25 December 2010

Anecdotic Accounts Of The Incarnation

Madonna of Port Lligat, Marquette University

During an excellent Christmas Eve homily from a Redemptorist priest, we were challenged to reconsider the miracle of the Incarnation, both from our own vantage points and reflecting on the mystery through great art.

As for a contemporary take on the Nativity, I must commend a Portuguese advertising agency for coming up with an anachronistic retelling of the Greatest Story:

Another approach to better appreciate the miracle of the Word becoming flesh is through depictions in great art.  Hence the Madonna of Port Lligat (1949) by Salvador Dali from the Marquette University Haggerty Museum of Art.  Fr. Jim Wallace, C.Ss.R., also commended a short poem by the American poetess Denice Leterov:  “On the Mystery of the Incarnation”

It's when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

That’s a lot to chew on while savoring some tryptophan inspired shut eye.

A “Happy Christmas” to all and to all a good night.

24 December 2010

Blame It On The Bush Book

The Daily Mail is reporting that Decision Points, the Presidential memoir by George W. Bush, has sold more than two million copies in less than two months.  This spectacular sales figure was attained even before the book was released in paperback.

Despite vitriolic barbs from comedians that Bush could not read much less write, George W. Bush took an unconventional approach to accounting for the formative moments of his life and his Presidency.   Instead of giving a chronological history, Bush wrote about 12 decision points that considered the pros and cons of his choices.  Bush  took an unvarnished recollection to these subjects, which ranged from deciding not to drink anymore to finding his faith, as well as military action in Afghanistan and Iran.

In comparison, President Bill Clinton’s memoir My Life has managed to rack up 2.2 million since it was released in 2004.

It seems that the puckish CBS Morning Show graphic that “W” had not made one good decision during his eight years does not ring true with the public.  Perhaps it would not be expedient to blame it on Bush this time?

UPDATE 01/01/11  According to Alex Parenee from Salon on MSNBC/DNC, "43"'s book sold so well because he was so hated people wanted to find out his side of the story and that he could only write 500 pages rather than the 1,000 page brick which represented Bill Clinton's life.

'Tis The Season For...Jingle Bombs

It seems that the world has taken in stride the string of Islamistic attacks during Advent.  In recognition of the recent Rome embassy bombings, the Jule-tide Jihad bombings in Stockholm, the thwarted Christmas Tree attack in Portland, Oregon as well as the broken up British terror conspirators, here are a couple of satirical terror carols to lighten the mood to Christmas.

Latma TV, an Israeli satire group, produced an international effort entitled “Jihad Bells”

Then there is the comedy classic of Jeff Dunham’s “Jingle Bombs”

May Christmas Eve be a Silent Night which brings peace on Earth and goodwill towards men.

23 December 2010

Celebrating Festivus Between The Beltways

As part of the Seinfeldian inspired holiday, it is time for the Airing of Grievances:

Do Your Job- It is reprehensible that Congress can not complete its perennial duty to pass a Federal Budget by October 1st.  In fact, the House could not even bring itself around to vote but just deemed it as passed.    This fiscal muddle allowed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to attempt to jam down a pork laden Omnibus bill during the Lame Duck session which was fortunately futile.  As it stand, Congress has passed a Continuing Resolution through March 4th, 2011.

Reading Is Fundamental- The current Democrat majority in Congress, along with the tacit approval of the Obama Administration, has continually dropped complex 2,000 page plus bills for controversial legislation like Cap and Trade, Obamacare and Omnibus Spending packages to be rapidly voted on.  Representative John Conyers mocked opponents who wanted him to read the bill before voting.  I guess that Congressman Conyers has more important periodicals to peruse.  Such Leviathan legislation is impossible to comprehend, which allows lawmakers or their bosses to reasonably consider the merits and is rife for ladling pork barrel projects.

Make the Lame Duck Extinct- Maybe when transportation was sketchy and before the Twentieth Amendment was enacted in 1933, there was some justification for conducting a Lame Duck session during  the four months between the election and inauguration. The 111th Congress forestalled controversial legislation like the new START treaty, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the DREAM Act and potentially Card Check, to avoid making hard choices during a period of electoral scrutiny. Now that the day of judgment has passed for two years, lawmakers are using the Lame Duck as a time to flaunt the will of the voters.

Stand and Deliver-  Casual observers of politics have hailed the Obama Administration’s foreign policy as improving America’s relations with the rest of the world.  But the latest tranche of Wikileaks cables show that the Obama Administration knew that Hondurian President Zeleyas was consciously violating the Constitution to retain power and become ruler for life.   But instead of defending democracy, the Obama Administration stood with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and supported Zeleyas, to the point of even cutting off aid to Honduras during the constitutional crisis.  This episode was on the heels of the Obama Administration ignoring the cries for democracy from a failed student uprising in Iran.   The razzle dazzle of an apologetic foreign policy is not impressive when the Leader of the Free World can not stand up for Liberty, Democracy and the Rule of Law with our allies, much less sympathetic elements in opposing regimes.

Bureaucrats Gone Wild- The FCC voted to regulate the internet, even though this authority was not explicit within their governing legislation and this grasp at power was denied by Federal court decision.  Since the Congress was not successful in enacting Cap and Trade Legislation, it is understood that the Environmental Protection Agency will promulgate the same policies administratively.  As Homeland Security Secretary was celebrating the Agency’s success in thwarting copyright piracy of media, HSA was strip searching nuns and grandmas and narrowly avoiding transportation terror threats.  America’s hard working bureaucrats need to do their jobs, not seek to expand their power (and budgets) by doing things beyond their appropriate authority.

Courting Disaster- Judges have been routinely legislating from the bench. The numerous times California (both State and Federal) have chosen to invalidate the will of the people in overturning Traditional Marriage Constitutional Amendments.  The Federal District Court Judge in California who ruled this fall that the 17 year old “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” legislation for the military was unconstitutional.  The Federal District Court judge in Oklahoma who issued a preliminary injunction on ratifying a voter approved state constitutional amendment prohibiting Sharia law. The Federal Courts that have thwarted Arizona SB 1070 which echoes Federal law when enforcing anti-immigration measure.  It seems that the Men in Black are becoming comfortable in imposing their will over the will of the people, even in changes to state constitutions.

That should be enough food for thought on the Airing of Grievences.  So talk amongst yourselves as I’ve given you some topics.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to excuse myself before the Feats of Strength portion of the Festivus festivities begins.

22 December 2010

Phoenix Bishop Cuts the Cord With Obstinate Hospital Offering Abortions

Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted removed his ecclesiastical imprimatur from St. Joseph’s Hospital because Olmsted believed that the hospital was not adequately addressing the scandal caused by a 2009 “emergency” abortion on a 11 week pregnant mother suffering from pulmonary hypertension.

By not deeming St. Joseph’s a Catholic hospital, the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the Chapel and Mass is no longer celebrated.  Catholics may go to St. Joseph’s for treatment, but the Bishop can not guarantee that their care will be Catholic.

St. Joseph’s Hospital refused to back down from its presumption that they acted rightly in extending emergency treatment to a patient that included an abortion. Hospital officials also were unrepentant at their practice of administering contraceptives and conducting other abortions after rapes and incest or due to the “mental or physical health” of the mother.  So essentially this means that St. Joseph’s has been Catholic in Name Only (CINO) for quite a while.  Bishop Olmsted is redressing public scandal by reinforcing Catholic values.

The ACLU insists that the first responsibility of a hospital should be to its patients, not to a religious leader (or the values which they uphold).  The ACLU’s amicus letter to HHS noted that Catholic Hospitals make up 15% of all bedspace in the U.S. and often these facilities are the only providers in regions.

The ACLU’s assessment that the Customer Comes First in health care priorities will become increasingly irrelevant as Obamacare is implemented.  The much derided “Death Panels” do exist, though they bare more benign monickers like Best Practices and Cost Benefit Analysis.

Religious organizations, like the Catholic hospitals, have been realizing their faith through public  services for years.  But as acceptable government standards start dictating how these humanitarian efforts are to be administered, the faithful will opt out of areas which are counter to their sacred values.  So Catholic Services will opt out of Adoptions in the District of Columbia as they refuse to bless same sex couples as eligible adaptors.

While St. Joseph’s Hospital is a preeminent regional health care facility with  a strong 115 year history behind it so it may not miss the Bishop’s blessing, many other religious hospitals may be dependent on Catholic charity.  If faithful medical facilities have to acquiesce to abhorrent ethical practices by the government, there will be a shortage of bedspaces as well as faithful health providers.

See B.S. Decision Points

When referring to President George W. Bush’s new bestselling autobiography Decision Points, the C.B.S. News Sunday Morning Program showed a mocking mock cover from "The Drudge Retort".  The fake cover managed to misspell the title and also includes a subtitle “How I Managed to Go Eight Years Without Making a Good Decision."

At the beginning of the year, Media Matters, a liberal media “watchdog” group, wondered if CBS just cut and pasted from the the Drudge Report.  Perhaps that arts and crafts project was more accurate than cribbing from the New York Times after the Jayson Blair brouhaha.

Press flacks at the Black Rock excused their error by claiming that "it's a mistake no one could see because you'd have to freeze the frame to notice it," while claiming that they will be more careful in the future.  Obviously, they are oblivious to their West Coast counterparts since a recent episode of CBS hit comedy  "S#@! My Dad Says" nearly had a character fired from his journalistic job for slipping funny fake names past the fact checker and getting published. Maybe CBS should not have laid off so many fact checkers when they executed cost cutting measures in February.

But it is dubious that this insulting error was an oversight by the Research Desk.  It is more likely a little joke by producers that was either not removed before broadcast or calculated to be so minute that no one would notice it.  The Tiffany Network has been plagued with a prolonged animus against the 43rd President of the United States, as was prominently displayed during the Rather-Gate forged National Guard documents scandal during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

Katie and company can try Cipro, the prophylactic remedy that Tom Brokaw took in 2001 when the media was under siege.  It may also be effective against their chronic case of Bush Derangement Syndrome but is totally useless admitting bias or taking responsibility for journalistic malpractice.

Via: The Daily Caller
Via: Newsbusters

19 December 2010

A Method To North Korea's Madness

Last month, North Korean (DPRK) sent a barrage of missiles on Yeonpyeong, a disputed South Korean fishing island.  Now South Korea is going to conduct a one day live artillery drill.  North Korea has threatened retaliation and has deployed missile launchers on their west coast.

Russia was concerned enough about their own national security that they called for the United Nation’s Security Council to meet in emergency session regarding the escalation of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.  The Peoples’ Republic of China is said to have prevented any condemnation of their ally North Korea.

Speculation arises as to why North Korea’s Dear Leader Kim il-Jong is provoking this situation.  It seemed like a facile method to legitimize Dear Leader’s chosen son, Kim Jong Un, as a military leader and making him heir apparent.  But the continued military escalation also points to geopolitical goals.

While Kim il Jong may not be inherently interested in a fishing island like Yeonpyeong, exploiting the crisis has the potential for gaining territory without conquering it.  North Korea is blustering that it will retaliate if South Korea conducts its artillary drill on Yeonpyeong. If South Korea concedes on self defense drills to not enflame the situation, it may create a legal precedent for North Korea to claim the disputed islands.

Years ago, the North Korean and South Korean governments agreed to respect a 12 mile maritime limit as their territorial rights.  The United Nations never gave its imprimatur to sovereignty of these channel islands.  General Mark Clark ordered the South Koreans to occupy these islands.  Yeonpyeong is 7 miles from the North Korean coast.  So if South Korea gives up military control, North Korea could rightly demand that the UN gives these islands back to the Hermit Kingdom as well as control over the sea lanes.

This may be a successful strategy seeing how China is keen on making mischief with their scrappy North Korean ally and the United States falls over itself to please Pyongyang during its periodic temper tantrums in exchange for agreements that North Korea never keeps.

The hitch to North Korea’s bullying bargaining strategy may be if shots are exchanged.  There are 20 American personnel on Yeonpyeong along with 9 members of the UN Command.  It is easier to ignore North Korean provocations if none of our troops are hurt.  But if shots are exchanged, it could escalate and get ugly quite quickly.  Seoul is within range of 10,000 DPRK rockets and the United States has a mutual defense pact with South Korea.

Manchin Votes With His Feet

During a rare Saturday Lame Duck session, the Senate voted on major legislation in the DREAM Act and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) bills.  But there were a couple of Democrats missing from the votes.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) was absent as he was being treated for late stage prostate cancer at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.    But newly elected Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was also conspicuously absent for the DREAM Act and DADT votes.  Manchin’s office noted that he could not miss a family Christmas gathering.   Really?  Deceased Senator Robert Byrd may be spinning in his grave for this lack of respect for Senate responsibilities.

Manchin was on the public record opposing having homosexuals serving in the military.  Manchin’s press secretary indicated that he also would have been opposed to the DREAM Act.  But when the time came to officially go on the record, Manchin voted with his feet to not be counted.

Manchin’s votes would not have changed things as the DREAM Act failed to break cloture and the DADT cloture vote was 63 to 33.  But not going on the record for these controversial subjects might be an attempt to endear himself with the Democrat leadership.  Moreover, Manchin might be trying to be a chameleon to his Mountain State constituents.

Despite being a very popular Democrat Governor, Manchin had a significant challenge in the Special Election from an unknown Republican outsider John Raese.  This profile in cowardice is contrary to the Dead Aim image that Manchin cultivated during the campaign. Will a trending Red state have a long memory like an elephant?  Time will tell as Manchin will have again to face the voters in November, 2012.

18 December 2010

The DREAM Act Is Over...(For Now)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) attempt to jam down the DREAM Act during the Lame Duck session.  The bill failed to win the 60 vote margin to overcome a filibuster and lost by a 55 to 41 margin.  This was a second attempt to foist what is acknowledged as back door amnesty act that Reid had attempted this fall.  Roll Call reports that many DREAM Act supporters in the Senate gallery cried after the negative vote.

The DREAM Act would have created a path for citizenship for illegal aliens who graduate high school (or obtain a G.E.D.)  and either attend college or serve in the military for two years. Majority Leader Reid was so confident about the merits of the DREAM Act that it was bundled along with an amendment to repeal Congress’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislation onto the Defense Appropriations Act, which was successfully filibustered in September.

Majority Leader Reid’s re-election campaign relied heavily on Hispanic support, so pushing the DREAM Act, whether or not it was successful was probably a payoff to his supporters. If the DREAM Act passes, Democrats are banking on a generation of grateful Hispanic voters.  But even a defeat of the DREAM Act can be used to paint opponents as being cruel, anti-immigrant troglodytes by partisans and the press (yes there is supposed to be a difference).

This Lame Duck test vote on the DREAM Act exposes some Senators can not be relied upon for liberal legislation.  Democrat Senators voting against the DREAM Act included: Senator John Tester (D-MT), Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), Senator Kay Hagen (D-NC), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR).  Both Nelson and Testor will face strong re-election challenges in the 2012 cycle.  But all of the aforementioned dissenters come from states that have swung significantly Red.

Curiously, newly sworn in Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) managed to miss this vote as did Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) who originally proposed the DREAM Act in 2000. I guess that they were out shooting target practice or playing at the Festival of Lights.

There are some rumblings from the Conservative base that Senate Republicans may try to score a victory with similar legislation.  The Lame Duck DREAM Act vote included support from three Republicans: Senator Lisa Murkowski (?-AK), Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN).   Bennett will not be back in the 112th Congress but Murkowski and Lugar who can not be counted on to vote with conservatives or even the Republican caucus.  But if history is any gauge, Republican supporting de facto amnesty without closing the porous borders does not ensure re-election.  Of those Republicans voting for the 2007 Immigration bill, seven of 12 Senators are no longer in the so called world’s greatest deliberative body.

By failing this legislative hurdle, the DREAM Act should be over, for this Congress but the nightmare of backdoor amnesty should continue in the 112th Congress.

17 December 2010

ICE-ing Tax Rates By Upholding Immigration Laws

Over the summer, there was a media maelstrom when the Obama Administration was battling against Arizona’s S.B. 1070 that echoed current Federal law over illegal immigration.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has stymied Arizona from enforcing their borders.  But in Prince William County Virginia, the first fruits of cracking down on illegal immigration have been harvested as the county’s tax bill has been cut in half since 2007.

Amidst progressive cries of racism and civil rights violations, Prince William County adopted a very strict illegal immigration law.  When the “undocumented workers” figured out that the county was serious, the indocumentados voted with their feet and seem to have left in droves.  Of course, they did not have to migrate very far, as Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) is happy to welcome them into the Free State’s Casa De Maryland.

The Daily Caller cites a report from the Police Executive Research Forum and the University of Virginia that indicates that aggressive assaults have dropped by 46.7% and violent crime has dropped by 32% since Prince William County stepped up its enforcement of immigration law. But what is truly remarkable is the cost cutting measures that stanching the influx of illegal immigrants allows.

One of the most costly expenses associated with illegal immigration was facilitating the education of limited English students.  Between 2002 and 2007, Prince William County ESL costs grew by 250%.  The reduction of illegal immigrants allows the county to cut those costs.  Since Prince William County assertively enforced Federal immigration law, the county has been able to cut $140 million from their budget and has the lowest number of government workers in the area.

These savings allows Prince William County taxpayers to pay tax bills that are 30% less than their neighboring counties.  Adjusted for inflation, Prince William County taxpayers are paying 14% less than what they did in 2007.  Corey Stewart, the Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, says that these cost saving measures have attracted business, making PWC the second fastest growing county on the East Coast.

At a point where many taxpayers feel overburdened and government spending is unsustainable, it is revealing to see how enforcing the law can create some real savings for Americans.

Via: Daily Caller

16 December 2010

New Programming At The FCC--Bureaucrats Gone Wild!

There have been rumors for some time that the F.C.C. is planning to implement a Net Neutrality regulation on the Internet, despite a Federal Court ruling that the F.C.C. does not have that authority.  During a special Ed Show edition on MSNBC, Al Sharpton asserted that the FCC will hold public hearings on alleged racist comments by his rival Rush Limbaugh.  So an Independent Federal Agency feels free to ignore explicit limits on their authority from the Judicial Branch.  And progressives have a friend wielding a baton of authority to conduct show trials against their ideological authorities.

Net Neutrality is a controversial pubic policy issue, which would regulate the Internet, the bastion of free speech in the digital age. As late as April 2010,  Julius Genachowski, the Chairman of the FCC, insists that they do not want to regulate the Internet or become the nation’s net nanny.  The FCC’s assertion of ancillary jurisdiction was rejected in the Comcast case. Yet the FCC has scheduled a vote on Net Neutrality for December 21st.  So much for checks and balance and limited government.

As for the scrutiny of content issue, Al Sharpton was blustering about how “some of the commissioners” were interested in following up with his concerns over racism on the airwaves.  Clearly, Sharpton was aiming for a crusade against Rush Limbaugh, who has been quite critical about the Obama Administration and the antics of the Democrat majority.  Since the FCC is appointed in equal measures from partisan perspectives, it is likely that liberal members would offer expressions to assuage Sharpton’s race centered complaints.

If those positive comments were more than Tea and Sympathy, it is worrisome that Government appointees think that they can conduct hearings to expose or attack those exercising their right of free speech.  Limbaugh’s show is nationally syndicated, but Rush does not hold radio spectrum licenses.  So such an investigation would have to scrutinize stations in the “Excellence in Broadcasting” Network and claim that these stations were not serving the public interest.

Entertaining Sharpton’s complaints put a chill on a fundamental American right.  Intimidating stations who broadcast Limbaugh has the government picking winners and losers in the marketplace and has the government impinging on free speech.  A major motivation for enshrining the First Amendment in the Constitution is the right of citizens to redress the government and to speak freely of politics.

It is remarkable to experience another example of Liberal Fascism, where the left wants to use its power to control the free market, yet the left (and libertarians) are anxious to adulate Julian Assange, the Wiki-leaker, as he can be characterized as open society whistle-blower, who hopes that anarchy can overcome American hegemony.

Via: Newsbusters
Via: Reason
Via: RedState

It Was A Fight Before Christmas

It is challenging to sort through all the shenanigans occurring during the Lame Duck session of Congress.  But the fighting between the House and Senate and the family feud within the parties is taking the form of a dysfunctional family’s holiday gathering.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed “The Deal” that was cut between President Obama and Senate Republicans to maintain current tax rates in exchange for a bevy of other scolerotic social spending.  This vote in itself was a constitutional curiosity because a non-nuanced reading of the founding document of the government requires that all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives.  But the grey-hairs who consider themselves the world’s greatest deliberating body figured that the 81-9 vote approving “The Deal” would allow the upper chamber to jam down their will upon the House of Representatives.

The current majority of the House of Representatives were not content at granting upper income taxpayers maintaining the current 35% tax rate, as they want to stick it to the man.  Democrat House Liberals focused their discontent on the death tax.  Instead of raising the estate tax from 0% to 35%, they want to modify “The Deal” to raise the estate tax to 45%.

When “The Deal” was brought up for debate in the House, the Democrat leadership tried to bring the legislation up without allowing for dissenters to be heard.  Enough Liberal Democrats were thought to be siding with the Republican minority that “The Deal” had to temporarily be withdrawn from the House and the chamber was put into recess.  The House Leadership is meeting behind closed doors to accommodate their disgruntled members and to try to ensure a clean vote.  The best case scenario for Speaker Pelosi (D-CA 6th) is if the Class Warfare Congressmen consent to airing their grievances during debate and then are voted down to adopt the Senate terms en toto.

If the House changes a jot or tittle from “The Deal”, then the bill would either have to go to a Conference Committee and then be voted upon again by both chambers or the Senate would have to accept the jam down from the House.   Senate Republicans were remarkably timid when negotiating the terms of “The Deal”, which they accepted in a rush to avoid raising tax rates right near the IRS deadline.  By materially changing the terms of “The Deal”, it would give Senate Republicans an opportunity to redeem themselves by not accepting a deal at any price, highlighting the dysfunction of this Congress and allowing the cavalry of the 112th Congress to fix the problem.

Then there is the Omnibus spending bill which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sprung on his colleagues this week in response to the expiration on Saturday of the Continuing Resolution that Congress has been using in lieu of writing a real budget. The 1,924 page legislation which was not circulated until Wednesday afternoon.  Initially, the package was thought to cost $1.1 trillion, which works out to $575 million per page.  But overnight, the costs increased by $100 billion.  Perhaps there were more than the 6,488 earmarks than were initially thought.  Or maybe it was just a rounding error.

To try to stall passage through this Congress and emphasize the enormity of the earmarks, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) did not accede to Unanimous Consent to a pro-forma reading of the Omnibus bill. Thus the clerk of the Senate will have to read the 1,924 page bill, which is estimated to take 40 hours on the floor.  In retaliation, the Majority Leader will hold the Senate in session through Christmas and possibly to the bitter end of the 112th Congress on January 4th.

While it may be amusing for a political junkie or a party animal to observe from afar, is this any way to run a government? Needing to pass a bill to know what is in it is exactly the sort of legislative legerdemain that infuriated the Tea Party.  When estimated costs of a bill jumps by $100 Billion overnight, it shows that it is poor public policy that could be a blank check.

Senator Reid may try to foist a few Christmas trees on an unwitting public, but his cantankerous kith may kill these bad bills in a fight before Christmas.

UPDATE 12/16/10  Michelle Malkin.com reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will not force the Senate to vote on the Omnibus Budget bill.

Also, the House Leadership has crafted a vehicle for proceeding on "The Deal" for maintaining the current tax rates for all Americans for the next two years.  The procedure is as follows: 1) Vote to amend a rule for the Tax Rate bill that had already been submitted.  If that passes 2) Vote on the amended rule to allow for dissenting debate 3) Vote on raising the estate tax rates to 45% (a.k.a. the Pomeroy Amendment).  If that passes 4) Vote on final passage.

On the Hugh Hewitt Program, Representative Tom Campbell (R-CA 15th) indicated that Obama's people have been working the antechambers and dissenting Democrats think that the deal has been fixed.  If that is true, this is a dog and pony show that allows for Liberal Democrats to save face and have a vote for class warfare for their constituents before voting for the clean Senate bill.  To paraphrase Senator John Kerry (D-MA), they can be against the bill before being for it. 

Via: Michelle Malkin

Scenes From A Snowy Capitol Hill

The Nation’s Capital had a picturesque coating of snow.  Scores of schools closed for the 1-2" of snow, but the Federal Government remained open.  Of course the House and the Senate continued their snow jobs inside their chambers during the Lame Duck session.

It was blustery, bone-chilling and slippery when these shots were taken.  Assuredly, the snowflakes that you see are quite real.

12 December 2010

Jule-tide Jihad in Stockholm

(Photo: Big Pictures)

A car bomb and a homicide bomber blew up in central Stockholm on Saturday evening. So far, the homicide bomber died along with two innocent people being injured.  Swedish officials labeled the incident a terrorist crime.  Assuredly Vikings were not responsible.

The car bomb was set off at about 5 PM on Drottinggatan Street that was filled with Christmas shoppers.  One witness asserted that a man said something in Arabic before the car containing liquified gas cannister exploded.  About 10 minutes later, a homicide bomber detonated about 300 meters away, which killed a man wearing a keffiyah.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt posted on Twitter: “Most worrying attempt at terrorist attack. Failed - but could have been truly catastrophic”.  The explosion may have been inadvertently exploded too early, as the bombers knapsack filled with nails failed to act as a pipe bomb.

The bombings were thought to be the work of Taimor Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly, a 28 year old Iraqi born resident of Sweden who had previously gone to university in Luton, England.  Apparently, the bomber had been aculturated enough to give a 10 minute warning e-mail to a Swedish news agency and Swedish security.

The e-mail had voice file attachments in Arabic and Swedish which the sender noted that he had traveled to the Middle East to prepare for jihad.  The email encouraged others to become majahidin (Isamist fighters) by asserting “Our actions will speak for themselves... Now your children, daughers and sisters will die like our borthers and sisters and children are dying.”  The email gave a smorgasbord of excuses for launching the terrorist attack, from opposing Sweden’s 500 troop contribution to the conflict in Afghanistan to not condeming Lars Vilk’s 2007 caricature of the prophet Mohammed.

The Stockholm attacks mirror the targeting priorities from other recent radicalized Islamist attacks.   Al-Abdaly’s background in Luton may provide a key, as the British 7/7 bombers gathered in Luton before doing the London Transport bombings in 2005.  The Christmas attack angle echos this November’s failed Portland, Oregon bombing by Mohammed Mohammed. It also shows the same targeting of innocent women and children as this spring’s failed Times Square bombing.

Instead of suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrom by dismissing the bombings of the work of a crazed lone wolf, the Swedish government is cautiously pursuing this as an act of terrorism.  Swedish intelligence has been on alert due to reports al-Qaida have been trying to recruit young Swedes to fight in Somalia.  Swedish intelligence has been on alert due to reports al-Qaida have been trying to recruit young Swedes to fight in Somalia.   B acknowledging this as an act of terrorism, the threat from radicalized Islamists will be taken seriously.  If the center-right Swedish government does quickly withdraw their ancillary military support from Afghanistan, it will clearly have succumbed to dhimmitude.

Via: The Telegraph
Via The Daily Mail

11 December 2010

Congressional Curing--Ethanol Does Not Prevent Trichinosis

One of the sweeteners to make the bad medicine of the “Tax Rate” deal more palatable to Democrats like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) was throwing in Ethanol subsidies. But larding up this strategic compromise between the White House and Congress adds a Tea Party toxin which may politically kill those who swallow it.

The trade offs that Republicans took  for a two year continuation of the Bush era tax rates were bad enough.  Allowing a reinstatement of the 35% estate tax reinstated a fiscally immoral practice.  Settling for only a two year freeze in current rates sacrifices any leverage that conservatives garnered after the historic gains in the Midterm elections.  Fiscally, by extending is a high unemployment benefits for another 13 months (for those who have already had it for 99 weeks) is estimated to cost $60 Billion.

But when the deal looked shaky, the Hill reverted to its discredited tradition of buying support through pork barrel earmarks, which are said to include:

$136 million for mass transit commuters
$138 million for the construction of new energy efficient homes
$792 million for Hurricane Katrina era tax incentive programs
$2 billion for Bio-diesel fuel production
$3 billion for Renewable Energy Incentives   and
$5 billion for Ethanol tax credits.

10 December 2010

Lame Duck Taxing Strategerie (sic)

In the rush to avoid the expiration of Bush era tax rates, the White House, the Senate and the House have employed different strategeries to advance their ends. Unfortunately, all sides seem to be too clever by half and the American taxpayer should gird their loins for a stiff tax increase in the midst of a recession.

President Obama seemed to have read the tea leaves after the mid-term election debacle for Democrats and now he wants to work with Republicans on tax policy.  Mr. Obama announced his compromise on Monday, without even consulting the congressional Democrat leadership, who were attending a White House Christmas party.  When national treasure Vice President Joe Biden went up to the Hill to sell the deal to Democrats, Biden intimated that it was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. That went over like a lead zeppelin with Obama’s allies, now the deal is being characterized as a framework and not legislation per se.

Tactically, Obama made some ham handed mistakes.  The terms of the deal, which basically traded a two year extension of the current tax rates for upper income taxpayers in exchange for a 13 month extension of unemployment welfare, only allowing the estate tax to rise to 35% (from a current 0%) along with a 2% reduction of social security taxes may have been a good deal vis-a-vis Republicans.  But cutting Democrats out of the crafting of the deal needlessly assaulted the egos of the current Congressional majority.  Moreover, it rubs salt into a class envy wound that drives liberals crazy.

Perhaps Obama’s staff calculated that Congressional Democrats had nowhere else to go but supporting him, akin to Clinton’s triangulation strategy in 1995-96.  By only extending the tax rates for two years allows him to kick the can down the road, so he can take advantage of the stimulative effect of lower tax rates during the recession.  When Obama’s election campaign rolls around, he can either take credit for the strong economic policy or he can invoke a class envy strategy that demonizes the wealthy.

Obama may also think that he got something for nothing because in current stagnant economic conditions it is ludicrous to raise taxes on the investor class and the rate agreements needed to be for two years to most efficiently influence capital expenditures.  So the White House agrees to something that they were likely to concede to bolster his stature with the unemployed, a nominal tax rebate and porkulous spending that would be otherwise unacceptable.

Senate Republicans were quick to agree to this backdoor deal as it avoids raising taxes on upper income taxpayer right before the IRS prints up the 2011 tax tables.  An agreement that includes the Senate minority makes them feel included, promotes an image of bi-partisanship and gives an easy victory.  But to observers outside the Republican Senate Caucus, the Republicans seem pusillanimous to quickly accede to this deal in the wake of a monumental tidal wave election.  The pork wrapped around this deal are unfunded expenditures.  It surrenders the high ground on the death tax by reinstating the secondary taxation at a 35% tax rate for estates over $5 million.  This impacts family farms and small businesses, the very taxpayers who Republicans are villified by liberals for supporting.

Aside to Obama’s affront on their egos by finalizing the agreement without them, Senate Democrats may pay lip service to protesting “the deal”, but this is for show and for dough.   True believers like socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) may genuinely try to filibuster the tax accord.  Democrats of a liberal bent may protest to score class warfare points with their electorate while holding out for more earmark sweeteners. For instance, Senator Tom Harken (D-IA) murmured protests against the accord and now suddenly ethanol subsidies are incorporated as part of the package.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) may appreciate the deal as it takes away the impetus of Senate Republicans to block consideration of anything else until the tax issue is solved.  So things like Card Check, and the START treaty could be considered.  Besides, the deal provides a conveniently cloaked vehicle for inserting payback earmarks like the Online Poker proposal in the fine print.  Since the Majority Leader has scheduled a cloture vote on Monday, one has to presume that Reid can clear that hurdle and the eight seat Democrat majority to pass the legislation.

House Republicans have been put in a box.  The minority in the House has no power, so their opposition would likely be futile and could be characterized as obstructionist. The tax deal would help the economy and not spook the financial markets. So why should House Republicans not jump on board.

The reason is if campaign rhetoric reflects reality.  In September, House Republicans campaigned on a Promise to America, which vowed not to do business as usual in Congress.  House Republicans were aghast the way the House had been run during the 111th Congress, with the back-door deals, the alluvia of earmarks, voting on a bill without reading it and the bias towards constantly raising taxes of wealth makers.   Hugh Hewitt points out that the deal sacrifices several important parts of the Pledge to America, namely:

Stopping all job killing tax hikes
Acting immediately to reduce spending
Cutting government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels
Reading the bill before voting.
Advancing one legislative issue at a time.

Additionally, the deal totally sacrifices the high ground on the death tax.  The Tea Party Patriots, the largest Tea Party grassroots umbrella organization, considers such a betrayal on the deal makes a joke about any promises that such politicians have made.  It is dubious that such fired up activists will buy the excuse that the Promise to America was intended for the next Congress or that the House Republican minority is currently powerless.  It sounds like lawmakers support the deal at their own peril.

House Democrats have gone their own way on the deal too.  During a closed door meeting with the House Democrat Caucus, many expletives against the Obama Administration were uttered before Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY 9th) led a chorus of “Just say no!” and “No we can’t”.   In reaction to Vice President Biden’s legislative ultimatum, liberal Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4th) said: “If it’s take it or leave it then I guess that we’ll leave it.” In total, 54 Democrats voiced opposition to the accord, under the guise that it ceded to many concessions to rich Republicans.  Dissenting Democrats think that the estate tax should rise to between 45%-55% instead of the 35% rate jump that is currently scheduled. On a voice vote, House Democrats blocked the tax package from coming to the House floor for consideration. This bloc alone would not scuttle the legislation, but could be significant if many House Republicans also refused to join the deal bandwagon.

The House Democrats want to make substantive changes to the deal before voting on it.  With the Senate Cloture vote on Monday at 3 p.m., this would mean that different versions of “the deal” would have to go to a Joint Reconciliation Committee.  That would mean a mess.  The more pork added may gain some votes but it will also sacrifice some ayes.  But ripping out pet earmarks for reconciliation would also make such supporters tenuous.

Then there is the timing issue just before the Christmas holiday and the expiration of the 111th Congress.  If the details are not worked out, the hiked tax tables will already be distributed.  If the deal looks like a turkey, lawmakers (particularly House Republicans) may punt to go deal with the tax issue themselves when the new majority takes over the Hill in January. That way, it is a clean break with the old dysfunctional Congress, the American taxpayers get a taste of the class warfare and the Tea Party Calvary can come to the rescue.

This fine mess should tarnish the reputation of the Democrat majority in the 111th Congress, which passed on its duties to pass a budget and resolve impending tax hikes that they knew were coming for six years.  It also shows the ham-handedness of the Obama Administration without Rahm Emmanuel, which tried to jam down its way without having its gang on board.  The deal exposes Senate Republicans as not acting like winners and easily reverting to business as usual.  It also is a test of House Republicans to stand and deliver on their campaign Promise to America.

As Daffy Duck would say about this Lame Duck session–“You're despicable!”

Via: Politico
Via: Townhall.com
Via: Talking Points Memo 

Mob of Yobs Roil Royal’s Rolls Royce

A student led protest against the British government trebling tuition rates degenerated into a series of anarchistic outrages that desecrated war memorials, vandalized governmental buildings and even physically threatened the members of the Royal Family.

Yesterday’s student rally was a last stand against the tuition hikes. But Tories along with a score of their Social Democrat partners narrowly passed the legislation by a 323 to 302 vote to raise university tuition fees to around £9,000 a year. This was the fourth wave of student protests in a month.  But much like the initial November 10th  protest, splinter groups broke off and  made mayhem.

British sensibilities were scandalized by crass students who swung from the Cenotaph at Whitehall, the center of British government.  The yob who was photographed playing on Britain’s empty tomb to war dead was the son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmore.  Charlie Gilmore, a 21 year old history student, ironically did not know that the monument memorialized Britain’s glorious dead.  Other outrages included defacing and urinating on a Churchill statue, setting park benches ablaze at Parliament Square  and burning a Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.  Police announced that 26 protestors had been detained on charges that ranged from arson, assaulting a police officer and public drunkenness.

Some students think that the escalation of protests are about their tuition hardships. The Independent quoted a sixth form student (akin to a senior in high school)  who asserted that violence is acceptable "if that's what it takes to make our mark".  Such a sophomoric student (sic) does not realize that anarchistic elements have co-opted the movement and now are employing violent and provocative challenges that threaten Britain’s democratic system.

Protestors who were thwarted in their efforts to storm the Houses of Parliament turned their anger onto the nearby Treasury and Supreme Court Buildings and threw volleys of fireworks, sticks and billiard balls.  Rioters were deliberating spooking officers on horseback. So much so, one officer has serious neck injuries after being thrown off his horse. In total, 12 officers were injured along with 43 protestors. Afterwards, a large group of protestors moved from the government district to intimidate Oxford and Regent Streets and damaged a store in London’s tony shopping district.

What was most concerning is the attack on a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.  The Prince of Wales and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall were attending a charity event at the London Palladium when the royal Rolls Royce was surrounded by a score of anarchists shouting “Off with their heads” and “Tory scum” while throwing paint bombs and breaking car windows.  The Duchess of Cornwall tried to keep a stiff upper lip by dismissing the seriousness of the attack. But photography shows that she was visibly shaken by the attack and was poked by one of the sticks.

This attack should not be minimized. The lapse of Royal Security is mind boggling.  Why was this mob of masked anarchists allowed to approach the motorcade on the street? On the seen law enforcement were ready to use their sidearms to combat the dangerous situation. Had the paint bomb been a Molotov cocktail, it would have been a bloody mess. But Prince Charles is the first in line to the British throne.  A political assassination could spark a coup d’etat.

 Students need to come to terms with the reality that at a time when the government is impecunious, their free ride for tuition is over. But these educated individuals should also realize that they are being used as useful idiots to destabilize the government who’s largess largely provides for their education. Alas, instead of distancing themselves from the thugs, student leaders complain about police brutality.

British security needs to tighten up their coverage of their leaders.  The November 10th attack on Conservative Party headquarters at Millbank and this attack on the Prince of Wales highlights security holes that threaten the stability of the government.

The public should not dismiss this as another incident of the the irrational exuberance of youth.  Anarchistic activity is threatening Western free market oriented democracies.

Via: Skynews
Via BBC News
Via Telegraph
Via Daily Mail

09 December 2010

Pelosi's Nobel Diplomacy

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi flew to Oslo Norway to participate in the Nobel Peace Prize award to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. This high profile attendance by the second in line to the U.S. Presidency is important as Beijing barred the Peace Prize winner and his wife from attending the Nobel awards ceremony.  Nor was Liu permitted to designate a representative to collect the coveted prize for him.

Moreover, the Chinese government has threatened countries that support the Peace Prize Laureate with “consequences”.  So far, Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco, Iraq and the Peoples Republic of China have declined to participate in the ceremonies.

Liu was designated the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights.  Liu is paying the price for his courageous calls for democracy in China and the end to one party rule as he is serving his fourth sentence as a political prisoner.

The Nobel Peace Prize has lost much of its luster after it was awarded to unworthily awared to Yasser Arafat, the eco-bloviations of Al Gore, Jr. and last year’s speculative vote for Hope and Change to President Barrack Obama.  The Nobel Peace Prize Committee have rediscovered their rightful role and gave plaudits to someone who was not political figurehead but someone who truly sacrificed for his conscience.

Normally, Congressmen meddling in foreign policy is something to be frown upon.  But Speaker Pelosi is acting as part of the American delegation.  It shows Pelosi’s longstanding concern about Chinese human rights abuses.  And such a high level representation from the legislative branch sends a signal to Beijing of the seriousness of their affronts to human rights.

But Pelosi had better hussle back to Capitol Hill before the tax rate compromise collapses in the House and everyone pays marketedly more to the IRS after January 1st.