Thursday, February 23, 2012

Political Digest for February 23, 2012

The Old Jarhead Blog: Bringing you news and information the MSM is too busy covering American Idol, celebrity affairs and sensational missing person cases to cover. Please forward to friends who need to be informed.

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. In some cases I post things sent to me by readers I might not have posted on my own, to get ideas circulating.

Flag Raising on Iwo Jima
February 23rd is the 67th anniversary of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising. Take a moment from mourning Whitney to remember the 1,000 Marines and Sailors who died for every square mile of that worthless rock.

The Northern and Western European Housing Bubble
Excerpt: Could Sweden or Finland be the scene of the next European financial crisis? It is actually far likelier than most people realize. While the world has been laser- focused on the woes of the heavily-indebted PIIGS nations for the last couple of years, property markets in Northern and Western European countries have been bubbling up to dizzying new heights in a repeat performance of the very property bubbles that caused the global financial crisis in the first place.

U.S. Unemployment Increases in Mid-February: Underemployment also up, to 19.0%
Excerpt: The U.S. unemployment rate, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 9.0% in mid-February, up from 8.6% for January. The mid-month reading normally reflects what the U.S. government reports for the entire month, and is up from 8.3% in mid-January. (People give up looking, the rate drops. Rate drop makes people start looking again, rate goes up. This the change you were hoping for? ~Bob.)

Another American Prostrates himself and his Country Before the Intolerant and Unforgiving!
Excerpt: In a world where every aberrant act, every self-inflicted malady and every vice is considered an epidemic, we most certainly need to add to the list the act of prostrating oneself and by extension, his country for every single assumed infraction of societal and ideological moray in every minor culture in the world! As an American, watching senior Officers and Elected Officials continually apologizing for one piece of inanity or another has passed from bothersome to an active insult to the American people!

Feinstein challenger: Drop Fast & Furious gun-control agenda
Excerpt: California Republican Elizabeth Emken, who is challenging 20-year incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her seat in November, told The Daily Caller that her opponent is “protecting Washington insiders” with regard to Operation Fast and Furious. “Rather than Feinstein trumpeting her own gun control agenda here, she should be working to the get the truth out to the American public,” Emken said in a phone interview.

Is Germany Secretly Maneuvering To Kick Greece Out Of The Euro?
Excerpt: What in the world is going on in Europe? Each day things just seem to get stranger and stranger. We are being told that a "deal" for a second Greek bailout has been reached and that Greece will not default in March. But behind the scenes it seems clear that many politicians in Germany (and in the other northern European countries as well) would like to kick Greece out of the euro.

Important: Greek debt pact is far from a done deal
Excerpt: In their jubilant celebration over the latest agreement to solve Greece's debt debacle, European officials forgot to check with two important groups: the Greek voters and the bondholders who lent Athens the money it now says it can’t pay back.

Important: How Not to Make Public Policy: The Payroll Tax Cut
Social Security going broke? Hit the gas! ~Bob. Excerpt: It is rare that an act of legislation encompasses nearly every feature of poor public policy making in the manner of the current “temporary” Social Security payroll tax cut. Imperfect legislation is of course the norm in any system that brokers compromises between competing interests, but more typically even the worst outcomes advance the general policy objectives of one side even as they may be fiercely condemned by the other. The payroll tax cut, by contrast, serves almost no productive purpose while causing severe adverse consequences from almost any conceivable policy vantage point.

Competitive bidding can help solve Medicare's fiscal crisis
Excerpt: A major reason Medicare faces a severe fiscal crisis is because it pays too much for basic benefits. But chronic overpayment can be cured by harnessing market forces in the form of competitive bidding. It uses bids from private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and the traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare program to set the payment rate for all Medicare health plans. Our research shows that competitive bidding—a key feature of the Wyden-Ryan plan—could save Medicare $339 billion over ten years while maintaining basic benefits and without raising taxes. Crucially, the elderly would not be exposed to the risk of higher health care costs, as in approaches that would set fixed voucher payments toward the purchase of medical insurance.

The Facts Behind the EPA’s Latest Proposal: How the agency is using fuzzy math to justify a costly regulation by Adam Peshek
Excerpt: On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put a regulation on the books that will cost $10 billion a year and will do almost nothing to accomplish its aim of improving public health. It is merely another example of the EPA's politicization of science in a continued effort to bypass Congress to regulate greenhouse gas and eliminate coal. (But it makes the Greenies feel good, and if that costs the poor more money or increases unemployment, so what? ~Bob.)

The Myth of Runaway Health Spending: The growth rate of national health expenditures has been declining for a decade, driven by better medical care and consumer choice.
Excerpt: New data show that health spending over the past several years has been normalizing toward the rate of general inflation, rather than growing higher and higher, as had been the case almost continuously since the 1970s. This moderation in the growth rate of spending predates the national recession. And it puts the lie to the claim that we need government to put the brakes on an "out-of-control" health-care system. (Note: I was able to read this article. Sometimes copy in the WSJ gets blocked with a subscription offer. You can usually find the full copy with a Google search. ~Bob.)

Auto dealers warn fuel efficiency proposal will price out millions of buyers
Excerpt: The NADA estimates that by 2025, 6.8 million drivers will no longer qualify for a new-car loan if the proposed fuel efficiency standards go into effect. (The poor won’t be able to drive, but the Greenies will feel good, so well worth screwing the little guy for. I’m not real worried about this, as I think there is likely to be no United States to enforce it by 2025. ~Bob.)

Two Western Journalists Killed in Syria Shelling
Excerpt: Two Western journalists, one American and one French, were killed early Wednesday in Syria as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad pursued a deadly bombardment of the central city of Homs, according to activists and officials. Valérie Pécresse, the French government spokeswoman, identified the dead as Marie Colvin, an American reporter working for The Sunday Times of London, and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer.

Syrian Allies Reject Calls for Unified Pressure to Halt Violence
Excerpt: China, Russia and Iran all made declarations of support for the Syrian government on Tuesday, reaffirming their alliances in the face of broad, intense international lobbying for unity against President Bashar al-Assad as his nearly yearlong crackdown on domestic opponents has sharpened against restive areas. (And al Qaeda is on the rebels’ side, hoping for an Islamist government after Assad falls. May get it, too. ~Bob.)

Seoul urges China on North Korea refugees
Excerpt: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has asked China to deal with North Korean refugees "in accordance with international rules". China is reportedly in the process of repatriating up to 30 North Koreans who were recently arrested. They could face severe punishment, even death, in the North for leaving, activists say.

Iran defiant as U.N. nuclear talks fail
Excerpt: The U.N. nuclear watchdog ended its latest mission to Iran after talks on Tehran's suspected secret atomic weapons research failed, a setback likely to increase the risk of confrontation with the West. In a defiant response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran's nuclear policies would not change despite mounting international pressure against what the West says are Iran's plans to obtain nuclear bombs. (Boy, who could have predicted that? Maybe the UN teams just needs bowing and groveling lessons from BO? ~Bob.)

UN nuclear agency reports failed Iran talks
Excerpt: The IAEA team had hoped to talk to key Iranian scientists suspected of working on the alleged weapons program, break down opposition to their plans to inspect documents related to nuclear work and secure commitments from Iranian authorities to allow future visits. (…) As on the previous visit that ended in early February, Iran did not grant requests by the IAEA mission to visit Parchin — a military site thought to be used for explosives testing related to nuclear detonations, the statement said. Amano called this decision "disappointing." The statement also said that no agreement was reached on how to begin "clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran's nuclear program, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions."

Guards Implicated in Mexico Prison’s Deadly Gang Attack
Excerpt: Just after 1 a.m., the guards opened the doors, and 30 men climbed up to guard tower No. 6 of the state prison outside the northern city of Monterrey. One by one, they slipped down ropes to waiting vehicles. Just after the men made their escape into the surrounding mountains, more guards opened more doors. This time, they let inmates belonging to the Zetas criminal gang surge from Cellblock C into Cellblock D, where their rivals in the Gulf Cartel were sleeping. (And Mexico, despite having much tougher immigration laws than we do, lectures us on “human rights.” It would be a joke if the media and the left didn’t take them seriously. ~Bob.)

Abkhazia Georgia leader Ankvab escapes deadly ambush
Excerpt: The de facto president of Abkhazia has escaped a mine and gun attack on his convoy which left two of his guards dead and one seriously injured. Alexander Ankvab confirmed he had not been hurt despite damage to his car, which was attacked as he travelled to work in the capital, Sukhumi. (In many parts of the world, political attack ads are not the big problem they are here. ~Bob.)

Spain Gains Access to Trove of Shipwreck Coins
Excerpt: Spanish officials Tuesday started inspecting 595,000 gold and silver coins and other objects plucked from a 19th-century shipwreck and stored in a Florida warehouse. The examination began after a lengthy legal battle with the American treasure hunting company that recovered the trove. On the orders of a U.S. district court, experts from the Spanish Culture Ministry gained access to the warehouse, which is in Sarasota and where the company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, had stored the objects. Meanwhile, two Hercules transport planes from the Spanish Air Force left Tuesday morning for Florida, paving the way for the repatriation to Spain of a treasure weighing about 17 metric tons and with an estimated value of several hundred million euros. (Since the coins doubtless came either from looting the Aztec and Inca empires and/or from Indian slave labor in the Spanish mines of South America, shouldn’t they go to the people of South America instead of Spain? ~Bob.)

UN to bolster Somalia peacekeeping force Amisom
Excerpt: The UN Security Council is to vote to increase the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia by more than 5,000 soldiers, diplomats have said. The resolution will increase the number of troops in the country to 17,731 from its current level of 12,000. In Somalia, Ethiopian troops are advancing on the strategic central city of Baidoa, held by al-Shabab militants.

UN estimates cocaine trafficking in West, Central Africa generates $900 million annually
Excerpt: The U.N. agency that fights drugs and crime estimated that cocaine trafficking is generating some $900 million annually in West and Central Africa as South American cartels use the shortest route to transport drugs to Europe. Yuri Fedotov, the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that in addition to an upsurge in cocaine trafficking, West Africa is experiencing an increase in piracy, arms and human trafficking. (Maybe we should send a Mexican Drug Cartel over there to eliminate the competition? ~Bob.)

Obama to propose lowering corporate tax rate to 28 percent
Excerpt: The Obama administration will propose lowering the top corporate tax rate to 28 percent on Wednesday as part of a proposal to reform taxes on businesses, according to a senior administration official. The White House wants to pay for reducing the corporate rate, which is currently 35 percent, by ridding the tax code of a number of preferences and incentives. Administration officials are also seeking to drop the effective tax rate paid by manufacturers to 25 percent. (A lower corporate tax rate is much needed for the economy. The devil will be in the pay-for details. But when Republicans propose things like this, they are accused of pushing for “tax breaks for the rich” by people like Obama. ~Bob.)

Excerpt: Normally I don’t devote an entire Health Alert to someone else’s idea, but there was a fascinating post the other day at the Health Affairs blog by Abdulrahman El-Sayed, a social epidemiologist and physician-in-training at Columbia University. His conclusion: health reform may actually make disparities in health outcomes (as well as in access to care) worse than what currently exists! Before you immediately dismiss this, let me say that there is evidence that this is exactly what the nationalization of health care produced in Britain. It may also have happened in Canada and in New Zealand.

How ObamaCare is already failing
Excerpt: A key technocratic gimmick of ObamaCare, the Accountable Care Organization, is rolling out now — but the wheels are already starting to come off. … But critics (like me) warn that, instead of helping doctors and patients to make individualized treatment decisions, ACOs will empower government bureaucrats to consolidate health-care providers into top-down organizations and dictate how care is delivered — at greater cost.

Time to attack Israel? Hot debate under way in Iran by Amir Taheri
Excerpt: Has the time come for Iran to destroy Israel? With “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad promising to wipe Israel off the map, the question is being debated in Khomeinist political and theological circles. Khamenei has recently claimed that, under his leadership, the Islamic ummah is heading for victory against Israel and the United States.

Worth Reading: We Are Not Allies, We Are Still The Infidels By Major General Jerry Curry, USA, Ret.
Excerpt: No matter how much you have helped my country — and you came and helped us when we desperately needed your help – and no matter how friendly you feel toward us, we are still Muslims and you are still Christians. That means that in our eyes, we can never be brothers. I’m sorry but, to us, you will always be – Infidels!”

India: Female undergraduate students denied access to library at Aligarh Muslim University
Excerpt: The excuse given here is "overcrowding," but likely has more to do with the strict separation of men and women. The supposed accommodation of allowing women to request books to be brought to them is not enough. Browsing the shelf and browsing an online catalog are different experiences, and the women are being denied one of them.

Afghans rescue 41 child suicide bombers
this is our enemy. ~Bob. Excerpt: The Afghan government said on Monday that police had rescued 41 children from becoming suicide bombers as they were about to be smuggled across the mountains into Pakistan.

Fakegate: Can’t Hide This Decline
Excerpt: The warmists were atwitter last week because they imagined they had their own equivalent of Climaquiddick — someone fraudulently managed to get confidential documents from the Heartland Institute by portraying himself as a board member. Heartland has been at the forefront of supporting skepticism of hyperbolic climate claims, and has accordingly been put in the crosshairs by defenders of Big Science for years. Names of confidential donors were publicly released, as were board-meeting notes and supposed strategy documents that critics claim indicated Heartland’s intent to subvert the teaching of science in the classroom. Amusingly, even the Koch brothers, the Left’s latest Goldsteins, were dragged into it:

U.S. covering millions in Fannie Mae executives’ legal costs
Excerpt: Federal regulators have authorized nearly $100 million in payments to cover the legal costs of three former Fannie Mae executives, including more than $37 million since the government seized the firms more than three years ago, a watchdog said Tuesday. (This is the moral equivalent of having to pay for a lawyer for the guy who mugged you. ~Bob.)

Obama administration opens door to aid for Syrian rebels
Excerpt: The Obama administration opened the door slightly Tuesday to international military assistance for Syria's rebels, with officials saying new tactics may have to be explored if President Bashar Assad continues to defy pressure to halt a brutal crackdown on dissenters. (Isn’t al Qaeda already helping them, expecting a more anti-American Jihadist government from the rebels? ~Bob.)

The High Priests of Eco-Destruction
Excerpt: Scrutiny of the White House anti-science brigade couldn't come at a better time (which is why Santorum's detractors prefer to froth at the mouth about comments he made four years ago on the existence of Satan). It's not just big-ticket scandals like the stimulus-subsidized Solyndra bankruptcy or the Keystone pipeline debacle bedeviling America. In every corner of the Obama administration, the radical green machinery is hard at work -- destroying jobs, shredding truth and sacrificing our economic well-being at the altar of environmentalism.

Worth Reading: The 'Fairness' Fraud by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: How does allowing politicians to take more money in taxes from successful people, to squander in ways that will improve their own reelection prospects, make anything more "fair" for others? Even if additional tax revenue all went to poor single mothers -- which it will not -- the multiple problems of children raised by poor single mothers would not be cured by throwing money at them. Indeed, the skyrocketing of unwed motherhood began when government welfare programs began throwing money at teenage girls who got pregnant. Children born and raised without fathers are a major problem to society and to themselves. (Within the past week, I’ve read that about half of all births to white mothers under 30 are to unmarried women. I think there are strong financial incentives for that. If a couple marries, their combined income may force them to forgo benefits they would qualify for as a “single mom” and “undetermined” father (direct aid, medical care, foodstamps/EBT, free cellphones, et cetera, none of which are taxable income). Others find ways to “go into business,” by adopting several (in a case last year, 11) children with special needs. Any behavior that society rewards financially will increase; if we begin subsidizing flagpole sitters, we’ll soon have lots of them. And, by making marriage less attractive financially, we get less of that activity. Why put up with a spouse—they’re all pains in the ass, especially including me!—if it hurts you financially? And, thus, we destroy the American family. The only reason the “family” hasn’t already vanished is that we Americans truly are a conservative society, resisting change that runs against the old social values. Ron P. Why I wrote my book, Advice for my Granddaughter, as Britnye has an absent father. ~Bob.)

Excerpt: If one manages to graduate from high school without the rudiments of algebra, geometry and trigonometry, there are certain relatively high-paying careers probably off-limits for life -- such as careers in architecture, chemistry, computer programming, engineering, medicine and certain technical fields. For example, one might meet all of the physical requirements to be a fighter pilot, but he's grounded if he doesn't have enough math to understand physics, aerodynamics and navigation. Mathematical ability helps provide the disciplined structure that helps people to think, speak and write more clearly.

Interesting: Why Did Santorum Lose in 2006
Excerpt: Finally, there was Santorum's personality. In the Senate as well as in his home state, Santorum often struck people as arrogant and headstrong, preachy and judgmental. (I was in Pennsylvania from 94-97 and felt this way, though I think of myself as a pretty conservative Republican. ~Bob.)

What I'd love to see at tonight's debate: Ashes - by Tina Korbe,
Excerpt: [The] ashes Catholics and some Protestants receive on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday are a symbol of something it’s always good to remember: “We are dust and to dust we shall return.” That puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it?

The Catholic State - by Mark Steyn
Excerpt: As Commissar Sebelius was laying down the law to American Catholics, a Montreal couple and their son were convicted of a multiple "honor killing." Immigrants from Afghanistan, the Shafias had coolly plotted around the kitchen table the murder of all three of their daughters (plus one of the father's wives), and then carried it out, by drowning them in the Rideau Canal near Kingston, Ontario — for the crime of wishing to live as North American teenage girls. The father was caught on tape saying, "May the devil s**t on their graves!"

Feds: Ohio Animal Rights Activist Offers $850 For Random Fur-Wearer To Be Killed - MSNBC
Excerpt: An Ohio woman who compared animal-welfare work to the liberation of World War II concentration camps has been charged with soliciting a hit man to fatally shoot or slit the throat of a random fur-wearer, federal authorities said. (Leather is next. Then meat eaters. If they can. ~Bob.)

The Sophisticated Touch of Dominic Strauss-Kahn
Excerpt: Everyone's favorite Gallic charmer is back in jail: "Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being questioned by French police as a suspect in a prostitution ring inquiry, a prosecutor says. … To be honest, I was surprised that being mixed up in a prostitution ring is a crime in France. But apparently, while consorting with ladies of the evening is legal, pimping them to your pals and charging them as a business expense is not.

This Week in Atonement - by Kathy Shaidle,
Excerpt: Here’s the highlight reel of this week in atonement: • Actress Lisa Chan apologized for starring in Pete Hoekstra’s “racist” Congressional campaign commercial. Her mea culpa (“cuRpa”?) was graciously accepted by, er, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. (Last time I checked, the Irish were still white, although God knows that could change at any time.) • Los Angeles disc jockeys John and Ken apologized for calling the late Whitney Houston a “crack ho.” Actually, they were speculating that other people were calling the singer that name behind her back while she was still alive, but why split hairs.

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