Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Political Digest July 27, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Some insurers stop writing new coverage for kids
ObamaCare, the gift that goes on giving. Excerpt: Some major health insurance companies will no longer issue certain types of policies for children, an unintended consequence of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, state officials said Friday. Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said several big insurers in his state will stop issuing new policies that cover children individually. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said a couple of local insurers in her state are doing likewise. The administration reacted sharply to the pullback. "We're disappointed that a small number of insurance companies are taking this unwarranted and unnecessary step," said Jessica Santillo, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services department. Starting later this year, the health care overhaul law requires insurers to accept children regardless of medical problems -- a major early benefit of the complex legislation. Insurers are worried that parents will wait until kids get sick to sign them up, saddling the companies with unpredictable costs. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida issues about 9,000 to 10,000 new policies a year that only cover children. Vice president Randy Kammer said the company's experts calculated that guaranteeing coverage for children could raise premiums for other individual policy holders by as much as 20 percent. "We believe that the majority of people who would buy this policy were going to use it immediately, probably for high cost claims," said Kammer. "Guaranteed issue means you could technically buy it on the way to the hospital." Kammer said the company did not make the decision lightly. "We were looking at all our other individual policy holders who pay a lot for coverage, and we didn't think it was fair to given them that kind of an increase to benefit a small population that receives a greater advantage than they do," she said.

Axe falls on NHS services
This is the health plan that Obama’s new CMS Director sees as a model of great care we should follow. Excerpt: NHS bosses have drawn up secret plans for sweeping cuts to services, with restrictions on the most basic treatments for the sick and injured. Some of the most common operations — including hip replacements and cataract surgery — will be rationed as part of attempts to save billions of pounds, despite government promises that front-line services would be protected. Patients’ groups have described the measures as “astonishingly brutal”.

Push for more trials may hurt patients
Excerpt: U.S. pharmaceutical companies are increasingly going abroad to conduct clinical trials required by the FDA. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report suggesting that the FDA lacks the resources to adequately monitor these foreign trials. Four of every five new drugs sold in the U.S. are tested in foreign trials, and the FDA inspects less than one in 10 of these. This is half the rate of inspection for domestic trials. The potential for fraud seems high. In fact, some medical ethicists used the report to insinuate that pharmaceutical companies were deliberately conducting foreign trials in order to avoid U.S. ethical constraints and to experiment on unsuspecting foreign patients. These concerns are exaggerated and ignore the complexities of modern clinical research. If the FDA and Congress push companies to conduct more domestic clinical trials, foreign patients will lose the often valuable health benefits gained from participation in clinical trials, and domestic consumers will suffer from slower access to new, life-saving therapies. Critics forget that about half of all foreign trials are conducted in Europe. There, European regulators impose ethical rules on clinical research similar to the FDA's. The real reason drug companies are conducting more trials in Europe (and Central and South America) is because it is increasingly difficult to recruit patients in the U.S. Drug companies are victims of their own success. American patients weigh the costs and benefits of trial participation very carefully. The vast majority of American patients already have access to a wide range of safe and effective non-experimental treatments, and generous public or private insurance to pay for them. So why would an American patient enroll in a trial for a new therapy that may or not work when they have access to the newest therapy that does?

Liberal activists say good riddance to Kerry-Lieberman climate legislation
Excerpt: Liberal and environmental activists say that Democrats will not suffer in November because of their failure to pass Senate climate change legislation. Charles Chamberlain, political director of Democracy for America, an advocacy group founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, said liberal voters are happy that a climate bill sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was shelved. “The reality is that the base didn’t have a lot at stake in the climate bill,” said Chamberlain. “After the BP disaster, all we’ve heard from our members, the No. 1 issue is climate change and offshore oil drilling and oil,” he said. “But we polled our members about whether we should be fighting for the bill and it wasn’t even close. The answer was no.” Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a liberal environmental advocacy group, said the Kerry-Lieberman bill was full of gifts to the oil, coal and nuclear industries.

Leaked files lay bare war in Afghanistan
Once upon a time, traitors were hung until half dead, their entrails were pulled out and burned in front of them, then they were “quartered,” pulled apart by horses. But we are more civilized, so I say just shoot those responsible, including the editors, and be done with it. Excerpt: Tens of thousands of classified documents related to the Afghan war released without authorization by the group Wikileaks.org reveal in often excruciating detail the struggles U.S. troops have faced in battling an increasingly potent Taliban force and in working with Pakistani allies who also appear to be helping the Afghan insurgency. The more than 91,000 classified documents -- most of which consist of low-level field reports -- represent one of the largest single disclosures of such information in U.S. history. Wikileaks gave the material to the New York Times, the British newspaper the Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel several weeks ago on the condition that they not be published before Sunday night, when the group released them publicly. Covering the period from January 2004 through December 2009, when the Obama administration began to deploy more than 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan and announced a new strategy, the documents provide new insights into a period in which the Taliban was gaining strength, Afghan civilians were growing increasingly disillusioned with their government, and U.S. troops in the field often expressed frustration at having to fight a war without sufficient resources.

What the WikiLeaks Documents Really Reveal
Excerpt: What do the secret documents released by WikiLeaks tell us about U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan? It has to be said right off that they don’t tell us anything important we didn’t already know. There have been “informed” stories for years detailing how Pakistani military intelligence has been providing arms, money, and intelligence to the Afghan Taliban, who in turn have been killing American soldiers. So, why are these leaked military and intelligence documents now threatening to shake the very foundations of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan? Because it’s now much more difficult to deny or dodge the truths that we’ve all been well aware of. Government officials can always deflect news stories simply by crossing their fingers and waiting for the story to sink in a haze of oil spills and Lindsay Lohan extravaganzas. Now, however, “proof” is there in the black-and-white of secret U.S. documents, compliments of anti-war WikiLeaks. Even if one does not believe that the information contained in every one of these reports is accurate (some do sound rather bizarre), and even if little in the reports can be corroborated independently, the very volume of the “secret” material is overwhelming and plausible—and yes, seductively “secret.” This leaves the Obama administration with three tales it can tell, most of which it is already shoveling. First, officials can say that the documents represented leaked material that reveal “only one side of the story.” It’s the story in some cases of rather hysterical soldiers with limited experience and access to wider secrets. We, the government, have other documents that tell another story—one that gives a mixed picture of the behavior of our complicated and loyal Pakistani friends. (I’d hate to be the official assigned to deliver this pile of manure.) Second, the administration could say that yes, some rogue Pakistani intelligence officers have been carrying out operations in support of the Taliban, that President Obama and his top aides have already remonstrated with the Pakistani government about this, and the Pakistanis are now trying to do better. (That tends to contradict the first story that the leaks are misleading.) Or third, officials could button their jackets, clear their throats, and say the war is the main thing and these difficult and complicated circumstances have to be put in the larger perspective. What counts is winning this war. Victory in Af-Pak, as it is fondly known, is a U.S. vital national interest; the officials could and probably will say. [First mention of this issue involving 150,000 emails and cables appears in The Old Jarhead back on 7 Jun 2010. RGP] Leftie, oops, Leslie Gelb is not exactly a right-wing kinda guy; of course, Daily Beast isn't a right-wing publication, so he fits right in there. Obviously, neither he nor his staff have had time to read 90,000+ emails, cables, and documents, so he has to be working from a limited set of what are hoped to be "representative samples." He raises a number of good points, but misses many more of immediate concern. First, he makes no mention of any impact on our troops in the field; perhaps this isn't important to him, but it will matter to their families and supporters. Second, he seems far more concerned about how the administration will spin the issue than its actual intel value to any unfriendly eyes that happen to read the stuff--and you should believe every intelligence service in the world will FIND the time, money, and people to chase down every comma and footnote that may appear anywhere in these documents. I could go on with other issues, but the most important of all is this: where are the OTHER 60,000 odd documents? We are told the ones released so far were all classified as "Secret." That many cables and emails must contain many documents with higher classification. Where are the Top Secret and Compartmented Top Secret items? Is threat to release them being used to blackmail the US so we don't simply find and arrest every Wiki person in the world? If so, why would we believe them? Or, maybe Wiki is just waiting to publish in another two months to bump its publicity again? I'd like to know why we haven't already dug these worms out of the woodwork and dealt with them decisively? Ron P.)

Deportation of illegal immigrants increases under Obama administration
Excerpt: In a bid to remake the enforcement of federal immigration laws, the Obama administration is deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants and auditing hundreds of businesses that blithely hire undocumented workers. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency expects to deport about 400,000 people this fiscal year, nearly 10 percent above the Bush administration's 2008 total and 25 percent more than were deported in 2007. The pace of company audits has roughly quadrupled since President George W. Bush's final year in office.

2008 A-List Donors
Very interesting. I believe the legal limit to a campaign is 42,300 for you and $2,300 for your spouse, in the primary and again in the election. But there are ways around it to give “soft money” or to campaign groups not directly affiliated with the candidate (like Move-On.Org.)

Freedom of photography: Police, security often clamp down despite public right
Excerpt: A few weeks ago, on his way to work, Matt Urick stopped to snap a few pictures of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's headquarters. He thought the building was ugly but might make for an interesting photo. The uniformed officer who ran up to him didn't agree. He told Urick he was not allowed to photograph federal buildings. Urick wanted to tell the guard that there are pictures of the building on HUD's Web site, that every angle of the building is visible in street views on Google Maps and that he was merely an amateur photographer, not a threat. But Urick kept all this to himself. "A lot of these guys have guns and are enforcing laws they obviously don't understand, and they are not to be reasoned with," he said. After detaining Urick for a few minutes and conferring with a colleague on a radio, the officer let him go. Courts have long ruled that the First Amendment protects the right of citizens to take photographs in public places. Even after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, law enforcement agencies have reiterated that right in official policies. But in practice, those rules don't always filter down to police officers and security guards who continue to restrict photographers, often citing authority they don't have. Almost nine years after the terrorist attacks, which ratcheted up security at government properties and transportation hubs, anyone photographing federal buildings, bridges, trains or airports runs the risk of being seen as a potential terrorist.

Will President Obama drag down Senate candidates?
Excerpt: Two years removed from an electoral wave created by President Barack Obama that swept Democrats into wide Congressional majorities, the chief executive's numbers have faltered badly in a number of contested states -- raising concerns that he could be a drag on Democratic candidates this fall. A new independent poll in Missouri paints a grim picture for the president. Obama's job approval rating stood at just 34 percent with the overall electorate; among independents the numbers were even worse with just 27 percent approving of the job Obama is doing and 63 percent disapproving. Go deeper into the poll and the numbers don't get any better. With the economy shaping up to be the dominant issue in the campaign across the country this fall, just one in three Missouri voters approved of Obama's handling of it; among independents a whopping 68 percent disapprove of how the president had handled the economy.
Shirley Sherrod’s Husband Says “We Must Stop the White Man and Uncle Toms From Stealing Our Elections”…
Wonder if this is a good video after the first one.

Burma is working on nuclear weapons programme, experts claim
Excerpt: Secret documents and hundreds of photographs smuggled out of the country by a defector indicated that it was intent on developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Jane’s Intelligence Review published a separate batch of photographs showing similar activities in buildings and behind security fences near the capital, Naypyidaw. Fears that Burma had joined a clandestine nuclear network linking North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and Syria have been growing for some time, but there has not been hard evidence until now. Sai Thein Win, the defector, is an army major who trained as a defence engineer and missile expert. He said he had access to two secret nuclear facilities, including a “nuclear battalion” north of Mandalay, “charged with building up a nuclear weapons capability”. (...) The photographs, which were passed to the Democratic Voice of Burma, part of the Burmese opposition, showed components built with German machine tools imported through Singapore, which Mr Kelley believed indicated “nefarious purposes”. They included a fluidised bed reactor which is used to turn a powdered form of uranium into a gas which can then be enriched to weapons grade. “They are either trying to make reactor fuel which they could buy for nothing from another country, or they are trying to make a weapon clandestinely,” said Mr Kelley. “There is just not much point doing that unless it is for a bomb.”

JournoList as a Management Problem
Excerpt: The real problem with JournoList is that much of it consisted of exchanges among people who worked for institutions about how to best hijack their employers for the cause of Progressivism. Thus, the J-List discussion revealed yesterday in the Daily Caller was about how the group could get their media organizations to play down the Reverend Wright affair and help elect Barack Obama. Were I an editor of one of these institutions, I would instantly fire any employee who participated in this gross violation of his/her duty. For example, the J-List included Washington Post reporters, and the idea that the paper has been turned into a propaganda organ is a big reason it is bleeding readers and influence. Of course, it is possible that the Post’s editors were on the list, since the membership is not known, in which case the corporate executives should fire the editors, or the board should fire the executives, or the stockholders should fire the board. (If Director Warren Buffet was on J-List, I give up.) So here, JournoList is composed not of reporters who happen to be “Progressives,” but of Progressives who boast about how to perfect and use their capture of their employers. This is in itself institutional rot, but the more serious rot is the failure of the managers of those institutions to react to the problem. And if you search the WaPo over the past couple of days, there is nothing on the Daily Caller stories, so either management does not care or it does not read anything out of its comfort zone, such as the Daily Caller, and has not been informed by its subordinates, the former members of J-List (surprise!).

One Marine’s Answer
Excerpt: It was a simple question, posed by a loving pastor who was valiantly trying to minister to a far-away soldier in Afghanistan. It was asked in an e-mail on the eve of America’s birthday, just a couple of weeks ago. “As a believer in Jesus, what does the freedom of this country and the price paid to obtain and preserve it mean to you?” Joe Novenson, the pastor of the Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, was hardly ready for the reply he soon received from Manda Rogers, a Marine Corps captain, who this minute is actively fighting with other Marines in a hostile land.

Immigrants and Crime: Time for a Sensible Debate
Excerpt: The gardeners and maids who cross the border illegally are very different from the tattooed Salvatrucha gang member who lives by extortion and drug-dealing. There is a widespread perception of a strong link between immigrants and crime. It is common to hear those who oppose immigration argue that the first act illegal immigrants commit on U.S. soil is to break the law—that is, our immigration laws—and that they are ipso facto criminals who will continue to disregard U.S. laws once in the country. Those making this argument are generally steadfastly opposed to any immigration reform that will provide the 10 million to 12 million illegals already in the country any path to citizenship, on the grounds that such an "amnesty" would reward law-breaking. The association of immigrants with crime is strengthened by the weekly barrage of news about drug and gang violence in Mexico as the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderón seeks to crack down on that country's powerful drug mafias. And long before the Mexican drug war, Americans were threatened by Colombian cartels, Salvadoran street gangs, and other criminal groups from Latin America. Moreover, it is perfectly true that the simple fact of being an illegal immigrant induces one to break further laws: One is reluctant to buy mandated auto insurance, pay taxes, or register businesses for fear of deportation. There is indeed a huge problem of crime originating in Latin America and spilling into the United States. This is almost wholly driven by the enormous demand for drugs from the U.S. There are many things we can and should do to mitigate this problem, but it will persist as long as that demand remains high. But the problem of gangs and drug violence should not be confounded with the behavior of the vast majority of illegal immigrants to the U.S., who by and large are seeking the same thing that every immigrant to America has wanted since the time of the Mayflower: to better their condition and that of their families. They are not criminals in the sense of people who make a living by breaking the law. They would be happy to live legally, but they come from societies in which legal rules were never quite extended to them. They are therefore better described as "informal" rather than "illegal."

Mexican prosecutors say prison guards lent killers guns, let them out to carry out massacre
Excerpt: Guards and officials at a prison in northern Mexico allegedly let inmates out, lent them guns and sent them off in official vehicles to carry out drug-related killings, including the massacre of 17 people last week, prosecutors said Sunday. After carrying out the killings the inmates would return to their cells, the Attorney General's Office said in a revelation that was shocking even for a country wearied by years of drug violence and corruption. "According to witnesses, the inmates were allowed to leave with authorization of the prison director ... to carry out instructions for revenge attacks using official vehicles and using guards' weapons for executions," office spokesman Ricardo Najera said at a news conference.

But They Are So Smart
Excerpt: I contacted a gentleman who holds some real estate investments, and with whom I’ve done some business in the past. We had met through Republican politics, but I sensed he was really uncommitted politically and certainly was no staunch Republican. It all started when he asked me how I was doing. I replied that I was doing great, which is almost always true. Even when things are challenging – like they are today – I am thankful to be an American Jew living in this country, the greatest country in the history of mankind, with a beautiful wife, two wonderful children, and three terrific dogs. He said “You’re doing great? You are the only one I talk to who is doing great. All my tenants are struggling. These people in the Administration are so smart, why don’t they understand what is going on out here?” What an opening – how could I pass on that one? So I told him what I thought he understood already. Yes, the folks in the Administration may be smart, but they have no experience. Virtually none of them has ever participated in the free enterprise system creating income and jobs, so how – and why – would you expect them to create policies that would help entrepreneurs and small-business owners move the economy forward. They may be smart, they may be great at writing papers and drawing charts with arrows and symbols, but they are fairly low on wisdom. Wisdom comes from suffering experiences in life – not just living arcane social and economic theories. A perfect example of this wisdom deficiency is the newest member of the administration, Donald Berwick, the man chosen to administer the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These two behemoth bureaucracies consume 4% of our gross domestic product, and that’s even before Obamacare vastly increases the amount of money running through their bureaucratic fingers. So one might think Dr. Berwick would have had some experience running a major medical operation or a similar entity. It turns out that his most significant position was as President of the non-profit Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). If you go to the IHI website, they self-describe the organization as “a small organization with a very big mission.” Not exactly the credentials most of us would consider when looking for someone to run an organization that dispenses hundreds of billions of dollars.

Senate hopefuls imperil earmarks
Excerpt: A new crop of Senate candidates is threatening one of the last bastions of unapologetic earmark protection: old-bull senators and lobbyists. More than 15 Senate candidates — ranging from tea party conservatives to liberal Democratic hopefuls — have promised to either forgo pet projects or ban the practice altogether, putting them in direct conflict with senior senators who view earmarking as both a constitutional right and a senatorial privilege. Add these candidates to the growing cadre of junior lawmakers who have sworn off earmarks already, and 2010 may mark the beginning of a cultural change that prompts Congress to curtail its appetite for pet projects — if the candidates keep their campaign promises. And that’s unwelcome news to K Street lobbyists, whose clients depend on earmarks as a lifeline for funding.

Obama pays off organized labor's $400 mil campaign contribution, at our expense http://www.israel-commentary.org/archives/2010_07.html#001427
Excerpt: Labor union membership has declined dramatically in the past six decades from over a third of the work force in 1945 to just 7.2 percent of private sector employees in 2009; unions are now overwhelmingly concentrated in the public sector. But organized labor continues to wield tremendous political influence. Unions spent $400 million during the 2008 elections in support of Democratic candidates, and Barack Obama has been grateful. While the president has failed to enact the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — the mother of all pro-union legislation which includes the infamous "card check" proposal to effectively eliminate the secret ballot from union elections, he has made it possible for labor leaders to implement the provisions by other means. Through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), for instance. The NLRB conducts union elections and remedies unfair labor practices in most industries; Obama has named two pro-union members to this body — both were radical enough to require recess appointments. Stewart Acuff of the Utility Workers Union of America vowed to the Huffington Post that even if EFCA does not pass labor leaders will work with the president's NLRB appointees "to change the rules governing forming a union through administrative action." The board is now considering use of remote online voting rather than in-person ballots in representation elections, which like card check could expose workers to undue influence from organizers.

Jordan: 16-Year-Old Girl Raped, Promptly Gunned Down by Her Uncle to “Cleanse Family Honor”…
Excerpt: A Jordanian man confessed to killing his 16-year-old niece to save his family’s “honour” after she was sexually assaulted, a judicial official said today. The 43-year-old fired 30 machine-gun rounds in the direction of the girl yesterday, killing her instantly, at Deir Alla, west of the capital Amman, said the official who requested anonymity. The man confessed to the murder, saying he did it to “cleanse the family honour” over suspicions of “bad behaviour” after the girl “lost her virginity a month ago in a sexual assault by a young man aged 17,” said the same source.

Explosive New Book Charges Obama Invites Attack on U.S.
Excerpt: Bursting in, they find the disheveled mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in his bedroom. He is taken into custody. In the safe house, they find a treasure trove of computers, documents, cell phones, and other valuable “pocket litter.” Once in custody, KSM is defiant. He refuses to answer questions, informing his captors that he will tell them everything when he gets to America and sees his lawyer. But KSM is not taken to America to see a lawyer. Instead he is taken to a secret CIA “black site” in an undisclosed location. Upon arrival, KSM finds himself in the complete control of Americans. He does not know where he is, how long he will be there, or what his fate will be. Despite his circumstances, KSM still refuses to talk. He spews contempt at his interrogators, telling them that Americans are weak, lack resilience, and are unable to do what is necessary to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals. He has trained to resist interrogation. When he is asked for information about future attacks, he tells his questioners scornfully: “Soon, you will know.” It becomes clear he will not reveal the information using traditional interrogation techniques. So he undergoes a series of “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved for use only on the most high-value detainees. The techniques include waterboarding. His resistance is described by one senior American official as “superhuman.” Eventually, however, the techniques work, and KSM becomes cooperative—for reasons that will be described later in this book. He begins telling his CIA de-briefers about active al Qaeda plots to launch attacks against the United States and other Western targets He holds classes for CIA officials, using a chalkboard to draw a picture of al Qaeda’s operating structure, financing, communications, and logistics. He identifies al Qaeda travel routes and safe havens, and helps intelligence officers make sense of documents and computer records seized in terrorist raids. He identifies voices in intercepted telephone calls, and helps officials understand the meaning of coded terrorist communications. He provides information that helps our intelligence community capture other high-ranking terrorists, KSM’s questioning, and that of other captured terrorists, produces more than 6,000 intelligence reports, which are shared across the intelligence community, as well as with our allies across the world. In one of these reports, KSM describes in detail the revisions he made to his failed 1994-1995 plan known as the “Bojinka plot” to blow up a dozen airplanes carrying some 4,000 passengers over the Pacific Ocean. Years later, an observant CIA officer notices that the activities of a cell being followed by British authorities appear to match KSM’s description of his plans for a Bojinka-style attack. (Yep, we'll just be purer than pure, and everything will just be fine. Right up until the smart guys who hate us with total devotion manage to blow up a major dam or deliver Sarin gas or baterial agents to a giant mall's air condition system or whatever monster evil they think up next. I only hope the geniuses who put our guys on a short leash and also decided to go public with all kinds of stuff that should have remained secret will be right there to enjoy the attack personally. --Del)

No prudent antagonist thinks light of his adversaries. - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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