Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Political Digest August 18, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

“A society can be made ungovernable by the impossibility of satisfying those with a passionate sense of entitlement—and without the skills or diligence to create the national wealth from which to redeem these expectations. The role of soft-subject intellectuals—notably professors and schoolteachers—in fermenting internal strife and separatism, from the Basques in Spain to the French in Canada, adds another set of dangers of political instability from schooling without skills.” --Thomas Sowell, Race and Culture.

Must Read: Dismantling America by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: "We the people" are the familiar opening words of the Constitution of the United States-- the framework for a self-governing people, free from the arbitrary edicts of rulers. It was the blueprint for America, and the success of America made that blueprint something that other nations sought to follow. At the time when it was written, however, the Constitution was a radical departure from the autocratic governments of the 18th century. Since it was something so new and different, the reasons for the Constitution's provisions were spelled out in "The Federalist," a book written by three of the writers of the Constitution, as a sort of instruction guide to a new product. The Constitution was not only a challenge to the despotic governments of its time, it has been a continuing challenge-- to this day-- to all those who think that ordinary people should be ruled by their betters, whether an elite of blood, or of books or of whatever else gives people a puffed-up sense of importance. While the kings of old have faded into the mists of history, the principle of the divine rights of kings to impose whatever they wish on the masses lives on today in the rampaging presumptions of those who consider themselves anointed to impose their notions on others.

Reid breaks with Obama, comes out against Ground Zero mosque
Moving to the right. Still scared, which is hopeful. Wonder if the left-wing blogs will savage him on this as they have Republicans. Ha! ~Bob. Excerpt: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said an Islamic center shouldn't be built near the site of the 9/11 attacks. Reid, who is locked in a tough reelection campaign, broke with President Obama in calling for the New York center to be built somewhere else. Obama on Friday endorsed the right of a group to build the center, which includes a prayer space, near Ground Zero. "The First Amendment protects freedom of religion," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in a statement. "Sen. Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else." Reid is the most senior Democrat to come out in opposition to the mosque. Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, had questioned the wisdom of building the mosque, too. Other Democrats, like Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), the first Muslim member of Congress, have said that it's up to Democrats to support religious liberty.

Obama embarks on extensive fundraising tour for Dems
Excerpt: As the midterm election season shapes up, the White House is discussing how best to deploy Obama, whose popularity has declined more in some competitive states and districts than in others. Vice President Biden will also hit the campaign trail, particularly in regions where Obama may not be as well liked. So far, the president is primarily raising money rather than appearing alongside candidates on the trail, although that could change as races tighten. His current trip focuses primarily on Democratic gubernatorial candidates; 37 governors will be picked in November. After speaking at the factory here, Obama headed for a fundraising event in nearby Milwaukee for Mayor Tom Barrett, a gubernatorial candidate the White House helped recruit. In a conference call with journalists, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said Obama's past visits on behalf of Democratic candidates have been "the kiss of death," and he predicted that this one wouldn't help Barrett much. He said that in Wisconsin, "government spending is going up, but not the economy." "There's a disconnect here, and the Democrats are making it worse," Priebus said.

Can Republicans hold 30 governors seats after the November election?
Excerpt: Republicans are primed for big gains in both the House and Senate, but what about governor's races? Optimism has been ticking up in GOP circles about the party's chances of turning in a huge cycle at the state level, too. And, to an extent, the talk is justified. Republican Governors Association Executive Director Nick Ayers set the bar at 30 seats in an interview with National Public Radio last week, and Democrats are privately acknowledging they are unlikely to keep their current majority of governors. Democrats currently hold 26 of 50 governor's seats, while Republicans hold 23. (The GOP took two Democratic seats in New Jersey and Virginia last year, but Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's switch from Republican to independent moved them from 24 to 23.) That means, in order to meet Ayers' goal, the RGA would need a net gain of seven seats out of 20 Democratic and independent-held seats up this cycle.

Why the mosque matters (and why it might not)
Excerpt: President Barack Obama's decision to wade into a debate about whether to allow a mosque to be built in the vicinity of the site of the Sept.11, 2001 attacks in New York City has left many Democratic strategists concerned about the impact it might have on a fall election already looking dismal for their side. Obama made initial remarks about the importance of religious freedom and tolerance, which were taken by many as an endorsement of the mosque construction, on Friday and then re-visited the topic on Saturday to make clear he was speaking in a general sense and not about any specific project. "How can this possibly be helpful when feelings are still so raw on the issue?," said a senior Democratic political operative. "It's best to say nothing and let the process and appeals unfold." A senior Democratic consultant offered this: "He is right on substance but wrong on politics and right now we need to focus on politics."

ShoreBank Fiasco Reveals Rift on the Left by Joel B. Pollak
Pollak is running against Schakowsky in my district. Uphill fight, but has my vote. Excerpt: The Hill revealed yesterday that Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and three other Chicago Democrats have written a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, asking him to release $70 million in federal TARP funds to bail out ShoreBank. ShoreBank’s political patrons have made Geithner their number one target, ever since the Treasury balked on supporting one of the most brazenly corrupt bailouts of the past several years.

Obamacare hits! Closes pain-treatment program
I think attributing this FDA action to “Obamacare” may be stretching a point! Excerpt: Obamacare has landed in Denver, where doctors at a pain-management clinic have been told they must stop treating patients with a successful process that extracts their own adult stem cells, cultivates them and then reinjects them to stimulate growth in damaged limbs. The word of the dispute comes from Dr. Christopher Centeno of the Centeno Schultz clinic, whose Regenexx, or Regenerative Sciences Inc., has been successfully treating patients with the process for several years. Centeno confirms his work provides a much less costly and significantly more convenient alternative to knee or hip joint replacement surgeries, which sometimes require a year or more of recuperation.
But the Food and Drug Administration, in the wake of the adoption of President Obama's plan to nationalize health-care decision making, has ordered the company to halt, because the federal agency views the process as making "drugs."

Six Myths About Campaign Money
Excerpt: When the Supreme Court decided in January to toss out the decades-old ban on direct corporate and union campaign spending, U.S. politics changed overnight. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the high court ruled 5-4 that unions and corporations could spend money from their vast treasuries on campaigns. The decision applies to for-profit and nonprofit corporations alike, scrambling the deck for political players of all stripes. The ruling also intensified the never-ending political money wars: Democrats have fought in vain to push through a broad new disclosure bill, and Republicans have renewed their systematic legal assault on the remaining campaign finance laws. The Court, in a deregulatory mood, appears eager to dismantle the rules still further. At the same time, voters are unusually engaged in the campaign finance debate. It's a critical turning point in the world of election law, but advocates fighting over free speech versus corruption remain as polarized as ever. Both sides trot out arguments that oversimplify money's real role in politics and make it harder to identify solutions and common ground. Each of the following six myths contains a grain of truth but papers over important nuances. Inevitably, regulating democracy is messy and complicated. The solution rarely can be reduced to a sound bite; there often is no silver bullet.

Massachusetts Gov. Patrick's reelection campaign a test case for Obama in 2012
Excerpt: Many of the top strategists in Obama's political circle are helping to orchestrate Patrick's reelection campaign, and they are looking to his contest for clues to what might work for the president in 2012. Friends for two decades, Obama and Patrick ran as optimistic outsiders who would take on the old way of doing things. Their politics are so in sync that in 2008, Obama borrowed Patrick's rhetoric to the point that Hillary Rodham Clinton, his opponent in the Democratic primary, accused him of plagiarism.

Iran Announces Construction of New Nuclear Site
Excerpt: Iran said Monday it will begin building a new site to enrich uranium by March, moving ahead with a plan that defies international efforts to curb its nuclear development. Uranium enrichment factories are used to create fuel for nuclear power plants but can also, if taken to extremes, produce the material for weapons. The planned plant is among 10 new sites that Iran approved last year in what would be a dramatic expansion of its controversial enrichment program. The announcement on state TV said the locations for the sites have been determined but gave no details. "Construction of a new uranium enrichment site will begin by the end of (the Iranian calendar) year (March 2011) or early next year," Salehi said. "The new enrichment facilities will be built inside mountains ... any of these sites will be capable of meeting the fuel needs of a nuclear power plant the size of the Bushehr facility," he told the TV, referring to the 1,000-megawatt power plant in southern Iran built with Russian help. (The third way to lie is to tell the exact truth but to do so in such a way no one will believe it. Iranian spokesman Salehi says truthfully "any of these sites can provide the fuel needs" of the new Russian plant. So, if their intentions are peaceful, why do they need more than one? The real truth is they have no possible peaceful use for the production of more than about 2,000 centrifuges, and could probably get by with half that. But, they have more than 6,000 working now, and are in the process of acquiring additional thousands of newer design that are more efficient. Does that fit with peaceful civilian use? Or does it match up better with their desire to have a missile capable of detonating at a height of 600 meters? And, by the way, just exactly what sort of explosive device would you hope to have that was effective from more than 3/8ths of a mile away? That would take a hellova big firecracker. Ron P.)

Oversight Report Slams Obama ‘Failure’ on Oil Spill
Excerpt: A new oversight report from Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla), the senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, details what many analysts see as the failures of the Obama administration during the Gulf oil spill. The report lays out the ways in which the administration either failed to exercise authority it had or acted in ways that hindered the massive cleanup effort, pointing out that President Barack Obama appeared less than focused on the country’s largest environmental disaster in history. “President Obama and Administration officials failed in several instances to remove regulatory and bureaucratic impediments, and to ensure that proper and adequate resources were available to address the BP disaster,” the report states. (...) “Between April 23rd and June 19th, however, President Obama found time to play eight rounds of golf, to take two vacations, to attend two rock concerts and a baseball game, and to be a guest on the Jay Leno and George Lopez talk shows,” the report says. The Inhofe report also notes that Obama, despite having the clear authority to direct the operations of BP, did not meet with the company’s CEO Tony Hayward until June 16th, 57 days into the disaster. The report also notes that while Obama had the authority to issue executive orders that could have cut through the bureaucratic red tape blamed by local officials for delaying their efforts, he inexplicably chose not to do so. The report points out that many state and local actions technically required federal government approval, a process that could have been expedited had Obama ordered agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to do so. (According to the polls, folks in Louisiana think Bush did a better job on Katrina than Obama did on the oil spill. Ouch. ~Bob)

With DOJ Stonewalling on New Black Panthers Case, Civil Rights Commission Asks for Expanded Powers
Excerpt: In an explosive and raucous hearing on August 13, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted 5-3 to officially ask Congress to expand its investigatory powers. This action came as a result of U.S. Justice Department stonewalling regarding the dismissal of a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission meeting was dominated by discussion of the DOJ’s continued muzzling of career attorney Christopher Coates, who was head of the DOJ Voting Rights section when the case was dismissed. The commission has been unable to force the DOJ to allow them to talk to Coates. Among the commission’s recommendations was a proposal to give the commission new powers to appoint a special counsel and a proposal to provide the commission authority to hire its own counsel and proceed independently to federal court if the attorney general refuses to enforce a subpoena or other lawful request. Commissioner Ashley L. Taylor said the entire controversy raised a question about the independence of the commission itself.

Some Straight Talk About Iran
Excerpt: After reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy article in The Atlantic about Israeli calculations on whether to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, I’m left with an observation and a judgment. First, the observation. We’re being ushered into an unusual conversation here. Months before the destruction of the reactor outside Baghdad in 1981, PLO headquarters in Tunis in 1985, the “uncompleted military facility” in northeastern Syria in 2007, or the arms convoy from Iran in the hills of northern Sudan in early 2009, there were no magazine features full of Defense Ministry types discoursing about timelines on a not-for-attribution basis. What’s more, if the Israeli government ever seriously contemplated sending its very capable air force against Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile fleet in the late 1980s or (who knows?) perhaps Algeria’s nuclear reactor in the early 1990s, the decisive meetings of the inner cabinet weren’t exactly held at an al fresco table on the Tel Aviv promenade. Still less did the minutes appear on newsstands outside the UN. One senses this is not how or when real decisions of this sort are made. It is, on the other hand, one way to inject urgency into the broader discussion about Iran policy. In fact, it’s how Israeli officials have tried to keep the Iran nuclear question high on the agenda in foreign capitals for some time now — and not just in Washington, either. (This is a contrary view. Pollack has devoted a lifetime to these issues and he makes some valid points, though he offers no solutions. Personally, I'm inclined to think Pollack has taken the most innocent possible view of Iran's intentions (but I'm known as a distrusting sort of guy). Ron P. Distrusting sort of guy? No wonder you never called me when I had wired aces and was faking a bluff. ~Bob)

Can America Fail? Read The History of Sparta.
Excerpt: According to most sources Edmund Burke said it first. The 18th Century British statesman is quoted to have said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” There have been multiple modifications of the statement and different individuals credited with the words, but it still remains a strong truth...if you do not pay attention to history, you are inviting failure. Many people have viewed what is taking place in the United States today with similarities to what brought about the fall of Rome. They see our excesses and political intrigues comparable to what transpired among those long-ago people. I would argue our template is more in tune with the fall of Sparta. Those of us who dozed through those classes in ancient history may not remember that Sparta was a city-state in southern Greece. By the eighth century B.C. it had grown from a collection of villages or colonies, to a powerful state with a strong military force. In 550 B.C. through 449 it fought and won an extremely protracted war with Persia. This was followed with a war from 431-404 to defeat Athens. Sparta was said to have the most powerful military force in the world. Military conflicts continued decade after decade but in time proved to be far too many and much too costly for the state. This brought about a diminishing of military strength. The might of Sparta declined and defeats replaced victories. By the third century it was in steep free-fall.

The End of American Optimism
Excerpt: Our brief national encounter with optimism is now well and truly over. We have had the greatest fiscal and monetary stimulus in modern times. We have had a whole series of programs to pay people to buy cars, purchase homes, pay off their mortgages, weatherize their homes, and install solar paneling on their roofs. Yet the recovery remains feeble and the aftershocks of the post-bubble credit collapse are ongoing. We are at least 2.5 million jobs short of getting back to the unemployment rate of under 8% promised by the Obama administration. Concern grows that we are looking at a double-dip recession and hovering on the brink of a destructive deflation. Things are bad enough for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to have characterized the economic outlook late last month as "unusually uncertain." Are we at the end of the post-World War II period of growth? Tons of money have been shoveled in to rescue reckless banks and fill the huge hole in the economy, but nothing is working the way it normally had in all our previous crises. Rather, we are in what a number of economists are referring to as the "new normal." This is a much slower-growing economy that, recent surveys have revealed, is causing many Americans to distance themselves from the long-held assumption that their children will have it better than they.

Another Threat to Economy: Boomers Cutting Back
Excerpt: America's baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—face a problem that could weigh on the economy for years to come: The longer it takes for the economy to recover, the less money they'll have to spend in retirement. Policy makers have long worried that Americans aren't saving enough for old age. And lately, current and prospective retirees have been hit on many fronts at once: They have less money, they earn less on what they have, their houses aren't rising in value and the prospect of working longer to make up the shortfall has dimmed significantly in a lousy job market. "We will have to learn to make do with a lot less in material things," says Gary Snodgrass, a 63-year-old health-care consultant in Placerville, Calif. The financial crisis, he says, slashed his retirement savings 40% and the value of his house by about half. Banks, home buyers and bond issuers are all benefiting as the U.S. Federal Reserve holds short-term interest rates near zero to support a recovery. But for many of the 36 million Americans who will turn 65 over the next decade—and even for the 45 million who have another decade to go— the resulting low bond yields, combined with a volatile stock market, are making a dire retirement picture look even worse.

Is a Crash Coming? Ten Reasons to Be Cautious
This is a tad scary. Excerpt: Could Wall Street be about to crash again? This week's bone-rattlers may be making you wonder. I don't make predictions. That's a sucker's game. And I'm certainly not doing so now. But way too many people are way too complacent this summer. Here are 10 reasons to watch out.

Jan Schakowsky - Yet Another Socialist Sympathizer in Congress
Excerpt: Several current or recent members of Congress, including Neil Abercrombie, Mary Jo Kilroy, Jerry Nadler and Bob Filner have close ties to America's largest marxist organization, Democratic Socialists of America. Another to add to the growing list is Jan Schakowsky. The Illinois Democrat, a member of the far left Congressional Progressive Caucus, has been close to D.S.A., or its preceding organization, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee since the 1970s. Schakowsky was recruited to help with the famous Chicago Grape Boycott by a young United Farm Workers union leader named Eliseo Medina. A lifelong socialist, Medina is today executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union and an honorary chair of Democratic Socialists of America.

77% Think U.S. Nuclear Weapons Arsenal is Important to National Security
Excerpt: Most Americans think a nuclear weapon arsenal is critical to the country's safety, and they feel more is better. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 77% believe the U.S. nuclear weapon arsenal is at least somewhat important to the country’s national security, including 51% who say it is Very Important. Just 15% think it is not important to national security, including four percent (4%) who think it is Not At All Important. Most adults (57%) also say the United States should not reduce the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal. One-in-four adults (27%) disagree, saying the country should reduce its number of these weapons. Another 16% are not sure. These numbers have changed little since April, just after President Obama agreed to a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

GOP reveals midterm blueprint
Excerpt: The GOP blueprint for winning control of the House is rapidly coming into focus, with the National Republican Congressional Committee readying a $22 million TV ad blitz aimed at a handful of powerful, long-serving incumbents and several dozen of the most junior members of the Democratic majority. POLITICO has learned that the Republican campaign arm will invest in 40 districts around the nation in its first wave of television commercial reservations — a target list that ranges from powerful veterans such as House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt of South Carolina and Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, an Appropriations Committee cardinal, to endangered freshmen legislators including Reps. Alan Grayson of Florida, Betsy Markey of Colorado and Harry Teague of New Mexico.

Obama, the one-term president
Over confidence will kill you—just ask President Dewey. Excerpt: Q: Will Barack Obama be a one-term president? A: Yes, he might last that long. Honest to goodness, the man just does not get it. He might be forced to pull a Palin and resign before his first term is over. He could go off and write his memoirs and build his presidential library. (Both would be half-size, of course.) I am not saying Obama is not smart; he is as smart as a whip. I am just saying he does not understand what savvy first-term presidents need to understand: You have to stay on message, follow the polls, listen to your advisers (who are writing the message and taking the polls) and realize that when it comes to doing what is right versus doing what is expedient, you do what is expedient so that you can get reelected and do what is right in the second term. If at all possible. And it will help your legacy. And not endanger the election of others in your party. And not hurt the brand. Or upset people too much.

"Those Voices Don't Speak for the Rest of Us"
Good ad.

The U.S. Withdrawal and Limited Options in Iraq
Excerpt: It is August 2010, which is the month when the last U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq. It is therefore time to take stock of the situation in Iraq, which has changed places with Afghanistan as the forgotten war. This is all the more important since 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq, and while they may not be considered combat troops, a great deal of combat power remains embedded with them. So we are far from the end of the war in Iraq. The question is whether the departure of the last combat units is a significant milestone and, if it is, what it signifies. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 with three goals: The first was the destruction of the Iraqi army, the second was the destruction of the Baathist regime and the third was the replacement of that regime with a stable, pro-American government in Baghdad. The first two goals were achieved within weeks. Seven years later, however, Iraq still does not yet have a stable government, let alone a pro-American government. The lack of that government is what puts the current strategy in jeopardy.

Tulsa shelter helps abused Muslim women
Wonder why this small minority of women, all from the “Religion of Peace,” need their own shelter? Is there something in the Qur’an that encourages wife beating? Excerpt: She was pencil-thin and so weak from mental and physical abuse, she needed help getting up stairs. Her husband kept her under video surveillance 24 hours a day, a virtual prisoner in her own home, and once held a knife to her throat. This Jordanian woman found refuge in the Surayya Anne Foundation home, Tulsa's only Muslim women's shelter. She is now separated from her husband, who remains in Tulsa, and is back with her family in Jordan.

Taliban 'kill adulterous Afghan couple'
Didn’t get the “Islam is a religion of peace” memo. Excerpt: A man and a woman who allegedly had an adulterous affair have been stoned and killed in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. The punishment happened in a crowded bazaar on Sunday in the Taliban-controlled village of Mullah Quli. The Taliban have not commented on the public killing, but it was confirmed by local officials and witnesses. This month the Taliban also reportedly flogged and killed a pregnant widow in western Baghdis province.

Hamas on killing spree in Gaza,7340,L-3932819,00.html
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: News stories about bodies found at sea are occasionally published by Gaza newspapers. The number of such bodies isn't huge, yet not all those drowning victims chose to go swimming voluntarily. The Gazans who found their death at sea include mid-level officials at sensitive government ministries, the Interior Ministry for example, alongside police and security officers. Some of them were shot in the head before being sent on their swim. There is a common denominator to these deaths: All of the victims were designated as traitors by the secret service of Hamas' military wing in charge of counter-espionage and executed as collaborators.

No comments:

Post a Comment