Friday, April 16, 2010

Political Digest April 16, 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.

Mr. Hall
I am a 62 year old Vietnam vet (okay, okay, as my marine friend tells me "only the Army") and I was lucky enough to hear you on KFI in L.A. this evening as I drove home. Upon arriving home I immediately ran to my computer and read "I'm Tired." It had me in tears. Every person in the U.S. should read it. I feel exactly the same way, but feel so frustrated because I don't know what we can do. Anyway, thank you so much for writing it and God bless you. --Rex

Volcanic ash from Iceland forces cancellation of flights, disrupts travel for thousands
One earthquake after another and now this. Maybe we won’t have to worry about “global warming.”

Palin vs. Obama?
Conservative commentators keep saying how dumb Obama is to be engaging with Palin, most recently on nukes, because it gives her credibility. But maybe he’s looked at the numbers and wants to give her credibility, because he wants her as his opponent in 2012.

Thanks, Grandma Hugs
I received a lovely lap quilt in the mail from “Grandma Hugs” and the W. & P. Quilters of Trinity Lutheran Church of McPherson, KS. They make quilts for veterans and service members. I gather they put me on the list because of “I’m Tired” and my blog bio.

The Huge, Hidden Tax You Pay for Government
Excerpt: Taxpayers rushing to fill out and file their form 1040 today may think their obligation to the federal government is complete. But it's really just beginning. Although Americans paid more than $900 billion in income taxes last year, there's a far larger tax bill hidden from view. That tax is regulation.

Few lawmakers file their own taxes, citing code's complexity
Rough justice. Excerpt: Few members of Congress prepare their annual tax returns, instead relying on professional preparers, according to a survey conducted by The Hill.
The lawmakers explained it was the tax code’s complexity that had them turning to accountants for help.

Four Trojan Horses
Excerpt: Of all the criticisms that have been leveled at “ObamaCare” over the past year, the four worst features of the legislation have been almost totally ignored — by Republicans in Congress, by the national news media and even by serious economists. So you’re seeing it here first: 1. People will be required to buy a product whose price will be rising at twice the rate of growth of their incomes and they will be barred from doing many of the things needed to control these costs. 2. A bizarre system of subsidies will disrupt the entire labor market — causing massive layoffs and, ultimately, a complete restructuring of industrial organization. 3. A health insurance exchange will give health plans perverse incentives to attract the healthy and avoid the sick; and after enrollment, to overprovide to the healthy and underprovide to the sick. 4. A weakly enforced individual mandate will give people perverse incentives to game the system — remaining uninsured while healthy and obtaining insurance only after they get sick; choosing limited-benefit plans while healthy and scaling up to richer plans after they get sick.

Jim DeMint: Leading the conservative revolution?
Excerpt: South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint (R) threw his endorsement behind Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck (R) in the Colorado Senate race, the latest in a series of moves by DeMint to buck the Republican Party establishment in contested primaries.
DeMint called Buck "an authentic conservative" who has "rapidly gained momentum" in his primary fight against former lieutenant governor Jane Norton among others.
DeMint's endorsement comes roughly 24 hours after Americans for Job Security, a conservative independent group, began running ads touting Buck, and following a Norton announcement that she would forgo the state convention -- where Buck had emerged as a clear favorite -- and instead would petition her way onto the ballot. DeMint's endorsement of Buck marks the fifth time he has backed a Senate candidate via his Senate Conservatives Fund PAC this cycle. His past endorsements include: former representative Pat Toomey (Pa.), former state House speaker Marco Rubio (Fla.), state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (Calif.) and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams (Texas). In all five races -- including Colorado -- faced candidates with varying levels of support from the party establishment. (Williams' bid ended the day Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced she would not resign from the Senate after losing a gubernatorial primary last month.) "Senator DeMint is helping strong conservative candidates around the country who have been overlooked by the Washington establishment," explained Matt Hoskins, an aide to DeMint. DeMint's increased endorsement activity has riled some within the party who believe he is, at times, backing the more ideologically pure candidate even if that person simply cannot win the seat. "Many in Republican circles are still waiting for Jim DeMint to explain how, in the real world, having only 30 Senators who agree with him on every issue rather than 60 Republicans who might not, would do anything to stop the Democrats from steam-rolling their agenda through Congress," said one senior party strategist upset with DeMint's decisions. What's clear is that -- like him or not -- DeMint has rapidly built himself into a forced to be reckoned with in conservative circles. That heightened profile -- and the fact that DeMint is from the early-voting state of South Carolina -- have led some to speculate that a 2012 presidential race might be in the offing. Not so, according to one longtime Republican DeMint observer. "This has nothing to do with running for president," said the source. "Jim DeMint doesn't want to lead a government he wants to lead a revolution."

Eliminate Tax Brackets And Complicated Forms With A Flat Tax
Too many interests vested in our current confusing system for change to happen. Excerpt: Most Americans support tax reform because they want fairness. The current system is a crapshoot riddled with corrupt provisions, and the tax treatment of upper-income households is a good example, says Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute. For example: Sometimes rich people are hit with punitive tax rates; this is not good for them, but it also hurts the rest of us by reducing investment and entrepreneurship. Many wealthy taxpayers, though, scam the system by using lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants; that also is bad for the rest of us since funds are allocated inefficiently. With a flat tax, there are no special preferences or special penalties based on income. Economists like the flat tax since it would increase growth and job creation, while also making America more competitive. This is because a flat tax means a low tax rate. By replacing high tax rates with a low flat rate (probably 17 percent), the flat tax will encourage more productive behavior, says Mitchell.

Earmarks: Who Brought Home the Bacon
As long as Republicans are at the pig trough, they cannot run as the party of fiscal responsibility. Excerpt: Despite a deficit that's pushing $1.5 trillion, members of Congress slipped a whopping 9,100 pork barrel projects into legislation this fiscal year, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. "What it does is it buys votes," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "And if any senior member of our conference or this Congress wants to pass a bill, they use earmarks. They sprinkle them around like candy." This year, they sprinkled in $2.5 million for potato pest management and research, $1.4 million to study mosquito trapping in Florida, and $800,000 for catfish genome mapping in Alabama. Taxpayers have been on the hook for this fishy earmark since 2001, for a total of $3.4 million. For the third year in a row, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran ran away with the title of the biggest earmarker. The ranking Republican on the powerful appropriations committee snagged $490 million for 240 pet projects.

Europe's VAT Lessons: Rates start low and increase, while income tax rates stay high.
Excerpt: As Americans rush to complete their annual tax returns today, there is still some consolation in knowing that it could be worse: Like Europeans, we could pay both income taxes and a value-added tax, or VAT. And maybe we soon will. Paul Volcker, Nancy Pelosi, John Podesta and other allies of the Obama Administration have already floated the idea of an American VAT, so we thought you might like to know how it has worked in Europe. A VAT is essentially a national sales tax that is assessed at each stage of production, with the bill passed along to consumers at the cash register. In Europe the average rate is a little under 20%. (See the nearby chart.) In the U.S., a federal VAT would presumably be levied on top of state and local sales taxes that range as high as 10%. Some nations also exempt food, medicine and certain other goods from the tax. VATs were sold in Europe as a way to tax consumption, which in principle does less economic harm than taxing income, savings or investment. This sounds good, but in practice the VAT has rarely replaced the income tax, or even resulted in a lower income-tax rate. The top individual income tax rate remains very high in Europe despite the VAT, with an average on the continent of about 46%. Europe's individual income tax rates have fallen since the 1980s, following the U.S. lead in the Reagan era, and European corporate tax rates have come down even more sharply. But the drive of this decline has been global tax competition, not the offsetting burden of the VAT.

We're Number 61!
Gee, another reason to move companies—and jobs—offshore. Excerpt: One item that doesn't fall into the it-could-be-worse department—see above—is the U.S. corporate income tax. It's already about as bad as can be. This year, American businesses may spend 89 cents preparing their taxes for every dollar they pay in taxes. In a new estimate, David Keating of the National Taxpayers Union estimates that the cost of compliance with the corporate tax is $159.4 billion—or 89% of expected tax collections for fiscal 2009, and 54% for 2008. That includes the administrative burden, reporting requirements, accounting costs and all the rest. In one of those tax facts that have become famous, General Electric's 2007 tax form ran to some 24,000 pages. Though GE files electronically, a spokeswoman says that "sounds about right to us."

Study: Malpractice worries help drive health costs
Excerpt: A substantial number of heart doctors — about one in four — say they order medical tests that might not be needed out of fear of getting sued, according to a new study. Nearly 600 doctors were surveyed for the study to determine how aggressively they treat their patients and whether non-medical issues have influenced their decisions to order invasive heart tests. Most said they weren't swayed by such things as financial gain or a patient's expectations. But about 24 percent of the doctors said they had recommended the test in the previous year because they were worried about malpractice lawsuits. About 27 percent said they did it because they thought their colleagues would do the test. Doctors who treated their patients aggressively were more likely to be influenced by malpractice worries or peer pressure than those who weren't as aggressive, the study determined.

In mix-up, lawmaker gets wake-up call from Richmond police
Excerpt: Richmond police officers on Sunday attempted to serve an arrest warrant to a Virginia lawmaker, but they had the wrong guy. The bizarre sequence of events started Saturday night after Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) delivered a speech at the Virginia 5th District Annual Dinner in Lynchburg, Va. Instead of completing the more than three-hour drive to his home in Newport News, Scott checked into a Holiday Inn Central hotel in Richmond around midnight. Nine hours later, two members of the Richmond Police Department were knocking on his second-floor hotel room door, Scott told The Hill. Scott, who described himself as "dead asleep" at the time, awakened, opened the door and spoke with the officers. They asked him if his name was Robert Scott and he replied yes. The officers informed him they had an outstanding arrest warrant for a "Robert Scott" and requested two forms of photo identification. Scott said he gave the officers his driver's license and his congressional voting card. Though his voting card states, "Robert C Scott, U.S. House of Representatives, Member of Congress" on the front side along with his photo as well as the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives on the backside, the police were more interested in his driver's license to ascertain his date of birth. Scott, who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee crime, terrorism and homeland security subcommittee, was questioned about where he lived. The conversation ended shortly thereafter, according to Scott.

Foreclosure rates surge, biggest jump in 5 years
Need to make government bigger and print more money to give away! Excerpt: A record number of U.S. homes were lost to foreclosure in the first three months of this year, a sign banks are starting to wade through the backlog of troubled home loans at a faster pace, according to a new report. RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday that the number of U.S. homes taken over by banks jumped 35 percent in the first quarter from a year ago. In addition, households facing foreclosure grew 16 percent in the same period and 7 percent from the last three months of 2009.

'Hockey stick' graph was exaggerated
Accidents happen in the “settled science.” Excerpt: The 'hockey stick' that became emblematic of the threat posed by climate change exaggerated the rise in temperature because it was created using 'inappropriate' methods, according to the head of the Royal Statistical Society.

Why FL-19 isn't a health care referendum
Excerpt: In the immediate wake of soon-to-be Rep. Ted Deutch's (D) victory in a special election in Florida's 19th district on Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee released a statement casting it as a rejection of Republican claims that health care would set off an electoral cataclysm for the party. "With their votes, Floridians also said 'no' to the Party of No," said DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, adding that the Republican nominee campaigned "on the central tenet of Republican obstructionism - rolling back health reform that provides coverage for children with pre-existing conditions and comprehensive care for seniors" and was rebuked. Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the DNC, followed up Kaine statement from last night with an email to reporters this morning entitled "The sky is not falling" with a link to an Associated Press story on Deutch's win. "In the very first federal election since reform passed, in a district where the Republican ran against health reform, the Democrat won going away," said Woodhouse. He added that in a district in which more than one in every four resident are over 65 years old, there was little evidence of a fall-off among seniors, who are widely regarded as a critical voting bloc in the 2010 midterms. (Deutch won with 62 percent -- roughly equivalent to the 66 percent that former Rep. Robert Wexler won in 2008 against the same Republican opponent.) All true. And yet, there are far too many mitigating factors for the Florida special election to be rightly cast as the first true referendum on the recently-passed health care legislation.

Vilifying Tom Coburn for a moment of civility
Excerpt: There is something weird going on in the Republican Party when Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is the voice of reason. There is something dangerous going on in the Republican Party when he is vilified for it. Coburn has said he favors the death penalty for "abortionists." He opposes "any and all efforts to mandate gun control on law-abiding citizens." During the debate over health-care reform, Coburn said that "what the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight." He is the Senate's "Dr. No," leading the charge this week against extending unemployment benefits. I could go on -- but Coburn doesn't need me to vouch for his conservative bona fides. Except for these alleged transgressions: At a recent town hall meeting, Coburn called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "a nice lady" -- in the course of criticizing the speaker for telling him she did not want to set a "precedent" by paying for the extension of unemployment benefits. In my world, "nice lady" borders on dismissive with a slight, if unintended, tinge of sexism. In Conservative World, that description of Pelosi apparently is heretical. Coburn's comment was greeted with jeers and hisses, but he stuck to his, well, guns. (I suppose I have to say it again. Victory or defeat in 2010 and 2012, as with most elections—will be decided by the un-engaged center. If conservatives turn off the middle by coming across as nasty, as nut-jobs, as un-reasonable, it will hand victory to the liberals, losing what may be our last chance to stave off a European socialist future, complete with an eventual Soviet-style fiscal collapse. People who jeer Tom Coburn for this delight Nancy Pelosi, as the left wants to paint the right as nutty haters.)

Former NSA executive charged with leaking information to newspaper
I don’t see the problem. Aren’t Democrats expected to put media stories attacking Bush ahead of national security? Excerpt: A former senior executive with the National Security Agency has been indicted on 10 felony charges related to the leaking of classified information to a national newspaper in 2006 and 2007, the Justice Department announced Thursday morning. Thomas A. Drake, 52, headed an office in the NSA's signals intelligence and engineering directorates at Fort Meade between 2001 and 2005, U.S. officials said. The indictment alleges that Drake exchanged hundreds of e-mails with a reporter for a national newspaper and served as a source for its articles about Bush administration intelligence policies and agency management failures between February 2006 and November 2007, U.S. officials said.

Republicans hold lead in generic ballot
Excerpt: The latest weekly tracking poll from Gallup showing Republicans holding a 48 percent to 44 percent lead in the generic ballot test -- the third straight week that the GOP has stood tied or ahead on the question -- represents the sort of historic anomaly that has to concern Democratic strategists heading into the fall. As Gallup's Lydia Saad notes, the only times in recent memory that Republicans carried a sustained edge in the generic ballot question -- "Would you vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate for Congress if the election was today?" or language similar to that -- were in 1994 and 2002. In each, Republicans either scored significant gains in the House and Senate (1994) or beat back historical midterm election trends (2002). (Worth noting: Not all data conforms with Gallup's conclusions. A late March Washington Post/ABC national poll gave Democrats a 48 percent to 44 percent edge among registered voters in the generic ballot, a reversal from the 48 percent to 45 percent advantage Republicans enjoyed on the question in an early February survey. And, a CNN poll showed Democrats at 50 percent to 46 percent for Republicans. But, the closeness of the generic ballot was a marked contrast to the double digit edge Democrats held in advance of the 2006 and 2008 elections.)

Trivial Pursuit
Excerpt: Revolutionary. There’s no other word that more aptly describes the health reform that was just enacted. It will affect everyone. Every employee. Everyone on Medicare. Everyone on Medicaid. It will even affect those who choose to remain uninsured. It will give the federal government enormous control over a sector that spends one out of every six dollars in our economy. Once fully phased in, the ten-year costs will approach $2.5 trillion — and maybe more. Given all that, does anyone find the way the president talks about health care these days a bit strange? As I said in my post at National Review and at the National Journal Health Blog, the president and most Democrats in Congress are focused on the minutia. Consider these fairly routine stump speech phrases:

Medical Schools Can't Keep Up
As Ranks of Insured Expand, Nation Faces Shortage of 150,000 Doctors in 15 Years
Excerpt: The new federal health-care law has raised the stakes for hospitals and schools already scrambling to train more doctors. Experts warn there won't be enough doctors to treat the millions of people newly insured under the law. At current graduation and training rates, the nation could face a shortage of as many as 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That shortfall is predicted despite a push by teaching hospitals and medical schools to boost the number of U.S. doctors, which now totals about 954,000. (Come to Medical School—we promise you that after 12 to 15 years of education, will guarantee a declining income every year, plus frequent lawsuits from the Democrat party’s base, the trail lawyers!)

Happier Vets, Lower Costs
For veterans who don't want to live in institutions, foster homes offer a promising alternative
Excerpt: The federal government's ambitious new drive to cut costs and improve care for disabled military veterans begins not in a big-city hospital, but here in small-town Arkansas, in a tidy brick bungalow set back from a country road. Daffodils bloom outside the bungalow, and a ginger-and-white cat snoozes on the stoop. Inside, Roy Strange, a 90-year-old Army vet, stretches out in a recliner to watch a video about model trains. Mr. Strange suffers several combat-related ailments from his service in World War II and is thus eligible for subsidized nursing-home care, paid for entirely by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Instead, he chooses to spend his own money to stay in this "medical foster home," run by private caretakers, Cristina and Cornell Onecic. The home is one of hundreds across the country that take in veterans who can't care for themselves, but don't want to live in an institution. The vets pay the foster family's expenses, while the VA covers the costs of regular visits from health-care providers, such as nurses, therapists and dietitians. The result is dramatically lower costs—the VA pays just about $52 a day for patients in foster homes, compared with an average of $469 for those in nursing homes. And many vets like Mr. Strange say they're far happier.

The Systematic Dismantling of a Secure America
Excerpt: Fast-forward to April 6, 2010, when Barack Obama informed the world that the United States would no longer function as a global superpower buttressed by nuclear weapons as a deterrence to war. With one unanticipated public statement from the putative leader of the free world, the security held by the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction vanished from the American arsenal, and confidence in America's ability to defend its citizens vaporized. Obama's proclamation of unilateral nuclear disarmament nullified America's willingness and ability to defend itself and its allies at a critical juncture in history when worldwide nuclear proliferation abounds.

The Battleground Poll and the Hiding Elites
Excerpt: What percentage of America would call itself "liberal" if leftist opinion was not propped up by a near-monopoly in college faculties and in corporate newsrooms? Sixty percent of Americans call themselves conservative despite the fact that conservative opinion and thought are regularly mocked and demonized by news organizations and by Marxist faculties. How many more Americans would call themselves conservatives if it was chic to be conservative -- or at least if being conservative did not automatically also mean being a racist, a homophobe, uneducated, and despicable? That must be the scary part of the left: the sixty percent of Americans who bravely accept the title "conservative" hides a greater conservative majority, including those timid souls who are afraid to say what they believe.

The Next Nuclear Nightmare
“Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst, Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst; …An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!” Kipling. Excerpt: As Obama calls for reduced nukes, a surprising new rogue state looms. Philip Shenon reports U.S. spy agencies fear Burma is trying to buy nuclear weapons technology from North Korea. Even as President Obama won agreement from world leaders this week to block the spread of nuclear weapons, the United States is facing a new—and unexpected—nuclear foe: Burma. National-security officials tell The Daily Beast that U.S. spy agencies and their Asian counterparts have stepped up surveillance of potential nuclear sites in Burma in recent weeks in light of evidence that suggests the country’s brutal junta is trying to buy nuclear-weapons technology from North Korea.

Cancelled: Hearing that would have grilled CEOs on healthcare
Got the PR calling the hearing, but didn’t want to give the story legs. Most will miss that it was cancelled. Excerpt: Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has canceled a hearing intended to grill CEOs who took a charge against profits because of the health care reform bill. The cancellation came after they realized what everyone already knew - that the companies were required to do what they did because of accounting rules. Waxman and others had reacted with outrage and accused the companies of doing it - in essence, to make health care reform look bad. AT&T took a $1 billion charge and other companies including Caterpillar, John Deere, and Valero Energy, and 3M took hundreds of millions in charges because of the health care reforms. The new bill ended a tax break intended to make it attractive for the companies to keep their retirees on company drug benefit plans instead of ending those plans and pushing them into Medicare which would have cost the government much more money.

Amnesty poison pill
Excerpt: On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a Las Vegas audience: "We are going to pass comprehensive immigration reform" this year -- using the "comprehensive" buzzword that everyone knows means amnesty for the 10.8 million or more illegal aliens now in the country. But that amnesty means even more than it used to -- because Democrats this year broke with long-standing precedent to ensure that, if legalized, these aliens would immediately qualify for ObamaCare's health-insurance subsidies. Reid's remarks were just the latest in a series of pledges from Democratic leaders in Congress, as well as from President Obama, that they'll really try to pass an amnesty bill this year -- no matter how controversial. Yet the controversy should be worse than ever -- thanks to a disturbing change buried deep in the 2,400-page ObamaCare legislation: the effective end of the "public charge" doctrine. This doctrine is nearly as old as US immigration law itself. It is the rule that no alien can be allowed into the United States if he is going to become a burden on the US taxpayer upon entry -- a public charge.

Arizona Has a Right to Enforce the Law
Excerpt: Today’s big headline on Drudge: “Arizona Police to Begin Arresting Illegals”. When you stop and think about it, it’s almost comical that it is a controversial headline for a state to enforce the law, but you can bet it is. Get ready for the onslaught of the usual arguments on profiling, racism, “doing the jobs Americans won’t do” and more. Arizona has an unemployment rate of 9.8% as of this moment. Are you seriously trying to tell me that they have a shortage of workers and are in dire need of illegals to fill the void? Even Cesar Chavez could see a problem with this decades ago, as cited by The Arizona Conservative: “Cesar Chavez, co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) Union opposed illegal immigration, claiming it undermined efforts to unionize farm workers and improve working conditions and wages for American citizen workers. The UFW reported illegal immigrants to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1969, Chavez led a march along the U.S.-Mexico border to protest farmers’ use of illegal aliens.” (Hummm. Was Chavez a racist?)

One Chart to Rule Them All
Excerpt: Before you click to enlarge the chart (below), please consider this Los Angeles Times article by Ronald Brownstein, which appeared in print on page A-5 of the May 31st, 1999 morning edition:….What explains the surge? The answer starts with the economy. Historically low rates of minority unemployment have created a larger pool of qualified buyers. And the lowest interest rates in years have made homes more affordable for white and minority buyers alike. But the economy isn’t the whole story. As HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo says: “There have been points in the past when the economy has done well but minority homeownership has not increased proportionally.” Case in point: Despite generally good times in the 1980s, homeownership among blacks and Latinos actually declined slightly, while rising slightly among whites. All of this suggests that Clinton’s efforts to increase minority access to loans and capital also have spurred this decade’s gains. Under Clinton, bank regulators have breathed the first real life into enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act, a 20-year-old statute meant to combat “redlining” by requiring banks to serve their low-income communities. The administration also has sent a clear message by stiffening enforcement of the fair housing and fair lending laws. The bottom line: Between 1993 and 1997, home loans grew by 72% to blacks and by 45% to Latinos, far faster than the total growth rate. Lenders also have opened the door wider to minorities because of new initiatives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–the giant federally chartered corporations that play critical, if obscure, roles in the home finance system. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy mortgages from lenders and bundle them into securities; that provides lenders the funds to lend more. In 1992, Congress mandated that Fannie and Freddie increase their purchases of mortgages for low-income and medium-income borrowers. Operating under that requirement, Fannie Mae, in particular, has been aggressive and creative in stimulating minority gains. It has aimed extensive advertising campaigns at minorities that explain how to buy a home and opened three dozen local offices to encourage lenders to serve these markets. Most importantly, Fannie Mae has agreed to buy more loans with very low down payments–or with mortgage payments that represent an unusually high percentage of a buyer’s income. That’s made banks willing to lend to lower-income families they once might have rejected.

Obama to Critics: Where's Armageddon?
Disasters often take time to develop. The housing collapse that triggered the boom, the bubble and the current recession was set in motion by Bill Clinton, the Community Reinvestment Act and Fanny/Freddie in the 1990s. See above. Excerpt: The corrosion caused by the relentless expansion of the Welfare State doesn't work that way. The costs are harder to see, the damage more difficult to discern -- especially given our leftist media/commentary class, which doesn't know Milton Friedman from Milton Berle. Government, for example, again and again extends unemployment compensation -- oblivious to or unconcerned about its hidden costs. Last December, the then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., chortled on his Web site: "I have great news to share with you. The House passed an extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits last night. Had we not acted, 1 million workers would have lost these benefits at the end of the year." Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and current Obama economics adviser, wrote in 1999: "(One) way government assistance programs contribute to long-term unemployment is by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. ... Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs (cause) an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer." Had "we not acted," how many people would have taken action and found work? Similarly, banks and financial firms engaged in "reckless" behavior in part because they assumed -- correctly so -- that government considered them too important or too big to fail. Encouraged by government policy to increase lending to those unable to meet usual criteria, banks made loans to otherwise non-creditworthy borrowers. And "government-sponsored entities," Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, bought these loans with an implicit understanding -- true, it turned out -- that the government would not let Freddie and Fannie fail. What stops bailouts from promoting future counterproductive behavior?

The Caucasus Emirate
Excerpt: On April 9, a woman armed with a pistol and with explosives strapped to her body approached a group of police officers in the northern Caucasus village of Ekazhevo, in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia. The police officers were preparing to launch an operation to kill or capture militants in the area. The woman shot and wounded one of the officers, at which point other officers drew their weapons and shot the woman. As she fell to the ground, the suicide vest she was wearing detonated. The woman was killed and the man she wounded, the head of the of the Russian Interior Ministry’s local office, was rushed to the hospital where he died from his wounds. Such incidents are regular occurrences in Russia’s southernmost republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia. These five republics are home to fundamentalist separatist insurgencies that carry out regular attacks against security forces and government officials through the use of suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), armed assaults and targeted assassinations. However, we have noted a change in the operational tempo of militants in the region. So far in 2010, militants have carried out 23 attacks in the Caucasus, killing at least 34 people — a notable increase over the eight attacks that killed 17 people in the region during the same period last year. These militants have also returned to attacking the far enemy in Moscow and not just the near enemy in the Caucasus.

They Fought Like Tigers
Excerpt: “They fought like tigers,” writes the CIA officer who helped train the Cubans who splashed ashore at the Bay of Pigs 49 years ago this week. “But their fight was doomed before the first man hit the beach.” That CIA man, Grayston Lynch, knows something about fighting – and about long odds. He carries scars from Omaha Beach, The Battle of the Bulge and Korea’s Heartbreak Ridge. But in those battles, Lynch and his band of brothers could count on the support of their own chief executive. At the Bay of Pigs, Grayston Lynch (an American) and his band of brothers (Cubans) learned — first in speechless shock and finally in burning rage — that their most powerful enemies were not Castro’s Soviet-armed soldiers massing in Santa Clara, Cuba, but the Ivy League’s best and brightest dithering in Washington. Grayston Lynch put it on the line for the U.S. Constitution unlike many living today. I’d say he’s earned the right to indulge in a little “freedom of speech.” So when he wrote, “Never have I been so ashamed of my country” about the bloody and shameful events 49 years ago this month at the Bay of Pigs, I’d say we owe him a respectful audience. In his own words, Lynch helped train, “brave boys, most of whom had never before fired a shot in anger” — college students, farmers, doctors, common laborers, whites, blacks, mulattoes. The Brigada included men from every social strata and race in Cuba — from sugar cane planters to sugar cane cutters, from aristocrats to their chauffeurs. But mostly, this included the folks in between as befits a nation with a larger middle class than most of Europe.

Yemeni Bride, 11, Hospitalized with Genital Injuries
Can’t do anything about it. The Prophet (PBUH) consummated his marriage with Aisha when she was nine, according to the sacred Hadith, and Mohammad is the perfect example of conduct for Muslims, so child marriage is enshrined in Shari’a law. Another joy of multiculturalism. Excerpt: An 11-year-old Yemeni girl who was married to a man in country's Hajja province was hospitalized today with genital injuries, said a human rights group in Sanaa. It was the second incident involving a child bride in the last week. A 13-year-old girl died after being sexually assaulted by her adult husband. Both girls were married in the country's rural Hajja province. The 11-year-old girl was married last year only under the condition that the adult husband would wait until she reached puberty to consummate the marriage. He did not wait, nor do many of the men who marry young brides, says Amal Basha, director of the Arabic Sisters Forum. An estimated 50 percent of women in Yemen are married before age 18, some as young as 8. Less than a week ago the Sana'a-based human rights group reported the death of a 13-year-old bride in the same rural area. The Associated Press reported the girl was allegedly raped, and that her 23-year-old husband is now in police custody.

18-year-old Afghan woman slain in campaign of fear
Woman’s place is the hovel, with her father until she’s nine, then with her husband and his other wives. Excerpt: A gunman lying in wait shot and killed an 18-year-old woman as she left her job at a U.S.-based development company Tuesday, casting a spotlight on a stepped-up campaign of Taliban intimidation against women in this southern city where U.S. troops plan a major operation in the coming weeks. Although there was no claim of responsibility and police said the motive for the attack was unclear, Taliban militants have been particularly harsh with women who work for foreign organizations or attend school. Bands of thugs are increasingly harassing women who want jobs, education and their own style of clothing, women and aid workers say.

Bush vs. Obama
Not great for Bush. By this time next year 50% of Americans will prefer Tony Soprano to Obama. Excerpt: Forty-six percent of Americans now say they would rather have George W. Bush as president to 48 percent who say they prefer Obama. Although independents disapprove of Obama on balance, they do approve of Bush by a 49 percent to 37 percent margin.

1 comment:

  1. Let us recall that on April 19, 1775 a group of gun-toting extremists, fanned by hate-pamphleteers, routed the loyal troops of lawfully constituted government. Today we call those extremists Minutemen.

    On a related subject, I've realized why all the criticisms of the Tea Parties as filled with radical extremists ring false. The typical Tea Party rally causes less damage to its site than the annual Halloween party at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.