Monday, December 13, 2010

Political Digest for December 13, 2010

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

Legislative 'Christmas trees:' Earmarks by another name
Too many Republicans still don’t get it. ~Bob. Excerpt: Earmarks epitomize to many Americans the corrupt culture that has brought Congress to its lowest level of public esteem in modern history. But professional politicians in both parties are now treating the country to a vivid demonstration of an equally disreputable illustration of what is wrong with Washington -- turning the tax cut compromise between President Obama and congressional Republicans into a "Christmas tree." That's what happens when the politicians agree on a broad course of action (the tax-cut compromise, which is the "Christmas tree"), then use it as a vehicle for doing other things (the "ornaments"). The ornaments often have nothing whatever to do with the tree and frequently are used to buy votes of senators and representatives who supported the original purpose without any inducements. Vice President Biden reportedly told House Democrats on Wednesday that the deal cut by Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker-to-be John Boehner was a "take it or leave it" proposition. But even before Biden's tumultuous appearance among House Democrats, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was crowing to reporters back home that the compromise would include an expensive ornament -- the use of tax credits to extend subsidies for ethanol and biodiesel fuels, neither of which has anything to do with income tax rates for individuals. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also reportedly dangled these subsidies, which encourage corn farmers to grow more corn, to ensure the vote of Sen. Tom Harkin, Grassley's Democratic colleague from Iowa.

Excerpt: Most pundits, certainly on the Right, disagree. As Commentary editor Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week: WikiLeaks "is not informing our democracy but waging war on its ability to conduct diplomacy and defend itself." Funny, but I feel more informed -- and particularly about what a rotten job the government knows it's doing in conducting diplomacy and waging war on democracy's behalf. I know more about the government's feckless accommodation of incomparable corruption in Afghanistan; its callousness toward Pakistani government support for the Taliban and other groups fighting our soldiers in Afghanistan; its inability to prevail upon "banker" China to stop facilitating the military rise of Iran and its failures to prevail upon aid-recipient Pakistan to allow us to secure its vulnerable nuclear assets.

Star Parker: Class warfare ignores facts about families
Excerpt: Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is making a name for himself. He wants taxes raised on wealthy Americans and is one of the more vocal opponents to the deal that would retain current tax rates for everyone. "An estate tax cut for millionaires adds exactly zero jobs. A tax cut for billionaires -- virtually none," says the congressman. But what does Weiner know about job creation, about work, about being an entrepreneur? Looking over his resume, you see he's never held a private-sector job. Right out of college, he went to work on the staff of then-Rep. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., followed by six years serving on New York's city council, and then ran for Congress in 1999, capturing the seat he currently holds. Weiner is a politically ambitious young man who has built power and career by confiscating and redistributing other people's money. Consider who the wealthy are that Weiner wants to punish. Thomas Stanley and William Danko wrote a book called "The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy".

Excerpt: A new analysis of government data by the Western Energy Alliance shows a 79 percent drop in the number of energy development leases offered by the federal government on public lands in the Rocky Mountain region states of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico and Utah. The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the activities of energy firms seeking to find and develop oil and natural gas under public lands, has issued only 531 new leases in 2010, compared to 2,499 in 2005, according to WEA. The Wyoming Business Report notes that since 2008 90 percent of the leases awarded by BLM have been protested. Such protests are usually filed by Big Green groups like the Natural Resources Defense Fund, Earth Justice, and Wilderness Society. The data also show that under President Obama BLM has issued 76 percent fewer leases than was the case during the first two years of the Clinton administration and 71 percent fewer than during the first two years of the second Bush administration. (Liberals punishing the poor chasing their fantasies. Not new. ~Bob.)

Two black Democrats bolt party for GOP
We got runners from the plantation, boss. Call out the dogs. ~Bob. Excerpt: Two African-American Democrats on Thursday announced that they were joining the Republican Party. Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell and former state executive committee member Andre Walker said the Democratic Party had grown too liberal and they are finding a new home with the Republicans. The state GOP touted Bell as the first black elected official in modern times in Georgia to leave the Democrats for the GOP. But that distinction belongs to former state Sen. Roy Allen of Savannah, who joined the Republican Party in 1994.

Excerpt: This year’s climate-change meeting in Cancun was a lot smaller than last year’s gathering in Copenhagen. But like a Hobbit, Cancun’s footprint was quite big for its size. The meeting’s carbon footprint was 25,000 metric tons of emissions, according to host nation Mexico. That includes the carbon output of everything – flights by delegates, shuttle rides from the swanky Moon Palace hotel, even food preparation. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

Tax Cut Bill Loaded With Deals for Lobbyists, Lawmakers
Excerpt: In the spirit of the holiday season, President Obama's tax-cut deal with Republicans is becoming a Christmas tree tinseled with gifts for lobbyists and lawmakers. But that hardly stopped the squabbling on Friday, with Bill Clinton even back at the White House pleading the president's case. While Republicans sat back quietly, mostly pleased, Democrats and other liberals were going at each other ever so publicly. As Clinton lectured on Obama's behalf, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders castigated the agreement for the TV cameras in the mostly empty Senate chamber.

Muslim Policeman in Britain doesn't have to protect a Jew

Futuristic weapon undergoes Navy tests
Excerpt: It was the latest test of the Navy's electromagnetic railgun - a futuristic weapon that is right out of the latest video war game and could one day change the face of Naval warfare. Roger Ellis, the railgun program manager, said people "see these things in the video games, but this is real. This is what is very historical."  The gun is fired with a huge jolt of electricity that can propel a round more than 100 miles and at such velocity that it does not need an explosive warhead. (...) The electromagnetic railgun was once a focus of the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed "Star Wars." It was a seen as a weapon that might shoot down incoming nuclear missiles. A quarter-century later, the Navy hopes it might soon provide a ship fast, new, long-range fire power. (For decades, this has been a “standard” technology in science fiction because it is “relatively” simple and the principles are so easily understood. Though there were probably others earlier, the first mention of railguns I can remember off hand was in Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (published about 1966). Ron P.)

Game Changer: Navy Railgun Reaches New Level of Freaky Deaky Awesomeness
Excerpt: The “official explanation” is that this has been in development for years, but read this piece and I trust you’ll agree that we must have gotten it from the same cyborg time travelers who gave us the Stuxnet worm. Thanks, cyborgs — wherever you are. For one thing, a railgun offers 2 to 3 times the velocity of a conventional big gun, so that it can hit its target within 6 minutes. By contrast, a guided cruise missile travels at subsonic speeds, meaning that the intended target could be gone by the time it reaches its destination. Furthermore, current U.S. Navy guns can only reach targets about 13 miles away. The railgun being tested today could reach an enemy 100 miles away. And with current GPS guidance systems it could do so with pinpoint accuracy. The Navy hopes to eventually extend the range beyond 200 miles…Admiral Carr, who calls the railgun a “disruptive technology,” said that not only would a railgun-equipped ship have to carry few if any large explosive warheads, but it could use its enemies own warheads against them. He envisions being able to aim a railgun directly at a magazine on an enemy ship and “let his explosives be your explosives.” There’s also a cost and logistical benefit associated with railguns.

Euro Trashed
Excerpt: As we contemplate the macroeconomic storm that is now passing through Europe, we must bear in mind that this is a storm that the EU’s promoters knew would come. The euro’s designers understood Rahm Emanuel’s philosophy about not letting a crisis go to waste. “Europe will be forged in crises,” the European Community’s founding father Jean Monnet wrote in his memoirs, “and it will be the sum of the solutions brought to these crises.” When the French statesman Jacques Delors laid out his plan for the euro in the late 1980s, he drew a clear trajectory: A common market had made possible a common currency. A common currency would make possible a common government. But how would that happen? After all, if a currency worked well within the existing political arrangements, there would be no reason for those arrangements ever to change. New institutions could result only from the currency’s blowing up. Economic crisis would be the accidentally-on-purpose pretext for replacing a system based on parliamentary accountability with a system based on the whims of a handful of experts in Brussels. Europe’s countries now face the choice of giving up either their newfangled money or their ancient national sovereignties. It is unclear which they will choose.

With SSI program, a legacy of unintended side
Every statist program grows far beyond what was intended, and develops a fierce political constituency, making it impossible to go back. ~Bob. Excerpt: “To get the check,’’ Fielding, 34, has concluded with regret, “you’ve got to medicate the child.’’ There is nothing illegal about what Fielding did — and a lot that is perhaps understandable for a mother in her plight. But her worries and her experience capture, in one case, how this little-scrutinized $10 billion federal disability program has gone seriously astray, becoming an alternative welfare system with troubling built-in incentives that risk harm to children. A Globe investigation has found that this Supplemental Security Income program — created by Congress primarily to aid indigent children with severe physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and blindness — now largely serves children with relatively common mental, learning, and behavioral disorders such as ADHD. It has also created, for many needy parents, a financial motive to seek prescriptions for powerful drugs for their children. (This is a great example of what an entitlement society breeds. Why work, where's the incentive to improve and succeed for a better life? Typical socialistic view, "Let someone else work and let them take care of me." Even to the detriment of our children. This is exactly where Obama wants this country to go - a cradle to grave nanny state, and redistribution of wealth. Fortunately, America is waking up to his blueprint. We must not allow this. –JB)

Guardian: Swedish Police Say Stockholm Attacks Were Terrorism
Excerpt: An eyewitness interviewed by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper said something appeared to have blown up against the man's abdomen. "He had no injuries to his face or the rest of his body and the shops around him were not damaged," he said. The eyewitness, a paramedic identified only as Pascal, said he removed a "Palestinian scarf" from the man's face in an attempt to free up his air ways. Next to the man's body was a two-metre piece of metal piping. Gabriel Gabiro, a former employee of Associated Press, was inside a watch shop on the opposite side of the street of the second explosion when it went off and saw people running from the site. "There was a man lying on the ground with blood coming out in the area of his belly, and with his personal belongings scattered around him." "It shook the store that I was in," he said of the blast. "Then there was smoke and gunpowder coming into the store."

Sweden suicide bomber: Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly was living in Britain
Doubtless it was George Bush’s “cowboy” approach that led a Muslim in the UK to attack in Sweden, years later. Guess he didn’t get the “Islam is a Religion of Peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly tried to set off a car bomb packed with gas canisters in a busy shopping street in Stockholm. The car caught fire and the bomber fled the scene before blowing himself up 300yd away 15 minutes later, injuring two bystanders. It emerged last night that Abdulwahab, who was due to turn 29 yesterday, is a former physical therapy student at Bedfordshire University in Luton, and that his wife and three young children still live in the town.

Excerpt: The news items from the UK that passed through my hands today were so depressing that I could hardly bear to look at them. First there was the story about a 15-year-old girl who was arrested for burning a Koran and posting a video of the act on Facebook. She may be charged with “inciting religious hatred”. But Muslims in Britain need not fear: an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia has now been established. In the future anyone who insults Muslims or denigrates Islam will be held to account by the people’s elected representatives. Government counterterrorism officials warn that threat level is estimated to be “severe” during the upcoming 2012 London Olympics, and the risk of terrorism is even higher at street parties and other side events. If you look at both those articles, however, you’ll notice that the word “Islam” is not mentioned once. As far as Her Majesty’s government is concerned, Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Despite the fact that more than 99% of the world’s terror attacks are committed by Muslims who fight jihad in the name of Allah, Mohammed and the religion he founded never impinge upon the “narrative”. There is only “terrorism”, which is committed by “violent extremists”.

Like it or Not: Mexico is America’s Next Afghanistan
Excerpt: With the exception of, perhaps, Texas governor Rick Perry, no public official wants to publicly admit an obvious fact: The United States of America will likely be forced to invade Mexico. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The question then becomes: What to do with Mexico after we invade it and wipe out the drug cartels (as much as can be). Does the United States merely return Mexico to a nation state of corrupt politicians, failed economic policies, and lawlessness, or do we annex Mexico and turn it into the 51st state? For many of us, there is a certain false security in believing that, since most of America’s streets are not filled with the murder and mayhem that is going on just South of our borders, we have nothing to worry about. The feeling that most Americans likely have is: Well, it’s their problem, not ours. However, that illusion of security is quickly being eroded with the stories of American police officers being threatened by Mexican drug cartels, of kidnappings and drug murders in Arizona and Texas, of control of certain parts of Arizona and forays into New Mexico and Colorado by drug cartels, of teenagers being turned into hitmen, and American tourists being kidnapped or killed while on vacation in Mexico.

Climate Change: Warmist Demands Heat Up as 'Green' Costs Soar
Excerpt: It is probably fair to say that, in the real world, the need to fight runaway global warming was not at the top of most people’s agenda last week. The Central England Temperature record, the oldest in the world, showed the fortnight covering the end of November and start of December as the coldest ever since the daily record began in 1772. North of the border, Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, had to call in the Army as much of his country ground to a halt in up to three feet of snow. None of this, however, remotely concerned the warmists, who were in fuller cry than ever. In the Mexican resort of Cancun (where, for six days running, local temperatures also fell to their lowest, for the date, since records began 100 years ago) Lord Stern, that high priest of the international warmist establishment, proposed that Britain should raise an extra £15 billion a year in “green taxes”, on petrol, flights and domestic energy, to punish people with a “high-emission lifestyle” for the damage they do to the environment. Ten per cent of this, said Lord Stern, could go to the new Green Climate Fund (agreed late on Friday, to a standing ovation) to help poorer countries develop “low carbon economies” by building wind turbines and solar panels, while the rest could be kept by the British Government as an “incentive”.

Unusually Cold Weather Is Killing Florida's Manitees
Save the Manatee—buy an SUV! ~Bob. Excerpt: Unusually cold weather last winter killed Florida's endangered manatees at a record rate, a report said on Friday. During 2010, a record 699 manatees have died in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Research Institute. Of those, 244 were attributed to cold weather and many of the 271 undetermined deaths were also likely caused by weather. In most years, the leading cause of manatee deaths is from collisions with power boats.

Atheists and Believers: Let's Worry About 'Government as God'
Excerpt: Indeed, I rather prefer faith of the religious variety, as long as it is kept to a slow burn within the hearts of individuals who tolerate religious difference in others. What distinguishes the faithful from the worshipers of government is that most religious folks in America see charitable acts as motivated from within — and moral responsibility for one’s fellow man lies in one’s breast. Worshipers of government are not so tolerant. They’re not nearly as concerned with your intentions. They have apotheosized compulsion itself, which means they’re worshiping government power. Despite all the talk of “social justice” and the “common good,” they cannot escape the fact that politics is the means by which men bend other men to their will and call it “good.” The casualty is liberty.

The Crisis of the Middle
Another way the 1960s contributed to the coming collapse of the republic. ~Bob. Excerpt: In the 1970s, 73 percent of both the highly and moderately educated were in intact first marriages. That figure plummeted across the board, yet the moderately educated (45 percent in intact first marriages) are now closer to the least-educated (39 percent) than to the highly educated (56 percent). The number for out-of-wedlock births is starker. From 1982 until today, the percentage of non-marital births among the moderately educated exploded from 13 percent to 44 percent. That figure is close to the least-educated (54 percent) and a vast distance from the highly educated (only 6 percent). Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation compares the dynamic to a carpet unraveling from the bottom, as illegitimacy first took hold among the poor and now works up the income scale. This phenomenon is a calamity for the non-college educated. Growing up in a two-parent family brings enormous social advantages. Children in these families, Wilcox notes, are more likely “to graduate from high school, finish college, become gainfully employed, and enjoy a stable family life themselves.” An institution absolutely critical to children’s prospects is slowly becoming associated with the upper third.

Obama's 'Missing Link'
Excerpt: Like many political Americans, right or left or center, I'm still grappling with what President Obama did this week. I'm trying to get a handle on what it means not so much for the country and the economy, but rather for Barack Obama. On Monday evening came the remarkable announcement by Obama that he had compromised with Republicans on a "framework" to extend the Bush tax cuts. My take on that action was that Obama was motivated entirely by politics and not at all by ideology. That take was quickly reinforced on Tuesday, when Obama, almost chastising his angry left-wing base for not understanding political realities, analogized Republicans to "hostage-takers," holding Obama and America and its poor and proletariat ransom to tax cuts for the bloody rich. The president bemoaned his moral dilemma, forced as he was to "negotiate" with Republicans, who kneel before what Obama described as "their Holy Grail": "tax cuts for the wealthy." It was a stunning metaphor, and rather offensive: That cup overfloweth, apparently, with the real presence of the blood of the workers, which Republicans and their loyal factory bosses and greedy landlords slurp up from the fruits of the assembly line. "These tax cuts for the wealthy -- " said a visibly bitter Obama " -- this is, seems to be, their central economic doctrine." Of course, it is not the Republicans' "central economic doctrine." One of the worst mistakes you can make in politics or in life or in war is to misdiagnose your adversary by allowing emotion to supersede logic.

IRAN'S supreme court has upheld a sentence of blinding with acid for a man who blinded his lover's husband, under the Islamic "eye-for-an-eye" justice code, a government daily said.
Excerpt: The convict, named only as Mojtaba, 25, threw acid in the face of Alireza, 25, a taxi driver in Iran's clerical hub city of Qom, after an "illicit affair" with the victim's wife, Mojdeh, also 25, said the newspaper Iran. The supreme court has upheld a lower court ruling that Mojtaba be blinded with drops of acid, in line with Islamic justice, which allows for "qisas," or eye-for-an-eye retribution, in cases of violent crime, it said.

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