Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mitt Romney May Suffer the Same Fate as Monty Python’s ‘Black Knight’

By Richard A. Lee

In one of the most memorable scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a character known only as the Black Knight engages King Arthur in a swordfight and quickly loses his arm in the duel. Undaunted, he continues the battle, even as the king chops off his other arm and then each of his legs. The Black Knight survives, but is reduced to a bloody stump of a man.

I found the scene from this 1974 British comedy replaying in my head this week as I followed the New Hampshire Republican primary. Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the contest and strengthened his frontrunner status, he suffered plenty of bumps and bruises in the Granite State. Unlike the Black Knight, he did not lose any limbs, but his victory did not come without a price.

Romney’s GOP opponents raised questions and concerns about his record at Bain Capital, charging that he actually cost Americans jobs while leading the Boston-based asset management and financial services company. The charges not only weakened Romney’s ability to tout his business experience in the campaign; they also provided Democrats with ammunition to use against him in the general election. Romney also suffered self-inflicted damage through his poor word choices at campaign events in New Hampshire.

Nevertheless, barring an unforeseen development, Romney likely will win the Republican nomination and run as the GOP candidate for president in the fall. He may have won Iowa by just eight votes, but a win is a win. Likewise, as a former Massachusetts governor, he went into neighboring New Hampshire with an advantage and was expected to win. And he did win -- by double digits and despite sharp attacks from his fellow Republicans, as well as the damage he did to himself.

The problem confronting Romney is his inability to deliver a knockout punch to the rest of the GOP presidential field. Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and a re-energized Jon Huntsman all will be back for South Carolina’s January 21 primary, which is shaping up as the most brutal contest in the early stages of the campaign. And all five of Romney’s opponents could very well still be in the hunt when Florida holds its primary on January 31.

Like the Black Knight, Romney will survive through Florida and beyond, but he will continue to get beat up every step of the way and could end up as a virtual bloody stump of a candidate by the time the Republican National Convention takes place in Tampa this August.

Such a scenario has Democrats salivating, but it’s unlikely to happen. As the primary campaign continues, Romney holds a distinct advantage over every candidate in the Republican field. By far, his campaign is better funded and organized than any of the others. He has the ability to outlast every other candidate ; he just needs to do so with all of his limbs intact.

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Richard A. Lee, who has more than 30 years of professional experience in journalism, government and politics, is an assistant professor in the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Read more of Rich's columns at richleeonline and follow him on Twitter @richleeonline.

93-Page FBI File on Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard Released; Allegations Include Violent Crimes

By Danny Fenster

It appears some detectives in New York have been paying attention to their hip hop.

Newly released files on Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard reveal a thick FBI profile of the Staten Island, New York MC. ‎”The detectives have documented, in their case files, that the [Wu Tang Clan] is heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, car jackings, and other types of violent crimes,” the files say. All of which might more or less be gleaned from listening to a Wu-Tang Clan album or two.

The 93-page file shows more than 15 arrests for the rapper, legally named Russell Tyrone Jones, with charges ranging from resisting arrest to assault, attempted police murder, refusal to pay child support and the illegal possession of body armor, the Guardian newspaper reports. The files connect Jones to at least two specific murders and an involvement with the Bloods street gang.

Rich Jones of the website filed a FOIA request for the files, which was responded to within a week.
To read more click here. To read the file click here.

Has New Hampshire launched Ron Paul as the leading ‘Anti-Romney’ GOP candidate?

By Adam Bitely
As attention turns away from New Hampshire to South Carolina, Ron Paul is on the move.

Not Rick Santorum. Nor Jon Huntsman. But it is now Paul who stands in the best position to become the only candidate that can challenge Mitt Romney. Paul consistently has had support in the double digits in each state that the GOP nomination contests have been held.

The results from New Hampshire show Ron Paul broke 20 percent of the vote for the second straight time, decisively winning second place. In Iowa, Paul finished strongly in third place with 21.4 percent of the vote behind Santorum and Mitt Romney who were virtually tied. And a recent poll shows Paul and Romney narrowly beating Obama nationally.

With another strong finish by Paul, a clear picture of who the leading “anti-Romney” candidate is may have emerged. And the rest of the “anyone-but-Romney” field will continue to seesaw back and forth in the upcoming contests.

Voters searching for a “conservative” alternative to Romney have been bouncing around for months with various candidates. From Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Santorum, it is becoming increasingly clear that Paul is the most organized and prepared candidate to oppose Romney in the long haul of the GOP nomination contests.

Santorum does not have a sustainable campaign operation in place. He will become the 2012 version of Mike Huckabee with his fifth place finish in New Hampshire leaving him to fight for the life of his campaign in South Carolina (click here for the most recent polling data) and possibly Florida (click here for the most recent polling data).

Get full story here.

Does The New Hampshire Primary Count More Than South Carolina?

Video by Frank McCaffrey
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Cost of Obamacare Regulations Underestimated by Billions of Dollars

By John Vinci

The Obama Administration underestimated the costs of Obamacare regulations by billions of dollars says the non-partisan Mercatus Center at George Mason University in a working paper it issued on Monday. The study examines eight Obamacare regulations issued in 2010 that became law before public comment was allowed because of the brief timeline Obamacare gave for their implementation.

Mercatus carefully studied the required cost/benefit analysis used by the Administration. And it found that the Administration’s cost estimates tended to be underestimated while its benefit estimates tended to be overestimated. The result is that the cost of implementing these eight regulations may be billions of dollars more than the Obama Administration is willing to admit.

For example, Mercatus says that, “For the ‘Early Retiree Reinsurance Program’ rule, costs were underestimated by $9-$10 billion over four years. More accurately calculated benefits might have been about one-third as high as estimated.”

This comes as no surprise to us at Americans for Limited Government. We’ve caught the Obama administration artificially inflating Obamacare’s benefits before.

For instance, on September 7, 2010 we submitted a public comment that criticized the Obama Administration for “describ[ing] [the preventive services regulation] as having a cost-savings benefit while supplying insufficient evidence to back such a claim and ignoring evidence to the contrary.”

The Mercatus study confirms our criticism: “The selective review of the literature provided in the RIA gives the uninformed reader a false impression of the extent to which preventive health services are cost-saving. Literature reviews consistently have concluded that most clinical preventive services typically are not cost-saving.”

While the Mercatus Center’s working paper does not scrutinize the paperwork burden analysis of these regulations (we hope they will consider doing so in the future), we’ve found that the Administration also underestimates how much it will cost Americans to comply with the paperwork these regulations generate.
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Hatch report reveals massive public pension underfunding

By Rick Manning
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch released a shocking report on Jan. 10 on the outstanding public debt that threatens to sink our state and local governments in a sea of red ink.

Hatch, who serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee rings alarm bells over the public pension debt shortfalls that beset state and local governments which may exceed $4 trillion. Perhaps as stunning as the overall public pension shortfall is the fact that a key member of the U.S. Senate cannot definitively report on exactly how much debt is owed because there is little transparency for public employee pension plans.

Adam Bitely of Americans for Limited Government reported in July of 2011 how the Commonwealth of Virginia was manipulating their budget to appear to have a surplus while underfunding the public employee pension fund writing, “Each year, the General Assembly is supposed to make payments to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), a pension fund for state employees. For the past two years, the General Assembly, along with Governor McDonnell, have neglected making these payments in full, allowing VRS to be underfunded. Currently, the state owes around $620 million to the VRS.

Conveniently, the payments are being skipped until 2013, the year that Governor McDonnell leaves office.
As Virginia political blogger Doug Mataconis put it, “Here in Virginia we have a ‘surplus’ of $311 million. That money will go, by law, in to education funding and into the state’s ‘rainy day’ fund. In reality, though, is what we’ve got a cooked set of books that says ‘+$311,000,000’ with a little entry at the bottom of the page that says ‘I.O.U. $620,000,000.00.’”

But Virginia is hardly alone in facing a future public employee pension funding crisis as the Hatch report states that 31 states have underfunded plans and eleven states are projected to have exhausted all of their pension assets by 2020.

To make matters worse, the report finds that there is an acute risk of these pension debts leading to the insolvency of large states like California or Illinois that, “could damage the fiscal health of the United States.”
Get full story here.

NC panel: Sterilization victims should get $50K

As many as 2,000 people forcibly sterilized decades ago in North Carolina should get $50,000 each, a task force said Tuesday, marking the first time a state has moved to compensate victims of eugenics programs that weeded out the “feeble-minded” and others deemed undesirable.

The payout, which could amount to as much as $100 million, still needs approval from the Legislature. But the prospects for passage of some sort of compensation are promising, since the governor immediately embraced the recommendation, and the House speaker has come out in favor of payments.

While dozens of states had programs in the 20th century that allowed people to be sterilized against their will in the name of improving the human race, none of the others has offered anything more than apologies.

Compensation “sends a clear message that we in North Carolina are people who pay for our mistakes and that we do not tolerate bureaucracies that trample on basic human rights,” said panel chairwoman Dr. Laura Gerald, a pediatrician.

From 1929 to 1974, more than 7,600 people in North Carolina were surgically rendered unable to reproduce under state laws and practices that singled out epileptics and others considered mentally defective. Many were poor, black women deemed unfit to be parents.

A task force report last year said 1,500 to 2,000 of the victims were still alive, though the state has verified only 72 so far.

Last year, Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue created the five-person task force to decide how to compensate victims. It consisted of a judge, a doctor, a former journalist, a historian and a lawyer.
The panel had discussed amounts between $20,000 and $50,000, and some victims and family members had bitterly complained that was too little. The panel also weighed whether to compensate victims’ family members or descendants — some people were sterilized after giving birth — but decided against it.
On Tuesday, some victims said they were just looking forward to seeing the issue resolved.

Elaine Riddick, 57, was sterilized at 14 after she gave birth to a son who was the product of a rape.

“I was a victim twice: once by the rapist and one by the state of North Carolina. Normally, if you commit a crime, you pay for it. They committed the biggest crime. They committed a crime against God. They committed a crime against humanity,” she said, wiping tears from her face. “And this is all I can do is just accept what they said today and go on with my life.”

While taking away someone’s ability to have children sounds barbaric today, eugenics programs gained popularity in the U.S. and other countries in the early 1900s, promoted as a means of raising the health and intellectual level of the human race.

More than 30 states enacted laws allowing surgical sterilization for certain people, though not all of them carried out such procedures. More than 60,000 people were forcibly sterilized under such programs, and some historians think the same thing was done to thousands more in other states under the authority of doctors or local officials.

Most states abandoned those efforts after World War II when such practices became closely associated with Nazi Germany’s attempts to achieve racial purity, though North Carolina stood out because it actually ramped up its program after the war. Sterilizations in North Carolina peaked in the 1950s, according to state records.

People as young as 10 were sterilized, in some cases for not getting along with schoolmates or for being promiscuous. Although officials obtained consent from patients or their guardians, many did not comprehend what they were signing.

North Carolina is among about a half-dozen states to apologize.

Melissa Hyatt, whose stepfather was sterilized, said the task force “did what was reasonable as far as budgets and economy.”

“It’s not really about the money,” she said. “It’s about the suffering and the pain.”

Mike Marion, whose 59-year-old aunt was sterilized at 18 because she was seen as mildly disabled mentally, said estates or descendants should get some compensation, too.

“If you’re going to admit wrong, admit wrong in its whole capacity,” he said. “By offering compensation to only the living, that’s taking partial responsibility.”

Despite the potentially high price tag in this economy, there is bipartisan support for some compensation. The governor issued a statement endorsing the task force recommendation.

GOP House Speaker Thom Tillis said he will review it. But he said previously that he wants the Legislature to vote this year on a compensation plan.

Republican Sen. Richard Stevens, one of the Senate’s chief budget-writers, said $50,000 per person “seems like a small amount to pay for what they had to endure, but $100 million is a large sum for the state of North Carolina.”

“Somewhere in there there’s got to be fairness to the individuals but mindful of the realities of the state’s budget,” he said.

Gerald urged passage: “Any state or group of people can make a mistake, but it takes courage and strength of character to acknowledge wrongs and try to right them.” (AP)

Iran Car Explosion Kills Nuclear Scientist in Tehran

Via: BBC:

A university lecturer and nuclear scientist has been killed in a car explosion in north Tehran, reports say.

Iranian media sources named the casualty as Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, an academic who also worked at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.

The blast happened after a motorcyclist stuck an apparent bomb to the car, said Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in recent years, with Iran blaming Israel and the US.

Both countries deny the accusations.

Iran’s Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi told state television that the attack against Mr Ahmadi-Roshan would not stop “progress” in the country’s nuclear programme.

He called the killing “evidence of [foreign] government-sponsored terrorism”.

Local sources said Wednesday’s blast took place at a faculty of Iran’s Allameh Tabatai university.
Two others were reportedly also injured in the blast, which took place near Gol Nabi Street, in the north of the capital.