Friday, April 29, 2011

Political Digest for April 29, 2011

I’m on the road, but grabbing a few minutes on-line to pull a few items.

Deficit Spending
We are headed for disaster, and any politician who tries to stop it will get trashed by the media and other party for cutting essential things. See Ryan, Paul. ~Bob. Excerpt: The federal government ran record peacetime budget deficits in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, 10 percent and 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), respectively, and anticipated another deficit of 10 percent in 2011. The federal government's borrowing in 2009 and 2010 took up amounts equal to 60 percent and 49 percent of the economy's gross private savings, respectively. The dollar volume of federal debt held by the public doubled between the end of September 2007 and the end of December 2010. The ratio of debt to GDP reached 62 percent, the first time the federal-debt-to-GDP ratio had exceeded 50 percent since just after World War II, says Lawrence H. White, a professor of economics at George Mason University. A large share of the federal debt growth in 2007-2010 was cyclical, due to a deep recession that reduced federal revenues and automatically triggered some additional spending. But a sizable part of the debt growth was non-cyclical or structural, as indicated by the federal budget having been in deficit for 36 out the most recent 40 years. By 2020, debt would equal nearly 90 percent of GDP; after that, the growing imbalance between revenues and noninterest spending, combined with the spiraling cost of interest payments, would swiftly push federal debt to unsustainable levels. Debt held by the public would exceed its historical peak of about 110 percent of GDP by 2025 and would reach about 180 percent of GDP in 2035. A growing level of federal debt would also increase the probability of a sudden fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose confidence in the government's ability to manage its budget, and the government would thereby lose its ability to borrow at affordable rates, says White.

Some Church Groups Form Sharing Ministries To Cover Members' Medical Costs
Excerpt: Although the ministries say that they're not providing health insurance and are therefore exempt from state insurance regulations, states sometimes beg to differ. Concerned that members may believe such ministries guarantee coverage of their medical bills, regulators have at times tried to shut them down.

Very interesting: The Sustainable Development Hoax
Excerpt: “Sustainable Development” (SD) is basically a slogan without a specific meaning. Linked to Earth Day (April 22), it masquerades as a call for clean air, green energy, and suggests a pristine bucolic existence for us and our progeny—forever. But in reality, it has become immensely useful to many groups who use the slogan to advance their own special agenda, whatever they may be. The term itself was invented by Gro Harlem Bruntlandt, a Norwegian socialist politician and former prime minister. After her term there, she landed in Paris and, together with Club of Rome veteran Alexander King, began publicizing SD. Indeed, the concept is a successor to the neo-Malthusian theme of the Club of Rome, which began to take hold around 1970 and led to the notorious book Limits to Growth. In turn, the “Limits to Growth” concept was developed a few years earlier by U.S. geologists like Preston Cloud and King Hubbert. In a report published by a panel of the National Academy, they promoted the view that the world was running out of resources: food, fuels, and minerals. According to their views, and those of the Club of Rome and Limits to Growth, most important metals should have become unavailable before the end of the 20th century.

Excerpt: QE2 is a departure from the Fed’s usual procedures, which aim primarily to affect short-term interest rates through purchases of short-term (less than a year in maturity) Treasury bonds, or T-bills. This tool of monetary policy, known as open-market operations (OMO), has largely been on the sidelines for the past two years, since the Fed drove the key short-term rate to near zero in late 2008 and has kept it there. The Fed turned to QE that year because the Great Recession was so severe. QE1 was primarily aimed at buying up MBS, many of which were considered “toxic” due to mortgages that were unlikely to be repaid. These MBS were like albatrosses around the necks of many banks, leading the Fed to try to help by taking these liabilities off their hands. Astonishingly, through $1.75 trillion of such purchases, the Fed increased the monetary base (currency plus bank reserves) by nearly 200 percent between December 2008 and March 2010. However, rather than stimulating the economy through increased lending, much of that new money has remained idle, locked up in vaults as banks have been unwilling and often unable to lend.

Who Subsidizes Whom in Higher Education?
Excerpt: Conventional wisdom holds that colleges and universities heavily subsidize their students. This assertion seems correct, given that total spending per student is almost always in excess of per student tuition payments. However, the conventional wisdom is wrong because it inappropriately compares only one revenue source -- tuition payments -- to total institutional spending, says Andrew Gillen, research director, Matthew Denhart, administrative director, and Jonathan Robe, a research associate, with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Such a comparison is seriously misleading because institutional spending encompasses far more than just the educational expenditures that tuition revenues are ostensibly designed to cover. The more logical comparison is between what colleges and universities are paid to provide an education versus what those institutions actually spend to provide that education. In many cases student tuition and third-party payments on behalf of students easily cover the portion of spending that is actually used for educational activities. Between 52 percent and 76 percent of all students attend institutions where educational payments exceed educational spending. For four-year students, this figure is between 59 percent and 87 percent, and for two-year students, it is between 24 percent and 63 percent. In other words, not only are most students not being subsidized by their college, but most colleges are able to divert money towards non-educational activities, all the while claiming that this spending is for the benefit of students. Convincing people that you are giving them a big discount when you are doing no such thing is not a new idea. What is new is its application to and celebration within higher education, say Gillen, Denhart and Robe.

Economic growth slows to 1.8% in first months of 2011
Thank you Jimmy Carter Obama. ~Bob. Excerpt: Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, rose at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the January through March period, down sharply from the 3.1 percent pace of growth in the final quarter of last year. Economists had forecast 2 percent growth.
Rep. Heller appointed to Ensign seat
Excerpt: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) announced Wednesday he will appoint Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to fill Sen. John Ensign's (R-Nev.) seat.
Sandoval praised Heller as "a fiscal conservative who believes in limited government" and rejected the notion of naming a "caretaker" to fill Ensign's seat. 

Now, can we get on with the real debate?
Note this editorial in a conservative publication. Yes, nothing has helped Obama more than the birthers, by diverting attention from the issues. No court will overturn an election, especially when it would create riots and murders in the cities. But the birthers will persist; probably will get him reelected in 2012. ~Bob. Excerpt: President Obama loves to broad-brush his opposition as a bunch of mean-spirited ideologues who are so divorced from reality that they won't be swayed by indisputable facts. Nothing has helped him more in painting this picture of his critics than the unfortunate proliferation of self-taught experts in 1960s Hawaiian vital records. Beginning in June 2008, when Obama released his short-form birth certificate in order to quell spurious rumors about his "real" middle name, the people we have come to know as birthers decided they knew better than their own eyes. Perhaps emboldened by the blogosphere's successful debunking in 2004 of Dan Rather's fake documents questioning President George W. Bush's National Guard service, the birthers sought to re-create this achievement, except this time the facts were not on their side. Obama's short-form birth certificate -- the one released in 2008 -- was and is valid for all legal purposes under Hawaiian law. It proved Obama's birthplace and citizenship as well as any other American's birth certificate. But over a three-year period, birthers cast doubt in some quarters about the legitimacy of Obama's citizenship, ignoring that the burden of proof was and always has been on them, not on the president. They brought forth no proof to dispute Obama, but they did bring multiple frivolous lawsuits. Even a few members of our armed forces bought into the birther con game and refused to obey orders from their commander in chief. Some publications irresponsibly championed their cause.

The Birth Certificate
Excerpt: Will this end the controversy over Obama’s birthplace? Probably not. The birth certificate debate is going to become like a wrangle over the authenticity of a religious relic or an eternal mystery object, like the Grassy Knoll or Area 51. Most documents are accepted based on trust, not their physical characteristics. We are offered a dollar and take it unless some previous predisposition makes us examine in with special light, do serial number checks or look for security threads. For the most part trust suffices. Since the birth certificate is unlikely to be subjected to tests for age of paper, ink intensities or compared to a reconstruction of all the serial numbers, all the skeptics are ever going to have is a glimpse of Obama’s dollar. That is all most of us have: an assertion of authenticity by normally trusted authorities. Obama’s supporters will argue that any demand for further proof — tests that we ourselves would not routinely be subjected to — is tantamount to treating him like a felon. It springs from a pre-existing bias. They would be right. The reason people have been looking for the birth certificate isn’t because they mistrust official birth certificates in general. It is because they mistrust Obama.

Excerpt: Must America's "hate crimes" brigade rush to judgment before all the facts are in? Apparently they must, but that's exactly what you'd expect from people who want to criminalize thoughts, not actions. And nothing illustrates the rush-to-judgment mentality more than what happened in a Baltimore-area McDonald's in mid-April. … Quick, when was the last time you ever heard any of these "hate crimes" folks call for "hate crimes" charges to be lodged against so-called "people of color" whose victims were white? (Probably worth noting that the writer is a respected black columnist. ~Bob.)

The rise of the cybersecurity-industrial complex
Excerpt: The $100 billion Washington will spend on cybersecurity in the next decade may be less about guarding America from a real threat, and more about enriching revolving-door lobbyists and satisfying pork-hungry politicians. A new working paper by Mercatus Center authors Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins makes the case that "the rhetoric of 'cyber doom' employed by proponents of increased federal intervention ... lacks clear evidence of a serious threat that can be verified by the public." But defense contractors -- both tech companies and weapons makers - are profiting handsomely from fears of cyber attack that could steal sensitive information or crash computer networks and power grids.

Oil imports spike as Obama oil ban decreases domestic production
Excerpt: Here are the facts: According to projections made by the Energy Information Administration in April 2010, the Gulf of Mexico should have produced 1.84 million barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter of 2010. Instead, according to the most recent EIA estimate, due to the Obama permitorium, the Gulf only produced 1.59 million barrels. That is 250,000 barrels a day in lost production. Overall, since Obama instituted his drilling moratorium, oil production from the Gulf is down more than 10%. But while Gulf oil production is down from pre-moratorium estimate, total oil consumption is actually higher than EIA predicted last year. Total crude oil input to refineries is up from an estimated 13.85 million barrels a day to an actual 14.25 million barrels. But if domestic production is down and consumption is up, where is the extra oil coming from?

Seniors not buying Dem Mediscare on Ryan Budget
Excerpt: Gallup has their first round of polling out on Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity and the results are encouraging for conservatives:. While “the Republican plan put forth by Congressman Paul Ryan” falls one point short (43%) of “the Democratic plan put forth by President Barack Obama” (44%) the splits among age groups are noteworthy:
Ryan’s plan includes a complete restructuring of Medicare for people younger than 55. Pluralities of middle-aged Americans as well as those 65 and older prefer Ryan’s plan to Obama’s, while adults 18 to 29 show more support for Obama’s, 53% to 30%. These findings are in line with approval of Obama by age, more generally.

Herman Cain hits Romney on health care plan
If my choice in the GOP primary is Romney or Cain, I’m with Cain. ~Bob. Excerpt: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Wednesday said his rival Mitt Romney would have to “deal with” the health care law he passed in Massachusetts, which Cain grouped with ObamaCare as “government-centered” health care. “I do not support the Massachusetts health care law,” Cain said at a lunch sponsored by the American Spectator and held at the offices of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. While he didn't explicitly say the two laws were similar, he did mention them in tandem, emphasizing, “I want to get to get away from this government takeover to health care.”

'Atlas Shrugged' producer: 'Critics, you won.' He's going 'on strike.'
Excerpt: Twelve days after opening "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1," the producer of the Ayn Rand adaptation said Tuesday that he is reconsidering his plans to make Parts 2 and 3 because of scathing reviews and flagging box office returns for the film. (...) "Atlas Shrugged" was the top-grossing limited release in its opening weekend, generating $1.7 million on 299 screens and earning a respectable $5,640 per screen. But the box office dropped off 47% in the film's second week in release even as "Atlas Shrugged" expanded to 425 screens, and the movie seemed to hold little appeal for audiences beyond the core group of Rand fans to whom it was marketed.

Iran's president and supreme leader in rift over minister's reinstatement
Excerpt: Since the first signs of split emerged, several members of the Iranian parliament have called on Ahmadinejad to publicly support Khamenei's decision over Moslehi, a request he has so far declined. Some prominent figures in the powerful revolutionary guards have also asked the president to comply with the supreme leader. On Tuesday, Parliament News, a website run by Iranian MPs reported that "the plan to impeach Ahmadinejad has begun" in the parliament, with 12 MPs asking for him to be summoned before them. Conservatives believe that the increasing tension between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei stems from the growing influence of Mashaei, who is being groomed by Ahmadinejad as his possible successor. Mashaei, whose daughter married Ahmadinejad's son, has become the most controversial figure in Iran, provoking harsh criticism from conservatives by favouring a greater cultural openness and opposing greater clerical involvement in the regime.

Dollar Resumes Slide As US Jobless Claims Jump, GDP Shows Slowdown
Who will the Blamer-in-Chief blame this week? ~Bob. Excerpt: The dollar didn't need any more bad news, but got it Thursday. The U.S. currency was pushed down further after economic indicators pointed to a dismal employment picture and slowing economic growth. First-time claims for unemployment benefits jumped by 25,000 to 429,000, indicating employers might have recently slowed their hiring recently. Economists were expecting claims to fall to 395,000.

Superman Renounces His U.S. Citizenship in 900th Issue of Action Comics
Huh. I thought he was born in Hawaii. Boycott Action Comics. ~Bob. Excerpt: In Action Comics’ new record-breaking 900th issue, the iconic super hero renounces his U.S citizenship following a clash with the federal government. The Man of Steel, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, has always been recognized as a devoted American warrior who constantly fought evil, but as of Thursday, he is no longer the country's own to claim. "I intend to speak before the United Nations tomorrow and inform them that I am renouncing my U.S. citizenship," he says in a cell in the issue. "I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy."

Rand Paul has 'birther' demand for Trump: Prove you're a Republican
Excerpt: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday took a swipe at billionaire businessman Donald Trump, demanding to see his "Republican registration." While speaking at a breakfast with New Hampshire Republicans one day after "The Donald" visited the Granite State, Paul riffed off the potential GOP presidential candidate's "birther" questions. I’ve come to New Hampshire today because I’m very concerned,” said Paul, according to The New York Times. “I want to see the original long-form certificate of Donald Trump’s Republican registration.”

Sioux Falls, South Dakota Christian Woman Threatened, Home, Car Vandalized by Somalis
Excerpt: Most recently Lisa organized a very successful screening of Iranium to a standing room only crowd of 300, with Frank Gaffney, Founder and President of the Center for Security Policy, South Dakota Sen. Dan Lederman, Tom Trento, President of The United West and Captain Joel Arends. In fact, Lisa is on her way to Iraq, with Captain Arends, to film a documentary about the slaughter of Iraqi Catholics by shariah Muslims in Baghdad. On several occasions, Lisa has been confronted by Muslims who do not like her. Not long ago, Lisa’s tires were slashed, yes, in the quiet mid-west town of Sioux Falls.

NLRB Seeks to Overturn Voter-Approved Secret Ballot Laws in Arizona, South Dakota
Excerpt: The NRLB contends it is perfectly within the agency’s jurisdiction to bring a “preemptive” lawsuit against the states. The agency announced it would move forward with litigation against the states of South Dakota and Arizona to strike the laws from the states that voters approved last November to guarantee employees have the right to vote via secret ballot on whether to form unions at their workplace. The states of South Carolina and Utah passed similar amendments to their constitutions. “Many lawyers will tell you it [the secret ballot] is an implied right within their state constitutions,” Jackley told (...) The effort at the state level was in response to the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, a bill backed by congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama that never passed. This bill would have allowed secret-ballot elections in union organizing to be replaced with a system in which union organizers ask workers to sign a card, and once a majority signs, the union is recognized.

Climate Change As Religion: The Gospel According To Gore
Excerpt: …[T]hat idyllic view of an Eden in the “good old days” before industrialization and modern technology wrecked everything warrants some objective reflection. Realities going back a few hundred years and more reveal a different picture; one displaying widespread poverty, starvation, disease and hardship. Yes, throughout human history, people have had to adapt to climate changes – some long, some severe, and many unpredictable. They have blamed themselves for bad seasons, believing they had invoked the displeasure of the gods through a large variety of offenses. High priests of doom told them so, extracting oaths of fealty and offerings of penance for promised interventions on their behalf. In this regard, at least for some, it seems little has changed. That penance today comes at a very high cost…our present and future national economy.

The Media Don’t Get Economics
Excerpt: I watched almost gape-mouthed at what CNN represented as an analysis of high gasoline prices this week. The implications for the president’s popularity were laboriously explained. But at no point in this exposition did the fact that the U.S. federal government has run up deficits of $3.5 trillion in the last two years, in a country that had a money supply of a little over $1 trillion at the start of this fiscal orgy, rate a mention as an explanation of why commodity prices are rising. … In the 27 months of the Obama administration, there have been spectacular rises in the prices of gasoline ($1.83 per gallon to almost $4), oil ($41 per barrel to over $90), gold ($853 per ounce to $1,500), corn ($3.56 per bushel to $6.33), and sugar ($13.37 per pound to $35.39). The real median household income has declined by $300, to under $50,000; the number of food-stamp recipients has increased from 32 million to 43 million; the number of people officially in poverty has increased by 10 percent, to 44 million (more people than the whole populations of Poland or Spain); the ranks of the long-term unemployed have increased from 2.6 million to 6.4 million; and the U.S.’s position in the rankings of economic freedom of the world’s countries has declined from fifth to ninth. I have admitted that my canvass of television news and comment is sketchy, but I have seen almost no reference to any of these problems except the prices of oil, gold, and gas.

Marine Corps and Peace Corps
Excerpt: West quotes Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who, in 2008, told the colonels at the National Defense University: “Where possible, kinetic operations should be subordinate to measures to promote better governance, economic programs to spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the discontented.” Given these instructions, West writes, American commanders have become “de facto district governors, spending most of their time on non-military tasks. . . . The U.S. military coined the aphorism ‘Dollars are bullets.’ Battalion and company commanders doled out millions of dollars.” … But Obama should make it clear that the mission is not to prevail only on the Afghan battlefield. The mission is to prevail in the global war now underway. That will require that President Obama acknowledge that such a war is underway, and that nothing matters more to the future of the United States than who wins it.

Regulating Extraordinary Disasters into Existence
Excerpt: The two examples are the BP Macondo well accident in the Gulf of Mexico and the first explosion at the Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) Fukushima nuclear complex. Save for an overly cautious response to government regulation, neither incident would have ripened into the disasters they became. Yet the instinctive response of the government has been greater and more intrusive regulation. The government regulators display all the necessary elements of Santayana's definition of a regulatory fanatic, someone who redoubles his efforts having forgotten his aim.  The President's Oil Spill Commission concluded that a failed negative pressure test started the chain of events that resulted in the Macondo well blowout. The key element that confused the operators was a false pressure reading due to clogging of the kill line by lost circulation material contained in the spacer fluid used in the well. BP pumped that material into the well to comply with a federal regulation. (This actually falls into the OMG category. Ron P.)

After Tepid Gains During Downturn, Firearm Sales Rise at Double-Digit Rates
Obama stimulates the economy. ~Bob. Excerpt: The gun business is on track to have its strongest growth in sales since 2008, according to the latest available data. Federally tracked gun sales rose more than 12.7% in the first quarter, demonstrating the strongest year-over-year growth rate for the gun industry in three years.

Obama Finally Says ‘Drill Baby Drill’ (No, Not You America)
Excerpt: It’s a start: President Obama is finally saying “drill baby drill.” If the story stopped right there I’d give him this week’s Sarah Palin Awakenings award. The problem is that Obama is calling on every oil producing nation with the exception of the United States to increase the supply in a desperate attempt to save his presiden… I mean… lower the price at the pump in Anywhere, USA. From Reuters: President Barack Obama said on Tuesday oil producing countries should increase their output to curb the rise in gasoline prices because “if we’re not growing, they’re not going to be making money either.”

What the World Sees in America
Excerpt: Our republic is not now in a historical adventure period—that is not what is needed. We are or should be in a self-strengthening one. Our focus should not be on outward involvement but inner repair. Bad people are gunning for us, it is true. We should find them, dispatch them, and harden the target. (That would be, still and first, New York, though Washington too.) We should not occupy their lands, run their governments, or try to bribe them into bonhomie. We think in Afghanistan we're buying their love, but I have been there. We're not even renting it. Our long wars have cost much in blood and treasure, and our military is overstretched. We're asking soldiers to be social workers, as Bing West notes in his book on Afghanistan, "The Wrong War." I saw it last month, when I met with a tough American general. How is the war going? he was asked. "Great," he said. "We just opened a new hospital!" This was perhaps different from what George Patton would have said. He was allowed to be a warrior in a warrior army. His answer would have been more like, "Great, we're putting more of them in the hospital!"

Last Cadet Class Leaves CHP Academy
Excerpt: A statewide hiring freeze has forced the California Highway Patrol to cancel cadet training at their West Sacramento facility. The last class took part Wednesday morning in the traditional run to the state capitol. Sixty-eight officers embarked on the five-mile run to the Peace Officers Memorial near the west steps of the state capitol. This will be the last class to graduate from the CHP Academy for at least six months. The academy canceled a class in February after Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order freezing all new hires.

Afghan Christians to be deported despite death fears
Excerpt: Two Afghan asylum seekers, who say they fear they will be killed for being Christian if they are returned home, are to be deported to Kabul on Wednesday. Ahmed Faizi, 29, has been on a hunger strike at the Harmondsworth immigration removal centre near Heathrow for six days. According to friends, Faizi – who has a cross tattooed on his right arm – is convinced that he will be killed if forced to return to Afghanistan. He told a friend: "If the Taliban don't execute me for being a Christian, my family will."

Huckabee Out?: South Carolina staffers reportedly told to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
Excerpt: It looks as if Mike Huckabee won’t be making a presidential run in 2012 after all. An article at the Process Story blog says they have been told Huckabee is “giving his former S.C. supporters the nod to seek work on other presidential campaigns. The word is that he’s told South Carolina staffers that they have his blessing for them to peddle their wares elsewhere.”

English Defence League Demo in Support of Family of Murdered Charlotte Downes
Excerpt: Our national campaign against the threat of radical Islam brings us to the seaside town made infamous by the gruesome murder of Charlene Downes. Charlene disappeared in 2003, and evidence emerged that her body had been put through a mincing machine in a Blackpool Kebab shop – one of a number of takeaways in the town identified by police as a sexual exploitation ‘honey pot’. Lancashire police botched the investigation into Charlene’s murder and paid the two defendents nearly £250,000 each in compensation. Today, the kebab shop is still open and it is thought that over 60 Blackpool school girls have been the victims of grooming or sexual abuse by Muslim takeaway owners and workers.

Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas 'agree to end rift'
Excerpt: Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, an interim government will be formed and a date fixed for elections. The groups have been divided for more than four years, with Hamas in power in Gaza and Fatah running the West Bank. Israel immediately said that the Palestinian Authority could not have peace with both Hamas and Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "I hope the Palestinian Authority will make the right choice - peace with Israel." Hamas has carried out bombings and rocket attacks against Israel for years and does not recognise its right to exist. (I guess they finally decided to stop killing each other and concentrate on killing Israelis.  This is about as bad as news can get for Israel, short of Iran building a nuclear weapon—which surely won’t happen for at least a few weeks. Hold on to your hats, the storm is coming. Ron P.)

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