Saturday, October 31, 2009

Political Digest October 31, 2009

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I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

In White House Vs. Fox News War Of Words, Who Gets Your Vote?
NPR poll. These things aren’t scientific, but keep everyone’s blood flowing. Just not to their brains.

Gullible eager-beaver planet savers
Excerpt: Hold that thought: “They deal with every aspect of our life.” Did you know every aspect of your life was being negotiated at Copenhagen? But in a good way! So no need to worry. After all, we all care about the environment, don’t we? So we ought to do something about it, right? And, since “the environment” isn’t just in your town or county but spreads across the entire planet, we can only really do something at the planetary level. But what to do? According to paragraph 38 on page 18 of the latest negotiating text, the convention will set up a “government” to manage the “new funds” and the “related facilitative processes.” Tim Flannery’s disarmingly honest characterization passed almost without notice, reported as far as I can tell only by Brian Lilley of CFRB Toronto and CJAD Montreal. But professor Flannery has it right. Government transport policy is about transport, and government education policy is about education, but environmental policy is about everything, because everything’s part of “the environment”: your town, your county, your planet—and you. “We are the environment. There is no distinction,” declared another renowned expert, David Suzuki, last year. And just as the government now monitors air and water quality so it’s increasingly happy to regulate your quality.

The Nationalization of Your Children
Excerpt: I keep getting e-mails saying, "People will reach a tipping point and they'll no longer put up with this stuff." I doubt it. Right now the way to bet is that once free societies will retreat incrementally, one trivial step after another, into a totalitarian hell.

Omar’s Girls
Great 2001 column from Mark Steyn, relevant again: Unfortunately, this thesis, while it may get you a Federal grant from Hedy Fry, took a bit of a knock after the fall of Kabul, when to the surprise of the Worldwide Sisterhood the Afghan sisters began emerging from their hoods. Momentarily stunned, the feminists nimbly discovered a whole new set of grievances. Oh, sure, Bush is making a big deal about women’s rights in Afghanistan now, but where was he five years ago when the Taliban first showed up? Well, five years ago, he was in Austin, Texas, and the guy with his feet under the desk in the White House never did a thing - though, if ever there was a fellow with a vested interest in ensuring that impenetrable facial hoods for ladies never caught on, it was surely Mr. Clinton.

Obama: A Man Apart
Excerpt: At the risk of drawing literary comparisons, I am persuaded based on his performance that President Obama is a man apart. He seems to equate power with arrogance; pride with willfulness and exceptionalism with dominance. As a consequence, he has changed foreign policy perceptions. The America he leads is a nation like any other -- no more, no less. In fact, as a Nobel laureate, he is considered by the Europeans as a man of the world, not merely a citizen of the United States. When asked if the United States is exceptional, President Obama said America is exceptional and England is exceptional and Greece is exceptional. That the United States is sui generis didn’t cross his mind. How could it? He is pledged to a scenario in which America opts out of its traditional role as peace keeper, the balance wheel in maintaining international equilibrium. The war against terrorists is over along with the nation’s hegemonic role. Unfortunately the war fatigue President Obama embodies is not embraced by our global enemies who see this shift in his policy attitude as a sign of weakness and retreat. I believe President Obama actually thinks that unilateral concessions to our real and putative enemies will result in reciprocal responses. But as his bizarre overtures to the Olympic Committee demonstrated, gestures directed at multilateralism and celebrity status do not result in favorable results. Real power as opposed to soft power still has meaning on the world stage.

Dozens in Congress under ethics inquiry
Interesting reading. Excerpt: House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July. The report appears to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. The committee said Thursday night that the document was released by a low-level staffer.

Seven on defense panel scrutinized
Nancy Pelosi came to power in the 2006 election promising to end the “Republican Culture of Corruption” and to “Drain the Swamp.” How’s that working out, Nance? As I’ve said many times, neither party has a monopoly on virtue or vice. And, sadly, BOTH parties protect their bums. Excerpt: Nearly half the members of a powerful House subcommittee in control of Pentagon spending are under scrutiny by ethics investigators in Congress, who have trained their lens on the relationships between seven panel members and an influential lobbying firm founded by a former Capitol Hill aide. The investigations by two separate ethics offices include an examination of the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense, John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), as well as others who helped steer federal funds to clients of the PMA Group. The lawmakers received campaign contributions from the firm and its clients. A document obtained by The Washington Post shows that the subcommittee members under scrutiny also include Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) , C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).

VIP Democratic donors have big federal interests
Excerpt: When UBS Americas CEO Robert Wolf stepped out on the golf links at Martha's Vineyard this past summer as part of President Obama's foursome, his firm had plenty to celebrate. A few days earlier, the Swiss parent of his company had resolved a long-running dispute with the IRS over undeclared offshore accounts. The sticky legal case was one of several matters involving the financial giant where huge sums of money could hinge on the action taken by the federal government. But as they strolled the fairways, the topic never came up. Mr. Wolf, like many of the influential Americans who raised more than $500,000 to help get Mr. Obama elected in 2008, has adamantly maintained that he has never let the interests of his company creep into his relationship with the president. (Ain’t it wonderful how President Wobbly has changed they way they do business in Washington, just as he promised?)

Top Obama fundraisers get posts
Excerpt: WASHINGTON — More than 40% of President Obama's top-level fundraisers have secured posts in his administration, from key executive branch jobs to diplomatic postings in countries such as France, Spain and the Bahamas, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Twenty of the 47 fundraisers that Obama's campaign identified as collecting more than $500,000 have been named to government positions, the analysis found. Overall, about 600 individuals and couples raised money from their friends, family members and business associates to help fund Obama's presidential campaign. USA TODAY's analysis found that 54 have been named to government positions, ranging from Cabinet and White House posts to advisory roles, such as serving on the economic recovery board charged with helping guide the country out of recession. Nearly a year after he was elected on a pledge to change business-as-usual in Washington, Obama also has taken a cue from his predecessors and appointed fundraisers to coveted ambassadorships, drawing protests from groups representing career diplomats. A separate analysis by the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats' union, found that more than half of the ambassadors named by Obama so far are political appointees, said Susan Johnson, president of the association. An appointment is considered political if it does not go to a career diplomat in the State Department.

Dismantling America: Part II by Dr. Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: The memory of that long-ago episode has come back more than once while observing both the actions of the Obama administration and the fierce reactions of its supporters to any questioning or criticism. Almost never do these reactions include factual or logical arguments against the administration's critics. Instead, there is indignation, accusations of bad faith and even charges of racism. Here too, it seems as if so many people have invested so much hope and trust in Barack Obama that it is intolerable that anyone should come along and stir up any doubts that could threaten their house of cards…. Internationally, Barack Obama has made every mistake that was made by the Western democracies in the 1930s, mistakes that put Hitler in a position to start World War II-- and come dangerously close to winning it. At the heart of those mistakes was trying to mollify your enemies by throwing your friends to the wolves. The Obama administration has already done that by reneging on this country's commitment to put a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe and by its lackadaisical foot-dragging on doing anything serious to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. That means, for all practical purposes, throwing Israel to the wolves as well. Countries around the world that have to look out for their own national survival, above all, are not going to ignore how much Obama has downgraded the reliability of America's commitments.

A Leadership Vacuum
Excerpt: In the Summer and Fall of 2008 we were reliably reminded by all and sundry, and particularly by Candidate Obama, that the conflict in Iraq was an illegal and immoral war, drawing American resources from the "war of necessity" in Afghanistan. Indeed, if memory serves, Candidate Obama proudly proclaimed that he had voted against the war in Iraq, although he had not been in the US Senate at the time. It is now clear that the war in Afghanistan was a "necessity" only to the extent that Candidate Obama needed a stick with which to beat the outgoing Bush administration. Had Afghanistan been a genuine priority for Team Obama, surely they would have developed a number of possible policies over the course of the campaign.

Where the girls are not
Excerpt: These are vexed times. The country is at war on two fronts. Rogue states are edging toward acquiring strategic nuclear weaponry. We have been through a very serious recession from which we may not emerge into the bright morn of economic health for years. The dollar is frail. The future of national health care, finance and corporate governance is in doubt. Yet that is not all. Over at the New York Times an issue that continues to torment the bien pensants is.... Well, let me quote the first sentence of a front-page tocsin that began the controversy on Sunday: "Does the White House feel like a frat house?" The proximate cause for this troubling query was that President Obama had hosted "a high-level basketball game with no female players." Yet there was more. Apparently, there are anonymous women on the White House staff who feel uncomfortable in the presence of the president and his male associates even when they are fully dressed and not playing basketball. (Women uncomfortable around a black jock. Say, wouldn’t that be racism?)

In Russia, an intensifying insurgency
Excerpt: Moscow declared an end to military operations in Chechnya in April, a decade after then-President Vladimir Putin sent troops into the breakaway republic. But violence has surged in the mountains of Russia's southwest frontier since then, with the assassination of several officials, explosions and shootouts occurring almost daily, and suicide bombings making a comeback after a long lull. On Sunday, a popular Ingush opposition leader was fatally shot, months after the slaying of Chechnya's most prominent human rights activist. The insurgency is a key reason Russia has been reluctant to support sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program; diplomats say the Kremlin is worried Tehran might retaliate by setting aside sectarian differences and backing the rebels in Muslim solidarity. Washington, meanwhile, is concerned that the area is becoming a recruiting ground for militias in Pakistan and Afghanistan. At least 519 people were killed in rebel attacks and clashes with government forces from May to September, up from 299 during the same period last year, according to a study by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. The fighting is concentrated in the largely Muslim eastern part of the North Caucasus, an area the size of Oregon with 14 million people from as many as 50 ethnic groups.

John Kerry to the Rescue
Excerpt: Kerry made his career as an outspoken advocate for the Nuclear Freeze of the 1980s. We now know that the Freeze movement was largely financed by the Kremlin. But even back then, American advocates of the Nuclear Freeze had the satisfaction of knowing they wanted the U.S. to back down in the face of Soviet threats while Britain's Margaret Thatcher, West Germany's Helmut Kohl, and even France's Francois Mitterrand wanted us to stand firm. With a record of being wrong on virtually every issue involving American interests and national security, there is only one question left about the gaunt Massachusetts senator: How has John Kerry managed to avoid winning a Nobel Peace Prize?

The Byzantine Doctrine
Long, but worth reading discussion of strategy. What the United States could learn from the military and foreign policy of the Byzantine Empire.

What NY-23 means
This would be a shock. Excerpt: Two things have become abundantly clear about the special election in New York's 23rd district over the past week. The first is that Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman could win the special election next Tuesday. The second is that neither major party knows what to think about the Hoffman candidacy and both are trying to adjust their spin to accommodate what a victory by the Conservative Party candidate would say about the national political field…. So, while Republicans will cast a Hoffman win as a victory for them (it shows an energized GOP base) and Democrats will tout it as victory for their side (it shows a deeply divided Republican party), the truth is that a Hoffman win should send shivers up the spine of anyone who carries "Representative", "Senator" or "Governor" before their name.

The WellPoint Revelation
My dad used to tell an old joke, with the punch line, “Brace yourself Harry—here comes the bull.” Excerpt: In all of the 14 states WellPoint scrutinized, ObamaCare would drive up premiums for the small businesses and individuals who are most of WellPoint's customers. (Other big insurers, like Aetna, focus on the market among large businesses.) Young and healthy consumers will see the largest increases—their premiums would more than triple in some states—though average middle-class buyers will pay more too.

CBO Underestimates Benefits of Malpractice Reform
Excerpt: Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said medical-liability reforms could save about $11 billion annually. This assessment is a gross underestimate of the potential benefits of reform and was intended to give cover to congressional Democrats who say malpractice-liability costs are trifling. But a full accounting shows the benefits would be a hefty $242 billion a year, more than 10 percent of America's health expenditures. Last year alone, damage awards for medical-malpractice claims reached $5.9 billion. Adding in legal costs, underwriting costs, and administrative expenses, total med-mal tort costs were nearly three times higher — $16 billion. From 1986 through 2002, the average insurance payment for a malpractice claim more than tripled to $320,000. The average jury award for medical liability was $637,134 in 2006. Getting sued is now part of the job description for physicians. Each year, up to 25 percent of them face lawsuits. Doctors are found innocent in 90 percent of cases, but they lose even then — average defense costs per claim approach $100,000. Fear of lawsuits causes most doctors to practice "defensive medicine," meaning they order unnecessary tests, referrals, and procedures to protect themselves against allegations of medical negligence.

Voting Present on Illegal Immigration
Excerpt: Already, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has derided federal sweeps of illegal aliens as "un-American." And recently the Obama administration stripped the federal authority of Arizona's controversial Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, to make immigration arrests. Yet expect the public to oppose any so-called comprehensive immigration reform even more vehemently than it did George Bush's 2007 doomed proposals. Why? Conditions on the ground have changed drastically in the last two years. First, the nation's unemployment is now over 9 percent. It may be peak beyond 10 percent. In many western states, such as California, the jobless rate may climb even higher. The old notion that "illegal immigrants pick the lettuce that Americans refuse to" is an ossified stereotype. In fact, today less than one out of 20 illegal aliens currently do farm labor. Most are engaged in construction or the service industry, or are homemakers with childcare responsibilities. While plenty of unemployed American citizens may still not yet wish to pick oranges, the jobless might consider taking jobs like hammering nails or working in restaurants. Second, many states are broke. Taxes are rising. The public is questioning all sorts of government entitlement expenditures. In California, the latest budget crisis saw a $26 billion shortfall -- at a time when some studies put the state's net health, housing, education and criminal justice costs for some 3 million illegal aliens at over $10 billion a year. (Look for the Obama administration to reclassify inner city drug dealers as “Undocumented Pharmacists.”)

Homeland Security Department Gags Local Law Enforcement to Protect 'Privacy' of Illegal Aliens
Excerpt: Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano has said she will concentrate on 'criminal aliens' when enforcing federal immigration law. (If they are here illegally, doesn’t that make them all criminals? What part of “illegal” doesn’t she understand?)

The three envelopes
Excerpt: In the Barack Obama version, there are 50 or so such blame-Bush free passes before the gig is up. By my calculation, Obama has already burned through a good 49. Is there anything he hasn't blamed George W. Bush for? The economy, global warming, the credit crisis, Middle East stalemate, the deficit, anti-Americanism abroad -- everything but swine flu. It's as if Obama's presidency hasn't really started. He's still taking inventory of the Bush years. Just this Monday, he referred to "long years of drift" in Afghanistan in order to, I suppose, explain away his own, well, yearlong drift on Afghanistan.

Income Redistribution: Public Option Phones
Bill Clinton may have declared in 1996, "The era of big government is over," but Obama must have missed the message. Never in American history has the era of big government encroached on so many areas of our lives -- and with more on the docket. We can now add another one to the list: Safelink Wireless, a "government supported program that provides a free cell phone and airtime each month for income-eligible customers," all paid for with "Obama money" -- and you know where that comes from. SafeLink is an extension of or adjunct to the FCC program known as "Lifeline and Link-up." In a nutshell, "poor" people, often already on the dole with other state and federal welfare programs, can apply to receive a free cell phone and 70 minutes of airtime per month from TracFone Wireless, Inc. The Lifeline program pays one-half (up to $30) of installation costs for wired telephone service at a primary residence and provides up to a $10 per month discount for basic monthly service. Oh well, at least these recipients are required to pay some of the costs from their bi-monthly "county" checks. The program uses funds from those little universal service fund (USF) charges that show up on our phone bills. Of course, Lifeline program participants are exempt from USF charges on their bills. Once again, we're left scratching our heads and searching for the Article and Section of the Constitution under which free phones can be found. The Patriot Post (

Knoxville Murder Update: Another Guilty Verdict
Just as the ink was drying from Barack Obama's signature on so-called "hate crimes" legislation, a jury found Lemaricus Davidson guilty of premeditated murder, felony murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape and theft in the 2007 deaths of University of Tennessee student Channon Christian and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom. Davidson, who is black, was the ringleader of four blacks who gruesomely murdered the white couple. In August, Davidson's brother Letalvis Cobbins was convicted of murder and other counts and was sentenced to life in prison without parole, while George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman await trial. Davidson faces the death penalty. While the Obama administration and its Leftist ilk have repeatedly invoked the names of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd of late, it's no surprise that they've yet to utter a single syllable about the victims of this particular hate crime. The Patriot Post (

Friday, October 30, 2009

Political Digest for October 30, 2009

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Leader of Detroit mosque killed, 11 charged in FBI raids
Excerpt: The leader of a Detroit mosque was shot and killed Wednesday during a series of FBI raids that resulted in charges against 11 and the death of an FBI dog. At least six of those charged were in federal custody late Wednesday afternoon. The case involves the Joint Terrorism Task Force and prosecutors from the national security unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office. A complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit names Luqman Ameen Abullah, imam of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit, as "a highly placed leader of a nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group." He was killed in the raid, according to a joint statement by federal officials. More than three people were arrested on charges including conspiracy to commit federal crimes, receipt of stolen goods, providing firearms to felons and changing vehicle identification numbers, said Special Agent Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit. Berchtold also confirmed that an FBI dog was shot and killed in one of the raids. (I’m sorry about the dog.)

Obama seeks study on local leaders for troop decision
The micro-managing community organizer takes charge! Excerpt: President Obama has asked senior officials for a province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, information that his advisers say will guide his decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to the battle.

5 U.N. staffers killed in Kabul
Adherents of the Religion of Peace kill aid workers there to help people.

Two New York men charged with trying to run weapons to Hizballah
Didn’t get the Islam-is-a-Religion-of-Peace memo.

Owner of halal meatpacking plant in Chicago plotted to kill Danish Motoonist
Didn’t get the Islam-is-a-Religion-of-Peace memo.

Schoolhouse Shariah
Digging our own graves. Excerpt: California's educrats have put out new rules for teaching Islamic studies to seventh-graders in public schools, and they are as biased as ever. They'll also likely spread eastward. The lesson guidelines adopted by the bellwether state whitewash the violence and oppression of women codified in Islamic law, or Shariah. And they're loaded with revisionist history about the faith. For example, the suggested framework glorifies Shariah as a liberal reform movement that "rejected" the mistreatment of women that existed in Arabia before Muhammad and his successors conquered the region, according to Accuracy in Academia. The guidelines claim that Islamic law established for the first time that men and women were entitled to equal "respect." Not so, says Islamic scholar and author Nonie Darwish, who grew up Muslim in Egypt. "I am shocked that that is what they teach," she said. "Women had more rights in Arabia before Shariah." In fact, "wife beating is allowed under Shariah" today, she added. "It allows a woman seen without a headdress to be flogged, punishes rape victims, and calls for beheading for adultery."

House health-care reform bill includes public option
Excerpt: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unveiled a health-care reform bill Thursday that includes a government insurance option and a historic expansion of Medicaid, although sticking points involving abortion and immigration remain unresolved. The bill includes a version of the "public option" preferred by moderates and raises Medicaid eligibility levels to 150 percent of the federal poverty level for all adults, a steeper increase than in earlier drafts. "Today we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all Americans," Pelosi said, describing a bill that she said would insure 36 million more Americans. ". . . We are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges."

Public option blinders?
Excerpt: Republicans' decision to make the public option the focus of their efforts to defeat President Obama's health care plan may look like sound political strategy from afar but it runs the risk of distracting voters from arguments against the proposal based on more GOP-friendly issues like taxes and spending. "We couldn't be in a better place on health care than fighting it out over the public option," said a Democratic strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of a desire to keep his name out of public strategy discussions. A slew of recent national polling affirms the idea that picking a fight on the public option may not give Republicans their best chance of success in the debate over health care.

Opt out?
Excerpt: President Barack Obama and his congressional allies want to create yet another government-run health insurance program (call it Fannie Med) to cover yet another segment of the American public (the non-elderly non-poor). The whole idea that Fannie Med would be an “option” is a ruse. Like the three “public options” we’ve already got – Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program – Fannie Med would drag down the quality of care for publicly and privately insured patients alike. Yet despite offering an inferior product, Fannie Med would still drive private insurers out of business because it would exploit implicit and explicit government subsidies. Pretty soon, Fannie Med will be the only game in town – just ask its architect, Jacob Hacker.

Poll of women on healthcare
Excerpt: Fifty-one percent of women are unsatisfied and 42% are satisfied with what they have read, seen, or heard about the proposals or legislation to change the way healthcare is covered and delivered here in the United States. Fifty-four percent would not personally trade in their coverage for a public plan; 38% would. Fifty-six percent disagree and 36% agree that “women like me would be best served by a government run healthcare plan.” Fifty-seven percent disagree and 34% agree that “a federally run” healthcare program is what is best for my family and me.”

The Unhealthy 'Public Option'
Excerpt: If Medicare were a bank, federal regulators would be closing its doors, selling its operations and sacking its managers. Thanks to soaring costs, the program is fast running out of money -- even though it pays such low fees that many doctors refuse to take Medicare patients. Meanwhile, Medicare fraud costs taxpayers some $60 billion a year, according to a report by CBS's "60 Minutes," making it among the most profitable fields for felons. That's our experience with government-run health insurance for the elderly. So what do congressional Democrats propose to do? Offer government-run health insurance to everyone else. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid capitulated to his party's more liberal elements when he said he will insist that health care legislation include a "public option" -- a government insurance plan -- to bring "meaningful reform to our broken system." But deploying a version of Medicare to repair the status quo is like using a brick to improve a window. President Obama says it would help consumers by giving private insurers some real competition. But the typical state has 27 companies competing in the small-group health insurance market. If there were insufficient competition, the health insurance sector wouldn't rank 86th among American industries in profitability. Health care plans average profits of just 3.3 percent. In wireless communications, a vigorously contested market, profits are 11 percent. Does Obama think we need a government cell-phone company to compete with Verizon and AT&T? The proponents also believe that, like Medicare, a new government plan could be run far more efficiently than private firms. Don't make me laugh. Medicare, keep in mind, is going broke. And its alleged efficiencies are illusory or nontransferable. Health economists Regina Herzlinger of Harvard and Robert Book of the Heritage Foundation note that on a per-person basis, Medicare has higher administrative costs than private firms. They look smaller only because the average Medicare patient uses more services than the average private insurance patient. "Expressing them as a percentage makes Medicare's administrative costs appear lower because they are spread over a larger base of health care costs," write Book and Herzlinger.

Comprehensive List of Taxes In House Democrat Health Bill
Brace yourself, little people who thought the rich were going to pay for everything.

Stimulus Jobs In US Overstated By 1,000s
AP starting to act like a news organization. Yesterday they exposed the lie about insurance company profits. Today the lie about jobs. Excerpt: WASHINGTON (AP) ― An early progress report on President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan overstates by thousands the number of jobs created or saved through the stimulus program, a mistake that White House officials promise will be corrected in future reports. The U.S government's first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, or one in six, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts.

The Next Financial Crisis
We are not out of the woods.

Lessons of two campaigns
Excerpt: Memo to Democrats: You will be defined by President Obama whether you like it or not, so you might as well embrace him for the benefits he can bring you. Memo to Republicans: Talk a right-wing game in your ideological magazines and at your tea parties if that makes you happy. But to win elections, your candidates had better look like middle-of-the-road problem-solvers. Those are the two outstanding lessons from the campaigns for Tuesday's governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia. Both parties would be smart to apply them in 2010.

First-Time Fraudsters
A tax credit so silly even a four-year-old can exploit it.
From the folks who want to run health care. Excerpt: It's hard not to laugh when viewing the results of the federal first-time home-buyer tax credit. The credit, worth up to $8,000 for the purchase of a home, has only been available since April of last year. Yet news of the latest taxpayer-funded mortgage scam has traveled fast. The Treasury's inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, recently told Congress that at least 19,000 filers hadn't purchased a home when they claimed the credit. For another 74,000 filers, claiming a total of $500 million in credits, evidence suggests that they weren't first-time buyers. Among those claiming bogus credits, at least some of them were definitely first-timers. The credit has already been claimed by 500 people under the age of 18, including a four-year-old. This pre-K housing whiz likely bought because mom and dad make too much to qualify for the full credit, which starts to phase out at $150,000 of income for couples, $75,000 for singles. As a "refundable" tax credit, it guarantees the claimants will get cash back even if they paid no taxes. A lack of documentation requirements also makes this program a slow pitch in the middle of the strike zone for scammers. The Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department are pursuing more than 100 criminal investigations related to the credit, and the IRS is reportedly trying to audit almost everyone who claims it this year.

Arpaio for governor? New poll says he has the support
Excerpt: PHOENIX - Sheriff Joe Arpaio rarely keeps a low profile. Never afraid of attention or controversy and always outspoken, he leaves little unsaid. And that includes a race for governor. "There's an old saying in politics: Never say never," Arpaio said. "I know I would make an excellent governor." Arpaio has not officially announced his candidacy, and he never may. But in recent weeks, he's teased and hinted. It's not the first time. "Twice I've looked into it and had press conferences," Arpaio said.

Obama and the Old Hat People
Excerpt: If you're an elected Democrat anywhere to the right of Barney Frank, and trying to defend a competitive seat next November, you've got to be starting to sweat. You wake up in the morning and just like every other morning as far as the eye can see the only thing in the news is the president's health-care reform. It's starting to look like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are leading the Donner Party, the snowbound emigrants who bogged down in the Sierra Nevada winter in the 1840s and resorted to cannibalism to survive. The betting is that with raw political muscle and procedural magic, the Congressional Democrats will pass something, call it reform and hand Barack Obama a "victory." Maybe, but I think what we are seeing with this massive legislation is that the Democrats in Washington have a bigger problem: Their party is looking so yesterday. In a world defined by nearly 100,000 iPhone apps, a world of seemingly limitless, self-defined choice, the Democrats are pushing the biggest, fattest, one-size-fits all legislation since 1965. And they brag this will complete the dream Franklin D. Roosevelt had in 1939.

Mainstream Media Ignores Juicy ACORN Nuggets
The Leftstream Media hates Giles because at 20, she is what they used to be.

The Big Mac's Currency Lesson
Excerpt: McDonald's Icelandic franchisee noted, in explaining his decision to throw in the patty, that unlike his local competitors, McDonald's imports most of its raw ingredients, from beef to special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and, we assume, sesame seed buns. This reliance on imports has undercut McDonald's margins in the island nation, which saw the krona plummet by more than 80% after the financial panic took down the country's major banks. But the lesson here is not about the dangers of globalization or the virtues of buying local. Since Iceland's banks collapsed last fall, and its currency with them, the cost in local currency of all imports, and not just fast food, has soared. This has done nothing to "cushion" the blow to Iceland's economy from what amounted to an international run on its banks. What it has done is added a currency panic to a financial panic, and made Iceland's prospects bleaker than they otherwise might have been.

Obama & Google (a love story)
Excerpt: Nevertheless, Google's newfound access in Washington is striking for two reasons: Obama and his team pride themselves on maintaining a distance from corporations -- before taking office the President pledged to close the "revolving door" of industry executives who go on to regulate their former corporate peers. Google, meanwhile, likes to portray its Washington operation as a quasi-academic resource that's above the political fray. Politicians and their staffers "are sometimes taken aback by the fact that we don't always act the way that other companies act," says Bob Boorstin, a former Clinton White House speechwriter who works on freedom of expression issues in Google's Washington, D.C., office. "What we offer is technological expertise ... It's a company that's a think tank, or a think tank that's a company." Either Google is very naive about the way Washington works, or it thinks everyone else is. Yet neither Obama's anticorporate leanings nor Google's anti-"politics as usual" culture has stopped the two camps from collaborating closely. Schmidt sits on Obama's Council of Science and Technology Advisers. Google employees acted as advisers to the Obama transition team -- in one case Google executive Sonal Shah actually led a meeting, to the surprise of at least one attendee -- and a handful of ex-Googlers have joined the administration in various roles.

Obama and race relations: hope soars, then plunges
Maybe because his supporters include race baiters like Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Detroit, R.I.P.
Excerpt: Detroit is a premier example of what happens when ordinary people depend on big units—big government, big business, big labor—for their sustenance, and when the leaders of those big units ignore the economic reality that you’ve got to produce things customers will value.

Group claims Congress hid medical data damaging to donors
Excerpt: A watchdog group has released a report that accuses Congress of helping medical research groups conceal information after key lawmakers received big campaign donations. According to The Sunlight Foundation, Congress in 2007 voted to keep results from clinical trials for unapproved medical devices out of eyes of the public. The provision was inserted into Food and Drug Administration Amendment Act after lobbyists for medical research firms argued that making the results public would reveal proprietary information and potentially hurt business. (So this is how Nancy “drains the swamp” as she promised.)

Obama’s Media Control Strategy
Excerpt: You may not have noticed that the Obama Administration, in addition to trying to seize control of the health care and energy sectors, is implementing a national “broadband plan” to redefine the media and transform America’s system of government. It’s designed, they say, to provide “open government and civic engagement.” But it looks increasingly like an excuse for the federal government to control the Internet and access to information and even tell us what is truth. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute recently explained at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “National Broadband Plan Workshop” that it is necessary to have “a common space with shared facts.” Armed with $7.2 billion of “stimulus” money, the federal government is going to provide this. It looks like various progressive groups are lining up at the public trough for their share of the loot. They have in mind what the George Soros-funded Free Press calls “an alternative media infrastructure.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Political Digest October 29, 2009

Political Digest for October 29, 2009

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Advertising on this blog?
I got an e-mail from someone with a “client” wanting to advertise on my blog. Perhaps a scam, as my readership isn’t exactly that of the NYT or National Review, perhaps not. In any case, I produce a blog to support things I value: a strong, free America, limited government, individual rights and responsibilities, and economic and political freedom. So I said no thanks. Don’t want my readers to have to sort through advertising—I assume you get a enough of it already.

Fools for Communism—A long “Must read”
Excerpt: In 1983 the Indiana University historian Robert F. Byrnes collected essays from 35 experts on the Soviet Union -- the cream of American academia -- in a book titled After Brezhnev. Their conclusion: Any U.S. thought of winning the Cold War was a pipe dream. "The Soviet Union is going to remain a stable state, with a very stable, conservative, immobile government," Byrnes said in an interview, summing up the book. "We don't see any collapse or weakening of the Soviet system." Barely six years later, the Soviet empire began falling apart. By 1991 it had vanished from the face of the earth. Did Professor Byrnes call a press conference to offer an apology for the collective stupidity of his colleagues, or for his part in recording it? Did he edit a new work titled Gosh, We Didn't Know Our Ass From Our Elbow? Hardly. Being part of the American chattering class means never having to say you're sorry…. Sometimes the refusal to confront errors is simple hubris. But often it masks a queasy reluctance to start down a path of self-examination, for fear of where it will lead. During the final days of the 1990 election in Nicaragua, ABC News released the results of a poll showing the ruling Sandinista Party ahead by 16 percentage points. "For the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration before it, the poll hints at a simple truth: After years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts," Peter Jennings gravely informed his viewers. But a few days later, the Sandinistas lost -- by 14 percentage points. The "simple truth" was really that the poll, like so much of what ABC and other American news media outlets had been reporting from Nicaragua for the previous decade, was utterly, dumbfoundingly, whoppingly wrong. But if you think that triggered a frenzy of soul searching at ABC -- about how the poll could have been so mistaken, about how none of the network's reporters sensed anything askew -- then guess again. Instead, Jennings dismissed the subject the next day with a single smirking reference to the inscrutability of Nicaraguans....A team of French historians calculated the worldwide death toll of communism during the 20th century at more than 93 million.

Don’t forget to vote daily
Write in Barack Obama for the Heisman. He deserves it every bit as much as the Noble PC Prize!

Middle passage
Some current victims of Communism. Excerpt: On a Sunday morning at the First Montagnard Church of Raleigh, some 250 people from the Central Highlands of Vietnam read in unison a New Testament passage translated into Jarai, their native tongue: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." It's a passage that resonates with this group. Over the last 23 years, thousands of Montagnards—an ethnic minority from Vietnam's Central Highlands—have fled their homeland, usually not knowing where they were going. Most have ended up in North Carolina with the help of refugee resettlement groups, struggling to adjust to a new way of life and worrying about those they left behind. They've come here because life in the Central Highlands can be brutal, particularly for the mostly Protestant and Catholic Montagnards living under Communist rule. Adding to the severe mix: Montagnards allied with the United States and fought North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Their Christian faith and their U.S. loyalty have left Montagnards a target for oppression and persecution in a land where they were already alienated from the Vietnamese. But the Montagnards' plight is just one part of religious persecution unfolding in Vietnam. The Communist government oppresses other Christian groups in some parts of the country, and also targets Buddhists and other religious groups. Authorities recently shut down the famous Bat Nha Buddhist monastery in the Central Highlands, smashing windows, damaging buildings, and ordering the 379 monks to leave. Another target: activists and attorneys who speak out for greater religious freedoms and human rights in the country. All of this leads to an important moment for the U.S. State Department. The department's Office of International Religious Freedom is scheduled to release its annual International Religious Freedom Report this month—the first such report from the Obama administration. Officials will reveal whether they will add or remove any nations on the department's list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom. A growing chorus of religious freedom advocates and members of Congress say Vietnam should be on that list. But the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam doesn't seem so sure.

Making the Grade Isn't About Race. It's About Parents.
Excerpt: "Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?" In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study." Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up. I was stunned. These were good kids; I had grown attached to them over the school year. It hit me that these students, at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, understood what I knew too well: The lack of a father in their lives had undermined their education. The young man who spoke up knew that with a father in his house he probably wouldn't be ending 12 years of school in the bottom 10 percent of his class with a D average. His classmate, normally a sweet young woman with a great sense of humor, must have long harbored resentment at her father's absence to speak out as she did. Both had hit upon an essential difference between the kids who make it in school and those who don't: parents. (Until we can break the ghetto culture of black fathers abandoning their kids, break of the mentality that education is "acting white" and remove the thugs so the decent black kids can get an education, black kids in the cities have little hope. Democrats like it that way because it keeps them depended on government handouts, thus voting Democrat--and if a few black kids get murdered every day, no sweat as long as it isn't in their neighborhoods.)

This is Your Brain without Dad
Excerpt: Conventional wisdom holds that two parents are better than one. Scientists are now finding that growing up without a father actually changes the way your brain develops.

AARP: Reform advocate and insurance salesman
Excerpt: The nation's preeminent seniors group, AARP, has put the weight of its 40 million members behind health-care reform, saying many of the proposals will lower costs and increase the quality of care for older Americans. But not advertised in this lobbying campaign have been the group's substantial earnings from insurance royalties and the potential benefits that could come its way from many of the reform proposals. The group and its subsidiaries collected more than $650 million in royalties and other fees last year from the sale of insurance policies, credit cards and other products that carry the AARP name, accounting for the majority of its $1.14 billion in revenue, according to federal tax records. It does not directly sell insurance policies but lends its name to plans in exchange for a tax-exempt cut of the premiums. (They should form a new group: Whores for Health Reform.)

Changes in sight for federal employees
Rewarding the faithful. Once you have 51% of voters on the government payroll or government handouts, you can’t lose. Until, of course, the country collapses in fiscal ruin.

A lesson for Afghanistan?
Excerpt: Pakistan's military offensive in Waziristan, and the negotiations that preceded it, may be a paradigm for the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan as well as for the fight against al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamist groups in the Afghan-Pakistani border area. That view emerged from a presentation on the fighting in Waziristan last Tuesday by Frederick Kagan and colleagues Reza Jan and Charlie Szrom at the American Enterprise Institute. Kagan was among those who promoted the idea of "surging" troops into Iraq, and in July he was one of the civilian experts who put together recommendations for Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.

Kerry says McChrystal's troop request 'reaches too far, too fast'
Excerpt: In his address, Kerry seemed to search for a middle ground between some on the right who have called for a troop buildup and others on the left who have advocated a military drawdown and a tight focus on counterterrorism. (Ah, the middle ground, trying to placate both sides, which I predicted yesterday. Kerry’s probably floating trial balloons for President Wobbly.)

Good enough, isn’t
Excerpt: Sen. John Kerry, who was so wrong about Iraq, now says our commander in Afghanistan is "reaching too far, too fast" and that a "good enough" policy should suffice. It won't. Offering his advice on how to micromanage the war against the Taliban, Kerry said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, President Obama's hand-picked general to fight what he called a "war of necessity," is wrong in saying he needs 40,000 more troops to fight and win it.

When it comes to Iran, the U.S. may be facing a cataclysm.
Excerpt (after the commercial): "We see Iran as the power in the region," Hanson said. "But when Iran looks at the region, it sees danger everywhere." In Iraq, a democratic government has achieved stability, which can only incite the dissident movement in Iran. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran's client, has failed in its attempt to capture control of the country, finding itself contained and marginalized instead. The Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and the emirates look upon Iran, a Shia state, with sectarian hostility. "The Iranians, think, 'My gosh, we are in an unstable position,' " Hanson said. "'Maybe a bomb or two will allow us to do what Pakistan has done. Maybe it will allow us to achieve some autonomy.'" The third observation: As the Iranians scramble to produce nuclear weapons, the Obama administration appears too feckless, inexperienced or deluded to stop them.

Der Spigel interviews Charles Krauthammer about Obama,1518,656501-2,00.html
Long but worth reading. Excerpt: He is a man of perpetual promise. There used to be a cruel joke that said Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be; Obama is the Brazil of today's politicians. He has obviously achieved nothing. And in the American context, to be the hero of five Norwegian leftists, is not exactly politically positive.

Centrists unsure about Reid's public option
Excerpt: Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid's risky decision to bring to the chamber's floor a health-care bill containing a government insurance plan was met with skepticism by moderate Democrats, who said they still do not know whether they could support a public option on a final vote. The latest challenge to the Nevada Democrat's move came from Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who told reporters that he was "inclined to support" a procedural motion to bring the measure to the floor. But he remains opposed to a government-run insurance plan in any form -- even with an "opt-out" provision for states that Reid said Monday he will include in the legislation. "I really want to get to yes," said Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats. Unless the public-option language is dropped, however, he said, he probably will align with Republicans to block the measure.

The most important number in politics today
Excerpt: 53. That's the percentage of likely Virginia voters who oppose the proposed changes to the health care system, according to new data in a Washington Post poll on the Commonwealth's governor's race. Of that 53 percent, 44 percent strongly oppose the changes. There is significantly less intensity among the 43 percent of likely voters who support the changes with just 29 percent supporting them strongly. Given Virginia's primacy in the electoral math of President Barack Obama -- he was the first Democrat to carry the Commonwealth since Lyndon Johnson -- and its status as an emerging swing state, these numbers should give Democrats some pause about the potential political effects of the legislation. As we have written before in this space, it's unlikely that any of the major changes in the bill currently being pushed by the White House will be implemented before next fall. That means that perceptions regarding the bill may well matter more than reality when it comes to the midterms.

Exclusive: Robust Public Option Lacks Votes To Pass House, Internal Whip Count Document Shows
Excerpt: The House Dem leadership has conducted its preliminary whip count and has tallied up less than 200 likely Yes votes in support of a health care reform bill with a robust public option, well short of the 218 needed for passage, according to an internal whip count document I’ve obtained. The document — compiled by the office of House leader James Clyburn — was distributed privately at a meeting between Clyburn and House progressives today where the fate of the public option was the subject of some contentious debate, with liberals demanding that House leaders push harder to win over votes. Clyburn spokesperson Kristie Greco would only say: “We currently do not have the votes for a robust public option.” Health care reformers are eagerly awaiting the House vote count numbers on the robust public option — which would reimburse providers at Medicare rates plus five percent — because a House bill with a strong public option would increase the of leverage House leaders in upcoming conference negotiations with Senate leaders over the final bill. The exact count has been hotly debated in political circles since last week.

The Malpractice Problem
We can't have health care reform without tort reform.
Excerpt: The extra imaging study, the extra day in hospital at the end of an admission, the repetitive laboratory testing, the admission to the hospital to be "sure" about the diagnosis are all inherent in the culture of American medical care. The avoidance of litigation has become ingrained into all aspects of medical care. Since physicians are not liable for the increased costs of care but are liable for any error or missed diagnosis, it would be foolish for them to act in any other fashion. The costs of this mindset cannot be easily assessed by surveys. No one can identify how the current health care bills being debated and apparently continuously modified in Congress will reduce the cost of health care. They may produce a reduction in insurance premiums for some, but just paying less for health care does not magically produce a diminution in the actual cost of health care. The latter would only occur if there were large profits in the overall health care enterprise that could be trimmed without changing the basic character of the system. But no one has identified such profits. The president points to for-profit insurance companies, but for-profit insurance companies only make up 25 percent of the system and they are not that profitable, ranking 85th among all U.S. industries. "Reform" will redistribute the money, not reduce the overall cost. This is pretty much what the American Health Insurance Plans study, so denigrated by the president, concluded. Unless the costs of health care fall, lowering insurance payments in one segment of the populace will inevitably cause an increase for some other group.

Scituate, Rhode Island, Can Save America
Excerpt: And so, in its way, the Scituate Health Alliance laid the groundwork for health care reform in the United States. We recognized, painfully, that we can’t do everything for everyone. We understood that we can do a lot for most people, and we can do that by working together, thinking together, understanding what really matters and what people really need, and sometimes, by saying no to what we just don’t have the resources for. That’s what Congress needs to do. We need to give primary health and dental care to all Americans. We probably don’t need to --- or just can’t-- give insurance that pays for everything anybody wants or thinks they need, to all Americans. Sometimes, we need to just say "No." That’s how the little country town of Scituate, Rhode Island, saved America. We showed that health care isn’t some big complex behemoth, only understood by the sanctified few. We showed that a couple of dedicated people, in a community of people who know and care about each other, can make sense of this expensive, dangerous mess. Now all we need is for Congress of the United States of America to follow Scituate’s lead. (Congress say “no”? With an election always coming up?)

Escape From New York
People move to escapes higher taxes. Who would have predicted that? Okay, economists, but what politician? Excerpt: An old saying goes that the time to live in New York is when you're young and poor, or old and rich—otherwise, you're better off somewhere else. That wisdom is getting an update this week from a study by the Empire Center for New York State Policy that shows middle-class people leaving the state in droves. Between 2000 and 2008, the Empire State had a net domestic outflow of more than 1.5 million, the biggest exodus of any state, with most hailing from New York City. The departures also have perilous budget consequences, since they tend to include residents who are better off than those arriving. Statewide, departing families have income levels 13% higher than those moving in, while in New York County (home of Manhattan) the differential was even more severe. Those moving elsewhere had an average income of $93,264, some 28% higher than the $72,726 earned by those coming in. In 2006 alone, that swap meant the state lost $4.3 billion in taxpayer income. Add that up from 2001 through 2008, and it translates into annual net income losses somewhere near $30 billion. That trend is part of a larger march for New York: In 1950 the state accounted for 19% of all Americans, but by 2000 that number had fallen to 7%. The city's main saving grace has been its welcome mat for foreign immigrants, who have helped to replace some of those who flee.

Why (California) is in fast lane to insolvency
June 30, 2009, was fiscal meltdown day for the state of California. The Legislature had not passed a budget, tax revenues were plummeting, the state controller was paying bills with IOUs and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was poised to announce a third furlough day each month for state workers. That very day the state Department of Transportation signed off on purchasing $1.7 million worth of new trucks and truck bodies. That spending came on top of $2.6 million on truck expenditures by Caltrans during the previous five months, even as the state's fiscal crisis deepened. In February, the Department of General Services, state government's primary purchasing agent, spent another $1.2 million on 50 new hybrid Toyota Priuses. A Bee investigation has found that most of those new vehicles – as well as scores more purchased in recent years – sit unused for months and even years.

Democratic donors rewarded with White House perks
The Clinton Gambit. Excerpt: During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings. High-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents obtained by The Washington Times. One top donor described in an interview with The Times being given a birthday visit to the Oval Office. Another was allowed use of a White House-complex bowling alley for his family. Bundlers closest to the president were invited to watch a movie in the red-walled theater in the basement of the presidential mansion. Mr. Obama invited his top New York bundler, UBS Americas CEO Robert Wolf, to golf with him during the president's Martha's Vineyard vacation in August. At least 39 donors and fundraisers also were treated to a lavish White House reception on St. Patrick's Day, where the fountains on the North and South Lawns were dyed green, photos and video reviewed by The Times and CBS News also show.

Virginia's crackdown on illegals pays big dividends
Excerpt: In 2003, several counties in Northern Virginia banded together to form a joint task force to crack down on illegals and gangs. Then in March of last year, Prince William County made national headlines by upping the ante even further. They passed an ordinance that required County police to verify the immigration status of any criminal or traffic suspects when there was probable cause to think they were in the country illegally. The suspects were held and transferred to ICE, irrespective of the disposition of the underlying charge. Almost immediately, the Washington Post started whining about the unfairness of Prince William County's program. First of all these racist county officials, were wreaking havoc on Latino soccer leagues, some of which had to cancel games or even disband teams (the horror!) because of the exodus of players to liberal sanctuary states like Maryland across the Potomac. Even the Latina hookers were having a rough go of it. The effort was so successful, the County developed a nickname in the Latino community; Condado del Diablo, The Devil's County. Within weeks of the new law going into effect, the illegals were leaving for Maryland in droves. Marylanders didn't want to be Virginia's dustpan for illegals, but because it is one of the bluest states in the country, the Maryland politicians ignored the public clamor and refused to beef up their own immigration laws. Fast forward to today, when we learned the results of 6 years of local, focused, diligent police work enforcing the immigration laws. Crackdowns on illegal immigrants and other law enforcement efforts are driving gangs out of Northern Virginia and into Maryland and the District, a report released Monday concluded.

Never Trust a Used Carrier Salesman
Excerpt: Indian officers have admitted that they were partially at fault in the billion dollar aircraft carrier Gorshkov fiasco. It seems it was not all the fault of the Russians that the refurbishment of the decommissioned Russian carrier Gorshkov cost a billion dollars more, and took several years longer. The Indians admit that, when they signed the deal in 2004, they had not had engineers go over the Gorshkov, and agreed, after a cursory inspection, that many electrical and mechanical components, buried within the ships hull, were serviceable. It turned out that many of those components were not good-to-go, and had to be replaced, at great expense. Shortly after the contract was signed, the Russians discovered that the shipyard had misplaced the blueprints for the Gorshkov, and things went downhill from there.

France/Civil unrest: clashes erupted in Fréjus after a young man killed himself.
Excerpt: Violent clashes erupted late on Sunday in the town of Fréjus (south of France) after Mohamed El Matari, a 21 years-old Moroccan national, living in the city killed himself while he was trying to steer clear of a roadblock. According to Simon Babri, the chief of staff of the Prefect, "initially, at 17h30, the young man turned back to avoid a roadblock at the entrance of Fréjus and he fled. He tried to bypass a second roadblock and by driving on the bottom side of the road it hit a tree". After his death, at least 50 youths took to the streets and started to break windows at the entrance of Gabelle, an outskirt of the city. The youths also burned garbage, tires, a motorcycle and five vehicles in a shipyard, said the police. When the Police and the fire-fighters arrived on the scène, protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails against them. Then, the police retaliate by firing tear gas but it was unable to enter into Gabelle. No wounded have been reported during the incidents. According to a statement published by the prefecture of the Var region, “at midnight the police were able to take position inside the area and to restore calm." However, police stay in the area during the night to prevent any other incidents.

UN report demands repeal of counterterror laws to promote "gender equality"
Excerpt: In case you weren't sure, human gender is "changeable over time and contexts," sex slaves must not be "stigmatized" for their work, and it's important to recognize the role of "transgender and intersex individuals as stakeholders" in counterterrorism policy. Those are some of the conclusions of a United Nations report on counterterrorism that is intended to promote human rights -- but that critics say is designed to redefine gender and hamstring actual counterterror efforts.

Al-Qaeda Targets Iran
Excerpt: The Islamic world’s Sunni-Shiite conflict took an ominous turn this month when Shiite Iran experienced the worst suicide bombing in its history. Forty-nine people, including seven senior Revolutionary Guard commanders, died in the explosion in the south-eastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Several of the province’s tribal leaders were also killed in the attack. The group claiming responsibility for the carnage, Jundullah (“Soldiers of Allah”), is an Iranian Sunni extremist group, based in Pakistan, whose members are ethnic Baluchis. Mostly unknown in the West, Jundullah actually poses a serious security threat to Iran. Over the past five years, it has allegedly killed several hundred Iranian government and security personnel, sadistically filming 16 captives’ executions last year, some by beheading.

Fideo, a.k.a. the Climate Criminal,_aka_the_climate_criminal
Excerpt: The government cannot have my dog. Don't tell that to the authors of the new book "Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living." They calculate that dog owning is much worse than SUV driving for the planet. So when you see a car heading to the dog park with some happy labs drooling out the window, you should think "climate criminals." Meanwhile, in less surprising news, cats (long known as the handmaidens of Satan) have roughly the ecological paw print of a Volkswagen Golf. Authors Robert and Brenda Vale don't actually suggest you eat your dog. But they do say we'd be better off if we weaned ourselves from pets that treat Gaia like a fire hydrant. Better to play fetch with our pet chickens and then eat them.

China, India Cancel out Copenhagen
Excerpt: With less than two months to go before the big Copenhagen Conference on global warming, two major nations have said "no thanks" to the no-growth agenda. For that reason alone, so should we. Following a deal signed late Thursday between China and India, anything we might agree to do in Copenhagen is likely moot anyway. The two mega-nations — which together account for nearly a third of the world's population — said they won't go along with a new climate treaty being drafted in Copenhagen to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. They're basically saying no to anything that forces them to impose mandatory limits on their output of greenhouse gas emissions. Other developing nations, including Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, will likely reject any proposals as well. The deal was already in trouble. Three weeks ago, the Group of 77 developing nations met in Thailand to discuss what they wanted to do about global warming. Their answer: nothing. (If they get lucky, BO and the Dems will ruin our economy with cap and trade, with no impact on the climate.)

Excerpt: Two U.S. residents, one an American citizen, one a Canadian citizen, educated and assimilated, and enjoying a nice enough living to be able to afford to fly to Denmark to kill a couple of guys over a cartoon. In the long run, Afghan cave-dwellers and Waziristani goatherds are less of a threat than fellows like Messrs Headley and Rana.

Fatima's Secret
The Video has been pulled, for “Terms of Use” violsations—or fears of a bomb. It shows an attractive women putting on lingerie, ending in a Burka. Excerpt: This German lingerie ad (warning: contains soft-focus footage of the female form in all its pulchritude — don't stampede all at once) has a cool superficial smartness with what is intended to be an O. Henry switcheroo at the tail. I think it's more like wishful thinking. For one thing, if the actress were truly a believer as opposed to a jobbing actress, taking this underdressed gig would earn her an honor killing. Enjoy the multiculti sophisticated jests while you can, lads.

Community Organizer College
Funny satire

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Political Digest October 28, 2009

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Thanks to all who send me items to post. I’d cut you in on the profits, but there aren’t any.

What will McChrystal do?
Increasingly I think it’s likely that President Wobbly will try to split the difference, giving McChrystal, say, 15,000 troops to try to placate both sides of the political divide. (It won’t work politically or militarily.) What will McC decide is the course of honor? To stick it out with his troops in what will be, as BO called it during the campaign, “an under-resourced war.” Or resign and end his military career leading soldiers in the field. See the next story.

U.S. official resigns over Afghan war
Excerpt: A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed. But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency. "I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end." (Agree with him or not, this is a man of honor.)

A Marine's Family says it’s time to make a decision on Afghanistan.
Excerpt: Announcing his counter-insurgency strategy for Afghanistan this past March, President Obama said, "If the Afghan government falls to the Taliban or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can." This commitment was clearly re-affirmed by the president in an August speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Yet, the president and his advisers are now engaged in a prolonged process of re-thinking America's Afghanistan strategy. What has changed? According to the White House, it would be irresponsible to act until a credible resolution to the presidential elections in Afghanistan emerges. But we fear, as many have reported, that the real reason for delay is anxiety amongst civilian White House aides that an escalation in Afghanistan will derail the president's domestic agenda. On the latter, let us be clear--considerations of political expediency have no place in the president's war room. Yes, there are challenges of a corrupt government and an unsure election in Afghanistan. And yes, we have other important challenges at home, including health-care reform. Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of choosing the ideal time to act. We are in Afghanistan because of a real threat posed to our national security and no electoral outcome will change that fact. Instead, we must do the best we can under the circumstances. The Marines do this every day and they deserve the same level of leadership from their commander-in-chief. (What has changed? BO went wobbly. No surprise there.)

Blue Mass Group
From a liberal Massachusetts blog: I'm beginning to have flashbacks to Vietnam where all the guys around you start disappearing and you are waiting for the bullet with your name on it. " To whom it may concern" I wonder how many more servicemen will die and be be maimed while our illustrious commander in chief huddles with his politicos (not his generals) and decides if the surge will hurt his numbers in the polls. I can understand, what's more important---twenty or thirty young Marines coming back home in baggies or his poll numbers? A president has gotta have a sense of priorities. And that foolish address at NAS Jax: " I won't put you in harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary". Well---now we know what is necessary. BTW--I must have missed the squadrons of Taliban torpedo bombers hunting for our carriers in the Indian Ocean. Funny---the president could have given that pep talk to the 82nd Airborne at Ft Dix or the 8th Marines at Camp LeJeune---he went all the way to FLORIDA to give his inane comments to sailors at a Naval Air Station. Wonder why that was?

Suicide Bombings Okay in Tel Aviv, Not in Riyadh
Didn’t get the Islam-is-a-Religion-of-Peace memo, I guess.

Somalis 'made to view executions'
Bring the kids. Celebrate the Religion of Peace. Excerpt: Hundreds of people in Somalia have been forced to watch Islamist militants executing two people accused of spying. People in Merca said al-Shabab militia patrolled the town with loudspeakers, demanding they attend the executions. The militants also ordered schools to close for the day as they were keen for children to watch the two men being shot dead by a firing squad. Most of those at the execution, on a patch of open ground, are reported to have been women and children. It is becoming something of a pattern for al-Shabab to encourage young people to engage in violence.

Hamas: War will settle Jerusalem dispute, not talks
Didn’t get the Islam-is-a-Religion-of-Peace memo.

2 Chicago men accused of plotting terrorist acts
Didn’t get the Islam-is-a-Religion-of-Peace memo.

Islamists who want to destroy the state get £100,000 funding
They used to call it “Danegeld.” Now it’s “Jizya” from the “Dhimmi.” Excerpt: Hizb regards integration as "dangerous" and says that British Muslims should "fight assimilation" into British society. It wants to create a global Islamic superstate, or "caliphate", initially in Muslim-majority countries and then across the rest of the world. It says that "those [Muslims] who believe in democracy are Kafir", or apostates. It orders all Muslims to keep apart from non-believers and boycott "corrupt" British elections and political processes. It has a tiny following and its views are rejected by most British Muslims. Hizb, which operates worldwide, insists it is non-violent and condemned the London bombings. However its website previously displayed a leaflet urging Muslims to "kill [Jews] wherever you find them" and at a rally in London earlier this year, Imran Waheed, its chief media adviser in Britain, said that there could be "no peace" with Israel, calling on Muslims to "fight" a "jihad... in the way of Allah" against it.

Dismantling America by Dr. Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Among the people appointed as czars by President Obama have been people who have praised enemy dictators like Mao, who have seen the public schools as places to promote sexual practices contrary to the values of most Americans, to a captive audience of children. Those who say that the Obama administration should have investigated those people more thoroughly before appointing them are missing the point completely. Why should we assume that Barack Obama didn't know what such people were like, when he has been associating with precisely these kinds of people for decades before he reached the White House? Nothing is more consistent with his lifelong patterns than putting such people in government-- people who reject American values, resent Americans in general and successful Americans in particular, as well as resenting America's influence in the world.

Obama's War on Fox Is Liberalism's War on Dissent
They’ve killed free speech on collage campuses—why not everywhere?

Reid says bill will include a public option
Step by step, we become what they want us to be: A people dependent on the government and beholden to the politicians. But it’s a fiscal house of cards.

Washington Sketch: Harry Reid, shopping for reelection insurance
Shopping with our money. Excerpt: For Reid, it was an admission of the formidable power of liberal interest groups. He had been the target of a petition drive and other forms of pressure to bring the public option to the floor, and Monday's move made him an instant hero on the left. Americans United for Change hailed him for refusing "to buckle in the face of withering pressure from the big insurance companies." admired his "leadership in standing up to the special interests." Reid, facing a difficult reelection contest next year at home in Nevada, will need such groups to bring Democrats to the polls if he is to survive. But there were a few problems with the leader's solo move. He shifted the public pressure from himself to half a dozen moderates in his caucus. And he defied the Obama White House, which had hoped to keep a bipartisan patina on health-care reform by maintaining the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

FACT CHECK: Health insurer profits not so fat
If your 401k has insurance company stock in your mutual funds, you better stand by for a ram, because the public option—paid for by you—is going to put them out of business. Excerpt from AP story: Quick quiz: What do these enterprises have in common? Farm and construction machinery, Tupperware, the railroads, Hershey sweets, Yum food brands and Yahoo? Answer: They're all more profitable than the health insurance industry. In the health care debate, Democrats and their allies have gone after insurance companies as rapacious profiteers making "immoral" and "obscene" returns while "the bodies pile up." Ledgers tell a different reality. Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones. Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.

The Senate’s Public Plan “Opt Out” – More Optics than Option for the States
Excerpt: In the Senate, there is growing interest in the idea of a state “opt-out” of the federal public plan, a government –run health plan that would “compete” against private health plans. This latest Senate ploy creates the illusion of an “option” rather than making any fundamental changes to the controversial proposal. While it is difficult to understand its true impact until legislative language is available, taxpayers who will bear the cost burdens of a new government health care entitlement should keep a few points in mind:

Public plan mirage
Excerpt: In the health-care debate, the "public plan" is all things to all people. For supporters, it would discipline greedy private insurers and make health-care coverage affordable. For detractors, it's a way station on the path to a single-payer insurance system of government-run health care. In reality, the public plan, also known as the public option, is mostly an exercise in political avoidance: It pretends to control costs and improve access to quality care when it doesn't. As originally conceived by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker, the public plan would be a government-created, nonprofit insurance company providing Medicare-like coverage to the under-65 population. But unlike Medicare, benefits would be paid for mainly by premiums -- not taxes. Americans could buy coverage from the public plan or a private insurer.

Poll questions public option support
Alert the Blue Dogs. Vote YES and lose. Excerpt: While some Democrats are suggesting an increase in support for a health care reform bill that includes a public option, the most recent polling tells a different story. Rasmussen Reports put out a new survey today showing support for President Obama's health care proposal -- which includes a public plan -- from just 45 percent of voters polled and opposition from 51 percent of respondents. The poll also found that 57 percent of voters believe their medical costs will increase under a reform plan and 53 percent think the quality of their health care will diminish if it is enacted. "Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the numbers is how stable they have been through months of debate, town hall protests, presidential speeches, congressional wrangling, and more," wrote the poll's editors. "With the exception of bounces following nationally televised presidential pitches for the plan, support has stayed between 41 percent and 46 percent since July."
What a difference five years makes on flu vaccine shortage
The Leftstream Media ain’t biased. Nah. Excerpt: Hardly a negative word has been uttered in the mainstream media this week about President Obama and the shortage of swine flu vaccine shots, despite assurances from his administration in September that an "ample supply" would be available by "mid-October." But five years ago when it was George W. Bush in the White House and sufficient supplies of flu vaccine were not available in a timely manner, folks in the media were jumping all over the administration. Earlier today, a friend pointed me to a bunch of examples of such coverage, including these two: “While many Americans search in vain for flu shots, members and employees of Congress are able to obtain them quickly and at no charge from the Capitol's attending physician, who has urged all 535 lawmakers to get the vaccines even if they are young and healthy… But people of all ages who are credentialed to work in the Capitol can get a shot by saying they meet the guidelines, with no further questions asked… The practice appears to directly contravene the instruction being given by the government's executive branch.” --- Charles Babington and David Brown, The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2004

Fraud plagues government health care
Excerpt: Indeed, Medicare corruption has been so extensive for so long that the terms "federal health care spending" and "waste, fraud and abuse" are virtually synonyms. In May 1986, for example, Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Richard Kusserow reported that in the prior six months 65 people were convicted of attempting to defraud Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, with savings of more than $50 million as a result. During his long tenure as the department IG from 1982 to 1991, Kusserow unearthed hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud and helped gain convictions of thousands of people. Nothing much has changed in the 23 years since Kusserow's 1986 report. Last Sunday, "60 Minutes" broadcast a devastating segment featuring a depressing progression of government and private lawyers, law enforcement officers, auditors, investigators, and people convicted of Medicare fraud explaining why and how ripping off Medicare has become one of the easiest and most profitable crimes in America. One of the criminals explained that Medicare management was so lax that he got $150,000 by claiming reimbursement 10 times for a "gas-powered prosthetic arm." The same criminal said there are "thousands" of companies in the Miami area being paid for such fraudulent claims every day. A lawyer with extensive experience defending those accused of Medicare scams told "60 Minutes" that Medicare fraud is bigger than the drug trade in South Florida.

McDonnell's edge over Deeds grows stronger
Looks like a GOP win in VA, a Dem win in NJ, due to the presence of an independent there taking more votes from the Republican.

Republicans may delay climate bill markup
Excerpt: Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee may block a markup on the Democrats' climate bill if they're not satisfied they've gotten a sufficient analysis time to review the text in detail, according to the panel's top Republican, Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.). Inhofe, speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, said the committee's seven Republicans were united in their determination to fully review the bill sponsored by Democratic Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.). The bill is set to have its first hearing Tuesday and Boxer, who chairs the Environmental and Public Works Committee, said this week she hopes to mark up the bill a week or two after that.

NY’s small business drop
Must be more golden eggs in the business goose! Excerpt: Far harder for businesses to survive, however, are steep recent tax hikes, especially the mayor's 2003 $1.9 billion property-tax increase, which fell disproportionately on businesses. Along with aggressive reassessments of building values, the levies have almost doubled the city's real-estate tax bite, from $8.6 billion in 2002 to $16.1 billion this year, with business paying half the toll. One result: Many more instances of businesses shuttering, owing tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes. Bills like these have helped push up retail vacancy rates, now projected to hit double digits in the city by the year's end. The mayor defended his 2003 tax hike by calling the city a "luxury product" for which businesses were willing to pay a premium. While that might be true of the financial industry from which Bloomberg came, far more common are businesses like supermarkets that typically earn only 1 to 2 percent of sales. Nelson Eusebio, who ran a supermarket in Brooklyn for 20 years and now represents other supermarket owners, estimates that 300 city supermarkets have gone bust since 2000. The Bloomberg administration, in its own study, acknowledges that New York is probably losing $1 billion a year in retail food sales to the suburbs because of a shortage of markets.

The Post-Gracious President
Excerpt: Nine months after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, his most adamant critics must concede he's delivered on "change." And we see it in our first post-gracious presidency. The most visible manifestations of the new ungraciousness are the repeated digs the president and his senior staffers continue to make against George W. Bush. Recently, the administration has given us two fresh examples. The first is about Afghanistan, the other about the economy.

Government by Holiday Inn Express
Excerpt: The Wall Street Journal provided a handy chart of “Uncle Sam’s Cost Overruns.” In 1965, when Medicaid was enacted, the House Ways and Means Committee estimated that first-year costs would amount to about $238 million. The actual price was $1 billion. The program now costs $251 billion annually and is climbing fast. The record is similar for Medicare. In 1965, Congress predicted that by 1990, Medicare would be costing $12 billion. The actual cost — $90 billion. As Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget has admitted, “If costs per enrollee in Medicare and Medicaid grow at the same rate over the next four decades as they have over the past four, those two programs will increase from 5% of GDP today to 20% by 2050.” So the same people who brought you cost spirals in Medicare and Medicaid now propose to introduce another government health program. Don’t worry, they assure us, we know how to provide efficiencies. It’s not necessary to dwell on the risible claim that they will cut half a trillion in waste from the Medicare budget. If they know where that waste is, why aren’t they cutting it now? Where, on the books, are the federal waste-cutting initiatives?

A good time to be a conservative
Excerpt: The Gallup poll released Monday shows the public's conservatism at a high-water mark. Some 40 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, compared with 36 percent who self-describe as moderates and 20 percent as liberals. The conservative number is as high as it's been in the two decades that Gallup has been asking the question. What's more, fully 72 percent of Republicans say they're conservative. Thirty-five percent of independents do so as well -- and presumably the percentage of conservatives among independents who might be inclined, where the rules permit it, to vote in GOP primaries would be much higher. The implications of this for the Republican Party over the remaining three years of the Obama presidency are clear: The GOP is going to be pretty unapologetically conservative. There aren't going to be a lot of moderate Republican victories in intra-party skirmishes. And -- with the caveat that the political world can, of course, change quickly -- there will be a conservative Republican presidential nominee in 2012.

WV Dems shocked at war on coal
What did they expect?

NOW Believes Obama is Segregating Women
Ah, yes, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks are fighting.

Obama: ‘If They Bring a Knife to the Fight, We Bring a Gun’
A promise Obama has kept—bringing The Chicago Way to Washington.

All the News That's Fit
Good summary of where we are.

Decline is a choice. Retreat abroad begins at home
Excerpt: This affects the ability to project power. Growth provides the sinews of dominance--the ability to maintain a large military establishment capable of projecting power to all corners of the earth.... The express agenda of the New Liberalism is a vast expansion of social services--massive intervention and expenditures in energy, health care, and education--that will necessarily, as in Europe, take away from defense spending. This shift in resources is not hypothetical. It has already begun. At a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs, the defense budget is practically frozen. Almost every other department is expanding, and the Defense Department is singled out for making "hard choices"--forced to look everywhere for cuts, to abandon highly advanced weapons systems, to choose between readiness and research, between today's urgencies and tomorrow's looming threats.

Nazis at collage
Why the totalitarian impulse in academia? Today it’s the communists, then it was the Nazis, flip sides of the same coin. Excerpt: “The leaders of American colleges and universities remained for the most part uninvolved as others in this country forcefully protested the Nazis’ barbaric treatment of Jews. The Nazis anti-Semitic terror in 1933 precipitated demonstrations and boycotts (of Germany) on an unprecedented scale… But although academicians were the Americans most conversant with European affairs, few engaged in public anti-Nazi protest…. American universities maintained amicable relations with the Third Reich, sending their students to study at Nazified universities while welcoming Nazi exchange students to their own campuses. America’s most distinguished university presidents willfully crossed the Atlantic in ships flying the swastika flag, openly defying the anti-Nazi boycott, to the benefit of the Third Reich’s economy. By warmly receiving Nazi diplomats and propagandists on campus, they helped Nazi Germany present itself to the American public as a civilized nation, unfairly maligned in the press.” (Norwood, page 34)

Biden's popularity plunges; lower than Cheney's
Excerpt: Vice President Joe Biden's favorable rating has fallen to 42 percent in a new Gallup poll, down from a high of 59 percent just after last year's election. Biden's unfavorable rating in the new poll is 40 percent, up from 29 percent last November. (Eighteen percent of those surveyed say they have no opinion of Biden.) Biden's average favorable rating during his time in office so far is 45 percent -- well below the average 65 percent favorable rating for Vice President Dick Cheney during Cheney's first year in office. Vice President Al Gore's favorable rating during his first year, 55 percent, was also higher than Biden's.