Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Political Digest for April 26, 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.

For those who want further information about the topics covered in this blog, I recommend the following sites. I will add to this as I find additional good sources.

Important: The Troubling Past and Frightening Future of Jihad, Part 1
Excerpt: During the Egyptian uprising, shortly before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office, I was a guest on CNN Newsroom with anchor Don Lemmon. As the Egyptian government was collapsing, I argued that the Western media were missing the real story. Western journalists were praising and celebrating the Arab world uprisings as a popular demand for democracy and freedom. "That's not what is actually happening," I said. "The concept of democracy is really a Western concept. Here in America and in the Western democracies, we believe that power rises from the people, and We the People empower the government to rule. But this idea is unknown in the Egyptian experience." If the chain-reaction of uprisings across the Middle East are not pro-democracy, pro-freedom revolutions, then what are they? I'm convinced they are the latest form of Islamic Jihad. They are yet another way by which radical Islam seeks to conquer secular pro-Western regimes. Now, in saying this, I am neither prophesying nor conjecturing. I am simply looking at the history of Islam's relentless drive to conquer the Christian West, then projecting events of the past on into the future. The history of Islam is a history of invasions and conquests of the West, beginning with Umar ibn al-Khatt?b (the companion and successor of the Prophet Mohammad), who invaded and conquered Christian lands in the mid-600s.

Muslim Policeman Opens Fire on Jewish Group
"Terrorists in Uniform" Screaming "Allah Akbar"
Didn't get the "Islam is a Religion of Peace" memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: A Muslim policeman opened fire on a Jewish group that had entered Joseph's Tomb to pray. The world says nothing, it has nothing left of decent shame. No one dares speak of the motivation behind this genocide -- Islamic Jew-hatred as commnaded by the quran. The Muslims have been slaughtering and oppressing Jews for 1,400 years. It didn't start when Yaser Arafat, the godfather of modern terror, decided to market it as "Palestinian."

Classified Files Offer New Insights Into Detainees
Excerpt:  A trove of more than 700 classified military documents provides new and detailed accounts of the men who have done time at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, and offers new insight into the evidence against the 172 men still locked up there. (…) The government’s basic allegations against many detainees have long been public, and have often been challenged by prisoners and their lawyers. But the dossiers, prepared under the Bush administration, provide a deeper look at the frightening, if flawed, intelligence that has persuaded the Obama administration, too, that the prison cannot readily be closed. Prisoners who especially worried counterterrorism officials included some accused of being assassins for Al Qaeda, operatives for a canceled suicide mission and detainees who vowed to their interrogators that they would wreak revenge against America. (This doesn’t sound like the kind of data that would be available in “diplomatic cables,” and may not be the kind of thing found in operational-level intel files. Manning may not have been the only one feeding Wikileaks, and they may be dumping the documents along with Manning’s to get rid of them as cleanly as possible. The Counter Intelligence folks must have their hands full. Ron P.)

About three decades ago, University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein proposed a radical alternative [gated, but first page available] to our system of malpractice liability. He called it “liability by contract.” The idea: let patients and doctors voluntarily agree in advance how to resolve things if something goes wrong. In nonmedical fields, Epstein’s idea is actually quite commonplace. Contracts for performance often have provisions detailing what the parties will do if something goes awry. If the parties disagree, contracts often spell out dispute resolution procedures (such as binding arbitration). One version of this idea in medicine has already been tried. For years, hospitals asked admitting patients to sign a form agreeing not to sue the hospital or the doctors, no matter how negligent they were. When these forms showed up at the courthouse, however, judges routinely dismissed them on the grounds that the patients were too sick, too scared and too uninformed for there to have been a true meeting of the minds.

Mitch Daniels sounds fiscal alarm, but Indiana Republican hesitant to run in 2012
It’s kind of a Himmelfahrtskommando. Anyone who comes in as President in 2012 and proposes the kind of cuts and changes that need to be done to save the country will instantly be the most hated person in America. ~Bob. Excerpt: No prospective Republican presidential candidate has done more to highlight the issue of debt and deficits than Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He calls it the “new red menace,” an ocean of red ink that he says is every bit as dangerous as the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War. His call to arms gives him a provocative though politically risky platform for a potential 2012 presidential candidacy. Daniels thinks dealing with the debt problem will require a potentially dramatic restructuring of Medicare for future recipients, revamping Medicaid to slow its spending, and altering Social Security for today’s younger workers by raising the retirement age and recalculating the cost-of-living formula.

Supreme Court Rejects Request for Expedited Hearing on Health Law Challenge
Excerpt: The legal fight over President Obama's health care overhaul will apparently go through normal legal channels after the Supreme Court on Monday announced it will not expedite a major lawsuit from Virginia challenging the controversial law. It's the second time the high court has denied an expedited review request from the law's opponents. While Monday's decision doesn't foreclose others from asking the justices to do the same with their cases, it now seems unlikely that the court would break its regular protocols to hear a dispute that will almost certainly come before them -- just not now.

To stand on the firing parapet and expose yourself to danger; to stand and fight a thousand miles from home when you’re all alone and outnumbered and probably beaten; to spit on your hands and lower the pike; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rear guard at Kunu-Ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill; these are not rational acts. They are often merely necessary. –Jerry Pournelle

This is great: The jubjub hole
Excerpt: (With apologies to Dr. Seuss.) In the kingdom of Whatsis, on the Island of Ooze, Lived a gaggle of Spendits of two different hues. Each Spendit was feathered, each Spendit was plump, Each walked with a kind of galumpety-lump. They all looked alike, although it is true Some Spendits were Red, and others were Blue.

A special report on pensions: Hiring grandpa
Excerpt: WHEN WINSTON CHURCHILL reached the age of 65, his career was still regarded as a bit of a failure. Had he retired then, as most modern 65-year-olds would, he would never have become prime minister, made the speeches for which he has become famous or topped polls of the greatest Britons ever. Is the rich world ignoring the potential of its older workers whose finest hours could still be ahead of them? As things stand, the absolute number of people of working age in the developed world is set to fall. In the EU it is likely to drop from 305m in 2010 to 286m in 2030 and just 255m in 2050. Over the same period the number of those aged over 65 in those countries will rise from 87m to 142m. Economic growth is a function of the size of the workforce, the amount of capital employed and the rise in productivity. If the workforce shrinks, as demography shows it will, all the growth will have to come from capital investment and productivity improvements.

Poverty Is Easy to Explain by Walter Williams
Excerpt: There is very little either complicated or interesting about poverty. Poverty has been man’s condition throughout his history. The causes of poverty are quite simple and straightforward. Generally, individual people or entire nations are poor for one or more of the following reasons: (1) they cannot produce many things highly valued by others; (2) they can produce things valued by others but they are prevented from doing so; or (3) they volunteer to be poor. The true mystery is why there is any affluence at all. That is, how did a tiny proportion of man’s population (mostly in the West) for only a tiny part of man’s history (mainly in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries) manage to escape the fate of their fellow men? (Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded--here and there, now and then--are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” –Robert A. Heinlein.)

Dems Seek Leverage by Forcing GOP Split on Ryan's Budget Plan
Excerpt: Senate Democratic aides expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to force Senate Republicans to vote on the Paul Ryan budget plan. Reid hasn’t made a formal decision yet, and won’t until he returns from an overseas trip. The idea is to drive a wedge through the GOP caucus and put vulnerable incumbents such as Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in a political jam. Senate Democrats felt encouraged Friday after Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) emerged as the first Senate Republican to publicly oppose the House-passed budget blueprint, named after Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). (And if the country collapse in fiscal ruin in 2020, who cares if we win in 2012. ~Bob.)

Iran Says it was Targeted with Second Worm, Stars
The world may yet be saved by a 20-something nerd. Shades of Ender’s Game. ~Bob. Excerpt: The general responsible for investigating the Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuclear program says that the country was also hit by a second targeted attack, called Stars. Few details on the reported attack are available, except for the fact that it appears to have been directed at specific computer systems within the country. "Certain characteristics about the Stars worm have been identified, including that it is compatible with the (targeted) system," said Brigadier General Gholam-Reza Jalali, director of Iran's Passive Defense Organization, in a report Monday by the country's Mehr News Agency.

Female Protester Disrupts Muslim Radicals Rallying in Frankfurt, Germany
Raw courage. ~Bob.

Top GOP Pollster Turns Down Donald Trump's Wish to Join Campaign
Probably got a better offer as Cabin Steward on the Titanic. ~Bob. Excerpt: “I spent a good deal of time reflecting over the weekend about our talks and the possibility of working together in your potential campaign,” read an email obtained by The Daily Caller. “While I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other better and I am flattered by your considering me for your potential campaign, I respectfully decline the opportunity and therefore withdraw myself from consideration.”

The Week That Was: 2011-04-23 (April 23, 2011)
Excerpt: The ending “-ism” denotes a way of thinking, perceiving and structuring one's life. Every “ism” is based on underlying assumptions, principles and beliefs that tell its adherents what they ought to do. Providing ethical guidance for its members is a major part of what an “-ism” does. (…) In America today, the religion of environmentalism has the distinct advantage of being taught in the public schools, and receiving plentiful government funding. Some of its beliefs are fairly benign, such as sympathy for polar bear cubs. But other beliefs have had horrible consequences. (The excerpt is from a guest editorial entitled The Surrogate Religion of Environmentalism by Thomas P. Sheahen, PhD. It is well worth reading for anyone interested in understanding the current “climate wars” and on-going effort to de-industrialize the world in general and the West in particular. If you follow TOJ daily, you’ve already seen perhaps a fifth of the rest of the articles in this week’s digest (hurray for us!). Ron P.)

Voodoo Economics? How About Voodoo Climate Science?
Excerpt: Pretty much every forecast about climate change or its effects should be viewed as a hypothesis rather than a fact. After all, as Fireside Theater once noted, “the future’s not here yet”. But the UN named a specific year (2010) which allows for an actual test of their prediction. Census takers around the world have inadvertently adjudicated the UN’s forecast. It was dead wrong. Pretty much every recent census reveals that populations are growing rapidly precisely where everyone was supposed to be migrating from. (And where is the story that global warming causes babies?). (…) Scientists, as humans, make judgemental errors. But what is odd about the UN is that its gaffes are all in one direction. All are exaggeration of the effects of climate change. In each case, the IPCC was relying upon scientific literature that was not peer-reviewed in the traditional sense. No one has found analogous errors in the other direction (which would be an underestimation of climate change based upon the “grey” literature), and you can bet that people have been looking very hard in an effort to exonerate the UN.

Unions on the ropes: Public employees are fighting back, but they seem almost sure to lose
Excerpt: Labor unions fight on in Wisconsin, as the Germans did during the bitter winter of 1944-1945. But the war is lost. To see how grim is the outlook for public employee unions, let's go to Detroit, where Mayor Dave Bing proposed Tuesday a budget which would cut contributions to public employee health plans by 20 percent and would skip a payment to city pension funds. "If we do nothing, by 2015 fringe benefits are on pace to consume half of our entire general fund revenue," Mr. Bing said. "We cannot afford benefit packages so rich, nor can we afford to protect the interests of 30,000 people at the expense of 700,000." Mayor Bing is a Democrat in a heavily Democratic city. Yet he has gone "all Scott Walker" on public employee unions, said Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard.

Barbour will not seek GOP nomination
Excerpt: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) took himself out of the running for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday. Barbour surprised most observers by saying in a statement that he wouldn't run for president in 2012.

Al Qaeda More Dangerous Today than 9/11?
Terrorist expert says group has greatly expanded.

The Case Against Omar Ahmad
Excerpt: Reports that the Department of Justice declined a request to prosecute a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) official last year have left many, including U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., wondering what factors DOJ officials considered. A new IPT memo addresses a different question. Why did Texas prosecutors make the request to prosecute Ahmad in the first place? CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad served as a senior executive in the Palestine Committee, an umbrella organization of U.S.-based Hamas support groups, FBI recordings and internal documents show. Ahmad worked closely with Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) officials and served as president of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) for two years. Both HLF, convicted in 2008 of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas, and IAP, a U.S. Hamas propaganda arm, were identified in court documents as the Palestine Committee's primary components.

Broken Guantanamo Promises
Excerpt: Obama simply miscalculated out of pure, stupid ignorance, that somehow he could take a campaign talking point, turn it into a Presidential edict, and show the country how the moron Bush had mucked it all up. In the end it was merely a "vote for me because I'm not George Bush" talking point. When the rubber met the road, the boy-President found out some things are not so easily trumped by his "soaring rhetoric". His team warned him that the public by and large did not give a rats ass about Gitmo detainees, and he'd pay a heavy political price for loving on them. In the end he decided not to take that hit, blame others for his fecklessness, and move on to the next pretty colored balloon.

Rick Perry’s Tenth Commandment
Excerpt: ‘If Jeb Bush’s name were Jeb Smith, he’d be the next president of the United States,” says Texas governor Rick Perry, and then there’s a long pause in the conversation to let pass the unspoken corollary: “And if Rick Perry were the governor of Florida . . . ” People constantly ask Governor Perry if he’s thinking about running for president. In fact, they ask him if he’s thinking about running for president so often that by now he almost certainly must be thinking about running for president, even if he wasn’t thinking about it before. He plays down that sort of thing (except when he doesn’t) and protests that he’s got plenty to keep him busy in Austin. And he is busy: He’s hip-deep in a ferocious fight to balance the state budget without instituting new taxes or liquidating the state’s rainy-day fund. He has a long list of parochial Texas action-items on his gubernatorial to-do list, like pushing down the cost of a bachelor’s degree from a state university to $10,000 and keeping his bespoke boot heel on the neck of the trial lawyers.

Interesting: 2012: The Racing Form: A look at the long shots, the serious candidates, and the 2016 bench.
Unified Field Theory of 2012, Axiom One: The more the Republicans can make the 2012 election like 2010, the better their chances of winning. The 2010 Democratic shellacking had the distinction of being the most ideological election in 30 years. It was driven by one central argument in its several parts: the size and reach of government, spending and debt, and, most fundamentally, the nature of the American social contract. 2010 was a referendum on the Obama experiment in hyper-liberalism. It lost resoundingly. Of course, presidential elections are not arguments in the abstract but arguments with a face. Hence, Axiom Two: The less attention the Republican candidate draws to him/herself, the better the chances of winning. To the extent that 2012 is about ideas, about the case for smaller government, Republicans have a decided edge. If it’s a referendum on the fitness and soundness of the Republican candidate — advantage Obama.

Worth Reading: The Disappearing Dollar: How much longer can it remain the world’s currency standard?
Excerpt: Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the least insane men in Washington, has a ten-year plan. President Obama, one of the most insane spenders in Washington, has a twelve-year plan. After hearing the president’s plan, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. sovereign-debt outlook to “negative.” Ah, the fine art of understatement. In 1940, after the fall of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk, presumably they downgraded Britain’s outlook to “spot of bother.” At the world’s first “Presidential Facebook town hall meeting” on Wednesday, even Obama had a hard time taking his “plan” seriously. Sometimes he referred to it as a twelve-year plan, sometimes ten years, sometimes saving four trillion, sometimes saving two trillion. So will the Obama plan save four trillion over twelve years or two trillion over ten?

The Wrath of Mahmoud Abbas
Another constituency unhappy with Obama. Ron P. Excerpt: Things came to a head earlier this year when Obama called Abbas before a critical United Nations vote on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. For almost an hour, Abbas says, Obama tried to get the Palestinian leader to withdraw the resolution—using first carrots then sticks, threatening that Congress might not approve the hundreds of millions of dollars America gives to the Palestinians in aid. When Abbas refused to stand down, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called with added pressure. Still, Abbas wasn't prepared for what happened next. When the resolution came to a vote, the Palestinian president, to his dismay, discovered that the Americans would vote against the Palestinians and veto the resolution. “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze,” Abbas told Ephron in one of several exclusive interviews during a whirlwind trip last week that took the Palestinian leader from Jordan to Tunisia to France, where he met with President Nicolas Sarkozy. Abbas recounted that he told Obama, “‘OK, I accept.’” Then, he said, “We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump….”

Uncontrolled Spending Is the Real Threat
Excerpt: All across Western Europe—the land of platinum-plated social benefits, the 35-hour work week, tony retirement plans and government-funded health care—countries are coming to the realization that they can no longer afford these luxuries amid skyrocketing deficits. Yet here in the United States, as we face a $14.3 trillion deficit, some are calling for increasing our government’s ability to borrow even more money without any concern for spending reform. Congress can’t allow that to happen, lest we become the Europe of the West. The U.S. government is fast approaching its $14.294 trillion debt ceiling — the statutory limit on how much money it can borrow to finance spending. Just how big is that? To put it in perspective, it would take essentially everything that Americans produced in all of last year to pay off the existing national debt. That comes out to $45,000 of debt for each American.

Aircraft Carrier For Sale Or Rent
Excerpt: An article in today's London Telegraph ("HMS Ark Royal Put Up for Sale on ‘Military eBay' ") reports that UK's MoD website is offering Great Britain's just-mothballed aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal, and three Royal Navy destroyers for sale to the highest bidder. Maybe the Chinese will buy them. After all, they've got the money. 9dear God, what would Nelson say? ~Bob.)

Waiving early retirement withdrawal taxes could end housing crisis
I don’t know enough about the economics of this to know if it’s a good idea. ~Bob. Excerpt: Republicans know that the economy needs help, but that tax cuts are a non-starter with the president and that more deficit spending is equally off the table. There is one source of stimulus that the GOP should propose to the public that could not only juice current economic activity but also bring the housing crisis to a quick and merciful end. If Congress were to allow Americans to use their retirement savings to pay-down or pay-off home mortgage debt without triggering withdrawal taxes or penalties on the use of those savings, millions of Americans would almost certainly do so, as it would free up money families presently spend on first and second mortgage payments while adding simultaneously to the retirement security of those families by securing from any future financial crisis the home in which they intend to live out their lives.

NYT/CBS poll finds plurality supports Ryan's Medicare proposal
Excerpt: Despite a media narrative that House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal is being rejected by the American people, a new New York Times/CBS poll finds that by a plurality of 47 percent to 41 percent, Americans actually approve of it. Interestingly, the Times buries the news deep into the story on its own poll: And slightly more Americans approve than disapprove of a proposal by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin to change Medicare from a program that pays doctors and hospitals directly for treating older people to one in which the government helps such patients pay for private plans, though that support derived more from Republicans and independents.

No comments:

Post a Comment