Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Political Digest for December 13, 2011

Political Digest for December 13. 2011
Robert A. Hall

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. In some cases I post things sent to me by readers I might not have posted on my own, to get ideas circulating.

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

Worth Reading: When it comes to Israel, why is the world silent? By Ron Prosor
Excerpt: Just silence from the U.N. Silence from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And silence from major media outlets throughout the world. Imagine for just a moment if this were happening to cities in, say, Texas.

Excerpt: The Supreme Court announced Monday they will hear a challenge to Arizona's controversial immigration laws, setting up another high-profile decision for the court's coming term.

Excerpt: I have decided to award Uwe Reinhardt the Smoot-Hawley Prize for the Worst Economic Idea of the Year. The award is named after the cosponsors of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which many economists believe pushed the economy into the worst depression in our nation's history. Uwe's idea: let the government set medical prices, essentially forcing "all payers" to pay the same price for the same service. Aah, I can already anticipate the objections: C'mon Goodman, this idea isn't new or original. How can it merit a prize? It's even been done before -- in health care and in other industries.

The Private-Sector Pension Predicament
Another nail in the fiscal coffin. ~Bob. Excerpt: Recently there has been substantial attention paid to underfunding in state and local government pension plans, a longstanding problem made more urgent by recent troubles in the larger economy. There has of yet been comparatively less attention given to a similar (though smaller) set of mounting financial risks associated with private-sector worker pensions covered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Yet here, too, public policy corrections are required to address underfunding and avoid another taxpayer-financed bailout, says Charles Blahous, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

How the IPCC Reports Mislead the Public, Exaggerate the Negative Impacts of Climate Change and Ignore the Benefits of Economic Growth
Excerpt: By the year 2100, developing countries will be richer than the United States is today, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's worst-case temperature change scenario. Moreover, the faster developing countries grow and the more emissions they produce, the wealthier they will be - even taking into account all the damage that is expected from climate changes caused by those emissions.

America’s Public Sector Union Dilemma
Excerpt: There is much less competition in the public sector than the private sector, and that has made all the difference. Since the Great Recession began in 2008, there has been a growing criticism of public sector unions, reflecting taxpayer concerns about union compensation and unfunded pension liabilities. These concerns have led to proposals to change public sector union policy in very significant ways.

Excerpt: The political winds have shifted to the Democrats’ backs over the last month. President Obama is in better shape at the prospect of a prolonged GOP primary battle between former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Mitt Romney. Democrats in the House have been buoyed by a series of court decisions on redistricting and Senate Democrats have recently landed potentially strong recruits in conservative-leaning states.

Excerpt: The 2012 GOP presidential primary is poised to become a protracted battle over delegates, such as the one that consumed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008. A little-noticed change in Republican Party rules last year means almost all of the states holding caucuses and primaries before April 1 will allocate their delegates proportionally. This will make it very difficult for Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to land a lights-out punch early in the contest. Unless one candidate dominates the first several caucuses and primaries, the race could easily stretch into April and beyond, say GOP veterans.

House GOP playing hardball at recess ---Tactic thwarts Obama nominees
Excerpt: House Republicans have a not-so-secret weapon that could bring the National Labor Relations Board to a halt and block Democrats’ Wall Street watchdog agency from getting started — and all it requires is just sitting around. By refusing to adjourn for the rest of the year, the House GOP, under a provision of the Constitution, would force the Democrat-controlled Senate to stay in session, too, thus denying President Obama the chance to make recess appointments and leaving the NLRB without a quorum to do business.

Excerpt: Consumer groups are calling on President Obama to seize rarely-used powers in the Constitution to make a recess appointee out of consumer financial watchdog nominee Richard Cordray. Obama’s efforts to appoint Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Wall Street reform bill have been hampered by Republicans, who have blocked the nomination.

Reality and Re-election Sharpen Obama’s Zigzags
Excerpt: Yet with Mr. Obama the dissonant chords have sometimes been amplified by the scale of possibilities he has embodied. From his national debut at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he held out the promise of unifying “blue America” and “red America” even while embracing mainstream Democratic liberalism. Now, a shrinking set of political options has thrown his attempts to balance ideology and pragmatic compromise into sharper relief as he girds for a daunting 2012 re-election campaign.

European Union leaders agree to forge new fiscal pact; Britain the only holdout
Excerpt: A landmark summit of the 27-nation European Union ended here Friday with both a pledge and a wedge: A pledge among nations to work toward a new treaty binding them more closely in a pact to save the euro, and a wedge between the continent and Britain, which opted to sit it out.

A win for jobs. The economy has some strong headwinds, as Obama says. Principally Obama. ~Bob. Excerpt: The National Labor Relations Board has dropped its controversial case against airline manufacturer Boeing, which had become a lightening rod for conservatives. The labor board had arguing for much of the past year that Boeing decided to locate a plant to build its new 787 Dreamliner jets in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, in retaliation for strikes by unionized workers at its existing facilities in Washington state. But the panel appeared to bow to political pressure Friday, saying that a deal the company reached this month with the International Association of Machinists to build a different type of airline, the 737 Max, in Washington satisfied its concerns, so it was dropping the case.

Scary: The Enemy Within
this is scary. I don’t have the technical expertise to determine how scary. ~Bob. Excerpt: When the Conficker computer “worm” was unleashed on the world in November 2008, cyber-security experts didn’t know what to make of it. It infiltrated millions of computers around the globe. It constantly checks in with its unknown creators. It uses an encryption code so sophisticated that only a very few people could have deployed it. For the first time ever, the cyber-security elites of the world have joined forces in a high-tech game of cops and robbers, trying to find Conficker’s creators and defeat them. The cops are failing. And now the worm lies there, waiting …

Voters See Gingrich, Romney As Strongest GOP Opponents for Obama
Excerpt: Voters rate Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney evenly when asked which Republican presidential candidate would run strongest against President Obama, but among GOP voters, Gingrich is the clear favorite.

Obama to slash National Guard force on U.S.-Mexico border
As I say in Collapse, the budget threat works against our ability to respond to the China, jihad and Immigration threats. ~Bob. Excerpt: Blaming budget cuts, the Obama administration early next year will cut the number of National Guard troops patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border by at least half, according to a congressman who was briefed on the plan. The National Guard said an announcement will be made by the White House “in the near future,” but Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who has learned of the plans, said slashing the deployment in half is the minimum number, and he said it will mean reshuffling the remaining troops along the nearly 2,000-mile border.

Worth Reading: Obama's Campaign for Class Resentment by Charles Krauthammer
Excerpt: In the first month of his presidency, Barack Obama averred that if in three years he hadn't alleviated the nation’s economic pain, he'd be a "one-term proposition." When three-quarters of Americans think the country is on the "wrong track" and even Bill Clinton calls the economy "lousy," how then to run for a second term? … Where to begin? A country spending twice as much per capita on education as it did in 1970 with zero effect on test scores is not underinvesting in education.

Republicans Are Losing the Tax Debate by R. Emmett Tyrrell
Excerpt: According to the model, one does not raise taxes on anyone, certainly not in times of economic unease. The very rich might be slobs or they might be living saints, but like everyone else, their taxes are not to be raised because they spend their money or invest their money in economic growth. They cannot help themselves. The way they spend or invest is always more efficient than the government. Money spent by the rich (and the middle class) leads to growth. Money spent by the government rarely leads to growth, and the following year the government has to come up with more money again. … Government is not a reliable source of funds. Ask a citizen of Greece or of Italy.

The Week That Was: 2011-12-10 (December 10, 2011)
Excerpt: The agreement angered the representatives of less developed nations who expected to start receiving massive payments from more industrialized nations for past and future carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, they retain hope for such payments as a separate agreement was concluded to fund a guide for such payments in the future. Given that carbon dioxide is essential for green plants and most other forms of life, and that enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide is a boon to agriculture, perhaps the lesser developed nations should be paying the industrial nations for the service they are providing rather than trying to extort money from the service providers when they are receiving the service. (As always, there are many good articles in TWTW. The excerpt is from Ken Haapala’s editorial preface to the digest speaking about the Durban conference’s final agreement, mostly between countries with no direct costs to collect and distribute about $1.6 TRILLION to “needy countries”—which really means taxing our poor to give to their wealthy due to the corruption in most of the “needy countries”—and supported by those same “needy countries.” Rather like mice voting to tax the cats, no one seems to notice the cats have mostly left the room for the moment. When they return, the cats may have a different opinion. Perhaps we should volunteer to match the contributions of Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela dollar for dollar (but WE get to set the exchange rate); I don’t think it would cost us much and would go a long way toward shutting up these thieves. Ron P.)

Hey, stop this dangerous candidate! He's told the truth!
Excerpt: US presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich (whose Lazarus-like trajectory to the Republican nomination I flagged up here a month ago) has recently demonstrated yet again Melanie’s First Rule of Modern Political Discourse – the more obvious the truth that you utter, the more explosive and abusive the reaction. For Gingrich said the Palestinian Arabs were ‘an invented people’ – and the world promptly started hurling execrations at him, as if such a statement proved beyond doubt that Gingrich was indeed a dangerously extreme individual who, when it came to political positioning, was just off the graph altogether.

Iran Conducting Anti-U.S. Operations in Latin America
Excerpt: An attack on the British embassy in Tehran. A desperate pursuit of nuclear weapons. A plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Alone, any one of these actions by Iran's regime would be cause for alarm, but taken together they make it undeniably clear that the Iranian threat cannot be ignored. Now, there is news of another effort by Iran to take aim at the United States, this time coming from Latin America.

A Badly Invented People by Daniel Greenfield
Excerpt: Take the response to Gingrich's accurate statement that the Palestinian Arabs are an invented people. Aside from all the hysterical "sky is falling" nonsense, is the comparison between the Americans as an invented people and the Palestinian Arabs. Let's look at how wrong this is and in how many ways.

Land of the Envious and Home of the Victim
Excerpt: We are a land, as our president explains it, where the success of one American comes at the expense of another. Where the poor are poor because the rich are rich. And where the role of government is not to ensure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” but to tax away wealth from those it deems to have too much and determine how to invest our nation’s resources.

A Sewage Blunder Earns Engineer a Criminal Record
Excerpt: Lawrence Lewis was raised in the projects of Washington, D.C. By the time he was 20, all three of his older brothers had been murdered and his father was dead of a heart attack. Seeking an escape, he took night classes while working as a janitor for the D.C. school system. He rose to become chief engineer at a military retirement home. He raised his two youngest daughters alone, determined to show them how to lead a crime-free life.

Government Gone Wild
Government is the special interest.

America's New Energy Security
Every president since Richard Nixon has called for energy independence. Nevertheless, U.S. reliance on imported oil long seemed to be headed in only one direction—up—and that pointed to inevitably increasing dependence on the huge resources of the Middle East. No longer. U.S. petroleum imports, on a net basis, reached their peak—60%—of domestic consumption in 2005. Since then, they have been going in the other direction. They are now down to 46%.

Obama's 2012 Reelection Strategy: Blame the Republicans
Excerpt: In the face of Republican claims that his policies have failed to revive the economy, Obama is turning the blame on the Republicans themselves. Instead of arguing that his policies have succeeded in keeping the recession from being worse—an argument that could easily sound defeatist—Obama is implicitly conceding that his economic recovery strategy has failed, but laying the responsibility at the feet of the party trying to unseat him. His narrative also lets him insist that the Republican nominee is not a fresh face with fresh ideas, but rather a reincarnation of the people who destroyed the economy in the first place. (This is a worried column by a true believer. Of course Obama blames Republicans; nothing is ever his fault. He also blames tsunamis, earthquakes, and anything else that comes to mind. As he sees it, he’s NEVER responsible. I’ll agree this far: he doesn’t know the meaning of being responsible. Ron P.)

Another political quiz
Below is a link to a 30-question test to see how well you know US Law. Not exactly grade-school level. Give it a shot, and see how well you do! Supposedly 96% of all High School Seniors FAILED this test .. AND if that's not bad enough, 50+% of all individuals over 50 did too!! Take the test and be surprised at what we don't know !!! (I was 28 for 30—I can never remember numbers on amendments. ~Bob.)

Worth reading: More Student Loan Ponzi
Excerpt: Laura Sayer, unsure of what she wanted to do after graduating from college in 2006, figured a master’s degree was “a safe bet.” With $5,000 in undergraduate loans from her time at the University of Cincinnati, Sayer was set back $50,000 more after completing the Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. The 27-year-old now makes about $45,000 a year as an administrative assistant for a nonprofit group, a job that didn’t require her advanced degree. More people are losing the same gamble as a 33 percent jump in U.S. graduate school enrollment in the past decade, coupled with an 80 percent surge in tuition and required fees, runs headlong into a weaker job market. (Fooled me. I figured you could open the paper and find dozens of companies advertising for a person with a Masters in Humanities and Social thought. Really adds to the bottom line, you know. ~Bob.)

Putin’s peril — and ours By Arthur Herman
Excerpt: Four years ago, Russians compared Vladimir Putin to Peter the Great. Now many are openly likening him to Leonid Brezhnev, the senile Soviet premier who had symbolized the broken-down and corrupt end-stage of Communism. Rioting in Moscow and other cities has followed a parliamentary election blatantly fraudulent even by Putin standards — but which still couldn’t give his party a win in his own home district. Even if Putin survives the mounting discontent — and for now his election as president in March still seems a lock — the situation poses new risks for the United States.

Don't Eat the Sausage - Mychal Massie
Excerpt: If you are regular reader of my nationally syndicated weekly column you are aware that my condemnation of the media is not limited to my daily rant which is an exclusive feature to my blog. There’s an old adage that if you saw sausage being made you wouldn’t eat it, or something to that effect. Specific to that point, I’ve seen the behind the scenes of how news is produced and I can tell you, that with very rare exception it is like seeing raw pork meat with maggots in it being turned into sausage. If the image of rancid, half-rotten, maggoty, raw meat conjures up a sickening image in you mind – multiply that times 100 and you have some sense of my contempt for those in the industry from which I derive a portion of my income.

The Case for Logic by Burt Prelutsky
Excerpt: The only thing in shorter supply in America than jobs, shovel-ready or otherwise, is logic. And with most liberal arts professors taking their lead from Saul Alinksy and Noam Chomsky, not Socrates, it doesn’t appear that college students will start thinking for themselves anytime soon. For instance, how is it that every other group in America has to go through the rigmarole of obtaining a city permit if it wants to conduct a two-hour parade down Main Street, and that municipalities can’t even put up Christmas trees in the public square, but the bozos in the Occupy Wall Street movement are free to turn entire neighborhoods into toxic dumps?

Fannie and Freddie – Building on to the House of Cards by Bob Beauprez
Excerpt: The collapse of the sub-prime mortgage loan market precipitated the current economic recession. Yet three years and $170 billion in taxpayer funded bailouts later, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) that owned or guaranteed the vast majority of those loans, remain virtually unchanged except that the giant is even bigger and more costly to maintain. Recently published reports of $12.8 million of annual compensation bonuses paid on top of already substantial salaries to ten executives at the two GSEs for achieving "modest goals" captured a few headlines and once again highlighted some of the paradoxes and problems of combining a supposedly privately owned and operated enterprise with conflicting public policy and politically motivated social objectives.

Footage of Stockpiles of WMDs Uncovered in Libya
Excerpt: In the Al-Rawagha and Sokna regions in south Libya, the Libyan army discovered stockpiles of mustard gas and nerve gas, as well as a plant for their production. Large underground storage places were also found in the area, containing huge amounts of ammunition and missiles. (now going where? ~Bob.)

Mark Steyn: A Future Looted to Bribe the Present
Excerpt: Instead, Obama is demanding increased "investment" in "education" in order to "give people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges so they can learn how to make wind turbines and semiconductors." I am not a trained economist, but it is not obvious to me that the United States of America is crying out for more wind turbines, and, if it is, I'm sure many of those colleges' tenured Race and Social Justice Studies professors could be redeployed to serve as such. In Europe, the political class is beginning to understand that the social democratic state created to guarantee permanent stability risks plunging the Continent into the worst instability since those happy-go-lucky days of the 1930s. By contrast, in Kansas, the president of the United States is still riding the tie-dyed wind turbine and promising to waft you to Oz.

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