Friday Digest

Digest

Oct. 5, 2007

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

News from the Swamp: Torpedoed SCHIP

In the Executive Branch: President George W. Bush vetoed a $35-billion, five-year expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) on Wednesday. Democrats and their accomplices in the Leftmedia predictably portrayed the President as a Lone Ranger against “the children.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cried, “President Bush used his cruel veto pen to say ‘I forbid ten million children from getting the health benefits they deserve’.” (This from the party of abortion.) Of course, most of those ten million currently have health benefits—just not taxpayer funded. Yet. Furthermore, some of these “children” are as old as 25 or from families earning $82,000 per year. The Heritage Foundation notes that roughly 70,000 families will be eligible for SCHIP and the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The vote total in the Senate was enough to override the veto, but House Republicans managed to gather enough courageous votes to prevent the bill from being veto-proof.

The Wall Street Journal highlighted an important aspect of the bill: Its political opportunism. “Known as a ‘funding cliff,’ the yearly SCHIP layout increases to $13.9 billion in 2011, then abruptly cuts spending by 65 percent below current funding levels. This helps ‘score’ the bill as costing only $35 billion over the five-year budget window, but it also means that come 2012 Congress will either have to pass new spending or kick kids off the rolls. The chances of the latter happening are approximately zero.” Can you say “campaign issue”?

On the Hill: Defense bill passes

Senate Democrats passed a $648-billion defense authorization for next year, complete with $142 billion for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $950 million for military healthcare, and $23.6 billion for protecting armored vehicles from roadside bombs, the primary cause of American casualties in Iraq. Democrats are still playing games with defense funding, despite twice having fallen short of their goal of surrender in Iraq.

Thanks to Ted Kennedy, the bill includes a provision that adds homosexuals to the list of groups protected under federal hate-crimes legislation. The hate-crimes amendment has no business being in a defense authorization, and liberals are practically begging President Bush to carry out his promised veto of the whole bill by including it.

The Leftmedia want the rest of us to believe that the majority of Americans would rather have homosexuals added to hate-crimes legislation and expanded healthcare for middle class children than support the war against Jihadistan or cut spending. ABC News and The Washington Post trumpeted a poll this week that stated seven in ten Americans support the expansion of SCHIP, even though it will add families to the government dole who can afford to insure their children. This is what we call “pollaganda” —media polls as instruments of propaganda.

In the Senate: Retire, resign or cling to power

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) will be the fourth GOP senator to retire rather than seek another term in 2008. Senators John Warner (R-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Wayne Allard (R-CO) will also be retiring. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Wide Stance), on the other hand, is clinging to his seat, despite the Minnesota District Court’s refusal to all him to withdraw his guilty plea in the men’s-room incident and despite his promised resignation last week.

New & notable legislation

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) put a block on a gun bill designed to restrict gun purchases by individuals with a history of mental-health problems. The bill, a response to the murders at Virginia Tech this spring, is even backed by the NRA, which says, “There is not one person legally able to buy a firearm today who would be banned under the new law.” Gun Owners of America, a more conservative gun-rights organization than the NRA, derides the bill for the potential confiscation of the gun collections of the elderly, for example. Sen. Coburn said it’s “a pathway by which individuals can lose their Second Amendment rights but no pathway through which they can gain them back if they’re stable.”

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) proposed a tax specifically to pay for the Iraq war. “If you don’t like the cost, then shut down the war,” Obey said. Infighting among Democrats commenced, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly responding, “Just as I have opposed the war from the outset, I am opposed to a draft and I am opposed to a war surtax.” War funding seems to be an enigma for Democrats despite the fact that it is one of the relatively few constitutionally enumerated expenditures. The same cannot be said of such programs as SCHIP.

From the Left: Hillary’s free money

Hillary Clinton told the Congressional Black Caucus this week that the federal government (read: taxpayers) should give each child born in America $5,000 at birth. An identical proposal, adjusted for inflation, was made by George McGovern before his drubbing in the 1972 election. With nearly four million babies born in this country each year, the cost for Clinton’s baby bonds will add up fast. The irony is that while proposing this plan to help encourage savings, Clinton would have to raise taxes, which discourages savings. The burden of paying for these baby bonds will in fact fall on the very people who are supposed to receive them, but Ohio Democrat Stephanie Tubbs Jones thinks it’s a wonderful idea. “Every child born in the United States today owes $27,000 on the national debt, why not let them come get $5,000 to grow until they’re 18?” Ah, but when they turn 18, liberals will begin confiscating that money, with interest.

Apparently, proposals like this are invigorating liberals across the country. Democrat candidates have raised more than $225 million through September of this year, outpacing Republicans by $80 million. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in heated combat to gather support, but she is gaining rapidly, raising a total of $27 million in her third quarter fundraising to Obama’s $20 million. John Edwards is losing ground and shouldn’t even be seriously considered in the same field with Obama and Clinton. He reported $7 million for the third quarter and opted to take public funding, which will restrict his spending in key states.

Campaign trail: Giuliani and Gingrich

GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani raised $11 million in the third quarter, losing to Mitt Romney, but only after the former Massachusetts governor gave his own campaign an $8.5 million loan. Romney also holds an edge over Giuliani in total cash on hand, but $17 million of his campaign funds come from his own pocket, giving Giuliani a $2 million edge. John McCain proved he can still draw it in, raising $5 million, and Fred Thompson raised $8 million. Ron Paul kept pace by raising $5 million of his own.

Giuliani’s lead may not last, however, if he continues to answer his wife’s phone calls in the middle of major campaign appearances. He has made a point of being public about his connection to Judith, his third wife, but the level of control she has managed to gain in his campaign has staffers and some supporters worried.

Newt Gingrich has given final word that he will not run for president, citing that he cannot legally pursue the Republican nomination and remain head of American Solutions, an organization he started. Gingrich was long believed to be a strong voice for conservatives in the presidential pack, but he also realized that he could not meet a self-imposed $30-million fundraising goal. No doubt “Mr. Ideas” will continue to steer the Republican debate.

Judicial Benchmarks: Thomas’s book

This week marks the appearance of Justice Clarence Thomas’ autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son. The book omits discussion of the Court cases in which Justice Thomas has participated, focusing instead on Thomas’ upbringing and his pre-Court life, including the infamous Anita Hill hearings.

The primary lessons learned by Justice Thomas from his disadvantaged background are the importance of personal responsibility and self-reliance, which of course contradicts the narrative of the liberal elites, who deem black success impossible absent assistance from “compassionate” whites. Consequently, no one endures more caustic criticism from the Leftmedia than blacks who fail to exhibit sufficient “gratitude” to the elites. In the book, Justice Thomas forthrightly confronts the benefits he derived from racial preferences, but rather than accept the “hypocrite” characterization presented by the advocates of affirmative action, he expresses his resentment at how preferences diminish the accomplishments of successful blacks.

To be sure, Justice Thomas stands as an impediment to the antidemocratic project of rewriting the Constitution by judicial diktat and he remains, in our eyes, one of the finest jurists to sit on the High Court.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Warfront with Jihadistan: Berets and Blackwater

In last week’s witch hunt, “unbiased journalism” attempted to convict two from among America’s most elite fighting force, despite conclusive evidence that both were blameless. In Afghanistan last October, under the direction of Army Special Forces Capt. Dave Staffel, Master Sgt. Troy Anderson killed insurgent leader Nawab Buntangyar with a single, 100-yard sniper shot, thus “rehabilitating” the architect of countless suicide and roadside bombings. Incredibly, rather than being awarded medals for ridding planet Earth of this vermin, these two Green Berets were charged with premeditated murder, on the basis that Buntangyar was unarmed when he was shot. Apparently, SOCOM must now deploy lawyers when it sends out its finest, along with primers on Miranda warnings.

Two official Army investigations each concluded that Staffel’s seven-man team had fully complied with U.S. rules of engagement. Further, the reports noted that having been classified as an enemy combatant, Buntangyar was “fair game” as a target, armed or not. Finally, of considerable weight was the nontrivial issue that Buntangyar happened to showcase on the Special Forces’ “Top Ten” list of individuals to be killed or captured.

Evidently more convinced by media trials than he was by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, however, the recently-pinned-on Army three-star charged with Special Forces oversight in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney, convened yet another hearing to weigh evidence against the two soldiers. As the attorney for Capt. Staffel noted, Kearney’s charges carried an air of “military politics” about them. Fortunately, the American justice system trumped media jurists in this case, but only barely. Although the two soldiers were exonerated earlier this week, neither Lt. Gen. Kearney nor any within media circles offered so much as an oops-we-goofed comment to clear the soldiers’ good names.

In this week’s witch hunt, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Left Coast) leads a House investigation into Blackwater, a private security firm providing protection for State Department members in Iraq and Afghanistan. At issue is the culpability of Blackwater agents on 16 September, when at least 14 Iraqis were killed following a shootout occurring while the agents were protecting U.S. Embassy staff in a Baghdad convoy. Though Rep. Waxman had agreed not to probe for specific information because of ongoing FBI investigations, his promise apparently didn’t weigh too heavily on his conscience, as he pressed on, unhindered, with his inquisition, er, investigation. We note that Rep. Waxman has a history of hounding Blackwater for everything from war-profiteering to 2004’s ambush at Fallujah (ironically, Waxman cites the cause as—wait for it—Blackwater’s cost-cutting!), so we’re not surprised by this latest move.

We should also note that we’re not asserting that Blackwater is without fault in this incident (U.S. military reports say they fired without provocation), however, like last week’s Green Beret incident, both the media, as well as key individuals in power, have made such a determination for themselves—and apparently for everyone else, if they can get away with it—before all the evidence is in and before ongoing investigations are complete.

Department of Military Readiness: Gen. Pace

This week saw General Peter Pace (Patriot-USMC) wrapping up a lifetime of military service to his country as he retired from active duty and stepped down as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During a career spanning 40 years, Gen. Pace was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the Defense Superior Service Medal; the Legion of Merit; the Bronze Star with Combat “V”; the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Meritorious Service Medal with gold star; the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”; the Navy Achievement Medal with gold star; and the Combat Action Ribbon. He was also the first Marine to hold the Chairman’s position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since that body’s creation in 1947.

Gen. Pace served resolutely amid the politics surrounding the Iraq War. Democrats undoubtedly would have used his re-nomination hearings in the Senate as a club with which to beat President Bush, and to beat Gen. Pace himself. Rather than go through that media spectacle, the President and Defense Secretary Robert Gates instead nominated Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chief of Naval Operations, to replace Gen. Pace. Admiral Mullen assumed the Chairmanship on Monday.

While Gen. Pace has not publicly announced his plans, several commentators note that his exemplary military record, his charismatic personality and his Virginia residency would make him an attractive candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2008. Whether Gen. Pace would care to enter a body that has treated him so shabbily in recent years is another matter. Whatever his plans, we thank Gen. Pace for a lifetime dedicated to protecting this great nation, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors. Ooohrah!

Homeland Security front: Missile defense is go

The United States’ missile-defense system, a project begun during the Reagan administration, is finally ready. After another successful test last week, Gen. Victor E. Renuart, Jr. , commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command U.S. Northern Command, declared the system ready for action. “I’m fully confident that we have all of the pieces in place that, if the nation needed to, we could respond,” the Air Force general said. The defense system creates a virtual shield against a missile attack from Asia that, though imperfect, is critical for national defense. The Bush administration is still working toward setting up similar defenses in Eastern Europe, but Russia remains an obstacle to that goal.

Profiles of valor: Staff Sgt. Chad Malmberg

On the night of 27 January 2007, Staff Sgt. Chad Malmberg of the Minnesota Army National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division was leading a convoy of five gun trucks and 20 logistical vehicles south of Baghdad when insurgents attacked. Malmberg immediately advanced his vehicle and engaged the enemy, using a rocket to eliminate a jihadi position. With his 15-man unit outnumbered by more than two to one and under heavy fire from small arms and RPGs, Malmberg got out of his truck to clear an exit path for his convoy. When enemy fire precluded that option, Malmberg and his team entered a battle that would last for nearly an hour.

Moving to the convoy’s rear, which had come under heavy attack, Malmberg again dismounted his vehicle and, under direct fire, used an AT-4 to engage the enemy and successfully neutralize the problem position. After 40 minutes of fighting, the remaining insurgents had moved within about 20 yards of the convoy’s rear gunner. Again placing himself directly in the line of fire, Malmberg threw a hand grenade into the enemy position, effectively eliminating the immediate threat.

Because of Malmberg’s courageous and selfless actions under fire, not one of the 35 troops or civilians under his care was killed or wounded in the ambush. Malmberg became the first Minnesota National Guard member since World War II to be awarded the Silver Star.

Immigration front: Judge bans ‘no-match’ letters

The Social Security Administration, in conjunction with Homeland Security, plans to send “no-match” letters to companies with employees whose names don’t match the Social Security numbers on the cards used to apply for jobs. Those who don’t act on the letters within 90 days would face criminal charges and civil sanctions. Seems innocuous to us citizens, but in extending his temporary restraining order on the letters, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer (D-SF) claimed “the planned federal crackdown would cause serious irreparable harm to immigration and labor groups,” according to the Los Angeles Times. One such “group” is the ACLU, naturally.

“No-match” letters are nothing new. According to the SSA, they began sending them to workers in 1979 and to employers in 1994. Suddenly, Judge Breyer finds grievous fault with them. They harm groups. With the way immigration-control measures keep getting spiked, a person just might get the idea that the system’s fixed.

NoKo nuclear agreement, Take 17

This week, the Bush administration signed on to yet another North Korean promise to dismantle its nuclear program by the end of this year, in turn for (yawn) more political and economic incentives. This draft agreement must still gain the approval of four other countries—South Korea, China, Japan and Russia. If that happens, the dismantling will “get under way in a matter of weeks,” according to chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill, who adds that the U.S. will be “participating heavily in the actual disablement” and will have “people on the ground” at Yongbyon, a plutonium-producing facility.

We think former UN ambassador John Bolton is much closer to the mark. He said, “North Korea is happy to give up their nuclear program—they’ve done it several times before.”

In other Axis news, Iran’s parliament voted last weekend to designate the U.S. Army and the CIA as “terrorist organizations,” in a tit-for-tat response to the Senate’s vote last week designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp as a terrorist organization. According to Iran, the Army and CIA are terrorists for the atomic bombing of Japan and our efforts in the Middle East to stop terrorism.

This week’s ‘Alpha Jackass’ award

“The best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons—it’s to keep nuclear weapons and nuclear materials away from terrorists.” —Barack Obama

Keeping nuclear weapons away from terrorists—brilliant! Why didn’t we think of that? With intellectual gifts such as these, Obama should seriously consider running for President.

Regarding nuclear deterrence, we consulted Jane’s Terrorist Termination Handbook and found that detonation of a nuke in close proximity to any jihadi actually does deter that terrorist from any further acts of violence.

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Income Redistribution: A tale of two states

Both Maryland and Michigan have a Democrat in the governor’s chair, and both are dealing with their economic woes the only way Democrats know how: by raising taxes.

In Michigan, the state government briefly shut down as the legislature plugged a $1.75-billion budget hole. Eventually a few of the majority Republicans in the state senate conceded to expanding the state sales tax to various services and a 1.5-percent increase in the state income-tax rate. These “turncoats” now face a growing recall effort. Governor Jennifer Granholm called the agreement one that prevented “massive cuts” and placed the state on “solid financial footing” again, but the increased tax burden promises to drive additional jobs and residents out of a state that already suffers from the nation’s highest unemployment rate, 7.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley is proposing a multitude of tax increases. Included in his efforts to plug a shortfall variously estimated at $1.1 to $1.6 billion next year would be an increase in the state’s income tax for wealthier residents, doubling the state’s $1-per-pack cigarette tax, indexing the state’s gasoline tax to the rate of inflation, introducing slot-machine gambling in the state and increasing the state’s sales tax by one percent. As in Michigan, the sales tax would also begin covering a number of new services.

For their part, Free State Republicans, who hold barely one quarter of the General Assembly seats, claim that simply cutting the rate of government growth in Maryland to 3.5 percent annually would solve the budget issue.

The other tax revolution

Call it a tax revolution of a new kind. Rhiannon O’Donnabhain has sued the IRS for refusing to grant him a medical tax deduction for, well, becoming a “she.” After O’Donnabhain underwent a sex-change operation in 2001, the IRS initially sent a $5,000 refund but subsequently ordered it returned after an audit determined that the surgery had been “cosmetic.” According to IRS guidelines, to be deductible, medical expenses must include “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention” of “a physical or mental defect or illness.”

A mental defect, indeed. On the one hand, should O’Donnabhain win “her” case, Uncle Sam will have acquiesced to become the latest ally of the gender disoriented, complementing its present alliance with those seeking tax breaks for abortion. On the other hand, should O’Donnabhain lose, the IRS would be forced to loosen its vice-grip on at least a portion of taxpayer dollars.

O’Donnabhain’s lawyers accuse the IRS of making a political decision in denying the refund. Politics aside, however, at war in this case are the issues of a steady cultural decline and an increasingly confiscatory government. Regardless of the verdict, who really wins?

Regulatory Commissars: Ethanol

The ethanol boom of recent years appears to be slowing as the chaotic expansion of the industry hits multiple bottlenecks. Ethanol prices declined 30 percent in May, and the rate of decline has accelerated.

The federal government (with President Bush at the forefront) has been promoting ethanol for several years, primarily in order to curb dependence on foreign oil. Congress encouraged the expansion of the industry by requiring it as a fuel additive and by restricting other additives for “environmental reasons.” Corn growers benefited from skyrocketing prices, but then the law of unintended consequences came into play. The promotion of ethanol in fuel affected the poor most directly: Food prices rose rapidly, as nearly everything in the grocery store seemingly has some sort of connection with corn.

The pro-ethanol legislation triggered massive expansion and investment, which has now produced a flooded market, causing prices to plummet. Everything hinges on what Congress will do next—perhaps deregulation, but in an election year, candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) are bound to be pledging more government involvement. In all of this, there is a frightening similarity to scenarios that played out repeatedly in the Soviet Union. Aside from what the few benefits of ethanol may be, Congress has no business meddling in the market.

CULTURE

Around the nation: NJ abortion clinic closed

After five years with no inspections, New Jersey health officials finally made their way to inspect Alternatives, an abortion clinic in Atlantic City. State law requires inspections every two years. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Senior Services says New Jersey lacks the manpower to keep up with inspections of more than 1,000 “ambulatory care” facilities, which includes abortion clinics, in the state. Marie Tasey, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said, “The lack of health inspections at these clinics speaks volumes about the sentiment to reduce abortion at all costs to the detriment of women.” She added, “Regardless of your position on abortion, you should be outraged.”

The inspectors’ findings led to the shuttering of the facility. In a 116-page report, inspectors outlined multiple violations, such as blood under operating tables, rusty IV poles and expired drugs. Abortion is a grisly business, so we’re not entirely surprised by these findings. It gives the lie to the objections abortion advocates voice when it comes to “turning back the clock” to a time where “coat hangers were used in back alleys.” Have we really progressed?

Village Academic Curriculum: Yale’s principles

That bastion of Ivory Tower leftist “thought,” Yale Law School (YLS), lost a suit in which it attempted to prevent the federal government from withholding grant money as a result of the school’s refusal to allow Judge Advocate General (JAG) recruiters on campus. It seems that YLS objected to the Clinton administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals. Rather than risk losing the money, YLS has now decided to allow JAG recruiters on campus. It’s remarkable that Yale would initially raise such a stink over “don’t ask, don’t tell” and then abandon its position, clearly putting money over principle. Nothing like having the courage of one’s convictions!

In other legal news from the Village Academy, a 51-year-old paralegal undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst sued the university over a “C” grade he received in a political-philosophy class. He says he should have received an “A-”, but the teaching assistant graded on a curve, thus violating his civil and contractual rights, as well as intentionally inflicting “emotional distress.” A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the suit, but the plaintiff is considering an appeal—for emotional help, we hope. The particular class, by the way, was “Problems in Social Thought.”

Frontiers of Junk Science: Gore film qualified

In an ego-slamming blow to the populist potentate of eco-theology, Al Gore, a British judge ruled that schools will be required to warn students about the political bias of “An Inconvenient Truth” before showing the film in the classroom. Teachers must explain that there are different viewpoints on the issue. The judge wrote, “The result is I will be declaring that, with the guidance as now amended, it will not be unlawful for the film to be shown.” The plaintiff in the case said, “I wish my [two] children to have the best education possible, free from bias and political spin, and Mr. Gore’s film falls far short of the standard required.” Saying that Gore’s lies and distortions fall “far short” is being generous.

And last…

Airport delays are on pace to make 2007 the worst year ever for air travel. So far this year, only 72 percent of flights have arrived on time—the worst figure since measurements began in 1995. Four northeastern airports—LaGuardia, Liberty, JFK and Philadelphia—were even worse, with only 62 percent of flights arriving on time.

As with all things that are none of its business, Congress came to the rescue. House Aviation Subcommittee hearings began with the usual questions: How could this happen? What are we going to do about it? To which Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) gave this suggestion: “Please do something, anything. Try it, and if it doesn’t work, stop it and try something else.”

This got us to thinking: What, exactly, has Congress done this year, aside from trying to muzzle Rush Limbaugh? They twice tried to force our surrender in Iraq, tried to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, hurt our economy by raising the minimum wage and they are hurting our troops by placing the homosexual agenda above the Defense Appropriations process. Perhaps Jay Leno put it best: “Really, who better than Congress to show you how to make your business run more efficiently?”

Veritas vos Liberabit—Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis! Mark Alexander, Publisher, for The Patriot’s editors and staff. (Please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families—especially families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who granted their lives in defense of American liberty.)

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