Monday, May 2, 2011

Political Digest for May 2, 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.

Gadhafi’s youngest son killed but Libyan leader survives NATO missile strike, spokesman says
Well, they knew there was a NATO "no-fly zone." Damn kids shouldn't have been flying around. And in case you're wondering, the presidential order prohibiting assassination of foreign leaders doesn't say you can't bomb their grandkids into hamburger. ~Bob. Excerpt: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli on Saturday, but his youngest son and three grandchildren under the age of 12 were killed, a government spokesman said. The strike, which came hours after Gadhafi called for a cease-fire and negotiations in what rebels called a publicity stunt, marked an escalation of international efforts to prevent the Libyan regime from regaining momentum.

IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end
Excerpt: The International Monetary Fund has just dropped a bombshell, and nobody noticed. For the first time, the international organization has set a date for the moment when the “Age of America” will end and the U.S. economy will be overtaken by that of China. And it’s a lot closer than you may think. According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now. Put that in your calendar. (Once their military is strong enough, they'll back us down and bring Taiwan, a strong economy in its own right, back into the empire. Then seeing we can't defend them, South Korea and Japan will make an accommodation and become client states. That will create a Chinese-dominated "Asian Market" far stronger than the US. The collapse is coming. ~Bob.)

Republicans Are Pursuing a Wider Field for 2012 Race
Excerpt: Republican leaders, activists and donors, anxious that the party’s initial presidential field could squander a chance to capture grass-roots energy and build a strong case against President Obama at the outset of the 2012 race, are stepping up appeals for additional candidates to jump in, starting with Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana. “I’m getting letters from all over the damn country, and some of them are pretty moving,” Mr. Daniels said in an interview last week at the Capitol in Indianapolis, where his friends believe he is inching closer to exploring a candidacy. He added, “It can’t help but affect you.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Signs Bill Authorizing Construction of Border Fence…
Excerpt: A bill signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer authorizes erection of a security fence along Arizona’s portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, either in a compact with other states or by itself. Spokesman Matt Benson declined immediate comment Friday on why Brewer signed the bill Thursday and on whether she plans to invoke the authority. The bill does not specify a cost or make an appropriation but says the state would use donations, inmate labor and private contractors. Brewer recently asked President Barack Obama to extend the deployment of National Guard troops along the border and for more substantial border fences to block smugglers.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions. --Jerry Pournelle

NOAA Scientist Rejects Global Warming Link to Tornadoes
When we have record cold and snow, the Warmists say, "One weather event means nothing." When we have a tornado or hurricane, they say, "See, Global Warming!" ~Bob. Excerpt: A top official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rejected claims by environmental activists that the outbreak of tornadoes ravaging the American South is related to climate change brought on by global warming. Greg Carbin, the warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said warming trends do create more of the fuel that tornadoes require, such as moisture, but that they also deprive tornadoes of another essential ingredient: wind shear.

U.S. Attorney says Justice Department will challenge Missouri anti-Sharia law
Excerpt: No state would be contemplating anti-Sharia laws were it not for Sharia’s political and supremacist aspects, and its elements that are at variance with Constitutional freedoms—notably, its denial of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, and of equality of rights for women and non-Muslims. But it is doubtful in the extreme that the Obama Justice Department will give the anti-Sharia side a fair hearing. It will rule that such laws violate religious freedom, without considering Sharia’s political aspects in any way. (Well, if your religion says polygamy, forced sex with your slaves, child marriage, treating women as chattel with no rights, allowing wife-beating and divorce only for men, the stoning of rape victims for adultery, amputation for theft, the execution of gays and people who leave Islam, and a special status for believers over those of other faiths—all part of Shari'a law—is mandated by Allah, who is Missouri to disagree? ~Bob.)

Excerpt: The trial court entered an order that concluded with, “(1) TIAA-CREF Individual and Institutional Services LLC, shall make distribution of the pension accounts of the TIAA-CREF certificates ... to the decedent’s surviving spouse, ... in accordance with decedent’s last will and testament dated July 17, 2007, and to his biological children, ... in accordance of the law of Sharia, mainly [sic], one-eighth share to the surviving spouse, ... and thereafter, the remaining balance to be divided, two shares each to the six male children, and one share each to the [two] female children.”

Jakarta: extremist group recruits students to target Christians and introduce shariah
Excerpt: An emerging Islamic terrorist group recruits followers among university students and, through brainwashing, prepares them for suicide bombings or bomb attacks against sensitive targets, including Christian churches. It has been confirmed by the Indonesian police that the former separatist movement "NII or Negara Islam Indonesia" - the Islamic state Indonesia - has now turned into an extremist group in the network of terror. It recently orchestrated an attack on a Protestant church that only by accident, did not result in a bloodbath.

Slouching Towards Insolvency (The
California Way
Excerpt: The U.S. Federal Government is on a collision course of debt and deficits. And California may be the best example yet of “the feds on steroids.” As state governments continue to feel the recession’s impact and are staring-down daunting fiscal challenges, the wisdom of the American people has been prevailing in some of the most unlikely places. In states as diverse as Wisconsin, Idaho, New Jersey, and Ohio, Governors and legislatures have stood-up to the ever-expanding demands of government employee unions, reigned-in employee compensation growth, and have cut state spending. Even in liberal Massachusetts the Democrat-led House of Representatives voted last week to limit the powers of their state government employees’ unions. But the wisdom hasn’t yet made it all the way out to the Left Coast. With a budget deficit of somewhere between $10 and $15 billion – a deficit that is expected to swell to about $25 billion by the middle of 2012- California politicians have continued their self-serving spending sprees of the past many years, while at the same time legislating itself further and further away from any semblance of being “business friendly.”

Iranian agents abduct brother of student leader in Paris
Excerpt: Iranian government agents in Paris kidnapped the brother of Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS) leader Amir Fakhravar, took him past French security at Charles de Gaulle International Airport, and placed him aboard an Iran Air flight to Tehran.
The 20 year-old victim, Mohammad Reza “Arash” Fakhravar (pictured), was living under French government protection after receiving political asylum in January. He escaped from Iran last year to avoid persecution. French authorities are investigating the kidnapping.

Centrica's North Sea tax battle with Chancellor George Osborne
Excerpt: Centrica, the owner of British Gas, is considering shutting down the country’s largest gas field due to Chancellor George Osborne’s shock budget tax grab from North Sea operators. The company is closing down its Morecambe Bay North and Rivers gas fields for around four weeks planned maintenance and will also shut the South Morecambe field for an unspecified period of work. Production from Morecambe Bay, near Blackpool, provides around 6% of Britain’s gas requirements and around 12% of residential demands. However, the company said it may not re-open South Morecambe after the work ends because of higher UK taxes. (…) Centrica said the surprise tax increase means its North Morecambe field is now subject to a 62% tax rate and South Morecambe 81%. (Most folks learn by making mistakes and having to fix them; wise men learn from the mistakes of others, fools never learn at all. The consequences of hiking taxes, especially business taxes, aren’t always easy to foresee. In this case, it might’ve been a little easier. Government supporters might as well say “It’s only an increase of 12%; what’s the big deal? Those rich buggers can pay for it out of their profits.” (“Operating profits” are BEFORE taxes and such are paid.) The reality is the tax is increased from 20% of the gross sales dollars to 32%; a 60% rise over the old taxes on the same sales dollars—and, it is in addition to all the other taxes, fees, royalties, and rents they already had to pay. It sounds to me as though this company is going to “go Galt” and cease working in the North Sea area. Results? Fewer tax dollars than before, fewer jobs than before (with a corresponding lowering of tax collections on those jobs’ payroll), higher gas prices to the British public, and more difficulty getting the gas, even at the higher price. Great job, Britain. May we please use you as a bad example to teach our legislators with? Thanks, I knew you’d understand. Ron P.)

A Leader from Behind
Excerpt: …[N]ow a new shepherd has come to guide us, stealthily and modestly (though, one must add, with a fair amount of personal self-promotion) away from foolish thoughts of national assertion and exertion. And toward a future of .  .  . what? Whatever this future world will look like, it will not be pretty, nor will it be friendly to America. Lizza’s piece is titled “The Consequentialist.” The claim is that Barack Obama is a hard-headed pragmatist who judges policy choices by their real-world consequences. But who now wants to defend the consequences of Barack Obama’s foreign policy?

Navy Fires Third C.O. -- This Week!
Excerpt: The Navy is on a tear: it has just relieved its third commanding officer this week. That makes 10 so far this year, putting it well ahead of 2010, when 17 were canned over the entire year. The latest man overboard (the ninth, in fact, was a woman, relieved last Saturday) is Commander Jay Wylie, captain of the destroyer USS Momsen, based in Everett, Wash. His superior said Thursday that Wylie was relieved of command "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command stemming from allegations of misconduct." He is the fourth in command of a ship to be booted. (First I’ve heard of this, but it can’t be good. Ron P.)

A very American distinction
There are several good points in this short editorial. --Ron P. Excerpt:  This distinction, between the outcomes or the things you approve of, on the one hand, and the system you support, on the other, must be kept in mind as the political season heats up. (…) It is a basic distinction in ethics. The right and the good are not quite so tyrannical as some suppose. Not everything you may rightly wish to discourage should be prohibited. Not everything you wish to encourage should be made mandatory.

Yes, Virginia, Obama Foreign Policy Is Ignorant and Stupid Rather Than a Conspiracy
Excerpt: Believe me, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity, a smug arrogance that closes one off to learning from advice or experience, and ideological blinders are not so unique in those circles. I’ve seen this pattern over and over again, both as a historian and from direct observation. … What’s unique is the almost totality with which various enablers keep up this pretense, making the situation far more extreme than usual. Presidents like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush no doubt believed in their positions. But having to confront daily a firestorm of ridicule and criticism forced them to question themselves constantly, to make adjustments, and even to change policies that clearly were either not working or were too unpopular.

Abuses happen when unions have government friends
Excerpt: Wisconsin shoppers thinking of buying Angel Soft tissue, Johnsonville Brats or Coors beer should carefully examine packages of those products on grocery shelves for vandalism. Those products are being singled out by anonymous vandals who damage them, then leave stickers on them bearing messages critical of Gov. Scott Walker.

Another current events quiz

The Week That Was: 2011-04-30 (April 30, 2011)
Excerpt: Number of the Week: $4 Billion. This the amount that Mr. Obama claims to be the tax subsidies extended to the oil and gas industry. It is not clear how the amount is calculated. By contrast, in an article referenced in last week’s TWTW, the Department of Energy announced it has given $21 Billion in (not tax) subsidies to the alternative energy industry in the form of loan guarantees. (…) The tax subsidies, “loopholes,” to oil and gas companies are largely in three categories: 1) oil depletion allowance, 2) expensing indirect drilling costs, and 3) a tax credit for taxes paid to foreign nations during foreign operations (foreign tax credit). The first category is a favorite among independent producers (and similar depletion allowances are available for all mineral extraction, timber, etc.). The independent producers can pass the depletion on to individual investors. Since the mid-1970s, the allowance has not been permitted for integrated oil companies. The smaller producers will bitterly fight for this “loophole” and the larger producers will be blamed. The second category permits writing off indirect drilling costs in the year incurred rather than capitalizing them and writing them off over several years. Closing this “loophole” would only change timing of taking the expense, not total amounts of the so-called tax subsidy. The third category is available for all international companies. Closing this “loophole” would discriminate against oil and gas companies in favor of other international companies….

Important: The Ten Inconvenient Truths that shape our new energy world order
This is a very long, very detailed article that is worth reading by anyone interested in the future of energy supply and cost. The site, European Energy News, requires a (free) registration to access articles; the process takes only a few minutes. I've listed only the headings (and a few sentences each for #5 and #10) to give readers an idea of the contents. Ron P. Excerpt: 1. The West's long term 'swap agreement' with the Middle East – repression in exchange for oil – is pretty much broken. 2. Oil markets will remain inherently jumpy when it comes to the slightest sign of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). 3. The most fundamental 'fundamental' of all – the stability of Saudi Arabia – can no longer be taken for granted. 4. The turmoil in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya has brutally highlighted that Saudi Arabia is the only game in town as far as excess supply is concerned. 5. Oil is not as fungible or elastic as we would like to think. Despite the fact that state implosion in Libya only reduced global output by around 1%, it has posted 30% increases in global benchmark prices. The key factor here is that sweet grades used by European refineries are in short supply compared to heavy crudes of the Gulf. 6. We are living in a 'Chirabian' world of Saudi supply and Chinese demand at the heart of a $50/b - $250/b universe.  7. The West is no longer willing, and the EU simply unable (beyond individual member states) to safeguards its immediate energy and geopolitical interests. 8. China is happy to keep free-riding on the US strategic presence in the Middle East for now.  9. Two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves are not only sitting on politically shaky ground, they are doing so in the midst of an external power vacuum. 10. If consuming countries really want to reduce inherently unsound dependence on OPEC production, they have little choice but to massively expand domestic output.  (…) But there's a catch here. Political risk is just as acute, if not more deadly, in the US than anywhere else in the world. Just ask BP smarting from their Macondo Presidential/Congressional lashings. The idea that offshore US production will only ever be a straight ‘home run’ is a story few IOCs will now ever believe. And for those wondering about political risk in Canada, just ask BHP Billiton.

Boston Globe Reporter Hid Information on Obama’s Father From the Public For 2 Years
Excerpt: This was a big catch by Brian Wedemeyer from the Arizona Independent. A Boston Globe reporter hid information on Barack Obama’s father for at least two years as she worked on a novel about the man’s life.

The Law of the Mafia Jungle
Excerpt: It took the two assassins just six minutes to enter one of the finest hotels in Moscow, move past armed guards, shoot their victim in the head with silencer-equipped pistols, and make their escape. The boss of the Russian mafia's outpost in Rome was called immediately. "What, did they kill him?" he asked. "I am not surprised; he has stolen money from half of Russia." So begins Frederico Varese's "Mafias on the Move." The murdered man was a Russian who had immigrated to Italy and who was conducting what appeared to be a legitimate business—but he was actually a member of the Solntsevskaya Brotherhood, Russia's most notorious mafia.

Worth Reading: The Welfare State and the Selfish Society
Excerpt: In the contemporary world, where left-wing attitudes are regarded as normative, it is a given that capitalism, with its free market and profit motive, emanates from and creates selfishness, while socialism, the welfare state and the "social compact," as it is increasingly referred to, emanate from and produce selflessness. The opposite is the truth. Whatever its intentions, the entitlement state produces far more selfish people -- and therefore, a far more selfish society -- than a free-market economy. And once this widespread selfishness catches on, we have little evidence that it can be undone.

Union Busting, Massachusetts Style
Excerpt: Pop quiz: What political party, in what state, this week passed a bill in the dead of night stripping public-sector unions of their collective- bargaining powers? Republicans in Wisconsin? The GOP in Ohio or Indiana? Try Democrats in Massachusetts. Maybe the debate over public-sector benefits isn't all that ideological after all. That would be the view of Massachusetts Democratic Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who late Tuesday led an overwhelming majority of his House in passing a bill divesting policemen, firefighters, teachers and other municipal employees of the power to collectively bargain most health-care benefits. The 111-42 vote took place at 11:30 at night, so as to avoid a mass of protesting union workers set to descend on the State House the next day. The cheek. Then again, Mr. DeLeo (like so many Republicans) seems to understand that there is no longer a choice. (The House dropped this on the Senate, where the 40 members will get intense pressure. There are, if I'm current, five Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate, down from seven when I last served. ~Bob.)

Syri-us about nukes
Excerpt: Nearly four years after Israeli warplanes bombed a Syrian installation to rubble, the UN’s official nuclear watchdog agency finally admitted that the target was a secret nuclear reactor. It’s about time. “The facility that was . . . destroyed by Israel was a nuclear reactor under construction,” said Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at a news conference last week. The IAEA is expected to say as much in a formal report in June and might even refer the matter to the UN Security Council. Not that the news is a surprise.

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