Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quick Hits - May 22, 2012

Still in catch up mode....

Formed in 1911, the NAACP was created to fight 'Jim Crow' and segregation, including the disenfranchisement of African Americans.  It was one of the organizations leading the fight to gain the civil rights victory in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954.  From that victory, it expanded its efforts which culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

[Side note - on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, only about 60% of Democrats voted for passage, while 80% of the Republicans voted for passage.  In the Senate, without the strong Republican support, the Act was in real trouble because of its opposition by southern Democrat segregationists.]

Unfortunately for an organization with a rich history based on principles as opposed to partisan politics, the modern day NAACP has moved fully to embrace partisan politics and advocating progressive policies.  This was placed on display on May 19th when the NAACP leaped to provided President Obama political cover on his 'evolution' regarding same-sex marriage, voting to support the President and calling same-sex marriage a civil right. 

By taking this step, however, the leadership of the NAACP seems out of step with their primary membership, as African-Americans have strongly opposed same-sex marriage.  Earlier this month in North Carolina, about 60% of the African-Americans casting ballots voted to support the state's ban on same-sex marriage.  In 2008, during the controversial California Proposition 8 vote, African-American voters opposing same-sex marriage made the difference in the passage of the proposition.

The leadership of the NAACP released the following statement...
"The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure the political, social and economic equality of all people," Roslyn M. Brock, the chairman of the NAACP's Board of Directors, said in a statement. “We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law."

Here's their mission statement / charter from 1911...
To promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage; and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for the children, employment according to their ability and complete equality before law.
The bar has moved from fighting caste or racial prejudice, securing justice in courts, and equal employment opportunities to 'social and economic equality'...a migration from the traditional value of equality of opportunity to desiring an equality in results as embraced by Marx and Engels.  I wonder, though, if they are looking to ensure economic equality, does that mean they support the 50% of Americans who don't pay any federal income taxes will have to start paying?  Or are they telling us that some are more equal than others?

Notre Dame University and over 40 other Catholic institutions have initiated a lawsuit against the Obama Administration over the HHS Obamacare contraception mandate which requires all organizations to provide, free of charge, contraceptive, sterilization, and abortifacient services and products to those covered on their health insurance policies regardless of any moral or religious objections they have towards those products and services.  The institutions say in their lawsuit that the mandate is unconstitutional.
The archdiocese of New York, headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., headed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the University of Notre Dame, and 40 other Catholic dioceses and organizations around the country announced on Monday that they are suing the Obama administration for violating their freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The dioceses and organizations, in different combinations, are filing 12 different lawsuits filed in federal courts around the country.

The President of Notre Dame has also released a statement over the lawsuit contesting the Administration's mandate...
Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services. Many of our faculty, staff and students — both Catholic and non-Catholic — have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives. As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs. And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents. We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings.
We are two weeks from the June 5th recall election in Wisconsin, and the Democrats in the state are starting to panic as they are finding that their message for replacing Republican Governor Scott Walker is not resonating with the Wisconsin voter.
By virtually every objective measure, Walker has been an extraordinarily successful governor. In just 16 months, the state has erased a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and according to figures released this month by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, it will have a $154.5 million surplus on June 30, 2013. Property taxes, which had risen by more than 40 percent since 1998, are down for the first time in years. The unemployment rate is down from 7.7 percent when Walker took office in January 2011 to 6.7 percent in April 2012. Last week, the state’s Department of Workforce Development released numbers showing that Wisconsin had gained some 23,000 jobs in 2011—correcting a misleading earlier report suggesting the state had lost more than 30,000 jobs over the same period. The subjective measures look good for Walker, too. On the stump, Walker is fond of citing Chief Executive magazine, which had ranked Wisconsin as the 41st-best state for business in 2010 and now ranks it 20th. Walker also points to a survey by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce that found only 10 percent of business owners thought the state was headed in the right direction in 2010, while an eye-popping 94 percent think so today.
Wisconsin is a model - but not a model of the success of progressive pro-public sector union policies.  Walker's reforms, and in particular the controversial legislation which reduced some of the power of public sector unions, has turned the fiscal direction of the state around in just one year.  Without massive layoffs and without massive reductions in services.
Despite the whinging from the unions, the reforms have not been as draconian as they are being portrayed as being.  Union members, like teachers, now have to pay more out of their pocket towards their healthcare and retirement benefit packages....but the amounts they are paying are still substantially less than employees pay on the average in the private sector.  While there are still concerns with the fiscal viability of some of the pension programs, they have not been fundamentally changed. 

Some collective bargaining rights have been removed from the unions - primarily the one's which require the hiring entity, the city / town / school district, from purchasing the health insurance coverage from only one source - the union itself - at highly inflated rates.  Now these entities can shop for coverages on the open market, saving millions.  Finally, the public sector unions now have to collect their dues from their members directly, not get it handed to them via payroll deduction.  Now unions need to justify their benefit to their members in order to get paid.

Compare the changes in Wisconsin to the state that is currently ranked as the 50th best state for business....California.  Unlike Wisconsin, California remains dominated by progressives and progressive policies.  While the majority of the country moved to the right in 2010, California moved even more to the left - with every major statewide office being won by a progressive, including the Governorship, with Gov. Moonbeam returning to Sacramento.  Since 2010, the state's economic condition has gotten worse, not better.

The Orange County Register published an editorial about the state's finances and Governor Moonbeam's solutions - hiking $7 billion in taxes to cover a $16 billion deficit for the current fiscal year.  According to the Governor, we have a revenue problem, highlighted by the state bringing in several billion less than anticipated as a result of the continued stagnant economic conditions and high unemployment in the state.  But as noted in the editorial, our biggest problem is the State is now spending $30 billion more than was spent on all state government functions in 2007-8, the last fiscal year before the recession.
The governor's best solution is to plead poverty and lower himself to beg voters to increase taxes. His outlook is fanciful, much like the Greeks'. Both are about to learn that responsible people who earn their own money have limits to how much they will turn over to irresponsible people.

In fairness, we can't lay this entire mess at Brown's feet. It also comes from decades of mismanagement, overspending, tax-gouging and gratuitous pay and retirement benefits for public unions, who not so incidentally bankroll the campaigns of Brown and his Democratic legislative buddies, all of whom perpetuate this disaster, with more than a little help from Republicans all too often.

Brown wants voters to believe the government is impoverished, that colleges are about to crumble, teachers will queue up in soup lines, and beaches will be overrun with grunion. OK, the grunion scare may not be on Brown's list of alarming warnings. Yet.

The fact is, California's state budget spends $30 billion more than was spent on all state government functions in 2007-08, at the peak of the pre-recession bubble. That's a 15-percent increase. Are you spending 15 percent more than you spent in 2007-08?

Indeed, Brown proposes increasing spending for K-12 schools from $29.3 billion in last year's budget to $34.0 billion by the end of 2013. That's austerity necessitated by poverty?

The progressives who hold California in a death grip will argue that they are going to make painful, massive budget reductions to state government's tax-devouring beast. It's a specious claim. Brown proposed to spend $12.4 billion more in the coming year than in the current year. Faux cuts while larding it on.

The governor boasts that his realignment and reorganization of prisons is a budgetary blessing by shifting prisoners to counties. It's more accurately passing the buck. Actually, it's passing the bill without providing enough bucks to pay for it.

Most risible is Brown's claim of major pension reform. His less-than-modest tweaking applies only to newly hired employees and completely ignores the elephant in the room: hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liability for thousands of retired and current government employees.

The nickels and dimes Brown's feeble pension reforms might save are predicated on the hiring new employees. Here's a way to save much more: don't hire new employees.

We have two states - two different approaches towards addressing a major fiscal challenge as well as an adverse business environment which inhibits job creation and hiring.  (Remember, in 2010, Wisconsin was the 41st best state, California the 50th best state to do business in.)  With this comparison of steps - which state is recovering and which state continues to stagnate and endure greater fiscal challenges?

This comparison is why so many have become refugees from the Golden State- and more are seriously considering becoming Golden State refugees.

The prime time cable news hosts on MSNBC are regular fodder for ridicule.  This goes far beyond their bias, and directly to just how clueless they really are.  One has to wonder what the color of the sky is on the planet they are residing on, because it's not blue.

The blowhard bully, Ed Schultz, is convinced that the most under-covered story right now in the country is that the 'wealthy' are not paying their 'fair share' of taxes....
What’s the most under-covered story right now?

That the wealthy doesn’t pay their fair share. I used to be in the middle class, now I’m in the 1 percent. I can’t believe the tax cuts that are available. I’m living it. I can tell you that it wouldn’t affect me a bit if the rates went to 39 percent. Most of the people in the major media are in the 1 percent. There aren’t any poor cable hosts.
Is this a case where, like a broken clock, Schultz is right twice a day?  After all, the top 1% pays 40% of all federal income taxes.  They also pay more than the bottom 95% of taxpayers.  50% of all taxpayers actually pay no federal income taxes.  None of these are fair to the 1%. 

The problem is, Schultz wants the 1% to pay even more - despite the evidence that increasing their income tax rate to 39% will, at best, only cover about $30 billion of the President's $1.3 trillion deficit this year.  But will Ed put his money where his mouth is?  Of course not - he knows he's free to pay more to the government than his current legal obligation, but he will not. 

Speaking of taxes and spending, should we, the US taxpayer, be on the hook to provide National People's Radio, the People's Broadcasting Service, and other public broadcasting outlets half a billion dollars in fiscal year 2013?
While so many Americans are making sacrifices around the country to make ends meet, CPB appears unwilling to do the same,” DeMint and Lamborn wrote in a letter to Senate and House appropriators. “Now is the appropriate and necessary time for the government to end taxpayer subsidies for CPB.”

Liberals are fighting back to keep the money flowing. The special-interest group Free Press, which advocates for greater government control over media and the Internet, claims the federal subsidy is necessary to save public-broadcasting jobs.

This tiny federal investment is vital to helping support programming that commercial media won’t showcase and provides an important foundation for stations around the country to build on.

DeMint and Lamborn don’t consider it such a “tiny federal investment,” particularly given the rapid growth of public broadcasting’s federal subsidy in the past decade. Writing on DeMint’s new Pickpocket blog, Amanda Carpenter noted:

Even though media has become more accessible than ever, funding for CPB has exploded. Between 2001 and 2012, the CPB’s appropriated funding escalated by nearly 31 percent, from $340 million to $444.1 million.

Ed, you should make your check payable to the 'Corporation of Public Broadcasting'.

There are few more examples of excessive government reach combined with a complete lack of common sense than the approach towards air safety than the TSA.  Not only does the TSA regularly undertake sexual assaults on passengers who are treated as cattle - but the organization is also incapable of running on a budget or providing effective protective security.

According to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, the 'system' is working when a bomber on board an aircraft has a mechanical malfunction as he tries to detonate the bomb he is wearing.

To reward this incompetence, Senate Democrats are proposing to double the one way security fee from $2.50 per passenger to $5 per passenger in order to address their budget millions in unused equipment sit in warehouses around the country. 

Speaking again of money and incompetence, how about the $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year we're giving Egypt.
An Islamist who believes that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States were an American conspiracy is the front-runner in Egypt’s presidential race, a new poll shows.
Another Obama foreign policy success...leading from behind...

The USS Iowa, pictured above firing her 16" main battery, is now under tow in the Pacific, transiting from San Francisco to Los Angeles where the ship will become a floating museum.  Scheduled to arrive on May 24th, the Iowa will open as a floating museum in mid-July.

The USS Iowa is the last of the 4 Iowa class battleships to become a floating museum.   These are also among the last battleships ever built, ordered by the US Navy in 1939 and 1940 and commissioned in 1943 and 1944.  All four saw action during World War 2.  2 others were proposed for the class, the USS Illinois was started in January 1945, but cancelled in August 1945 when she was only 25% complete.  The USS Kentucky was started in 1944, and construction was suspended in 1947 when she was 75% complete.  Her bow was used to repair the USS Wisconsin in 1956, and she was scrapped in 1958.

The other members of the Iowa class of battleships include, the USS New Jersey, now a museum in Camden, New Jersey, USS Wisconsin, now a museum in Norfolk, Virginia, and the USS Missouri, now a museum at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

This Day in History

1455 - The opening battle of England's War of the Roses takes place at St. Albans - about 20 miles north of London.  King Henry IV was captured by the victorious Yorkists.

1856 - Southern Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beats Northern Senator Charles Sumner in the halls of Congress as tensions rise over the expansion of slavery.

1939 - Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini sign an alliance, the 'Pact of Steel' creating the Axis powers.

1972 - President Richard Nixon arrives in Moscow for a summit with Soviet leaders.

1993 - Johnny Carson hosts the Tonight Show for the last time. He was the host of the program for 30 years.

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