Friday, October 9, 2009

Political Digest October 9, 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.

Pakistanis Balk at U.S. Aid Package
Accountability? We don’t need no stinking accountability! Excerpt: Although President Obama has praised the $7.5 billion, five-year aid program -- approved by Congress last week -- Pakistani officials have objected to provisions that require U.S. monitoring of everything from how they spend the money to the way the military promotes senior officers.

Thoughts on the Hysteria About Afghanistan
Excerpt: So now Afghanistan is flaring up, perhaps because Islamists, like U.S. forces, have turned their attention to the original focus after the decision in Iraq. It seems that al-Qaeda’s leaders, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, suddenly are no longer calling for the devout to travel to Anbar to kill the infidel, but instead to come to Waziristan and help the Taliban with the real struggle. And why not, after suffering thousands killed and failing to stop Nouri al-Maliki’s constitutional effort in Iraq?

Army Officers Criticize Rebuke of Gen. McChrystal
Excerpt: A number of senior Army officers compared McChrystal to Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff who warned before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure the country -- advice that was dismissed as "wildly off the mark" by then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. "You know what happened to Shinseki," said one Army general, referring to what many officers believe was the Bush administration's punitive treatment of the general, now Obama's secretary of veteran affairs. Shinseki's assessment was vindicated when President George W. Bush increased U.S. troop levels in Iraq. "We take the kids to war and ask them to take a bullet. So you won't stop Stan from saying what he thinks is best for the mission and the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines," said the general, who is an acquaintance of McChrystal's.

Why No Testimony From McChrystal?
Excerpt: War Strategy: When Bush and Petraeus proposed the surge in Iraq, Democrats demanded that the general testify before Congress. So why has the Senate blocked a similar invitation to our commander in Afghanistan? Those with memories longer than the 24-hour news cycle recall that in the dark days of the Iraq War, David Petraeus was summoned to Washington to explain the surge strategy that would eventually lead to victory in Iraq. Democrats hoped for a show trial. took out a full-page ad in the New York Times labeling the commanding general of our efforts in Iraq "General Betray-us." Then there was Sen. Hillary Clinton telling Petraeus, "I think that the reports that you provided to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on record boasting of how he "forced" Petraeus to testify before the Senate on his plans for Iraq, a war he had declared we had already "lost." Back then, the goal of Democrats was to embarrass a Republican president and make Reid's statement a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Speaker floats a middle-class tax hike.
Excerpt: Candor about taxes is rare in Washington, so when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admits that Democrats may have to impose a huge new tax on the middle class to fund their spending ambitions, believe her. Speaking with PBS's Charlie Rose on Monday, Mrs. Pelosi mused publicly about the rising possibility of enacting a value-added tax, or VAT, as part of broader tax reform. "Somewhere along the way, a value-added tax plays into this," she said. "Of course, we want to take down the health-care cost, that's one part of it. But in the scheme of things, I think it's fair to look at a value-added tax as well." The allure of a VAT for politicians is that it applies to every level of production or service, rakes in piles of money, and is largely hidden from those who ultimately pay it—namely, consumers. With a $9 trillion 10-year budget deficit, $4 trillion in spending in fiscal 2010 alone, and a $1 trillion (at a minimum) health-care entitlement in the wings, Mrs. Pelosi knows that not even the revenue from the expiration of the lower Bush tax rates in 2011 will cover the bills. Nearly every European country that has passed national health care has also eventually imposed a VAT, and it's foolish to think the U.S. will be different. (I’m not worried. Barack promised that no one earning under $250,000 would pay a penny more, and the middleclass would get a tax cut if he was elected. And if you can’t trust BO, who can you trust?)

Soak-The-Rich Strategies Backfire in State After Deficit-Ridden State
Excerpt: When David Paterson became governor of New York after Eliot Spitzer's hooker escapades, the former state senator from Harlem shocked New Yorkers by declaring that taxes were too high and that he had many friends who had left the state because there were better opportunities elsewhere. New York had to grab control of its spending rather than continue raising taxes, said the former state senator with a long tax-and-spend track record, in what amounted to the equivalent of ideological heresy. Still, as a political lightweight and accidental governor, Paterson quickly got rolled by the big-government wing of his own party, which passed a budget for this year with $6.1 billion in projected new taxes and fees, led by sharply higher rates starting for those earning more than $200,000 a year. Asked if the budget made sense in the recession, an outgunned Paterson said: "None of this makes sense." I suppose it is cold comfort to New Yorkers that Paterson is now giving his political enemies the "I told you so" treatment. Speaking to reporters recently in Albany, Paterson noted that revenue from tax increases was running 20% below projections and that, in particular, the wealthy were not paying up. So far, the state had only collected about half of an expected $1 billion in income tax revenues from the state's wealthiest residents. (They never learn.)

Ex-Staffers Winning Defense Panel Pork, Study Finds
Excerpt: The Center for Public Integrity found that 10 of the 16 members of the House subcommittee on defense appropriations obtained 30 earmarks in the bill worth $103 million for contractors currently or recently employing former staffers who have become lobbyists. The analysis by the Washington watchdog group found that earmarks still often hinge on a web of connections, despite at least three criminal investigations of the practice that became public in the past year. Those probes focus on a handful of defense contractors and a powerful lobbying firm that together won hundreds of millions of dollars in work from the House panel and are closely tied to its chairman, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.)…..The Center for Public Integrity's analysis found some shifts in earmarking patterns since its similar analysis of the 2008 defense bill. First, Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), whose office records were subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in May, has markedly reduced his earmark requests and sought no work for private companies. Also, defense appropriators are generally steering more earmarks to nonprofits. The Washington Post has documented more than $400 million in defense earmarks that Murtha has directed in the past decade to research groups in his district, including the Penn State Electro-Optics Center and the John P. Murtha Institute for Homeland Security, which steered much of the funds to private contractors. (Wait until these boys get their hands on healthcare, 20% of the economy. I’m having one of my “We’re all doomed, why bother” days.)

Michigan may tax doctors’ fees
Excerpt: Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, said the Medicaid budget can be infused with $300 million to $400 million in federal matching dollars if the state makes doctors pay a 3 percent tax similar to what hospitals and nursing homes already pay. (So, let’s see. A Doctor gets a $200 fee from Medicaid, half of which is paid by the Federal Government. The state taxes it, taking $6, three from the state’s payment, and three from the fed’s payment. Then it uses both of these to fund the state’s share of Medicaid, so the Feds pay an extra 3% and the state pay’s 3% less of its share. Payback for the Senate’s healthcare bill, which funds “reform” by increasing the states’ Medicare costs. Clever.)

Only 36% of Democrats approve of the job the Democrat Congress is doing
Excerpt: Why does this matter? Because midterm elections are almost always exercises in base turnout. The electorate shrinks considerably from a presidential year and turning out your hard-core supporters becomes the name of the game.

Operation Phish Phry
Excerpt: Nearly 100 people were charged today in the U.S. and Egypt as part of Operation Phish Phry, one the largest cyber fraud phishing cases to date. It’s the latest action in what Director Robert Mueller described in a major address today as a “cyber arms race,” where law enforcement and criminals compete to stay one step ahead of each other on the ever-expanding virtual frontier. Cyber thieves “phish” for personal information such as usernames, passwords, and financial account details by tricking users into thinking their sensitive information is being given to trusted websites when, in fact, the sites are traps. The defendants in Operation Phish Phry targeted U.S. banks and victimized hundreds and possibly thousands of account holders by stealing their financial information and using it to transfer about $1.5 million to bogus accounts they controlled. More than 50 individuals in California, Nevada, and North Carolina, and nearly 50 Egyptian citizens have been charged with crimes including computer fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identify theft.

Return of Walpin-gate
Excerpt: When last we left Gerald Walpin, the unfairly fired inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, he had filed a lawsuit on July 17 protesting his dismissal. He submitted technical amendments to his complaint on July 24, and the government was supposed to respond within 60 days. Seventy-five days later, the government still is stonewalling. Justice delayed is justice denied.

The US has lost its focus on Europe. It's up to us to get our act together
Michael in London observes, “The European Left is disappointed in Obama, nostalgic ... for Bush ... and for neocons.” Excerpt: Barack Obama is the most European president of the United States that there has ever been. Barack Obama is the least European president of the United States that there has ever been. Let me explain. In his commitment to social justice and universal healthcare, and in the positive role he sees for government, Obama is closer to the political values of contemporary Europe than any of his predecessors. Strip away the obligatory rhetoric about American exceptionalism, and what he says on most domestic issues would fit comfortably into the programme of any mainstream European party. In the substance of his domestic policies, he is almost a European. In the way he thinks about the world, however, and even more in his view of Europe itself, he could not be more different. His mental map goes north-south, not east-west. His roots are in Kenya and the American midwest; his childhood experience was in Indonesia and Hawaii. He writes in his memoirs of how, during a European stopover on the way to Kenya, he did not find a personal, emotional connection to Europe. Biographically, he is the personification of a trend that analysts have identified in the abstract: a demographic shift, since the mid-1960s, towards Americans of non-European origin, weakening cultural and historical transatlantic ties.

Vapor bill and the Imperial Senate
Excerpt: What are the Democrats hiding in that legislative language? What is in it they do not want the public to see? If the health care debate has taught the American public anything, then it’s the devil is in the details. But the Senate Democratic leadership says: you don’t get to see the details. We instead have this new thing called the Vapor Bill: don’t read it (we won’t let you) just support it. Perhaps this is why political analyst Charlie Cook recently said about the Independent voters: “they hate Congress something awful.” If you don’t believe Charlie Cook, then maybe you will believe this nine-month tracking chart by Gallup. In order to make the deals they need to make, no one can see the legislative language or the wheels will come off. How can you make a contradictory promise about taxes, the public option, illegal immigrants getting health care, Medicare care cuts and abortion, and expect the legislative language to contain those contradictions? So, in order to keep the wheels on, the legislative language will not be released until after the Senate has already begun consideration of the bill.

ACORN won’t get grant
At least until the heat’s off. But does anyone on either side doubt that BO and the Democrats would still like to give money to ACORN? Excerpt: Obama administration officials said Wednesday there is no chance that ACORN will get a Homeland Security grant it was awarded last month because of a provision in a bill signed into law last week prohibiting any federal funding to the controversial group.

Muslim group urges gov't to ban burkas, niqabs in public
But the Canadian government won’t. After all, these are moderate Muslims, whom we say we want to support. But the other kind will kill you, and the moderates won’t. So they are irrelevant. Excerpt: The Muslim Canadian Congress called on the federal government to prohibit the two garments in order to prevent women from covering their faces in public -- a practice the group said has no place in a society that supports gender equality. "To cover your face is to conceal your identity," congress spokeswoman Farzana Hassan said in a telephone interview, describing the issue as a matter of public safety, since concealing one's identity is a common practice for criminals.

Terrorist cell found in Hamburg where 9/11 attacks conceived
Excerpt: The ten members are understood to have left Hamburg early this year to attend paramilitary camps in the Hindu Kush, however, two are thought to have recently returned. All of them were said to have used Hamburg's Taiba Mosque as a meeting place, the same location frequented by the 9/11 leader Mohammed Atta and his accomplices. They went onto carry out the attacks on New York's World Trade Centre and Washington. "It is to be assumed that these persons are absolutely prepared to carry out suicide or other attacks at home or abroad," the report said, according to Die Welt and Report Mainz.

Health Care Perks for the Congress Critters
You should have it so good!

Criminalizing everyone - Needed: A 'clean line' to determine lawfulness
Excerpt: "You don't need to know. You can't know." That's what Kathy Norris, a 60-year-old grandmother of eight, was told when she tried to ask court officials why, the day before, federal agents had subjected her home to a furious search. The agents who spent half a day ransacking Mrs. Norris' longtime home in Spring, Texas, answered no questions while they emptied file cabinets, pulled books off shelves, rifled through drawers and closets, and threw the contents on the floor. The six agents, wearing SWAT gear and carrying weapons, were with - get this- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Kathy and George Norris lived under the specter of a covert government investigation for almost six months before the government unsealed a secret indictment and revealed why the Fish and Wildlife Service had treated their family home as if it were a training base for suspected terrorists. Orchids.

Thoughts from my friend, George:
1. Wouldn't it be cool if Roman Polanski drew Charles Manson as a cell mate? I'm waiting for the cartoon that shows Polanski arriving at prison to meet Manson as his cell mate, and saying 'Haven't we met somewhere before?'

2. Do you realize that if Elizabeth Smart lived in a Muslim country, she'd also be the victim of an honor killing? BRAVO to her family for all their support. They are a shining example of how civilized people deal with a serious issue.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You Mr.Hall. My husband is 77 and I am 75. We thank you for your service, and my husband served in the USAF in Korea.We have never taken public assistance or food stamps and have raised 4 hard working children who are resposible citizens of this great country of ours. We just don't know what kind of world our grandchildren are going to have to raise their families in by the time the liberals get done destroying the USA.Keep rattling their cages...............