Saturday, March 13, 2010

Political Digest March 13, 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.

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If Democrats ignore health-care polls, midterms will be costly
Excerpt: In "The March of Folly," Barbara Tuchman asked, "Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests?" Her assessment of self-deception -- "acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts" -- captures the conditions that are gripping President Obama and the Democratic Party leadership as they renew their efforts to enact health-care reform. Their blind persistence in the face of reality threatens to turn this political march of folly into an electoral rout in November. In the wake of the stinging loss in Massachusetts, there was a moment when the president and the Democratic leadership seemed to realize the reality of the health-care situation. Yet like some seductive siren of Greek mythology, the lure of health-care reform has arisen again. As pollsters to the past two Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, respectively, we feel compelled to challenge the myths that seem to be prevailing in the political discourse and to once again urge a change in course before it is too late. At stake is the kind of mainstream, common-sense Democratic Party that we believe is crucial to the success of the American enterprise. Bluntly put, this is the political reality: First, the battle for public opinion has been lost. Comprehensive health care has been lost. If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate's reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes. Nothing has been more disconcerting than to watch Democratic politicians and their media supporters deceive themselves into believing that the public favors the Democrats' current health-care plan. Yes, most Americans believe, as we do, that real health-care reform is needed. And yes, certain proposals in the plan are supported by the public. However, a solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan. Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly. Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data. The White House document released Thursday arguing that reform is becoming more popular is in large part fighting the last war. This isn't 1994; it's 2010. And the bottom line is that the American public is overwhelmingly against this bill in its totality even if they like some of its parts.

Obama delays Asia trip to focus on health care
How’s that promised BO pivot to jobs going?

Hoyer: House ready to move forward without a deal on abortion
Pro-life Democrats are trapped. They have to forgo their promises to pro-life groups in their districts or forgo Democrat party support in the election. Maybe a way for Dems to get rid of DINOs. Excerpt: House Democrats are ready to “forge ahead” on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill. Democratic leaders have been trying to reach an agreement with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and his allies before moving forward with a vote.

ObamaCare’s Two Americas
Here’s the worst thing you probably haven’t heard about President Barack Obama’s health care plan, which he and his allies are about to force through Congress despite enormous opposition from the American people: It makes everything one-time vice presidential nominee John Edwards once said about the class divide of “two Americas” come true. The dirty little secret of this plan—which wouldn’t be a secret if opponents of the legislative package weren’t distracted by a dozen other wrongheaded policies in it—is that it will bring a major and irreversible upheaval to America’s labor markets. In a time of economic tension, this plan will displace millions of workers and push more people into becoming contract employees, resulting in increased instability for working families. One of the many original stated goals of the White House’s health care reforms was the promise that you can keep your health plan if you like it. However, the White House wanted to give businesses much-needed relief from burdensome health costs. Like the desire to create a new entitlement while reducing the budget deficit, these aims are nearly impossible to reconcile, so Obama chose a path that accomplishes neither. The president’s plan penalizes an employer for not providing insurance, but the government will subsidize the health care of workers without employer-provided insurance. This effectively allows workers to receive the same compensation package they get today, but with government footing the health benefits part of the bill, so employers have no need to make up the difference in cash. The economic benefits of that subsidy far outweigh the penalties—for low-income workers, it can result in an enormous difference of more than $17,000 a year.

Pelosi: Public option will not be in health bill despite liberal efforts
It will be back. For liberals, more government is always the solution to any posed problem. Excerpt: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that the public health insurance option will not be included in a package of fixes to healthcare reform legislation. Pelosi's comments throw a wrench into liberal efforts to reintroduce it to the bill. She shut the door on a possible pathway opened by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who said earlier on Friday that he would "aggressively" push senators to vote for the plan if the House included it in the fixes. "We had it, we wanted it ... it's not in the reconciliation," Pelosi said at her weekly press briefing. "It isn't in there because [the Senate doesn't] have the votes to have it in there." Momentum had been building to reintroduce the government-run plan. Over 40 senators have endorsed a letter sponsored by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) that called for senators to pass the public option using the budget reconciliation process. But the number of senators who backed the plan falls short of the 50 needed to pass the package, assuming Vice President Joe Biden votes to break a tie.

Parliamentarian's ruling deals blow to Democrats' healthcare reform chances
Trust us! Excerpt: The Senate parliamentarian has delivered a blow to Democrats by ruling President Barack Obama must sign the broader Senate healthcare legislation before the upper chamber can take up changes demanded by the House. The ruling means House Democrats would have to rely on a good-faith promise that senators will pass the changes after the healthcare bill is signed into law, a difficult prospect at a time when lower-chamber lawmakers have grown distrustful of their Senate counterparts.

Five Democrats to watch on healthcare
Excerpt: The greatest parlor game in Washington is being played as prognosticators across the city tally their whip counts on the looming healthcare bill. And if the early converts are any indication, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) recruiting has plenty to do with scaring past supporters into voting no this time around. Reps. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) both sound like they will flip their votes to no after seeing strong challenges emerge in recent months. And with so much recruiting going on between that first vote in November and now, plenty of other members are in similar spots. The Ballot Box looks at five members with significant political motivations who will determine whether the bill lives or dies: -Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) — Ellsworth probably didn’t think he would be a Senate candidate when he cast his yes vote in November. What people tend to forget is that Ellsworth was not only a supporter of the Stupak Amendment, but a key player in getting it inserted into the bill. What’s more, Ellsworth at the time told a local paper, “I will not support a bill that I believe would result in federal tax dollars being used to pay for abortions.” If there’s no Stupak language in the coming bill, Ellsworth will be torn between living up to those words and pleasing the Democratic leaders who have anointed him as their Senate candidate.

GOP hopes town halls take health care off table
Excerpt: "If health care doesn't get done by Easter," says Republican Rep. John Shadegg, "then we need to make Easter look like last August."

The CARROT and the STICK
Excerpt: The Drudge Report got some laughs recently when it published a collection of news headlines, all virtually identical, going back to July 28th, 2009, each hailing an “endgame” deadline for passing the Health Care Reform Bill. These headlines were bannered just prior to the Senate’s August recess, when passage of the bill seemed certain. They were run again just before Labor Day, when passage again seemed assured...then again in mid-October, then before Halloween, then Thanksgiving… Each proclaimed the Health Care Bill a done-deal. All that remained was to take the final vote to send the bill to the President’s desk for signing. We are now coming up on the third week of March, 2010. Spring is just days away, and the whole blessed Health Care Bill is still gathering dust on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk; un-voted upon. The reason Speaker Pelosi hasn’t yet called for the final House vote is obvious; there aren’t enough Democrats willing to vote for it. It’s just that simple. Democratic leaders are said to be working furiously. President Obama has postponed his Asian trip to “work on the bill”…Work on the bill? Who are they trying to kid? They can’t change one word in the bill or it has to go back to the Senate where -- as of January 19th -- they no longer have enough Democrats to pass it. It's this bill, warts and all, or nothing. What the phrase “working on the bill” means is they are working to bribe or coerce the few reluctant Democrats to get on-board the bandwagon. It is said that every man has his price, and House and Senate leaders have spent the last thirteen months in closed door meetings trying to determine each member's price-point, either personally or on behalf of a particular constituency, and then setting about to make sure they get the juice. Some of this juice has become public knowledge and is seen as outrageously laughable. For as long as the sun continues to rise in the east and there remains politics and politicians the “Louisiana Purchase”, the Florida “gator aid”, and the Corn Husker Kick-Back will be the stuff of legend. Back room deals don't get any more clownish than that. Suffice it to say that by now everybody who needed to be taken care of has been taken care of. It has become clear that Leadership has run out of donkeys that will follow carrots dangled in front of them. In order to move the legislative cart any further nothing remains but to get out the stick.

Why Health Reform Is Bad Politics
Excerpt: Another week, another episode of health-care drama, another round of headlines proving the end is not yet nigh. The polls are dismal, the Democratic caucus is in disarray, it is spring of 2010. Yet the ObamaCare dozer grinds on, and on, and on. What has been driving the machine these past few painful months is the fantastical (at this point) Democratic belief that somewhere at the end of "comprehensive" health care rests good politics. The left in particular is pushing these Democrats-must-pass-health-care-for-their-own-political-good arguments, and clearly some of President Obama's advisers buy it. In the interest of sanity, let's go through the theories. The most popular might be termed the "If We Build It, They Will Come" hypothesis. The White House loves this one, and has been peddling it to any Blue Dog it can coax to the Oval Office. Americans just don't understand the health bill. Democrats haven't done a good job selling it. Once it is in place, the polls will improve.

The White House Kindly Requests You Do Not Refer to Its Health Care Budget Gimmicks as "Gimmicks"
Excerpt: Peter Orszag, the cutest, coolest, cowboy-boot wearin'est budgeting badass ever to wrangle spreadsheets for a U.S. administration, is standing up to those not-so-cool critics who continue to insist that the health reform package President Obama and Congressional Democrats have put together is not, in fact, deficit neutral. At the Office of Management and Budget's blog, which I'm sure you all read religiously, he writes: Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to a claim that this deficit reduction is achieved only through a business-as-usual Washington budget gimmick: paying for just a few years of costs with many more years of savings. This charge, he says, is "false," and he wants everyone suckered by it to "get their facts straight." He then proceeds to explain that, although most of the spending in the first ten years does indeed occur in the last six years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would actually produce even greater deficit reduction in the second decade—about $1 trillion. Perhaps I should've added "trickiest" to the list of adjectives describing Orszag, because as far as the CBO figures go, everything in his post is basically right; the problem is that he's conflating two different criticisms, and ignoring the ones that matter. The issue with backloading spending isn't that it hides deficit spending; it's that it hides the full cost of the bill, thus making it politically viable.

Let senators vote on D.C. school choice
Black kids in DC get school choice already—but only if their last name is “Obama.” Excerpt: More than 1,900 students in our nation's capitol have benefited from the Opportunity Scholarship Program that provided private school scholarships and a way to flee the chronically dysfunctional District of Columbia Public Schools system. The U.S. Department of Education under President Obama has acknowledged the program's success, with the authors of the department's most recent study concluding that students in the program "were performing at statistically higher levels in reading, equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning." Despite this record of success for the program, which was approved by Congress in 2004, Obama and the Democratic Congress have eliminated its funding, leaving these students and their parents with no alternative but to return to the failing DCPS. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., however, has been pushing the Senate for months to revive the program and restore hope to its participants. When he offered an amendment earlier this week to the Senate jobs bill, it appeared he would succeed. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to allow the Senate to vote on Lieberman's amendment. It's not hard to figure out why: When Washington's biggest special interest group says jump, Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats ask how high

Car-theft suspect choked to death after being caught by hulking ex-Marine
Tried to steal a Marine’s care—clear case of suicide. Excerpt: A would-be car thief picked the wrong ride to steal - and it cost him his life. Yaosse Agbokou, 50, was choked to death when ex-Marine Daillard Paris caught him trying to steal his Nissan Altima in Queens Saturday night, police said. Paris, 28, who is 6-feet-3 and weighs 240 pounds, was questioned by cops. But he was not charged in the death, which the medical examiner ruled a homicide caused by "compression of the neck." Witnesses said the hulking Paris grabbed Agbokou in a head-lock.

Court upholds 'under God' in Pledge of Allegiance
Excerpt: A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency, rejecting arguments on Thursday that the phrases violate the separation of church and state. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected two legal challenges by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, who claimed the references to God disrespect his religious beliefs. "The Pledge is constitutional," Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling. "The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded."

Detroit Looks at Downsizing to Save City
The fruits of statist government. This is only the start. Excerpt: Detroit, the very symbol of American industrial might for most of the 20th century, is drawing up a radical renewal plan that calls for turning large swaths of this now-blighted, rusted-out city back into the fields and farmland that existed before the automobile, says the Associated Press (AP). Operating on a scale never before attempted in this country, the city would demolish houses in some of the most desolate sections of Detroit and move residents into stronger neighborhoods. Roughly a quarter of the 139-square-mile city could go from urban to semi-rural, says the AP. Mayor Dave Bing, who took office last year, is expected to unveil some details in his state-of-the-city address this month: Politically explosive decisions must be made about which neighborhoods should be bulldozed and which improved. Hundreds of millions of federal dollars will be needed to buy land, raze buildings and relocate residents, since this financially desperate city does not have the means to do it on its own. It isn't known how many people in the mostly black, blue collar city might be uprooted, but it could be thousands; some won't go willingly.

Gov't Workers Feel No Economic Pain
Government employees, government entitlement dependents and trial lawyers make a formidable statist voting bloc. Excerpt: The recession and the ongoing jobless recovery devastated much of the private-sector workforce last year, sending unemployment soaring, but government workers emerged essentially unscathed, according to data released Wednesday by the Labor Department. Meanwhile, the compensation for state and local government employees continued to easily outdistance the wages and benefits for workers in private business, a separate Labor Department report showed: Private-industry employers spent an average of $27.42 per hour worked for total employee compensation in December, while total compensation costs for state and local government workers averaged $39.60 per hour. The average government wage and salary per hour of $26.11 was 35 percent higher than the average wage and salary of $19.41 per hour in the private sector. But the percentage difference in benefits was much higher; benefits for state and local workers averaged $13.49 per hour, nearly 70 percent higher than the $8 per hour in benefits paid by private businesses.

Soon-to-be Marine Fires At Intruder
Has the right idea, but his DI needs to work on his marksmanship. I imagine he’ll hear a LOT about this in boot camp. Excerpt: “I kind of crouched down like this, I was against the wall … I was looking around and I saw the guy right here. I told him not to move and he reached around and pulled out what looked exactly like a gun, he started bringing it up. I fired two rounds as I was running back to get behind the wall for cover and called the cops.” “911 emergency dispatcher Rose. I fired two rounds and he took off running into the woods.” Shots at such close range by such a powerful weapon, it’s hard to believe the burglar wasn’t hit – if he had, a shot from this gun would have done serious damage, perhaps even killed him. That burglar having no idea Boyle was home, was armed, comes from a police family … and has big plans for his future. “Yes, sir. I’m going to be a Marine.” Boyle ships out for marine training in two months. He got some early training in crime and protection early this morning. “I’m glad no one got hurt, including him. He probably thought he could get in for a quick little burglary and luckily I was ready to keep myself safe.”

48 out of 50 States Have Lost Jobs Since Democrats’ Stimulus Passed
Excerpt: While the White House claims their stimulus bill “has already created or saved up to 2 million jobs,” the table below compares the White House's original projections of state-by-state job creation with the actual change in state payroll employment through January 2010, using the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Only North Dakota, Alaska and the District of Columbia have seen net job creation since stimulus, and even those levels fall far short of what the White House forecast.

Great quote
I may be guilty of extortion, but I never took a bribe. -- Monica Conyers

Monica Conyers, Wife To John Conyers, Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison For Detroit Bribes

Afghan War Strategy Risks: Go In Hard or Go In Soft?
Welcome to Vietnam, troops. All we need are Jane Fonda and John Kerry slandering you at home, as soulless politicians abandon you after having sent you. Excerpt: CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. -- Spread out in combat formation, M-4 carbines loosely held at the ready, Chaos Company's 1st platoon stepped across tufts of dry grass and clots of late-winter snow. When they crested a hill, the village of Ali Kehl came into view. At that point, Sgt. 1st Class Jerell Daniels had a choice: go in hard, or go in soft. He peered across the western plains at the motley collection of steel shipping containers meant to represent an Afghan village. Video from a Raven drone overhead showed armed men in the village. If they were hostile, Daniels should launch his platoon into the village like marauding Mongols. That abrupt offensive would keep his soldiers safe from ambush. But the armed Afghans could be local police, potential allies. And Daniels' orders were to make friends, if possible. That meant approaching the village in a non-threatening posture -- a more dangerous proposition. Daniels took the risk. "Don't do anything hostile!'' he barked to his men.”Your hands should be nowhere near your triggers,'' and they strode into the village wary but smiling, weapons pointed down. With its combat deployment to Afghanistan coming up soon, the soldiers of Chaos Company and the rest of the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, are training here to master the most vexing set of questions the U.S. military has faced in generations: How to sort out ordinary people from the enemy? How to win the trust of ordinary Afghans, and then how to protect them? And what to do with the enemy – kill them, chase them away, or try to win them over?

NJ Terror Suspect Worked at Nuclear Power Plants
Wouldn’t a “good Muslim” be peaceful, if Islam is a religion of peace? Excerpt: The South Jersey man who Yemini officials are calling a terrorist with links to al-Qaeda previously worked at three local nuclear power plants. Sharif Mobley, 26, is being held in a jail in Yemen after he allegedly killed a police guard and seriously injured another during a shootout at a hospital on Monday. The Buena, N.J. native has also been accused of taking part in several acts of terrorism, Yemini officials say. He also purportedly has ties to the same branch of al-Qaeda who are suspected of attempting to blow up a U.S. airliner on its way to Detroit on Christmas. As details of Mobley's arrest trickle back to the U.S., more people who knew him are coming forward. Former high school classmate Roman Castro says Mobley was always fiercely religious and tried to convert high school friends to Islam. Castro says he ran into Mobley during an Army tour in Iraq around four years ago. The two had a short exchange, with Mobley telling him to "Get the hell away from me, you Muslim killer," according to Castro. A former neighbor said Mobley moved to Yemen two years ago to study Islam. Mobley, who was born in the U.S., also worked as a laborer at three Salem County nuclear power plants, power company officials say. Working for several contractors, Mobley carried supplies and did maintenance work at the plants on Artificial Island in Lower Alloways Creek from 2002 to 2008, PSE&G spokesperson Joe Delmar said. Mobley also worked at other plants in the area, Delmar said. Speaking to NBC Philadelphia Wednesday, Mobley's mother denied claims her son was a terrorist. She called Sharif a "good Muslim" and said he's "absolutely not a terrorist."

Afghanistan: Women crowd secret shelters with scars from "fists, knives, burns, electrical cords"
The beautiful diversity of multiculturalism. Excerpt: Here is another report that describes the prevalence and severity of domestic violence in a Muslim country without considering Islam's role. The broadcast version of the story, aired tonight, mentioned attempts to convince men that such behavior was un-Islamic and not what Muhammad would want; even that is absent from the online version excerpted below. But the Qur'an (4:34) says you can beat your wife -- never mind the parenthetical additions of "lightly" by some Western translators. That doesn't help the women in Afghanistan. Nor do fanciful re-translations of the Arabic term. There can be no meaningful discussion of domestic violence in the Muslim world without acknowledging that Islam's scriptures, believed to be the direct word of Allah, approve of the idea of resorting to violence to "control" supposedly disobedient women. As for Muhammad, he was a wife-beater himself, as Aisha recounts in this hadith that "He struck me on the chest which caused me pain." When, per Qur'an 33:21, a man who marries a child and beats her is your "beautiful pattern of conduct," you've got a serious problem. That problem continues to manifest itself across the Muslim world. "Exclusive: The Secret Shelters That Protect Afghan Women," by Margaret Ako and Mark Mooney for ABC News, March 11: Not every Afghan is hoping the Americans soon leave their country. Some are actually dreading it. "You can't leave Afghanistan," Manizha, who helps run a shelter for battered women, recently warned "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer. Behind Manizha, women who were beaten, bruised and badly scarred shake their heads in urgent agreement. The secret women's shelter is run by Manizha -- who, like most Afghans, goes by only one name -- and by New Yorker Esther Hyneman. It is one of a string of shelters and counseling centers that opened in 2007 and have since helped about 1,500 Afghan women escape beatings and abuse that can shock even battle-hardened combat surgeons. Among the most heartbreaking is the story of Bebe. She is 17, and she says her face was mutilated by her husband, a Talib. Bebe's nose and ears were cut off as punishment for running away to escape the constant pummeling by her husband and his family. She was married to the radical Muslim when she was 12, Manizha told Sawyer.

Obama's plan emboldens terrorists
Let’s be fair—no one in the administration is smart enough to have figured this out in advance. Excerpt: President Obama's plan to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011 has emboldened terrorists and increased distrust of U.S. intentions in the region, Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday. "The administration's withdrawal date was music to the ears of the militants and terrorists," Qureshi said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Examiner. "This sends the wrong signal, and you will have chaos and confusion in Afghanistan if this comes to fruition." Meeting with a reporter in his Islamabad office, Qureshi said, "If we walk away sort of leaving things half-baked, that could be the worst thing you could have done to regional stability." The minister's comments marked some of the strongest criticism yet from regional allies of the Obama administration's goal to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. That intention was spelled out by the president during a December speech in which he announced a surge of American troops into Afghanistan, from about 30,000 to more than 100,000. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates later suggested that once the withdrawal begins in July 2011, completing it could take "two or three years," while conceding that "there are no deadlines in terms of when our troops will all be out." Qureshi said Pakistan "is ready to deliver" and has proved its commitment to fighting extremists with the arrests of many top terrorist leaders, the killing of more than 600 al Qaeda fighters and successful operations in the nation's tribal region. He said Pakistan continues to view the United States as a partner at war with a common enemy "despite past differences and distrust.

1 comment:

  1. robert a. hall is a great american. i thank him for his efforts to keep america great. neil