Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quick Hits - February 12, 2012

CPAC ended yesterday in Washington DC with the keynote speech delivered by Sarah Palin and the straw poll of attendees.  Ron Paul had won the last two CPAC straw polls, but skipped this year's event.  Expectations were that Rick Santorum would win given the surge of momentum he received after his hat trick in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on Tuesday.  However in a bit of a surprise, Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll with 38% of the vote, followed by Rick Santorum at 31%, Newt Gingrich 15%, and Ron Paul 12%.

The initial takeaway is that Romney demonstrated a stronger than expected support among the self-identified conservatives who attended the conference.  Many considered the conference prime Santorum territory given the number of social conservatives who were thought to be in attendance.  Today, Rick Santorum said that the Romney campaign 'rigged' the straw poll results.

Politico takes its look at the winners and losers at this year's CPAC event.  They name the winners as Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman - all of whom delivered strong speeches at the event.  In the loser category, Politico lists Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Barack Obama.

It's clear that Newt Gingrich's campaign for the GOP nomination is fading fast - and while he delivered a 'red meat' speech to the conservative audience, his actions over the last month to 6 weeks have significantly damaged his reputation as a viable Republican candidate for President.  Ron Paul also took a hit for not appearing at the conference - and in the straw poll, his results are just slightly stronger than his usual fringe GOP support.  But Politico saves some special notation for Barack Obama - and while it may not intend to, offers some quotes that we might revisit in the wake of November...
The president’s timing couldn’t have been worse: his administration’s contraceptive policy controversy galvanized conservatives at the conference and reminded them of the high stakes in 2012. Speaker after speaker warned that the president will move radically to the left if he wins a second term.

Mike Huckabee, the 2008 favorite of social conservatives, suggested CPAC give an award to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for giving the conference “a reason to rally.”

“Thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now,” said the Baptist preacher and former Arkansas governor.

For three days, the biggest applause lines came at the president’s expense.

At the start of his Friday speech, Romney called Obama “the conservative movement’s top recruiter.”

“Turns out, he really is a great community organizer,” Romney said. “Although, I don’t think we were the community he had in mind.”

Maine announced the results of their week long caucus 'beauty contest' yesterday.  In a race expected to be closely fought between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, they did not disappoint as Romney was announced the winner with 39% of the vote.  Paul finished 2nd with 36% of the vote.   Barely 300 votes separated the two, and Paul's camp is yet to concede the race.  Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich didn't campaign in Maine - Santorum finished a distant 3rd with 18% and Gingrich trailed badly with only 6% support.

The GOP nomination seems locked into a Romney and Santorum fight - over 52% of Republicans are saying that they still haven't made up their mind on a candidate.  Newt Gingrich is going to see his cash dry up and will either limp into the convention or be forced to drop out before the end of March.  Ron Paul, playing for a seat at the 'table' at the RNC convention, is also going to find himself in trouble since he lost in his best chance for a caucus win since Nevada.

Appearing on today's Fox News Sunday, President Obama's Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, flat out said that the President's 'accommodation' to the Catholic church and other religious organizations on his birth control mandate is the President's 'last word on the issue' and that this 'puts the issue to rest'

This hardline is not going to win the Administration many friends.  The Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, says that battle against this executive overreach is not over - and that it will not end until the President 'backs down'.

Like other cases of executive overreach, this one will likely end up in the courts.  If it does, the mandate or the accommodation does not look like it will have much of a future...
‘No precedent for the government ordering private companies to offer a product for free.’ In other words, even if the Obama administration’s fictional account of the economics involved would actually play out as the administration suggests—even if prices didn't really get passed along to everyone else but were instead simply covered by the insurer as a sort of philanthropic nod to the Obama administration—what would give the federal government the authority to order private companies to offer a products for free? Could such a mandate really be justified under Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce? Is there really no difference between regulating commerce and mandating that it be free?
Speaking at CPAC, Daniel Hannan, a British member of the European Parliament, took to the podium to warn the attendees of the President's agenda - his efforts to 'Europeanize' the United States through enacting his progressive and hard left agenda...
European Parliament Member Daniel Hannan told a gathering of conservative activists in Washington Saturday that the Obama administration's "Europeanization" agenda has the U.S. "screeching toward the cliff" of socialism.

"Believe me, my friend, you are not going to enjoy it."
Mr. Hannan is correct.  We do not have to study history to learn our fate if we continue down our present path at Mach 3...all we need to do is to look to the European Union, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France and the effects of their unsustainable embrace of 'social justice' and entitlements.

Today is Greece's D-Day as their future membership in the Eurozone is going to be decided in the Greek parliament.
Shortly after midnight, the 300-member Greek parliament is to vote on an austerity package that will determine whether it will default on its debt by March 20, when the government must redeem a €14.5-billion sovereign bond. If the austerity package demanded by Greece’s would-be rescuers – the European Union and the International Monetary Fund – gets a ‘Yes’ vote, Athens will receive a fresh bailout, worth €130-billion.

If it votes the opposite way, Greece will go bankrupt, almost certainly leave the 17-country euro zone and put the old drachma back into circulation. If that were to happen, it would be the first country to shed the common currency launched a dozen years ago.
As MPs began debating the austerity package, thousands of protesters demonstrated in Athens. Tear gas and stun grenades were fired, and some protesters threw bottles at police on the parliament building's stairs.

The numbers being what they are, it seems as if the current Greek government has the votes to pass the austerity measures needed to gain the EU bailout.  Originally projected to be €130 billion last fall, the poor performance of the Greek economy has increased the requirement to €145 billion. This is on top of a €110 billion bailout that Greek received in 2010 from the European Union. The next major threshold comes after the vote - will the European Union Finance Ministers accept any guarantees by the Greek government that the austerity measures, which are highly unpopular, will survive beyond April's national election.

Greece's bad decisions made decades ago to embrace euro-socialism has left it with two very bad courses to take - the EU bailout or a default and their exit from the Eurozone.  If they take a bailout, they will still need another one in a few years when we get to do this all over again.  If they exit the Eurozone, there will be substantial collateral damage - but in the long run, the pain - once it ends - will be done.  Greece will either modify their approach or enter the 'rinse and repeat' series of defaults...which ultimately will force them to only spend what they can afford to spend.

Victor Davis Hanson, in his latest essay, notes the path of Europe and that of the United States, particularly under Barack Obama, and says that according to Barack Obama, Europe is in our rearview mirror...
As Greece implodes, as southern Europe goes into default mode, and as the entire European Union totters, America should promote its alliance and friendship with individual European countries more than ever. The next ten years are going to be scary ones for Europeans, as dreams shatter, fantasies dissipate, the “German problem” returns, energy becomes scarce, nationalism returns, issues of demography and immigration acerbate, Russia flexes in eastern Europe and its former republics, and the southern shore of the Mediterranean becomes Islamic—and as a different U.S. decides that its real interests and friends are in Asia.

A small suggestion: given that we have let in 11 million illegal aliens without legality, capital, education, or English, why not announce that we will fast track into citizenship 100,000 Europeans a year who speak English, have a BA degree, and can come with $50,000 in capital? Set the immigration at exactly the same number we do for legal immigrants from Mexico—and then listen and watch what happens!
The Arab League is urging the United Nations Security Council to authorize sending UN peacekeepers to Syria in order to bring a halt to the Assad regime's violence against those opposing his dictatorship.  The Arab League, through Saudi Arabia, plans to offer a new resolution to the UNSC even though both Russia and China vetoed the last resolution on Syria.

Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda, has released a video calling Muslims to arms to support the anti-government Syrian rebels - and expressing the full solidarity of al-Qaeda with the anti-government protesters.

Salvage crews have started the process to remove 500,000 gallons of fuel from the hulk of the luxury liner Costa Concordia after a two week delay caused by bad weather.  Officials are estimating that the process to offload the fuel will take 28 days.

The music industry, which has it's Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles tonight, is reeling over the death of pop singing star Whitney Houston at the age of 48.  Houston has battled the demons of drug and alcohol addiction over the last decade, was found dead in her Beverly Hills Hilton hotel room hours before music mogul Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards party.  No cause of death is know and it may take weeks for toxicology reports to provide information on a cause of death.  A special tribute to Whitney Houston is planned for tonight's Grammy Awards.

On a last note, at Ace of Spades, I found a post that linked to a civics literacy exam.  In the post, it was noted that the average score of all those who took the exam was 49%.  College professors scored an average of 55%.  Elected officials scored an average of 44%.  All of these are considered failing.  So with this, I decided to take the test.  My results...
You answered 30 out of 33 correctly — 90.91 %
I am kicking myself a little - I had the right answer on 2 of these, but changed it on further reflection.  I should have stuck with my original gut decision.

Civics is something that is no longer taught or stressed in our school systems today.  We are far weaker for this short-sighted decision.  In its place we find coursework on minority special interests or 'studies' that do far more to promote division than to educate people on the values and exceptionalism of this country - in particular those values which are intended to bring us together as Americans. 

Take the exam - see if you can beat my score.

On This Day in History

1809 - Abraham Lincoln is born

1912 - Hsian-T'ung, the last emperor of China, is forced to abdicate following Sun Yat-sen's republican revolution.  This ends 267 years of Manchu rule, and 2,000 years of imperial rule in China.

1941 - German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Libya with the 'Afrika Korps' to reinforce their Italian allies who are being threatened with being driven out of Libya by British forces from Egypt.

1973 - North Vietnam begins to release the first of 591 US Prisoners of War under the terms of the Paris Peace Accords.  The last POW's would be released by North Vietnam on March 29, 1973.
1999 - President Bill Clinton is acquitted by a Senate vote on both articles of impeachment (Perjury and Obstruction of Justice) that he was charged with.

2002 - Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.  The trial ended without a verdict when Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006.

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