Ridge disowns allegations

August 31, 2009

As I suspected might be the case, Tom Ridge’s publisher appears to have oversold the allegations in Ridge’s new book:

Ridge says he did not mean to suggest he was pressured to raise the threat level, and he is not accusing anyone of trying to boost Bush in the polls. “I was never pressured,” Ridge said.

We still don’t know what the book actually says, but apparently what happened is that Rumsfeld and Ashcroft urged that the alert level be raised in response to a videotape from Osama bin Laden. Noting that bin Laden’s tapes never amounted to anything, Ridge’s staff declined to do so, and Ridge wondered what they were thinking. (This is pretty much Ace’s case two.)

On the other hand, Ridge reportedly makes other allegations in his book that I’m pretty sure will stand up. Basically, the Bush administration never took homeland security seriously:

In the book, Ridge portrays his fledgling department as playing second fiddle to other Cabinet-level heavyweights. As secretary, he says he was never invited to participate in National Security Council meetings, he was left out of the information loop by the FBI and his proposal to establish Homeland Security offices in major cities such as New Orleans were rejected.

This seems pretty much inarguable. By now it’s clear that the function of Homeland Security is largely to make people feel safe, not be safe. And the neglect continues:

  • He is “dumbfounded” that the government still has no way to track foreign visitors who don’t leave the country when their visas expire, noting that two of the 9/11 hijackers were in the country on expired visas.
  • Government officials and members of Congress rarely discuss homeland security issues and have “lost the sense of urgency” about protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. Because of the economy and growing budget deficits, he also is worried about funding for future efforts to tighten security.

(Via the Corner.)

Cuba to get even poorer

August 30, 2009

Raul Castro’s prescription for Cuba’s economic woes: more central control. Yeah, that’ll help.

Supreme Court will re-hear campaign speech case

August 30, 2009

The Supreme Court will re-hear Citizens United v. FEC this fall. This is the infamous case in with the Obama administration argued that the government has the power, under some circumstances, to ban political books, signs, and YouTube videos. The ACLU and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press both filed briefs opposing the government’s position.

UPDATE: I’ve corrected the name of the case.

Venezuela still supports FARC

August 30, 2009

The New York Times reports:

Despite repeated denials by President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan officials have continued to assist commanders of Colombia’s largest rebel group, helping them arrange weapons deals in Venezuela and even obtain identity cards to move with ease on Venezuelan soil, according to computer material captured from the rebels in recent months and under review by Western intelligence agencies.

The materials point to detailed collaborations between the guerrillas and high-ranking military and intelligence officials in Mr. Chávez’s government as recently as several weeks ago, countering the president’s frequent statements that his administration does not assist the rebels. “We do not protect them,” he said in late July. . .

The newest communications, circulated among the seven members of the FARC’s secretariat, suggest that little has changed with Venezuela’s assistance since [Colombia’s raid on a FARC base in Ecuador]. The New York Times obtained a copy of the computer material from an intelligence agency that is analyzing it.

One message from Iván Márquez, a rebel commander thought to operate largely from Venezuelan territory, describes the FARC’s plan to buy surface-to-air missiles, sniper rifles and radios in Venezuela last year.

It is not clear whether the arms Mr. Márquez refers to ended up in FARC hands. But he wrote that the effort was facilitated by Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, the director of Venezuela’s police intelligence agency until his removal last month, and by Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, a former Venezuelan interior minister who served as Mr. Chávez’s official emissary to the FARC in negotiations to free hostages last year.

Health care subsidies would cover illegal immigrants

August 30, 2009

The president calls it a myth:

Today, I want to spend a few minutes debunking some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls across this country.

Let’s start with the false claim that illegal immigrants will get health insurance under reform. That’s not true. Illegal immigrants would not be covered. That idea has never even been on the table.

However, the Congressional Research Service, which analyzes legislation on behalf of members of Congress, says it’s true. Specifically, the bill does bar illegal immigrants from collecting the subsidy, but it provides no enforcement mechanism:

Some have expressed concerns that since H.R. 3200 does not contain a mechanism to verify immigration status, the prohibitions on certain noncitizens (e.g, nonimmigrants and unauthorized aliens) receiving the credits may not be enforced. However, others note that under §142(a)(3) of the bill, it is the responsibility of the Health Choices Commissioner (Commissioner) to administer the “individual affordability credits under subtitle C of title II, including determination of eligibility for such credits.” Thus, it appears, absent of a provision in the bill specifying the verification procedure, that the Commissioner would be responsible for determining a mechanism to verify the eligibility of noncitizens for the credits.

In fact, as David Freddoso points out, Democrats blocked efforts to add an enforcement mechanism to the bill, which makes their intent pretty clear.

ASIDE: This is no surprise. Some in Congress feel so strongly about benefits for illegal immigrants that the Democrats falsified a floor vote in the House of Representatives to ensure that illegal immigrants could receive food stamps.

Also, Mark Tapscott observes that the CRS report also finds that illegal immigrants would be able to participate in the insurance exchange:

H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens–whether legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently–participating in the Exchange.

As regular readers know, I am fairly ambivalent on the issue of illegal immigration, so I don’t see this as an outrage the way some do. What I do see as an outrage (albeit an expected one) is the president labelling this as a myth, when it’s actually true.

(Via Hot Air.)

POSTSCRIPT: Interestingly, there’s not a thing about this on the White House “reality check” page about this. Is that a tacit acknowledgement?

CIA morale at “minus 50”

August 30, 2009

Who ever could have seen this coming?

Morale has sagged at the CIA following the release of additional portions of an inspector general’s review of the agency’s interrogation program and the announcement that the Justice Department would investigate possible abuses by interrogators, according to former intelligence officials, especially those associated with the program.

A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the third-ranking CIA official at the time of the use of harsh interrogation practices, said that although vigorous oversight is crucial, the public airing of once-classified internal assessments and the prospect of further investigation are damaging the agency. “Morale at the agency is down to minus 50,” he said.

(Via Hot Air.)

Honduras floats a compromise

August 29, 2009

The Washington Times reports:

The interim president of Honduras has offered the man he replaced after a June coup the chance to return to the country on the condition that both renounce claims to the presidency, a negotiator said Thursday.

Arturo Corrales, a member of a three-man Honduran panel seeking an end to the standoff, told The Washington Times that Roberto Micheletti was willing to make the concessions to restore peace and prosperity to Honduras following the coup against Manuel Zelaya. . .

Mr. Corrales, who was appointed by Mr. Micheletti, has shuttled between Honduras and the United States for the last few weeks. He told The Times that under the new proposal:

  • Both Mr. Micheletti and Mr. Zelaya would resign.
  • The next in line under the constitution would become interim president.
  • New elections would be scheduled and monitored by independent foreign observers.
  • Mr. Zelaya may return as a private citizen.
  • Mr. Micheletti will support a decision by the Honduran congress to grant “political amnesty [not involving common crimes] to all parties relating to events of June 28.”

This deal makes sense for Honduras, since it preserves its constitution. But I assume Zelaya, Chavez, and Castro will not be interested, since there’s no way this proposal results in the establishment of a socialist dictatorship.

(Via Hot Air.)

Brown government traded bomber for oil deal

August 29, 2009

In the most appalling case of government perfidy in recent memory, documents show that the British government traded the Lockerbie bomber for a BP oil deal:

The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.

The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.

The Brown government’s business secretary is a liar:

Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, said last weekend: “The idea that the British government and the Libyan government would sit down and somehow barter over the freedom or the life of this Libyan prisoner and make it form part of some business deal … it’s not only wrong, it’s completely implausible and actually quite offensive.”

Offensive? Yes. Implausible? If only.

(Via the Corner.)

POSTSCRIPT: To make it even more disgusting, the government has spent the last week insisting that Megrahi’s release was Scotland’s fault, and they had nothing to do with it.

UPDATE: If it weren’t appalling enough already, the trade broke a pledge made to America:

A former Cabinet minister and two sources close to talks over the handover of suspects in 1999 told The Times that Robin Cook, then Foreign Secretary, promised Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State at the time, that anyone found guilty would serve their sentence in Scotland, where the airliner exploded with the loss of 270 lives.

A senior US official said: “There was a clear understanding at the time of the trial that al-Megrahi would serve his sentence in Scotland. In the 1990s the UK had the same view. It is up to them to explain what changed.”

(Via Hot Air.)

Israelis reach clarity

August 29, 2009

On May 17, Israeli Jews predominantly saw President Obama as a friend of Israel, or at least non-hostile. 31% said Obama favored Israel, 40% said he was neutral, and only 14% said he favored the Palestinians. In just one month, he turned that around entirely. On June 19, only 6% thought Obama favored Israel, 36% said he was neutral, and 50% said he favored the Palestinians.

This stunning reversal apparently begat a damage control effort:

A much-cited Post poll published on June 19 that put the first figure at 6% had been cited by top officials in both the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office as the catalyst for recent American efforts to improve the American-Israeli relationship. But the new poll proves that those efforts have not improved Obama’s reputation among Israelis.

I’d be grateful to anyone who could point me toward those efforts, because I never heard anything. It doesn’t sound like the Israelis heard about them either, but Obama’s numbers have actually managed to slide further, depite having almost no room to slide.

Now just 4% see Obama as favoring Israel, in a poll that (as Allahpundit points out) has a margin of error of 4.5%. So Obama is now within the margin of error of zero (!), which has to be a historic achievement. Another 35% say Obama is neutral, while a majority say Obama favors the Palestinians.

Jacob Weisberg’s death machine

August 29, 2009

Jacob Weisberg, writing for Slate, says that Republican tax policy is “pulling the plug on grandma.” No kidding:

It’s not preposterous to imagine laws that would try to save money by encouraging the inconvenient elderly to make a timely exit. After all, that’s been Republican policy for years.

It was Sen. Grassley himself who rammed the GOP’s most astonishing pro-death policy through the Senate in 2001. The estate-tax revision he championed reduces the estate tax to zero next year. But when the law expires at year’s end, the tax will jump back up to its previous level of 55 percent. Grassley’s exploding offer has an entirely foreseen if unintended consequence: It’s going to encourage those whose parents and grandparents are worth anything more than a million bucks to get them dead by midnight on Dec. 31, 2010. This would be a great plot for a P.D. James novel if it weren’t an actual piece of legislation.

(Via Hot Air.)

This is stunningly offensive, but since he brought it up, let’s take it seriously for a moment. It’s not the elimination of the death tax that is the problem, it’s the reinstitution of the death tax that is problem! Republicans wanted to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, but Democrats blocked it. So if the return of the death tax is going to kill people (and Weisberg is the one that says it will), Democrats are the ones doing it.

A union bailout

August 29, 2009

Now I know why the unions are supporting health care nationalization so strongly. The health care “reform” bill includes a $10 billion payoff for the unions:

Antilabor forces say it’s welfare for the UAW and Democrats’ union allies. Labor supporters say it falls short of what’s needed as tens of thousands of union members are pushed into early retirement as employers cut back health care coverage.

They’re both talking about a $10-billion provision tucked deep inside thousands of pages of health care overhaul bills that could help the UAW’s retiree health-care plan and other union-backed plans.

It would see the government — at least temporarily — pay 80 cents on the dollar to corporate and union insurance plans for claims between $15,000 and $90,000 for retirees age 55 to 64.

Unions fail to fund their pension obligations properly, and the taxpayer picks up the difference. And that’s after we just gave them two car companies. Nice.

For an extra dose of chutzpah, some say $10 billion isn’t enough:

“It is not enough money,” said former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, a Mt. Clemens Democrat who chairs the board at Washington, D.C.-based American Rights at Work, a labor advocacy group. “That will have to be supplemented to fill the gap.”

(Via Hot Air.)

Obama promises to take away my insurance

August 29, 2009

The White House claims that no one will lose their insurance under Obama’s health care plan. They have a “reality check” page dedicated to the subject, headlined “You can keep your own insurance.”

At the same time, President Obama has promised to abolish high-deductible insurance plans. This isn’t some ancient campaign promise. It’s from a town meeting in Portsmouth, NH earlier this month:

Now, when we pass health insurance reform, insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.)

And finally — this is important — we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies — (applause) — because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money — and we need to save money in this health care system.

So this is what reform is about.

(Emphasis mine.)

I have a high-deductible health care plan, because as I see it as the one that makes financial sense. I can pay for typical, predictable expenses; there’s no need for me to run the money through an insurance company. I need insurance in case of major problems.

It’s just like all my other insurance. I’ll pay my electric bill myself; my homeowner’s coverage is in case the house burns down. But, if others want low-deductible plans, that’s their choice.

Unfortunately, Obama isn’t willing for me to make my choice. He promises to abolish high-deductible plans. In his very own words, he “will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care.” Those are exactly the sort of things I’d rather pay myself under my high-deductible plan, but my plan will not be permitted.

Next time you hear about the health care “myths”, remember who is spreading them. Out of one side of this mouth, he promises you can keep your insurance, but out of the other, he promises to take your plan away if he doesn’t approve of it.

(Via Volokh.)

Axis of evil

August 28, 2009

AP reports:

The United Arab Emirates has seized a cargo ship bound for Iran with a cache of banned rocket-propelled grenades and other arms from North Korea, the first such seizure since sanctions against North Korea were ramped up, diplomats and officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Krauthammer’s prediction

August 28, 2009

Charles Krauthammer predicts what will happen with health care reform. First, Congress will throw out nearly everything it has so far, then:

Tear up the existing bills and write a clean one — Obamacare 2.0 — promulgating draconian health-insurance regulation that prohibits (a) denying coverage for preexisting conditions, (b) dropping coverage if the client gets sick and (c) capping insurance company reimbursement.

What’s not to like? If you have insurance, you’ll never lose it. Nor will your children ever be denied coverage for preexisting conditions.

The regulated insurance companies will get two things in return. Government will impose an individual mandate that will force the purchase of health insurance on the millions of healthy young people who today forgo it. And government will subsidize all the others who are too poor to buy health insurance. The result? Two enormous new revenue streams created by government for the insurance companies.

And here’s what makes it so politically seductive: The end result is the liberal dream of universal and guaranteed coverage — but without overt nationalization. It is all done through private insurance companies.

This would be very smart for the Democrats. Promising free candy puts the debate on Democratic turf, whereas their current effort to create a federal candy rationing authority puts it on Republican turf. Of course, the free candy is an illusion:

Ostensibly private. They will, in reality, have been turned into government utilities. No longer able to control whom they can enroll, whom they can drop and how much they can limit their own liability, they will live off government largess — subsidized premiums from the poor; forced premiums from the young and healthy. . .

Isn’t there a catch? Of course there is. This scheme is the ultimate bait-and-switch. The pleasure comes now, the pain later. Government-subsidized universal and virtually unlimited coverage will vastly compound already out-of-control government spending on health care. The financial and budgetary consequences will be catastrophic.

However, they will not appear immediately. And when they do, the only solution will be rationing. That’s when the liberals will give the FCCCER regulatory power and give you end-of-life counseling.

But by then, resistance will be feeble. Why? Because at that point the only remaining option will be to give up the benefits we will have become accustomed to. Once granted, guaranteed universal health care is not relinquished. Look at Canada. Look at Britain. They got hooked; now they ration. So will we.

I think he’s right. Our best hope is that Democrats will be too stupid to do it. But polls show that the bottom drops out of Democratic support for health care reform without a public option, so I think we’ve got a chance.

Smart diplomacy

August 28, 2009

The Obama administration is snubbing the Polish remembrance of the start of World War 2. Once again, the world is seeing how we treat our closest friends.

Youth employment hits record low

August 28, 2009


The U.S. Department of Labor reminds employers and employees that the federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 on Friday, July 24. With this change, employees who are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will be entitled to pay no less than $7.25 per hour.

“This administration is committed to improving the lives of working families across the nation, and the increase in the minimum wage is another important step in the right direction,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.


The proportion of people ages 16 to 24 who were employed in July was 51.4 percent, the lowest July rate since records began in 1948 and 4.6 percentage points lower than in July 2008.

(Via Hot Air.)

It’s basic economics (typically taught on the second day) that price floors cause surpluses. In the labor market, a minimum wage causes unemployment. Period.

Nevertheless, politicians seem to think that the inevitable consequences of their actions can be avoided through the power of their good intentions. “Improving the lives of working families?” Perhaps, if you’re lucky enough to have work.

UPDATE: Originally I erroneously titled this post “Youth unemployment hits record high” (which lives on in the permalink). Of course, low employment and high unemployment aren’t quite the same thing. But rest assured, youth unemployment is also at a record.

Obama reneges on European missile defense

August 28, 2009

The Obama administration is scrapping plans to install missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic:

The United States is poised to dump a critical missile-defense agreement with two of its most dependable NATO allies. The Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported yesterday that the Obama administration is going to scrap the “third site” anti-missile system scheduled to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic were scheduled to be deployed by 2013. Now the plan appears to have been shot down.

Don’t forget, European missile defense was not just a Bush pledge (abrogating your predecessor’s promises would be bad enough), but an Obama pledge as well. Once again, the world is learning clearly that the United States cannot be trusted, and it will treat its enemies better than its friends.

National Endowment for Propaganda

August 28, 2009

The National Endowment for the Arts (a government agency that is the largest supporter of the arts in the United States) is being turned into a propaganda institution:

On Thursday August 6th, I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to attend a conference call scheduled for Monday August 10th hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve. The call would include “a group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change!” . . .

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.

It sounded, how should I phrase it…unusual, that the NEA would invite the art community to a meeting to discuss issues currently under vehement national debate. I decided to call in, and what I heard concerned me.

The people running the conference call and rallying the group to get active on these issues were Yosi Sergant, the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve; Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote; and Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons.

We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

(Via Volokh.)

This is truly frightening.

UPDATE: George Will suspects that this broke some laws.  I’m sure the Justice Department is going to get right on that. (Via Instapundit.)

Taxpayers are chumps

August 28, 2009

Charles Rangel (D-NY), the chief tax writer in the House of Representatives, failed to pay property taxes on land he owns in New Jersey. (Via Instapundit.)

The amount at issue in the New Jersey property isn’t large (just a few hundred dollars), but it’s almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg. Rangel concealed most of his finances, but income taxes (unlike property taxes) are confidential. (For now.)

More “misinformation”

August 28, 2009

A Democratic Congresswoman admits that health-care nationalization will result in painful cuts to Medicare:

Some people, including Medicare recipients, will have to give up some current benefits to truly reform the nation’s health-care system, Rep. Betsy Markey told a gathering of constituents in Fort Collins on Wednesday.

Markey has repeatedly said during the August congressional recess that Medicare spending needs to be reined in to help pay for reforming the broader health-care system.

“There’s going to be some people who are going to have to give up some things, honestly, for all of this to work,” Markey said at a Congress on Your Corner event at CSU. “But we have to do this because we’re Americans.”

(Via Hot Air.)

Somebody flag this woman, she’s contradicting the president!

DOJ kills Richardson investigation

August 28, 2009

The Richardson pay-to-play investigation being conducted by the US Attorney in New Mexico, has been killed by “top Justice Department officials” in Washington:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former high-ranking members of his administration won’t be criminally charged in a yearlong federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations involving one of the Democratic governor’s large political donors, someone familiar with the case said.

The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe.

“It’s over. There’s nothing. It was killed in Washington,” the person told The Associated Press. . .

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Albuquerque said he had no information about the Justice Department’s decision and couldn’t comment.

(Via American Thinker, via Instapundit.)

This smells really bad, particularly coming on the heels of the DOJ’s dismissal of voter-intimidation charges against the Black Panthers (after the case was already won), and its opening of a witch-hunt against CIA investigators.

UPDATE: The NYT contradicts the AP, saying that the US Attorney decided to close the investigation. I’m not sure how to reconcile that with his spokesman’s statement that had had no information about the Justice Department’s decision.

UPDATE: Under DOJ rules, the US Attorney is supposed to have final say over a local corruption case. For Washington officials to end a case violates DOJ rules.

Pirates fire on US Navy

August 28, 2009

The AP reports:

Somali pirates holding a hijacked ship off the coast of Somalia fired at a U.S. Navy helicopter as it made a surveillance flight over the vessel, the first such attack by pirates on an American military aircraft, the Navy said Thursday.

The helicopter, which is based on the USS Chancellorsville, was not hit and there were no injuries, the Navy said.

Why on earth aren’t these cretins facing the business end of a JDAM? It ought to be a fundamental principle in our national policy that you cannot fire on the US Navy and live.

ABC, NBC reject ad opposing health nationalization

August 27, 2009

Fox News reports:

The refusal by ABC and NBC to run a national ad critical of President Obama’s health care reform plan is raising questions from the group behind the spot — particularly in light of ABC’s health care special aired in prime time last June and hosted at the White House.

The 33-second ad by the League of American Voters, which features a neurosurgeon who warns that a government-run health care system will lead to the rationing of procedures and medicine, began airing two weeks ago on local affiliates of ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS. On a national level, however, ABC and NBC have refused to run the spot in its present form.

ABC’s refusal is most amazing, after they turned over their network to the president to make his pitch:

“The ABC Television Network has a long-standing policy that we do not sell time for advertising that presents a partisan position on a controversial public issue,” spokeswoman Susan Sewell said in a written statement. “Just to be clear, this is a policy for the entire network, not just ABC News.” . . .

[Dick] Morris, a onetime advisor to former President Bill Clinton, said he was particularly troubled by ABC’s decision not to air the spot.

“It’s the ultimate act of chutzpah because ABC is the network that turned itself over completely to Obama for a daylong propaganda fest about health care reform,” he said. “For them to be pious and say they will not accept advertising on health care shuts their viewers out from any possible understanding of both sides of this issue.”

Reid trails by double digits

August 27, 2009

A Mason-Dixon poll shows Danny Tarkanian leading Harry Reid 49-38.

Health care bill ends tax privacy

August 27, 2009

CBS reports:

Section 431(a) of the bill says that the IRS must divulge taxpayer identity information, including the filing status, the modified adjusted gross income, the number of dependents, and “other information as is prescribed by” regulation. That information will be provided to the new Health Choices Commissioner and state health programs and used to determine who qualifies for “affordability credits.”

Section 245(b)(2)(A) says the IRS must divulge tax return details — there’s no specified limit on what’s available or unavailable — to the Health Choices Commissioner. The purpose, again, is to verify “affordability credits.”

Section 1801(a) says that the Social Security Administration can obtain tax return data on anyone who may be eligible for a “low-income prescription drug subsidy” but has not applied for it.

(Via Hot Air.)

Oh geez. Even not applying for a subsidy won’t protect your privacy. Government bureaucrats can root through tax data looking for people who didn’t apply to see if they could have.

Congress discovers retention bonuses

August 27, 2009

The Washington Times reports:

A month after they voted to punish some corporate executives for taking hefty bonus payouts, members of the House of Representatives quietly gave their own staffers a new potential bonus by making even their top-earning aides eligible for taxpayer dollars to repay their student loans.

The change, which took effect in May, means House employees earning up to $168,411, or the top level, are now eligible for government-funded subsidies to help pay down their student loans.

House officials defend the change as a job-related benefit necessary to keep the government competitive in the hiring market – the same argument corporate chieftains used to defend their own pay scales.

(Via Hot Air.)

Congressional Democrats were so exercised about AIG’s retention bonuses, they were prepared to pass an unconstitutional bill of attainder. Now they’re issuing them themselves.

But don’t call them hypocrites, this is totally different. AIG was a failed enterprise that dismally failed to anticipate the financial crisis and was kept afloat by the taxpayer. Congress on the other hand, uh, never mind.

Krugman: public option would kill private insurance

August 26, 2009

Of course, to Paul Krugman, that’s a good thing:

Crucially they also allow people to buy into a publicly-run plan which would compete and I believe actually would in the end kill the private plans in the competition. So it’s a route that can lead to single-payer.

Uh oh, Paul; you’re spreading “misinformation“. Prepare to be flagged.

The buck stops at that other guy

August 26, 2009

The White House is trying to distance itself from the CIA witch-hunt:

Cheney said in a statement released Monday that “President Obama’s decision to allow” prosecutor John H. Durham . . . to examine the legality of other interrogation-related activities was “a reminder, if any were needed” of why some Americans question the Obama administration’s ability to protect the nation. . .

A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, called Cheney’s comments “off base” and took umbrage at the idea that Obama had personally allowed Durham to expand his inquiry. “This was not something the White House allowed, this was something the AG decided,” the official said, referring to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

(Emphasis mine.) (Via Commentary, via the Corner.)

Wow. Not only is the president not in charge, but they take “umbrage” at the idea that he would be.

Health care reform

August 26, 2009

It is sometimes said that opponents of health care nationalization, such as myself, want to preserve the status quo. It is true that, like the majority of voters, I prefer the status quo to the “reform” being contemplated in Congress. The paramount thing is to scuttle the Democratic effort to nationalize health via a “public option” or “co-ops”.

But the status quo isn’t good either. So here are seven things I think we should do to reform health care:

  1. Allow insurers to compete across state lines. Currently health insurers are not permitted to compete in other states, which gives us 50 largely uncompetitive markets instead of one competitive market. As Charles Lipson explains, lifting those restrictions would create competition in health care, improving quality and lowering cost.

  2. Remove the tax penalty for individually-purchased health care. The discrepancy in the tax treatment of individually-purchased and employment-based health care makes individual health care much less affordable.

    One direct way to do this is the way advocated by John McCain during the 2008 election campaign, to make employment-based health care taxable, and compensate for that with a tax credit. This is politically impossible, since the Obama campaign demagogued that strategy, portraying it dishonestly as a tax increase. Fortunately, the problem can be resolved on the other end as well, by making health insurance premiums tax deductible.

  3. Voluntary tort reform. Institute “loser pays” and caps on punitive damages to reduce the cost of frivolous litigation.

    In its usual form, tort reform is probably a political impossibility, since it would mean total war by the trial-lawyer lobby and  its retainers in the Democratic party. However, it could be instituted in a way that would be difficult to oppose: Allow individuals to sign waivers that would institute tort reform on any cause of action they might bring, and (importantly) allow health care providers and insurers to take those waivers into account in their pricing structure. Persons willing to accept tort reform for themselves would see lower prices. Additionally, by looking at the price gap between waivered and non-waivered customers, we could easily quantify the cost of litigation to our health care system.

  4. Universal Health Savings Accounts. Make HSAs available to everyone. Also, allow the payment of health insurance premiums from an HSA, thereby incorporating point 2.

  5. Allow the use of unapproved drugs with informed consent. It is a cruel irony that people die waiting for drugs that could have saved them to be proven safe. People should be allowed to take unapproved drugs after being made aware of the risks.

  6. Improved information and education. Collect information on the performance of health care providers and insurers and make it available and searchable on the internet. Also, institute a series of public service announcements encouraging high-deductible plans and otherwise discouraging moral hazard.

  7. Cut taxes and the budget. Putting more money into the individual’s pocket will make health care more affordable. Let people decide for themselves how to spend their money.

The beauty of this agenda is every one of these items would increase our liberty, not the power of the state.

UPDATE: I originally had an eighth item (listed as #3), which called for making it possible for those who leave employment to continue to purchase the same health care for one year. As a commenter points out, that’s already covered by COBRA for all but the smallest employers. For some reason, I erroneously thought that COBRA applied only to lay-offs. Since that item is already law (COBRA actually gives 18 months), I’ve deleted it from the agenda.

Deficit figures include cap-and-trade auction

August 26, 2009

It seems the White House’s deficit numbers still include $600 billion in revenue from auctioning 100% of the cap-and-trade permits. Of course, the current bill auctions only 15%, and gives the rest away. So that’s another $510 billion we can add to the $9 trillion deficit.

It’s not clear whether the Concord Plausible Baseline assumes that $510 billion in revenue or not, but they don’t mention dropping it so I’m guessing it does.  If so, we can bump their deficit projection up to $14.9 trillion.

On Kennedy’s passing

August 26, 2009

Jonah Goldberg expresses my feelings perfectly:

I’m staying mostly silent about Ted Kennedy for reasons that should be obvious. . . But here’s one tip for liberals outraged that anyone would speak ill of the dead in regard to Kennedy. Such protests are fair for the moment. But they lose all legitimacy the moment liberals try to use his memory to steam roll a healthcare bill through Congress. If they want to invoke his memory or legacy as a reason to pass their partisan version of healthcare reform, that is their right. But they should not then say that nobody should dare criticize Kennedy. That’s not making an argument for healthcare reform, that is simple bullying and I see no reason why opponents of the Democratic push should cave in to it.

Of course, the left is already doing exactly that. I think it will be ineffective, though. People fear the bill and distrust those who are writing it, and one man’s death won’t change that.

Ten-year deficit estimated at $14.4 trillion

August 26, 2009

If you think the White House’s $9 trillion projected deficit from 2010 to 2019 is appalling, you won’t like the Concord Coalition’s projection. Using a variety of plausible assumptions that are contrary to current law but very likely to happen (e.g., an AMT fix), they put the ten-year deficit at $14.4 trillion.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Maybe $14.9 trillion is even more plausible.

Only the little people pay taxes

August 26, 2009

For the rest of us, the Geithner defense (“it’s the software’s fault”) is no defense at all. (Via Instapundit.)

State Department sanctions Honduras

August 25, 2009

Reports that the State Department was coming to its senses regarding Honduras were premature. Our appalling State Department is retaliating against Honduras for its refusal to set aside its constitution and re-install Manuel Zelaya as president:

The OAS Foreign Ministers mission is in Honduras seeking support for the San Jose Accord, which would restore the democratic and constitutional order and resolve the political crisis in Honduras. In support of this mission and as a consequence of the de facto regime’s reluctance to sign the San Jose Accord, the U.S. Department of State is conducting a full review of our visa policy in Honduras. As part of that review, we are suspending non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services in the consular section of our embassy in Honduras, effective August 26. We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution.

Idiots. The only crisis in Honduras is the one we are instigating. The world is re-learning the lesson it learned so clearly during the Carter administration: America will treat its enemies better than its friends.

(Via Hot Air.)

Obama loses more ground on Guantanamo

August 25, 2009

Rasmussen reports:

Seventy-five percent (75%) of U.S. voters are at least somewhat concerned that dangerous terrorists will be set free if the Guantanamo prison camp is closed and some prisoners are transferred to other countries. Fifty-six percent (56%) are very concerned. . .

Support for the president’ s plan to close the prison camp for suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba continues to erode. It’s been steadily dropping since Obama announced the camp closure just after taking office in January. Only 32% of voters now favor closing the prison camp, down six points from May and down 12 points since the President announced his decision in January.

Fifty-five percent (55%) now oppose closing the prison, with 13% not sure. In January, just after the president announced his decision, just 42% were opposed.

(Via Hot Air.)

In retrospect, maybe it was a mistake to announce that he would close the Guantanamo prison without a plan to do it safely.

CBO right, OMB wrong

August 25, 2009

Last March, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its projection of deficits that would result from President Obama budget: $9.3 trillion from 2010 to 2019. That same day, Peter Orszag, the director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget, defended the OMB’s much rosier (but still appalling) estimate of $7 trillion over the same ten years, and said that the CBO was wrong.

Well, well, well. Last week, in a late Friday news dump, the White House revised its ten-year deficit estimate to $9.05 trillion, very nearly the CBO estimate. In fact, the remaining $250 billion discrepancy is accounted for by a $250 billion bank rescue contingency that was budgeted but won’t be spent.

Earlier this year, the OMB already adopted the CBO numbers for 2009. Without admitting it explicitly, the OMB is now conceding that it was wrong and the CBO was right for 2010-2019 as well. Will Orszag apologize? Not likely, but we know now that we can discard his numbers. That leaves us with just the dark red bars in the notorious we’re-screwed chart:


POSTSCRIPT: I blogged this last Friday, but I didn’t make the connection that the OMB was adopting the CBO numbers it previously criticized. Thanks to Power Line for pointing that out.

UPDATE: CNN gives the new deficit figure as $9.05 trillion, rather than the round $9 trillion figure I had before. That completely erases the discrepancy between the old CBO number and the new OMB number. I’ve edited the post accordingly.

UPDATE: On the other hand, the CBO has revised its projection to be rosier. Go figure.

CIA morale plummets

August 25, 2009

Putting a political hack in charge of the CIA, what could go wrong?

As the agency prepares for a politically-charged investigation of its interrogation practices, Mr. Panetta’s leadership is noticeably lacking. Indeed, there is growing evidence that the director’s recent actions have made a bad situation worse.

We refer to the manufactured “scandal” surrounding the agency’s plans to enlist contractors in the hunt for high-value terror targets. That proposal — which involved the controversial security firm Blackwater — was discussed on several occasions, but never reached the operational stage. Three previous CIA directors declined to brief the proposal to Congress, largely because there was nothing to it.

But that didn’t stop Mr. Panetta from rushing to Capitol Hill when he learned of the project, offering an emergency briefing to members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Congressional Democrats immediately pounced on Panetta’s admission, saying it supported claims (by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) that the spy agency had repeatedly lied to lawmakers.

Sources now suggest that Mr. Panetta regrets his actions. Columnist Joseph Finder, who writes for the Daily Beast, reported last week that the CIA director spoke with his predecessors after he reported the program’s existence to members of Congress. George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden were all aware of the program, but they elected not to inform Congress because it never evolved past the “PowerPoint” stage. . .

The looming special counsel inquiry [q.v.] will make a skittish organization even more risk averse. Talented personnel will continue to leave the agency, believing (correctly) that the CIA will leave them twisting in the wind when the going gets tough.

It’s a trend that is sadly familiar. Following previous scandals in the 70s and 80s, thousands of skilled analysts and operations specialists left Langley for greener pastures, leaving behind the hacks and politicians who presided over such intelligence debacles as 9-11.

(Via Instapundit.)

Rangel’s hidden finances

August 25, 2009

CQ Politics reports that Charles Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, failed to disclose half his wealth and most of his investment income:

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel , already beset by a series of ethics investigations, has disclosed more than $500,000 in previously unreported assets.

Among the new items on Rangel’s amended 2007 financial disclosure report were an account at the Congressional Federal Credit Union worth at least $250,000, an investment account with at least $250,000, land in southern New Jersey and stock in PepsiCo and fast food conglomerate Yum! Brands. None of those investments appeared on the original report, which was filled out by hand and filed in May 2008.

According to the original report, Rangel’s net worth was between $516,015 and $1,316,000, while the amended report showed his net worth, as of Dec. 31, 2007, roughly double that amount — at least $1,028,024 and as much as $2,495,000.

Rangel also revised his disclosed investment income from 2007. The original report showed he had received between $6,511 and $17,900, but the new report shows between $45,423 and $134,700. The report also includes eight previously undisclosed financial transactions.

(Via Instapundit.)

White House to create interrogation czar

August 25, 2009

AP reports:

President Barack Obama has moved more forcefully than ever to abandon Bush administration interrogation policies, approving creation of a special White House unit for questioning terrorism suspects, as Attorney General Eric Holder weighs a Justice Department recommendation to reopen and pursue prisoner abuse cases.

A senior administration official told The Associated Press Monday that Obama has approved establishment of the new unit, to be known as the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which will be overseen by the National Security Council.

(Via Instapundit.)

I hope this report is false, because here’s what the administration is doing if this is true:

The National Security Council is a committee that exists to advise the president on matters of national security. By law, it consists of the president, vice-president, and the secretaries of State and Defense. The law also designates the CIA director and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs as advisers to the NSC. Others, such as the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Staff, as well as everyone’s deputies, are often invited to attend, but have no statutory role.

The point is, the NSC is a committee of cabinet-level officials.  It is not set up to run anything; it exists to help the president make policy. The chain of command for this new interrogation unit cannot run through the NSC.

In other words, President Obama, in response to concerns about the conduct of interrogations, is creating a new interrogation unit answerable only to the president. This is a bad idea. It should be plainly obvious that you cannot curb misconduct by limiting oversight. Also, it seems almost designed to maximize interagency strife to have interrogations conducted by an isolated group.

UPDATE: Ishmael Jones has a contrary view.

The witch-hunt begins

August 25, 2009

The president’s word:

Obama: CIA interrogators won’t face charges
Updated 4/17/2009

President Obama threw open the curtain Thursday on harsh interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration against terrorism suspects, but he said CIA officers would not be prosecuted for their actions. . .

Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder said CIA interrogators would not be held accountable because their actions had been sanctioned by the Justice Department. Holder also said the government would defend them against any lawsuits and seek to indemnify them against monetary judgments.

isn’t worth spit:

Attorney General Eric Holder has asked federal prosecutor John Durham to examine whether CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists were illegal, the Justice Department announced Monday.

UPDATE: Victoria Toensing writes:

“All volunteers step forward. We have a person in custody who is high-ranking al-Qaeda. He taunts that an attack on United States soil is imminent but laughs mockingly when we ask for specifics. We need interrogators.” Such was the threat in the summer of 2002 when the CIA asked the Justice Department for guidance on what its personnel could do to get such information from captured al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubdayah.

Since then, the lawyers who stepped forward to provide carefully structured counsel have been criminally investigated and told that, even if they are not prosecuted, their conduct will be turned over to their state bars. The interrogators who stepped forward were promised in early spring by President Obama that, even if they erred in judgment while protecting our country, the president would rather “move forward.” However, in late summer, they are under criminal scrutiny.

The next catastrophic intelligence failure is being enabled this very day.

Obama’s first rendition

August 23, 2009

The LA Times reports:

Reporting from Alexandria, Va. – A Lebanese citizen being held in a detention center here was hooded, stripped naked for photographs and bundled onto an executive jet by FBI agents in Afghanistan in April, making him the first known target of a rendition during the Obama administration.

Unlike terrorism suspects who were secretly snatched by the CIA and harshly interrogated and imprisoned overseas during the George W. Bush administration, Raymond Azar was flown to this Washington suburb for a case involving inflated invoices. . .

Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counter-terrorism director at Human Rights Watch, called the case “bizarre.”

“He was treated like a high-security terrorist instead of someone accused of a relatively minor white-collar crime,” she said.

Justice Department lawyers have denied any misconduct in the case.

(Via Volokh.)

Let’s see if I understand the Obama administration position. Rendition is wrong for terrorists. But rendition is appropriate for white-collar criminals. I hope we’re missing part of the story, because this is just bizarre.

More on the White House spam

August 23, 2009

Last week, the White House denied responsibility for its spam emails in support of health care “reform”. They blamed unspecified third-parties for adding names to the White House’s mailing list.

Now it’s revealed that the White House hired a private contractor to send the emails:

The White House hired a private communications company based in Minnesota to distribute mass e-mails, helping to shed light on how some recipients received e-mails in support of President Obama’s health care plan without signing up for them, FOX News has learned.

The company, Govdelivery, describes itself as the world’s leading provider of government-to-citizen communication solutions and says its e-mail service provides a fully-automated on-demand public communication system.

It is still unknown how much taxpayer money the White House provides to Govdelivery for its services. . .

The revelation comes after the White House acknowledged this week that people were receiving unsolicited e-mails from the administration about health care reform and suggested the problem was with third-party groups that placed the recipients’ names on the distribution list.

(Via Hot Air.)

Apparently the government uses Govdelivery for most of its official email distribution:

Govdelivery does extensive work with a bevy of federal, state, and local agencies, including 11 Cabinet-level departments such as Defense, State, and Justice. Among the tasks Govdelivery performs are FBI internal e-mails and external regional crime alerts, and FEMA hurricane or other natural disaster alerts.

In fact, before Jan. 1, Govdelivery handled 85 percent of mass e-mail deliveries for federal agencies.

Whether Govdelivery commonly does political work, and who pays for it, isn’t clear, but I’m sure someone will ask. In any case, both Govdelivery and the White House agree that the White House, and not Govdelivery, is responsible for the mailing list.

(Previous post.)

POSTSCRIPT: Ed Morrissey claims that the White House has blamed Govdelivery for the spam, but I don’t know where he’s getting that. Perhaps he’s confused about which third parties the White House was referring to. (Indeed, they were deliberately vague.) But Fox News is clear that they were not referring to Govdelivery:

The White House insists that Govdelivery aggregates nothing and plays no role in the formation of its e-mail list; it is merely an end-product e-mail distributor.

Obama hits new low

August 23, 2009

Rasmussen’s presidential approval index hits a new low at -14, with 41% strongly disapproving and just 27% strongly approving. Overall, 48% approve and 51% disapprove, within a few points of where he’s been for the last month.

(Via Instapundit.)

The cash-for-clunkers disaster

August 23, 2009

Is cash-for-clunkers the worst-managed government program ever? It’s in the running:

The U.S. Transportation Department, billions of dollars behind in paying “cash-for-clunkers” rebates, has hired private contractors and solicited volunteers from the Federal Aviation Administration and its own executive ranks to work overtime to clear the backlog.

Employees of the FAA’s air-traffic-control unit were asked to help, but the Transportation Department stressed Friday that essential safety personnel were not diverted from their duties.

A total of 1,200 workers, including about 300 contractors from Citigroup, the financial services giant, are now working seven days a week to review applications and reimburse auto dealers for rebates advanced to customers, officials said. . .

The National Automobile Dealers Association . . . urged the Obama administration late Friday to extend the deadline because the program’s Web site was crashing. . .

From the start, the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, proved too popular for its $1 billion budget and the several hundred employees assigned to the program.

Planners who expected to sell 250,000 cars in three months are now deluged with nearly twice that many applications seeking more than $2 billion in rebates after less than one month. Only 7 percent of the rebates have been paid, leaving many auto dealers out millions of dollars. Dealers were supposed to be repaid within 10 days. . .

“We set up the program in 30 days, which was what Congress gave us,” said Jill Zuckman, assistant to [Transportation Secretary] LaHood.

“No one anticipated that 250,000 cars would be sold in the first four days. It proved to be more than the people we had available could handle.”

(Via the Corner.)

The government decides to hand out $3 billion and then they’re surprised when people are eager accept the money? Sheesh.

Anyway, there’s a bit more on the diversion of staff from air traffic control:

An FAA memo obtained by The Washington Times reads in part:

“We have been asked to provide volunteers to assist with this high-visibility program . . . employees may work during regular business hours (providing mission allows) and/or overtime.

“The [Air Traffic Organization] has been asked to provide a list of 100 employees to assist. They will be asked to attend a two-hour training course this afternoon. The task is expected to take 5 to 10 days.”

But Ms. Zuckman said that only support personnel, such as in finance and operations, were asked to work on the clunkers program.

“Nobody is being ordered to do anything; we weren’t asking air traffic controllers to leave their posts. We’re using budget and accounting people primarily,” she said.

So you can take your pick of two different brands of incompetence:

  • We are actually diverting administrative staff from an essential government function, “during regular business hours,” in order to encourage people to discard perfectly good cars!
  • We have staff in air-traffic control who would otherwise be sitting around doing nothing.

Health-insurance mandate unconstitutional

August 22, 2009

So say David Rivkin and Lee Casey in the Washington Post, pointing out that health care is not an economic activity that would fall under the authority of Congress’s interstate commerce power.

I love enumerated-powers arguments. They’re so quaint. James Madison would surely agree, but five members of today’s Supreme Court? Not likely.

(Via Instapundit.)

Half favor Social Security opt-out

August 22, 2009

Rasmussen reports:

Forty-nine percent (49%) of U.S. voters say working Americans should be allowed to opt out of Social Security and provide for their own retirement planning.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 37% disagree and do not believe Americans should be able to opt out of Social Security. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure.

(Via Moe Lane, via Instapundit.)

Non-stimulus countries fare better

August 22, 2009

Nations that didn’t “invest” in a big stimulus package are coming out of the recession more quickly than those that did:

In Brazil, India, China, Japan and much of Continental Europe the recession has ended. In the second quarter this year, both the French and German economies grew by 0.3 percent, while the U.S. economy shrank by 1 percent. How can that be? Unlike America, France and Germany had no government stimulus worth speaking of, the Germans declining to go the Obama route on the quaint grounds that they couldn’t afford it. They did not invest in the critical signage-in-front-of-holes-in-the-road sector. And yet their recession has gone away. Of the world’s biggest economies, only the U.S., Britain and Italy are still contracting. All three are big stimulators, though Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi can’t compete with Obama’s $800 billion porkapalooza. The president has borrowed more money to spend to less effect than anybody on the planet.

(Via Instapundit.)

I am so wee-wee’d up

August 22, 2009

President Obama goes off the teleprompter again (I hope!):

“There’s something about August going into September — where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up,” the president said yesterday to a gathering of Democratic Party activists. (Spelling in that quote is courtesy of the official White House transcription.)

The crowd laughed. “I don’t know what it is,” the president added, to more laughter. “But that’s what happens.”

So, uh, what does that mean? Robert Gibbs has to uncork the omnipotent clarity to explain this one:

“I think ‘wee-wee’d up’ is when people get nervous for no particular reason,” Gibbs said. . .

As for the president’s colorful phrasing, Gibbs said, “‘Bed wetting’ would be the more consumer-friendly term.”

If the comedians can’t get any material from this, we’ll know they’re completely in the tank.

NYT reverses on death panels

August 22, 2009

Tom Maguire notes that the New York Times is belatedly starting to get it:

The Times is now defending fears about health care rationing that they previously derided. Here is their latest “reporting”:

A Basis Is Seen for Some Health Plan Fears Among the Elderly

WASHINGTON — White House officials and Democrats in Congress say the fears of older Americans about possible rationing of health care are based on myths and falsehoods. But Medicare beneficiaries and insurance counselors say the concerns are not entirely irrational.

My goodness – was it only “White House officials and Democrats in Congress” that said elder-fears were “based on myths and falsehoods”? Have the Times editors forgotten their headline from August 13?

False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots

The NYT’s early reporting notwithstanding, the “death panel” controversy is neither true nor false. It is a prediction. And, given the evidence, it’s a very good one.

Obama gets religion

August 22, 2009

The New York Post reports:

Repeatedly invoking the Bible, President Obama yesterday told religious leaders that health-care critics are “bearing false witness” against his plan. . .

He said the reforms aim to carry out one of God’s commandments.

“I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper,” Obama said.

He called health reform a “core ethical and moral obligation.”

(Via Power Line.)

Remember how the left cried that we were a hair’s breadth from theocracy whenever President Bush used religious language?

BONUS SNARK: President Obama is his brother’s keeper? Hmm. Obama’s brother lives in a hut in a Kenyan shanty town. Is that how he carries out a “core ethical and moral obligation”? I’d rather keep myself, thanks. (Via Althouse.)

POSTSCRIPT: Andrew Klavan makes another important point:

According to Ben Smith over at Politico, President Barack Obama gave some theological weight to his health care plan during a phone call to a group of Rabbis the other day. Referring to the belief that God decides during the Jewish New Year “who shall live and who shall die,” Obama told the rebs, “We are God’s partners in matters of life and death.”

In response to this statement I would like to make a subtle theological point: No, we’re not. For those of you who aren’t versed in the finer points of theology, let me try to simplify that for you: No. We’re not. Or to put it even more simply: No. We. Are. Not.

(Via Instapundit.)

On the death panels

August 22, 2009

Under government-run health care, would the elderly find themselves facing a government process (run by a panel, perhaps) that would decide whether they would receive life-saving care? Of course they would.

We don’t need to know anything about the specifics of the health care bill. It is inevitable that government-run health care (as the “public option” would bring about) would ration care, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect that it would do so primarily by cutting costs among the elderly (as that is where the greatest expenses are).

But we needn’t rely on common sense; we can look at the record of other nations with government-run health care. In the UK, there is a board (a “panel”, even), going by the Orwellian name of “NICE”, that is responsible for rationing care. Cost is very much a factor in its decisions.

But we needn’t rely on the record of other nations; we can look at the pronouncements of health care nationalization’s principal proponent, President Obama. In a town hall meeting, the president said that those who suffer from heart arrhythmias might be denied a pacemaker, and be prescribed a painkiller instead.

Not clear enough? Last April, the president was blunt in an interview with the New York Times. A Bloomberg story has this:

President Barack Obama said his grandmother’s hip-replacement surgery during the final weeks of her life made him wonder whether expensive procedures for the terminally ill reflect a “sustainable model” for health care.

But there’s more:

THE PRESIDENT: The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

[Q:] So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that’s part of what I suspect you’ll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.

(Via JustOneMinute, via Kausfiles, via Instapundit.)

So an “independent group” will be giving “guidance” about cutting costs in care for the “chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives.” That sounds pretty clear.

The term “death panel” may be melodramatic, but it seems fairly apt. The biggest problem with the term is probably the fact that the panel won’t only be making life-and-death decisions; it will also be looking to control costs by limiting quality-of-life care.

So what’s in the actual bill? A lot has been made of the bill’s end-of-life counseling sessions. True, the sessions are not mandatory (contrary to some early reports), but neither are they truly voluntary. As Charles Lane wrote in the Washington Post:

Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren’t quite “purely voluntary,” as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) asserts. To me, “purely voluntary” means “not unless the patient requests one.” Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive — money — to do so. Indeed, that’s an incentive to insist.

Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority. Once they’re in the meeting, the bill does permit “formulation” of a plug-pulling order right then and there. So when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) denies that Section 1233 would “place senior citizens in situations where they feel pressured to sign end-of-life directives that they would not otherwise sign,” I don’t think he’s being realistic.

What’s more, Section 1233 dictates, at some length, the content of the consultation. The doctor “shall” discuss “advanced care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to”; “an explanation of . . . living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses” (even though these are legal, not medical, instruments); and “a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families.” The doctor “shall” explain that Medicare pays for hospice care (hint, hint).

(Via Volokh.)

So the counseling sessions are a bit sinister, but they don’t constitute panels empowered to ration care to the elderly and chronically ill. Where are those? They’re hidden:

A key House chairman and moderate House Democrats on Tuesday agreed to a White House-backed proposal that would give an outside panel the power to make cuts to government-financed health care programs. White House budget director Peter Orszag declared the plan “probably the most important piece that can be added” to the House’s health care reform legislation.

This panel, the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, would be empowered to propose changes to Medicare. If its recommendations meet with the president’s approval, they would go into effect unless rejected by a joint resolution of Congress. Note that joint resolutions, unlike concurrent resolutions, are subject to a presidential veto. A veto would be inevitable since the president would have already approved the changes, so it would take a two-thirds majority of Congress to reject the panel’s recommendations, and that would never happen. (This is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power, but that’s unlikely to matter nowadays.)

Thus, this provision essentially gives the president and the IMAC (which the president would appoint) the power to make changes to Medicare. So there’s no need to put the president’s care-rationing group into the bill, and there’s significant political downside to doing so. Instead, he can use the IMAC to slip it in afterward.

Bottom line, there’s very good reason to be afraid.

UPDATE: Even the New York Times is starting to see it now.

UPDATE: Come to think of it, it’s more likely that the IMAC would simply be the rationing board.

We’re screwed even worse than we thought

August 21, 2009

AP reports:

The Obama administration expects the federal deficit over the next decade to be $2 trillion bigger than previously estimated, White House officials said Friday, a setback for a president already facing a Congress and public wary over spending.

The new projection, to be announced on Tuesday, is for a cumulative 2010-2019 deficit of $9 trillion instead of the $7 trillion previously estimated. The new figure reflects slumping revenues from a worse economic picture than was expected earlier this year.

(Via Instapundit.)

Ridge accuses Bush administration of politics in terror levels

August 21, 2009

According to his publisher, Tom Ridge is levelling a major accusation at the Bush administration:

According to promotional materials for Ridge’s coming book, “The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege . . . And How We Can Be Safe Again,” the ex-homeland security secretary and governor of Pennsylvania accuses the Bush White House of pushing him to “raise the national security alert just before the 2004 Election.”

A description for the book on the publisher’s website also says Ridge “was pressured to connect homeland security to the international ‘war on terror’.”

(Via Hot Air.)

This has to be taken seriously. Ridge doesn’t seem to have much reason to lie that we know of (unlike, say, Scott McClellan). But, until the book actually comes out, we can’t know exactly what the allegation is, so it’s impossible to know what to make of it. If the publisher is exaggerating the accusation to sell books, it wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has happened.

Nevertheless, I think Ace’s analysis is apt:

I assume Ridge is not lying. But I also assume he needs some hot facts, or even “facts,” to sell a book.

Best case for Bush and Cheney: There was an elevated risk and Ridge was wrong; Ridge was too worried about the appearances of raising the level, whereas Bush and Cheney didn’t care about appearances.

Second-best case for Bush and Cheney: As people tend to do, they viewed the data with their own best interests in mind, and thus arguable, on-the-line data was seen by them — honestly, but wrongly, due to the powerful agent of subconscious self-interest — as warranting a heightened threat level.

Bad case scenarios: I think the lefty blogosphere should have these well-covered.

It appears as though Ridge’s story is that he did not yield to the pressure, and ultimately the alert level was not raised. Nevertheless, if Ridge’s publisher’s accusation is true, this is misconduct nearly on the level of Bill Clinton’s “wag the dog” attacks. (But only nearly, since it didn’t actually happen, and anyway raising an alert level is not the same as a bombing run.) The Bush administration would deserve all the opprobrium it gets over this.

UPDATE: Ridge has disowned the allegation.

The law of unintended consequences

August 20, 2009

National Review has an amusing tale today of unintended political consequences.  In 2004, Massachusetts Democrats changed their state’s law regarding US Senate vacancies. If John Kerry were elected president, they didn’t want Republican Governor Mitt Romney to appoint his replacement, so they rewrote the law to leave the seat vacant until a special election could be held.

Now, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who is battling cancer, is concerned that he might die at an inopportune time, denying his party a key vote in the upcoming health care battle. Now that the Massachusetts governor is a Democrat again, he is calling for the law to be changed back to allow a gubernatorial appointment once again. I have no doubt that the Massachusetts legislature will comply shamelessly.

If Kennedy were really concerned about a vacancy, he could have stepped aside months ago and a special election would have been held already. But Ted Kennedy doesn’t want to give up his seat until he is in the ground. It’s Ted Kennedy first, and Democrats second. The integrity of the system is a distant third.

Signs of the times

August 20, 2009

A new icon for the Obama administration:


(Via Instapundit.)

And because you can never post them too often, here are the graphs that motivate it:



obama debt

Ending private health care

August 20, 2009

In case it wasn’t already clear that the “public option” is a trojan horse intended to end private health care, there’s this. The American Prospect’s blog reviews the origin of the public option:

As progressives mourn the likely death of a public insurance option in health care reform, it’s worthwhile to trace the history of exactly where this idea — a compromise itself — came from. The public option was part of a carefully thought out and deliberately funded effort to put all the pieces in place for health reform before the 2008 election — a brilliant experiment, but one that at this particular moment, looks like it might turn out badly. (Which is not the same as saying it was a mistake.)

One key player was Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future. Hickey took UC Berkley health care expert Jacob Hacker’s idea for “a new public insurance pool modeled after Medicare” and went around to the community of single-payer advocates, making the case that this limited “public option” was the best they could hope for. Ideally, it would someday magically turn into single-payer. And then Hickey went to all the presidential candidates, acknowledging that politically, they couldn’t support single-payer, but that the “public option” would attract a real progressive constituency. . .

The rest is history. Following Edwards’ lead, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton picked up on the public option compromise.

(Via the Corner.)

Also, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) makes it explicit.

(Previous post.)

The curious case of the Arctic Sea hijacking

August 20, 2009

The New York Times has the very puzzling and disquieting story of a Russian ship that may or may not have been hijacked, and may or may not have been carrying controlled weapons.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser: was the Mossad involved? Doubtful; the Mossad is a standard bogeyman and gets blamed for everything. But it’s just barely imaginable; Israel has a history of intervening in arms shipments to its enemies.

Protesting academic freedom

August 20, 2009

At Berkeley, the birthplace of the “free speech movement,” protesters are calling for the firing of John Yoo, a tenured law professor, for producing a work of legal scholarship (the so-called “torture memos”) that has become unpopular. Academic freedom is appropriate only when it advances progressive causes, I guess.

(Via the Corner.) (Related post.)

UPDATE: Once again, the dean of the Berkeley Law School issues a statement in support of academic freedom. It’s good that he’s done it; bad that it’s necessary. (Via Volokh.)

Washington Post fact-checks White House

August 20, 2009

The Washington Post has a useful article savaging the White House’s claim that, under health care “reform”, people will be able to keep their current insurance. Here’s a key passage:

The legislation could also prompt some employers to drop coverage, congressional budget analysts say.

In a report last month on a bill advanced by House Democrats, the Congressional Budget Office said millions of people would gain employment-based coverage and millions would lose it. The CBO estimated that the number of people gaining the coverage would exceed the number of people losing it.

As for the losers, “CBO and the JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] staff estimate that, in 2016, about 3 million people (including spouses and dependents of workers) who would be covered by an employment-based plan under current law would not have an offer of coverage under the proposal,” the CBO said.

The CBO was defining employment-based coverage to include an unspecified number of people who would obtain coverage through an exchange with a financial contribution from their employer. The CBO analysis left open the possibility that a larger number of people would lose employer-based health benefits in a more familiar sense — coverage procured or provided directly by the employer.

There’s three main points to unpack here:

  • The CBO has not said that no one will lose employment-based coverage, only that more will gain it than lose it. In fact, millions will lose it.
  • The CBO has not said that people will be able to keep their current plan (in fact, they almost certainly will not). It merely counts those who will keep some kind of employment-based coverage.
  • The CBO defines employment-based coverage in a very particular way, distinct from the “more familiar sense.”

Also, although the Post does not point it out, this sort of thing isn’t really part of CBO’s mandate (which is to estimate the budget implications of legislation) and I’m not aware that it has any special competency at it.

(Via Power Line.)

The anti-Republican-war movement

August 20, 2009

Byron York corresponds with Cindy Sheehan, darling of the anti-war movement, on what has come of that movement:

After my column, “For the left, war without Bush is not war at all,” appeared Tuesday, I got a note from Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist who was the subject of so much press coverage when she led a protest against the Iraq war outside then-President George W. Bush’s ranch in Texas. This is what the note said:

I read your column about the “anti-war” movement and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I mostly agree with you.

The “anti-war” “left” was used by the Democratic Party. I like to call it the “anti-Republican War” movement.

While I agree with you about the hypocrisy of such sites as the DailyKos, I have known for a long time that the Democrats are equally responsible with the Republicans. That’s why I left the party in May 2007 and that’s why I ran for Congress against Nancy Pelosi in 2008. . .

I asked Sheehan about the fact that the press seems to have lost interest in her and her cause.  “It’s strange to me that you mention it,” she said.  “I haven’t stopped working.  I’ve been protesting every time I can, and it’s not covered.  But the one time I did get a lot of coverage was when I protested in front of George Bush’s house in Dallas in June.  I don’t know what to make of it.  Is the press having a honeymoon with Obama?  I know the Left is.”

(Via Instapundit.)

The anti-war movement has disappeared from the media because it no longer serves the media’s purposes.

UPDATE: ABC’s Charlie Gibson tells Cindy Sheehan “Enough already!

Cindy, haven’t you heard? Bush is out of office now.

(Via Instapundit.)

Greenpeace busted

August 20, 2009

The head of Greenpeace admits that its claim that arctic ice will disappear by 2030 is untrue:

The outgoing leader of Greenpeace has admitted his organization’s recent claim that the Arctic Ice will disappear by 2030 was “a mistake.” Greenpeace made the claim in a July 15 press release entitled “Urgent Action Needed As Arctic Ice Melts,” which said there will be an ice-free Arctic by 2030 because of global warming.

Under close questioning by BBC reporter Stephen Sackur on the “Hardtalk” program, Gerd Leipold, the retiring leader of Greenpeace, said the claim was wrong.

“I don’t think it will be melting by 2030. … That may have been a mistake,” he said. . .

Leipold’s admission that Greenpeace issued misleading information is a major embarrassment to the organization, which often has been accused of alarmism but has always insisted that it applies full scientific rigor in its global-warming pronouncements.

Although he admitted Greenpeace had released inaccurate but alarming information, Leipold defended the organization’s practice of “emotionalizing issues” in order to bring the public around to its way of thinking and alter public opinion.

(Via Instapundit.)

BONUS: In the same interview, Greenpeace made its anti-prosperity agenda explicit:

Leipold said later in the BBC interview that there is an urgent need for the suppression of economic growth in the United States and around the world. He said annual growth rates of 3 percent to 8 percent cannot continue without serious consequences for the climate.

“We will definitely have to move to a different concept of growth. . . . The lifestyle of the rich in the world is not a sustainable model,” Leipold said.

To be clear, when these people talk about “the rich,” they don’t mean Bill Gates; they mean us.

MSNBC outright lies

August 20, 2009

Here’s the worst case of media dishonesty I’ve seen in a long time, and that’s saying a lot. MSNBC films a man who showed up to a health care protest with a rifle strapped to his back and then uses that as evidence for a narrative about racial hate groups who will inevitably try to kill the president. They begin this way:

Yes, there are Second Amendment rights for sure but also there are questions about whether this has racial overtones. I mean, here you have a man of color in the presidency and white people showing up with guns strapped to their waists or to their legs.

This is complete crap in the first place. But, in fact, the man they showed with the rifle was black! (This YouTube video makes the man’s race clear.) Knowing that wouldn’t support their narrative, MSNBC filmed him in a very unnatural way (from the back and from the torso down) that avoided showing any skin.

POSTSCRIPT: I do wish that people would observe a little message discipline. Strap on your weapon for a gun-rights rally, but leave it behind (or carry concealed) for a health care rally. Otherwise you’re playing into the hands of these liars.

UPDATE: Weakest spin ever: “Contessa was speaking generally and not about that specific person with the automatic weapon.”

No one believes Obama

August 19, 2009

Rasmussen reports:

Just six percent (6%) of voters nationwide now expect their own taxes to go down during the Obama years. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 42% expect their taxes to go up while 40% expect little change. . .

During Election 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to cut taxes for 95% of Americans. When he was elected, 22% expected a tax cut. That number has been trending down ever since.

Currently, 11% of Democrats expect a tax cut along with three percent (3%) of Republicans and another three percent (3%) of those not affiliated with either major party.

(Via Power Line.)

Even among Democrats, only one in ten thinks President Obama was telling the truth.

In our face

August 18, 2009

One of the guests at the White House party to celebrate the Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was John DeStefano, the mayor of New Haven. If that name rings a bell, it’s because DeStefano was the defendant in Ricci v. DeStefano, the notorious racial discrimination case in which Sotomayor was recently overturned 9-0 after failing to bury the case.

It’s not hard to see the message that the White House is sending vis-a-vis racial preferences.

Thousands quit AARP

August 18, 2009

Sixty thousand in the last month and a half:

CBS News has learned that up to 60,000 people have cancelled their AARP memberships since July 1, angered over the group’s position on health care.

(Via the Corner.) (Previous post.)

That doesn’t count those who simply allow their membership to expire.

Flag me no more

August 18, 2009

Stung by criticism of its dissident-flagging program, the White House has shut down its flag@whitehouse.gov program:

Phillips also confirmed that the e-mail account set up to field submissions from the public on “fishy” information about health care reform has been deactivated. This development was reported Monday morning by FOX News.

Their new site includes the notice:

Please refrain from submitting any individual’s personal information, including their email address, without their permission.

That wasn’t so hard, now was it?

(Previous post.)

Canadian health care “imploding”

August 18, 2009

A cautionary tale:

Dr. Anne Doig, the incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association, said her country’s health care system is “sick” and “imploding,” the Canadian Press reported.

“We know there must be change,” Doig said in a recent interview. “We’re all running flat out, we’re all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands.”

Canada’s universal health care system is not giving patients optimal care, Doig added. When her colleagues from across the country gather at the CMA conference in Saskatoon Sunday, they will discuss changes that need to be made, she said.

“We all agree the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize,” she said.

Current president of the CMA, Dr. Robert Ouellet, will make a presentation at the conference about his findings when he toured Europe in January, and met with health groups in several countries.

Ouellet has said that “competition should be welcomed, not feared,” meaning private health insurance should have a role in the public health system.

Doig said she isn’t sure what kind of changes will be proposed when the conference wraps up, but she does know that changes have to come – and fast. She said she understands that universal health care, while good in some ways, has not always been helpful for sick people or their families.

Proponents of health care nationalization often cite Canada as a model for the world, but Canadians are coming to realize how bad government-run health care is.

White House spam update

August 18, 2009

The White House has now deigned to answer questions about their spam, professing innocence:

The White House for the first time Sunday seemed to acknowledge that people across the country received unsolicited e-mails from the administration last week about health care reform, suggesting the problem is with third-party groups that placed the recipients’ names on the distribution list.

In a written statement released exclusively to FOX News, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said the White House hopes those who received the e-mails without signing up for them were not “inconvenienced” by the messages.

“The White House e-mail list is made up of e-mail addresses obtained solely through the White House Web site. The White House doesn’t purchase, upload or merge from any other list, again, all e-mails come from the White House Web site as we have no interest in e-mailing anyone who does not want to receive an e-mail,” the statement said. “If an individual received the e-mail because someone else or a group signed them up or forwarded the e-mail, we hope they were not too inconvenienced.”

The White House previously would not answer questions on how the e-mails landed unsolicited in so many inboxes.

Despite the White House’s professed good intentions, they don’t seem very interested in solving the problem:

Yet the White House ignored repeated offers from FOX News to share with the administration such e-mail addresses, to help determine how the recipients ended up on the White House distribution list.

(Previous post.)

“I’m a fan of disruptors”

August 17, 2009

Nancy Pelosi now says it’s “un-American” to try to drown out those with opposing views, but in 2006, when the protesters were anti-war, she was quite positive toward them.

ASIDE: I think the “I’m a fan of disruptors” line was indeed intended to allude to the protesters, but the point is arguable. However, there’s no argument but that Pelosi was very friendly to the protesters (“We love it!”), and didn’t consider them at all un-American.

(Via Instapundit.)

White House spam

August 17, 2009

There was a peculiar exchange last Thursday between Robert Gibbs and Fox News reporter Major Garrett in which Gibbs refused to answer a question about where the White House obtained its mailing list for spam:

FOX News has offered the White House examples of what hundreds of people say were unsolicited e-mails on health care, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign or his political organization, Organizing for America, but spokesman Robert Gibbs has declined to respond.

The offer comes after a testy exchange on Thursday between correspondent Major Garrett and Gibbs over the e-mail list.

Gibbs told Garrett on Thursday that he couldn’t respond until he saw who received the e-mail because he doesn’t have “omnipotent clarity.”

Asked whether the White House seeks other pieces of information to identify those who might be curious about health care even though they have never signed up for e-mails or visited the Web site, Gibbs said he would have to see the e-mails to know.

Pressed to explain why he couldn’t answer, Gibbs said “Well, I hesitate to give you an answer because you might impugn the motives of the answer.”

“Why would you say that?” Garrett asked incredulously.

“Because of the way you phrased your follow up. I’d have to look at what you got, Major. I appreciate the fact that I have omnipotent clarity as to what you’ve received in your e-mail box today,” Gibbs said.

“You don’t have to have omnipotent clarity. You don’t have to impugn anything,” Garrett fired back. “I’m telling you what I got: e-mails from people who said I never asked anything from the White House.”

Ending the exchange, Gibbs said, “Let me go someplace else that might be constructive.”

This kind of open hostility to a legitimate question is very strange. Babbling on about “omnipotent clarity” is even stranger. Why would Gibbs be so rattled by this?

The story concludes:

Some people who received the e-mails directly from the White House forwarded them to FOX News and asked how they ended up on the list when they’ve never been in communication with the Obama administration. Some wondered if visiting the White House Web site automatically places them on an e-mail distribution list.

I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to obtain email addresses from web traffic, so people needn’t worry about that. More likely, they gave their email address to someone else, who in turn sold their mailing list to the White House. It would be very interesting to know who. My guess is someone like NPR.

Venezuela’s continued slide

August 17, 2009

Hugo Chavez’s growing police state has taken another step by passing a law that requires that all education in Venezuela be conducted in accordance with “Bolivarian” socialist doctrine. Journalists protesting the legislation were beaten by pro-government thugs. As usual:

The government condemned the violence and ordered an investigation. No arrests have been made.

(Via Power Line.)

Modelling zombies

August 17, 2009

A group of mathematicians has written what has to be the first published paper to model a zombie outbreak. (Via Instapundit.)

Unfortunately, the model appears to be flawed. In the zombie literature, opinions differ as to whether a zombie epidemic can affect those who are already dead. Although many zombie works do have zombies arising from graveyards and such, the most (faux) serious work on zombies, Max Brooks, asserts that the zombie virus affects only the living. But, in either case, the literature is unanimous that destroying the brain puts down a zombie permanently.

In contrast, the paper’s model posits that zombies can arise from the dead population, and that dead population includes not only dead from natural (non-zombie) causes, but zombies that have been put down. This is clearly wrong.

Fortunately, Brooks’s scenario can be recovered by setting to zero the parameter that dictates how quickly the dead become undead. With that parameter set to zero, it doesn’t matter that the dead population is too large. However, the more typical scenario cannot be recovered without a new model, necessitating a new solution.

Alas, the world may have to wait a little longer for a serious mathematical treatment of the zombie problem.

As expected, Specter reverses on card check

August 15, 2009

When Arlen Specter switched parties, he insisted that he would continue to oppose card check:

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.

Now, according to Talking Points Memo, Specter says he will vote for card check cloture, and whatever else the Democrats send down the pipe:

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) fielded questions at a Netroots Nation panel this morning about whether he’d encourage his colleagues to support cloture on Democratic bills. Though he elided the specific question, he did say that, unless Democrats flew off the handle and began trying to limit the first amendment, or civil rights for gays, he will vote with the party to bring legislation to the floor for an up or down vote. Specifically, he said he’d support cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act, even if he disagrees with the underlying bill.

(Via the Corner.)

So he will be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. I can’t say I’m surprised.


August 14, 2009

Lots of good stuff in recent Rasmussen polls:

  • Voters give the GOP the edge over Democrats on nearly every issue. Most significantly, for the first time voters prefer the GOP for health care (44-41). The GOP also leads on the economy (46-40), social security (43-39), and taxes (51-35).
  • Support for Congressional health care reform has fallen to a new low, with 42% in support against 53% opposed. Those who feel strongly are opposed 44-26. A broad majority of independent voters (62%) oppose it, most of them strongly.
  • By a 51-48 margin, voters disapprove of President Obama’s job performance. Among those who feel strongly, the president trails 38-30.
  • The GOP maintains its lead (now 42-38) over the Democrats on the generic ballot for the seventh straight week.
  • Pat Toomey is crushing Arlen Specter, 48-36.

UPDATE: By a 54-35 margin, voters prefer no health reform at all to the bill being considered by Congress.

    NBC: LaRouche is conservative

    August 14, 2009

    NBC Nightly News, in a recent piece insinuating that health care protesters are somehow sinister (headline: “Healthy Debate?”), used a follower of Lyndon LaRouche as an example of a conservative critic inspired by Rush Limbaugh:

    Much of the passion and protest comes from conservative voices opposed to the Democrats’ plan for a goverment-run option for health care. [Image of a poster showing Barack Obama photoshopped with Hitler mustache.] Some anger on display gets stoked by the provocative megaphone of Rush Limbaugh.

    It’s not easy to see on television, but the bottom of the poster makes clear its provenance. At the bottom of the poster is the inscription “LAROUCHEPAC.COM”.

    Needless to say, Lyndon LaRouche is no conservative. LaRouche is an eccentric, extreme socialist, ostracised even by the Democratic party that he claims membership in. Just as needless to say, NBC News is not unaware of this.

    So why did NBC try to pass a LaRouchite off as a conservative dittohead? Did they really fail to read the poster they were putting on the air? Unlikely. More likely, they thought it would feed their narrative, and no one would notice.

    Playing the Post Office card

    August 14, 2009

    President Obama says the “public option” wouldn’t threaten private health insurance:

    I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time.

    I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the post office that’s always having problems.

    I have to say, it takes a lot of chutzpah to use government incompetence as an argument for government-run health care.

    Nevertheless, let’s take the argument seriously. Obama is saying the post office proves that private companies can coexist in a market with the federal government. But the post office proves exactly the opposite.

    The post office’s core business is first-class and bulk mail, and it is illegal for private companies to compete in that market. In fact, not only is it illegal for UPS or FedEx to offer first-class mail service, it’s also illegal for us, the public, to use the services that UPS and FedEx do offer as a substitute for first-class mail. If you FedEx a document that the Post Office deems non-urgent, they can fine you the cost of mailing it first-class.

    The government does allow UPS and FedEx to compete in the smaller market for packages and express mail. In those markets it’s true that the private companies flourish while the government flounders. Why? Because the Post Office is supposed to break even (not that it usually does). It is unable to offer its services at a low enough price to drive out the private players. Moreover, not many politicians are interested in seeing the Post Office take over the package and express mail market.

    That’s not what would happen with health care. Nationalized health care wouldn’t come close to breaking even. Quite the opposite. The federal government would massively subsidize its plan, making it more attractive than private plans. The private players couldn’t long survive against the federal purse. Indeed, as supporters of single payer have made clear, this is the point. The “public option” is a ploy to achieve single-payer.

    POSTSCRIPT: All this ignores the fact that the bill before the House essentially bans private health insurance. All this talk of competition is a dead letter if that version passes.

    AARP faces backlash

    August 11, 2009

    The AARP has a lot of members primarily because it negotiates good tangible benefits for its members (discounts and so forth).  Of course, the AARP is also politically active, and in that regard it is frequently at odds with its members.

    Health care nationalization would significantly weaken Medicare, but the AARP nevertheless is lobbying for it. By taking the unusual step of advocating against the interests of senior citizens, the AARP is alienating more than just its conservative-leaning members. Not surprisingly, they are facing a backlash.

    UPDATE: Despite its general tone, the AARP has not officially come out in support of health care nationalization. No one told the president:

    President Obama today suggested that the health care reform legislation for which he’s pushing has been endorsed by the American Association of Retired Person.

    “We have the AARP on board because they know this is a good deal for our seniors,” the president said.

    At another point he said: “Well, first of all, another myth that we’ve been hearing about is this notion that somehow we’re going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not. AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, okay?”

    The problem?

    The AARP hasn’t endorsed any plan yet.

    The country’s largest advocacy group for Americans over 50 issued a statement after the event saying, “While the President was correct that AARP will not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate.”

    (Via Instapundit.)


    August 11, 2009

    The left is trying to turn Kenneth Gladney, who was beaten up by union thugs for protesting health care nationalization, into a poster child for health care nationalization, after reports the Gladney doesn’t have health insurance. That’s pretty much the definition of chutzpah.

    Plus, it appears it’s not even true. An article in the Washington Independent that is generally unfriendly to Gladney reports that he does have insurance. It looks as though the St. Louis Post-Dispatch saw that Gladney was collecting money to defray his medical expenses and jumped to conclusions. (Medical treatment can be expensive even with insurance.)

    POSTSCRIPT: Incidentally, I think it’s a mistake to make too much of a hero out of Gladney. We don’t know much about him (although, if Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher’s experience is any guide, we soon will). Also, it’s not clear how seriously he was injured, really. But whoever he is, it’s not okay for union thugs to jump him. That’s where the focus needs to be.

    POST-POSTSCRIPT: My own personal experience suggests that this is not uncommon where union toughs are in attendance. Shortly before the 1992 election, I participated in a protest of Bill Clinton during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh. I was threatened and a friend of mine was attacked. (My friend was okay; the attack took place right in front of a police officer who quickly broke it up.)

    Liberty triumphant?

    August 10, 2009

    This is welcome news, if true:

    In a welcome about-face, the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in a letter Tuesday that the U.S. would no longer threaten sanctions on Honduras for ousting its president, Mel Zelaya, last June 28.

    Nor will it insist on Zelaya’s return to power. As it turns out, the U.S. Senate can’t find any legal reason why the Honduran Supreme Court’s refusal to let Zelaya stay in office beyond the time allowed by Honduran law constitutes a “military coup.”

    (Via Instapundit.)

    I hope it’s true.  On the other hand, just today President Obama was continuing to blather about returning Zelaya to power.

    Chavez rattles the saber

    August 10, 2009

    AP reports:

    President Hugo Chavez told his military to be prepared for a possible confrontation with Colombia, warning that Bogota’s plans to increase the U.S. military presence at its bases poses a threat to Venezuela. . .

    “The threat against us is growing,” Chavez said Sunday. “I call on the people and the armed forces, let’s go, ready for combat!”

    The former paratroop commander said Colombian soldiers were recently spotted crossing the porous 1,400-mile border that separates the two countries and suggested that Colombia may have been trying to provoke Venezuela’s military.

    “They crossed the Orinoco River in a boat and entered Venezuelan territory,” Chavez said. “When our troops arrived, they’d already left.”

    Colombia denies the allegation. In contrast, Colombia acknowledged it openly when they raided a FARC base inside Ecuador last year.

    The plank in Pelosi’s eye

    August 10, 2009

    Mark Hemingway makes a revealing observation:

    Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer this morning:

    These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

    Now here’s a recent SEIU memo:

    Action: Opponents of reform are organizing counter-demonstrators to speak at this and several congressional town halls on the issue to defend the status quo. It is critical that our members with real, personal stories about the need for access to quality, affordable care come out in strong numbers to drown out their voices.

    UPDATE: The White House is trying to clean up Pelosi and Hoyer’s mess. I think they realize that demonizing their opponents is one thing, but doing so using McCarthyite language is surely counterproductive.

    UPDATE: SEIU has airbrushed their site, but Perfunction links to a screen grab (at the Weekly Standard), plus more SEIU pages that might not be airbrushed yet. (Via Hot Air.)

    Don’t know much about history

    August 10, 2009

    A Washington Post headline:

    In the Senate, Small States Wield Outsize Power. Is This What the Founders Had in Mind?

    Er, yes. Next question.

    (Via Hot Air.)

    POSTSCRIPT: To be fair, the article’s author clearly knows this, so I guess this is a case of a ignorant headline writer. This hardly excuses the author, who seems set to discard a 200-year-old system of government because small states are obstructing the current president’s agenda.

    California won’t accept its own IOUs

    August 10, 2009

    This really takes the cake. The State of California pays its suppliers in fake money, then expects them to turn around and pay sales tax in real money:

    Small businesses that received $682 million in IOUs from the state say California expects them to pay taxes on the worthless scraps of paper, but refuses to accept its own IOUs to pay debts or taxes. . .

    Lead plaintiff Nancy Baird filled her contract with California to provide embroidered polo shirts to a youth camp run by the National Guard, but never was paid the $27,000 she was owed. She says California “paid” her with an IOU that two banks refused to accept – yet she had to pay California sales tax on the so-called “sale” of the uniforms.

    I think Baird has a strong case. She hasn’t been paid yet, so no sales tax is due. California’s position seems to be that she should pay the state for privilege of supplying it.

    Government feared more than insurance companies

    August 10, 2009

    A new Rasmussen poll shows that Americans public fears the government more than insurance companies, by a 51-41 margin. Only 25% agree with Nancy Pelosi that insurance companies are “villains.”

    Also, despite the efforts of the Democrats to smear protesters as somehow fake, only 37% agree. 49% say the protests are genuine.

    (Via Instapundit.)

    Cluck cluck cluck

    August 9, 2009

    After Arlen Specter’s disastrous town hall in Philadelphia, he’s clearly eager to hear more from his constituents. The closest he is coming to Pittsburgh is Kittanning (41 miles away), in the middle of the afternoon.

    Bob Casey doesn’t seem to be having any town halls at all.

    CBO: preventative care will raise costs, not lower them

    August 9, 2009

    The CBO continues to be a thorn in the side of health care nationalization advocates:

    In yet more disappointing news for Democrats pushing for health care reform, Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, offered a skeptical view Friday of the cost savings that could result from preventive care — an area that President Obama and congressional Democrats repeatedly had emphasized as a way health care reform would be less expensive in the long term. . .

    “Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall,” Elmendorf wrote. “That result may seem counterintuitive. . .

    “To avert one case of acute illness, it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway. … Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness.”

    (Via Instapundit.)

    Is the public option on its last legs?

    August 9, 2009

    I’m not getting excited yet, but there’s no way not to see this as a good sign:

    The No. 2 Senate Democrat said Sunday that he’s “open” to health care reform that doesn’t include a government-run “public option,” the latest indication that the Democrats’ package could be scaled back as Senate negotiators try to hammer out a bipartisan compromise and constituents flood town halls to express discontent with the current legislation. . .

    The Senate Finance Committee, the last of five committees to consider health care legislation, is trying to hammer out a bipartisan compromise by mid-September — such a compromise might leave the public option behind.

    Asked whether Democrats could support such a bill, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said he’s personally willing to consider it.

    I’m also glad to see that key Republican are wise to the “co-op” dodge:

    But McConnell said that even if negotiators put forward a system of nonprofit cooperatives instead of a public plan — something President Obama reportedly is open to — he still wouldn’t support it.

    “It sounds a lot like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to me,” McConnell said. “No, that’s not acceptable.”

    Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said a “co-op” could be a “government takeover” by another name, adding that he’d have to see the details.

    The public option is dangerous because, with the power of the federal purse behind it, a public plan could undercut private insurers and drive them out of business, or at least reduce them to a boutique business out of the reach of ordinary people. That would usher single-payer in through the back door. (Which is the whole point.)

    The co-op idea is no better. The co-ops would still be backed by the federal purse — take a look at what happened with Fannie and Freddie if you doubt that — but they wouldn’t even have the limited accountability that comes with being part of the government. In fact, if Fannie and Freddie are any indication, they would be even more stacked with liberals than the federal bureaucracy.

    The only way a public or co-op option would make sense would be if it is required to break even. That way it couldn’t exploit the taxpayer to drive private insurers out of business, and we could see if it would find any real cost savings. (Not bloody likely.) But even if such a requirement were politically feasible, it would never be enforced. As soon as the agency/co-op ran out of money, there’s no question it would get a bailout, whatever promises were made when it was created.

    Should we fear the iTablet?

    August 9, 2009

    Tom Conlon, writing for Popular Science, is worried about the Apple tablet rumors:

    It’s been reported by several news outlets that the supposed iTablet will feature a 10-inch touchscreen, both Wi-Fi and 3G data, and a custom ARM processor. It’s already been priced at $800 and even greenlit by none other than His Majesty Steve Jobs for a September release. Not one iota of this has been officially confirmed, but the prospect of a Mac Tablet seems more within reach than ever before.

    This is not a good thing. If an Apple tablet is ever actually released, we should all be very concerned for the future of what most of us take for granted today: our digital freedom.

    The Apple tablet will likely sit somewhere in between the iPhone and a Mac laptop. But it won’t just blur the line between them—-it will attempt to erase it. This should scare you because it will be the biggest leap yet towards the notion of a completely closed “desktop” operating system.

    (Via Instapundit.)

    It seems unlikely that closed operating systems could conquer the open ones. People who have been free are usually loath to give up their freedom. Of course, it’s not unprecedented either.

    A public service announcement

    August 9, 2009

    The earth is round. Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy. Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Al Qaeda terrorists perpetrated 9/11. Barack Obama was born in Honolulu.

    Anyone who says otherwise is a fool. Please stop.

    The bureaucracy was a success but the patient died

    August 9, 2009

    Or perhaps “and the patient died” would be more appropriate. A typically horrifying tale, coming soon to a nation near you.

    Stimulus hasn’t started yet

    August 8, 2009

    The stimulus bill has spent almost nothing on infrastructure yet:

    Stimulus spending on infrastructure projects is moving slowly and many projects won’t get started before the summer construction season ends, complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to tout the impact of the $787 billion economic recovery act.

    • The General Services Administration has decided how to spend $1 billion on federal building upgrades, but only about 1% of that money has been spent. The GSA will approve another $1 billion by year’s end, but Anthony Costa, acting commissioner of the GSA’s public buildings services, said it will take until 2011 before the agency picks projects for all of the $5.5 billion it was allocated for infrastructure work.
    • The Federal Transit Administration has spent about $500 million of the $8.4 billion it received.
    • The Coast Guard has decided to spend the majority of its $240 million on four bridges, but a spokesman said the money “won’t transfer hands for a while.”
    • California’s transportation department has decided how to spend $1.7 billion of the $2.6 billion it is getting for highway infrastructure projects, but the agency says its spending on such projects probably won’t peak until next year. . .

    The gradual start means many projects won’t get under way before the beginning of the fall, when many construction projects in the northern half of the country typically halt before the winter rain and snow. That is providing fodder to critics of the recovery act who say it was overhyped as a way to quickly boost the economy. . .

    The White House Recovery Office said Tuesday that government agencies have decided how to spend about $31 billion of the $73 billion going directly to construction projects, but it couldn’t offer a figure on how much has actually been spent.

    On a related note, the administration is now revising its earlier arguments, saying that the stimulus was never supposed to give a quick jolt to the economy.

    Banning books

    August 8, 2009

    The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is achieving what decades of censors could not: a ban on countless children’s books, because their ink might contain a little bit of lead. Libraries and thrift stores are particularly hard hit, and the American Library Association is recommending that libraries ignore the law. (Via Volokh.)

    The Act was a bipartisan atrocity. It passed last year in a rush with strong support from both parties and little deliberation during a frenzy of lead scares. But whatever excuse Congress might have had last year, it has no longer. We now know what the Act does. Unfortunately, Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) budget amendment to fix the Act failed, and his bill to do so has been languishing in Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) Senate Commerce committee since February. Incidentally, the bill has seven cosponsors, all Republicans.

    Progress goes clunk?

    August 8, 2009

    The “cash for clunkers” program is simply crazy. It’s spending billions of taxpayer dollars to encourage people to give up perfectly serviceable cars, and then to destroy them. That’s right, the government is spending our money to destroy capital. It’s also (as Scrivener points out) putting the squeeze on lower-income Americans by reducing the stock of used cars.

    The program is a big success, in the sense that it blew through its first billion within days. I have an idea for another “successful” government plan: dropping thousand-dollar bills from helicopters. (Start in Pittsburgh, please.)

    We’re told that the program is popular, which it is, among those who are able to take advantage of it. (My program would also be popular among those standing beneath the helicopter.) But is the program popular with the general public?

    No. In a shocking development, a Rasmussen poll found that the public is against throwing taxpayer money away. (Via the Corner.) The program is opposed by 54% and supported by just 35%.

    There’s no way of knowing what, if anything, the program is actually accomplishing, because the Obama administration is refusing to release its records on the program. (Via the Corner.) Nevertheless, the administration has successfully rushed Congress to inject $2 billion more. You don’t have to be very cynical to infer that the president wanted the bill passed before the data became public.

    We used to have to rely on wear-and-tear and natural disasters to destroy our capital, but no longer. What geniuses we are!

    “Enough is enough”

    August 7, 2009

    Tim Geithner is fed up with independent agencies not doing as they’re told:

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday as frustration grows over the Obama administration’s faltering plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation, according to people familiar with the meeting. . .

    Mr. Geithner told the regulators Friday that “enough is enough,” said one person familiar with the meeting. Mr. Geithner said regulators had been given a chance to air their concerns, but that it was time to stop, this person said. . .

    Friday’s roughly hourlong meeting was described as unusual, not only because of Mr. Geithner’s repeated use of obscenities, but because of the aggressive posture he took with officials from federal agencies generally considered independent of the White House. Mr. Geithner reminded attendees that the administration and Congress set policy, not the regulatory agencies.

    This is typical of how this administration does business. They listen to your objections, disregard them, and then you’re supposed to go along with they wanted to do all along. If you continue to object, it gets nasty.

    White House backs away from Guantanamo closure

    August 7, 2009

    The WSJ reports:

    The Obama administration’s counterterrorism chief appeared to provide the first indication the administration may not make its January deadline for closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay in remarks Thursday that aimed to outline a new path for combating terrorism. . .

    Answering questions after his speech at the Washington think tank, Mr. Brennan said, “I don’t have a crystal ball that I can say with certainty” that the prison at Guantanamo Bay will be closed on time.

    A White House spokesman said the administration remains committed to shutting the prison on schedule and noted Mr. Brennan’s additional comments in response to another question, in which he said, “It is our full intention to close down Guantanamo Bay, per the president’s direction, and we are doing everything possible to ensure that we are able to meet that directive and meet that deadline.”

    AP flubs another factcheck

    August 7, 2009

    A recent AP “factcheck” article contains several major errors:

    CLAIM: Health care revisions would lead to government-funded abortions. . .

    THE FACTS: The proposed bills would not undo the Hyde Amendment, which bars paying for abortions through Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor. But a health care overhaul could create a government-run insurance program, or insurance “exchanges,” that would not involve Medicaid and whose abortion guidelines are not yet clear.

    Obama recently told CBS that the nation should continue a tradition of “not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.”

    (Via Newsbusters.)

    In fact, President Obama said nothing of the sort. What he said was:

    As you know, I’m pro choice. But I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it’s appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.

    That is, he cited the existence of the tradition, but didn’t give any indication that we should continue it. In fact, he pointedly refused to say.

    Moreover, another AP story out a few days later reported that the legislation would indeed cover abortions, and uses an accounting fig leaf to try to hide the fact.

    The factcheck flubs another one as well:

    CLAIM: Americans won’t have to change doctors or insurance companies.

    “If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won’t have to do a thing,” Obama said on June 23. “You keep your plan; you keep your doctor.”

    THE FACTS: The proposed legislation would not require people to drop their doctor or insurer. But some tax provisions, depending on how they are written, might make it cheaper for some employers to pay a fee to end their health coverage. Their workers presumably would move to a public insurance plan that might not include their current doctors.

    I’m glad that it rebuts the claim, but it does so much too weakly. The tax provisions are unsettled and beside the point. The bill would ban private health insurance. Existing coverage is grandfathered, but plans could not sign new customers or even make changes to the plan. Under such conditions, existing coverage would not survive for long.

    A thousand words

    August 7, 2009

    Another picture of the fix we’re in:

    obama debt

    (Via Gateway Pundit.)

    Point of view

    August 7, 2009

    A major determining factor in a person’s political views is the frame in which he or she thinks about an issue. Nevertheless people often assume (either honestly or for rhetorical purposes) that their political opponents evaluate issues in the same frame as they do.

    This happens on both sides. Many conservatives and libertarians say erroneously that liberals are trying to destroy our liberties. In fact, most liberals are earnestly trying to improve the world according to their own standards, and their policies’ destructive effect on personal liberty is either an unconsidered side-effect or a necessary (to them) evil. Very few people are evil in their own eyes.

    I was struck by this once again while watching Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) dismissal of concerns about the Democratic health care “reform” plan:

    BOXER: . . . All of this is a diversion by the people who want to, frankly, hurt President Obama. You’ve heard the Republican senator Jim DeMint say it, Let’s make this Obama’s Waterloo. Let’s break him.

    MATTHEWS: Yes.

    BOXER: That’s what this is about. . .

    BOXER: This is all planned. It’s to hurt our president and it’s to change the Congress.

    And you know what? We went to the White House today. We heard President Obama. It was wonderful to hear him. He’s so calm and cool about this. He says, We got to be tougher. We got to be stronger.

    (ASIDE: This interview also made news because of Boxer’s contention that well-dressed protesters cannot possibly be sincere.)

    This is certainly revealing of Senator Boxer’s frame. To her, apparently, this debate is all about Barack Obama. But for us, her opponents, that’s not the frame at all. We oppose nationalization of medicine because it will lead to health care rationing and the loss of our freedom to make our own health care decisions. It doesn’t matter who is pushing it, we opposed it under Clinton and we oppose it under Obama.

    Another example is Janeane Garofalo’s dismissal of the tea party movement:

    Let’s be very honest about what this is about. It’s not about bashing Democrats, it’s not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don’t know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks.

    Again, it is revealing that Garofalo sees the debate over runaway spending as being primarily about the president’s race. I do pity her for having such a blinkered view of the world. It is certainly not ours. For the tea party movement, the issue is reckless fiscal policy that began under President Bush and accelerated horrifically under President Obama. The issue is our government uselessly running up a huge debt that it can never repay without catastrophic tax increases or inflation.

    UPDATE: In a column yesterday, Paul Krugman writes that opponents of health care “reform” are racist. (Via Hot Air.)

    Flag me

    August 7, 2009

    David Hardy says that the White House’s plan to collect reports of dissident activity is illegal, assuming records are kept.

    (Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)

    UPDATE: More:

    The White House strategy of turning supporters into snitches when they see “fishy” information about the health care debate may run afoul of the law, legal experts say.

    “The White House is in bit of a conundrum because of this privacy statute that prohibits the White House from collecting data and storing it on people who disagree with it,” Judge Andrew Napolitano, a FOX News analyst, said Friday.

    “There’s also a statute that requires the White House to retain all communications that it receives. It can’t try to rewrite history by pretending it didn’t receive anything,” he said.

    “If the White House deletes anything, it violates one statute. If the White House collects data on the free speech, it violates another statute.”

    It would seem that the only way to follow the law would be not to ask for the information in the first place.

    Baseless lawsuit threat = extortion

    August 7, 2009

    An interesting case in New Hampsire.