Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Political Digest March 10, 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.

I will be traveling on business through the weekend, so may not have net access or time to post items.

Healthcare: I can’t make it any easier for you
Excerpt: Go here. Enter your zipcode. Your Congressman’s name and phone number will appear. Call him and tell him to vote against the Senate’s health care plan. How hard can that be?

Meet the 18 House Dems whose votes matter most on health care
Excerpt: When health care reform passed the House in November, the vote was 220-215. Since that time, three Democrats who voted “yes” are no longer in the House (two resigned, one died). Also, the sole Republican voting “yes” has announced he will vote “no” when the Senate bill is brought to the House. One Democrat who voted "no" -- Rep. Eric Massa, N.Y. -- has also resigned. Moreover, as many as a dozen Democrats who voted “yes” on the House version say they will vote “no” on the Senate version because it lacks language to prevent taxpayer subsidies for abortion coverage. Included in this group are Reps. Bart Stupak (Mich.), Jim Oberstar (Minn.), Marion Berry (Ark.) and Dan Lipinksi (Ill.). UPDATE: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., who voted for the House bill in November, said last month that he would vote "no" on the Senate bill. When you do the math, Democrats probably have only about 205 votes to pass health care reform. With four empty House seats, they will need 216 to guarantee passage. Democratic leaders will be working furiously to twist the arms of the 39 Democrats (38 are still Democrats) who voted “no” last time. Their names are listed below, and the ones who might still flip are listed in red.

“Socialized Medicine is the Keystone to the Arch of the Socialist State” –Vladimir Lenin (D-Chicago).

Hospital system failing pensioner
Coming soon to a hip near you, thanks to government-run healthcare. Excerpt: Melbourne pensioner Paulina Holmer survived a Japanese concentration camp and now the 70-year-old is fighting Victoria's health system for a better quality of life.
In constant pain but unable to make it onto the waiting list for a hip replacement, Mrs. Holmer is one of the silent sufferers as politicians wrestle over the future of Australia's hospital system. The former prisoner of war was referred by her GP to Maroondah Hospital for a hip replacement 12 months ago but says she has not been put forward for surgery. "I tell you there is no such thing as a waiting list, doesn't exist, it's a lie," she said.

Obama launches attack on health insurance companies
President Wobbly has found a healthcare whipping boy, so if you have mutual funds with insurance stock in your 401k/IRA (which is likely) you are going to take a hit. An AP survey said that health insurers were down to a 2% profit margin, ranked 35th in large industries. Insurance costs are high because they have to pay out a lot, to cover both the billions the trial lawyers/litigation industry (which is more profitable than insurance!) heaps on healthcare plus the cost of the mandates that politicians pile on, giving favored groups a benefit that someone else has to pay for. But this BS works because of the level of economic ignorance among the public. Excerpt: The White House is mounting a stinging, sustained broadside against health insurance rate increases as President Obama and his aides enter what they hope will be the final stretch of a year-long political war over health-care reform. Obama and his health secretary staged a two-pronged attack Monday in a stern letter to health insurance chief executives and a speech in which the president castigated insurance companies 22 times. "How much higher do premiums have to rise," he demanded, "before we do something about it?"

Undecided committee chairmen add to pressure on healthcare reform vote
Excerpt: A handful of House committee chairmen are either undecided about or plan to reject the healthcare reform bill that is expected to be voted on as early as next week.
The prospect of several panel chairmen voting against the healthcare bill comes as the White House and Democratic leaders are ramping up their efforts to attract the necessary votes to move the Senate-passed bill. The White House wants the House to clear the bill by March 18 and then have the upper chamber amend the measure through reconciliation. A survey conducted by The Hill of more than 100 possible Democratic defectors shows that President Barack Obama and House Democrats have a lot of persuading to do over the next week and a half. Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) are firm “no”s on the bill, according to their offices. Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.), Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) are undecided.

Massa blasts Democrats, Emanuel; talks about New Year’s Eve incident
Rahm’s from Chicago—he’ll take this as a compliment. Excerpt: Rep. Eric Massa resigned on Monday, but he didn’t go quietly. The freshman Democrat from New York lambasted House leaders and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on the way out the door before officially resigning at 5 p.m. Massa appears set to continue the talk; he’ll appear Tuesday on Tea Party favorite Glenn Beck’s program on Fox, according to a tweet by Beck. Massa’s edgy comments about Emanuel drew the most attention. Massa called Emanuel “the son of the devil’s spawn” during his Sunday radio show and told a story about a naked Emanuel angrily confronting him in the congressional gym’s shower. Emanuel was angry that Massa was not going to support the president’s budget, according to Massa. “Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?” Massa said. Massa had fought with Emanuel since the 2006 election. “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote,” Massa said on the radio show. “He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.”

Amendment favors Puerto Rico in fight over rum excise tax
Your tax dollars at work—tell me someone’s hand isn’t in the till. Excerpt: A lobbying fight over Caribbean rum subsidies could come to a head this week if Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) offers an amendment to jobs legislation that benefits Puerto Rico and rum producers like Bacardi at the expense of the U.S. Virgin Islands and a rival rum maker. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico receive subsidies from the United States based on excise taxes paid by rum producers. Payouts are based on where the liquor is produced, and often benefit the companies themselves. But LeMieux wants to base the payments on population, a change that would give Puerto Rico a greater share of the subsidy and potentially derail efforts by the Virgin Islands to attract a Bacardi competitor to relocate there. Roughly 4 million people live in Puerto Rico, versus the 100,000 who live on the Virgin Islands. More than 90 percent of the $500 million in annual payments would go to Puerto Rico if the LeMieux amendment is successful. The split now is closer to 80-20. The Virgin Islands’ share would increase under the current subsidy payment system, however, as more distillers move there.

DHS corrects report that overstated ICE deportations under Obama
Excerpt: Months after reporting that the number of illegal immigrants removed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased 47 percent during President Obama's first year in office, the Department of Homeland Security on Monday corrected the record, saying the actual increase in those deported and "voluntary departures" was 5 percent.

New poll shows Democrats losing ground on national security
Excerpt: After closing the so-called "national security gap" in the 2006 and 2008 elections, congressional Democrats are losing ground on the issue, according to a new poll done by the Democratic firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. (The survey was done for Democracy Corps and Third Way.) Asked which party would do a better job on national security, 50 percent of likely voters chose Republicans while 33 percent opted for Democrats. Those numbers compare unfavorably for Democrats to Greenberg numbers in May of 2009 when likely voters were deeply divided on the question with 43 percent choosing Republicans and 41 percent Democrats. Even more concerning for the party in advance of the 2010 midterm election is that the erosion between the May 2009 and March 2010 was largest among political independents who now favor Republicans by a 56 percent to 20 percent margin. The reason for the slippage? "Historical doubts about the Democratic Party on national security show signs of reviving as many voters worry the president and his Administration are not dealing forcefully enough with terrorist suspects," according to Greenberg. To that end, a slim majority (51 percent) disapprove of President Obama's handling of the "prosecution and interrogation of terrorism suspects" while 46 percent of likely voters said they felt less confident about the Obama Administration's ability to deal with the terrorist threat following the attempted bombing on Christmas Day. Greenberg's advice to Democrats is to avoid arguing the terrorism and national security issues on "constitutional principles" but rather focus on the "broader context of the Obama administration's successful efforts over the past year to take the fight to the terrorists." Greenberg's numbers land less than two months after Democrats lost a Senate special election in Massachusetts, a Republican victory that strategists for Sen. Scott Brown acknowledged was due in large part to his focus on the Obama administration's plan to grant trials to accused terrorists in civilian courts. Given Democrats' dismal numbers on the economy at the moment, any struggle on national security issues -- an area where the party seemed to have found a way to fight Republicans to a draw -- is doubly concerning with election day rapidly approaching.

A Better Solution
President Obama last week sent a letter to congressional leaders indicating his support for including $50 million to fund demonstration projects to test medical malpractice case alternatives such as health courts. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius already has $23 million that she is preparing to hand out in grants for this purpose. But are health courts the solution to the nation's medical malpractice difficulties, asks the National Journal? What are the best ideas for solving the problem of defensive medicine, and how significant is defensive medicine to lowering health care costs in the country? According to John C. Goodman, President, CEO and the Kellye Wright Fellow of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), President Obama has no solution to the malpractice problem. The NCPA, has developed a very radical solution -- one that would get victims compensated quickly, regardless of fault, and erect economic incentives to reduce adverse medical outcomes, whether or not they involve malpractice, says Goodman: Basically, the family of any patient who experiences an unexpected (iatrogenic) hospital death would receive a check for, say, $250,000 (or maybe even $500,000) provided they waive in advance their common law right to file a tort claim. The insurers who pay off on these episode-specific policies would then become the monitors of doctor behavior and hospital quality. Those with lower mortality rates (for whatever reason) would pay lower premiums and therefore be able to charge lower fees to patients.

Friendly Fire
Excerpt: Reports have surfaced that Pennsylvania Democrats are in favor of naming the iconic Philadelphia Navy Shipyard after the recently-deceased Congressman Jack Murtha. I have just one question for those who favor of such a preposterous idea --- such as Congressman Bob Brady: “Hi. I’m Earth. Have we met?” On what planet are these people living? Yes, naming the venerable shipyard ---one that played a decisive role in the Allies’ victory in World War II --- after a man who flagrantly disregarded that old document called The Constitution for his own political benefit seems like a swell idea. A Vietnam veteran, Murtha knew firsthand how difficult fighting could be on both the battlefield and homefront. One would think a war as controversial as Vietnam, in which soldiers became targets of venomous slurs and unfair accusations by the public and elected officials, would have taught Big Jack the lessons of patience, humility and honor. One would be wrong. Murtha was one of the leading critics of the Iraq War, advocating a complete withdrawal. Fine. We should have no problem with that, as America is still (nominally) a free country, and Murtha is entitled to his opinion. But he inexcusably crossed the line when he accused U.S. Marines of war crimes, referring to them as “murderers” engaged in “cold blooded” killing after an incident in the Iraqi town of Haditha.

Stimulus or Sedative? By Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said "five," Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. "The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg."
That same principle applies today. The fact that politicians call something a "stimulus" does not make it a stimulus. The fact that they call something a "jobs bill" does not mean there will be more jobs. What have been the actual consequences of all the hundreds of billions of dollars that the government has spent? The idea behind the spending is that it will cause investors to invest, lenders to lend and employers to employ. That was called "pump priming." To get a pump going, people put a little water into it, so that the pump will start pumping out a lot of water. In other words, government money alone was never supposed to restore the economy by itself. It was supposed to get the private sector spending, lending, investing and employing. The question is: Is that what has actually happened? The stimulus spending started back in 2008, during the Bush administration, and has continued under the Obama administration, so it has had plenty of time to show what it can do. After the Bush administration's stimulus spending in 2008, business spending on equipment and software fell-- not rose-- by 28 percent. Spending on durable goods fell 22 percent…. Why aren't the banks lending, with all that money sitting there gathering dust? You don't lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back-- either on time or at all. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians are coming up with all sorts of bright ideas for borrowers not to have to pay back what they borrowed and for lenders not to be able to foreclose on people who are months behind on their mortgage payments…. None of this is new. What is going on is what went on during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Money circulated more slowly during the 1930s than during the 1920s. Banks lent out a smaller proportion of the money they had on hand during the 1930s than they did in the 1920s. Anti-business rhetoric and anti-business policies did not create business confidence then, any more than it does now. Economists have estimated that the New Deal prolonged the depression by several years.

Who Should Pay the Piper?
The problem is, every government program creates an energized interest group that fights to defend it, making cutbacks almost impossible. We will be Greece in a decade, and in painful collapse in two. Excerpt: Greece this past weekend saw the worst rioting since the debt crisis began. After Athens had announced new tax hikes and budget cuts to reduce a deficit of 13 percent of gross domestic product, mobs drove guards from Greece's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and attacked police. In our own country, students, teachers and administrators at UC-Berkeley held a "Strike and Day of Action to Defend Education" to demand more money from taxpayers -- for themselves. How badly are they suffering? According to Peter Robinson of Hoover Institution, California spends $13,000 per student in the state system, compared to $6,000 in New York. Yet riots in Greece and demonstrators in California do portend a time of troubles. For the budget cuts and tax hikes needed to keep the welfare states of Europe operating as populations age and fewer children are born will be staggering and endless. And, in the U.S., California is where we all are headed. Nevada, Arizona and New Jersey are staring at budget gaps of 25 percent. New York and Illinois are not far behind. Michigan has an unemployment rate of 14 percent. Detroit is the quintessential sick city. Republicans may get by this fall surfing an anti-government wave. But they will soon have to reveal where exactly they propose to cut.

Dazzled by Asia: When will China lead the world? Don't hold your breath.
Excerpt: During his trip to Asia in November, Barack Obama seemed strangely mute. Unlike Bill Clinton, who criticized China's human rights record in front of then-president Jiang Zemin, Obama largely avoided the topic of rights. In Singapore, despite pressure from human rights activists, the president deferred to pressure to not release a statement calling for the freeing of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In Japan, the president worked valiantly to massage local sentiments, bowing deeply to Emperor Akihito - and drawing flak back in the United States from conservative critics for appearing weak. More than any recent American president, Obama displayed deep deference to his Asian counterparts. He did so, in part, because, like many Americans, he has become convinced that this will be Asia's century, and that the United States must begin to accommodate itself to this stark new geopolitical fact. A recent report by the US National Intelligence Council concluded that the world is witnessing the rise of "major global players similar to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the early 20th century... [and they] will transform the geopolitical landscape." Major media outlets covered the president as if he was some kind of Dickensian vagrant, appealing to his increasingly powerful creditors in China for leniency. "Obama's trip reveals a relationship with a strangely lopsided quality to it," wrote longtime China specialist Jonathan Fenby, in one typical example of the coverage…. So, too, since World War II the United States has been, for many foreign publics, the nation looked up to in this way. Even at the worst moments, such as the period after 9/11 in which the Bush administration created the prison at Guantanamo Bay and allowed torture and other questionable tactics, I have rarely met anyone, in any country, who wanted to move to China, or India, or even Japan, rather than the United States. Foreigners may want to spend a few years in China or India or Indonesia, to see the dynamism of these places, but few, if any, have plans to become Chinese, Indian, or Indonesian citizens. Perhaps one day China or Indonesia or India will draw these migrants, who would come seeking the same dreams and openness as they do today in the United States. But it won't be soon - and it might not even be this century.

China's Challenge
Excerpt: China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) remains in session. As usual, the meeting has provided Beijing an opportunity to highlight the past year’s successes and lay out the problems that lie ahead. On the surface at least, China has shown remarkable resilience in the face of global economic crisis. It has posted enviable gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates while keeping factories running (if at a loss) and workers employed. But the economic crisis has exposed the inefficiencies of China’s export-dependent economic model, and the government has had to pump money into a major investment stimulus package to make up for the net drain the export sector currently is exacting on the economy. For years, China’s leaders have recognized the risks of the current economic model. They have debated policy ideas to shift from the current model to one that is more sustainable in the long run and incorporates a more geographically equitable growth and a hefty rise in domestic consumption. While there is general agreement on the need for change, top leaders disagree on the timing and method of transition. This has stirred internal debates, which can lead to factionalization as varying interests align to promote their preferred policy proscription. Entrenched interests in urban areas and the export industry — along with constant fears of triggering major social upheaval — have left the government year after year making only slight changes around the margins. Often, Beijing has taken one step forward only to take two back when social instability and/or institutional resistance emerge. And this debate becomes even more significant now, as China deals simultaneously with the aftermath of the global economic slowdown and preparations for a leadership transition in 2012.

Census hiring blitz of 750,000 to cut jobless rate, offer boost to Obama
Excerpt: The U.S. Census Bureau expects to add up to 750,000 workers to its payroll by May, a hiring binge that could knock the unemployment rate down by as much as a half-point. The once-a-decade census is coming at the best possible time for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, who have taken political lumps for more than a year over a jobless rate that stands at 9.7 percent. Some think the administration will get good news as soon as the next monthly labor report, which will be released the first Friday in April. “This is the best-timed census you could ever dream of,” said Heidi Shierholz, who tracks the labor market at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. She believes the March unemployment report will show the economy added jobs instead of subtracting them.

Adam Kokesh: A Dishonored Marine
Need to read about this guy—now running for Congress.

Massa under investigation for allegedly groping male staffers
When Foley sent salacious e-mails to pages, Pelosi used it to tarnish the whole Republican Party. So does this tarnish all the Democrats, or is it just business as usual for Democrats?

Mark Levin Speech at the Reagan library

Why Can't This Country (UK) Follow Israel's Lead?
it’s simple. Obama killing Taliban and everyone in the vicinity with a drone is good. Jews killing a specific murderer is bad. Excerpt: EXCUSE me for not sending flowers to the funeral of the terrorist the Israelis bumped off in Dubai. Unlike the bleeding hearts in the liberal media I’m not shedding any tears. As military chief of terrorist group Hamas, Mahmoud al Mabhouh had the blood of many Israeli soldiers and civilians on his hands. He was in charge of smuggling rockets and grenades into the Gaza Strip so his murderous gangs could lob them into Israel. He could hardly complain when a hit squad from Mossad, the Israeli security service, brought his life to a swift end. To say he had it coming is an understatement. So why such a fuss about his execution? Why has the Foreign office twisted the arm of the Israeli ambassador? And possibly the most crucial question of all: whose side are we on, the terrorists or those with the courage to stand up to them? The Israelis don’t mess about, they don’t sit back and take it. You kill one of them and they will kill you. And afterwards they won’t explain, they won’t apologise, they won’t even deny it.

Obama still wants US trial for some Gitmo suspects
Excerpt: White House aides are increasingly convinced that accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will never face trial in a civilian court and are trying to cut a deal that would still transfer Guantanamo Bay terrorism suspects to the U.S., where many would faces criminal charges, a senior administration official said Monday. President Barack Obama is trying to keep a campaign pledge to close the U.S. military prison in Cuba, a promise that has attracted criticism from Republicans who say it would jeopardize national security. He has also lately been under fire from people within his party who say Obama should not accept any deal that would prosecute Mohammed outside the normal judicial system. But a senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations, said the most important goals are closing Guantanamo Bay and ensuring that the government can prosecute some detainees in U.S. courts. To do so, the only option may be abandoning the administration's original plan to prosecute the alleged 9/11 conspirators in civilian courts and instead send them before military tribunals.

Anti-Israel Activist Attacks Jewish Girl on Campus
Excerpt: University of California at Berkeley was again the site of a clash involving pro-Israel and anti-Israel activists last Friday when Husam Zakharia, leader of the Students for Justice in Palestine, assaulted Jessica Felber of the pro-Israel Tikvah group with a shopping cart. The incident occurred during competing events from the SJP-run “Israel Apartheid Week” and “Israel Peace and Diversity Week” organized by Tikvah. Felber was holding a sign that read “Israel Wants Peace” when Zakharia intentionally slammed her from behind with a shopping cart filled with toys donated for the welfare of Arab children in the Hamas-controlled Gaza region.

Nigerian massacre toll hits 500
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: Lagos - At least 500 people were killed on Sunday in communal clashes near Nigeria's central city of Jos, a state governor's advisor said on Monday, revising a previous toll of around 100 dead. "We have been able to make 95 arrests but at the same time over 500 people have been killed in this heinous act... by Fulani herdsmen," Dan Manjang said in a telephone interview. The Nigerian army was on alert on Monday after Muslim herdsmen raided a Christian village near the restive city of Jos, hacking to death over 200 people. Witnesses in the village of Dogo Nahawa told Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper that Hausa-Fulani tribesmen descended from the hills, firing shots in the air. When people ran out of their homes, they were set upon with machetes or shot. Outbreaks of violence are common in Plateau State, where the indigenous Christians have long struggled with immigrant Muslims over resources. Over 300 hundred died in January, when rival gangs of youths clashed in Jos. A local Christian group said on Sunday the latest violence was an act of jihad.

United Arab Emirates adopts Third Reich policies against Jews
Excerpt: The authorities of the United Arab Emirates made an unusual decision. Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan al-Tamim said on March 1 that anyone who looks or sounds like a citizen of Israel will be blocked from entering the country, even if a suspected individual produces a passport of a different state. "It is easy for us to identify [Israelis], through their face or when they speak any other language. We used to respect them when they would come holding European passports; we regarded them as Europeans and never treated them badly. But from now on, anyone we suspect to have a dual citizenship, they will be treated with great suspicion," the police chief said.

Thank You Soldiers - Veteran's Day/Memorial Day Song

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