Friday Digest

Digest

Dec. 16, 2011

The Foundation

“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate – look to his character.” –Noah Webster

Government

The Field in Iowa

Is it really a two-man race?

In less than three weeks, the Iowa caucuses will be upon us. Time flies when you’re choosing among this Republican field. As of today, the race there looks to be among Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. The latest Rasmussen poll has them in that order, at 23, 20 and 18 percent, respectively. The only other candidate in double digits is Rick Perry at 10 percent. National polls tell a somewhat different story, however. Gingrich leads an NBC/WSJ poll with 40 percent to Romney’s 23 percent. No one else is in double digits. Hence, at the moment, the race is essentially between the former House speaker and the former Massachusetts governor. Not many people are happy about it.

As we noted last week, Romney seems to have a support ceiling in the 20s. Obviously, his past “progressive” positions, not least of which was godfathering ObamaCare, are weighing him down. Gingrich, on the other hand, is enjoying his turn as the Not Romney while voters give him a look, following Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain in that role. Gingrich’s negatives, too, are well known: A disastrous personal history, his past support of an individual mandate to buy health insurance, his earning $1.8 million from government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac just before the housing collapse, his global warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi, a flip-flop list even longer than Romney’s, and so on, and so on, and so on.

We’re as surprised as anyone at Gingrich’s rise, and, unlike the other Not Romneys, Gingrich faces significant opposition from, for lack of a better term, the conservative establishment – from Ann Coulter and George Will to National Review. Indeed, we can’t shake the feeling of wishing for a mulligan on the whole thing and finding an entirely new field of candidates. Or at a minimum, asking the “what ifs.” What if Tim Pawlenty hadn’t dropped out? What if Jon Huntsman, who actually has a halfway decent record, hadn’t run such a terrible campaign? What if Rick Santorum had gained traction? What if Rick Perry hadn’t self-destructed? We’re not endorsing any of the four, but the first three never even got their 15 minutes in the sun to find out.

Given the deep dissatisfaction with the GOP field, one man is getting his hopes up: Barack Obama. According to The Washington Post, “President Obama’s top campaign strategists said Tuesday that the increasingly heated Republican primary battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich is helping to shift the national political landscape back to Obama’s advantage. Their comments reflected growing confidence among Democrats, who only months ago worried that the sputtering economy and a lack of enthusiasm among core voters would doom Obama’s reelection bid.” The obvious reasons for tempering their enthusiasm are that the election is still nearly 11 months away, and Obama remains deeply unpopular – more so than any incumbent since Jimmy Carter.

According to Romney, the Republican primary “is not going to be decided in just a couple of contests” and “could go for months and months.” That’s easy for him to say, facing a stiff challenge from Gingrich, but he’s also correct. There’s plenty of time. We certainly don’t think anyone should fold up the tents and go home right after Iowa and New Hampshire. Republicans have a chance in this election to stop the fatal Cycle of Democracy. We would say they shouldn’t blow it by settling hastily on a deeply flawed nominee, but deeply flawed is the one thing that describes the entire field.

Then again, the supposed “messiah” candidate didn’t do so hot after winning last time, and Republican voters looking for their own messiah shouldn’t fall for the same false hope.

How would you sum up the field?

News From the Swamp: Tax Cut Extension and Government Funding

The battle over the payroll tax cut extension reached a new level this week, with the proposal suddenly being used as leverage in a larger battle over averting a federal government shutdown. Republicans and Democrats have remained steadfast in recent weeks about their respective views for “funding” the tax cut, i.e., Republicans, yes; Democrats, no. Now it appears Democrats may be ready to cave due to a lack of team support. Senate Democrat leaders met with the president this week to discuss the possibility of dumping or scaling back the millionaire surtax that they previously insisted was necessary and “fair.” This meeting came a day after the House called Obama’s veto bluff and passed its version of the payroll tax cut with a provision attached to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline, which would create tens of thousands of jobs.

Despite the internal debate over the future of the surtax, Democrats are still pressing for an advantage. They linked the payroll tax cut to a government funding measure that needs to be in place by midnight Friday to avert a shutdown, though members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved an agreement Thursday night to extend the payroll tax cut for two months to allow for further discussion, and also to allow the $1 trillion spending agreement to go through.

One item not receiving enough attention, however, is the blow that the tax cut extension will deliver to Social Security’s so-called “trust fund.” Charles Blahous III, a member of the Social Security Board of Trustees, said that the two percent payroll tax cut reduced Social Security revenue by $105 billion this year, and it will claim another $119 billion next year. When the trust fund falls short, Social Security revenue has to be drawn from the general fund. The payroll tax cut, according to Blahous, is forcing Social Security to become even more reliant on the general fund to stay solvent. “If you just had a program that was in the general financing pool,” Blahous said, “if you didn’t have a separate trust fund, if you didn’t have a separate payroll tax, Social Security would have a lot fewer political protections. It would basically be competing each year” with other priorities. Blahous is a little late to the game – Congress has been raiding the “trust fund” for generations.

The original purpose of the payroll tax cut was to ease unemployment and give a little relief to the middle class. However, unemployment has remained near 9 percent even with it, and the money that middle-class families receive may be short-changing their own retirement.

One small bit of good news is that the final omnibus contains a provision defunding the Department of Energy’s program to create new and higher standards for incandescent light bulbs. A 2007 law required efficiency levels that would effectively ban 100-watt incandescents as of Jan. 1, 2012. Perhaps consumers will still have a choice, after all.

Finally, even though a deal has been reached, Michelle Obama is headed to Hawaii for vacation without Barack. That’s despite the fact that it will cost at least $100,000 and despite the executive order from just last month demanding efficient travel. Rough lives of the 1 Percent.

Open Query

“One of the most egregious aspects of this bill [the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011] is that it promotes state drug testing for workers to qualify for unemployment benefits. Mr. Speaker, did the authors of this provision know about the Constitution of the United States of America?” –Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)

We have a question for Rep. Moore: What section or article of the Constitution authorizes unemployment benefits in the first place?

Democrats seem to think that as long as they came up with the idea – or at least support it at the time – it’s automatically constitutional. Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it.

The BIG Lie

“The unemployment insurance extension is not only good for individuals. It has a macroeconomic impact. As macroeconomic advisers have stated, it would make a difference of 600,000 jobs to our economy.” –House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), making up numbers

New & Notable Legislation

Three competing bills aimed at addressing Internet piracy are working their way through the House and Senate, but their approaches to the problem differ considerably. Two similar bills in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate, Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), would implement the security of property on the Internet by giving the government unlimited power to shut down websites. These laws have been attacked by First Amendment advocates for their overly broad language and their lack of respect for judicial process. Former Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd, who now runs the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood’s lobbying arm, is highly motivated to stop piracy, and he supports both bills. In fact, Dodd even pointed to the Chinese government’s effective system for handling the Internet. Rather than follow China, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a competing and more streamlined bill, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, which adheres to the judicial process currently in place in copyright cases.

The Congressional Black Caucus introduced the Restore the American Dream for the 99 Percent Act, a long list of leftist grab-bag items that was the result of a meeting between the CBC and members of the New York and Washington Occupy Wall Street protest groups. The bill claims it will create five million jobs over the next two years by raising $800 billion in new taxes on millionaires and an additional $350 billion in taxes on investors. Pardon the pun, but that’s rich – taxing the job creators to make them create jobs. OWS claims that they want to meet with other caucuses in Congress in the coming weeks and months, but maybe they just want to come indoors because it’s cold outside.

Support Liberty

We have all enjoyed the fruits of prosperity that our forefathers purchased at great sacrifice, many with their lives. With the current unprecedented assault from within upon Liberty, each and every one of us is called to make our own great sacrifices. Our posterity deserves no less.

Before the year is out, we must raise $119,904 to continue providing the news and analysis you expect each week. Help us honor our forefathers' sacrifices and restore Liberty for our posterity by making a secure online donation to The Patriot Post’s 2011 Year-End Campaign. If you prefer to support us by mail, please use our printable donor form.

Thank you!

Nate Jackson
Managing Editor

Economy

Around the Nation: Terrible Economy Is a Case to Re-Elect Obama?

According to a new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, a left-wing advocacy group, child homelessness spiked 33 percent between 2007 and 2010, with allegedly 1.6 million children – or one in every 45 – in the United States living on the streets last year. Center President Ellen Bassuk placed the blame on the economy: “What we [had] new in 2010 is the effects of man-made disaster caused by the economic recession. … We are seeing extreme budget cuts, foreclosures and a lack of affordable housing.” Indeed, among the states with the worst rates of child homelessness are those where foreclosures and job losses are prevalent. Moreover, it’s not just “poor” families who are in distress. A number of those seeking help are professionals who have lost their jobs and depleted their savings.

Hundreds of TV, print and online media sources reported this week that new census data indicate 50 percent of Americans are at or below the poverty level. Some journalists need to take elementary math. The actual percentage is 31.8. That is significant, but far less than originally reported and then recycled by major media outlets.

Speaking in Kansas, Barack Obama also bemoaned the horrible economy, conveniently ignoring, however, the fact that he has presided over it for the last three years. Instead, he blamed the rich for, well, being rich, while calling it “heartbreaking” that “millions of working families … are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal.” As columnist Charles Krauthammer writes, “You have to admire the audacity. That’s the kind of damning observation the opposition brings up when you’ve been in office three years. Yet Obama summoned it to make the case for his reelection! Why? Because, you see, he bears no responsibility for the current economic distress.” He hasn’t yet mentioned child homelessness as a reason to give him four more years, but you never know…

How does economic malaise benefit Obama?

Climate Change This Week: Kyoto Receives an Extension

After a two-week marathon of negotiations and infighting, the 194 nations that met in Durban, South Africa, finally threw in the towel on a whole new global warming accord and decided instead to extend the Kyoto Protocol, first adopted in 1997, for another five years through 2017. Key points added to the existing framework were mechanisms for collecting and distributing billions of dollars from wealthy industrialized countries to poorer nations. Following the money reveals the reason why Kyoto wasn’t allowed to expire: its abject failure to achieve meaningful emissions reduction, particularly since the United States has never been a party to it.

In the meantime, developing nations exacted promises from China, India and the United States to begin negotiations on a new pact by 2015. Soon, though, the U.S. will be joined by another major industrialized nation as a non-participant. Earlier this week Canada announced its intention to withdraw formally from Kyoto, as Environmental Minister Peter Kent warned that, for Canada to comply, it would face the choice of “either removing every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads, or closing down the entire farming and agricultural sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory, and building in Canada.” Some choice, huh? Even though it won’t make a dent on the overall climate, some nations insist upon enacting this handy wealth redistribution tool in order to handicap the world’s producers.

Security

Warfront With Jihadistan: The ‘End’ in Iraq

In a 45-minute ceremony Thursday, U.S. military personnel officially marked the end of the mission in Iraq, though the administration made a point to say that the U.S. is not declaring victory. It has been nearly nine years, $800 billion and 4,487 American lives (3,527 in combat) since the war to liberate Iraq began. Saddam Hussein was deposed, tried and hanged, and we should have a fledgling ally in the region. It strains credulity to deny victory.

Hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Washington this week, Barack Obama declared that Iraq is now a nation “that is self-governing, that is inclusive and that has enormous potential.” Yet the president has done little to ensure that ties are strong with Iraq. That isn’t surprising, given his insistence while an Illinois state senator that Iraq was a “dumb war,” but he’s not in the Illinois senate anymore, either. Unfortunately.

An ongoing alliance with Iraq is critical to U.S. interests in the region if for no other reason than to keep Iraq from falling under the control of Iran. The U.S. must forward-deploy materiel and limited manpower to southern deserts to maintain a formidable power presence in the region and rapid response capability. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has said we should remain in Iraq for 100 years, didn’t hold any punches for the sorry excuse for a commander in chief in the White House: “All I will say is that, for three years, the president has been harvesting the successes of the very strategy that he consistently dismissed as a failure. … I believe that history will judge this president’s leadership with the scorn and disdain it deserves.”

The Wall Street Journal echoed that sentiment: “What a pity … that this Administration is treating our near-total withdrawal from Iraq mainly as an opportunity to show the political left that it has ended George Bush’s war.” If it’s political gain at the expense of national security Obama is looking for, well, mission accomplished.

All else aside, America’s men and women in uniform served nobly, and they won an important war. Nearly 1.5 million of them went to Iraq, and we thank them for their service to our country.

Share your thoughts on Iraq.

Drone Use by Police Is a Bad Precedent

An unsettling, perhaps illegal, mixture of federal and local law enforcement resources is starting to rear its head across the land, and it will bear close monitoring. Last June, North Dakota Sheriff Kelly Janke tried to execute a search warrant on a family farm, seeking stolen cows, but was chased off by three armed men. Fearful of an armed standoff and needing help searching the 3,000 acre farm, Janke called in the Highway Patrol, a SWAT team, a bomb squad, and, surprisingly, a Predator drone from Grand Forks Air Force Base. The Predator pinpointed the suspects and showed they were unarmed, allowing police to rush in and make the first known arrests – apparently without an arrest warrant – of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator.

The use of the Predator, including some two dozen additional surveillance drone flights by local law enforcement, the FBI, or the Drug Enforcement Administration for domestic investigations, may violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the military from a police role on U.S. soil. The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and advocates of their use cite the alleged broad authority given to Customs by Congress to work with police on “interior law enforcement support.” Working with local officials to find illegal aliens or drug smugglers, or to assist during emergencies, is one thing. It’s quite another to spy on citizens without a warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Meanwhile, Congress is moving ahead with a defense bill that includes broad language denying captured terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the country, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention. While we recognize the need to treat enemy combatants as just that, there already exist rules for handling enemy combatants with due process, which this bill does not. Additionally, the bill’s overly broad language could allow a lawless administration (anybody seen one recently?) to start putting Americans away for almost any “threat” against the nation that it declares as such. Extreme vigilance is the word.

Iran and the Drone, Redux

Webster’s Dictionary defines “feckless” as: Not fit to assume responsibility; generally incompetent and ineffectual; being incompetent or inept. Barack Obama’s lame attempts to defend his inaction on the downed U.S. RQ-170 drone in Iran fit the bill. “We have asked for it back,” he said, and “we’ll see how the Iranians respond.” We have asked for it back? Where was Joe “foreign policy expert” Biden when the national security team mapped out how to handle this issue? And now “we’ll see how the Iranians respond”? How does anyone with half a brain think Iran is going to respond? After the mullahs stopped laughing, they said, “Not a chance.” To wit, this headline in Fars News, one of Iran’s official news services: “Obama begs Iran to give him back his toy plane.”

Losing the drone by itself was embarrassing, but the damaging part was allowing Iran to capture it intact and exploit U.S. technology themselves, as well as share it with China and Russia. That could and should have been prevented. The drone went down in eastern Iran, a vast, sparsely populated area with virtually no air defenses to speak of. With all the U.S. airpower in the region, not to mention the hundreds of Tomahawk missiles on U.S. Navy ships, why didn’t Obama order the aircraft destroyed on the ground (as the Air Force did with a downed F-15 early in the Libya campaign)?

Being president of the United States carries with it a responsibility not to do or say exceedingly stupid things that damage the nation’s standing in the world. Far more important, however, is the president’s responsibility to preserve the national defense. Obama’s failure to act is outrageous and unforgivable. It reminds us of Clinton’s allowing the Chinese to recover targeting systems from a suspiciously crashed ICBM that he allowed them to buy to “send up a telecommunications satellite.” Democrats used to be at least moderately patriotic, but the last two Democrat presidents seem to want to share our defense secrets with the world.

Judicial Benchmarks: SCOTUS to Hear Arizona SB1070 Case

It seems to be the way of things these days – major changes in law or enforcement of the law wind their way through the courts and eventually end up in the lap of the Supreme Court. So it is with Arizona’s recently enacted laws that empower local law enforcement to verify the immigration status of those suspected of being illegal aliens during traffic stops or other offenses. After Arizona passed SB1070 last year, several other states passed similar legislation, but the Obama administration secured court orders thwarting enforcement by the several states, claiming federal jurisdiction.

Yet as the required number of justices granted the petition for a writ of certiorari, the endnote stated that Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the consideration or decision on that petition. It can be presumed that she won’t hear the case, leaving open the possibility of a split verdict, which would by default uphold the lower courts' rulings and void the Arizona law.

So just in time for the 2012 election, we will likely have a more definitive answer on the legal direction of two key campaign issues: the fate of ObamaCare and the legality of state laws that mirror federal laws on immigration – laws that are, by court fiat, legal for the feds but not for the states.

Culture

Village Academic Curriculum: Occupy Scholastic

The latest issue of Scholastic, a publication distributed to students in virtually all schools, reminds us that we cannot be too vigilant in monitoring our kids' “education.” In its recent coverage of Occupy Wall Street, Scholastic portrayed the “movement” as a bunch of harmless college kids who fear they will be excluded from the American Dream. It said nothing, however, about the crimes these people have committed or how their insatiable need to be relevant continues to distract us from other pressing political, economic and cultural issues.

One parent, upon reading his fourth grader’s copy of the newsletter, contacted Scholastic to complain. He referred to their one-sided coverage as “propaganda,” the likes of which he saw growing up in the Soviet Union. In response, he received the sort of boilerplate language worthy of any typically inadequate customer service center: “We apologize for any inconvenience,” and we “will make sure corporate headquarters sees your comments.” This is unacceptable, especially since Scholastic, which has been around for nearly 100 years, refers to itself as “America’s Leading News Source for Kids.”

Back to the reality of Occupy Wall Street: As cast and crew of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” prepared to shoot an OWS-themed episode in New York City, the set was overrun with more than 100 OWS protesters. After a lengthy disruption, an NYPD officer announced that the city had rescinded the filming permit, which, of course, the protesters considered a victory. “We’ve made it so they could not exploit us,” one protester said, “and that’s awesome.” They shouldn’t flatter themselves; the “Law and Order” franchise, which has been around for more than two decades, has always based its episodes on real legal cases and current events, tilting story lines strongly leftward. This is, however, a disturbing sign of the times that a city as “tough” as New York has allowed these interlopers to dictate what happens on its streets.

‘Sesame Street’ Teaches Kids About Free Lunches

It used to be that kids watched “Sesame Street” to learn how to count to 10. Now, however, they’re learning to count on the government. Last week, as part of the show’s “Food for Thought” campaign, a Muppet named Lily announced to the National Press Club that even though she’s worried her family cannot afford enough food, she has hope: “[W]e’ve been finding lots of ways that we can get help. … [F]or example, at school I get a free breakfast and a lunch [as] part of the meal plan.” The message: Don’t worry, the government will always provide. The multimedia campaign is targeting schools, hospitals and food service organizations.

Then, with a straight face, WIC representative Reverend Douglas Greenaway linked free government lunches with reducing the federal deficit. Of course, he didn’t bother to explain how spending vast amounts of money reduces the deficit. This is the worst kind of indoctrination, for it teaches our kids first to fear, then to rely on government largesse. Of course, as the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch – something the children will find out soon enough.

Regulatory Commissars: NTSB and Cell Phones

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a synopsis of a report on a 2010 Missouri highway accident, involving a semi cab (without its trailer), a pickup and two buses. The NTSB determined that the 19-year-old driver of the pickup was distracted because he was texting on his cell phone. That is already against Missouri law for anyone under 21, and he paid the ultimate price – he and a student on one of the buses died. According to The Washington Post, in 2009 almost 5,500 fatalities were caused by crashes involving a distracted driver, though it’s not known how many of those were due to cell phone use.

The NTSB, however, took the opportunity to use one report on a single incident to issue a recommendation that states ban the use of cell phones – not just texting, but also talking while holding the phone (handsfree devices exempted) – while operating an automobile. The agency does not have the authority to enact a ban on its own, but at least some states are sure to begin the process. Anyone who drives knows that the moment eyes are taken off the road, anything can happen. Distractions can lead to accidents. Yet some of the most dangerous words in the English language are “There ought to be a law,” and, at a minimum, we recommend caution when outlawing activities. Nanny states are no less tyrannical than communist ones.

Should states ban cell phone use while driving?

And Last…

Firearms sales this holiday season have been the best since 2008, according to the Firearms Dealers Association. In fact, FBI stats show that the number of background checks this year represents an increase of 32 percent over 2008. One firearms dealer in Fresno, California, is cashing in with some clever advertising. “They’ve been mistreated and misunderstood for generations,” says the ad narrator. “Abusive owners have done severe damage and given these beautiful creatures a bad reputation.” The idea, of course, is to get people thinking along the lines of puppies or some such. But the object is guns. “You can make a difference by giving a gun a loving home,” the ad continues. “These guns want nothing more than to adore and protect you. So, please, have a heart.” The owner of the store says the ads have increased their business “10 fold,” particularly among women, and they plan to continue the campaign. All we can say is, “Deck the halls with guns and ammo.”

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team