacements for leaders,” said Maj. Sunset Belinsky of the International Stability Assistance Force, which oversees coalition military operations in Afghanistan. “In several cases, insurgents have actually refused to take over the leadership positions, have had difficulty finding technical experts, such as IED (improvised explosive devices) facilitators, gun runners and bomb trainers,” she said.

Bahrain and the Battle Between Iran and Saudi Arabia
Excerpt: The world’s attention is focused on Libya, which is now in a state of civil war with the winner far from clear. While crucial for the Libyan people and of some significance to the world’s oil markets, in our view, Libya is not the most important event in the Arab world at the moment. The demonstrations in Bahrain are, in my view, far more significant in their implications for the region and potentially for the world. To understand this, we must place it in a strategic context. As STRATFOR has been saying for quite a while, a decisive moment is approaching, with the United States currently slated to withdraw the last of its forces from Iraq by the end of the year. Indeed, we are already at a point where the composition of the 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq has shifted from combat troops to training and support personnel. As it stands now, even these will all be gone by Dec. 31, 2011, provided the United States does not negotiate an extended stay. Iraq still does not have a stable government. It also does not have a military and security apparatus able to enforce the will of the government (which is hardly of one mind on anything) on the country, much less defend the country from outside forces.

Iran joins UN's global body on the status of women
Any woman who complains will be stoned! Begs the question of why our tax dollars still fund the UN? ~Bob. Excerpt: The UN quietly made way for Iran to join the global body's Commission on the Status of Women on Friday, just days after very publicly suspending Libya from its Human Rights Council. The Islamic Republic, which last year sentenced a supposedly adulterous woman to death by stoning and deploys police to harass women not deemed to be sufficiently covered, became one of the commission's 45 members as part of a group of 11 incoming countries.

Islamophobia in New York City: Muslim cabbie runs over two of his passengers
Excerpt: There have been several other suspicious incidents involving Muslim drivers over the last few years. Hassan Daly, a 52-year-old described as a "devout Muslim," plowed his cab into a crowd on a sidewalk in San Diego, injuring over 24 people. Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar explicitly grounded his hit-and-run in the teachings of the Koran. Munir Muthana told the police who arrested him that "the Muslims will fix this country." Omeed Aziz Popal, we were told, was suffering from stress from an arranged marriage. Ismail Yassin Mohamed, we were informed, was mentally ill, suffered from depression, and hadn't being taking his medication. And Muhammad Teshale, according to "law enforcement officials," "did it to be famous." Coincidence or jihad? Certainly there are a lot of hit-and-run and incidents involving people hit by cars that have nothing to do with Muslims, but in the cases listed here there is a degree of intentionality in these that we do not usually see.

America's New Heartland: Hispanics Moving into the West mean Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho now have the fastest-growing populations
Excerpt: When California and Texas are added to the south-western population shift, these states make up more than a quarter of the nation's total gains since 2000. The Census Bureau is expected to announce a new mean centre of population next month in or around Texas County, Missouri, south-west of where it is now in Phelps County. According to the 2010 figures, if the trend continues, the centre would leave the state by 2050 for the first time since 1980. Robert Lang, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said: ‘The geography is clearly shifting, with the West beginning to emerge as America's new heartland.'

Castro Grabs for Americans’ Wallets with Medicare Fraud
Excerpt: These peculiarities recently caught the eye of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Last week the Dept. of Health and Human Services was testifying before the Senate Finance Committee and Senator Grassley took this occasion to ask the HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson if he’d looked into evidence that Castro could be “facilitating” some of this fraud. “We’ll have to get back to you on the particulars,” replied Mr Levinson. Senator Grassley’s alarmed query was prompted by a blockbuster report by Vanessa Lopez of the Univ. of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies that fell under his eye. The report, titled “The Cuban Government and Multi-Million Dollar Medicare Fraud in South Florida,” needless to add, has been completely “overlooked” by the “watchdogs” whose legs would normally twitch with tingles at such an expose’. Its findings, you see, have troublesome implications for the Obama team’s fetish to (further) open travel and cash-flow from the U.S. to Castro’s terrorist-sponsoring fiefdom. Not all the Medicare fraudsters managed to slither back to Cuba.

How bureaucrats got fat at the public trough
Excerpt: Once upon a time, public employees made less than private-sector workers but were compensated more generously on their pensions to make up the difference. The pension was intended as an incentive to stay on the public payroll as a career, thus insuring a stable work force able to keep essential daily government services functioning regardless of changes in political leadership. That was a reasonable model in the decades after passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Act that in 1883 replaced the old spoils system with a merit-based professional work force. For years thereafter, career government employees accepted lower salaries but received defined-benefit pensions under the Civil Service Retirement System.

1 comment:

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