Saturday, November 27, 2010

Political Digest for November 27, 2010

I post articles because I believe they will be of interest, not because I agree with every—or even any—opinion in them.

Important: There's No Escaping Hauser's Law
Excerpt: Even amoebas learn by trial and error, but some economists and politicians do not. The Obama administration's budget projections claim that raising taxes on the top 2% of taxpayers, those individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning $250,000 or more, will increase revenues to the U.S. Treasury. The empirical evidence suggests otherwise. None of the personal income tax or capital gains tax increases enacted in the post-World War II period has raised the projected tax revenues. Over the past six decades, tax revenues as a percentage of GDP have averaged just under 19% regardless of the top marginal personal income tax rate. The top marginal rate has been as high as 92% (1952-53) and as low as 28% (1988-90). This observation was first reported in an op-ed I wrote for this newspaper in March 1993. A wit later dubbed this "Hauser's Law." Over this period there have been more than 30 major changes in the tax code including personal income tax rates, corporate tax rates, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, investment tax credits, depreciation schedules, Social Security taxes, and the number of tax brackets among others. Yet during this period, federal government tax collections as a share of GDP have moved within a narrow band of just under 19% of GDP.

Doctors say Medicare cuts force painful decision about elderly patients
Of course, the doctor cuts were included in BO’s estimates of costs under ObamaCare, though no one expects them to go into effect. But a one-year patch costs about $17B. One year only. If the cuts go into effect, the doctor flight from Medicare with go from a steady stream to a raging torrent, and the elderly, though insured, won’t have access because there simply won’t be enough docs seeing them. ~Bob. Excerpt: Want an appointment with kidney specialist Adam Weinstein of Easton, Md.? If you're a senior covered by Medicare, the wait is eight weeks. How about a checkup from geriatric specialist Michael Trahos? Expect to see him every six months: The Alexandria-based doctor has been limiting most of his Medicare patients to twice yearly rather than the quarterly checkups he considers ideal for the elderly. Still, at least he'll see you. Top-ranked primary care doctor Linda Yau is one of three physicians with the District's Foxhall Internists group who recently announced they will no longer be accepting Medicare patients. "It's not easy. But you realize you either do this or you don't stay in business," she said. Doctors across the country describe similar decisions, complaining that they've been forced to shift away from Medicare toward higher-paying, privately insured or self-paying patients in response to years of penny-pinching by Congress. And that's not even taking into account a long-postponed rate-setting method that is on track to slash Medicare's payment rates to doctors by 23 percent Dec. 1. Known as the Sustainable Growth Rate and adopted by Congress in 1997, it was intended to keep Medicare spending on doctors in line with the economy's overall growth rate. But after the SGR formula led to a 4.8 percent cut in doctors' pay rates in 2002, Congress has chosen to put off the ever steeper cuts called for by the formula ever since.

Alaska native status gave tiny, inexperienced firm a $250 million Army contract
May not be wise to give government contracts to the inexperienced, but it’s PC! ~Bob. Excerpt: The Army responded by reaching out to a tiny firm in Delaware. It was an unlikely choice for such a sensitive task. The year before, United Solutions and Services, known as US2, had just three employees and several small contracts for janitorial services and other work. It was based in a four-bedroom colonial, where the founder worked out of his living room. But the firm had one quality the Army prized: It was co-owned by an Alaska native corporation (ANC) and therefore could receive federal contracts of any size without competition, under special set-aside exemptions granted by Congress to help impoverished Alaska natives. On Sept. 2, 2008, US2 was granted a deal worth as much as $250 million - 3,000 times the $73,000 in revenue the firm claimed the year before.

Liberals resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems
Excerpt: Following two years of poor economic performance and electoral repudiation, liberalism is casting around for narratives to explain its failure - narratives that don't involve the admission of inadequacies in liberalism itself. For some, the solution is to lay the blame on President Obama. He hasn't been liberal enough. He can't communicate. "I cannot recall a president," Robert Kuttner says in the Huffington Post, "who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as a chief executive." Obama is "fast becoming more albatross than ally." This is an ideological movement at its most cynical, attempting to throw overboard its once-revered leader to avoid the taint of his problems. But there is an alternative narrative, developed by those who can't shake their reverence for Obama. If a president of this quality and insight has failed, it must be because his opponents are uniquely evil, coordinated and effective. The problem is not Obama but the ruthless conspiracy against him. (When Hillary was blaming Bill Clinton’s not on his lying under oath in a sexual harassment case—women don’t deserve the truth in such cases apparently—I got a button that reads, “Proud Member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to Get Bill Clinton.” Guess I need to update it. ~Bob.)

Police, not teenage girl, greeted sex-sting suspect
Another Democrat trapped by the Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy. Pity. ~Bob. Excerpt: The New Jersey congressman's chief of staff, one of 11 men snared in a recent Montgomery County sex sting, arrived at an apartment complex expecting to meet a teenage girl, but instead was greeted by officers in the parking lot, authorities said. Robert Decheine, 48, was charged with solicitation of a minor and remained free Thursday on $15,000 bond, court records say. U.S. Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-N.J.) fired Decheine over the incident.

Police officer, another person fatally shot in South Chicago
Second this week, fifth officer shot dead this year. Sure is a good thing that honest citizens with no record cannot carry concealed in Illinois—might be dangerous to live in Chicago. ~Bob. Excerpt: A Chicago police officer and another person were shot and killed this afternoon in the South Chicago neighborhood on the South Side. The shooting happened about 1:30 p.m. near E
ast 81st Street and S
outh Burnham Avenue. T
he dead officer, a 46-year-old evidence technician, was a 20-year member of the department with a wife and four children, according to Supt. Jody Weis. He has three siblings on the force. 

Excerpt: United Kingdom Independence Party Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage ruthlessly slams the corruption known as the European Union.

The Tea Party Movement Gains Traction In The Uk
Excerpt: The Tea Party movement's recent electoral gains have gotten international attention, including in the mother country whose taxes inspired the first Tea Party -- the United Kingdom. A new rebellion against big government and high taxes is resonating in Ye Olde England. "Ideas around limited government, absolutely, there's lots of people in Britain who share those as well." says Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers' Alliance. The group -- formed in 2004, naturally calling for lower taxes -- is one of the largest in Britain with a Tea Party slant. It boasts some 60,000 supporters. The group organized workshops this past fall with FreedomWorks and other American Tea Party support groups. "We're always trying to learn how to campaign better. We're always trying to learn if there are policy initiatives in the states which have succeeded," Sinclair explains. Like the Tea Party in the U.S., there are many groups here vying for the label. From one strictly aimed at domestic politics, to another upset about tax money going to the European Union, and yet another nationalistic group upset about immigration  Daniel Finkelstein is the Executive Editor for the Times of London. "I think you may see in Britain what you've seen in the United States, which is a bit of a rebellion against the central party establishment that's fueled, to an extent, by issues."

Motes, Beams and the University of East Anglia
Excerpt: An email reaches me from the office of Sir Edward Acton, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. Apparently in my blogs I have expressed “inaccurate and vituperative views” about certain members of his hugely distinguished and globally admired seat of learning, and unless I apologise and retract he will report me to the Press Complaints Commission. As you can imagine I am keen as mustard to soothe the wounded feelings of Sir Edward and his world-renowned staff, but not if it means retracting statements which are patently true. For example, Sir Edward takes exception to my description of Prof Phil Jones, the head of his Climatic Research Unit, as “disgraced, FOI-breaching, email-deleting, scientific-method-abusing.” Clearly poor Sir Edward has not been kept in the loop by his minions, so I’d better break the sad news about something really quite embarrassing that happened to his university last year. It was a story called Climategate and involved numerous leaked emails, many of which showed the aforementioned Prof Jones in a not-altogether flattering light.

Rocking Obama's World
Excerpt: Crises are exploding throughout the world. And the leader of the free world is making things worse. On the Korean peninsula, North Korea just upended eight years of State Department obfuscation by showing a team of US nuclear scientists its collection of thousands of state of the art centrifuges installed in their Yongbyon nuclear reactor. And just to top off the show, as Stephen Bosworth, US President Barack Obama's point man on North Korea was busily arguing that this revelation is not a crisis, the North fired an unprovoked artillery barrage at South Korea, demonstrating that actually, it is a crisis. But the Obama administration remains unmoved. On Tuesday Defense Secretary Robert Gates thanked his South Korean counterpart Kim Tae-young for showing "restraint." Thursday, Kim resigned in disgrace for that restraint. The US has spoken strongly of not allowing North Korea's aggression to go unanswered. But in practice, its only answer is to try to tempt North Korea back to feckless multilateral disarmament talks that will go nowhere because China supports North Korean armament. Contrary to what Obama and his advisors claim, China does not share the US's interest in denuclearizing North Korea.

Poll: Palestinians will still seek Israel's destruction, even after peace
Excerpt: The most recent poll of Palestinian Arabs revealed that even if US President Barack Obama gets Israel and the Palestinians to sign a peace deal, the violent efforts to destroy the Jewish state will not end. Obama is set to host the renewal of direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Washington on Thursday. Based on the Obama Administration's view that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and most of the Palestinians living under his rule are "moderates," a true and genuine peace is within reach. But the Arab World for Research & Development (AWRAD) based in the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah showed in its August 8-14 survey that Obama's view is way off base. (Interesting, in that 20 years ago, a much higher fraction of Palestinians said they would settle for the two-state solution.  The intervening years of radicalization by various fundamentalist factions, even after the concession of Israel leaving Gaza, have changed the general view of Palestinians.  These numbers, from an Arab organization, paint a dismal picture of the situation, and leave really no room for hope of peaceful coexistence.  As the saying goes, if the Arabs lay down their arms, there will be no more violence, if the Israelis lay down their arms there will be no more Israel.  What a tragic situation.--Del)

A 'moderate' outrage
Excerpt: Next time the White House criticizes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Ne tanyahu's reluctance to embrace the Palestinian Authority, it might consider the outrageous way those Palestinians are trying to rewrite history. The PA's information ministry this week released an official "study" declaring that the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City -- revered for 2,000 years as one of Judaism's holiest sites -- isn't Jewish at all. In fact, claims the report by a senior ministry official, it is nothing more than the western wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and has only been a worship site for Jews since World War I -- and then, only because of "Muslim tolerance."This, it should be noted, isn't coming from Hamas. It emanates from the same "moderate" Palestinians whom President Obama and the rest of the world embrace, make concessions to and trust with Israel's long-term security. (Things like this give rise to jokes like, "A moderate Muslim is one who is out of ammo.” No one defames Islam like Muslims do through outrageous behavior and statements. No one is better than Muslims at repeating the Big Lie—from Holocaust denial to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, until they believe it themselves. ~Bob.

A Thanksgiving Message to All 57 States
Excerpt: My fellow Americans in all 57 states, the time has changed for come. With our country founded more than 20 centuries ago, we have much to celebrate – from the FBI’s 100 days to the reforms that bring greater inefficiencies to our health care system. We know that countries like Europe are willing to stand with us in our fight to halt the rise of privacy, and Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. And let’s face it, everybody knows that it makes no sense that you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma and they end up taking up a hospital bed. It costs, when, if you, they just gave, you gave them treatment early, and they got some treatment, and ah, a breathalyzer, or an inhalator. I mean, not a breathalyzer, ah, I don’t know what the term is in Austrian for that…….Of course, the paragraph above is based on a series of misstatements and verbal gaffes made by Barack Obama (I didn’t have enough time to do one for Joe Biden). YouTube links are provided just in case you doubt the accuracy of these all too human slips-of-the-tongue. If you can’t remember hearing about them, that’s because for the most part the media didn’t consider them newsworthy. I have no complaint about that. Everybody makes the occasional verbal gaffe – even news anchors. Obviously, I would have been even more impressed if the media showed some consistency on this issue. Unfortunately, it seems they couldn’t resist the temptation to turn a simple one word slip-of-the-tongue of mine into a major political headline. The one word slip occurred yesterday during one of my seven back-to-back interviews wherein I was privileged to speak to the American public about the important, world-changing issues before us.

Muslim religious leader jailed for sex attack on girl
At least he was a teen and not nine, the marriage age in many Muslim countries, based on the perfect example of the Prophet. ~Bob. Excerpt: A MUSLIM religious leader has been jailed after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a young girl. Members of Portsmouth's Muslim community have spoken of their shock after Hafiz Rahman, a former Imam of the Southsea mosque, was convicted at Portsmouth Crown Court. Rahman, 67, molested the teenager in Portsmouth while he was supposed to be teaching her about the Qur'an. A jury of eight men and six women took less than two hours to find him guilty sexual activity with a child.

IRS to Jewish group: 'Does your organization support the existence of Israel?'
Juden, Raus! ~Bob. Excerpt: A Pennsylvania Jewish group that has claimed the Internal Revenue Service is targeting pro-Israel groups introduced in federal court today a letter from an IRS agent to another,  unnamed organization that tax experts said was likely outside the usual or appropriate scope of an IRS inquiry. "Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?" IRS agent Tracy Dornette wrote the organization, according to this week's court filing, as part of its consideration of the organizations application for tax exempt status. "Describe your organization's religious belief system toward the land of Israel." The document emerged in the course of a lawsuit filed in August by Z
 Street, a
 hawkish group that casts itself as the Zionist answer to the liberal
J Street. Z
 Street claims that a different IRS agent reviewing its application for tax exempt status said the agency is "carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel" and that "a special unit" is determining whether its activities "contradict the Administration's public policies.'"

Anti-Semitic Board Games
Investment opportunity here in Arabic translations. ~Bob. Excerpt: Very little is known about these two board games. The first one is called Adolf Hitler Legespiel and is a placement game. The second is entitled Juden Raus and claims to be 'The topical and extremely merry party game for adults and children'.

The Tragedy of Modern Environmental Thought
Excerpt: Policymakers and most Americans with an environmentalist stripe frame the debate over resource management as one of wasteful overconsumption of scarce resources.  Any resource used today, they argue, cannot be used tomorrow.  Good public policy consists, at the very least, of not squandering these precious resources. The way humans frame problems has tremendous influence on the way we analyze them.  With the framing above, policy questions about the environment boil down to “what should government do,” because the framing takes as axiomatic that individuals are over-consuming, ignorant of their overconsumption, untrustworthy and unwilling to modify their behavior in the face of crisis, and incapable of have a meaningful effect even if they were.  Yet collectivized “solutions” have been nearly universally disastrous.  What if the question has been framed wrong? Part of the attraction of the Malthusian-alarmist argument is that it just makes intuitive sense: there’s obviously a finite amount of stuff on this planet.  But consider a famous bet between economists Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon: Ehrlich, a resource alarmist, believed we were rapidly depleting the stock of natural resources; Simon disagreed and bet that Ehrlich could select any bundle of five commodities he liked and would find that each was more abundant than it had been in prior years.  Ehrlich, confident of his common sense, took the bet — and lost. Part of the reason Ehrlich lost is that his conception of resources was very poor: the Malthusian model relies on the idea that resources are scarce. (In college, Paul Ehrlich was given to us as received wisdom and scientific fact. I decided to have no children. He turned out to be completely wrong, but a little late for me to add to the collapsing western demographic. One of the main reasons I didn’t believe the scientific consensus of “global cooling” in the 70s or “global warming” pre-Climategate. ~Bob.)

John F Kennedy’s dirty road to the White House
Excerpt: So it comes as a shock to study Kennedy, the campaigner, properly, as I have been doing for a television documentary. The story of how a rich, preppy, party boy from Massachusetts managed to raise a roar for underdog America loud enough to carry him to the White House is gripping. But uplifting it certainly isn’t. Yes, it’s a tale of soaring and risk-taking rhetoric, partly fashioned by the late lamented Ted Sorensen, and of a candidate with remarkable energy. It is also, however, a tale of big money, smears, bribes, wire-pulling and bottomless cynicism. If you are asking what has gone so wrong with modern politics, Kennedy’s 1960 election campaign is a good place to start. (Vote fraud in Illinois and Texas probably helped. ~Bob.)

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