Friday, December 17, 2010

Political Digest for December 17, 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. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

GOP will paralyze Senate floor with reading of 1,924-page spending bill
Fine. Getting the message. But need to get the GOP earmarks out of the bill. Let spending go through the budgetary process, or come up in separate, up-or-down votes. ~Bob. Excerpt: Republicans will paralyze the Senate floor for 50 hours by forcing clerks to read every single paragraph of the 1,924-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. Senate clerks are expected to read the massive bill in rotating shifts around the clock — taking breaks to drink water and pop throat lozenges — to keep legislative business on track, according to a Democratic leadership aide. The bill is so long that it took the Government Printing Office two days to print it.

U.S. competitive without medical monopoly
Excerpt: The lack of such a government monopoly system, some charge, harms American competitiveness. But that argument fails to hold up. American automakers used to claim that they spent up to $1,600 per car on health care, more than they spent on steel, and a multiple of what foreign competitors spent. Case closed? Not at all. The carmakers failed for their own reasons. We don't hear entrepreneurs such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg claim that U.S. health care renders them uncompetitive against foreign competitors. That's because U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)per capita is higher than that of other nations, largely because of American productivity. U.S. GDP per person employed in 2008 was $65,480. Even other developed countries just produce between 60 percent and 90 percent of the value that the United States does per hour worked. One hour of work in Germany produces just 72 percent of the output of an hour of work in America. It's perfectly natural that the richest country spends more on health care than less productive ones. In the United States, we earn significantly more income than workers in other countries, even after paying for health care - a "bonus" of American productivity.

North America: The New Energy Kingdom
Excerpt: The American Petroleum Institute reports that the United States produced more crude oil in October than it has ever produced in a single month. This reversal of trend helps explain why U.S. domestic production for the year will be 140,000 barrels a day higher than last year (which was 410,000 barrels a day higher than 2008), according to Neil Reynolds. Could these numbers reflect the beginning of the end for U.S. dependence on Mideast oil? Well, in fact, they could. An article last month in the New York Times observed: "Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, giant oil fields were discovered off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States has increased domestic oil production for the first time in a generation."

The Economic Impact of a 25 Percent Corporate Income Tax Rate
But if we kill the goose, we get all the eggs! ~Bob. Excerpt: The CDA analysis of a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent shows impressive growth for the U.S. economy.[3] For example: The number of jobs in the U.S. would grow on average by 581,000 annually from 2011 to 2020, with 531,000 on average being created in the private sector each year; U.S. real gross domestic product would rise on average by $132 billion per year; A typical family of four’s after-tax income would rise on average by $2,484 per year; U.S. capital stock would grow by an average of $240 billion more per year; and Gross private domestic investment would increase by $57.2 billion per year.[4] Reducing the corporate rate would make investing in the U.S.—by both domestic and international firms—more attractive. The lower rate provides an incentive for foreign corporations to make investments in the U.S.

Republican senators say they'll vote against their own earmarks
Excerpt: Last month, Wicker, Mississippi's junior senator, joined some of his party's leading fiscal hawks, including Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.), in a revolt against earmarks. Republican senators agreed during a closed-door meeting to ban them, a symbolic and nonbinding effort that they hoped would send a signal that they are serious about curbing federal spending. Yet Wicker, along with Cochran, had by then already sponsored earmarks in the spending bill that would fund an airport expansion in Tunica ($1.75 million), new riverwalk lights in Columbus ($300,000), improvements to a hiking and biking trail in Hattiesburg ($700,000) and improvements to an assortment of bridges, highways, trails, railways and streets across Mississippi. Cochran and Wicker each have more earmarks in the bill than almost every other senator. Cochran sponsored 263 earmarks worth $522.2 million, while Wicker has 223 earmarks worth $415.4 million, according to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group. In total, the bill contains more than 6,700 earmarks valued at $8.1 billion.

We need a congressional investigation into the killing of BP Agent Brian Terry
Excerpt: U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, 40, a Marine Corps veteran and former police officer, was shot and killed north of Nogales, AZ the night of December 14……Some U.S. Border Patrol agents in that sector have spent their own money purchasing trail/game cameras and placed them in the area west of Rio Rico and have taken pictures of the smugglers to their supervisors who have been aware of the heavily armed drug traffickers for months. These agents’ personal initiative has provided information about at least 2 groups of criminals operating in the area who are robbing drug mules, robbing illegal aliens and raping the women. The result of this excellent Intel? The agents were told by supervisors to pick up the cameras and not to be circulating any more pictures of the illegal traffic.

Captured Illegal alien in BP agent murder has a U.S. rap sheet
Excerpt: One of the captured illegal aliens who was apprehended during a firefight that claimed the life of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, was also shot, and has a rap sheet with a conviction for the assault of a police officer. “The Border Patrol said that Manuel Arianes, a.k.a. Manuel Arellanes Osorio, was wounded in the gunfight. Arianes, 34, and a Mexican national, was convicted in Maricopa County Superior Court in 2006 for aggravated assault on a police officer, and had been deported to Mexico twice, according to sources familiar with his case,” Arizona’s The Republic reported. (I suggest we deport his corpse to Mexico. ~Bob.)

Breaking News on EFF Victory:
Appeals Court
Holds that Email Privacy Protected by Fourth Amendment
Excerpt: In a landmark decision issued today in the criminal appeal of U.S. v. Warshak, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the government must have a search warrant before it can secretly seize and search emails stored by email service providers. Closely tracking arguments made by EFF in its amicus brief, the court found that email users have the same reasonable expectation of privacy in their stored email as they do in their phone calls and postal mail. EFF filed a similar amicus brief with the 6th Circuit in 2006 in a civil suit brought by criminal defendant Warshak against the government for its warrantless seizure of his emails. There, the 6th Circuit agreed with EFF that email users have a Fourth Amendment-protected expectation of privacy in the email they store with their email providers, though that decision was later vacatedon procedural grounds. Warshak's appeal of his criminal conviction has brought the issue back to the Sixth Circuit, and once again the court has agreed with EFF and held that email users have a Fourth Amendment-protected reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of their email accounts.

Bandits in Cop Cars; But Napolitano Isn’t Listening, Arizona Sheriff Says
Excerpt: Paul Babeu, the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, says give him half an hour, and he could tell President Obama how to secure the U.S. border with Mexico -- if only the president and other administration officials would listen to him. Babeu joked that he must be on the White House “do not call” list, even though he’s the president of the Sheriff’s Association for the State of Arizona. In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Babeu lamented the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent on Tuesday at the hands of “bandits” – illegal aliens in the U.S. who steal from cartel members who sneak drugs into the United States. It’s an ongoing problem, Babeu said: “We had just this past weekend other bandits that are using what appear to be a police car – with lights and sirens, red and blue lights, push bumper, spotlights – that are stopping vehicles, trying to steal drugs from cartel members -- in my county.”

The GOP Charge up Capitol Hill
Excerpt: When Republicans take over the House of Representatives in January, they'll have a solid majority, 242 to 193. With enough imagination and fortitude, they could become the party of hope and change. For the past two years, with Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans were seen by Democrats and the media as the "party of no." Indeed, they opposed nearly all of President Obama's agenda: the omnibus spending bill, the economic stimulus package, cap-and-trade climate legislation, health-care reform, a slew of new regulations, and billions in spending. But the political culture of the country has changed and House Republicans intend to take full advantage of the new conservative mood. Even now they're ready to join Senate Republicans to block the spending surge that Democrats are trying to slip through the lame duck Congress this week. The new political imperative would seem to require that. Public sentiment now strongly favors cuts in spending, less government, and a shift in power to the states. The Republicans' strategy is to use the House as a battering ram to force their proposals and ideas to the top of Washington's list of priorities.

Interesting technical development
The video is about a Japanese engineer's invention that converts waste plastic (bags, containers, etc.) to oil. Very interesting and hopefully valuable technology. A few things aren't totally clear in the video. First, it takes electrical energy to run the conversion process, but the energy contained in the resulting oil is much greater, so it's an energy-positive process. Secondly, not every single kind of plastic will work well in the process, so the trash has to be sorted properly. Thirdly, he keeps referring to lessening the CO2 output of society this way, which is really strange. What the process does is let you use oil regained from plastic as fuel instead of burning fuel from crude oil. If you use the same amount of fuel to provide energy, you release the same amount of CO2, you just didn't use up as much crude oil as you otherwise would. The brochure attached gives a lot more details. They make the machine in various sizes, and for some small communities, having one and running it all the time sure could provide a lot of cheap fuel. I wonder if they can get some town or city to buy a really industrial size conversion machine and reclaim tons of fuel per day from garbage. --Del

Could there be a Tet Offensive in Afghanistan?
Excerpt: The Taliban is culturally primitive, so any sign of tactical sophistication is unsettling. Although it is unlikely that the Taliban leadership has as nuanced an understanding of the importance and dynamics of American public opinion in wartime as North Vietnam's leadership did, Taliban leaders surely know that North Vietnam won the Vietnam War not in Vietnam but in America. And they surely know the role played by North Vietnam's February 1968 Tet Offensive. Although U.S. forces thoroughly defeated the enemy, the American public, seeing only chaos and the prospect of many more years of it, turned decisively against the war. Might the Taliban's tactics, techniques and procedures (in military argot, TTP) make possible a spike in violence in some way comparable to Tet in its impact on American opinion? No one knows this, or how another attack on America, perhaps launched from Yemen, might affect public support for what are explained as prophylactic operations in Afghanistan. Twenty-three months after the apotheosis of Barack Obama as herald of a durable liberal era, Washington's conversations are conducted in conservatism's vocabulary - retrenching, economizing and generally limiting government. Liberals watching the extension of the George W. Bush tax rates, the continuation of Bush's creation at Guantanamo and the escalation of a war Bush began in Afghanistan are increasingly dyspeptic.

Guess they didn’t get the “Islam is a Religion of Peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Islamic extremists are systematically targeting teachers in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. Their crime is to teach children of both sexes in violation of Sharia. According to a report by Human Rights Watch (MRW) on the issue, at least 22 teachers were killed in the province between January 2008 and October 2010. Despite its vast mineral resources, Baluchistan remains Pakistan's most impoverished province. It is also the stage of an insurgency by local nationalists seeking independence as well as the home of religious extremists. Both groups are involved in the attacks on teachers, Human Rights Watch said.

New wave of harassment against Redemptorists in Vietnam
They live in terror thanks to Jane Fonda, John Kerry and the other apologists and activists for tyranny on the left. ~Bob. Excerpt: The preparation for Christmas at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Saigon has been repeatedly interrupted by raids by local officials who have been insisting that the Redemptorists who are in charge of the church must remove from their bulletin boards what the authorities had described as “anti-regime" articles, and stop delivering homilies calling for justice. On December 8, local officials abruptly raided the church-- the second largest in Saigon-- interrupting scheduled liturgical celebrations. The next day, government officials backed by security police in plain clothes raided the church again, taking photos and filming activities with video cameras, Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai, chief of the secretariat of the local Redemptorist province, reported in a letter circulated among all the Redemptorists in Vietnam. Father Joseph Dinh lamented that the harassment did not stop there; on next day, officials summoned Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, the provincial superior, to attend "working sessions" at a local government office. At the meeting, representatives of state administration for religious affairs and local officials took turns criticizing Redemptorists for allegedly “preaching anti-government sentiment, instigators of disorder, inciting riots, falsely accusing the government, disrespecting the nation, breaking and ridiculing the law, and instigating others to violate it.” A the same "working session" the provincial was told that he would be held personally liable for homilies by other Redemptorist priests, and for articles posted on church bulletin boards regarding clashes between the government and Catholics demanding return of confiscated parish properties. From the government’s point of view, they are “non-religious issues” that priests are not allowed to mention. Any violation of the government rules, the provincial was warned, could result in charges of conducting anti-government activities. (Yes, the takeover of the South by the North was a wonderful thing, as many predicted, like Fonda, Kerry, etc. Why, the communists have a Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, among other things, just like our Constitution. Of course, that's subject to just a tiny bit of local interpretation, here and there, now and then. Always keep in mind that we were the bad guys, stupidly trying to interfere with the unification of a country by wonderful nationalists (who happened to be slightly communistic, but no matter), and all we did was delay the liberation of those millions in the South who have benefited so much ever since. Pardon me, I'm feeling very nauseated now. Sure wish we could have a nice meeting with a cadre of the famous antiwar activists and have them explain again how everything came out just like they said once Hanoi took over. --Del)

The Distant Executioner
Former Marine. ~Bob. Excerpt: Outside of Austin, Texas, where the farming begins in earnest, the land turns suddenly to the deepest sort of country, with no hint of the city that stands nearby. Russ Crane prefers it that way. Crane is not his real name. He wants to remain obscure. He is an experienced military sniper, a serious man in a serious profession that, however, excites a fringe of pretenders and psychopaths. He knows those people are out there. They inhabit gun shows, firing ranges, and war-porn recesses of the Internet; they have a poor idea of how real snipers do their work, or of its effect upon their lives. Crane does not want those people anywhere near. He lives in the country with his wife and home-schooled daughter in a rented stone house surrounded by fields. He does not like Austin. He has never been seduced by any city. He is a quiet, unassuming man with a gray mustache, at age 47 a master sergeant in the Texas Army National Guard, where he currently serves full-time as the master gunner of an infantry division, in charge of, among other things, combat marksmanship training. He is somewhat short. He is somewhat stocky. He wears glasses. When not in uniform, he wears shorts, T-shirts, and a baseball cap which, country-style, he removes only to sleep and to shower. Underneath it he has a military haircut, shaved up the sides and a little longer on top. But he does not look like a warrior, and warriors often do not. He made that point to me not about himself but about a fat and clownish soldier who had fought resolutely beside him in a number of battles. The first was a ferocious ambush in Afghanistan on a road that offered no cover. In the midst of it Crane saw this soldier put down his weapon and coolly help himself to a pinch of chewing tobacco before calmly resuming the fight. Crane said, “You never know it about someone. You can’t tell it in advance. The guys with the badges and the strut, a lot of times they’re gonna be hiding.” He seemed to have a certain Special Forces team in mind. (Good article, but it says, “This was the finding of a U.S. Army general and historian named S. L. A. Marshall, who in 1947 claimed on the basis of extensive surveys that up to 85 percent of frontline American riflemen had not fired their weapons in combat—even when under attack and at the risk of being overrun.” Marshall’s research has been discredited by many, who claim he made up his data, though is still widely quoted. ~Bob.)

Patrick Kennedy Packs Up 63 Years of Family History
Excerpt: Nightfall on the Kennedy era in Washington looks like this: Representative Patrick J. Kennedy’s office space surrendered to a Republican, his family memorabilia in boxes, and Mr. Kennedy yearning for a role away from the public eye. As soon as Friday, when the lame-duck session of Congress could wrap up, Mr. Kennedy, 43, will return to Rhode Island, settling into his recently renovated farmhouse in Portsmouth. When his eighth term ends early next month, no member of his family will hold national office for the first time since 1947, when John F. Kennedy became a congressman from Massachusetts.

Los Angeles Unified School District Prepares Students for The Reconquista
Excerpt: The Los Angeles Unified School District houses more illegal aliens than any other school district in the country. An analysis of several LAUSD textbooks at a conservative education meeting last evening portrayed LAUSD history textbooks to be Anti-American. All three textbooks used for U.S. History claimed that the Southwest was stolen from Mexico and that Mexico plans to take it back. Rafael Nunez, a conservative Latino and proud American , told attendees that several high schools tried to recruit his son for MEChA, a Latino "civil rights" group that calls for the extermination of all non-brown people. "I am Latino and proud of it. But more importantly, I am an American. Today's so-called Latino civil rights activists are aiming for the destruction of America." Don't bother protesting to the Los Angeles Unified School District about these books. Most likely, their students can't read them anyway.

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