Thursday, December 9, 2010

Political Digest for December 9, 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.

Funny Christmas Song
Grandma got run over by Obama!

Dems’ fury threatens tax cut deal
If Obama knew history, he’d know that eventually the Bolsheviks shoot the Mensheviks and Stalin kills Trotsky. ~Bob. Excerpt: House and Senate Democrats of all stripes reacted with fury Tuesday to President Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans, threatening the package’s passage through Congress. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the assistant to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accused the president of abandoning a bipartisan effort in favor of negotiating solely with the GOP

Democrats to draw line at estate tax after Obama’s deal with Republicans
Damn. If we can’t hurt jobs and the economy by raising income taxes, let’s go after the death tax! ~Bob. Excerpt: House Democratic leaders unhappy with the tax-cut deal President Obama struck with Republicans are signaling they will try to draw the line at a GOP-favored proposal for the estate tax. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday escalated the Democratic criticism of the agreement and said the estate-tax provision was “a bridge too far.” The comments by Pelosi and other party leaders reflected widespread anger among House Democrats at the president for caving too early, by their characterization, and essentially leaving them out of final negotiations with Republicans.

President Obama defends tax-cut compromise and lashes out at left
Excerpt: President Obama blasted his own party for choosing ideological purity over results Tuesday as he sought to defend the tax-cut deal he negotiated with Republicans. In a surprise news conference at the White House, Obama angrily criticized liberals who say he caved by compromising with Republicans over the Bush tax cuts, telling Democrats that “sanctimonious” outrage does not help the American people.

PPP Poll: GOPer Scott Brown in Good Shape in Heavily Dem Massachusetts
This is good news. Regardless of how he personally votes on issues, we need his vote to put the GOP and Conservatives in charge of senate committees and the flow of business after the 2012 election. ~Bob. Excerpt: A new survey of Massachusetts from Public Policy Polling (D) finds Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who won a tremendous upset victory in last January's special election to succeed the late Democratic icon Ted Kennedy, to be in good shape heading into his 2012 re-election bid. Brown is in front of a number of hypothetical Democratic opponents. He leads Rep. Mike Capuano, who had previously lost the Democratic primary in that special election, by 52%-36%. Brown leads Rep. Stephen Lynch by 49%-30%, leads Rep. Ed Markey by 49%-39%, and leads Gov. Deval Patrick by 49%-42%. In addition, Brown leads Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Ted Kennedy, by 48%-41%. Brown's approval rating is 53%, to only 29% disapproval.

Elizabeth Edwards, political spouse and author, dies at 61
Tough life. Could have been First lady, or wife of the Veep, but she married a Demo-corrupt Trail Lawyer. I don’t know her, so don’t know if she fell grabbing for the brass ring, or was just an abused spouse. But my impression was she didn’t deserve the treatment she received. ~Bob. Excerpt: Elizabeth A. Edwards, 61, a lawyer and best-selling author whose forthright grace in coping with the accidental death of her teenage son, her own cancer and her estranged husband's infidelity captured the nation's admiration, died Tuesday of cancer in North Carolina, a family friend told the Associated Press.

US Also Vulnerable to Stuxnet Virus, Official Warns
Excerpt: The computer virus Stuxnet, which some experts believe was created specifically to target Iran's nuclear facilities, could also threaten U.S. infrastructure, a senior Department of Homeland Security official says. "That virus focused on specific software implementations, and those software implementations did exist in some U.S. infrastructure," Greg Schaffer, the department's assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, told reporters at a breakfast Monday morning. "So, there was the potential for some U.S. infrastructure to be impacted at some level." Schaffer described Stuxnet as a "very tiered, complex and sophisticated virus" that has attracted worldwide attention because it very specifically targeted supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems at Siemens plants, including in Iran. Experts have said that the cost and manpower required to create such a virus seem to indicate that a government, rather than a rogue hacker or criminal gang, was behind the virus' creation. (Gee, now all we have to do is wait for the other shoe to drop. I actually wish I had been wrong on this one. Ron P. The virus that keeps on giving. --M)

Newly Elected Women Who Will Make History
Excerpt: Described as “The Year of the Republican Woman,” 2010 and the historic November elections were marked by the emergence of many bold, conservative women who led the national debate and were at the forefront of the movement to reclaim government for the American people. This week, we highlight five of the newly-elected women of 2010, including Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Kelly Ayotte, Nan Hayworth, and Linda Upmeyer.

Why Obama can't shake Bush
Excerpt: Tuesday’s deal to extend the deep 2001 tax cuts is the latest evidence of the remarkable durability of President George W. Bush’s policy legacy — one that constrains and confounds his successor at home and overseas even after two years in office. The tax cuts were probably Bush’s single most significant domestic accomplishment, and they became not just a spur for Democratic complaints about growing deficits, but a symbol of — as candidate Barack Obama put it — “that old, discredited Republican philosophy — give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.”

The risky politics of taxing the rich
Excerpt: At second blush, however, polling suggests some more nuanced answers about why an old-fashioned Democratic economic class conflict over sticking it to the rich never materialized during Obama’s first two years – no matter how much the liberals in Obama’s base might have wanted it. Polls show the most appealing option is protecting middle-class tax cuts. But the second most appealing option is protecting tax cuts for all – what Obama and Republicans just agreed to do for two years – and that makes it a pretty close call, politically.

Barack Obama's tax plan could squeak by with GOP help
Excerpt: Don’t be fooled by all the shouting. President Barack Obama’s tax-cut deal likely will squeak through the Senate, according to congressional aides, propelled by a coalition of Republicans, moderate Democrats and members won over by last-minute tax sweeteners. The House, however, is more difficult to call – but there is a path to success there as well, and it likely includes wooing some wavering members by adding a few more specialized tax breaks, aides said. House Republicans expect nearly all of their 179 members on board and could make up a roughly 40-vote shortfall with the help of Blue Dog fiscal conservatives in the Democratic party.

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
Excerpt: A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting. Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003…. By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington's last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China's global network of communications satellites, backed by the world's most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe. -- Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (While I think we are in deep kimchi, one must remember that this author is a professor at Lenin-U in Madison, where anyone who every spoke the word Conservative without spitting is not hired, promoted or given tenure. ~Bob.)

Judge dismisses bid to remove Anwar al-Awlaki from US ‘kill list’
Common sense in a courtroom. Amazing. ~Bob. Excerpt: A federal judge in Washington ruled on Tuesday that he lacks the authority to hear a lawsuit that sought to block the US government from carrying out the targeted killing of an American citizen hiding in Yemen who is suspected of involvement in terror operations. US District Judge John Bates dismissed a lawsuit filed by the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual US-Yemen citizen, who is reportedly on a US "kill list" of terrorism suspects. His ruling clears the way for the Obama administration to conduct the targeted killing — without judicial oversight.

Obama drops demand for Israel to reimpose settlement freeze
Excerpt: Sovereign state now has permission to build within its borders --- but Hillary intends to reveal revised "peace process" plans Friday

Walter Williams' Memoir by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Walter E. Williams is my oldest and closest friend. But I didn't know that his autobiography had just been published until a talk show host told me last week. I immediately got a copy of "Up from the Projects," started reading it before dinner and finished reading it before bedtime. It is the kind of book that you hate to put down, even though I already knew how the story would end. The first chapter, about Walter's life growing up in the Philadelphia ghetto, was especially fascinating. It brought back a whole different era in black communities-- an era that is now almost irretrievably lost, to the great disadvantage of today's generation growing up in the same neighborhoods where Walter grew up in Philadelphia or where I grew up in Harlem. Although Walter's memoir is titled "Up from the Projects," the projects of the era when he was growing up bear virtually no resemblance to the projects of today.

Great Column: Moral or Immoral Government by Walter Williams
Excerpt: Immorality in government lies at the heart of our nation's problems. Deficits, debt and runaway government are merely symptoms. What's moral and immoral conduct can be complicated, but needlessly so. I keep things simple and you tell me where I go wrong. My initial assumption is that we each own ourselves. I am my private property and you are yours. If we accept the notion that people own themselves, then it's easy to discover what forms of conduct are moral and immoral. Immoral acts are those that violate self-ownership. Murder, rape, assault and slavery are immoral because those acts violate private property. So is theft, broadly defined as taking the rightful property of one person and giving it to another. If it is your belief that people do not belong to themselves, they are in whole or in part the property of the U.S. Congress, or people are owned by God, who has placed the U.S. Congress in charge of managing them, then all of my observations are simply nonsense.

Excerpt: For a law that was supposed to save America by making health care more affordable, the list of companies and unions who are being given the green light to ‘opt out’ seems to be growing by the day. Since the last wave of ObamaCare waivers was released a few weeks ago, the number of unions and companies that have received ObamaCare waivers has doubled to 222. The number of known unions that inhabit this list is near 50. (Funny how the Unions thought Obama and Obamacare was good for us—but not them. ~Bob.)

Just What Do They Mean by ‘Net Neutrality’?
Excellent article. This is a sort of very brief “Net Neutrality For Dummies” article. It actually explains what is being fought over (many people don't know) and why it may be of vital importance to you and our future freedom. Ron P. Excerpt: Around 2004, some of the big Internet service providers like Comcast decided to do just that: worried about people using file sharing or sending lots of video, they started looking at the contents of packets to see what was being sent, and throttling how much data of specific types a customer could receive. This led to the first push for net neutrality, of a sort that we might call net neutrality of the first kind, or “content neutrality.” Along with that, people demanded that they be able to connect their own equipment to their networks, and that third parties like new equipment companies had to be allowed to build new Internet equipment themselves. The push for net neutrality, however, was quickly picked up by other people for other political purposes, starting with the idea that “net neutrality” meant that everyone ought to have equal access to Internet service, whether they live in the borough of Manhattan, or Manhattan, Kansas, or in a cabin twelve miles by road from the nearest human habitation. This quickly picked up other ideas: that “net neutrality” meant different ethnic groups have equal access — which would mean the government looking not just at the content of the messages, but the race of the person on the wire; or that different viewpoints ought to have equal access to the Internet — so, potentially, Fox News would be limited based on how much bandwidth the Huffington Post consumed, and even that “hate speech” and “lies” could be regulated. This is what we might call net neutrality of the second kind: not content-neutral, but instead, content “fairness.” Stated that baldly, a lot of people would object (and rightly, I believe). The original Obama administration proposals were much more intrusive than what we know of the new proposal — “what we know” because, oddly, the proposed rules haven’t been made public.

Al-Qaeda jihadists researching ways to evade airport security and murder "larger numbers of unbelievers and apostates"
Excerpt: The moment that one of these bombs goes off on an airplane, the futility of the TSA's new scan-and-grope procedures will be abundantly clear even to the thickest of the learned analysts. But will there then be a shift toward a more intelligent security policy? Probably not. "'Frankenbombers': Al Qaeda hatches plot to implant explosives into suicide bombers," by James White for the Daily Mail, December 6: Al-Qaeda fanatics may be planning a horrific 'Frankenbomber' suicide attack by implanting explosives into a human body. Defence analysts logged conversations between users of a online forum in which Muslim extremists debate terrorism methods which could beat new US aviation security checks.

U.S. can't stop money flow to jihadists
Excerpt: "Millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide," and while this article is full of hand-wringing over that, no one ever stops to ask why that might be so, and whether they have underestimated the power of the jihad doctrine in the Islamic world. "Cash Flow to Terrorists Evades U.S. Efforts," by Eric Lichtblau and Eric Schmitt for the New York Times, December 5: WASHINGTON -- Nine years after the United States vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say they believe that many millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide, and they have grown frustrated by frequent resistance from allies in the Middle East, according to secret diplomatic dispatches.

One gets numb to this kind of thing. ~Bob.

"This Paper Should Not Have Been Published"
Excerpt: On Thursday, Dec. 2, Rosie Redfield sat down to read a new paper called "A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus." Despite its innocuous title, the paper had great ambitions. Every living thing that scientists have ever studied uses phosphorus to build the backbone of its DNA. In the new paper, NASA-funded scientists described a microbe that could use arsenic instead. If the authors of the paper were right, we would have to expand our notions of what forms life can take. (...) At NASA's press conference, the scientists described their research, which was just then being posted on the Web site of the journal Science. They had not found life on one of Saturn's moons; instead, they had gone to the arsenic-laced waters of Mono Lake in California and isolated a strain of bacteria they dubbed GFAJ-1. (...) As soon Redfield started to read the paper, she was shocked. "I was outraged at how bad the science was," she told me. Redfield blogged a scathing attack on Saturday. Over the weekend, a few other scientists took to the Internet as well. Was this merely a case of a few isolated cranks? To find out, I reached out to a dozen experts on Monday. Almost unanimously, they think the NASA scientists have failed to make their case. (As with climate science, perhaps another case of science-by-press-conference. Ron P.)

Obamanomics Takes a Holiday
Excerpt: Does President Obama like or loathe the two-year tax deal he has struck with Republicans? It was hard to tell from his grudging, testy remarks Monday and yesterday, but perhaps that's because he realizes he is repudiating the heart and soul of Obamanomics as the price of giving himself a chance at a second term. In accepting the deal to cut payroll and business taxes and extend all of the Bush-era tax rates through 2012, Mr. Obama has implicitly admitted that his economic strategy has flopped. He is acknowledging that tax rates matter to growth, that treating business like robber barons has hurt investment and hiring, and that tax cuts are superior to spending as stimulus. It took 9.8% unemployment and a loss of 63 House seats for this education to sink in, but the country will benefit.

While his base rages, Obama faces tax-cut reality
Excerpt: Reality strikes. President Obama spurned the advice of columnists Paul Krugman and Katrina vanden Heuvel and agreed with Republicans to extend the current income tax rates -- the so-called Bush tax cuts -- for another two years.
He got a few things in return, primarily extended unemployment benefits for another 13 months, and agreed as well to a 2 percent cut in the Social Security payroll tax.
But he recognized the reality that in order to prevent a tax increase on those with incomes under $250,000 he had to prevent a tax increase on those over that line as well.

Black Farmer Blows Whistle on Pigford: ‘If You’ve Got a Potted Plant That Makes You a Farmer’
How about if you grow pot? ~Bob.

Obama, Palin met fame before they could grow
Excerpt: Two years ago, two superstars lit up a dazzled political universe -- young, stunning, lissome, and bursting with talent -- and were propelled ahead of their time into prominence, after a minimal time on the national scene. Two years later, it seems as if this has done them no favors: President Obama is widely seen as "overwhelmed" by his office, and Sarah Palin is meeting resistance establishing her credentials as a possible candidate against rivals with rather more seasoning. On election day 2008, Obama had been in the Senate for less than four years, two of which he had spent running for president, and Palin had spent less than three years as governor of one of the country's most remote and least typical states. Are their problems aligned with their so-called "good fortune"? Unhappily, yes. The problems they're facing are not age alone. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were younger than they (42 and 43) when they became president, but their records of service were longer, and deep. Roosevelt was a state representative, police commissioner, governor of New York, and vice president; Kennedy spent 14 years in Congress, eight of them in the Senate, and been observing diplomacy at the highest of levels since he was 19. (History is also being unkind to JFK, as the glow of martyrdom gives way to fact. ~Bob.)

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