Saturday, January 30, 2010

Political Digest January 30, 2010

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.

Despite testy exchanges, GOPs applaud Obama for meeting
Excerpt: House Republican leaders largely praised President Barack Obama after they engaged in a testy 90-minute exchange with the commander-in-chief on Friday. Like a boxer after a slugfest, GOP officials expressed respect for the president for being straightforward with them. But it's unclear whether the meeting, or Obama's pledge to hold monthly meetings with the minority, will overcome deep partisan divides that have left both sides mistrustful of the other's intentions. House GOP lawmakers left their meeting with Obama torn between hopeless frustration and renewed pride on Friday. On one hand, they disagreed with many of Obama's claims. On the other, they believe they made a step toward shedding the "party of no" label.

A Lobe Divided Will Not Stand
Excerpt: Barack Obama tiptoed Wednesday night along the seam that bifurcates the Democratic Party's brain. The seam separates that brain's John Quincy Adams lobe from its Sigmund Freud lobe. The dominant liberal lobe favors Adams' dictum that politicians should not be "palsied by the will of our constituents." It exhorts Democrats to smack Americans with what is good for them -- health care reform, carbon rationing, etc. -- even if the dimwits do not desire it. The other lobe whispers Freud's reality principle: Restrain your id -- the pleasure principle and the impulse toward immediate gratification. Settle for deferred and diminished but achievable results. Obama was mostly in Adams' mode Wednesday. His nods to reality were, however, notable. Such speeches must be listened to with a third ear that hears what is not said. Unmentioned was organized labor's "card check" legislation to abolish workers' rights to secret ballots in unionization elections. Obama's perfunctory request for a "climate bill" -- the term "cap-and-trade" was as absent as the noun "Guantanamo" -- was not commensurate with his certitude that life on Earth may drown in rising seas.

Divided Democrats shift strategy Thank you, Massachusetts. Excerpt: President Obama's State of the Union address seems to have done little to clarify the way forward for his agenda, as congressional Democrats are prepared to shift their focus to the economy but remain unsure how to complete health care or lift themselves out of the electoral doldrums. "The White House on Thursday signaled the outlines of its strategy for breaking the partisan logjam holding up President Obama's agenda," the New York Times reports, "saying Democrats would move quickly to underline their commitment to fixing the broken economy and to build an election-year case against Republicans if they do not cooperate." Rahm Emanuel tells the paper the White House hopes the Senate takes up a jobs bill next week, then Obama's proposal for a new fee on banks and then the financial regulatory reform bill before returning to health care. Politico observes "it's clear health care is already falling to the back of the legislative line, behind the Democrats' feverish new focus on jobs and the economy. Health care reform didn't even make the cut when ... Chuck Schumer ticked off the party's priorities Thursday." The Washington Post writes that "Democrats remained in disarray Thursday about how to move forward, with at least some pointing at the White House as the cause of the legislative standstill gripping Capitol Hill." On health care, Politico reports "the administration seems to have decided that they need to stop talking process and start emphasizing substance. ... Indeed, many Democrats feel that the relentless coverage of how reform is getting done- including legislative deal making and intraparty conflict - has cost the legislation much of its public support." Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid both vow that the party will still do health care, but there remains no consensus on how. The Wall Street Journal quotes the chairman of PhRMA saying "the group 'hasn't withdrawn support' for the version of health-care reform passed by the Senate, but that the Massachusetts election has 'thrown everything up in the air a bit.'"

Estimating The Fiscal Gap Using Generational Accounting
The good news for me is that I’m the leading edge of the Boomers and my health is bad. Excerpt: Taking into consideration all of the government's financial liabilities and projected future tax receipts, the current fiscal gap in the United States is estimated by Jagadeesh Gokhale of the Cato Institute and Kent Smetters of the University of Pennsylvania at $77 trillion -- more than five times the United States' present gross domestic product (GDP). In order to close a gap of this size, the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) payroll tax -- currently 15.3 percent -- would need to be more than doubled immediately and permanently. To understand how this figure can be so large, consider: There are now roughly 33 million adults in the United States receiving retirement benefits. When the 78 million baby boomers retire, there will be more than twice the number of retirees receiving benefits than there are currently. While there will be a significant increase in those dependent on government programs like Social Security and Medicare when the boomers retire, there will only be about 2.7 workers per retiree to help pay the benefits -- down from 3.28 workers per retiree in 1985 and 3.43 in 2000.

A New Approach to Health Reform
But the Democrats—the party of No—will say “NO. This doesn’t reward Trial Lawyers or create more public bureaucracies and union employees, the prime goal of ObamaCare. Excerpt: Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin has applied the food stamps idea to health reform. In his Road Map for America's Future, reintroduced this month, Americans would take refundable tax credits - $2,300 for singles and $5,700 for families - and choose private insurance. All insurance plans that are licensed in a particular state would be eligible, and each company would be free to set its own premiums. Low-income individuals would get extra tax credits so they could buy the same kind of health care as other Americans. Medicare would remain the same for current beneficiaries and for those 55 and older when they reach 65. But when those born in 1955 or later become eligible for Medicare at age 65, their plan would change. They would receive $11,000, adjusted for inflation, to buy a Medicare certified plan. Those with lower incomes or with more serious health conditions would receive more funding. Under Mr. Ryan's plan, health insurance companies could offer high-deductible plans carrying lower premiums combined with health savings accounts, or more traditional managed care or fee-for-service plans. Persons with high-cost chronic illnesses, such as hemophilia or diabetes, would be placed in special affordable state high risk pools, with subventions paid by the government. On Wednesday, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote to Mr. Ryan to tell him that this plan reduced health care costs and the federal deficit. He said: "Under the proposal, national health expenditures would almost certainly be lower than they would under the alternative fiscal scenario. Federal spending for health care would be substantially lower, relative to the amount in that scenario, for working-age people and the Medicare population." Another approach along the lines of food stamps is the Empowering Patients First Act, H.R. 3400, sponsored by Georgia Representative Tom Price, a physician and chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, which seeks to insure more people and cut costs. Like the Ryan bill, it would insure more people by letting individuals take tax deductions for health insurance premiums that they pay, just as employers do. Workers with employer-paid insurance could retain it. Low-income individuals would be given refundable tax credits in advance to help them pay premiums. States would be required to set up subsidized risk pools for those with chronic conditions who might otherwise be uninsurable. The most innovative aspect of the Price bill allows - but does not require - employers to offer a monetary sum to workers so that they can purchase whatever insurance plan they choose in the open market, similar to defined contribution pension plans. Employers would still enjoy the same tax benefit for providing coverage, tax-free to the employee, but workers would be able to choose from an entire range of options, policies that they could carry with them when they change jobs. Now employees are generally limited to one plan, sponsored by their employer, and lose that coverage when they change jobs. The contrast with the Democrats' health care plan could not be starker. Rather than turn the insurance industry into a federally-controlled public utility, the Republican plans would allow all Americans, including recipients of Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, to shop around and purchase health insurance on the open market - just like food stamp recipients take their debit cards to grocery stores.

SOTU: Obama's dream dead in less than 15 hours
Excerpt: Less than 15 hours after President Obama promised a three-year freeze on non-defense discretionary spending, Senate Democrats went and killed the dream. With their 43 "no" votes, they blocked a bipartisan provision on Thursday that would have allowed only 1 percent spending growth in the categories President Obama intended. Without even giving Republicans a chance to obstruct, congressional Democrats did it themselves. They repudiated not only the president's spending freeze and his call to fiscal responsibility, but also nearly every positive hope he expressed in his State of the Union Address for change in Washington. For example, Obama called for an end to obstruction of anything that can't get 60 votes in the Senate. He also denounced the "perpetual campaign" into which American politics has devolved. But by blocking a bipartisan spending freeze that could get only 56 Senate votes, liberals in Congress have ensured that the next nine months will be a perpetual campaign

New twist in UEA climate change row
Hiding the truth. Excerpt: Norwich's flagship university was at the centre of a new row today after it emerged it broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public scrutiny in the climate change row over stolen emails. The reputation of the University of East Anglia's world renowned climatic research unit (CRU)was shaken to the core last year after emails posted on the internet from researchers including its director Prof Phil Jones appeared to suggest ways of avoiding freedom of information requests together with a “trick” to explain away an apparent fall in global temperatures.

Vietnam’s Covert War Against Overseas Buddhists
Ungrateful Commie bastards, considering we now know the Buddhist protests against Diem were on behalf of the North. Excerpt: Vietnam has waged a brutal overt and covert war against its Buddhist population for decades. In 1981, they officially outlawed their country’s oldest and original Buddhist Church, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). The communists attacked the 2000-year-old tradition and created an alternative state-controlled Buddhist Church

McConnell: End Federal Gag Order on Medicare Cuts
Do we still have the First Amendment? Did I miss something?

Russia's first stealth fighter makes maiden flight
But, but, President Wobbly stopped production of the F-22, I thought? Excerpt: Russia's first stealth fighter intended to match the latest U.S. design made its maiden flight Friday, boosting the country's efforts to modernize its rusting Soviet-built arsenals and retain its lucrative export market. The Sukhoi T-50's flight comes nearly two decades after the first prototype of the U.S. F-22 Raptor took to the air, and Russian officials said it will take another five years for the new jet to enter service. Still, the flight marked a major step in Russia's efforts to burnish the faded glory of its aviation industries and strengthen a beleaguered military. The sleek twin-engined jet closely resembling the Raptor flew for 47-minutes from an airfield at Sukhoi's production plant in the Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur on Friday. Development of the so-called fifth-generation fighter has been veiled in secrecy and no images of it had been released before the flight.

Obituary: Dr. Teresa J. Vietti: pioneer in children's cancer
I include this for the bold throw-away line. One of the tens of thousands of forgotten Communist murders we fought against. Excerpt: Teresa and Ardel Vietti were twins who went their separate ways to become medical doctors. Teresa became an internationally known specialist in children's cancer at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children's Hospital. Ardel became a surgeon and a missionary in Vietnam. She was kidnapped by the Viet Cong in 1962 and hasn't been seen since. Dr. Teresa J. Vietti died Monday (Jan. 25, 2010) at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in Town and Country. She died of natural causes and had been in declining health for months, Washington University officials said in announcing her death. She was 82 and lived in Webster Groves.

Good catch from a Marine buddy
From the State of the Union address..."We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution, the notion that we're all created equal..." Gee, that's neat... a great part of the heritage from our Founders. One tiny detail.... it doesn't say that in the Constitution, it says that in the Declaration of Independence. You'd think a Law School graduate and supposed constitutional scholar might have known that. Personally, I seriously doubt that he has any idea of what James Madison, author of our Constitution, wrote, to wit- "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." Oh well, I know, I'm just picky, picky, picky. –Del

Health Care Reform Vaporizes Obama Presidency
Excerpt: In the fledgling days of the personal computer industry, software vendors frequently announced products that were not yet ready for release. The term "vaporware" was coined to describe such software. Most of these products never reached the marketplace; some that were sold to the public should not have been. The recent health care reform effort was nothing more than a modern-day, political version of vaporware -- or, more aptly, VaporCare. The VaporCare bill never reached a point where it was ready for "release." In software terminology, the legislation was nothing but "spaghetti code." It was written by dozens of lawyers and congressional staffers. There was no guiding objective to the legislation other than "we must pass something quickly." No one, including the various writers of the bill, the Congress, or President Obama, had a comprehensive understanding of the legislation. The bill was a "moving target," changing whenever criticisms arose, decision-makers met, or vote-buying was required. Few of the ad hoc changes had anything to do with improving the quality of health care. As stated in "The Legend of Bagger Obama": At the end, there was no discernible logic behind the plan. Inconsistencies, deals, falsified data and outright lies were evident to anyone willing to look. Despite the problems and unpopularity, healthcare moved forward not unlike an ancient pagan ritual. Congressional Democrats [were willing to sacrifice] the best healthcare system in the world and the American taxpayer to their God, Bagger Obama.

Hanged at dawn: Iran executes two men arrested in presidential election unrest for 'waging war against God'
Excerpt: Two anti-government activists were executed in Iran today. In a crackdown on opposition supporters, officials said the two were hanged after being found guilty of waging war against God, trying to overthrow the Islamic establishment and being members of armed groups. Five others involved in protests over June's presidential election were sentenced to die.

Bin Laden blasts US for climate change
I started to list this as satire, but discovered it’s apparently true. Bin Laden is the new ally of bin Lyin (Al Gore’s al Qaeda name). Excerpt: Osama bin Laden sought to draw a wider public into his fight against the United States in a new message Friday, dropping his usual talk of religion and holy war and focusing instead on an unexpected topic: global warming.
The al-Qaida leader blamed the United States and other industrialized nations for climate change and said the only way to prevent disaster was to break the American economy, calling on the world to boycott U.S. goods and stop using the dollar

Administration drops plans to try alleged 9/11 conspirators in N.Y.C.
Another step towards sanity we may owe Massachusetts. But here’s my plan. Put KSM and I on a small Navy ship. I’ll try him, convict him and drop him over the side myself, all in secret to avoid giving him a platform, and his buddies a time and target to make a splash killing of Americans. No charge for my services. Just doing a good deed like the Boy Scout I once was. Excerpt: The Obama administration has abandoned its plan to put Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, on trial in Lower Manhattan, according to administration officials. The reversal marks the latest setback for an administration that has been buffeted at every turn as it seeks to close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And without the backdrop of Ground Zero for a trial, the administration will also lose some of the rich symbolism associated with its attempt to forge a new approach to handling high-value al-Qaeda detainees. "New York is out," said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the decision had not yet been officially announced. "We're considering other options."

The handling of the Christmas Day bombing suspect: the scandal grows Seriously, it’s not too late to fix this. Someone fetch me a slant board, and old rag, some rope and a couple of gallons of water. Excerpt: The real scandal surrounding the failed Christmas Day airline bombing was not the fact that a terrorist got on a plane -- that can happen to any administration, as it surely did to the Bush administration -- but what happened afterward when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was captured and came under the full control of the U.S. government. After 50 minutes of questioning him, the Obama administration chose, reflexively and mindlessly, to give the chatty terrorist the right to remain silent. Which he immediately did, undoubtedly denying us crucial information about al-Qaeda in Yemen, which had trained, armed and dispatched him. We have since learned that the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab had been made without the knowledge of or consultation with (1) the secretary of defense, (2) the secretary of homeland security, (3) the director of the FBI, (4) the director of the National Counterterrorism Center or (5) the director of national intelligence (DNI). The Justice Department acted not just unilaterally but unaccountably. Obama's own DNI said that Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated by the HIG, the administration's new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group.

Stop the Trial of Geert Wilders
Europe and Canada don’t have the First Amendment. Excerpt: What started as a trial against Geert Wilders for alleged Islamophobia has nearly turned into its opposite: a historical case about the message of the Quran. The Amsterdam court trying the controversial Dutch politician is now preoccupied with the question of whether this book, sacred to more than a billion believers, can be compared to one of the most vile publications in the history of Western civilization—Hitler's "Mein Kampf." What could possibly go wrong? In his writing and speeches, Mr. Wilders has found these two works to be similar in terms of their anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred, and has thus called for a publishing ban on the Quran similar to the one in place for "Mein Kampf." This is what triggered Mr. Wilders's prosecution for discriminatory and insulting remarks against Muslims and Islam. The Dutch politician, though, denies having insulted Muslims. He insists his focus is on radical Islam and the Quran, which he considers to be not only a religious text but also a political pamphlet encouraging Muslims to discriminate against and, if necessary, kill Jews, Christians, apostates and other unbelievers. That's why Mr. Wilders claims the right to criticize and condemn Islam. Following complaints brought by mostly Muslim and radical leftist activists, Amsterdam's district attorney in 2008 at first found no legal basis for prosecuting Mr. Wilders. Prosecutors were forced to change course only after an activist appeals court last year ordered Mr. Wilders's prosecution—basically condemning the politician before any trial could even begin and before Mr. Wilders had a chance to defend himself. The court's unusual intervention illustrates the Dutch confusion about the conflict between two essential rights: the right to free speech and the right to protection from discrimination.

Uighurs returned to China 'disappear' says rights group
Maybe we should outsource the War on Terror to China. Excerpts: The Uighurs left Xinjiang after deadly fighting in July. China must account for the whereabouts of ethnic Uighurs forcibly repatriated from Cambodia, a US-based rights group has said. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said such groups had "disappeared into a black hole" on their return to China. The Uighurs fled to Cambodia after mass ethnic riots in China in July. Beijing has referred to them as criminals. In December, a group of 20 Uighurs were put on a plane to China despite opposition from the UN and US.

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