Thursday, July 15, 2010

Political Digest July 15, 2010

A few more.

NYT Buries Key Findings
Excerpt: If evidence still is needed of why readers are turned off by reporters placing their own judgment and opinions ahead of the facts, one need go no further than Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner's July 13 article in the New York Times on the findings of an Israeli inquiry into the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound ship on May 31 ("Israeli Military Finds Flotilla Killings Justified" page A4). Bronner, in his piece, waits until the very end before reporting the reasons why the inquiry found the killings justified. And these conclusions just happen to reflect essential findings that previously received scant attention. In his second paragraph, Bronner mentions that "65 Turkish Islamic militants armed with metal sticks and knives were on the flotilla's main ship, and had vowed to fight any effort by the Israeli Navy to board." Well, we knew that already. The main question was: Did they initiate a fierce attack on Israeli commandos as they rappelled down from their helicopter to the main deck? The inquiry answers that question. But Bronner holds off mentioning it. In Bronner's third paragraph, he writes that "the scuffles that ensued led to Israeli commandos shooting the nine Turks." But were these just "scuffles" as Bronner describes the encounter? "Scuffles" doesn't come close to the far more serious take by the inquiry about the ferocity of the battle aboard the ship. And readers still are kept in the dark by Bronner about the report's conclusion of who initiated the fighting and the complete weapons arsenal of the Islamic militants.... Why wait until the very end to report this? Everything else had long been widely reported -- except that Israeli commandos encountered not just "metal sticks and knives" (paragraph 2) but also gunfire (paragraph 14).

The Climategate Whitewash Continues
Excerpt: Last November there was a world-wide outcry when a trove of emails were released suggesting some of the world's leading climate scientists engaged in professional misconduct, data manipulation and jiggering of both the scientific literature and climatic data to paint what scientist Keith Briffa called "a nice, tidy story" of climate history. The scandal became known as Climategate. Now a supposedly independent review of the evidence says, in effect, "nothing to see here." Last week "The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review," commissioned and paid for by the University of East Anglia, exonerated the University of East Anglia. The review committee was chaired by Sir Muir Russell, former vice chancellor at the University of Glasgow. Mr. Russell took pains to present his committee, which consisted of four other academics, as independent. He told the Times of London that "Given the nature of the allegations it is right that someone who has no links to either the university or the climate science community looks at the evidence and makes recommendations based on what they find." No links? One of the panel's four members, Prof. Geoffrey Boulton, was on the faculty of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences for 18 years.

'The Crisis at Which We Are Arrived'
Excerpt: After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind. —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 1. We are not now quite at a founding moment, or even a re-founding moment. But we have arrived at a genuine crisis, or a set of crises, and we may well be at a decisive moment for the country. This sense of crisis is what animates the Tea Parties.

One Job Forward, Two Jobs Back
Excerpt: Is there anything wrong with spending large amounts of public money on “green” jobs that may or may not pay off in the long run? As a matter of fact, there is. As one prominent government economist who has studied alternative energy explains, “The opportunity cost of creating these jobs is important. If the government takes a million dollars to create one job, that’s a million dollars that could have gone to more efficient and productive use in the private sector—in creating stronger and better jobs for more people.” The same point may be made about everything the government does with the purported goal of boosting the economy and creating jobs. In making the case last year for the $787 billion stimulus bill, Obama and the Democrats claimed it would stop unemployment from going above 8 percent. Instead unemployment climbed to 10 percent and has remained at or near that level ever since. Rather than admit error, the administration is now claiming that the stimulus has kept unemployment from going up to about 12 percent. But the stimulus hasn’t worked. The principal effect of an alarming rise in government spending and deficits has been to undermine a normal cyclical recovery. Part of the blame for continued high unemployment (especially long-term unemployment) surely rests on the crazy growth of new entitlements and federal spending, combined with the likelihood of a raft of new taxes—some hidden (e.g., rising health premiums resulting from Obamacare) and some not (e.g., the value-added tax now being discussed)—to pay for more government and government-directed redistribution of income.

Pundits Dub Arizona Suit a Political Loser for Dems
Excerpt: The Obama administration's lawsuit against Arizona's immigration law has Democratic governors worried. In closed-door meetings over the weekend, state executives expressed "grave concerns" over the White House's tough stance against Arizona's new legislation. "It is such a toxic subject, such an important time for Democrats" said Gov. Phil Bredesen, Democratic governor of Tennessee. While pundits on the left and right disagree sharply on the legitimacy of the Arizona law, it's clear to both sides that the issue is politically dangerous:

A Criminal Oversight in College Background Checks
Excerpt: Posting a scandalous photo on Facebook could get you rejected from the college of your choice. But there's a good chance a rape conviction won't. Only 4 percent of colleges conduct criminal background checks on students, and 36 percent of schools don't even require self-disclosure of crimes, according to a new survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. In contrast, 26 percent of admissions offices use search engines to research applicants, and 21 percent use social networking sites, a 2007 study found. Admissions officers claim they "would consider anything that would cause us to doubt a student's character," as one Ivy League admissions dean recently told The Wall Street Journal. But these surveys suggest that colleges care more about what an applicant has posted online than whether he or she has committed a crime. If that's true, schools need to re-evaluate their priorities for screening students.

The individual mandate and the impending Supreme Court challenge
Excerpt: The rationale is straightforward: without a mandate, many people would wait until they needed care before buying insurance, driving up premiums for those with ongoing coverage, and potentially creating an “insurance death spiral” as the higher premiums lead to increasing numbers simply dropping their coverage. (This last part is basically what we have today, but will be magnified by PPACA’s ban on preexisting condition exclusions.) The individual mandate was preferred for obvious reasons over the alternative of a general tax offset by credits for premiums paid. Democratic lawmakers had no wish to be blamed for imposition of a new tax—no matter how reasonable the arguments in its favor. In fact, as President Obama made clear in an ABC television interview: “I absolutely reject that notion [that the penalty is a tax].” The individual mandate has now become the centerpiece in Republicans’ legal fight against reform. Suits challenging PPACA have been filed by the attorneys general of nineteen states (with the first, in Virginia, already being argued), with the constitutionality of the mandate a key issue in every case.

GOP poised to grab control at state levels
Excerpt: When it rains, it pours. Democratic leaders already braced for losses in November in congressional and gubernatorial races may be looking at grief on yet another front: A record number of state legislatures could change party control this year, with Democrats at risk of losing their majorities in more than 20 state chambers, according to a comprehensive analysis. Electing state lawmakers will be especially important this year because the party that controls at least one chamber of the legislature typically wins a seat at the table - and a veto - in the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts after the 2010 census. A survey by the Washington-based Governing magazine last week found that more chambers could change party hands in 2010 than in any other election cycle since at least 2002. Although more than 20 Democrat-controlled state chambers are in play, Republicans are in jeopardy of losing just four.

Administration Uses New ‘Restore the Gulf’ Web Site to Spin Its ‘Quick’ Response
Most citizens in LA thought Bush did better with Katrina. Excerpt: The Obama administration has launched a new, informational Web site that puts a positive spin on its handling of the Gulf oil spill. The Web site, launched last week, describes itself as “a one-stop repository for news, data and operational updates related to the administration-wide efforts to stop the BP oil leak.” But the Web site also touts the administration’s “quick” response to the disaster, stating that the administration has been on the scene “since the moments after the oil rig explosion” and “from the very beginning.” “We are committed to providing the American people access to complete and accurate information about our response to the BP oil spill and the resources available to assist those directly impacted,” said retired United States Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen in announcing the new Web site.

Must Read: Signs of the Times by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: If you could spend vast amounts of other people's money just by saying a few magic words, wouldn't you be tempted to do it? Barack Obama has spent hundreds of billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money just by using the magic words "stimulus" and "jobs." It doesn't matter politically that the stimulus is not actually stimulating and that the unemployment rate remains up near double-digit levels, despite all the spending and all the rhetoric about jobs. And of course nothing negative will ever matter to those who are part of the Obama cult, including many in the media. But, for the rest of us, there is a lot to think about in the economic disaster that we are in. Not only has all the runaway spending and rapid escalation of the deficit to record levels failed to make any real headway in reducing unemployment, all this money pumped into the economy has also failed to produce inflation. The latter is a good thing in itself but its implications are sobering. How can you pour trillions of dollars into the economy and not even see the price level go up significantly? Economists have long known that it is not just the amount of money, but also the speed with which it circulates, that affects the price level. Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that the velocity of circulation of money in the American economy has plummeted to its lowest level in half a century. Money that people don't spend does not cause inflation. It also does not stimulate the economy.

Pennsylvania, other states in tug of war before congressional redistricting
Excerpt: As the Beltway remains riveted on November's congressional midterm elections, another political war is taking shape in small communities nationwide, elevating hundreds of unknown Evankoviches to the front lines. The reason: Next year, state legislatures will take up redistricting, the once-a-decade task of redrawing congressional boundaries based on population shifts gleaned through the census. Redistricting plays a central political role every 10 years, but the stakes seem particularly high this cycle. In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Republicans see an opportunity to improve their prospects for winning back Congress and controlling it for years to come -- by shaking loose the Democrats' grip on state governments. Some of the biggest names in politics have jumped into the hand-to-hand combat with an intensity generally reserved for a presidential race. Among those at the forefront: Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee; former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); Democratic strategist Harold Ickes; GOP strategist Karl Rove; and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The Feckless System Called 'Justice'
Excerpt: I know better than most people what it's like to do battle with a prisoner and feel the rush of adrenaline that accompanies the struggle. You learn to fight like an animal because experience has taught you that anyone willing to engage a cop in a physical confrontation is willing to kill him. The fact is that the guy you're fighting is facing only the court system, while you're very likely to be facing imminent death. That's because only the most desperate criminals would resort to a physical confrontation with police. In the Oakland case, the cop appears to have used a desperation tactic. He was wrong, so he was tried and convicted! Does that mean residents and businesses must be subjected to violent robbers and thieves masquerading as public avengers? The question is, why is it that we don't see rioting in the streets when a black man kills a white man? Moreover, why don't we see cities ransacked and burned when a black thug murders a white cop and gets a sentence that is less than expected? Similarly, why are the civil rights division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, and the FBI investigating this case? When was the last time they stepped into a local matter that involved the shooting death of a cop? When cop-killers get acquitted or get reduced sentences, the only sounds of grief come from the cops' families and friends.

President Dogbert
Excerpt: In fact, good mission statements clarify rather than obfuscate. According to my wife, the U.S. Marine Corps once had a mission statement that simply said, "Defeat the enemy on the field of battle." That kind of clears it up, doesn't it? Maybe you'd like the Marines to better reflect the diversity of the American population. Or maybe you'd like the Marines to provide great educational opportunities for today's young men and women. But this mission statement clears up a lot of confusion. For any given proposal, the only question that needs to be answered is, Does it help the Marines defeat the enemy on the field of battle? If the answer is no, then the Marines have no use for it. ... At one time, we had a pretty clear mission statement for Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, it fit neatly on a viewgraph. Defeat the Taliban. Secure the population. But as the Post reported, such clarity caused consternation within the Obama administration. So they changed it. Here is the new mission for the International Security Assistance Force, according to the Pentagon. ISAF, in partnership with the Afghan Government, conducts population-centric COIN operations, enables an expanded and effective ANSF, and supports improved governance and development in order to protect the Afghan people and provide a secure environment for sustainable stability. ... Imagine you have a son in Afghanistan. In one case, he and his buddies are told their mission is to "defeat the Taliban." In the second case, they are told they will "in partnership with the Afghan government, conduct population-centric operations, enable ANSF, support governance, yadda yadda, for sustainable stability." In which case would you think your son and his superiors would know what to do? In which case would you feel better about the safety of your son and the rightness of his mission? Now imagine things went badly, and you were visiting his grave marker. Would you rather see "Killed in action while defeating the Taliban" or "Killed while conducting operations and enhancing Afghan forces for sustainable stability" engraved on his tombstone? ... Set aside whatever you are thinking now about making Muslim nations feel good. If this was the new NASA administrator's "mission," how is it discernible from, say, a mission that could be assigned to the Secretary of Education? ... Liberals like to talk of collaboration instead of competition. They talk of teamwork over individualism. But they seem to forget how real teams work. Think of a baseball team. Any one player's mission is not to win the game himself; it is to play his position well, hit well, and run well. The right-fielder does not catch or throw pitches. When a player is at the plate, he's the only one the pitcher is throwing to. Yes, players must work together at times, but even then their roles are separate and clearly understood. ... If you want "to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math," try showing them that objectivity matters. "Science, math and engineering" are endeavors where not every opinion and cultural behavior is equally valid. Hypothesized scientific relationships have to square with physical observations. Math must follow rigid, unforgiving logic, with right answers. Engineers must design bridges that don't fall down.

Never-Ending Racial Hostility
Excerpt: I have watched with some degree of pride and a sense of accomplishment as doors were opened, barriers torn down, attitudes changed, and equality become reality and not a dream. I have no doubt that if Martin Luther King could see the transformation of our society that has taken place over these past 46 years, there would be many things he would be proud of -- not the least of which is the election of a biracial man as president. With the successes, as with all human endeavors, have come failures and exploitation. Among the mistakes made was the passage of massive government spending programs, which had the unintended consequence of making a large segment of the black population dependent on the government's largess, consequently destroying the foundation of the family and diminishing the ambition to succeed by one's own effort. However, the most insidious aspect of all is the exploitation of the racial past by those both black and white who do so only to further their political aims or to amass greater wealth. These purveyors of dissension have deliberately and ceaselessly set out to keep open the wounds of past discrimination and not allow them to heal. For decades now, unscrupulous black leaders have been able to extort money and political power through the tactic of yelling racism whenever an incident involves white and black citizens. Whether there is racism at play is immaterial. As the charge of "racist" has been the greatest societal pejorative since the 1960s, most people have simply cowered, paid up, and tacitly admitted guilt. Meanwhile, the black population has been repeatedly told by their elected officials that the reason for the poverty and despair in the inner cities is due solely to white racism. Further, this hopelessness could be mitigated only by reparations, more government spending, and by citizens continuing to vote for these same left-wing Democrats who had helped create these conditions in the first place. This has been a deliberate effort to keep resentment alive instead of solving the real problems of these communities, mainly education, economic development, and job creation. However, the most egregious and disgusting actions of all have been by the white liberal Democratic politicians who have used the race card to achieve power and advance their political agenda. They do not care if racial strife is perpetuated, nor are they concerned for the well-being of the black population, except to use them as a pawn in their incessant drive to control the levers of government.

Netanyahu Says Sanctions Probably Won’t Deter Iran
Excerpt: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran’s nuclear program probably can’t be stopped by new United Nations and U.S. economic sanctions imposed during the past month. Netanyahu, speaking in an interview broadcast on “Fox News Sunday” today, said the threat of U.S. military action might curb a drive for a nuclear weapons capability. He argued that a nuclear Iran couldn’t be contained. “We’ve had effective nuclear peace for more than half a century because everybody understood the rules,” the Israeli leader said. “I don’t think you can rely on Iran.” The U.S. and its allies are trying to thwart any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear arms capability that would pose a threat to Israel and possibly set off a weapons race among other Middle East countries. Iran maintains that its nuclear ambitions are confined to peaceful uses such as generating electricity. Netanyahu said it isn’t apparent Iran would hold back from using nuclear weapons in the interest of self-preservation. “You can’t rely on the fact that they’ll obey the calculations of cost and benefit that have governed all nuclear powers since the rise of the nuclear age after Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Netanyahu said....

Magical Education and the Slide into Third-Worldism
Excerpt: Third-worldism might be viewed as a communicable illness, a situation often witnessed when nice neighborhoods almost overnight slide into crime-infested, trash-filled slums. So how can we spot the early warning signs of creeping third-worldism? Diligence is required, and while some outcroppings are clear -- e.g., crushing government debt to fund make-work public jobs -- other early manifestations are less visible. Let me therefore play public health official and highlight a situation in Detroit that has all the earmarks of an "outbreak" of plague-like third-worldism. And rest assured: If this calamity-in-the-making thrives in Detroit, it will spread, if it has not done so already. Instigating Detroit's third-world slide is its schoolchildren's woeful academic performance. A mere 2% of its high school graduates are prepared for college-level math; just 11% are ready for college-level reading. In 2008-2009, its graduation rate was 58% compared to the national average of 89%. In 2009, Detroit public-school students posted the worst math scores in the forty-year history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.... The scheme's alluring third-world mentality is far more alarming. One tip-off is the focus on upping the number of diplomas, not imparting measurable knowledge. Those familiar with "education" in third-world nations will immediately recognize the pattern: owning a document that officially proclaims the holder to be "educated" becomes proof of genuine learning regardless of discernible knowledge. There is a cargo cult element here, a belief akin to insisting that holding a driver's license certifies an ability to drive skillfully.... But of all the educational "reforms" reflecting a third-world magical mentality, none outshines the conviction that the school physically, and not the students in it, is the source of inadequacy. Now, as primitive people once imputed all their sins to a goat and became sin-free after sacrificing the goat, horrific test scores will similarly vanish once the "bad school" is shuttered, denounced, and replaced with a "good school." That the school's occupants, probably even the same teachers, books, and administrators will be unchanged is irrelevant. It is as if the building were possessed by demons that disrupted learning, and therefore one must exorcise them to escape cursed illiteracy.

Lt. Col. Allen West: I’d put the New Black Panthers on a terror watch list
Excerpt: This is why I love Allen West – he never minces words, and so far, he’s always right! He sees the New Black Panther party for what they really are and he’d go after them if he were POTUS.

The Way of the Cuckoo
The common cuckoo has a very simple reproductive strategy. It lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, which then drive out the chicks of that bird's own species. Instead the bird raises the cuckoo's young as its own. The name for this sort of behavior is brood parasitism. Which is a name that we should be very familiar with as our society has fallen victim to it. Take the case of Arizona. Or so many other US states which are going bankrupt trying to cover the health care and services of illegal aliens and other members of the Democratic party base. Then think about the small bird on the side trying to feed the massive young of another species, who has already murdered its own children. Or consider Europe, where the cuckoo's eggs of the Muslim world are hatching with the full benefits of a socialist system paid for by the very generation most directly victimized by them. This is the Way of the Cuckoo. It is the way of the Muslim world, whose social stratification and heavy corruption leads to societies with limited room for advancement, even as their population booms continue thanks to Western medicine and Islamic religion. The Muslim world exports that population to the West, where taxpayers fund their reproduction and raise their young. Only to have those same young murder them. And much like the cuckoo's victims, rather than learn our lesson, we just keep repeating the process over and over again.

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