Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Political Digest March 2, 2010

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.

Democrats will have votes for health bill, Obama aide says
And Republicans will have the House in 2011, because the people—remember them?—don’t want this bill. Excerpt: Raising the prospect of a "simple up-or-down vote" on health-care reform, White House adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle said on Sunday she thinks Democrats will secure enough ayes on the measure and signaled that the administration could be moving toward trying to pass it along party lines.

Back to the ObamaCare Future
The Massachusetts 'model' moves to price controls.

Excerpt: Natural experiments are rare in politics, but few are as instructive as the prototype for ObamaCare that Massachusetts set in motion in 2006. The bills for "universal coverage" are now coming due, and it appears the state political class is prepared to do lasting damage to one of America's top-flight health care systems, says the Wall Street Journal. Last month, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick proposed hard price controls across almost all Massachusetts health care: State regulators already have the power to cap insurance premiums, which Patrick is activating. He also filed a bill that would give state regulators the power to review the rates of hospitals, physician groups and some specialty providers. Those that are deemed too high "shall be presumptively disapproved." The administered prices of Medicare and Medicaid already shift costs to private patients while below-cost reimbursement creates balance-sheet havoc among providers. Now the governor wants to import these distortions to save the state's heavily subsidized insurance program as costs explode, says the Journal. Ironically, former Governor Mitt Romney (like President Obama) sold this plan as a way to control spending. As with all new entitlements, the rolling cost crisis began almost immediately, says the Journal: For fiscal 2010 taxpayer costs are $47 million over budget, in part due to the recession, and while the $913 million Patrick requested for 2011 is a 5 percent increase over 2010, spending has grown on average 6.7 percent per year. Meanwhile, average Massachusetts insurance premiums are now the highest in the nation; since 2006, they've climbed at an annual rate of 30 percent in the individual market. Small business costs have increased by 5.8 percent. Per capita health spending in Massachusetts is now 27 percent higher than the national average, and 15 percent higher even after adjusting for local wages and academic research grants.

Health reformers' worst idea
Price controls for insurance - or anything else - simply won't work.
His health-care overhaul adrift and increasingly unpopular, President Obama has invited Republicans to a televised summit today to discuss "all the best ideas that are out there." Odds are that Democrats will use the moment to exalt - and berate Republicans for blocking - one of their worst ideas: federal price controls on health insurance. Both the House and Senate health-care legislation would prohibit insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting medical conditions. Insurers would have to charge everyone in a given age group the same premium - say, $10,000 - whether an enrollee costs $5,000 or $25,000 to insure. That's a price control. Larry Summers, one of President Obama's top economic advisers, spoke for most economists when he said, "Price and exchange controls inevitably create harmful economic distortions. Both the distortions and the economic damage get worse with time." Experience shows that, over time, price controls cause health-insurance markets to collapse by driving healthy people from the marketplace. For example, a recent analysis found that a New Jersey program setting insurance prices without regard to health status appears to be collapsing. Likewise, the president's latest reform proposal would increase premiums for healthy people, create financial incentives of as much as $10,000 for them to drop out of the market, and permit them to buy coverage at standard rates whenever they get sick. Once they drop out, premiums would rise further, causing more healthy people to drop out, and so on in a vicious cycle.

Head of 'Climategate' research unit admits he hid data
Excerpt: The scientist at the heart of the 'Climategate' row over global warming hid data 'because it was standard practice', it emerged today. Professor Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's prestigious climatic research unit, today admitted to MPs that the centre withheld raw station data about global temperatures from around the world. 9comment from the Marine buddy who sent this item: More testimony to Parliament, this time verbal, from Phil Jones. As noted in one of the comments following the article, hiding data is NOT a standard scientific procedure. It is usual to release ALL data so other scientists can verify (or not) the conclusions reached. Failure to do so puts "Climate Science" at the same level of credibility as alchemy and astrology. Ron P.)

State Abuse of the Medicaid Program
Excerpt: The Medicaid program to provide health coverage for low-income people began in 1965 with the passage of title XIX of the Social Security Act. It has always been an entitlement, with no defined limit on the number of beneficiaries or the cost of the program. As long as a person meets the eligibility requirements for participation in the program, that person receives Medicaid benefits, regardless of total cost to taxpayers, say Dr. Roger Stark, a policy analyst, and Colin Swanson, a research assistant, both with the Washington Policy Center. From the beginning, a link was established between Medicaid eligibility and the welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Medicaid is now the largest health insurance system in the United States and is the largest means-tested health care program in the world, say Stark and Swanson. The cost of Medicaid is shared between federal and state governments. Each state receives federal money on a sliding scale based on average personal income, with poorer states getting a higher percentage of federal funds, say Stark and Swanson.

Must read: Holding Spendthrifts Responsible
The future we face. Excerpt: “Greece on Friday unleashed a fierce attack on its European Union partners,” reported the Financial Times. The outburst was occasioned by the country’s rapidly deteriorating fiscal situation. In a televised message to his cabinet, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou accused EU countries of sending “mixed messages about our country… that have created a psychology of looming collapse which could be self-fulfilling.” This is a strange way of looking at the situation. For one thing, the “looming collapse” is not a psychological phenomenon, as the Greek prime minister tries to imply. It is a cold inescapable reality delineated by hard figures. Running budget deficits of nearly 13 percent GDP and carrying public debt of more than 110 percent, the Greek government has run the country into a fiscal hole. Having assumed more obligations that it can make good on, Greece is for all practical purposes broke. If it does not get bailed out, the government will have to default and the country will go bankrupt. In other words, utter fiscal recklessness of Greek politicians has brought the nation to the brink. To blame it on others – as Papandreou tries to do – is as disingenuous as it is absurd. This, however, is politicians’ normal modus operandi: to charge others with the messes they make. They do not admit their own guilt even when the issue is as straightforward as overspending by the very government they themselves run. But it was not only other countries that came in for blame. Papandreou also vented his wrath at the market, the favorite whipping boy of profligate politicians. In his remarks, the Greek prime minister complained that his country had become “a laboratory animal in the battle between Europe and the markets.” It is difficult to ascertain the precise meaning of his remark, but its tenor makes it clear that the markets are the bad guys. The implication cannot be missed: It was the markets that somehow managed to rip the nation off despite the noble efforts of the conscientious Greek government.

Promises to keep: States face a looming pensions crisis
Soon everything fall down, go boom. Excerpt: FISCAL officers in the states might be forgiven for having a collective mental breakdown. Over the two years from December 2007 to November 2009, the 50 states have faced a cumulative budget gap of $304 billion. Revenues are expected to continue dropping for at least the next two years. And looming in the not-too-distant future is an enormous bill: extravagant promises of pensions, health care and other benefits made to an ever-growing number of government retirees. America’s states have a $1 trillion gap between benefits they have promised and the assets to pay for them, according to a report published on February 18th by the Pew Centre. Even this may be an underestimate. Pew used data from the states’ fiscal year that ended in 2008, the most recent for which comprehensive figures are available, so the $1 trillion does not include losses from late 2008 and early 2009 (or the partial rebound since then). In 2008 state pension funds lost more than 25% of their value. In some states the downturn has prompted reform. Those that failed to act now face even bigger problems.

Hoyer: Raising taxes a realistic option for cutting $12 trillion debt
First you run up the spending—then you raise taxes to be ‘responsible.” Will this hit those making less than $250k who BO promised wouldn’t pay a dime more? Excerpt: Tax increases may be necessary to rein in $12 trillion in federal debt, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Monday. Hoyer emphasized the need to reform Social Security and Medicare, but also made it clear that raising taxes will have to be on the table.

Gun case presents quandary for Supreme Court justices
Excerpt: As a member of the Junior ROTC, teenager Antonin Scalia toted his rifle on the subway ride back and forth to Queens. As a hunter, he speaks lyrically of stalking wild turkeys. And as a justice, he may have reached the pinnacle of his more than two decades on the Supreme Court when he wrote the majority opinion that said the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own a firearm.

Commented: Should the Democratic Party offer financial support to Democrats who vote against health-care reform?
Good point! A nice DINO hunt should help the GOP get control. Let’s encourage this. Excerpt: And if it does, should members of the Democratic base continue to financially support the Democratic Party? …. I mean, if you added up all the money from the DCCC given to some of the folks on that list, it's definitely in the couple of millions. I don't think these guys should be getting national Democratic Party funding if they are going to act like free agents all the time.

Ranking Republican Leaders
Interesting for political junkies.

The green jobs myth
Excerpt: "Green jobs" have become a central underpinning of the Obama administration's rationale to promote clean energy. But how valid is the assumption that a "clean-energy" economy will generate enough jobs to mitigate today's high level of unemployment -- new jobless claims were up 22,000 this week -- and to meet the needs of future generations? A green economy would have to spout jobs in the millions to do both. The facts challenge the prevailing thinking among some policymakers and officials that green jobs are a principal reason for transforming the economy. Let's consider just one clean-energy sector, the smart grid, for its job-creation potential. The Obama administration allocated a little more than $4 billion in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the smart grid, an unprecedented amount for a hitherto-neglected but critical piece of our national infrastructure. Much of this is to be spent installing close to 20 million "smart meters" over the next five years. Smart meters are digital versions of the spinning electric meters that are omnipresent nationwide. Whereas spinning meters have changed little in more than a century and must be read by workers, smart meters automatically transmit electricity consumption data to a utility. Virtually eliminating human intervention, smart meters promise more accurate measurement of electricity usage as well as increasingly efficient management of energy production resources.

Man fatally shot outside Tulsa restaurant
Excerpt: A man was shot and killed early Sunday morning at a north Tulsa restaurant. Valentino Verner, 27, was shot several times outside Chicken Hut, 1500 E. Apache St., just before 3 a.m. Tulsa police Capt. Karen Tipler said that between 75 to 100 patrons witnessed the shooting, but were uncooperative with authorities. She said witnesses were also aggressive and angry toward the police when they attempted to aid Verner

Soros: Another Golden Match for Arianna
Excerpt: While most conservatives with a bent towards curiosity are pretty up to speed on the vast shadow influence which George Soros has on the modern Democratic Party and progressive front groups, from MoveOn to the Center for American Progress, Soros's financial influence with prominent media figures remains far more of a mystery. For instance, the new darling of leftist causes, the woman who charms anchors from coast to coast and was recently named number 12 on Forbes' first-ever list of Most Influential Women in Media, Arianna Huffington, is as closely linked to George Soros as a woman could get without being in an actual bed with him. Soros used Arianna Huffington as the public face and co-stager of his Shadow Conventions in 2000, just three years after she divorced oil billionaire Michael Huffington. The Shadow Conventions were held simultaneously with, and in the same cities as, the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2000. They specifically highlighted Soros's pet causes: the "corrupting" influence of money in politics, the "necessity" of unfettered immigration, and the "failed" drug war. The real theme of the Shadow Conventions, however, was an avant-garde repulsion from mainstream electoral politics and the need for the U.S. to break free of peculiarly American political restraints.

Are Barack and Michele Lawyers
This site says not any more.

Obama administration kills 23K space-related jobs in Florida.
Excerpt: So they can spend that money right here on Earth: Revised projections now show that about 23,000 workers at and around Kennedy Space Center will lose their jobs because of the shuttles’ retirement and the new proposal to cancel the development of new rockets and spacecraft. That sum includes 9,000 “direct” space jobs and — conservatively speaking — 14,000 “indirect” jobs at hotels, restaurants, retail stores and others that depend on activity at the space center, said Lisa Rice, Brevard Workforce president.

Those Bitter Gun-Clingers.
Excerpt: Remember when Obama made that speech about all those marginalized people who distrusted all the good things government could do for them and therefore headed out to the remote wilderness away from civilization where they could bitterly cling to their guns and religion? Unbeknownst to Obama, he was describing the majority of Americans. Note especially how even independents break on this question: Washington (CNN) – A majority of Americans think the federal government poses a threat to rights of Americans, according to a new national poll. Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty-four percent of those polled disagree. The survey indicates a partisan divide on the question: only 37 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents and nearly 7 in 10 Republicans say the federal government poses a threat to the rights of Americans.

High Noon in Marjah
Excerpt: The aggressive new strategy in Afghanistan embraced by the Obama Administration, modeled on the successful “surge” in Iraq, is costly, with a third of all American casualties in the conflict occurring since the first reinforcements were sent in May 2009. The latest offensive in Marjah in Helmand Province is going slower than anticipated due to fierce resistance, and it is only a warm-up for a much larger battle in the coming months in Kandahar, the Taliban’s stronghold. And Pakistan remains the key to victory. As tough as the fighting is in Marjah, the more difficult phase will be capitalizing on the military success by establishing local governance and civil institutions that have credibility with the Afghan people. The national flag now waves above the city and a new governor has taken power, and the fact that for every two foreign soldiers in the offensive there were three Afghan soldiers is very helpful. Roughly a quarter of the city still remains to be taken, but the last bastions of the Taliban forces are said to be running out of ammunition. The international and Afghan forces now control the main roads and markets, but a significant amount of mines and roadside bombs planted by the Taliban still need to be located and dismantled. Afghan police forces, soldiers, and government workers from elsewhere in the country are being brought into Marjah, and over 2,000 people have taken jobs with the new administration. (That would be the surge Obama opposed and Harry Reid said failed.)

In new video, CIA bomber says he lured targets with doctored intelligence
“War is deceit,” said the Prophet, according to the Hadith, and the Holy Qur’an (3/28) has the concept of Taqiyyah in which lying and deceit is justified to advance Islam. Excerpt: The suicide bomber behind the Dec. 30 attack on a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan claims in a posthumously released recording that he lured U.S. and Jordanian intelligence officers into a trap by sending them misleading information about terrorist targets as well as videotapes he made of senior al-Qaeda leaders.

Court dismisses appeal of Uighurs detained at Guantanamo Bay
I don’t see the problem with sending them back to our friends in China. Excerpt: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a major separation of powers case that would have determined what rights judges have to free detainees at Guantanamo Bay who have been found not to be enemy combatants. The justices, without recorded dissent, agreed with the Obama administration that changed circumstances meant that the challenge brought by a group of Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs was not ripe for the court's consideration. At the same time, the justices wiped out a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that had been challenged by lawyers for the detainees. The ruling said that the judicial branch had no power to release into the United States detainees who had been cleared of wrongdoing who cannot be returned to their home countries for fear of persecution. The Obama administration has been working to find a neutral country to accept the Uighurs and thus avoid another showdown at the Supreme Court on detainee rights. It recently convinced Switzerland to take two of the men, and said the others had been offered, but turned down, the chance to go to the island nation of Palau. (Since as a Marine Vietnam veteran, Janet N. considers me a terrorist threat, can I get the government to send me to Palau? This Global Warming is freezing me here in Blagobamaville.)

Mothers in Combat Boots
Gives new meaning to the old imperative, “Women and Children first!” Excerpt: In November 2009, one of the uglier fruits of the current practice of seeding mothers into the American military burst briefly onto the national stage. Ordered to Afghanistan from Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, an Army cook named Alexis Hutchinson refused to go. A 21-year-old single mother, she explained that there was no one to care for her infant son because initial plans to leave him with her own mother had fallen through. What happened next should disturb anyone who has so far succeeded in ignoring the fact that the United States now sends soldier-mothers off to war. Specialist Hutchinson was arrested and threatened with court martial and her son was temporarily placed in foster care - because, as the Fort Stewart spokesman explained, the 30-day extension that she had been granted was "plenty of time" to find some other babysitter for that ten-month-old while the only parent seemingly present in his life went off to Afghanistan. This is one face of contemporary battle that no one wants to contemplate point-blank. Nevertheless, face it somebody should. Ever since Congress in the 1970s passed a law allowing women with dependent children to enlist in the military, the collision visible in the Hutchinson case between motherhood and soldiering has been waiting in the wings. The wonder is not that an Army cook and mother would choose staying stateside with her child over her deployment. It is rather that - given two wars and current American military policy - more cases like Hutchinson's have not erupted already. Once, pregnancy itself was automatically grounds for discharge from the services. Today it is not. According to an October report issued by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 30,000 single mothers have served in those two war zones as of March 2009. That is 30,000< mothers forced to choose, as Hutchinson's lawyer has put it, between their children and their service careers - a dilemma captured perfectly in a photograph that appeared alongside news accounts of the case. It showed what once would have seemed an unthinkable representation of Madonna and child: Spc. Hutchinson, a female soldier, cradling her baby in classic maternal pose.

Gaza newspaper: "A moderate Muslim can change into an extremist Muslim or terrorist in a single night, provided he delve deeper into Qur'anic verses"
Excerpt: The truth is that the difference between the moderate Muslim and the extremist Muslim is quantitative and not qualitative. In other words, a moderate Muslim can change into an extremist Muslim or terrorist in a single night, provided he delve deeper into Qur'anic verses, especially the verse of the sword, and the prophetic ahadith (sayings) calling for fighting and jihad in the path of "establishing the word of truth." Or by attending the "principles of fiqh" or "studies of fiqh" which are held in mosques normally after the evening prayers. It is here that attendees are brainwashed with a list of Qur'anic verses and prophetic ahadith and books of Islamic jurisprudence, and more, related to what is halal and haram, to apostasy and jihad... and the torment of the grave and the horrors of the hell-fire...and the Houris (wide-eyed women of paradise that will be given to the believers)....

Appreciation from a Refugee
The video.

"The filibuster is far from a procedural gimmick. It's part of the fabric of this institution we call the Senate." Sen. Harry Reid, 2005, attacking George Bush.

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