Thursday, November 3, 2011

Political Digest for November 4, 2011

On the road, but grabbed a few things. Didn’t have time to open 1/3 of e-mails, working long hours. ~Bob

MF Global ties awkward for Obama campaign
In other news, “Mob ties awkward for Hoffa.” ~Bob. Excerpt: The bankrupt financial company MF Global, now under federal investigation for possibly misusing clients’ money, is one of the top sources of contributions for President Obama’s reelection, complicating the campaign’s effort to turn public anger at Wall Street into a political advantage. Employees of the company have given $108,650 to Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, according to federal records. MF Global’s chairman and chief executive, former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, has raised at least $500,000 for the campaign and the DNC as a “bundler,” or volunteer fundraiser. Mitt Romney is the only other major presidential candidate who reports receiving money from an MF Global employee, listing a $2,500 check from a company trader based in Stamford, Conn.

The Swedish Model Reassessed
Excerpt: Amongst those who advocate for a larger government presence in the free market, the example presented by Sweden has long provided a reliable talking point. Its economic success, combined with positive social indicators such as low crime rates, high life expectancy and a high degree of social cohesion, suggest to many foreign onlookers that the big government route might not be as negative and inefficient as detractors have suggested. However, in analyzing the Swedish success story, it becomes apparent that the welfare state does not deserve the credit that it receives for advancing Sweden beyond others, says Nima Sanandaji, president of the Swedish think tank Captus. The lack of a correlation between a welfare state structure and positive socioeconomic outcomes is apparent for two crucial reasons. First, the timelines within Sweden provide little evidence that one causes the other. The era of Social Democrat rule began in 1936, yet Sweden's growth as a country was relatively substantial well before that time. Furthermore, since the 1990s, the modern, center-right administrations in the country have gradually scaled back the welfare state, and these policies have been accompanied by growth that the country had not seen in decades. In fact, the period in which welfare economics were most strongly implemented (the 1970s and 1980s) saw low rates of growth. The second reason that compels the conclusion that the welfare state cannot be credited with the growth of Sweden's economy is provided by the performance of Swedish immigrants to the United States. Despite having left Sweden and moving to a new country, this population has historically outperformed expectations and obtained socioeconomic standards far above par, characterized by a low poverty rate and high employment. This fact substantiates the original claim because it suggests that there is something idiosyncratic about the Swedish people as a whole that brings about their success, such that they are able to thrive despite the absence of a welfare state structure. While some suggest that a traditional Lutheran work ethic is the confounding variable in this case, the point stands that any number of cultural and ethnic factors could be collaborating to bring about Sweden's exceptional standards of living.

83 year-old Centerville man arrested for prostitution
Excerpt: Centerville Police said they have arrested an 83-year-old man on charges of prostitution. The investigation of Ben Clifford Dawson of Centerville began on October 22. Dawson is listed as a candidate for Centerville City Council. (I’ve heard advertising pays. Even if he’s completely innocent, he may plead guilty just to enhance his reputation. Hummm. I wonder how much I’d have to pay the police to have them arrest me…. Ron P. 83. Makes you proud to be an American. ~Bob.)

The High Cost of Wind Energy
Well, if the poor have to pay more to light and heat their homes so Liberals can feel warm and fuzzy, tough for the poor. ~Bob. Excerpt: For years, politicians, environmental groups and the renewable energy lobby have been claiming that widespread use of wind energy would result in substantial reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions. These calls have been supplemented by changes to public policy -- specifically, in 2008, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, issued a report that said the United States could produce 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030. This "20 by '30" goal, however, is not cost effective and will have a negligible impact on aggregate emissions, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Last year, electricity generation in the United States totaled 4.1 trillion kilowatt hours, with wind energy constituting 94.6 billion kilowatt hours, or about 2.3 percent of total generation. For wind to expand to supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity consumption, it would require a nine-fold increase in the size of the installed wind generation base, from 40,000 megawatts of capacity to 360,000 megawatts. Total installed electric-generation capacity in the United States (from all sources) is about 1 million megawatts. Following these figures as they are today, it becomes clear that in order to meet these lofty objective, substantial changes would be required. This is especially true given the high costs of installment, land allotment required and increases in residential electricity rates. Installing an additional 320,000 megawatts of wind power at $2.43 million per megawatt will cost the United States about $777.6 billion or about $44.7 billion every year for the next 19 years, amounting to a carbon tax of $54 per ton. Following the estimate of 0.2 square miles per installed megawatt of wind capacity, 360,000 megawatts of capacity would require about 72,000 square miles of land to be occupied with wind turbines -- a land area just larger than North Dakota at 69,000 square miles. A carbon levy of $54-per-ton could increase electricity rates in coal-reliant regions by about $0.058 per kilowatt-hour, which represents a 48 percent increase over current levels. While these costs are substantial, perhaps the most compelling figure in the production of wind energy is that, even if the "20 by '30" goal is achieved, it would represent only a 2 percent decrease in global emissions. This should give lawmakers cause for pause as they weigh the enormous costs against these miniscule benefits.

A female Ron Reagan?
She was the only candidate at the debates to even claim to be a Constitutional Conservative. You missed that because Fox told you who was "best." (Mitt's plan to rescue the economy? More patriotism. Yeah, that oughta do it! NOT. --Don Hank

Israel test fires missile; Iran in crosshairs
Excerpt: An Israeli official said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to persuade his Cabinet to authorize a military strike against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program — a discussion that comes as Israel successfully tests a missile believed capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Iran. It remained unclear whether Israel was genuinely poised to strike or if it was saber-rattling to prod the international community into taking a tougher line on Iran. Israeli leaders have long hinted at a military option, but they always seemed mindful of the practical difficulties, the likelihood of a furious counterstrike and the risk of regional mayhem. (Another possible motivation is that Iran has test fired many missiles over the past year and the Israelis are reminding them that Israel isn’t toothless. Also, notice the source of this report is CBS, not some Israeli newspaper. Ron P.)

The Republicans’ Senate Advantage
Excerpt: The political environment in 2006 was almost uniquely well-suited for the Democrats who kicked out incumbent Republicans from the Senate. Now, as they prepare reelection bids at a time when everyone in Washington is more unpopular than ever, those same Democrats are on the front line of the difficult battle to retain a slim majority. A year before the 2012 elections, Democrats face a rare situation as a majority that starts an election year as the underdog. Democratic hopes of keeping the Senate are dauntingly narrow. Thanks in part to the party’s success in 2006, they are defending twice as many seats as Republicans; thanks to a lousy economy and a furious electorate, those seats are tougher to defend. And swing-state Democrats who carefully cultivate their independent brand have a virtual running mate they didn’t anticipate—President Obama, who faces his own difficult reelection path. (We aren’t hearing much about the Senate races as a whole, just individual campaigns. The article says Republicans need to “win four seats” to become the majority. But, that also means they have to hold all the seats they have now, which might be harder than it sounds. Massachusetts’ Senator Brown will have an uphill battle with no sure outcome currently visible, for one. And, anyone more conservative than Brown wouldn’t be electable anyway. We need to focus on ability to win, not on political purity. Ron P.)

Harrisburg Is Having a Yard Sale
Excerpt: Though almost all cities and states across the country are attempting to cut spending and sell assets in order to weather the economic climate, Harrisburg, Penn., has selected a unique means of dealing with its debt. The second city in the United States to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy this year, Harrisburg will auction off Old West relics that it had planned to turn into a Museum of the Old West. The museum never occurred, due to city financial planning issues and later the economic downturn, and the city council is now seeking to liquidate the historical assets in order to recoup funds that were spent on them by the city's former mayor, says the Wall Street Journal. The city faces $310 million dollars in debt, brought on by ballooning pension costs and other economic woes, in addition to a massive public project to retrofit a trash incinerator. The 8,000-piece collection cost the city approximately $7.8 million. The city already shed a portion of its collection in auctions four years ago, when it was able to take in sales of about $1.7 million. The city of 50,000 residents is predicted to be insolvent within six months. Much of the criticism for the planned museum that failed to materialize has been leveled at the city's former mayor of three decades, Stephen R. Reed. A history buff, Reed spent much of his vacation time traveling to local vendors and buying up relics he hoped to place in the city's museum, gaining a reputation as a greenhorn for his spending habits. The proposed museum was justified by Reed because Harrisburg historically served as a link between the states on the East Coast and the early west (Ohio, Indiana, etc.). He had hoped that the museum would boost tourism and bring an influx of cash to the city. However, the museum was never constructed, and the artifacts that would have filled it now join many other initiatives as a package intended to help the city manage its massive public debt.

Occupy Oakland Live Blog: Protesters call it a night
Excerpt: The Oakland general strike called by Occupy Oakland drew thousands Wednesday for rallies and marches. The mostly peaceful event turned chaotic early Thursday after protesters took over a vacant building and police moved in, firing tear gas and flashbang grenades. Fences and dumpsters dragged across the roadway at 3rd and Adeline streets are preventing trucks and other vehicles from entering the port this morning. About a dozen protesters have had some scuffles with truckers. Monique Agnew got in front of a truck with a camper shell that [had] forced its way in. When it charged, she hit it with a sign she was carrying. She said she has been there for several hours. "These people tried to kill us. I can't believe they are being that aggressive over a paycheck, over your own people fighting for you." (This story is hard to read—literally. Since all the entries were made live and new entries went on top of the older ones, the story actually begins at the bottom and then you read higher. One thing becomes clear though: the Occupiers mostly regard this as some sort of a game or a lark. As hurting as everyone is, that trucker’s next paycheck may be the difference between keeping or losing his home or truck (which means his livelihood), neither are good things to threaten unless you're willing to kill the victim. These children will find very quickly the rest of the population isn’t just playing for points like they are, many have a lot to lose. What an expensive way for children to get a basic life-lesson. Look for this to be played out in other cities as well. Ron P.)

Debunking Obama's Latest Jobs Myth
Excerpt: Imagine a high-speed train zooming down hundreds of miles of glistening train track stretching across sunny California, connecting Anaheim to San Francisco. It's a bullet train dream, and it's a prime example of President Barack Obama's latest plan to create jobs in America. The trouble is that this dream is far from reality. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the California high-speed train--which is funded in part by $3 billion in federal grants from President Obama's stimulus--is now expected to cost $98 billion, twice what was expected, and will take an additional 13 years to complete, extending the project to 2033. Questions remain about where the funding will come from, whether the project is viable, and whether the projected ridership will even materialize. But projects like these are central to President Obama's plan to put Americans back to work. Speaking yesterday from Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, D.C., Obama declared that his plan will "put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, our airports, our bridges and our transit systems." And that is, of course, all at the expense of the American taxpayers.

HUGE Olympus payment to private broker to be probed by SEC
I just saw this report on the Japanese channel NHK this AM. According to that report, it is the biggest payment ever made in history.
More crony capitalism or just payment for legitimate services? --Don Hank

Income Inequality Rose Most Under President Clinton
Excerpt: In his weekend radio address, President Obama decried that "over the past three decades, the middle class has lost ground while the wealthiest few have become even wealthier." Although he was trying to leverage the Occupy Wall Street movement, the income gap has been a longstanding concern of his.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama said, "The project of the next president is figuring out how do you create bottom-up economic growth, as opposed to the trickle-down economic growth that George Bush has been so enamored with." But it turns out that the rich actually got poorer under President Bush, and the income gap has been climbing under Obama. What's more, the biggest increase in income inequality over the past three decades took place when Democrat Bill Clinton was in the White House.

Obama-Friendly GE Building Aircraft Factory in Right-to-Work Alabama; Curiously, Unlike Boeing, NLRB Utterly Silent

Good post on Obama, Corzine & MFGlobal

Obama: Iran Nuclear Program Poses Continued Threat
Excerpt: President Barack Obama says Iran's nuclear program continues to pose a threat, and that he and the president of France want the international community to keep pressuring Iran to come clean about its intentions. Obama commented Thursday as the International Atomic Energy Agency was preparing to soon reveal intelligence on Iran's alleged nuclear arms experiments. Iran has consistently denied that it is trying to build nuclear weapons. It insists its program is for peaceful purposes. The U.S., Britain and France want the IAEA to share what it knows. Russia and China are pressing for the report to be delayed or scrapped entirely.

Gingrich’s Daughter: That Story About My Parents’ Divorce Is Hogwash, By the Way
Sets the record straight. ~Bob.

Financial Crisis: Eurocrats are terrified of democracy
Excerpt: Shall I tell you the truly terrifying thing about the EU? It’s not the absence of democracy in Brussels, or the ease with which Eurocrats swat aside referendum results. It’s the way in which the internal democracy of the member states is subverted in order to sustain the requirements of membership. George Papandreou, the luckless Greek leader, is the latest politician to find himself being chewed up because he stands in the way of the Brussels machine. (Daniel Hannan is a Conservative Member of the European Parliament for South East England.)

The European Crisis: How We Got Here
Excerpt: The financial crisis in Europe seems very complex, but we understand that how it comes out will have important and perhaps painful consequences for Americans as well as Europeans. At its center is the fear that if Greece defaults on its debts that could endanger the health of European banks, and that in turn may cause a financial crisis not unlike what followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. How did we get into this fix, so soon after 2008?

Thank you, Matt Ridley
This should be required reading. Ron P. Excerpt: My topic today is scientific heresy. When are scientific heretics right and when are they mad? How do you tell the difference between science and pseudoscience? Let us run through some issues, starting with the easy ones. Astronomy is a science; astrology is a pseudoscience… Molecular biology is science; homeopathy is pseudoscience. Vaccination is science; the MMR scare is pseudoscience.  Oxygen is science; phlogiston was pseudoscience. Chemistry is science; alchemy was pseudoscience. (…) The problem is that you can accept all the basic tenets of greenhouse physics and still conclude that the threat of a dangerously large warming is so improbable as to be negligible, while the threat of real harm from climate-mitigation policies is already so high as to be worrying, that the cure is proving far worse than the disease is ever likely to be. Or as I put it once, we may be putting a tourniquet round our necks to stop a nosebleed.

Opulent homes of ‘the 99 percent’
The oppressed live pretty well in America. ~Bob.

What is it, exactly, we can't wait for?
Excerpt: [W[hat is it, precisely, we can’t wait for? Another four years? We can‘t wait for another global tour apologizing to the world for America? We cannot wait for another war of Mr. Obama’s choosing? We can‘t wait for another 2 million jobs lost? We can‘t wait to pile on another $4 trillion in debt? We can‘t wait for yet another unsustainable entitlement program saddled atop three collapsing ones?

Occupiers Attack Police with High-Tech Intimidation
Excerpt: Despite its union support, the Occupy Wall Street crowd has taken police hate and confrontation to a level seldom seen outside of organized crime. Gone are the days of goofy liberal protests where police officers stand idly by watching the street theater. The Occupiers have escalated their levels of abuse, confrontation, intimidation, harassment and threats – all so they can score good video clips to boost their movement. Even an awful incident like the Scott Olsen injury is viewed as a “win” by many in the movement. They got it on video, after all. Meanwhile, in Occupying events around the United States, police are mocked, screamed at, spat upon, confronted, pushed, knocked off motorcycles and loads more. New York confrontations resulted in hundreds of protesters arrested. While Occupiers attacked Oakland police with everything from “eggs” and “paint” to “feces” and “M-80” firecrackers, the bigger threat is a new tactic called “doxing.” It’s part of the culture that comes from hacker group Anonymous, which is one of the major organizers of the
Occupy Wall Street
protests. (Question: would a credible threat to family members create a justifiable homicide situation? It would be interesting to see what a jury would decide, especially if there's even one veteran, retired cop or fireman on it. Ron P. You mess with the bull, you get the horns. ~Bob.)

Protests Go Violent, but Media Stay Syrupy
Excerpt: Somehow "freedom of speech" requires violence for the liberals. It draws larger press coverage, even as it seems to be designed to cast the police as an evil empire. These protesters seek to delegitimize the government. Where is the media outrage? Does anyone recall tear gas and rock-throwing riots at Tea Party events? In the days before Obamacare passed in March 2010, the networks aired national stories condemning spitting and name-calling at congressmen. Never mind that it wasn't true. Suppose it was? It still pales in comparison with throwing rocks and small explosives. Yet the Tea Party was painted as a violent fringe, while the occupiers are a syrupy story of History Sleeps in Tents. (...) Imagine if a Christian revivalist group decided to occupy a city park for three months and required police supervision that cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Wouldn't the media see this as an improper use - indeed a violation of public property and an unethical waste of tight city budgets - for a narrow, sectarian cause?

U.S. Report Accuses China and Russia of Internet Spying
Excerpt: American intelligence agencies, in an unusually blunt public criticism of China and Russia, reported to Congress on Thursday that those two foreign governments steal valuable American technology over the Internet as a matter of national policy. Both China and Russia hide behind the anonymity of proxy computers and dispersed routers in third countries to pilfer proprietary corporate information to accelerate their own economic development, according to the new intelligence assessment. They have also targeted the computer networks of government agencies and universities, the report said. (…) In contrast, the new intelligence study, compiled as a report to Congress on foreign economic and industrial espionage over the past two years, presents a pointed case that China and Russia are the leading actors in the Internet theft of economic secrets. Officials took pains to make sure journalists were alerted to its significance. (The only real “news” is the depth of the search for data. And, this doesn’t count those scientists who would gladly give away any and all secrets in the name of “academic/scientific freedom.” I suspect engineers, being more concerned with trying to produce something both useful and salable aren’t quite as likely to give anything away that might show a profit or advantage as a weapon. Why bother to do your own research if you can just steal the other guy’s? Ron P.)

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