Sunday, July 17, 2011

Political Digest for July 18, 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.

Best older posts for new blog readers

Book Recommendation: Strength & Honor by Terry L. Garlock
This excellent book was recommended to me by my friend and fellow Marine Vietnam vet "Del" Del Vecchio, whose story is first in the book. I regret it took so long to work it's way to the top of my reading pile. It's a wonderful collection of individual stories from vets, all with the clear ring of truth, that should be read by every Vietnam vet and the people who care about them, but everyone who wants to know what that war was truly like and by anyone interested in the realities of combat. Vets should be warned this book will arouse a great deal of emotion: laughter, grief, pride and, yes, anger. There is a terrific piece by a B-52 pilot. Having watched an Arc Light strike east of Khe Sanh, I appreciated learning how they were delivered. Garlock was a chopper pilot, and the book is heavy towards chopper stories, but I have no problem with that. Everyone who served in Vietnam has a special place in their hearts for the helicopter crews we depended on. WWII may have been the greatest generation, but America needs to know how great the generation they sent to Vietnam was--and those who mistreated vets on their return deserve to live in shame. There are many more stories out there that deserved to be collected and known.

A few years ago, I contributed a story to Before the Memories Fade, a smaller collection of Vietnam stories.
It's not as great or as large as Strength & Honor, but there is one story about a dog fight inside a helicopter that is well worth the price of the book. One of the funniest things I've ever read.

Reckless Fiscal Policies”
Excerpt: Why did Obama only enumerate George W. Bush’s big spending as responsible for the out-of-control $14 trillion-plus debt, while not mentioning his own contribution of $5 trillion? Why is there a debt limit standoff now, rather than, say, in 2009 or 2010? Why did this latest $1.6 trillion Obama budget prompt the current crisis? Why did not Obama earlier start debt limit talks the moment that his own hand-picked Simpson-Bowles commission presented their findings? Why did Obama just recently submit, and have rejected, a budget that would have scheduled even larger deficits of the sort he is now warning against (“Armageddon”)? Why is voting against the debt limit reckless now, but in 2006 Obama lectured us thusly: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.” (He then failed even to vote on the issue in 2007 and 2008 when the limit was raised again. So Obama has an even weaker case than the weak case of the congressional Republicans who approved the Bush deficits, given that if Obama was right at the time to vote “no,” then $6 trillion later, with a ruined, rather than robust, economy, he could now be really right to vote again “no,” when he has the political power not to raise the debt ceiling.) Why is Obama talking of new tax increases when he ruled that out in December 2010: taxes then bad, now seven months later good? Why does the president claim 80% of the people want taxes when polls prove no such thing?

Hey Mr. President! What about cutting Obamacare?: Former congressman: Repeal 'would be step in right direction'
Excerpt: A Heritage Foundation fellow and former member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., says President Obama is sidestepping what could be a large part of the resolution of the nation's problem with its debt ceiling: Obamacare. "Repealing Obamacare would certainly help even though they tried to disguise the fact that it was a major contributor to deficit, what is it, $183 billion in advance appropriations still coming in?" Istook said. "It's money being spent hand-over-fist. That would be a step in the right direction," Istook said.

SHEA-TAYLOR: An end to voter fraud
Excerpt: Massachusetts voters deserve voter protections just accorded to their neighbors. Act now, in advance of the next big election. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, acknowledged champion of human rights - most notably those of immigrants - astonished many by signing into law photo identification as prerequisite to voting. The mandate, passed by a Democratic-controlled legislature, takes hold in 2012. Astonished critics of the move - and politicians in other states who have vetoed such measures - just don't get it: IDs will help insure that every vote is credible. Chafee is not running counter to his record; he is trying to repair a system fraught with charges of malfeasance, that protects no one as it stands. (This is part of the comment in the email with the link to this article: “Not a whole lot shocks me anymore, but an article supporting vote ID written by a liberal, in a liberal newspaper, shocked even me!!!! Paul C.” Attleboro is near the RI border and it’s far easier to shop in Providence than Boston. And, Rhode Island isn’t the only state where legislatures controlled by liberals have passed such laws. It merely takes the liberals realizing they aren’t the only ones who can cheat. Think of this law as an “honest dealer” in what might otherwise be a crooked casino. Ron P.)

Correcting for Bush’s mistakes
Excerpt: The administration’s counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, was being excessively tactful when he told an audience at Johns Hopkins that the new strategy represents neither “a wholesale overhaul, nor a wholesale retention, of previous policies.’’ He suggested that President Obama’s goals “track closely with the goals’’ of former President George Bush. But the new strategy document could not be more emphatic in distinguishing the Obama approach from the Bush doctrine, saying, “We are not at war with the tactic of terrorism or the religion of Islam. We are at war with a specific organization - Al Qaeda.’’ (We'd be in great shape if only al Qaeda members wanted to kill us. ~Bob.)

Inside Al Qaeda’s hard drives
When Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden at his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound on May 2, the ensuing coverage focused on how the death of Al Qaeda’s leader might undercut terrorism worldwide. But the raid accomplished more than bin Laden’s removal: It yielded several computers, nearly a dozen hard drives, and about 100 other data-storage devices. Speaking on “Meet the Press” the weekend after the raid, presidential national security adviser Tom Donilon called it “the largest cache of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist.” After combing over this huge pool of data, a task force of analysts has already produced hundreds of intelligence reports geared to a primary goal: hunting down Al Qaeda operatives. Meanwhile, however, there is a second and longer-term task ahead. If studied diligently enough, the captured data is likely to provide an unparalleled look at how Al Qaeda functions. And that information may be as essential to disrupting Al Qaeda’s activities as it was to kill bin Laden.

Muslim Brotherhood website: Israeli spies are in
Tahrir Square
protests, and you can tell them by their Star of David tattoos!
Excerpt: One little problem: observant Jews don't frequent tattoo parlors. But hey, the "spies" might be all crafty like that. For those who buy into them, the handy thing about the conspiracy theories that are so rampant in the Muslim world is that they don't have to make sense, because even evidence against the conspiracy becomes evidence for it.

How Will al Qaeda Mark the 10th Anniversary of 9/11?
Excerpt: Last September, I wrote a column in the Washington Post asking how al Qaeda would mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I noted that a dangerous view was then taking hold in Washington that al Qaeda no longer has the intent or capability to repeat the devastation of that terrible day, and cited as an example Vice President Biden’s statement that “the idea of there being a massive attack in the United States like 9/11 is unlikely, in my view.” Well it turns out that al Qaeda was indeed planning a major attack to mark the anniversary of 9/11. The Wall Street Journal reports: Osama bin Laden was working to assemble a team of militants to attack the U.S. on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to communications Navy SEALs seized from his Pakistani hideout when they killed the al Qaeda leader this spring. Bin Laden and his operations chief, Attiyah Abd al-Rahman, swapped views about the composition of the attack team, with bin Laden repeatedly rejecting names that Mr. Rahman suggested, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence taken from the bin Laden compound. The Journal reports that the plans were only in the discussion phase, and that U.S. officials had not seen any signs the nascent plot ever went beyond the early planning. But the paper also notes that Rahman remains at large and “U.S. intelligence agencies don’t know whether al Qaeda ever fielded an attack team or if other details were discussed. For instance, the U.S. doesn’t know what targets, if any, bin Laden considered attacking.” In other words, we don’t know yet if this planned attack has been disrupted.

The Week That Was: 2011-07-16 (July 16, 2011)
Excerpt: In an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times entitled "On Experts and Global Warming," Gary Gutting, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, argues that the non-experts must accept the findings of the expert authorities in climate science. (…) Unfortunately, the good professor fails to recognize the tremendous change in thinking that came about through the development of natural philosophy - scientific philosophy. Under scientific philosophy, the pronouncements of climate authorities are not as important as how and why they acquired their claimed knowledge. Did they adhere to the principles of acquiring scientific knowledge? If the climate authorities did not, then anyone familiar with scientific principles is perfectly capable of challenging these experts, even though the challenger is not, necessarily, an expert in climate science.

Chicago Muslim conference: "Islam will be made supreme in the land. Islam will be the ruling system in the land....Under the Khalifah we will be unified. One state."
Excerpt: In a conference of the pro-Sharia group Hizb ut-Tahrir in Chicago last week: "Islam will be made supreme in the land. Islam will be the ruling system in the land." "Under the Khalifah we will be unified. One state. Not 57 states, but one state." "One united state." "The military be in the hands of the Muslims." "Al Aqsa will be taken back from the crusaders." Crowd chants wildly, "Takbir, allahu akbar! takbir!"

Egyptian Shaykh: "We still kill him, even if he repents!"
Excerpt: above clip was taken from an interview given by Shaykh Abu-Ishaq al-Huwayni on the Egyptian satellite television station al-Hikma on 7 July 2011. Al-Huwayni here explains that whoever insults Muhammad, even if he later repents, must be killed. Later in the interview, al-Huwayni went on to contrast this with the case of one who insults Allah. He said that insulting Allah of course makes one an infidel, which is agreed to by all Islamic scholars, yet the one who insults Allah is not killed--he is merely called to repentance. This is because even if the whole world insults Allah, it does not matter to him--it does not hurt him. After recounting a hadith regarding Muhammad being mocked by poetry from the Quraysh, al-Huwayni explained that Muhammad "had complete authority to waive his right (to kill those who mocked him). But the ruler does not have the authority to waive the Prophet's right." Al-Huwayni reported that Muhammad could waive this right whenever he wanted, but after his death he retained this right, meaning no one could waive the right for him. That is why those who insult the Prophet now must be killed.

Somali jihad group recruited 21 Muslims in Minnesota
Excerpt: Yet no one would dream of reevaluating the immigration policy that made this possible. Oh, no. That would be "racist." Better to die in a bloody jihad attack than appear "racist."

Who Benefits From All The Obama Spending Sprees?
Excerpt: “Did you hear about the new ‘Obama Happy Meal Deal?’” a friend posted on Facebook earlier this week. “You order whatever you want and as much as you want, and the person in line behind you has to pay for it….LOL!” Americans have always enjoyed poking fun at their Presidents, and cheap jokes that illicit more groans than laughs aren’t to be taken too seriously. But, as is often the case with humor, there was a slight bit of truth entailed in this little online anecdote. The joke suggests that, even among people who don’t think much about politics and public policy, or who don’t often utter words like ‘socialism,” “Marxism,” or “economic redistribution,” there is nonetheless a growing recognition that our President likes to spend other people’s money. And in light of this, we would all do well to ask a couple of questions. Let’s start with this: “Where did all the stimulus money go?” What began in February of 2009 as a plan that the President said would “save or create 3 to 4 million jobs,” and what his Administration claimed would prevent our unemployment rate from rising over 8%, had an original price tag of $787 billion.

Memo to NYT: Hoover did not cut spending
Excerpt: Even good journalists can make mistakes, based on commonly held assumptions which are simply wrong. Take the New York Times’s economics reporter David Leonhardt. In an insightful and well written article about the huge drop in consumer spending, Leonhardt writes,” If governments stop spending at the same time that consumers do, the economy can enter a vicious cycle, as it did in Hoover’s day.” The only problem is that, as Megan McArdle pointed out in a July 8 blogpost on The Atlantic website, “the evidence is not ambiguous: Hoover did not tighten up on spending.” She goes on to provide the facts: “According to the historical tables of the Office of Management and Budget, spending in 1929 was $3.1 billion, up from $2.9 billion the year before. In 1930 it was $3.3 billion. In 1931, Hoover raised spending to $3.6 billion. And in 1932, he opened the taps to $4.7 billion, where it basically stayed into 1933 (most of which was a Hoover budget). As a percentage of GDP, spending rose from 3.4% in 1930 to 8% in 1933--an increase larger than the increase under FDR, though of course thankfully under FDR, the denominator (GDP) had stopped shrinking.

How the Senate Democrats voted on raising the dent limit in 2006
Did the media say they were irresponsible?

Obama's Debt-Ceiling Press Conference
Not from a conservative! ~Bob. Excerpt: A less than electrifying performance. I understand the difficulties and sympathize. There's little Obama can do in the short term about the refusal of House Republicans to budge. As long as they are willing to destroy the nation's credit standing if that is what it takes to win, Obama's choice essentially boils down to capitulation in the national interest or mutually assured destruction. Even so, the press conference was dispiriting. Obama seemed unusually hesitant and unsure of himself. I'm not sure what he hoped to achieve by it. NBC's Chuck Todd asked a good question: any regrets over failing to back Bowles-Simpson from the start? That was a grand bargain, after all, based on a balanced agenda of tax increases and spending cuts--much like the proposal Obama now apparently prefers. I say "apparently" because he still has not spelled out in public a plan of his own. Asked at the press conference to make one specific proposal on entitlement reform, he dodged yet again, merely laying out criteria for what he might be willing to accept if somebody else happened to come up with a plan.

Worth Reading: Melanie Sturm: Think Again
Excerpt: Is the free market the best system for the world's future? So asked GlobeScan in its annual survey of 25 countries, conducted since 2002. Then, American confidence in the free market topped the poll at 80 percent. If you assume that Americans are still first, Think Again. The 2010 survey reveals faith in the free market is at a low (59 percent) in the world's biggest economy placing the U.S. fifth behind Germany (68 percent), China and Brazil (both 67 percent), and Italy (62 percent). Intriguingly, American support for free markets dropped 15 points in just the last year resulting in an astonishing nine-point advantage for the Chinese. Undoubtedly, Chinese confidence in free markets is high because 450 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty as the government liberalized the economy. However, because the Chinese do not enjoy the inalienable rights accorded Americans, China materially lags behind the U.S. in other living standard metrics including civil liberties, life expectancy, infant mortality, child labor and a clean environment. Meanwhile, according to the World Bank, China's national wealth trails America's in terms of GDP per capita ($7,570 versus $47,020).

Interesting: Leftist Mythology of the Spanish Civil War
Excerpt: Seventy-five years ago today, on July 17, 1936, Francisco Franco led the Army of Africa against the Popular Front government in Madrid. The long Spanish Civil War began. According to the left, this was a classic conflict between socialism and fascism. Orwell, and others, saw Bolsheviks in Spain murderously purge all rivals on the left during the war. The greater lesson of this war is that the "left" is simply a gang of corrupt power-junkies. The politically correct history given us is grotesquely false. (An unusual look at a bit of history we don’t normally get in any depth in school. The “left-right” political divide is often meaningless. It’s easier to keep the sides straight by seeing which side—if any, because often there is none—favors private property controlled by its owners and which side(s) favor(s) control by the state or some other collective body. If they’re collectivists, it doesn’t really matter what flavor they are, they’re poison. Flavored potassium cyanide kills you just as quickly as unflavored. Ron P.)

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