Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Political Digest August 25, 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.

Long but Great Read: The 72-Hour Expert
P.J. on a roll. Excerpt: If you spend 72 hours in a place you’ve never been, talking to people whose language you don’t speak about social, political, and economic complexities you don’t understand, and you come back as the world’s biggest know-it-all, you’re a reporter. Either that or you’re President Obama. I called my wife. She said, no, she certainly is not vacationing at government expense in some jet-set hot spot with scads of her BFFs. Looks like I’m not President Obama. But I am a reporter, fresh from Kabul. What do you want to know about Afghanistan, past, present, or future? Ask me anything. As all good reporters do, I prepared for my assignment with extensive research. I went to an Afghan restaurant in Prague. Getting a foretaste—as it were—of my subject, I asked the restaurant’s owner (an actual Afghan), “So what’s up with Afghanistan?” He said, “Americans must understand that Afghanistan is a country of honor. The honor of an Afghan is in his gun, his land, and his women. You take a man’s honor if you take his gun, his land or his women.” And the same goes for where I live in New Hampshire. I inquired whether exceptions could be made, on the third point of honor, for ex-wives. “Oh yes,” he said. Afghanistan—so foreign and yet so familiar and, like home, with such wonderful lamb chops. I asked the restaurateur about other similarities between New Hampshire and Afghanistan. “I don’t know,” he said. “Most of my family lives in L.A.”

Medical Care Facts and Fables by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: There is so much political spin, and so many numbers games being played, when it comes to medical care, that we have to go back to square one and the simplest common sense, in order to get some rational idea of what government-run medical care means. In particular, we need to examine the claim that the government can "bring down the cost of medical care." The most basic fact is that it is cheaper to remain sick than to get medical treatment. What is cheapest of all is to die instead of getting life-saving medications and treatment, which can be very expensive. Despite these facts, most of us tend to take a somewhat more parochial view of the situation when it is we ourselves who are sick or who face a potentially fatal illness. But what if that decision is taken out of your hands under ObamaCare and is being made for you by a bureaucrat in Washington? We won't know what that leads to until the time comes. As Nancy Pelosi said, we will find out what is in the bill after it has passed. But even now, after ObamaCare has been passed, not many people want to read its 2,400 pages. Even if you did, you would still not know what it would be like in practice, after more than 150 boards and commissions issue their specific regulations. Fortunately-- in fact, very fortunately-- you don't have to slog through 2,400 pages of legalistic jargon or turn to a fortune teller to divine the future. A new book, "The Truth About ObamaCare" by Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute lays out the facts in the plainest English….. She cites a study by Professors Ohsfeldt and Schneider at the University of Iowa, which shows that, if you leave out people who are victims of homicide or who die in automobile accidents, Americans live longer than people in any other Western country. Doctors do not prevent homicides or car crashes. In the things that doctors can affect, such as the survival rates of cancer patients, the United States leads the world.

Wind Power Won't Cool Down the Planet: Often enough it leads to higher carbon emissions.
Excerpt: The wind industry has achieved remarkable growth largely due to the claim that it will provide major reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. There's just one problem: It's not true. A slew of recent studies show that wind-generated electricity likely won't result in any reduction in carbon emissions—or that they'll be so small as to be almost meaningless. This issue is especially important now that states are mandating that utilities produce arbitrary amounts of their electricity from renewable sources. By 2020, for example, California will require utilities to obtain 33% of their electricity from renewables. About 30 states, including Connecticut, Minnesota and Hawaii, are requiring major increases in the production of renewable electricity over the coming years. Wind—not solar or geothermal sources—must provide most of this electricity. It's the only renewable source that can rapidly scale up to meet the requirements of the mandates. This means billions more in taxpayer subsidies for the wind industry and higher electricity costs for consumers. None of it will lead to major cuts in carbon emissions, for two reasons. First, wind blows only intermittently and variably. Second, wind-generated electricity largely displaces power produced by natural gas-fired generators, rather than that from plants burning more carbon-intensive coal.

LA unveils $578M school, costliest in the nation
Lot of dough. Hope the ‘undocumented students” appreciate the taxpayers coughing up. Excerpt: Next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will be auspicious for a reason other than its both storied and infamous history as the former Ambassador Hotel, where the Democratic presidential contender was assassinated in 1968. With an eye-popping price tag of $578 million, it will mark the inauguration of the nation's most expensive public school ever. The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of "Taj Mahal" schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities. "There's no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the '70s where kids felt, 'Oh, back to jail,'" said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. "Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning." Not everyone is similarly enthusiastic. "New buildings are nice, but when they're run by the same people who've given us a 50 percent dropout rate, they're a big waste of taxpayer money," said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education. "Parents aren't fooled." At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex's namesake, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and preservation of pieces of the original hotel. Partly by circumstance and partly by design, the Los Angeles Unified School District has emerged as the mogul of Taj Mahals. The RFK complex follows on the heels of two other LA schools among the nation's costliest — the $377 million Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which opened in 2008, and the $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School that debuted in 2009.

Nearly 50 percent leave Obama mortgage-aid program
So I pay my mortgage and I pay their mortgages and…ah, crap. I truly feel bad for folks who had reasonable mortgages and lost their jobs, partly due to the bubble bursting that was created when the government decided that even folks who couldn’t afford them should have houses. But anyone who bought a house that was a lot more expensive than mine, on a salary that was lower than mine, I have zero pity for or interest in taking up the slack. ~Bob. Excerpt: Nearly half of the 1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration's flagship mortgage-relief program have fallen out. The program is intended to help those at risk of foreclosure by lowering their monthly mortgage payments. Friday's report from the Treasury Department suggests the $75 billion government effort is failing to slow the tide of foreclosures in the United States, economists say. More than 2.3 million homes have fallen into foreclosure since the recession began in December 2007, according to foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc. Economists expect the number of foreclosures to grow well into next year. "The government program as currently structured is petering out. It is taking in fewer homeowners, more are dropping out and fewer people are ending up in permanent modifications," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.

Home sales plunge 27 pct. to lowest in 15 years
Can you say, “Double Dip Recession”? ~Bob. Excerpt: Sales of previously occupied homes plunged last month to the lowest level in 15 years, despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades and bargain prices in many areas. July's sales fell by more than 27 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. It was the largest monthly drop on records dating back to 1968, and sharp declines were recorded in all regions of the country. Sales were particularly weak among homes priced in the lower to middle ranges. For example, in the Midwest, homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 tumbled nearly 47 percent. As sales have slowed, the inventory of unsold homes on the market grew to nearly 4 million in July. That's a 12.5 month supply at the current sales pace, the highest level in more than a decade. It compares with a healthy level of about six months.

Campaign cash: Who's spending where in 2010?
Excerpt: Use this interactive table to track campaign spending by interest groups and political parties in the 2010 midterm elections. These totals will be updated every Tuesday through Election Day. For the week ending August 22, groups spent a total of $2,276,665, with $1,294,309 on behalf of Republicans and $982,356 on behalf of Democrats.

China's nine-day traffic jam stretches 100km
Excerpt: Thousands of vehicles were bogged down Monday in a more than 100-kilometre (62-mile) traffic jam leading to Beijing that has lasted nine days and highlights China's growing road congestion woes. The Beijing-Tibet expressway slowed to a crawl on August 14 due to a spike in traffic by cargo-bearing heavy trucks heading to the capital, and compounded by road maintenance work that began five days later, the Global Times said. The state-run newspaper said the jam between Beijing and Jining city had given birth to a mini-economy with local merchants capitalising on the stranded drivers' predicament by selling them water and food at inflated prices. (Next time you're going to complain about traffic, think about the wonders of highways in a command economy. Ron P. You see a traffic jam. I see a target-rich communist environment. ~Bob)

Solar flares are teleconnected to earthly radioactive decay
I blame global warming for affecting the sun. ~Bob. Excerpt: It’s a mystery that presented itself unexpectedly: The radioactive decay of some elements sitting quietly in laboratories on Earth seemed to be influenced by activities inside the sun, 93 million miles away. Is this possible? Researchers from Stanford and Purdue University believe it is. But their explanation of how it happens opens the door to yet another mystery. There is even an outside chance that this unexpected effect is brought about by a previously unknown particle emitted by the sun. “That would be truly remarkable,” said Peter Sturrock, Stanford professor emeritus of applied physics and an expert on the inner workings of the sun. The story begins, in a sense, in classrooms around the world, where students are taught that the rate of decay of a specific radioactive material is a constant. (...) Checking data collected at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island and the Federal Physical and Technical Institute in Germany, they came across something even more surprising: long-term observation of the decay rate of silicon-32 and radium-226 seemed to show a small seasonal variation. The decay rate was ever so slightly faster in winter than in summer. Was this fluctuation real, or was it merely a glitch in the equipment used to measure the decay, induced by the change of seasons, with the accompanying changes in temperature and humidity? (...) On Dec 13, 2006, the sun itself provided a crucial clue, when a solar flare sent a stream of particles and radiation toward Earth. Purdue nuclear engineer Jere Jenkins, while measuring the decay rate of manganese-54, a short-lived isotope used in medical diagnostics, noticed that the rate dropped slightly during the flare, a decrease that started about a day and a half before the flare. If this apparent relationship between flares and decay rates proves true, it could lead to a method of predicting solar flares prior to their occurrence, which could help prevent damage to satellites and electric grids, as well as save the lives of astronauts in space. (The world just got even stranger. This could not only protect lives in space, it may impact lives of those on Earth undergoing radiation therapy. Ron P.)

Personal Aside: Of Course! A Black Woman Juror Holdout! Listens to NPR and Worked for State Health Agency! Was Fitz Asleep?
Interesting analysis that will enrage the politically correct on the left. (Was that redundant?) ~Bob. Excerpt: But when the news first came down, nobody knew the identity, gender or race of the holdout juror. He and I were speculating idly on the phone when he said this: “I’ll bet you the ranch it’s a black woman.” Why do you say that? “Poor black women, black women without husbands, particularly those who are Moms… far more than men…, support anyone who has been a conduit to government assistance because so many of them are hooked on it: and Blago had his All Kids program and free transit rides for seniors. With a great number of black poor women, marriage—at least to black men—is less important than it used to be. Take a look at the numbers. Far more black women are going to college than are black men. In the number of business promotions, they greatly exceed men. This is very sad because as even Pat Moynihan discovered with his report on the black family in 1965, increasingly then poor black women looked upon black men an almost useless commodity aside from being sperm donors. That finding almost killed Pat with the liberals. “Poor black women who raise children by themselves must depend on government. And now even not-so-poor black women. That means that as jurors black women generally reward those defendants who though crooked have been involved in government and have endorsed governmental largesse for the poor. That’s not very surprising, is it?” Well, I guess not now that I think of it. I’d like to refer to this on my blog. “Okay so long as you don’t use my name. The statement I just made is exceedingly unpopular with the politically correct—and they rather not see it brought up. They are in denial. You know what political denial is, don’t you?” Yeah.

House Republican leader calls on Obama to fire Geithner, Summers
Excerpt: Boehner wants President Obama to ask for and accept the resignations of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council. Firing his economic team is one of five actions Boehner argues the president should take to right the economy.

Getting Our China Priorities Straight
Excerpt: Last week, the establishment media played up reports that China surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Contrary to the amount of attention it received, the development is not as important as it was made to sound. First of all, if the PRC reported its economic data accurately, China probably passed Japan several years ago. Second, after adjusting for different prices within economies —known as purchasing power parity— China actually passed Japan way back in 1995. In other words, this is old news. Lost in these GDP measures, however, is any measure of personal income or wealth. And by that measure the average Japanese citizen is roughly in 40th place in the world, behind the average citizen of Mississippi. China’s GDP per capita, by comparison, is still only about 15 percent of the U.S. level, about the same as El Salvador. This is not to say the United States should be turning a blind eye to China’s rise. In another development from last week, this one virtually ignored by the establishment media, the Department of Defense released its annual Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China. According to the report, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) official budget, which has enjoyed double-digit annual increases for two decades, grew again by nearly 8 percent. This is compared to the reductions in defense spending called for in President Barack Obama’s budget, which reduced defense spending from 4.9% of GDP today to 3.01% by 2019. So while the Obama administration is cutting our missile defenses and giving the Navy the cold shoulder, the PLA is developing anti-ship ballistic missiles, building up its military industrial complex and achieving an anti-access, area-denial capacity that will further limit American commanders’ options in Asia.

Islamophobia? Not really,0,6090115.column
Excerpt: The supposed anti-Muslim backlash among Americans is mostly a myth. Here's a thought: The 70% of Americans who oppose what amounts to an Islamic Niketown two blocks from ground zero are the real victims of a climate of hate, and anti-Muslim backlash is mostly a myth. Let's start with some data. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Muslims increased by a staggering 1,600% in 2001. That sounds serious! But wait, the increase is a math mirage. There were 28 anti-Islamic incidents in 2000. That number climbed to 481 the year a bunch of Muslim terrorists murdered 3,000 Americans in the name of Islam on Sept. 11. Now, that was a hate crime. Regardless, 2001 was the zenith or, looked at through the prism of our national shame, the nadir of the much-discussed anti-Muslim backlash in the United States. The following year, the number of anti-Islamic hate-crime incidents (overwhelmingly, nonviolent vandalism and nasty words) dropped to 155. In 2003, there were 149 such incidents. And the number has hovered around the mid-100s or lower ever since. Sure, even one hate crime is too many. But does that sound like a anti-Muslim backlash to you? Let's put this in even sharper focus. America is, outside of Israel ,probably the most receptive and tolerant country in the world to Jews. And yet, in every year since 9/11, more Jews have been hate-crime victims than Muslims. A lot more.

Many More Now Following Mosque Controversy – And Don’t Like It
Excerpt: A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 85% of U.S. voters say they are now following news stories about the mosque planned near Ground Zero. That's a 34-point jump from a month ago when only 51% said they were following the story.

Even in Massachusetts, A GOP Surge
Excerpt: "Massachusetts Republican" -- once an oxymoron, now a cliché? After Scott Brown's election, a party once near extinction now has crowded primaries. State Rep. Jeff Perry (Sandwich) stands out from the crowd, running for Massachusetts's 10th congressional district: WBUR calls the race Perry's to lose. Center-left blog lays out how Republicans just might "captur[e] the Cape." Perry's qualified "contender" in the NRCC's Young Guns candidate program for House races, by raising more than $400,000 -- with 82 cents of every dollar coming from the district -- recently opened his third campaign office in Quincy

Democratic Party Official Forced to Resign After Being Caught Helping Fake Tea Party Candidates get on the Ballot…
Democrats—still subverting the electoral process. Excerpt: The Oakland County Democratic Party says it has requested and accepted the resignation of operations director Jason Bauer in the wake of accusations he notarized campaign filings for a fake Tea Party candidate. “We are saddened by this situation, but cannot condone his alleged actions,” the OCDP said Sunday in a released statement. “For the sake of the organization, we must part ways effective immediately.” Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, a Republican candidate for secretary of state, announced the allegations against Bauer on Friday, noting she had turned over documents to the county prosecutor and Michigan Attorney General’s office for further investigation. Johnson said her office was contacted by Aaron Tyler, a former Springfield Township resident who moved to Phoenix in late July only to find he had been nominated as a Tea Party candidate for a seat on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. Tyler said he’d never filed to run for the office, let alone signed an affidavit of identity which Bauer allegedly notarized. “I figured it must have been some sort of mistake,” Tyler wrote in a letter. “I believe a fraud was committed.” A group calling itself “The Tea Party” last month nominated 23 candidates, including Tyler, for offices around the state. A number of tea party organizations and Republicans have suggested Democrats are backing the candidates in an attempt to split the conservative vote in November.

Cameron’s ‘High Noon’ Canceled At 11th Hour
Warmist cuts and runs from debate he brought on. Liar and coward too. ~Bob. Excerpt: “I want to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out with those boneheads.” James Cameron on global warming skeptics in March. In March of this year, famed director and amateur hole stuffer James Cameron threw down the green gauntlet, stating in an interview that he wanted to debate global warming skeptics in a most public way, the better to expose them for having their heads “deeply up” their, um, abysses. Cameron doesn’t like global warming skeptics. Or the military. Or mining. Or, you know, Americans. So in the post-orgy afterglow following the success of everything-bashing Avatar, he was ready to mix it up. Right? Alas, the gun-slinging was not to be. In lieu of the scheduled dust-up, this weekend Cameron opted to simply call skeptics “swine” and screen a documentary about his own heroic opposition to Brazilian electricity before jet-setting back to that carbon credit trader’s wet dream he calls a home. And yes, that says “scheduled” dust-up. Because the ballyhooed Hometree showdown was supposed to take place this weekend as a scheduled close to the 7th Annual AREDAY conference in Aspen. Among the invited opposition was documentary producer and journalist, Ann McElhinney. In a post this weekend at the “Not Evil Just Wrong” blog, Ann lays out the series of backtracks

German man faces terrorism charges in US plot
Need to translate the memo into German. If he speaks German. ~Bob. Excerpt: German prosecutors say they have charged a man with membership in a group that plotted to attack U.S. targets in the European country. Prosecutors announced Monday the man identified only as Salih S. was charged Aug. 12 with supporting a terrorist organization and membership in a terrorist organization. They say the German citizen is alleged to be a member of the radical Islamic Jihad Union who trained at a terrorist camp in Pakistan. He was first arrested in 2008 in Turkey and extradited in July.

Vietnam is not, repeat not, Asia's new Mighty Mouse
Excerpt: The setting was hardly one conducive to grand geopolitical discussion. There was tea — but no crumpets — in my tiny, less-than-fashionable Hudson Street West Village studio. It was 1951. I had just been cashiered as a scriptwriter for Voice of America, in part for ferociously advocating Vietnam's independence. My guest — whom I was just meeting — was a refugee living off the charity of the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers. I had sought him out, told by various Vietnamese friends his resume was more than a match for Ho Chi Minh's propaganda-acquired reputation. That afternoon, the future president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, lectured me on, among other things, the tangled relationship between Vietnam and China. Diem argued that only when there was an intervening third force would independence be possible from a reunified, powerful China. In his long lament on why the ardent American support for the French efforts in his country would fail, Diem pointed particularly to the new threat of Chinese communism. It had appeared a few months earlier at Vietnam's three northern border passes. In fact, just weeks earlier, I had abandoned a year's reporting on the conflict, convinced that the stalemate between the French and the Vietminh guerrillas was sure to bring Chinese intervention. Diem endorsed my hypothesis. Only now, decades later, with defectors having unmasked Paris' cover-up in pursuit of its commercial ambitions in China, do we know that Beijing indeed played a critical role in France's final defeat at Dien Bien Phu three years later. As is inscribed at the U.S. National Archives Building: "What's past is prologue." Repeatedly, the Vietnamese have scored temporary victories over the Chinese. In 1979 — to take just the latest example — Beijing tried "to teach the Vietnamese a lesson" after Hanoi's communists, with approval from most of the world, invaded a Chinese ally, Cambodia, to oust the monstrous Khmer Rouge regime. China's incursion was rudely turned back. But today's Beijing is another matter. China is pouring billions upon billions of yuan into its military while overwhelming northern Vietnam's industries with imports and illegal workers. It also has moved down the Mekong River into neighboring Laos, determined not to repeat the logistical failure that contributed to its 1979 debacle.

DEA seeks Ebonics experts to help with cases
Excerpt: Federal agents are seeking to hire Ebonics translators to help interpret wiretapped conversations involving targets of undercover drug investigations. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently sent memos asking companies that provide translation services to help it find nine translators in the Southeast who are fluent in Ebonics, Special Agent Michael Sanders said Monday. Ebonics, which is also known as African American Vernacular English, has been described by the psychologist who coined the term as the combination of English vocabulary with African language structure. Some DEA agents already help translate Ebonics, Sanders said. But he said wasn't sure if the agency has ever hired outside Ebonics experts as contractors.

For Obamacare supporters, judgment day approaches
Excerpt: Say you're a Democratic member of Congress. You proudly cast your vote for Obamacare, you cheered when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed it as the achievement of a generation and you scoffed at Republicans who vowed to repeal it. Now you're running for re-election, and a voter asks: What is the most important thing you've done in the last two years? The answer should be easy. In passing the national health care bill, you accomplished something your party dreamed of for decades. It was your most important vote, and now is the time to take credit for it. Except it's not. Recently a number of top Democratic strategists conducted focus groups in Las Vegas, Charlotte, Philadelphia and St. Louis. They also conducted a national poll of 1,000 likely voters and an online poll of 2,000 more likely voters. They wanted to measure the public's feelings about Obamacare and help Democrats make an effective case for the bill they passed in March. The researchers found what they call a "challenging environment," which is a nicer way of saying "disaster in the making." Voters simply aren't buying the Democratic case that health care reform will insure more than 30 million currently uninsured people and save money at the same time. And when they think about their own health care, people worry that reform will mean less, not more, availability of care, and at a higher cost. Faced with that bad news, the pollsters came up with several recommendations for Democratic candidates. When talking about Obamacare, Democrats should "keep claims small and credible." They should promise to "improve" the law. They should avoid talking about policy and stick to "personal stories" of people who will benefit from Obamacare. And above all, the pollsters advise, "don't say the law will reduce costs and deficit.

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