Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Political Digest September 29, 2009

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

Latest flow chart for Health Care “Reform.”
Satire….I think.

Baucus Bill May End Up Being a Mere Rough Draft
Excerpt: Baucus has promised to resume committee work Tuesday. But the fight is increasingly shifting away from him and onto the Senate floor, where 99 other independent-minded lawmakers are already scheming about how to put their stamp on what could be the most significant piece of domestic-policy legislation in a generation. In a plodding week of partisan sniping, the bill that was supposed to be President Obama's greatest hope for a grand bipartisan solution was instead described as little more than a decent rough draft, certain to be rewritten by others.

Max's Mad Mandate
The Baucus health bill will break 50 state budgets via Medicaid.
Excerpt: The more we inspect Max Baucus's health-care bill, the worse it looks. Today's howler: One reason it allegedly "pays for itself" over 10 years is because it would break all 50 state budgets by permanently expanding Medicaid, the joint state-federal program for the poor. Democrats want to use Medicaid to cover everyone up to at least 133% of the federal poverty level, or about $30,000 for a family of four. Starting in 2014, Mr. Baucus plans to spend $287 billion through 2019—or about one-third of ObamaCare's total spending—to add some 11 million new people to the Medicaid rolls. About 59 million people are on Medicaid today—which means that a decade from now about a quarter of the total population would be on a program originally sold as help for low-income women, children and the disabled. State budgets would explode—by $37 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office—because they would no longer be allowed to set eligibility in line with their own decisions about taxes and spending. This is the mother—and father and crazy uncle—of unfunded mandates.

Obama’s health insurance tax: Coming soon to all policies
Excerpt: So, a few years after the bill takes effect in 2013, the health insurance premium tax will become virtually universal. And this tax is to be a 40 percent levy. So, in six years, the average family health insurance policy, now projected to cost $25,000, will, in fact, cost $35,000 due to the Obama-Baucus tax! The Baucus bill tax threshold is, of course, not indexed for medical inflation or even for regular inflation. (Premiums have been rising at 10 percent for a decade and the average family premium now is 109 percent higher than it was 10 years ago.)

Bureaucrats muzzle criticism of Obamacare
Excerpt: Something quite disturbing is happening in the nation's capital. Bureaucrats in one of the federal government's biggest departments have issued a gag order against what they deem to be unfair criticism of President Obama's health care reform proposals. Not only are these bureaucrats making a mockery of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, they are also denying information that millions of elderly Americans have a right to receive.

Canada's lack of special care empowers brokers
Excerpt: The trouble starts when patients need treatment that isn't so routine. That's where Mr. Baker comes in. A British Columbia medical broker, he takes patients who find themselves on long waiting lists for procedures such as MRIs and surgeries, and connects them with specialists who can handle their cases immediately. Most of the time, his clients wind up in the United States - and business is booming. "That's what Americans need to know about the Canadian system," Mr. Baker said. "It's not that we have poor-quality health care - the quality is perfectly good. It's that we have poor access to health care."

The Wrong Way to Control Costs
Excerpt: Economics is the science of incentives. And most economists learn early in their careers that an efficient, workable society is one in which individual incentives are aligned as closely as possible with desirable social goals (Adam Smith’s observation, for example, that in most markets producers find it in their self-interest to meet other peoples’ needs). This is why most economists reject socialism — a system in which everyone at the bottom has a self-interest in undermining a plan imposed by a few people at the top. Turns out, there is something worse than socialism. It involves giving everyone an incentive to undermine the top-down plan and then imposing a collective punishment on all of them when they respond to the perverse incentives. Believe it or not, that is the way President Obama proposes to control health care costs.

Trial lawyers lobby sinks $6.2M in debt
The news isn’t all bad. Excerpt: The trial lawyers lobby has been awash in debt and bleeding members - just as it embarks on a national campaign to block any clampdown on medical malpractice lawsuits as part of President Obama's health care overhaul. The American Association for Justice, the most prominent group representing plaintiffs' attorneys, has seen a shake-up in its executive suite and has struggled to deal with what appears to be a mounting budget shortfall. To help it fight congressional efforts to make it harder for patients to sue doctors and lawyers, it recently sent out an extra solicitation to its members, asking them to fork over money for a lobbying campaign. The most striking evidence of its financial woes is a swift decline in income, which resulted in a more than $6.2 million deficit in its operating budget for the fiscal year ending July 31, 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. The biggest hit to its books was in membership dues, which dropped from $28.6 million in 2005 to $19.2 million in 2008, according to the annual AAJ financial report for that fiscal year filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

GOP Senators Pull Out of Inquiry into CIA Program
Excerpt: "Had Mr. Holder honored the pledge made by the President to look forward, not backwards, we would still be active participants in the Committee's review," the ranking Republican on the intelligence panel, Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, said in a statement. "What current or former CIA employee would be willing to gamble his freedom by answering the Committee's questions? Indeed, forcing these terror fighters to make this choice is neither fair nor just."

Diverse Sources Fund Insurgency in Afghanistan
Excerpt: Obama administration officials say the single largest source of cash for the Taliban, once thought to rely mostly on Afghanistan's booming opium trade to finance its operations, is not drugs but foreign donations. The CIA recently estimated that Taliban leaders and their allies received $106 million in the past year from donors outside Afghanistan. For the past decade, the U.S. Treasury and the U.N. Security Council have maintained financial blacklists of suspected donors to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The U.N. list, originally designed to pressure the Taliban to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, requires all U.N. members to freeze the assets of designated Taliban officials and their supporters.

Only Decisive Force Can Prevail in Afghanistan
A middle path of muddling through is the real recipe for quagmire and loss of public support.
Excerpt: Growing numbers of Americans are starting to doubt whether we should have troops in Afghanistan and whether the war there is even winnable. We are confident that not only is it winnable, but that we have no choice. We must prevail in Afghanistan.

With Obama, too much nuance, not enough power
Excerpt: Yet on Friday information became public that suggested that Obama's comments on Iran were an example not of Freudian projection but of what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance," refusing to process facts that conflict with deeply held beliefs. The information was that Iran has been operating a second uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom and that it had so informed the International Atomic Energy Agency earlier in the week. In response, Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy held a press conference Friday morning before the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh denouncing the Iranians. "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," Obama said. "International law is not an empty promise." But the Qom facility was not news to Obama. Western intelligence has long known about it, and Obama was briefed on it as president-elect. Even so, there was a sharp contrast between his wary references to Iran on Wednesday and Thursday and his sharp criticism on Friday. There were probably good reasons -- protecting intelligence sources? -- for not disclosing the information before this week. But shouldn't the president's rhetoric on Wednesday and Thursday have reflected all that he knew?

(Leftist) Ted Rall: It’s increasingly evident that Obama should resign
To be fair and balanced, I like to present views from the left from time to time. Excerpt: We expected broken promises. But the gap between the soaring expectations that accompanied Barack Obama’s inauguration and his wretched performance is the broadest such chasm in recent historical memory. This guy makes Bill Clinton look like a paragon of integrity and follow-through. From health care to torture to the economy to war, Obama has reneged on pledges real and implied. So timid and so owned is he that he trembles in fear of offending, of all things, the government of Turkey. Obama has officially reneged on his campaign promise to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. When a president doesn’t have the nerve to annoy the Turks, why does he bother to show up for work in the morning? Obama is useless. Worse than that, he’s dangerous. Which is why, if he has any patriotism left after the thousands of meetings he has sat through with corporate contributors, blood-sucking lobbyists and corrupt politicians, he ought to step down now — before he drags us further into the abyss…. Obama is cute. He is charming. But there is something rotten inside him. Unlike the Republicans who backed George W. Bush, I won’t follow a terrible leader just because I voted for him. Obama has revealed himself. He is a monster, and he should remove himself from power. (Bob: Suppressing a chortle, let’s think this through—if BO did resign, the cities would go up in flames and Biden would be president.)

Iran says its peaceful nuke program will "blind the eyes of the enemies"

If the Ground Is Shifting, the House Will Feel It
Excerpt: Heading into the summer, the political environment had been neutral to slightly positive for Democrats. But it turned in a meaningful way as Labor Day approached and anger over the growth of government under President Obama emboldened Republicans. The signs of this environmental change were everywhere. The generic ballot edge that Democrats had maintained for the better part of the last two election cycles disappeared; in the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 43 percent of respondents said they preferred a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent said they would like to see Republicans running things on Capitol Hill. (As recently as April, Democrats had a nine-point lead on that question.)

Obama’s Swing-State Blues
Excerpt: Not so long ago, Democrats were thrilled by the long length of Barack Obama’s coattails. Creigh Deeds would be a lot more thrilled today if he could just step off. Mr. Deeds is the Democratic state senator running for governor of Virginia, and while he’s at it, running away from his commander in chief. It ought to worry Democrats that their top recruit for the year already views their Washington agenda as a liability. It ought to worry Mr. Deeds that there seems no escape. The Virginian’s problem is that he’s a little too important to party leaders. The Obama White House isn’t half as worried about what Virginia means for next year’s elections as it is what Virginia means for this year’s health fight. A wipeout in the Old Dominion could send Blue Dogs scampering for cover. If health care isn’t done by Nov. 3, it may not get done. Mr. Obama needs Mr. Deeds to win.

Vast Conspiracy Is Focusing On Obama, Says Bill Clinton
Proud member, vast rightwing conspiracy to preserve free markets and limited government!

Climate-Change Study Cites Role of Ancient Farming
If only they had had Cap and Trade, Gore and Obama!

Texas moves up in Forbes' best states for business list
Hummm. Low taxes attracts businesses, creates jobs. Who could have guessed?

An Insult to Our Democracy
And they call themselves “Democrats”!

Rapier-Witted Conservative Columnist Safire Dies
Excerpt: William Safire, 79, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and language maven for the New York Times, whose penchant for the barbed and memorable phrase first manifested itself in speeches he wrote for the Nixon White House, died Sept. 27 at Casey House, part of Montgomery Hospice in Rockville. (Rest in Peace.)

In Refined Bordeaux, a Struggle To Confront Slave-Trading Past
Ha. The sanctimonious French! Excerpt: Bordeaux was France's second-largest slave port in those times, sending out about 500 ships to ply the slave trade. That was about a third of those dispatched from Nantes, which was the country's largest slaving hub, where Diallo also is trying to have street names changed.

American Independence
"Interesting that many of us thought the election of Barack Obama might signal the end of American Independence as we surrendered sovereignty to the United Nations. Imagine my surprise, then, to find that Obama has decided to give up American power to a group that doesn't even officially exist: The Group of 20, which is shorthanded to the G-20. In an example of governmental inflation at its most dangerous, the G-20 was originally the G-6, then Canada was allowed to sit at the grownups table and it became the G-7. When the Soviet Union returned to being good old Russia, they were invited in and it became the G-8. The G-20 is supposed to be a meeting of the finance ministers and central bankers of the 20 largest economies. But these G-X meetings have now become summits. The meeting in Pittsburgh last week, included a significant number of the heads of states who had been in New York a few days earlier for the opening of the UN and who decided to make the trek along the Pennsylvania Turnpike to spend a day or two in the Steel City. ... Obama knows he can never cede sovereignty to the UN, but he may be able to get away with the G-20 as the international Board of Directors dealing with everything from banking regs to global warming to human rights to labor law to ... whatever. Obama knows America -- even Air America -- would never sit still for letting the United Nations make decisions for us. ... However, sharing sovereignty with the 20 largest economies on the planet is a potentially saleable deal as long as Obama doesn't say 'We are sharing sovereignty with the 20 largest economies on the planet.' You say things like, 'We are establishing new rules for international banking which will avoid the problems of last September.' One of those new rules will be an international reserve currency which does not have 'UNITED STATES OF AMERICA' printed anywhere on it. ... And we've been wasting our time worrying about Obama's relationship with ACORN." --political analyst Rich Galen. "The Patriot Post (www.patriotpost.us/subscribe/)"

From a high school friend, back in college in LA: I loathe Los Angeles. I cannot describe how disgusting this place is. The other day we learnt at college that Julius Caesar was murdered by the Conservatives in the Senate because he was "for the people." They make us work in groups in class. This means I do the work at home, and they expect me to provide the answers for free. Tomorrow I tell them the answers are now $1 each. I am seriously aiming to get back to Jersey. --Kate

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