Sunday, November 29, 2009

Political Digest November 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.

Some of these are older, as I was traveling without access to some sources. Pass them on as may still be of interest.

Two days worth, as I was jammed yesterday. Enjoy

Taxes going up? Voters: yup
Excerpt: Just as my column appeared, pollster Scott Rasmussen reported that 48% of likely voters expect their taxes to go up and only 9% expect them to go down. That’s a vivid contrast with the responses back in January, when only 29% expected their taxes to go up and 21% expected them to go down. About half of American voters, it seems, have caught on to the Democrats’ stuff-the-beast strategy: raise spending to previously unheard of levels and then raise taxes to reduce the deficit. Moral of the story: never underestimate the perceptiveness of the American voter.

Obama Shatters Spending Record for First-Year Presidents
Anyone who didn’t expect this on November 4, 2008 just wasn’t paying attention.

Obama meets Hu, says Tibet part of China
Well, so much for those “Free Tibet” bumper stickers—the One has spoken. Excerpt: "We did note that while we recognise that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue" between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Beijing," Obama said after his meeting with Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao. Chinese President Hu Jintao hailed US President Barack Obama's recognition of sovereignty issues dear to China. "China approves of President Obama's repeated reiteration of the one-China principle," Hu told reporters.

Comment from a Marine buddy: Tibet has had a totally different language and culture from China for thousands of years, and has never been identified as part of China. It was taken over by brute force decades ago, many thousands killed then and still since, the culture subordinated to Chinese, the children forced to learn Chinese, Chinese immigrants as appointed "managers" (read rulers), no civil liberties, freedom of the press, freedom to dissent, etc. For an American President today to recognize Tibet as part of China would be like FDR recognizing Silesia and the Sudetenland as parts of Germany after the Wehrmacht marched into those places. I am totally appalled at this, there is no excuse for making such a statement, it is a gross betrayal of the basic American commitment to human rights. It is more than puzzling for Obama to do this. And he got nothing whatsoever for this, the Chinese will not really join in on reduction of hothouse gases (they're building coal fired plants faster and faster), they won't revalue their money to realistic adjustment to the dollar, and they lecture us on being more responsible. Essentially it was a social visit, an exchange of niceties, but zip in the way of any accomodation to Obama's programs. So why throw the Tibetans under the bus, and thereby tell every other small country that they cannot depend on the US to even talk about their rights when the bigger, well armed neighbor nation decides to pound them or take them over? Very, very, very sad. So much for moral leadership among nations. –Del

PC-ed to death
Nice to have a TV editor tell it like it is. Gotta love this guy.

Timely Medicine – Not
Excerpt: As America rushes headfirst into Government Run Healthcare, here are a few realities Americans should not ignore. As a Canadian, I was raised since the mid 1960’s on a diet of Government Paid Healthcare. In a single statement: IT WAS TERRIFIC. But, I have to emphasize the word WAS.

Why Obama Isn't Changing Washington
Excerpt: Why has the president's publicly expressed vision of a kinder, gentler Washington failed to materialize? I think Mr. Obama—while hardly the only person at fault—is chiefly responsible. He might have spawned a different Washington, a less divided town with Democrats firmly in charge but Republicans actively involved. The bonus for Mr. Obama and Democrats would be higher popularity and better prospects in 2010 midterm elections. Instead, the president made three strategic mistakes—or, really, misreadings of the political landscape—and they've come back to haunt him and his party. First, Mr. Obama misread the meaning of the 2008 election. It wasn't a mandate for a liberal revolution. His victory was a personal one, not an ideological triumph of liberalism. Yet Mr. Obama, his aides and Democratic leaders in Congress have treated it as a mandate to radically change policy directions in this country. They are pushing forward one liberal initiative after another. As a result, Mr. Obama's approval rating has dropped along with the popularity of his agenda. Mr. Obama should have known better. The evidence that America remains a center-right country was right there in the national exit poll on Election Day. When asked about their political beliefs, 34% identified themselves as conservative, 22% as liberal, and a whopping 44% as moderate.

Kill the Bills. Do Health Reform Right
Excerpt: The United States has the best health care in the world -- but because of its inefficiencies, also the most expensive. The fundamental problem with the 2,074-page Senate health-care bill (as with its 2,014-page House counterpart) is that it wildly compounds the complexity by adding hundreds of new provisions, regulations, mandates, committees and other arbitrary bureaucratic inventions. Worse, they are packed into a monstrous package without any regard to each other. The only thing linking these changes -- such as the 118 new boards, commissions and programs -- is political expediency. Each must be able to garner just enough votes to pass. There is not even a pretense of a unifying vision or conceptual harmony. The result is an overregulated, overbureaucratized system of surpassing arbitrariness and inefficiency.

Bomber may have been heading for Eilat
Didn’t get the Religion-of-Peace memo. Excerpt: An IDF bomb squad detonated a 15-kilogram explosive seized during a search conducted along the Egyptian border on Thursday. Late Wednesday night, IDF troops on a routine patrol of the border area spotted a suspicious figure carrying a bag containing what was later discovered to be a 15-kilogram bomb. The soldiers ordered him to stop and fired several shots in the air. However, the man fled the scene back into Egypt, dropping the bag in his haste.

Iranian pilgrims stage hajj protest
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: “Death to America, death to Israel," thousands of Iranians chanted inside a huge tent on the Arafat plain.

Be thankful that you are breathing.
Excerpt: Jihad attacks and attempted attacks inside the U.S. have sharply increased. In response, the entire government and media establishment hastens to assure the world that the root cause is not the root cause. And the President of the United States rushes to make more concessions to the jihadis and their sponsors and allies. Eight years after 9/11, and fewer people than ever know or care about what we are really up against. are alive. You are breathing. You can read this. You are not beaten.

Find a gun, turn it in, go to jail
Zero tolerance in the UK
How to answer the census
Very funny.

Obama’s Most Courageous Act: Pardoning a Turkey
Excerpt: President Obama pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving named Courage. That turns out to be the gutsiest decision that Obama has made since taking office. Courage is not the only recipient of Obama’s generosity who has reason to be thankful. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his boss Osama bin Laden are grateful for the opportunity provided by the Obama administration to put on a propaganda display during the circus trial that the whole world will be watching. KSM will be the perfect ringmaster, following up on his ringleader performance on 9/11. And I couldn’t think of a better clown than Attorney General Eric Holder. But there are many more folks who should be writing thank you notes to Obama this season. In no particular order, here are just a few:

Saudi Columnist: Obama Will Be President of the 'United Collapse of America'
Excerpt: “Obama fought tooth and nail to be the first black president of the U.S., and he was successful at it. But in the future he may also gain the title of 'President of the United Collapse of America.'"

Prosecuting American 'War Crimes'
Excerpt: Because Kabul in 2003 ratified the Rome Statute—the ICC's founding treaty—all soldiers on Afghan territory, even those from nontreaty countries, fall under the ICC's oversight, Mr. Ocampo told me. And the chief prosecutor says he is already conducting a "preliminary examination" into whether NATO troops, including American soldiers, fighting the Taliban may have to be put in the dock. "We have to check if crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide have been committed in Afghanistan," Mr. Ocampo told me. "There are serious allegations against the Taliban and al Qaeda and serious allegations about warlords, even against some who are connected with members of the government." Taking up his inquiry of Allied soldiers, he added, "there are different reports about problems with bombings and there are also allegations about torture."

9/11 plotters start on their road to freedom: lawyers to argue they're incompetent to stand trial
Excerpt: When five defendants are brought before a New York federal judge to face charges for the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the first question may be whether some of them are competent to stand trial at all. Military lawyers for Ramzi Binalshibh, an accused organizer of the 9/11 plot, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, the conspiracy's alleged paymaster, say their clients have mental disorders that make them unfit for trial, likely caused or exacerbated by years of harsh confinement in Central Intelligence Agency custody.

Fifty lashes for the (Christian) teenage girl who wore an 'indecent' knee length skirt in Sudan
Excerpt: A girl of 16 was given 50 lashes after a judge ruled her knee length skirt was indecent. Silva Kashif was punished without her family being told after she was arrested while walking alone near her home in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Her mother, Jenty Doro, said: ‘I only heard about it after she was lashed. Later we all sat and cried. She said she would sue the police and the judge because her daughter is a Christian and underage. The law states that under-18s should not be given lashes. Doro said Khashif was taken to Kalatla court where she was convicted and punished by a female police officer in front of the judge. 'I only heard about it after she was lashed. Later we all sat and cried ... People have different religions and that should be taken into account' she said. Khartoum is governed by Islamic sharia law. But although Miss Kashif is living there she is originally from the south of the country, which is not. The government is supposed to be working to soften the impact of sharia for southerners living in Khartoum. Her lawyer, Azhari al-Haj, said: ‘She was wearing a normal skirt and blouse, worn by thousands of girls. They didn’t contact a guardian and punished her on the spot.’

Will Time Magazine Apologize to Glenn Beck?
Excerpt: “Government Distrust and a Dead Census Taker.” That was the headline of a September 25th story in TIME about the death of 51-year old Bill Sparkman. Sparkman’s naked body had been found in a remote area of Harlan County, Kentucky, with the word “FED” scrawled on his chest. Sparkman had been hanged. Immediately, TIME and others began to speculate. Had Sparkman been hanged by anti-government, anti-Obama violent right wingers? TIME led the speculation, taking the opportunity to drag in Glenn Beck:

Cleaning Out the Climate Science Cesspool
Excerpt: However, the planet and science are not cooperating with the fear-mongering. There has been no statistically significant global warming for over a decade, despite steadily increasing CO2 levels – and for several years average annual global temperatures have actually declined. Carbon dioxide plays only a minor role, many scientists now say, and our climate is still controlled by the same natural forces that caused previous climate changes: periodic shifts in ocean currents and jet streams, water vapor and cloud cover, evaporation and precipitation, planetary alignments and the shape of the Earth’s orbit, the tilt and wobble of Earth’s axis, cosmic ray levels and especially solar energy output. Far worse for the Climate Armageddon movement, newly released emails from its leading scientists reveal a cesspool of intimidation, duplicity and fraud that could rock Copenhagen and the alarmist agenda to their core. The emails cast deepening suspicion over global warming data, science and models. They reveal an unprecedented, systematic conspiracy to stifle discussion and debate, conceal and manipulate data, revise temperature trends that contradict predictions of dangerous warming, skew the peer-review process, pressure scientific journals and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to publish alarmist studies and exclude dissenting analyses, and avoid compliance with Freedom of Information requests. British Climate Research Unit (CRU) chief Phil Jones to Penn State climatologist Michael Mann, of Hockey Stick infamy: “Can you delete any e-mails you may have had with Keith [Briffa] re AR4 [the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report and Briffa’s suspect tree-ring data]. Keith will do likewise.” Jones to Mann: “If they [Canadian researchers Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre] ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send it to anyone.”

A rusty nail for South Carolina
Excerpt: Like Jindal, Haley is of Indian descent -- lean, mean (in a nice way) and ready to rumble with the good ol' boys. Raised in the tiny town of Bamberg (population 2,500), she is as unlikely a candidate in this neck of the woods as Jindal was in Huey Long's old neighborhood. When she was first elected to the state House of Representatives, Haley ran against the longest-serving member of the General Assembly, whose uncle had held the seat before him. She didn't know any better, she says. Now in her third term, the married mother of two young children is a bit of a troublemaker. Again, like Jindal, she's willing to challenge the status quo, insisting, for example, that her colleagues let citizens know how they vote. When she realized that fewer than 10 percent of votes were on the record, she wrote a bill to rectify the situation. Despite being warned by House leadership that she risked losing her committee assignments if she didn't drop the bill, Haley persevered. She was, indeed, removed from her position as chair of the banking subcommittee. Although a social conservative, Haley's focus is on business, taxes, government spending and education. Married to a full-time officer in the National Guard, Haley is an accountant who began keeping books for her family's clothing business when she was 13.

There's time to get climate policy right
Excerpt: The rush to legislate is based on the argument that we must act now or risk climate Armageddon. But most of the predictions of catastrophe are based upon a series of computer models that are increasingly recognized as fundamentally flawed. For instance, global temperatures have been flat or even slightly decreasing for the past 10 years all the while greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase. None of the multitude of models predicted this result. How can we be expected to trust the long-term projections of computers that can't get the near-term stuff right? There is mounting evidence that the sun has a larger role to play in global temperatures than the models and many climate scientists understand. Which just goes to show how imperfect human understanding of our global environment really is.

Is the U.S. “the most open market in the world”? Not even close
Excerpt: Representative Ron Kirk couldn’t resist repeating the old line that the United States is “the most open market in the world.” The chief U.S. trade negotiator was trying to rebut criticism from Chinese officials that the Obama administration, with its 35 percent tariff on Chinese tire imports and all that, has retreated from a commitment to free trade. The administration’s “more open than thou” rebuttal is a weak one. As I write in Chapter 9 of my new Cato book, Mad about Trade: If an Olympics were held for the most open economy, the United States would be out of medal contention. According to the most recent annual Economic Freedom of the World Report, people living in 26 other countries enjoy greater “freedom to trade internationally” than do Americans.

Portland, America's Ultimate White City
Excerpt: Among the media and academia and within planning circles, there's a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and midsize cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis and Denver, says Aaron M. Renn, and urban affairs thinker and writer. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as "cool" urban places. But look closely at these exemplars, and a curious fact emerges, says Renn. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- places no one expects the average U.S. city to be able to imitate - you will find that the "progressive" cities aren't red or blue, but another color entirely: white, says Renn.

Justice probing lawmaker with oversight over department
How’s that Swamp Draining going, Nancy? Excerpt: For three years, Rep. Alan Mollohan has chaired the important Appropriations subcommittee that controls the Justice Department's $65 billion budget. At the same time, he has been under a Justice Department investigation, according to documents and two sources briefed on the probe. The investigation has centered on the West Virginia Democrat's finances and nonprofits he created and helped fund in his district, and has put him in the unusual position of wielding control over an agency at the same time it is probing his conduct and contractors he helped while in office.

Obama to debut Afghan troop strategy; says he intends 'to finish the job'
But will he be able to do, with his party? If he tries to do the right things, we must support him.

In announcing new Afghan strategy, Obama faces a crowded calendar
Excerpt: As White House observers attempt to read the tea leaves about the timing of President Obama's Afghanistan announcement, one thing becomes clear: There's not much time left. For more than a month, Obama has been meeting with his war council to determine a new strategy in Afghanistan and whether to send additional troops, as requested by his top general there. He said in interviews Wednesday that he would reveal his decision within the next several weeks. The president has just 20 weekdays left -- not counting Thanksgiving break -- before he leaves for his Christmas-holiday vacation in Hawaii. But the presidential schedule for the rest of November and December is already filling up with other priorities, some of which could create some awkwardness if they happen too close to news of a beefed-up war effort.

Save the vouchers
Why kill programs giving other black parents the rights the Obamas have? Because the unions don’t like them. Excerpt: The future of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which gives low-income parents up to $7,500 so their children can attend private school, will be determined within the next weeks as Congress decides appropriations bills. What's on the table is a proposal advanced by President Obama that would extend the program until the 1,700 students currently receiving vouchers have graduated from high school. But no new students would be accepted. We have a hard time understanding the president's logic. The argument for discontinuation is that the program has not proved to be effective. Why then come up with millions of dollars to continue it for the next 12 years? Besides, scientific studies have shown clear benefits in terms of parental satisfaction and improved student reading. Why deny these advantages to new students? D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and a majority of the D.C. Council favor letting in new students. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has been working behind the scenes to win support for a proposal that would allow new students to be admitted to slots vacated by those exiting the program. She believes that it will be at least five years before the public schools will be at a point where they will provide the right alternative for all parents.

Hasan had intensified contact with cleric
Nothing to do with Jihad or Islam of course. Let’s not jump to conclusions. Excerpt: In the months before the deadly shootings at Fort Hood, Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan intensified his communications with a radical Yemeni American cleric and began to discuss surreptitious financial transfers and other steps that could translate his thoughts into action, according to two sources briefed on a collection of secret e-mails between the two.

Lord Lawson calls for public inquiry into UEA global warming data 'manipulation'
Climate-gate growing

Bending the Productivity Curve Why America Leads the World in Medical Innovation
One of the things healthcare “reform” will likely destroy will be innovation in technologies, business models and drugs. Excerpt: In general, Americans tend to receive more new treatments and pay more for them—a fact that is usually regarded as a fault of the American system. That interpretation, if not entirely wrong, is at least incomplete. Rapid adoption and extensive use of new treatments and technologies create an incentive to develop those techniques in the first place. When the United States subsidizes medical innovation, the whole world benefits. That is a virtue of the American system that is not reflected in comparative life expectancy and mortality statistics. Policymakers should consider the impact of reform proposals on innovation. For example, proposals that increase spending on diagnostics and therapeutics could encourage such innovation. Expanding price controls, government health care programs, and health insurance regulation, on the other hand, could hinder America’s ability to innovate

Health Care Reform Protests
Excerpt: Both Paul and Neeta Dang are doctors at Huntsville Hospital. Before moving here in 1996 they practiced in Canada for 9 years, where there is universal health care coverage. It's a system they say is flawed. "The problem is that the access to health care was limited and the system was overburdened and under funded. People couldn't get access to scans and treatments. Getting in to see the doctor was hard. Getting surgeries like getting bypass surgery or your hip replacement would take several months. To pay for such a system our taxes were much higher than they are here in the US," said Dr. Paul Dang. Dr. Dang says that this will probably be the case here in the US if the government option passes. "The changes that are being proposed are going to significantly limit access to care and to the type and quality of care that's already available for most Americans," said Dr. Dang. While living in Canada their family had to get care in the u-s to be able to survive. "My own family member had to be flown down here for cancer treatment because it wasn't going to happen in Canada where we have a government run system. We've had first hand experience with this, where patients have died of disease that may have been successfully treated if they had been diagnosed earlier," said Dr. Neeta Dang.

U.S. Army Agrees That The M-4 Sucks
Excerpt: The U.S. Army has finally addressed years of complaints about the M-4 and M-16 assault rifles. The M-4 is a short barrel M-16, and has become very popular with the troops. The army has asked the Department of Defense for permission to spend a few hundred million dollars on upgrades for its 400,000 M-4 assault rifles. The big change is replacing the main portion of the rifle with a new component that contains a short stroke piston gas system (to reduce buildup of carbon inside the rifle) and a heavier (by five ounces) barrel (which reduces barrel failure from too much heat, which happens when several hundred rounds are fired within a few minutes.)

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