Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Political Digest for January 26, 2011

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.

State of the Union?
I’m putting this together before the President’s speech, but I’ll skip it. I didn’t watch Bush’s either—I usually skip spin speeches. Besides, I pray that I’m wrong, but I think I know the state of the union—collapsing.
And when Obama calls for “investment,” it’s your grandkids money, not his, he plans to “invest” in schemes that buy votes for leftists. ~Bob

Advice for my Granddaughter
I put together this essay in hopes that someone will pass it to my granddaughter assuming I don’t see her live to be sweet 16. I published it on my blog in hopes that it may be helpful to others worried about a child’s future. Feel free to pass it on, and to modify it for the situation of a child you care about. ~Bob

For State of the Union Address, Young Gun told, Look Like Reagan
Excerpt: Among the advice Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is getting before Tuesday night’s big speech: Stick with broad themes; don’t be negative; and smile and look like Ronald Reagan. Ryan’s delivery of the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address could be the moment he breaks onto the national stage, or it could provide enough material for late-night comedians to scuttle the career of a man GOP strategists say could be a senator, vice president or president. The risks are real. Two years ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) faded as a conservative darling after a lackluster response speech. News emerged over the weekend that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) declined the opportunity to rebut President Obama, with some pundits calling the decision politically deft. But the payoff could be worth the risk.

I'm sick of people whining about Gov. Pat Quinn and the Democrats raising our taxes by 67 percent. We all have to pay our fair share of the governor buying his re-election by making a deal with the state employees' union. This is Illinois. This is Cook County. This is only the first installment on years of political vote-buying through borrowing, and much more will come. If you don't want to pay for politicians' re-election bribes to favored groups, move to another state, and take your business with you. — Robert A. Hall, Des Plaines

New Heroes vs. Old by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: When I mention that my family used kerosene lamps when I was a small child in the South during the 1930s, that is usually taken as a sign of our poverty, though I never thought of us as poor at the time. What is ironic is that kerosene lamps were a luxury of the rich in the 19th century, before John D. Rockefeller came along. At the high price of kerosene at that time, an ordinary working man could not afford to stay up at night, burning this expensive fuel for hours at a time. Rockefeller did not begin his life as rich, by any means. He made a fortune by revolutionizing the petroleum industry. Although we still measure petroleum in barrels, it is actually shipped in railroad tank cars, in ocean-going tankers and in tanker trucks.

22 Facts About California That Make You Wonder Why Anyone Would Still Want To Live In That Hellhole Of A State
Well, it’s warmer than Illinois. ~Bob. Excerpt: Why in the world would anyone still want to live in the state of California at this point? Residents of California have been forced to endure a brutally oppressive level of taxation for many years, and yet the state of California has still managed to find itself on the verge of bankruptcy. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a "fiscal emergency" in his state on Thursday, but nobody is even pretending that such a declaration is actually going to help matters. Brown wants to cut even deeper into the state budget (even after tens of billions have already been slashed out of it in recent years) and he wants to explore ways to raise even more revenue. Meanwhile, the standard of living in California is going right into the toilet. Housing values are plummeting. Unemployment has risen above 20 percent in many areas of the state. Crime and gang activity is on the rise even as police budgets are being hacked to the bone. The health care system is an absolute disaster. At this point California has the fewest emergency rooms per million people out of all 50 states.  While all of this has been going on, the state legislature in Sacramento has been very busy passing hundreds of new laws that are mostly about promoting one radical agenda or another. The state government has become so radically anti-business that it is a wonder that any businesses have remained in the state. It seems like the moving vans never stop as an endless parade of businesses and families leave California as quickly as they can.

GOP strategy: Force Dems to vote on `job killing' taxes in health reform
Excerpt: With Senate Dems threatening to force Republicans to vote on whether to repeal individual popular provisions in the health reform law, Senate GOPers are mulling a response: Aides say they may retaliate by demanding that Democrats vote on other tax-related individual provisions in the law that Republicans can paint as "job killers." In recent days Republicans have been demanding that Senate Dems allow a vote on the repeal bill that the House has already passed. As Brian Beutler reports, Dems have crafted an aggressive response: If the GOP persists, they will insist on votes directly on whether to repeal popular provisions like the restriction on discrimation against people with pre-existing conditions. Now the GOP is preparing their response to the Dem response. According to a GOP Senate aide, Republicans may counter by demanding a vote on whether to repeal provisions disliked by business, such as the one that imposes an excise tax on medical device manufacturers. Those manufacturers have been complaining that this provision forces them to shoulder an unfair burden of the cost of expanded health coverage and could lead to layoffs.

Is Illegal Immigration Destroying The Southwest United States? 19 Immigration Facts That Very Few People Are Talking About
Excerpt: Immigration is not a bad thing. In fact, the United States is a nation that is made up of immigrants. However, the truth is that rampant, unchecked illegal immigration is a really, really horrible thing and it is permanently destroying many areas of the southwest United States. The U.S. government has refused to control the U.S. border with Mexico for decades, and this has allowed millions of criminals, drug dealers and gang members to cross freely into the United States. Not only that, but our refusal to secure the border has allowed thousands (if not millions) of people that have very serious diseases into the country. After illegal immigrants arrive they either try to make a living legally (by directly competing with blue collar American workers and driving their wages down) or illegally by selling drugs or being involved in other kinds of criminal activity. The economic burden that these tens of millions of illegal immigrants has put on our system is almost incalculable.

Republican-Controlled Congressional Committee Targets United Nations
Excerpt: Funding of the U.N. is expected to feature prominently at the hearing. Ros-Lehtinen said late last year she wanted to use “U.S. contributions to international organizations as leverage to press for real reform of those organizations.” Her earlier U.N. Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act sought to make U.S. funding conditional on the implementation of reforms throughout the U.N. system. Provisions included the withholding of funding allocated to the HRC. The U.S. provides 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget, which finances the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and several other bodies, as well as more than 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget. Member states’ contributions are assessed according to their relative “capacity to pay,” calculated from national economic output. The administration’s 2011 budget request for contributions to the U.N.’s regular budget was $516.3 million, part of an overall $1.18 billion for the U.N. and affiliated agencies (the World Health Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency etc.) The additional 2011 budget request for U.N. peacekeeping operations was $2.18 billion. (There probably is some valid reason to belong to the UN, though it escapes me at the moment. It is even possible, though unlikely, there may be a good reason to pay more than a proportional share of the basic costs of the UN. There is certainly no reason to allow ourselves to be forced to fund sub-groups like the so-called Human Rights Council that lends the cloak of legitimacy to countries like Iran, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Syria, Sudan, and other blatant violators of all human rights. There is no reason we should condone the blatant favoritism and/or corruption of programs like Oil for Food that enriched the previous Secretary General’s family. There is every reason not to fund the groups pushing for programs and/or treaties inimical to the well-being of the USA. Other countries and groups of countries are welcome to think what they want and advocate what they want, but they should do so at their own expense, not ours. They certainly don’t offer to help us when what we want isn’t pleasing to them. Ron P.)

What Will President Obama Say About Medicare?
Excerpt: To just about everyone who has looked at the question, reining in entitlement spending means reining in health care spending, and that means slowing the growth of Medicare. When Bowles and Simpson proposed to do just that, there were howls of protest on the left, including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and the right. Yet here is something few people know. The Affordable Care Act, signed into law last spring, cuts future Medicare spending by much more than what Bowles and Simpson have proposed. In fact, if the law remains as is, future Medicare spending per capita will grow no faster than the economy as a whole. The problem is that no one -- not the Medicare's chief actuary, not the Congressional Budget Office, not anyone who has looked at the numbers -- thinks this is realistic. One way to consider what's about to happen is in terms and dollars and cents. If you turned 65 and enrolled in Medicare this year, the lifetime value of your Medicare benefits decreased by about $35,000 on the day President Obama signed the health reform bill, at least on paper. That's the present value of average expected benefits for a 65-year-old, based on forecasts by the Medicare Trustees. For younger people, the loss will be even greater. What does that mean in terms of seniors' potential out-of-pocket spending or their access to care? Strangely, no one really knows.

Rolling Back ObamaCare: Eliminate the Medical Loss Ratio
Excerpt: Team Obama claims that setting a medical loss ratio at those levels will ensure that the lion’s share of premium goes to paying health care costs, not excessive salaries or profits. That fear of high profits was always bogus; Fortune magazine ranks the health insurance industry 35th on the Fortune 500 list of top industries in 2008 with a 2.2 percent profit. The MLR is nothing but a price control mechanism that will drive even more of the smaller and medium-sized insurers out of the market, dramatically reducing competition. That’s in part because large insurers have better economies of scale to keep administrative costs lower. (Well, you can probably contribute to Obama and get a waiver, so what’s the problem? ~Bob.)

Important: Corporate taxes are self-defeating
Excerpt: If you were establishing a new business whose products would be produced and sold worldwide, would you set it up in the United States, which now has the world’s highest corporate-tax rate? There is a growing realization that the U.S. is at an increasingly competitive disadvantage when it comes to taxing corporations. (See accompanying chart.) Even the Obama administration said it is open to a corporate-tax rate cut, and it is expected that President Obama will propose some rate reduction in his forthcoming State of the Union address. From a purely economic standpoint, it makes no sense to tax corporations at all, because only people pay taxes, not legal entities. The corporate tax is paid by customers in terms of higher prices, by suppliers in terms of lower volumes of business, by employees in terms of lower wages and by stockholders in terms of lower returns. Many countries used to have higher corporate-tax rates than the United States, but, over time, they realized they were losing business - and jobs - to countries with lower rates; so most countries have been reducing their corporate-tax rates to attract new businesses and global firms.

States Weigh Cuts in Hollywood Subsidies
ALL government spending on entertainment—the arts, film subsidies, public radio and TV, sports stadiums—has to go. ~Bob. Excerpt: Preparing to deliver his first State of the State address last week, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was looking at a $10.5 billion budget gap, a collapsing pension fund and a probable cut in Medicaid spending. He was also being asked to put money aside for Hollywood. Government subsidies for film and television productions proliferated in flush times as more than 40 states competed for entertainment work. Those subsidies face an uncertain future as new governors and lawmakers, many of them fiscal conservatives, join incumbents like Mr. Christie in trying to balance budgets without losing jobs. Tax credits for Hollywood were recently expanded in Florida and North Carolina but are under fresh scrutiny in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Mexico, all of which have new Republican governors reviewing film subsidy programs that were begun under Democratic predecessors.

Important: Taking the Government Out of Housing Finance: Principles for Reforming the Housing Finance Market
Excerpt: Many commentators have pointed out that the Dodd-Frank Act ignored the fundamental causes of the financial crisis it was supposed to address. While imposing new, costly and growth inhibiting regulations on the entire financial system, the act failed to reform the US government‘s housing policies—policies that fostered the creation of 27 million subprime and Alt-A loans and the inflation of a massive housing bubble between 1997and 2007. When the bubble began to deflate, these weak and high-risk loans started to default in unprecedented numbers, driving down housing values and weakening financial institutions in the United States and around the world. Implicit in most of the proposals for reforming the housing finance system is the idea that institutional investors will not buy mortgage backed securities (MBS) backed by US mortgages unless they are issued by a government sponsored enterprise (GSE), a US government agency, or are otherwise guaranteed by the US government. We believe, however, that there is a robust alternative to government support of the housing finance system—a system which in the past has led to large scale taxpayer bailouts and losses. Our alternative approach is to ensure that only prime quality mortgages, which comprise the vast majority of US mortgages, are allowed into the securitization system.

Budget ax-man Rep. Paul Ryan is Senate Democrats' new villain
If Republicans want Social security and Medicare destroyed, they only have to wait a few years. They are going belly up. ~Bob. Excerpt: Senate Democrats are pouncing on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) role in delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union address to make the case that Republicans are intent on destroying Social Security and Medicare. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the master political strategist for Senate Democrats, wants to turn Ryan into a bogeyman that voters think about whenever they hear about a Republican proposal to cut federal spending. 

Deficits as Far as the States can See
Excerpt: Like me, you may be wondering why 96,000 California state workers were given cell phones courtesy of the taxpayers. For, like me, you probably use a cell phone in the course of your work. And we know that if we asked our employers to pay for it, the answer would be N-O. But here is the financially busted Golden State looking for dimes under the cushions, while nearly 40 percent of its public workers can call their cousins in Cleveland for free. One parks department worker was found to have made 3,300 personal calls in just over a year, the Los Angeles Times reported. None were made during working hours, we are sure. … At the top of the misery scale sits Illinois, which is nobody's beacon for managing state finances. Illinois has it all -- extravagant public-employee benefits, a high home foreclosure rate and $8 billion in unpaid bills. It made headlines recently by temporarily raising the state's income-tax rate by 67 percent.

Woman Mayor Shows Her Horrific Scars After Two Assassination Attempts by Mexican Gangs
The media would give the violence in Mexico more coverage if they could figure out how to blame Sarah Palin for it. ~Bob. Excerpt: Baring her mutilated body for the camera, Maria Santos Gorrostieta shows the horrific results of two assassination attempts by Mexican criminals. As the mayor of the town of Tiquicheo, she has become a key target for drug gangs who have turned the country into a grotesquely violent narco-state. But despite being scarred physically and mentally by the attacks, the extraordinarily brave Mrs. Gorrostieta remains defiant. 'I wanted to show you my wounds because I'm not ashamed that my body is mutilated like this,' she said.

"I Saw Him Die" - Girlfriend's Horror as London Businessman is Blown Up in Front of Her
Guess the bomber didn’t get the memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: A British businessman's girlfriend watched in horror as he was blown up by a female suicide bomber in a blast which killed at least 35 people in Russia's busiest airport yesterday. Kirill Budrashov, who lived in west London with his girlfriend Elvira Muratova and their young son Alexander, died after terrorists targeted the international arrivals hall at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. Witnesses described hearing the bomber scream ‘I will kill you all’ before detonating the explosives, in an attack which injured a further 110 people.

Is Science Fiction Getting More Conservative?
This is a wonderful article. I also urge you to read the comments; there aren’t many (13), and most are exceptionally well written. Ron P. Certainly Robert Heinlein’s Notebooks of Lazarus Long are a libertarian conservative manifesto. ~Bob. Excerpt: The legends, Dr. Jerry Pournelle and Orson Scott Card, need no introduction. But it bears mention that Ender’s Game, Card’s best-known work, is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps recommended reading list as a treatise on what it means to be a leader. The newcomers, Lt. Col Tom Kratman (Ret.) and Larry Correia, both write for Baen. I asked them all three simple questions: Why do you think there has been a trend toward conservatism in mainstream SF over the last few years? What does this mean for the future of the genre? And: is this a good or a bad thing for science fiction, and why? Being writers, their answers roamed freely — but revealingly. Suggesting that part of the problem is defining “conservatism,” Dr. Pournelle isn’t sure there’s been such a drift. “The problem here,” he said, “is that ‘conservatism’ means many things to different people — and many of those you call conservative would not call themselves that, nor would many conservatives call them that. There has certainly been a move toward the concept of freedom as a good thing, but that was always true of most science fiction writers. Meanwhile, planetary history has shown that vast powerful central bureaucracies don’t generally produce either general welfare or freedom or wealth, and science fiction writers have sort of noticed that — even as welfare liberalism has become a consensus among a large part of the literary elites in academia.”

Four people killed as U.S. east coast shivers in temperatures as low as -50F
Boy, that “global warming” is a bitch. Too hot? Global warming caused by man. Too cold? Global warming, oops, climate change, caused by man. Good pictures. ~Bob.

Excerpt: Did you know that the United States government is using your tax dollars to support Islamic Shariah law in America? Yep. And, a federal judge—playing for the enemy, in my opinion—has just sided against the Constitution and the American people and with the Islamists in upholding the policy.

Authorities Fear Cops Being Targeted After at Least 11 Officers Shot in 24 Hours
Excerpt: Authorities are worried a recent wave of police officer shootings may not be a coincidence. In just 24 hours, at least 11 cops were shot around the country. The most recent incident at a fugitive's house in St. Petersburg, Fla., left two officers dead and a U.S. marshal wounded Monday. Hours earlier, an Oregon officer was critically wounded after being shot multiple times during a traffic stop.

Everything starts with repeal
Excerpt: Suppose someone - say, the president of United States - proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I've got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion. He'd be laughed out of town. And yet, this is precisely what the Democrats are claiming as a virtue of Obamacare. During the debate over Republican attempts to repeal it, one of the Democrats' major talking points has been that Obamacare reduces the deficit - and therefore repeal raises it - by $230 billion. Why, the Congressional Budget Office says exactly that.

Carol Browner to leave White House
Excerpt: Browner will “stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition,” the aide said, and thinks the administration is in a good place to defend Obama’s green priorities, beginning with Tuesday night’s State of the Union address and the upcoming budget request. Even so, some of Obama’s allies on and off Capitol Hill who two years ago considered Browner the leader of a dream team on their issues said they were concerned about the latest shakeup on the eve of a State of the Union where the president is expected to move to the center. “This does strike me as a quiet kill, so to speak,” said a House Democratic aide who works on energy and environmental issues, including the 2009 cap-and-trade bill. “If there were a sacrificial lamb, it could have been on health care, financial issues, on a whole number of other things. But it’s the climate czar that’s going down. “I don’t know the exact circumstances of it, but the circumstantial evidence, I think the timing is frankly fairly frightening,” the staffer added. (At last, some good news. –Ron P.)

NBC: U.S. can't link accused Army private to Assange
Excerpt: U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure. (...) U.S. Attorney General Eric holder has said his department is also considering whether it can prosecute the release of information under the Espionage Act. (Maybe I missed something. Did they think he printed out the 250,000 cables and handed them to Assange in some dingy waterfront café? It’s no longer 1940. The legal issue for Manning has nothing to do with passing secrets to Assange or any other particular individual, it lies in the unauthorized accessing of classified information, covertly copying it, smuggling it from its lawful location, and dissemination of it to unauthorized recipients. And all of this is unequivocally known from Manning’s own bragging emails, regardless of who the individual(s) is(are) who opened the emails on the other end. It is even conceivable WikiLeaks may not be in criminal violation of any US laws for publishing the data even though it can now be accessed from US soil; that is a separate issue. It is inconceivable that no espionage case can be proven against Manning, and as a spy, he gets “traitor” added as a bonus. --Ron P. Had I the power, Manning would add “the late” to his name. ~Bob. )

Calling Out Race Exploiter, Al Sharpton
Excerpt: Will somebody please tell this despicable man to “Stop it”. Passing the buck regarding black on black crime to gun manufacturers will not save the life of one black youth. Mr Sharpton, rather than seeking another way to portray blacks as victims, which always leads to another government program/government check, how about doing something truly useful. “Reverend” Sharpton, address the moral decay in the black community. In your rant on MSNBC, you said black kids want to be like, Scarface. Most black kids today have not seen the movie. You completely ignored the real “elephant in the black community's living room”, fatherless black boys who join gangs and black gangsta rappers who call black women “B” and “W”, rap about killing police and killing anyone who dares “dis” them.

7 Non-Political Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives
Excerpt: However, if you follow politics closely, you'll find that there's a gulf as wide as the ocean between the average politically active conservative and the average politically active liberal. We don't just have political differences; we view the world through very different eyes. Of course, I don't want to oversell this because as Americans, conservatives and liberals are more alike than different. There also tend to be differences between people who are heavily politically involved and those who aren't. This column focuses on those of us who are more politically active, as opposed to people who don’t pay much attention to politics. I'd also add that in every category, you'll find exceptions that prove the rule. Moreover, sometimes you'll find both conservatives and liberals engaging in the same behavior, although one side tends to do it much more than the other.

Left laments Barack Obama's move to center
Excerpt: President Barack Obama plans to play up a bright future with congressional Republicans by channeling his 2008 campaign message of post-partisanship in his State of the Union address — but the liberal wing of his party isn’t quite seeing the light. As the president touts spending austerity, deficit reduction and extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, some Democrats worry Obama will pivot too hard away from the party’s core principles and concede too much to the new House GOP majority that campaigned on destroying his agenda. “I don’t think he should have this tone that if he rolls on his back the new Congress is going to rub his belly. A lot of these guys coming to town campaigned against everything this president wants to achieve,” Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said, adding the president needs to take an “aggressive” approach to make clear “he’s not going to roll over.”

Anyone can be the GOP nominee
Excerpt: Here are three things to ask yourself before you decide to run for president:

US Engineer Gets 32 Years for Selling Secrets to China
Excerpt: An American engineer who helped develop the military's B-2 stealth bomber has been sentenced to 32 years behind bars for secretly selling some of that technology to China. Noshir Gowadia, an Indian-born U.S. citizen, was convicted last August of selling classified engine details to China so Beijing could make stealth cruise missiles that evade infrared detection. He's believed to have made some $110,000 in illegal profits from the deal, which helped pay a $15,000-a-month mortgage on his luxury oceanfront home in Hawaii. The former U.S. Army contractor, 66, was sentenced Monday by a court in Honolulu. "He broke his oath of loyalty to this country," Judge Susan Oki Mollway said during Gowadia's sentencing, according to London's Daily Telegraph. "He was found guilty of marketing valuable technology to foreign countries for personal gain." (...) "We're confident the message is sent that when you compromise U.S. national security, when you disclose national defense secrets, when you profit by U.S. national defense information, that you will be punished, you will be pursued, you will be convicted," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson said in comments excerpted by the BBC. (Well, No shir. At least this judge takes espionage seriously. Of course, the case was started in 2005 under that PREVIOUS President.... Ron P. Should have got 45. Caliber, not years. ~Bob.)

'Capitalist' contradictions--GE hire NO course-change for Obama
Excerpt: The naming of General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to head the new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is supposed to show the country that President Obama really is serious about dealing with the nation's economic woes through the free market system, rather than the government programs and handouts that characterized his first two years in office. Except it doesn't.

Obama's State of the Union and U.S. Foreign Policy
Excerpt: Given the strong showing of the Republicans in the last election, and the fact that they have defined domestic issues as the main battleground, Obama’s decision makes political sense. He will likely mention foreign issues and is undoubtedly devoting significant time to them, but the decision not to focus on foreign affairs in his State of the Union address gives the impression that the global situation is under control. Indeed, the Republican focus on domestic matters projects the same sense. Both sides create the danger that the public will be unprepared for some of the international crises that are already quite heated. We have discussed these issues in detail, but it is useful to step back and look at the state of the world for a moment.
Why 2012 Is Not 1996: A History Lesson
Excerpt: A little history can be a dangerous thing, and in advance of Tuesday’s State of the Union Address by President Obama, political commentary will be focusing on Obama’s ability to replay 1995-96, when President Clinton rebounded from a similar rout in the midterm elections to more or less coast to re-election (while Clinton finished below 50% of the popular vote, it was only a “coming home” of Republicans in the campaign’s closing weeks that averted a more lopsided result; the outcome was not seriously in doubt). Undoubtedly, Obama will have the opportunity to take advantage of many of the same dynamics that favored Clinton’s re-election, and he may succeed for those and other reasons. But history never repeats itself precisely. It is worthwhile to reflect on the many things that worked to Clinton’s benefit that Obama can’t count on: 1: The Democrats Still Hold The Senate: Clinton lost both Houses of Congress in the midterms, the third president of the past century to do so, the others being Truman in 1946 and Eisenhower in 1954. Both were re-elected; Truman used the GOP as a foil to confront, Eisenhower showed he could cooperate with the Democrats, and Clinton did some of both. Each was able in one sense or another to run on the same divided-government rationale that had helped them lose Congress in the first place.

Worth Reading: If thy Cojones Cause Thee to Sin...
Excerpt: Why is it so essential for us to keep Muslim immigrants out of Western countries, even if it means--as I think it realistically will--also excluding others by drastically reducing the sheer numbers of newcomers to our countries? I have already pointed to a number of attributes of Islamic faith and culture that make them dangerous to us. Let me rehearse these briefly, and add a few new observations: Unlike any other world religion, Islam has a positive doctrine of conquest as a religious duty. (The closest analogue I can find is the religious pretext Spanish conquistadors used to attack Aztecs and Incas--offering their leaders a Bible, then when they refused to venerate it, attacking them. But this was an innovation of 16th century land-pirates, which was not grounded in Catholic doctrine. The Crusades, for all their attendant injustices, were not justified in Church circles by any doctrine of conversion via conquest, but rather as wars of liberation for conquered, occupied Christian lands, and defense of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land.)

Hezbollah's candidate to form Lebanese government
Excerpt: The candidate backed by Iranian-allied Hezbollah was designated Tuesday to form Lebanon's next government, angering Sunnis who protested the rising power of the Shiite militant group by burning tires and torching a van belonging to Al-Jazeera.
The president appointed Harvard-educated billionaire businessman and former premier Najib Mikati as prime minister-designate after a majority of lawmakers voted for him. Mikati defeated U.S.-backed Saad Hariri, who was prime minister from 2009 until Hezbollah forced the unity government he led to collapse two weeks ago. 9they will now torment Israel with rockets, attacks and terrorism until Israel responds, to be condemned by the world for defending itself. This is not good. ~Bob.)

Full-bred Aussie with a longing for sharia law
The worldwide jihadist struggle to extinguish freedom, tolerance and equal rights. ~Bob. Excerpt: IBRAHIM Siddiq-Conlon has a message for Australians, whether they want to hear it or not. "One day Australia will be ruled by sharia, no doubt," he declares. "That is why non-Muslims are worried, because they know one day they won't be able to drink their beer, they won't be able to eat their pork and they won't be able to do their homosexual acts, because one day they know they will be controlled." Siddiq-Conlon sits on the steps of the NSW Parliament House, the location he has chosen to launch his rhetorical attack on democracy, which he describes as "an evil system of life". "Right now in the Western world we're on the edge of a crisis, of extinction, because of democracy. OK, so don't tell me democracy has the answers and is peaceful. Democracy is the reason for the world's problems." Siddiq-Conlon is the face and voice of Sharia4Australia, a group formed in Sydney's southwest to agitate for Islamic law, starting with the introduction of sharia courts and ending, in his ideal world, with Islamic rule.

Suspected Islamists kill Nigerian soldier guarding church
Didn’t get the memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Suspected members of an Islamist sect blamed for a series of attacks in Nigeria's north shot dead a soldier guarding a church on Sunday and stole his rifle, an army spokesman said. Attackers on motorcycles killed the soldier in the city of Maiduguri, army spokesman Lieutenant Abubakar Abdullahi said. They attacked as he was on his way to buy a charge card for his mobile phone, Abdullahi said. "He was among an army patrol unit stationed around the church to protect it from attack following spates of armed attacks on churches in the city in recent weeks," he added. Three such attacks on Christmas Eve killed six people and destroyed one church.

Our Forgotten Founder  
Excerpt: Way ahead of his time, [William] Penn outlined a social order for his colony that was pretty close to what became the framework of the nation’s founders nearly 80 years later. Power was derived from the people in much the same way as a Quaker meeting was run; two houses of government protected private property and imposed taxes fairly. Penn saw his role as “absolute proprietor” as limited, making his idea of government a big departure from the elitism of European monarchies. “William Penn is one of America’s great forgotten founders,” says Catherine Wilson, a Villanova University political scientist. “His policies on religious toleration and political freedom were touted as some of the most welcoming throughout all the colonies.”

US Aid to Israel Not Worth the ’Real Cost,’ Researcher Says
Excerpt: Israel is paying through the nose for US aid and would better off without it, says a researcher for the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS). American aid to Israel to the tune of $3 billion a year has been maligned by many U.S. conservatives and by the Arab world, but Israel actually loses more than it receives, according to JIMS analyst Yarden Gazit. U.S. aid is a net loss for Israel and Israel would be better off without it,” he concluded in his report, released on Wednesday. Gazit explained that the conditions for the military assistance are designed to help the American military-industrial complex at the expense of the Israeli defense industry.

Guantanamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence in Embassy Plot
Excerpt: A judge sentenced the first Guantanamo detainee to have a U.S. civilian trial to life in prison Tuesday, saying anything he suffered at the hands of the CIA and others "pales in comparison to the suffering and the horror" caused by the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan sentenced Ahmed Ghailani to life, calling the attacks "horrific" and saying the deaths and damage they caused far outweighs "any and all considerations that have been advanced on behalf of the defendant." He also ordered Ghailani to pay a $33 million fine. (A good day in the courts for America, though I suspect the fine is just window dressing as the convict is unlikely to have the ability to pay it. Ron P. I dunno, maybe he could sell “Islam is a Religion of Peace” tee shirts from prison and make a bundle. ~Bob.)

Iran Has Changed the Balance of Power in Lebanon
Excerpt: What is striking about the Chessboard moves by Iran and the current crisis in Lebanon is that the efforts to resolve it are being made by countries in the region. Why are there no serious initiatives on the part of Western countries that enable Iran and Syria to continue to stir the pot unmolested? Iran no longer hesitates to state publicly that its forward defense line now passes through "Lebanon and Palestine." In practice, the Lebanese-Israeli border is in fact Israel's border with Iran. For Iran, Hezbollah serves as a live and successful model for revolutions, one which is reflected in other organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terror organizations, as well as extreme Shiite organizations in Iraq trained by Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah is nourished by the growing strength and power of Iran and draws upon its successes. Both parties recognize that the fall of one also signifies the demise of the other. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the Hariri murder, which is about to publicize its findings, may offer an opportunity for the West to reverse the trend and take the initiative to reduce Iranian influence in Lebanon, and weaken the power of Tehran. It appears that our State Department and White House still remain asleep at the switch while the Iranians are very busy and fastidious in resetting the chessboard in the Middle East to their liking.

Excerpt: But President Obama and his Democratic congressional allies in the 111th Congress dared not alienate the Big Lawyers special interest of class-action trial attorneys. The lawyers and three other special interests - Big Labor union leaders, Big Green environmentalists, and Big Insiders with billions of dollars in personal wealth and foundation grants -- together essentially dictate what Democrats can and cannot support on many key public policy issues. Call them the Four Horsemen of the coming Democratic apocalypse. These four groups provide most of the campaign funding and workers, political and policy expertise, legal and regulatory muscle, and strategic communications for the Democratic Party. Consequently, most Democrats are prisoners of a narrow agenda of constantly growing government budgets, regulation and taxing.

Obama puts political correctness ahead of economics
Excerpt: President Obama reportedly will call on Congress tonight in his State of the Union address to make "investments" in America's future by appropriating large new sums of money for education, alternative energy and infrastructure to create what he often calls the jobs of the 21st century. If you feel like you've heard this song from this chief executive before, it's because you have, quite often in fact. In January 2009, Obama said this in his first address to a joint session of Congress: "Now is the time to ... invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy. ... [T]he only way to fully restore America's economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world." Well, the "investments" recommended by Obama were made, to the tune of more than $100 billion in his economic stimulus program alone. So, if business buzzwords like "competitiveness" and "investment" -- backed by billions of tax dollars -- could create a friendly climate for American businesses, then we should be experiencing record economic growth right now.

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