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.

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