Thursday, April 29, 2010

Political Digest April 29, 2010

I’m in DC, but snagged some computer time. May be the last for awhile…..

Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing
Excerpt: One of the stated goals of health reform is to make medical prices more transparent. In fact, one provision will force insurers to reveal what they pay doctors. No matter how ill-advised that policy, there is a conceptual problem that plagues advocates of consumer-directed health care. Consider this circularity: Having patients pay out of pocket will not work unless prices are transparent. Real prices will never be transparent unless patients are paying out of pocket. Here are five principles to help us get out of the trap:

The Most Tax-Burdened States
Excerpt: Our recent study, Taxifornia, is unique in its approach. Unlike several other excellent studies on this topic, ours separates two distinct aspects of tax policy: (1) burden and (2) structure. In other words, the study examines how many resources a government consumes from the economy and how, exactly, the state extracts those resources. The premise is that both the tax burden and manner of imposition influence behavior and economic performance. We calculate the total burden of government by comparing total state and local spending as a share of the state economy (gross state product). We believe that government spending is a more accurate measure of the burden of government than alternative measures such as current tax receipts. The main reason is borrowing. If governments use debt (deferred taxes) to finance current spending, then measures of revenues will underestimate the burden of government. The nature of the reallocation from the private sector to the government sector remains the same. In addition, we incorporate local government spending as well as state-level spending in order to avoid rewarding states that decentralize their programs to local governments yet still extract resources from their citizens. South Dakota had the lowest burden of government (11.6% of the state's economy). Other low-burden states include Delaware and Texas. Alaska had the largest burden of government with 20.2% of the state's economy consumed by government spending. However, Alaska is a relatively unique case because of its energy-related dividend and savings, the nature of which is at least debatable. The other states with large burdens of government were South Carolina, California, New York and New Mexico.

America Needs More Jobs, Not More Lawsuits
Excerpt: As policymakers consider ways to put Americans back to work, they should keep this simple formula in mind: more lawsuits equals less job growth.
The business community has long warned that increased litigation can suck the life out of a state’s economy. For businesses both large and small, one frivolous lawsuit can mean the difference between job creation and stagnation. To document America’s legal climate on a state-by-state basis, the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) commissioned the nonpartisan research firm Harris Interactive to ask senior litigators and general counsels at some of America’s largest employers to offer their impressions of state legal climates. Perceptions matter—two-thirds of those surveyed said that the litigation environment in a state is likely to impact corporate decisions such as where to locate a company or do business. ILR recently published the results of this survey in Lawsuit Climate 2010: Ranking the States.

Administration only partially complies with Ft. Hood subpoenas
Excerpt: The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.

Stocks slump as Greece debt downgraded to junk
Beware of Greeks bearing Chits. Don’t laugh—we’re next. Excerpt: A leading credit agency lowered Greece's rating to junk status, dealing a blow to an international rescue plan for the country and hammering U.S. and European stock markets. The junk rating, unusual for a developed nation, deepened fears that big fiscal deficits and debt burdens elsewhere could threaten the economic recovery in Europe. Stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic tumbled about 2 percent or more after the downgrade by Standard & Poor's.

'This Is Alabama; We Speak English'
Excerpt: Tim James is betting his election that Alabama voters prefer what he calls "common sense" to "political correctness." The Republican gubernatorial candidate is running a provocative ad arguing that Alabama's driver's license exam should be given only in English. "This is Alabama; we speak English," James says. "If you want to live here, learn it." The campaign spot has had more than 60,000 views on YouTube. The son of former Alabama Gov. Fob James promises to do away with the 12 foreign languages the test currently offers if he is elected in November. In the ad, James suggests his goal is to save taxpayers money. "Maybe it's the businessman in me," he says. (Since studies show that Hispanics who speak English have higher incomes, are not those who want them to keep speaking only Spanish the ones hurting them?)

How could this happen? Former Land Girl honoured by Brown dies after she is left to ‘wallow in her own filth’ on National Health Service ward
Ah, the joy of government healthcare! Excerpt: Her ‘loyal and devoted’ service as a Land Girl in the Second World War won her praise from Gordon Brown. But this is the horrifyingly undignified state in which Clara Stokes had to live out her last days on an NHS [National Health Service] ward. Helpless and confused after suffering a stroke, the 84-year-old was left dehydrated, hungry and lying in her own feces in a hospital bed for six hours. Relatives claim overworked nurses had ignored her.

Inquiry Says Health Care Charges Were Proper
Excerpt: When major companies declared that a provision of the new health care law would hurt earnings, Democrats were skeptical. But after investigating, House Democrats have concluded that the companies were right to tell investors and the government about the expected adverse effects of the law on their financial results. At issue is a section of the law that eliminates a tax break available to companies that provide drug benefits to retirees as part of their insurance coverage. The tax change, expected to generate $4.5 billion of revenue over the next 10 years, will help offset the cost of providing coverage to the uninsured. Within days after President Obama signed the law on March 23, companies filed reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying the tax change would have a material adverse effect on their earnings. The White House suggested that companies were exaggerating the effects of the tax change. The commerce secretary, Gary F. Locke, said the companies were being “premature and irresponsible” in taking such write-downs. Representative Henry A. Waxman of California and Bart Stupak of Michigan, both Democrats, opened an investigation and demanded that four companies — AT&T, Caterpillar, Deere and Verizon — supply documents analyzing the “impact of health care reform,” together with an explanation of their accounting methods.

Dems Hid Damning Health Care Report Until A Month After Vote
Excerpt: A damning health care report generated by actuaries at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department was given to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the health care vote. She hid the report from the public until a month after democrats rammed their nationalized health care bill through Congress. The results from the report were troubling. The report released by Medicare and Medicaid actuaries shows that medical costs will skyrocket rising $389 billion 10 years. 14 million will lose their employer-based coverage. Millions of Americans will be left without insurance. And, millions more may be dumped into the already overwhelmed Medicaid system. 4 million American families will be hit with tax penalties under this new law. Of course, these were ALL things that President Obama and Democratic leaders assured us would not happen.

Welcome To The Constitutional Crisis
Excerpt: Through recent actions, the federal government has demonstrated that absolute power is its sole desire. They have ignored the message delivered through tea parties and have now directly engaged in political battles with state governments empowered by their citizenry. If “we the people” lose these battles, ALL power will centralize in Washington D.C. and the dynamics of our free country will rapidly change from a government that serves the people to a government that dictates to the people. The crisis ultimately revolves around this question: “Who decides the constitutionality of a federal law?”

Lobbyist bundling: Money pipeline for Democrats
Excerpt: Lobbyists bundling campaign contributions, often from clients, to pass on to powerful politicians is exactly the sort of corruption Democrats came to power promising to fight. But the lobbyists doing the most bundling, and the politicians pocketing the cash, tend to be Democrats, a recent study shows. A study by the Center for Public Integrity finds that the top four lobbyists in terms of bundling contributions for federal candidates and committees are powerful Democrats who contributed and raised cash exclusively to elect Democrats. These lobbyists' big business clients stand to benefit from Democratic policies on health care, the environment and trade.

Ousted Kyrgyz President Charged With Murder
Excerpt: Kyrgyzstan’s new authorities have charged the country’s former president with mass murder in the deaths of scores of antigovernment protesters earlier this month, an official in the provisional government said Tuesday. The police and presidential guards opened fire on thousands of demonstrators on April 7, killing at least 85 people. They failed, however, to stop the protesters, who commandeered weapons and an armored personnel carrier and overran the government. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the former president, was forced to flee the country, and is currently in Belarus, where the president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has guaranteed his security. (He was probably just cracking down on Teabaggers.)

Climate party risks losing its guests
Excerpt: There's an oft-cited view among close observers of the US situation that if legislation is to go through, Mr Obama is going to have to throw a lot of personal weight behind it, just as he did behind the equally controversial healthcare reforms. Will he? The analysis from this group of observers continues with the contention that the two key groups of people advising the president on this issue are pulling in opposite directions. Those from the "smart climate" camp are saying "yes, do it, do it now". Those in the "smart politics" camp - chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel is widely named here - are advising the opposite, not because of any opposition to the climate bill per se but because they believe Mr Obama stands to lose more personally than he gains. Well, that's the theory. If it's correct, Mr Obama clearly has an important choice to make - not only for his reputation, not only for national climate legislation, but for the prospects of a global climate deal that can actually restrain emissions.

RE: Obama’s Nastiness Is Not New
Excerpt: When challenged on his facts, he gets prickly and defensive; the more effective the challenge, the more contemptuous Obama becomes. One can see what is going around in his mind: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz! You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you an audience…”

Hypersonic Cruise Missile: America's New Global Strike Weapon
Faster than a speeding camel! Excerpt: When the order comes, the sub shoots a 65-ton Trident II ballistic missile into the sky. Within 2 minutes, the missile is traveling at more than 20,000 ft. per second. Up and over the oceans and out of the atmosphere it soars for thousands of miles. At the top of its parabola, hanging in space, the Trident's four warheads separate and begin their screaming descent down toward the planet. Traveling as fast as 13,000 mph, the warheads are filled with scored tungsten rods with twice the strength of steel. Just above the target, the warheads detonate, showering the area with thousands of rods-each one up to 12 times as destructive as a .50-caliber bullet. Anything within 3000 sq. ft. of this whirling, metallic storm is obliterated.... The question is whether such an attack can be deployed without triggering World War III: Those tungsten-armed Tridents look, and fly, exactly like the deadliest weapons in the American nuclear arsenal.

Comment posted on “I’m Tired”
Bill, you're a dope. Try studying economics. Try understanding capitalism. Try understanding an open-market economy. You mention Somalia. I spent time in Somalia, your fat ass wouldn't last 15 minutes in Somalia, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, hell even Panama. Trust me, I've been there, several times over in my 23 year Army career (as an infantry officer, not pushing a desk). We've opened our borders to everyone. Fine, this country was founded on that principle. But if you don't have something to contribute to this society, then why should we let you in? To provide you with food, clothing, medical access, and free education? There are people in this country who are not receiving these things, people who work hard, who have lived here their entire lives. Ultimately, nearly everyone here is an immigrant by virtue of their ancestry. I personally, was born and raised on an Indian reservation in upstate NY, so don't even pretend to tell me you understand hardship. Democrats want big government - big brother will take care of us all, legal or illegal, drug-addicted or not. Socialism works great until you run out of other people's money. Brother Hall has simply said what thousands, perhaps millions, of us feel. If you've never worn the uniform of this country, then you have no right to complain about those of us who have spilled our blood in defense of your freedoms to bitch and complain. They say there are no Atheists in foxholes. Lately, there aren't any Democrats either. I'm sad to say that I long for the day when the revolution comes...because the veterans, the people who have worked hard to survive and live, will know what to do. The rest of you, who have lived off the teat of the government, will be the first to experience the social Darwinism of conflict. The veterans will survive, the Marines, sailors, coasties, zoomies and grunts will survive. That's what we do. And it will be those people who carry the likes of you on our backs, a burden now, and a burden later. --Another Tired Old Combat Veteran (Most comments come in “no reply.) But I appreciate them.

Comparing the Tea Party to al-Qaeda
Excerpt: We live in a world where hundreds of thousands of radical Muslims, given the opportunity, would happily detonate a dirty bomb in New York, or an electromagnetic pulse bomb to bring down the world's financial system. This threat is consistently downplayed by the left: George Bush overreacted to 9/11, using the time-tested Republican strategy of fear-mongering to scare Americans into going to war for oil, or some such nonsense. The phrase "War on Terror" exaggerated the threat from a ragtag group of disgruntled Asian youths and thus has been banned by the current administration. The Tea Party, however, is portrayed as a powerful, dangerous force. Many such accusations -- playing the violence card, as Rush Limbaugh described it in the Wall Street Journal -- have been in the news lately.

Why reporters are down on President Obama
Excerpt: One of the enduring story lines of Barack Obama’s presidency, dating back to the earliest days of his candidacy, is that the press loves him. “Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me,” Obama joked last year at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. But even then, only four months into his presidency, the joke fell flat. Now, a year later, with another correspondents’ dinner Saturday night likely to generate the familiar criticism of the press’s cozy relationship with power, the reality is even more at odds with the public perception. Obama and the media actually have a surprisingly hostile relationship — as contentious on a day-to-day basis as any between press and president in the past decade, reporters who cover the White House say.

Arizona's Immigration Frustration
Excerpt: Arizona's new immigration law shows what happens when a state on the front lines of a failed immigration policy reaches the bursting point. What you get is a blunt instrument that produces lawsuits, more political polarization (if that's possible) and the risk of hostility between the local police and the public. The law makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documents. It allows the police to stop anyone on "reasonable suspicion" that they may be in the country unlawfully and arrest them on the spot if they can't produce identity papers. The police aren't required to have a search warrant or even to suspect some illegal action has occurred before questioning a person. Traditionally the federal government has enforced immigration laws, so this is an extraordinary state criminalization of a heretofore federal authority. Not every undocumented U.S. resident is Latino, but most are. Given that about one-third of Arizona residents are Latino, opponents of the measure fear it will raise charges of "racial profiling." The ever-helpful Al Sharpton has already announced that he's headed to Phoenix. More legal challenges are expected before the law takes effect later this summer. The loud voices denouncing "Arizona" should understand that the results of the nation's failed immigration policies have come down on this state. Hundreds of local immigration measures have been enacted nationwide with the goal of restricting access to everything from housing to jobs to drivers' licenses. As these efforts squeezed the border in the 1990s via three-tier fencing, remote-control cameras and motion-detection devices in Texas and California, Arizona became the major, often violent, entry corridor.

How Mexico Treats Illegal Aliens
Excerpt: Mexican President Felipe Calderon has accused Arizona of opening the door "to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement." But Arizona has nothing on Mexico when it comes to cracking down on illegal aliens. While open-borders activists decry new enforcement measures signed into law in "Nazi-zona" last week, they remain deaf, dumb or willfully blind to the unapologetically restrictionist policies of our neighbors to the south. The Arizona law bans sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce immigration laws, stiffens penalties against illegal alien day laborers and their employers, makes it a misdemeanor for immigrants to fail to complete and carry an alien registration document, and allows the police to arrest immigrants unable to show documents proving they are in the U.S. legally. If those rules constitute the racist, fascist, xenophobic, inhumane regime that the National Council of La Raza, Al Sharpton, Catholic bishops and their grievance-mongering followers claim, then what about these regulations and restrictions imposed on foreigners? -- The Mexican government will bar foreigners if they upset "the equilibrium of the national demographics." How's that for racial and ethnic profiling? -- If outsiders do not enhance the country's "economic or national interests" or are "not found to be physically or mentally healthy," they are not welcome. Neither are those who show "contempt against national sovereignty or security." They must not be economic burdens on society and must have clean criminal histories. Those seeking to obtain Mexican citizenship must show a birth certificate, provide a bank statement proving economic independence, pass an exam and prove they can provide their own health care.

Bernanke: savings from Obamacare are ‘uncertain’
NOW they go on the record, to avoid future blame. Excerpt: As Washington fixated Tuesday on expletive-laced excoriations of Goldman Sachs executives, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was across town delivering some grim warnings about America’s fiscal future to President Obama’s fiscal commission. But Bernanke also voiced a surprisingly pessimistic view of Obama’s recently passed health plan, questioning whether the nearly $1 trillion piece of legislation will do much of anything to reduce overall health care spending. “At this point, the effects of the recent legislation on federal health-care spending over the long term are uncertain, in part because they depend importantly on implementation,” Bernanke said.

Barack Obama’s top ten insults against Israel’s-top-ten-insults-against-israel/
Excerpt: Last week Israel celebrated its 62nd year as a nation, but there was major cause for concern amid the festivities as the Israeli people faced the looming menace of a nuclear-armed Iran, as well as the prospect of a rapidly deteriorating relationship with Washington. The Israel-bashing of the Obama administration has become so bad that even leading Democrats are now speaking out against the White House. New York Senator Chuck Schumer blasted Barack Obama’s stance towards Israel in a radio interview last week, stating his “counter-productive” Israel policy “has to stop”. (Jessie Jackson told us during the campaign. Why the surprise?)

Hezbollah armed with improved missiles
Excerpt: The US defence secretary has warned that Hezbollah now has more rockets and missiles than most governments. Robert Gates accused Syria and Iran of supplying weapons of "ever-increasing capability" to the military wing of the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement. (Stand by for a strongly worded note!)

Head of the religious police in Mecca, men and women can pray together,-men-and-women-can-pray-together-18247.html
Killed? But I thought Islam was a religion of peace? Excerpt: Ahmed al-Ghamdi says that the strict separation between the sexes that exists today did not exist at the time of Muhammad. Conservatives respond harshly: a fatwa says that he "must be killed." The official Saudi news agency reports his removal and a few hours later deletes the story. The issue also has economic implications.

Immigration Issue Threatens 9/11 Bill (No benefits for sick/injured 9-11 responders)
Excerpt: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is threatening to block a health-care bill for post-9/11 recovery workers if it bars illegal immigrants from treatment. New York Democratic Reps. Jose Serrano and Nydia Velazquez have warned fellow lawmakers—including the bill's chief backer, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat representing Manhattan—that the caucus could pull support for the bill. The legislation, which is awaiting review by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would provide about $5 billion over 10 years in health care and treatment for tens of thousands of people who suffered health problems after working at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center or living nearby.

The Real Story of the Oklahoma City Bombing
Seems far fetched…. Excerpt: While liberal news outlets such as MSNBC were cynically exploiting the April 19 anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by attempting to tie the terrorist attack to the anti-government sentiments of the modern-day Tea Party movement, investigative reporter Jayna Davis was setting the record straight in an exclusive interview on the AIM radio show, Take AIM. The Oklahoma City bombing was an Arab/Muslim terrorist attack on the United States, she says. Davis, author of a blockbuster book on the attack, The Third Terrorist, has examined and presented the evidence showing that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was in fact a front man for Middle Eastern terrorists. The third terrorist, in addition to the two, McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who were convicted, was an Arab. This was the mysterious "John Doe" who was never found. But other members of an Arab terrorist network were involved, she says. She says the evidence was ignored and dismissed because the Clinton Administration didn't want to go to war with Iraq, the likely culprit, and wanted to blame the attack on domestic right-wingers for political reasons.

Hollywood Conservatives ‘Have to Meet in Secret’
Excerpt: Screenwriter and author Andrew Klavan said that in Hollywood, “(i)f you’re a conservative, especially a religious person, people have to meet in secret. They talk in whispers. It’s a very disturbing kind of culture.”

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