Saturday, May 15, 2010

Political Digest May 15, 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.

Pakistan arrests man with militant ties who says he aided Times Square bomb suspect
Gee, I didn’t know there were Tea Party groups in Pakistan? Excerpt: The suspect, whose arrest has not been previously disclosed, provided an "independent stream" of evidence that the Pakistani Taliban were behind the attempt and has admitted helping Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect, travel into Pakistan's tribal belt for bomb training.

Afghans’ Distrust Threatens U.S. War Strategy
Excerpt: This article makes the point that Obama's objectives of containing the Taliban (notice I didn't use the word defeat), creating a functional Afghanistan government, and begin withdrawing US forces with national prestige beginning the summer of 2011 are in jeopardy. I believe these were naive objectives and politically based. Excerpt: The success of the far larger offensive in the coming weeks in Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, may well depend on whether Afghans can overcome their corrosive distrust of President Hamid Karzai’s government. Mr. Karzai was confronted with that issue when he met with American officials this week, including President Obama on Wednesday. The two leaders seek to repair months of badly strained relations and come together at a crucial moment, both for the NATO countries involved in the fighting and for Afghanistan itself. Mr. Obama plans to begin withdrawing American forces a little more than a year from now.

A Hidden History of Evil
Excerpt: In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history. For evidence of this indifference, consider the unread Soviet archives. Pavel Stroilov, a Russian exile in London, has on his computer 50,000 unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War. He stole them in 2003 and fled Russia. Within living memory, they would have been worth millions to the CIA; they surely tell a story about Communism and its collapse that the world needs to know. Yet he can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation. In fact, he can’t get anyone to take much interest in them at all. Then there’s Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who once spent 12 years in the USSR’s prisons, labor camps, and psikhushkas—political psychiatric hospitals—after being convicted of copying anti-Soviet literature. He, too, possesses a massive collection of stolen and smuggled papers from the archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which, as he writes, “contain the beginnings and the ends of all the tragedies of our bloodstained century.” These documents are available online at, but most are not translated. They are unorganized; there are no summaries; there is no search or index function. “I offer them free of charge to the most influential newspapers and journals in the world, but nobody wants to print them,” Bukovsky writes. “Editors shrug indifferently: So what? Who cares?”

Huge, Ongoing Wall Street Subsidy Allows Banks to Coin Money Every Day at Savers' Expense,%5Edji,%5Egspc,gs,jpm,bac,c
Excerpt: The latest quarterly reports from the big Wall Street banks revealed a startling fact: None of the big four banks had a single day in the quarter in which they lost money trading. For the 63 straight trading days in Q1, in other words, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citigroup made money trading for their own accounts. Trading, of course, is supposed to be a risky business: You win some, you lose some. That's how traders justify their gargantuan bonuses--their jobs are so risky that they deserve to be paid millions for protecting their firms' precious capital. (Of course, the only thing that happens if traders fail to protect capital is that taxpayers bail out the bank and the traders are paid huge "retention" bonuses to prevent them from leaving to trade somewhere else, but that's a different story). But these days, trading isn't risky at all. In fact, it's safer than walking down the street.

Pentagon says military response to cyber attack possible
Excerpt: The Pentagon would consider a military response in the case of a cyber attack against the United States, a US defense official said on Wednesday. Asked about the possibility of using military force after a cyber assault, James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, said: "Yes, we need to think about the potential for responses that are not limited to the cyber domain." But he said it remained unclear what constituted an act of war in cyberspace. "Those are legal questions that we are attempting to address," Miller said at a conference in Washington, adding that "there are certainly a lot of grey areas in this field." (gray areas? Legal issues? War is imposing your will on the enemy by force. They may be trying to impose their will be force in cyberspace, but same difference. Simple policy. “Screw with us and we kill you.” Or, more diplomatically, “An attempt to damage the United States by an attack in Cyberspace will be met with an appropriate response, just like any other attack.”)

Nuclear complex upgrades related to START treaty to cost $180 billion
Excerpt: The Obama administration, seeking to bolster congressional support for the new strategic arms treaty with Russia, plans to spend $180 billion over the next decade to upgrade the nation's nuclear weapons complex, keep warheads capable and modernize strategic delivery systems, according to documents delivered Thursday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates scheduled to testify in support of the treaty next week, the administration sent lawmakers the treaty package, including a classified report that lays out in detail its program to sustain "a strong nuclear deterrent for the duration of the new START treaty and beyond."

Dems feel healthcare fatigue
Excerpt: Healthcare reform fatigue has set in among Democrats, casting doubt that Congress will move much health-related legislation the rest of this session. Measures in jeopardy include bills that would require more information on healthcare prices, empower federal regulators to sign off on premium increases and strip insurers of their exemption from antitrust laws. Democrats in the House and Senate alike are eager to focus on vote-getting issues such as job creation as the midterm elections approach. “I have said for the last year and a half that we should be doing more on job creation, and I hope that we do move on,” said Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), a “no” vote on health reform. “I don’t think we’re going to be doing much more of anything on healthcare reform for the rest of the year." Blue Dog Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who voted for the health overhaul, said the debate has shifted to the Obama administration, which must now implement the bill. “The healthcare bill is done,” Pomeroy said. “The action on healthcare is now in the executive branch as they implement the bill. It’s critically important that they implement it in a sound way, and I believe the attention of Congress is best spent on overseeing the sound implementation of this bill.”

The do-nothing (but politics) House
Excerpt: A routine science competitiveness bill may have crystallized what the House chamber has become at this moment in a frightening political cycle for Democrats: little more than an election-year staging ground. Over two days, Democrats turned the ho-hum America Competes bill into a 54-amendment marathon — allowing vulnerable incumbents to sponsor dozens of feel-good amendments to tout back home. Exhausted from a brutal 16-month stretch that produced a health care law, stimulus funding and a climate change bill, House Democrats seem worn out. They’ve clipped their workweek to a 42-hour period from Tuesday evening to midday Thursday, sprinkling a light schedule with long debates on noncontroversial bills that could easily pass without a formal vote. The five-day workweek is long gone. So they’re left with less substance and more politically convenient amendments. During Thursday’s debate on the competitiveness bill, John Boccieri of Ohio added $50 million to a manufacturing program; Martin Heinrich of New Mexico tried to make his home state’s federal labs eligible for “innovation” funding; and Loretta Sanchez of California brought school administrators into the fold on the president’s advisory council on science and technology. The three Democratic lawmakers — and several others who offered similar amendments — just happen to be facing tough reelection races.

Gingrich in Iowa
I like Gingrich. Very smart, right on most issues, handles himself well in debate. But he has a lot of baggage. Excerpt: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) will visit Iowa later this month to keynote the American Future Fund's Conservative Lecture Series. The event, which takes place in Davenport on May 26, is the latest sign that that the former House leader is dabbling with a run for president in 2012. Remember the Fix rule: NO politician goes to Iowa by accident. Just doesn't happen. Gingrich's schedule reads like that of a presidential wannabe. Earlier this week he addressed the Republican National Committee's meeting of state chairs and is also slated to speak at this weekend's annual meeting of the National Rifle Association in Charlotte, North Carolina. The organization hosting the event, Iowa-based American Future Fund, has been actively involved in key 2010 primaries. The advocacy group has spent over $1 million on TV ads in the California Senate race targeting former Rep. Tom Campbell (R) for his refusal to sign an anti-tax pledge, and has run more than $100,000 worth of TV ads against ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) in Kentucky's Senate contest. Gingrich's Iowa visit -- his first of the 2010 cycle -- had previously been announced in early March. But he had previously been slated to attend only two events: the Polk County Republican Party's spring fundraiser in Des Moines, and a fundraising luncheon in Cedar Rapids.

As Medicaid Rolls Rise, State Budgets Will Soar, Access Will Sink
Excerpt: Despite assurances the Medicaid expansion included in the health care legislation signed into law by President Obama in March is not an unfunded mandate foisted on the states, many states will find their budgets bloated with new Medicaid spending. The new reform is projected to cover the insurance costs of 32 million previously uninsured U.S. residents. Almost half this number will be enrolled in Medicaid, the public coverage program for the poor. ObamaCare expands Medicaid eligibility to virtually all legal U.S. residents with incomes under 133 percent of the federal poverty level, around $30,000 per year for a family of four. To make the legislation more palatable to the states, the federal government has promised to cover all costs until 2016 and 90-95 percent of Medicaid expansion costs beginning in 2017, in addition to sweetheart deals for selected states as an inducement to garner their representatives’ support. Although the federal government will cover much of the cost of the expanded eligibility, those already eligible but not yet enrolled (estimated nationally at 10 million plus) will be the responsibility of the states under the original federal matching program. A good case in point is Texas. Just over four million people, mostly pregnant mothers and children, are enrolled in the Texas Medicaid Program. Under the new laws expanding eligibility, 2.1 million additional adults and children are expected to enroll. Of these, 655,000 were already eligible but not enrolled. This group is likely to be swept up and enrolled when the individual mandate takes effect. The cost of expanding Medicaid enrollment in Texas is estimated to be $191 billion over 10 years. Of this, Texas’ share comes to $27 billion, according to recent testimony by Thomas Suehs, executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Medicaid currently accounts for about 27 percent of Texas’ state spending, or $862 dollars per Texas resident.

A Bad Bet on Carbon
Excerpt: ON Wednesday, John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman introduced their long-awaited Senate energy bill, which includes incentives of $2 billion per year for carbon capture and sequestration, the technology that removes carbon dioxide from the smokestack at power plants and forces it into underground storage. This significant allocation would come on top of the $2.4 billion for carbon capture projects that appeared in last year’s stimulus package. That’s a lot of money for a technology whose adoption faces three potentially insurmountable hurdles: it greatly reduces the output of power plants; pipeline capacity to move the newly captured carbon dioxide is woefully insufficient; and the volume of waste material is staggering. Lawmakers should stop perpetuating the hope that the technology can help make huge cuts in the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions.

We found out what’s in it
Excerpt: Just before the House passed the healthcare reform bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously remarked that “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.” It’s been nearly six weeks now and we’re finding out that what’s in it isn’t necessarily good for health care. First of all, we’re finding that medical costs will rise nationwide. According to a report from the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid, national health expenditures will increase by $311 billion over ten years because of the new law. There was lots of talk during the debate over health care reform about “bending the cost curve.” Unfortunately, the bill appears to have bent the cost curve up instead of down. This same report indicated that individuals who purchase health insurance on their own can expect to pay an additional $2,100 a year. The individual market was already pricing out many consumers, but now costs will rise even faster. For now, individuals can choose to drop coverage and pay for medical costs out of pocket. In the future, all Americans will have to purchase insurance or face IRS penalties. Premiums are not the only area where expenses are projected to rise. Because of new taxes and fees on prescription drugs and medical devices, the agency report states that costs would be “passed through to health consumers.”

U.S. Debt Rating Precarious
Like the Sword of Damocles hanging over our collective heads, the national debt stands ready to cleave the central government's fiscal credit ratings. It's no longer a question of "if" the government's credit rating will be reduced to the same junk bond level as Greece's, but merely a question of "when." While there is no bright line to notify the government how much debt is too much, what is certain is that investors will soon command higher yields for holding risky U.S. debt instruments. When that happens, the federal government will be forced to pay much, much more to continue borrowing more money than it takes in. Moody's Investors Service sovereign ratings analysis is shining much needed sunlight to disinfect our government's spending problem. Their analysis suggests that the federal government's credit score will be severely downgraded somewhere between 2013 and 2018. The key indicator for Moody's is the point at which the interest paid by the government for existing debt hits 18 to 20 percent of federal revenue, the government will lose its AAA rating. Under the rosiest of scenarios predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for Barack Obama's budget, interest will top 18 percent of revenue by 2018 and 20 percent by 2020. Under more adverse scenarios than the narrow factors CBO considered, including higher interest rates, Moody's projects interest may hit 22.4 percent by as soon as 2013. Rather than waiting for re-evaluation by Moody's, investors may instead choose to punish the government and trigger an increase in rates in advance of any ratings changes. As long as Democrats remain in charge of the government, we can predict their response will be no different from what precedes: Raise taxes instead of cut spending. That and regulating with newly introduced legislation independent credit rating agencies like Moody's so that they can't downgrade the U.S.'s rating. The Patriot Post

Small business lobby joins challenge to health law
Excerpt: The nation's most influential small business lobby is joining a court challenge to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, arguing that Americans cannot be required under the Constitution to obtain insurance coverage. The National Federation of Independent Business will announce Friday it is joining a federal lawsuit filed in Florida by 20 state attorneys general and governors, NFIB President Dan Danner said in an interview. All but one of the state officials are Republicans, and the case coincides with an election year. NFIB's involvement ensures that constitutional arguments for overturning the health care law — even if they fail to sway federal judges — will be extensively aired in the fall campaigns. With 350,000 members, the group boasts a far-reaching network of local activists.

Sen. Dick Durbin, moderates clash on bank bill
How about an amendment limiting how many votes Congress Critters of both parties can buy with our Grandchildren’s money. Or maybe Durbin, a Trial Lawyer, could offer legislation limiting how big a slice lawyers could take from a victim’s settlement? Excerpt: Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin came out swinging against big banks Thursday — and it forced some of his colleagues to duck. A Durbin amendment to the Wall Street reform bill — regarding how much banks can charge merchants for taking debit cards — passed 64-33 Thursday, with 10 Democrats voting no. And in the process, the vote pit Durbin against moderates in the Democratic Caucus — a particularly uncomfortable place to be for a man who is No. 2 in the Senate Democratic leadership. The vote came at a moment when Democratic leaders are desperately trying to smooth out differences in their caucus to pass the bill quickly and move the agenda back to creating jobs — rather than creating new flash points. Democratic moderates worry that the new rules would hurt community banks that rely on the merchant fee to cover the cost of providing credit cards. Asked to explain the opposition, Durbin seemed to put some of his colleagues in bed with big banks.

We Have Elena Kagan’s College Thesis
Excerpt: This proves Elena Kagan is an open and avowed socialist. The woman declares that socialists must stick together instead of fracture in order to advance a socialist agenda, which Kagan advocates.

E.P.A. Unveils Rule to Regulate Greenhouse Gases
Let’s double electric and gas prices to help the poor! Excerpt: The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a final rule on Thursday for regulating major emitters of greenhouse gases, like coal-fired power plants, under the Clean Air Act. Starting in July 2011, new sources of at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year and any existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons will have to seek permits, the agency said. In the first two years, the E.P.A. expects to issue about 550 permits covering the coal-fired plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, solid waste landfills and other large polluters, said Gina McCarthy, the agency’s assistant administrator

200 terror suspects in Canada
I wonder if any of them are Muslims? Nah, Islam is a religion of peace. Both Bush and Obama said so. Excerpt: Canada's spy agency is keeping tabs on more than 200 people within the country it says are suspected terrorists.

Cartoonist Lars Vilks attacked for showing Prophet Mohammed in gay film
Nice of the press to tell Muslim murders how he protects himself, so they can deal with it. Excerpt: Swedish cartoon artist Lars Vilks, who became the target of an alleged international murder plot for his 2007 cartoons of Mohammed as a dog, again angered Muslims Tuesday by showing an Iranian film that depicts the Prophet entering a gay bar. When Mr. Vilks showed a scene from the film at Uppsala University in Sweden, a protester charged the dais and hit him, breaking his glasses. Police were forced to detain or pepper-spray some unruly members of the crowd as other protesters yelled "Allahu Akbar" – "God is great." For Mr. Vilks, who has booby-trapped his own house and says he sleeps with an ax beside his bed, the right to unfettered speech – regardless of whether it offends Muslims – is a point of principle. "This must be carried through. You cannot allow it to be stopped," he told the Associated Press, saying he wouldn't hesitate to give the address again. But the university apparently disagrees. Officials said they would "not likely" invite Vilks again because of the incident. In some quarters, the university's response is adding to concerns that violence and threats from some members of the Muslim community are effectively muzzling free speech.

NATO code compromise
Excerpt: The recent crash of a Polish military transport that killed most of Warsaw's senior civilian and military leaders was not only a human catastrophe for a key U.S. ally. NATO sources said that, in addition to the loss of nearly 100 pro-U.S. Polish leaders, the crash provided Moscow with a windfall of secrets. The crash killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski in western Russia on April 10 and decapitated Poland's military, killing two service chiefs, key military aides and several national security officials, many of whom were carrying computers and pocket memory sticks that contained sensitive NATO data.

Don't get cocky, GOP
Excerpt: There is much to inspire Republican political operatives in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News national survey. Among those most interested in the 2010 congressional election, the GOP holds a commanding 20-point margin over the Democrats who have controlled Congress since 2007. There's also a massive swing among independents back to the GOP. When independents swung to Democrats in similar fashion in 2006, it helped the party get back in control of the Senate and House for the first time in a dozen years. As the Journal reported Thursday, the survey indicates that "Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters -- all of whom had moved away from the party in the 2006 elections. ... Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress."

The Federal Fat Police: Bill Would Require Government to Track Body Mass of American Children
Excerpt: Have to arrest skinny kids too, or it’s profiling! Excerpt: A bill introduced this month in Congress would put the federal and state governments in the business of tracking how fat, or skinny, American children are.

Metra says chief improperly took $475,000 in vacation pay
The Chicago Way. Excerpt: Longtime Metra executive Phil Pagano, who took his life last week, improperly took at least $475,000 in vacation pay and forged the agency chairwoman's signature on two memos, officials disclosed after meeting behind closed doors this morning.

The Border War They Won’t Talk About In The Controlled Media (Graphic Content)
This has VERY GRAPHIC pictures of murder victims. The site claims these killings took place in the US, near Roma, TX. I cannot verify that from other sources. But if you wonder why folks on the border support the AZ law, images like this are a powerful incentive. A recent article, below, about Roma does not mention this, so I suspect these pictures may be from the Mexican side—still unsettling if you live on a drug and immigrant smuggling route.

Roma, Texas: On the Border of a Drug War

Mini Cannon
Kids, be the first in your school to own one. (Yes, I want one.)

A Day With Bill
For a $5 donation to pay off Hillary’s $770k campaign debts, which they are unwilling to take out of the $100 million in royalties and speaking fees the Clinton’s have garnered since Bill left office, you could win a “Day with Bill” in NY. I wonder if Monica has bought a ticket?

1 comment:

  1. A Day with Bill

    I hear the "fix" is in. Bill wants Monica.