Saturday, March 27, 2010

Political Digest March 27, 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.

Obama readies steps to fight foreclosures, particularly for unemployed
Excerpt: The Obama administration plans to overhaul how it is tackling the foreclosure crisis, in part by requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for many borrowers who are unemployed, senior officials said Thursday.

But let’s think about this a bit
This will be popular and will get BO votes. Who could be against helping the unemployed? Why not suspend their credit card and car payments, too? Why not require the greedy grocery chains to give them free food? Why not free gas?

But let’s try to use what Dr. Thomas Sowell calls “stage two” thinking. What happens when the unemployed don’t have to pay their mortgages? Well, there are unemployed folks who are paying, from savings, part time jobs, the spouse’s job, etc. How many of them will now stop paying?

If this helps the unemployed, who does it hurt? We’d have to guess the banks and mortgage companies. After all, if it was good for them too, they could suspend the payments now without a command from BO. So who cares if the greedy banks get hurt or fail? But wasn’t it bank failures due to non-performing mortgages, especially subprime, variable rate or interest only mortgages, that triggered the current economic mess? So if banks fail or get hurt, don’t we all get hurt?

And who owns banks? Doubtless a lot of bank stocks are owned by rich folks, and who cares about them? But if the rich lose money on their stocks, they can’t spend it on other things. And losing money on their bank stocks may make them conservative on other income. If they don’t spend money on goods and services, the companies who produce those goods and services will take in less money, and won’t need to expand their work forces by hiring those unemployed people this is “helping.”

A lot of bank stocks are doubtless in mutual funds, thus included in large pension funds, and in individual IRAs or 401Ks. That means the elderly living on these funds are going to get hurt a bit to help the unemployed, as are all the working folks trying to save for retirement. That’s you and me, paying once again, so politicians like BO can buy votes by being compassionate.

And what about loans? One of the factors slowing the recovery is tight lending to small and medium businesses. If the banks don’t get the interest and principle from the money they lent the now-unemployed, and cannot sell the collateral by foreclosing, they will have less money to lend out to businesses, so fewer unemployed people will be hired by those businesses. And they will not have money to lend on home loans, so some people wanting to buy a home, or to sell a home, will be denied. That will drive down home prices further, and drive down housing starts, so people—often union BO supporters—in the construction trades will have fewer jobs.

Big impact? Maybe not—depends on how many people take advantage of BO’s compassion—compassion paid for by the rest of us as usual. Right thing to do? You decide. But the point is that whenever a politicians buys votes by poking the economy over here, people over there squeal in pain. But they don’t know who created the ripple effect that hurt them.

Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama 'dumped him for dinner'
BO putting the Jew in his place, and “re-setting” our international relations, as promised. Excerpt: For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation. After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said. “It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”. Left to talk among themselves Mr Netanyahu and his aides retreated to the Roosevelt Room. He spent a further half-hour with Mr Obama and extended his stay for a day of emergency talks to try to restart peace negotiations. However, he left last night with no official statement from either side.

Big question: Will we really pay less for health care?
Excerpt: WASHINGTON — President Obama's restructuring of the nation's health care system will make it easier for poor and sick Americans to get and keep insurance. What's less clear is whether it will reduce health care costs for most Americans, as the White House says it will. Medical costs are rising fast — up 5.7% last year, while the economy declined 1.1%, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the next 10 years, health spending is projected to rise 6.1%, reaching $4.5 trillion, or nearly 20% of the economy. (Less clear? Couldn’t be clearer. There is a difference between health care costs and medical care costs. There is a difference between shifting costs such as taxpayers to others and reducing costs. The things that would reduce costs—tort reform, interstate competition and a reduction in mandates—are not in the bill. By design.)

Rep. John Dingell on How Long it Took “To Control the People”
Excerpt: And if government wasn’t exerting control of your life, then you could keep the health insurance you have now with zero changes, but sadly that won’t be the case for many Americans. But don’t take our word for it. Here is audio of Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), a champion of this legislation telling radio host Paul Smith on WJR in Detroit: “It takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps that have to be taken to put the legislation together to control the people.” Rep. Dingell has held his seat in Michigan for over 55 years. That is certainly a long time before he finally achieved his goals to “control the people.”

Must read: The Vat Cometh
Excerpt: As the night follows the day, the VAT cometh. With the passage of Obamacare, creating a vast new middle-class entitlement, a national sales tax of the kind near-universal in Europe is inevitable. We are now $8 trillion in debt. The Congressional Budget Office projects that another $12 trillion will be added over the next decade. Obamacare, when stripped of its budgetary gimmicks -- the unfunded $200 billion-plus doctor fix, the double counting of Medicare cuts, the 10-6 sleight-of-hand (counting 10 years of revenue and only 6 years of outflows) -- is at minimum a $2 trillion new entitlement. It will vastly increase the debt. But even if it were revenue-neutral, Obamacare pre-empts and appropriates for itself the best and easiest means of reducing the existing deficit. Obamacare's $500 billion of cuts in Medicare and $600 billion in tax hikes are no longer available for deficit reduction. They are siphoned off for the new entitlement of insuring the uninsured. This is fiscally disastrous because, as President Obama himself explained last year in unveiling his grand transformational policies, our unsustainable fiscal path requires control of entitlement spending, the most ruinous of which is out-of-control health care costs.

Skyrocketing Massachusetts health costs could foreshadow high price of ObamaCare
Excerpt: When Mitt Romney criticized the Obama health-care program earlier this week, leading Democrats responded by pointing out that, as governor of Massachusetts several years ago, Romney himself presided over the enactment of strikingly similar reforms. RomneyCare and ObamaCare aren’t so different, Democrats argued. If you liked one, you can’t attack the other. Fair enough. So how is the Massachusetts health-care system these days? Like the bill that President Obama signed on Sunday, the 2006 Massachusetts plan was sold to voters on the now-familiar promise that it would reduce costs and lower unnecessary emergency room visits. That’s not what happened.

Congressional Budget Office Miscalculations and National Debt
Excerpt: It was reported this morning by Smith Barney on FOX News that our national debt in ten years will represent 90% of our gross domestic product (GDP). In 2008 it represented 40% of GDP. Greece's debt is currently 115% of GDP and they are on the verge of national bankruptcy. The U.S. is now having trouble borrowing money. It is also reported that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is at fault for cost miscalculations of the Universal Health Care Plan and failure to understand the overall impact to the economy during the next ten years. The CBO has lost all credibility. The question is whether they are that incompetent, or in the tank for the Obama Administration and Democrat controlled Congress?

“This Is What Change Looks Like” — Hidden Taxes, Fines And Bribes
Excerpt: Here are a couple of things I learned about this legislation since its passage that I had not known previously. • When you buy your federally mandated, IRS enforced - either by penalty of a fine or imprisonment - health care insurance you may be buying from an insurance company that will donate a portion of what you spend for your insurance to a special fund to help pay for abortions. It is now mandatory that certain insurance carriers provide a portion of what you pay them for health care coverage to a special abortion fund – Stupak’s hastily scribbled hall pass aside, this is now law. There is no special fund for Breast Cancer. There is no special fund for Heart Disease. There is no special fund for Diabetes or MS. There is ONLY a special fund to pay for abortions • When you sell a home in Mr. Obama’s new and improved America a 4% tax will be levied on your proceeds from the sale which will go to cover Health Care costs. • Tanning? Apparently Dems want us all to be pasty for some reason…if you frequent tanning salons, you will pay a 10% excise tax. • Mobility be damned! If you purchase a wheelchair, you will pay a 2.3% excise tax. I’m sure those confined to wheelchairs will consider this to be a great step forward in care. • Pharmaceutical companies will be allowed to pass a $3 billion annual fee on to you, the consumer, in the form of more expensive drugs and medication.

The Doctors of the House: A landmark of liberal governance whose price will be very steep.
Excerpt: House Democrats last night passed President Obama's federal takeover of the U.S. health-care system, and the ticker tape media parade is already underway. So this hour of liberal political victory is a good time to adapt the "Pottery Barn" rule that Colin Powell once invoked on Iraq: You break it, you own it. This week's votes don't end our health-care debates. By making medical care a subsidiary of Washington, they guarantee such debates will never end. And by ramming the vote through Congress on a narrow partisan majority, and against so much popular opposition, Democrats have taken responsibility for what comes next—to insurance premiums, government spending, doctor shortages and the quality of care. They are now the rulers of American medicine. Mr. Obama and the Democrats have sold this takeover by promising that multiple benefits will follow: huge new subsidies for the middle class; lower insurance premiums for consumers, especially those in the individual market; vast reductions in the federal budget deficit and in overall health-care spending; a more competitive U.S. economy as business health-care costs decline; no reductions in Medicare benefits; and above all, in Mr. Obama's words, that "if you like your health-care plan, you keep your health-care plan." We think all of this except the subsidies will turn out to be illusory, as most of the American public seems intuitively to understand. As recently as Friday, Caterpillar Inc. announced that ObamaCare will increase its health-care costs by $100 million in the first year alone, due to a stray provision about the tax treatment of retiree benefits. This will not be the only such unhappy surprise.

Unions want taxpayer bailouts of pension funds
Another sign of the coming collapse. Excerpt: Nonunion workers and private companies could be forced into absorbing the financial liabilities of underfunded union pension plans, thanks to pending health care mandates and an executive order that could be finalized this year, policy analysts and trade group representatives have concluded. Even as unions continue to market themselves to new members on the basis of generous pension programs, government figures show these plans are performing poorly in comparison with retirement packages that operate beyond the orbit of organized labor. In addition, unions are pushing the Obama administration on project labor agreements (PLAs), which, among other things, will give their pension plans new sources of outside funding - nonunion workers on government contracts worth more than $25 million. The average union pension has resources to cover only 62 percent of what is owed to participants, according to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. Pensions with less than 80 percent of the assets needed to cover present and projected liabilities are considered "endangered," while those that fall below a 65 percent threshold are classified as "critical" under the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

Amish, Muslims to be excused from Obamacare mandate?
The Senate health care bill just signed contains some exemptions to the "pay-or-play" mandate requiring purchase of Obamacare-approved health insurance or payment of a penalty fine. As Fox News has pointed out, for instance, the Amish are excused from the mandate: So while most Americans would be required to sign up with insurance companies or government insurance plans, the church would serve as something of an informal insurance plan for the Amish. Law experts say that kind of exemption withstands scrutiny. "Here the statute is going to say that people who are conscientiously opposed to paying for health insurance don't have to do it where the conscientious objection arises from religion," said Mark Tushnet a Harvard law professor. "And that's perfectly constitutional." Apparently, this exemption will apply similarly to believers in Islam, which considers health insurance - and, for that matter, any form of risk insurance - to be haraam (forbidden). Steve Gilbert of Sweetness & Light calls our attention to the probability that Muslims will also be exempt. According to a March 23 publication on an authoritative Islamic Web site managed by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, various fatwas (religious decrees) absolutely forbid Muslim participation in any sort of health care or other risk insurance:

Senate Democrats get beat up by their own reconciliation rules
Excerpt: 'And so when you walk into that ballot box, remember that it was my Democratic opponent who favored providing Viagra to pedophiles." That isn't a campaign line any American has heard yet, but give it a few hours. The Senate this week took up its "reconciliation" bill, with its final changes to the law the president signed Tuesday. It wasn't so much reconciliation as reckoning. Democrats only got their ObamaCare victory by breaking every rule, and that was always going to come at a price. To lever the health bill through the House, Democrats used the arcane process of reconciliation. It got them a win, but it also meant Senate Democrats this week had to endure the political equivalent of water-boarding. Here's why: reconciliation allowed Republicans to bring up unlimited amendments. Because Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) could not allow the reconciliation bill to be changed in any way—which would send it back to the House—his party was obliged to vote down every one of those amendments. And every one had been designed to make even hardened pols whimper. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted . . . No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans' opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats—because of the process they'd chosen—had to defend it all.

Irwin Stelzer: Slow-growth Europe, here we come
Excerpt: Passage of the health care bill has focused investor attention on the runaway deficit situation, and its long-term consequences. The deficit, which ran to around 3 percent of gross domestic product in President George W. Bush's final year, is already exceeding 10 percent. Government debt held by the public has gone from 40 percent of GDP when Bush was in the White House to 63 percent now and, says the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, will hit 90 percent by 2020. That's the level at which new studies say debt begins to reduce growth and jobs. Unfortunately, the situation is even worse than reported figures suggest. Most dispassionate observers are estimating that the new health care bill will add $1 trillion to the nation's $8 trillion debt, and that the government's unfunded liabilities -- its promises of future pension and other payments -- come to somewhere between $60 trillion and $75 trillion over the next several decades. Even without those obligations, the government now has $14 trillion in liabilities against only $2.7 trillion in assets. Bring in the receivers. Well, no. As President Obama well knows, the government can levy taxes, and it can print money. So he does not see fiscal considerations as a reason to abandon his ideological commitment to "transform" America.

AT&T To Take $1 Bln Charge On Health-care Bill
Which will mean, say $350m in lost taxes? Excerpt: AT&T Inc. said it plans to take a non-cash charge of about $1 billion in the first quarter following the passage of the health-care reform bill earlier this week, according to a filing submitted by the company Friday. The telecommunication giant will also evaluate changes to its health care benefits for employees and retirees.

South Korean Ship Reported Sunk
Excerpt: The Yonhap News Agency is reporting that the South Korean navy ship has sunk, according to government officials. South Korea's president has told his military to focus on rescuing sailors from one of their navy ships sinking in the Yellow Sea near North Korea, aids told the Yonhap News Agency. Yonhap reported 58 sailors had already been rescued. Navy vessels and helicopters were rescuing crew members, some of whom reportedly jumped into the sea after the blast, an official told South Korea's Korean Broadcasting System. The ship, the Cheonan, was patrolling southwest of the island around 9:45 p.m. when the explosion took place, a military official told KBS. The official said the Sockcho, another South Korean navy vessel patrolling nearby, fired at unidentified ships north of the area. U.S. military officials told CNN a South Korean vessel has sunk. (Boy, this could get NK both a strongly worded note and some serious hand wringing from the White House elite Note and hand-wringing brigade!)

82-year-old fights off attacker
Excerpt: An 82-year-old woman takes matters into her own hands after she's attacked in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Sierra Vista. Police said the suspect Stephen Prickett beat the woman with her own cane until she grabbed her gun from her purse and started firing. After a few days in the hospital, she's out and told News 4 all about it. She said she was just walking to her car with some groceries when she was approached by the suspect. She said, "In a very mild voice he said, 'this is your day. You are too old to be alive anyway.'" Moments later she said he grabbed her cane and started beating her and she's got the bruises to prove it. She said, "I got boo boos where I didn't know I had a place to put boo boos." She eventually went for the gun in her purse and opened fire. She didn't hit him but said it still saved her life. She said, "In the long run I think it saved me because if I hadn't shot the thing no one would have known there was anything wrong and come running."

The state is everything. You are an ant.

FSU: Muslim Law Students' War Against Free Speech
Excerpt: Florida State University College of Law is rather moderate as far as law schools go. Sure, nearly all the faculty are committed leftists, but they tend to be fair in their instruction, and are always willing to engage a conservative or libertarian constructively. The student body’s a mixed bag ideologically. Most of the student organizations are oriented leftward, the campus Republicans exist in name only, and the most visible, and best-attended, student organization is our chapter of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, for which I serve as President….. On Tuesday, March 30, my FSU Law chapter will be honored to have Mr. Robert Spencer lecture on “Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudence: What You Need to Know.” The flier for the event is simple enough: the aforementioned title, suspended above one of the controversial Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. The cartoon I chose for the event is the one that features a fearsome Muhammad, his eyes shielded by the censor’s black bar, flanked by two women in dressed in black niqabs, with a clear bar leaving room only for their eyes. The approved fliers were put up around campus on the evening of March 24th. By the following morning, almost half of them were taken down, and at least one remaining one defaced with “This Is Racist!”. The fliers were unlawfully removed by members of the newly founded chapter of the Muslim Law Students Association (MLSA) and various leftist fellowships on campus. They conveyed their offense to administration, and I was invited to meet with three of the deans that afternoon, along with the professor who acts as faculty advisor to both the MLSA and ACLU chapters. (As of this writing, the torn-down fliers have not been replaced by the administration or the MLSA.) The faculty conveyed to me their concern that several students considered the cartoon to be offensive to Arabs. I quickly replied that a) Islam is not a race, b) most Muslims are not Arab, c) most Arabs in the United States are not Muslim, and d) Spencer himself is of Middle Eastern ancestry. (Interestingly, I may be as well. Both my parents are from Sicily, and my mother’s maiden name, Scianna, appears to be Arabic in origin.) To their credit, the administration is not asking me to cancel Mr. Spencer’s lecture, is not compelling me to take down or edit the fliers, and have assured me that no counter-rally/protest will be permitted to disrupt the event as scheduled.

Bangladesh: 50 Christians injured in Muslim attacks
Didn’t get the “Islam is a religion of peace” memo. Someone tell Barack to send it, if he’s done humiliating Jews. Excerpt: Armed with knives, bricks, and sticks, a group of Muslims attacked Christian villagers in Bangladesh on March 20, injuring 50. “They [the Muslims] said they will kill some of our people,” said Father Leo Desai of the Diocese of Dinajpur. “We’re in a panic and are afraid to go out.”

Jews as Scapegoats
Excerpt: Even our former President Jimmy Carter in his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid and John J. Mearsheimer, an American professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government coauthored The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy use the scapegoating of Israel, the Israel Lobby, and American Jews. Sadly, the Jewish people have been used as scapegoat for many centuries by a variety of non-Jews. Regrettably, Muslims for their part and have adopted scapegoating as an article of faith. The Muslims blame the Jews for all kinds of heinous things, dating back to the time of Muhammad himself. They say that the Jews of Medina betrayed the holy prophet by their treachery. They charged the poor exorbitant sums for their goods; did no productive work, yet made fortunes through money lending. To make matters worse, the Jews refused to embrace Muhammad’s religion, they say. The story of Banu Qurayza’s Massacre from Quranic verses, is very clear how Allah actually rejoices this in slaughter and enslavement of the tribe of Banu Qurayza’s Jews. Quran-33:25- “Allah turned back the unbelievers [Meccans and their allies] in a state of rage, having not won any good, and Allah spared the believers battle. Allah is, indeed, Strong and Mighty.” Quran-33:26- “And He brought those of the People of the Book [Jewish people of Banu Qurayza’s] who supported them from their fortresses and cast terror into their hearts, some of them you slew (beheaded) and some you took prisoners (captive)” Quran-33:27- “And He made you heirs of their lands, their houses, and their goods, and of a land which ye had not frequented (before). And Allah has power over all things.” [Merciful Allah asked Prophet Muhammad to confiscate entire properties of surrendered Jews.] Hence, following the example of Muhammad, many Muslim societies have been blaming the Jews for everything and find them deserving of victimization. The litany of atrocities committed against the Jews by the followers of Muhammad is long indeed.

Tanks Fire On Gaza After Soldier Death
Damn Jews shooting back. BO will really be pissed. This is a BFD, JB. Excerpt: Israeli tanks have entered the Gaza Strip firing main guns after two Israeli soldiers died in a Palestinian ambush. Five tanks and two armoured bulldozers entered Gaza shelling targets near the town of Khan Younis, in the centre of the narrow coastal enclave. The Israeli action comes near the site of the worst clash with Palestinian fighters in 14 months, which killed two on each side. Palestinian sources confirmed more casualties in the fresh fighting while Israeli helicopters and unmanned military drones circled above. The Gaza-based militant group Popular Resistance Committees confirmed one of its fighters was critically wounded during the counter-attack. The Israeli military had earlier said its two soldiers died and another two were wounded after entering Gaza to investigate explosives left by Palestinians before coming under fire.

Al Sharpton Claims American Public Voted for Socialism When Electing Obama
Truth from Al. Unusual.

A Chicago Hotdog

I thought you read it!

Breakfast with Barry III

Imported Seafood

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