If North Korea is telling the truth (which obviously is hardly a sure thing), this is quite possibly the stupidest man on earth:
An American man detained by North Korea after allegedly entering the communist country illegally has sought asylum and wants to join its military, a news report said Saturday.
South Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said the man crossed into North Korea from China on Monday.
It said an unidentified source in North Korea told the newspaper the 28-year-old man said he came to the country because he did not “want to become a cannon fodder in the capitalist military,” and “wants to serve in the North Korean military” instead.
The chairman of the leading climate change watchdog was informed that claims about melting Himalayan glaciers were false before the Copenhagen summit, The Times has learnt.
Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists.
The Jan. 25 article “Is the President Panicking” originally stated that Fox News led the charge against Bill Clinton in the ’94 midterm elections. Fox News did not come into being until 1996. The story has been corrected.
Awesome. Seriously, how do you make a mistake like this? Unless you’re just making stuff up.
A data breach at the National Archives and Records Administration is more serious than previously believed. It involved sensitive personal information of 250,000 Clinton administration staff members, job applicants and White House visitors, as well as the Social Security number of at least one daughter of former Vice President Al Gore.
The data, which included more than 100,000 Social Security numbers, was stored on a computer hard drive that the NARA discovered missing last April from a data processing room in Maryland. It’s unknown if the drive was lost or stolen. . .
The NARA was harshly criticized for another potential data breach it may have suffered involving the records of 70 million U.S. military veteran. The records were on a defective hard drive that the agency sent to the drive vendor for repair. The agency failed to delete data on the drive before sending it to the vendor. When the vendor determined the drive couldn’t be repaired, it passed the drive to another company for recycling.
But don’t worry, they’ll be much more careful with our medical records.
But they won’t face any consequences, the London Times reports:
The university at the centre of the climate change row over stolen e-mails broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public scrutiny.
The University of East Anglia breached the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to comply with requests for data concerning claims by its scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.
The Information Commissioner’s Office decided that UEA failed in its duties under the Act but said that it could not prosecute those involved because the complaint was made too late, The Times has learnt. The ICO is now seeking to change the law to allow prosecutions if a complaint is made more than six months after a breach.
The mainstream media doesn’t like James O’Keefe. When O’Keefe and Helen Giles caught ACORN conspiring to assist with underage prostitution and human trafficking, the media ignored it as long as they could. But, when O’Keefe was arrested at the office of Sen. Landrieu (D-LA), the media rushed to press without getting the facts straight.
Another alarming prediction in the IPCC report on climate change has been shown to be bogus. A finding that much of the Amazon rainforest is endangered actually referred to logging, not climate change:
In the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), issued in 2007 by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists wrote that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest in South America was endangered by global warming.
But that assertion was discredited this week when it emerged that the findings were based on numbers from a study by the World Wildlife Federation that had nothing to do with the issue of global warming — and that was written by a freelance journalist and green activist. . .
It has now been revealed that the claim was based on a WWF study titled “Global Review of Forest Fires,” a paper barely related to the Amazon rainforest that was written “to secure essential policy reform at national and international level to provide a legislative and economic base for controlling harmful anthropogenic forest fires.”
EUReferendum, a blog skeptical of global warming, uncovered the WWF association. It noted that the original “40 percent” figure came from a letter published in the journal Nature that discussed harmful logging activities — and again had nothing to do with global warming.
If you’re counting, that’s three errors in the IPCC now (that we know of), all resulting from faulty scholarship.
From the president’s State of the Union address last night, one whopper in particular is getting a lot of attention:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people.
This bit has gotten a lot of attention because Justice Alito’s silent but barely visible objection, shaking his head and mouthing the words “not true”.
Alito is right. First, Citizens United v. FEC reversed Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which was decided in 1990. For those without a calculator handy, that was 20 years ago. So Citizen United reversed two decades of law, not a century. (Furthermore, Austin itself overruled a series of cases going back to 1936 — over 50 years of precedent.)
Second, the decision did not open the door for foreign corporations to spend in American elections. The decision invalidated 2 USC §441b, which forbids corporate spending in elections (see page 50 of the opinion), but the decision said nothing about §441e, which forbids foreign spending. (Via the Corner.)
Third, not only was §441e not at issue in Citizens United, but the decision expressly disclaims any conclusion regarding foreign contributions (pp. 46-47):
We need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process. . . Section 441b . . . would be overbroad even if we assumed, arguendo, that the Government has a compelling interest in limiting foreign influence over our political process.
In short, President Obama’s statement is completely false, which, as a scholar of constitutional law, he must be perfectly aware.
According to a new CNN poll, the Democratic health care “reform” bill is down 20 points: 58% oppose it versus just 38% that support it. When asked what Congress should do, the strong winner was to start over (48%). To pass the Democratic bill was well behind at 30%. Another 21% said Congress should stop work entirely.
The results are even more striking when you note that CNN polled adults in general, not likely voters or even registered voters. One has to guess that likely voters would put the Democrats even further behind.
According to a new Franklin & Marshall poll, Pat Toomey leads Arlen Specter by 14 points (45-31), and leads Joe Sestak by 22 points (41-19). In the Democratic primary, Specter leads Sestak by 17 points (30-13), but both are running well behind Other/don’t know (57%).
President Obama’s budget reportedly will cut all funds for human space flight. Once the last space shuttle is retired, we will rely on Russia to get into space, not just for a few years (as previously planned) but for the forseeable future.
This is madness. The United States will have access to space only through the cooperation of one of its adversaries? I’m sure the Russians are delighted by the idea.
CBO director Doug Elmendorf explains what ought to be obvious, but somehow is not — at least to our lawmakers:
Fiscal policy is on an unsustainable path to an extent that cannot be solved by minor tinkering. The country faces a fundamental disconnect between the services the people expect the government to provide, particularly in the form of benefits for older Americans, and the tax revenues that people are willing to send to the government to finance those services. That fundamental disconnect will have to be addressed in some way if the budget is to be placed on a sustainable course.
(Emphasis mine.) He includes some charts that show, not only how bad our fiscal situation is, but how much worse it is than the official numbers. Here’s the deficit, comparing the official numbers that the CBO is required to produce with a more realistic projection:
Fat lot of good the president’s proposed spending freeze will do us now. We’ve already blown the budget with the stimulus boondoggle. A spending freeze just locks in the current spending level. We need to cut spending back, not just to pre-stimulus levels, but to pre-Bush levels.
The $15 billion that the president’s spending freeze would save isn’t even a tithe of a tithe of our annual deficit. (And that’s assuming it happens, which isn’t bloody likely.) We need real cuts, such as those in President Bush’s proposed 2009 budget. If we had adopted Bush’s budget instead of Obama’s, today’s deficit would be $750 billion smaller.
Of course, it’s amusing to go back and watch video of Obama ridiculing John McCain’s call for a spending freeze, but it’s also sad. Even back then, a spending freeze wasn’t enough. Obama, however, said it was too much, claiming we need a scalpel, not a hatchet. (As if you can fix our budget problems by cutting out tiny little bits. Sheesh.) Forget the scalpel and the hatchet. What we needed then was a chain saw. What we need now is a wrecking ball.
UPDATE: I should also have mentioned that hardly any of the budget would be subject to the spending freeze anyway. Here’s a good graphic:
A week before Citizens United, the Supreme Court settled another interesting case in Hollingsworth v. Perry. It did so on a 5-4 decision, and the liberal dissent gave an interesting window into the thinking of the liberal justices and their disdain for the rule of law.
The matter at issue was whether the federal court of the Northern District of California has acted properly in amending its rules to allow broadcast of the court proceedings in the legal battle over California’s proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. Ed Whelan puts the rule change into context, as part of Judge Walker’s aim to turn the proceedings into some kind of show trial. For my part, I have no strong opinion about what the outcome of the trial ought to be, but I am very concerned by the judge’s failure to follow proper procedure.
The court manifestly did not follow proper procedure in amending its rules. Federal law requires that the court “give appropriate public notice and an opportunity for comment” when changing its rules, except when presented by “immediate need”. Legal precedent establishes that “appropriate” notice is no less than thirty days. The court failed to do so:
It first announced the rule change on December 17 with no advance notice or comment period whatsoever. Some interested parties complained that doing so was illegal.
On December 31, the court removed the announcement of the rule change, and replaced it with an announcement of a proposed rule change. Public comments were to be submitted by Friday, January 8. (The alert reader will note that 8 is less than 30.) The date was not arbitrary; the trial was due to open the following Monday, January 11.
On January 4, the court set aside even its abbreviated comment period and announced that the rule change was in effect, using the “immediate need” exception.
On January 6, the court decided — with no surprise to anyone — that the Prop. 8 case would be broadcast.
After an appeal, the Supreme Court then issued its ruling, which barred the proceedings from being broadcast on the grounds the rule change enabling the broadcast was invalid. It noted that:
Courts enforce the requirement of procedural regularity on others, and must follow those requirements themselves.
This, however, seems to be the central point of disagreement.
Justice Breyer, in the liberal dissent, raises various technical objections to the ruling, including the remarkable argument that the Supreme Court has no business “micromanag[ing] district court administrative procedures”. (If a lower court violates its procedures, the liberal justices believe that the wronged party has no legal recourse?!) As to the central issue, he says that the court did provide sufficient opportunity for comment, because the possibility of broadcasting the trial had been discussed for months before the rule change was officially proposed. (He makes no effort to defend the lower court’s invocation of “immediate need”.)
In other words, Breyer argues the letter of the law need not be observed because the considerations that motivated the law were addressed in another way. This is a dangerous viewpoint for justices of the nation’s highest court to take.
My department operates on what we call the “reasonable person principle”, which says that we will try to do what a reasonable person would do, rather than tie ourselves down in legalistic rules. In a small, friendly environment, this is a good system. (It may even be a good system in the large, mostly friendly environment my department has now.) However, it is not at all a good system in an adversarial environment.
In an adversarial environment, such as a court or election (or sporting competition), the rules must be set down precisely and enforced punctiliously. This is essential so that all parties can plan strategy and act with the confidence that they know the rules of the game. In a friendly situation it may be beneficial to all to deviate from the rules, but in an adversarial situation any deviation has a winner and a loser.
This goes to the essence of the rule of law. As Friedrich von Hayek put it in The Road to Serfdom:
[The rule of law] means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand — rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge.
When the court sets aside its rules in favor of nebulous principles whose application cannot be reliably predicted, we are no longer under the rule of law. Alas, this is the arrangement that four justices of the Supreme Court believe we should adopt. Fortunately, it’s only four.
A few days I quoted a thoughtful analysis by Ramesh Ponnuru of the problem of pre-existing conditions. He pointed out that one cannot merely require that health insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions at no extra cost, because people would simply delay buying insurance until they got sick. To deal with that problem, you must require everyone to buy health insurance, and that sets in motion a whole chain of necessary government interventions that result in something akin to Obamacare.
Ponnuru is right, of course, but on further reflection, the problem is worse than he suggests. Even the individual mandate doesn’t address the wait-until-you’re-sick problem. Here’s the thing: When you get sick, the individual mandate may require you to have insurance already, but it doesn’t stop you from switching to a better insurance plan. The new plan can’t reject you because of the pre-existing condition, nor can it charge you more.
It’s not hard to see what happens. Whenever people get sick, they switch to better plans, and then switch back to cheaper plans when they get well. Consequently, good plans will serve a disproportionate number of sick people and lose money, while bad plans serve healthy people and make money. Obviously, this provides a strong disincentive to provide high-quality care. Pretty soon, all plans will become equally bad.
So requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions destroys the quality of care, even with an individual mandate. What happens next? Presumably a government takeover. (This might well have been the plan all along.)
A whole new climate scandal is now erupting, and this one has nothing to do with the leaked emails from the Hadley CRU. Last December, a climate scientist named Madhav Khandekar raised issues with the 2007 IPCC report’s prediction regarding the Himalayan glaciers. Writing on the blog of Roger Pielke (another climate scientist who might be described as a moderate skeptic), he pointed out that there was no support in peer-reviewed literature for the claim that the Himalayan glaciers would be entirely gone by 2035. In fact, the only paper on the subject predicted that the glaciers would survive until 2350. He speculated that the 2035 date was nothing but a typo, and added:
In summary, the glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating, but NOT any faster than other glaciers in the Arctic and elsewhere. The two large and most important glaciers of the Himalayas show very little retreat at this point in time. . . It is premature at this stage to link global warming to the deteriorating state of Himalayan glaciers at this time.
The IPCC’s 2035 prediction was a huge deal. As Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker explains:
To understand why the future of Himalayan glaciers should arouse such peculiar passion, one must recall why they have long been a central icon in global warming campaigners’ propaganda. Everything that polar bears have been to the West, the ice of the Himalayas has been – and more – to the East. This is because, as Mr Gore emphasised in his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth, the vast Himalayan ice sheet feeds seven of the world’s major river systems, thus helping to provide water to 40 per cent of the world’s population.
The IPCC’s shock prediction in its 2007 report that the likelihood of the glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high” thus had huge impact in India and other Asian countries.
At first, the IPCC tried to defend the prediction. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, mocked a contrary report from the Indian government, calling it “voodoo science”. Ultimately, however, the IPCC was forced to admit the mistake:
One of the most alarming conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a widely respected organization established by the United Nations, is that glaciers in the Himalayas could be gone 25 years from now, eliminating a primary source of water for hundreds of millions of people. But a number of glaciologists have argued that this conclusion is wrong, and now the IPCC admits that the conclusion is largely unsubstantiated, based on news reports rather than published, peer-reviewed scientific studies.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the IPCC admitted that the Working Group II report, “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” published in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), contains a claim that “refers to poorly substantiated estimates. ” The statement also said “the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedure, were not applied properly.” . . .
The error has been traced to the fact that the IPCC permits the citation of non-peer-reviewed sources, called “grey literature,” in cases where peer-reviewed data is not available. It requires that these sources be carefully scrutinized, but that didn’t happen in this case.
In fact, the literature that supported the 2035 prediction was very grey indeed:
The claim that Himalayan glaciers are set to disappear by 2035 rests on two 1999 magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain, which were then recycled without any further investigation in a 2005 report by the environmental campaign group WWF.
This brings us to the latest development. So far, this could be written off as a bad case of scientific malpractice, but now it is revealed as a deliberate fraud:
The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.
Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.
‘It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.’
To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.
Well, Krugman got his housing bubble, and we all know how it worked out. Perhaps we should think twice before heeding this guy’s advice in the future.
Air America, the liberal talk-radio network that helped boost the careers of Al Franken and Rachel Maddow, said Thursday that it was declaring bankruptcy and going off the air. . .
It was troubled almost from the start. The company had difficulty lining up affiliates and attracting a sizable audience. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection just 30 months after its inception and was resold to an investor group in early 2007 for $4.25 million. . .
Since last summer, Air America has been heard in the Washington [D.C.] area on WZAA (1050 AM). Its audience has been so small that Arbitron, which compiles radio ratings, was unable to detect any listeners for WZAA during several weeks in December.
Of course, it required various frauds for Air America to survive as long as it did.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC is a big victory for free speech. Unfortunately, it was a 5-4 decision, with the “liberal” justices opposing free speech. (How badly screwed up is our political nomenclature when the preceding sentence makes sense?)
The liberals complain that corporations are not real people, and thus are not entitled to free speech rights. Of course, no one says that a corporation is a real person: they can’t vote, serve on juries, etc. But who exactly, do the “liberals” think make up a corporation? Androids? Ghosts? Aliens? No, corporations are made up of people, just as are all other organizations. The “liberal” position is that a person should go to prison for speaking about a candidate during an election, if that speech was part of the activities of a corporation. Make no mistake, the “liberals” want to send real people to prison for engaging in speech.
But only certain people. The “liberals” want to criminalize the speech of some but not others: If you’re part of a sole proprietorship or a partnership, you’re good. If you’re an individual who extracted his wealth from a corporation, you’re good. If you’re part of certain corporations (those that have a media component), you’re good. But certain people that work for certain organizations (i.e., corporations without a media component) should go to jail for speaking. And keep in mind, it’s not just big for-profit corporations, it’s also (as the court’s opinion notes) groups like the Sierra Club, NRA, or ACLU whose members could be sent to jail for speaking about a candidate during an election.
The “liberals” also complain about how radical the decision is. In fact, the decision merely reverts to the precedent that was in play until fairly recently. For example, in its 1978 First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti decision, the court ruled (as quoted in Citizens United):
We thus find no support in the First . . . Amendment, or in the decisions of this Court, for the proposition that speech that otherwise would be within the protection of the First Amendment loses that protection simply because its source is a corporation that cannot prove, to the satisfaction of a court, a material effect on its business or property. . .
In the realm of protected speech, the legislature is constitutionally disqualified from dictating the subjects about which persons may speak and the speakers who may address a public issue.
It was not until 1990 that the free-speech train went off the rails in the Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce decision. That decision invented a flimsy new government interest (antidistortion) that the Obama administration didn’t even bother to defend. Even more bizarrely, Austin somehow found that a complete ban on political speech by corporations was narrowly tailored to address the antidistortion interest. Citizens United is a good decision, and one that never should have been necessary.
One cannot help but think that the real reason the left is so upset about Citizens United is that they think it will hurt them. In that regard, I think that they are worrying for nothing, for two reasons:
First, Citizens United unshackles labor unions in addition to corporations. True, corporations have more money, but labor unions are much more political. We can expect that labor unions will use their new freedom much more than corporations typically will.
Second, large corporations obviously have more money to throw around than small corporations, and while small business overwhelmingly tends to support small government (and therefore the GOP), big business often supports big government. While excessive regulation strangles small businesses, large businesses have the resources to survive it. In fact, large businesses often lobby for regulation because it drives out their smaller and more nimble competition. Plus, businesses love it when the government buys things with tax money that individuals weren’t interested in buying on their own.
So I don’t think that the post-Citizens-United landscape favors the GOP as much as the left fears it does. In fact, I think it favors the Democrats in the long term. In the short term, however, the Democrats have been so flagrantly anti-business that they probably will take a hit. They deserve it.
Finally, one prediction. Citizens United exacerbates an already strange political situation in which the politicians have the weakest voice in politics. Fund-raising limitations put severe burdens on politicians and parties that others who spend their own money don’t have. Since politicians make the rules, I would be surprised to see them remain disadvantaged for long. Expect very soon to see proposals to raise or even to remove limits on campaign fund raising.
There’s a lot of talk about the Senate rules right now. Without their 60-vote supermajority, Democrats want to use reconciliation to pass a health care bill. The problem is that under Senate rules reconciliation can be used for budget items only. That means no individual mandate, no requirement that insurers ignore pre-existing conditions, etc. Any bill that comes through reconciliation will be a ghost of what the Democrats want. (Keith Hennessey looks at the possibilities here.)
Or will it? What all this analysis ignores is the fact that the Democrats can change the rules any time they want. Yes, it’s true that it takes a 2/3 supermajority to change the rules officially, but the majority has a sleazier tactic at its disposal: it can simply ignore them.
Here’s how it works. The chair rules that the Byrd rule (that’s the rule governing reconciliation) doesn’t apply to the health care bill. This is clearly false, but it doesn’t matter. A ruling from the chair is sustained by a simple majority. Done. (There’s a bit of parliamentary maneuvering that is required, but in the end it takes a majority.)
In fact, they needn’t be so narrow about it. They can simply rule that cutting off debate requires only 51 votes. This is what Republicans proposed to do in 2005 in regards to judicial nominations. It is also what the Democrats did in 1975 to lower the majority required to end a filibuster from 67 to 60 votes. (At the time, Democrats had 62 votes.)
In short, although it takes 67 votes to change the rules, it only takes 51 votes to break them. The Democrats can pass health care reform if they choose. There would certainly be public outrage if they did (not just over the bill, but over the flagrant disregard of the Senate’s rules), but Democrats might decide it’s worth it.
One of the media’s tricks for spreading misinformation is to quote someone uncritically who is telling a lie. The story may be technically truthful, if the person really did say it. Nevertheless, if the lie is reported without any rebuttal or caution that it might not be true, the story gives the impression that the lie is true, particularly when the lie is woven into the broader narrative of the story. That’s dishonest.
Indeed, my definition of “lie” is to make any statement with the deliberate intention to cause the audience to believe something that the teller thinks is false. By that definition, Bob Kerrey and the New York Times lied about Scott Brown:
“If he’s running against 60 votes and wins, that is not good,” said Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska. “It says that in Massachusetts, they are willing to elect a guy who doesn’t believe in evolution just to keep the Democrats from having 60 votes.”
“Scott Brown believes in evolution but in the case of Bob Kerrey he’s willing to make an exception.”
Here’s where the story gets interesting. The NYT revised its story to remove the portion of the quote that referred to evolution. But it did so without noting a correction.
ASIDE: As of today, the original story still appears at the Seattle Times, with a byline indicating the story is from the New York Times. Also, Patterico has a screenshot of the Google cache.
What justification could the NYT have for airbrushing the story without a correction? If Kerrey didn’t really make the remark (the likelihood of this seems vanishingly small), then they’ve libeled Kerrey and they need to run a retraction. Much more likely, the NYT was being called on the lie and pulled it. Leaving out the evolution bit would have been the right thing to do in the first place, but they didn’t do that, and now it’s out there. Once they’d helped to spread misinformation, the NYT needed to issue a correction.
So why didn’t they? I can only see one explanation: Issuing a correction would draw attention to the fact that Democrats were lying about Scott Brown. Obviously, the NYT wanted Martha Coakley to win. That’s why they ran the lie in the first place, and if they ran the correction, the whole matter would have been a net positive for Brown. From the NYT’s perspective, that was unacceptable. Better just to leave the lie out there, and take the rip from people who hate the NYT already.
POSTSCRIPT: We can now look forward to Clark Hoyt’s column on the matter, in which Hoyt will defend the paper (as he nearly always does) writing that although they made an error in judgement, that error was not the result of bias.
Dishonesty in the New York Times is not limited to politics and international affairs, we can also find it in the gossip/fashion pages. The NYT admits distorting a photograph of actress Christina Hendricks to make her look big. They claim it was an accident “during routine processing”. You can decide whether to believe that; I’ll just point out that the distortion happened to be exactly what the article needed to support its catty point, a point that the original photograph failed to support.
A new PPP poll shows that Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are each tied with President Obama in a hypothetical matchup. Huckabee has an insignificant lead over Obama; Romney trails insignificantly. The only Republican that Obama would clearly beat in the poll is Sarah Palin.
Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections.
A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley. The poll conducted by Hart Research Associates surveyed 810 voters.
Some of this has to be the unique appeal of Scott Brown and the unique unappeal of Martha Coakley, but that can’t be all of it. If the Democrats have moved left of the unions, we truly are due for a correction.
Sec. 3. Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantánamo. The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order. . .
In the wake of Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, the majority of Americans (55%) favor Congress’ putting the brakes on its current healthcare reform efforts and considering alternatives that can obtain more Republican support. Four in 10 Americans (39%) would rather have House and Senate Democrats continue to try to pass the bill currently being negotiated in conference committee.
Ramesh Ponnuru has a good analysis of the problem of pre-existing conditions:
The political paradox of pre-existing conditions is that the ban is popular but can’t be accomplished in a popular way. The ban requires all kinds of other government interventions to sustain it. For example, you have to force everyone to buy insurance: Otherwise people would wait until they got sick and buy policies knowing that the insurance companies could not turn them down or charge them extra. You have to define what insurance policies have to cover, or else that mandate can be evaded. You have to offer subsidies for people who can’t afford the insurance policies that you’ve just made more expensive. Pretty soon you’ve got Obamacare.
It seems to me that the problem of pre-existing conditions arises from a pecularity of health insurance. If you get into a car accident just before your insurance expires, the insurance is still on the hook for the cost. Shouldn’t health insurance work the same way? If you have a problem before you switch insurance, shouldn’t your old insurer cover it?
I’ve never read anyone else suggest this, so maybe I’m being naive, but I don’t see how.
Food handouts were shut off Tuesday to thousands of people at a tent city here when the main U.S. aid agency said the Army should not be distributing the packages.
It was not known whether the action reflected a high-level policy decision at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or confusion in a city where dozens of entities are involved in aid efforts.
“We are not supposed to get rations unless approved by AID,” Maj. Larry Jordan said.
Jordan said that approval was revoked; water was not included in the USAID decision, so the troops continued to hand out bottles of water. The State Department and USAID did not respond to requests for comment.
There needs to be an investigation of what jackass gave this order. I want to see that guy forced to say into the cameras that he’d rather see people starve than be fed by the military.
As I predicted, Nancy Pelosi has concluded she cannot get the Senate health bill through the House. The two-bill scheme (pass the Senate bill and promise another bill to fix it) doesn’t look feasible either. We’ll see if the Democrats decide to “go nuclear”.
It is a mark of the degree of political malpractice the Democrats have been guilty of over the past year, of the degree of their overreach and recklessness, that being left with 59 senators—a huge majority by any measure, and the same majority they had when Obama was inaugurated a year ago—is now somehow enough to make it seem as though they are powerless and is likely to kill the core (and almost the entirety) of their domestic agenda, and leave them rudderless and reeling.
They are of course not in fact powerless at all. But they have adopted an agenda that only a supermajority could pass. . . They have made it impossible for themselves to change course without a massive loss of face and of political capital. But however costly, that change will now need to come.
If Scott Brown wins today (86% on Intrade), the Democrats have indicated that they will try to pass the Senate bill in the House.
That will be hard. In November, the House passed the Democratic bill by a razor-thin 220-215 margin. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and this morning Joseph Cao (R-LA) have vowed to oppose the Senate bill due to its funding of abortion. That leaves the vote at 218-217, if no other votes change.
Can the House Democrats get every single vote that they had for their own bill to vote for the Senate bill as well? Here’s what has to happen: Every single member of the pro-life Democrat coalition other than Stupak himself caves. Not a single progressive follows through on their threat to vote against a bill without a public option. (Okay, that sounds pretty likely.) Not a single vote is swayed by union opposition to the “Cadillac tax”. And, not a single blue dog gets scared straight by the spectacle of a Republican winning the Massachusetts Senate race despite appearances by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Scott Brown has won a moral victory already, but I’m starting to believe he could carry off an actual win. Several last minute polls give him a measurable lead: Politico/InsiderAdvantage +9, ARG +7, PPP +5, Suffolk +4, among others. Only the Daily Kos poll and the “leaked” Coakley internal poll fail to give Brown the lead. Stuart Rothenberg calls it “lean takeover”. And Brown is trading at 77 on Intrade.
Twenty-six patients at Cuba’s largest hospital for the mentally ill died this week during a cold snap, the government said Friday.
Human rights leaders cited negligence and a lack of resources as factors in the deaths, and the Health Ministry launched an investigation that it said could lead to criminal proceedings.
A Health Ministry communique read on state television blamed “prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) in Boyeros,” the neighborhood where Havana’s Psychiatric Hospital is located. . .
The statement came in response to reports from the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights that at least 24 mental patients died of hypothermia this week, and that the hospital did not do enough to protect them from the cold because of problems such as faulty windows. . .
Communist Cuba provides free health care to all its citizens but, though the quality of its medical system is celebrated in leftist circles around Latin America, it is also plagued by shortages. Patients are expected to bring their own sheets and towels and sometimes their own food during hospital stays.
A new poll taken Thursday evening for Pajamas Media by CrossTarget – an Alexandria VA survey research firm – shows Scott Brown, a Republican, leading Martha Coakley, a Democrat, by 15.4% in Tuesday’s special election for the open Massachusetts US Senate seat. The poll of 946 likely voters was conducted by telephone using interactive voice technology (IVR) and has a margin of error of +/- 3.19%.
This poll is as close as you can get to a controlled experiment in politics:
New polling released yesterday and today by Public Policy Polling (D) provides some solid, empirical evidence that a vote against the health care bill may be the better bet for swing-seat Democrats. Or at least, that seems to be the message for freshman Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC), who voted against the bill.
The new polls show that Kissell easily leads several potential Republican opponents, by margins of 14-18 points. He also leads a potential Democratic primary challenger, 2002 nominee Chris Kouri, by 49%-15%. But a close look at the polls shows just how people think he voted on the bill — and how this could be affecting their decisions about him.
It turns out that a 44% plurality of the likely general election electorate falsely believe that Kissell voted for the bill, with only 29% giving the correct answer that he voted against it, and 28% are unsure. . . I asked PPP for some customized cross-tabs — which reveal that among people who think he voted for it the race is very close, with a landslide lead among the folks who think he voted against it.
This is very revealing. It shows two results for the exact same guy: If he voted for the bill, he’s tied. If he voted against the bill, he wins by a landslide.
The big sticking point between the House and Senate health care bills, we’re told, is the “Cadillac tax” on (supposedly) too-expensive health care plans. The House didn’t have such a tax, because it was strongly opposed by labor unions that have such plans.
Negotiators have reportedly come to an agreement, which seems obvious in retrospect. They are simply going to exempt unions from paying the tax. Problem solved! (More precisely, unions don’t have to pay the tax until 2018, but we can expect that date to be extended in perpetuity.)
It’s so blatantly corrupt I can’t even believe it. The Democrats are going to have to face a backlash over this, aren’t they? Aren’t they?
Q: Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin . . . ah you don’t want to do that.
Martha Coakley: No we have a separation of church and state Ken. Let’s be clear.
Q: In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom.
Martha Coakley: The law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.
Wow. (Cue to 9:30 here for the audio.) Also, when asked if health care professionals should be able to refuse to perform abortions as conscientious objectors, she says no, referring to abortion as a service that is “required under the law and under Roe vs. Wade”. (Cue to 9:00.)
And with that, Coakley is officially an extremist.
Business Week is reporting an alarming development. The Obama administration is looking for ways to push investors into retirement annuities rather than other securities:
U.S. investors oppose federal initiatives that would force them to give up control over their 401(k) accounts, the Investment Company Institute said. Seven in 10 U.S. households object to the idea of the government requiring retirees to convert part of their savings into annuities guaranteeing a steady payment for life, according to an institute-funded report today. . .
The U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams, according to Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Mark Iwry, who are spearheading the effort. . .
Some lawmakers have questioned the public-policy value of the tax benefits for people investing in retirement accounts, the ICI said in a report today. . . Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, proposed legislation on Dec. 16 to require fund companies to do more to ensure 401(k) options are appropriate for workers. The Wisconsin Democrat cited reports that target- date funds designed for people retiring in 2010 invested in high-yield, high-risk corporate bonds.
If investors wanted annuities, we would have bought them. (Economists call this “revealed choice”.) Having the flexibility to do what we want is better than a fixed revenue stream. Plus, if we die before our retirement funds are fully spent (which is the plan), we want our family to inherit.
Anyway, who thinks that the administrations plan to boost annuities will consist just of public service announcements and the like? No, those guys simply don’t think that way. Whatever they do, it will be coercive. In their view, people must be forced to do (what they consider to be) the right thing. So we can look forward to some sort of penalty on 401k and IRAs that don’t invest enough in annuities.
That would be bad enough, but this guy thinks that qualifying annuities will be required to invest in treasuries. I’m afraid that sounds plausible, if not right away then a few years down the road. After all, the premise of this whole thing is that the private sector cannot be trusted. (And the government can? Sheesh.)
If the government requires you to “invest” in a government security, that’s no different than the confiscation of retirement savings that Argentina carried out a year ago. We already have a government annuity plan of dubious value called Social Security. Many don’t expect to see a single penny from it. We don’t want our real retirement savings, which we own, to be forced into a similar vehicle.
Powerful House Democrats are eyeing proposals to overhaul the nation’s $3 trillion 401(k) system, including the elimination of most of the $80 billion in annual tax breaks that 401(k) investors receive.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, are looking at redirecting those tax breaks to a new system of guaranteed retirement accounts to which all workers would be obliged to contribute.
Jane Hamsher (of the leftist FireDogLake.com) writes in the Huffington Post about how the White House manufactured the appearance of academic support for its health care plans:
Up until this point, most of the attention regarding the failure to disclose the connection between [MIT economist] Jonathan Gruber and the White House has fallen on Gruber himself. Far more troubling, however, is the lack of disclosure on the part of the White House, the Senate, the DNC and other Democratic leaders who distributed Gruber’s work and cited it as independent validation of their proposals, orchestrating the appearance of broad consensus when in fact it was all part of the same effort.
The White House is placing a giant collective bet on Gruber’s “assumptions” to justify key portions of the Senate bill such as the “Cadillac tax,” which they allowed people to believe was independent verification. Now that we know that Gruber’s work was not that of an independent analyst but rather work performed as a contractor to the White House and paid for by taxpayers, and economists like Larry Mishel are raising serious questions about its validity, it should be made publicly available so others can judge its merits.
Gruber began negotiating a sole-source contract with the Department of Health and Human Services in February of 2009, for which he was ultimately paid $392,600. The contract called for Gruber to use his statistical model for evaluating alternatives “derived from the President’s health reform proposal.” It was not a research grant, but rather a consulting contract to advise the White House Office of Health Reform, headed by Obama’s health care czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle, to “develop proposals” for health care reform.
How did the feedback loop work? Well, take Gruber’s appearance before the Senate HELP Committee on November 2, 2009, for which he used his microsimulation model to make calculations about small business insurance coverage for his testimony. On the same day, Gruber released an analysis of the House health care bill, which he sent to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post. Ezra published an excerpt.
White House blogger Jesse Lee then promoted both Gruber’s Senate testimony and Ezra Klein’s article on the White House blog. “We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day” he said, pointing to Gruber’s “objective analysis.” The “transparent” part apparently stopped when everyone got to Gruber’s contractual relationship to the White House, which nobody in the three-hit triangle bothered to disclose.
The White House commissioned Gruber’s work (not as a research grant, but as a consulting contract) and then passed it off as independent confirmation. Hamsher has much, much more on the scam, from which I’ll highlight just this bit:
On the 29th Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the very White House Office of Health Reform that Gruber was hired to consult for, posted perhaps the most misleading column of all on the White House blog:
MIT Economist Confirms Senate Health Reform Bill Reduces Costs and Improves Coverage
She identified Gruber as an “MIT Economist who has been closely following the health insurance reform process” who had “issued a compelling new report.” There was no acknowledgment that her very own White House office had commissioned Gruber’s work.
$393k sounds like a pretty good price to buy “broad consensus” for its trillion-dollar scheme.
Chavez to nationalize electricity and telecommunications
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez yesterday announced plans to nationalize Venezuela’s electrical and telecommunications companies, pledging to create a socialist state in a bold move with echoes of Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba.
Behind the drama unfolding in the streets of Iran, the regime is quietly clamping down on some of the nation’s best students by derailing their academic and professional careers.
On Wednesday, progovernment militia attacked and beat students at a school in northeastern Iran. Since last Sunday’s massive protests nationwide, dozens of university students have been arrested as part of an aggressive policy against what are known as Iran’s “star students.”
In most places, being a star means ranking top of the class, but in Iran it means your name appears on a list of students considered a threat by the intelligence ministry. It also means a partial or complete ban from education.
The term comes from the fact that some students have learned of their status by seeing stars printed next to their names on test results.
Mehrnoush Karimi, a 24-year-old law-school hopeful, found out in August that she was starred. She ranked 55 on this year’s national entrance exam for law schools, out of more than 70,000 test-takers. That score should have guaranteed her a seat at the school of her choice. Instead, the government told her she wouldn’t be attending law school due to her “star” status. . .
More than 1,000 graduate students have been blocked from higher education since the practice began in 2006, according to statements by Mostafa Moin, a former education minister, in official media in September. . .
The regime identifies star students by tapping the same network of security forces and informants it uses to keep society generally in check. The intelligence ministry routinely monitors email and phone conversations of people it considers dissidents and activists.
The Obama administration has taken some heat and mockery for using the nebulous and non-economic term of jobs being “saved or created” by the $787 billion stimulus program.
So it’s gotten rid of it.
In a little-noticed December 18, 2009 memo from Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag the Obama administration is changing the way stimulus jobs are counted.
The memo, first noted by ProPublica, says that those receiving stimulus funds no longer have to say whether a job has been saved or created.
“Instead, recipients will more easily and objectively report on jobs funded with Recovery Act dollars,” Orszag wrote.
In other words, if the project is being funded with stimulus dollars – even if the person worked at that company or organization before and will work the same place afterwards – that’s a stimulus job.
Trying to count and then to take credit for jobs that already exist was an awfully silly enterprise by an awfully foolish administration. Indeed, the very idea that the jobs could be counted was contrary to the entire premise of the stimulus plan.
The media too has to accept some blame for playing along and pretending that the administration’s announced goal of 3.5 million jobs created/saved was somehow meaningful. Ed Pound, the communications director for recovery.gov was more honest when he replied to a question about the created/saved numbers by saying “Who knows, man? Who really knows?”
You can see here how the stimulus package has performed relative to a meaningful prediction.
The latest Rasmussen poll shows no significant change in opinion on health care “reform”. The public continues to oppose the plan by a double-digit margin. A near majority remains strongly opposed. A majority continues to believes that it will hurt the quality of care. And, as before, hardly anyone (17%) believes that it will cut costs.
England basically invented individualism, liberty, and classical liberalism, so it’s really sad to see it going down the tubes. Here’s two stories from a single day showing how far England has sunk. First, there’s this:
The TV presenter and Marks & Spencer model Myleene Klass has been warned by police for waving a knife at teenagers who were peering into a window of her house late at night.
Klass was in the kitchen with her daughter upstairs when she spotted the youths in her garden just after midnight on Friday. She grabbed a knife and banged the windows before they ran away.
Hertfordshire police warned her she should not have used a knife to scare off the youths because carrying an “offensive weapon”, even in her own home, was illegal. . .
The warning issued to the model comes after a pledge by the Conservative party last month that they would make it more difficult for people who tackle burglars to be prosecuted.
It’s illegal in England today, even in your own home, to wave a knife a intruders. Never mind actually using it, merely suggesting that you might defend yourself is illegal.
But at least they didn’t arrest Klass, perhaps due to her celebrity. This next fellow wasn’t so lucky:
A wealthy businessman was arrested at home in front of his wife and young son over an email which council officials deemed ‘offensive’ to gipsies – but which he had not even written.
The email, concerning a planning appeal by a gipsy, included the phrase: ‘It’s the ‘do as you likey’ attitude that I am against.’
Council staff believed the email was offensive because ‘likey’ rhymes with the derogatory term ‘pikey’.
The 45-year-old IT boss was held in a police cell for four hours until it was established he had nothing to do with the email, which had been sent by one of his then workers, Paul Osmond.
Forget for a moment that he didn’t even write the letter. They arrested this man because (they thought) he said “likey”, which rhymes with something else that they found offensive! This is the most asinine thing I’ve heard in a long time.
And they didn’t even release the guy because it was a stunning violation of his human rights. They only released him because they had the wrong guy. The other guy was arrested and had to make bail. And even the innocent guy is going to have his DNA on file permanently.
More broadly speaking, this incident shows how hate speech laws are utterly incompatible with free speech. This proves that absolutely anything can be offensive to someone. If you use a word that rhymes with an obscure racial slur, that’s hate speech. In England, that’s enough to send you to jail.
We already knew that the stimulus boondoggle is a complete failure, but now the Associated Press is figuring it out:
Ten months into President Barack Obama’s first economic stimulus plan, a surge in spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment and only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, an Associated Press analysis has found.
Spend a lot or spend nothing at all, it didn’t matter, the AP analysis showed: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless of how much stimulus money Washington poured out for transportation, raising questions about Obama’s argument that more road money would address an “urgent need to accelerate job growth.”
But at least one person hasn’t figured it out yet:
Obama wants a second stimulus bill from Congress that relies in part on more road and bridge spending, projects the president said are “at the heart of our effort to accelerate job growth.”
A reminder that racism is at least as prevalent on the left as the right:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) apologized today for referring to President Barack Obama as “light skinned” and “with no Negro dialect” in private conversations during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” said Reid in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.”
Reid called the president today to apologize and reiterated his regret for making the comments, his spokesman Jim Manley said Saturday afternoon.
Recall that Trent Lott lost his position as Senate Majority Leader for making racially foolish remarks. It will be instructive to see what happens to Reid. I predict nothing will.
Obama in 2010: “I accepted Harry’s apology without question.”
Obama in 2002: “The Republican Party itself has to drive out Trent Lott.”
BONUS: In the same 2002 remarks, Obama referred to Lott as “the current president of the Senate”. For the record, the president of the Senate is the Vice-President, not the majority leader. Wasn’t Obama supposed to have been a professor of constitutional law or something?
Remember how Massachusetts Democrats had to change the law to allow the Democratic governor to appoint a senator, after just changing the law a few years earlier to prevent the Republican governor from appointing a senator. Supposedly it was because of the great importance of the state having representation in the Senate.
But — surprise, surprise — that was a load of crap, because now that it looks like Scott Brown (the Republican) might just have a chance of winning, Massachusetts Democrats say that if Brown won, they would stall his swearing-in until after health care passes.
Nancy Pelosi scoffs at Barack Obama’s campaign promises:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, piqued with White House pressure to accept the Senate health reform bill, threw a rare rhetorical elbow Tuesday at President Barack Obama, questioning his commitment to his 2008 campaign promises. A leadership aide said it was no accident. . .
A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras.
“There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,” quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.
It’s rare that I find anything to agree with from Nancy Pelosi, but her attitude toward the president’s promises is certainly justified.
Starting in November 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York under Timothy Geithner began urging American International Group, the huge insurer that the government had bailed out, to limit disclosure on payments made to banks at the height of the financial crisis. . .
The e-mail exchange between the bailed-out insurance giant and its regulator portray a strange reversal of roles, with A.I.G. staff arguing for the disclosure of certain details on payments for credit-default swaps to major banks, only to be discouraged by officials at, or representing, the Federal Reserve. . .
In a draft of one regulatory filing, A.I.G. stated that it had paid banks . . . the full value of C.D.O.’s, or collateralized debt obligations, that they had bought from the company. In the response to that draft from the law firm Davis Polk and Wardwell, which represented the New York Fed, that crucial sentence was crossed out, and did not appear in the final version filed on Dec. 24, 2008.
By the end of that month, A.I.G. had become the proxy in a tug-of-war between government agencies, with the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the company to revise its disclosure, which the regulator saw as falling short of full compliance.
Geithner’s appointment keeps looking worse and worse.
One advantage to the Guantanamo prison is it’s completely escape-proof. Even if someone were to escape from the prison, they would merely find themselves in the Guantanamo naval base, with a heavily armed and mined frontier between them and Cuba.
Yesterday, Robert Gibbs refused to answer any questions about President Obama breaking his C-SPAN promise. His pretext for refusing was that he had already answered that question on Tuesday. Video here.
You can judge how truthful Gibbs’s claim is for yourself. Here’s his “answer” from Tuesday:
Q A question on health care. CSPAN television is requesting leaders in Congress to open up the debate to their cameras, and I know this is something that the President talked about on the campaign trail. Is this something that he supports, will be pushing for?
MR. GIBBS: I have not seen that letter. I know the President is going to begin some discussions later today on health care in order to try to iron out the differences that remain between the House and the Senate bill and try to get something hopefully to his desk quite quickly.
“I have not seen that letter.” That’s all the answer we get. And by the way, if Gibbs hasn’t seen the letter, it’s because he doesn’t want to.
Actually, that’s not the entire discussion from Tuesday, because the press didn’t let it go so easily:
Q Okay, just lastly, why can’t you answer the C-SPAN question —
MR. GIBBS: I did.
Q Well, you didn’t, because you said —
MR. GIBBS: I said I hadn’t seen the letter, which I haven’t —
Q Why do you need to see a letter? I mean, this is something the President said during the campaign and he talked about he wants everything open on C-SPAN —
MR. GIBBS: Dan asked me about the letter and I haven’t read the letter.
Q Well, I’ll just ask you about having it on C-SPAN —
MR. GIBBS: I answered Dan’s question and I answered this before we left for the break, Keith. The President’s number-one priority is getting the differences worked out, getting a bill to the House and the Senate. We’ve filled your newspaper and many others with the back-and-forth and the details of what’s in these bills. I don’t want to keep that from continuing to happen. I don’t think there’s anybody that would say that we haven’t had a thorough, robust, now spanning two calendar years’ debate on health care.
Q There are a lot of reasons not to do it on C-SPAN — people could showboat. Does he regret making that statement during the campaign?
MR. GIBBS: No.
I find it a little amazing that Gibbs can do this with a straight face. Telling a lie when your audience doesn’t know the truth is one thing. But this guy says “I answered Dan’s question” despite the fact that everyone was there only a few minutes earlier when he refused to answer Dan’s question.
Britain told American intelligence agents more than a year ago that the Detroit bomber had links to extremists, according to Downing Street.
The prime minister’s spokesman indicated that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was named in a file of people based in Britain who had made contact with radical Muslim preachers. The file was said to have been sent to the US authorities in 2008.
White House sources disputed the Downing Street account, stating that no such intelligence information was passed by Britain before the attempted Christmas Day attacks. The White House declined to respond officially.
Now everyone is backpedaling, with the US admitting that it did get information and the UK denying that any of it was actionable:
Barack Obama is under pressure to disclose what information MI5 passed to the American authorities about the Detroit bomber after Downing Street disclosed that a file had been “shared” with the CIA in 2008.
After initially denying that they had received British intelligence, senior American sources confirmed last night that they were “reviewing” what British information had been received on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. . .
A US counter-terrorism official did not deny that information on Abdulmutallab had been received from Britain but told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s wrong to think that there was, from any source, information that identified Abdulmutallab as a terrorist, let alone a terrorist who was planning to carry out an attack in the United States.”
Yesterday morning, the Prime Minister’s spokesman issued a revised statement that said: “There is no suggestion that the UK passed on information to the US that they did not act on.”
As far as the intelligence goes, I think the only way to read this is that the UK gave the US some intelligence that included Abdulmutallab. Like most intelligence, it was probably of dubious quality and was dismissed by US intelligence. But given how we disregarded other warnings about the guy, including one from his own father, it seems reasonable to wonder if we should have put things together.
More interesting, however, is what the kerfuffle tells us about relations between the White House and Downing Street. The president snubs of the prime minister and the State Department’s loose talk about ending the “special relationship” with Britain have clearly taken their toll. Don’t forget, this is called “smart diplomacy”.
As many as one in five former Guantanamo Bay detainees are suspected of or are confirmed to have engaged in terrorist activity after their release, U.S. officials said, citing the latest government statistics.
The 20 percent rate is an increase over the 14 percent of former inmates an April Pentagon report said were thought to have joined terrorist efforts, said the officials, who requested anonymity.
The head of C-SPAN has implored Congress to open up the last leg of health care reform negotiations to the public, as top Democrats lay plans to hash out the final product among themselves.
C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb wrote to leaders in the House and Senate Dec. 30 urging them to open “all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings,” to televised coverage on his network. . .
Democratic leaders could bypass the traditional conference committee process, in which lawmakers from both parties and chambers meet to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill. Top Democrats in the House, Senate and White House were meeting Tuesday evening to figure out the final product in three-way talks before sending it back to both chambers for a final vote. . .
This format would seem ideal for closed-door meetings, which congressional Democrats have used many times to figure out sensitive provisions in the health care bill — though President Obama pledged during the campaign to open up health care talks to C-SPAN’s cameras.
“That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are,” Obama said at a debate against Hillary Clinton in Los Angeles on Jan. 31, 2008.
Calling on the president to keep a campaign pledge? Good luck with that.
UPDATE: There’s a better video here, with eight different occasions on which Obama promised to carry out the negotiations in public, on C-SPAN. It seems it was part of his stump speech. As a bonus, there’s also video of Robert Gibbs repeatedly refusing to answer a question on the subject.
In 2006, Harry Reid gave a speech attacking the use of manager’s amendments. (This is an omnibus amendment that basically rewrites a bill.) In 2009, Harry Reid used a manager’s amendment, exhibiting every single problem he attacked in 2006, to pass a health care bill.
Mr. Obama’s top advisers say they no longer believe the key finding of a much disputed National Intelligence Estimate about Iran, published a year before President George W. Bush left office, which said that Iranian scientists ended all work on designing a nuclear warhead in late 2003.
After reviewing new documents that have leaked out of Iran and debriefing defectors lured to the West, Mr. Obama’s advisers say they believe the work on weapons design is continuing on a smaller scale — the same assessment reached by Britain, France, Germany and Israel.
Well, it’s served its purpose now, which was to paralyze us at a critical juncture and to help get Obama elected. (For example, consider this Time piece from December 2007.) Never mind that it was clearly nonsense all along.
So why did Bush’s director of national intelligence publish the NIE? I suppose we’ll never know, but I’ve long suspected that he was expecting it to leak, or knew that it already had.
Our stimulus boondoggle has nothing on the Chinese. Neither does our reckless real estate speculation. Chinese officials built an entire city that now stands empty, waiting for someone to move there. Cue to 1:13 in this video:
Economic theory already shows that planned economies do not allocate resources efficiently, but this story makes the inefficiency much easier to visualize.
Of course, President Obama’s numbers have been plummeting in nearly every poll, but Rasmussen comes in for particular opprobrium because his polls have consistently shown Democrats and liberal opinions a few points behind most other polls. There are three remarks worth making.
First, as Glenn Reynolds puts it, attacking the pollsters is seldom a good sign. Put more simply, attacking the polls is loser talk. I know this from personal experience. Back in 1992, I and many other Republicans were in denial that George Bush could actually lose the presidential election to someone like Bill Clinton. The talk on the right was all of how the polls were wrong. Of course, they were not and Clinton won the election handily. So when Democrats attack the polls, I think we’re seeing a similar phenomenon on the left.
Second, there is a simple reason why Rasmussen’s polls have been more friendly to Republicans than other polls. Unlike most other pollsters, Rasmussen polls likely voters all the time. (The Politico story gets around to mentioning this point near the bottom of page two.) Most pollsters poll registered voters or even the general public most of the time, and shift to likely voters just before elections, resulting in a bump for the GOP right around elections. I think Rasmussen is right to use the same methodology all the time.
Third, and most importantly, Rasmussen’s national polls are objectively among the best. We can benchmark a poll’s quality by comparing its election predictions with actual results. RealClearPolitics has a table of the final 2008 polls from various pollsters.
Quite a few polls did a good job of producing a good central estimate, but with varying margins of error. To measure the quality of polls against each other, we want a measure that takes both the poll’s accuracy and precision into account. To do this, I calculated the root-mean-square error for each poll, evenly balanced throughout the margin of error. (ASIDE: Basically, I’m assuming a uniform distribution throughout the indicated margin of error. This isn’t exactly right, of course, but the published numbers don’t give enough information to reconstruct the true distribution, and it would be too much trouble to do so anyway.) I computed the error based on Obama’s share of the two-party vote, which eliminates discrepancies due to treatment of minor parties and “don’t know” responses.
The result is a single measure that indicates how well each poll predicted the 2008 election. Rasmussen and Pew come in first, with accurate estimates and small margins of error. ABC/Washington Post, Fox, IBD/TIPP, and NBC/WSJ also did well:
Note that the Fair model came in 12th place. The Fair model is not a poll, but an econometric model devised by Yale economist Ray Fair that predicts the outcome of presidential elections. The Fair model does no polling and doesn’t even know who the candidates are, but it still does as good a job at predicting election outcomes as many major polls. Any poll that comes in behind Fair can be safely regarded as a bad poll — you would be better off not polling at all.
The results speak for themselves. In 2008, Rasmussen and Pew were the best, and several polls were literally worse than no poll at all.
LED traffic lights save electricity, but they generate less heat. That is a problem in colder climates: the cold bulbs allow snow and ice to accumulate and obscure the light. This is being blamed for a fatal accident in Oswego, Illinois. The solution being adopted is to send out road crews to clean the lights, which eliminates some or all of the cost savings. But at least they’re creating “green jobs”!
THERMODYNAMIC POSTSCRIPT: Above I said “but they generate less heat”, but I could just as well have said “because they generate less heat”. All the energy a bulb uses has to go somewhere. LED’s use less electricity precisely because they don’t generate as much waste heat. (LEDs also don’t waste energy on light invisible to the human eye, but I don’t think that’s much of a factor.)
LEDs and fluorescent bulbs are cold by design. Traffic light failures are a dramatic consequence, but there is a more commonplace one. In a home that uses electric heat, LEDs and fluorescent bulbs will save no energy during the heating months. Any heat that is not generated by lighting will be made up joule-for-joule by electric heaters, coming out precisely even. As a result, estimates of the energy saved by such lighting are substantially overstated (again, in homes with electric heat).
Ben Nelson says that the special deal for Nebraska in the Senate health care bill isn’t his fault:
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) reached out Thursday evening to South Carolina GOP Attorney General Henry McMaster, the leader of a group of 13 Republican state attorneys general who are threatening to file suit against the Senate health care bill, and urged him to forgo any legal action, POLITICO has learned. . .
“Senator Nelson insisted that he had not asked for the Cornhusker Kickback to be placed in the U.S. Senate version of the health care bill to secure his vote. Senator Nelson told the attorney general that it was simply a ‘marker’ placed in the U.S. Senate version of the bill and assured the attorney general that it would be ‘fixed,’” [according to a memo sent by McMaster’s chief of staff to other GOP state attorneys general detailing the call.]
The document goes on to say: “Senator Nelson said it would be ‘fixed’ by extending the Cornhusker Kickback (100% federal payment) on Medicaid to every state.”
Senate Democratic leaders have made no reference to a plan to expand the Nebraska deal to the remaining 49 states — a move that would be prohibitively expensive to the federal government and raise serious questions about whether health reform would lower the expected federal deficit, as President Barack Obama claims it would.
Nelson isn’t going to be able to distance himself from this. Whether he “asked” for it or not, he accepted it as his price for his vote. Also, there’s obviously no way that the kickback can be extended to every state, because it would explode the bill’s delicate CBO score.
In November I noted that Erroll Southers, President Obama’s nominee to run the TSA, had been censured for running an illegal background check on his ex-wife’s boyfriend. The homeland security committee approved his nomination on November 19. The next day, Southers remembered that the information he gave the committee was false:
Southers first described the episode in his October affidavit, telling the Senate panel that two decades ago he asked a San Diego Police Department employee to access confidential criminal records about the boyfriend. Southers said he had been censured by superiors at the FBI. He described the incident as isolated and expressed regrets about it.
The committee approved his nomination Nov. 19. One day later, Southers wrote to Lieberman and Collins saying his first account was incorrect. After reviewing documents, he wrote, he recalled that he had twice conducted the database searches himself, downloaded confidential law enforcement records about his wife’s boyfriend and passed information on to the police department employee, the letter said. . .
“I am distressed by the inconsistencies between my recollection and the contemporaneous documents, but I assure you that the mistake was inadvertent, and that I have at all times taken full responsibility for what I know to have been a grave error in judgment,” the letter said.
He simply forgot that he did illegal searches on multiple occasions and passed the information on to others? And then he remembered the day after his nomination was approved?
Well, I’m sure that the Democratic party, strong advocate of civil liberties that it is, will call Southers back to the committee to account for this new revelation. Right?
A spokesman said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) will work quickly to overcome DeMint’s procedural block and force a vote when the Senate reconvenes this month.
Am I the only one that finds this defense of Singapore’s speech regulation unconvincing?
SIR – Philip Bowring’s account of the Far Eastern Economic Review’s encounter with the Singapore government is inaccurate (Letters, October 17th). In 1987 the government restricted the circulation of the Review after it had engaged in Singapore’s domestic politics. But an advertisement-free version was distributed widely at bookshops and supermarkets, and sold more than 1,000 copies. In March 1988 the Review applied to produce a similar version. The government agreed, subject to a ceiling of 2,000 copies, but the Review refused its offer. Would this have happened in Maoist China and North Korea?
Michael Eng Cheng Teo
High commissioner for Singapore
Singapore: better than Maoist China or North Korea!
What our generation has forgotten is that the system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that nobody has complete power over us, that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. If all the means of production were vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of “society” as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us.
Who can seriously doubt that a member of a small racial or religious minority will be freer with no property so long as fellow-members of his community have property and are therefore able to employ him, than he would be if private property were abolished and he became owner of a nominal share in the communal property? Of that the power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest fonctionnaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state and on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am able to be allowed to live or to work? And who will deny that a world in which the wealthy are powerful is still a better world than one in which only the already powerful can acquire wealth?
A Pew poll released a month ago found that a majority (54%) think that using torture to obtain information from terrorists is often or sometimes appropriate. That’s surprising to me, because I would have thought that the prevailing opinion was rarely-but-not-never. Certainly that’s how waterboarding (if we agree, for the sake of discussion, that waterboarding is torture) was used by the Bush administration. The often/sometimes/rarely number is 70%. In other words, the vast majority of the public disagree with President Obama’s position.
The Pew poll was taken before the attempted bombing of flight 253, at a time when the threat of terrorism had lost its urgency for many people. It also suffers from confusion over exactly what constitutes torture.
A new Rasmussen poll corrects those problems. It is more timely, and instead of using the vague and loaded term “torture”, it asks specifically about “waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques”. More importantly, it asks about a specific case (Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber), which I think gives a more informative result than asking in the abstract. The poll found that 58% believe that waterboarding (etc.) should be used on Abdulmutallab.
Personally, I’m not so sure. I think that they ought to find out how he responds to a normal interrogation first. But we won’t be doing that either, because the administration immediately put him into the criminal justice system, thereby protecting him from any interrogation at all. Rasmussen didn’t ask whether people agreed with that decision, but if they had, I’m sure the number would be microscopic.
You must be logged in to post a comment.