Monday, August 22, 2011

Political Digest for August 23, 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.

"I'm Tired"
Is enjoying a fourth or fifth life. If you get a copy sent to you, especially with the actor's picture, please forward to me with all the e-mails so I can respond. It helps recruit readers for the blog. Thanks. ~Bob.

Libyan Rebels Close In On Gaddafi
Given that Gaddafi had given up his nukes and was no longer posing an active threat to us, as far as was reported, the outcome of all this may shock the naive. ~Bob. Excerpt: Associated Press reporters with the rebels said they moved easily from the western outskirts into the regime stronghold in a dramatic turning of the tides in the 6-month-old Libyan civil war. A rebel leader said the unit in charge of protecting Gadhafi and Tripoli had surrendered and joined the revolt, allowing the opposition force to move in freely. "They will enter
Green Square
tonight, God willing," said Mohammed al-Zawi, a 30-year-old rebel who entered Tripoli.
Green Square
has been the site of night rallies by Gadhafi supporters throughout the uprising. Earlier in the day, the rebels overran a major military base defending the capital, carted away truckloads of weapons and raced to Tripoli with virtually no resistance.

Libyan Blues
Excerpt: Many are ready to party about the political demise of the hated, eccentric, and foul Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi as rebel troops move into Tripoli. I am not partying. Here's why not. The NATO intervention in March 2011 was done without due diligence as to who it is in Benghazi that it was helping. To this day, their identity is a mystery. Chances are good that Islamist forces are hiding behind more benign elements, waiting for the right moment to pounce, as roughly happened in Iran in 1978-79, when Islamists did not make clear their strength nor their program until the shah was well disposed of. Should that be the case in Libya today, then the miserable Qaddafi will prove to be better than his successors for both the Libyan subjects of tyranny and the West.

Can We Trust Libya's Rebels?
Interesting poll. Also interesting that the suggestion that there are Islamists among the rebels who hate America and the west is not one of the responses. ~Bob.

Qaddafi Falls
Excerpt: The reign of Muammar Qaddafi​ has come to an end. That he was a cruel despot deserving of an unforgiving end is a given, but now a new chapter in Libya, rife with uncharted, ominous struggles has begun. Foremost among theses struggles will be preventing the ensuing anarchy and civil strife brought on by Qaddafi’s defeat from being utilized by Islamists to gain power and to establish a Sharia state. With the likes of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood​ openly supporting the Libyan rebels, the danger is that the downfall of the proverbial devil we knew, Qaddafi, may yet unleash something far worse.

Excerpt: Of all the issues bandied about in the recent debate over the debt ceiling, none generated more contention, more TV ads and more unseemly rhetoric than potential changes to Medicare. Health economists generally believe that Medicare is on an unsustainable course and is desperately in need of reform. Yet public opinion polls show that most seniors disagree. They not only resist cuts in Medicare to solve the problem of federal deficit spending, they also resisted the spending cuts and delivery of care innovations envisioned by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as the private insurance innovations envisioned by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the House Republicans. In short, most seniors would like to keep Medicare just like it is. A similar view is held by a small, but vocal group on the left that favors single-payer national health insurance. The Physicians for a National Health Program, for example, claims that Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurance and is able to use its monopsony (single-buyer) power to suppress provider fees. The group, which is resistant to managed care, favors “Medicare for all” and endorses a bill to do just that by John Conyers.

Commentary: Rare Earth Dependence
Readers of Collapse will be familiar with this problem. ~Bob. Excerpt: Increasing the United States' reliance on a "clean" energy, as touted by President Obama, is a risky policy that leaves Americans dependent on China for supplies of critical energy resources. Key components of every green energy technology, be they wind turbines, solar cells, energy efficient lighting, high-tech batteries, and other goods, are made from of a small class of minerals known as the rare earth elements, and other rare minerals. Despite their name, these elements are abundant, but, for the near future, they are found in economically exploitable concentrations only in the People's Republic of China. With 97 percent of the global market, China has a de facto monopoly on the trade in these rare elements. China has already shown itself willing to use its virtual monopoly on rare earths to extract favorable political outcomes from foreign nations. In September 2010 a Chinese trawler collided with a Japanese coast guard vessel in a disputed portion of the East China Sea. The captain of the fishing boat was arrested by the Japanese. When Japan refused to release the Captain, China retaliated by first limiting and eventually halting exports of rare earth elements to Japan. Japan eventually relented and sent the captain home. The production of solar cells relies on the rare element tellurium. However, the only tellurium mine on Earth is in China.

Millionaires Go Missing
Excerpt: In 2007, 390,000 tax filers reported adjusted gross income of $1 million or more and paid $309 billion in taxes. In 2009, there were only 237,000 such filers, a decline of 39 percent. Almost four of 10 millionaires vanished in two years, and the total taxes they paid in 2009 declined to $178 billion, a drop of 42 percent, says the Wall Street Journal. Those with $10 million or more in reported income fell to 8,274 from 18,394 in 2007, a 55 percent drop. As a result, their tax payments tanked by 51 percent. These disappearing millionaires go a long way toward explaining why federal tax revenues have sunk to 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in recent years. The loss of millionaires accounts for at least $130 billion of the higher federal budget deficit in 2009. But the millionaires who are left still pay a mountain of tax. Those who make $1 million accounted for about 0.2 percent of all tax returns but paid 20.4 percent of income taxes in 2009. Those with adjusted gross income above $200,000 a year were just under 3 percent of tax filers but paid 50.1 percent of the $866 billion in total personal income taxes. Before the recession, the $200,000 income group paid 54.5 percent of the income tax. This means the top 3 percent paid more than the bottom 97 percent, yet the 3 percent are the people that President Obama claims don't pay their fair share.

Oregon City Shuts Down Cancer Patient's Fundraising Garage Sales
Government is at best a necessary evil that infringes on liberty, and must be controlled by honest folks without their hands out. If there are any left. Ron P. is right--the bean counters are the worst. ~Bob.

Iraqi sniper who shot dead two Marines freed after serving two-and-a-half years for each killing
Add another mutt to the list of folks I'd kill if I had the power. It's rather a long list--I suppose that makes me a bad person in many eyes. ~Bob. Excerpt: They were told that so long as a U.S. marine was still in Iraq, he would remain in jail. But now, just five years after shooting dead two American soldiers, an Iraqi sniper has been released from prison - and walked away a free man. Compounding the families’ agony was that the announcement came shortly before the fifth anniversary of the killing.

After jihadists from Egypt kill Jews, Egyptian pulls down Star of David flag on Israeli embassy in Cairo before cheering throng
How's that "democratic Arab spring" working out for you? ~Bob.

Trial lawyers prep for war on Rick Perry
Excerpt: America’s trial lawyers are getting ready to make the case against one of their biggest targets in years: Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Among litigators, there is no presidential candidate who inspires the same level of hatred — and fear — as Perry, an avowed opponent of the plaintiffs’ bar who has presided over several rounds of tort reform as governor. And if Perry ends up as the Republican nominee for president, deep-pocketed trial lawyers intend to play a central role in the campaign to defeat him. That’s a potential financial boon to a president who has unsettled trial lawyers with his own rhetorical gestures in the direction of tort reform. A general election pitting Barack Obama and Perry could turn otherwise apathetic trial lawyers into a phalanx of pro-Obama bundlers and super PAC donors.

What if Obama quit?
I doubt it, but it would get him to his billionaire speaking career four years sooner, make his life easier and motivated the Democrats. Hard to tell how blacks would break over it, though. ~Bob. Excerpt: Some will scoff at the notion that Obama and his large ego would walk away from the office, but LBJ was also rumored to think pretty highly of himself. It’s a low-probability outcome, but it isn’t a zero probability outcome. Obama’s ratings have tanked this year along with the economy, and he hasn’t come up with an original thought on economic policy since Porkulus. The leaks of his rumored plan sound a lot like Porkulus II, a sequel to a flop. This gives the impression that Obama has run out of ideas, and as Noonan argues in her piece, his attacks on Republicans for their supposed refusal to pass a plan he has yet to even submit to them sounds like a man who realizes that he’s out of ideas, too. But the decision may end up being out of his hands if the political environment doesn’t improve. Obama’s numbers are plummeting in places Democrats can hardly afford to lose. In Pennsylvania, where Obama will top a ticket that also includes Bob Casey’s bid for a second Senate term, he’s either at 43% approval (Quinnipiac) or at 35% (Muhlenberg). Wisconsin turned Republican last year and a series of elections this year confirmed it, and Herb Kohl’s seat in the Senate is up for grabs. Obama can be expected to drag down the ticket in Virginia (James Webb’s seat is open), Florida (Bill Nelson), Ohio (Sherrod Brown), Maryland (Ben Cardin), and Michigan (Debbie Stabenow). Obama is underwater in New York and New Jersey already, two normally staunch Democratic states, both with Senate races on the line as well.

Chronic fatigue syndrome researchers face death threats from militants
I don't know a lot about it, but one would have thought they'd be too tired for protests and violence. ~Bob. Excerpt: The full extent of the campaign of intimidation, attacks and death threats made against scientists by activists who claim researchers are suppressing the real cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is revealed today by the Observer. According to the police, the militants are now considered to be as dangerous and uncompromising as animal rights extremists.

Excerpt: An illegal alien from Mexico was awarded a $200k judgment of taxpayer dollars because she was “shackled” while in labor with her latest anchor baby. She had been pulled over and found to have no driver’s license and was legally taken into custody in compliance with Federal law. She was sent to a detention center and went into labor with her fourth anchor baby shortly afterward. The fact that she was near labor was a coincidence. She had been previously deported from San Diego, California, but simply snuck across the border again. She was living in Nashville, TN.

Every Single One: The Politicized Hiring of Eric Holder’s Employment Section
This is Part 6; links to the previous parts are in the article. Ron P. Excerpt: The Employment Section is primarily responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provisions applicable to state and local governments under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez has a downright disturbing agenda for the Section. Speaking to the liberal American Constitution Society, he promised that his Division would pursue “disparate impact” litigation — where no proof of actual discrimination is required but mere disproportionate workforce representation — with vigor rarely before seen. He wasn’t kidding. Indeed, the Division’s aggressive efforts to defend and expand the use of racial preferences in public sector hiring, promotions, and contracting ought to offend all Americans who believe in the promise of a just and colorblind society. Although politically correct terms like goals” and “timetables” are de rigueur, there is no hiding what is really being advocated here: racial quotas. Meanwhile, the Section’s enforcement of the laws against religious discrimination seems focused almost obsessively on the protection of Muslims to the exclusion of almost every other group.

The Adventures of Captain America
Excerpt: Before President Obama headed off to his rented 28-acre retreat in Martha's Vineyard, he spent a few days campaigning around the Midwest in his new million-dollar, Canadian-made campaign bus, paid for at government expense. He even unveiled what many believe will be his new re-election theme: "Country first." According to his new stump speech, if you oppose his agenda, then you don't care about America as much as he does. ... In news that will no doubt rekindle the hopes of the unemployed, the White House says Obama has an idea for how to get even more Americans working. Of course, it will depend on that "America first" spirit, which will really separate the patriotic from the petty. And what is his big new plan for putting country first? Well, you'll just have to wait until September to find out. For now, his policy is Martha's Vineyard first.

Voting's Not as Easy as It Looks
Excerpt: In addition to a national I.D. number, if I had my druthers, I would raise the voting age to 26. If you're still covered by your parents' insurance policies, you're not an adult. The only exceptions to the rule would be young people serving in the military. I would also require those people who aren't old enough to collect Social Security to prove they pay income taxes. If there is a screwier notion than allowing those who pay no income taxes to vote for those in a position to force those of us who do pay them to pay even more for the benefit of those who don't pay any, I don't want to hear about it. I'm sure it would make my head explode. Finally, I would insist that anyone who wishes to cast a ballot prove he can read English by passing a basic civics exam. If you don't know who George Washington was and you have no idea what the Bill of Rights is, you have no God-given right to cancel out the vote of someone who does.

Voluntary Tax Rates and Personalized Earmarks: How to Solve the Debate over Taxes
Excerpt: Submitted for your approval: The perfect solution to America’s national debate over taxes. This proposal is completely serious. Below you will find my suggestion for an amended IRS 1040 form. As you will see, it contains two new sections: “Voluntary Tax Rate,” in which each American can individually determine his or her own rate of income taxation; and “Allocation,” in which taxpayers can apply their personal tax payments to specific federal expenses. It’s simple, it’s completely non-partisan and even-handed, and it allows for total individual autonomy and personal freedom. (Written tongue-in-cheek, there’s no chance whatever this proposal could be approved. The very same feature that makes it attractive to some would instantly doom it in the eyes of every statist and many others: it’s voluntary. Americans already have the ability to voluntarily pay additional taxes. Do you see a Buffet or a Trump or a Springer taking advantage of them? What does that tell you about their sincerity? Ron P.)

Blacks' Dilemma With Obama
Excerpt: It is not hard to understand why black Americans were happy that a black man was elected president of the United States. It was kind of a final and most grand announcement that racism has finally been purged from America. But for the highly politicized parts of black America this was certainly not the only message. Because for the highly politicized parts of black America, the point has always been to keep race in American politics. (Clear, simple, and direct, this may be the best column I’ve seen from Parker in a while. Ron P.)

FCC Strikes Final Blow to Fairness Doctrine
Excerpt: The Federal Communications Commission announced on Monday that it will slash 83 media-related rules from the books—including the controversial but defunct Fairness Doctrine—in an effort to clean house by shedding regulations that it no longer enforces. The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to provide equal airtime to opposing views. On the books since 1949, it had not been enforced since 1987. It was enacted when radio and television airwaves were considered a public resource that had to be managed fairly and without bias. Anyone holding a broadcast license was required to provide news and public affairs programming and to present opposing viewpoints. (The Fairness Doctrine would have been more palatable if it had actually been fair. As is often he case, all that was necessary to oppose the doctrine was to look at those in favor of keeping it. Every supporter was an unabashed statist. Ron P.)

Arab Spring: Unrest in North Africa and the Middle East
This is a pretty good overview of what has happened so far in each of the 5 major countries impacted. Ron P. Excerpt: In December 2010, an unemployed street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest police harassment, setting off a historical wave of protests across North Africa and the Middle East against repressive government regimes. Activists saw the successful ousters of longtime rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, but as the Arab Spring has moved into summer, revolts in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and other countries have bogged down into bloody quagmires. Small-scale protests continue in a handful of Arab states, while other regimes appear to have weathered the regional storm.

Maxine Waters to Tea Party: "Go straight to hell"
Waters' voice speaks for government today, and for her, the Tea Party represents We the People.
Yep, she hates us. It's near the end of the video. Run it ahead to last quarter or so: --Don Hank

A strike too far
If a union falls by the wayside and nobody notices, does it make a difference?
Verizon’s union workforce will return to work tomorrow, after a 16-day strike. You may have noticed that you didn’t notice. Unless you belong to the Communications Workers of America or the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- or happen to live or work near a Verizon facility beset by shouting picketers -- you probably didn’t pay much attention. People who recently moved didn’t get their phone lines installed quite as quickly, and a few companies reportedly waited days for repairs. But, mostly, the strike was a nonevent, even for Verizon customers. Anyone old enough to remember the 1970s should understand just how amazing this is. Back then, telephones were black rotary models that caused a sore spot on your index finger if you dialed too many numbers in a row. (Pros used a pencil.) You paid what the company told you, or you didn’t make calls. The telephone company and its all-powerful union controlled the only way of talking to friends and customers, short of putting on a coat and toddling across town.

Before you ask for more tax money from me, raise the $2.2 trillion you already collect each year more fairly and spend it more wisely.
Excerpt: Over the years, I have paid a significant portion of my income to the various federal, state and local jurisdictions in which I have lived, and I deeply resent that President Obama has decided that I don't need all the money I've not paid in taxes over the years, or that I should leave less for my children and grandchildren and give more to him to spend as he thinks fit. I also resent that Warren Buffett and others who have created massive wealth for themselves think I'm "coddled" because they believe they should pay more in taxes. I certainly don't feel "coddled" because these various governments have not imposed a higher income tax. After all, I did earn it. Now that I'm 72 years old, I can look forward to paying a significant portion of my accumulated wealth in estate taxes to the federal government and, depending on the state I live in at the time, to that state government as well. Of my current income this year, I expect to pay 80%-90% in federal income taxes, state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and federal and state estate taxes. Isn't that enough? Others could pay higher taxes if they choose. They could voluntarily write a check or they could advocate that their gifts to foundations should be made with after-tax dollars and not be deductible. They could also pay higher taxes if they were not allowed to set up foundations to avoid capital gains and estate taxes.
Excerpt: "We are not immigrants that came from another country to another country. We are migrants, free to travel the length and breadth of the Americas because we belong here. We are millions. We just have to survive. We have an aging white America. They are not making babies. They are dying. It's a matter of time. The explosion is in our population." - Jose Angel Gutierrez, founder and spokesman. La Raza Unida (The United Race) leader Johnny Joe Guerra faces spending the rest of his life in federal prison for drug trafficking while two other members of the La Raza Unida gang will be serving lengthy prison terms for committing violent crimes in aid of Racketeering (VICAR), according to law enforcement officials.

In the Race to Succeed Weiner, a Surprising Anger at Obama
Excerpt: The Sept. 13 election was expected to be a sleepy sideshow — a mere formality that would put David I. Weprin, a Democratic state assemblyman and heir to a Queens political dynasty, into a Congressional seat that became vacant this summer when Mr. Weiner quit over an online sex scandal. Instead, the race has become something far more unsettling to Democrats: a referendum on the president and his party that is highlighting the surprisingly raw emotions of the electorate. National Democrats, alarmed by a poll that showed the contest far closer than anticipated, are privately fretting that even a close outcome in a working-class swath of Brooklyn and Queens may foreshadow broader troubles for the party in 2012. (When Scott Brown shocked the Massachusetts establishment, it heralded a growing national discontent with—and, if you will, a withdrawal of consent from—the “business as usual” attitude of the dominant liberalism/statism of the leftists. This may be a reflection of its continuation. The chances of actually seating a Republican from this district are slender but it shows that the “anger of the governed” isn’t going away quickly. Some on the left may even moderate their positions in an effort to hold on to their seats. Nah. They’ll deny and blame it on the Tea Party. The Left doesn’t understand. They see the Tea Party as the source of the anger. In fact, the anger at the Left’s overreaching is what created and fuels the Tea Party. Ron P.)

The Week That Was: 2011-08-20 (August 20, 2011)
Excerpt: NOAA published estimates of the annual costs of weather disasters and estimates that 2011 may become the worst year yet. As society has become more prosperous, the cost of disasters will increase. It is also worth noting the most expensive year was 2005 with Hurricane Katrina estimated to cost an inflation adjusted $145 Billion. Much of this loss in New Orleans would not have occurred if the environmental industry had not successfully stopped a Corps of Engineers project to protect the city from storm surges with a moveable barrier system built along Interstate 10. The project was stopped by a successful lawsuit filed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Please see articles referenced under “Changing Weather.” (…) One of the more unusual stories is that Exxon and its partner, Norway’s StatoilASA found a massive oil field in the Gulf of Mexico and kept the extent of the find secret. When Exxon applied for extensions of leases for the field, the Interior Department of the Obama administration turned them down. Now all parties are headed to court. The extent of the find further indicates the damage to the economy from the administration’s policy of slowing down the development of oil fields and the departure of drilling rigs to friendlier, foreign waters. (The article on Exxon’s oil discovery is from the WSJ, and usually hidden behind a paywall; here, the article is reprinted in full. It’s a doozy that gives a clear look at the anti-business attitude of the administration. Ron P.)

Turn Your Head and Cough: The Bait-and-Switch Enviro Swindle
Excerpt: For most of the last decade global warming has been their cause, and carbon—or burning fossil fuels—was vilified as the cause. This gave way to a whole new industry: green. Green energy would replace fossil fuels. Wind and solar would replace coal as the source fuel for electricity and ethanol, or other fuels generated from biomass, would replace liquid fuels. Green energy would provide new “green” jobs. The world would be a beautiful place. This all sounded nice. It felt good.  But that was before data began to be show how much more all of this was going to cost and the urgent need to save the planet passed. The polar bears were not drowning. The measurements were found to be falsified. Consensus science didn’t work. The seas did not rise and the world seemed to adapt to whatever the various changes have been. There was a “newfound hostility to climate policy.” Suddenly, we did not want to spend so much on “feel good.”

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