Saturday, October 2, 2010

Political Digest for October 2, 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.

“No” Vote, for Tax Vote
Good blog. ~Bob. Excerpt: So, why do we taxpayers employ members of Congress again? It seems the only things they do get done, we don’t need, and the things we do need, they don’t get done. A vote on the fate of the Bush Tax cuts is the single most important issue for our economy today, and in her final act late last night before the House was to adjourn for the month of October, Nancy Pelosi cast the tie-breaking vote, not to vote on the issue. In the 210 to 209 decision, many Democrats dared to defy Madame Speaker, because they have heard the citizens of this country, who demand and deserve an answer on the impending tax situation. These representatives were clearly unhappy with the actions of the Speaker and strongly voiced their opinions after the vote. On November 2, the electorate will likely make its voice heard as well … at the voting booth. And, with any mercy at all, we will be spared the recurring nightmare of Pelosi beating the gavel come the new year. A recent study by the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, Obama Tax Hikes: The Economic and Fiscal Effects, found that the Obama Tax hikes would destroy an average of 693,000 jobs every year through 2020; drain $726 billion from disposable income, $38 billion from personal savings and $33 billion from business investments; raise taxes on the 55 percent of all joint filers earning more than $250,000 who run small businesses; and cost nonfarm small businesses and seniors significantly higher taxes. Much of the tax increase on seniors would come from increased taxes on dividends, which is a primary source of income for many seniors.

Worth Reading: Why Is He Sending Them?
Excerpt: From the beginning, the call to arms was highly uncertain. On Dec. 1, 2009, commander in chief Barack Obama orders 30,000 more Americans into battle in Afghanistan. But in the very next sentence, he announces that an American withdrawal will begin after 18 months. Astonishing. A surge of troops -- overall, Obama has tripled our Afghan force -- with a declaration not of war but of ambivalence. Nine months later, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway admitted that this decision was "probably giving our enemy sustenance." This wasn't conjecture, he insisted, but the stuff of intercepted Taliban communications testifying to their relief that they simply had to wait out the Americans. What kind of commander in chief sends tens of thousands of troops to war announcing in advance a fixed date for beginning their withdrawal? One who doesn't have his heart in it. One who doesn't really want to win but is making some kind of political gesture. One who thinks he has to be seen as trying but is preparing the ground -- meaning, the political cover -- for failure. Until now, the above was just inference from the president's public rhetoric. No longer. Now we have the private quotes. Bob Woodward's book, drawing on classified memos and interviews with scores of national security officials, has Obama telling his advisers: "I want an exit strategy." He tells the country publicly that Afghanistan is a "vital national interest," but he tells his generals that he will not do the kind of patient institution-building that is the very essence of the counterinsurgency strategy that Gens. McChrystal and Petraeus crafted and that he -- Obama -- adopted. Moreover, he must find an exit because "I can't lose the whole Democratic Party." This admission is the most crushing of all. First, isn't this the party that in two consecutive presidential campaigns -- John Kerry's and then Obama's -- argued vociferously that Afghanistan is the good war, the right war, the war of necessity, the central front in the war on terror? Now, after acceding to power and being given charge of that very war, Obama confides that he must retreat lest that very same party abandon him. What happened in the interim? Did it suddenly develop a faint heart? Or was the party disingenuous about the Afghan War all along, using it as a convenient club with which to attack George W. Bush over Iraq, while protecting Democrats from the charge of being reflexively anti-war? Whatever the reason, is it not Obama's job as president and party leader to bring the party with him? This is the man who made Berlin coo, America swoon and the Nobel committee lose its mind. Yet he cannot get his own party to follow him on what he insists is a matter of vital national interest? (The troops serve and fight and bleed and die because they are better men—and now women too—than the man ordering them to battle. But that is not new. ~Bob)

Excellent column: From the Unbelievable to the Passé
Excerpt: Everywhere one looks statism is a failure. Contrast resource-rich Venezuela with Chile. Juxtapose Cuba to Colombia. Of course, compare Dark Age North Korea with the 21st-century South. Look at the UK in 1954 and 1990. They are rioting in Europe not to embrace socialism, but in petulant fashion to find someone somehow to pay for it — as if “they” and “them” are partying in some remote Aegean island, with vaults of stashed euros. Whether hard communism or soft socialism, statism does not work. We all know why — it goes against human nature, rewarding mediocrity and punishing merit, professing egalitarianism for the masses, while the operators of the system, whether the old Soviet apparatchiks or the new crony EU Brussels bureaucrats, satisfy their appetites like capitalists. Ultimately, it is simply like coasting on a bike uphill. The last hard peddles are simply not enough to push the bike and rider over the hill: finally the brilliant small manufacturer, the lean contractor, the enterprising farmer, the late-into-the-night engineer — they cannot carry any longer the clerk, the auditor, the regulator, the tax man, and the bureaucrat who wish not merely to piggy-back onto the biker, but to try to stop his peddling even as they demand to get over the crest. (Going one-up on Lewis Caroll, here are 4 unbelievable things before breakfast. Ron P.)

Barbara Boxer Campaigners hire day laborers to hold protest signs against Carly Fiorina
No word on their citizenship.

Sea Turtle extinction: not global warming
Click through the pics. Pretty bad—but poor people gotta eat. We can’t have trade with them so they’d have jobs, ticks off the Unions and Democrats. ~Bob.

Obama's Campaign-Season Christianity
Excerpt: Barack Obama threw his mom under the parish van on Tuesday, describing her as formlessly "spiritual" while casting himself as the self-made convert. "I am a Christian by choice," he said at a campaign event in New Mexico this week. In 2007, he said the opposite: that he became a Christian through his mother. "My mother was a Christian from Kansas…I was raised by my mother. So, I've always been a Christian," he told a voter who had inquired about his Islamic background. The woman at the campaign stop in New Mexico on Tuesday asked him to explain why he is a Christian and coupled it with another one about his support for abortion rights. The sequence of questions proved awkward, with the answer to the latter question rendering his answer to the first one meaningless."[The] precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead—being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me," he said. He threw in a few more vague-sounding clichés and a paean to religious relativism for good measure, and reassured the lady that "I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith." (I think like many he is a secular humanist who believes in the state and the power of government to fix people. I don’t think he’s a Muslim or a Christian, except as convenient. ~Bob.)

Why do They Hate Us
Excerpt: I am only a decade out of graduate school—and I suppose it's possible that I am a disagreeable person—but I have had more than a few unpleasant conversations with complete strangers, and even some friends, in which they have expressed their anger about professors while knowing that I am one. (Here is an interesting article, containing some valid points. It is, in my opinion, missing two important things, one of which is that the antics of a few professors (e.g. Ward Churchill) demonstrate such arrogance and political extremism that they arouse real anger amongst the majority of Americans, and some of that spills over into suspicion of professors in general. The other factor is the generally liberal slant/Political Correctness of a significant fraction of professors, which again rubs very many Americans the wrong way. A recent example was the almost immediate condemnation of the Duke LaCrosse team accused of rape, in a letter signed by 80 faculty members, well before a thorough examination of the facts had begun; and when it turned out the accusation was false, there was no hint of apology from those same professors. We've had professors say that of 9-11 "we had it coming," or teach that it was the CIA/Mossad who really directed those planes, and we've had cases where professors gave poor marks to students whose essays on some assigned topic reached conclusions contrary to the professor's personal opinion on the topic. However exceptional such behaviors may be, they receive a good deal of publicity, and surely influence people's feelings, perhaps as much or more than what the writer below discusses. Any other thoughts on this? –Del read a book on this by a professor back in the 1970s called “This Beats Working for a Living.” ~Bob.)

Why Dems Are Going Down in November
Unless something totally unforeseen occurs, Democrats are poised to take a real beating in November. Their response to the impending disaster has run the gamut. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is in denial: "One thing I know for sure is that Democrats will retain their majority in the House of Representatives." Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is condescending: "We have an electorate that doesn't always pay that much attention to what's going on, so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening." President Obama is angry: "It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election." Why is the electorate ready to kick Democrats to the curb? Here's why:…… All of it centers around the ridiculous premise that America owes the world an apology for any number of shortcomings, many of which can only be alleviated by government-mandated "social justice." That would be the same social justice which demanded—and still demands—that Americans manifestly unqualified to own homes be given mortgages, regardless. Unknown to the majority of Americans, this precise mindset was part of the financial "reform" bill which also requires banks to lend a certain percentage of capital to minority-owned businesses, even if it means lowering their lending standards. Apparently progressives won't be satisfied with their odious social-engineering schemes until every sector of the American economy bears a striking resemblance to the housing sector. So far, Americans support financial reform because it's been framed as "Main Street versus "Wall Street." It's not. Like every other initiative undertaken by this Congress and this administration, it's the elevation of irresponsible and dishonest Americans over those willing to accept the consequences of their own behavior. There you have it. Democratic control for four years in Congress, and two in the White House has been exactly what many predicted: an ideologically-driven disaster of epic proportions.

British brothers 'behind Mumbai-style plot'
Didn’t get the memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Two British brothers are said to be “at the heart” of an al-Qaeda plot to launch Mumbai-style terrorist attacks on the West. Intelligence sources say the pair are part of a 10-strong team who were planning to launch shooting sprees on cities in Britain, France and Germany. A Pakistani intelligence official, who is part of a team that has been tracking militants, said that they had been watching the two British brothers for nearly a year. In recent weeks the men had been in telephone contact with London as they sought help in securing weapons and preparing the plot.

Spain on strike: riot police and protesters clash during a nationwide general strike
Don’t laugh. This is what happens when the money for entitlements runs out. ~Bob. Excerpt: Police break up a picket line that had entered a shop during a nationwide strike in Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain.

Deconstructing the Latest Health Care Fad: Accountable Care Organizations
Excerpt: The President’s health care reform bill includes numerous pilot projects and demonstration programs designed to test ways of lowering health care spending and improving quality. One such pilot program is Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), the latest fad among health policy wonks. Backers expect ACOs to raise the quality and lower the cost of patient care simultaneously. Detractors, on the other hand, describe them as “HMOs on steroids.” What’s the truth?

The Value Added Tax: Too Costly for the United States
Excerpt: The United States is unusual in not having a valued-added tax (VAT), which is one reason the possible adop¬tion of a VAT has been a longstanding debate in U.S. tax policy, says Randall G. Holcombe, professor of economics at Florida State University. Most developed economies rely on a VAT for a substantial share of their tax revenue, so it is natural for the United States to look at the possibility of implementing a VAT, especially while huge budget deficits are forecast as far out as the forecasts go. While one can debate the merits of a VAT in other countries, the tax is not a good fit for the United States for many reasons, says Holcombe. A VAT would tax a base that has traditionally belonged to state governments. Its introduction would bring with it intergenerational inequities and slow economic growth. Its cumbersome structure would impose large compliance and adminis¬trative costs. In addition, unlike EU countries, where the VAT is the largest single source of tax revenue, the states of the United States already tax the VAT base with their sales taxes. The welfare costs of a VAT are substantial, and looking long term, its potential to generate revenue is limited by the negative effects it would have on economic growth. Projections show that adding a VAT of 3 percent to the current tax structure would reduce 2020 gross domestic product (GDP) to 2.1 percent below what it would be without the VAT. Meanwhile, total tax revenue would increase by 1.1 percent of GDP.

Good Intentions Gone Haywire
Excerpt: The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act is supposed to shield consumers from problems in the financial services sector that many believe led to the financial meltdown. But Section 342 of the act introduces a brash example of social engineering that masquerades as consumer protection and financial reform. This section imposes gender and racial employment quotas on the financial services industry, which accounts for one-tenth of our economy. The quota provisions will affect over 50,000 financial services firms and other businesses, and the consequences will be enormous. Dodd-Frank requires at least 29 federal bureaus to open Offices of Minority & Women Inclusion, involving ten branches of the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and its 12 regional banks, the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The new diversity offices will implement rules to ensure "the fair inclusion and utilization" of minorities and women in all firms doing business with each agency. The offices will terminate contracts with any service provider that fails to meet these as yet undetermined standards. Just running these offices is estimated to cost over $58 million annually, says David Patten in a recent story on

Ecuador troops rescue president from rebel cops
Excerpt: Ecuadorean soldiers firing automatic weapons and concussion grenades rescued President Rafael Correa late Thursday from a hospital where he was trapped most of the day by rebellious police who plunged the country into chaos in a protest over benefit cuts.

Pete Rouse, who will replace Emanuel as chief of staff, is known as 'fixer'
Excerpt: Few people outside Washington, and not many inside, have heard the name Pete Rouse. The man President Obama will name as his interim White House chief of staff on Friday is a quiet political player who avoids the spotlight. He does not suit up for the Sunday talk shows; there are no stories about him reducing staff members to tears for their slip-ups.

Boehner: House rules make spending too easy, cuts difficult
Excerpt: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will say House budget rules should be reformed to curb federal spending in an address at a conservative think-tank Friday. The top-ranking House Republican will outline his suggested institutional reforms in a detailed speech at the American Enterprise Institute. The speech is intended to highlight how Boehner would run the House on budgetary issues as Speaker.

Gibbs: Dem hold 'sad' and 'outrageous'
Excerpt: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday called Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) procedural hold on President Obama's nominee for budget director sad and outrageous. Gibbs said it is a "sad day" when someone is held up when they have received bipartisan support in both the Senate Budget and Homeland Security panels.

Desperate Democrats Head for Home
Pelosi can see the election from her House. Amid the mortifying prospect of having to face the voters in one month, congressional Democrats voted to abandon ship and head for home. They hope to boost their poll numbers and stem the Republican tide, but their odds aren't good. The unfinished business they left won't help, either. The House vote to adjourn was 210-209, a cynically calculated margin that gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) the deciding vote. Vulnerable Democrats staged a minor revolt as 39 of them voted to stay in session in order to extend the Bush tax cuts, which are an issue, of course, because Democrats forced a sunset provision on them in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are willing to "sunset" tax cuts but not spending tax dollars on unconstitutional boondoggles. One imperiled Democrat, Rep. Zack Space (D-OH), said, "I think that small business, big business, individuals, have a right to expect some certainty. The longer we keep this [tax issue] open, the more uncertainty there is. Our economy is such that I don't think we can afford that. I just think we need to deal with this. That'd be the responsible thing." Forty-seven House Democrats signed on to a letter to Pelosi urging the extension of all the Bush tax cuts, and yet only 39 saw fit to vote against adjournment, thereby possibly letting them expire. Hmm. Of course, Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and other Democrats are too busy waging class warfare to care. As White House adviser David Axelrod spins it, Republicans are "going to have to explain to their constituents why they're holding up tax cuts for the middle class. And I think it's an untenable position to say, 'We're going to allow your taxes to go up on January 1st unless the president agrees to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.'" In truth, Democrats would rather taxes go up on everybody than to suffer the "rich" (i.e., small business owners) to keep what's theirs. Instead of addressing taxes and taking that back to their constituents, the Senate likewise voted to adjourn, and Congress will hold a two-week lame-duck session beginning Nov. 15. Before they fled the swamp, both chambers passed a stopgap measure to fund the government until Dec. 3. After all, with the fiscal year having started today, this fear-stricken Congress has yet to pass any of the 13 appropriations bills for 2011. Apparently, voter anger over skyrocketing deficits hasn't fallen on completely deaf ears. Democrats are prioritizing a series of leftist wish-list items they want to ram through in that lame-duck session, including repealing Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, providing citizenry for American-born children of illegal immigrants, extending unemployment benefits (already at 99 weeks), continuing a freeze of cuts for doctors' Medicare reimbursement payments, etc. However, there's little chance that many of these items will see the light of the debate floor, considering that all of them failed at some stage already. Still, Democrats seem determined to go out in a blaze of glory. "The Patriot Post (

Changing the Malpractice System
Balanced discussion. ~Bob. Excerpt: There are many reasons why we should overhaul our current malpractice system – perhaps even take it out of the tort system altogether and into alternative forms of dispute resolution that separate the issue of compensation for avoidable injury from professional fault. Ever so slightly bending down the cost curve may be one reason to take on the malpractice system. More important, in my view, would be to remove the threat of potentially demoralizing courtroom spectacles from the physician-patient relationship.

Is the Obama DOJ Committed to Race Neutral Law Enforcement?
Excerpt: Finally, Gaziano pursued: “Let me ask my final question. If we uncovered strong evidence that a current supervising attorney or political appointee senior in your Division made statements that this administration will never bring a voting rights case or, to this effect, will never bring a voting rights case against blacks or other minorities, I hope that you will seriously investigate. And I hope you agree that it would be highly relevant to this investigation and that we should have access to the witnesses to such a statement.” Perez assured the Commission under oath: “If you have such a statement, bring such a statement to our attention.” The Commission has since twice produced evidence that both supervising appointees and political appointees at the Justice Department have made clear statements that it is the policy of the Obama Justice Department not to enforce our nation’s laws in a race-neutral manner.

The Day the Democrats Took Over
Excerpt: The day the Democrats took over control of Congress was not January 22nd 2009, but two years earlier on January 3rd 2007. They took over the House of Representatives and the Senate, at the start of the 110th Congress. The Democratic Party controlled a majority in both chambers for the first time since the end of the 103rd Congress in 1995. This is when Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House (2nd in line for the Presidency), and Harry Reid became Majority Leader of the Senate. For those who are listening to the liberals propagating the fallacy that everything is “Bush’s Fault”, think about this: At the time (January 3rd, 2007): The DOW Jones closed at 12,621.77. The GDP for the previous quarter was 3.5%. The Unemployment rate was 4.6%. George Bush’s Economic policies SET A RECORD of 52 STRAIGHT MONTHS of JOB CREATION! Remember the day…

Thinking the Unthinkable: The Islamists’ Manhattan Project
Excerpt At the beginning of this century, Americans believed in the world. Why wouldn’t we? The United States emerged from the Cold War as the planet’s sole economic and military superpower. We had shaped the globe’s institutions to our liking; they functioned under our captaincy. Then in 2001, our cities and people were attacked. The world displayed a month or two’s worth of empathy — since then, apathy. The organizations that anchor international rules have proven ineffective and corrupt. Nearly every American accepts this truism: the United Nations cannot prevent a nuclear 9/11. And that is what it’s all about, is it not? Though 9/11 was nine years ago, the act fundamentally restructured the American conception of internationalism. Colloquially, we say the attacks changed everything; in actuality, more was clarified than changed. The collapse of the World Trade Center did not make obsolete the timeless instruments of statecraft. International harmony and multilateral accords are good insofar as those who participate in these pursuits continue to adhere to the rules in which they are ground. As a foundation for peace and order, these concepts are merely sometimes necessary – but are always insufficient. Just as a prudent lawmaker would consider the legislation of morality a futile effort, so too those involved in foreign affairs ought to remind themselves that the attempted adjudication of human behavior is bound to fail without the credible threat of force. The liberal democracies that comprise the free world are precariously in error to assume their adversaries are as equally devoted to the perfection of man as they. The belief that all cultures are equal — all peoples alike and with similar desires — is nothing more than collective hope-think; it is the most dangerous kind of mirror-imaging. It is a great lie. In some quarters, the “enemy” has become an almost passé notion, where al-Qaeda killers are said to be misguided or politically immature — “a friend we haven’t done enough for yet,” in the words of philosopher Lee Harris. This therapeutic, post-modern worldview is prevalent in government and academia, and it directly undermines a society’s ability to interpret reality. (This certainly reflects my expectations. See especially the next to last paragraph. Ron P. The problem is that most Americans are coping with the possibility with a mixture of hoping for the best and denial. ~Bob.)

Schwarzenegger’s green dream for California
[Part 5 of 5] Once again, proof that bad ideas can--and do--come from both parties. Ron P. Excerpt: Michaels pointed to his testimony on June 16 before the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology, where he said: “Texas’ wind capacity is mostly far from load centers, and its power is priced by market bidding. As they compete for access to the constrained transmission lines, prices are bid to lower levels. In Texas, however, those prices are quite frequently becoming negative, 14 percent of all hours in 2008. ... “Gas marketer Bentek Energy examined a seeming paradox in Texas and Colorado: Operating data showed how wind’s variability meant that coal units had to make many quick output adjustments, and that those adjustments were responsible for the added pollution. “Bentek’s controversial conclusion was that the total load in the area could have been produced with lower total emissions had the wind units never existed.” If the California Legislature passes a new version of SB722 in December, Schwarzenegger could sign it into law by the time he leaves office. Or the next governor, either Democrat Jerry Brown or Republican Meg Whitman, could sign it next year. And if Schwarzenegger becomes energy czar under President Obama, as some have speculated, the forced use of inefficient renewables could be another California fad that spreads across the country, and the world.

Choked-up Emanuel leaves White House for Chicago mayoral bid
Excerpt: An emotional Rahm Emanuel said goodbye Friday to the White House and President Obama, announcing his intention to explore a mayoral bid in Chicago.

NATO fuel tankers are torched in Pakistan
Excerpt: Armed men torched dozens of NATO fuel tankers in southern Pakistan on Friday, police said, as supply convoys remained blocked at a vital entry point to Afghanistan for a second consecutive day. Police in the town of Shikarpur said 10 "extremists" shot and set fire to at least 30 NATO trucks stopped at a filling station, destroying the vehicles but injuring no one. Much of the fuel and other supplies bound for coalition forces in Afghanistan arrive at the southern port of Karachi, then are trucked north toward border points at Torkham or Chaman. In the southwestern province of Baluchistan, a truck driver and his assistant were burned to death in a second attack when armed militants stopped a NATO fuel tanker outside Quetta and opened fire on it, setting it ablaze, according to a Quetta-based official of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. He said the tanker was bound for the Chaman border crossing. (That “tiny minority of extremists” we hear about does get around. ~Bob)

Senate playing field shifts but GOP still poised for major gains
Excerpt: The electoral plates are shifting in the battle for the Senate with two West Coast races moving toward Democrats while two East Coast contests shifting toward Republicans. In both California and Washington State, Democratic incumbents are on more solid political ground today than they were a few weeks ago -- the result of effective negative ads aimed at their opponents. But in open seat races in West Virginia and Connecticut, Democrats are showing a surprising amount of vulnerability as the national political environment seems to be complicating their path to victory.

Pakistan quietly aids drone attacks
Excerpt: Pakistani officials say privately that the U.S. keeps them informed on covert operations targeting terrorists on Pakistani soil and admit that the drones have been deadly, effective weapons in the war against terrorists. A Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the militant-hunting operations, said the drones have been "extremely useful in eliminating the bad guys.” But the silent Pakistani support for such missions reached a breaking point Thursday after a NATO helicopter crossed over into Pakistani territory and allegedly killed three Pakistani soldiers. Islamabad retaliated by cutting off a vital supply line at Torkham for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Health care overhaul is a lemon: Americans already can see it won't work
Excerpt: When will Obama administration officials realize that the more they talk about the health care law, the more people hate it? Six months after the passage of President Obama's 2,500-page health care law, the sales hype to help this monster gain popularity has come to sound increasingly like the pitch from a car salesman confronted with the truth that he's sold someone a lemon. Every complaint about Obamacare is met with rote repetition of talking points: "But it's really a beautiful car" or "Hey, let's not quibble over engine trouble. Take a look at that chrome." The law's supporters even have invoked the Divine to help their so-called "reform" gain traction with the American public, all to no avail. Majority support for Obamacare remains a dream, which won't surprise anyone following the headlines across America touting huge premium increases, small-business tax increases and insurance companies just dropping plans altogether. The sad tale of health care in Massachusetts - the template for Obamacare - reveals the future of federal reform. More than four years into an insurance overhaul touted by former Gov. Mitt Romney and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber in the Wall Street Journal as a health care solution, costs to businesses are skyrocketing. One small-business owner summed it up in a word: "insane." Jobs are being lost as companies downsize, outsource and cut back simply to comply with the mandates placed upon businesses by the law. Premium increases are, in some cases, exceeding 3O percent just for next year alone, a full three years before the individual mandate kicks in. (Another sharp whack at ObamaCare. We have friends and relatives in Massachusetts, and the health care plan there is closely related to the ObamaCare package. (Actually, it's better in that it doesn't have all the stupid extraneous stuff in it that those 2500+ pages from Congress do.) And the MA plan has been sliding into trouble steadily since the first year it was implemented. The list of problems with it just keeps growing; it hasn't broken down very badly yet, but it's headed in that direction, and how it's going to continue to get funded is a question for which so far there is no good answer. So we already have the equivalent of the canary in the coal mine to examine.... and the canary has already started slipping fast off its perch. Just think how much worse ObamaCare will work out. --Del)

Netherlands to ban the burqa, says anti-Islam MPs
Excerpt: The Netherlands will ban the burqa and halve immigration under measures agreed in a pact to form a minority coalition government, anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders announced Thursday. "A new wind will blow in The Netherlands," declared Wilders whose party is part of the deal, standing alongside the leaders of the pro-business VVD party and the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) that will form the minority government. "There will... be a burqa ban," said the controversial politician, who is to go on trial in Amsterdam next Monday for inciting hatred against Muslims, adding that there would also be 50 percent reduction in immigration. "We want the Islamisation to be stopped," he said, speaking in The Hague as measures in the agreement were announced. Wilders -- who campaigns for a ban on Muslim immigration and wants to end the building of new mosques and tax Muslim head scarves -- had a say in the plan's immigration policies in return for supporting its austerity measures.

Who’s Anti-Intellectual?
See article above. ~Bob. Excerpt: Over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, English professor William Pannapacker has written an essay called “Why Do They Hate Us?” exploring the roots of popular rage against academics. It’s a thoughtful essay and worth a careful read, but I’d like to focus on his first explanation for the “hate”: “Anti-intellectualism and populism. Those tendencies in American life are not new, but they have become more virulent (see parts one and two of my column “On Stupidity”). Traditionally, professors have countered the tendency toward simplistic, slogan-based thinking — and manipulation — by teaching students to evaluate sources and reach their own conclusions on the basis of evidence derived from painstaking research. The notion that knowledge is always political, and that perspectives are always relative, has eroded the belief in expertise and earned authority. If everyone’s biased, including professors, why not just “go with your gut”? It’s much easier, and it empowers you against the academics whose admonitions — as we have lost influence — have become increasingly condescending, sanctimonious, and shrill.” I think he’s on to something, but the anti-intellectualism often comes not from the public but from the academy itself. When he decries the “notion that knowledge is always political, and that perspectives are always relative,” where does he think the public would get such an idea? In fact, I’d say that sums up the state of argument in the academy much more than it does in the outside world. In an era of politicized hiring, speech codes, and ideological monocultures, it’s easy to conclude that the academy is dedicated more to “manipulation” than to reaching conclusions “on the basis of evidence derived from painstaking research.” Professor Pannapacker is correct that professors “have become increasingly condescending, sanctimonious, and shrill” because they shut down the marketplace of ideas on campus. Large segments of the population are hungry for knowledge, but less hungry for the postmodern, race/gender deconstruction that dominates much of academic thought. What’s more anti-intellectual? Reading (or writing) one more screed against the patriarchy or reading seminal economic texts? The much-maligned Glenn Beck and his much-maligned audience have demonstrated more hunger for knowledge than many academics. He asks his audience to read serious works, and he recently blasted The Road to Serfdom back to No. 1 on the Amazon charts.

Sweden’s Quiet Revolution’s-quiet-revolution-duncan-currie
Excerpt: There is something about Sweden that provokes a mix of envy, horror, and bewilderment among American observers. Liberals have traditionally celebrated its cradle-to-grave safety net, while conservatives have disparaged its high taxes and centralized health-care regime. Yet both groups have generally agreed that Swedish-style socialism is a far cry from rough-and-tumble U.S. capitalism. In fact, contemporary Sweden is much less socialist than many Americans realize. Since the early 1990s, when it suffered a painful financial crisis, the Scandinavian country has deregulated key industries (such as airlines, telecommunications, and electricity), lowered its overall tax burden, established universal school vouchers, partially privatized its pension system, abolished certain government monopolies, sold a number of state-owned enterprises (including the parent company of Absolut vodka), and trimmed public spending. Several years ago, it eliminated gift and inheritance taxes. The World Economic Forum now ranks Sweden as the second-most competitive economy on earth, behind only Switzerland. According to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom (compiled by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation), Sweden offers greater business freedom, trade freedom, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, freedom from corruption, and property-rights protection than does the United States.

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