Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Political Digest for October 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.

Blog Removed.
If you log on to the Old Jarhead blog and get this notice, please check back. From time to time, Google’s Spam Filter pulls my blog. They restore it when I appeal, but they don’t seem to have the technical ability to fix the problem. I hate to move to another platform with page views running to 10k a week and over 1,150 followers here.

Free PDF Copy of The Coming Collapse of the American Republic.

Must Read: Lethally Leisured by Mark Steyn
Excerpt: In 1853 or thereabouts, Czar Nicholas I described Turkey as the sick man of Europe. A century and a half later, Turkey is increasingly the strong man of the Middle East, and the sick man of Europe is Europe — or, rather, "Europe." The transformation of a geographical patchwork of nation-states into a single political entity has been the dominant Big Idea of the post-war era, the Big Idea the Continent's elites turned to after all the other Big Ideas — Fascism, Nazism, and eventually Communism — failed, spectacularly. The West's last Big Idea is now dying in the eurozone debt crisis. Although less obviously malign than the big totalitarian -isms, this particular idea has proved so insinuating and debilitating that the only question is whether most of the West dies with it. "Europe" has a basic identity crisis: As the Germans have begun to figure out, just because the Greeks live in the same general neighborhood is no reason to open a joint checking account. And yet a decade ago, when it counted, everyone who mattered on the Continent assumed a common currency for nations with nothing in common was so obviously brilliant an idea it was barely worth explaining to the masses. In the absence of ethnic or cultural compatibility, the European Union offered Big Government as a substitute: The project was propped up by two pillars — social welfare and defense welfare. The former regulated Europe into economic sloth even as India, China, and Brazil began figuring out how this capitalism thing worked. The latter meant that the U.S. defense umbrella ensured once-lavish budgets for hussars and lancers could be reallocated to government health care and other lollipops — and it still wasn't enough. Whatever the individual merits of ever-more-leisurely education, 30-hour work weeks, six weeks' vacation, retirement at 50, the cumulative impact is that not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives. And once large numbers of people acquire the habits of a leisured class, there are not many easy ways back to reality. Defense welfare does the same at a geopolitical level. In absolving the Continent of responsibility for its own defense, the United States not only enabled Europe to beat its swords into Ponzi shares but, in a subtle and profound way, helped enervate the survival instincts of some of the oldest nation-states on the planet

Notorious Iranian militant has a connection to alleged assassination plot against Saudi envoy
Excerpt: When nearly $100,000 landed in an undercover FBI bank account from a source linked to an Iranian paramilitary force, officials began taking seriously an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador that at first had seemed outlandish. And as the investigation unfolded over recent months, a name emerged that chilled some in the U.S. government. The Iranian cousin of the man accused of plotting the assassination was Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior commander in Iran’s Quds Force, who had been linked to the killing of American troops in Iraq. (Apparently he wasn’t impressed with Obama’s outreach and use of “soft power.” ~Bob.)

Rick Perry takes military-style tack to protect Texas border from Mexican cartels
Excerpt: A little before dawn on a sticky summer night in June, one of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Ranger Reconnaissance Teams was running a clandestine operation along the Rio Grande when its surveillance squad came across a Dodge Durango pickup truck loaded with bales of Mexican marijuana. The lawmen chased the truck along the river, with a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter swooping overhead and Texas game wardens roaring down the Rio Grande in boats, state authorities said. In minutes, the traffickers had ditched the truck in the muddy water and were rafting the dope back to Mexico. Then the shooting started. Alone among his Republican rivals running for president, the Texas governor has a small army at his disposal. Over the past three years, he has deployed it along his southern flank in a secretive, military-style campaign that his supporters deem absolutely necessary and successful and that his critics call an overzealous, expensive and mostly ineffective political stunt.

Fiscal Illusion and Fiscal Obfuscation: Tax Perception in Sweden
Excerpt: Fiscal illusion is a term that is applied when the public largely misunderstands key tax and spending parameters, which distort their financial and governmental beliefs. Looking specifically to Sweden, Bjorn Wallace and Tino Sanandaji, Ph.D. students at the Stockholm School of Economics and the University of Chicago, respectively, examine fiscal illusion in that country. Sweden is an ideal country in which to conduct such a study because its government collects a greater share of national income in taxes than in any other country. Therefore, it seems logical that the Swedish government would be highly incentivized to encourage illusion, as this would help to muddle the actual amount of personal income that is paid to the government. When questioned about the portion of the average Swede's personal income that is paid in taxes, the average response was 40 percent and the median 35 percent -- far off from the correct rate of 63 percent. Though most respondents correctly identified the amount of the employer portion of the payroll tax, most misunderstood the burden of the tax, with only 24 percent stating correctly that it was on employees while 56 percent stated it was on employers. In 2003, taxes comprised 55 percent of Sweden's national income. The strong concentration (roughly half the respondents) of responses pointing to a tax burden of around 30 to 39 percent suggests that many respondents were thinking only of the direct income taxes. This suggests that respondents failed to understand the true level of taxes because of the number of revenue sources and the fact that some are partially hidden. One of the hidden sources of revenue is the employer portion of the payroll tax. While most respondents knew the level of the tax, they failed to realize that empirically, the tax is paid by employees; though the company technically pays the bill, the employee receives less compensation and fewer people are able to work.

Families Don't Depend on the Minimum Wage
Excerpt: The minimum wage is likely to be a hot-button issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but it is as high as $8.67 in Washington state, says the Wall Street Journal. Everyone favors the rising real wages and living standards that come with productivity advances and economic growth, but advocates of a higher minimum wage put the cart before the horse. A growing economy generates good jobs; higher wages don't grow the economy. And the overwhelming evidence is that higher minimum wages reduce the availability of jobs at the lowest end of the job market. A study from the Employment Policies Institute concluded that very few families depend on the earnings from a single minimum wage job for their economic support. The study also found that one out of four adults held a minimum wage job at least once during the years from 1998-2006. In addition, most adults who worked at the minimum wage did so for a relatively short time: Over 70 percent of them had no further minimum wage job after two years. The survey data reveal that in two-parent families, nine out of 10 married-with-children minimum-wage workers have a working spouse. Even more revealing is how much income that spouse earns: 40 percent of those spouses earn more than $40,000 a year. Another 27 percent report spousal earnings of $20,000 to $40,000. None of these households is in poverty. Nor is their economic wellbeing dependent on the minimum wage. In only 15 percent of these households are the earnings of both the minimum-wage worker and the spouse less than $10,000 apiece. The long-term survey data are clear: Family dependence on minimum wages is the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, minimum wage earnings of adult workers are a small fraction of family income. Hiking the minimum wage as a way to achieve "poverty-level" incomes is both misguided and inefficient.

D.C. Drove Up Your Student Debt
Excerpt: One of the major complaints of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, many of whom have taken on significant student debt, is that the cost of college is too darn high. And they're right, but not because of greedy corporate fat cats. No, the real guilty party here is federal politicians, who for decades have been fueling high profits — and prices — at both for-profit and nonprofit schools. Wait. Big profits at nonprofit colleges? Yes, money has been piling up even at schools you thought had no interest in profit. And Washington, D.C., is the biggest hand feeding the beast. Thanks to recent congressional hearings and battling over new regulations for for-profit schools, most people — including many college-aged, profit-disdaining Wall Street squatters — are probably at least vaguely aware that for-profit colleges are making good money. [T]he feds have been blasting helium into the college-cost bubble, enabling profits to balloon at the expense of students and taxpayers. But not just openly profit-seeking schools are making big bucks. If we define profit simply as revenue derived from providing a service exceeding costs, putatively nonprofit colleges actually have much higher margins than for-profit schools. How do we know that? It's tough, because nonprofit schools typically report all their profits as expenses. Basically, they take excess revenues coming from undergraduate education and distribute them throughout the college in subsidies for research, graduate education, low-demand majors, low faculty teaching loads, excess compensation or featherbedding. In other words, rather than rewarding investors, colleges pay themselves.

Worth reading: America’s Worst Wind-Energy Project: Wind-energy proponents admit they need lots of spin to overwhelm the truly informed.
Excerpt: The more people know about the wind-energy business, the less they like it. And when it comes to lousy wind deals, General Electric’s Shepherds Flat project in northern Oregon is a real stinker. I’ll come back to the GE project momentarily. Before getting to that, please ponder that first sentence. It sounds like a claim made by an anti-renewable-energy campaigner. It’s not. Instead, that rather astounding admission was made by a communications strategist during a March 23 webinar sponsored by the American Council on Renewable Energy called “Speaking Out on Renewable Energy: Communications Strategies for the Renewable Energy Industry.” During the webinar, Justin Rolfe-Redding, a doctoral student from the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, discussed ways for wind-energy proponents to get their message out to the public. Rolfe-Redding said that polling data showed that “after reading arguments for and against wind, wind lost support.” He went on to say that concerns about wind energy’s cost and its effect on property values “crowded out climate change” among those surveyed. The most astounding thing to come out of Rolfe-Redding’s mouth — and yes, I heard him say it myself — was this: “The things people are educated about are a real deficit for us.” After the briefings on the pros and cons of wind, said Rolfe-Redding, “enthusiasm decreased for wind. That’s a troubling finding.” The solution to these problems, said Rolfe-Redding, was to “weaken counterarguments” against wind as much as possible. He suggested using “inoculation theory” by telling people that “wind is a clean source, it provides jobs” and adding that “it’s an investment in the future.” He also said that proponents should weaken objections by “saying prices are coming down every day.” It’s remarkable to see how similar the arguments being put forward by wind-energy proponents are to those that the Obama administration is using to justify its support of Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar company that got a $529 million loan guarantee from the federal government. But in some ways, the government support for the Shepherds Flat deal is worse than what happened with Solyndra. The majority of the funding for the $1.9 billion, 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat wind project in Oregon is coming courtesy of federal taxpayers. And that largesse will provide a windfall for General Electric and its partners on the deal who include Google, Sumitomo, and Caithness Energy. Not only is the Energy Department giving GE and its partners a $1.06 billion loan guarantee, but as soon as GE’s 338 turbines start turning at Shepherds Flat, the Treasury Department will send the project developers a cash grant of $490 million. The deal was so lucrative for the project developers that last October, some of Obama’s top advisers, including energy-policy czar Carol Browner and economic adviser Larry Summers, wrote a memo saying that the project’s backers had “little skin in the game” while the government would be providing “a significant subsidy (65+ percent).”

Excerpt: There is an old British saying — I’ve never been able to find the source of it — “Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” The idea, of course, is that when a crisis arises, a leader will also arise to show the way out of it. By this faith too the ancient Hebrews lived in the period of the Judges when they followed God — and no one man — as their king. But those of us who feel the upcoming presidential election represents a crossroads of sorts are starting to find this faith in providential leadership somewhat shaken. We’re starting to think that if the man is cometh-ing he better hurry-eth up and geth here already. Because Mitt Romney ain’t the guy. While he may win the Republican presidential nomination by default — and while he may indeed win the presidency due to desperation — it is clear from every word he says that he understands neither the peril nor the needs of the present moment. Even his supporters seem to realize that he’s not really what is called for. Even his own political strategy — don’t mess up, cling to around 23 percent of the primary voters while other candidates rise above briefly and fall below permanently, force the earliest decision possible before someone better comes along and takes the prize away — indicates that Romney himself comprehends he is no one’s idea of the nation’s savior. The professionals and money guys in the Republican establishment don’t seem to mind that. As always, they feel that they are the old pros who take care of the all-important business of electability while we children in the base worry about such nonsense as principle and the preservation of the republic. It’s these establishment types who have traditionally delivered the truly electable choices like Bob Dole and John McCain while staunchly protecting us from extremists like Ronald Reagan. On Fox News’ Journal Editorial Report this weekend, the Wall Street Journal‘s Dorothy Rabinowitz — a cultural commentator I esteem for both her fearlessness and her insight — seemed to give voice to that establishment opinion when she said that “reason is going to have to prevail” among conservatives and that they’ll ultimately have to abandon the likes of Herman Cain and “all of the alternatives that are warming their little hearts, that they’re playing with,” and learn to live with Romney as their guy.

Who Knew Conservatives Loved the IRS? by C. Edmund Wright
Excerpt: If there's one thing that the ongoing national debate over Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan has exposed, it's how much some conservatives love our current tax code and its enforcement arm. Who knew? Okay, that may be an exaggeration -- but it is not an overstatement to say that much of the criticism of Cain's plan coming from the right is based in a stunning comfort with and knee-jerk reliance on our current system. It's as if there is an undercurrent of belief that our IRS system is very, very good and can be replaced only by perfection. At the very least, much of the negative analysis is based on picking one aspect of the Cain plan and applying it to our current reality as if the 9-9-9 plan was ever designed to be applied piecemeal. This notion can come from only an intellectual vacuum where tax realities do not change human behavior. Whether the 9-9-9 plan is all that Cain (and Art Laffer, Paul Ryan, Steve Forbes, and The Club for Growth) say it is not the point here. The point is that it is hypocritical and shallow and misguided for any conservative to trash it. By our nature, conservatives want less government intrusion into our lives, and we want more liberty, and we believe in economic growth and opportunity and self-determination. We want, as Rick Perry says, for Washington DC to be "inconsequential in our lives."

The 9-9-9 Plan: Is The Herman Cain Tax Plan A Good Idea?
Excerpt: As he continues to heavily tout his "9-9-9 plan", Herman Cain has seen his popularity soar. But is the Herman Cain tax plan a good idea for America? Without a doubt, the "9-9-9 plan" is simple and it is easy to remember. To most Americans, it sounds like a low tax plan. But is that the truth? As you will see below, Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan will actually raise federal taxes on some middle income Americans to as high as 37 percent. If the other Republican candidates understood this, they would be jumping all over Cain. But instead the best that most of them seem to be able to do is to make jokes about it. For example, Jon Huntsman said that he thought that the 9-9-9 plan "was the price of a pizza when I first heard about it." That is a funny line, but the reality is that the future of our tax system is very serious business. Our economy is dying and our nation is drowning in debt. We need some very real solutions to our very real problems. So let's take a closer look at the 9-9-9 plan that Herman Cain is proposing.... The one great thing about the 9-9-9 plan is that it would completely eliminate the current tax code. That should be the starting point for any proposal for reforming our current system of taxation. Under Herman Cain's plan, all current federal taxes would be eliminated. Social Security taxes would be eliminated, estate taxes would be eliminated and capital gains taxes would be eliminated. All current tax deductions and loopholes would be eliminated as well. … First they would pay the 9 percent personal income tax. Secondly, they would pay 9 percent on all business income. There would not even be a deduction for wages paid out. This would hit some small businesses incredibly hard. In fact, small businesses that have a very tight profit margin could be totally wiped out by this. A lot of people have assumed that the 9 percent tax on businesses is only on corporations. But that simply is not the case. (There is a lot of criticism of Cain out there, and much is substantial, and substantiated. But it all pales next to the below-linked report. If this is true, then Cain is quite likely the WORST candidate of all and will harm small business in a way that Obama only could have dreamed of. --Don Hank)

1,000 Days Under President Obama
Excerpt: Today marks the 1,000th day of Barack Obama's presidency, and unfortunately for America, those days have been marked by deeper deficits, lost jobs, prolonged unemployment, and bigger government. Meanwhile, many of those charged with leading the federal government have all but abdicated their responsibilities. The national debt stands at $14.9 trillion--$4.2 trillion of which has been added since Obama took his oath of office. Fourteen million Americans are unemployed--that's 9.1 percent of the workforce. The unemployment rate has been above nine percent for 840 of the 1000 days, and the average unemployed worker has been without a job for more than 9 months. All told, 2.2 million jobs have been lost under Obama's watch, despite the White House's claims that the President's $787 billion stimulus would create 3.3 million net jobs by 2010. Unfortunately, instead of leading America toward fiscal sanity and a stronger economy, the President is taking the country in the opposite direction.

Who’s a “Flip Flopper”?
From Morning Jolt by Jim Geraghty
Excerpt: Really? Governor Romney has to worry about being attacked for inconsistency by a president who attacked Hillary Clinton for supporting the individual mandate, who promised all of the health-care negotiations would be on C-SPAN, who said that anyone making less than $250,000 wouldn't see his taxes raised a dime, who now is a fan of recess appointments, who pledged to close Guantanamo Bay within one year, who pledged to renegotiate NAFTA, who pledged a net spending cut, who said he would press the Chinese on human rights, who said he wouldn't allow lobbyists to work in his White House, who pledged to avoid bringing "the same Washington players" into his administration, who promised to post every law on the White House website for five days before signing it, who pledged to end the income tax for seniors making less than $50,000, who pledged to end no-bid contracts above $25,000, who pledged to double federal funding for cancer research, and who pledged to double the size of the Peace Corps, to double funding for after-school programs, to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour, to support a human mission to the moon by 2020, to establish a term limit for the director of national intelligence, to enact a windfall-profits tax, to create a cap-and-trade system, to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and to introduce a comprehensive immigration-reform plan in his first year. (One long list of expiration dates here, PolitiFact's list of Obama's broken promises can be found here.) To be fair, we know what the core principles of Barack Obama are: blaming corporate-jet owners and ATMS for job losses, shrugging his shoulders at scandals such as Solyndra and Fast and Furious, fundraisers, telling the American people they've gone soft, and golf.

Occupy Wall Street's Crony Capitalism: Political extortion created Zuccotti Park, and it allows protesters to remain despite the noise, filth and stink.
Excerpt: The Occupy Wall Street movement, now in its fourth week, has plenty to brag about. Its occasionally published newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal, proclaims: "In the great cathedral of capitalism, the dispossessed have liberated territory from the financial overlords and their police army." How did protesters manage to take over Zuccotti Park, a half-acre plot a few blocks from Wall Street? It turns out that this land grab is not due to the power of social media. Instead, the main force letting protesters stay in the park is old-fashioned crony capitalism. The Occupy Wall Street organizers were clever in selecting their protest site. Zuccotti is not a city park, where sleeping overnight is prohibited. Instead, it is one of some 500 "privately owned public spaces" that New York City officials created as part of zoning deals with real estate developers. In the case of Zuccotti Park, the crony capitalism goes back to the 1970s, when U.S. Steel built the One Liberty Plaza office tower. In exchange for adding nine stories, city officials extracted an agreement that U.S. Steel would fund a 24-hour-a-day park across the street. These quasipublic spaces are notorious for leaving unclear who's responsible for what

17% See War with Iran As Very Likely Within Five Years
excerpt: Most voters are aware that the United States has accused Iran of attempting to assassinate the ambassador from Saudi Arabia in this county and think there’s a good chance America will be at war with Iran in the near future. Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is at least somewhat likely that the United States will end up in a war with Iran in the next five years or so. However, only 17% think it’s Very Likely. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 32% feel a war with Iran is unlikely in the next five or so years, but that includes only five percent (5%) who think it is Not At All Likely.

58% Think Repeal of Health Care Law Likely
Excerpt: Most voters still want to see the national health care law repealed, and confidence that its days are numbered is at an all-time high.

We’re paying the bill
Excerpt: Regardless of whether the public buys into “the other 99 percent” argument or not, every single New Yorker is on the hook for the Zuccotti Park protests. At the end of the day, Occupy Wall Street may or may not revolutionize the country’s attitude about wealth. Two facts are certain, however: The mayor is not giving the protests a timeline; and the city’s taxpayers will be left holding the bill. Many of my fellow City Council members have taken steps to show solidarity with the demonstrators. They are all entitled to express their opinion, but the council is not the arbiter of US economic policy, nor should it try to be. The problem we do have to deal with is determining where the money to pay for this protest will come from. Last week, as cops on overtime pay filled the streets around the park, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly testified that the prospects are grim for starting a new police academy class in January. Though the city has separate budget lines for overtime and regular pay, it all comes out of the NYPD’s overall allocation, which per the mayor now faces a new 2 percent cut. So, if the protests are to continue, policy-makers and legislators need to begin a serious dialogue over its cost.

George Bush warned Congress

New York’s Marxist epicenter
Excerpt: The standard portrayal of the Wall Street protesters goes something like this: Ragtag group of unemployed young adults, venting often incoherent but overall legitimate populist outrage about economic inequality. But go down to the movement’s headquarters, as I did this past weekend, and you see something far different. It’s not just that knowledge of their “oppressors” -- the evil bankers -- is pretty thin, or that many of them are clearly college kids with nothing better to do than embrace the radical chic of “a cause.” I found a unifying and increasingly coherent ideology emerging among the protesters, which at its core has less to do with the evils of the banking business and more about the evils of capitalism -- and the need for a socialist revolution. It’s not an overstatement to describe Zuccotti Park as New York’s Marxist epicenter. Flags with the iconic face of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara are everywhere; the only American flag I saw was hanging upside down. The “occupiers” openly refer to each other as “comrade,” and just about every piece of literature on offer (free or for sale) advocated socialism in the Marxist tradition as a cure-all for the inequalities of the American economic system. Don’t try to explain to any of these protesters how those who sought to create a Marxist utopian dream of revolution also gave us the Stalinist purges, Mao’s bloody Cultural Revolution and many other efforts to collectivize thought in the name of economic “justice.” One woman was holding a “Nationalize the Federal Reserve” sign; I tried to explain that the Fed is already nationalized, because it’s part of government, and she told me to “go check my f--king facts -- it’s privately owned.” That’s when I was handed a piece paper offering the following wisdom: “The Game of Capitalism Breeds Dishonest Men.” The author of such deep thinking was a dude named De La Vega, an artist convicted a few years back for painting graffiti on a warehouse in The Bronx. That was pretty mild compared to the sentiments offered in the official “Statement of the League for the Revolutionary Party” on the protests. These guys view as the enemy not just Wall Street tycoons, but also liberal labor leaders like Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO.

Thousands of fraud cases just 'tip of iceberg'
Excerpt: A group that monitors elections in Minnesota and roots out fraudulent votes is warning ballot fraud is on the rise across the nation, and if unchecked, the ultimate consequences would be an electorate that simply doesn't believe the system works and refuses to participate – "a total breakdown in the cohesion of American society." That's from spokesman Dan McGrath of the Minnesota Majority, which advocates for traditional values in state and federal public policy through grassroots activism. The group also contributes to the work of ElectionIntegrityWatch.com to focus specifically on elections and voter fraud.

The Obama bus trip: A political guide
Excerpt: President Barack Obama’s summer Midwestern bus trek was about reconnecting with disaffected independents, but the North Carolina and Virginia road trip that starts Monday is a more narrowly targeted exercise in 2012 politics. The three-day bus tour, with stops in rural towns, suburbs and several cities, literally traces an escape route for Obama’s reelection campaign through two states he carried in 2008 that are must-wins next year even if Obama succeeds in recapturing lost ground in more traditional battlegrounds like Ohio and Florida. (Will Obama actually ride the bus this time, or will it be flown place to place as a prop as in the last “bus trip.”? It’s the taxpayers who are being taken for a ride. ~Bob.)

Kenya sends troops into Somalia to hit al-Shabab
Excerpt: Witnesses described dozens of military vehicles pouring over the border, backed by planes and helicopters. Reports say al-Shabab, which denies carrying out the abductions, has begun preparing militias to fight back. Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told the BBC Somali service: "We will defend ourselves. Kenya doesn't know war. We know war. The tall buildings in Nairobi will be destroyed. "We have fought against governments older and stronger than Kenya and we have defeated them." Several Westerners have been seized in Kenya by suspected Somali militants and reportedly taken into Somalia. (Go, Kenya! Maybe we can help with drone strikes and/or military aid. Let’s see, does having family in Kenya outweigh ignoring the “youthful excesses” of struggling young Muslims? Obama may have a tough choice to make. Ron P)

Detroit struggles to keep lights on: Copper thieves, aging equipment darken blocks in cash-starved city
Excerpt: Like many swaths of the city, Keith Wicks' historic Indian Village neighborhood has remained largely dark at night after vandals destroyed transformers in nearly every streetlight pole that powers them. On a recent rainy day, Wicks, 64, a retired GM engineer who has lived in Detroit for decades, watched as city Public Lighting workers put new transformers at the top of the aging wooden poles. Just days later, those streetlights were out — again. "We've still got a ways to go," Wicks said with a laugh.
The growing lack of public lighting has become a troubling problem for cash-starved Detroit, where entire stretches of neighborhoods and thoroughfares — such as portions of the Southfield Freeway — are feeling the effects. "This city…it's dark without streetlights," said Wicks, who lives on Iroquois. "You look down Iroquois at night now, it's black. It's very dangerous." The war to keep the lights on in Detroit is a serious one. Thieves, antiquated equipment and a lack of funding have made it impossible for city officials to catch up to the problem. (This story fits very well the picture who wrote of in your recent book; the failure of city government to provide the normal services plus the bad guys taking over. Naturally, for the bad guys to steal what they have and in such quantity and then sell it some "legal" businesses are a major part of the problem. Figured you'd find this of interest. –T.)

A pact signed in Jewish blood by Caroline B. Glick
Excerpt: No one denies the long suffering of the Schalit family. Noam and Aviva Schalit and their relatives have endured five years and four months of uninterrupted anguish since their son St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit was abducted from his army post by Palestinian terrorists and spirited to Gaza in June 2006. Since then, aside from one letter and one videotaped message, they have received no signs of life from their soldier son. There is not a Jewish household in Israel that doesn't empathize with their suffering. It isn't simply that most Israelis serve in the IDF and expect their children to serve in the IDF. It isn't just that it could happen to any of our families. As Jews, the concept of mutual responsibility, that we are all a big family and share a common fate, is ingrained in our collective consciousness. And so, at a deep level, the Schalit family's suffering is our collective suffering. And yet, and yet, freedom exacts its price. The cause of freedom for the Jewish people as a whole exacts a greater sacrifice from some families than from others. Sometimes, that sacrifice is made willingly, as in the case of the Netanyahu family. Prof. Benzion and Tzilla Netanyahu raised their three sons to be warriors in the fight for Jewish liberty. And all three of their sons served in an elite commando unit. Their eldest son Yonatan had the privilege of commanding the unit and of leading Israeli commandos in the heroic raid to free Jewish hostages held by the PLO in Entebbe.

Excerpt: Excerpt: What would be the mother of all nightmares for Barack Obama before next year's presidential election? A nuclear-armed Iran. President Obama has declared he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear-weapons capability. But his options are limited. A strike against Iran's nuclear installations? That would mean starting another war in the midst of the US election campaign. Unlikely. Dissuade Israel from striking Iran — an attack that would necessarily involve US moral and practical support during campaign season? For Israel, a nuclear-armed Tehran is a death sentence. So reining in Israel is also unlikely. Accepting the reality of an Iran with nuclear weapons, but publicly warning Tehran against using them? Possible, but dangerously weak-looking for a president up for reelection who promised not to let this happen. I hope someone in the White House is working on this. I hope Iran is not able to do it.

Report: U.S. Abandoning Plans to Keep Troops in Iraq Next Year
Excerpt: The Obama administration will withdraw all but 160 American troops from Iraq this year, abandoning a plan to keep troops there past a deadline set for the end of the year, the Associated Press reported on Saturday. The Pentagon was considering keeping up to 5,000 troops in Iraq next year, in order to train Iraqi forces. The 160 American troops that will remain are attached to the U.S. embassy, the AP reported. "We remain committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year," Pentagon Spokesman George Little said in a statement. "At the same time we're building a comprehensive partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement including a robust security relationship, and discussions with the Iraqis about the nature of that relationship are ongoing." (That will be a very busy company of Marines guarding the Embassy. Ron P. Unless Obama orders them to surrender without defending themselves, as Carter did with the Marines guarding the embassy in Iran. If that happens, they will be dead. Or they will try to trade them one by one for KSM and other captured terrorists, as Hamas just did with Israel. ~Bob.)

Occupy Wall Street Goes Global
Excerpt: The Occupy movement went global on Saturday. Rallies were held in more than 900 cities around the world, with violence breaking out most notably in Rome, where 100 people were injured and police were forced to use tear gas and water cannons to break up a mob that burned cars and smashed the windows of shops and banks. 175 protesters were arrested in Chicago, when they attempted to set up camp in Congress Plaza, and 92 were arrested in New York. Another 8 were arrested in London. In Hong Kong, Derrick Benig, a 22-year-old art student, expressed what is rapidly becoming the over-arching theme of these demonstrations. “I want to tear down capitalism,” he said. Mr. Benig is hardly alone, but the number of really dubious actors expressing support for such an idea is growing. On Sunday, the American Nazi Party released a statement decrying the “judeo-capitalist banksters who swindled the American taxpayers out of A TRILLION dollars in the ‘bailout’ scam AND continue to oppress the White Working Class” even as they urged their members to “utilize and support every movement of dissent against this evil American empire.” Not to be outdone, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) also expressed solidarity with the demonstrations, which they characterized as the “the newest wrinkle in the all-people’s upsurge against the banks and corporations” and which they hoped would lead to “more advanced programmatic ideas like nationalizing the banks and socialism.” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is convinced the protests will destroy capitalism and bring about the downfall of Western civilization. (I suppose it is comforting to know it’s not just the US that has raised a generation of idiots. ~Bob.)

Green Tesla Motors: Another Day, Another Solyndra
Excerpt: The resignation of Jonathan Silver, the U.S Energy Department’s top loan officer, over the Solyndra scandal may be the tip of the iceberg. He supervised a much larger DOE loan program that suffers from the same problems as Solyndra: over the last 18 months, the Department has awarded more than $9 billion in below-market loans to auto companies under its Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program. The most troubling transaction: a $465 million loan to California’s Tesla Motors. Tesla received a loan rate of 1.6% from DOE to manufacture an all-electric car that will sell for nearly $50,000. It will not exactly be the people’s car. Tesla also builds luxury sports cars that retail for $103,000 to $128,000. Tesla also is no simple new age car company. It is owned and financed by big donors to the Democratic Party and to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Tesla’s principal owner is Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal. He has an estimated personal wealth of $672 million. His firm received venture capital from The Westly Group, Daimler Chrysler, and from Abu Dhabi investors. The firm has partnerships with luxury sports car manufacturer Lotus and with Mercedes-Benz. The secret to access to the DOE money is The Westly Group, run by California Democratic Party stalwart and big Obama campaign bundler Steve Westly. The former eBay executive wasn’t merely a prodigious fundraiser for Obama, raising $500,000 for his presidential campaign. He also served as the president’s California campaign co-chairman. (At what point does it stop being “incompetence” and become “corruption?” Ron P. It’s “incompetent corruption.” They can’t even buy votes right. ~Bob.)

The taxpayers should never be forced to pay for entertainment: sports, NPR, public TV or the arts. ~Bob. Excerpt: If you want to know how ingrained the dumb is within our government and the “right wing” (including the so-called “Tea Party” that utterly refuses to face the mathematics of what they’ve done), look at this: HOUSTON – Hailed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1965, the Astrodome now sits vacant and in disrepair out on Interstate 610. The world’s first domed sports stadium lost its last major tenant eight years ago. It hosted occasional functions afterward – a family rented the floor for a bar mitzvah party for $15,000 – but has been virtually shut down for two years. Its exterior metal work is rusting. Water stains surround the base. It’s no longer up to code. “It’s just sad,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said. “It’s beginning to look like an old ship that just kind of washed up out there.” Harris County pays about $4 million annually just to maintain and insure it. The debt totals about $40 million on a project that cost $31.6 million to build. If you think this is somehow unique, you’re wrong. We have an example of it right here in Niceville. The Mid-Bay Bridge, built in 1994 at a cost of $67 million, will have more than $350 million in debt laid upon it. The traffic levels have been declining (Ok, let me give you another quick example of the stupid projects described below: Harrisburg Airport at Middletown, PA. Every time I have ever been there, it is almost empty. The staff on the grounds tell us that very few ever use the facility. After all, there are Philadelphia airport, Reagan Airport and Washington-Baltimore Airport at Baltimore within driving distance and the flights out of Harrisburg are more expensive. But someone in government owed someone else a favor and your money was used to build and maintain the boondoggle. This sort of thing now goes under the heading of "stimulus." That is, it stimulates the tax payer to go find a second job or moonlight to pay the bills and the increasingly high taxes needed to pay for it and other swindles like it. I am sure every one of you knows of something similar. This also goes under the subheading "corporatism" or "crony capitalism," because the corporations that designed and built the project were pals with the politicians that approved it and gave them sweet kickbacks. This is not an example of the free market in action, although both political parties insist that it is. And if you complain, they remind you how the Soviet Union was so much worse. Worse, yes, but not that much worse any more. At this rate, in a few years, we will catch up with the former Soviet Union in terms of graft, corruption and loss of individual freedom--in the name of stimulus. --Don Hank)

The 'Occupiers' do not represent Americans or their beliefs
Excerpt: Sneer though many of them did, liberals envied the success of the Tea Party in 2009 and 2010. Desperate to embrace an authentic populist movement of their own, they have been buoyed by the results of a Time magazine poll this week, purporting to demonstrate that the nascent Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, at 54 percent approval, are more popular than the Tea Party. As The Examiner's Phil Klein pointed out earlier this week, however, the numbers produced by the Time survey are quite misleading because of the magazine's unusually vague but artful wording of questions. For example, Time's survey described these anti-capitalist protests to respondents as being against the "government's bank bailout and the influence of money in our political system." The same description could be said of the Tea Party. In fact, other polls from reputable firms that used more objective questions have pegged OWS support in the low thirties -- and with slightly negative net approval ratings.

Obama gets back on the bus for trip to 2 states
Excerpt: President Barack Obama is targeting vital North Carolina and Virginia this week, as he kicks off a three-day bus tour that is as much about campaigning for his jobs bill as it is shoring up support in two southern states he wrested from Republican control when he won the White House. Obama's 2008 victories in North Carolina and Virginia were due in large part to the states' changing demographics and his campaign's ability to boost voter turnout among young people and African-Americans. But nearly three years after his historic election, the president's approval ratings in both states are sagging, in line with the national trend. A Quinnipiac University poll out earlier this month put Obama's approval rating in Virginia at 45 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. The same poll showed 83 percent of Virginians were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In North Carolina, Obama has a 42 percent approval rating, according to an Elon University poll conducted this month. Most national polls put Obama's approval rating in the mid- to low-forties. … The president faces significant obstacles in Virginia as well. While Democrats had hoped Obama's victory signaled Virginia's shift to a Democratic-leaning state, momentum has since strongly turned back in favor of Republicans, most notably with Gov. Bob McDonald's win in 2009. That shift has some Virginia Democrats, especially state legislators running in next month's General Assembly elections, less than thrilled about Obama heading to their state this week. In coal-mining southwestern Virginia, Democratic state Sen. Phil Puckett has flatly renounced the president. With Republicans running television ads and erecting billboards showing Puckett campaigning for Obama in 2008, Puckett said in a television interview he would not support Obama in 2012.

TX High School Students Made to Recite Mexican National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance
Excerpt: Students in a Texas public high school were made to stand up and recite the Mexican national anthem and Mexican pledge of allegiance as part of a Spanish class assignment, but the school district maintains there was nothing wrong with the lesson. It happened last month in an intermediate Spanish class at Achieve Early College High School in McAllen, Texas — a city located about 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Did 2008 Come True?
Excerpt: Then came the election, and a perfect storm of events. The general unhappiness with Bush over deficits and Iraq, the recession that had started in December 2007, the absence of any incumbent vice president or president in the race for the first time since 1952, an unusually unenergetic McCain campaign, and a nakedly partisan media — all that by early September still had not given Obama the lead. But the mid-September 2008 financial crash did. And so what in the last fifty years was usually considered improbable — the election of a northern Democratic liberal — soon seemed foreordained. We are now nearing the third year of the Obama administration. Were those worries of 2008 at all justified? Let us briefly review them in the same order (…) The skeptics of 2008 proved prescient; those who demonized them should be embarrassed. And we should remember that candidates, of both parties, will govern mostly as they campaign. Slips are not indiscretions, but often will prove in hindsight windows of the soul.

Three Policies That Gave Us the Jobs Economy
Excerpt: Sometimes two separate news events turn out to be related. That's the case with the Wall Street protesters and the extraordinary mourning at the death of Steve Jobs.
Some protesters have praised Jobs as the billionaire who was different—unlike the callous Wall Streeters, he was "beneficial to society." There's a second connection. More than anything else, the Wall Street protesters feel powerless, mere individuals against great banks. Maybe the mourning over the Apple founder is so intense precisely because Jobs gave individuals power. It's hard to think of a gift more empowering than your own personal computer. Also fueling the grief is a more general suspicion that another Jobs won't come along soon. He was a creature of his times, the late 1970s, the 1980s and 1990s. There wasn't merely Jobs; there was also that economy in which he and other venture-capital recipients operated. Americans fear that the opportunities Jobs enjoyed won't come again. It's worthwhile therefore to go back and look at what happened in those years, and then to look at how policy changes may have affected innovating firms that received venture capital.

Don't prejudge police officers' actions
Excerpt: I am continually surprised by the way the news media and the public seem to take joy in criticizing the actions of police officers before it is known exactly what happened in a controversial incident. It seems they think it is possible that law enforcement can be accomplished with no injuries, or no hurt feelings, if officers could just understand the people they come into contact with each day. If only this was possible. I'm sure the vast majority of officers wished it were so as well. But the fact is that officers come into contact every day with individuals who are feared and loathed by society and who couldn't care less if the officers - or, in some cases, they themselves - live or die.

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