Friday, December 18, 2009

Political Digest December 18, 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.

Yesterday's post, December 17, got up late in the day, due to some technical glitch I haven't figured out, that happens sometimes. Just noting in case you missed your political fix and want to go back.

WSJ poll on several issues
Vote early and often.

Tactical Implications of the Headley Case (the Chicago terrorist)
Interesting read. Excerpt: Since Headley’s arrest, there have been almost daily disclosures of new information regarding his activities and those of his co-conspirators. These new details have emerged during court proceedings and from leaks by U.S., Indian and Pakistani government officials. On Dec. 7, new federal charges were filed against Headley alleging that he had conducted extensive surveillance against targets in Mumbai that were attacked during the November 2008 armed assault in that city, which resulted in the deaths of some 170 people. Headley reportedly became an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after being arrested and charged with smuggling heroin into the United States from Pakistan in 1997. Following the 9/11 attacks, he allegedly worked for the FBI as a terrorism informant. Now, following his arrest on Oct. 3, he is reportedly again cooperating with the U.S. government. From the information that has emerged so far, it appears that Headley, who was born Daood Gilani in 1960 in Washington, D.C., to a Pakistani father and American mother, worked as a surveillance operative and operational planner for the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI). In 2006, Headley legally changed his name from Daood Gilani to David Coleman Headley, anglicizing his first name and taking his mother’s maiden surname. He apparently did this to disguise his Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith while traveling to places such as India and Denmark.

Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones
Excerpt: Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations. Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

Iranian Endgame
Excerpt: By “coming to terms” Pletka means that, while recognizing Iran’s aggressive intentions, “official Washington has resigned itself to pursuing a containment policy”—which, as Pletka effectively argues, would be misplaced and unavailing in the case of Iran. But Pletka adds that “privately, Obama administration officials confess that they believe Israeli action will preempt our policy debate, as Israel’s tolerance for an Iranian nuke is significantly lower than our own.”Also on Tuesday Israel’s chief of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin—who last month informed the nation that Gaza-based Hamas had obtained rockets that can reach Tel Aviv—addressed the Iranian issue at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. Yadlin said Iran was building dispersed, overt and covert nuclear sites, was “simultaneously developing a military capability that would allow a breakthrough when it so decides,” has already “enriched 1.7 tons of low enriched uranium at its facility in Natanz, which is enough for a nuclear weapon,” and that it was time for “tough sanctions on the regime” by the international community.

Pakistan Muslim Employers Poison And Kill Christians, Police Say
Excerpt: Masih said the Muslim managers of the facility were angry that Christians dared to ask for payment. "My sons were apparently forced to consume some kind of poisoned drink, or a drug...They were left there to die," he said, adding that their bosses also made abusive remarks about Christianity. Imran Masih, 29, and Irfan Masih, 25, died on the spot at the 'Ferozewala Pul Banquet & Marriage Hall' while their brother 23-year-old Aakash Masih was eventually rushed to hospital by family members, Masih said. "The administration of the banquet and wedding hall did not call a hospital or take them to a hospital –instead they called us after the death of two of our loved ones."

'US fighter jets attack Yemeni fighters'§ionid=351020206
Excerpt: Yemen's Houthi fighters say the US fighter jets have launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa'ada. The US has used modern fighter jets and bombers in its offensive against the Yemen fighters, Houthis said in a statement. According to the statement, the US fighter jets have launched overnight attacks on the Yemeni fighters, Arabic Almenpar website reported.

Iran test-fires advanced missile
Excerpt: Iran has successfully test-fired an improved version of a medium-range missile, state television has said. TV pictures showed the launch of the Sajjil-2 rocket, which experts say has the range to be able to hit Israel and US bases in the Gulf.

Navy SEALs or CSI?
Excerpt: The court-martial of three Navy SEALs, for purportedly punching terrorist suspect Ahmed Hashim Abed once in the gut, and the upcoming trials of Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees in New York City illustrate a decisive shift from fighting a war on terrorism to conducting a police action. The transition to a law enforcement mentality in our efforts to combat terrorism will create many challenges. Special operatives tracking down the world's most menacing killers will have to make sure they have their Miranda cards handy.

Senate plan is called too empowering to health insurers
Excerpt: The Senate health-care bill could enable insurers to avoid some of the strongest consumer protections and benefit requirements adopted by state governments, Democratic lawmakers from Maine and California say. The bill would allow insurers to sell policies across state lines, subject to the laws and regulations in a state of the insurers' choosing, 31 Democratic House members said in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.)."Practically speaking, insurers will domicile their plans in states with less stringent regulations and market to the population in more protective states like ours, just like nationally chartered banks have done," the House members led by Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) wrote on behalf of lawmakers from the two states.

Why health care will pass (and what it means)
Excerpt: For the last several weeks (months?), each time a major hurdle has arisen in the health care fight, the White House -- often in the former of chief of staff Rahm Emanuel -- has stepped in to placate the squeaky wheel(s) and keep some measure of momentum behind the legislation. That approach from the Obama Administration has led to deals with the likes of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) over abortion language in the bill and, more recently, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) over an attempted compromise on the so-called public option. The next deal expected to be cut is with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) who has publicly struggled to reconcile his own opposition to abortion with a vote for final passage. While the deal-making has left many liberals cold about the final product, it has also virtually guaranteed that the President will be able to hold a Rose Garden signing ceremony sometime next year, declaring victory in the overhaul of one of the stickiest wickets of social policy in the country. The broad strategy adopted by the White House toward health care is based on a single fundamental belief: coming out of this extended fight with nothing to show for it amounts to a political disaster not just for the President but for congressional Democrats as well. "It's a huge problem if nothing gets passed," said one senior Democratic strategist. "Huge." (As I’ve been saying, the President would sign a used diaper if it said “Health Care Reform” at the top.)

Health-care bill wouldn't bring real reform
Finally, Howard Deal and I agree on something. YEEAAAWWWEEE! Excerpt: If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current health-care bill. Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.

Left eases threat to kill health bill
Excerpt: Liberal groups and labor unions have pulled back from calls to kill the Senate healthcare bill. Left-leaning senators are coalescing behind the legislation, tailored to centrist demands, that would expand healthcare coverage to more than 30 million Americans but would neither create a government-run insurance program nor expand Medicare to people younger than 65.

The decline of the almighty dollar
Excerpt: Financial and economic leaders around the globe have finally gained an understanding of just how damaged and weakened the United States is becoming with the daily devaluation of the American dollar. Historically, the United States has never experienced a massive collapse of its currency as have Russia, Argentina and other countries. However, the recklessness of our current fiscal policy is causing other sophisticated global players to get fed up — and for legitimate reasons. They are made vulnerable by the actions of a belligerent few, and are positioning themselves to do what any other sane person would: seek alternatives in case the dollar collapses. It’s sad to think that right now the defense of our aimless fiscal policy is to hold the other countries so close to our chest that they will drown with us unless we succeed. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do this forever. What happens when they see the light?

Pelosi says rallying votes for troop surge in Afghanistan will be Obama's job
At last, some bipartisan support for BO. Excerpt: President Obama will have to argue his own case to House Democrats as he seeks support for a planned surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday, adding that she is finished asking her colleagues to back wars that they do not support. The president's going to have to make his case," Pelosi told reporters at a year-end briefing on the legislative session. While the next round of war-funding legislation is not likely to be considered until spring, Pelosi said there will be a test vote in January on support for the troop buildup. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said he will offer a privileged resolution next month calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The vote is likely to fail because of broad Republican support for the war, but it could reveal the depth of the schism between Obama and his fellow Democrats on the new troop plan.

The Terrorist-Certified Chaplains Who Minister To Muslim Soldiers
Excerpt: Lost in all the coverage of accused Islamic terrorist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's penetration of the military's officer corps is a deeper problem within the military — its radical Muslim chaplain corps. One of the groups the Pentagon turns to for clerics to minister to its growing ranks of Muslim soldiers is the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council. The group was founded by presumed "moderate" Muslim leader Abdurahman Alamoudi, who described his endeavor as "an excellent opportunity to show my community we have people who are patriotic." » Bachmann on The B-Cast: A Conservative Call to Action

Black leaders urge census to change how it counts inmates
Excerpt: A coalition of African American leaders concerned about minorities being undercounted in the 2010 Census called Wednesday for inmates at federal and state prisons to be tallied in their home communities instead of the towns where they are incarcerated. Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League and chairman of a census advisory committee, said the practice now shortchanges communities in money and democratic representation. Census statistics are used to calculate the allocation of more than $478 billion in federal funds and to draw political boundaries. Noting that about 1.2 million of the nation's 40 million African Americans are in prison, Morial said, "What we have in the prison population issue is a built-in undercount."

Despite request, Murtha pushes back against retirement rumors
Could the shameless King of Pork be going? Sounds like he’s looking to cash in on the campaign funds he raised by delivering Pork–at our expense. Excerpt: Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) campaign has asked the Democrats’ reelection arm to write a memo detailing how he can use funds in his campaign account if he retires. The request from an assistant to Murtha’s Chief of Staff John Hugya was made in late October, after the Appropriations subcommittee Murtha chairs passed the defense-spending bill.

Individual Mandates: "You'll Buy it or Else"
Excerpt: The theory behind individual mandates is that insurance becomes more affordable when purchased by a larger, healthier group of applicants. Adding individuals to the risk pool who are less expensive to insure (and currently the least likely to buy it) would theoretically lower the cost for all those insured. But in practice, individual mandates have had a different effect on what people pay for health insurance, says Dr. Linda Halderman, a General Surgeon and policy adviser in the California State Senate.

DeMint promises to delay health bill, force Christmas Eve vote
While Kings of eternal evil, Yet darken the hills about, Thy part is with broken saber, To rise on the last redoubt; To fear not sensible failure, Nor covet the game at all, But fighting, fighting, fighting, Die, driven against the wall. -- The Kings, Louise Imogen Guiney

Health Care; Fix It Once, Fix It Right
Excerpt: Over the past few decades the advancements in the science and art of medicine have been phenomenal. In the year 2009 Americans have access to a fast, efficient medical system. It is important for us to keep in mind all the good that our current system provides. There are problems, yes, but every one of us personally knows someone who was diagnosed with a serious medical problem and began receiving treatment within hours. The lump was discovered on Tuesday; the operation was on Thursday. The American people benefit from thousands of new tools and techniques that were unimagined a few decades ago. This is nothing to be taken for granted. There are MRIs, CTs, artificial replacements, stints, angioplasties, colonoscopies, mammograms, radiation seeds, arthroscopic surgical techniques and vastly improved pharmaceuticals in use every day. These things didn’t just invent themselves. Highly educated, highly creative people conceived, refined and marketed those new medicines and tools. The results are obvious. The US life expectancy today stands at just under 79 years, almost 10 years more than in 1965. And, not only are Americans living longer we’re living better, with more pain-free, more active, and more productive lives. How many times have we heard the phrase “80 is the new 60, and 50 is the new 40”?

New Revelations In Climate-Gate Scandal
Excerpt: The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations. The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.

Cut the corporate income tax to create jobs
Excerpt: Want to create jobs? Make Arizona more attractive to businesses. Addressing a weak spot in the tax code, the first thing lawmakers should do is drastically reduce our corporate income tax rate. Arizona’s current rate of just under 7 percent is the third-highest rate in the western U.S. Because many corporations carry out numerous activities in different states, there is an incentive for companies to structure themselves to minimize their tax burdens. Arizona’s corporate income tax rate is a disincentive. From a profit-and-loss perspective, it makes more sense to be headquartered in Las Vegas, Denver, or Dallas than it does Phoenix. Arizona’s corporate tax system is structurally out of whack, as very few companies shoulder an inordinate tax burden. There were 50,000 corporate income taxpayers in 2006 (most recent data) with a liability of $820 million (next year the budget office is predicting only $500 million). But, because businesses with less than $50 in taxable income only pay $50 in corporate income taxes, an astonishing 68 percent of the filers (34,000) contributed only 0.2 percent of the total revenue ($1.7 million). The remaining $818 million is shouldered by only 16,000 companies; 146 of these companies contributed $575 million in corporate income taxes (65 percent of the total liability). That’s a $3.9 million tax bill for each company. No wonder so few companies headquarter here.

Democratic districts received nearly twice the amount of stimulus funds as GOP districts
Excerpt: “You would think that if the stimulus money was actually spent to create jobs, there would be more stimulus money spent in high unemployment states,” said Veronique de Rugy, a scholar at the Mercatus Center who produced the analysis. "But we don't find any correlation." The Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia is one of the nation's most respected economic and regulatory think tanks and has a Nobel prize-winning economist on staff. The econometric analysis was done using data provided by -- the government website devoted to tracking the stimulus data -- as well as a host of other government databases.

Democrats can't blame Bush for their troubles
Excerpt: But politically, the Democrats are in trouble. They are at one another's throats over health-care legislation that should be seen as one of the party's greatest triumphs. They are being held hostage by political narcissists and narrow slivers of their coalition. When Democrats make deals, they are accused of selling out. When they fail to make deals, they are accused of not reaching out. Moderates complain that their party has gone too far left. Progressives chortle bitterly at this, asking: What's left-wing about policies that shore up banks and protect drug companies?

Justice Department restrains lawyers in Panther probe
Excerpt: The Justice Department has told the federal attorneys who filed a civil complaint against the New Black Panther Party for disrupting a Philadelphia polling place last year not to cooperate with an investigation of the incident by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The commission last week subpoenaed at least two Justice Department lawyers and sought documents from the department to explain why the complaint was dismissed just as a federal judge was about to punish the New Black Panther Party and three of its members for intimidating voters.

A nice story for Christmas
Abandon baby finds rescuers.

Striking Suicide Bombers
Very funny British humor.

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