Saturday, March 27, 2010

Political Digest March 28, 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.

Recommended Books

I’ve just read Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You, by Leonard M. Scruggs. An Air Force pilot in Vietnam, Scruggs has added to the much-needed literature setting the record straight. While as a history student who has read extensively on the war, I didn’t learn much new, this short volume will be valuable for those who are not steeped in what happened in Vietnam, and thus may accept the left-wing myths propagated by the media who hope to mitigate their own cowardice about the war, and to cover up the massive death toll after the Communist Victory as well as the tens of millions sold into slavery by the US Congress in 1974-5.

As an Air force officer, Scruggs naturally concentrates on the contributions of air power, but it’s hard to argue with his assertion that strategic use of air power could have won the war in 1965 again in 1968, and in fact won the military war in 1972, before the Congress reneged on the United States’ treaty commitments under the Geneva Accords to maintain logistic support of the South Vietnamese Forces at the current level. It is little wonder that it is hard to convince the Iraqis and Afghanis who would like a free country that the US will keep its sworn obligations to stand by them. Our record of faithfulness is not good.

Scruggs also accepts the view that the siege of Khe Sanh was a diversion from Giap’s main effort, which was the cities attacked in the Tet Offensive in the winter of 1968. My personal view is that both were main efforts, that Giap believed victory in either would bring victory in the war, and he was prepared to shift his schwerpunkt to reinforce success at either point. That NVN suffered devastating military defeats in both is undeniable to any student of history. That the media pictured them as defeats for the US/SVN was the key point in delivering millions in SE Asia to death and slavery. We won the war in Vietnam and lost it in Washington and the media.

Scruggs includes an excellent and even handed account of the Mai Lai incident, which went far to losing the war in the PR arena. He also has good short accounts of the POW and MIA aspects of the war. Readers unfamiliar with the war will learn what real torture looks like.

After finishing Scruggs’ book, I re-read, Whitewash/Blackwash: Myths of the Vietnam War, by Bill Laurie and R. J. Del Vecchio (a frequent contributor to this blog). This slim book can be read in an hour, and makes an excellent gift to those unfamiliar with the war. It briefly reviews and refutes the main myths that have been circulating. Unfortunately, the media has the narrative they prefer. We shall have to wait for a more objective historical review, after all participants are dead, to hope of having a true, balanced understanding in the history books. Books like these, plus A Better War and Triumph Forsaken will provide the guidance to future historians.

I’ve also just finished Robert Spencer’s new book, The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran. I recommend it to those who would like to understand why, if Islam is a “religion of peace” as everyone from Bush to Obama to Fox News preaches to us, there is a constant, daily drum beat of violence from Muslims around the world. Spenser uses the Qur’an and the Hadith or Sunna (the traditions of the Prophet that “illuminate the Qur’an” and are considered essential to its understanding by Muslims) to show that Jihad, violence, domination and the conquest and subjugation of infidels is firmly rooted in the teachings of the main schools of Islamic thought. That there are tens of millions of moderate Muslims who wish to live in peace is undeniable. And also irrelevant as long as Islamic groups draw on the unchangeable Qur’an to justify violence. You may disagree with Spencer’s conclusions (hopefully because you have studied the Qur’an, not because you just think it can’t be true!), but every person who values political and religious liberty as well as gender equality should be familiar with this book.

Please hold flaming emails disagreeing with my conclusions on these books until after you have read the books. And now we return to our regular-scheduled news of the disasters overtaking our country….

The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs
Glad to learn I’m not a druggie after all. Excerpt: A probing analysis of the links between the Vietnam War and the evolution of American drug policy. The image of the drug-addicted American soldier—disheveled, glassy-eyed, his uniform adorned with slogans of antiwar dissent—has long been associated with the Vietnam War. More specifically, it has persisted as an explanation for the U.S. defeat, the symbol of a demoralized army incapable of carrying out its military mission. Yet as Jeremy Kuzmarov documents in this deeply researched book, popular assumptions about drug use in Vietnam are based more on myth than fact. Not only was alcohol the intoxicant of choice for most GIs, but the prevalence of other drugs varied enormously. Although marijuana use among troops increased over the course of the war, for the most part it remained confined to rear areas, and the use of highly addictive drugs like heroin was never as widespread as many imagined.

Vote on the Healthcare Bill

Obama names 15 recess appointments, including union lawyer
Wait! I thought Democrats said using recess appointments was terrible when the last pres did it? Excerpt: President Barack Obama on Saturday wielded his recess appointment powers for the first time, clearing 15 nominees to assume posts that have remained vacant for months due to insurmountable congressional roadblocks. Among the 15 named just days before the Senate departs for Easter recess are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, the White House's two, hotly contested nominees for the National Labor Relations Board. Republicans have staunchly opposed both nominees, Becker especially, for their pro-labor positions. Business associations were also opposed to the appointment of Becker, an associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and AFL-CIO who was nominated by Obama to the NLRB but failed this February to secure 60 votes in the Senate for confirmation. Still, their appointment to the NLRB means the agency may now resume deciding labor disputes without the looming threat of a shutdown by the Supreme Court. Noticeably absent from the list, however, is Dawn Johnsen, the White House's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Republicans have long excoriated Johnsen for being too much of an ideologue to run such an important wing of the Justice Department, though the Obama administration has repeated it remains confident in her leadership abilities.

Second TSA nominee withdraws his name
Just make a “recess Appointment” and avoid those pesky “advise and consent” questions from Senators. I’m sure CAIR has a nominee for you to consider. Excerpt: The Obama administration's second choice to lead the Transportation Security Administration withdrew from consideration Friday, days after senators questioned his business and personal dealings as a military contractor who provided services ranging from Iraq war interrogators to private guards at the White House. Distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor would not be good for this Administration nor the Department of Homeland Security," retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert A. Harding said in a late-evening statement released by the White House. "The president is disappointed in this outcome," Obama spokesman Nicholas Shapiro said in a separate statement. Obama's previous nominee, Los Angeles airport police executive Errol Southers, withdrew from consideration in January. He blamed stalling tactics by Republicans opposed to extending collective bargaining rights to TSA employees, but his withdrawal also followed disclosures that he gave Congress and the White House misleading information about incidents two decades ago.

Pelosi instructions to Democrats leaving for recess: It’s time to go on offense
Excerpt: Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants House Democrats to go on offense during the critical two-week recess that begins this weekend. Members returning to their districts should tout the new healthcare law’s benefits to their constituents, according to the “recess packet” issued by Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office this week and obtained by The Hill. “With the passage of health insurance reform, this District Work Period is a critical time to go on offense,” the memo states. Members should “convey the immediate benefits of health reform to your constituents (such as better prescription drug benefits for seniors, tax credits for small businesses and prohibiting insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick),” the memo said. Democrats are returning home for the recess covering the Easter and Passover holidays with the most political momentum they’ve had in the past year.

AP: Say, guess what we just found in ObamaCare!
Gotta go on the offensive with these retirees who will be dumped into Medicare…. Excerpt: Congress passed the bill without knowing what was in it. Barack Obama signed it without reading it. Now it looks as though the Associated Press reported on ObamaCare without comprehending its content. Readers will have to scroll far down to discover that the elimination of a key tax break that kept retirees on company prescription-medication plans will mean dumping millions of seniors onto Medicare — and that the AP ignored it until now:
The health care overhaul will cost U.S. companies billions and make them more likely to drop prescription drug coverage for retirees because of a change in how the government subsidizes those benefits. In the first two days after the law was signed, three major companies — Deere & Co., Caterpillar Inc. and Valero Energy — said they expect to take a total hit of $265 million to account for smaller tax deductions in the future. With more than 3,500 companies now getting the tax break as an incentive to keep providing coverage, others are almost certain to announce similar cost increases in the weeks ahead as they sort out the impact of the change. Figuring out what it will mean for retirees will take longer, but analysts said as many as 2 million could lose the prescription drug coverage provided by their former employers, leaving them to enroll in Medicare’s program.

Obama's Full Frontal Attack on Free Speech
Excerpt: Today, in the Wall Street Journal, two articles discuss the immediate effect of the new health care legislation. In ObamaCare Day One, we hear about companies like Caterpillar, which is reporting a first year cost of $100 million or more in order to comply with the new regulations. In another article titled The ObamaCare Writedowns, it is reported that government-mandated accounting rules require corporations to immediately restate earning to reflect the present value of their long-term health care liabilities and taxes. In response to that requirement, today AT&T took a one billion dollar writedown. Other companies reporting health care related losses include: Deere & Co, ($150 million); 3M Corporation ($90 million); AK Steel ($31 million); Valero Energy ($20 million). The consulting firm Towers Watson is estimating that the total for all businesses may reach as high as $14 billion. What does this mean? It means that the U.S. economy just lost another 14 billion dollars. That's $14 billion that will not be available for capital investment or research. $14 billion that is now unavailable for business expansion and new jobs creation. $14 billion that will never make it into the wallets of workers. That's $14 billion real dollars, created through productive work — not paper money simply run off the government's printing presses. However, if that were not bad enough, just like kangaroo*, the President and his congressional cohorts are "hopping mad at this sort of talk!"

The Real ObamaCare Fraud
Excerpt: In the final days before the climactic ObamaCare vote in Congress, one hotly disputed issue was the reliability of the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that the health plan would cost “only” $940 billion over 10 years. Critics charged that this figure was artificially low because it included a projected 21% cut in Medicare payments to physicians that Congress would later restore as a separate $247 billion “doc fix.” In essence, ObamaCare critics charged that supporters were engaged in fraudulent accounting. The critics are right. In the short term, politicians are unlikely to leave the draconian 21% Medicare cuts in place, because it would force many physicians to treat Medicare patients at a loss. Many doctors would drop their Medicare patients (or at least refuse to accept new ones), creating an outcry from the senior citizens’ lobby. The projected cuts have already been postponed multiple times. Originally scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2010, Congress first postponed them until March 1, 2010, then until April 1, 2010, then again until October 2010. However, such postponements won’t solve the long-term problem of rising Medicare costs. Hence, under ObamaCare the federal government also plans on cutting Medicare spending through measures that don’t overtly force doctors to lose money. Although these measures will be portrayed as steps to improve “quality” and “cost effectiveness,” they will in fact have the opposite effects of reducing quality of care and leading to de facto rationing. These constitute the real fraud of ObamaCare.

Primary care access isn’t guaranteed by health insurance
And the doctor shortage will grow, as fewer of the best and brightest will go into a field with diminishing returns, growing paperwork and subject to marauding bands of trial lawyers. In the UK, up to 1/3 of the docs come from the third world. Excerpt: An excellent article appeared recently in the Washington Post, entitled, “Having health insurance doesn’t ensure it will be easy to find a doctor,” where a young, otherwise healthy and insured woman discusses her extreme difficulty in finding a doctor in Washington, DC who will see her. “I was just 23, basically healthy and, most important, insured. So I pulled out my computer, looked up the UnitedHealthcare list of pre-approved doctors and started calling. And I got rejected. Again. And again. (Usually after being put on hold for three or four minutes.) ”

Healthcare Timeline

Fidel Castro Congratulates Obama for Health Care Bill
Socialist solidarity! Excerpt: Will the naysayers who have been complaining about the passage of Obamacare — the most massive expansion of the welfare state in 45 years – be silenced by the revelation that the President’s plan has now received a ringing endorsement from none other than Fidel Castro, the longtime overseer of what is perhaps the most scenic Communist gulag ever established? Yesterday, the former dictator crowed that the passage of American health care reform was “a miracle” that represented a major “success” for Barack Obama.

Will America break up?
Excerpt: The bitter debate over Obamacare has exposed the country's profound divisions. We are no longer one nation or one people. Rather, there are now two Americas: one conservative, the other liberal. Increasingly, we no longer just disagree but we despise each other.
Our disagreements encompass everything - politics, morality, culture and history. We no longer share a unifying essence or common values. One half of America believes abortion is an abomination; the other half considers any attempt to repeal it as oppressive and sexist. One half opposes homosexual unions because it elevates immoral and unnatural behavior to the sacred status of marriage; the other half supports it as an extension of civil rights. One half reviles Mr. Obama's socialist agenda, viewing it as the destruction of capitalism and our constitutional government; the other half embraces it as the culmination of social justice and economic equality. One half reveres America's heroes - Christopher Columbus, George Washington, James Madison, Davy Crockett - and its glorious history; the other half is ashamed of its past, seeing it as characterized by racism, imperialism and chauvinism. Ultimately, a country is not simply its geographical borders with the people inside of it. It is something more - and deeper. A nation must share a common heritage, language, culture, faith and myths. Once upon a time, Americans celebrated the same heroes, sang the same patriotic songs, read the same history and literature, and gloried in its exceptional nature: a city upon a hill, with liberty and freedom for all. It was understood that, for all of our different ethnic and religious backgrounds, America is a product of English and Christian civilization. Those days are long gone. (Yes, there will be a collapse of the Republic, I believe.)

Unions Want to Take Over Your 401(k)
Then they could spend it and put in treasury IOUs as they did with the Social Security Trust Fund. Excerpt: One of the nation's largest labor unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is promoting a plan that will centralize all retirement plans for American workers, including private 401(k) plans, under one new "retirement system" for the United States.
In effect, government pensions for everyone, not unlike the European system and regardless of personal choice. The SEIU, which was integral to the election of Barack Obama as president, is working with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, on SEIU's plan, called "the Retirement USA Initiative." Claiming that the retirement system in place now has "failed most Americans," EPI vice president Ross Eisenbrey, told a labor union publication that "account balances have fallen by a third since late 2007, leaving many older workers unable to retire just as our economy is shedding millions of jobs.” “The failure is broad and deep. It's not just a few people falling through the cracks: most of us already are in the ravine. Three in 10 have only a 401(k) or similar savings plan, and the rest of us are totally out of luck," said Eisenbrey. Eisenbrey said that the median 401(k) account balance was $25,000 in 2006, and the median for workers near retirement was $40,000. "Half of those who had a 401(k) were nearing retirement with less than $40,000 in their account," said Eisenbrey, who is trained as a lawyer and

Leftist Issues Death Threats to Palin and Family on Twitter
Excerpt: There is justifiably some concern relating to the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and violent threats. It’s just not quite what you’ve been hearing in Big Media. On Twitter, a fellow calling himself Jason Brown has been posting since May 10, 2009, and has a total of 379 messages posted so far……In recent days, Brown has been saying that he is concerned about the violence that he believes Sarah Palin is fostering. So, he is threatening to kill Sarah Palin and her family. (By leftist logic that blames right wing nuts on Republicans like Palin, this is Obama’s fault. About as reasonable.)

Military-Commission Trials Set for the Summer
Excerpt: The Pentagon is poised to rescind last year's order halting military-commission cases, a final legal step as it gears up to try accused terrorists. But there's an awkward hitch: the new trials will be held in the $12 million, high-tech courtroom at Guantánamo Bay, which will refocus the world's attention on the very prison President Obama pledged to close. "As of right now, we don't have the money or the authority" to hold the trials elsewhere, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not to be identified talking about a politically sensitive subject.

Obama’s Legacy and the Iranian Bomb
Excerpt: The second way in which Iran could use nuclear weapons would be to hand them off to its surrogates, Hezbollah or Hamas. A third way would be for a terrorist group, such as al Qaeda, to get its hands on Iranian nuclear material. It could do so with the consent of Iran or by working with rogue elements within the Iranian regime. Finally, Iran could use its nuclear weapons without ever detonating a bomb. By constantly threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation, it could engender so much fear among Israelis as to incite mass immigration, a brain drain, or a significant decline in people moving to Israel....Regardless of his passage of health-care reform and regardless of whether he restores jobs and helps the economy recover, Mr. Obama will be remembered for allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. History will not treat kindly any leader who allows so much power to be accumulated by the world’s first suicide nation—a nation whose leaders have not only expressed but, during the Iran-Iraq war, demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice millions of their own people to an apocalyptic mission of destruction.

LAPD officer killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb attack,0,1747634.story
I continue to wonder if the country still deserves such men. Excerpt: A member of the Los Angeles Police Department's elite SWAT unit, who also served as a U.S. Marine, was killed Wednesday in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb, LAPD officials said. Sgt. Maj. Robert J. Cottle, 45, was traveling with three other Marines in the Marja region of the country, which has been the focus of an intense U.S.-led offensive against Taliban forces in recent weeks, said LAPD Capt. John Incontro, who oversees SWAT operations. Their armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, killing Cottle and another Marine and seriously wounding the two others, Incontro said.

Stripped by Massachusetts: Firsthand Account of Strippers Becoming Employees
Back when I was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature, we would have investigated something like this in great depth. Excerpt: The Daily Caller (our buddy Tucker Carlson's brainchild) has a new story telling the tale of a stripper lamenting her profession's transition from independent contractors to regular ol' employees in Massachusetts. The stripper, writing under the pseudonym Pussy Per Se (yes, really) says that "the legislature of Massachusetts, attorney general Martha Coakley, and some savvy lawyers have now put me out of business." But not out of business exactly, just out of independent contracting. Perhaps because she's writing for a conservative site, Per Se begins her argument by clarifying that strippers just strip: they don't have sex (with customers), or wreck marriages (at least not most of the time). She says operating as an independent contractor gave her the freedom to charge her own rates, giving certain customers deals (sometimes two-for-ones with other club workers) or discounts for longer periods in the champagne room. As contractors, dancers pay a "tip out" to the club for the ability to work there, but don't receive additional benefits like insurance or Social Security. "The dancer can take a loss on any particular day, just like any business," Per Se says. Still, the law on independent contracting has the following points that seem to say strippers are employees:

America’s Comeback

I’m Sorry I Voted for Obama website
Get your friends to sign up.

City Of Chicago To Modernize Outdated Graft Programs,17140/
Good satire: In an effort to streamline unethical practices and boost illegal profiteering, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced sweeping new plans Monday to overhaul his city's "antiquated" system of graft. According to Daley, Chicago's once-great fraudulent institutions have grown obsolete, and City Hall is no longer bilking taxpayers out of as much money as it once did. "It's been business as usual for too long in Chicago, and now it's time to find more efficient ways to misuse authority for personal gain," said Daley, who has served as Chicago's mayor since 1989. "We must modernize our illegitimate activities right now, today, before it becomes impossible for public officials to act in my best self-interests."

You picked a fine time to lead us, Barack!

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