If you think it's offensive for a Muslim group to exploit the 9/11 atrocity, you're an anti-Muslim bigot and un-American to boot. It is a claim so bizarre, so twisted, so utterly at odds with common sense that it's hard to believe anyone would assert it except as some sort of dark joke. Yet for the past few weeks, it has been put forward, apparently in all seriousness, by those who fancy themselves America's best and brightest, from the mayor of New York all the way down to Peter Beinart.What accounts for this madness? Charles Krauthammer notes a pattern:Promiscuous charges of bigotry are precisely how our current rulers and their vast media auxiliary react to an obstreperous citizenry that insists on incorrect thinking.-- Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.-- Disgust and alarm with the federal government's unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.-- Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.-- Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia.Now we know why the country has become "ungovernable," last year's excuse for the Democrats' failure of governance: Who can possibly govern a nation of racist, nativist, homophobic Islamophobes?Krauthammer portrays this as a cynical game: "Note what connects these issues. In every one, liberals have lost the argument in the court of public opinion. . . . What's a liberal to do? Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument."But this has its limits as a political strategy. Krauthammer writes that "the Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November," and no one will credit him for boldness in that prediction. Some may disagree with his reckoning as to the reason for that likely loss: that "a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them."But can anyone argue that a show of contempt is a winning political strategy? The question answers itself and implies that the contempt is genuine.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
From James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 27:
This nearly made me cry.
FREE SPEECH! Do you understand?
Fox News TV host Glenn Beck launched a new conservative news site Aug. 30 called The Blaze.
The site features news stories, blogs and videos covering topics such as health, politics, government and the nation. The four-member editorial staff includes Scott Baker, cofounder of Breitbart.tv.
To me, the site seems a little disorganized and overwhelming (does the tease for featured story on the home page have to appear in such a big graphic?). But the content seems to stand on its own. We'll see how popular it gets.
From Richard Wolf of USA Today on Aug. 30:
WASHINGTON — Government anti-poverty programs that have grown to meet the needs of recession victims now serve a record one in six Americans and are continuing to expand.More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, the federal-state program aimed principally at the poor, a survey of state data by USA TODAY shows. That's up at least 17% since the recession began in December 2007."Virtually every Medicaid director in the country would say that their current enrollment is the highest on record," says Vernon Smith of Health Management Associates, which surveys states for Kaiser Family Foundation.The program has grown even before the new health care law adds about 16 million people, beginning in 2014. That has strained doctors. "Private physicians are already indicating that they're at their limit," says Dan Hawkins of the National Association of Community Health Centers.More than 40 million people get food stamps, an increase of nearly 50% during the economic downturn, according to government data through May. The program has grown steadily for three years.Caseloads have risen as more people become eligible. The economic stimulus law signed by President Obama last year also boosted benefits."This program has proven to be incredibly responsive and effective," says Ellin Vollinger of the Food Research and Action Center.Close to 10 million receive unemployment insurance, nearly four times the number from 2007. Benefits have been extended by Congress eight times beyond the basic 26-week program, enabling the long-term unemployed to get up to 99 weeks of benefits. Caseloads peaked at nearly 12 million in January — "the highest numbers on record," says Christine Riordan of the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for low-wage workers.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee released Aug. 17 recommendations for ending government bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"To achieve a healthy, sustainable mortgage ﬁnance system," they wrote, "House Republicans support mortgage ﬁnance reform legislation that seeks to achieve the following goals:"
- Reestablish a housing ﬁnance market that has long-term stability in which private capital is the primary source of mortgage ﬁnancing.pan>
- Restore stability and liquidity to the secondary market for residential mortgages, and prevent signiﬁcant disruptions to the ﬁnancial market been the rescue of government-sponsored enterprises.
- Encourage innovation and diversity in housing ﬁnance that provide choices for consumers.
Protect taxpayers from further losses and future
Require that taxpayers be made whole on
outstanding loans, guarantees and capital infusions
made by the government.
From Sudeep Reddy and Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 25:
U.S. home sales plummeted in July to a level not seen in more than a decade, spurring fears of renewed weakness in housing prices and the broader economy.Sales of previously owned homes fell 27.2% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday, the lowest level since the industry group started its tally in 1999.The expiration of a home-buyer tax credit in the spring was expected to damp buying, though less severely. Economists said the sales drop—together with a corresponding rise in the inventory of unsold homes—meant another decline in housing prices was on the horizon. House prices had stabilized last year after declining since 2006.High unemployment and meager wage growth already are driving many Americans' reluctance to make major purchases, so a return of falling home equity could further depress confidence and consumer spending."At this point in the recovery, every little bit counts," said economist Paul Dales of Capital Economics. "A double dip in the housing market and house prices would not be enough to generate another recession. It would certainly help to hold back the recovery." He expects home prices to fall another 5% after a 30% decline during the recession.The data sent stocks tumbling, briefly pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average below 10,000 for the first time since early July. The index closed at 10040.45, down 133.96 points, with investors rushing into safer assets as they reassessed the economic outlook. A rally in Treasurys pushed the yield on the 10-year note as low as 2.47%, its lowest mark since early 2009. Oil prices and other key commodities such as copper fell on expectations of weaker demand.The renewed worry about housing comes as economists downgrade their forecasts for the economy this year and early next year. Traditionally, the housing sector, along with purchases of durable goods such as furniture, would help pull the economy out of a recession as lower interest rates spurred higher demand. But this time, potential home buyers either don't have the jobs or savings to jump in or are wary of another decline in the market."Consumers and housing are in no position to lead us out," said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. "We've gone through the inventory-cycle boost. The stimulus boost is fading. We're falling back on whatever underlying strength there is in the private sector, in exports and business-equipment spending, and there's not a lot."
From Frank Newport of Gallup on Aug. 23:
PRINCETON, NJ -- President Obama's job approval rating slipped to 43% for the week of Aug. 16-22, down one percentage point from the previous weekly low set a week ago.The new low also marks the first weekly average in which 50% of Americans disapprove of Obama's job performance. The erosion reflects particularly low ratings at the beginning of last week, including 41% for Aug. 15-17 and Aug. 16-18, the lowest three-day averages of his administration. By the end of the week, however, Obama's job ratings inched up, averaging 44% approval Aug. 20-22.The president arrived at Martha's Vineyard, Mass., on Thursday, settling in with his family for a 10-day vacation, and for the most part dropping out of the daily news cycle. Whether this contributed to his slightly better ratings near the end of the week cannot be determined.Obama's current 43% rating is well below the job approval ratings for both Presidents Bush at this point in their second year in office, but at roughly the same level as Presidents Clinton, Reagan, and Carter. None of the three presidents who were in the 40% range in August of their second year got back to 50% by the time of the midterm elections.
If Republicans take control of one or both houses of Congress this fall, many will have been elected with a promise to "repeal and replace" ObamaCare. But what are their options, really? There likely will be an initial showdown, but President Obama will surely veto any challenge to the law, and it would be hard to imagine mustering the votes to overturn it.Information is the key weapon. Republicans can use congressional hearings to explain what ObamaCare is doing to the economy and the health sector. Their strongest cases would be built around jobs, the cost of health care, and the rising deficit.If evidence shows that looming mandates on employers are crippling job-creation, they should be repealed. If health costs are rising, as they inevitably will be, Congress needs to hold hearings to investigate the causes and explain why the offending taxes and regulations must be repealed.Here are six key strategies that a Republican Congress could employ to put on the brakes:
Information is ammunition.
From Newt Gingrich on Human Events on Aug. 25:
In the run-up to pass the Democrats’ government takeover of healthcare against the clearly expressed wishes of the American people, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi notoriously declared,“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”Obamacare is now passed and signed into law and the speaker has been proven both right and wrong.She was right that we’ve learned more about what’s in the bill.She was wrong because what we’ve learned has been disastrous, and as a result, the controversy has continued.Top 5 Surprises in ObamacareThe more the American people have learned about Obamacare since it was passed the more they dislike it. And with good reason. Here is a list of some recent surprises buried in the 2,300 pages of legislation.1. Beginning in January 2012, businesses are required to file with the IRS for every business to business transaction over $600. This includes all transactions, not just health based ones. (Section 9006).2. A new program (the Community Living Assistance Program) was established that is woefully underfunded by the bill and will eventually require much more money than allocated. (Section 8002).3. As of January 2014, states must expand Medicaid coverage to all individuals under the age of 64 with family incomes at or below 133% of the federal poverty level. States already do not have the resources to provide adequate Medicaid coverage and this law will add millions more to Medicaid rolls. (Section 2001, as modified by 10201 and H.R. 4872; Sec. 1004 and 1201).4. Beginning January 2011, individuals are not allowed to use Flexible Savings Accounts, Health Reimbursement Accounts, and Health Savings Accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicines. The law also caps annual contributions at $2,500, down from $5,000. Many Americans (especially younger ones in relatively good health) rely on FSAs, HRAs, and HSAs to help pay for healthcare. This law makes these consumer-oriented tools that encourage smart shopping less convenient and provides a perverse incentive for individuals to buy expensive prescription medicine instead of over-the-counter alternatives. (Section 9003).5. Verizon, AT&T, Caterpillar and other companies publicly acknowledged that the tax structure of the new law actually encourages companies to stop providing coverage for their employees beginning in 2014. (Section 1003).
From Keith Westbrook on Aug. 25:
My name is Keith C. Westbrook or to you in the start of your life poppa or grandpa. When your mom and dad told us that you were going to be our first grandchild everything in our lives, in my life changed from that moment on. We love your mom and dad, but there is something about knowing that a part of me and your grandmother will live on through you, not just the DNA but the essence of what our lives have been, has changed us forever. You are the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams f0r a brighter future than ours and our chance to live on, past what our mortal existence allows.But what will that future bring to you and those that will share it with you I cannot foresee, all I can do is tell you that I am fighting today so you can have the tomorrow I would want for myself. To be FREE to experience all that life has to offer, to love with all of your heart and to grow and become the best you, in the greatest most free nation on earth.It is a very tumultuous time in the history of this country, we have for many years let ourselves believe that the things we cherish the most: freedom, honor, family were sacred and could never be taken from us: WE WERE WRONG!When I was born many years ago in the middle of the last century in 1953 it was a very different time than the one you will experience. We were very naive about many things and happy to be so, there was an innocence and a belief that our great Republic with its foundation in the Constitution was always going to be the shining star of this little blue marble spinning in space.We had problems: I remember things that (if they write history as it really happened) we faced every day that were scary, we sat on the brink of technology that some were willing to use to destroy this planet. ( Mutually Assured Destruction) The people in charge of all of the countries could not then and still not today try to understand each other and if they cannot agree or get along, take from the other person what they have and don't want them to have. (like the bullies you will meet in the school yard one day).(kick their ass!)And it was not just the bullies from the other neighborhoods it was our own bullies here in our neighborhood who hid from everyone while they schemed and planned to take away what made this country and we the people great, because they feared it and us.Ella: bullies are more afraid of you that you are of them, ALL bullies are cowards deep inside and to keep you from seeing that fear they hide it by attacking what they fear the most!The most cherished and fought over of these things is FREEDOM! It frightens me to think that you may never get to live your life with this being the most cherished and fought over right endowed to us.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
From Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post on Aug. 10:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that the Pentagon will cut thousands of jobs, including a substantial chunk of its private contractors and a major military command based in Norfolk, as part of an ongoing effort to streamline its operations and to stave off political pressure to slash defense spending in the years ahead.Gates said he will recommend that President Obama dismantle the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which employs about 2,800 military and civilian personnel as well as 3,300 contractors, most of them in southeastern Virginia. He also said he will terminate two other Pentagon agencies, impose a 10 percent cut in intelligence advisory contracts and slim down what he called a "top-heavy hierarchy" by thinning the ranks of admirals and generals by at least 50 positions.The reduction in funding for contract employees -- by 10 percent annually over three years -- excludes those in war zones.Although the moves will save an unspecified amount of money, defense officials characterized them as a political preemptive strike to fend off growing sentiment elsewhere in Washington to tackle the federal government's soaring deficits by making deep cuts in military spending. The Obama administration has exempted national security from its budget reductions, but Gates said he fears that Congress might not be able to resist for long."It is important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where tough economic times or the winding down of a military campaign leads to steep and unwise reductions in defense," Gates said. He cited threats from Iran, North Korea and other countries -- in an implicit reference to China -- as justification for continued overall growth in the Pentagon's budget.After a decade in which its budget has nearly doubled, the Defense Department confronts its most significant fiscal constraints since the end of the Cold War. These constraints are pressing the military to accept major changes in the way it operates, especially as it tries to end long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From Barbara Liston of Reuters on Aug. 11:
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum on Wednesday proposed tougher curbs against illegal migrants in his melting-pot state which he said would go "one step further" than a similar contested Arizona law.The proposal by McCollum, who is lagging in a race to become the Republican candidate for governor, was certain to thrust Florida into the heated immigration debate that is a major issue ahead of November 2 midterm Congressional elections."This legislation will provide new enforcement tools for protecting our citizens and will help our state fight the ongoing problem created by illegal immigration," McCollum said, presenting the proposed measures at an event in Orlando."Florida will not be a sanctuary state for illegal aliens," added McCollum, accompanied by Representative Will Snyder.The legislation will require Florida law enforcement officials to check a suspected illegal immigrant's status in the course of a stop, or a violation of another law. This goes beyond the existing situation in the state where officers are allowed to check immigration status, but not required to.Florida, especially its southern portion, is a major U.S. migration destination for nationals from the Caribbean and Latin America, making it a cultural and racial melting-pot.Many migrants work in the Sunshine State's $9 billion citrus sector, or in other farm industries and tourism.In the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Democrats hold majorities. But public opinion polls show Republicans gaining ground with an agenda that includes calls for cracking down on illegal immigration.McCollum's office said the proposed Florida legislation goes "one step further" than a similar law introduced in Arizona, which has triggered protests and a constitutional challenge from President Barack Obama's administration."I think Arizona is going to want this law," McCollum said.Earlier this year, the Arizona legislature passed a law to try to drive illegal immigrants out of the state and stem the flow of human and drug smugglers over the border from Mexico.A federal judge has since blocked the Arizona law's most controversial provisions, handing a victory to the Obama administration, which argued the measure was unconstitutional.
From Christopher S. Rugaber of the Associated Press on Aug. 12:
WASHINGTON — The employment picture in the United States is looking bleaker as applications for jobless benefits rose last week to the highest level in almost six months.It's a sign that hiring is weak and employers are still cutting their staffs.First-time claims for U.S. jobless benefits edged up by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 484,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Analysts had expected a drop. That's the highest total since February.Initial claims have now risen in three of the last four weeks and are close to their high point for the year of 490,000, reached in late January. The four-week average, which smooths volatility, soared by 14,250 to 473,500, also the highest since late February.Analysts said that the unexpected rise in claims suggests hiring in August won't be much better than July. The economy added a net 12,000 jobs last month after excluding the loss of temporary census positions. That's not nearly enough to reduce the unemployment rate, which is 9.5 percent.The jobless claims report "represents a very adverse turn in the labor market, threatening income growth and consumer spending," Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics, wrote in a note to clients.The prospect of more layoffs added to this week's grim outlook for the economy, which began Tuesday when the Federal Reserve lowered its assessment of the recovery.
As reported on babalu on Aug. 12:
Former President Bush and First Lady Laura showed up at Dallas airport unexpectedly to welcome home troops:Click here to view more.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Three experts will discuss and debate solutions for the nation's budget challenges in two free forums in Florida next week.
Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla.; David M. Walker, former U.S. comptroller general; and Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, will serve as panelists on the Fiscal Solutions Forum on Aug. 11. The forum will take place at 11 a.m. in Orlando, Fla., and at 5 p.m. in Tampa, Fla.
The panelists "will outline the magnitude of the fiscal challenge, explain the consequences of doing nothing and describe a range of realistic solutions. They will also answer questions from the audience," according to a press release.
Seating is limited, and an RSVP is required to attend. See details below.
What: Fiscal Solutions Forum.
When: Aug. 11, at 11 a.m. in Orlando, Fla., and 5 p.m. in Tampa, Fla.
Where: At 11 a.m., in the auditorium of the Executive Development Center at the University of Central Florida's college of business administration, 36 West Pine St., Orlando; at 5 p.m., in the William Reece Smith Jr. Courtroom of Stetson University's Tampa Law Center, 1700 North Tampa St., Tampa.
From Lori Montgomery and Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post on Aug. 5:
An emergency plan to save the jobs of tens of thousands of public school teachers and other government workers overcame a key Senate hurdle Wednesday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would summon lawmakers back from their August break to finish work on the measure.Two Republicans crossed party lines to advance the $26 billion package, handing President Obama a victory in his campaign to bolster the shaky economy. With many governors struggling to close gaping budget deficits, administration officials feared a fresh round of state layoffs or tax increases could knock the nation's wobbly recovery off-course.The aid package would not entirely close those budget gaps. Hampered by election-year anxiety over the mounting national debt, congressional Democrats were forced to slash Obama's original request for state aid nearly in half and come up with a plan to pay for it. Meanwhile, lawmakers in both parties signaled that the measure probably marks the end for spending bills aimed at boosting economic activity."I think that this should be sort of the final down payment," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a key swing vote who helped break the impasse Wednesday and overcome a Republican filibuster Sen. Susan Collins, also of Maine, provided the second Republican vote, allowing the package to clear its last major hurdle on a vote of 61 to 38.
What's up with Maine Republicans? Time to send Snowe and Collins packing.
Marco Rubio says he's been campaigning across the state of Florida. Now, he's campaigning across the Internet.
Rubio is broadcasting via YouTube five ideas on how to get government spending under control. His first idea, banning earmarks, is explained in the video below, which was posted Aug. 2.
These projects are funded without any public oversight, without the attention they deserve. In fact, powerful legislators are able to secure millions and millions of dollars for their home districts at the expense of the rest country. It's wrong.
From Ann Coulter on Human Events on Aug. 4:
Democrats act as if the right to run across the border when you're 8 1/2 months pregnant, give birth in a U.S. hospital and then immediately start collecting welfare was exactly what our forebears had in mind, a sacred constitutional right, as old as the 14th Amendment itself.The louder liberals talk about some ancient constitutional right, the surer you should be that it was invented in the last few decades.In fact, this alleged right derives only from a footnote slyly slipped into a Supreme Court opinion by Justice Brennan in 1982. You might say it snuck in when no one was looking, and now we have to let it stay.The 14th Amendment was added after the Civil War in order to overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which had held that black slaves were not citizens of the United States. The precise purpose of the amendment was to stop sleazy Southern states from denying citizenship rights to newly freed slaves -- many of whom had roots in this country longer than a lot of white people.The amendment guaranteed that freed slaves would have all the privileges of citizenship by providing: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."The drafters of the 14th amendment had no intention of conferring citizenship on the children of aliens who happened to be born in the U.S. (For my younger readers, back in those days, people cleaned their own houses and raised their own kids.)Inasmuch as America was not the massive welfare state operating as a magnet for malingerers, frauds and cheats that it is today, it's amazing the drafters even considered the amendment's effect on the children of aliens.But they did.
From Philip Rucker of The Washington Post on Aug. 4:
Democrats are launching an aggressive organizing campaign Wednesday to defend their majority in the House, recruiting thousands of volunteers to work on behalf of the party's endangered House members in swing districts across the country.The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is rolling out a plan that would employ new voter-contact and data-analysis programs to help "frontline" members and candidates in the most hotly contested districts. The committee's plan, outlined by party strategists, also includes a series of house meetings Aug. 21 and a "Nationwide Day of Action" on Aug. 28, when Democratic volunteers will knock on some 200,000 doors.The plan, which party strategists called the committee's most ambitious organizing campaign in many years, comes after the DCCC said it had reserved more than $49 million in television advertising time in 60 House districts for the final weeks of the midterm campaign.Strategists said the DCCC's organizing campaign will target those districts, the vast majority of which are represented by Democrats, some of them senior lawmakers facing tough races. They include Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), chairman of the Budget Committee, and Rep. Ike Skelton (Mo.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee."The DCCC Fall Kickoff will energize volunteers and voters across the country so we can keep America moving forward, not go back to the failed Bush economic policies of the past," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the DCCC, said in a statement. "The DCCC is committed to reaching more people in districts across the country than ever before to talk to their neighbors at doors and by phone about this election and to highlight the choice voters have at the polls. Our Fall Kickoff will ensure we have a large and energized base of trained volunteers to communicate Democrats' message and get out the vote, which is critical to our success in November."