"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


One of Salem Oregon's Unofficial Top 1000 Conservative Political Bloggers!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Climate Czar Browner's Glaring Conflict of Interest


Okay, I was going to lay off blogging through the weekend, but I couldn't let this one pass by without mentioning it.

Over at BigGovernment.com Christopher C. Horner has an interesting little heads up on Climate "Czar" Carol Browner. It seems that "[s]he was on the board of one of the leading carbon offset trading companies, APX.

"That makes for one really big conflict of interest in her role guiding the administration’s efforts to regulate carbon dioxide and force emitters to buy CO2 ration-coupons.

"So, add this to her work for the Albright Group which is 'secretive about its clients' (SourceWatch), violating a federal judge’s order to preserve documents by wiping computers clean while at EPA (sound at all relevant these days?), and her board membership for the Socialist International’s 'climate' project.

"Other than those I can’t think of too many reasons Obama wouldn’t want her subjected to disclosure requirements and scrutiny."

Cute stuff.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!



Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I'll be taking a break from blogging for the long weekend (will be watching my own Godzilla-Rodan-Mothra Marathon on DVD), but will be back posting on Monday. I hope everyone has a fun and restful holiday. Don't stuff yourselves too much...

Best Wishes,
Yukio Ngaby

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama Gives Go Ahead to Troop Surge in Afghanistan-- but Hedges Bets

Well, Obama (after how many months of dithering?) has finally made a decision regarding McChrystal's request for more troops. He's sending in 34,000 more troops, but is hedging his bets which greatly increases the chances of failure.

Clifton B. at Another Black Conservative has a good analysis here. As Clifton B. points out, "General Stanley McChrystal gave Obama three options, a low-risk option of 80,000 troops, a medium-risk option of 40,000 troops and a high-risk option of 20,000 troops. Obama decision seems to fall short of the medium risk option and it will be interesting to hear his decision why."

While it will be interesting to hear Obama's justifications for what seems to be the politically safest bet, the real reasons will never be publicly voiced. However, they are not so difficult to speculate on. Obama has given himself the most outs possible without simply walking away from the whole thing and admitting utter failure in a war that he vocally supported while a Senator.

As both McClatchy and Another Black Conservative point out, Obama has given himself a number of "off-ramps" regarding troop deployment. "The administration's plan contains 'off-ramps,' points starting next June at which Obama could decide to continue the flow of troops, halt the deployments and adopt a more limited strategy or 'begin looking very quickly at exiting' the country, depending on political and military progress, one defense official said.

[...]

"It's 'not just how we get people there, but what's the strategy for getting them out,' White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday."

It's gotta be a little discouraging to people when the White House press secretary is already talking about pulling troops out even as they announce they will be sending more in...

This last laugher from McClatchy: "The administration's plan is expected to encounter opposition on Capitol Hill, where some senior Democrats have suggested that the administration may need to raise taxes in order to pay for the additional troops."

Democrats objecting to raising taxes?! I guess senior Dems think that taxes aren't so great when they're not trillions of dollars funding government health care "reform," political payoff-- err I mean ineffective economic "stimulus," Cap & Trade, etc. Geez. These guys would rather underfund US troops (I mean we already have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan) rather than hold back their grandiose and unpopular domestic agendas.

Obama's decision, at first glance, appears to be just about the worst he could have possibly made. Without proper support, sending more troops into a conflict is one of the worst things that can be done. Without the proper political and financial support and clear mission objectives, the only thing that's accomplished with a troop build-up is sending more troops into un-winnable and demoralizing danger. These men and women need (and deserve) a commitment of full financial and political backing-- something that Obama's months of dithering has proven the White House is, at the absolute best, very reluctant to give. The Congressional Dems are already whining about the cost of the Afghanistan conflict, even though they passed a $789 billion+ stimulus and prepare to pass a $1 trillion debacle of a bill labeled health care "reform."

Do you, for a minute, believe that Obama will be willing to go to the mat for these troops? He won't even fully commit to the 40,000 "moderate risk" deployment-- never mind an 80,000 low risk deployment. And surely Obama will never compromise his perceived legacy of inflicting upon all of us his astronomically expensive health care "reforms" to insure fully-funded troops.

In fact, Obama had only two real choices (have we learned nothing from L.B. Johnson?): 1) To fight a a winnable war with masses of well-funded and fully supported troops or 2) to pull out the troops and compromise the already tenuous political integrity of that geographic region including Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal.

True to form, after months of self-indulgent dithering, Obama appears to have chosen neither. He'll trickle in the politically safest amount of troops (just enough to be able to say that they might be able to accomplish their mission), give himself "off-ramps" so he can judge the mood of the country as the deployment begins and the insurgents respond, and then hope for the best.

Will it work? I really do hope so. I have no wish for American dead and disabled, needless Afghan suffering, and a (further) destabilized Pakistan.

However, I fear that it will not. Tentative strategies have a very poor track record in annals of military history. Afghanistan was a very hard nut for the British Empire to crack and required a full commitment for their eventual victory. Plus, the KSM civilian trial suggests that the Obama Administration seems to view this whole thing as a "police action" a phrase that should be synonymous with military failure. That sort of thinking could impose unreasonable and dangerous restrictions onto both the men and women in the field and the military strategists.

Can the US win this war? Yes. Can Afghanistan become a stable country? Yes. Will either actually happen? Well, that depends on the political and financial sacrifice Obama and the Congressional Dems are willing to endure until the 2010 elections (when the problem will likely become a bipartisan one). It will cost money and it will cost American lives to really accomplish anything there. I see very little indication that the Dems are willing to compromise any of their grandiose and extremely expensive agendas for the Afghanistan cause.

I think the future looks rather dim for our presence in Afghanistan. It seems likely that we will be sacrificing further American lives for an unsupported cause in the very near future.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rasmussen Reports: Just 38% Support Congressional Health Plan-- 56% Oppose

Congress seems deaf to just about any criticism of their grand disaster in the making. The most recent Rasmussen survey has 56% of the voters disapproving of the proposed health care reform. Click on the link and check out the reported results of their surveys.

From the piece: "Just 38% of voters now favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s the lowest level of support measured for the plan in nearly two dozen tracking polls conducted since June.

"The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% now oppose the plan."

[...]

"Prior to this, support for the plan had never fallen below 41%. Last week, support for the plan was at 47%. Two weeks ago, the effort was supported by 45% of voters.

"Intensity remains stronger among those who oppose the push to change the nation’s health care system: 21% Strongly Favor the plan while 43% are Strongly Opposed [emphasis mine].

[...]

"Only 16% now believe passage of the plan will lead to lower health care costs. Nearly four times as many (60%) believe the plan will increase health care costs. Most (54%) also believe passage of the plan will hurt the quality of care.

"As has been the case for months, Democrats favor the plan while Republicans and voters not affiliated with either major party are opposed. The latest numbers show support from 73% of those in the president’s party. The plan is opposed by 83% of Republicans and 70% of unaffiliated voters.

[...]

"Only 16% now believe passage of the plan will lead to lower health care costs. Nearly four times as many (60%) believe the plan will increase health care costs. Most (54%) also believe passage of the plan will hurt the quality of care.

"As has been the case for months, Democrats favor the plan while Republicans and voters not affiliated with either major party are opposed. The latest numbers show support from 73% of those in the president’s party. The plan is opposed by 83% of Republicans and 70% of unaffiliated voters.

[...]

"Among the nation’s senior citizens, 34% favor the health care plan and 60% are opposed. A majority of those under 30 favor the plan, but a majority of all other age groups are opposed."

It seems like the AARP are backing the wrong horse on this one, this is despite the back-handed "Divided We Fail" campaign they're running.

Check out this Washington Post op-od by Robert J. Samuelson (h/t Jacobson at Legal Insurrection) for more background in the young-paying-for-the-old insurance scheme the AARP is pushing. In a far too overly simplified summary (click on the link and read the whole WaPo op-ed), the young will be forced to buy insurance at higher rates to subsidize the higher costs of incurred by seniors. Failure to force this into being is "age discrimination" according to the AARP. Cute, huh?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Death Panels" of the Future: Mammogram Edition

Check out this post by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air (Carol @ Carol's Closet).

From Morrissey:

"What a difference six months — and a health-care overhaul proposal — can make! Just six months ago, the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, which works within the Department of Health and Human Services as a “best practice” panel on prevention, sounded a warning signal over a slight decline in annual mammograms among women in their 40s. In fact, they warned women of this age bracket that they could be risking their lives if they didn’t get the annual preventive exam (via HA reader Devil’s Advocate):

"'The downward trend, however slight, has breast cancer experts worried. Mammograms can enable physicians to diagnose the disease at early stages, often before a lump can be felt. "When breast cancer is detected early, it often can be treated before it has a chance to spread in the body and increase the risk of dying from the disease," says Katherine Alley, medical director of the breast health program at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

'The U.S Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts working under the Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that women older than 40 get a mammogram every one to two years. The task force finds the test most helpful for women between ages 50 and 69, for whom it says the evidence is strongest that screening lowers death rates from breast cancer. Other groups, including the American Medical Association, suggest a more rigorous schedule, saying the test should be done every year; insurers often pay for annual tests.

'But experts say they are seeing gaps beyond two years in many cases. Carol Lee, chair of the American College of Radiology’s Breast Imaging Commission and a radiologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, says many women understand that they need to have a mammogram but don’t go back for repeat tests after the first one. In Bethesda, Alley said she has even heard anecdotal reports of breast cancer survivors forgoing recommended mammograms.'

"But today, that same panel says … never mind:

"'"We’re not saying women shouldn’t get screened. Screening does saves lives," said Diana B. Petitti, vice chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which released the recommendations Monday in a paper being published in Tuesday’s Annals of Internal Medicine. "But we are recommending against routine screening. There are important and serious negatives or harms that need to be considered carefully."

'Several patient advocacy groups and many breast cancer experts welcomed the new guidelines, saying they represent a growing recognition that more testing, exams and treatment are not always beneficial and, in fact, can harm patients. Mammograms produce false-positive results in about 10 percent of cases, causing anxiety and often prompting women to undergo unnecessary follow-up tests, sometimes-disfiguring biopsies and unneeded treatment, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

'But the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and other experts condemned the change, saying the benefits of routine mammography have been clearly demonstrated and play a key role in reducing the number of mastectomies and the death toll from one of the most common cancers.

'"Tens of thousands of lives are being saved by mammography screening, and these idiots want to do away with it," said Daniel B. Kopans, a radiology professor at Harvard Medical School. "It’s crazy — unethical, really.""

Crazy but not without economic incentive. As The Washington Post article cited by Morrissey points out, breast cancer screening is expensive.

"The new recommendations took on added significance because under health-care reform legislation pending in Congress, the conclusions of the 16-member task force would set standards for what preventive services insurance plans would be required to cover at little or no cost. [actually according to HR 3962 the Health Benefits Advisory Council (HBAC) --all political appointees by the way-- would determine yearly what would be covered under qualified health plans].

"About 39 million women undergo mammograms each year in the United States, costing the health-care system more than $5 billion [emphasis mine]."

Diana Petitti then gives this amusing little lie.

"Petitti said the panel was not influenced by the reform debate or cost issues."

Later in the article, citing a host of studies, gives us this little bit of info. "While annual mammography for all women beginning at age 40 reduced the death rate from breast cancer by at least 15 percent, the modeling studies indicated that the added benefit of starting before age 50 was modest, the researchers concluded.

"For every 1,000 women screened beginning at age 40, the modeling suggested that just about 0.7 deaths from breast cancer would be prevented, while about 470 additional women would receive a false-positive result and about 33 more would undergo unnecessary biopsies [emphasis mine]."

Okay, let's go ahead and go with this best-case scenario-- and just forget that pesky drop of 15% in the death rate as this panel would like you to. For every 1000 women, .7 deaths are prevented by screening. So early screening does save lives, just not enough to be cost beneficial, I guess. So how many lives does this panel suggest we sacrifice for the sake of saving money? Sacrificed lives? Panel? Hmm.

"For women age 50 and older, cutting back to screening every two years would maintain 81 percent of the benefits of testing annually while reducing by half the number of false-positives, the computer modeling study estimated [emphasis mine]."

81% of the benefits. Sounds like a bargain unless you're part of that 19% whose health would suffer under decreased testing. Oh, well... Thems the breaks.

Now it's important to understand that under the current laws, this panel's recommendations don't carry the sort of weight. It's something that insurance companies weigh the benefits of against any other number of other factors, other recommendations, and other studies in their actuarial processes. It's this fact that is conveniently overlooked when current health care "reform" advocates claim "death panels" exist now in the form of private insurance determinations.

Under the HR3962 and undoubtedly under the pending Senate Bill, these same type people's findings (Pettiti, et al) would have singular and direct importance. The HBAC's "recommendations" would directly affect your health insurance, determine what would and would not be covered. In other words, if the HBAC decides that a sacrifice of 19% of the benefit of mammograms is acceptable, then you will no longer get yearly mammograms. And if you end up being one of those 1.9 in 10 whose health is affected by this cutback-- too bad. You'll be taking one for the team, for our "shared responsibility," and for social justice.

Do you remember when the House dropped the "death panels" out of the bill-- even though they didn't exist? Well, that was the end of life stuff. The real "death panels" are the HBAC (or an alphabet soup equivalent) and the way they will arbitrarily (with lobbying and all its rational fairness, of course) and surreptitiously ration care.

Is this a Joke? Obama Gives "Sternest Warning" Over Deficit Spending



According to Reuters (h/t Pundit & Pundette via Gateway Pundit) Obama is now against deficit spending.

"President Barack Obama gave his sternest warning yet about the need to contain rising U.S. deficits, saying on Wednesday that if government debt were to pile up too much, it could lead to a double-dip recession.

"With the U.S. unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, Obama told Fox News his administration faces a delicate balance of trying to boost the economy and spur job creation while putting the economy on a path toward long-term deficit reduction.

"His administration was considering ways to accelerate economic growth, with tax measures among the options to give companies incentives to hire, Obama said in the interview with Fox conducted in Beijing during his nine-day trip to Asia.

"'It is important though to recognize if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession,' he said.

"Fox News, which released a transcript of the interview, showed that comment by Obama on Wednesday morning and said the full discussion would be broadcast later in the day."

This seems me to be an indication of two things: 1) a man losing confidence in his own policies, and 2) a prelude to raising taxes.

As Gateway Pundit points out, in February Peter Orszag, the White House Budget Director, said in another Fox interview:

"During an economic downturn like we’re experiencing the deficit gets elevated which is not only natural, it’s beneficial because it helps bring the economy back up to the potential output level. In other words, the key problem we face right now is the gap between how much the economy could produce and how much it is producing. The whole point of the Recovery Act is to fill in that gap and part of that means a temporary elevated deficit."

Taking (or using) these words as an excuse, the Obama Admin, has revved up the spending to historic levels. $789 billion in political payoff-- er, um... "stimulus" spending was just the beginning of Obama's spree. According to the AP (via Fox): "The federal budget deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year that ended last week, congressional analysts said Wednesday.

"The Congressional Budget Office estimate, while expected, is bad news for the White House and its allies in Congress as they press ahead with health care overhaul legislation that could cost $900 billion over the next decade.

[...]

"The previous record deficit was $459 billion and was set just last year."

Now, as many indicators point toward an economic downturn after the corpse bounce, Obama is out issuing "stern warnings" against deficit spending. Hmm. Looks like a loss of confidence to me.

My bet is that Obama is laying down a track of finger-wagging warnings simply so that he can cover himself and claim the "fact" that he did so before an economic downturn and a harder recession. The mere fact that Obama is doing all this now, is a pretty good indication that he believes hard times are ahead and that his stimulus didn't do much stimulating despite the White House's Orwellian vaudeville lines to the contrary. We also shouldn't forget that Obama is in Asia trying to sell American economic strength abroad. Every statement he makes there should be considered in that context.

Second, this is a pretty clear warning that tax hikes are on the way, perhaps even the much-anticipated Value Added Tax. Sure, deficit spending is bad but that's not going to stop Obama and Congress from spending $1 trillion on Trojan horse health care. So how do you limit deficit spending but not cut back on programs and other... uh... spending? By raising taxes, of course. I'm sure he'll claim it's all Bush's fault and that the "inherited" economic crisis caused him to break his campaign promise of no new taxes on the middle class, blah, blah, blah... So much excuse-making blather...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

KSM Trial Intended to put Bush-Cheney-Yoo on Trial

Ever since the announcement, I have wondered what was the purpose of putting Khalid Sheik Mohammed on trial in New York. Senselessly extending Constitutional rights to a man whose one of many ambitions is to bring down the American government ruled by the Constitution, did not not make a great deal of sense to me. Nor did I see any purpose to invoking an inevitable media circus that would accompany the (for all intents and purposes) show trial and its inevitable verdict.

Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has an interesting theory, one that is echoed by Andrew Sullivan of all people.

First from Jacobson's post: "The lofty rhetoric about the rule of law is a sham. The KSM civilian trial is all about putting the Bush administration on trial in a public forum. With plausible deniability built in because KSM and his attorneys will do the Bush-basher's dirty work for them over the government's objections.

"The decision also is another vote of 'present' for Obama. Obama satisfies the left's desire for further public disclosure of the interrogation program, but it will take place as part of the civilian trial process, not as a result of an administration choice. If there is damage to our intelligence agencies from such disclosures, blame will be placed on a federal judge, not the Obama administration.

"Using 'the rule of law' for a political agenda is the ultimate disrespect for the rule of law. And in this case, another vote of 'present.'"

Jacobson links to Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic who writes a piece amusingly entitled "Finally A President Not Governed By Fear" (the fact that the Obama Administration is one of the most alarmist is the last twenty years-- fretting about "right-wing extremists, FOX news, Chicken Little screams about a "failing" economy, etc.-- seems completely lost upon Sullivan).

From Sullivan: "I think it's a potentially brilliant move. I do not believe for one moment that this case was brought in a civilian court without sufficient evidence to convict KSM of criminality to put him away for good. But what an open civilian case will also do - and it's why a war criminal like John Yoo is so apoplectic - is reveal the extent to which the brutal torture of KSM was unnecessary, and led to the government's inability to prosecute him to the full extent of the law.

"It will be a civic lesson to America and the world. It will show the evil of terrorism and the futility and danger of torture. It will be a way in which Cheney's torture regime can be revealed in all its grotesque excess at the same time as KSM's vile religious extremism is exposed for its murderous nihilism. That all this will take place in New York - close to where the mass murder took place - is a particularly smart touch."

I enjoy the "civic lesson to American and the world" line. This sentiment, coming on the heels of Obama's world apology tour soon after his election, is hard to stomach. Apparently for Sullivan it's wrong for America to teach the world, but laudable for Obama to do so. Do these people not read their own words anymore? Ah, but I digress...

Sullivan ends with "I believe this is the best symbolic answer to 9/11: a trial, with due process, after tempers have calmed somewhat, that exposes this evil for all it truly was. And also reveals the tragedy of an American government that lost its nerve and has now, under a new president, regained it."

Obama has not demonstrated "nerve," in the sense that Sullivan uses it, as he frets over Afghanistan. Indeed the only nerve he has demonstrated is the arrogant belief that he can restructure the US economy (with the Value Added Tax and Cap & Trade) and health care industry over the objections of the majority of American people, and that he can succeed in these endeavors where other countries have universally failed within a few decades. More digression... I'm sorry.

I have to wonder whether both Jacobson and Sullivan have given too much credit to the Obama Administration. One consistent feature of the Obama Admin has been amateurism. On an almost daily basis, Obama and his people have demonstrated little understanding of the nuts and bolts of political reality. Whether its alienating the US's intelligence services over water boarding, the predictable "pwning" by Iran while negotiating with them over enriching uranium, the out-of-control House health care "reform" bills, the misreading of the mislabeling of the Honduran crisis as a "military coup," the Obama Administration has shown a great deal of inexperience and naivety in the decisions it renders. It all makes me slightly dubious that the inexperienced but powerful Obama Administration could orchestrate the "brilliant move" that Sullivan describes with the full Machiavellian awareness Sullivan credits them with.

Jacobson does make a strong point in his post when he says (you must forgive the repetition) "[t]he decision also is another vote of 'present' for Obama. Obama satisfies the left's desire for further public disclosure of the interrogation program, but it will take place as part of the civilian trial process, not as a result of an administration choice. If there is damage to our intelligence agencies from such disclosures, blame will be placed on a federal judge, not the Obama administration." This move does strike me as being rather Obamaian (Obaman?) as it is a grand gesture, back-handed, likely to end badly, and most concerned about satisfying Left sensibilities while leaving an enormous escape hatch for the Administration itself. So, who knows?

It really doesn't matter, of course. Like most things Obama, the KSM trial will certainly spin out of control and skid beyond any political intentions. It will become a highly divisive circus, further splitting the American Left and Right, and distract the media and American people from very real upcoming economic dangers-- such as the upcoming Senate version of health "reform" bill, the Value Added Tax, etc. Hopefully it will not distract the US intelligence community from their job and make the US less safe. Any bets on that?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Apology for Inactivity

Sorry for the blank blog that's been here the last couple of days. I've been distracted while working on my writing and have also been just plain lazy. I'll be back posting soon-- hopefully tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How I Learned to Stop Worrying About and-- Not Love-- but Tolerate Terrorist Attacks

Check out Victor Davis Hanson's essay on terrorism (h/t Pat @ And So it Goes in Shreveport) in National Review Online. Hanson points out that Hasan's attack on Fort Hood is not as unique as most of us might think or remember.

Click on the above link and read the whole essay (it's not long), but excerpts are below:

"Many commentators were more likely to cite the stresses of hearing patients discuss two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than Hasan’s own apparent extremist beliefs.

"In truth, the Fort Hood murders fit into a now familiar pattern of radical Islam-inspired violence that manifests itself in two principal ways.

"First are the formal terrorist plots. Radical Muslims have attempted, in coordinated fashion, to blow up a bridge, explode a train, assault a military base, and topple a high-rise building — in ways al-Qaeda terrorist leaders abroad warned us would follow 9/11.

"This year alone, three terrorist plots have been foiled.

[...]

"There have also been 'lone wolf' mass murders in which angry radical Muslims sought to channel their frustrations and failures into violence against their perceived enemies of Islam.

"Since September 11, several Muslim men have run over innocent bystanders or shot random people at or near military bases, synagogues, and shopping malls.

"After the initial hysteria died down, we were usually told that such acts were isolated incidents, involving personal 'issues' rather than radical Islamic hatred of the U.S. Yet a few examples show that was not quite the case.

"The just-executed sniper John Allan Muhammad, who, along with an accomplice, killed ten, voiced approval of Osama bin Laden and radical Islamic violence.

Naveed Afzal Haq is currently on trial for going on a murderous rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building. A survivor said Haq stated his attack was a 'personal statement against Jews.'

"Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar ran over nine students at the University of North Carolina. Officers said he told them afterward he wanted to avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide.

"Omeed Aziz Popal struck 18 pedestrians with his car near a Jewish center in San Francisco. Witnesses say he said, 'I am a terrorist,' at the scene.

"No doubt in each case, experts could assure us that there were extenuating personal circumstances — stresses and mental illnesses that better explain what happened.

[...]

"Every few months either an Islamic-inspired terrorist plot will be foiled, or a young Muslim male will shoot, run down, or stab someone while invoking anger at non-Muslims.

"In other words, the attack on Fort Hood happened on schedule. It was the rule, not the exception. And something like it will occur again — soon."

While it is important to differentiate between violent acts perpetrated by people with Arabic sounding names and terrorist-motivated attacks, it is equally, if not more, important to not simply dismiss terrorist attacks as the results of mental stress.

All terrorists are the results of mental stress. Are we to believe that people who strap on explosives lined with nails and tacks, and then go and detonate themselves in a pizza parlor or on a bus are not under mental stress? Simply because an act of terrorist murder resembles an act of mental breaking, does not change the basic nature of a terrorist attack. They are not completely unrelated to begin with.

Like so many others, I am shocked at the way the media, government, and even the top brass in the military have responded to the Fort Hood attack. We're told not to jump to conclusions. Fine. We waited. And as we waited MSNBC, CNN, CBS, the NYT and so many others of the MSM speculated wildly and told us that Hasan suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (although he had never seen combat), or that he had been driven to his killings by frustration at the lack of health care funding (remember this is when HR 3962 was on the House floor). We were told not to care what his religion is. While we waited, we were told Hasan was bullied for his beliefs in Islam.

And now as the truth of the matter becomes clearer and clearer, much of the press and Obama himself would like to treat this incident as just another natural tragedy, like a tornado or a flood. While many have swooned over Obama's Fort Hood speech (chiefly because he didn't spend any time praising himself), Obama spoke of the victims as though they had been struck down by lightning in some freak storm.

Certainly it's fine and fitting to honor the memory of those slain, but to do so without even touching upon why and how these fine people were brutally murdered is disingenuous to the extreme. It reeks of moral cowardice-- of an inability to be even slightly honest when confronted by events outside of Obama's great plan. It dishonors the fallen by twisting the circumstances of their deaths until their tragedy's meaning is devoid of any relation to the truth.

This strikes me as being similar to a certain branch of grief counseling, where the focus is on the exhumation of already surfaced feelings. By wringing out every last drop of emotion and energy, the aggrieved are left physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted at the end. The bereaved often feels relieved, generally better, and sometimes feels as though something has been accomplished, some mental burden has been lifted and set aside. Yet the tragedy remains, and the hollowness of absence continues, and they're told that all that will get better in time. Well, that would have been the case regardless, so what's the point of the emotional crush at the beginning of the process?

The basic idea is to expunge the negative feelings (the assumption being that such feelings won't come back, or if they do that they'll return with less intensity) so that they will not cause undue internal stress and consternation in the aggrieved. It's sort-of a shortcut to acceptance. It's a theory that dismisses the possibility that the gradual grieving process has an internal importance, that the road to acceptance has meaning based in the journey itself and not merely because of the end result. And acceptance, in this case, is just another word for tolerance.

Obama's strategy in dealing with these violent attacks seems to be not completely dissimilar. Be sure to focus sympathy on the victims (who could argue with that), expunge, wait for everything to simmer down and let tolerance take root, and then continue with political agendas. Repeat as necessary. Indignation at the hateful and violent causes behind such tragedies would be a distraction. Far better to teach us us all how to learn to accept these man-made disasters in stride.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

School Fundraiser: Cash for Grades

From the you-can't-possibly-believe-this-is-okay news files comes this little gem: a middle school was selling extra credit grade points as part of a school fundraiser.

According to the newsobserver.com article by Lynn Bonner (h/t BigGovernment.com):

"Selling candy didn't raise much money last year, so a Goldsboro middle school tried selling grades.

"However, the fundraiser came to an abrupt halt today after a story in The News & Observer raised concerns about the practice of selling grades.

"Wayne County school administrators stopped the fundraiser, issuing a statement this morning.

"'Yesterday afternoon, the district administration met with [Rosewood Middle School principal] Mrs. Shepherd and directed the the following actions be taken: (1) the fundraiser will be immediately stopped; (2) no extra grade credit will be issued that may have resulted from donations; and (3) beginning Novermber [spelling is district administration's?] 12, all donations will be returned.'

"A $20 donation to Rosewood Middle School would have gotten a student 20 test points - 10 extra points on two tests of the student's choosing. That could raise a B to an A, or a failing grade to a D."

Later in the article, the principal, Mrs. Shepherd, offered this perfectly reasonable explanation that completely exonerates a practice, that on the surface, seems reprehensible.

"'Last year they did chocolates, and it didn't generate anything'" Shepherd said.

"Shepherd rejected the suggestion that the school is selling grades. Extra points on two tests won't make a difference in a student's final grade, she said.

"It's wrong to think that 'one particular grade could change the entire focus of nine weeks,' Shepherd said."

Oh, I understand... Chocolates didn't cut it, so they decided to sell grades. And of course those extra credit points wouldn't make any difference-- that's why people would be willing to pay $20 for them.

The article also included a Rosewood Middle School price list:

"A $20 donation buys 10-point credits to be used on two tests of the student's choice.

"A $30 donation buys the test points and admission to a 5th-period dance.

"A $60 donation buys students test points, the dance invitation, and a 'special 30-minute lunch period with pizza, drink and the choice to invite one friend to join them.'

"Photo ops with Rosewood principal Susie Shepherd, the vice principal, and a home room teacher go for $75. The photos will be posted on a school bulletin board and on the school's Web site."

As my wife pointed out, that $75 prize doesn't seem so great. A photo-op with the vice principal? I mean I pretty much got one of those in 7th grade for free when I started a food fight in the cafeteria.

My wife suggested that a date with some of the school spirit minded staff would be more enticing for the $75 price tag. I mean, I'm sure there's some pretty science teacher, or handsome computer science teacher down there willing to spend an evening with a generous parent for the sake of the school coffers.

Why not? Principal Shepherd is already selling out their grades...

Added New Links! Musings and Their Meanings & Another Black Conservative

Just added a couple of links.

Musings and Their Meanings had some impressive posts on the HR 3962 scuffle and made me link.

Another Black Conservative had an amusing but dead-on post titled "Michael Steele: White Republicans Are Afraid of Me."

My favorite lines: "Memo To Michael: If you are trying to get brothers and sisters to join the Republican Party, you have to stop agreeing with the stereotypes black liberals have of Republicans!

"As a black conservative who has probably met as many white Republicans and conservatives as Michael Steele has, I have not met any who cower in fear of me, especially when they know we share the same political beliefs. On the other hand, I have encountered TONS of white liberals who DEMAND to know why I am a conservative. Talk about racist, what are black people only allowed to have one political view?"

I had to read more after that post and had to link after reading those posts.

Check them out. They're both worth some perusing time.

HR 875: Regulating Organic Farming-- Including Hunting Game and Home Gardens

Many silly bills circulate through the House in any Congress, and under any administration. Most of the time Americans simply trust that somebody in the House or Senate will see the nonsense for what it is and publicize the fact to influential parties, or the bill will be tacitly acknowledged as a bad idea and whither away on the vine.

However, the current political climate makes pretty much any bad bill a potential bad law. When the president's key political policies are encompassed in "the worst bill ever," and the prevailing attitude within the Congressional Democrats is the championing of a nanny-state government, no bill seems too ridiculous to take seriously.

Enter HR 875. Lydia Scott at Campaign for Liberty has a decent, although perhaps a bit alarmist, write up on the possible implications of the bill as it stands.

From the post:

"This legislation is so broad based that technically someone with a little backyard garden could get fined and have their property seized. It will affect anyone who produces food even if they do not sell but only consume it. It will literally put all independent farmers and food producers out of business due to the huge amounts of money it will take to conform to factory farming methods. If people choose to farm without industry standards such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers they will be subject to a variety of harassment from this completely new agency that has never before existed. That's right, a whole new government agency is being created just to police food, for our own protection of course.

[...]

"Red flags I found and I am sure there are more...........

"Legally binds state agriculture depts to enforcing federal guidelines effectively taking away the states power to do anything other than being food police for the federal dept.

"Effectively criminalizes organic farming but doesn't actually use the word organic.

"Affects anyone growing food even if they are not selling it but consuming it.

"Affects anyone producing meat of any kind including the processing wild game for personal consumption.

"Legislation is so broad based that every aspect of growing or producing food can be made illegal. There are no specifics which is bizarre considering how long the legislation is.

"Section 103 is almost entirely about the administrative aspect of the legislation. It will allow the appointing of officials from the factory farming corporations and lobbyists and classify them as experts and allow them to determine and interpret the legislation. Who do you think they are going to side with?

"Section 206 defines what will be considered a food production facility and what will be enforced up all food production facilities. The wording is so broad based that a backyard gardener could be fined and more.

"Section 207 requires that the state's agriculture dept act as the food police and enforce the federal requirements. This takes away the states power and is in violation of the 10th amendment."

Certainly this bill would seem to have few supporters (the Left loves their "organic" farmers), but, as I said before, these are odd political times and HR 875 deserves some attention. Would you have believed that so many House Dems would vote have voted for the Stupak Amendment, or that such an amendment would even become politically feasible and brought up in session before Saturday? Besides, the possibility that the basic idea of policing foods and extending industry regulations to non-industry providers could be made politically viable in this climate-- perhaps put into a more "organic farming friendly" bill.

This could be a bill to watch.

Monday, November 9, 2009

ABC News: Fort Hood Shooter Attempted to Contact al Qaeda

According to an ABC News post by Richard Esposito, Mathew Cole and Brian Ross, Nidal Hasan had been attempting to contact members of the terrorist group. No details are provided as to how long before the shooting Hasan did this, however "U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago."

From the article:

"U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.

"One senior lawmaker said the CIA had, so far, refused to brief the intelligence committees on what, if any, knowledge they had about Hasan's efforts.

"CIA director Leon Panetta and the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, have been asked by Congress 'to preserve' all documents and intelligence files that relate to Hasan, according to the lawmaker.

"On Sunday, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) called for an investigation into whether the Army missed signs as to whether Hasan was an Islamic extremist.

"'If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have a zero tolerance,' Lieberman told Fox News Sunday.

"Investigators want to know if Hasan maintained contact with a radical mosque leader from Virginia, Anwar al Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen and runs a web site that promotes jihad around the world against the U.S.

"In a blog posting early Monday titled 'Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing,' Awlaki calls Hassan a 'hero' and a 'man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.'

"According to his site, Awlaki served as an imam in Denver, San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia.
"The Associated Press reported Sunday that Major Hasan attended the Falls Church mosque when Awlaki was there.

"The Telegraph of London reported that Awlaki had made contact with two of the 9/11 hijackers when he was in San Diego.

"He denied any knowledge of the hijacking plot and was never charged with any crime. After an intensive investigation by the FBI, Awlaki moved to Yemen."

So let's see, Hasan tried to contact members of al Qaeda, and attended a mosque with a terrorist cheerleader as an imam who has himself posted that Hasan attacked unarmed men and women (including civilians) because of his Muslim faith... Do you think we can call Hasan an Islamist extremist now? Do you think we can call Hasan a terrorist now? Or is he still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder even though he's never been in combat? Is he still just a bullied victim of racist teasing and intolerance (CNN Video here h/t Powerline)? Maybe the strippers made him do it...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Can the Health Care "Reform" Bill Survive the Senate?

So HR 3962 passed the House 220 - 215. Nearly 2000 pages of business micromanaging / regulation, legislated stagflation, penalties (including jail time) for noncompliance, and incentives to keep paid wages low and unemployment high. Brilliant. I don't think the Wall Street Journal was exaggerating when the paper declared HR 3962 to be "the worst bill ever."

While I am astonished that such a bill could exist, even in this political climate, it is not surprising to me that it passed. Obama, Pelosi, and the rest pushed hard on this, brought enough of the Blue Dogs to heal and have, for the past year, been busily ushering in a new era of divisiveness while hypocritically preaching bipartisanship. This polarizing, you're-either-with-us-or-against-us mentality bullies people to act and vote beyond reason and logic.

It is unreasonable to vote for $1 trillion dollars of non-essential spending amid a recession and a 10.2% unemployment rate, while two mostly ignored wars are being fought. It is unreasonable to believe that the U.S. government could do a better job of regulating the medical industry than it did regulating the housing market and manipulating interest rates. It is unreasonable to release a 2000 page bill on Oct. 30, force a vote on Nov. 7, and then claim due deliberation and transparency. It is unreasonable for a president to stand before Congress and the American people, declare that he will not sign a bill that increases the deficit by one dime or requires cuts in Medicare benefits, then essentially renege on that promise within two months, and believe that the American people will not notice.

Of course all this has nothing to do with reason and everything to do with agendas and the delivery of political promises to those deemed by the Washington elite as being of consequence-- to those who matter.

The Senate will need 60 votes to bypass a filibuster over the issue. There are essentially 60 Democrats (2 kinda/sorta independents-- Lieberman CT and Sanders VT) currently in the Senate. How will the chamber respond?

In the years past, I would've predicted the passage of a typical, slightly watered down bill. But the current political climate is not analogous to the climates of the recent past.

The House has shoved a massive bill down our throats with a stunning lack deliberation and a casual ignorance of the will of the majority of the American people. I firmly believe the response of the Senate will depend on the response of the American people to this bill's passage through the House. If we behave subdued, defeated, tamely distraught, then the bill will pass largely unchanged. If we stand idle and mutely confirm that we believe Washington knows what is best for our individual lives, then the bill will pass largely unchanged through the Senate. And if we show that we are not disinterested in the political process, despite our lives, families and careers, that we will hold those responsible accountable to their votes, then it will be unlikely to pass at all.

Obama and Pelosi have demonstrated nothing but arrogant disdain and contempt for those who oppose their wishes. Among her numerous slights, Pelosi has famously published an editorial in which she stated protesters to her agendas were "un-American." Just today Obama has characterized, not for the first time, those who stand against his policies and positions as extremists. From the New York Times (h/t Anne Leary @ Backyard Conservative): "According to Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who supports the health care bill, the president asked, 'Does anybody think that the teabag, anti-government people are going to support them if they bring down health care? All it will do is confuse and dispirit' Democratic voters 'and it will encourage the extremists.'"

We can allow ourselves to be discouraged by elected officials unresponsive to the concerns of their constituents. We can allow ourselves to be bullied into silence. We can allow ourselves to lapse into a listless malaise amid baseless accusations of racism and extremism, and disingenuous questioning of our patriotism. But it defies the basic precepts of representative democracy to do so.

Joseph de Maistre's assertion from Lettres et Opuscules Inédits, "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite" (Every country has the government it deserves), has been largely accepted as common wisdom in the United States. Americans are now being called upon to determine what kind of government they will earn.

If we believe federal bureaucrats should determine our health insurance coverage, then we should remain silent. If we believe health care should be rationed under the Left's concept of "social justice," then we should stay in our homes. If we believe that medical funding should be based on lobbying and the political stylishness of diseases, then we should simply shake our heads and go on with the business of our families and careers.

The answer to the question posed in this post's title, is yes. But only if we allow it to.

FINAL VOTE TALLY FOR HR 3962

CONTACT LIST FOR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

UPDATE: Check out Dr. Helen's piece on "Anger is an energy."

From the post: "[Johnny] Rotten's [of the Sex Pistols] line [anger is an energy] is a good one as a metaphor for the fight against a statist government that desires to take over our liberty, our economy, and even our very lives. Often, I hear Republicans and conservatives say that we are 'doomed.' This negative cognitive self-talk is pathetic. It is crippling. Don't engage in it.

"You are never doomed until you are dead. There is always something that can be done. The anger of the American public is only just beginning. It is an energy that will be needed in the coming days, weeks and months to protest, stand up, debate, argue and get in the face of every government official, public figure and others who support a bill that leads us down The Road to Serfdom.

"And even if the bill passes, we can continue the fight, for they have won only a cultural battle, not the culture war. Culture changes politics, not the other way around. I will be fighting back against a culture that leads to less individual autonomy in every way I know how. Will you?"

UPDATE 2: Here's a list of Blue Dog Democrats who voted in favor of the $1 trillion+ health care "reform:"

Congressman Arcuri - New York's 24th congressional district - R+2.

Congressman Baca - California's 43rd congressional district - D+13.

Congressman Berry - Arkansas 1st congressional district - R+8.

Congressman Bishop - Georgia's 2nd congressional district - D+1.

Congressman Boswell - Iowa's 3rd congressional district - D+1.

Congressman Cardoza - California's 18th congressional district - D+4.

Congressman Carney - Pennsylvania's 10th congressional district - R+8.

Congressman Cooper - Tennessee's 5th congressional district - D+3.

Congressman Costa - California's 20th congressional district - D+5.

Congressman Cuellar - Texas' 28th congressional district. - EVEN.

Congresswoman Dahlkemper - Pennsylvania's 3rd congressional district - R+3.

Congressman Donnelly - Indiana's 2nd congressional district - R+2.

Congressman Ellsworth - Indiana's 8th congressional district - R+8.

Congresswoman Giffords - Arizona's 8th congressional district - R+4.

Congresswoman Harman - California's 36th congressional district - D+12.

Congressman Hill - Indiana's 9th congressional district - R+6.

Congressman Mechaud - Maine's 2nd congressional district - D+3.

Congressman Mitchell - Arizona's 5th congressional district - R+5.

Congressman Moore - Kansas 3rd congressional district - R+3.

Congressman Murphy - Pennsylvania's 8th congressional district - D+2.

Congressman Pomeroy - North Dakota's at-large congressional district - R+10.

Congressman Salazar - Colorado's 3rd congressional district - R+5.

Congresswoman Sanchez - California's 47th congressional district - D+4.

Congressman Schiff - California's 29th congressional district - D+14.

Congressman Scott - Georgia's 13th congressional district - D+15.

Congressman Space - Ohio's 18th congressional district - R+7.

Congressman Thompson - California's 1st congressional district - D+13.

Congressman Wilson - Ohio's 6th congressional district - R+2.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Obama Rallies House Dems with Reference to Fort Hood Shooting

Amid my disappointment (not unexpected) regarding the passage of the House health care "reform" bill is this little gem from the AP (h/t Instapundit).

"Debate on the House floor had already begun when Obama strode into a closed-door meeting of the Democratic rank and file across the street from the Capitol to make a final personal appeal to them to pass his top domestic priority. While the session was private, he later said he had told the rank and file 'that opportunities like this come around maybe once in a generation.... This is their moment, this is our moment, to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us...'

"'I urge members of Congress to rise to this moment. Answer the call of history, and vote yes for health insurance reform for America,' he said.

"Participants also said Obama had referred to this week's shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in which 13 people were killed. His remarks put in perspective that the hardships soldiers endure for the country are 'what sacrifice really is,' as opposed to 'casting a vote that might lose an election for you,' said Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J [emphasis mine]."

Classy. Did Obama still fly off to Camp David after this pitch as scheduled?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Obamacare: Obey, Pay, or Maybe Go to Jail

Unbelievable. According to the JCT (Joint Committee on Taxation) HR 3962 contains language that states American citizens who do not maintain "acceptable health insurance coverage" (presumably determined by the politically appointed Health Benefits Advisory Council) and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax can be fined and jailed. Cute, huh?

From the JCT letter stamped Nov. 5-- that's right yesterday (h/t http://biggovernment.com/2009/11/06/committee-confirms-comply-with-pelosi-care-or-go-to-jail/#more-26766):

"H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at any time during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.

[...]

"If the government determines that the taxpayer’s unpaid tax liability results from willful behavior, the following penalties could apply…"

Various Civil Penalties follow in the letter (20% of underpayment penalty, 75% if fraud, etc.) then comes the criminal penalties:

"Criminal penalties

"Prosecution is authorized under the Code for a variety of offenses. Depending on the level of the noncompliance, the following penalties could apply to an individual:

"• Section 7203 – misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

"• Section 7201 – felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years."

So Americans have to buy government approved health care plans, or be fined and possibly go to jail. And this piece of legislation is supposed to provide health "choices," huh?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Health Care "Reform" Bill HR 3962 Scheduled for Vote on Saturday

According to CQ Politics (h/t Pat @ So it Goes in Shreveport), HR 3962 is scheduled to be put to the vote on Saturday.

"The House is moving toward a floor vote Saturday on its big health care overhaul, after Democratic leaders worked to nail down votes from some of their members who want stronger anti-abortion language in the bill.

[...]

"The abortion issue remains one of the biggest headaches for Democratic leaders working to round up the 218 votes needed for passage of President Obama’s top legislative priority. All of those votes will have to come from within their own ranks; Republicans are expected to be united in opposition to the bill."

This bill is 1990 pages long. I started reading it on Oct. 30-- the day after it was released-- and I'm not even halfway through this monster. Yet, I can tell you that it imposes many of the same garbage that HR3200 did including imposing a political appointee (the "health choices commissioner") to regulate and, in effect, ration your health coverage. The language includes a Health Benefits Advisory Committee that will effectively ration health coverage. Such language was included in the original HR3200.

Don't be fooled by $890 billion figure being carelessly tossed about. The provisions in HR 3962 will not work for that price. HR 3962 will, in fact, cost over $1 trillion in the first 10 years-- a foreseeable figure is $2 trillion. The CBO estimates that 18 million individuals will remain uninsured after that money is spent (currently somewhere around 19 million Americans cannot afford health insurance). As the cost spirals, the government will be forced to save money by reducing your coverage and the quality of your care. It will have no other choice, as has been demonstrated in countries such as Britain and Canada.

As I have posted before, The Wall Street Journal has labeled HR3962 as "The Worst Bill Ever" and has written "[e]ssentially, all insurers will become government contractors, in the business of fulfilling political demands: There will be no such thing as 'private' health insurance."

Doing nothing would be far better and less harmful to people than the provisions in this bill. As it is an alternative would help and be deficit reducing, but the House Dems continue to push this bill.

Again, I urge you to contact your Congressional Reps. Melt the phones! Tell them that you do not want this 1990 pages of laws shoved down all of our throats. We cannot afford to remain quiet on this.

CBO : Republican Health Alternative Will Lower Premiums and Reduce Deficit Without Imposing Taxes on Families or Small Businesses

Press Release from republicanleader.house.gov:

"House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed in a letter tonight that the Republican health care plan will lower health care premiums by up to 10 percent and reduce the deficit by $68 billion over 10 years without imposing tax increases on families and small businesses:

"'When it comes to reforming health care, controlling skyrocketing costs is the American peoples’ top priority. Now CBO has confirmed that the Republican plan will lower health care costs for American families, and that’s good news for everyone struggling in today’s economy. The choice now could not be clearer: Speaker Pelosi’s plan raises costs. Our plan lowers them.

"'Not only does the GOP plan lower health care costs, but it also increases access to quality care – including for those with pre-existing conditions – at a price our country can afford. The cost of the Speaker’s bill, now at $1.3 trillion and counting, is a debt that will be paid for by our kids and our grandkids. The American people deserve a better solution, and Republicans’ smart, fiscally-responsible plans give them exactly what they want.'

"NOTE: In a letter delivered tonight, CBO estimated that the GOP health care plan would reduce average private health insurance premiums per enrollee in the United States relative to what they would be under current law. Specifically:

"• For the small group market (generally businesses with 2 to 50 employees), the GOP plan would reduce premiums in 2016 for example by up to 10 percent.

"• For the individual market, the GOP plan would reduce premiums in 2016 by up to eight percent.

"• For the large group market, the GOP plan would reduce premiums in 2016 by up to three percent."

CBO scoring here.

Contact your congressional representatives. Tell them "NO" to the 1990 page Health Care "Reform" bill.

Russia and Belarus Practice Assaulting Poland

Following Obama's no-questions-asked/nothing-gained withdrawal of Poland and the Czech Republic's missile defense, Russia and Belarus are practicing attacking Polish beaches and destroying Polish gas pipelines.

According to Mathew Day of the Telegraph:

"The armed forces are said to have carried out 'war games' in which nuclear missiles were fired and troops practised an amphibious landing on the country's coast.

"Documents obtained by Wprost, one of Poland's leading news magazines, said the exercise was carried out in conjunction with soldiers from Belarus.

"The manoeuvres are thought to have been held in September and involved about 13,000 Russian and Belarusian troops.

"Poland, which has strained relations with both countries, was cast as the 'potential aggressor'.
The documents state the exercises, code-named 'West', were officially classified as 'defensive' but many of the operations appeared to have an offensive nature.

"The Russian air force practised using weapons from its nuclear arsenal, while in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which neighbours Poland, Red Army forces stormed a 'Polish' beach and attacked a gas pipeline.

"The operation also involved the simulated suppression of an uprising by a national minority in Belarus – the country has a significant Polish population which has a strained relationship with authoritarian government of Belarus.

"Karol Karski, an MP from Poland's Law and Justice, is to table parliamentary questions on Russia's war games and has protested to the European Commission.

"His colleague, Marek Opiola MP, said: 'It's an attempt to put us in our place. Don't forget all this happened on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.'

[...]

"With a resurgent Moscow now more willing to flex its muscles, Central and Eastern Europeans have warned of Russia adopting a neo-imperialistic attitude to an area of the world it still regards as its sphere of influence.

"In July, the region’s most famed and influential political figures, including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, wrote an open letter Barack Obama warning him that Russia 'is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods.'"

Didn't Walesa and Havel see Obama's speech to the UN? Obama has no interest in defending allies or any other "unilateral" action. He's too interested in pushing a $3 trillion budget that doesn't increase defense spending while the US is involved in two wars and the threat of a homeland terrorist attack. Do you think Obama has any time or interest in Poland and the Czech Republic. Oh... he'll make a speech-- and it might even express disappointment. But remember the US and Russia hit that "Overload"... er... "Reset" button not that long ago...

It's unclear what Russia was trying to accomplish with this... It could be an implied threat to Poland, or a reassurance to Belarus, or due to a number of other Eastern European political issues most of which the West and US are wholly ignorant. But certainly Poland cannot be too reassured when the US is courting its foe and reneging on a promised missile defense. More smart diplomacy, I suppose.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wall Street Journal Labels Health Care Reform Bill "The Worst Bill Ever"

Still going through the Health Care Reform bill myself. I took some time off for Halloween and watched an unimpressive Japanese horror movie ("Cursed") with my wife. We had one trick-or-treater come to our door.

Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal has labeled the bill "The Worst Bill Ever" in an opinion piece title. I highly recommend reading the whole piece at the above link.

From the piece: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi has reportedly told fellow Democrats that she's prepared to lose seats in 2010 if that's what it takes to pass ObamaCare, and little wonder. The health bill she unwrapped last Thursday, which President Obama hailed as a 'critical milestone,' may well be the worst piece of post-New Deal legislation ever introduced.

"In a rational political world, this 1,990-page runaway train would have been derailed months ago. With spending and debt already at record peacetime levels, the bill creates a new and probably unrepealable middle-class entitlement that is designed to expand over time. Taxes will need to rise precipitously, even as ObamaCare so dramatically expands government control of health care that eventually all medicine will be rationed via politics.

"Yet at this point, Democrats have dumped any pretense of genuine bipartisan 'reform' and moved into the realm of pure power politics as they race against the unpopularity of their own agenda. The goal is to ram through whatever income-redistribution scheme they can claim to be 'universal coverage.' The result will be destructive on every level—for the health-care system, for the country's fiscal condition, and ultimately for American freedom and prosperity.

[...]

"[T]he House disguises hundreds of billions of dollars in additional costs with budget gimmicks. It "pays for" about six years of program with a decade of revenue, with the heaviest costs concentrated in the second five years. The House also pretends Medicare payments to doctors will be cut by 21.5% next year and deeper after that, 'saving' about $250 billion. ObamaCare will be lucky to cost under $2 trillion over 10 years; it will grow more after that.

[...]

"European Levels of Taxation. All told, the House favors $572 billion in new taxes, mostly by imposing a 5.4-percentage-point 'surcharge' on joint filers earning over $1 million, $500,000 for singles. This tax will raise the top marginal rate to 45% in 2011 from 39.6% when the Bush tax cuts expire—not counting state income taxes and the phase-out of certain deductions and exemptions. The burden will mostly fall on the small businesses that have organized as Subchapter S or limited liability corporations, since the truly wealthy won't have any difficulty sheltering their incomes.

"This surtax could hit ever more earners because, like the alternative minimum tax, it isn't indexed for inflation. Yet it still won't be nearly enough. Even if Congress had confiscated 100% of the taxable income of people earning over $500,000 in the boom year of 2006, it would have only raised $1.3 trillion. When Democrats end up soaking the middle class, perhaps via the European-style value-added tax that Mrs. Pelosi has endorsed, they'll claim the deficits that they created made them do it.

"Under another new tax, businesses would have to surrender 8% of their payroll to government if they don't offer insurance or pay at least 72.5% of their workers' premiums, which eat into wages. Such 'play or pay' taxes always become 'pay or pay' and will rise over time, with severe consequences for hiring, job creation and ultimately growth. While the U.S. already has one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world, Democrats are on the way to creating a high structural unemployment rate, much as Europe has done by expanding its welfare states.

"Meanwhile, a tax equal to 2.5% of adjusted gross income will also be imposed on some 18 million people who CBO expects still won't buy insurance in 2019. Democrats could make this penalty even higher, but that is politically unacceptable, or they could make the subsidies even higher, but that would expose the (already ludicrous) illusion that ObamaCare will reduce the deficit.

"• The insurance takeover. A new 'health choices commissioner' will decide what counts as 'essential benefits,' which all insurers will have to offer as first-dollar coverage. Private insurers will also be told how much they are allowed to charge even as they will have to offer coverage at virtually the same price to anyone who applies, regardless of health status or medical history.

"The cost of insurance, naturally, will skyrocket. The insurer WellPoint estimates based on its own market data that some premiums in the individual market will triple under these new burdens. The same is likely to prove true for the employer-sponsored plans that provide private coverage to about 177 million people today. Over time, the new mandates will apply to all contracts, including for the large businesses currently given a safe harbor from bureaucratic tampering under a 1974 law called Erisa.

"The political incentive will always be for government to expand benefits and reduce cost-sharing, trampling any chance of giving individuals financial incentives to economize on care. Essentially, all insurers will become government contractors, in the business of fulfilling political demands: There will be no such thing as 'private' health insurance [emphasis mine]."

Having read the Senate HELP Committee's Bill and still in the middle of this this monster, I have to concur especially regarding the creation of the "health choices commissioner." This is not very different from NICE within Britain's National Health Service (NHS) that routinely denies critical treatments in an effort to save money.

From one of my earlier posts: Britain's National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)-- great acronym, huh?-- decided to not offer some drugs to NHS kidney cancer patients. "It concluded that the drugs - bevacizumab, sorafenib, sunitinib and temsirolimus - did not offer value for money [bang for the buck in American bailout jargon]." This prompted some of the "UK's top cancer consultants to warn that NHS drug 'rationing' is forcing patients to remortgage their homes to pay for treatment."

NICE's response? "Andrew Dillon, the NICE chief executive, and Sir Michael Rawlins, NICE's chairman, told the Sunday Times the NHS did not have unlimited funds to provide all available treatments.

"'There is a finite pot of money for the NHS, which is determined annually by parliament,' they said. 'If one group of patients is provided with cost-ineffective care, other groups - lacking powerful lobbyists - will be denied cost-effective care for miserable conditions like schizophrenia, Crohn's disease or cystic fibrosis.'"

This bill is a monster. It will significantly degrade the quality of health care for all. The CBO says that 18 million Americans will remain uninsured ten years after its passage (CBO report here)-- a realistic number of American citizens unable to afford health insurance now is 19 million. And it will cost trillions of dollars so that the federal government can make life worse for all of us. Not a bargain on any level.