Monday, March 15, 2010

Political Digest for March 15, 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.

Posts may not be daily, as I’m just back from a business trip, and swamped.

Airline Charges
My bride made several purchases on the trip, and we were told at the counter that her bag was 58 pounds, 8 lbs. overweight. We could pay an additional $50, or take something out. We pulled our raincoats out of the side pocket. 50.5 lbs. “That good,” the agent said, slapping the destination tags on them, “Now please take them over to the bag screening area.” We complied, stopping only to stuff the coats back in the side pocket.

Change that would fix America
Left this essay on real reform to post while I was away. Feel free to share or comment.

Gibbs: By next Sunday, healthcare reform will be the 'law of the land'
They are going to take the best healthcare system in the world, and feed it feet-first into the wood chipper, to satisfy their collectivist fantasy that the state can more efficiently run all aspects of citizens’ lives. Excerpt: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the healthcare bill will pass by next weekend. "We'll have the votes when the House votes, I think, within the next week," Gibbs said on "Fox News Sunday." Gibbs added that those on next week's Sunday talk shows "will be talking about healthcare not as a presidential proposal but I think as the law of the land." President Barack Obama will look to campaign on the new healthcare law in midterm elections, Gibbs said.

Obama's final challenge: corralling votes
Excerpt: President Barack Obama's persuasive skills will be put to the test over the next week.
The commander-in-chief has given hundreds of speeches on healthcare reform, but the difference between a huge legislative success and a catastrophic failure will likely be determined in private conversations with lawmakers in the coming days. Based on the Democratic "no" votes piling up this month, it is clear Obama has a lot of calls to make. Still, the fact that Democrats' hopes of passing healthcare reform are still alive is somewhat remarkable. After Scott Brown's stunning win in Massachusetts nearly two months ago, the White House and congressional Democrats considered scaling back their health legislation. But Obama opted to double down, going full steam ahead with a comprehensive bill. And by pushing back a planned March 18 trip overseas this week, Obama signaled that the time to vote is near. Obama has at times rallied the public with rousing speeches on overhauling the nation's healthcare system. But what those speeches didn't accomplish is what he needs to do this week: Convince Democratic lawmakers who are leaning "no" to support the bill.

Scrambling for votes, Democrats face uphill climb to pass healthcare reform
Excerpt: House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. The list of Democratic members who haven't committed ranges widely, from liberal Reps. Michael Capuano (Mass.) and Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) to centrist Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Chris Carney (Pa.). Two committee chairmen -- Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) -- say they are firm nos and three others, Reps. John Spratt (D-S.C.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), are undecided.

Senate Health Bill Would Up Costs for Millions in Middle Class
Excerpt: A non-partisan study finds that ObamaCare will raise taxes on the middle class, a direct violation of his campaign promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less that $250,000 per year. The Senate health care bill crucial to saving President Obama’s signature domestic initiative will hit the wallets of a quarter of all Americans making less than $200,000 per year, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee that assessed the way the bill would hit taxpayers directly through new taxes and fees and indirectly through taxes levied on health care providers and passed on to consumers.

‘They Just Want This Over’
Excerpt: Sitting in an airport, on his way home to Michigan, Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat, is chagrined. “They’re ignoring me,” he says, in a phone interview with National Review Online. “That’s their strategy now. The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.” According to Stupak, that group of twelve pro-life House Democrats — the “Stupak dozen” — has privately agreed for months to vote ‘no’ on the Senate’s health-care bill if federal funding for abortion is included in the final legislative language. Now, in the debate’s final hours, Stupak says the other eleven are coming under “enormous” political pressure from both the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). “I am a definite ‘no’ vote,” he says. “I didn’t cave. The others are having both of their arms twisted, and we’re all getting pounded by our traditional Democratic supporters, like unions.”…

Pelosi to seek Senate ‘assurances’ before House health vote
Excerpt: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday said she will need “certain assurances” from Senate Democrats before the House votes on healthcare reform as early as next week. Pelosi did not say what those assurances would be, but acknowledged that extracting them would be necessary to counter lingering concerns from within her caucus that the Senate will not be able to pass a reconciliation bill. “With reconciliation, a simple majority, a constitutional majority, I think members are much more comfortable with the fact that this reconciliation will happen,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference. “Nonetheless, there are certain assurances that they want, and that we will get from [Senate Democrats] before I ask them to take the vote.”…

The Big Lie of Health Care Reform
Excerpt: One-sixth of the U.S. economy is threatened with a takeover by the federal government on the erroneous rationale that "tens of millions of people in the U.S. are without health care insurance, and therefore are being denied access to adequate health care." Unjust! Unfair! This is, of course, an absolute lie. Nor does some large number of people "die every day from lack of health insurance coverage." That too is a lie. Access to the health care providers (professional services) and medicine (products) of the best health care system in the world is already universal and available to every U.S. citizen, legal resident, illegal alien, prisoner, detainee, or visitor -- regardless of whether anyone is covered by any insurance policy or health plan. For heaven's sake, even the illegal aliens have figured out that anyone who walks into an emergency room is required by law (EMTALA) to be treated, regardless of the person's ability to pay. The Big Lie: Without health care insurance, there is no access to health care. Health care insurance coverage is but one method of paying for health care products and services. Doctors and hospitals are quite open to accepting cash, checks, or credit cards for their services rendered and have no problem with getting paid directly -- meaning they get their money right away, don't have to fill out and file mounds of bureaucratic paperwork with insurance companies, don't have to worry about what treatments are approved and reimbursable by the insurance companies, etc.

Pantano invades
Excerpt: One of the most famous Marines from the Iraq war is coming to Washington next month looking for new friends and money. The trip by North Carolinian Ilario Pantano will take him to the home April 13 of prominent Republican strategist Mary Matalin, reports special correspondent Rowan Scarborough. Mrs. Matalin's Threshold Editions published Mr. Pantano's 2006 memoir, "Warlord," which told of how the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks converted him from a Wall Street operative to a Marine Corps warrior. He led a platoon in the volatile Anbar province in Iraq and found himself accused of murder for shooting two insurgents. A military judge cleared Mr. Pantano, who then resigned his commission and started a new career as student, writer and conservative activist. Add congressional candidate to his portfolio. He is running in the May 4 Republican primary for the right to challenge Rep. Mike McIntyre, a popular seven-term North Carolina Democrat, in a district that usually votes for the Republican presidential candidate. The 7th District includes Fayetteville and Wilmington, and sits near the Army's Fort Bragg and the Marines' Camp Lejeune bases. Mr. Pantano hopes Mrs. Matalin can introduce him to a network of Republicans and fresh campaign cash.

UK ads banned for overstating climate change
Excerpt: Two government advertisements that use nursery rhymes to warn people of the dangers of climate change have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for exaggerating the potential harm.

The Granularity of Climate Models
Excerpt: As an engineer schooled in the slide rule era, I have been trying to educate myself about the nature of climate models. The details of the specific construction of the models have been hard to find. I am old enough that I have been through the evolution of computers and calculators from those earliest HP scientific models that cost $400 in 1972 dollars. Computers are not electronic brains, they are just very fast electronic slide rules and adding machines. So I want to figure out the thinking process behind the models.

Stats Say Kucinich may be Least Valuable Democrat
Excerpt: In December, I posted ratings for each Democratic Representative based on how they voted on 10 key agenda items in 2009. The idea was to see how each Democrat voted relative to the partisan slant of his district; a Democrat voting for the cap-and-trade bill in a Republican-leaning district would get quite a bit of credit for that, for instance, while one voting for the same measure in a district with a PVI of D+15 would get almost no credit for the vote since almost every Representative from such a district voted for the bill anyway. The analysis concluded that TN-6's Bart Gordon, who voted with the Democrats on 8 of 10 key agenda items in spite of coming from a R+13 district, had provided the most value to his party on key votes. (Unfortunately for Democrats, Gordon is retiring.) Artur Davis of AL-7, who has voted against several major agenda items because he is running for governor in Alabama, was the least valuable Democrat. The original version of the ratings built in an exception for what I termed "liberal nos": votes that a Democratic member cast against his party's agenda, but which he justified by stating that the policy under consideration was not liberal enough. We did not count the liberal no votes as yes votes -- we just threw them out, treating them as non-votes instead. But what if we don't build in an exception for the so-called "liberal no's" -- that is, simply take every vote at face value? It turns out, then, that Davis is no longer the least valuable Democrat. Instead, it is Dennis Kucinich, who voted against health care, the hate crimes bill, the budget, the cap-and-trade bill, and financial regulation -- all ostensibly from the left -- in spite of coming from the strongly Democratic Ohio 10th district near Cleveland.

Utah GOP Leader Resigns After Hot Tub Confession
Excerpt: Utah's House majority leader resigned from the Legislature Saturday, two days after acknowledging he paid a woman $150,000 to keep quiet about a nude hot-tubbing incident that took place a quarter century ago when she was a teenager. Republican Rep. Kevin Garn's Thursday night confession came in a speech before House colleagues and stunned this conservative state. On Saturday, he apologized in an e-mail to House Speaker David Clark for becoming a distraction. "After discussing this matter with my family, I have decided that it is in the best interests of them, my colleagues and the people of Utah," he wrote. Garn, 55, acknowledged the indiscretion with the legal minor immediately after the Legislature adjourned for the session. "Although we did not have any sexual contact, it was still clearly inappropriate - and it was my fault," he said from the House floor Thursday night.

Another symptom of the problem: Detroit school board President Otis Mathis can't write (seriously!)
Excerpt: It's bad enough that Detroit Public Schools (DPS) graduates a pathetic 1 in 4 students, the worst in the nation. That obscene graduation rate is only that high because DPS commits 'social promotion' - the practice of passing students onto the next grade who are not ready, a practice that DPS emergency financial manager Robert Bobb has just ended (Detroit Public Schools Finally Ends "Social Promotion" - Passing Students That Can't Read Their Diplomas). That same Robert Bobb has been fighting with the teachers union and with the Detroit school board for academic control of the district. The school board is led by Otis Mathis, who wrote a mass email last August: Do DPS control the Foundation or outside group? If an outside group control the foundation, then what is DPS Board row with selection of is director? Our we mixing DPS and None DPS row's, and who is the watch dog? And here's the beginning of an email to supporters a few days ago that started with this: If you saw Sunday's Free Press that shown Robert Bobb the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, move Mark Twain to Boynton which have three times the number seats then students and was one of the reason's he gave for closing school to many empty seats. Apparently being a Detroit school board president and having to compose written communications is so easy even a caveman can do it. The above examples are emails in raw, unedited form as per the Detroit News.

Greece rocked by riots as up to 60,000 people take to streets to protest against government
Eventually the collectivists run out of other people’s money to bribe their supporters. We are maybe 15 years away from this. Excerpt: Street clashes broke out between rioting youths and police in central Athens today as tens of thousands demonstrated during a nationwide strike against the cash-strapped government. Hundreds of masked and hooded youths punched and kicked motorcycle police, knocking several off their bikes, as police responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades. The violence spread after the end of the march to a nearby square, where police faced off with stone-throwing anarchists and suffocating clouds of tear gas sent patrons scurrying from open-air cafes.

Check out your Congress Critter

At Afghan outpost, Marines gone rogue or leading the fight against counterinsurgency?
Excerpt: DELARAM, AFGHANISTAN -- Home to a dozen truck stops and a few hundred family farms bounded by miles of foreboding desert, this hamlet in southwestern Afghanistan is far from a strategic priority for senior officers at the international military headquarters in Kabul. One calls Delaram, a day's drive from the nearest city, "the end of the Earth." Another deems the area "unrelated to our core mission" of defeating the Taliban by protecting Afghans in their cities and towns. U.S. Marine commanders have a different view of the dusty, desolate landscape that surrounds Delaram. They see controlling this corner of remote Nimruz province as essential to promoting economic development and defending the more populated parts of southern Afghanistan. The Marines are constructing a vast base on the outskirts of town that will have two airstrips, an advanced combat hospital, a post office, a large convenience store and rows of housing trailers stretching as far as the eye can see. By this summer, more than 3,000 Marines -- one-tenth of the additional troops authorized by President Obama in December -- will be based here. With Obama's July 2011 deadline to begin reducing U.S. forces looming over the horizon, the Marines have opted to wage the war in their own way.

Islamists Respond to Terror Cases with Denial
Excerpt: As homegrown terrorism grabbed headlines at the end of 2009, Islamist pressure groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim American Society (MAS), and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) felt the need to look as if they were responding forcefully. However, all they offered was spin and denial of the very radicalism that they themselves have helped breed. First we witnessed the typical smokescreen that attempts to paint Muslims as victims. For example, in a November 6 press release commenting on the Fort Hood massacre, Mahdi Bray of the MAS Freedom Foundation strongly condemned the actions of Major Nidal Hasan, but quickly segued into warnings about an anti-Muslim backlash: "Let us be cautious, however, in drawing conclusions based on the ethnicity of the perpetrator of this tragic incident. … The perpetuation of negativity in such instances often unwittingly serves as an equally unnecessary exacerbation of the atmosphere of hate, violence, and Islamophobia under which the Muslim community already exists." Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of CAIR, played a victim card of his own on November 15. Participating in a discussion on TV One's Washington Watch, Hooper asked, "Why can't the killer at Fort Hood just be a crazy guy? Don't take it out on American Muslims because you're upset about another issue." He then claimed that CAIR had received death threats since the shooting. "Are those terrorist threats or is it only a terrorist threat if a Muslim does it?" he added. More obfuscation followed the terror-related arrests of five Virginia Muslim men in Pakistan, as self-appointed Islamic spokesmen could not bring themselves to acknowledge fully the roots of radicalization taking place among America's Muslims. For example, at a December 9 press conference about the detentions, Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, did grant that a "problem" exists in the Muslim community, yet he remained in complete denial about its source: political Islam (Islamism). Particularly illuminating is Awad's statement that there are no "similarities or connection," ideological or otherwise, between the disappearance of the jihadist Somali youths from Minneapolis and the jihadist young men from Virginia. He was succeeded at the podium by MPAC's Haris Tarin, who did little more than pay lip service to the "problem" by calling for better Muslim community relations with law enforcement.

"Jihad Jamie" Released
Excerpt: Late last night, a Muslim convert from Leadville, Colorado, named Jamie Paulin-Ramirez was released from Irish police custody after being tied to an online Jihadist attempt to murder a Swedish cartoonist. A self-styled “Jihad Jane” from suburban Philadelphia, Colleen LaRose, was recently indicted in the same plot. A week ago, a New Jersey resident named Sharif Mobley, who previously worked in multiple nuclear power facilities, was arrested in Yemen in conjunction with a terrorist group. What’s going on? How is it that more than eight years after 9/11, terrorists are increasingly able to recruit converts inside the U.S.? The answer is the Internet.

Trusting Terrorists, Abandoning Troops
Excerpt: I recently returned from a week-long media tour in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some of our finest soldiers and sailors are tasked with a difficult and thankless job: guarding dangerous detainee enemy combatants captured in the course of the Global War on Terror. In the same week, Reps. Burton (R-Ind.) Rohrabacher (R-Cal.) and Gohmert (R-Tex.) presented Pentagon officials with 170,000 signatures from Americans asking that courts-martial proceedings against three Navy SEALs be dropped. The charges: after the SEALs apprehended Ahmed Hashim Abed, the al Qaeda terrorist wanted for the torture and murder of four American contractors in Fallujah in 2004, one of them allegedly punched him, while the other two allegedly made false statements about the incident. Although the personnel at Gitmo and these Navy SEALs are serving their nation at opposite ends of the globe, an unfortunate and troubling thread connects them. In both settings, our government has deliberately decided to overlook the exemplary job that these military professionals have done in service to the United States, under extremely difficult circumstances. Instead, our government has chosen to give the benefit of the doubt to the enemies of our nation and the critics of its self-defense, by prosecuting the SEALs who risk their own lives to apprehend jihadists, and pushing the false narrative that has come to define detention operations at Gitmo.

Muslim child brides on rise
Excerpt: Federal immigration officials say there’s little they can do to stop “child brides” from being sponsored into Canada by much older husbands who wed them in arranged marriages abroad. Top immigration officials in Canada and Pakistan say all they can do is reject the sponsorships of husbands trying to bring their child-brides to Canada. The men have to reapply when the bride turns 16. The marriages are permitted under Sharia Law. Muslim men, who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents return to their homeland to wed a “child bride” in an arranged marriage in which a dowry is given to the girl’s parents. Officials said some of the brides can be 14 years old or younger and are “forced” to marry. The practice occurs in a host of countries including: Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Lebanon. Canadian visa officer Steve Bulmer said in classified documents he refused to allow one Pakistani man to sponsor his 15-year-old bride in August 2009. “I can find no section (of law) that states the marriage is ‘invalid’ or ‘void,” Bulmer wrote in e-mails obtained by lawyer Richard Kurland under Access of Information. “I am afraid the age does not invalidate the marriage even if it is illegal to marry.” Abdul Hameed, of the Canadian embassy in Islamabad, said child marriages are not valid in Canada. “A child marriage is punishable but it does not render the marriage invalid,” Hameed said. “We are refusing such application on grounds the marriage will not be valid as per Canadian laws.”

Afghanistan Blog

Irish Blessing

WH Sources: Help Us Rahm, You're Our Only Hope
Satire. Salty language alert.

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