Saturday, March 31, 2012

Quick Hits - March 31, 2012

Alas, the 'One Beelyon Dollar', to quote Dr. Evil, lottery is not to be.  Three winning MegaMillions tickets were sold in Maryland, Illinois, and Kansas for last nights draw - splitting at least a $640 million jackpot.  Nationally, about $1.5 billion in tickets were sold for the record setting draw.

It has to be encouraging to see so many desire to break into the dreaded 1% club and risk the wrath of OccupyWallStreet.

For those who did not win, there is a consolation prize.

Fourteen months after being sacked by MSNBC, Keith Olbermann was sacked by Al Gore's Current TV.  After several months of feuding with the management of Current TV and painfully low ratings, Current TV bounced the egotistical, overrated, and narcissistic talking head claiming breach of his 5 year, $50 million contract.  As the sacking of Olberidiot was announced - the network also announced that they hired disgraced NY Governor and failed CNN commentator Elliot Spitzer to replace Olberidiot.

Current TV management said that the bad Ron Burgundy impersonator was terminated for failing to show up for work, for working to sabotage the network, and for being insubordinate towards network management.  Olberidiot in return has threatened legal action against Current over his sacking.

Olbermann watch, a website dedicated to chronicling the moronic actions of one of the most deplorable people on the air who used to be on the air, has the details about his 'side of the story'. 
•I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.

•Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I've been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.

•It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current's statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt's "values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty," I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee's name was Clarence B. Cain.

•In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

For the 99.99998% of the country who didn't know, Countdown, Olbermann's program, aired at 8pm Eastern each weeknight. During his roughly 40 weeks on the air, the program averaged only about 177,000 viewers at primetime - a far cry from the 2.7-2.9 million that watched the first broadcast of the top cable news program at 8pm - The O'Reilly Factor. In the prime advertising demographic (ages 25 - 54), Countdown only averaged about 57,000 viewers.

What a week - Oprah sacks Rosie and Al sacks Keith.

Congress will be taking its first real recess in a year when it goes on a 2 week Easter break.  This takes place after an agreement was reached with the White House where the President has promised to not make any recess appointments in return for the Senate taking action on a number of Presidential nominees.

This became an issue in the aftermath of President Obama's 'recess appointments' in early January while Congress was in 'pro forma' sessions - appointing not only the controversial Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Protection bureau, but also three pro-union officials to the National Labor Relations Board.  These appointments have generated a legal challenge to the President and these are now making their ways through the courts.

To prevent such an action, the House and Senate remained in 'pro forma' session - meeting at least once every three days in a formal session during the holiday break.  President Obama, however, declared 'pro forma' sessions were not 'real' sessions as no business was conducted during these sessions.

The agreement was accepted in the House of Representatives while the House was in a 'pro forma' session - and Republicans are now waiting to see if the President will honor his word.  Interestingly, during that same year end 'pro forma' session that the President claimed wasn't real business - Congress passed the President's request to extend the Temporary 2% Social Security Payroll Tax reduction that was signed into law by the President.  Did that count as being in session or not, Mr. President?

No, this is not an early April Fool's joke - but it should be.  On April 1st - the United States will own the world's highest corporate tax rate as a decrease in that tax rate takes effect in Japan.  Owning the highest corporate tax rate among the major economies of the world is not a good thing.  This contributes to making the US uncompetitive for new investment, drives jobs elsewhere, and effectively results in lower wages, lower employment, and lower federal tax revenues here in the United States.

With this looming in our immediate future, Vice President Joe Biden fired up the right side of the blogosphere as he talked about the need for the US to implement a 'Global Minimum Tax'...

Hot Air notes the specific Administration pitch here...
At the same time as the President is calling for immediate enactment of this plan, he is also pushing forward on a framework for corporate tax reform that would encourage even greater investment in the United States, while eliminating tax advantages for outsourcing. This framework will include:

o Making companies pay a minimum tax for profits and jobs overseas and investing the savings in cutting taxes here at home, especially for manufacturing: The President is proposing to eliminate tax incentives to ship jobs offshore by ensuring that all American companies pay a minimum tax on their overseas profits, preventing other countries from attracting American business through unusually low tax rates. The savings would be invested in cutting taxes here at home, especially for manufacturing.

On top of the world's highest corporate tax rate, the Administration now wants to expand its reach into America's businesses international operations and charge a minimum tax that is intended to, what? Dissuade those companies from operating and competing in the international marketplace? Or dissuade them from being American companies?

It's clear that the Administration doesn't know or understand the Laffer curve. Or that when you tax something - you get less of something.  It's also clear that this Administration examines these issues as an academic would do - based entirely in theory and with no real grasp or understanding of cause and effect that takes place in the real world. Given that the Administration has stocked itself with so many academics - this is not a surprise. 

Why do academics have such an out of touch viewpoint and understanding of the real world?  A large part of this relates back to where they come from in academia.  Today's Wall Street Journal highlights a new report on the University of California system that documents the plague of politicized classrooms and the indoctrination of students.  The UC system is a great example of this - but it is also not just unique to UC - but is really national in scope...
National studies by Stanley Rothman in 1999, and by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons in 2007, have shown that universities' leftward tilt has become severe. And a 2005 study by Daniel Klein and Andrew Western in Academic Questions (a NAS publication) shows this is certainly true in California. For example, Democrats outnumbered Republicans four to one on University of California, Berkeley, professional school faculties; in the social sciences the ratio was approximately 21 to one.

The same 2005 study revealed that the Berkeley sociology department faculty was home to 17 Democrats and no Republicans. The political science department included 28 Democrats and two Republicans. The English department had 29 Democrats and one Republican; and the history department had 31 Democrats and one Republican.

While political affiliation alone need not carry classroom implications, the overwhelmingly left-leaning faculty openly declare the inculcation of progressive political ideas their pedagogical priority. As "A Crisis of Competence" notes, "a recent study by UCLA's prestigious Higher Education Research Institute found that more faculty now believe that they should teach their students to be agents of social change than believe that it is important to teach them the classics of Western civilization."

Some university programs tout their political presuppositions and objectives openly. The mission statements of the Women's Studies program at UCLA prejudges the issues by declaring that it proceeds from "the perspectives of those whose participation has been traditionally distorted, omitted, neglected, or denied." And the Critical Race Studies program at the UCLA School of law announces that its aim is to "transform racial justice advocacy."
For regular readers of the former UC Professor, Victor Davis Hanson, these challenges within the UC system should not be much of a surprise.  The focus on education has changed from educating to indoctrinating. 

This happens in other industries as well - like journalism.  I've asked old-time journalists as to why they got into journalism and the answer was to capture the facts and be the first to note history.  The younger journalists that I've met now answer that question by telling me they chose that career in order to improve or change the world.  In this case - the focus has gone from being the impartial reporter of the events to inform to being an advocate for a particular cause.

Let's look at the Trayvon Martin tragedy.  One of the primary principles of American justice is the premise of the presumption of innocence.  Everyone is accorded the presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty in a trial where a jury finds them guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.  But for large swaths of the mainstream media, and in particular the more progressive leaning elements of the mainstream media, there is a presumption of guilt that is being pushed regarding George Zimmerman.

One of the most abusive networks in this mindset is NBC / MSNBC. 

The Rev. Al Sharpton is an anchor on MSNBC and supposedly reporting on the Martin tragedy.  Simultaneously, the renowned race baiter who was closely involved with racist events and violence like the Tawana Brawley fraud, the shooting and arson at NYC's Freddie's Fashion Mart (killing 7 plus the racially motivated shooter), and instigating / promoting the Crown Heights Riots (leading to the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum) - is now vowing increasing civil disobedience if George Zimmerman is not immediately arrested for the death of Trayvon Martin.

Then there is the epic race based meltdown a MSNBC 'journalist' has on CNN's Piers Morgan's interview program...

The conclusion of the interview is priceless - as Morgan says - "I like to think of myself as a professional journalist, Touré. I think that you are something else."

Even the so-called 'conservative' anchor on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough is embracing massive hypocrisy and delusion when he spends time on his program castigating the 'far right' for politicizing the Trayvon Martin tragedy - by in Scarborough's words, raising the issues of gun control - without noting that there are those on the left that are using the tragedy to call for increased gun controls to prevent further tragedies. He also is ignoring the actions of Sharpton, Touré, Jackson, and others who seek to use this case to promote a political / racial agenda.  But that is standard operating procedure for those on affiliated with NBC / MSNBC.  They have no credibility left - and it's reflected in their ratings.

Earlier in the week, a QH referenced the angst being expressed by the parents of 2 white British students who were callously executed in cold blood by a 17 year old African-American because they didn't have enough money on them when the teenager attempted to rob them. There was far more outrage among the African American community over the life sentence this thug received than over the execution of the two visitors who walked into the wrong neighborhood.

Why is the outrage being so misdirected as to forgetting the principle of the presumption of innocence when it comes to George Zimmerman? How does one propose to be a representative of a news organization when one is making news as a racial agitator promoting the media to not only instigate violence and racial divide - but seeks to act as judge and jury? Why the focus on this agenda as opposed to real tragedy that exists - that of the challenges of the African-American community and the failure of the left's policies which have only created a cycle of dependency and crime for far too many in that community?

[Ed. added Ramirez cartoon]

We're all missing the lessons we should be learning from this tragedy...which only makes the tragedy even worse.

Even with the completion of oral arguments before the SCOTUS and a decision being made regarding the four main issues around Obamacare that the Supreme Court was considering, there will be more speculation and facts about the bill that will come out not only until the decision is made public - but through the Presidential election this November.

Obamacare and the President both took a hit earlier this year when the Congressional Budget Office took a new look at the legislation.  Despite the President's statements that the Healthcare Reform bill would not cost a penny more than $1 trillion, and that it would not add 'one dime' to the national debt, the CBO found that the bill would not only add to the national debt, but that the cost would increase to $1.76 trillion.  But as ZeroHedge notes...
It appears that this estimate may have been slightly optimistic… by a factor of 1700%...

…That someone is Republican Jeff Sessions who after actually running the numbers has uncovered that the true long-term funding gap is a mind-boggling $17 trillion, just a tad more than the original sub $1 trillion forecast. This latest revelation means that total underfunded US welfare liabilities: Medicare, Medicaid and social security now amount to $99 trillion! Add to this total US debt which in 2 months will be $16 trillion, and one can see why Japan, which is about to breach 1 quadrillion in total debt (yen, but who's counting), may want to start looking in the rearview mirror for up and comer competitors.
While this is a fiscally damning aspect of the bill - and another case of the President's 'creativity' with facts - Mark Steyn notes that ultimately, at this point, the liberties of 300 million people hinge on just one person - who wasn't even elected....Justice Anthony Kennedy.

While Steyn touches on the fact that Kennedy hit the core of the debate when he described the individual mandate as changing the relationship between the people and the federal government, the focus remains on liberty and limited government.  This is a READ IT ALL piece - but one of the key memes is this:
In February, George Jonas wrote up north that Canadians enjoyed more rights and freedoms in the days before all their rights and freedoms got written down in a big ol’ “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” (1982). At this point, many readers will object that the constitutional documents of some effete pansy ninny monarchy like Canada are entirely irrelevant to a strapping butch manly self-reliant republic like America. Three words: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Finding herself with a bit of time on her hands, Justice Ginsburg swung by Cairo last month to help out the lads from the Muslim Brotherhood building the new Egypt: “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” she advised them. Instead, she recommended the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the European Convention on Human Rights. That’s why the fate of the republic will come down to a 5–4 vote. Because four-ninths of the constitutional court think the American constitutional order is as déclassé as a 2006 BlackBerry.

And to touch back to a previous point made today - our educational system doesn't teach history, civics, or critical thinking so too many accept the premise that "the American constitutional order is as déclassé as a 2006 BlackBerry".

In another compelling read, comes an interview between the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto and Cardinal (then Archbishop) Dolan of New York...
Cardinal Dolan thought he heard Barack Obama pledge respect for the Catholic Church's rights of conscience. Then came the contraception coverage mandate.

The President of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the President of the United States. "I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me," says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me.
Imperious and deceitful.

This is not the first time either. But it's commonplace for someone who embraces the concept of the 'end justifying the means'.

On This Day in History

1492 - A Royal decree issued in Spain declares that all Jews who do not convert to Christianity will be expelled from the country.

1854 - Commodore Matthew Perry, representing the US Government, signs the Treaty of Kanagawa with the Japanese government, opening 2 ports to American trade and establishing a US consulate in Japan.  This opens Japan to foreign trade for the first times since it was closed to foreigners in 1683.

1889 - The Eiffel Tower is dedicated in Paris, France.

1917 - The US purchased and took possession of the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million.

1931 - Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne is killed in a plane crash

1940 - New York City's La Guardia airport officially opens to the public

1991 - The Warsaw Pact, a 36 year military alliance between the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites is dissolved. The Warsaw Pact was created as a response to the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Quick Hits - March 30, 2012

Today is Friday - and while there is considerable buzz over the $640 million dollar MegaMillions lottery draw tonight, there are other topics to run through while we wait for the lottery numbers...and another Administration Friday evening document dump on Solyndra or Fast and Furious, or...?

Today is conference day for the Supreme Court of the United States.  All 9 justices will meet in a conference room and express their positions on the cases heard this week, which includes Obamacare's constitutionality questions.  Votes will be taken and jurists will be assigned to write the opinion for their respective side (if the vote is not unanimous).  These opinions will be circulated amongst the Justices and the vote finalized - before the results and opinions are released.  All expectations is that this will take place in the June time frame.

What will the Justices decide?  Everyone's trying to read the tea leaves that the 3 days of oral arguments provided us to answer that question.  One thing is certain - liberal progressives are worried...very worried.  This worry ranges from CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin who called the government's case a 'train wreck' and a 'plane wreck' to a very worried Chris [Tingles] Matthews...

...who doesn't know anyone who thought Obamacare could be overturned.

Steven Hayward writes, IMO, an excellent analysis of the arguments and takes a detailed look at the tea leaves introducing some compelling links in his round-up and predictions towards how the SCOTUS will decide.
Keep in mind that Kennedy was the author of the majority opinion in Citizens United, the case the Left is still going bonkers over, comparing it to Dred Scott and other absurdities. One of Kennedy’s core values is individual liberty. His approach to individual rights is susceptible to numerous criticisms (such as not having a robust principle of natural rights at its core as Justice Thomas does), but it was at the center of his Citizens United opinion. And a key aspect of Kennedy’s CU opinion was the willingness to discard old precedents where he thought they were badly decided because of flawed history (citing an amicus brief by someone named Hayward—see page 55), poorly defended today, or badly matched to current circumstances.

As such, the key moment in the oral arguments may have been on the third day when Obama Solicitor General Donald Verilli argued that upholding Obamacare was essential “to secure the blessings of liberty.” The challengers’ attorney, Paul Clement, smacked that fat pitch out of the park:

Let me just finish by saying I certainly appreciate what the Solicitor General says, that when you support a policy, you think that the policy spreads the blessings of liberty. But I would respectfully suggest that it’s a very funny conception of liberty that forces somebody to purchase an insurance policy whether they want it or not.

Drawing on the connection between Citizens United, this case, and individual rights is very influential. It adds an exclamation point to the key question that Justice Kennedy raised during the arguments about Obamacare changing the fundamental relationship between the people and government.

But then, Mr. Hayward make another link that he correctly notes is not getting much consideration...
Meanwhile, my pal Ben Zycher points out an interesting aspect not yet noted by the shocked and stunned media mavens like Jeffrey Toobin, namely, how Justices Kennedy and Roberts, both Catholics, may have been affected by the HHS mandate that Catholic institutions must provide free contraception. Says Ben:
I wonder if the Left/Obama/Kathleen Sebelius didn’t shoot themselves in the backside when they decided to apply a chainsaw to the religious liberty of the Catholic hospitals, etc. That episode, I think, brought out in sharp relief the unprecedented degree of coercion inexorably inherent in Obamacare, the eagerness with which the Left employs it, and the thoughtlessness with which the Left is willing to destroy the institutions of civil society as they pursue their political goals.
The US Constitution has as its entire base a focus on limited government.  This legislation is the anti-thesis of limited government.  I think that is the basis of how the Justices will decide this case.  I predict and hope that they do find the individual mandate unconstitutional - and given that the mandate is the core of the bill, find that the best recourse is to strike the entire bill and have the Legislative Branch try to address healthcare reform in a more rationale manner while embracing the limitations the Constitution places on the government.

Despite the President's Rose Garden appeal to Congress to 'end oil / gas industry subsidies' by US taxpayers, the Senate voted yesterday to not end the tax credits available to the oil / gas industry.

The fact that the President, and his liberal supporters, call this a subsidy is laughable and highlights their willingness to misrepresent facts to further their agenda.  What the President has repeatedly called a subsidy is actually a manufacturing tax credit that is provided in the US tax code for all manufacturers regardless of industry.  This tax credit allows manufacturers to deduct 9% of their revenues before calculating their corporate tax bills - except for the oil and gas industry which is singled out and only allowed to deduct 6% of their revenues.  The purpose of the credit is to promote domestic manufacturing.

The oil and gas industry is already being singled out for more restrictive treatment than other manufacturers, and the President wanted to take more punitive action towards them.  As for the subsidy?  There is a huge difference between a tax credit incentive and the Administration giving taxpayer funds to favored companies - which is a true subsidy.  What Solyndra got was a subsidy.  What A123 Battery got was a subsidy.  Both of those, along with dozens of other green companies got from the Administration taxpayer cash to help their business...and then failed.

I've noted repeatedly that based on the actions of the Obama Administration, the only conclusion one can make is that the President and his Administration have an anti-fossil fuel / anti-oil and gas industry agenda that they are running.  But lost in this ideological agenda is an understanding of the opportunity we have to leverage this industry to change not only our country, but to also change the world - as Victor Davis Hanson notes...
“The world was reinvented in the 1970s by soaring oil prices and massive transfers of national wealth. It could be again if the price of petroleum crashes — a real possibility given the amazing estimates about the new gas and oil reserves on the North American continent.

The Canadian tar sands, deepwater exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, horizontal drilling off the eastern and western American coastlines, fracking in once-untapped sites in North Dakota and new pipelines from Alaska and Canada could within a decade double North American gas and oil production.

Given that North America in general and the United States in particular might soon be completely autonomous in natural gas production and within a decade without much need of imported oil, life as we have known it for nearly the last half-century would change radically.”

Dr. Hanson references we are spending about $500 billion a year to import oil - which is the largest single contributor to our massive trade deficit. We are currently borrowing more than $1 trillion a year to cover our national deficit - which weakens the dollar and increases our costs of imported oil. But if we responsibly develop these resources - we can take huge strides towards addressing and solving these problems.

In North Dakota, which is in a boom because of their expanding oil and gas production, unemployment is 3.3% - and the entire statewide economy is buoyed - including the tax revenues coming into the state from the downstream effects of the production. Why aren't we doing this on a national level and in an alliance with our northern neighbor? As Dr. Hanson observes...
“The world was transformed for the worse in the 1970s, when world oil prices quadrupled. A half-century later, it could change again for the better should oil prices crash. We should do our part in ensuring that at last the tables are turned.”
The American Energy Alliance has started running this advertisement in selected states around the country to highlight the President's feckless role around soaring gasoline prices...

As usual, the President and his supporters have decided to respond vigorously...but also as usual, not by addressing the facts presented by the American Energy Alliance. Rather, the response was personal attacks on the President of the AEA by DNC Chair Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and openly lying about the group by linking it to the..... Koch brothers....[horrors]... Talk about the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

Charles Krauthammer's Friday column doesn't address the judicial debate regarding Obamacare, the House's unanimous rejection of Obama's FY2013 budget, or the feckless energy policy of the Administration.  Instead, it's Obama's Flexibility Doctrine... you know - this...

Dr. Krauthammer opines -
It’s yet another accommodation to advance his cherished Russia “reset” policy.

Why? Hasn’t reset been failure enough?

Let’s do the accounting. In addition to canceling the Polish/Czech missile-defense system, Obama gave the Russians accession to the World Trade Organization, a START treaty that they need and we don’t (their weapons are obsolete and deteriorating rapidly), and a scandalously blind eye to their violations of human rights and dismantling of democracy. Obama even gave Putin a congratulatory call for winning his phony election.

In return? Russia consistently watered down or obstructed sanctions on Iran, completed Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr, provides to this day Bashar Assad with huge arms shipments used to massacre his own people (while rebuilding the Soviet-era naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus), conducted a virulently anti-American presidential campaign on behalf of Putin, pressured Eastern Europe, and threatened Georgia.

On which of “all these issues” — Syria, Iran, Eastern Europe, Georgia, human rights — is Obama ready to offer Putin yet more flexibility as soon as he gets past his last election? Where else will he show U.S. adversaries more flexibility? Yet more aid to North Korea? More weakening of tough Senate sanctions against Iran?

Which one? Unfortunately, the answer is probably all of the above. That is, after all one of the President's favorite answers when he isn't using 'I won'.

Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton was on Fox News earlier today taking issue with the Administration's policy of looking at Iran 'through the wrong end of the telescope'...

Ambassador Bolton is addressing the leak of classified information by an unnamed Administration official regarding a basing deal between Israel and Azerbaijan. It lets Iran know of something that Iran might not have known about and increases the risk to both Israel and Azerbaijan from Iran. It also highlights the contempt that the Administration has for Israel - and that it holds Israel in higher contempt than it does the self-described enemy of the 'Great Satan'.

Oh, and Israel is denying that they have a basing deal with Azerbaijan.

Of course in this Administration, very little gets done without a major political calculation around how it affects / reflects on Barack Obama and his agenda. For example - What happens if you ask someone in the State Department 'What is the capital of Israel?'
The State Department isn't sure whether Jerusalem is the capital city of the state of Israel. In fact, yesterday, spokesman Victor Nuland was asked, "What is the capital of Israel?" She would not say.

"Our policy with regard to Jerusalem is that it has to be solved through negotiations," Nuland responded, without answering the straightforward question. "That's all I have to say on this issue." The whole exchange is astonishing.

But if the State Department isn't sure, it need only to turn to the Central Intelligence Agency, which lists (in its publicly available Fact Book) Jerusalem as the capital of Israel...
Political nuance and expediency has apparently replaced principles.

The House of Representatives passes Rep. Paul Ryan's FY2013 budget by a 228 - 191 vote.  Every Democrat voted against the budget - as did 10 Republicans.  Of the Republicans some voted against the bill because they felt it did not go far enough in cutting spending and deficits.  But a few, like Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, who is running for Senate his year, voted against it because Ryan's plan reforms Medicare to address it's financial death spiral.  He's afraid that fixing Medicare would be a black mark on him with senior voters in Montana...and prefers to embrace the status quo.  Speaking of the status quo - Senate Democrats again remind us that they will not bring any budget to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

MasterCard is reporting they've experienced a security breach on a massive scale - may involve more than 10 million compromised account numbers.  Visa is also reportedly affected.  Forensic reviews are underway to determine who is impacted - alerts have been sent to banks on the breach to mobilize them for review and notification of affected cardholders.

Canada has announced that they will be withdrawing the penny from circulation.  The coin costs more to manufacture than it is worth.  All cash transactions will be rounded to the nearest 5 cents to compensate.

As the Syrian Assad regime continues to ignore the cease fire provision in the UN Peace Plan they 'accepted' earlier this week, the Iranians are actively helping Syria avoid international sanctions placed on it to facilitate the shipment of Syrian oil to the People's Republic of China.

On This Day in History

1867 - US Secretary of State William Seward signs a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million.

1870 - The 15th Amendment to the US Constitution is adopted - 'The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.'

1909 - The Queensboro Bridge connection the NYC boroughs of Manhattan and Queens is completed.  It is the first double decker bridge.

1981 - President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest by John Hinckley, Jr.  Also shot and wounded is a police officer and Reagan Press Secretary James Brady. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quick Hits - March 29, 2012

Now that the three days of oral arguments at the Supreme Court over Obamacare are finished, the 9 justices will work towards making their decision which is expected in June.

Many liberal media outlets seem to be wringing their hands as they try to read the tea leaves that resulted from the three days of oral arguments.  As the Washington Post notes in their story summarizing the three days...
The Supreme Court’s skeptical consideration of President Obama’s landmark health-care legislation this week has forced his supporters to contemplate the unthinkable: that the justices could throw out the law and destroy the most far-reaching accomplishment of the Obama presidency.

The fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is uncertain. A ruling is not expected until June. White House officials are refusing publicly to consider that the law might be struck down or to discuss contingency plans, insisting that they do not address hypothetical questions.
Many liberals and progressives were apparently surprised by the depth and tone of the questions offered from the bench during the oral arguments - the, as the WaPo slyly notes, 'skeptical consideration', of the main issues around the legislation being addressed.

Liberal progressive columnist for the WaPo, EJ Dionne, decides that the best reaction is to attack the conservative justices in the SCOTUS.  Dionne contends that the tough questions offered by these jurists only demonstrate the utter contempt that they have for democracy.  That they have to offer 'weird hypotheticals' in their efforts to attack the individual mandate which has the government forcing citizens to purchase a specific product.  How dare they question something that was passed by Congress to achieve a greater good, implies Dionne?

Given much of their questioning was based around the examination of the key contested points of the legislation around the US Constitution - Dionne seems to want to evade the legal / constitutional aspects of this and like Justice Sotomayor, focus the argument based on a greater good and empathy.  Clearly, he doesn't understand of believe in the concept defined in the US Constitution of a limited government.

Then there is the vapid argument around contempt towards democracy because Congress passed this bill.  Remember how it was passed?  Bribes were given to gain critical support.  Despite a supermajority in both the House and the Senate, without any Republican support, the bill had to be slammed through the Senate via an unprecedented and creative use of reconciliation and just squeaked through the House only after so called 'pro-life' democrats decided ideology was more important than principles.

The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost has a good rundown asking the left, why was the questioning a surprise?
The attitude of President Obama (a former con law lecturer at the University of Chicago, no less!), Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid was very much that they are doing big, important things to help the American people, why wouldn’t that be constitutional? No less an important Democratic leader as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee cited the (nonexistent) “good and welfare clause” to justify the mandate.

Having no intellectual sympathy for the conservative criticism of this view, they rarely encountered it on the news programs they watch, the newspapers they read every day, or the journals they peruse over the weekends. Instead, they encountered a steady drumbeat of fellow liberals echoing Kagan’s attitude: it’s a boatload of money, what the heck is the problem?

Then, insofar as they encountered conservative pushback, they mostly ignored it.

They mostly ignored the cases from the 1990s – namely Morrison and Lopez – where the Supreme Court put limits on what Congress could do under the Commerce clause. Insofar as they did pay attention to these cases, it was only to insist that they did not apply to Obamacare. They never stopped to think that maybe the lesson of Morrison and Lopez is that the conservatives on the Court took seriously the idea of enumerated (and therefore limited) powers, and so maybe a novel device like an individual mandate would not be a slam dunk for a Court that now has a 5-4 conservative bent.

A number of the left seem to be holding Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to blame for the problems they believe they are facing with what they fear is the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate and the striking down of the entire bill. One talking head said that it's never a good reflection on one's case or lawyer when one has to almost immediately release a statement supporting one's lawyer while the case is still underway. But the Wall Street Journal offers this observation and defense of the Solicitor General...
Liberals castigated his performance during oral arguments Tuesday and all but blamed him for any ObamaCare defeat.

Mr. Verrilli may not be Daniel Webster, but he was more than competent. The problem isn't that he's a bad lawyer, it's that he is defending a bad law with the bad arguments that are the best the Administration could muster. Liberal Justices such as Sonia Sotomayor all but begged him to define a limiting principle on the individual mandate and therefore on federal power. He couldn't—not because he didn't know someone would ask but because such a principle does not exist.

Mr. Verrilli came closest to a limiting principle—and got some sympathy from Justice Kennedy—when he claimed that everyone will use health care at some point in their lives, so what's the big deal with making young people pay more earlier?

This is power without limit, which is not what the Constitution provides, or what its framers intended, or what the Supreme Court has ever tolerated. That is why this week's arguments have been so careful, why they have revised the establishment's thinking, and why they are so important for the future of American liberty.

And this is why the progressive left is upset and worried. They've now seen a real sign that their desire to expand the power and reach of government stands a very real chance of being repudiated in favor of limited government - just as it is defined in the US Constitution.

This morning President Obama took to podium at the WH, surrounded by another group of props people, to push for Congress to eliminate about $4 billion in tax credits available to the oil / gas industry while also calling for more billions to be directed towards green energy companies like the late Solyndra.

Appearing on FNC, Eric Boling of Fox Business and 'The Five', noted that in the speech that contained the usual canards from the President on this topic, that the President is either grossly misinformed or deliberately lying to the American people.

Fundamentally, the President is asking Congress to eliminate tax credit used by the oil / gas companies to encourage their investment in new drilling / new technologies related to increasing their production - which allows those companies to keep more of their money - and replace it with a program that takes taxpayer funds and give them to favored companies of the Administration.  This isn't an all of the above mode of approach -

- in that it only focuses on the two modes that President Obama understands - higher taxes (on the oil / gas companies) and higher spending (for his favorite green companies).

In the House of Representatives late last night, a rare case of bipartianship was embraced when the House took votes regarding the Fiscal Year 2013 budget to take effect on October 1, 2012.  President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget received the highest level of bipartisan support as the House voted the budget down 414 - 0. 

Yes, that's right.  Not one member of the House supported the President's budget.

The House also took up the issue of a budget offered for consideration by the Congressional Black Caucus which added billions in additional taxes well above those included in the President's budget proposal.  This budget was defeated 314-107.

For the first time since it was introduced two years ago by the Deficit Reduction Commission established by President Obama and co-led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the House also held a vote on the a budget built from the recommendations of the Bowles Simpson Commission.  This budget was defeated by a 382 -38 margin.

Later today, the House will likely hold a vote on the GOP budget proposal developed by Paul Ryan - which is expected to pass.  However, this is as likely as far as that proposal will go.  The Democrat controlled Senate, which has not passed a budget for 1,065 days, has announced that they have no intent to bring a budget to the floor for a vote this year.

Parents of two British students who were executed by a 17 year old African American teenager in Orlando are taking the President to task for his lack of compassion and interest in the fate of their sons during a visit to Orlando.  After a night of drinking, they got lost and were accosted by the teenager in an area of town noted for its crime.  After learning that the students didn't have enough money - the teenager shot them both to death.  He's been convicted of the murders, sentenced to life in prison, but there is no outrage over the senseless murder of these two.  The families said President Obama ignored 3 letters they sent him - and that they were ignored because it basically doesn't fit the narrative that the President endorses.  The Trayvon Martin case, however, does fit.

In a rare case of asking the right question and ignoring ideology, one of the race baiting members of the Congressional Black Caucus was asked - 'What if Trayvon wasn't black?'

Steven Haywood, writing on Powerline, notes that this March has to be a month that the progressive left cannot wait to end....and summarizes the 'terrible, very bad month' that it has been...

Starting with Sandra Fluke kerfuffle to misdirect on the assault on religious freedom which led to the demands to drive Rush Limbaugh from the airwaves via an advertiser boycott - we've gotten a major bust on the Limbaugh boycott (he's gaining listeners and advertisers) and trouble for Bill Maher and others over their comments against conservative women which has highlighted the double standard on misogyny.  The political theater of a conservative war on women is still being pushed - but has little credibility in Middle America...

...Then there are the soaring gas prices - which have increased over the last 20 consecutive days - which are driving the President's poll numbers down, putting the Administration and Obama Campaign on the defensive, highlighting the feckless policies of the Administration which are anti-business and anti-fossil fuel, and remind us once again of the crony capitalism around the policies towards crony capitalism like Solyndra.  We're given the laughable theater of the President telling us drilling will not solve the problem while approving the bottom half of a pipeline that didn't need Presidential approvals to move more oil to refineries.

As this takes place the post-racial Presidency gets involved in the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the racial lynch mob effort towards George Zimmerman.  We're reminded of his narcissism as he has to personalize the case by saying if he had a son, he might look like Trayvon - while ignoring not only the far more massive scale of black on black violent crime.

Then we have the 'whisper gaffe' to Russian President Medvedev..

which not only telegraphs what he intends to do in a second term when he has less accountability, but also continues his narcissistic tendencies as the November election is 'my election'....

Then the month wraps up with the three days of oral arguments over the key provisions of Obamacare before the SCOTUS...arguments that one very liberal pundit first termed a 'train wreck' before upgrading it to a 'plane wreck' just before the House of Representatives in a strong embracement of bipartisanships utterly reject (414-0) his proposed budget for the Federal Government.

Not a good month, eh?

Edith O'Brien, the former MF Global assistant treasurer, who is believed to know some of the secrets behind the missing $1.6 billion in client funds that disappeared as the firm collapsed, took the 5th when questioned by House lawmakers yesterday.  She was asked 2 questions and after taking the 5th on both, she was dismissed from her testimony.  O'Brien is one of the key focal points - Jon Corzine fingered her in his December testimony as assuring him a nearly $200 million transfer to settle a London overdraft in the last days of the firm was legitimate.  However, O'Brien also wrote an email that the customer funds were transferred at the request of Jon Corzine - who denied ordering any transfers of customer funds.

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney received one significant endorsement last night when Florida Senator Marco Rubio endorsed him - and later today is scheduled to receive the endorsement of former President George H.W. Bush.

Meanwhile, here's one of the latest email fundraising requests made on behalf of the President's campaign...

Hmm, let's donate $3 to President Obama's reelection because he's staying up late for us...


The Eurocrisis remains unresolved - a 24 hour general strike is taking place today in Spain to protest the austerity measures being taken by the government to reduce their debt and deficits.  Demonstrators and police are clashing in cities like Barcelona and Valencia - but in other cities there is little real effect.

Like in Greece, these protests seem to be led by the hard left political parties, unions, and groups.  Writes one reader of the UK's Guardian newspaper who has lived in Spain since 1993 -
I have worked with politicians, journalists, factory workers, public prosecutors and police, among others, and most agree that changes are needed. Rajoy's People's Party knows that if they don't introduce these changes and cutbacks they will be imposed upon them from Brussels sooner or later.

A mentality change is required here. 'Adapt or die' would seem like an appropriate term to use. For example, the 'job for life' [Spain has four million civil servants] is a ridiculous concept and one that MUST change in order to increase the country's competitiveness and move on.
Some interesting developments underway with regards to Iran.....

US officials are reporting today that Israel and Azerbaijan have reached an agreement which would allow the IDF to use military basis in Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijan is one of the countries on the northern border of Iran - and if the IDF stages military aircraft here - they can strike Iranian nuclear facilities without the need to midair refueling.

Also, as demonstrated by this Naval Deployment update by Stratfor showing the location / area of operation of USN Carrier Groups....

....the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is about to transit the Suez Canal - and within days will be on station in the Arabian Sea off the Iranian coast.  Also operating in the Arabian Sea / Persian Gulf are 2 other Carrier Groups - giving us 3 carriers in close proximity to Iran.

On This Day in History

1867 - British Parliament passes the British North America Act which establishes the Dominion of Canada.  The Act takes effect on July 1st - now celebrated as Canada Day.

1945 - General George Patton's 3rd Army captures the German city of Frankfurt

1951 - Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union during and after WW2.

1973 - Two months after signing the Paris Peace Accords, the last US combat troops leave South Vietnam.

1999 - Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 10,000 for the first time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick Hits - March 28, 2012

Today is the third and final day of oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States regarding Obamacare.  In today's split session, the first hour will be spent in oral arguments on the severability of the individual mandate from the rest of the bill.  The second hour will focus on arguments over the Medicaid expansion and whether the federal government may rely on its spending power to force / coerce states to do what the federal government asks.  The other issue related is from the viewpoint of the states and if the expansion of the Medicaid program (a joint Federal / State program) forces the states to carry out federal imperatives without an ability to opt out.

As this post is being written, the first session has been completed.  SCOTUSblog notes in their quick summary of the session....
The Court is really struggling with severability. Generally speaking, the more conservative the member the more likely they were to believe that more would have to be invalidated. Justice Scalia would strike down the entire Act. Most likely would be guarantee issue, community rating and some other pieces essential to keeping insurance prices low. Tea leaves suggested that Justice Kennedy would vote to invalidate the mandate but nothing super-clear.
During the questioning process, even the liberal justices had significant questions regarding the determination of which parts of the 2700 page bill should / could be kept in place in the event the individual mandate failed the constitutionality test.  This was an extremely complex bill that was pretty much unread when it was passed, punted many levels of regulatory authority to the HHS to determine and define, and something that was noted would be next to impossible for the justices to try to define the real intent of the Congress - or if it should given how it was passed without any bipartisan support and by the minimum number of votes needed.

Another major point that raised questions towards trying to maintain part of the bill was Congressional findings warning about a potential financial death spiral for insurers that would result from the bill's provisions that barred excluding pre-existing conditions or adverse risk pricing.  Without a sufficiently sized risk pool - those with pre-existing conditions would bankrupt insurers.

But most interesting were the comments by some of the pundits - in particular CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin who yesterday called the arguments around the individual mandate a 'train wreck for the Obama Administration.  Hat tip to Hot Air for this video / transcript....

CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin: “This still looks like a train wreck for the Obama Administration, and it may also be a plane wreck. This entire law is now in serious trouble. It also seems that the individual mandate is doomed. I mean, Anthony Kennedy spent much of this morning talking about if we strike down the individual mandate, how should we handle the rest of the law? Now, it is less clear that they are going to strike down the whole law. There does seem to be some controversy in the court about that. Certainly there are some members of the court, Antonin Scalia, Justice Alito, who want to strike down the entire law, but it seemed almost a foregone conclusion today that they were going to strike down the individual mandate, and the only question is does the whole law go out the window with it?”

Whitfield: “Oh, my goodness. Okay, so I have got about 20 seconds or so left. How might this impact arguments later on this afternoon, Jeff?”

Toobin: “Well, it’s hard to imagine how things could be going much worse for the Obama Administration, but now they’re going to be dealing with the Medicaid portion, and they may decide to get rid of that as well.”

From train wreck to plane wreck...and this from a liberal commentator who has been a cheerleader for the President and his agenda from the start on a network that has been a cheerleader for the President and his agenda from the start.

The Bench Memo Blog on National Review Online looks back at yesterday's oral arguments (as Toobin defined it - a 'train wreck') and the commentary / observations regarding the performance of Solicitor General Donal Verrilli who struggled significantly.  In particular, many of the left leaning media elements are focusing on the poor job done by the Solicitor General in their summaries of yesterday's argument - noting that some of the liberal justices on the court had to come to his assistance to help defend the individual mandate.

It's very possible that the Solicitor General did have a bad or off day - but was the challenges around yesterday's oral arguments less related to the performance of the SG and more related to the individual mandate and its constitutionality?  The challenges to defend something as being constitutional when it clearly runs against the concept of limited government power as established by the US Constitution have to be daunting particularly if the viewpoint is based on the US Constitution and not a progressive ideological vision.

While Justice Kennedy remains the swing vote on the key decision point of the individual mandate, I am more confident that the mandate will be found unconstitutional because of the way it fundamentally readjusts the relationship between the people and the federal government / limited government as defined by the Constitution.  I would be very surprised if he found that the health insurance market was so unique that it would require a step like the individual mandate to be taken - and that would really open a slippery slope

My take on this mornings argument is that if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional, the SCOTUS will basically toss the entire bill and have Congress take another run at addressing the challenges we face regarding healthcare

Wisconsin is not the only major battleground between the need to reform education combined with establishing fiscal reforms in order to repair the damage being done by greedy and out of control public sector unions.  Wisconsin is one of the main fronts as the progressive left Democrats and their public sector union allies (Teachers Union / SEIU / etc) have forced a recall election of Governor Walker and several leading Republican officials to undo the legislation Wisconsin passed which reduced the power of those public sector unions and eliminated their ability to soak the taxpayer.  Since the legislation many school districts in Wisconsin that were in dire financial straits have been able to reverse from deficits to surpluses - at the expense of not teachers or students - but at the expense of union coffers.

Louisiana is a new battleground for this fight to reign in the greedy teachers unions - and those union workers and officials are seeking to do the same in that state as they've done in Wisconsin - recall Governor Bobby Jindal over his support for real education reform.  In response to legislation being pushed in Louisiana's legislature to undertake real education reform with a focus on improving education and the learning of students, Louisiana's teachers union and teachers marched on Baton Rouge. Hot Air's Tina Korbe summarizes this very well...
Louisiana teachers took the day off today to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform plan, which would make changes to teacher tenure, restructure teacher compensation to reward performance and enable low-income students to use vouchers to leave underperforming schools to attend private or charter schools.

It was a cornily themed protest: Teachers declared it “the funeral for real education reform” and even toted along a mock coffin. Intimidating. They hoped for “real reform,” they wrote in a release, “but the policies proposed and the legislative process thus far is proving fatal.”

At least they’re out in the open about their flagrant disregard for the legislative process. Their proposed alternative to it? An election to recall the governor! Have they not seen what a catalyst for cross-country conservative activism Scott Walker has become? Eh, well, if they want to grow the conservative movement, I’m cool with that.

But the children. No, seriously, what about the children? This is the second time this month that Louisiana teachers have canceled class to attempt to, er, put the nail in the coffin of the legislative process.
As in virtually every other state, the interests of the Teachers unions are not focused on their students - but on their own power, wealth, and greed.  To them, as we saw in Wisconsin, the children are only props to be used to promote their own power, wealth, and greed.

The family of Treyvon Martin met yesterday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Capital Hill.  Unsurprisingly, this turned into just another circus around race baiting.   The commentary from the various members of the CBC were all along the same vein - that racial profiling / the racism of George Zimmerman and lax gun laws directly contributed to the death last month of Treyvon Martin - and demanding Zimmerman's immediate arrest.

Left unsaid by these race baiters is any real interest towards letting the investigative and judicial process continue - particularly as witnesses are substantiating much of Zimmerman's statement to the police after the incident as also do the injuries that Zimmerman suffered when attacked by Martin.

Reports are coming out that the 6 foot 2 inch Treyvon Martin has had some run-ins with his school (multiple suspensions) and questions about possible criminal behavior in his past.  The response of the race baiters and family members is to try to call this fact finding an effort to denigrate Martin's reputation and immaterial to his death - but with witnesses and the injuries suffered by Zimmerman seem to support that Martin attacked Zimmerman as opposed to Zimmerman 'hunting' Martin down...

Fundamentally, one would think that the Congressional Black Caucus would be more focused on the not only the black on black crimes that take place in far greater numbers than white on black crime (or black on white crime for that matter) but also on the conditions that have been created and fostered within the black community resulting from the liberal progressive policies that they regularly advocate.  Racism did make Detroit broke - neither did billions of dollars it's received from the federal or state government. 

The actions of these members of the CBC, and other race baiters like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Spike Lee are doing far more to promote racism and the racial divide than eliminate it.  Oh, and while I am at it, let's not give the majority of the mainstream media a pass for their irresponsible actions - like using old pictures of both Martin / Zimmerman to promote their meme or repeating the same mistakes they made in the Duke lacrosse case.

Speaking of Spike Lee - this pinhead reportedly retweets the 'home address' of George Zimmerman in an effort to increase the pressure on him (promoting vigilantism?) over the Treyvon Martin tragedy.  However, it's not the correct address - and an elderly couple living at that address has been forced to flee their home.  Nice guy, eh?

Gasoline prices are continuing to soar across the United States with the national average price now over $3.90 per gallon.  A dozen states have their average price over $4 per gallon - including here in California were we are paying $4.50 locally and over $5 in Los Angeles.  Fed Chair Ben Bernanke says that gas prices are likely to go up at least through July in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

I fully expect to see $5 per gallon prices by Independence Day locally - caused by not only the Obama Administration's anti-fossil fuel agenda, but also the weak US dollar and inflation we are experiencing due to the feckless fiscal policies of the Obama Administration.

The campaign rhetoric of Barack Obama also is doing little to address the challenges around the soaring prices either.  The rhetoric, 180 degrees from that promoted by the President and his Administration over much of the last 3 / 4 years (including the 2008 campaign), offers nothing more than lies designed to obfuscate the culpability of the Administration with the increase in prices from $1.84 per gallon on inauguration day to today's level of $3.90 per gallon.

Three Republican Senators are calling President Obama and his Administration officials on their energy lies and misrepresentations in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar which highlights the anti-fossil fuel agenda.

In addition, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has also posted on its website a complete run down between the 'myths' being advocated by President Obama, Secretary Salazar, and Secretary Chu with factual information correcting these 'myths'.
Myth: Regulatory costs are a minimal part of the price of gasoline.

Fact: The Environmental Protection Agency imposes two kinds of regulations impacting motor fuels – measures that seek to reduce emissions from refineries and those specifying the recipe for gasoline. Rather than trying to reduce the cost of existing regulations, EPA is considering adding more of them, such as New Source Performance Standards targeting greenhouse gas emissions from refineries and new Tier 3 regulations mandating ultra-low sulfur gasoline. The cost of current and anticipated future regulations has also contributed to several recent domestic refinery closures.

Myth: EPA’s fuel economy regulations for new cars and trucks are a solution to high gas prices.

Fact: These rules provide no relief until you buy a new vehicle, and are not a substitute for taking steps to reduce gas prices. Further, the higher sticker price resulting from these rules – up to $1,000 by 2016 and $3,000 by 2025 according to EPA, and higher according to outside estimates – raise questions about how many consumers will benefit from them.

Myth: Increased supplies will not bring down prices for years to come.

Fact: The price of oil is not just determined by current supply and demand indicators. It is also set by future expectations of supply. For example, the day President Bush lifted the executive moratorium on the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, the price of oil dropped $9.26. And prices continued to decline when the Congressional moratorium was lifted. Changes in government policy have significant effects on price, but unfortunately, all signs coming from the Obama administration have assisted in driving up gasoline costs.

One of the main justifications by the Obama Administration towards their anti-fossil fuel policies is that this is needed to address climate change / global warming and specifically the greenhouse effect of CO2 that is being driven not by science but ideological interests which have subverted science to make the case that action is needed.

We are often being told that temperatures are at and rising at an unprecedented and dangerous level - with severe repercussions for everyone. But when others point out the data that the Medieval warming period had even warmer temperatures than we are seeing today - we're told that the information is inconclusive and at best just a short term localized condition.

Scientists have now determined that not only did the Medieval warming period did exist, but that it was global - not just in Europe.
A team of scientists led by geochemist Zunli Lu from Syracuse University in New York state, has found that contrary to the ‘consensus’, the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago wasn’t just confined to Europe.

In fact, it extended all the way down to Antarctica – which means that the Earth has already experience global warming without the aid of human CO2 emissions.

We've discussed in several of the last editions of QH the signs of desperation and implosion taking place in not only Newt Gingrich's GOP Presidential campaign, but also that of Rick Santorum's campaign.  This will not be getting any better for Rick Santorum as a recent poll in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania shows that his support is cratering.  In the last month, Santorum has seen his support fall 13 points - now placing him in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney.  He's also trailing Romney by double digits (10.5%) in the RealClearPolitics average in the other critical state - Wisconsin.

If Santorum loses both - he's done.
Some people seem surprised that despite the verbal acceptance of a UN peace plan for Syria that includes a commitment for a cease fire by the Assad regime, Syrian military units are continuing their use of heavy weapons (artillery, tanks, and helicopter gunships) against opposition areas in a number of towns and cities across Syria.  These 'opposition areas' are civilian neighborhoods in these towns and cities. Given the actions of the Assad regime in the past, why is this a surprise?  The regime is directly responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the last month (9,000 in the last year) - and their only interest is to maintain their power.

On This Day in History

1774 - The British Parliament adopts the last of the Coercive Acts - a series of acts intended to punish colonists in Boston, Massachusetts for their actions (including the Boston Tea Party) against the Crown, restore order in Massachusetts, and separate New England from the other colonies.  However, these acts served as stimulus to unify the colonial resistance to British rule without representation - as evidence by the move to create the first Continental Congress in September 1774.

1898 - The Supreme Court of the US ruled that a child born in the US to Chinese immigrants was a US citizen - and therefore not subject to deportation under the Chinese Exclusion Act.

1939 - The Republican defenders of the Spanish capital of Madrid surrendered the city to the Nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco - ending the Spanish Civil War.

1979 - The worst accident in the history of the US nuclear power industry begins when a pressure valve in the Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island fails to close causing a massive coolant loss and the reactor core to dangerously overheat.  The reactor came within less than an hour of a complete meltdown - and over half of the reactor was destroyed by the partial meltdown.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quick Hits - March 26 & 27, 2012

Unable to get the QH done for yesterday, so today we'll have a double post...

As I write this, two of the three days of oral arguments regarding Obamacare have been completed.  Yesterday, the primary question being addressed was if it was premature for the SCOTUS to consider the constitutionality of the individual mandate because the mandate has not taken effect yet (it goes into effect in 2014) and no person has been forced by the government to pay a penalty for their failure to acquire health insurance.

The SCOTUS appeared skeptical that the argument around the 1876 Anti-Injunction Act made any decision premature during their questioning of the attorney's.  One of the biggest issues around the Anti-Injunction Act is that it prevents judicial action being taken towards taxes before the tax is collected.   This opens an interesting double standard around the government's case - because the Justice Department is going to argue that one of the reasons the individual mandate is constitutional comes from the power of the Congress to levy taxes.
But in urging that the justices should not postpone a decision until the mandate takes effect, sometime after 2014, the administration has had to argue that the mandate is not a tax.

Justice Samuel Alito raised the issue as Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. argued Monday that the fine is a not a tax.

“Tomorrow you’re going to be back, and you’re going to be arguing that the penalty is a tax,” Alito said.
The National Review noted the following on Monday's arguments...
With the exception of Justice Breyer, and possibly Justice Sotomayor, the justices all were skeptical that the AIA is jurisdictional. And if the AIA is not jurisdictional, the government can waive it, as it has here, or the Court can find exceptions to the rule, which would be likely in this case.

The justices also didn’t seem impressed by the administration’s contortionist act, attempting to brand the individual mandate’s penalty as not a tax today, but a tax tomorrow. Justice Breyer even caught Solicitor General Verrilli in a slip of tongue, calling it a tax, triggering laughter.

The general consensus is leading towards the fact that the SCOTUS will likely not to punt on ruling on the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

One of the best sources of information and analysis for the happenings around the Supreme Court is the blog, SCOTUSblog.  Based on their information from today's argument, it does not appear as if the government had a very good day.
Based on the questions posed to Paul Clement, the lead attorney for the state challengers to the individual mandate, it appears that the mandate is in trouble. It is not clear whether it will be struck down, but the questions that the conservative Justices posed to Clement were not nearly as pressing as the ones they asked to Solicitor General Verrilli....

Perhaps the most interesting point to emerge so far is that Justice Kennedy’s questions suggest that he believes that the mandate has profound implications for individual liberty: he asked multiple times whether the mandate fundamentally changes the relationship between the government and individuals, so that it must surpass a special burden.

The expectation going into the SCOTUS taking up the case was that the 4 progressive justices (Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagan) would be standing to support the constitutionality of the individual mandate while the 4 conservative justices (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito) would likely be leaning towards ruling the mandate unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote, was seen as the critical swing vote for this decision. SCOTUSblog notes this in their argument recap that he will be the deciding vote...
If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy can locate a limiting principle in the federal government’s defense of the new individual health insurance mandate, or can think of one on his own, the mandate may well survive. If he does, he may take Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., along with him. But if he does not, the mandate is gone. That is where Tuesday’s argument wound up — with Kennedy, after first displaying a very deep skepticism, leaving the impression that he might yet be the mandate’s savior.

If the vote had been taken after Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., stepped back from the lectern after the first 56 minutes, and the audience stood up for a mid-argument stretch, the chances were that the most significant feature of the Affordable Care Act would have perished in Kennedy’s concern that it just might alter the fundamental relationship between the American people and their government. But after two arguments by lawyers for the challengers — forceful and creative though they were — at least doubt had set in. and expecting the demise of the mandate seemed decidedly premature.
I think (and hope) that Kennedy's concern that the individual mandate 'just might alter the fundamental relationship between the American people and their government' is the position that ultimately wins out in his deliberations.  If not, then America will be fundamentally changed - and not for the better.

In a meeting with outgoing Russian President Medvedev, President Barack Obama committed yet another major gaffe with an open microphone - and this was far worse the denigrating contempt he showed the Israeli Prime Minister in a conversation with the President of France.

In a discussion that was addressing the US missile defense system deployment in Eastern Europe and the Russian strong objections to the the system, during a brief break, the President is caught on an open mic, whispering to the Russian President that he is looking for the Russian President to 'give me space' on missile defense, noting - 'This is my last election...' and 'After my election, I have flexibility'.

Russia, despite the President's previous efforts towards 'resetting the relationship', is not a friend of the United States. Russia opposes us on all fronts. They will sell arms and military materials to anyone willing to pay them - and are openly supporting some of the most anti-American / anti-West regimes like Iran and Syria. They are sending not only arms, but also troops to assist the Syrian dictator brutally put down groups trying to oust Assad. They are providing key and critical services and materials to assist the Iranian nuclear program...which would not exist in the present form without the Russian aid.

The comments also telegraph to a large extent how Obama views this November's election and how he intends to rule if he wins a second term. Without the need to run for another election, we can be certain that he will demonstrate even more contempt and arrogance towards the Constitution and American people in order to enact his hard progressive left agenda. To him, the ends will justifies the means - so he will continue to ignore Congress and direct the government as he as using executive orders and the regulatory powers of the executive branch. That arrogance and contempt should frighten every American.

Today, President Obama is trying to defend his statements captured on the open microphone by saying that they were nothing more than just another version of his public statements - but as noted....
“If O was just stating the ‘obvious’ when he asked Russia for space until Flexibility Day, why did he need to whisper it??” tweeted Ari Fleischer, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush.

A former chapter president for the NAACP has stepped forward to accuse Jesse Jackson and Al Sharton of 'exploiting' the Trayvon Martin tragedy to 'racially divide the country'...
“His family should be outraged at the fact that they’re using this child as the bait to inflame racial passions,” Rev. C.L. Bryant said in a Monday interview with The Daily Caller.

The conservative black pastor who was once the chapter president of the Garland, Texas NAACP called Jackson and Sharpton “race hustlers” and said they are “acting as though they are buzzards circling the carcass of this young boy.”

Victor Davis Hanson writes in his latest PJ Media column that we need to 'Beware the Mob' - and addresses the following regarding Trayvon Martin and President Obama's comments about the case..
The Trayvon Martin tragedy is not over. We do not know all the facts; bad judgment, racism, and ill-intent may well have led to manslaughter or even second-degree murder or, then again, in theory, self-defense, but to speculate about any such charges without evidence is to become mob-like. My own view is that carrying a weapon requires greater forbearance, but I was not there and still have no idea what transpired. As I write this, the account will be out-of-date by tomorrow’s disclosures. What we are left with are no rules of national anguish: When ten African-Americans are murdered by other African-Americans in a single weekend, is it news or not news? When the occasional African-American murders a white person, as in a recent car-jacking, is it a sign of something the nation must note? When an Hispanic shoots an African-American, is it news to the degree he has a European name, but had he been Jorge Martinez with an Anglo mother, it would not have been news?

The role of a president is to rein in the mob, not to unleash it. The latter is what community organizers do; the former is what makes statesmen. Yet on issue after issue — anti-terrorism, global warming, government ethics, and racial relations — a frenzied mob, egged on by the media and demagogues like Barack Obama, have almost stormed the jail, only to dissipate when met by either evidence, or the knowledge that the incarcerated was one of their own — as if they had never screamed and threatened in the first place.
Unfortunately, the media and certain elements continue to press the meme that was started regarding the death of Trayvon Martin - pretty much identical to the rush to judgement done regarding the Duke lacrosse case. As in that case, new information is coming out that is starting to confirm elements of George Zimmerman's statement to the police. Martin's family calls the comments about the investigation into their son's behavior - including possible linkages to burglaries - as efforts to smear their son's reputation as opposed to pushing for justice. But isn't the search for the facts about what really happened integral to justice?

Of course if there was also some consistency in the search for justice, we would also be seeing outrage within the African-American community and steps being taken by that community to stop the level of violence being done on the members of that community by other African-Americans...or how about joining in wanting to investigate why leaders in our government decided to provide weaponry to drug cartels which resulted in hundreds of innocent deaths?

With the Obama Administration being unable to get Cap and Trade legislation through Congress during their 2009/10 supermajorities, the Administration has taken to implementing major aspects of Cap and Trade / Global Warming agenda via the regulatory powers of the Executive Branch.  Today, the Environmental Protection Agency is issuing new rules that are specifically attacking coal fired power plants across the country.  The new rules reduce by half the allowable CO2 emissions from all power plants - which will primarily impact coal plants.

These regulations are basically outlawing the construction of any new coal fueled electrical power plants in the US - despite our abundances of coal.  Older plants are going to be forced to close, taking their capacity off the grid.  Other plants will be forced to spend billions in order to accommodate the new regulations.  Of course, this also means that for the consumer, their electricity rates will soar with estimates in the 19% - 25% range.

This isn't new.  After all the President noted during the 2008 campaign that he sees no problem with skyrocketing electricity rates because of the need regarding climate change...

But what about the fact that 'climate change' is less about climate and far more about a political ideological agenda? From today's Wall Street Journal...
The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned. The burning of fossil fuels has been one reason for an increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere to around 395 ppm (or parts per million), up from preindustrial levels of about 280 ppm.

CO2 is not a pollutant. Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.

The direct warming due to doubling CO2 levels in the atmosphere can be calculated to cause a warming of about one degree Celsius. The IPCC computer models predict a much larger warming, three degrees Celsius or even more, because they assume changes in water vapor or clouds that supposedly amplify the direct warming from CO2. Many lines of observational evidence suggest that this "positive feedback" also has been greatly exaggerated.
House Democrats and the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have released their 2013 budget to stand in contrast with the budget released last week by the House Republicans and Representative Paul Ryan, Chair of the House Budget Committee.
In this budget, they embrace the same fiscal irresponsibility as President Obama did in his proposed FY2013 budget - adding $6 trillion of deficit spending over the next decade, only $400 billion less than the President proposed doing.  The CPC budget also provides tens of billions of additional 'stimulus' spending towards job growth that we saw in the failed 2009 stimulus bill and completely ignores any Medicare or other entitlement reforms.

The latter is also particularly irresponsible as the growth of these entitlements are some of the biggest contributions to our growing fiscal challenges and ignoring them cements us to the road of fiscal disaster.

Also embraced is the 'Buffet Rule' as a major step to reduce deficits - even though the rule will only add about $30 billion in new revenues to address deficits of more than $1 trillion.  In fact, most of the savings being touted in this budget come from the ending of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq - savings of monies that weren't going to be spent anyhow.

But left unsaid in The Hill's article about the House Democrat's budget was this budget also proposes a 40% income tax hike on not only the wealthy - but also on the middle class to try to lessen the gap between revenues and spending.
The “Budget for All” contains just about every sort of tax increase imaginable. It would, of course, allow the top-end Bush tax cuts to expire, as well as create five new tax brackets — 45%, 46%, 47%, 48%, and 49% — for “millionaires and billionaires.” In addition, House liberals would break new ground by slapping a European-style wealth tax of 0.5% on fortunes of $10 million or more. The plan also contains a bank tax and a financial transaction tax.

But it’s not just the wealthy and bankers who would get pinched. These Democrats would also raise income taxes on the broad middle. The CPC plan would “allow the 28% and 25% brackets to sunset once the economy is on solid footing, in 2017 and 2019, respectively.” That means higher taxes on families making over $70,000 a year — a big, fat, middle-class tax hike. And some of those families would also be paying more for energy thanks to the carbon tax that’s also in the CPC plan.

Amazing, these progressive Democrats don’t think all those tax hikes will hurt economic growth. Not one bit. Why? First, it’s now the liberal economic consensus that tax rates below 70-80% don’t hurt growth. Second, even if those tax hikes unexpectedly did trim growth a smidgen, they would be more than offset by a new $2 trillion stimulus plan full of such supposedly pro-growth measures as clean energy tax credits, advanced manufacturing tax credits, and a “Child Care Corps.”

Governor Moonbeam in California has earned a new nickname - Governor 13.3%.  In a deal with California's leading public sector unions, the Governor has agreed to combine his tax increase proposition proposed for November's election with those advocated by the public sector unions into a new proposition that proposes a 7 year increase on sales and incomes taxes that will bring the top income tax rate to 13.3% and raise $9 billion in additional revenues to help bridge the annual > $15 billion deficits the state is experiencing - and will experience for the next 3-4 years...
Mr. Brown expects about $9 billion in added revenue, up from $7 billion in his first package. But the state Legislative Analyst's Office has already told Mr. Brown that he's hallucinating to think he can get that much money from a corner of the taxpayer base.

The top 1% in California pay between one third and half of all state income tax revenues, depending on the condition of the economy. California already has the fourth highest income tax in the nation, behind Hawaii and Oregon at 11% and New York City at nearly 13%. The national average for the top income tax rate is under 6%. Nine states have no income tax.

So for the privilege of living in California, a millionaire would pay close to $125,000 a year more in income tax than someone in Nevada, Texas or Florida. A Californian earning $10 million would pay an extra $1 million or more than if she moved to a state without an income tax, or nearly $500,000 than an average tax state.

Even Mr. Brown, in one of his saner moments earlier this year, said that relying on millionaires to pay the bills causes "more volatility" in revenue collections, which has meant "a more or less constant state" of deficits. He was right. Capital gains collections collapsed to $734 million in 2009-10 from $1.6 billion in the boom years. So why would Mr. Brown make that problem worse?

One of the last states to have a tax rate as high as California is proposing was Delaware in the 1970s. Its rate hit 19.8%. Then-Governor Pete du Pont cut the rate to 10.3% in 1979 and later to 5.95%, and after five years the state's revenues had nearly doubled and its credit rating went from the worst to one of the best.

None of these facts matter to Mr. Brown or his allies because the tax increase is simply about the political power to deliver money to the interests that live off government.

Tax and spend...

Speaking of irresponsible spending, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Las Vegas, has significant links to a company that is proposing to build a high speed rail link that will 'almost' connect Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The proposal is for a park and ride facility to be built near Interstate 15 (which links LA and LV) about 100 miles from Los Angeles and a high speed rail line connect that facility with Las Vegas. This company is apparently on the verge of getting a $4.9 billion dollar government loan to begin construction - all so people can go faster from LA to a city that a few years ago saw President Obama telling us not to waste our money in.

Sounds like another Solyndra...

On the GOP Presidential nomination fight, Rick Santorum has a 'Newt-tirade' at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny over the reporters alleged misrepresentations of the words of the GOP candidate.  The kerfuffle stems from the candidates description in a stump speech of opponent Mitt Romney 'as the worst possible Republican in the country to run against the President on healthcare' and stating Romneycare was the 'blueprint' for Obamacare.  When the NYT reporter asked Santorum if 'you think Mitt Romney is the worst Republican in the country?', Santorum went off on the reporter for misrepresenting his speech.

As much as there are elements of the mainstream media that do need to be berated - this looked more like a case of the pressure of the race and desperation getting to the candidate.

Rick Santorum needs 74% of the remaining GOP delegates to be awarded in order to defeat the current frontrunner, Mitt Romney, and win the GOP nomination.  This is an exceptionally tall order - particularly with the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric being directed at Mitt Romney by Santorum.  Just as Newt's desperation did more to drive away voters than bring them to his side, I believe Santorum is going down the same path.

Ironically, Rick Santorum says, 'Of course', I would serve as Mitt Romney's VP...

Another sign that Newt Gingrich is toast - the last of his embedded newspaper reporters have been withdrawn from covering his campaign.

This Day in History - March 26

1941 - Italian naval commandos attacked a British fleet in Suda Bay, Crete using 'Chariots' - manned torpedoes.  Commandos 'rode' the torpedoes to a position to attack the enemy ships, detach the torpedo from the transport which carried the commando, and use the transport to return to a waiting ship / submarine as the torpedo would hit it's target.  In this attack, the first of its kind, the cruiser HMS York was damaged so severely that she needed to be beached.

1953 - American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announces that he has successfully tested a vaccine against the virus that causes polio.

1979 - Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign a peace agreement ending three decades of hostilities between the two countries and establishing diplomatic and commercial ties.

This Day in History - March 27

1794 - US Congress authorizes the construction of 6 frigates - the first ships for a standing US Navy,  While the US Navy was established during the Revolutionary War, after the war, a standing navy was considered to be a luxury....with the maritime forces being represented by the US Revenue Cutter Service (the forerunner to the US Coast Guard).  The first 3 of these ships were on active duty in 1797 - USS United States, USS Constellation, and USS Constitution.

1865 - President Abraham Lincoln meets with General Grant and General Sherman at City Point, Virginia to plan the final stages of the Civil War - including Lincoln's request that any surrender terms offered to the Confederacy must preserve the Union aims of emancipation and a pledge of equality for the freed slaves.

1945 - Germans launch their last operational V2 missiles against civilian targets in Britain and Belgium from their last launching base which was located in the Netherlands.  The attacks killed 135 in Britain and another 60 in Belgium.  Allied forces soon afterwards would overrun the base in the Netherlands.

1958 - USSR First Secretary Nikita Khrushschev is named the Soviet Premier - replacing Nicolay Bulganin and becoming the first leader since Stalin to simultaneously hold both offices.

1977 - A Pan Am 747 and a KLM 747 collided on the runway at an airport on the Canary Island of Tenerife killing 582 passengers and crew members.  Only a few in the front 6 rows of the Pan Am jumbo jet survived it was struck while on the runway by the KLM jumbo jet as it attempted to take-off.