Saturday, August 20, 2011

Political Digest for August 20, 2011

I’m on a borrowed computer in a huge auto body shop in Columbia, MO. No, I didn’t wreck the car. The owner is a Marine buddy from tech school in 1965.

US Report: Jihadists Could be Plotting to Bomb U.S. Military Funerals
Possibly complete bogus. When I was with the CAC company in the ville at Khe Sanh in 67, it was pretty quiet. From time to time, we’d pick up a rumor in the ville that we were going to be hit. Took 30 seconds for them to tell some one, and we would stay alert all night, while the NVA slept soundly. ~Bob. Excerpt: Al Qaeda continues to plot horrific violence against civilians in the West, and now their strategy may include attempts to bomb U.S. military funerals here at home. According to information obtained by the private SITE intelligence network, a posting on the jihadist-associated Ansar al-Mujahideen internet forum suggested that American military funerals posed a unique opportunity to maim and kill U.S. military and political leadership through suicide bombings.

The Hidden Costs of Obama's Fuel Efficiency Standards
Excerpt: Within a span of three weeks, President Obama has announced back-to-back new fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and trucks. New regulations put in place will require a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) of 54.5 miles per gallon for passenger vehicles by 2025. New standards for trucks will require a 10 to 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency before 2018. Whether President Obama realizes it or not, fuel efficiency does not come without compromising other aspects of a vehicle. One feature that will undoubtedly be affected by these new rules is vehicle cost. According to a study conducted by the Center for Automotive Research, the new passenger vehicle standards could eventually cost consumers an additional $5,000-$6,000 for each new vehicle. Even if gas prices rose to $6.00 per gallon, the average American driver may not recoup that huge price increase through fuel savings. Similarly, new rules for trucks are expected to add an additional $1,050 for work trucks and $6,220 for supercab tractors. (Some points worth mentioning: USA Today is a centrist media with a slight liberal tilt, so they should be cheering for this “change;” they aren't. The Center for Automotive Research did give the headlined costs, but for lower amounts of increase to the CAFÉ, like 35 – 45 mpg, not the 54.5 mpg ordered. In fact, the CAR estimates the cost increase at 54.5 mpg to be closer to $11,000 per passenger car (link: ). And, lastly, the activists defending the new regulations are busy proclaiming “this is the FINAL regulation.” Unspoken is: “for the present.” There’s no way to bind future administrations or Congresses to abide by the regulation’s “finality.” They’ll change it as they see fit. If you spend enough money, you CAN make water run uphill for a short distance; the fact that it’s possible doesn’t make it worth doing. If we keep electing liberals, they’ll see and we’ll have the fit. Used cars could be the best investment we could make as they will surely be worth more in the future; a lot of us won't want to afford "new." Ron P.)

Tomasky of the Daily Bigot
Whoah. You know the Left is in deep doo-doo (yes, a Bushism—Bush 41) when Michael Tomasky, Poster Boy for liberal bigotry writes what he posted last night on The Daily Beast. This is a doozy. Writing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Tomasky has the audacity of stupidity to write this: He preceded these with a remark about Barack Obama not being respected by the military. And, of course, there was the infamous statement that Ben Bernanke would be committing “treason” by priming the economy. Not bad—nail the black guy and the Jew in your very first week on the trail! “Nail the black guy and the Jew.” How low is that? The implication is clear: any criticism of Obama shows you’re against all blacks, and suddenly, a card-carrying member of the Left is standing up for a Jew. Well, stop the presses right now.

Zawahiri: Co-opting Syria's Revolution
Excerpt: Al-Qaida's new senior leader is trying to co-opt Syria's revolution with a message of anti-Americanism and hate, in a new video translation recently released to jihadi forums. "Peace be upon you while you teach the rebellious, treacherous, traitorous system severe lessons on how to resist him, his corruption and treachery, his compliance in favor of the global hegemony and his desertion of Golan," Ayman al-Zawahiri says in his attack on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. "Peace be upon you, O champions and heroes! Indeed you have presented a great example, teaching your Arab and Islamic Ummah lessons about sacrifice, resilience and fighting injustice."

Republicans Decry DHS Deportation Review as 'Amnesty'
Excerpt: Republicans accused the Obama administration of instituting "backdoor amnesty" after officials announced they would launch a case-by-case review of illegal immigrants slated for deportation in an effort to thin the list and focus resources on kicking out criminals. The move would likely grant a reprieve to many would-be DREAM Act beneficiaries and thousands of others. The DREAM Act is a proposal in Congress to give illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a chance at legal status if they complete two years of college or military service. Though the bill has not passed, Thursday's announcement could serve to carry out its provisions. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, one of the president's toughest critics on border policy, said the move amounts to the administration implementing an immigration overhaul "via executive fiat."

Should Foreign students walk off Hershey’s factory job in protest of labor disagreements?
Excerpt: Hundreds of foreign students on a State Department cultural exchange visa program walked off their factory jobs in protest on Wednesday. The J-1 visa program brings foreign students to the country to work for two months and learn English, and was designed in part to fill seasonal tourism jobs at resorts and seaside towns. The 400 students employed at a Pennsylvania factory that makes Hershey's candies told The New York Times that even though they make $8.35 an hour, their rent and program fees are deducted from their paychecks, leaving them with less money than they spent to get the visas and travel to the country in the first place. Some of the students were assigned night shifts, and said they were pressured to work faster and faster on the factory lines.

The Islamist Threat Inside Our Military
Excerpt: Our armed forces are becoming ground zero for American Muslims in the ideological struggle between Americanism and Islamism. U.S. Army Pvt. Naser Abdo points to that serious conflict. Pvt. Abdo was arrested recently in possession of weapons and explosive materials. Investigators say he told them he planned to attack the military. The private has publicly complained that he faced discrimination because he is Muslim. How many Islamists gone militant do we need to attack us before our military addresses radicalization among its Muslim members? Political correctness and denial are not working.

Why Bam’s doomed
Excerpt: Unless something extraordinarily dramatic comes along to change the course of the US economy and the sentiments of the American people in the next six months, Barack Obama is finished. That conclusion is inescapable from the history of US presidential politics since 1945. Obama is now below 40 percent in job approval in the Gallup poll. Yes, as the political scientist Larry Sabato points out, almost every president since FDR has fallen to that level. But of those seven presidents, five (Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush) went on either to lose the next election or to not run again. The Truman story is complex: He was at 35 percent in 1946 yet won in ’48 -- but he fell back into the 30s in 1951 and opted against running for a second full term.

Illegal immigrant, former APD officer facing 1 year in prison
Excerpt: Federal prosecutors are requesting a year in prison, three years of probation and a $250,000 fine for the man who worked as an Anchorage police officer the past eight years even though he is a Mexican national in this country illegally.

California Iraqi-Mexican crime ring busted, police say
Excerpt: Police in southern California have arrested 60 people and broken up an Iraqi criminal ring accused of selling drugs, machine guns and improvised bombs out of an immigrant social club, authorities said on Thursday. The swoop by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local police targeted a network operating out of El Cajon, which is near San Diego and close to the border with Mexico. El Cajon police said the criminal organization of individuals of Iraqi descent had suspected ties to the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, a criminal group founded in the early 1980s in Detroit, Michigan.

The War with Syria
Excerpt: So the president finally swallowed hard and pronounced the three words: “Assad must go.” (…) The Administration, following in the footsteps of its predecessors (as far back as I can remember), had convinced itself that Assad was somehow a pal of ours, and, in the face of the Syrian Spring and Summer, would of course “reform.” After months of slaughter, as jaws dropped all over what used to be called The Western World at the spectacle of an American leader who danced all around one of the clearest moral and strategic imperatives EVER, we finally get this. But not to worry; he’s not really going to get involved in a serious way: “The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria,” Obama said. It’s like Libya 4.0: First he clucks his tongue. Then he laments the killing, calling on the killers to act reasonably. Then he pronounces himself “appalled.” All of this creates one of those policy vacuums that nature so famously abhors, and various countries (the Saudis, for example) withdraw their diplomats to show their disgust.

Worth Reading: The Euro Disaster: A transnational single currency harms both rich nations and poor ones.
Excerpt: The country’s op-ed pages have been full of condemnations of the dysfunction of American politics, what with all the populist clamor and partisan disagreement. So, a thought experiment: What if we were governed by a sophisticated transnational elite that operated outside of normal political channels as much as possible and, sharing similar values, forged compromises relatively easily? What if the elite were high-minded and visionary? What if they succeeded in doing “big things”? In Europe for the past couple of decades, this hasn’t been a fanciful hope, it’s been a reality. A political and financial overclass engineered the adoption of the euro, based on one of the world’s most foolhardy delusions since the fall of the Berlin Wall: that you can have a common currency without a common country. (Unfortunately, we will be dragged into the disaster. ~Bob.)

The Collar Bomber's Explosive Tech Gaffe
Excerpt: The man who claimed to have attached a bomb collar to an Australian high school student two weeks ago thought it would be a good idea to leave a ransom note on a USB stick looped around her neck. What he probably didn't realize is that he also left his name, hidden deep in the device's memory.

Atlas Is Sorta Shrugging
Excerpt: The president just concluded a frenzied “jobs” bus tour to explain why unemployment is at 9.1% — after borrowing nearly $5 trillion in stimulus the last three years. You know the usual suspects responsible for our, not his, malaise: George Bush did it; the Republican obstructionists in the Congress who were wary of approving another $2 trillion in debt did it; the Tea Party did it; Standard and Poor’s did it; the Japanese earthquake did it; the Japanese tsunami and nuclear accidents did it; the Middle East unrest did it; the European debt crisis did it; new technology like ATM machines did it. Obama has cited these culprits and many more — though never either himself or his advisors who took a weak recovery and turned it into a near recession.

Enjoy the great orator

Memo to the GOP: Independent Voters Are Required to Win the General Election
Excerpt: On one hand, we have an incumbent president with dismally low job-approval ratings; his signature legislative accomplishment of health care reform remains very unpopular, and he is presiding over an enormously weak and worsening economy. This is a combination sufficiently bad to prevent any president's reelection. On the other hand, we have an opposing party whose center of gravity and energy levels have swung so far to one side of the ideological spectrum as to have been designed to alienate the independent and swing voters, the people who will effectively decide this presidential election. To put it more simply, this election is the Republican Party’s to lose, and yet, they may pull it off, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s hard to argue with the proposition that President Obama is extremely weak heading into his reelection campaign. Though presidential job-approval ratings don’t begin taking on predictive value until about a year before the actual election, his 40 percent Gallup job-approval rating for the week ending July 14, with 52 percent disapproving, is not good. Although 74 percent of Democrats approve the job he is doing, among independent voters, a group he carried by 8 percentage points in 2008, just 36 percent approve; among Republicans, only 9 percent approve. (Although solidly in the Democratic camp, Cook’s interpretation of polls—and their likely meaning—is widely respected. While we may argue he has set the political “center point” a bit too far left, it isn’t likely he’s off by a lot. How badly do we want to get Obama and his cronies out of office? Do we want it badly enough to turn to a winning strategy? Or will we console ourselves with our intact ideological purity and give them another four years to wreak “change” on the republic? Ron P.)

China Threatening U.S. Space Superiority
Excerpt: Yesterday in New York City, NASA's last space shuttle astronauts visited a World War II aircraft carrier-turned-museum docked on the west side of Manhattan. The carrier is one of four museums where retired NASA shuttles will go to rest now that the historic shuttle program has ended. But as NASA sends its shuttles to museums, China is making great strides in its space program—with preparations under way for the launch of a Chinese spacelab in the next few weeks. These advances are beginning to threaten U.S. space superiority and America's ability to support its friends and allies and to deter aggression. In a new paper, China's Space Program: A Growing Factor in U.S. Security Planning, The Heritage Foundation's Dean Cheng explains the advances in China's space program and how America must respond.

Smacking Down Progressives of Pallor
Excerpt: Is there anything more condescending than a porcelain-skinned Hollywood liberal who attempts to show her presumed solidarity with minorities by referring to them as "people of color"? Yes, there is: Two porcelain-skinned liberals attempting to show their allegiance to "diversity" by attacking "people of color" who happen to disagree with their radical politics. Such an exchange took place on a little-watched television show on Al Gore's obscure cable network Wednesday night. I am spotlighting the diatribe for you not because the speakers involved hold any sway with the American electorate, but because paternalistic racism is so prevalent among the media-entertainment elite. And it's about time someone knocked these self-appointed Saviors of the Oppressed off their high horses. (Are “people of color” colored people? No? ~Bob.)

Islamists’ New Terror Front in Egypt
Excerpt: At least eight people died and dozens were left wounded after a terrorist attack in Israel on Thursday. Israeli officials claim the deadly strike was staged from Egyptian territory. The sophisticated, three-stage assault, involving as many as 20 Islamist terrorists, took place near Eilat on Route 12, which runs close to Egypt’s Sinai border for “several dozen kilometres.” Eilat is a southern Israeli port city on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. The Israelis identified “terror cells affiliated with the Palestinian Resistance Committees” in Gaza as the ones responsible for the carnage and staged a retaliatory air strike the same day that killed the cells’ leaders. Significantly and ominously for the Israelis, though, the attack showed terrorists were able to freely cross the border from Gaza into Egypt and launch their strike from Egyptian soil. This represents the opening of a new front against the Jewish state.

Stabbing suspect out of hospital, held on $1 million bail
Excerpt: Sulaiman admitted to authorities that he stabbed a fuel deliveryman at the Valero gas station on Route 206 in Mansfield, but his motive for what authorities described as a random attack was still unclear, Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor John Brennan said. Sulaiman is not a United States citizen, but is in the country legally, Brennan said. He has ties to Iraq and a juvenile record, he said. Court records also show that Sulaiman was arrested and charged with possession of PCP in Camden County in June. The charge was downgraded to a municipal offense. The disposition of the case was not available Tuesday. At the time of the alleged attacks, Sulaiman was working at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst for defense subcontractor Akima Logistics, which is located on the base.

Growing body of research says dogs really can smell cancer
Excerpt: Four family dogs – two German shepherds, one Australian shepherd and one Labrador retriever – smelled test tubes containing breath samples of 220 patients, both those with lung cancer and those without it. The dogs were trained to lie down in front of the test tubes where they smelled lung cancer and touch the vial with their noses. According to the study, the dogs successfully identified lung cancer in 71 out of 100 patients with the disease.

Can American Students Compete Globally?
Excerpt: Thirty-two percent of U.S. students in the class of 2011 were proficient in mathematics when they were in 8th grade, according to the official U.S. report card on student achievement. Coincidentally, that places the United States in 32nd place among the 65 nations of the world that participated in PISA, the math test administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, says Paul E. Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute. That 32 percent proficiency rate compares to a 50 percent or better proficiency rate in Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and the Netherlands. In Shanghai, the proficiency rate is no less than 75 percent. Many other nations also had math proficiency rates well above that of the United States, including Germany (45 percent), Australia (44 percent) and France (39 percent). Of all the states, only Massachusetts has a majority of its students (51 percent) scoring at or above the proficiency mark; Minnesota, the runner-up state, has a math proficiency rate of just 43 percent. Only four additional states -- Vermont, North Dakota, New Jersey and Kansas -- have a math proficiency rate above 40 percent. Some of the country's largest and richest states score below the average for the United States as a whole, including New York (30 percent), Missouri (30 percent), Michigan (29 percent), Florida (27 percent) and California (24 percent), says Peterson.

Historical Background to the Greek Debt Crisis
Excerpt: Political clientelism and rent seeking have been the central organizing principles of Greek society since the foundation of the Greek state in the 19th century. The influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church on Greek nationalism and the legacy of the patrimonialist Ottoman Empire produced a weak civil society. The result has been a disproportionately large Greek state and public bureaucracy since the 1800s that set the stage for rent-seeking struggles that have followed, says Takis Michas, a journalist at the Greek national daily, Eleftherotypia. Since the 1930s, political patronage has been disbursed through increases in public sector employment, regulations that limit competition and the imposition of levies on transactions that benefit third parties. The resulting system has encouraged corruption, discouraged wealth creation and affected popular ideological narratives. The view that the state is good and that markets are bad is widespread, held across the political spectrum and is understandable in a rent-seeking society where all activities, including market transactions, are seen as redistribution. But the realization of "putting people above markets" has deepened clientelism and produced the current national crisis, says Michas.

Fast Food Outlet in Pickle as Activists Attack Foam Cups
Excerpt: Activists have long claimed that foam cups are less energy efficient than paper cups because they were not recycled as much. More recently, they have levied the charge that the cups are dangerous because they are made with a supposed carcinogenic chemical— styrene.  They are wrong on both counts. First consider the impact on energy usage. Earlier this year, the research group Franklin Associates released findings from their life-cycle assessment of polystyrene packaging and alternative paper products. Such assessments attempt to measure the impact that products have on the environment during their entire lifetime — from cradle to grave. The company found that the average 16-ounce polystyrene cup uses a third less energy, produces 50 percent less solid waste by volume, and releases a third less of so-called “green house gases” than does a 16-ounce paper cup with a sleeve. Over their lifecycles, polystyrene packaging products require 20 to 30 percent less water than do paper alternatives.

Scores show students aren’t ready for college: 75% may need remedial classes
Excerpt: Only 25 percent cleared all of ACT’s college preparedness benchmarks, while 75 percent likely will spend part of their freshman year brushing up on high-school-level course work. The 2011 class is best prepared for college-level English courses, with 73 percent clearing the bar in that subject. Students are most likely to need remedial classes in science and math, the report says.

Excerpt: Some top Congressional Democrats are losing faith in President Obama's signature employment initiative, the promotion of so-called "green jobs." They've lost so much faith that on Thursday one liberal Democratic member of Congress called the president's green jobs program "a lot of talk." "Of course, we want to be a part of the new innovation and the green jobs," Rep. Maxine Waters said on MSNBC Thursday. "But you know, the green jobs have been about a lot of talk and not a lot has been happening on that." A few hours later, also on MSNBC, Waters said flatly: "All of this talk about the green jobs never materialized."

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