Saturday, January 09, 2010

Liberal agenda could be on hold as Dems face election carnage

The retirements of longtime Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., will likely chill the liberal agenda of the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate as they seek to avoid widespread losses in 2010.

Political experts believe the prospect of significant Republican gains in November will leave Democrats divided over what to do next when it comes to passing their biggest legislative priorities, including global warming legislation and an immigration reform bill. "Obama is going to make the argument that now is the time to act," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. "But the congressional Democrats who are threatened are going to be saying, 'Sorry Mr. President, we have given you enough tough votes for this term.' "

The bills Democrats are most likely to abandon in the face of this daunting political landscape are the global warming bill, which would cap carbon emissions and fine those who pollute, and legislation that would make it easier for employees to unionize. Immigration reform, which was already considered unlikely, will also come off the table, political analysts say.

Veteran Democratic strategist Doug Schoen believes that in the short term, Democrats will push hard to pass their health care reform bill, preferably in the coming weeks. "Longer term, they will have to move to the center, otherwise they will face a tsunami," he said.

Experts are predicting gains of 20 seats or more in the House for the GOP. And Dorgan's retirement puts at least nine Senate Democratic seats in reach of Republicans. If those predictions are close to the mark, Democrats in both chambers will have to work with a much smaller majority, which will make it harder, if not impossible, to move their agenda.

Lawmakers may look to Dorgan as a warning sign. The three-term senator watched his once-high poll numbers plummet in recent months as the Democratic health care bill made its way through the Senate. In a hypothetical matchup with Republican Gov. John Hoeven, Dorgan trailed by 22 points. In the same poll, conducted in December by Rasmussen Reports, 64 percent of voters said they opposed the sweeping Democratic health care reform bill that Dorgan voted for. The Cook Political Report now lists Dorgan's seat in the "Lean Republican" category.

In the House, there has been a string of Republican and Democratic retirements, but it is the GOP that stands to gain in 2010, according to election analysis data. The Democrats who are calling it quits are vulnerable moderates from districts that lean Republican.

There are many more politically vulnerable House Democrats who have been unwilling to sacrifice their jobs by voting for legislation that is unpopular with their constituents. That isn't likely to change. "There are still a core group of Democrats here who are not suddenly going to lay down and roll over because of Democratic retirements," political analyst Stu Rothenberg said. "If anything, it will only enhance their position, and leaders will have to find a way to pass bills."



Ideological Profiling: Is it Ethnic Profiling?

The recent terrorist attempt to down a U.S. airliner and the failure of Homeland Security to prevent him from boarding the plane has raised serious questions, not only about the competence of DHS officials, but the adequacy of our screening techniques. One prevalent fear is that we are wasting much time and limited resources casting too wide a net in our screening procedures for reasons of political correctness. The fear seems to be that narrowing our focus to those proven most likely to commit a terrorist act could result in profiling members of a specific minority group in ways that some condemn as racial or ethnic stereotyping.

The truth, however, is quite the contrary. The sort of ideological filtering that occurs in screening for terrorists is not racial or ethnic profiling at all. And even the staunchest defenders of political correctness should not object to it. Let me illustrate this from personal experience. The fact is, I would liked to have entitled this column “The Day I was Profiled as a Terrorist.” But, had I done so, few readers would have taken me seriously. Let me explain.

In 1985, while in Graduate School, I had the opportunity to participate in two separate academic conferences in the United Kingdom — one in Dublin, Ireland and the other in Aberdeen, Scotland — with ten days in between to be a tourist. To get myself from Ireland to London after the Dublin conference, I purchased an overnight bus/ferry package. We exited the ferry in England by walking en masse up a wide ramp. Stationed on it were British immigration officials selectively stopping some of us for questioning.

To my surprise, I was one of those stopped. Of course, I had nothing to fear since my reasons for being in the country were entirely legitimate, and this was easily determined after the official viewed my US passport and asked me some routine questions. Even though I had a beard at the time, it was nicely trimmed. I thought I looked reasonably respectable and told myself that my being singled out then was a random event.

Years later, however, after seeing Gerry Adams on the news, I put two and two together. Though he has since denied any IRA associations, there can be little doubt that his image did trigger those associations. When I walked up the ramp of that ferry, I, too, shared a certain look then associated with a group of young men who had entered England to commit acts of terrorism. Simply put, I looked far too much like Gerry Adams. Had it been explained to me that I was stopped for questioning because some suspected IRA terrorists looked like me, or vice versa, I do not think that I would have been offended; I would have probably thought that stopping me was reasonable.

Was it ethnic profiling? I doubt it. I have no reason to believe that English authorities had conjured up some grand theory positing that there was something in the genetic make-up of an Irishman that made him predisposed to commit acts of terrorism. If there was profiling, it was ideological, not ethnic. Some young Irishmen, who looked like me, had joined an organization whose ideology condoned acts of terrorism. And is not the situation the same in the case of radical Muslim extremists?

In singling out Middle Eastern men for increased attention from airport security, we are not presupposing some grand racial theory that says they have something in their genes making them predisposed to commit acts of terrorism. That would, indeed, be ethnic profiling of the worst kind. Instead, we are simply doing the same sort of sagacious ideological profiling that the British authorities were doing with the IRA. We are similarly saying that some members of a particular ethnic group have adopted an ideology—that associated with a particular branch of Islam—that condones terrorism. And we have every right to protect ourselves against their murderous behavior.

Finally, given the Homeland Security memo that surfaced a few months ago telling law enforcement officials to focus on members of certain groups who are politically right of center, I fear I must give Gerry Adams ample warning. Were he to fly to this country today, there is a chance that he might be singled out and questioned by Homeland Security. Simply put, he looks far too much like Victor Morawski.



Time to abolish TSA as we know it

Which is harder: For an uninvited guest to sneak into a state dinner at the White House, or for a properly ticketed passenger to board an airplane? You're not alone if you have to think about your answer. Despite that, the airplane in question will not necessarily be safe.

This is how American aviation security works -- or rather doesn't work. In order to provide an illusion of security, we have made air travel impractical for nearly any trip that is less than a full day's drive. If you are satisfied with this, then by all means let's put some new functionary in charge at the Transportation Security Administration without any further thought. If you see a problem here, then perhaps it's time to re-think everything -- including the TSA's existence as we know it.

We have learned much recently about post-9/11 airport security policies. We do not have a system that failed -- we have a system that is designed to fail. For example:

* All it takes to shut down air traffic all along the East Coast is for one concerned bystander in Newark, N.J., to tell an inattentive (absent, sleeping?) TSA worker that someone just walked right past him when he wasn't looking. That was enough to force some 10,000 people to go back through a security line.

* As Jeffrey Goldberg demonstrated in a November 2008Atlantic Monthlypiece, anyone who can print out a fake boarding pass and carry a bottle labeled "saline solution" can enter our "secure" terminals with dangerous chemicals.

* Who can blame former Vice President Al Gore for using private jets after his experience in 2002, when he was given the full-body pat-down twice on a single trip to Wisconsin?

* In March, TSA employees detained an aide to Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, simply because he was carrying $5,000 in cash and checks.

But, you might say, aren't these inconveniences, and TSA's $7 billion annual budget, just the price we pay for safety? Hardly, because we're not getting safety. A Nigerian man with documented terrorist ties, whose name was already on a watch list, known both to the British government and to ours as a threat, was given a visa and allowed to board a U.S.-bound plane wearing explosive underpants. Had he lit his drawers on fire in the bathroom and not in his seat, we'd be watching memorial services for 300 passengers today.

In short, we have turned our airports into something out of "1984," and we're not safer for having done so. Do we even need the theatrical presence of uniformed TSA screeners when flight crews can be trained to screen their own planes just as well? But the point is simply that anything would be better than what we have now: Minimum security bought with maximum hassle.




U.S. Job Losses in December Dim Hopes for Quick Upswing: "The nation lost 85,000 jobs from the economy in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, as hopes for a vigorous recovery ran headlong into the prospect that paychecks could remain painfully scarce into next year. “We’re still losing jobs,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It’s nothing like we had in the free fall of last winter, but we’re not about to turn around. We’re still looking at a really weak economy.” The disappointing snapshot of the job market intensified pressure on the Obama administration to show results for the $787 billion spending bill it championed last year to stimulate the economy. At a news conference, Mr. Obama acknowledged the December data as a setback, while outlining plans to deliver $2.3 billion in tax credits to spur manufacturing jobs in clean energy. “We have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring,” the president told reporters. Most economists assume the unemployment rate — which held steady at 10 percent in December — will worsen in coming months. The nation would then confront the highest jobless rate in a generation on the eve of November elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress."

China space program shoots for moon: "China's aerospace industry firms - which for decades have supplied dangerous missile technologies and equipment to Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, and which have been sanctioned ceaselessly by four successive U.S. presidents for their transgressions - will find the United States in a new suppliant posture. The atrophying U.S. space program suggests that America will be forced to cooperate with China in space, or else cede the high frontier of space to China altogether. October's launch of the experimental Ares 1-X heavy lift rocket, while flawless, may well mark the end rather than the beginning of America's next-generation Constellation manned-space program. The space shuttle is scheduled for retirement this year and until Constellation gets off the ground, future American astronauts will rely on Russians - or Chinese - to get into orbit - if they want to get there at all. The Pentagon is clearly alarmed by the prospect. The chief of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. Kevin Chilton, told reporters Nov. 3, "With regard to China's [space] capabilities, I think anyone who's familiar with this business ... would have to be absolutely amazed at the advancement that China has made in such a short period of time, whether that be in their unmanned program or the manned program." Senior Chinese space officials have told their state media that China could be on the moon by 2022 at the outside. Other authoritative Chinese space engineers see a moon landing as a next step in the Tiangong program that will launch three Chinese space stations into Earth orbit between 2011 and 2015."

Any deeds to match the words?: "Obama is giving a good imitation now of a man getting a late education. Maybe the education will take. It's too soon to say. He said late Thursday that he won't fire anybody. "Ultimately, the buck stops with me. When the system fails, it's my responsibility." Smooth talk is easy for Mr. Obama, and he often confuses words with deeds. He's taking responsibility for what happened aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on final approach over Detroit, but it's not clear what that means. He's not likely to fire himself (perhaps to spare us Joe Biden). So nobody pays a price for some serious sleeping on the job. Sleeping on the job is serious, but not that serious."

US spies in info overload: "US intelligence officials, under pressure to better track terrorist threats, are hampered by their own vast bureaucracy and an overwhelming flow of information, analysts say. President Barack Obama ‘has now discovered that he’s inherited an intelligence community in the United States which is bloated, bureaucratic and even with the best of intentions has become so large it finds it very hard to put together the pieces,’ Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, told AFP. … News photos of Obama meeting a room full of top intelligence officials illustrated the problem, said Riedel, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. ‘There are two dozen people in that room. Why are that many people trying to run the show? Why doesn’t he have an intelligence senior official who he goes to who is in charge of everything?’ he said.”

Israeli jets bomb Gaza smuggling tunnels: "Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday night targeted tunnels and a weapons-making shop, Palestinian sources said. One person was killed and two injured, Palestinians told The Jerusalem Post. The airstrikes came after the firing of a Katyusha rocket that landed near Ashkelon earlier in the night, the Israeli military said.”

With jobs, sometimes less really is more: "A government job is not productive in the sense that any new wealth occurs, so the private sector has the burden of supporting yet another government employee. This means less money is available for private businesses to hire the productive labor which pays for the government job. So how does adding another government job stimulate the economy? I’m puzzled when people applaud these jobs. If we see a couple struggling to support their kids who suddenly decide to solve their problem by creating more kids, would we applaud this?”

The Obamas’ sacrifice: "We are lucky to have President and Mrs. Obama in the White House. They have sacrificed wealth and its comforts … for us. I know that because they keep telling us. John Dietrich has been keeping track. The president has repeatedly stressed the need for us to tighten our belts. He has informed us, ‘We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times. …’ During the campaign, his wife told us that we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. … Please. The Obamas are part of the Washington elite, who have always indulged their champagne tastes while advising the rest of us to make do with less. The American people don’t need any lectures from the Obamas — or anyone else living large on the taxpayer dime — about sacrifice.”

Freedom to Build: Frontier Centre looks at Canada’s homeless problem: "The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a backgrounder on Canada’s homeless population. It examines the role of regulation in reducing the supply of low-cost housing. ‘Freedom to Build,’ written by researcher Fergus Hodgson. … The study notes that the policy responses to affordable housing, while numerous, have not addressed the primary cause: the restrained supply of private housing, which for the last two decades has been a significant reason the homeless proportion of the population has grown so rapidly.”

Phantom zip codes also found in Virginia: "As much as $9.5 million in federal stimulus dollars went to 14 zip codes in Virginia that don’t exist or are in other states, Old Dominion Watchdog ( reports. The fake zip codes were listed on, the federal Web site that is supposed to track how the stimulus money is being used. The phony zip codes are a new wrinkle in’s increasingly tattered credibility. In November, Ed Pound, director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said a rash of phantom congressional districts found on the website were the result of confusion by fund recipients, who apparently didn’t know who their congressman was. But who would give millions of dollars to somebody who doesn’t even know their own zip code?"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: