Friday, May 14, 2010

Political Digest May 14, 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 also doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with them. 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.

New, Politically-Correct Terms

Authorities try to identify 2 sets of human remains and see if they are from same body,0,2200062.story
Welcome to Chicago. This body—well, the upper half of it anyway—was found a short walk from our condo. They guess it may match the lower half of a body found two towns over in Arlington Heights. I expect the ruling to be a terrible case of suicide. Excerpt: Authorities in the Chicago suburbs are attempting to determine if a head and torso found this week in a forest preserve near Des Plaines match the lower half of a body pulled from a trash bin in Arlington Heights several weeks ago.

The Uncertainty of Incumbents: What do you say to voters?
Excerpt: For decades, incumbents have relied on two tried and true messages to voters: "You know/trust me" and "I deliver". Those two simple statements summed up the traditional powers of incumbency: the sense of connection between voters and the person they are sending to office to represent them, the benefits to their constituents afforded by political longevity and the idea that the devil you know is better than the one you don't. Those laws of political gravity have not applied in recent months as a lingering negative perception about the economy, fears of the rapid expansion of government, anger at Wall Street and the sense that Washington is broken have combined to create a national environment that is decidedly unfriendly to anyone with "Rep.", "Sen." or "Gov." before their names.

The Price of Wind
Excerpt: The ferocious opposition from Massachusetts liberals to the Cape Wind project has provided a useful education in green energy politics. And now that the Nantucket Sound wind farm has won federal approval, this decade-long saga may prove edifying in green energy economics too: Namely, the price of electricity from wind is more than twice what consumers now pay. On Monday, Cape Wind asked state regulators to approve a 15-year purchasing contract with the utility company National Grid at 20.7 cents per kilowatt hour, starting in 2013 and rising at 3.5% annually thereafter. Consumers pay around nine cents for conventional power today. The companies expect average electric bills to jump by about $1.59 a month, because electricity is electricity no matter how it is generated, and Cape Wind's 130 turbines will generate so little of it in the scheme of the overall New England market. Still, that works out to roughly $443 million in new energy costs, and that doesn't count the federal subsidies that Cape Wind will receive from national taxpayers. It does, however, include the extra 6.1 cents per kilowatt hour that Massachusetts utilities are mandated to pay for wind, solar and the like under a 2008 state law called the Green Communities Act. Also under that law, at least 15% of power company portfolios must come from renewable sources by 2020.

Cronyism and Corruption Are Killing Economic Freedom in Argentina
Excerpt: Argentina’s ranking in The Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom—now 135th out of the 179 countries ranked in the Index—has declined steadily in the seven years since President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, took power. It is by far the lowest ranked G-20 nation. Recently Charles Krauthammer neatly summarized why: Argentina is “a chronically unstable, endemically corrupt polity with a rich history of dictatorship, economic mismanagement and the occasional political lunacy.” The relentless drop in Argentina’s Index rank is due to, among other things, the Kirchners’ statist policies as well as their failure to protect private property and to fight against corruption. Meanwhile, the performance of market-friendly, democratic Peru, Colombia (the most improved country regionally in the 2010 Index), and long-time economic freedom leader in Latin America Chile proves that South American governments can—through the correct mix of policies favoring private property, rule of law, and market-based, democratic institutions—deliver true economic and political freedom to their citizens.

Voters give pork pushers the chop
Excerpt: The landscape for earmarkers in Congress has changed dramatically this election cycle. Appropriators from both parties have become the hunted, losing primary races to challengers more hawkish about reforming the provisions lawmakers insert in spending bills to steer money to specific projects in their districts or states. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) was derisively dubbed “Earmark Queen” by GOP gubernatorial primary winner Gov. Rick Perry’s supporters. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) was ousted last weekend by two earmark hawks. And Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, lost to a conservative Democrat who questioned the propriety and impact of Mollohan’s earmarks. “There are still a few Republicans who don’t get it, but voters have caught on that earmarks lead to wasteful spending and debt,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a staunch earmark opponent. “People used to think that ‘bringing home the bacon’ would ensure reelection, but not anymore. Americans have seen how earmarks are used to bribe members into voting for bailouts, takeovers and huge spending bills.”

Republicans' House election strategy: Aim for chairmen
Excerpt: In particular, the GOP has gone after half a dozen or more committee chairmen who had not faced stiff competition in years. It is a double-barreled approach: Republicans think the threat of energetic challengers will propel some veterans into retirement, making for easier pickup opportunities. Or, should they choose to run, the Democrats might find themselves with deteriorated campaign skills, making them vulnerable in what amounts to their first tough race in the YouTube era. Last week, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.), 71, announced his intention to retire at the end of the year, leaving a seat he has easily held since winning a special election in 1969. Obey, who declared himself "bone tired," had faced a tough campaign against 38-year-old prosecutor Sean Duffy, who immediately proclaimed that the retirement ensured that "new energy and ideas" would come to Capitol Hill.

School rampage kills nine in China
And just why has the Obama Administration not taken steps to ban knives and hammers, before this happens here? And matches, and crowbars, and….Excerpt: The string of assaults began with an attack on a primary school in March in the city of Nanping, where eight children were slashed to death by a former doctor with a history of mental health problems. The man convicted of that crime was executed April 28, the same day a 33-year-old former teacher broke into a primary school in the southern city of Leizhou and wounded 15 students and a teacher with a knife. The following day, in the city of Taixing, a 47-year-old unemployed man with a knife wounded 29 kindergarten students, five seriously, plus two teachers and a security guard. Hours later, a farmer struck five elementary students with a hammer in the eastern city of Weifang before burning himself to death.

Supreme Court To Face Mecca
Excerpt: Americans can thank the Supreme Court for the attempted car bombing of Times Square, as well as any future terrorist attacks that might be less "amateurish" and which our commander in chief will be unable to thwart unless the bomb fizzles. Over blistering dissents by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, five Supreme Court justices have repeatedly voted to treat jihadists like turnstile jumpers. (Thanks, Justice Kennedy!) That's worked so well that Obama's own attorney general is now talking about making massive exceptions to the Miranda warnings -- exceptions that will apply to all criminal suspects, by the way -- in order to deal with terrorists having to be read their rights as a bomb is about to go off. Let's be clear: When Eric Holder thinks we're being too easy on terrorists, we are being too easy on terrorists.

Military proposes medal for troops showing restraint
When people talk about the growing number of phony heroes, I used to joke that my Good Conduct Medal came with a “V” (vets will get the joke). Now it seems like they are going to do that. I can hear the jokes among the troops. “Hey, Bongo, how’d you get the Restraint Medal?” “My $^*#$@ rifle jammed!” Excerpt: U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan could someday be awarded medals for restraint that prevents civilian casualties in combat.

Questions surround Kagan's handling of White House eco-terrorist controversy
Excerpt: In 1995 and 1996, future Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was involved in a bizarre controversy in which the Clinton White House was accused of siding with an eco-terrorist group locked in a standoff with federal agents deep in the woods of Oregon. The incident led to an investigation by House Republicans, who concluded that a staffer on the White House Council on Environmental Quality tipped off the environmental radicals to impending action by U.S. Forest Service law enforcement agents -- a leak that Forest Service officials believed endangered the lives of their agents on the ground. Kagan, at the time an associate White House counsel, had no role in leaking the feds' plans to the radicals, but House Committee on Natural Resources investigators concluded she shirked her responsibility by not searching for the source of the leak or pushing for punishment of the leaker. "Nothing was ever done by Elena Kagan to learn the details about the leaks, or to identify the leaker and ensure that proper punishment occurred," the committee’s 1999 report concluded. In fact, investigators found evidence suggesting that Kagan, in internal White House discussions, defended the alleged leaker.

U.S. posts 19th straight monthly budget deficit
Are we Greece…or Zimbabwe? Excerpt: The United States posted an $82.69 billion deficit in April, nearly four times the $20.91 billion shortfall registered in April 2009 and the largest on record for that month, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday. It was more than twice the $40-billion deficit that Wall Street economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast and was striking since April marks the filing deadline for individual income taxes that are the main source of government revenue. Department officials said that in prior years, there was a surplus during April in 43 out of the past 56 years. The government has now posted 19 consecutive monthly budget deficits, the longest string of shortfalls on record. For the first seven months of fiscal 2010, which ends September 30, the cumulative budget deficit totals $799.68 billion, down slightly from $802.3 billion in the comparable period of fiscal 2009.

Harper rejects UN chief's plea to make climate change G20 agenda's top priority
Excerpt: Prime Minister Stephen Harper stuck to his G20 plan to keep the summit's focus squarely on the global economic recovery after he met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his Parliament Hill office. Ban said he wanted climate change front and centre on the agenda when Canada hosts the G20 summit next month in Toronto. Ban also exhorted the Conservatives to live up to the greenhouse-gas reduction targets Canada negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol. "Canada has a special role and special responsibility to play. That is what I am going to emphasize here," Ban told about 500 diplomats, civil society leaders and academics in a packed hotel ballroom before meeting Harper. "I urge Canada to comply fully with the targets set out by the Kyoto Protocol. You can strengthen your mitigation target for the future." Harper has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated by the previous Liberal government and calls for a six per cent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020 based on 1990 levels. The Conservatives have pledged a 17 per cent reduction by 2020, based on 2005 levels, which is in line with U.S. targets. An advisory panel has told Harper to play down climate change at the G20, essentially telling him it is too ambitious a topic to tackle now. The prime minister is hosting the G20 in Toronto as well as a G8 leaders' summit in Muskoka, Ont., north of the city. Harper's spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Ban had a cordial 45-minute conversation with his boss, but the secretary-general failed to convince the prime minister to push climate change to the top of the G20 agenda. Soudas said climate change would be discussed, but not as a priority item.

White House slashes NY anti-terrorism funds
Excerpt: Eleven days after the botched plot to bomb Times Square, the Obama administration on Wednesday slashed some $53 million from the city's terror-fighting budget. "For the administration to announce these cuts two weeks after the attempted Times Square bombing shows they just don't get it and are not doing right by New York City," fumed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). To top it off, the news arrives as President Obama comes to town today amid buzz he will meet with the very cops who helped thwart the bombing. Obama will also be tapping the city's deep pockets for the Democratic Party. "The President seems more interested in raising money for political campaigns than providing New York the money it needs to defend itself against Islamic terrorism," said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

Senate energy bill faces job-creation doubts
Excerpt: Long-awaited legislation designed to reduce fossil-fuel use, curb carbon emissions and impose tighter restrictions on offshore drilling was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, although the bill faces scrutiny from Republicans and moderate Democrats concerned about its economic impact. Promises that the bill — authored by Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman — would add a significant number of energy-related jobs also has come under question, most notably by the independent Congressional Budget Office.

Obama's Nominee To Head Medicare, Medicaid: We "Must Redistribute Wealth"
Excerpt: "Any health care funding plan that is just equitable civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional," Donald Berwick said. Berwick is Obama's nominee to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Three in custody suspected of money ties to Times Square bombing
First they blamed a Tea Party nut mad about healthcare. That didn’t pan out, so they blamed a solo nut depressed about losing his house. Now the solo part seems to be going down too. Could it be an Islamic Jihadist plot? Never say that! Excerpt: Federal agents fanned out across the northeastern United States on Thursday and took into custody three people suspected of providing money to the suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing, officials said.

4 Scary Ways Terror and Immigration Are Tied Together
Excerpt: Our own immigration system is so riddled with holes that terrorists can drive into our country in an explosive laden truck just like the Times Square bomb suspect did.
We can only hope that the Times Square near-bombing will focus our attention on the conventional wisdom surrounding from the left surrounding immigration reform. First there's the belief that no attempt at reform can succeed without a generous amnesty. Then, there's the belief that immigration "coyotes" and other scam artists do not associate with terrorists. And finally, there's the misguided belief that our relatively open border with Mexico, and thus by default the rest of the world, is no big deal, and can be resolved through the simple act of issuing more work visas. In my own conversations with experts on immigration, the drug cartels and terrorism, it has always been an article of faith that while drug cartels certainly use illegal immigration as a conduit for smuggling drugs, terrorists are not welcome among the coyotes that smuggle migrants and vice versa. But that is changing.

Setting the Record Straight on Grassroots Jihadism
Excerpt: In the wake of the botched May 1 Times Square attack, some observers have begun to characterize Faisal Shahzad and the threat he posed as some sort of new or different approach to terrorism in the United States. Indeed, one media story on Sunday quoted terrorism experts who claimed that recent cases such as those involving Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi indicate that jihadists in the United States are “moving toward the “British model.” This model was described in the story as that of a Muslim who immigrates to the United Kingdom for an education, builds a life there and, after being radicalized, travels to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and then returns to the United Kingdom to launch an attack. A close look at the history of jihadist plots in the United States and the operational models involved in orchestrating those plots suggests that this so-called British model is not confined to Great Britain. Indeed, a close look at people like Shahzad and Zazi through a historical prism reveals that they are clearly following a model of radicalization and action seen in the United States that predates jihadist attacks in the United Kingdom. In fact, in many U.K. terrorism cases, the perpetrators were the children of Muslim immigrants who were born in the United Kingdom, such as suicide bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer and Hasib Hussain and cyberjihadist Younis Tsouli, and were not first-generation immigrants like Faisal Shahzad. Now, this observation does not mean that we’re trying to take a cheap shot at the press. The objective here is to cut through the clutter and clearly explain the phenomenon of grassroots jihadism, outline its extensive history in the United States, note the challenges its operatives pose to counterterrorism agencies and discuss the weaknesses of such operatives. It is also important to remember that the proliferation of grassroots operatives in recent years is something that was clearly expected as a logical result of the devolution of the jihadist movement, a phenomenon that STRATFOR has closely followed for many years.

The Drone Campaign
Excerpt: The Obama Administration, to its credit, has been very tough on Pakistan. The drones strikes are being used as anti-American propaganda in the Islamic world and are highly unpopular in Pakistan, but the administration is not buying into the line that we’re creating more terrorists than we’re killing and is actually expanding their use. President Obama has continued a policy begun in 2008 by the Bush Administration to allow the CIA to attack terrorists in Pakistan even when their names are unknown. This is extremely important, as it means that low-level operatives who are undergoing training to become a future bomber, such as Faisal Shahzad, can be killed just as much as the top officials can be. If the CIA focuses only on known leadership figures, it is ignoring the conveyer belt of terrorists that those figures are producing, and action is stalled as the agency tries to figure out who exactly the person is and whether they belong on the list of people it is permitted to kill. Since coming to power, the Obama Administration has increased the number of drone strikes by three times over its predecessor. Three strikes, on average, are carried out each and every week in Pakistan. This number is probably going to increase very soon as more information comes to light about Shahzad’s involvement with the Taliban and the Pakistanis refuse to send its military to take control of North Waziristan. There are other lawless places like Somalia or Yemen where the government is unable or unwilling to take the fight to the terrorists. The increase in terrorist plots on U.S. soil brings home the fact that the U.S. can not always wait to train security forces until they can stabilize their countries. The expansion of the drone war to include other countries is inevitable, and a public defense of this strategy needs to be waged so that our elected officials do not buckle in the face of criticism from overseas and from anti-war forces at home who oppose virtually any act of violence.

The Alarmist Presidency
Excerpt: There’s a school of thought among conservatives and libertarians that liberals knowingly seed and fertilize phony crises in order to cultivate even more big government. While I don’t wholly discount that point of view, I think the sky-is-falling mentality that permeates the Obama administration’s approach to environmental issues is more the result of living within the liberal echo chamber for so long. Environmentalists and their Democrat allies spent eight years screaming that the Bush administration and corporate America were destroying the environment and putting our lives at risk. Having been handed the keys of state, Obama naturally embraces those voices that offer “solutions” to a problem that never actually existed. Democrats being Democrats, those solutions naturally involve benevolent government intervention.

The Freight Train Roaring Toward Our Living Room
Excerpt: In precisely the Europe for which Barack Obama and his cronies hunger here, America may be able to see glimpses of its future in 3-D. Greece is one of the poorest kids on the European bloc. It also is one of the most carelessly socialistic, which largely explains why it is so poor. The birthplace of democracy, today it is a model of socialistic excess: deficit spending, confiscatory taxation, Marxist public-sector unions, government ownership, nationalized health-care, excessive federal intrusion into private lives. Greece's debt obligations exceed its gross domestic product (GDP) by a factor heading fast toward 2. In today's jargon, the place is a paradigmatic entitlement society.

Open Season on Border Residents by Francisco Canseco
Excerpt: If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be an American frontiersman, you’ve now got that opportunity in modern times. Just move to Hudspeth County along the Texas-Mexico border and follow Sheriff Arvin West’s advice, “Arm yourself.”
Nearly two weeks ago, I met with the Sheriff, border patrol and customs agents, and farmers and ranchers who are all on a high state of alert. What I learned, what I heard, and what I saw was nothing short of shocking. Located 50 miles East of El Paso (and the butcher shop that was once Ciudad Juarez), Fort Hancock, Texas rests on a stretch of the Rio Grande where the river is rarely more than a foot deep. Wide open and easily traversable high desert expands for miles but is readily accessible using a highway on the Mexican side and Texas Highway 20 on the U.S. side. Simply put, ideal for narco-trafficking and human smugglers – and they know it.

Catholic school girl who refused headscarf for mosque trip labelled a truant
Excerpt: A Roman Catholic schoolgirl has been labelled a truant after she refused to wear a headscarf during a compulsory trip to a mosque. Amy Owen, 14, and fellow girl pupils at a Catholic secondary school were told to cover their heads and wear trousers or leggings out of respect for their Muslim hosts. But when her mother objected, saying she did not want her daughter to 'dress as a Muslim', she received a sternly worded warning letter from the headmaster saying she had no choice.

Deoband fatwa: It's illegal for women to work, support family
Keeping women in their place for 1300 years. Excerpt: Darul Uloom Deoband, the self-appointed guardian for Indian Muslims, in a Talibanesque fatwa that reeked of tribal patriarchy, has decreed that it is "haram" and illegal according to the Sharia for a family to accept a woman's earnings. Clerics at the largest Sunni Muslim seminary after Cairo's Al-Azhar said the decree flowed from the fact that the Sharia prohibited proximity of men and women in the workplace. "It is unlawful (under the Sharia law) for Muslim women to work in the government or private sector where men and women work together and women have to talk with men frankly and without a veil," said the fatwa issued by a bench of three clerics. The decree was issued over the weekend, but became public late on Monday, seminary sources said.

The Gulf oil rig explosion – on the scene photos
Excerpt: Regular WUWT commenter Jimmy Haigh, a geologist by trade, sends along a PDF that is a compilation of on the scene photos taken right after the explosion and in the following two days. I’ve converted it to web format. These were taken by people on the scene during the rescue and firefighting operation. There’s also a narrative, done by a person “in the know”. You won’t find this at AP or Reuters.

Free markets help the poor more
Excerpt: Listening to America's liberals, who now prefer to call themselves progressives, one would think that free markets benefit the rich and harm the poor, but little can be further from the truth. First, let's first say what free markets are. Free markets, or laissez-faire capitalism, refer to an economic system where there is no government interference except to outlaw and prosecute fraud and coercion. It ought to be apparent that our economy cannot be described as free market because there is extensive government interference. We have what might be called a mixed economy, one with both free market and socialistic attributes. If one is poor or of modest means, where does he fare better: in the freer and more open sector of our economy or in the controlled and highly regulated sector? Let's look at it…. There are many modern-day black millionaires who, like other millionaires, black and white, found the route to their fortunes mostly through the open, highly competitive and more free market end of our economy. Restricted, regulated and monopolized markets are especially handicapping to people who are seen as less preferred, latecomers and people with little political clout.

What happened to Arlen Specter?
Excerpt: A series of polls released over the last few days in the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary all point to a single indisputable fact: Sen. Arlen Specter has gone from heavy favorite to -- at best -- an even money bet in his race Tuesday against Rep. Joe Sestak. What happened? As always in campaigns, it's never a single thing that led to the quick -- and deep -- erosion of Specter's support. But, there are a few identifiable factors-- courtesy of the Fix brain and conversations with several smart strategists -- that made the race so close so late.

Citizen to Obama: 'You're a hottie with a smokin' little body.'
Comments seem superfluous. Excerpt: President Obama is about to give a speech here. But the quote of the day has already been uttered. "You're a hottie with a smokin' little body," Luann Haley, 45, said to the leader of the free world, with cameras capturing every moment as the president made an unannounced stop at Duff's Famous Wings for a quick bite to eat.

You Cut the Budget

L.A. Unified barred from budgetary teacher layoffs,0,1031059.story
Excerpt: The Los Angeles Unified school district cannot for budgetary reasons lay off teachers at three of the city's worst-performing middle schools, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday. Several civil rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit in February against L.A. Unified and the state on behalf of students at Samuel Gompers, Edwin Markham and John H. Liechty. The complaint alleged that students were denied their legal right to an education because of the high number of budget-related layoffs at the schools. (Future Motto: LA—Where the Collapse got Rolling!)

U.S. Notes ‘Worrisome Increase’ in al-Qaida Activity in Iran
Excerpt: Al-Qaida operatives who have been detained for years in Iran have been making their way quietly in and out of the country, raising the prospect that Iran is loosening its grip on the terror group so it can replenish its ranks, former and current U.S. intelligence officials say. This movement could indicate that Iran is re-examining its murky relationship with al-Qaida at a time when the U.S. is stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan and weakening the group's leadership. Any influx of manpower could hand al-Qaida a boost in morale and expertise and threaten to disrupt stability in the region.

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