Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Political Digest March 9, 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.

Massa Hints He Could Rescind Resignation
Excerpt: Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) suggested on a New York radio station Sunday that he could rescind his resignation — scheduled to take effect at 5 p.m. Monday — after asserting that an ethics investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed one of his aides may have been orchestrated by Democratic leaders to get him out of office before the health care vote. Responding to a caller to his weekly radio show on WKPQ Power 105 FM, a recording of which was made available via the Web site of local station 13 WHAM-TV, Massa said: “I’m not going to be a Congressman as of 5 o’clock [Monday] afternoon. The only way to stop that is for me to rescind my resignation. That’s the only way to stop it. And the only way that’s going to happen is if this becomes a national story.” During the hour-and-a-half show, Massa said that Democratic leaders are using the House ethics committee to get him out of office before the vote on health care because he voted against the House health care bill last fall. “Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill, and this administration and this House leadership have said, 'they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill, and now they’ve gotten rid of me and it will pass.’ You connect the dots,” Massa said Several times during the broadcast Massa raised the prospect of rescinding his resignation if national news media picked up on his story of being railroaded out of office by Democratic leaders. (Don’t cross the Chicago Boys.)

Obamacare is Coming
Excerpt: Uh-oh... the Intrade betting odds that Obamacare will pass are now above 50%. That means that smart people who put their money where their mouths are now think that it is likely that some form of Obamacare will pass before June 30th. The odds dropped as low as 20% after Scott Brown's election, but as I write this, the trading is at 52 cents (winners win a dollar for each 52 cent bet). You've heard all the usual complaints about Obamacare: it would cost too much, it would forbid insurance companies from penalizing behavior that leads to bad health, it would force everyone to buy insurance (the big cause of sky-high costs). But now John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis points out that Obamacare's inscrutable formulas would have yet another unintended consequence. It's almost too complex to go into here, but basically:Employers of low-paid workers would have an incentive NOT to provide insurance, because the workers could get much greater subsidies in the individual market ($19,400 compared to $2,295.) Employers of high-paid workers would have an incentive to KEEP providing insurance, because it's tax-free and the workers wouldn't qualify for subsidies anyway. Employers' subsidies are based on the average income of all their workers. So to take full advantage of the subsidies, Goodman points out: Basically firms with high income folks... will fire their groundskeepers, maids, custodians, etc. and contract out that work to a firm that employs low-wage labor and provides no health insurance. But getting from point A to point B requires workers to change employers – and that will not be a smooth affair. A lot of people will be fired and have to search for new employment...

The health care campaign begins (again)
Excerpt: 1. With President Obama's March 18 deadline to pass health care reform through Congress rapidly approaching, the American Future Fund, a conservative outside group, is spending $900,000 on television ads in 18 Democratic-held districts calling on members to scrap the current plan. The ads decry the "massive spending" and "backroom deals" including the now infamous "Cornhusker Kickback" in the legislation and quote President Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comments during the campaign. "Tell Congress to start over and get health care right," says the ad's narrator. The districts that AFF is targeting include: Arizona's 1st, Arizona's 5th, Arizona's 8th, Indiana's 2nd, Indiana's 8th, Indiana's 9th, North Carolina's 2nd, North Dakota at large, Nevada's 3rd, New York's 24th, Ohio's 1st, Ohio's 6th, Ohio's 13th, Pennsylvania's 3rd, Pennsylvania's 10th, Wisconsin's 8th, West Virginia's 1st and West Virginia's 3rd. All 18 Democratic members targeted voted for the health care bill when it passed the House last November; eleven of the 18 districts went for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. (McCain carried 49 total districts currently represented by Democrats.) The AFF ads are almost certainly the leading edge of a cavalcade of spending by independent groups -- both conservative and liberal -- in the run-up to the vote.

In final push, Obama stresses reforms will rein in healthcare costs
Unless it has Tort reform and competition across state lines, he lies! Excerpt: President Barack Obama said his healthcare plan takes into account "every single serious idea" on cost containment from both parties. Obama made the remark in a stump speech Monday in Glenside, Pa., where he sought to address GOP criticisms that his health plan doesn't do enough to contain rising costs.

Losing In Fall OK With Democrats If It Means They Win Health Care
Excerpt: So there was President Obama giving his bazillionth speech on health care, droning yet again that "now is the hour when we must seize the moment," the same moment he's been seizing every day of the week for the past year, only this time his genius photo-op guys thought it would look good to have him surrounded by men in white coats. Why is he doing this? Why let "health" "care" "reform" stagger on like the rotting husk in a low-grade creature feature who refuses to stay dead no matter how many stakes you pound through his chest? Because it's worth it. Big time. I've been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible. In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally "conservative" parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect. (Let's not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a "conservative.") The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless. Republicans seem to have difficulty grasping this basic dynamic. Less than three months ago, they were stunned at the way the Democrats managed to get 60 senators to vote for the health bill. Then Scott Brown took them back down to 59, and Republicans were again stunned to find the Dems talking about ramming this thing into law through the parliamentary device of "reconciliation." And, when polls showed an ever larger number of Americans ever more opposed to ObamaCare (by margins approaching 3-to-1), Republicans were further stunned to discover that, in order to advance "reconciliation," Democrat reconsiglieres had apparently been offering (illegally) various cozy Big Government sinecures to swing-state congressmen in order to induce them to climb into the cockpit for the kamikaze raid to push the bill through. The Democrats understand that politics is not just about Tuesday evenings every other November, but about everything else, too.

Sinking By The Stern
Excerpt: Union Influence: The White House picks its most frequent visitor to sit on its deficit commission. He believes in big government, in big spending, and that the workers of the world should unite. What could go wrong? Computer security firms have been known to hire the best former hackers because they know best how to stop others like them. But the appointment of Andy Stern, president of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU), to a bipartisan commission to come up with ways to deal with the rapidly rising federal budget deficit is like having a serial arsonist organize Fire Prevention Week. Government employment is the only growth sector in the economy right now, and unions that represent government workers such as the SEIU are growing apace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2009, for the first time ever, more public-sector employees (7.9 million) belonged to a union than private-sector employees (7.4 million), despite there being five times more wage and salary workers in the private sector.

Emails from "attack ad" science group posted
Your tax dollars at work? Excerpt: According to recently disclosed e-mails from a National Academies of Science listserv, prominent climate scientists affiliated with the U.S. National Academies of Science have been planning a public campaign to paper over the damaged reputation of global warming alarmism. Their scheme would involve officials at the National Academies and other professional associations producing studies to endorse the researchers’ pre-existing assumptions and create confusion about the revelations of the rapidly expanding.

“Climategate” scandal.The Lost Wages of Youth
Rarely has a law hurt more vulnerable people more quickly than when Congress raised the minimum wage in three stages to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 an hour, beginning in May 2007, says the Wall Street Journal. A comparison of the three-stage increase in the minimum wage with the jobless rate for teens age 16 to 19 since 2007 reveals the following: The first increase, to $5.85 from $5.15, came after a decade of no increases, and when the overall jobless rate was below 5 percent and the teen rate was 14.9 percent. The demand for labor was sufficiently strong in many areas that most employers were probably willing to absorb the higher wage. But as the minimum wage increased even as the overall job market began to worsen, the damage to teen job seekers became more severe. By the time the third increase to $7.25 from $6.55 took effect in July 2009, the teen jobless rate was 24.3 percent, and by October it peaked at 27.6 percent before dropping to 26.4 percent in January 2010. The story is even worse for black teens, who often have lower than average education levels or live in areas with fewer job prospects: Their jobless rate climbed from 38.5 percent before the third wage hike to 49.8 percent in November 2009, before falling back to 43.8 percent in January. For black male teens, the rate climbed to 52.2 percent in December 2009 from 39.2 percent in July. The difference between the jobless rates for black teens and the entire population widened by 6 percentage points from June 2007 to January 2010.

Searching for Intelligent Life on the Left
Excerpt: It’s easy to see why liberals are convinced that they’re superior to conservatives. For one thing, in nearly all cases, professors in the liberal arts and members of the mainstream media are left-wingers. But you don’t have to be very intelligent or even the slightest bit honest to make one’s living in either field. To be a liberal arts professor, the major prerequisite is a willingness to endure sitting in classrooms from the time you’re six years old until the day you die. Once you’re into your post-graduate years, you merely have to concentrate on your specialty, be it Elizabethan poetry or the mating habits of the loon. That hardly bestows genius status on anyone. In fact, if you spot one of these bores headed your way at a cocktail party, my advice is to either feign a case of the vapors or grab your hat and go home.

Why Has Hollywood Censored Senator Webb?
Excerpt: Fields of Fire may be the greatest novel ever written about the Vietnam War. However, because it is pro-American, pro-military, and pro-Marine, Hollywood won’t touch it. I haven’t yet seen The Hurt Locker. My military friends who have seen the movie tell me it’s a decent, albeit unrealistic and over-the-top depiction of a military Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit. “The main guy’s a cowboy, who wouldn’t last one day in Iraq, assuming he ever got there,” said one Army friend, a senior non-commissioned officer. However, he told me, at least we’re the good guys. Showing American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as good guys is no small accomplishment in Hollywood these days, given the industry’s longstanding propensity to depict the United States as a malicious international villain. Still, it is asking too much of Hollywood to produce at least one great movie about today’s Iraq and Afghan wars? Sadly, it probably is asking too much. Just ask Senator James Webb, Democrat from Virginia. The highly decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War published, in 1978, what is widely recognized as perhaps that war’s greatest novel, Fields of Fire. Yet, Webb never succeeded in getting his novel made into a movie. But plenty of far less captivating stories — and certainly plenty more negative depictions of the Vietnam War and Vietnam vets — have made it to the silver screen. (I’d also recommend the novel Body Count about Vietnam.)

That Fabulous Cuban Healthcare (Part II)
Excerpt: Thus did a former President of the United States prostrate himself before a regime that jailed and tortured political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin’s and murdered (in absolute numbers) more political prisoners in its first three years in power (out of a population of 6.4 million) than Hitler’s murdered in its first six years (out of a population of 70 million.) Not to mention that Pres. Carter’s host insulted his nation as “a vulture preying on humanity!” and came within a hair of nuking it. .

Organized crime: The 'looting' of $11 trillion from the U.S. economy
Excerpt: The New York Times is quoting a spokesman for George Soros as saying that the well-known hedge fund operator is guilty of no wrong-doing in connection with the financial upheaval currently affecting Greece and Europe as a whole. But Zubi Diamond, author of the powerful new book, Wizards of Wall Street, says the agenda of Soros and other short sellers is clear. Their purpose, he says, is “to loot America and any foreign country which invested in America. Greece was one of them. Iceland was ravaged and annihilated.” Diamond, with 14 years of experience in the financial markets, calls his book a course in “Economic crisis 101” because of the need to inform ordinary Americans of what is happening right before their eyes. The book is easy to read, although it deals with complex financial regulations and operations, and is only 118 pages. The theme is that the economic crisis was deliberately engineered for profit and political gain and has already resulted in the “looting” of $11 trillion from the U.S. economy. The term “short selling” in this context refers to investors, speculators and currency manipulators who bet on the decline or collapse of a stock or currency through complex financial instruments handled mostly through secret off-shore accounts. For the hedge fund short sellers to make money, prices have to go down.

Low-tax Texas beats big-government California
Excerpt: They are lessons that are particularly vivid when you contrast Texas, the nation's second most populous state, with the most populous, California. Both were once Mexican territory, secured for the United States in the 1840s. Both have grown prodigiously over the past half-century. Both have populations that today are about one-third Hispanic.
But they differ vividly in public policy and in their economic progress -- or lack of it -- over the last decade. California has gone in for big government in a big way. Democrats hold big margins in the legislature largely because affluent voters in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area favor their liberal positions on cultural issues. Those Democratic majorities have obediently done the bidding of public employee unions to the point that state government faces huge budget deficits. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to reduce the power of the Democratic-union combine with referenda was defeated in 2005 when public employee unions poured $100 million -- all originally extracted from taxpayers -- into effective TV ads. Californians have responded by leaving the state. From 2000 to 2009, the Census Bureau estimates, there has been a domestic outflow of 1,509,000 people from California -- almost as many as the number of immigrants coming in. Population growth has not been above the national average and, for the first time in history, it appears that California will gain no House seats or electoral votes from the reapportionment following the 2010 census. Texas is a different story. Texas has low taxes -- and no state income taxes -- and a much smaller government. Its legislature meets for only 90 days every two years, compared with California's year-round legislature. Its fiscal condition is sound. Public employee unions are weak or nonexistent. But Texas seems to be delivering superior services. Its teachers are paid less than California's. But its test scores -- and with a demographically similar school population -- are higher. California's once fabled freeways are crumbling and crowded. Texas has built gleaming new highways in metro Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. In the meantime, Texas' economy has been booming. Unemployment rates have been below the national average for more than a decade, as companies small and large generate new jobs.

Bankers don't need another senator, Obama said. Except in Illinois.
Excerpt: “Bankers don't need another vote in the United States Senate," President Obama said as he urged Massachusetts voters to support Attorney General Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown. He also railed against "the same fat-cats who are getting rewarded for their failure." But in Illinois, Democrats have nominated a banker for Obama's old Senate seat. Not only is Alexi Giannoulias's family bank on the verge of failing, but he has a golden parachute made of federal tax refunds: Alexi Giannoulias, kin could walk away from Broadway Bank Collapse with $15 million (Crain's) — The family of Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias stands to collect more than $10 million in federal tax refunds even if its Broadway Bank fails, which Mr. Giannoulias said last week is likely.

Serbs had to battle an Islamist threat, too
Excerpt: I am not defending Radovan Karadzic ("Karadzic blames Islamic militants for war," Web, Monday, and "Karadzic blames Muslims for killing," Geopolitics, Tuesday). However, there is a basis for his claim that Osama bin Laden's Muslim militants were active in the Balkan war. Instead of being honest brokers in what was a civil war, the Clinton administration, along with a willing media, successfully portrayed Serbian forces, including the Serbian people collectively, as the only villains. In 1993, the government of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic issued a passport to bin Laden at the Bosnian Embassy in Vienna, thereby enabling the master terrorist to visit both Bosnia and Kosovo on several occasions. In his book "Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qa'ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad," professor John R. Schindler, formerly with the National Security Agency, made the following points: The Bosnian conflict has been misrepresented by the mainstream media, which has covered up the large role played by radical Islam and al Qaeda; bin Laden used Bosnia as a base for terrorist operations worldwide; and the Clinton administration, in collaboration with Iran, secretly supplied Bosnia's mujahideen, including al Qaeda, with weapons and supplies. At the urging of President Clinton, NATO forces bombed the Bosnian Serbs in 1995. Yossef Bodansky, in his book "Offensive in the Balkans," wrote that the mortar used to bomb Sarajevo's main marketplace was designed and built with the help of Hezbollah. Mr. Bodansky wrote, "This callous self-killing was designed to shock the West, especially sentimental and gullible Washington, in order to raise the level of Western sympathy to the Bosnian Muslims and further demonize the Serbs so that Western governments would be more supportive of Sarajevo's forthcoming aggressive moves, and perhaps even finally intervene [militarily]."

Are Spanish Troops Intentionally Endangering American Marines and Soldiers?
Not surprising, considering the Jihadist attacks helped elect the leftist Spanish government. Excerpt: Yesterday, an American involved in the war effort handed me a document. It was an email from a Lieutenant Colonel in the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. His unit is in combat seven days a week. To be clear, I did not get the email from the officer and I have never met him. The email is about the abysmal, unsafe conditions which some of our most dedicated troops are living in, at a remote base run by the Spanish military in Afghanistan. All deletions [xxx] are by me. I have the entire email. The serious and disturbing allegations are found in the second and third paragraphs. Please note, that the failure to support permanent US troops at this Spanish base constitutes real negligence about their ultimate safety. And that comes on top of a degree of harassment that is shocking among allies.

Pakistan seeks identity of American suspect who is not Gadahn
May have the wrong traitor. That’s okay—shoot him and continue looking for the other one. Excerpt An American member of al-Qaeda was picked up in a raid in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi, Pakistani officials said yesterday, but reversed earlier assertions that the detained man was the terror network's U.S.-born spokesman. They identified the suspect as Abu Yahya Majadin Adam, but gave no details on his background or role within al-Qaeda. A name very close to that is listed on the FBI's Web site as an alias for Adam Gadahn, the 31-year-old spokesman who has appeared in several videos threatening the West since 2001. The resemblance led to confusion among officials Sunday to believe that the suspect was Gadahn, an army officer and a senior intelligence officer said.

Hundreds slaughtered in Nigeria religious violence
Someone needs to send the killers the “Islam is a Religion of Peace” memo. Excerpt: The killers showed no mercy: They didn't spare women and children, or even a 4-day-old baby, from their machetes. On Monday, Nigerian women wailed in the streets as a dump truck carried dozens of bodies past burned-out homes toward a mass grave. Rubber-gloved workers pulled ever-smaller bodies from the dump truck and tossed them into the mass grave. A crowd began singing a hymn with the refrain, "Jesus said I am the way to heaven." As the grave filled, the grieving crowd sang: "Jesus, show me the way." At least 200 people, most of them Christians, were slaughtered on Sunday, according to residents, aid groups and journalists. The local government gave a figure more than twice that amount, but offered no casualty list or other information to substantiate it. An Associated Press reporter counted 61 corpses, 32 of them children, being buried in the mass grave in the village of Dogo Nahawa on Monday. Other victims would be buried elsewhere. At a local morgue the bodies of children, including a diaper-clad toddler, were tangled together. One appeared to have been scalped. Others had severed hands and feet. Sunday's bloodshed in three mostly Christian villages appeared to be reprisal attacks, said Red Cross spokesman Robin Waubo. Nigeria is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. The recent bloodshed has been happening in central Nigeria, in towns which lie along the country's religious fault line. It is Nigeria's "middle belt," where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands. The Rev. Pandang Yamsat, the president of a local Christian group, said he has urged his congregation not to respond violently to Muslims.

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