Thursday, March 10, 2011

Political Digest for March 10, 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.

For those who want further information about the topics covered in this blog, I recommend the following sites. I will add to this as I find additional good sources.

Public Sector Unions
In case you wonder why Democrats are fighting so hard to keep state tax dollars flowing to union members. Unions are just getting what they paid for. ~Bob. Excerpt: Public employee unions represent workers at every level of government – federal, state and local. Since contract negotiations for these workers are dependent not on private corporations, but on the size of government budgets, this is the one segment of the labor movement that can actually contribute directly to the people with ultimate responsibility for its livelihood. While their giving pattern matches that of other unions (which overwhelmingly support Democrats), public sector unions also concentrate contributions on members of Congress from both parties who sit on committees that deal with federal budgets and agencies. This broad category encompasses teachers, firefighters, police officers, postal workers and any other employee of the government at any level. Their legislative demands therefore vary significantly. Like any union, however, public sector unions focus primarily on strengthening workers’ rights and working conditions, securing fair wages, buying domestically produced goods, guaranteeing workers’ safety and eliminating corporations’ abuse of their employees.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller resigns from radio network
Nailed another anti-American hog slurping at the taxpayer trough. Have to scroll down to the story. It’s funny that Williams, a thoughtful liberal, is the focus of leftist ire and conservative support. The “thoughtful” part grates on the left. ~Bob. Excerpt: NPR announced on its site that Vivian Schiller has resigned. The CEO of NPR came under criticism last year for the dismissal of Juan Williams, a former employee who was fired after making comments about Muslims on a Fox News show. Tuesday an undercover video of NPR executive Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian Schiller) brought more negative press to the network. In the video Ron Schiller can be seen saying "tea party people" aren't "just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people." The video was surreptiously taped by James O'Keefe, a conservative activist known for his undercover filming. O'Keefe told CNN on Tuesday that he targeted NPR because of Williams's dismissal. Williams appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show on Tuesday criticizing his former employers. "These people [NPR executives] are so rude and condescending," Williams said. "They attack anybody that disagrees with their point of view -- this elitist, NPR point of view." (I hate to admit it, but as a long-time regular NPR listener, the beginnings of this story a few days ago were neither surprising nor “anything out of the expected ordinary” to me. I really didn’t take much notice as there is no “news” here for a regular NPR listener (though doubtless some will claim to be surprised).  Although I sometimes fumed at the comments and analysis, it was like listening to a bunch of liberals at a dinner party: silently snicker up my sleeve, but don’t get involved because the blood from the fight is out of proportion to the satisfaction to be gained. But, I have never thought they should receive taxpayer funding. Even if there is a major culture shift at NPR to a more balanced view—and there won’t be, they’d have to fire too many and shut down too many of their higher rated programs—they still shouldn’t get any taxpayer funding. Unless the taxpayer is also willing to make similar “donations” to "public radio's" for-profit competitors. The amount of time they spend either asking for contributions, talking about when they will ask for them, or thanking contributors for making them is already comparable to the amount of time commercial stations spend on commercial ads. And, the most widely appealing shows, like Car Talk, could easily find commercial homes. Sesame Street would surely be picked up by a network. They don’t need the damned money. And, they don’t deserve it, either. Ron P.)

NPR chairman says board asked CEO to step down
The pirates are gaining! Throw all dead weight over the side! ~Bob. Excerpt: The chairman of NPR's board of directors says the board asked chief executive Vivian Schiller to step down after another executive called the tea party racist. NPR chairman Dave Edwards said Wednesday that accepting Schiller's resignation was difficult. She stepped down a day after a conservative activist posted a video showing NPR executive Ron Schiller calling tea party Republicans xenophobic and racist.

The Protocols of the Elders of NPR
Excerpt: As well they should, Nation Public Radio is backing and shuffling fast to cover the public humiliation of the promulgation of a video showing NPR execs playing funding footsie with two putative donors masquerading as representatives of a Muslim Brotherhood front group. NPR is quick to point out that one of the executives, Ron Schiller, left the company a week ago for reasons unrelated to the release of the video. They fail, however, to explain why the other executive present, institutional giving director Betsy Liley, is still with the company. It is Lilely who registers her unequivocal approval at NPR being called “National Palestinian Radio.”

NPR Executive Cedes New Role at Aspen Institute
A two-fer! ~Bob. Excerpt: Former National Public Radio executive Ron Schiller ceded his new role at the Aspen Institute after a video scandal forced him to resign with immediate effect from NPR this week. "Ron Schiller has informed us that, in light of the controversy surrounding his recent statements, he does not feel that it's in the best interests of the Aspen Institute for him to come work here," the Aspen Institute said in a statement Wednesday. Mr. Schiller said last week that he would soon leave NPR for a job at the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit policy and research organization. But on Tuesday night, he released a statement saying that he and NPR had agreed to make the resignation effective immediately after he was caught on video making disparaging remarks about the Republican Party and the tea-party movement.

Fired NPR analyst Juan Williams Responds to NPR Video: They are the 'Anti-intellectual'
Excerpt: The fallout from the video conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe released Tuesday morning has been devastating for NPR. However, Juan Williams, a former NPR analyst who was fired unjustly even according to NPR President Vivian Schiller, finally had his turn to sound off about the video, which apparently showed an NPR senior executive, Ron Schiller, making some disparaging remarks about the Tea Party, the Jewish people and Williams himself. In an appearance on “America’s Nightly Scoreboard” on the Fox Business Network, Williams described the video as an inside look at how the power structure inside of NPR really thinks. “I think it is a look inside what NPR executives really think, and for me this is a revelation in the sense that here they are saying exactly how they view the world,” Williams said. “And what’s incredible to me is here they are doing business with people who identify themselves as members of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

King charges the Saracens
Gee, you would think that Moderate Muslims would welcome the chance to demonstrate that the vast majority of Muslims are non-violent, tolerant, peaceful, patriotic America citizens who forcefully and publically condemn terrorisms, murder, the subjugation of women, child marriages, stoning for adultery, execution of gays and apostates and Islamic Supremacism. Assuming that this is true. ~Bob. Excerpt: The White House and left-wing activists are vigorously opposing congressional hearings on homegrown Islamic radicalism. Apparently they don’t think there’s a threat, or that if the government ignores it, danger will go away. Rep. Peter King, New York Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will hold hearings this week on Muslim extremism in the United States. The Obama administration and other pro-Islamic activists argue that because the vast majority of American Muslims aren’t violent extremists, Congress has no business examining the growing numbers who are. This redirection is tantamount to saying that because most people are law-abiding, the police should ignore the study of criminal psychology. Mr. King’s planned hearings will shine a bright light on a challenge the Obama administration has studiously ignored, with fatal results. Overlooking the motives of Muslim terrorists has become an O Force obsession. Every time a terrorist incident takes place that has all the hallmarks of a jihadist strike, official statements are suspiciously mute on the religious motivations that led to the attacks. This sends a clear signal to the federal bureaucracy that U.S. government officials who take a special interest in the Islamic aspect of the terror threat are asking for a quick end to their careers. We saw the practical results of this flawed approach in the Fort Hood massacre. The shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan, was clearly identifiable as a threat but no action was taken against the radical hothead specifically because he’s a Muslim. Political correctness was more important than the lives and safety of our troops.

Feds and cops: Peter King is right; not many tips from Muslim community
Excerpt: Cops and federal agents agree with Rep. Pete King that they don't get a lot of tipsters from the Muslim community - but they say that's true of many other communities. Counterterrorism and intelligence sources from the NYPD and FBI say law enforcement faces the same problem with the Mafia, drug cartels and the MS-13 gang. "Criminals are criminals. It gets dicier because Muslim extremists wrap their work in religion, but the smokescreens, the silence and intimidation are similar," an FBI source said. "What's different is the risk - the extent of the damage, the number of innocent people who can be hurt." King has outraged many Muslim-Americans by convening hearings into homegrown radical Islamists and claiming the community has stonewalled terror investigations.

White House to liberal-minded Muslims: Drop Dead
Excerpt: White House officials are boosting the visibility and clout of Islamic revivalist groups in the United States, and are sidelining the growing network of liberal-minded, modern American Muslims. “We don’t have any contacts in the administration,” said Avi Zonneveld, founder of Muslims for Progressive Values, based in Los Angeles. “The Canadian government is much more accessible,” she said. “We’re not invited” to take part in administration meetings, said Zuhdi Jasser, the Syrian-born president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, based in Phoenix, Ariz. His group, which boasts on its website it is motivated by “a love for America and a love of our faith of Islam,” has been consulted by the State Department‘s Muslim outreach office, but domestic agencies have only reached out to the well-funded and media-magnified Islamist groups that seek to revive Islamic political power, such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council, he said.

Second House panel investigating waivers from Obama health law
Lots of waivers went to unions which, in an amazing coincidence, contributed to BO. ~Bob. Excerpt: Republicans on a second House panel with oversight power are investigating waivers the Obama administration has awarded to more than a thousand organizations for a provision of the healthcare reform law, The Hill has learned. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants to know why some organizations have been denied requests for waivers for the reform law’s new annual limit coverage requirements. As of Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services has granted 1,040 one-year exemptions for groups that would not be able to meet the new annual coverage floor of $750,000 in 2011. In January, HHS told The Hill that the department denied about 50 waiver requests. The waivers, which are good only for the law’s annual limits provision, have become a hot-button issue, with Republicans saying that the exemptions are either proof of the reform’s flaws or gifts to Democratic allies. The administration has repeatedly rejected both claims, pointing out that the law gives the HHS secretary the ability to offer waivers and a large chunk of business groups have received waivers.

Maine gets first state waiver from healthcare law provision
Excerpt: Maine health insurers are getting a temporary waiver from the health reform law's requirement that they spend at least 80 percent of premiums on care, federal regulators decided Tuesday. Maine is the first state to get a waiver. Three other states — New Hampshire, Nevada and Kentucky — have pending waiver applications. The law requires plans in the individual market to meet an 80 percent medical loss ratio threshold or offer rebates to enrollees for the difference. The Maine Bureau of Insurance in December asked to retain its existing 65 percent ratio, arguing that a higher ratio would disrupt its market.

Excerpt: In any other field, Jeffrey Brenner would be a millionaire. But because he’s in health care, he doesn’t know how he’s going to make ends meet. Like entrepreneurs in every market, Brenner thought outside the box. He discovered an ingenious way of lowering health care costs: focus on the “hot spots” of medicine — the high-utilizing, high spending patients — and solve their problems with unconventional care.
As described in a recent New Yorker article by Atul Gawande, Brenner is saving millions of dollars for Medicare and Medicaid. Were others able to replicate his methods, the savings for taxpayers would soar. So how much does Medicare reward Dr. Brenner for all the savings he creates for our nation’s largest health plan? Zip. Zero. Nada. How much does Medicaid pay for all the savings it realizes? Zilch. Zippo. Not a penny. In fact, Brenner is able to do what he does only because of grants from private foundations.
I think you can probably guess why there aren’t many Brenners in the health care system. As for Gawande, his writing is nonpareil. I would give him an A on his ability to describe and explain. But he gets a C on understanding economics and an F on understanding ObamaCare.

Report reveals steep increase in war amputations last fall
I contributed to a fund for a Marine who lost all four limbs. Hurts the heart to contemplate his life. ~Bob. Excerpt: The majority of American soldiers undergoing amputation for war wounds last fall lost more than one limb, according to data presented Tuesday to the Defense Health Board, a committee of experts that advises the Defense Department on medical matters.

Rethinking the United Nations
Excerpt: Barack Obama’s already poor relationship with the British is about to get worse. David Cameron’s government seized an opportunity that cried out for American leadership – holding the United Nations accountable – but it’s an issue in which Mr. Obama has no interest. Specifically, Prime Minister Cameron is pulling British tax dollars from UN institutions deemed inept, wasteful or redundant.  At, George Russell reports that the British government issued a “sweeping and hard-nosed reorganization of priorities for its $10.6 billion multilateral foreign aid program.” He writes that Mr. Cameron “has pulled the financial plug entirely on four U.N. agencies at the end of next year, put three others…on notice…and issued pointed criticisms of all the rest.” (...) Though the British have a love affair with the United Nations that is wide and deep, even they are beginning to see the folly in funding this fraternity of frauds. (“Apt alliteration, artfully applied”! ~Bob.)

Reid, McConnell reach deal to allow votes on spending bills
Hardly matters, as the Republican bill is far too modest to stave off the coming fiscal collapse for more than a few months. ~Bob. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a deal with Republicans Tuesday that will allow the Senate to vote on rival spending measures Wednesday. The votes on a GOP measure to further cut spending this year by about $57 billion, and a Democratic alternative to cut spending by $6.5 billion, will take place Wednesday afternoon. “Even though there have been a few turns in the road we are at the place where we need to be,” Reid said in floor comments early Tuesday evening. “We need to be able to show the American people where we are on these issues.”

King receives threats on hearing's eve
If you don’t stop suggesting that some Muslims are radical and violent, we will kill you! And the media will blame Sarah Palin. ~Bob. Excerpt: Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) is receiving a barrage of threatening phone calls, some from overseas, which has led to increased police protection ahead of Thursday’s hearing on the possible radicalization of American Muslims. King told The Hill that he’s not concerned about his safety and that the hearing, which will examine whether the Muslim community in the U.S. is being targeted by terrorist groups to carry out attacks, will proceed as scheduled. “There were some threats from overseas and a number of other remarks,” said King, the chairman of House Homeland Security Committee. “Whatever threat analysis police have done, they believe I warrant security. I don’t ask for it and I certainly don’t turn away any security that police think I should have. I leave it up to them.”
The Fix Six: The top free agent Iowa GOP operatives in 2012
Our nominating process is dangerously flawed, but who has the courage and clout to fix it? ~Bob. Excerpt: In March alone, nine -- yes, nine! -- potential Republican presidential candidates will trek to Iowa. Last night it was former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and pizza magnate Herman Cain -- all of whom appeared at an Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Waukee. Later this month, Gingrich, Cain and Santorum as well as Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will speak at the Conservative Principles Conference hosted by Iowa Rep. Steve King. And, it will only get better -- or worse, depending on your perspective -- as winter turns to spring and candidates begin the full court press in Iowa in advance of the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses set for Feb. 6, 2012.

Fla. might disrupt presidential primary schedule
Excerpt: In a virtual replay of 2008, Florida is bucking national Democrats and Republicans in planning an early presidential primary, an act of defiance that creates strategic challenges for GOP candidates and could unravel the parties' primary calendar next year. The added wrinkle this time: The 2012 Republican National Convention is in Tampa. If national Republican leaders make good on their threat to penalize states that don't follow the rules, host delegates could be stopped at the door when the GOP gathers to pick its presidential ticket. With the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature showing no signs of giving in, other states that want to have a large say early in the nominating process — including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — are jockeying to stay out in front. (See the reform below—but good luck getting there. ~Bob)

Presidential Primary Elections
We need what is called the Graduated Random Presidential Primary System, or The American Plan (sometimes known as the California Plan), which is designed to begin with contests in small-population states, where candidates do not need tens of millions of dollars in order to compete. You can read more about it here:
This would introduce greater fairness and competition into the system, and mitigate the power of name recognition and big money, giving other candidates a chance to impress voters. Only members of a party should be allowed to vote in that party’s primary. I don’t believe that Democrats or Republicans should be allowed to vote in the other’s primary, where they are likely to make mischief by voting for “poison pill” candidates. Independents could vote in a Party Primary by registering as a member of that party—but they couldn’t vote in the other party’s primary for at least four years. Unfortunately, ignorant voters do not understand why they cannot votes for some Republicans and some Democrats at primary time, as civics is no longer taught, and they do not understand that a primary is for members of a party to select the party’s candidate. People who are not members of a party have no more right to tell the party who its candidates should be than people who are not members of a church have to tell the church who its pastor should be.

What John Boehner learned from Republicans' missteps in 1995
Excerpt: Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is doing things differently this time. As a member of the House Republican leadership team during the last government shutdown, Boehner talked tough with the Democratic White House, but lost the message war badly. Boehner was weakened, though not as badly as then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Both, however, were subsequently pushed out of leadership. There are many similarities between the budget stalemates of 1995-96 and 2011. Yet people who know Boehner well say the Ohio Republican has learned from prior missteps, adding that history will not repeat itself. The stakes are incredibly high. The GOP’s standoff with the Obama administration and the Senate will go a long way in defining Boehner’s success, or failure, as House Speaker. A source close to the Speaker said Boehner is more patient than he was 15 years ago and — unlike Gingrich — Boehner realizes that shutting down the government is not the endgame, it’s a means to an end.

The 2006 Massachusetts law that required nearly everyone to buy health insurance has not significantly staunched residents' pain from medical bankruptcies, according to a new study. A survey of Massachusetts residents who filed for bankruptcy in July 2009 found that 53 percent cited a medical cause, down from 59 percent who blamed a medical cause in a survey done in early 2007, before the state law had been fully implemented. But because of the small number of people surveyed, the difference was not statistically significant, according to the study in today's American Journal of Medicine. Lead study author Dr. David Himmelstein said medical bills are still causing bankruptcies because health costs in the state have continued rising sharply. High premium costs, along with large co-payments and deductibles, often expose families with insurance to substantial out-of-pocket costs, said Himmelstein, a professor of public health at City University of New York.

Using Private Market Incentives to Reform the U.S. Mortgage Market
Excerpt: Government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are unsustainable -- the expected costs they create for U.S. taxpayers far exceed their expected benefits. The question is then how to reorganize the U.S. mortgage market in the absence of GSEs, say Dwight Jaffee, a professor at the Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley. Jaffee's paper develops and evaluates a proposal to reform the U.S. mortgage system on private market principles and without any form of government-sponsored enterprises. The proposal is implemented through the simple process of reducing the GSE conforming loan limit by, say, $100,000 annually, with the result that the GSEs will cease to operate after about seven years. The primary issue facing the proposal is very direct: will a private market provide the stability and access to mortgage credit required by U.S. homebuyers? Mortgage origination activity would be unchanged from the current system, since originations are already only carried out by private market entities. Mortgage investing would similarly continue to be dominated by the two largest existing holders, depository institutions and capital market investors. Depository institutions will continue to hold a significant amount of whole mortgages in their portfolios, and the capital market investor portfolios will continue to be dominated by mortgage-backed securities. It is also likely that covered bonds will play a more important role in the U.S. market, as depository institutions fund some of their mortgage portfolios by issuing secured debt to capital market investors. In this fashion, the market should readily absorb the 12 percent market share vacated by the departing GSEs.

Federal Transit Programs: Spending More and More for Less and Less
Excerpt: Both the majority in the new Congress and the members of the Republican Study Committee recognize that federal transit programs have become a costly extravagance that provides minimal benefits in comparison to costs incurred. In turn, both have proposed that federal transit spending and government subsidies be cut back substantially in the last seven months of the fiscal year 2011 budget that must be enacted this month. Members of the new Congress are to be commended for this effort. The federal transit program and the transit systems that it subsidizes are among the most wasteful enterprises in the American economy, and reforming them should be among Congress’s top priorities.

Regulatory Death Spiral
Excerpt: Homeowners insurance price regulation has been a dismal failure for consumers because it creates a dysfunctional market that (longer term) produces higher costs and worse outcomes for consumers, compared to markets without price regulation. States with stringent state price regulations, like in Florida and increasingly in Texas, can set in motion a course of events that produce adverse consequences for consumers by transforming a functioning market into a high-cost, less solvent market -- a process referred to in this study as the regulatory death spiral, says Stephen B. Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research. This regulatory death spiral begins when state regulators try to hold insurance prices below their natural market equilibrium level, which creates market shortages and drives insurers, particularly large multistate insurers, out of the state market. When this happens, it decreases the capital funds that insurers reserve to pay for consumer claims. The best solution for policymakers is to avoid this regulatory death spiral by staying away from price regulation, instead protecting consumers with solvency regulation and encouraging price competition. In turn, this will attract market participation and capital back to the state, hereby lowering prices for consumers without sacrificing solvency.

Fla. might disrupt presidential primary schedule
Excerpt: In a virtual replay of 2008, Florida is bucking national Democrats and Republicans in planning an early presidential primary, an act of defiance that creates strategic challenges for GOP candidates and could unravel the parties' primary calendar next year. The added wrinkle this time: The 2012 Republican National Convention is in Tampa. If national Republican leaders make good on their threat to penalize states that don't follow the rules, host delegates could be stopped at the door when the GOP gathers to pick its presidential ticket. With the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature showing no signs of giving in, other states that want to have a large say early in the nominating process — including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — are jockeying to stay out in front.

Space shuttle Discovery makes last descent ever
When following the link, the story continues below the ad. Ron P. Excerpt: Space shuttle Discovery is zooming back to Earth for the last time. The six astronauts fired the braking rockets late Wednesday morning. That put Discovery on track for a Florida touchdown at 11:57 a.m. The world's most-traveled spaceship is closing out its final voyage. It's flown 39 missions over nearly 27 years. It's being retired once it's back at Kennedy Space Center and will eventually go on display at the Smithsonian Institution. Two more missions remain before the shuttle program wraps up this summer. Shuttle Endeavour will fly in April, followed by Atlantis in June.

MSNBC Hypes Republican Push for Voter Registration Reform as 'War on Voting'
Excerpt: "With such a strong bloc of these young people voting Democratic [in presidential elections], Republican leaders in some key swing states are looking to even the playing field coming up in 2012," MSNBC's Thomas Roberts insisted as he introduced Heather Smith of Rock the Vote (RTV) in a segment devoted to that group's fears about "voter suppression" -- see RTV screen capture below the page break -- in states such as New Hampshire, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Missouri. Those are four states where Republicans control both houses of the state legislature and are pushing reform laws aimed at voter ID requirements, tightening up residency requirements that largely impact college kids, and/or repealing last-minute voter registration at the polls. (“Nothing partisan to see at MSNBC. Move along, folks.” Ron P. I see their point. Honest vote counts always work against Democrats, see Landslide Lyndon and the 1960 stolen presidential election through fraud in Illinois and Texas. ~Bob.)

Food Prices in Britain are Rising Three Times Faster Than in G7 Nations
Excerpt: Food prices in Britain are rising at three times the rate of the world’s seven biggest economies. Figures from the OECD put UK food inflation at 6.3 per cent, well ahead of the average of 2.1 per cent for the G7 group of nations. The cost of putting meals on the table is also rising much faster than most of Europe. The average annual rise in Ireland is only 0.3 per cent, while it is running at 0.1 per cent in France, 0.8 per cent in the Netherlands and 2.1 per cent in Belgium. The figures will anger British shoppers amid mounting suspicion that UK supermarkets are turning the screw on consumers to boost profits. The OECD said only Turkey, Estonia, Hungary and Korea had a higher rate of food price inflation among the 34 countries it surveyed.

A Senior HSBC Economist Warns of Food Riots in the United Kingdom If Prices Continue to Soar
Excerpt: Speaking on Jeff Randall Live, senior global economist Karen Ward cautioned that the UK could experience the kind of food riots seen in other countries. "Even in the developed world I think we have very, very low wage growth, so people aren't getting more in their pay packet to compensate them for food and energy, and I think we could see social unrest certainly in parts of the developed world and the UK as well." She went on to highlight the link between high food prices and the escalating cost of crude oil. "More and more we are seeing that some of these foodstuffs are actually substitutes for energy itself, particularly biofuels. So I think the energy markets are a significant contributor to these food price gains."

British Government Gave Over 800K in Taxpayer Funds to Violence-Linked Islamist Group
"We never pay any one Dane-geld, No matter how trifling the cost, For the end of that game is oppression and shame, And the nation that plays it is lost!" ~Kipling. Excerpt: The Government gave more than half a million pounds of taxpayers’ cash to a controversial Islamic group, it has been revealed. The Department of Communities and Local Government handed the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and related groups £550,985 over three years. In March 2009 the Government suspended links with the MCB and demanded one of its leaders should be sacked for allegedly supporting violence against Israel.

No Interest in Moonbat Messiah as Commencement Speaker
Excerpt: When the White House announced its "Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge" last month, officials expected to be deluged with hundreds if not thousands of applications from students asking President Obama to speak at their graduation ceremonies. After all, for the 2010 Commencement Challenge, more than one thousand schools applied for the honor. Kalamazaoo Central High school ultimately won. This year the response was, shall we say, underwhelming. Just three days before the original February 25 deadline, the White House had received only 14 applications. (Yes, but the Teleprompter received 346 requests to speak. ~Bob.)

Brian Aitken to File Suit Against New Jersey Officials for Civil Rights Violations
Excerpt: Brian Aitken, the New Jersey man sentenced to seven years in prison last year for possessing legally owned firearms that were unloaded and locked in the trunk of his car, is filing a civil rights suit against the state prosecutors who put him behind bars and the police officers who searched his car without consent, his attorney told The Daily Caller. Aitken, 27, was convicted of illegally transporting a weapon in August 2010, but was released after four months spent in prison when New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie commuted his sentence to “time served.” (For the full story, read TheDC’s interview with Aitken.) His attorney, Michael Orozco, sent letters to the Mount Laurel Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Monday to notify them that they would be sued for their behavior in the case, which Orozco claims violated Aitken’s civil rights. The parties have six months to respond.

Don’t Tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Excerpt: As gas prices hit $4 per gallon, White House spokesman Jay Carney assured Americans on Monday that the administration is well aware of the toll high fuel costs are taking on American families. So what’s President Obama’s solution to America’s pain? According to White House chief of staff Bill Daley, the administration may tap into the nation’s oil safety net – the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) – in order to bring down the cost of fuel. Big mistake. While most folks want to pay less at the pump, dipping into our oil reserves is a short-sighted political ploy that papers-over a much bigger, long-term problem: the Obama administration’s continuing refusal to grant America access to its domestic oil resources. The United States’ oil reserves were created after the 1973 Arab oil embargo to be used in cases of national crisis where there’s a significant shortage of oil — today it holds about 700 million barrels of petroleum. Presidents have used it sparingly — during the 1991 Gulf War and natural disasters such as Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, for example. Yet, six Democratic senators called for the sale of the reserve oil to go toward advancing electric cars and reducing the deficit. The reserves are not intended to spur sales of electric cars (which also require gasoline). (Since most electricity is coal-generated, they should be called “coal-powered cars.” ~Bob.)

How Fast Can We Turn Things Around?
Excerpt: The jobs report from February was, on balance, good news for the American people. Two hundred and twenty two thousand private sector jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped below 9% for the first time in 22 months. While this is not an extraordinary amount of jobs created, it is solid, and is certainly an improvement from the tepid growth that has characterized the Obama administration’s stimulus-fueled “recovery.” Naturally, the administration is attempting to take credit for the good news. But in doing so, they are hoping the American people will overlook a few facts and avoid asking some obvious follow-up questions. It has been 25 months since the Obama stimulus was signed into law. During this time we have lost a net of 2.1 million jobs.

China's Secret Weakness: Is history repeating itself?
Excerpt: With China's rapidly expanding economy and growing power at sea and in the air, some commentators have taken the view that it's not a question of whether but how soon China will replace the U.S. as the world's leading superpower. This is nonsense. So long as America retains its freedom and thus its unique powers of innovation, it will continue to lead. Besides, China's elite is too scared to follow in the path of freedom because to do so would risk unity, threatening disintegration and a return to the terrible days of warlords and civil war, as in the 1920s. Moreover, China has secret weaknesses. Its most serious: gambling and drug addiction. China's new prosperity is already producing a rapid expansion of the country's international gambling class, not to mention an appreciable increase in the number of drug addicts. (With states and cities ever more dependent on gambling revenue, and far too many teens following the example self-indulgent Hollywood celebs into drug devastation, it’s our weakness too. ~Bob)

Important: Obama tries to steer clear of Libya trap
Excerpt: The Libya hawks may be circling, but President Barack Obama is determined to resist pressure for military intervention in support of the uprising against Muammar Qadhafi, even it means being labeled as weak by Republicans, according to administration sources. Obama has repeatedly said he won’t take any option for Libya off the table — and he raised the possibility of a “full spectrum” response, including a NATO-sponsored no-fly zone, in his discussion with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday, according to a read-out of the call. But he doesn’t want to fall into a Libya trap. Obama’s public call for Qadhafi’s departure has been countered in private by a dour assessment of the likely outcome of even the most limited intervention. Those concerns were amplified by the brief detention of a British rescue crew over the weekend in rebel-controlled eastern Libya, which sent a jolt of anxiety through U.S. officials, according to administration sources. “History has shown that when you rush into these things, you get it wrong. We’re not going to rush no matter what anyone says,” one administration official told POLITICO. (Must not think Muslims killing Muslims is his problem. But I tend to agree with Obama that intervention is likely to end badly. It might speed up an end to the killing and stabilize the situation, but it could also make things worse. Not clear we have to force in place—or at all—to be effective. A carrier-enforced “no-fly” zone might stop the use of air power, but will we attack ground targets to support the rebels? What happens when we hit radar and anti-aircraft sites, likely located near schools and hospitals to protect them with human shields, and we get a pile of dead kids? If we have to go in on the ground, a MEU would be a good candidate for the job. The media never gets it, but a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) is a Marine infantry battalion with attached artillery, recon, air and other assets. So this year, the 23rd MEU might be built around 3/6. (Third Bn., 6th Marine Rgt. Six month from now, the bn. Might be 2/1 or 1/8. likewise a MEB (Marine Expeditionary Brigade) is build around a Marine infantry regiment, a MEF as went into Iraq, around a Marine division. Got it? Reporters write about the military without getting the difference between a platoon and a brigade. Given the balance in Libya, a MEU could probably crack the government side—but then what? ~Bob.)

Excerpt: One of the immutable laws of politics is that the Democrat party will refuse to use military intervention in any location where the US has strategic geopolitical or trade interests. The corollary to that law is that there is no Third World craphole (see Somalia, Darfur, Haiti) to which the Democrats will not offer to send US troops so long as it is high risk and with no real purpose. One must understand both these rules to comprehend the calls coming from the left demanding US intervention in Libya. Whether it is just “cratering” their airfields, as proposed by John Kerry this past weekend, or the chest thumping carried out by what we are told is our president, or the general demand by the media to “do something” it all boils down to the same thing: they are considering sending young men and women to death and injury for no purpose larger than feeling good about themselves and they are doing it with the same callous insouciance with which they cheerfully supported John Murtha’s (D-Ninth Circle) slow bleed strategy in Iraq. By way of background, Libya is a prototypical Islamic pest hole. It is roughly the size of Alaska with a population about that of Indiana. As far as one can tell no one from Libya has produced anything that has advanced the cause of civilization… ever… and other than oil, of which it exports slightly less than the Netherlands and slightly more than the UK, its two major products are terrorism and misery, listed in no particular order.

Update on Lampedusa: A Muslim Majority
Excerpt: I posted earlier today about the refugee crisis on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Thousand of Tunisian immigrants have arrived since the “jasmine revolutions” began in January, and more keep pouring in. I speculated in my earlier post that the immigrants would soon form a majority of the inhabitants, if they haven’t already. Now the latest reports seem to indicate that the Muslim arrivals are indeed more than 50% of the island’s population: more than 9,000 have arrived since the uprisings in North Africa began. Bear in mind that all of these migrants are being packed into refugee centers that were designed to hold only a fraction of their current population. The Tunisian arrivals have shown a propensity for getting drunk and making trouble, to the extent that the Lampedusan authorities banned the sale of alcohol to non-citizens

I Got Hit for $450 in Phone Data Roaming Charges: What I Learned
Excerpt: With millions of Americans now carrying Web-enabled phones, travelers are looking for money-saving tips when it comes to data roaming charges. Follow the easy device tips below to make sure you have no nasty phone bills after your vacation. I speak from personal experience. In summer 2010, I was hit with more than $450 in charges from my wireless provider when I used my iPhone 3GS during a visit to Naples, Italy. My phone burned data even when I wasn't using it. Online functions, like checking e-mail, surfing the Web, and using GPS to find my location on a map, are normally included in data packages for subscribers in the United States. But overseas, it was a different story. My phone was burning a hole in my pocket while I was cluelessly using it to look up information.

VIDEOS: Classroom Jihad
Excerpt: Commenter WTD asked the Tundra Tabloids to supply an archive for these culturally enriched classroom incidents reported at Counterjihad blogs which would include video gems like these. This will be a work in progress.

Stewardesses Demand Airline to Discontinue Flights to Riyadh Due to Sexual Harrassment
What they get for dressing like sluts and not wearing burkas. ~Bob,. Excerpt: The unrest in the Middle East is starting to make its presence felt in little Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific, which before did overnight stays in unstable Bahrain, has now started doing them in super-safe Riyadh in Saudi Arabia instead. But lo and behold, although female Cathay’s female staff are being issued full body-covers on landing in case a member of the religion of peace should happen to see them uncovered and thus naturally unable to control himself, are now complaining about local men trying to force their way into the hotel rooms of cabin crew.

When it comes to cutting budgets, everything is on the table with the Democratic leadership of the Senate. Absolutely everything, everything, up to and including cowboy poetry festivals. Or maybe not. (Well, I’m for a balanced budget, but cutting poetry? As a poet myself, I’m going to Washington for the poetry riots. You’ll be able to tell those of us who prefer traditional poetry. Our protest signs will be in iambic pentameter. “Now you should cut the budget every way/But for our poems, we’ll let our grandkids pay!” ~Bob.

Zimbabwe to sell uranium to Iran
Another of the poisoned fruits of liberals desire to feel good about themselves by supporting black rule in Zimbabwe, which has introduced hyperinflation, starvation and a drop of over 25 years in black life expectancy. Now this. When a mushroom cloud appears over an American city, you will know who to thank. Unless it’s your city and you and your family are dead. ~Bob. Excerpt: Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's foreign minister, said the sanctions – which prohibit member states from providing Iran with raw materials that it could use to make a nuclear weapon – were unfair and hypocritical. He said that Zimbabwe, which is also the subject of sanctions over human rights abuses perpetrated by President Robert Mugabe's supporters, would benefit economically from the agreement. A leaked intelligence report suggests Iran will be awarded with exclusive access to Zimbabwe's uranium in return for providing the country with fuel. The report – compiled by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog – said Iran's Foreign and Co-operative Ministers had visited Zimbabwe to strike a deal, and sent engineers to assess uranium deposits. Experts say the move contradicts Iran's claim that it now has enough domestic uranium supplies to sustain its nuclear energy ambitions.

Allen West: Muslim Brotherhood the “Mothership” of all Islamic Terror Groups…

Obama's Green-Jobs Fantasies
Sure, but the vast majority of voters, including politicians in both parties, have a very limited—or no—understanding of “basic economics.” ~Bob. Excerpt: Anyone who understands basic economics already knows that President Obama's $2.3 billion green-jobs initiative was snake oil. Now, thanks to Kenneth P. Green, we have statistics as well as theory to prove it. In a new article, "The Myth of Green Energy Jobs: The European Experience," the environmental scientist and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute writes, "Green programs in Spain destroyed 2.2 jobs for every green job created, while the capital needed for one green job in Italy could create almost five jobs in the general economy." Ironically, Obama boasts his initiative "will help close the clean-energy gap between America and other nations." But Green says, "(C)ountries are cutting these programs because they realize they aren't sustainable and they are obscenely expensive." Obama claims that if we "invest" more, "the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs -- but only if we accelerate that transition."

Former Democrat Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty Backs Wisconsin Governor on Union Standoff
Excerpt: As the saying goes: Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his boots. And former Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty knows how the soles of Scott Walker’s feet must feel right about now. On Tuesday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, Fenty, a Democrat, said the Republican governor of Wisconsin was spot-on in his standoff against his state’s pro-union forces. Fenty said the Wisconsin Democrats who are on the lam should do their duty and vote up or down on the legislation. “Well, this is kind of what I faced four years as a mayor,” Fenty said. “He’s right on the substance, I think. I tend to agree with him on the need for collective bargaining reform. But he’s also right on the politics. I just don’t understand why the legislature has been given this pass to go to another state and not do what they were sworn to do, and that’s to take a vote. And unfortunately for Gov. Walker, he hasn’t been able to get that out. He needs to point the finger a little bit more at them and say, ‘Listen, they should take a vote. All I want is them to vote up or down and then I’ll be fine with whatever they decide.’”

One More Thing, One More Time
Excerpt: Before I got into the Derb/Andy discussion, I was reading an obituary in The Daily Telegraph of Anthony Brooke, former Rajah Muda of Sarawak, whose family reigned over much of the Borneo jungle for over a century until 1946, when the kingdom lost its independence and was formally incorporated into the British Empire. As often with flotsam and jetsam (Flintstone and Jetson?) from the imperial byways, you’re struck by how much London accomplished with so little. By contrast, we’ve spent a fortune in Afghanistan and have nothing to show for it. I think the difference is this: When America goes into Afghanistan, it doesn’t think it’s prosecuting American interests. Quite the opposite: Regardless of whether it’s officially UN- or Nato-sanctioned, America goes in as the expeditionary force of “world opinion” or “the global commons”. It doesn’t believe it has a national interest in Afghanistan, and indeed assumes that it would be a kind of transnational faux pas to be seen to have one, so it’s hardly surprising that the “nation” it winds up “building” doesn’t look much like anywhere any American would want to have anything to do with. Even nation-building requires the builder to build it in what he perceives as his national interest – as the British did in India and the Americans in post-war Japan. If you have disinterested, transnational nation-building, you wind up as we have in Kabul.

Allen West: Guantanamo Right Location for Military Trials
Excerpt: West described the prison as a first-class facility where no detainees were held in solitary confinement and all had access to television, books, newspapers and quality medical care. His seven-hour visit at the camp included time at the mysterious Camp 7, a division of the prison so shrouded in secrecy its existence wasn't made public until late 2007. That unit is said to house suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, but West would not say whether he saw him there or offer any details about that part of the camp. He did say he felt detainees at Guantanamo were receiving better treatment than a group of 10 American soldiers housed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas serving sentences for war crimes. West said he believes Obama should push for the trials to resume within the next 90 days and that the men housed at Guantanamo should not be viewed as criminals but as enemy combatants. "Our constitution is not meant for enemy combatants," he said. (Won’t fly. Obama got elected promising to close Gitmo in his first year, so it must be gone by now. ~Bob.)

Obama Admin Requests Leniency for Al-quaea Terrorist Who Still Backs Killing of Americans
Excerpt: And the judge complied, giving Mohammed Babar 10 years probation when he should have received between 30 and 70 years in federal prison. But hey, he only set up jihadi training camps in Pakistan and supplied cash to al-Qaeda, that’s not so bad, right?

The official spin begins
Will the family of the agent murdered with these guns now feel better? ~Bob. Excerpt: One of the first gun rights bloggers who originally broke the story of the smuggling of U.S. guns to Mexico by rogue agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (the ATF)--an agency of the Department of Justice--is reporting this morning that the official spin has begun, attempting to portray the scandal as nothing more than a lack of adequate personnel to monitor the flow of guns to Mexican drug cartels. In short, the scandal is no scandal at all but an example of the need for more ATF field agents to keep tabs on the sale and purchase of U.S. firearms. As reported on Sunday, ATF agents were summoned to Washington for a high level strategy meeting yesterday aimed at damage control. Apparently the agency also got its story straight, getting everyone on the same page to tell the same version of the facts, aided and abetted by certain outlets in the mainstream media that apparently are all too willing to provide cover for the corruption.

To Serve Mann
Excerpt: Sources confirm that a federal inspector has questioned Eugene Wahl and Wahl has confirmed that Mann asked him to delete emails. Wahl has also informed the inspector that he did delete emails as the result of this request. There are times during the course of Climategate when you feel like you are in a Twilight Zone episode, especially the kind where the ambiguous meaning of terms plays a critical role, like “To Serve Man”. That episode is apt because of the central role trust plays and because of the role puzzle solvers play in uncovering that the do-gooder aliens cannot be trusted. (...) In the course of reviewing Briffa’s replies to him, McIntyre notes something peculiar. Briffa’s replies, written in 2006, seemed to plagiarize an unpublished paper by Casper Amman and Eugene Wahl published in 2007. That is, in 2006 Briffa was repeating the argument of a paper that was not published until 2007. How could Briffa plagiarize an article that hadn’t been published? Why would he repeat the arguments almost word for word? (“That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” --W.J. Clinton. For those who can’t access the link to the condensed Twilight Zone episode (one of my favorites!), the book carried around by the well-spoken, but evasive aliens is titled “To Serve Man.” It’s a cookbook. Many things now make sense. No doubt the University of Virginia alumni and trustees will be pleased they've gone to so much legal expense to avoid FOIA requests and the demands by the state Attorney General's office to protect this (no longer) secret. Has anyone told AG Ken Cuccinelli yet? Ron P.)

Maricopa County sees 40% drop in inmates suspected of being in U.S. illegally
Maybe they are just avoiding Sheriff Joe? ~Bob. Excerpt: In the past three years, the number of county-jail inmates whom deputies suspect of being in the country illegally has dropped by nearly 40 percent, from 16,337 in 2008 to 9,894 in 2010. The trend in Maricopa County is at odds with a national trend that has shown an increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants in the same time frame. However, experts nationwide offered several explanations for the decrease and its seeming contradictions:

President Obama and the leveling effect
Excerpt: Six months ago, President Obama was being discussed as a one-term president as his party careened to a historic midterm election defeat. Two months ago, President Obama had gotten his political groove back, scoring a series of wins -- a tax cut compromise, the passage of the new START nuclear treaty -- in the lame duck congressional session. Today, President Obama finds himself right back to where he was in the aftermath of the 2010 election, according to a new weekly Gallup tracking poll that showed 46 percent of Americans approving of the job is doing. That is his lowest weekly average approval rating in Gallup numbers since mid-December. (As his leftist, utopian, unrealistic policies—yes, that’s a triple redundancy—make things worse, I’d expect continued decline. ~Bob.)

Why I'd Place My Bet on Tim Pawlenty
Interesting view from a leftie site. ~Bob. Excerpt: With few declared candidates and no clear frontrunner, the Republican presidential primary appears to be as muddled as ever. But I actually think things are shaking out in a way as to clear the path for Tim Pawlenty. My view of the primary selection system is that it consists of two basic constituencies, the elites and the base. The elites want to find a candidate who is electable and committed to their policy agenda. The elites are the prime driver of the process; they can communicate, via organs like Fox News and The Weekly Standard, which candidates may be undeserving of serious consideration despite their emotional appeal to base voters. That’s how the elites have disqualified insurgent candidates like Pat Buchanan (too right-wing) and John McCain (too left-wing); they are now doing the same to Sarah Palin (too unelectable). But elites don’t always control the process. Sometimes they can get together and virtually determine the winner in advance (i.e., George W. Bush in 1999-2000), but, often, they can’t pick candidates without the assent of the base, which is capable of winnowing out elite-approved candidates. Think John Connally, Phil Gramm, or others for examples of candidates who made it through the elite primary but were nixed by the voters.

Would Salazar support $10-per-gallon gas today, as he did in 2008?
Excerpt: House Speaker John Boehner has a fascinating reminder today of a scene took place on the Senate floor in 2008 when current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was a Democratic senator from Colorado and gas was $4-per-gallon in many areas of the country. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a measure to open up off-shore areas to new oil and natural gas drilling when the price of gas reached $4.50-per-gallon. Salazar objected. So McConnell changed it to $5-per-gallon. Salazar still objected. And so on and so on it went until McConnell said $10-per-gallong. Salazar continued to object, at which point it was clear that, as the Democratic spokesman in that particular discussion, the Colorado senator would not allow America to produce more oil and gas even if Americans had to pay more than double what they were paying then for a gallon of gas.

Michael Moore thinks you're undertaxed
Excerpt: "The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. ... The truth is, there's lots of money to go around. Lots. It's just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates." Filmmaker Michael Moore uttered those words last week at a rally to preserve "collective bargaining" with respect to benefits for Wisconsin's state and local government employee unions. In that context, "collective bargaining" means exempting government spending on union members from the normal democratic process that controls all other government spending. Moore's speech was mostly nonsense. He declared, for example, that the protests were about workers' right to "bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours' sleep so he or she can do their job." In fact at least the last two things are not at issue in Wisconsin at all. But his statement that Wisconsin is not broke, but just needs to dig for more money, is rich in meaning. It underpins a major premise of the union protests in Madison and elsewhere, as well as the credo of the modern American Left. The implication is that our federal, state and local governments suffer from a revenue problem, not a spending problem. (Anyone in his tax bracket who thinks taxes are too low should be asked to sign a contract that he/she personally will pay higher taxes at a rate they determine. And it should be public record. ~Bob.)

SEIU robocall urges members to harass Ohio state senator
You can’t open a dialog with thugs and scum, Senator. ~Bob. Excerpt: When Ohio state Sen. Frank LaRose, shared his cell phone number with local leadership from the Service Employees International Union, the Republican legislator thought swapping contact information might open a robust, substantive dialogue with union leaders. He knows better now. The pro-labor LaRose last week voted in favor of Ohio Senate Bill 5, which would eliminate automatic pay raises for public workers, base future wage increases on merit and, most controversially, limit public workers’ collective bargaining ability. The bill squeaked through the Senate on a 17-to-16 vote -- and union leaders decided to target LaRose, who they determined cast the deciding vote. As a result, last weekend, LaRose received more than 1,000 phone calls from angry union workers -- all thanks to SEIU 1199 robocalls to members that redirected at the touch of a button to LaRose’s cell phone number. “My mistake as a rookie in this body is being too accessible,” LaRose said. “It’s a shame because I shared my cell phone number with leadership from SEIU. I told them, ‘Feel free to get in contact with me. I’d love to discuss public policy with you.’ I thought that was the right way to be, to have an open line of communication with folks, even folks that I share a different ideology with.”

Private data on junked NJ computers
Excerpt: Taxpayers' Social Security numbers, confidential child abuse reports and personnel reviews of New Jersey workers nearly went to the highest bidder after the state sent surplus computers out for auction. Nearly 80 percent of discarded computers in a comptroller's office sample had not been scrubbed of data before being shipped to a warehouse, according to an audit released Wednesday. (Lucky there’s no crime in NJ, now that Tony retired. ~Bob.)

More than half of California children Latino, census shows
Excerpt: More than half the children in California are Latinos, according to new census statistics that show the nation's most populous state rapidly approaching the day when Hispanics overtake whites as the largest minority. Barely one in four Californians under age 18 are non-Hispanic whites, who declined in number along with black children as the number of Asian American and Hispanic children soared. Because of differing birth rates and migration patterns, the total number of children remained relatively stagnant.

Montana seeks Synfuel
Is this a solution? I don’t know. ~Bob.

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