Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quick Hits - December 18, 2011

The GOP Leadership in the House of Representatives is pushing back against the Senate bill that was just passed extending the temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction for just an additional 2 months in addition to a 2 month extension of jobless benefits, the halt of a Medicare reimbursement cut to Doctors and Hospitals that was built into the Obamacare legislation, and the requirement that the President either issues a construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline in 60 days or advises Congress why such construction would be against the national interests.  Speaker of the House, John Boehner is saying that any extension of the temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction should be for a full year, address the Administration's continued efforts to cripple US energy production via EPA regulations, and include 'reasonable reductions in spending'.  The House is scheduling a vote on the Senate bill Monday - but passage is very much in doubt.

The Senate bill, was roughly calculated to add about $70 billion to the annual deficit as it lacked any real reductions in spending - and the Senate GOP rejected Administration and Democrat demands for tax increases on the 'wealthy' in the form of a millionaire surtax.

Also being reconsidered are the implications around yet another extension of the Social Security Payroll Tax reduction originally pushed by the Administration in 2009.  While the average worker would save about $1,000 per year (@$20 per week), this tax reduced by nearly $130 billion the funds that come into the Government for Social Security benefit payments.  As a result of this reduction, last year was the first year that the Social Security program paid out more in benefit payments than the Federal Government brought in from the tax.  This delta added to the US Federal budget deficit as all of these funds are pumped into / out of the Federal Government's general funds - there is no 'lockbox' for SS payments.

Some are starting to see the focus on the Social Security Payroll Tax reduction continuation as part of an approach by the Democrats to move Social Security into a welfare type program - and using the extension of the tax reduction as a political tool to both provide a sop to the American people and a lever to use against Congressional Republicans while insisting on other tax increases or denying additional GOP spending deductions.

One of the major arguments being used by the GOP leadership against the Obama Administration are their complaints against the continued (and accelerated) use of regulations by the Administration to enact policies that cannot be enacted via legislation in the divided Congress but further the Administration's anti-business agenda. 
Even Cass Sunstein, the director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said during this interview that the “pipeline was clogged” with regulations waiting to go into the review process. But the numbers are clear. Even if we limit the discussion to only regulations which cost you more than $100M this administration is setting records at a breathtaking pace.

As the chart demonstrates, there is an unprecedented increase in the regulatory rules that cost more than $100 million a year for compliance since the Obama Administration was inaugurated in January 2009. 

Since the decidedly weak results of their last 'Day of Action' on December 12th, when West Coast Occupy movements generally failed to shutdown - and only temporarily interdicted major port operations, the Occupy movement has been pretty quite.  In New York City, 50 OWS protesters were arrested as they attempted to occupy the lower Manhatten Trinity Church property which had refused their requests to locate their 'encampment' on their grounds - even though Church officials also said that they supported the OWS cause.  OWS protesters were also upset that the NYPD used force to prevent their use of force to seize private property for OWS purposes.

The BostonOccupy nimrods provided even more evidence last week of the OWS embracement of anti-Semitism as part and parcel with their class warfare rhetoric.  Holocause denier, anti-Semite, and pro-Hezbollah academic Norman Finklestein was feted at OccupyBoston as he was invited to speak by the organization.  You can tell a lot about a person by their friends and associates...

Another speaker feted by OccupyBoston is anti-American hard left pinhead Noam Chomsky...

Both spoke at the 'Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series' which celebrates Howard Zinn, the hard left revisionist history professor.

Lawyers represent Army Pfc Bradley Manning continued their efforts to defend Manning and turn his military trial into a circus - arguing Saturday that Manning's sexual orientation, in the environment in the US military prior to the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' played an important role in his actions which included downloading and releasing hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq, Afghanistan war reports / videos, in addition to classified State Department cables to Wikileaks to 'embarass' the United States.  They are claiming that his 'gender identity disorder' and the anti-gay environment made him do it.  Unsurprisingly, anti-war and anti-US protesters demonstrated in support of Manning's actions to damage the US and US military.

Federal Judge George Daniels, in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York issued an order stating that Iran and it's Lebanese based terror proxy, Hezbollah, are jointly responsible together with al Qaeda for the 9/11/01 attacks on the United States.  In the cases heard by Judge Daniels, he found clear and compelling evidence was presented that top Iranian government officials in the Islamic thugocracy played a key role in planning and facilitating the attacks by providing direct and material support to al Qaeda.

Standard & Poors expected downgrade of France's AAA rating could come 'within days'Eurozone crisis even worse.  French officials, including President Sarkozy, who faces an election in 2012, are trying to downplay the downgrade, but France's economic challenges look grim as the nation will see it's borrowing costs increase significantly after the downgrade.

Clashes between the Egyptian Military and demonstrators not only continued for a third consecutive day, but escalated as the death toll increased to 10.  Members of the Egyptian military exceuted a number of vicious and brutal attacks on women who were demonstrating - stripping them, beating them with metal bars, and kicking them.

Tropical Storm Washi set off flash flood and mud slides in the Palawan province of Mindanao in the Philippines which has so far killed 652 with an additional 808 missing.  Officials expect the too to continue to rise as many villages in the region remain isolated and unvisited by rescue personnel.

In Memoriam Vaclav Havel - 1936-2011

The former President of the Czech Republic, a leading dissident against the Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia, a leader of the Velvet Revolution against the Soviet domination, a Founding Father of the post communist Czech democracy, playwright, and champion of human rights, died in his home earlier today.  He was 75.  Havel was a strong supporter for joining NATO and the European Union, supported the war against Saddam Hussein and was a strong supporter and advocate for Israel and the United States.

On this Day in History:

December 18, 1916 saw the end of the World War I Battle of Verdun.   The Battle of Verdun was a 10 month long battle of attrition that was Germany's attempt to bleed the French Army white.  It is now symbolic of one of the worst battles of the First World War in terms of the carnage each side experienced - over 163,000 French killed, 143,000 German killed, and at least half a million wounded between the two armies - averaging 30,000 dead per month.  Over 40,000,000 artillery shells were fired by both sides during the battle - with thousands buried alive by the effects - and the terrain being altered to the point that one can still see the effects today nearly a century later.

The morale of the French Army was severely damaged by the effects of the Battle as it nearly completely broke.  Such was the case that after the French Spring Offensive of 1917 failed, the French Army would mutiny over the price they were being asked to pay - and not undertake any major offensive actions for the duration of the war.

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