Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Quick Hits - June 5, 2012

Decision day in Wisconsin - as voters in Wisconsin, as well as apparently union members from Minnesota and Illinois, take to the polls in Wisconsin to decide on the recall of the Republican Governor, the Republican Lt. Governor, and 3 GOP State Senators.

New Jersey is seeing a major primary fight to see which of 2 long time House Democrats will survive to continue - the result of redistricting which came from the state losing one House seat.  Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell are fighting in a close battle with President Obama supporting Rothman and former President Bill Clinton supporting Pascrell.

In California, it's primary day - in addition to casting ballots on two state-wide propositions intended to a) fix the problem's caused by term limits, and b) add $1 increase to the tax for a pack of cigs to build a new limited accountability quasi-government agency to spend the funds raised supposedly in the name of cancer research - but with no requirement to only spend the funds within California.

This is also the first primary election where the state races are not based on determining who the top vote recipients are in each party - but that the final candidates will be based on the the top 2 vote recipients in the total candidate pool.  For example on my ballot for Senator, rather than voting for just the candidates in my party, there were 24 names representing 4 parties for me to choose from.  The top 2 candidates will run off in November.  My November ballot could contain a choice of 2 Democrats for the office if they 'win' the primary vote.

All eyes are going to be on Wisconsin.  The polls close at 8 pm CDT (9 pm EDT and 6 pm PDT).  Early reports are of a heavy turnout - with some polling stations having 30 minute wait times.  (About how it was here in SoCal in 2003 for the Davis recall.)

Already, Democrats are starting to cry 'foul' over alleged cases of Republican 'cheating'....
With only about four hours into the Election Day voting, members of the Milwaukee Democratic Party claim that calls are going out to voters telling them if they’d signed the recall, they didn’t need to vote today.

Milwaukee County Dem Chair Sachin Chheda said that Walker supporters can’t get through the day without “cheating.”
A state GOP source dismissed the claims, saying it was expected from Dems who have made voter suppression claims part of their playbook.

“That’s just what they do, they’re simply setting the stage for a close election,” the source said. “The story doesn’t exist until they provide evidence.”

As these accusations are made, Democrats are busing in supporters and voters from Illinois and Minnesota for the recall vote.

Voter fraud has been an issue in the past in Wisconsin (and other states) and is a growing issue as states that are trying to rein in the potential for fraud by reviewing voter registration rolls and requiring photo ID's are being fought by Democrat organizations and the Department of Justice.

The Chicago Sun Times today published an op-ed highlighting that Republican Governor Scott Walker's Public Sector Union reforms have been a resounding success for Wisconsin...
The reason for that is quite simple: Walker’s collective bargaining reforms turned out to be a resounding success.

Public service employees are finally making reasonable contributions to their pension and health benefits. Government employee unions no longer dictate work rules. Local school districts and governments with new latitude to renegotiate contracts have saved Wisconsin taxpayers $1 billion, according to the governor’s office.

Collective bargaining for government employees can never survive much scrutiny. Their unions are by their nature in conflict with the interests of taxpayer. Unions use their numbers, their voting booth clout and their members’ dues to elect politicians who then return the favor in contract negotiations. Liberal good government types constantly advocate bans against government contracts for businesses that make significant campaign contributions to politicians. But they fall silent on the inherent conflict of interest in labor contracts negotiated by public employee unions and the politicians they help elect. Talk about a corrupt bargain — that’s the very definition of one.

Taxpayers have grown weary of financing generous benefits that most of them never see in their lives. President Barack Obama must recognize that voter attitudes on this are changing. Despite the appeals of Wisconsin Democrats for a big show of support, the closest Obama came to Wisconsin was flying over the state recently on his way to a fund-raising dinner in Minneapolis.

In addition to the evidence that weakening the public sector unions, in particular the teachers union, has had a positive fiscal effect on Wisconsin's finances, across the country, the teachers unions are taking a beating in the realm of public opinion. Only 22% of Americans think unions have a positive effect on schools....
However Wisconsin’s recall election turns out on Tuesday, teachers unions already appear to be losing a larger political fight—in public opinion. In our latest annual national survey, we found that the share of the public with a positive view of union impact on local schools has dropped by seven percentage points in the past year. Among teachers, the decline was an even more remarkable 16 points. . . .

The survey’s most striking finding comes from its nationally representative sample of teachers. Whereas 58% of teachers took a positive view of unions in 2011, only 43% do in 2012. The number of teachers holding negative views of unions nearly doubled to 32% from 17% last year. Perhaps this helps explain why, according to education journalist and union watchdog Mike Antonucci, top officials of the National Education Association are reporting a decline of 150,000 members over the past two years and project that they will lose 200,000 more members by 2014, as several states have recently passed laws ending the automatic deduction of union dues from teachers’ paychecks.

Up or Down?

The Eurocrisis continues to deepen. In addition for the wait for the Greek elections on June 17, Spain's rapid path towards default is keeping the tensions very high. With an economy substantially larger than Greece's, Spain's problems are putting more pressure on the fault lines between France, Spain, and Italy demanding Germany and the ECB do more to alleviate the risks while Germany remains very hesitant to underwrite and fund the bailout of these troubled nations.

Europe faces grim choices and none of them are pleasant for any of the EU members...
Europe is a fifth of the world economy. Its multinational firms span the globe. What happens in Europe does not stay in Europe but affects markets and confidence everywhere. Europe's slackening export demand already hurts other economies. The great lesson here is that bad ideas, once embraced, become entrenched. The euro was a monstrously bad idea from which there is no easy escape.

The latest "solution' envisioned for the Eurozone is to bring banks and government fiscal policy / budgets fully under the direct control of the central bureaucracy of the European Union as opposed to remaining under the control of the sovereign government. This takes the concept of the 'Merkozy' treaty to partially federalize aspects of a nation's sovereign powers and control over their own budgets and fiscal policy another step - where these sovereign countries agree to lose this sovereign power and control and bureaucrats in Brussels determine what and how much the each member nation will spend on anything / everything.

Early this morning, rumors were rampant that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had signed on this solution. But it appears now that these rumors were incorrect. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in the Telegraph...
No, Germany has not agreed to a "banking union".

It has not agreed to mutualise the costs of bank bail-outs, knowing perfectly well that this means 'Eurobonds lite' and the start of a slippery slope towards debt pooling.

It has not cleared the way for use of the EU rescue machinery (EFSF and ESM) for direct recapitalisation of banks – which is what Spain wants to avoid having to bear the contingent liabilities of its crumbling lenders on sovereign shoulders.

Germany has not moved one inch towards fiscal union of any kind. It may do so (I make no prediction). It has not done so yet. Europe faces exactly the same problem it has had since the start of the crisis.

Almost everything Angela Merkel is talking about already exists. She has dressed up an old arrangement as if it were new.

The European Commission knows this perfectly well. Everybody is pretending there was a ground-breaking deal this week to maintain appearances. This is the usual EU smoke and mirrors.

Remember that earlier highlighted quote - 'The great lesson here is that bad ideas, once embraced, become entrenched.'

That has come to be the real condition that is affecting the Eurozone. No one wants to admit that the statists were wrong and those like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were correct when it came to the expansion of the European Union and the adoption of the Euro currency.

Domestically, the fiscal condition of the United States is not looking healthy as we move closer to the November Presidential election. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a grim report showing that unless Congress and the White House does not change course on spending and taxes, we are looking at the federal debt doubling in 15 years, and equal to 200% of the gross domestic product within 2 decades.
The CBO said it’s the worst picture since a brief period during World War II when spending ballooned to fund the military campaign.

“In the past few years, the federal government has been recording the largest budget deficits since 1945, both in dollar terms and as a share of the economy. Consequently, the amount of federal debt held by the public has surged,” the CBO report said in a long-term budget outlook that paints a shockingly dark picture of government finances.

CBO analysts said the downturn and Congress’s response have been devastating for the government.

In this environment, as President Barack Obama attempts to push the case for his reelection, his policies, agenda, and record are proving challenging to let him get the traction and enthusiasm he had during the 2008 campaign. We're now seeing more cases of the Democrats trying to highlight other issues in an effort to misdirect attention from the record of the President and Congressional Democrats. The latest misdirection strategy? The accusations that Republicans are waging a 'war on women' via supporting unfair / lower pay for women than for men working identical jobs.

The problem with these misdirection strategies is that there is no there there. Is this really a 'Republican issue' as we've seen multiple reports highlighting that women working for Congressional Democrats and women working in the White House are making nearly 25% less than their male counterparts? Then we have to ask, wasn't that 'landmark' legislation signed with much fanfare in early 2009, the 'Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act' supposed to address this with 'equal pay for equal work'?

There are a number of issues that will have a material effect on the November election that are not part of a misdirection strategy. In fact they go right to the key points of character of the President and key members of his team, and their policies and agenda.

Issues like the Environmental Protection Agency really waging an all out war on coal - which is designed to kill off the coal industry. Hyperbole? No.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe plans to highlight a little-known speech by an EPA regional administrator who admitted on video that the Obama administration’s air regulations will kill the coal industry.

“Lisa Jackson has put forth a very powerful message to the country. Just two days ago, the decision on greenhouse gas performance standard and saying basically gas plants are the performance standard which means if you want to build a coal plant you got a big problem. That was a huge decision,” Region 1 EPA Administrator Curtis “Curt” Spalding says, in footage filmed at Yale University.

“You can’t imagine how tough that was,” Spalding continued. “Because you got to remember if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal. And to say that we just think those communities should just go away, we can’t do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it’s painful. It’s painful every step of the way.”

How about a November 'surprise' regarding jobs affecting the election?
The key figure comes in a monthly report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — which estimates how many jobs were created in the prior month, as well as the unemployment rate. And the first Friday of each month has become primetime for political posturing, with various campaigns, candidates, and surrogates jockeying to spin the numbers in their favor.

But the October 2012 report, which will come out the Friday before Election Day, could drive the national conversation in the final days of the campaign — and make up the minds of crucial, undecided swing voters. In both 2004 and 2008, exit polls indicated that about 10 percent of the electorate decided on a candidate in the last week of the campaign.

Of course, given the evidence we've already seen of the Administration cooking the books regarding jobs, can we trust this number?

Then there is the scandal and cover-up around 'Fast and Furious'...
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco were responsible for authorizing the 2010 wiretaps, according to Issa, who did not make copies of the authorizations public because of their sensitive nature.

“The applications discussed — in no uncertain terms — the reckless tactic used in Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa wrote. “In light of the information contained in these wiretap applications, senior Department officials can no longer disclaim responsibility for failing to shut down Fast and Furious because they were unaware of the tactics used.”

In fact, the Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was even more outspoken on this as he contemplates contempt charges against the Attorney General...
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) fired off a biting letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today, rebuking him for misleading congressional investigators even as new documents show that senior Justice Department officials had detailed information about Operation Fast and Furious tactics.

Six wiretap applications in the gunwalking scandal were submitted to DoJ officials in Washington for justification and approval. The wiretaps have been sealed by a federal judge, but committee members were able to gain access to them — after Holder refused to turn them over under subpoena.

“In a May 15, 2012 letter, the Deputy Attorney General reiterated the Department’s position that the ‘inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious … were not initiated or authorized by Department leadership in Washington.’ We now know that statement is false,” Issa wrote Holder.

The chairman said the wiretap details, which can’t be released to the public, show “shocking” involvement by Justice officials.

“You have repeatedly either denied involvement by senior officials in Fast and Furious, or asserted that the wiretap applications do not contain rich detail about irresponsible investigative tactics,” Issa wrote, outlining several statements Holder has made over the past several months. “We now know that all of these statements are not accurate.”

The scandal of Fast and Furious will be coming to head this summer, simmer over the summer break, and resume in full right at the peak of the election season. I would not be surprised if President Obama is put in the position where he has to toss Eric Holder under the bus in September.

Then there is the President's own background and character - which is being vetted in 2012 the way it should have been in 2008. For example, his relationship with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers was downplayed in 2008 as the mainstream media took Obama at his word that Ayers was not a friend or an associate - specifically after Obama went to the US Senate in January 2005.

But then we didn't know that Obama spent the 4th of July, 2005 partying at Ayers house.
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama disavowed any connection with former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground radical who was one of Obama's early backers and his colleague on the board of the Woods Fund in Chicago. We now have proof that Obama's association with Ayers continued even after Obama had been elected to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate--in the form of a now-scrubbed blog post placing Obama at the home of Ayers and his wife, fellow radical Bernadine Dohrn, on July 4, 2005.

Then, as I noted (and ridiculed) in another QH, we had...
Last Tuesday, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that President Barack Obama told a group of visiting Jewish leaders that he "probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it." While that is certainly untrue, Obama continued, suggesting that he should not be questioned about his commitment to the Jewish state because “all his friends in Chicago were Jewish.”

That might very well be true. The question is which Jews? Meet Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf.

Elizabeth Warren's troubles around her unsubstantiated Native American minority claim are not her only problems. Her academic record is being vetted - and it's not pretty at all. This is a read it all link.
I have alluded to issues certain writers have taken with Elizabeth Warren’s academic writings.

But never have I seen a more scathing critique of Warren than that published by highly regarded Rutgers Law Professor
Philip Shuchman which was uncovered by Michael Patrick Leahy at Breitbart.com.

The article is posted here, and was published in the 1990-1991 edition of the Rutgers Law Review.

It is 60 pages of devastating analysis of a book Warren co-authored, As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America. This is the money quote reprinted in Leahy’s article:

Most of their study replicates several earlier research publications. These are hardly mentioned. The writers make extravagant and false claims to originality and priority of research. There appear to be serious errors in their use of statistical bases which result in grossly mistaken functions and comparisons. Some of their conclusions cannot be obtained even from their flawed findings. The authors have made their raw data unavailable so that its accuracy cannot be independently checked. In my opinion, the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct. [emphasis added]

In those 60 pages, Professor Shuchman demonstrates time and again how Warren and her co-authors jumped to conclusions, proclaimed new findings which were not new, and most importantly, ignored or did not accurately reflect data.

Sounds like the academic misconduct in much of the climate change advocation, doesn't it?

Two significant court decisions came out today - but not the SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare which is expected later in the month.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to hear an appeal on the ruling overturning Proposition 8 - the majority of California voter approved amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.  Earlier, 3 judges of the 9th issued a narrow ruling that the proposition was unconstitutional.  The case now moves to the United States Supreme Court where they will likely decide on whether to take the case during the 2012-13 term.

The superb blog, SCOTUSblog, adds more crucial information about the above ruling in their post here.  Sounds like this was a knee-jerk political decision made by progressive dominated 9th Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit Court refused on Tuesday to reconsider the decision in February striking down California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in the state. The Court, however, put the case on hold for at least 90 days to allow the proponents of the ballot measure to seek to appeal to the Supreme Court. The denial came over the dissents of three judges, who called this a “momentous case” and argued that the divided decision of a three-judge panel had resulted from a “gross misapplication” of a key Supreme Court ruling on gay rights. One other judge dissented, but did not join the three in their objection.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by the state’s Civil Rights Commission that a Christian photographer who refused to take pictures of a gay couple’s commitment ceremony violated the state’s discrimination law.
“Elane Photography may not discriminate in its commercial activities against protected classes as the basis for expressing its religious freedom,” Judge Tim Garcia wrote in a 45-page ruling.

The case dates back to 2006 when Vanessa Willock tried to hire Elane Photography for a “same-gender ceremony.” New Mexico law does not recognize either marriage or civil unions between persons of the same sex.

Elane Hugenin declined to accept the job and explained to Willock that because of their Christian beliefs the studio only handled “traditional weddings.”

In 2008 the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found Elane Photography guilty of “sexual orientation” discrimination. The studio is owned by a young Christian husband and wife who based their refusal on their religious beliefs.

The Court of Appeals determined that a photo studio is considered a public accommodation – much like a restaurant or a store. As such, the photo studio may not refuse services based on sexual orientation or gender identity – even if doing so would violate the religious principles of the owners.

Gay marriage rights supersede not only one's religious rights and beliefs, but the right of a private business owner to decide with whom to or not do business with?

Abu Yahya al-Libi, promoted to the #2 spot in al-Qaeda after the death of UBL and promotion of Zawahri to leader of the al-Qaeda, has been confirmed as killed in the US drone strike on a Pakistani house in NW Pakistan. He was the apparently the primary target in the CIA drone strike. The confirmation comes from intercepted telephone communications according to Pakistani intelligence officials. Between Saturday and Monday, three drone strikes were launched in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan – which undoubtedly will promote more anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

Syria retaliates against Western countries expelling their diplomats in protest for the Houla massacre by ordering the expulsion of 17 Western diplomats from the country – including the US Ambassador. The US had closed its embassy in Damascus in February as the conflict escalated. In addition to the US, diplomats from Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland were ordered out. The Syrian government also ordered the entire Turkish delegation to leave the country.

The shuttle Enterprise was damaged on its barge journey from JFK International Airport to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum on the Hudson River in NYC when the right wing tip grazes wooding pilings under a railroad bridge. The NY Post has the full story - and these photos of the accident and damage.

Wrapping up today's post, is Greg Gutfeld's superb monologue on 'The Five' that skewers liberal Hollywood pinheads, and President Obama, as he warns people about taking political advice from Hollywood stars....

This Day in History

1916 - In the North Sea, the British cruiser HMS Hampshire strikes a German mine and sinks off the Orkney Islands. Among the passengers and crew lost in the sinking is Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War.

1933 - President Franklin Roosevelt takes the United States off the gold standard - a monetary system where the currency is backed by gold. The US had been on the gold standard since 1879.

1944 - 3,000 Allied ships cross the English Channel in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. More than 1,000 British bombers drop 5,000 tons of bombs on German gun batters in the Normandy assault area. Overnight, Allied paratroopers would be dropped to assist the landing efforts - seizing key positions to block German reinforcements from reaching the beach landings. Also taking place were increased deception efforts to confuse the Germans - including dropping dummy parachutists. One such drop caused an entire German infantry regiment to shift positions away from the Normandy beaches.

1967 - Israel responds to an ominous build up of Arab forces along its borders in addition to a defacto blockade by launching simultaneous attacks against Egypt and Syria. Jordan subsequently joined the fray, but all three countries were no match for the IDF. Air attacks on this day decimated the Egyptian and Syrian Air Forces, while Israeli armored formations drove deep into the Sinai and Golan Heights. This Six Day War had started.

1968 - Senator Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California Democrat Presidential Primary. He would die on the 6th. Sirhan Sirhan, a 22 year old Palestinian, was convicted of the murder of RFK. Sentenced to death, his sentence was commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty in 1972. With the win in California, RFK was on the cusp of gaining the Democrat nomination to face Richard Nixon for the Presidency.

2004 - Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, dies after a decade long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 93 years old.

No comments:

Post a Comment