Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Political Digest April 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. It doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with then either. I have to say all this to give some of my critics the benefit of the doubt, assuming they are thick, rather than deliberately taking things the wrong way.

I will be traveling 4/28 through 5/5, and will have little or no time and/or computer access, so there will be few or no daily digests. I will leave a few things of interest to post on the blog.

Voter anger fuels New Hampshire congressional candidates
Excerpt: Bounced out of Congress in the 2006 Democratic sweep, former congressman Charlie Bass is trying to win back his narrowly divided district in November. He's still a bellwether candidate. But Charlie Bass has changed. The old version, the one who didn't believe he would lose until the day it happened, was a traditional New England Republican, moderate in substance and style. The new Charlie Bass is full of fight. He accuses President Obama of "coddling terrorists" and advancing "extremist" policies, like the Wall Street overhaul bill now facing a Republican filibuster threat on the Senate floor. Bass said recently of "tea party" activists: "God bless every single one of them. Their agenda is exactly the same as mine." But for a career politician who served on Capitol Hill for a dozen years, addressing serious policy questions with people who profess to hold zero faith in the federal government can get awkward. Bass's challenge is to recraft his image in a way that will defang his conservative Republican opponents yet stay true enough to his centrist self to win back the crucial independent voters who defected to his Democratic opponent in 2006.

Republicans and Democrats alike voice optimism about midterm elections
Excerpt: With six months remaining before the November midterm elections, partisans in both parties are finding evidence -- some of it contradictory -- that things are looking up.
Gains are a near-certainty for Republicans in both the House and the Senate. But defining the extent of those pickups, as well as the criteria by which each side might be able to declare victory in November, remains a pitched partisan battle at the moment. In fundraising, for instance, the three Democratic campaign committees -- the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- ended March with $22 million more in the bank than their Republican counterparts. But Senate Republicans were quick to note that while they trailed the DSCC by $2 million in cash on hand, that was a far smaller deficit than at this time in 2006 ($15.6 million less) and 2008 ($20.6 million less).

Jumping into immigration reform could cut both ways for Democrats
I think they figure they better try to run the table now, as it might be 20 years before the voters forget and give them the chance to do this much damage again. Note they will take tough votes in a non-election year, secure in the voters’ short term memory loss. Excerpt: Immigration’s arrival as a possible legislative issue reflects the aggressive approach Democrats have taken since the passage of healthcare reform. Democrats have played offense since Obama signed the healthcare bill, first by pushing a Wall Street reform bill to the floor, and now by signaling a fight on immigration is on the horizon. The danger on immigration, however, is that it can cut both ways. Dozens of House and Senate Democrats representing more conservative districts or states will want to avoid voting on one of the most divisive debates in the country’s politics. House Democratic leaders have insisted they will not move on immigration reform before the Senate for precisely this reason. A move on immigration reform in the Senate would violate Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) pledge to not force her members to take tough votes in an election year unless the Senate acts first.

Will Arizona Immigration Law Help or Harm? Vote now

The Hill's Lawmaker Ratings
Excerpt: The Hill has tabulated scores that Washington advocacy organizations give members of Congress, so you can check them at thehill.com rather than roaming the Internet from site to site. We cite 31 organizations, which is a fair cross section rather than a comprehensive list. Click on a lawmaker's name to see his or her page.

Sen. John McCain’s ratings—this is a RINO?
National Right to Life 100%
American Conservative Union 96%
Americans for Democratic Action 5%
US Chamber 100%
NFIB 100%
Business-Industry PAC 100%
Citizens Against Govt Waste 100%
National Taxpayers Union 93%
Council for Security Policy 100%

Once we throw out all the RINOs who are more liberal than this on some issues, the Democrats will win every election.

The Fix: Charlie Crist's big decision
Excerpt: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has until noon on Friday to decide whether he will run for Senate as a Republican, an independent or not at all. And, his only audience is the entire political world. Crist spent Thursday and Friday of last week meeting with key Republican strategists and donors that had come into his political orbit over the last decade, testing them on the idea of whether or not he should run as an independent, according to one senior Florida GOPer. Most Republican sources in Florida and Washington seem to believe that a Crist switch is a foregone conclusion -- there is even speculation about when this week he might choose to announce it -- but, as almost always in these sorts of delicate political situations, there are very few people who know the real deal and they are not talking much. The Florida Republican party as well as a series of national leaders clearly believe that Crist is switching, however, as they have lined up behind former state House Speaker Marco Rubio -- with former Vice President Dick Cheney being the last major figure to formally back Rubio. If Crist does switch, the first few days after he formalizes that decision will be critical. He will need to cast it as a grassroots uprising that led him to reconsider his lifelong affiliation with the GOP. Rubio -- and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek -- will do everything they can to cast Crist's decision as simply the latest in a serious of opportunistic moves by Crist, an uber-ambitious politician focused more on moving up the ladder than doing the job he was elected to do. No matter what happens, this is going to be a remarkable week in Florida politics.

ObamaCare Mulligan: About those lower insurance costs we promised . . . .
Excerpt: When President Obama signed his health-care reform last month, he declared it will "lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government." So why, barely a month later, are Democrats scrambling to pass a new bill that would impose price controls on insurance? In now-they-tell-us hearings on Tuesday, the Senate health committee debated a bill that would give states the power to reject premium increases that state regulators determine are "unreasonable." The White House proposed this just before the final Obama- Care scramble, but it couldn't be included because it violated the procedural rules that Democrats abused to pass the bill. Some 27 states currently have some form of rate review in the individual and small-business markets, but they generally don't leverage it in a political way because insolvent insurers are expensive for states and bankruptcies limit consumer choices. One exception is Massachusetts: Governor Deval Patrick is now using this regulatory power to create de facto price controls and assail the state's insurers as cover for the explosive costs resulting from the ObamaCare prototype the Bay State passed in 2006. National Democrats now want the power to do the same across the country, because they know how unrealistic their cost-control claims really are. Democrats are petrified they'll get the blame they deserve when insurance costs inevitably spike. So the purpose of this latest Senate bill is to have a pre-emptive political response on hand. (Simple. You require the insurance companies to spend more on coverage, stop them from getting more in premiums to cover those costs, and they go out of business, making a “public option” the only option.)

Andy Stern's debts: SEIU leader swims away while his organization sinks
Excerpt: Purple may be the official color of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), but Andy Stern is leaving the union deep in the red. Last week, he surprised the labor community by announcing his resignation as president of SEIU. Mr. Stern has claimed victories in helping pass health care legislation and getting President Obama elected, but his impact within his own organization shows gaping budget deficits and massive underfunding of pensions. (Too big to fail. We taxpayers will have to bail them out.)

Public-sector unions bankrupting America
The collapse is coming. Excerpt: Usually it takes a national government to spend itself into a debt measured in the trillions. Yet it comes as little surprise that the same profligacy that pervades the corridors of federal power infects this country's 87,000 state, county and municipal governments and school districts. By 2013, the amount of retirement money promised to employees of these public entities will exceed cash on hand by more than a trillion dollars. That's according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which earlier this month released a troubling analysis of 126 state and local pension plans. The center's researchers found in the wake of the stock market collapse that measures of pension program solvency hit a 15-year low with no signs of improvement on the horizon. This means taxpayers will be left picking up the tab.

Tax day 101: Are some states driving people out with high state taxes?
More evidence. But conservatives don’t need more evidence, and liberals won’t care. Excerpt: Among the millions of Americans paying taxes this week more than a few of them probably feel like hiring a moving van. That's because what state they live in can have a big impact on they total tax bill. Some states, like California and New Jersey, have income taxes with top rates above 10 percent. Others charge no income tax at all. Taxes are just one reason people might move. But it's interesting to note the overlap between tax rates and migration trends in the past decade. Start by considering this: Nine states levy no income tax, according to the Tax Foundation, a research group in Washington. Those are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington State, and Wyoming. Of those nine, all but one – Alaska – saw more people migrating in than out (within the 50 states) during the period from 2000 to 2008, according to research by the Empire Center for New York State Policy. Eight states, by contrast, saw significant outward migration – an amount equal to 4 percent or more of their population – during that time. And many of those states also happen to have higher-than average taxes. (Since 2008, the impact of recession has slowed migration trends but generally hasn't reversed them.) The eight states with big population outflows are California, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. The District of Columbia also saw heavy net migration outward.

Senate Republicans may offer their own measure to overhaul Wall St.
Senate Republicans may offer an alternate financial overhaul bill if a test vote pushed by Democrats fails on Monday. Senate Democrats are looking for 60 votes to open debate on a broad financial overhaul measure, while Republicans say they have the votes to prevent passage. The vote is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday. Republican aides said they may quickly offer an alternate measure that has been in drafting for months.

The Land Beyond Chitchat and Oughtta Be
Excerpt: Barack Obama isn't leading. Instead, events are leading the president -- and I don't mean stage-managed summits, puppet press conferences or White House dinners, but the international events that matter, the ones paid for in blood. Iran and North Korea are immediate cases where rogue regimes seeking nuclear weapons follow calculated strategies that harm American interests and allies.... Both nations bluster, but they also act. Last month, an event caught South Korea by surprise: an explosion sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. Last week, investigators examining the wreck said it appeared an external explosion (possibly a torpedo or mine) sunk the ship.... From its inception, the Obama administration has talked and talked a great deal about the way it wants the world to be. Rhetorical theatrics, to include sermons promoting visions, and emotionally charged media spectaculars hold pre-eminent and almost holy positions among administration elites. This is understandable, for these are the tools of domestic politics in a free, secure nation of laws -- the terrain where American community organizers operate. Obama believes that if he can chitchat long enough and with sufficient eloquence, the world will align with his words -- his rhetorical "oughtta be" becomes the way it is. It worked in Chicago. But talk does not stop mass-murdering dictatorships. Events -- especially unexpected, game-changing events -- demand action.

Obama's Plan -- A Regulatory Mess
Excerpt: If President Obama's financial regulations are adopted, there will be fewer loans, credit will be more costly, and individuals will face more risk. Obama argues today that his reforms are necessary to prevent "a second Great Depression" from occurring, but he does nothing to fix what the government did. Nothing is done to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, despite their problems with fraud and costing taxpayers $400 billion in bailouts. Nothing is done to change government regulations that force banks to make risky mortgages. The powers that would be given to the president and the Federal Reserve are unprecedented. The bill gives the government the power to regulate the capital, liquidity and permissible activities for a long list of firms, including securities firms, insurance companies, bank holding companies, hedge funds, finance companies as well as others. The government will be also able to limit the size of these companies. The president claims today that he "believe(s) in the power of the free market." Yet, he is constantly demonizing companies. Even liberal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned: The bashing of Wall Street is something that should worry everybody. According to Obama, there is "an ethic of greed, corner cutting, insider dealing, things that have always threatened the long-term stability of our economic system." In contrast, for government, Obama identifies its only failure as not doing enough regulation, not doing enough to control companies.

CBO Confirms You’re on the Hook for Wall Street Bailout Bill
Excerpt: Now the President is bringing the same audacity to the financial regulatory debate, telling a handpicked audience at New York’s Cooper Union: “Now, there is a legitimate debate taking place about how best to ensure taxpayers are held harmless in this process. But what is not legitimate is to suggest that we’re enabling or encouraging future taxpayer bailouts, as some have claimed. That may make for a good sound bite, but it’s not factually accurate.” Before President Obama continues to go around accusing others of lacking legitimacy, he should read the official cost estimate of the financial regulation bill released by the Congressional Budget Office last Thursday. Assessing the budgetary impact of the $50 billion that “systemically important financial firms” would have to pay in assessments to pay for the bill’s “Orderly Resolution Fund,” the CBO writes: The total amount collected from assessments is estimated to be about $58 billion through 2020. But such assessments would become an additional business expense for companies required to pay them. Those additional expenses would result in decreases in taxable income somewhere in the economy, which would produce a loss of government revenue from income and payroll taxes that would partially offset the revenue collected from the assessment itself. In other words, these financial firms have to get that $58 billion dollars from somewhere, and that somewhere is you.

How Could the Fort Hood Massacre Happen?
Excerpt: On March 27, 1792, the 2nd U.S. Congress voted to investigate the U.S. Army's devastating loss during the Battle of Wabash (near Fort Recovery, Ind.) at the hands of Indian warriors. A special committee was empowered "to call for such persons, papers, and records, as may be necessary to assist their inquiries"—and the first Congressional oversight investigation was set in motion. President George Washington's cabinet unanimously agreed the administration should "communicate such papers as the public good would permit, and ought to refuse those, the disclosure of which would injure the public." Congress began getting copies a few days later. The investigation revealed embarrassing problems with the War Department's recruitment, training and supplies, among other things. But revealing the problems enabled the government to fix them. And that, in a nutshell, is why we have congressional investigations. No administration should be the sole investigator or judge and jury of its own actions. The temptation to keep damaging information from Congress and the American people is too great. The rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009—after which U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder—has been reviewed by the administration and its group of handpicked outsiders, who were all formerly with either the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice. But the administration continues to withhold much of the crucial information from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which we are chairman and ranking member.

Is the U.S. Too Big to Fail?
Excerpt: We have heard from the Obama administration that companies like General Motors or various major banks are simply “too big to fail”—a mantra whose meaning is ambiguous. On one interpretation, the sense is that such enormous enterprises, owing to the fallout attendant upon their collapse, should not be allowed to fail and need to be propped up by vast infusions of cash. At the same time, the implication is that what we might call “maximal structures” generate their own survival momentum, and while some tweaking here and there may prove beneficial they will continue to lumber on regardless. We must, it seems, have confidence in the incommensurably large. We must believe that what is “too big to fail” will either not fail or will not be permitted to fail Analogously, we have been instructed that countries, unlike individuals and certain corporations, are too big to go bankrupt. Walter Wriston, former director of Citibank, is a firm believer in the fiscal resilience of nations. This is no consolation, however, to the people of Zimbabwe today or the citizens of Argentina between1999-2002 during the great economic meltdown. Christopher Booker and Richard Fernandez warn that Britain is on the verge of crashing: the accumulating debt to GDP ratio is frankly unsustainable. When the welfare cheques stop coming, when inflation goes through the roof, when banks invest in padlocks, when essential services are no longer provided and salaries are a fond reminiscence, a nation is effectively in bankruptcy—which is merely another term for failure. The French word for bankruptcy says it all: faillite. There are, of course, many ways for a nation to approach the tipping point of potentially irreversible miscarriage. Economic implosion, as we have seen, is one; defenseless borders in times of conflict are another; unchecked immigration leading to ballooning social costs and a dilution of civic sentiment, as well as internal subversion, is a third; a flaccid, poorly educated and self-indulgent public unwilling to embrace austerity when necessary or bestir itself to the preservation of the polity is yet a fourth. Taken together, these factors amount to a perfect storm that will bring even a colossus to its knees.

Democrats’ Long-Held Seats Face G.O.P. Threat
That right-wing bunch at the NYT predicting GOP wins! Excerpt: Representative David R. Obey has won 21 straight races, easily prevailing through wars and economic crises that have spanned presidencies from Nixon’s to Obama’s. Yet the discontent with Washington surging through politics is now threatening not only his seat but also Democratic control of Congress. Mr. Obey is one of nearly a dozen well-established House Democrats who are bracing for something they rarely face: serious competition. Their predicament is the latest sign of distress for their party and underlines why Republicans are confident of making big gains in November and perhaps even winning back the House. The fight for the midterm elections is not confined to traditional battlegrounds, where Republicans and Democrats often swap seats every few cycles. In the Senate, Democrats are struggling to hold on to, among others, seats once held by President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Democrats are preparing to lose as many as 30 House seats — including a wave of first-term members — and Republicans have expanded their sights to places where political challenges seldom develop.

"This is war of religion, not just a war between Arabs and Israelis...this is an Islamic war, which will end in victory only under the banner of Jihad"
Gee. If we called the war on terror a “war of religion,” wonder what would happen? Excerpt:

Iranian technocrats, disillusioned with government, offer wealth of intelligence to U.S.
Excerpt: Iran's political turmoil has prompted a growing number of the country's officials to defect or leak information to the West, creating a new flow of intelligence about its secretive nuclear program, U.S. officials said. The gains have complicated work on a long-awaited assessment of Iran's nuclear activities, a report that will represent the combined judgment of more than a dozen U.S. spy agencies. The National Intelligence Estimate was due last fall but has been delayed at least twice amid efforts to incorporate information from sources who are still being vetted. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said in a brief interview last week that the delay in the completion of the NIE "has to do with the information coming in and the pace of developments."

Must Read: Obama Administration Report is a Devastating Critique of ObamaCare http://www.john-goodman-blog.com/obama-administration-report-is-a-devastating-critique-of-obamacare/
Excerpt: Rick Foster is my hero. Over the past year, he has proved over and over that he cannot be bullied, intimidated, threatened, cajoled, browbeaten, buffaloed, hornswaggled, seduced, tricked, duped, bamboozled, bribed, blackmailed, coerced or bought off. In a place like Washington, D.C., this means that most days he probably eats lunch alone. It’s amazing that he still has his job. Rick Foster is the Chief Actuary of Medicare, and his office has just released a devastating critique of the Administration’s health reform law. Before getting to details, let me say there is nothing in the report that is surprising to independent health economists. The conclusions are consistent with everything The Lewin Group and other private estimates have been saying for months. What is surprising is that one of the most respected agencies of the U.S. government is completely undermining the Alice-in-Wonderland fables being spun by the White House, on Capitol Hill and in the mainstream media.

AP-GfK poll: Recession helps GOP against Democrats
Excerpt: Notch one more victim of the recession: With crucial midterm elections nearing, Democrats have lost the advantage they've held for years as the party the public trusts to steer the economy. The timing could be fortunate for the Republicans. With jobs and the economy dominating voters' concerns, the GOP will wield the issue as a cudgel in the battle to grab control of at least one chamber of Congress this November and weaken President Barack Obama.

Obama Is Enabling Nuclear Breakout
Excerpt: Obama is now set to be the biggest loser of the last sixty years -- the man who let nuclear weapons explode out of control by fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of the threat. The implications for the future are unpredictable, but just as World War II was more consequential than the New Deal, there is nothing an American president can do that is more important that his national security actions. When -- not if -- nuclear proliferation runs out of control, it won't look like the Cold War, when only two superpowers had usable missiles and weapons, and when, after Stalin died, both sides acted fairly rationally. Instead, Obama's towering failure means a multi-polar race to get the baddest bombs, with the mullahs racing the Sunni Arabs and a very real chance that Hezb'allah or al-Qaeda will get enough material to build a dirty nuke. Only advanced missile defenses will save us, and if America doesn't speed up our defense development, then the saner nations in the world will do it. They are not going to wait for us.... Today we see murderous tyrannies rising again, and Obama is too busy navel-gazing to see them for himself. Hugging Mugabe is more his style. So nobody is driving this train, and an abyss yawns just ahead of us.

Obama's credibility crisis
Excerpt: Hard on the heels of that shocking Pew Research Center survey finding that four out of five Americans don't trust government comes a blitz of new revelations about the Obama administration that amount to a full-fledged credibility crisis. The latest disclosures are especially damaging because they concern President Obama's possible misrepresentation of his relationships with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and convicted felon Tony Rezko, his administration's misleading statements about Obamacare costs, and questions about improper manipulation of government-owned General Motors and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

What about 'hateful' rhetoric from the Left?
Excerpt: Clinton dredged up this issue and specifically mentioned the so-called "Tea Partiers," and it's significant that the only example of violence that Chen could think of was McVeigh's, who was way out there on the right-wing fringes. He sure as heck didn't mention the history of domestic violence and terrorism perpetrated by left-wingers. Let's see, there was the Weather Underground, in which Bombin' Billy Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, played prominent roles. The Puerto Rican FALN committed more than 100 bombings across the United States and its homeland. Members of the Symbionese Liberation Army murdered Oakland, Calif., schools Superintendent Marcus Foster in 1973.

Wisconsin and the Voter Fraud Agenda
Excerpt: An attempt to hijack the state's election laws and open the door for voter fraud failed at the last minute this week in Wisconsin's legislature. But threats to ballot integrity continue in other states, and Congress may rush to pass ill-conceived legislation this year that would only sow confusion and increase the potential for chaos on a national level. Wisconsin's story shows how high the stakes are. Late in March, a 72-page bill was suddenly introduced and rushed forward with only abbreviated hearings. The bill would have given "nationally recognized" community organizing groups access to the state driver's license database to encourage voter turnout. After the infamous registration scandals involving Acorn in 2008, this was clearly a strange priority. Requests for an absentee ballot in a single election would also become permanent (without requiring a legitimate reason, such as infirmity), and the ballots would be automatically mailed out in future elections. Coercion and chicanery are made much easier by the excessive use of absentee ballots. Most of the elections thrown out by courts—Miami, Florida's mayoral election in 1998, the East Chicago, Indiana's mayor's race in 2005—involved fraudulent absentee votes. Three decades ago absentee and early ballots were only 5% of all votes cast nationwide. In 2008, they exceeded 25%. Wisconsin's bill would also have allowed voters to register on the Internet without supplying a signature—thus removing a valuable protection against identity theft and election fraud.

Battle for Kandahar
Wish I was there (and younger and in better shape!)

Obama Rejects ‘Empathy’ as High Court Nominee Litmus
Satire: Eager to avoid the controversy that surrounded his last Supreme Court pick, President Barack Obama today categorically rejected “empathy” as a characteristic he seeks in a court nominee. “On the contrary,” the president said emphatically, “I’m looking for a judge who cannot be swayed by the subjective feelings that the Founding Fathers enshrined in the Constitution. My Supreme Court nominee will strictly enforce justice without regard to the vagaries of human emotion that swept away Madison, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton and the others.” President Obama’s remarks come after recent White House suggestions that he’s scouring the nation to find candidates, not with empathy, but with “a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people,” which is an entirely different quality. The president noted that he, as a former Constitutional law lecturer and past president of the Harvard Law Review, is “eminently qualified to locate an associate justice for the high court who can overcome the Framers’ knowledge deficit regarding the actual impact of the law on citizens.” “Those old, white men drafted this charter of negative liberties,” Mr. Obama said, “and like a band of grandfathers, gone soft out of compassion for their grandchildren, they tried to free the individual from bondage to the government, when in fact, it’s the government that has their best interests at heart. It’s the government that can deliver so much more justice to them than any Constitution could ever hope to accomplish.” Mr. Obama added that, “Empathy was the Framers’ undoing, and I intend to restore to the court a steely-eyed regard for established law…as it may be established from time to time by the court.”

Joe Wong at RTCA Dinner
Very Funny.

A truly humble president would occasionally evince some doubt as to whether he is worthy to lead America. Obama seems to doubt whether America is worthy of being led by him. ~James Taranto

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