Friday, October 29, 2010

Political Digest for October 29, 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.

Campaign Trail
The old liberal warhorse, Bill Clinton, is back out on the stump, urging Democrats to “Win one for the Zipper!”

Attack Ads
The reason you see so many of them is because they work. The reason they work is because such a large proportion of the public is ignorant about basic economics and government, and pays little attention until just before an election. We (collectively) get the government we deserve.

How much are you willing to pay?
Guest post from a retired Marine n Massachusetts.

Gov. Christie Lampoons Legislature
Pretty funny.

Brass Oldies: Part III Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: One of the brassiest of the brass oldies in the law is the notion that the Constitution creates a "wall of separation" between church and state. This false notion has been so widely accepted that people who tell the truth get laughed at and mocked. A recent New York Times piece said that it was "a flub of the first order" when Christine O'Donnell, Republican candidate for senator in Delaware, asked a law school audience "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" According to the New York Times, “The question draw gasps and laughter" from this audience of professors and law students who are elites-in-waiting. The New York Times writer joined in the mocking response to Ms. O'Donnell's question, though admitting in passing that "in the strictest sense" the "actual words 'separation of church and state' do not appear in the text of the Constitution." Either the separation of church and state is there or it is not there. It is not a question of some "strictest" technicality. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution about a "wall of separation" between church and state, either directly or indirectly. That phrase was used by Thomas Jefferson, who was not even in the country when the Constitution was written. It was a phrase seized upon many years later, by people who wanted to restrict religious symbols and has been cited by judges who share that wish. There was no mystery about what "an establishment of religion" meant when that phrase was put into the Constitution. It was not an open ended invitation to judges to decide what role religion should play in American society or in American government. The Church of England was an "established church." That is, it was not only financed by the government, its members had privileges denied to members of other religions. The people who wrote the Constitution of the United States had been British subjects most of their lives, and knew exactly what an "established church." meant. They wanted no such thing in the United States of America. End of story-- or so it should have been.

Barry O, He Go: the Cargo Cult Presidency of Barack Obama
Excerpt: The title of this essay is a riff on John Frum, He Come, a now-classic book of popular anthropology which introduced the American public to the bizarre world of cargo cults in the South Pacific, especially on a small island called Tanna in what is now Vanuatu. Shortly before WWII, a strange belief emerged on Tanna that a magically powerful American soldier appeared on the island bearing wondrous “cargo” — manufactured Western goods and packaged food, which he handed out as gifts. He called himself “John Frum,” but, after advising the villagers to return to their traditional rituals and customs, he just as quickly disappeared. Some villagers did what John Frum recommended and began to engage in rituals, summoning him back with more of his amazing cargo. Lo and behold, it worked! Because shortly afterward, thousands of more Americans appeared — soldiers and sailors and Marines passing through on their way to defeat the Japanese, as it turned out — bearing more cargo than the Tannans could even imagine. But just like the original John Frum, the Americans quickly disappeared once more, taking their cargo with them, and once again leaving the island in poverty. And ever since then, Tanna’s islanders have been waiting, waiting, waiting for John Frum to return with his cargo. They invoke him with dances, they sing hymns to him, they fashion simulations of American military outfits and march back and forth, and even build airport control towers out of bamboo and clear runways in the middle of nowhere, thinking that the existence of a simulated bamboo airport will somehow supernaturally induce the arrival of a cargo-laden plane. Still, no John Frum. Yet with infinite patience, the islanders wait. What fascinates us about the John Frum movement and cargo cults in general is that the cultists had no idea where “cargo” comes from, and assumed it must be created magically and sent by spirits or deities. They had no conception what the world was like outside their island, or that there even was a world outside their island. So, instead of figuring out how to generate cargo — or wealth in our terminology — themselves, the Tannans wait for a messianic figure to arrive and rain riches down upon them as a reward for their piety. This, at the risk of overstating the obvious, is the exact attitude of Obama’s fan and voters — at least in 2008 and 2009. (Great article. More than just a kernel of truth in it, too. Ron P.)

Obama Coalition Is Fraying, Poll Finds
Excerpt: Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls. If women choose Republicans over Democrats in House races on Tuesday, it will be the first time they have done so since exit polls began tracking the breakdown in 1982. The poll provides a pre-Election Day glimpse of a nation so politically disquieted and disappointed in its current trajectory that 57 percent of the registered voters surveyed said they were more willing to take a chance this year on a candidate with little previous political experience. More than a quarter of them said they were even willing to back a candidate who holds some views that “seem extreme.”

Labor helps key Senate Dems, but abandons most House Blue Dogs
Interesting. Recently linked to a story about the Senate. Sounds like Big Labor has given up on holding the House, concentrating on saving their toadies. ~Bob. Excerpt: Organized labor is holding its nose and spending money to protect key Democrats in the Senate, hoping to create a bulwark to hold back Republicans in the House. But labor has abandoned 26 House Democrats who did not support the union agenda in the 111th Congress, leaving them to be pounded by corporate-funded third party groups. Two of the nation’s biggest labor unions, AFSCME and SEIU, have spent generously on independent expenditures to help Democratic House candidates. But Blue Dog Democrats and other Democratic centrists who did not support healthcare reform or the Employee Free Choice Act are facing a one-sided barrage of television attack ads. A review of independent expenditures reported in the last two months show that labor unions have not spent money on television ads to defend vulnerable House Democratic centrists such as Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), John Salazar (Co.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Travis Childers (Miss.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), Ike Skelton (Mo.) and John Adler (N.J.).

Looming anti-Obama midterm vote may not carry through to 2012
Voters are waiting to see if BO gets the message, which was they wanted a change from Bush, but that huge deficits and Euro-socialism wasn’t the change they wanted. Excerpt: A majority of voters see the midterm election as a referendum on Barack Obama, but most have not decided whether they’ll vote against the president in 2012, according to a poll by The Hill. Seventy percent of respondents in The Hill’s latest survey of 10 battleground districts said their feelings about President Obama will play an important role in how they vote on Nov. 2. That tracks closely with polling conducted by The Hill in other districts across the country during the past three weeks, where 69 percent of voters said Obama would affect their choices on Election Day. The focus on Obama was high among voters in both parties; 47 percent of Republicans in the latest poll said Obama would be a very important factor in their vote, while 46 percent of Democrats said the same thing. Yet 54 percent of those polled said Republicans winning back control of Congress this year would have no impact on their vote in 2012. An even higher number of independents, 62 percent, said a Republican Congress would have no impact on their vote for president in 2012.

Across the country, anger, frustration and fear among voters as election nears
Excerpt: Travel through the political battlegrounds in these final days before Election 2010, and it becomes clear how much the tenor of this recession-plagued country has changed in the two years since Barack Obama was elected president on his message of hope and change. A far grimmer mood now pervades the electorate, one shaped not just by the immediacy of the economic distress that has hit virtually every household, but by fears that it might take years for everyone, from the average family to the federal government, to climb out of the hole. Anger is one word that is often used to describe the electorate this year. But one word alone cannot adequately capture the sentiments expressed by voters on doorsteps and street corners, at community centers or candidate rallies. Along with the anger there is fear, worry, nervousness, disappointment, anxiety and disillusionment. The impact will be felt Tuesday. Republicans are poised to reap the benefits of the enormous dissatisfaction with the status quo. How deeply and how broadly remains for the voters to decide, but there is little doubt that the outcome will change the balance of power in Washington. The winners should take little comfort from the results. Dissatisfaction with Republicans also runs deep, and voters have conflicted expectations about what should happen in Washington over the next two years. Politicians of both parties will remain on trial.

The Truth
Even if Republicans sweep next Tuesday and control both the House and Senate, it will not fix our problems. At best, it will slow the degeneration. Every penny of spending—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the ARTS, NPR, Healthcare “Reform”, veterans, defense, education, farm subsidies, homeland security and on and on—has a dedicated constituency that will fight tooth and nail to save it, far harder than forces who want to limit spending will fight to cut it. Almost every voter has a financial conflict of interest in favor of more spending in one or more areas. And most of the public is economically and politically-ignorant, so supports things like trade restrictions and taxes on “wall street” (big business) and “the rich” (small business) that hurt the economy and job creation. So the problems get kicked down the road until they get too big to kick, and disaster strikes. They are very close to being too big to kick. When you have an electorate that is better able to tell you the name of the “American Idol” winner than which party controls congress, or the name of one Supreme Court Justice, or who their legislators are, what do you expect except a disaster?

Tea party antics could end up burning Republicans
Excerpt: The tea party's volatile influence on this election year appears to be doing more harm than good for Republicans' chances in some of the closest races in the nation, in which little-known candidates who upset the establishment with primary wins are now stumbling in the campaign's final days. In Kentucky, a volunteer for tea-party-backed Senate candidate Rand Paul was videotaped stepping on the head of a liberal protester. In Delaware and Colorado, Senate hopefuls Christine O'Donnell and Ken Buck, respectively, are under fire for denying that the First Amendment's establishment clause dictates a separation of church and state. In Nevada, GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle is drawing rebuke for running TV ads that portray Latino immigrants as criminals and gang members. Perhaps the most dramatic tea party problems are in Alaska, where Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller is suffering another round of unfavorable headlines after it was revealed late Tuesday that he had admitted lying about his misconduct while working as a government lawyer in Fairbanks. Miller was conducting his own poll in 2008 in an effort to oust a state GOP chairman, and he used his colleagues' computers to vote in the survey, then erased their computers' caches to try to hide what he had done.

E.U. rules let Iran import, export oil, creating possible split from U.S. policy
And when the first Iranian A-bomb goes off, they greedy, short-them-thinking sons of whores will wring their hands and ask why no one did anything to stop it. ~Bob. Excerpt: The United States and Europe have worked cooperatively on Iran policy since President Obama took office, but a small crack might have begun to open over sanctions that are beginning to pinch ordinary Iranians. The European Union issued regulations this week that went well beyond a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in June, outlining tough restrictions on the sale of equipment and technology to the Iranian oil and gas industry, as well as on investment in those sectors. But the regulations - unlike legislation passed by the U.S. Congress - allow for the import and export of oil and gas to the Islamic republic. "If you want to send a tanker filled with refined petrol to Iran, and you have proved that you are not carrying any other goods that we deem illegal, Europe has no problem," said a European official who specializes in sanction policies and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "We don't want any negative effect on the Iranian population or to deprive them of energy, so we do not follow U.S. measures that go beyond United Nations sanctions." The E.U. will also permit financial transactions needed to import of oil and gas to Iran. The United States, by contrast, penalizes companies if they sell gasoline to Iran, and has increased pressure on international oil companies and refineries to cancel their contracts with the country.

Joy Behar insults Sharron Angle; Angle sends flowers
Not hard to tell who had the class in this exchange. ~Bob. Excerpt: Joy Behar, CNN host and a regular on "The View," called Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle a word that rhymes with "itch" on "The View" on Tuesday and said that Angle could "go to Hell." On Wednesday, the ladies of "The View" reconvened, except this time Behar announced that the Senate challenger from Nevada had taken a dig at her. "This morning, I get these flowers from Sharron Angle," says Behar before pulling the card from her bra. "It says, 'Joy, raised $150,000 online yesterday. Thanks for your help. Sincerely, Sharron Angle." Behar went on, claiming that the flowers were picked by illegal immigrants, and "they're not voting for you, [expletive]." "You were so offensive to many people that they will raise money to whomever you disapprove of," host Barbara Walters responded. Walters admonished Behar, saying, "You can criticize as you do, it's your right...but I don't think you should tell anybody to go to Hell." Behar walked her comments back slightly, but eventually took a final swipe at Angle: "Don't send me flowers, Sharron Angle. Put your money where your mouth is."

Is Lisa Murkowski going to make history?
Excerpt: There is a growing sense among the Republican professional political class that Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) is on the verge of winning a three-way race next week, a victory that would make her the first write-in candidate to be elected to the Senate since Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) in 1954. "Murkowski has run a smart campaign and dedicated a lot of resources to educating voters about how to vote for her," said one senior GOP strategist. "Next to a hapless [Democratic nominee Scott] McAdams and disastrous [Republican nominee] Joe Miller, she has a decent shot to make history. Murkowski has surged in recent weeks thanks to a series of stumbles by Miller, the man who ousted her in an Aug. 24 primary. Miller's struggles culminated Wednesday when a report surfaced that showed he had not only misused computers at a previous job for political purposes but had repeatedly lied about it. Miller's camp is hoping to receive a boost today when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, headline an Anchorage rally on his behalf. The National Republican Senatorial Committee began advertising in the state last week with an ad that painted Miller as the one true choice for Republicans -- casting the race as a choice between President Barack Obama and Miller. The ad never mentioned Murkowski.

Curbside Voting Helps Elderly, Disabled Voters
Big deal. In Chicago, they come out to the graveyard to get your vote. ~Bob. Excerpt: After a total knee replacement this year, walking is still a painful experience for Brenda Wilcox. So she was unsure if she'd be able to make it to the voting booth for this year's election. But Bingham County is helping Wilcox out so she can fill in her ballot. It has a curbside voting program where a voting judge brings the forms and a privacy envelope out to people in their cars who are unable to make it into the polling station.

A Free Trade Agreement with South Korea Would Promote Both Prosperity and Security
Excerpt: President Barack Obama took office with a record of skepticism toward free trade, including several free trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration. The Democratic Congress was even more hostile to liberalizing international commerce. Now the president has made trade promotion an administration priority. One of the surest strategies to grow the economy and increase higher-paying employment is to expand trade. Thus he has endorsed the free trade agreement with South Korea — with as yet undefined changes. He hopes to have an amended version ready at the next G-20 Summit, scheduled for Seoul in November. Although the accord is not perfect, it would substantially increase access to the South Korean market. Both the Republic of Korea and the United States would benefit from increased exports, economic growth, and job creation. The long-term potential is even greater: as South Koreans grow wealthier, they are likely to increase their foreign purchases, and eventual Korean reunification would greatly expand the Korean marketplace for American exporters. The free trade agreement also offers important geopolitical benefits. China's rapid economic growth has helped expand Beijing's influence throughout East Asia. Indeed, there is now more trade between South Korea and China than between the South and the United States. As American military dominance fades, the large and productive U.S. economy offers an important alternative form of regional engagement. Washington should seek to expand trade throughout the Asia-Pacific. Reducing trade barriers with South Korea is an important first step. The United States should move ahead even if Seoul resists formal renegotiation of the trade pact. Washington can and should push for further liberalization, but such efforts will be stillborn if the free trade agreement is not soon ratified. This is no time to allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good.

Obama Set to Offer Stricter Nuclear Deal to Iran
Excerpt: Iran’s reaction, officials say, will be the first test of whether a new and surprisingly broad set of economic sanctions is changing Iran’s nuclear calculus. As recently as last summer, senior officials, ranging from the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, predicted that while the sanctions would hurt Iran, it was unlikely they would prove sufficient to force it to give up the major elements of its nuclear program. A senior American official said Wednesday that the United States and its partners were “very close to having an agreement” on a common position to present to Iran. But the Iranians have not responded to a request from Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, to meet in Vienna in mid-November. Iran insisted that Ms. Ashton first tell them when sanctions would end, when Israel would give up what it called “the Zionist bomb” and when the United States would eliminate its nuclear weapons. The new offer would require Iran to send more than 4,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium out of the country, an increase of more than two-thirds from the amount required under a tentative deal struck in Vienna a year ago. The increase reflects the fact that Iran has steadily produced more uranium over the past year, and the American goal is to make sure that Iran has less than one bomb’s worth of uranium on hand. Iran would also have to halt all production of nuclear fuel that it is currently enriching to 20 percent — an important step on the way to bomb-grade levels. It would also have to make good on its agreement to negotiate on the future of its nuclear program. (...) According to international nuclear inspectors, Iran already has enough fuel for two bombs, though American officials estimate it would take at least a year to enrich its current stockpile to bomb grade and then fabricate it into a weapon.

Sir John Sawers: chief says MI6 would rather allow terrorist attack than encourage torture
I’m okay with that as long as they attack his home and family. Mine? Not so much. ~Bob. Excerpt: Sir John Sawers told the Society of Editors in London that the Secret Intelligence Service faced "real constant operational dilemmas" over whether to use intelligence that had been gathered using torture. The 55 year-old former diplomat said: "Torture is illegal and abhorrent under any circumstances and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it. "If we know or believe action by us will lead to torture taking place, we're required by UK and international law to avoid that action, and we do, even though that allows that terrorist activity to go ahead." He went on to say: "Some may question this. But we are clear that it's the right thing to do. It makes us strive even harder to find different ways, consistent with human rights, to get the outcome we want. "Suppose we received credible intelligence that might save lives, here or abroad. We have a professional and moral duty to act on it. We will normally want to share it with those who can save those lives," he said.
When is violence justified?
This is a column I wrote and published a few years ago to tease out views on torture and violence. ~Bob.

American Groupspeak
Excerpt: Here are some reminders about what to shut up about. Don't discuss the deficit. Instead, call borrowing "stimulus." Trillions are not much different from billions. Debt can be paid back with more borrowing and someone else's higher taxes. Ignore the lessons of Greece and California. To appear noble, call for more unemployment benefits, free medical care and more entitlements. To sound cruel, talk about borrowing to pay for them. Keep silent about Social Security and Medicare. If the system is insolvent, it cannot be because we are living longer, retiring earlier, often taking out more than we paid into the pot, abusing disability provisions, or facing an aging and soon-to-be-shrinking population. Instead, rail at fat cats who need to pay more payroll taxes, and at wasteful programs like defense that can be cut to ensure more for the elderly and needy. The checks will always come in time, and "they" will always pay for them. Most Americans choose to be called "cowards" by Attorney General Eric Holder rather than accept his invitation to talk about race on his terms. The NAACP has accused the Tea Party of racist views. The anger over high taxes, debt and big government warrants more concern among the Beltway's black leadership than exploring the causes of inordinately high incidence of crime, incarceration and one-parent homes, and low high school graduation rates. Whatever one's private views, groupspeak requires that answers are found outside, not inside, the black community -- and demand more programs and more federal money. Closing the border is a taboo subject. Also taboo is the phrase "illegal alien." Speak instead about the need for social justice, not the enforcement of mere laws. Illegal aliens broke no real law when enticed northward by greedy employers. That is why the secretary of labor released a video calling for workers to report employer abuses -- whether the workers are "documented or not." Passing laws to subvert federal immigration laws, such as "sanctuary city" legislation, is commendable. Passing laws to enforce federal immigration statutes earns a lawsuit, and condemnation by the president of Mexico from the White House lawn. Ask Arizona.

The Obama War On Science
Excerpt: The Washington Post reports today that the Obama administration is entering “the politically sensitive debate” on sex education by spending $110 million on 115 programs in 38 states and the District of Columbia that “teach about the risks of specific sexual activities and the benefits of contraception and others that focus primarily on encouraging teens to delay sex.” But as the Post later reports, only five of these 110 programs are “authentic” abstinence programs and they will receive less than $5 million. So how did the Obama administration choose which programs to fund? The Post says the Obama administration is “promising to put scientific evidence before political ideology.” Don’t believe them for a second. On issue after issue, this administration has dressed up their political proposals behind the mantle of “science,” and on every issue there simply is no scientific consensus to support their political positions. Take sex education. Contrary to assertions from the left that permissive sex education decreases teen birth rates, after adjusting for important demographic differences among states, those with liberal sex-ed policies actually have higher rates of pregnancy for girls under 18. And a recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that abstinence education reduced teen sex without causing any adverse decline in contraception use, while “safe sex” and comprehensive sex ed programs failed to reduce teen sex or increase contraceptive use. Take early education. The Obama administration wants to expand the Head Start program, claiming that a recent Department of Health and Human Services study shows that the program is effective. In fact, the study shows the exact opposite. Using random assignment, 5,000 children were either placed in Head Start, or their families sought alternatives to the program. The study then tracked the children through kindergarten and the first grade. Specifically, the language skills, literacy, math skills and school performance of the participating children failed to improve. Take offshore drilling. President Obama claimed that his domestic energy decisions were driven by science, not politics. But a lengthy Washington Post investigation found the opposite is true: politics drove Obama’s energy policies. After the Deep Horizon oil spill, the Obama administration instituted a job killing offshore energy drilling ban. They have since taken steps to begin lifting the ban. But at no time has the White House identified any science that underpins their decisions. Pressed to identify whether the White House has “a better sense of what caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion,” all spokesman Robert Gibbs could offer was: “But we know that — again, we know there’s inherent risks in doing this at all. That we understand.”

Israel's right wing starts its own Tea Party
Excerpt: The new movement, which has taken inspiration from the US conservative group, is being spearheaded by disaffected former and present members of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, When it holds its inaugural rally in Tel Aviv on Sunday, the movement's stated target will be Mr Obama, the US president, whose call for a halt to Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank has caused anger on the Israeli right. The Likud party has long opposed the creation of a Palestinian state. According to Michael Kleiner, a former Likud legislator who is one of the driving forces behind the movement, Mr Obama's policies towards Israel resemble the British attitudes in eighteenth century America that caused the original Boston Tea Party. "We believe President Obama is trying to force us to do things that most Israelis believe are very dangerous," Mr Kleiner said. "We are being blackmailed to sacrifice our security and vital interests by another country, which is unprecedented." "We also believe Netanyahu is crumbling and is going to give in on the [settlement] freeze." The Palestinian leadership has effectively frozen its participation in peace talks until Mr Netanyahu decides whether or not to extend the settlement moratorium. Sunday's rally, which will draw several serving Likud legislators, will also be an uncomfortable reminder of the backbench rebellion, led by Mr Kleiner among others, that forced Mr Netanyahu to call an early election in 1999, which he then lost.

The Decrepitude of Liberty
Excerpt: What prevents the “state popular” from declining into a “state despotic”? As Tocqueville saw it, what mattered was the strength of the intermediary institutions between the sovereign and the individual. In France, the revolution abolished everything, and subordinated all institutions to the rule of central authority. The New World was more fortunate: “The principle and lifeblood of American liberty” was, according to Tocqueville, municipal independence. Does that distinction still hold? In the 20th century the intermediary institutions were belatedly hacked away—not just self-government at town, county, and state level, but other independent pillars: church, civic associations, and not least (as the demographic profile of Dillon indicates) the basic building block of functioning society, the family. After the diminution of every intervening institution, very little stands between the central authority and the individual, which is why the former now assumes the right to insert himself into every aspect of daily life and why schoolgirls in Dillon, South Carolina think it entirely normal to beseech the Sovereign in Barackingham Palace to do something about classroom maintenance. The other day, in a strikingly whiney speech even by his recent standards, Obama pleaded that he was merely the President, not the King. Well, how did large numbers of people such as young Miss Bethea get so confused on that point? For both the ruling class and a huge number of its subjects, it is not just routine but (as Obama suggested) somehow admirable to look to central government to supply your basic needs – shelter, sustenance, clothing, medication, painless sedatives both pharmaceutical and figurative. To Ty’Sheoma Bethea and her school chums, it sounds liberating: If the benevolent state takes care of all your needs, you’re free to concentrate on “changing the world”. In reality, you’ve already changed it – from a state of raw, messy liberty to one on the path to despotic insolvency. What would be the price of a gallon of paint once it’s been routed through a massive federal education bureaucracy? Ah, but that’s not the point. In its debased contemporary sense, liberalism is a universalist creed. It’s why the left dislikes federalism. Federalism means borders, and borders mean there’s always somewhere else to go: the next town, the next county, the next state. I’m pro-choice and I vote - with my feet. Universal liberalism would rather deny you that choice. America has dramatically expanded not just government generally, but nowhere-else-to-go government in particular.

“I’m Tired” comment from a vet
Amen. I am not that old yet (I'm only 36), but I am tired too. I am former Navy, I was medically discharged, but I served at the end of the first Gulf War (I joined up when I was 17). I am so tired of people who have NEVER served, have never wanted to serve telling me our troops are wrong, or bad, because they put themselves in harms way for us every day. I am scared for this country. I'm scared for my generation, and the ones that follow mine. –Tracie L.

The Next Battleground
Only for those countries that can sustain a Navy. And navel infantry to project power ashore to ports, etc. ~Bob. Excerpt: We have come to accept that the 500-year domination of Asia by the West is coming to an end and that the balance of power in the 21st century will rest on the fortunes of China, India and the United States. In "Monsoon," Robert D. Kaplan goes further, suggesting that it is in the Indian Ocean where history will be made and where the global struggle for democracy, energy, religion and security will be waged. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan, Random House. Mr. Kaplan, whose books include "Balkan Ghosts" and "Warrior Politics," has a gift for geopolitical imagination. Maps do matter, he feels, and the right map can stimulate thinking about the future of the world. To understand the 20th century, it was important to understand the map of Europe. When it comes to the 21st century, however, Americans are at a disadvantage because of an inherent bias in their mapping convention: Since the 16th century, when Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator developed a method of showing the globe as a flattened surface, Mercator projections have tended to place the Western Hemisphere in the middle of the map, splitting the Indian Ocean at its far edges. Yet the Indian Ocean encompasses a quarter of the world's surface and is home to half of the world's shipping-container traffic. From the Horn of Africa, the Indian Ocean stretches past the tense arc of Islam-with its tinderboxes of Somalia, Yemen, Iran and Pakistan-past the Indian subcontinent all the way to the Indonesian archipelago. The Indian Ocean will be the vital geography, says Mr. Kaplan, where the rivalry between China and India will play out, and where America's future as a great power depends on its ability to command a place on this new center stage of history. Hovering over the book is a familiar question: Will the 21st century be defined by wars of identity, in particular the clash of fundamentalist Islam with others, or will it be a story of a largely peaceful, economic rise of India, China and other nations in Asia and Africa? Mr. Kaplan believes in the more optimistic scenario. The message of "Monsoon" is that the economic impulse is likely to prevail and in the long run even the more extreme Islamic nations will turn middle class. Al-Jazeera, the Middle Eastern television network, is symbolic of this bourgeois Islam. The best thing that the U.S. can do, Mr. Kaplan says, is to continue to protect the vital trade routes of the Indian Ocean for the benefit of all, in alliance with the navies of the new powers of the Indian Ocean world. But America will have to shift its obsession with al Qaeda in order to be perceived as "legitimate" by the new, insecure middle classes of Asia, and learn to project its soft power.

For Developers’ Foe, Suggestions for the Next Battleground
Excerpt: Now Daniel Goldstein needs to move. But where? Mr. Goldstein, the most prominent opponent of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, fought to the bitter end to hang on to his condo on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, even after the state took title of his property last month under eminent domain. For his tenacity, he was rewarded Wednesday by the state and the developer Forest City Ratner, which said it was losing millions every month that it could not take full possession of the property in the project footprint, with a nice chunk of change: $3 million to walk away from a 1,300-square-foot condo he paid $590,000 for seven years ago. Some have called him Mr. Goldstein a hero. Some have called him a sellout. But whatever you call him, he will leave Pacific Street, after the lawyers take their share and the bank is paid off, with somewhere north of $1.5 million in his pocket. Mr. Goldstein says he has not found a place to move with his wife and young daughter. But in case it is now in his blood to fight the good fight, here are some neighborhoods he might consider:

The Civil Rebellion
Excerpt: By characterizing decent people as racist, presuming that hate rather than love of country must be their motivation, and subjecting Tea Party leaders to a scrutiny they themselves could not withstand, media critics of the Tea Party movement not only engage in outright slander, but perhaps purposely miss the point. This is as clear as day to any dispassionate observer of what passes for journalism today. Accordingly, the Tea Party represents a pushback against not only big government and excessive taxation, but media bias and political correctness as well. In many ways, it's a good, old-fashioned rebellion against what now constitutes the establishment -- but articulated with a decidedly civil tongue. So it's no wonder that the majority of Americans sympathize with this largely well-mannered popular uprising. In it they see how they would want to be seen: firm but courteous, outspoken but willing to engage in an honest debate about what's best for our country without being tagged as an Islamaphobe or a racist. It also explains why many of us are increasingly turning away from the traditional media for our news. In a society whose sense of fair play is so dominant that it has elevated the perfection of instant replay in football to grail-like eminence, it's not the least bit surprising to find within the Tea Party movement a growing insurgency against shameless media bias. This mutiny is particularly well-suited to the not particularly demonstrative because they can carry it out with their TV remote or at their keyboard.

On the Daily Show, Obama is the last laugh
At least he didn’t denigrate the Special Olympics, or talk about winning in 57 states. ~Bob. Excerpt: The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment. The Daily Show host was giving Obama a tough time about hiring the conventional and Clintonian Larry Summers as his top economic advisor. "In fairness," the president replied defensively, "Larry Summers did a heckuva job." "You don't want to use that phrase, dude," Stewart recommended with a laugh. Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief "dude" pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of '08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

America at a Crossroads
Excerpt: America, as well as our state, finds itself at a crossroads again in our history as a constitutional republic. The election this November finds us staring down the barrel of financial ruin. Within the last two years our national debt has doubled in size and is spiraling wildly out of control. The present regime in Washington cannot spend tax money fast enough. As a matter of fact, they have spent everything not nailed down and are now spending money that is essentially hypothetical – it doesn’t even exist. The deficit is now beyond comprehension. Our federal government spent one trillion dollars last year above and beyond the current budget and the net result on the economy was zero. We have laid a staggering debt on our children and our grandchildren and likely our great grandchildren – for what, a social experiment by those currently in power in the White House and Congress. The situation is worse in Massachusetts. We are two billion dollars in the hole and we don’t have the luxury of running the printing presses at the Treasury. We are mandated by law to balance the books. Our current governor, Deval Patrick, didn’t give that much thought when he went on his spending spree, aided and abetted by the Democratic party controlled state legislature. The only thing saving us from financial Armageddon was the few; the lonely few Republicans in the state legislature that drove a spike into the spending plans that would have sent us over the cliff. Locally we have to thank Representative Daniel Webster who has watched our purse strings for six years now. Representative Webster is a fiscal conservative who demands a strict accounting of our tax dollars and demands that all spending be closely scrutinized for cost effectiveness, affordability, fraud, waste, and abuse. The voters of this great nation and state must return representatives to Congress and our state legislatures who have historically been very conscious of where the tax dollars are going and it is money well spent. The voters must also fire every hack politician who has systematically encouraged the wholesale theft of the taxpayer’s hard earned money. Just think back to when Congress was attempting to jam “Obamacare” down our throats and the payoffs to the hacks.

Block The Vote
Not unexpected. ~Bob. Suspicious voting-machine malfunctions and cheating candidates are the stuff of banana republics, not America. With Democrats about to suffer historic losses, is our election's integrity in question? 'It can't happen here," most Americans would say about the chances of voting one way and seeing your votes recorded the opposite. But that's what happened in early voting in North Carolina's unfortunately named Craven County last week. Voter Sam Laughinghouse of New Bern found that "an electronic voting machine completed his straight-party ticket for the opposite of what he intended," the New Bern Sun Journal reported. Laughinghouse "pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked," the local paper reported. "He cleared the screen and tried again with the same result." Election personnel eventually straightened it out, but clearly a less observant Republican voter would have inadvertently voted for every Democrat on his ballot. Chuck Tyson, chairman of the Craven County Republican Party, told the Sun Journal he "got two or three calls" from voters experiencing the same problem and is not satisfied with state election officials' efforts to fix it. In Boulder City, Nev., meanwhile, where voters use computer screens, another disturbing episode was reported by Fox News. When voter Joyce Ferrara and her husband went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, they — and several others, according to Ferrara — found that Democratic incumbent Harry Reid's name was already checked. The county registrar's explanation: The high-tech voting screens are sensitive. The Nevada case is especially disturbing because the seat of the most powerful Democrat in the Senate is at stake.

Signs of the Democratic Apocalypse
Excerpt: Next Tuesday Democrats will receive a crushing rebuke. More to the point, voters will be delivering a verdict on the first two years of the Obama administration. Midterm elections are almost always unpleasant experiences for the White House, especially when the economy is weak. But key races that should have been safe for the party in power demonstrate the extent to which President Obama and his policies have nationalized the election. In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a huge war chest in a state Mr. Obama won in 2008 by 12 points. Mr. Reid trails Sharron Angle by four points in the latest Rasmussen poll. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In West Virginia, Joe Manchin, a popular Democratic governor, is running for the Senate, yet he lags behind John Raese by two points in the Oct. 23 Fox News Poll, largely because of Mr. Obama's 30% approval rating in the state. Mr. Manchin is running away from the president, telling Fox News that Mr. Obama is "dead wrong on cap and trade," and that he would not have supported ObamaCare had he known everything that was in the bill. Or take the Illinois Senate seat held by Mr. Obama before he was elected president. It should be safely Democratic. Instead, Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has led Illinois Treasurer and Obama basketball buddy Alexi Giannoulias in eight of the 10 polls taken this month. It will be a terrible embarrassment if the president's former Senate seat flips.

The Rage Against Citizens United

Excerpt: Insofar as we now see in the current election that the biggest spenders roaring through the Citizens United floodgates are the public unions, the Obama-Pelosi tantrums seem overwrought, even phony. Freed to spend their own funds, AFSCME, the SEIU, and the National Education Association have spent $171.5 million, compared to political outlays of $140 million by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads and Crossroads GOP. It also turns out that "our democracy" wasn't seized by the Fortune 500 but instead by the Everyman 50,000. As one small-business contributor told The Wall Street Journal: "If the Democrats are going to put me out of business, I'm going to put them out of business first." In about 20 words, that's your election.

Tougher road ahead for Senate Dems
Hopefully we can keep some GOP RINO seats in our hands, instead of letting them go to leftist Democrats (as is likely to happen in Delaware this year), because the RINOs will vote to put conservative Republicans in control of the committees. ~Bob. Excerpt: If Senate Democrats think 2010 is a tough cycle, just wait two more years. They’ll probably hold the Senate majority Tuesday — with a couple of seats to spare, most analysts believe. But 2012 is a different story. By then, Republicans will be poised to take control of the Senate — with pickup possibilities scattered across the map and a much narrower base of their own to defend. It’s not simply the lopsided mathematics — with at least 21 Democratic seats on the table in 2012, including two independents who sit with the Democrats, compared with 10 Republicans. It’s where the seats are located. Start with Democratic seats in three states where President Barack Obama lost in 2008: Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. Then go down a list of where Democrats are poised to lose Senate battles this year — Ohio, Florida and Missouri, for example — and Democrats will be right back at it in 2012, defending seats there again. Throw in some bona fide tossup states — Virginia and New Mexico — and it’s pretty hard not to picture Republicans picking off the handful of seats needed to take control, if Tuesday goes as well for the GOP as experts expect. But that’s still two years out. Even National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn has said he expects the Republican takeover effort to be a “two-cycle process,” continuing into 2012.

Exclusive Video: Lauren Valle Before The Head Stomp Vid
Interesting. The Rest of the story. ~Bob.

Scientists Find 'Liberal Gene'
Excerpt: Researchers have determined that genetics could matter when it comes to some adults' political leanings. According to scientists at UC San Diego and Harvard University, "ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4." That and how many friends you had during high school. The study was led by UCSD's James Fowler and focused on 2,000 subjects from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Scientists matched the subjects' genetic information with "maps" of their social networks. According to researchers, they determined that people "with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberal as adults." However, the, subjects were only more likely to have leanings to the left if they were also socially active during adolescence. "It is the crucial interaction of two factors -- the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence -- that is associated with being more liberal,” according to the study. "These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience,” said Fowler, who is a professor of political science and medical genetics. The researchers also said their findings held true no matter what the ethnicity, culture, sex or age of the subjects were. (BS! I'm prepared to believe a good many "impossible things before breakfast," but an inability to make reasonable decisions when faced with overwhelming evidence isn't one of them. Are we now supposed to believe being a liberal is a birth defect rather than a choice? How does this account for "ex-liberals?" Or, should we now treat all liberals as if they are victims of an uncaring Almighty? Maybe it's all George Bush's fault. Also, notice the two schools named in the article as the lead authors' home schools. Regardless, the excuse doesn't alter the damage done to our society. Ron P.)

Deja Vu: For Second Time Debate Crowd Overrides Objection From League of Women Voters Moderator to Reciting Pledge of Allegiance…

A Referendum on the Redeemer
Excerpt: When bad faith is your framework (Michelle Obama never being proud of her country until it supported her husband), then you become more a national scold than a real leader. You lead out of a feeling that your opposition is really only the latest incarnation of that old characterological evil that you always knew was there. Thus the tea party—despite all the evidence to the contrary—is seen as racist and bigoted. But isn't the tea party, on some level, a reaction to a president who seems not to fully trust the fundamental decency of the American people? Doesn't the tea party fill a void left open by Mr. Obama's ethos of bad faith? Aren't tea partiers, and their many fellow travelers, simply saying that American exceptionalism isn't racism? And if the mainstream media see tea partiers as bumpkins and racists, isn't this just more bad faith—characterizing people as ignorant or evil so as to dismiss them? Our great presidents have been stewards, men who broadly identified with the whole of America. Stewardship meant responsibility even for those segments of America where one might be reviled. Surely Mr. Obama would claim such stewardship. But he has functioned more as a redeemer than a steward, a leader who sees a badness in us from which we must be redeemed. Many Americans are afraid of this because a mandate as grandiose as redemption justifies a vast expansion of government. A redeemer can't just tweak and guide a faltering economy; he will need a trillion- dollar stimulus package. He can't take on health care a step at a time; he must do it all at once, finally mandating that every citizen buy in. Next week's election is, among other things, a referendum on the idea of president-as- redeemer. We have a president so determined to transform and redeem us from what we are that, by his own words, he is willing to risk being a one-term president. People now wonder if Barack Obama can pivot back to the center like Bill Clinton did after his set-back in '94. But Mr. Clinton was already a steward, a policy wonk, a man of the center. Mr. Obama has to change archetypes.

Boxer Faces Ethics Complaint for Telling Teachers to Send Students to Work for Her Campaign
Excerpt: In a close election race against former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina, California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer is facing new ethics complaints over asking teachers to send their students to work for her campaign. In an Oct. 27 letter to California education authorities, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), a non-profit group urging lower taxes, said, “In abject ignorance of California state law, the political campaign of Senator Barbara Boxer has openly solicited teachers employed by [Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)] to urge their students to volunteer for her campaign.”

Germany Hopes to Make Forced Marriage a Crime
Germany Islamophobes interfering with Muslim culture. ~Bob. Excerpt: Germany's government on Wednesday proposed criminalizing forced marriage, a tradition that some Muslim immigrant families impose on their children, even ones who were raised in Germany's more liberal society. Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet agreed to a proposed law that would make forced marriage in Germany a crime that can be punished with up to five years in prison. The legislation still needs to pass parliament. "Forced marriages are a serious problem in Germany," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, adding that by criminalizing them Germany would make clear that this is no longer "a tradition from olden times or different cultures that is ... tolerable." About 4.3 million Muslims live in Germany, and forced marriage is still fairly common, especially among Turks and Arabs.

Biofuels: a growing evil
Excerpt: Last week I attended the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s “global financial leadership” conference in Florida – I know, it was a rough old assignment, but someone’s got to do it – in which Ian Goldin, a former vice president of the World Bank and now director of Oxford University’s Martin School, lambasted the subsidies being doled out in America and Europe for the production of biofuels as “economically illiterate, environmentally destructive, politically shortsighted and ideologically unsound”. It was a nice soundbite, but it also happens to be true. I know that “food versus fuel” is now a relatively well weathered if quite low key debate (take a look at a recent OECD and UN Food and Agriculture Commission Report for a fuller analysis), but I suspect we are going to hear a lot more about it over the next year as growing emerging market demand pushes global food prices ever higher. The point about biofuels, which wouldn’t exist at all without massive taxpayer funded subsidies, is that by displacing agricultural land that would otherwise be used for food production, they greatly add to the pressures.

Got a doctor's prescription for that Advil?
Democrats have long wanted to destroy HSAs and FSAs. They give people control over their health spending—can’t have that! ~Bob. Excerpt: Millions of American workers have recently been told they will have to pay higher premiums for their employer-sponsored health insurance, or else have their coverage canceled, all thanks to Obamacare. But this is only the beginning -- it gets worse. Employees who use tax-free Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses will soon have to reconsider their decision to do so. Starting Jan. 1, Obamacare forbids use of an FSA or HSA to purchase over-the-counter medicines without a doctor's prescription. For HSA users, this is an inconvenience and an added expense, but it's much worse if you have an FSA. Unlike HSAs, you lose all the leftover cash in your FSA unless you spend it by year's end. What's more, any forfeited funds are also taxed, even though you didn't spend them and can't get them back. Further, already heavily scheduled doctors will have to accommodate yet more appointments and phone calls, thus reducing the time available for diagnosis and treatment of all patients. By eliminating a broad range of legitimate uses, Obamacare dramatically increases the risks of losing the pre-tax money the account holder contributes to an FSA. Under Obamacare, unless you make additional doctor's appointments, you are effectively barred from using your pre-tax funds to purchase legitimate and necessary medical items like Tylenol for your baby or Advil for your arthritis. One FSA provider, 24Hour Flex, recently gave notice with a list of drugs clients would no longer be able to purchase without a prescription: "Acid controllers, allergy and sinus ... anti-gas ... baby rash creams ... respiratory treatment ... cough, cold and flu ... stomach remedies, feminine anti-fungal ... pain relief."

Whitewashing voter fraud won't work
Excerpt: When I lauded efforts like the Minnesota Majority, which is training volunteers to watch polls and report on voter fraud, liberal critics accused me this week of "fascism." Silence dissent. Criminalize watchdogs. Whitewash fraud. Discourage grassroots engagement. Deny, deny, deny. These are the signature tactics of the left in the age of Obama. On November 2, Americans get their chance to say: Enough

Grim Diagnosis: 200 Days of Obamacare
Excerpt: Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) and John Barrasso (R-Wy.), the only two medical doctors serving in the United State Senate, have released a new report on the implementation of Obamacare at the 200 day mark. “Grim Diagnosis – A check-up on the federal health law” details how many of the consequences of Obamacare to date are worse than anticipated. “Unfortunately, the overhaul that passed Congress this spring did not represent the real health reform Americans want and need. The new law focused on some of the symptoms in our health care system, but failed to address the underlying disease. For a majority of Americans, the cost of health coverage is their primary concern. For too many, cost is the access problem. Unfortunately, the new law increases costs to patients, consumers, and taxpayers, while exacerbating many existing problems in health care,” Coburn and Barrasso write in the report. “This report presents the American people with a second opinion on the economic and financial impacts of the new health care law. Americans have a right to know how their health care, jobs, and financial stability will be impacted by the new law. The health overhaul threatens our nation’s economic recovery, increases costs, and reduces job growth.”

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