Thursday, September 30, 2010

Obamacare forces cuts in low-wage workers' health insurance

By Donald Sensing

Thanks a bunch, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid.
McDonalds Corp. has announced that unless Congress provides relief from the terms of Obamacare, it will be forced to drop its health-insurance coverage of almost 30,000 low-wage restaurant workers. reports the Wall Street Journal.
Trade groups representing restaurants and retailers say low-wage employers might halt their coverage if the government doesn't loosen a requirement for "mini-med" plans, which offer limited benefits to some 1.4 million Americans.

The requirement concerns the percentage of premiums that must be spent on benefits.

While many restaurants don't offer health coverage, McDonald's provides mini-med plans for workers at 10,500 U.S. locations, most of them franchised. A single worker can pay $14 a week for a plan that caps annual benefits at $2,000, or about $32 a week to get coverage up to $10,000 a year.

Last week, a senior McDonald's official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain's insurer won't meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.

McDonald's and trade groups say the percentage, called a medical loss ratio, is unrealistic for mini-med plans because of high administrative costs owing to frequent worker turnover, combined with relatively low spending on claims.
Well, there was sure one thing Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi got right about Obamacare before it was passed.

We're finding out quite a lot about what is in it. And none of it good. The Boston Herald reported this week, Massachusetts' largest health-care insurer, Harvard Pilgrim,
... was forced (by Medicare’s administration) to notify its [Medicare] customers that their plans would be canceled as of the end of this year. The company will offer another supplemental plan offering fewer benefits at a higher premium.
Expect more of these kinds of moves as 2013 gets closer, the year Obamacare will be fully implemented. Which leads one to wonder whether the administration's plan all along was for Obamacare so to overburden insurers with additional risks and costs that they have to reduce coverage or raise premiums, or both, to the point that the government would just take over health insurance with a single-payer system, which has been the Democrats' dream for years.

Update: ABC News says that Mickey D, Inc., is denying the report.

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The coming economic reversion

By Donald Sensing

Tom Winnifrith, CEO at financial services firm Rivington Street Holdings, told Monday that the days of the USA's economic supremacy will end sooner than people think.

The US trade deficit and debt continue to grow and the authorities are reluctant to address the problem, preferring to print money, Winnifrith said.

"America is practically owned by China," he said.

He reminded of the fact that in 1900, sterling was the world's reserve currency but by 1948, that was no longer the case as the British Empire collapsed.

"America is doing what Britain did," Winnifrith said. "America spends much more than it can afford and it's not addressing the issue."

In 1832, China and India were the world's two largest economies and by 2032, they will regain that status, he predicted.

"The 200 years when Britain and the US were the top two economies were an aberration and that will change," Winnifrith said.

"The decline of empires has happened much faster than folks think. I believe that gold will be a far better bet in 20 years than the dollar," he added.
It is not inevitable. But unless we shrink both the size and the role of government in our country, it will definitely happen.

But this doesn't help in the short term: "Dollar Set for Biggest Monthly Loss Since 2008 Versus Euro on U.S. Economy."
The dollar was set for a quarterly drop versus all of its major counterparts before data forecast to show U.S. business activity and manufacturing slowed. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is scheduled to testify in Washington today amid speculation the central bank is preparing to buy more U.S. debt. The yen approached the strongest since the Bank of Japan intervened amid speculation exporters are bringing home overseas earnings before the end of the fiscal first half.

“America’s economic growth seems to be decelerating,” said Tsutomu Soma, a bond and currency dealer in Tokyo at Okasan Securities Co. “This is a negative factor for the dollar.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Once and Future Hillary

By Donald Sensing

Reality begins in Washington, D.C. with rumors.

They call them "trial balloons," ideas floated through the political atmosphere to see which way the wind takes them and how high. The rumors about whether President Obama will face a primary challenge in 2012 are being floated now.

Back in July, Democrat Penn. Gov. Ed Rendell said flatly that Obama will face a primary challenge unless the president sticks to his timetable to withdraw from Afghanistan. Commentator Les Kinsolving wrote the same month that Obama will be challenged, then in September, Peter Wehner at Commentary floated the balloon, too.

The obvious question: who will be the challenger? And just as obvious is the only remotely credible answer: Hillary Clinton.

Read the rest!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Voters: Stupid or just gullible?

By Donald Sensing

Boston Herald:

A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation.

“We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters after touring the Boston Medical Center yesterday.
This is typical Kerry, of course, who reflexively looks down his patrician nose at the little people (voters).

Far be it from me to defend John Kerry. But what if he's right? What if, in fact, in 2008 voters actually did not pay attention, but were influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts?

You know the slogan, don't you? "Hope and Change." As for the facts, they now speak for themselves, but why were there so many rubes - who have only recently begun to wake up?

Exhibit 1 of voter somnolence: "Our Health Care Happy Meal."
" reform would allow for them to receive preventive care services without having to pay anything... Health reform starts at birth -- health plans will no longer be able to refuse to cover children younger than 19 simply because they were born with a medical condition... adults and seniors will no longer have cost-sharing provisions for preventive services... Together this all adds up to more patient protections than we have ever had, and this is just the beginning."

-Kavita Patel, "Will health reform be repealed?",

We should all know better, but the sad fact is, we're all suckers.
Of course, it's only when voters start tracking the issues closely and awakening to their new reality that John Kerry accuses them of being asleep. As I said, vintage Kerry. And to think that this man is apparently being considered as the next secretary of state. The mind boggles.

Update: A little later than I to the party, but Rich Lowry parses Kerry's words the same way by observing,
If John Kerry's prognosis has any force, it applies to the dew-eyed Obama supporters who bought the fairy tale two years ago and won't bother to show up at the polls in November. These so-called surge voters, many of them young people, are exactly the ones who believed what Kerry calls "simple slogans" - "hope and change," "yes we can," "we're the ones we've been waiting for," and other timeless gems of vapid marketing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hillary2012 buzz - the latest

By Donald Sensing

In my running tally of commentators prying the door open to the possibility of Hillary Clinton making a White House run in 2012, I offer Peter Wehner of Commentary.

Failed presidencies elicit primary challenges. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

We’re clearly not at this point yet, of course, and a challenge to Obama is still more unlikely than not. And we haven’t seen a sitting president dislodged since LBJ. (Eugene McCarthy nearly defeated Johnson in the New Hampshire primary; Johnson withdrew shortly after that, and Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination.) But you can count on this: to protect liberalism, the left will jettison even Obama if it deems it necessary for The Cause. If Obama remains or becomes increasingly radioactive in 2011, liberals will seek to separate their movement from a deeply unpopular president. And the man who in the past has been so quick to throw others (like Jeremiah Wright) under the bus may find himself suffering a similar fate. The cruelest cut of all, of course, would be for this act to come courtesy of those who were once Obama’s more worshipful supporters.

That is part of the danger of having built a campaign on a cult of personality.
The latest installment of HillaryBuzz.

Be Happy in Your Work!

By Donald Sensing

Mandatory good times on the job seems all the rage these days.

The cult of fun is deepening as well as widening. Google is the acknowledged champion: its offices are blessed with volleyball courts, bicycle paths, a yellow brick road, a model dinosaur, regular games of roller hockey and several professional masseuses. But now two other companies have challenged Google for the jester’s crown—Twitter, a microblogging service, and Zappos, an online shoe-shop.

Twitter’s website stresses how wacky the company is: workers wear cowboy hats and babble that: “Crazy things happen every day…it’s pretty ridiculous.” The company has a team of people whose job is to make workers happy: for example, by providing them with cold towels on a hot day. Zappos boasts that creating “fun and a little weirdness” is one of its core values. Tony Hsieh, the boss, shaves his head and spends 10% of his time studying what he calls the “science of happiness”. He once joked that Zappos was suing the Walt Disney Company for claiming that it was “the happiest place on earth”. The company engages in regular “random acts of kindness”: workers form a noisy conga line and single out one of their colleagues for praise. The praisee then has to wear a silly hat for a week.
Yes, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy! You will go to work and you will enjoy it! For some reason I am reminded of this guy:

Be happy in your work! Or else!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Colbert 1,300; Coates 196

By Donald Sensing

That's the count on Google News' leads of the coverage of the testimonies of comedian Stephen Colbert and Dept. of Justice official Christopher Coates. Colbert testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. Coates appeared before the US Civil Rights Commission. Here are the print-screen grabs, click to enlarge.

These grabs were taken at 5:45 p.m., Sept. 24 CDT. One thing I find informative is that the top three news leads of Colbert's testimony (abc7news, WaPo blog, CBS News) do not state the name of the subcommittee Colbert spoke to. It's just identified as a hearing on immigration. I had to drill down through Huffington Post to get the name.

Note that the major media covered Colbert exhaustively, but were conspicuously absent from covering Coates. That was left almost completely to online media, especially blogs. From curiosity, I watched NBC News primetime broadcast. Colbert was the lead story. There was no mention ever of Coates. And they wonder why their viewersehip is plummeting?

Fortunately and commendably for Colbert, his "testimony" was dripping with all the sober gravitas it deserved.

As one of Instapundit's reader, Trent Nix, emailed,
I’m hearing lots of reporters and members of the intelligentsia bemoan Colbert’s testimony as “making a mockery” of the hearing, but I can’t say I see it that way. It’s certainly unfortunate that he’s distracting a few talking heads from the DOJ-Black Panther brouhaha, but he’s also doing an important work as well. He’s exposing the ridiculous nature of these hearings and the circus that our political class indulges in. I’ve got a feeling that even Colbert thinks it was absurd that he’s testifying and is fully committed to exposing how deeply absurd it really is. I’d like to say the man and his bit is a work of genius if all of this weren’t so obvious what would happen from the outset.
Which is about what I thought myself. Coates' testimony, however, "is a bombshell," wrote Scott at Power Line.
Coates's testimony is a bombshell. It exposes a couple of Obama administration scandals at once. One involves the Obama administration's attempt to cover up the rationale for burying the case against the NBPP [New Black Panther Party]. The other involves the Obama administration's support for the racially based administration of justice. Coates's testimony is suggestive of other scandals as well. You probably won't be hearing much about it on the broadcast news tonight or in the papers tomorrow, but we all should do everything we can to get the word out.
Done and done. But at least the WaPo and the CSM have covered Coates.

  • WaPo: "Justice official says bias led to 'gutting' of New Black Panthers case."
  • CSM: "New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case: 'Bombshell' for Obama?" The CSM's summary of the case is better than the WaPo's: 
On Friday, Mr. Coates testified before the US Civil Rights Commission, a bipartisan oversight group, alleging that under President Obama, the dismissive attitude of that civil rights staff attorney toward white claims of disenfranchisement at the hands of blacks has essentially become Justice Department policy. He said he had seen evidence that Obama appointees in the Department of Justice had created a "hostile atmosphere" toward attorneys pushing to prosecute blacks for voting-rights violations – a charge the Justice Department denies.
Coates told the commission that he was testifying as a whistle blower since he had been instructed by his DOJ superiors not to speak.

You know, some more "zero tolerance" that this administration has for speaking truth to power, especially when the power is them and the truth is, well, the truth.
Huffington Post has, "The 7 Funniest Lines From Colbert's Testimony To Congress" with photos. Worth the click thru.

No more rich people!

By Donald Sensing

Victor Davis Hanson sees the same pattern I did. In "A Nation of Peasants?" the good professor writes,

Even after the failure of statism at the end of the Cold War, the disasters of socialism in Venezuela and Cuba, and the recent financial meltdowns in the European Union, for some reason America is returning to a peasant mentality of a limited good that redistributes wealth rather than creates it. Candidate Obama's "spread the wealth" slip to Joe the Plumber simply was upgraded to President Obama's "I do think at a certain point you've made enough money." ...

No wonder that in such a climate of fear and suspicion, unemployment remains near 10 percent. Deficits chronically exceed $1 trillion per annum. And now the poverty rate has hit a historic high. We are all getting poorer in hopes that a few don't get richer.
Wealth is not the problem today. Lack of it is.

What recovery?

By Donald Sensing

Did you know that the recession ended more than a year ago? That according to Business-Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which is responsible for such analysis.

Apparently, that's when the USA's economic output stopped decreasing and started rising, the usual way recessions are declared to have ended. But just as one robin does not make springtime, one datum does not make a recovery.

Fact: Unemployment has hardly nudged from its near-10-percent level since the "recovery" began. As late as last month, there was a net job loss and an uptick in the joblessness rate. Jobs are being terminated at a faster rate than created, and what jobs are being created are almost all low paying. As the money blog of the LA Times points out,

About 35% of the jobs lost in 2008 and 2009 were in industries that pay between $8.92 and $15 an hour, the bottom two-fifths of the wage scale, the report says. But those jobs accounted for 76% of net growth in 2010. ...

Industries that pay between $17.43 and $31.02 an hour, the top two-fifths of the wage scale, contributed only 5% of net job growth in 2010, after accounting for 48% of losses in 2008 and 2009.
No wonder that Americans' net worth holdings plummeted. During this year's second quarter alone, household net worth fell by 2.8 percent.
Net worth for households and non-profit groups declined by $1.5 trillion to $53.5 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds report issued today in Washington. ...

The decline in wealth wiped out the first quarter’s $1.4 trillion gain, leaving households 19 percent short of the $65.9 trillion peak in the second quarter of 2007, before the recession began. Net worth bottomed at $48.3 trillion in the first quarter of 2009... .
Democrat operative Susan Estrich (Miichael Dukakis's campaign manager) finds no joy in these figures.
The worse news is that there appears to be no end in sight for unemployment in the 9 percent to 10 percent range. In order to just keep unemployment where it is now — at a rather unacceptable 9.6 percent — the experts say the economy needs to grow at an annual rate of about 2.5 percent. The rate for the second quarter was only 1.6 percent, and the predictions for the third quarter aren't much better.
What recovery? The Census Bureau estimates that 14.3 percent of Americans live in poverty, a level that has returned to that when Lyndon Johnson began the "War on Poverty" in the 1960s (and, as Thomas Sowell wrote, "a war that we have lost, by the way,"). Here's the graph.

Recovery? Let us summarize this recovery:
  • People are poorer.
  • More jobs are being lost than created. Hence,
  • Unemployment is rising.
  • The vast majority of new jobs pay a subsistence-level wage.
Add to this recipe for personal misery and economic disaster the fact that businesses are not hiring in part because this administration is hostile to business and its policies are unstable.
"We don't know what the latest great idea from Obama will be. Therefore, we are hunkering down," Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers told me last week, echoing public comments over summer from CEOs at companies such as Intel and Verizon.

He said that because of Obama, CEOs are focusing on their core businesses and hiring less, to control costs and risks. "CEOs are uncertain, so they don't want to have the liability of adding a lot of employees," Rodgers said.
We're all just hunkering down, it seems. Hunker down better, this ride ain't over yet.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bursting the higher-ed bubble

By Donald Sensing

Glenn Reynolds has posted a lot on the higher-education bubble. The fact is that costs of attending college or university has skyrocketed in the past four decades, far outpacing inflation.

Where, oh where does all that extra tuition and fees go? Well, not to actually improving the quality of the education, for the most part. From reading most of what Glenn has written or linked to, here is a summary of the breakdown. The rising costs have gone far predominantly to pay for more administration and infrastructure.

  • Many universities staff (not faculty, staff) have doubled in the last 20 years. 
  • Also, salaries and perks of faculty and administrators have ballooned - Vanderbilt's chancellor is paid $1.2 million per year. 
  • Faculty salaries have gone way up, too (although schools do claim that paying higher faculty scales enables them to recruit better professors.)
  • Sports teams have increased and costs associated with them.
  • Sports facilities have undergone massive improvements.
  • Dormitories and student-life facilities have been remodeled, rebuilt or added, all at very high costs.
I graduated from Wake Forest University in 1977. A year at the school then, including meals and dorm, was less than $5,000. Today, it's more than $54,000! Is my son, who graduated from Wake last May, better educated than I was? Well, yes, I am sure he is, but is he more than 10 times better educated? Of course not. (When he began school there in the fall of 2006, the cost was $44K plus a few hundred. So the cost has risen almost 25 percent in only four years! But the inflation rate over those years was only 8.2 percent overall.)

Glenn, among many other writers on the topic, expects the bubble to burst, but doesn't know when or what the pinprick will be. But consider this observation from Jonathan Last in a long column in The Weekly Standard, "America's One Child Policy," to which I link at page 9.
In the 1971 case Griggs v. Duke Power, the Court held that employers could not rely on IQ-type tests if minorities performed relatively poorly on them. Blacks and Hispanics display a persistent underperformance on such tests, making it impossible for employers to ask for test scores. (As the recent Ricci case proved, even a test that has been sufficiently vetted beforehand for a lack of bias can cause trouble if minorities perform poorly on it.) So employers launder their request for test scores through the college system since colleges are allowed to use such considerations. The universities get rich, students and their parents go into hock, and everyone pretends that Acme Widgets is hiring young Suzy because they value her B.A. in English from Haverford, and not because her admission to Haverford proved that she is bright—a fact that a free, three-hour written test would have demonstrated just as well. If Griggs were rolled back, it would upend the college system at a stroke.
I'm not advocating a rollback. But I didn't know that the bubble began almost at the same time that SCOTUS ruled in Griggs.

The American Commissariat

By Donald Sensing

One day in 1919, a mud-covered Russian peasant watched a Bolshevik cavalry column crossing the Russian countryside during the Russian civil war.

The Bolshevik commissar called out to the peasant, "Come join us, comrade, and fight the Mensheviks!"

"What are you fighting for?" the peasant called back.

"We fight so that there will be no more rich people!" yelled the commissar.

The peasant glanced at his muddy clothes and considered the tiny hut he lived in. Then he called back, "Commissar, come recruit me when you are fighting so that there will be no more poor people!"

Welcome to the American commissariat, the Obama administration, working to make sure there are no more rich people.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Turkey goes to the dark side

By Donald Sensing

As usual, Caroline Glick nails it, this time in, "Who lost Turkey?"

Stephen Hawking, science fiction writer

By Donald Sensing

Stephen Hawking is probably the best-known physicist of our day. He is the author of a number of mass-media books about science, including A Brief History of Time, which begins this way:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever", said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
The premise of Hawking's latest book, The Grand Design, co-authored with physicist Leonard Mlodinow, strikes me as not much of an improvement of the turtles thesis. Instead of turtles, Hawking has equations.

When the Marquis de Laplace presented his work, Mecanique celeste, to Napoleon, the conqueror complained that LaPlace had not mentioned of God in the text. Laplace replied,"Emperor, I have no need for that hypothesis."

That is the specific premise - nay, the very objective - of The Grand Design, in which Hawking claims that God is not needed to explain the beginning of the universe. "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," writes Hawking. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

It's striking how much this kind of science is coming to resemble science fiction with its own religious overtones. As Mlodinow is quoted:
We don't have a laboratory where we can control what's going on. We can't repeat the experiment and take the data. Also, the universe — since we believe in quantum theory now — is a quantum system.
What Hawking et al have done is written a form of science fiction, using equations rather than prose. All their equations may work out, but that don't mean they actually know more than before or that reality has been discerned to a greater degree. Hawking admitted that postulating a universe of three or four dimension did not resolve mathematically. In fact, using up to 10 dimensions didn't work. So they tried 11 and presto! X = 0. Or something. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, "These are our equations. If they don’t work, we have others."

It's equations all the way down.

In a sense, of course, all mathematical constructs are fictional, that is, creations of the mind. However, some math is purely theoretical in ways that other math is not. Negative numbers for example, have no real-world referent like positive numbers do. You cannot point to a fruit basket and say meaningfully, "That basket contains minus four apples." Mathematicians themselves even refer to "imaginary numbers." That doesn't mean they aren’t useful, but they are only mathematically useful. The square root of -1 is not a concept that has practical application.

"All text has intention" is the basic premise of post-modern, linguistic deconstructionism. And so it is with Hawking's work. I've no doubt that he is impelled by a childlike curiosity about the universe that is so crucial to scientific work. But Hawking has been trying for years to establish in the popular mind his world view, which is not really a scientific one, but scientistic, a non-confirmable belief that science describes reality exhaustively and absolutely. But the scientific method cannot even demonstrate this, much less subject it to empirical verification. Scientism is a religious-type belief in science. As Mlodinow says, "We believe in quantum theory."

This is really a work of fiction, using numbers rather than prose.
And so Hawking now claims that the universe simply popped into existence from nothing whatsoever, resting his claim purely upon mathematical constructs that are no less fictional than seventh-grade quadratic equations.

Yet Hawking may have shored up Genesis’ account as much as attacked it. Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss says, "Empirically, we can actually have evidence that the universe came from nothing. One of the key things is that the total energy of the universe is zero, which is only possible if the universe came from nothing. It could have been otherwise. It could have been not zero."

So it would seem that science has confirmed what the Church has claimed since earliest days, creatio ex nihilo, the idea that the universe’s antecedent was nothing at all. (One professor told me that the only reason the Jews didn't write creatio ex nihilo was that they didn't speak Latin.) That being so, a cynic might ask why a fiction of physicists’ equations should be preferred to the  fiction of ancient priests' prose, since they both claim basically the same thing. Or perhaps the two accounts are not so separate as we think. Richard Feynman, after all, said that calculus, the basic math of physics, was, "the language God talks."

I prefer the priestly account of creation to Hawking's, since, as Mlodinow pretty much admitted, Hawking's and his concept of the universe's "grand design" is at bottom conjecture. Scientists may be able to describe how I got here, but not why. They can say what we can do, but not what we should do. Mlodinow said that there is no laboratory to research the universe’s beginning. But we live in a real-world lab with certain consequences. So we are better off heeding the wisdom of the prose than the conjecture of equations, even if they are equally false, or true.

Closing thought: Why is Hawking so willing to assume that the universe simply "big banged" itself into existence when we deny that anything else does so? And if the universe simply appeared, just popped into being, why do other such appearances not happen routinely? Why, for example, don't spherical balls (or whatever) just pop up in my front yard or yours from time to time?

But they don't. In fact, the entire universe itself consists only of contingent events that bring forth only contingent entities. But somehow, Hawking is nonetheless willing to say that the universe alone is a necessary entity. I wrote at some length about this argument 13 months ago.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Obama and the government reward dispenser

By Donald Sensing

This video or its soundtrack is hurtling around the Internet. It's of a woman at a town hall meeting with President Obama telling him forthrightly that she is "exhausted" from defending him.

"I'm one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I'm exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where I am right now. ... The financial recession has taken an enormous toll on our family. My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives, but, quite frankly, it's starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we're headed again, and, quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly. Is this my new reality?"

And the president's response:

"The life you describe - one of responsibility, looking after your family, contributing back to your community - that's what we want to reward."

This sentence, coming near the front of the video, encapsulates most of what repels me about this president's statist world view. It is not the responsibility of the government to "reward" any particular way of living. The government is not delegated any power in the Constitution to do so. The real nugget here is when he says he wants to reward "contributing back" to the community. What does that mean? It can mean whatever the political masters want it to mean; at one time both parties even used the concept to support drafting young men into the military.

"Rewarding" contributing to the community is lib-left codewording for a tax of some kind, if not of money, then a tax of time or talents. Obama openly promoted this coercive regulation of Americans' lives when campaigning and after elected.

Obama and Biden will call on citizens of all ages to serve. They'll set a goal that all middle school and high school students engage in 50 hours of community service a year, and develop a plan for all college students who engage in 100 hours of community service to receive a fully-refundable tax credit of $4,000 for their education. Obama and Biden will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
All your labor are belong to us, I guess. But that's the Left for you.

The rest of the president's reply is verbal dodgeball, recounting a few trivial legislative accomplishments and then finally agreeing with the exhausted lady that time are tough and life is hard, but it won't change anytime soon.

The summary of the president's answer to her question, "Is this my new reality?" Yes, ma'am, this is your new reality. Get used to it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mubarak photo doctored, but why?

By Donald Sensing

Glenn Reynolds linked to an AOL News page displaying the before-and-after photos of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak walking along a red-carpet runway with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Barack Obama, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House. The writer, former Navy public affairs officer J.D. Gordon, offers the photos as an example of how " fiction is often relayed as fact in their press in a way which most Americans couldn't fathom."

That's true, but that's not the real reason the photo in question was doctored. So, let's go to the photos.

The original news photo:

Note that Mubarak is at the far left of the shot. Most significantly, he is to the rear of the other heads of state. Keep that in mind.

Here is the "shopped" photo as it appeared in Egyptian press.

Note that not only is Mubarak placed in front, it's not even the same photo, something Mr. Gordon did not detect. The second shot shows the men as they passed further down the carpet, closer to the photographer. The angle of the photo is more directly above them in the second photo than the first and the men's stride is different. 

I suppose it's possible that Mubarak suddenly darted to the front of the pack in only two or three steps, but he would have had to rearrange the angle of his necktie doing so, since it slants the other way in shot number two. No, using only the second shot, editors lifted Mubarak's image from the rear and inserted into the front. The editors flipped his image left to right, too.

The relocation of Mubarak to the place of leadership is obvious. But what most Westerners will miss is that there is more involved here than the Egyptian media sucking up to Dictator President For Life Mubarak.

The editor moved Mubarak not merely to the head of the pack, but to the place of honor. Westerners find it hard to understand the role honor and shame play in Middle Eastern cultures. In 2004, US Marine General James Mattis, then commanding a Marine division, commissioned a paper for his troops to study called, “Marines are from Mars, Iraqis are from Venus.” Here is how the paper described an Iraqi explaining their sense of honor:
Our sense of honor pervades everything we do. This isn’t the Western definition of honor, it’s more like Hispanic honor of machismo. Perception of manhood is vital and in fact it can be a matter of life and death. A man without honor gets no wife, often no work, and in Iraq he may be shunned or even killed by the own family depending on how grave the offense is. Defending honor is part of our cultural heritage. It is the focal point of everything we do and is jealously guarded. Honor means influence and power, our foremost concern. Less power means fewer contracts, less money, less food, angrier families. We must regain lost honor any way we can, even if it means violently attacking the ones who dishonored us.
I wrote at some length on the role of honor and shame in Middle Eastern cultures, especially in the Arab tribal systems, in "Honor, shame, the Middle East and the American left." I won't rehash that post here (go read!) but instead relate a true story of my experiences with Arab honor-shame dynamics.

In 1982 I was a US Army captain attending the Field Artillery Officer Advanced Course at Ft. Sill, Okla. There were a large number of allied officer (that is, US Marines) attending as well as many foreign officers. The Arab contingent was pretty large, and most of them were Saudis. But in my section there were two Egyptian lieutenant colonels and one major.

The two light colonels and I became pretty good friends. Their names were Solomon and Osman. They were great guys and real party animals, as Muslim men often are when they reach the decadent, non-Islamic West.

Anyway, one day the entire class of 300 or so was taking a tactics exam in an auditorium-type room. We all sat at long, folding tables and opened the exams when told to start. Needless to say, all the US officers had long ago internalized the credo, "An officer does not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do." Cheating on this or any other assigned work would end a career!

The first section of the test was multiple choice. To my right rear sat all the Saudi officers in a row. Very soon, we all heard a slue of Arabic, followed by a clear enunciation of the letter, "B." A moment later, more Arabic, then "D." Repeat, ending with "A." And so on.

In the analysis part of the test and essays, the Saudis made no attempt to disguise their verbal collaboration. I got highly irritated and I was not the only one. But we knew nothing would be done about their cheating for political reasons, and besides, foreign officers' scores did not affect our class standing.

A couple of days later I asked Lt. Col. Solomon why the Saudis were so blatant in their cheating. He broke into laughter and replied, "They were not cheating. The Saudi lieutenant colonel fills the role of the sheik while they are here. The major next to him was reading his answers to all the rest so they could make sure they did not score higher than him on the test. If they did, it would bring great shame to him and would be dishonorable for the junior officer. Very bad problem, that."

That is the main reason the Egyptian press doctored the photo. The original displayed Hosni walking in the rear. But in Arab cultures, that is a place of subservience. It is where a proper Arab woman must walk when in public with her father, husband or other male relative. In the original, Mubarak is immediately preceded by none other than Israeli PM Netanyahu. Of all then world leaders to show preceding Mubarak, that would be the worst!

To print a photo of Mubarak walking in the rear of the other leaders, especially Netanyahu, would have brought dishonor upon him in the eyes of the Egyptian people, and would have been shameful for the editors who printed it. "Very bad problem, that," and consequences for the editors almost certainly would have been very bad, too.

Global warming to end!

By Donald Sensing

The White House has announced that there will be no more "global warming!"

The White House wants the public to start using the term "global climate disruption" in place of "global warming" -- fearing the latter term oversimplifies the problem and makes it sound less dangerous than it really is.
That's because it is less dangerous than it really is - meaning that it is less dangerous than the administration purports it to be. For instance, there has been no global warming since 1998. Faced with the embarrassment of this fact, a terminology change is in order!
White House science adviser John Holdren urged people to start using the phrase during a speech last week in Oslo, echoing a plea he made three years earlier. Holdren said global warming is a "dangerous misnomer" for a problem far more complicated than a rise in temperature.
You bet the problem is "far more complicated than a rise in temperature." The complications are related directly to losing control and losing money. Just as the old saw about gun control being more about control than guns, so climate science has become so heavily politicized that it is no longer really about science, but about power politics.
[C]limate science is not primarily concerned with climate change. "Global warming" is on the whole a political movement, not a scientific discipline. Climate science has no "product." The outcomes of climate modeling cannot be used to do anything except what is being done with them - promote statist control of ever-expanding slices of national economies to conform to a transnationalist ideology.

If climate science could be used to do anything else, it would already be happening. But have you ever heard of any report of climate science's findings not in connection with expanding the power of the state or trans-state organs?
Since we of the lumpen proletariat are rejecting relinquishing what little sovereignty we have left, a relabeling is in order.
"They're trying to come up with more politically palatable ways to sell some of this stuff," said Republican pollster Adam Geller, noting that Democrats also rolled out a new logo and now refer to the Bush tax cuts as "middle-class tax cuts."
The Dems' linguistic hoop jumping springs directly from the Left's embracing years ago of postmodern deconstructionism, the precept that all speech is concerned with exercising power. Since science is speech, the Left comfortably believes that science should be concerned with gaining power, too. I explained this is not-too-technical detail in my 2009 post, "Scientific deconstructionism." See also my follow-on essay, "The Po-Mo Deconstructed Presidency."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gay Saudi diplomat seeks asylum in US

By Donald Sensing

LA Times blog: "SAUDI ARABIA: Gay diplomat in Los Angeles may have a case, but little support in the Arab world"

Ya think? Homosexuality is a capital offense under sharia law, which is rigorously enforced in Saudi Arabia. (Even the Muslim chaplain of distinctly liberal Vanderbilt University said at a forum that homosexuals should be executed.)

It gets better. The Saudi diplomat, Ali Ahmed Aseeri, is secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. He applied for political asylum in the United States not only because of his gayness, but also because he is a friend of a Jewish woman!

One wonders which crime the Saudis consider worse.

The story has hardly been reported in legacy media, though NBC News broke it last Saturday. It has appeared on some blogs. I learned of it via an email bleg for interview of an attorney involved in the process. However, reports LAT's blog, reporting the story in the West at all is proof of anti-Muslim bigotry and an attempt to tarnish Islam (as if it is even possible to tarnish it even more). The story ...

was carried by a number of Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and pan-Arab media outlets, where it has been provoking considerable commentary and a fair amount of skepticism.

Commenter "Abu Khalid," writing on the Al Jazeera website, which cited NBC's report, accused the Western media of bias and "relishing divisiveness among Muslims," and called into question the accuracy of the story. Very few seemed sympathetic to Aseeri's alleged persecution, and many considered his comments against his country and his actions traitorous.

Aseeri "said that some clerics distort Islam's tolerance ... how can he be gay and say these words?" wrote "Mohammad, a Son of the Nation" from the seaside Saudi city of Jeddah.

Readers of the Left-leaning Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, which ran a brief from the Agence France-Presse, were equally cynical, but for different reasons.

"If you're not embarrassed, do what you want. If he wanted to leave Saudi Arabia, it's Saudi's gain, but why tarnish the image of the Saudis?" wrote one commenter.
Remember, though, that in the Middle East if you don't explain a controversy with a conspiracy theory, you have not explained it. So:
Yet another [commenter] expressed a sort of wry pity, speculating that perhaps Aseeri had fallen out of favor with the powerful Saud family, which rules the Kingdom.

"What a shame! so when he angered one of the royal family or someone close to them, he suddenly became gay and linked to a Jewish woman," the commenter wrote."I wonder about those ruling regimes in our Arab countries, may God help our people."
Aseeri is being set up! He's being framed!

Here's a kicker, too. Lory Rosenberg, "an expert in refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International," weighs in that for asylum to be granted, it's not enough for Aseeri's homosexuality simply to be against the law. Aseeri must prove he will be persecuted, not merely prosecuted.

Would execution count as persecution? It might if gays are executed in the kingdom. But it's not really clear that they are unless their homosexuality is aggravated by other offenses, such as overt acts of sexual assault also. Mubarak Dahir, a gay columnist, wrote of visiting Saudi Arabia to investigate the question, especially whether gays were beheaded, as convicted murderers and others found guilty of serious felonies are.
Even gay Arab friends, long accustomed to the harsh treatment their own governments give homosexual citizens, sent me urgent and alarmed notes pleading with me to be careful. Saudi Arabia, the e-mails warned me, was exponentially more repressive than any other place I’d visited in the Arab World, and was therefore that much more dangerous. ...

I was able to do in-depth interviews with five gay men—three in Riyadh, the largest city and the seat of government, and two in Jeddah, the country’s most progressive city. I found these men worrying more about how to meet others for sex and companionship, how to date and keep their sexual orientation secret, whether they would be forced by their families to marry, and what to wear to show off their bodies. Getting beheaded was just about the last thing on anyone’s mind. ... [T]hey all scoffed at the notion that simply being discovered to be gay would lead to the death penalty. ...

"I can tell you there is more sex between men in Saudi Arabia than other places," he ["Salim"] believes, largely because men simply do not have the opportunity to interact with women in Saudi society. If you are quiet about it, you can have as much sex with men as you want, he says, and it’s easy to find. "Sometimes I go to the mall, and I see men staring at me in that way, and I know what they want."

There are real dangers if the police discover men cruising or having sex, he admits, but the threat is not getting your head chopped off. "They might threaten to expose you to your family if you don’t pay them money, or they might [sexually] abuse you," says Salim. If you are arrested for gay conduct, the typical reaction, says Salim, is to be sent to a hospital for the equivalent of so-called "reparative therapy," that tries to make gays straight.

People are beheaded for murder, rape and drug smuggling, he insists. Not for being gay.

But, he adds, in a country where it is an act of rebellion for a woman to drive, anything that defies the strict social codes in Saudi Arabia could be construed as political. If as a gay person you are seen as ‘too open," in a way that might "threaten society"—meaning the heavy hand of the government—it’s possible you could be executed for being gay, the men I spoke to theorized. Or if you are seen as doing anything that might resemble gay political organizing—whether it be in the Western tradition, or on a much more basic level, such as trying to construct too much of a gay community— then your life might be in danger, the men I spoke to conceded.

"You have to remember," Salim says with caution, "the government does not tolerate threats of any nature."
The main question with Aseeri's case is not whether his asylum request is justified, but whether an administration whose chief literally bowed to Aseeri's royal ruler could ever find the backbone to grant asylum. I'm guessing no.

Don't know what this is about, either

By Donald Sensing

You are probably greeted by this screen if you have a security-enabled browser:

It's not just this site. Any site that uses to manage its site links also engenders the warning. I've used blogrolling for years and this is the first this warning has ever come up. Curiously, if you go to blogrolling's actual site, no warning appears.

I am completely confident that there is nothing on this site that will harm your computer.

Update: I deleted the blogrolling list and copied most links to a Blogger set.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Regulation strangulation

By Donald Sensing

Silicon Graybeard:

At least in our society, regulation often leads to litigation, and companies are sued regularly for offenses (real or imagined) against the environment or against people; possibly employees, possibly customers, possibly people in the communities they work in. When special interest groups, like environmentalist or animal rights for example, don't get the laws they want passed, they litigate to prevent companies from doing their business. For example, some of the most verdant farm land in the country, the central valley of California, is currently not being farmed because a group got the courts to stop the irrigation on the basis that it harms a minnow, despite considerable scientific disagreement that irrigation has anything at all to do with the minnow's population. (Summary here) The human impact in terms of unemployment and lack of food production, however, is undeniable.

Regulation and litigation are sand in the gears of society. Big, sharp, 40 grain silicon carbide abrasive particles that grind the gears and shafts away.
As they say, read the whole thing.

Hillary's exit door starting to open

By Donald Sensing

I said months ago that Hillary Clinton could be looking to leave the State Department come the new year.

Now US News reports the latest buzz: "Kerry In Line to Replace Clinton at State?"

Word on Capitol Hill is that Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee with a well-worn passport to the world's hot spots, is in the mix to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's been hinting of an exit before the end of President Obama's first term. Kerry, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has acted as an emissary for Obama.
Holy diplomatic conference, Batman, Kerry as SecState? Stay, Hillary! Stay!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Momma told me there'd be days like this

By Donald Sensing

Don't you just hate it when this happens?

Braden Files has the details.

"Storming Heaven: The Cult of Green ...

By Donald Sensing

... Worshiping Gaia, the False God"

My first article on Right Network is online this morning, an examination of how environmentalism has mapped itself into a religion in its own right, "complete with sin, expiation, ritual and cultic figures."

BTW, the photo of me at the bottom of the essay is really old. I'll send them a new one. Today, I look like this.

Feisal "Don Vito" Abdul-Rauf

By Donald Sensing

I'm a moderate Mafia don, you understand, but if you don't let me build my Mafia center, Luca Brasi here, who is not a moderate, will not forgive. So he will blow you up. I'm just saying.
So Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf, the driving force behind the Ground Zero Mosque has said that the GZM cannot be moved. It's too late. If he caves to pressure to move it farther  from the WTC site, he says, Muslims all around the world will see the move as an attack on Islam.
"My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be 'Islam is under attack in America,'" said Rauf. "This will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people -- our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens -- under attack in the Muslim world and we [would] have expanded and fueled terrorism."
And that, they will not forgive. So they will have no choice but to attack us and blow us up. Not that Rauf would encourage such a thing, understand. He's just saying.

Don Vito Corleone could not have put it better.

Meanwhile, Indonesian adherents of the world's only Officially-Certified Religion of Peace, "stabbed a Christian worshipper in the stomach and pounded a minister in the head with a wooden plank as they headed to morning prayers Sunday outside Indonesia's capital."

But that's not "true Islam," understand. I'm just saying.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

He says it like it's a bad thing

By Donald Sensing

Drudge link:

Please, oh please . . .

Litany of remembrance for September 11 (bumped)

By Donald Sensing

Remembrance for Sunday, Sept. 12, 2001

Leader: Gracious God, in humility we ask your blessings as we remember a day of great violence nine years ago.

People: You are the everlasting God, whose love extends to all generations. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

We remember with sadness the thousands who died on September 11, 2001, men and women of wealth, blue-collar workers, military members and government employees, airline passengers and crew - all the people who perished in flames and pain.

We are thankful for the bravery of police officers, firefighters and others who selflessly went into danger to rescue the stricken, and lost their lives or suffered injury in their service.

Continue, O Lord, to give comfort to the families of those who died, grace to those who still struggle with anguished memories or the effects of injuries.

May your Spirit rest upon each one who endured that day, and let the assurance of your presence be strong with them always.

We pray for the people of our land and lands far away, who have suffered or died in the wars of the last nine years.

We pray for our military and their families, who have lost their lives, endured separation and hardship and for many of whom the war will never truly end.

We pray for our enemies as you commanded us to do. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ fall upon everyone who wishes us harm. May we never take your favor for granted, but strive always to abide humbly in your service.

Help us Lord, to love our enemies and do good to them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Who is the enemy?

By Donald Sensing

On this anniversary day we would do well to remember who is our enemy? Who did this and why?

The first plane:

The second plane:

The horror:

Some have said that we are in a clash of civilizations. No. This war - and never forget that it is war - is not a clash between civilizations. It is a war between one civilization, the West, and the barbarism called Islamism. It is impossible meaningfully to call al-Qaedaism or Talibanism "civilization."

The Taliban beat and even shot women who went outside their homes without company of their husbands or a close male relative. They flogged or hanged men whose beards were too short. In Saudi Arabia a few years ago, a girls' school caught fire one night and the decency police (yes, they have them in Saudi Arabia) refused to unlock the exits because the girls were not properly veiled. At least 15 girls burned or suffocated to death.

These kinds of things are not anomalies. They are normative. And they are considered by our enemies to be divinely commanded.

Is Islam the enemy? President Obama, speaking today in Shanksville, Pa. said no. " "As Americans, we will not or ever be at war with Islam."

But before we so quickly and politically-correctly say no, we might consider the words from Mosab Hassan Yousef, "son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder and leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Throughout the last decade, from the second Intifada to the current stalemate, he worked alongside his father in the West Bank. During that time the younger Mr. Yousef also secretly embraced Christianity."

As the son of a Muslim cleric, he says he had reached the conclusion that terrorism can't be defeated without a new understanding of Islam. Here he echoes other defectors from Islam such as the former Dutch parliamentarian and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Do you consider your father a fanatic? "He's not a fanatic," says Mr. Yousef. "He's a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he's doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn't matter if he's a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don't want to admit this is an ideological war.

"The problem is not in Muslims," he continues. "The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to."
However, it really does not matter much whether Islam, per se, is the enemy. The fact is that Islam as a whole is not controlled or much influenced by (mythical?) moderate Muslims. The radicals are driving Islam's train and controlling Islam's agenda. To talk about some golden age of Islam, as if there was a caliphate where everything was unicorns and rainbows, is not relevant in the 21st century.

Islam is what Muslims do. And today Muslims are either trying to kills us, Islamize us, supporting those who are trying to or they are acquiescing to it. Professor Bala Ambati, writing in Duke University's "Chronicle" newspaper, in 2003, put it this way:
Religions are defined not only by ideals but by realities, not just by their deepest and most beautiful insights, but by their adherents' behavior. . . . When moderate Muslims state terrorist attacks are disconnected from Islam, they ignore the reality that Islamic fundamentalist imperialists act in the name of Islam and Muslims, claiming "true Islam's" mantle from conspicuously absent moderates. . . . Until the realization that theocracies cannot be democracies dawns throughout the Islamic world, saying terrorism is disconnected from Islam is a smokescreen employed to abdicate responsibility to face reality. ...

Moderate Muslims must choose whether to let megalomaniacs, liars, misogynists and murderers hijack societies and religion and pilot them into destruction's abyss. Sidelines are not moral high ground. Unequivocally repudiating and forswearing terrorist methods and imperialist aims of Islamic fundamentalism by moderate Muslims is overdue.
Note that he said seven years ago that it was "overdue" for moderates Muslims to seize control of the definition of Islam. This moderates have not only failed to do, they have not even tried to.

It may be that 900 million Muslims around the world want to live entirely in peace with the West and wish al Qaeda et. al. would go away. It does not matter what they want. It only matters what they do. And they are doing nothing. So for all intents and purposes, there are no moderate Muslims.

Islam, whether promulgated by "moderates" or extremists, is inherently supremacist, absolutist and triumphalist. Moderate Muslims desire for Islam, qua Islam, are insignificantly different from extremists' goals, who merely add militarism and imperialism to the modus operandi. Their ideological wellspring is the Muslim Brotherhood and its financial deep pockets are in Saudi Arabia, whose own Wahhabist ideology is not significantly distinguishable from the Muslim Brotherhood's.

So what that only a tiny percentage of Muslims are violent against the US or the West! Even if only one percent of Muslims in the world want personally to carry out violence against the us, that's still 12 million potential jihadists. And if they are supported by merely 10 percent of Muslims, it means 120 million will help them. And the rest will let it happen and occasionally cluck-cluck that, of course, the killers are not practicing "true Islam."

So to say, "We are not at war with Islam" is to utter nothing meaningful. It does not matter whether we think that. For Islam, as it is being defined today, is certainly at war with us.

Update: I see now that Walter Russell Mead and I are on the same sheet of music. And he makes a good point, one that I should have recognized myself: there are moderate Muslims in the world making a difference (though practically none of them are in the West). The moderate Muslims who matter are killing al Qaeda and its ilk in Muslim lands.
Sunni Iraqis took a long hard look at Al-Qaeda. They watched bombs go off in marketplaces and mosques. They watched reprisal killings of respected tribal elders and innocents. They watched undisciplined groups of fighters, freed from all moral and social restraint, innocent for the most part of any serious religious knowledge, imposed narrow and poorly conceived ideas on society by force in the name of an Islam Al-Qaeda neither understood nor respected.

And the Sunni Arabs of Iraq made a choice.

They saw Al-Qaeda at its best — volunteer freedom fighters come from around the world to fight for them — and they saw America at its worst, incompetent, insensitive, vacillating and violent.

And they chose the United States.

They decided that the future of their families, their children and their values was better served by aligning with the United States against the terrorists and against the fanatics. ...

But as we look back on the nine years since 9/11, one thing needs to kept clearly in view. The more the world’s Muslims see of Al-Qaeda and its agenda of indiscriminate murder, the less they like it.
And many of them are doing something about it. But you'd never know it from reading or watching American media.

Update: OTOH, Clifford May says that the Islamists actually are winning.

Update: And this from former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy:
"Moderate Islam" is a dream, not a reality. It is a dream with potential -- because there are millions of Muslims who are moderate people, and because there are dedicated Muslims working to transform their faith into something that is institutionally moderate.

But they work against great odds. They confront Islamists whose dedication to theocratic principles is deeply and undeniably rooted in Islamic scripture. And they confront American opinion elites who, wittingly or not, serve as the lifeline of the Islamists.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hillary buzz across the pond

By Donald Sensing

Even the Brit media have picked up that the Hillary buzz is getting louder: "As Barack Obama dithers, Hillary Clinton offers a glimpse of what might have been
There is a growing sense in Washington that the party backed the wrong candidate."

There is a growing sense in Washington that the party backed the wrong candidate, a view that is likely to harden if, as is now widely predicted, it is humiliated in the mid-term elections. If that is the case, then once the race for the Democratic nomination in 2012 begins, Mrs Clinton can expect to come under ferocious pressure to make amends.
I forecast last June that Hillary would run in 2012. Since then, many other commentators have promoted or discussed the possibility. So I guess I'll start a new post category, "HillaryBuzz."

Biggest budget deficit ever

By Donald Sensing

Is this year's federal budget deficit the worst ever? No, it's "only" the worst in the last 65 years. And when was the only deficit in the last 65 years that was greater.

Why, last year.

This according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The federal government incurred a deficit of nearly $1.3 trillion in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2010, CBO estimates in its latest Monthly Budget Review—a total that is about $100 billion less than the shortfall recorded through August of last year. Outlays are about 2 percent less than they were in the first 11 months of 2009, whereas revenues have increased by 1 1/2 percent.

CBO recently released its latest annual budget estimates for 2010 and beyond in the Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update. CBO estimates that the deficit for 2010 will be about $70 billion below last year’s total, but will still exceed $1.3 trillion. Relative to the size of the economy, this year’s deficit is expected to be the second-largest shortfall in the past 65 years: At 9.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), that deficit will be exceeded only by last year’s deficit of 9.9 percent of GDP.
No matter. As President Obama has already said this morning, the financial quagmire we are in is Bush's fault.

It's still Bush's fault

By Donald Sensing

President Obama just started his press conference by blaming Bush for leaving him an economic and financial mess. This is a do-loop that Obama simply won't get out of. And it's gone downhill from there.

It may be useful for the president to remember which party has controlled the Congress - and hence the national purse strings - since January 2007, and what they have done to federal spending and deficits. And just now Obama actually said that it was the Republicans who ran up "record deficits."

But, yeah, "It's Bush's fault."

Oh, what the heck. Once again:

Just admitted that since the Dems have held both houses of Congress and the White House for 19 months, Americans are wondering what the Dems have done for them. But he didn't answer. Instead, he said that "between now and November" he will explain that he has some great ideas that will get the economy back on track. So why has he waited until now? As he said, they've had 19 months, but he just tacitly admitted that none of his programs have worked. But don't fear - more of the same is coming. Stephen Green, where are you when we need you?

Frankly, the president seems very nervous and uncertain here. This is not a confident, self-assured man standing behind the podium. His demeanor is that of a man in deep political trouble. Which he is, but it's transparent that he knows it.

Now CBS News is asking why he's waited so long to announce a middle-class tax cut when now, so shortly before the election, it seems only a political ploy. Obama is saying in response that he's been cutting taxes all along.

"If we're not there yet, what else can we do?" is Obama's own question. The problem is that he is tacitly admitting that he has no overall plan. He;s doing the economic equivalent of a mechanic who doesn't know why the car is broken, but he keeps replacing parts hoping the next one will make the car run. So, says he, we've got to think of something else to do - but he obviously has no idea what.

Just said that his previous programs did work, but but as much as they needed to.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Nissan Leaf will cost you ...

By Donald Sensing

You are going to buy the new Nissan Leaf whether you want to or not. And if you live in Tennessee, you'll buy one even more: "Tennessee to offer $2,500 rebates on Nissan Leaf electric car."
State officials hope to give a boost to electric car sales with a $2,500 incentive to early buyers of the Nissan Leaf in Tennessee via a program that could later be extended to buyers of other alternative fuel vehicles. ...

Bredesen said the state's $2,500 rebate, coupled with an available $7,500 federal tax credit, would "about even out the premium (charged) for an electric car" versus a car with a traditional gasoline engine.
This is also a bone to Nissan, whose North American headquarters is located in Williamson County (where I happen to live) and which has had a major manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn., for many years.

Taxpayers will subsidize this car to about one-third of its sale price. Every time you see a Leaf drive by, you'll know someone else is driving it thanks to you. Once again, a technology and product that has no natural market is being favored by the political class at the expense of the rest of us.

Someone said that America now consists of --
* the producers - people who actually pay taxes, which is presently just over half of us,

* the looters - the political class that enacts laws to siphon more wealth away from the producers to give it to...

* the moochers - the beneficiaries of the political class's largesse that they grab from the people who earned it.
But the political class is devious, not stupid. They try to make sure that everyone is a moocher at one time or another. So the Leaf's rebate program lets a large swath of the producing class take a turn at mooching, too. In fact, this is one of the rare looting programs that actually comprises welfare for the rich, or at least the well off, since even with rebates the Leaf will be out of reach of the low-income earners. But the sales taxes they pay and the fuel they buy for their cars are both going to fund the rebates.

This is of course in addition to the biggest moocher of all here, Nissan, Inc., whose bottom line will be enriched even by people who don't buy drive their cars. (My bad, we're all going to buy its cars.)

If I ran Nissan, I'd jack the list price up a few thou, you betcha.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hillary buzz getting louder

By Donald Sensing

I wrote in June the the Ice Princess is more popular than Mr. Cool and forecast (more than actually predicted) that Hillary would make her last run for the White House in 2012.

If the November House and Senate elections turn out to be the Democrat train wreck that politicos of both parties say it will be, Hillary will resign from Secretary of State effective the first or so of 2011. Magically, her book about international politics and her experience as secretary will hit the shelves before Labor Day. She'll already have formed her presidential race exploratory committee by then and the full campaign apparatus will be in place by the end of October. The 2012 Iowa caucus will be in early January as usual and the Hillary 2012 train will be in full steam.

2012 is, effectively, Hillary's last chance. In 2016 she'll turn 69 just before election day. Only Ronald Reagan has been elected at that age level; Hillary surely recalls that Bob Dole and John McCain, each with extensive government experience and both bona fide war heroes and only a little older, were rejected by the electorate.
Since June the Dems' outlook has only gotten worse. Says Dick Morris:
The magnitude of the catastrophe facing the Democratic Party in the fall elections is only gradually becoming clear to the leaders of both parties. The Democrats will lose both the Senate and the House. They will lose more House seats in 2010 than the 54 they lost in 1994 and they will lose the Senate, possibly with some seats to spare.

In state after state, the races that were once marginal are now solidly Republican, those that were possible takeaways are now likely GOP wins and the impossible seats are now fully in play.
Now other commentati are getting into the act, such as Newsweek's Michael Hirsh:
[T[he once defeated Democratic candidate may have, at present, the most promising political prospects of just about anyone in the administration, specifically including her boss, Barack Obama. ...

A lot of new political talk is also swirling around Clinton, for the very reason that her boss is in such deep political doo-doo at the moment and she looks relatively popular. Much of the talk focuses on whether she will end up swapping jobs with Joe Biden—who always wanted to be secretary of state anyway—and take the No. 2 spot on an Obama ticket in 2012.
Veep? Mayhaps. But Hillary wants to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, not next to it. Besides, as I wrote,
2012 is, effectively, Hillary's last chance. In 2016 she'll turn 69 just before election day. Only Ronald Reagan has been elected at that age level; Hillary surely recalls that Bob Dole and John McCain, each with extensive government experience and both bona fide war heroes and only a little older, were rejected by the electorate.
And, except for the recent example of George H.W. Bush, vice presidents' track records in moving up one job slot are pretty poor.

Besides, the Veep's job is almost wholly political domestically, while the SecState (along with the SecDef) is by firm tradition involved only in international politics. In 2012, the Republicans cannot claim that Hillary's fingerprints are all over Obama's signature, yet most unpopular achievements. A term as Veep would mark her as an Obaman forever. She must know this.

There may even be glimmers of support for a Hillary candidacy across trhe aisle. Republican columnist S.E. Cupp writes, "Many moderates would support the secretary of state."
Sure, I'm a Republican who can hardly be trusted to offer objective advice to Democrats I've long lambasted. But believe me when I tell you, two years of Obama has even me seeing Clinton in a much different light than in 2008, when I thought the only thing worse than a new President named Obama was another one named Clinton. ...

To be clear, I'll most likely vote Republican in 2012. But Obama's lackluster performance has suddenly made Clinton an attractive option for frustrated Democrats and independents. Add to that group of disaffecteds Clinton's famously rabid supporters, and we might start seeing Clinton 2012 bumper stickers soon.
That Hillary is distancing herself from her boss is Tunku Varadarajan's opinion, based in part on her recent address to the Council on Foreign Relations.
In the 20 months since this administration began administering (a verb I use only in the loosest sense), the speech Wednesday morning by Hillary Clinton, delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations, was the first time we have been given an unreserved lift of the heart by any of its members. It was, by far, the best speech of this administration. Whereas her president has frequently wrung his elegant hands, doing the rounds of the world to reassure foreign leaders that America is a cuddly bunny at heart, the secretary of State declared Wednesday that we are all living “a new American moment—a moment when our global leadership is essential.” There was no bowing from her to potentates in robes; there was, instead, a promise that “we will do everything we can to exercise the traditions of American leadership at home and abroad.” ...

Clinton used phrases like “American might,” words that we are more accustomed to hearing from Republicans—words that we’ve come to believe that many Democrats can’t bear to voice. How refreshing, therefore, that she should reach into a vocabulary of pride that most American citizens would applaud. ...

What is so piquant here is not the fact that Hillary understands that Obama is president. It is the growing sense that Hillary would have made a much, much better president than Obama.
But is the country ready for another Clinton to occupy the Oval Office? Well, I put it this way just a few days ago:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dems running away

By Donald Sensing

Back in July 2009, when President Obama's approval rating was 57 percent (but slipping), I predicted that when the 2010 mid-term elections came round, because of the health care bill, Dems in Congress "will enjoy the freedom of running away from the White House, even to the point that in some tossup seats next year, we'll see some Dems running against Obama as much as their Republican opponents."

Prediction fulfilled:

CBS Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes said the Democrats are distancing themselves from President Obama.

"Not only are they running away from President Obama, they're running away from being Democrats in some cases. In some races you actually see the Democratic candidates not really mentioning that they're a Democrat in their campaign ads," Cordes said.
Just a few days ago, polls showed Republicans for Congress with a 10-point edge in general (that is, a preference for a party rather than for a particular candidate). Now the edge is up to 12 percent, 48-36. Except, of course, that's not an "edge," it's an electoral blowout. Some political commentators say that the Republicans could pick up as many as 45 seats in the US House, six more than they need to take the majority. Most commentators say even the Senate is now in play to change hands.

With exactly eight weeks to go until election day, none of the indicators favor the Democrats. At this point, any serious attempt to reverse the momentum through legislative action, rushed through the Congress and to the president, will be seen as nothing but a desperate ploy to woo voters.

But such a ploy is almost impossible to imagine, anyway. The only things that could make voters reconsider their preferences are the very things that Democrats could never bring themselves to do: lower taxes for real, not just in a wealth-transferring sleight of hand, shrink the government, get serious about controlling unlawful immigration; the list goes on. Never. going. to. happen.

Just a year ago, Dem operative James Carville was crowing about how the Republicans were just a "regional party."

How fallen are the mighty! But - and this is a very big but - as I have written before to the Republicans: "don't get cocky."
It was not I who first characterized your party as one of big-government conservatism. Except for the self contradiction of the phrase, it's quite true. Does your party stand for limited government any more? Of course not. With every Democrat proposal to clamp more jaws of regulation and control on Americans, Republicans respond only that the bite of your counterproposals won't be as hard. But yours will still bite. Not for nothing are Republicans often called, "Democrats Lite."
The Republican party is still a big part of the problem. If they don't wake up they'll be out on their ear in two years, too.