Saturday, March 5, 2011

Political Digest for March 5, 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.

In Memoriam
Another comrade gone—Harry and I went through electronics school at MCRD, San Diego in 1965. ~Bob. Excerpt: Harold P. Harry Surette, age 64, of Brockton died unexpectedly Thursday, March 3, 2011, at Good Samaritan Medical Center. …Harry was a proud U.S. Marine who served as a sergeant in Vietnam and saw action in Khe Sanh. Harry was a founder and principal of AAMS Corp. in Taunton and was well-known for expertise in the metal fabrication industry. He was an avid outdoorsman who was a master archer and loved hunting and fishing. He was a passionate member of the NRA and a proud American with a great patriotic sentiment….Harry’s family would prefer donations in his name be made to NRA Processing Center, P.O. Box 420648, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0648.

Excerpt: Anjem Choudary, the leader of the Islamic group that would like to sandblast Lady Liberty, and Arid Uka, the airport gunmen, were not hatched in some cave in Pakistan. Choudary was born in the London Borough of Bexley. Arid Uka was born and raised in Germany, where his family had lived for some 40 years. They are not immigrants, but native born European Muslims fighting to remake Europe into an Islamic state. The idea is fanciful, just like the Statue of Liberty being blown up by the American Taliban to make way for a minaret. But there was a time when a short Austrian corporal's plans to build a Thousand Year Reich on the bones of Europe were as laughable as Choudary's antics. In 1993, Americans laughed at a gang of stupid Muslim terrorists who had tried to blow up the World Trade Center using a Ryder rental van, and then actually tried to get their deposit back on the van. 8 years later a gang of terrorists not all that much smarter than them hijacked four planes with box cutters and knocked down both towers, killing 3,000 people. And suddenly it wasn't funny anymore. Evil is often ridiculous in its pretensions, but horrifying in its execution. It is silly only until it begins to succeed, and then the joke turns to horror and madness. We may find Kim Jong Il funny, but no one in North Korea does. Saddam's love poems, Stalin's toupee, Hitler's comic bellicosity, Khaddafi's eccentricity are funny only because we never lived under them. The presumptuousness of a Choudary presuming to wave the flag of Islam over the White House and announce plans for dynamiting the Statue of Liberty is a joke. But the punchline is how little we are doing to halt the day when it really does fly over the White House. "All that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." But our governments are not doing nothing, they are aiding it along. European leaders grumble about multiculturalism and call for more integration. Choudary and Arid Uka are the successes of their integration. The politicians talk and the refugees swarm and the mosques spread. Most European Muslims are not going out guns blazing or cursing returning soldiers. They don't need to. They can do the math better than the politicians can. And they already know they will win. We don't have the same demographic gun to our heads yet, but we are retreating almost as quickly.

Requiem Pour La France
In French, but sad even for English speakers. Europe is lost, we are next. ~Bob.

Requiem For France
The English translation of the above song. ~Bob

Obama administration prepares for possibility of new post-revolt Islamist regimes
Must be running a “bow and apologize” boot camp, in case “wishful thinking” doesn’t work. President’s tough, though—might even see some strongly-worded notes. ~Bob. Excerpt: The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, acknowledging that the popular revolutions there will bring a more religious cast to the region's politics. The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region. "We shouldn't be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations. "It's the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam." Islamist governments span a range of ideologies and ambitions, from the primitive brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan to Turkey's Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots that heads a largely secular political system.

Obama signals willingness to intervene militarily in Libya if crisis worsens
Excerpt: But in his first public statement on Libya since the outbreak of widespread armed conflict between opposition forces and those loyal to Gaddafi, Obama expressed several notes of caution, stressing that the United States must act only "in consultation . . . with the international community." "The region will be watching carefully to make sure we're on the right side of history," Obama said at a White House news conference with visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon. As with Egypt and Tunisia, he said, U.S. interests were best served if the United States was not seen as engineering or imposing a particular outcome. Having raised the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, and after moving warships into the Mediterranean, the United States and its allies appeared Thursday to step back from military intervention, even as opposition forces in Libya continued to call for assistance from foreign air power. (I can’t wait to see Bill Ayers, Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan protesting in the streets. I can see the signs: “No blood for oil,” “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, B.O. has got to go,” and, “Hey, Barack, Hey, Obama, how many kids today you bomba?”)

Led by a Follower: The Danger of a Weak President
Excerpt: As has come to pass: emboldened by a weak or non-existent foreign policy, buoyed by the confidence that Obama’s White House is unwilling to act, and inspired by strongmen that openly defy the president’s wishes, thugs of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of brutality are challenging the United States. Those challenges are met with silence, when condemnation is required. They are greeted with ambivalence, when the world cries for decisiveness. The world begs the U.S. to lead, and the “leader of the free world” is content to go with the flow. Vice President Joe Biden said Obama would be tested, and he has been tested several times over. Each instance seemed a surprise, a distraction to the president. He appeared bothered that each crisis took him away from his stated goal of remaking America. Unfortunately, the rogue elements of the world were not inclined to give the president time to learn on the job. They, unlike Mr. Obama’s devout followers, were not fainting in the aisles after his inauguration. In fact, the despots felt just the opposite: they were reinvigorated. They smelled blood in the water.

Regime Change in Iran: A Win for the Gulf and the West
Excerpt: Though Iraqi Shiites wish their Arab Shiite brethren and relatives well, Iran is still the major force for trouble in these countries. There are strong tribal connections between all these Shiites which transcend today’s borders. This is a potential disaster for the world. More than one quarter of the world’s oil transits the Strait of Hormuz at the southwestern end of the Gulf. And more than half of the oil exported from the Arab Gulf countries is located where these discriminated-against Arab Shiites live. If things continue as they are, then there is every possibility that our interests could suffer a major blow. Iran’s current government would like their fellow Shiites in the Arab Gulf to overthrow their Sunni rulers and replace them with local Arab Shiites, whom the Iranian government thinks it could easily dominate. To make matter even worse, this Iranian government — probably the savviest government in the Middle East — has been planning for years for the overthrow of many of the Arab regimes, most notably Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt. (Tehran’s tyrants named a street in their capital after the man who assassinated Anwar Sadat.) Tehran has worked for years with Mohamed ElBaradei, the UN inspector who whitewashed Iran’s nuclear program and whom many believe was (or is!) on the payroll of the Iranian regime. Interestingly, Iranian national TV tried not to cover the events unfolding in Egypt until ElBaradei — who has not lived in Egypt for over thirty years — began to speak out against Mubarak and on behalf of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. (…) But things do not have to end up that way. There is irrefutable evidence that the Iranian people want regime change. They have used every opportunity to make their views known, often putting themselves at great danger. Just as the young Arabs have shown us in the past few weeks, these Iranians too have had enough of the tyrannical rulers, who, if left to their own devices, could easily inflict upon their people the same fate as Mr. Gaddafi is inflicting on his own people. (The current administration appears to lack the foresight and fortitude—not mention lacking the desire—to do much more than wring their hands privately. “When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout”—an old military proverb that could be used to describe our “leaders” today. Ron P.)

Does Newt Gingrich have what it takes for the 2012 presidential campaign?
He would probably be the best president in the Republican field, but maybe not the strongest candidate. ~Bob. Excerpt: As he begins a process that's likely to lead to a 2012 presidential campaign, those liabilities will be in the forefront of evaluations of his chances of winning, as they should be. But so, too, should his assets. The reality is that, by sheer force of intellect, energy and ambition, Gingrich has managed to stay at the top of public debate longer than almost any other contemporary member of the GOP. For three decades, he has been a leader of Republicans. He started as a House backbencher roiling the party's old guard in the 1980s. Once elected to the leadership, he guided the GOP in 1994 to its first House majority in 40 years. After a government shutdown that cost his party, he worked with President Bill Clinton to produce major changes in the welfare system and a balanced budget.

Obama, GOP start $50 billion apart
Excerpt: The Obama administration opened talks on a budget deal Thursday with congressional Republicans and Democrats, but the two sides appeared miles apart on how much to reduce this year’s spending. The White House offered to slash spending by an additional $6.5 billion a day after President Obama signed short-term legislation cutting spending by $4 billion to prevent a government shutdown. Republicans, however, want $61 billion in cuts, and some dismissed the new offer from Democrats as small grapes. (And the GOP proposal is far too modest to do much to stave off the coming fiscal collapse. But I like how the writer mixes the metaphors “sour grapes” and “small beer.” ~Bob.)

U.S. adds 192K new jobs; unemployment rate dips to 8.9%
Starting to see some results from keeping the Bush tax cuts in place at the end of December. ~Bob. Excerpt: Job growth soared ahead and the unemployment rate fell in February, as the economy gained momentum and people who had been stuck at home because of January snow returned to work. Employers added 192,000 jobs in February, the Labor Department said Friday. The number closely matched analysts' expectations, accelerating from a revised 63,000 jobs added in January. The unemployment rate edged down to 8.9 percent, from 9 percent.

How States Can Survive the Medicaid Crisis
Excerpt: Along with the exploding costs of public-sector benefit packages, managing Medicaid is the greatest challenge confronting the nation’s governors and state legislative bodies. About 16 percent of the nation’s population is currently enrolled in Medicaid, the joint federal–state program for certain categories of mostly poor individuals. State budgets are stressed from explosive Medicaid growth, which has more than quintupled over the past two decades. Four months from now, the extra Medicaid money delivered to states from the federal stimulus disappears. The loss of federal money, along with increased enrollment as a result of the recession, exacerbates the state crisis. All 29 Republican governors signed a letter to Congress and the White House asking that the Medicaid maintenance-of-effort requirements for eligibility in the new health care law be repealed.[1] Besides calling for increased flexibility on eligibility, states should also maximize opportunities to better manage their programs, control costs, and put in place fundamental long-term reform. Most Medicaid enrollees are children, their mothers, and pregnant women. Currently, Medicaid offers beneficiaries a fairly comprehensive one-size-fits-all benefit package and pays providers who deliver services. Despite the massive increase in Medicaid spending, many physicians fail to participate in the program because of low payment rates and mountains of paperwork. There is also evidence that Medicaid enrollees receive a lower quality of care. A recent study from the University of Virginia found that Medicaid patients have worse surgical outcomes than individuals without insurance, even controlling for numerous confounding factors.[2] All of these components contribute to Medicaid’s being a program in crisis. An alternative to the government-centric structure of Medicaid is a premium-support model, under which individuals take state vouchers to purchase private health plans, including employer-based coverage, that best suit their needs. Enrollees would benefit from increased choice and improved access to providers.

State and Local Tax Burden Decreased in 2009
Excerpt: For nearly two decades the Tax Foundation has published an estimate of the combined state-local tax burden shouldered by the residents of each of the 50 states. For each state, they calculate the total amount paid by the residents in taxes, and then divide those taxes by the state's total income to compute a "tax burden." The goal is to focus not on the tax collectors but on the taxpayers. That is, they seek to answer the question: What percentage of income are the residents of this state paying in state and local taxes? Here are some key findings, says the Tax Foundation: Taxpayers pay taxes not only to the state and local governments where they reside but also to out-of-state governments, both naturally and by design. Nationwide, over a quarter of all state and local taxes are collected from nonresidents, and a true measure of the tax burden on the residents of any state must take this into account. During fiscal year 2009, in the midst of a national recession, both income and taxes shrank, but taxes fell faster than incomes; the result was that tax burdens decreased from 9.9 percent in 2008 to 9.8 percent in 2009. In 2009, the residents of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut paid the highest state-local tax burdens in the nation -- they're the only three states where taxpayers give up 12 percent or more of their income in state-local taxes. Alaskans, consistently the least taxed in the nation, again paid the least in 2009, just 6.3 percent. The next lowest state, over a full percentage point higher, is Nevada at 7.5 percent.

Important: Wasteful Spending Does Not Stop At Earmarks And Overpayments
Excerpt: Fraud, waste and abuse in the form of improper federal payments are undoubtedly problems worthy of congressional attention. However, improper federal payments are only a small component of government waste in this country. Federal entities estimate improper payments totaled $125.4 billion in fiscal year 2010, about 5.5 percent of the $2.3 trillion in reported outlays for the related programs.1 This $125 billion in overt waste, however, pales in comparison to the pervasive waste that exists in current spending patterns. It certainly pales compared to the economic damage caused by misallocation of capital and the creation of perverse incentives such as moral hazard. In fiscal year 2010, the federal government spent $3.6 trillion dollars, or 24.6 percent of GDP,2 well above the historical average. The consequence of this spending was $1.3 trillion in budget deficits.3 A large part of this overspending was improper spending or spending that never should have happened at all. According to the CBO’s alternative scenario budget projection—the scenario under which widely expected policy changes occur, including legislators’ concessions to interest groups such as physicians and senior citizens—at its current trajectory, spending will increase to 25.9 percent of GDP in 2020 and to 32.2 percent in 2030.4 The expansion of mandatory programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, is the driving force behind this spending growth. According to the CBO’s alternative scenario, the combined cost of these three programs, which was roughly 10 percent of GDP in 2010, will reach 12.4 percent in 2020 and 15.7 percent in 2030.5 As the debt grows, fed by increased Medicare and Medicaid spending, the interest payment on that debt grows as well. If the United States does not change course, debt will end up as its biggest budget item. There is consensus that this path is unsustainable.

Worth The Candle?
Excerpt: This report examines the costs and benefits of government policy to support the renewable energy industry in Scotland and the UK. The Scottish Government in particular is promoting the renewables sector as an economic opportunity, and the purpose of this report is to assess whether this is justified. The report therefore does not investigate measures designed to reduce carbon emissions directly, nor does it consider the merits of renewable technology as part of the attempts to slow climate change. The report’s key finding is that for every job created in the UK in renewable energy, 3.7 jobs are lost. In Scotland there is no net benefit from government support for the sector, and probably a small net loss of jobs. The lower level of job displacement in Scotland is because of the greater concentration of renewable energy generation in Scotland. This means that electricity consumers and UK taxpayers subsidised the Scottish industry by c £330m in 2009/10 over and above subsidies paid for by Scottish taxpayers and consumers. To the extent that the Scottish industry is a success, it is reliant on the wider UK policy making framework, in particular the Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme. (The poverty future Obamanomics has planned for us. ~Bob.)

The lowdown on a so-called consumer advocate
Excerpt: The medical malpractice wars are back, and as usual the trial lawyers are getting an assist from a widely quoted group supposedly looking out for the interests of consumers. "Supposedly" is the key word here. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Medicaid Redesign Team agreed on some long-sought changes in malpractice laws in the state--especially capping pain and suffering awards at $250,000. Let's be clear: Patients will be compensated for the costs of their injuries and lost wages. There just won't be any bonanzas from the litigation lottery for them or their contingency-fee lawyers. Let's also be clear on this: There is no evidence that malpractice awards lead to better medical care. In fact, they lead to worse care by forcing doctors into defensive medicine that drives up health care spending enormously. Obviously, trial lawyers who have frustrated all previous attempts at malpractice law reform weren't happy and are organizing to block the changes in the law. Neither was the New York Public Interest Research Group, the group endlessly quoted by the media as a consumer advocate. It quickly criticized the plan too. That's usually where the story stops. This time, the governor's press aide lashed back with a piece in Newsday calling them tools of the trial lawyers. Not us, replied NYPIRG Executive Blair Horner. Who is right? The governor, hands down.

Memo to Democrats
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." --James Madison, Federalist No. 45

Ted Kennedy Arranged to 'Rent' Brothel in Latin America, '61 Memo Says
Excerpt: The late Sen. Ted Kennedy arranged to "rent" a brothel for a night while on a visit to Chile and other Latin American countries decades ago, according to a 1961 State Department memo obtained and published by the watchdog group Judicial Watch.
Judicial Watch released several documents said to be from Kennedy's FBI file. The group said it obtained a cleaner copy of the State Department memo after a mostly redacted version was made public earlier. (Good training for the Senate, I suppose. ~Bob.)

Racism at the Department of Injustice
As has been well documented by The Patriot Post, the Obama Justice Department shirked its duty to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party for blatant voter intimidation in Philadelphia in 2008. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of Justice was almost certainly due to the race of the perpetrators. Now, Attorney General Eric Holder is finally fed up. With critics. After former Democrat activist Bartle Bull said the incident was the most serious act of voter intimidation he had witnessed in his career, Holder angrily retorted, "Think about that. When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African-Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia -- which was inappropriate, certainly that ... to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people" [emphasis added]. Holder is black, but imagine if a white attorney general had said something similar. This comment hardly inspires confidence that Holder can apply justice equally. The Patriot Post (when you are the Attorney General, your “people” are the American people. ~Bob.)

Excerpt: My fellow Americans, who are "your people"? I ask because US Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, used the phrase "my people" in congressional testimony this week. It was an unmistakably color-coded and exclusionary reference intended to deflect criticism of the Obama Justice Department's selective enforcement policies. It backfired. In pandering to identity politics and exacerbating race consciousness, Holder has given the rest of us an opportunity to stand up, identify "our people" and show the liberal poseurs what post-racialism really looks like. Herman Cain is my people. I've never met him, but we are kin because we are unhyphenated Americans comfortable in the black, brown and yellow skin we're in. We are growing in numbers on college campuses, in elected office, on the Internet. Cain is the successful Georgia businessman who has wowed audiences with his passion for free markets, free minds and the American Dream. The former president of Godfather's Pizza and forceful Tea Party speaker happens to be black. So he must pay the price that all minority conservatives in public life must pay. A cowardly liberal writer recently derided Cain as a "monkey in the window" and a "minstrel" who performs for his "masters." Race traitors. Sellouts. Self-haters. I've heard it for nearly 20 years in public life. Every outspoken minority conservative has. (“My People” include Dr. Thomas Sowell and Dr. Walter Williams, if, being my intellectual superiors, they don’t mind my saying so. ~Bob.)

Immigration Front: Violence in Juárez Eclipses That in Afghanistan
If one were to think about the most violent places on earth, Afghanistan would no doubt come to mind, but a city, just a single city on the southern border of the U.S. is far more violent than the entire country of Afghanistan. Last year in Ciudad Juárez, the Mexican city across from El Paso, some 3,111 civilians were murdered while in all of Afghanistan 2,421 civilians were killed. On a per capita basis, a civilian was 30 times more likely to be murdered last year in Juárez, a city of 1.3 million people, than in Afghanistan, with its 29.1 million people. Facts such as these make the government's malfeasance at securing our borders even more troubling. While the majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan were caused by members of the Taliban and other groups battling the Afghan government and U.S. and international troops, the violence in Juárez is almost completely committed by drug lords battling each other for control of the major smuggling corridors into the United States. With our open southern border, there is little doubt that the Mexican violence will eventually spill over into Texas, resulting in innocent American deaths on American soil. How much longer can the federal government shirk its duty to protect U.S. citizens by ignoring the security along our southern border? The Patriot Post

Excellent column: From Baghdad to Benghazi
Excerpt: Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the U.S. has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance and imperialism. A strange moral inversion, considering that Saddam's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Saddam was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear." Moreover, that systemized brutality made Saddam immovable in a way that Gaddafi is not. Barely armed Libyans have already seized half the country on their own. Yet in Iraq, there was no chance of putting an end to the regime without the terrible swift sword (it took all of three weeks) of the United States. No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush's freedom agenda, it's not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama's foreign policy -- the "smart power" antidote to Bush's alleged misty-eyed idealism.

Public Unions Get Too 'Friendly'
Excerpt: Chris Christie is a national figure now because the teachers union decided, in an epic political drama in which arithmetic is the predominant fact, to ignore the math. They also decided to play the wrong role in the drama. They decided to play the role of Johnny Friendly, on whom more in a moment. If the union leaders had been smart—if they'd had a heart!—they would have held a private meeting and said, "Look, the party's over. We've done great the past 20 years, but now taxpayers are starting to resent us, and they have reason. They're losing their benefits and footing the bill for our gold-plated plans, they don't have job security and we do, taxes are high. We have to back off." They didn't do this. It was a big mistake. And the teachers union made it just as two terrible but unrelated things were happening to their reputation. In what might be called an expression of the new spirit of transparency that is sweeping the globe, two documentaries came out in 2010, "The Lottery" and "Waiting for Superman." Both were made by and featured people who are largely liberal in their sympathies, and both said the same brave thing: The single biggest impediment to better schools in our country is the teachers unions, which look to their own interests and not those of the kids.

A Toxic Consensus on Toxic Substances?
Excerpt: Ironically, the precautionary approach is dangerous because it rarely considers the risks associated with the regulations themselves — or their economic impacts. Banning a product simply because it “might” pose a risk means replacing it with second-tier products that may pose higher risks, higher costs, or both. Moreover, misguided government bans simply waste the fruits of human labor and ingenuity employed to create the products. The mere threat of onerous regulation impedes innovation and entrepreneurship. Such policies stymie economic growth and eventually produce a lower standard of living for everyone. Accordingly, those who value science and economic growth would be wiser to support TSCA’s existing “unreasonable risk” standard. The EPA explains on its website: “unreasonable risk involves the balancing of the probability that harm will occur and the magnitude and severity of that harm against the effect of a proposed regulatory action on the availability to society of the expected benefits of the chemical substance.”

Iowa Democrats prepare for Wisconsin-type collective bargaining threat
The entitlement riots will spread. First public employees, then geezers like me, then handout dependent. ~Bob. Excerpt: “Wisconsin comes to Iowa next week” was the message Iowa Democrats delivered Thursday as they prepare to square off against Republicans over House Study Bill 117, legislation that makes changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws for public employees. If passed, the legislature or governor could veto decisions made by an arbitrator, and public employee unions would no longer have the ability to negotiate health care or retirement plans. It would also allow employees to become “free agents,” who can negotiate their terms of employment directly with employers even if they are in a union shop. Both sides said they expect large turnouts for a public hearing on the bill Monday night, and are already making arrangements for audio to be provided to those who are not able to find space in the Iowa House.

Despite Violence, Obama wants U.S. agents in Mexico to remain unarmed
Excerpt: Obama said: “There are laws in place in Mexico that say that our agents should not be armed. We do not carry out law enforcement activities inside of Mexico.” (Excuse me Mr. President, but it's not about carrying out law enforcement activities inside of Mexico. It's about providing our agents with the means to defend themselves since it's obvious that the Mexican authorities can't...or won't do it. Napolitano said the U.S. would try to extradite those responsible for the execution of Agent Jaime Zapata. That's simply not going to be allowed and she damn well knows it. Either give them the means to defend themselves, or bring them home. --MasterGuns)

Not news. Everyone on both sides knew they were fudging the numbers any way they can. ~Bob. Excerpt: During a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted to double-counting in the Obamacare budget. In her first appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee since the health-care law passed, Kathleen Sebelius responded to a line of questioning by Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois about whether $500 billion in Medicare cuts were used to sustain the program or pay for the law. “There is an issue here on the budget because your own actuary has said you can’t double-count,” said Shimkus. “You can’t count — they’re attacking Medicare on the CR when their bill, your law, cut $500 billion from Medicare.”

Video: Krauthammer criticizes President for treating U.S. troop shooting in Germany like ‘a bus accident’

The Jobs Obama is Leaving Behind
You have to understand the Democrats clarity of position. Gas at 42.78 under Bush was too high. Gas at $3.78 under Obama is too low. Got it? ~Bob. Excerpt: Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on the Department of the Interior’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget proposal. When pressed by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) about the de facto offshore drilling moratorium the Obama Administration has inflicted on his district, Sec. Salazar responded: “When you look at the production within the Gulf of Mexico, even in the midst of the national crisis of the Deepwater Horizon, the production has remained at an all-time high.” This is an audaciously out of touch statement. According to the Energy Information Administration, the Obama offshore drilling moratorium will cause a 13-percent fall in domestic offshore oil production this year, which translates to a loss of about 220,000 barrels of oil a day. That means lower GDP growth for the nation, higher gas prices for all Americans, lower tax revenues for the federal government, and most importantly, fewer jobs for Americans living in the Gulf region. Today, the Labor Department released its monthly jobs report showing that the U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in February and unemployment fell to 8.9 percent. While it is always great news that more Americans are finding jobs, the reality is that the economy could be doing much better.

Phoenix police chief reassigned pending review of kidnapping numbers
Excerpt: Jack Harris was removed as head of the Phoenix Police Department by city officials Thursday while they conduct a 60-day review to determine whether his agency submitted inaccurate kidnapping statistics to the federal government. City Manager David Cavazos said preliminary findings from an internal Police Department audit released Monday prompted him to strip Harris of his day-to-day control of police operations. Harris will keep his position as Phoenix public-safety manager, working within the City Manager's Office. Critics of Harris claim instances of kidnapping in Phoenix were inflated by the Police Department to increase the city's chances of winning federal stimulus money. Those complaints led to a federal review. (For those of you outside the knowledge of Phoenix, the Liberal Beat goes on. Harris "retired", and then his political Buddy, Mayor Phil "Flash" Gordon appointed him as "Public Safety Director". Harris now draws retirement pay AND a salary as Public Safety Director. Harris wanted to keep Phoenix as a Sanctuary City. SB 1070's main thrust was to deny Sanctuary Cities to people like Gordon and Harris. When Harris would not do anything about Illegals, residents went to Joe Arpaio. Arpaio made raids inside Phoenix City Limits. Gordon got on an airplane and went to Washington, DC. There he made the rounds of legislative Offices and the DOJ, insisting that Arpaio be investigated for "Denying Civil Rights" [Translation--apprehending Illegals] –DH)

In Defense of American Exceptionalism
There is no denying it: America is the greatest country in the world. We are blessed with unparalleled freedoms and boundless prosperity that for generations have inspired an innovative and industrious people. America is exceptional. American Exceptionalism is the standard that our laws reflect the understanding that we are afforded certain God-given rights that can never be taken away. We know that God, not government, bestows upon us these inalienable rights, and because of that, they must not be compromised by the whims of man. This makes us a unique nation, a nation that remains, as President Ronald Reagan once said, "a model and hope to the world." Unfortunately, some politicians have either forgotten or chosen to ignore the glory of our founding. (But it will be gone in 20 years. Maybe sooner. ~Bob.)

Barack Obama reelection starts cash chase
Remember when he lied and said he’d abide by the Public financing limits? If you don’t you are in a large majority. ~Bob. Excerpt: President Barack Obama’s 2012 fundraising team has begun nailing down major cash commitments from top donors during a coast-to-coast “listening” tour — the surest sign to date that the vaunted Obama money machine is back in business. Former White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, along with Hollywood producer-turned-Democratic fundraiser Rufus Gifford, has been aggressively recruiting big-money contributors who maxed out to the 2008 campaigns of Obama and Hillary Clinton, donors and party officials told POLITICO. One of their pitches: an offer to join a new “National Finance Council,” which would entail a contribution to the Democratic National Committee of up to $61,600 per couple, per year. That money could be used to fund support operations for Obama’s reelection effort, in addition to smaller donations they would be expected to make directly to Obama’s as-yet-unincorporated Chicago-based campaign, according to donors. The decision to ask for the DNC’s $61,600 up front, while hardly unprecedented, has taken some Democratic fundraisers by surprise. In part, that’s because it comes so early in the cycle — before any clear GOP frontrunner has emerged. But that kind of commitment from wealthy donors could crowd out the party’s cash-hungry congressional committees, which are desperately competing for 2012 contributions, often from the same source.
Excerpt: Former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson will announce her Senate candidacy Monday, two Republicans inform POLITICO. Wilson is expected to be the first official candidate in the race since five-term Democrat Sen. Jeff Bingaman announced his retirement on Feb. 18. Her entry into the open seat contest hands Republicans a top shelf recruit in a contest the party believes it has a realistic shot at winning. A former five term congresswoman, Wilson chose to run for the open seat of retiring Sen. Pete Domenici in 2008, but was upended in the primary by now Rep. Steve Pearce.

American And German Efforts On Kosovo Pay Off In Frankfurt
Excerpt: Twenty-one year-old Albanian born and raised in Germany carries out revenge attack on…No wait…on Americans? But I thought it was something the Serbs were doing that made Albanians violent. I mean, isn’t it something Israel is doing that makes Palestinians violent? And Macedonians make Macedonian-Albanians violent. No? Well then this must be because of the “Kosovars’” frustration over the slow pace of getting their independence. No wait! — we just celebrated the third year of that independence. This is so confusing!

Obama Poll: Thumbs down on leadership and performance
Excerpt: "Obama is brave with other people's lives. He's generous with other people's money. And he's articulate with other people's words." While President Barack Obama benefits from cooperative -- at times even adoring -- news reporters who all but ignore problems they would otherwise highlight had the President been a Republican, the American public appears to be more willing to give Obama low marks for his performance. While possessing an oratory style that's heralded by most denizens of the nation's newsrooms, it appears John and Jane Doe prefer action over flowery recitation and adept TelePrompTer reading. A recent Harris Poll appears to bear sad tidings for the President and his minions. (The quote should be on billboards across the country. ~Bob.)

2 N.J Muslims plead guilty to plotting terrorist acts
Didn’t get the memo. If you are not a Muslim, you are a kuffar, and targeted for death because of your beliefs, by a great many of the faithful. ~Bob. Excerpt: During the probe, an undercover New York City police officer who speaks Arabic recorded the men talking about beheading Americans and sending them home in body bags. In one recording, Alessa said he would start killing "kuffar," or non-believers of Islam, in the United States if he was unable to do it abroad.

Obama: Mexico, US Agreed To End Mexican Trucking Dispute
Wonder if the agreement requires them to be insured and meet US trucking inspection standards, and what happens if they carry drugs and “undocumented Democrats”? ~Bob. Excerpt: U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday the U.S. and Mexico have agreed to end a long-simmering dispute over allowing Mexican trucks in the U.S. Obama, speaking with Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the White House, said the pact will increase jobs in both Mexico and the U.S. The Obama administration has been seeking to end a ban on allowing Mexican trucks to operate North of the border. The ban has prompted Mexico to slap tariffs on some $2 billion in U.S. goods. The proposed agreement will need approval by Congress.

Cops tackle lawmaker amid layoff threats, detention order: Tensions still running high in Wisconsin
Excerpt: By fleeing the state last month, Wisconsin Democrats succeeded in stymieing--for now--GOP Gov. Scott Walker's controversial bid to end collective bargaining rights for many public-sector workers. But that doesn't mean things are settling back to normal in the Badger State--in fact, tensions over the standoff are running higher than ever. Last night, one Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Nick Milroy, was physically tackled by Capitol police when he tried to enter the building to retrieve some clothes after meeting with constituents outside. In response to the enormous protests from union supporters, state officials have been allowing only a limited number of people into the Capitol this week, despite a judge's order saying it must remain open to the public. You can watch raw footage of the incident from the local ABC affiliate after the jump.

Save Houton Kian and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from Execution in Iran
Excerpt: The Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced Houtan Kian, the lawyer of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, to death by hanging. He had received four consecutive death sentences. Three were revoked; the fourth has been upheld. Reliable reports received by the International Committee against Stoning confirm this fact. Houtan Kian was arrested in October 2010 along with Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s son, and two German journalists during an interview. Whilst the latter three have been released, Houtan Kian faces imminent execution. Moreover Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s death sentence has been confirmed. Upon hearing the news, it is reported that Sakineh attempted suicide but survived. We are outraged at these heinous sentences of death and are calling for urgent action to stop their executions and secure their immediate and unconditional release. They have done nothing wrong. Houtan Kian’s only crime has been to defend a woman facing death by stoning. Sakineh’s only crime has been to be a woman in the Islamic Republic of Iran and under Sharia law. Only strong international pressure will and must save them and the many others awaiting their death in the execution capital of the world.

"Schools need to teach about orgasms" says NEA to UN
I’d have stayed after for extra help. ~Bob. Excerpt: Graphic sex education for youth is the new battleground at the UN, as evidenced by side events during the past week at the Commission on the Status of Women. The theme of this year’s CSW is the “access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology.” While delegates are busy negotiating resolutions and outcome documents, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN organizations campaign for the installation of socially radical curriculums in Africa and America alike. “Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a panel on combating homophobia and transphobia. Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools, with curricula based on liberal hetero and homosexual expression. She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.

Moore On Wealthy People's Money: "That's Not Theirs, That's A National Resource, It's Ours"
Let’s use the “national resource” in his bank account first. Too stupid to understand basic economics. See link to my piece below. ~Bob. Excerpt: "They're sitting on the money, they're using it for their own -- they're putting it someplace else with no interest in helping you with your life, with that money. We've allowed them to take that. That's not theirs, that's a national resource, that's ours. We all have this -- we all benefit from this or we all suffer as a result of not having it," Michael Moore told Laura Flanders of GRITtv.
Why the Rich Should be Taxed More

Beanbags or Bullets for Protecting Immigration Agents?
Excerpt: Just look at the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. According to a story in the Arizona Daily Star, Terry and another agent ordered a group of "illegal border entrants" to drop their weapons during a confrontation. They didn't. So, the two border agents fired beanbags at them. Yes, that's right... beanbags. The "migrants" (as labeled in the news story) returned fire using guns. Terry was shot and killed.

The Rising: Josh Mandel could take on Sherrod Brown
Excerpt: Ohio's newest state treasurer is only 33. He's also a Marine who served two touts in Iraq, a lawyer, a two-term state legislator, a former city councilman and a prolific fundraiser. That's why even at his young age, Josh Mandel is being talked about as a potential challenger to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) next year. It's also why he's the latest pol to be profiled in our serious "The Rising," an occasional look Mandel crushed incumbent Treasurer Kevin Boyle (D) in November, his first state-wide race. He has a compelling back story: He says he was inspired to go into public service by his grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, and that his time in the Marines "really shaped me as a leader, the leadership traits and principles that are hammered into us."

The GOP's entitlements problem
Everyone’s scared of us geezer voters—the Government better keep their hands off my Medicare! But they have promised us things they can’t deliver, that we paid into and expect. So they will kick the can until it can’t be kicked. ~Bob. Excerpt: As we get closer to 2012, Democrats hold out hope that Republican efforts at entitlement reform will pay much bigger dividends this time. Republicans and Democrats are currently engaged in a cat-and-mouse game over entitlements. With both sides looking to make spending cuts, neither has been overly anxious to broach the idea of cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, even though most of those involved acknowledge those programs need to be on the table in order to make significant cuts. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took a key first step toward including entitlements Thursday, but we still have yet to see concrete plans. The reason neither side wants to go there is pretty clear; a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll this week showed less than a quarter of Americans support making significant cuts to Social Security or Medicare in order to balance the budget.
President Obama, in his State of the Union speech last month, urged both sides to come out on the issue together. Republicans, including Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on Thursday, have been urging Obama to take the first step. "Look, you've got the biggest microphone," Blunt said to Obama. "You've got the biggest podium, but we're ready to sign on before you go public." Blunt and his GOP colleagues shouldn't hold their breath.

Excerpt: On Election Day last year, Big Labor's bosses were aghast at spending some $200 million on political campaigns only to see voters elect a Tea Party inspired GOP majority, toss out the Democrats' supermajority in the Senate, and elect a wave of new Republican governors across the country. That's a lot of money to come out of donations from Big Labor's 14.7 million members - with some of it allegedly taken from their dues, which is illegal, and some rumored to come off-the-books from undocumented workers. Most of Big Labor's political campaign money comes from payroll deductions and checkoff donations from the 56 affiliates of the AFL-CIO and breakaway rivals such as the Service Employees International Union, plus independents like the Carpenters Union and the giant 3.2 million-member National Education Association.

The coal-powered car not doing well? Alert Al Gore! ~Bob. Excerpt: Looks like President Obama's going to have to arrange another series of government acquisitions, 'cause this isn't good: Peruse Chevrolet's February sales release, and you'll notice one number that's blatantly missing: the number of Chevy Volts sold. The number – a very modest 281 – is available in the company's detailed data (PDF), but it certainly isn't something that GM wants to highlight, apparently.

Dispelling some of the left's lies about Koch Industries and the environment
Excerpt: Think Progress tries to portray Koch Industries as an environmental scofflaw. But that is the opposite of the truth. Koch puts a high priority on regulatory compliance, and has a superb record of environmental stewardship. This is why the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly praised Koch and its subsidiaries. In 2009, the EPA awarded Koch subsidiary Georgia-Pacific its SmartWay Excellence award and specifically commended Georgia-Pacific. Obama's EPA has also praised Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, calling a process that Flint Hills worked out "an excellent one" that "will serve as a model for other companies." Remarkably, Koch companies have received more than 180 environmental, health and safety awards since the Obama administration took office.

Madison Wild Wings
Excellent economic explanation. ~Bob. Excerpt: In a response to my piece entitled, “Taxeaters”, a reader who favored progressive income taxation posed this question back to me: why shouldn’t the top 50% of income earners pay 96% of the taxes? My answer: for the same reason that they shouldn’t have to pick up 96% of the state’s collective bar tab. All knowledge builds upon what you know. That evening, I pondered his question some more and was inspired while enjoying a pub meal that Michelle Obama would ban if she could. And here is the problem with progressive income tax theory played out a fictional place called Madison Wild Wings.

New Ben Franklin Letters Discovered in London
What a find. Franklin is often called “The First American.” ~Bob. Excerpt: professor with his nose deep in a library archive in London has stumbled upon 47 previously unknown letters from, to and about Benjamin Franklin. The sensational find, announced in the upcoming issue of the William & Mary Quarterly, centers on Franklin's interactions with Gen. Edward Braddock after he and his soldiers arrived on the banks of the Potomac and during their disastrous march to the Forks of the Ohio in 1755. The discovery not only adds texture to a key chapter in early American history, but it also raises the question of what else about the founding generation might be lurking out there, overlooked or miscategorized in a library, or perhaps stashed in an archive in some distant land. The professor is Alan Houston, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego. In the spring of 2007, while researching a book on Franklin ("Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement"), he was poring over manuscripts in the British Library. Late in the afternoon of his last day in the country, he requested of the library staff a certain Volume 4478b, a collection of miscellaneous papers, including "Copies of Letters relating to the March of General Braddock."

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