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Analysts Expect Long-Term, Costly U.S. Campaign in Afghanistan
Analysts Expect Long-Term, Costly U.S. Campaign in Afghanistan
Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the United States has spent $223 billion on war-related funding for that country, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid expenditures, excluding the cost of combat operations, have grown exponentially, from $982 million in 2003 to $9.3 billion last year.
The costs are almost certain to keep growing. The Obama administration is in the process of overhauling the U.S. approach to Afghanistan, putting its focus on long-term security, economic sustainability and development. That approach is also likely to require deployment of more American military personnel, at the very least to train additional Afghan security forces.
Later this month, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is expected to present his analysis of the situation in the country. The analysis could prompt an increase in U.S. troop levels to help implement President Obama's new strategy.
Military experts insist that the additional resources are necessary. But many, including some advising McChrystal, say they fear the public has not been made aware of the significant commitments that come with Washington's new policies.
"We will need a large combat presence for many years to come, and we will probably need a large financial commitment longer than that," said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the "strategic assessment" team advising McChrystal. The expansion of the Afghan security force that the general will recommend to secure the country "will inevitably cost much more than any imaginable Afghan government is going to be able to afford on its own," Biddle added.
"Afghan forces will need $4 billion a year for another decade, with a like sum for development," said Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine who has chronicled the Iraq and Afghan wars. Bing said the danger is that Congress is "so generous in support of our own forces today, it may not support the aid needed for progress in Afghanistan tomorrow."
Some members of Congress are worried. The House Appropriations Committee said in its report on the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill that its members are "concerned about the prospects for an open-ended U.S. commitment to bring stability to a country that has a decades-long history of successfully rebuffing foreign military intervention and attempts to influence internal politics."
The Afghan government has made some political and military progress since 2001, but the Taliban insurgency has been reinvigorated.
Anthony H. Cordesman, another member of McChrystal's advisory group and a national security expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told reporters recently that even with military gains in the next 12 to 18 months, it would take years to reduce sharply the threat from the Taliban and other insurgent forces.
The task that the United States has taken on in Afghanistan is in many ways more difficult than the one it has encountered in Iraq, where the U.S. government has spent $684 billion in war-related funding.
In a 2008 study that ranked the weakest states in the developing world, the Brookings Institution rated Afghanistan second only to Somalia. Afghanistan's gross domestic product in 2008 was $23 billion, with about $3 billion coming from opium production, according to the CIA's World Factbook. Oil-producing Iraq had a GDP of $113 billion.
Afghanistan's central government takes in roughly $890 million in annual revenue, according to the World Factbook. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has pointed out that Afghanistan's national budget cannot support the $2 billion needed today for the country's army and police force.
Dutch Army Brig. Gen. Tom Middendorp, commander of the coalition task force in Afghanistan's southern Uruzgan province, described the region as virtually prehistoric.
"It's the poorest province of one of the poorest countries in the world. And if you walk through that province, it's like walking through the Old Testament," Middendorp told reporters recently. "There is enormous illiteracy in the province. More than 90 percent cannot write or read. So it's very basic, what you do there. And they have had 30 years of conflict."
Unlike in Iraq, where Obama has established a timeline for U.S. involvement, the president has not said when he would like to see troops withdrawn from Afghanistan.
White House officials emphasize that the burden is not that of the United States alone. The NATO-led force in the country has 61,000 troops from 42 countries; about 29,000 of those troops are American.
Still, military experts say the United States will not be able to shed its commitment easily.
The government has issued billions of dollars in contracts in recent years, underscoring the vast extent of work that U.S. officials are commissioning.
Among other purposes, contractors have been sought this summer to build a $25 million provincial Afghan National Police headquarters; maintain anti-personnel mine systems; design and build multimillion-dollar sections of roads; deliver by sea and air billions of dollars worth of military bulk cargo; and supervise a drug-eradication program.
One solicitation, issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, is aimed at finding a contractor to bring together Afghan economic, social, legal and political groups to help build the country's infrastructure. The contractor would work with Afghan government officials as well as representatives from private and nongovernmental organizations to establish a way to allocate resources for new projects.
"We are looking at two decades of supplying a few billion a year to Afghanistan," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow and military expert at the Brookings Institution, adding: "It's a reasonable guess that for 20 years, we essentially will have to fund half the Afghan budget." He described the price as reasonable, given that it may cost the United States $100 billion this year to continue fighting.
"We are creating a [long-term military aid] situation similar to the ones we have with Israel, Egypt and Jordan," he said.
Obama justice: Prosecutor to probe 'cia abuse'
Reporting from Washington -- U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. is poised to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate alleged CIA abuses committed during the interrogation of terrorism suspects, current and former U.S. government officials said.
A senior Justice Department official said that Holder envisioned an inquiry that would be narrow in scope, focusing on "whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized" in Bush administration memos that liberally interpreted anti-torture laws.
Some cases have not previously been disclosed, including an instance in which a CIA operative brought a gun into an interrogation booth to force a detainee to talk, officials said.
Other potentially criminal abuses have already come to light, including the waterboarding of prisoners in excess of Justice Department guidelines, and the deaths of detainees in CIA custody in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003.
Opening a criminal investigation is something Holder "has come reluctantly to consider," the Justice Department official said, emphasizing that Holder had not reached a final decision but noting that, "as attorney general, he has the obligation to follow the law."
Others familiar with Holder's thinking say that such an investigation seems all but certain, and that a prosecutor will probably be selected from a short list that Holder asked subordinates to assemble.
Such a prosecutor would examine cases that are generally at least five years old, and probably some that were previously reviewed by career prosecutors who concluded that they could not be pursued.
"I don't blame them for wanting to look into it," said a former high-ranking Justice Department official familiar with the details of the program. "But if they appoint a special prosecutor, it would ultimately be unsuccessful, and it would go on forever and cause enormous collateral damage on the way to getting that unsuccessful result."
Bracing for the worst, a small number of CIA officials have put off plans to retire or leave the agency so that they can maintain their access to classified files and be in a better position to defend against a Justice investigation.
"Once you're out, it gets a lot harder," said a retired CIA official who said he had spoken recently with former colleagues. The inquiry would probably also target private contractors who worked for the CIA during the interrogations.
To continue reading this article click here> http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...,0,34626.story
Deficit grew by $181 billion in July
Deficit grew by $181 billion in July
Bailouts for financial firms and billions in tax revenue lost because of the recession drove the deficit to a record $1.3 trillion in July, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Tax receipts that have fallen due to the poor economy and increased spending to save car companies, banks and mortgage firms were major contributors to the federal deficit, according to CBO, which provides official budget numbers for Congress. The federal deficit grew by another $181 billion in July.
Falling tax receipts and increased spending on bailouts for auto companies and the financial sector and for the economic stimulus package added to the deficit, according to CBO, which provides official budget numbers for Congress.
Spending through July of 2009 has increased by $530 billion, which is 21 percent over the same period in 2008. The bailout money for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae accounted for almost half of the spending increase. Unemployment benefits have more than doubled, Medicaid spending has grown by a quarter and Medicare spending has increased by 11 percent.
Tax revenue for the first three quarters of 2009 has fallen by approximately $350 billion, or 17 percent compared to the same period last year, due mostly to the effects of the recession on payroll, income and corporate taxes. A third of the decline is due to tax breaks in the stimulus, including the middle-class tax cut that President Obama campaigned on during last year's election.
The independent budget scorekeeper has projected the deficit to reach $1.8 trillion by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The deficit in 2008 reached $455 billion, which was a record at the time.
The latest deficit projections come as Democrats in Congress and the White House are pushing for healthcare reform criticized by Republicans as too costly.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stressed during a town-hall meeting in Colorado this week that the healthcare bill won't add to the deficit or restrict benefits and instead will increase access to care. But lawmakers have yet to settle on a way to pay for the bill, expected to cost roughly $1 trillion over the next decade. Pelosi has supported an income surtax on the highest earners, those making more than $280,000, while senators are considering a tax on insurance companies that offer expensive health plans.
Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the top Republican on the Budget Committee, said that Democrats in Congress aren't doing anything to address the record deficit and are instead pushing ahead with “wildly expensive” healthcare legislation.
“To allow the deficit to hit these previously unthinkable levels – while still planning to implement massive new spending programs – shows an incredible lack of fiscal responsibility, especially toward the future generations who will be saddled with the consequences of today’s actions,” Gregg said.
One poll released last week suggests that the GOP attacks are starting to work. A Rasmussen survey of likely voters found that 71 percent believe Obama's policies have increased the deficit. While most -- 54 percent -- blamed the recession that started during the Bush administration for the country's fiscal situation, 39 percent blamed Obama's policies.
Governors oppose DoD emergency powers
Governors oppose DoD emergency powers
A bipartisan pair of governors is opposing a new Defense Department proposal to handle natural and terrorism-related disasters, contending that a murky chain of command could lead to more problems than solutions.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R), chairman of the National Governors Association, and Vice Chairman Gov. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia penned a letter opposing the Pentagon proposal, which they said would hinder a state's effort to respond to a disaster.
Current law gives governors control over National Guard forces in their own states as well as any Guard units and Defense Department personnel imported from other states.
The letter comes as the Pentagon proposes a legislative fix that would give the secretary of Defense the authority to assist in response to domestic disasters and, consequently, control over units stationed in an affected state.
"We are concerned that the legislative proposal you discuss in your letter would invite confusion on critical command and control issues, complicate interagency planning, establish stove-piped response efforts, and interfere with governors’ constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of their citizens," Douglas and Manchin wrote to Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America's Security Affairs.
"One of the key lessons learned from the response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 was the need for clear chains of command to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure the most effective use of response resources," the governors wrote.
Though the Pentagon has said the legislative fix would increase the number of Defense Department personnel available to respond to disasters, Douglas and Manchin expressed skepticism, arguing that current law already allows the Pentagon to order personnel to key areas inside the U.S.
A similar fix was removed from the Defense Department appropriation measure in conference committee for fiscal 2009.
A Pentagon spokesman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Obama Down, Economy Up
Obama Down, Economy Up
The president's agenda is too big to succeed.
By: Steven M. Cohen
The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal have a common ownership and share a nearly identical conservative philosophy, but the similarities stop there. The Journal has, over time, expanded beyond its financial news coverage franchise into more general interest reporting, while the Post has consistently adhered to a rather, shall we say, energetic style of conveying every conceivable kind of story. But last weekend both papers simultaneously came to the same conclusion observed in these columns weeks ago: the stock market moves inversely to Barack Obama’s approval ratings.
Post columnist Terry Keenan placed this phenomenon in a broader context, noting that “[h]istory shows that when the approval rating for a US president dips below the magical 50 percent mark, it is also typically the time to buy.” Her conclusion: “Let the Obama rally begin!”
The Journal editorial writers cited the president’s current healthcare difficulties to explain the approval rating/market direction relationship. “Political uncertainty also continues to hang over risk-takers,” the Journal observed “and on that point it has been fascinating to see the latest Wall Street rally coincide with the political troubles of ObamaCare. If it collapses, we might see Dow 10,000.”
Even daily stock trading vividly reflects this same pattern. The sharp, cliff-like lines on an intraday chart often coincide with the ubiquitous Obama pronouncements and press conferences. Most interesting is actually watching one of these events in real-time, with one eye on the television and the other on the tape. The averages sink with practically each utterance, their descent arrested only when the president mercifully finishes up.
As the newspapers observed, the opposite occurs as the result of each new poll is revealed. Whether it’s Gallup, Pew Research, Quinnipiac, WSJ/NBC, New York Times/CBS or any other major pollster, whether the subject is stimulus packages, healthcare, industry nationalization, or Obama’s performance in general, as the president’s numbers slip, the markets forge ahead, even in the absence of economic data that would suggest even the early stages of a robust, durable recovery. With Obama’s overall approval rating hovering around 50%, the stock market could be on the cusp of its next leg up.
Team Obama reportedly paid plenty of attention to poll results and focus groups in tailoring its message during the campaign (pledges such as ‘you can keep your own health coverage if you like it’ and ‘your taxes won’t go up one dime if you earn less than $250,000.’ Remember those?). Now, the administration and its congressional minions appear to be in a deep state of denial about the most recent polls or, alternatively, respond by challenging the legitimacy of their results. How else to explain congressional Democrats digging in and grinding ahead with their thousand-plus pages of healthcare “reform” in the face of a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report that demolishes every assumption on which the plan is based? How else to explain the administration’s continuing effort to limit debate and ram through a bill despite numerous polls indicating that the vast majority of Americans are satisfied with their present coverage and believe that taxes will increase and services decline as a result of the government’s meddling?
These are the politics of hubris, out of which flow plans and policies fashioned by arrogant “leaders” who know better than clueless poll respondents. With respect to healthcare, Obama and his Democratic cohorts know what’s good for you, so you’d better open your mouth, hold your nose, and swallow this castor oil of an agenda. Like Leona Helmsley’s take on taxes, poll results, independent opinion, and honest objections to the direction in which the country is sinking—those are for the little people.
Last November voters ushered in the “change” they were promised during the campaign. Having now seen the specifics of an agenda rolled out over the last six months, Americans are perhaps beginning to understand some of the changes that weren’t so obvious as they joyously cast their votes for a candidate largely celebrated by the media as the man who would rescue us from the state of ruin we had arrived at under the evil Bush. These changes include spending plans and projected deficits in numbers that are impossible to even imagine; the creation of a European-style nanny-state with myriad new entitlements paid for by the “rich,” thereby fulfilling Obama’s famous “spread the wealth” campaign promise; a Democratic juggernaut to bulldoze through plans to radically alter the relationship between patient and doctor; an industrial nationalization policy that turns taxpayers into involuntary owners of broken car companies and insolvent banks; rewarding the very same unions responsible in part for wrecking some of these nationalized basket cases with big ownership stakes while trampling on creditor property rights; the conversion of our economic system into a statist economy having far more in common with socialism than with capitalism; and perhaps the biggest change of all, a president who travels the globe offering apologies for his country’s disrespectful and insensitive behavior, while embracing tyrants and bowing to white-robed kings. This is but a partial list; Americans wanted change and they are certainly getting it.
The recent polls, then, are suggesting clearly that Americans are rapidly souring on some of these changes, just as the stock market delivers a no-confidence vote on the administration’s plans for a Brave New World. And there is another important poll looming ahead: the 2010 elections. Perhaps the respondents to that poll will deliver a message that the administration and its condescending Congressional enablers will find impossible to ignore.
U.S. Web-Tracking Plan Stirs Privacy Fears
U.S. Web-Tracking Plan Stirs Privacy Fears
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Obama administration is proposing to scale back a long-standing ban on tracking how people use government Internet sites with "cookies" and other technologies, raising alarms among privacy groups.
A two-week public comment period ended Monday on a proposal by the White House Office of Management and Budget to end a ban on federal Internet sites using such technologies and replace it with other privacy safeguards. The current prohibition, in place since 2000, can be waived if an agency head cites a "compelling need."
Supporters of a change say social networking and similar services, which often take advantage of the tracking technologies, have transformed how people communicate over the Internet, and Obama's aides say those services can make government more transparent and increase public involvement.
Some privacy groups say the proposal amounts to a "massive" and unexplained shift in government policy. In a statement Monday, American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Michael Macleod-Ball said the move could "allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website."
Even groups that support updating the policy question whether the administration is seeking changes at the request of private companies, such as online search giant Google, as the industry's economic clout and influence in Washington have grown rapidly.
Two prominent technology policy advocacy groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation, cited the terms of a Feb. 19 contract with Google, in which a unnamed federal agency explicitly carved out an exemption from the ban so that the agency could use Google's YouTube video player.
Contract TermsThe terms of the contract, negotiated through the General Services Administration, "expressly waives those rules or guidelines as they may apply to Google." The contract was obtained by EPIC through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"Our primary concern is that the GSA has failed to protect the privacy rights of U.S. citizens," EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said. "The expectation is they should be complying with the government regulations, not that the government should change its regulations to accommodate these companies."
Cindy Cohn, legal director for Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the contract "troubling."
"It appears that these companies are forcing the government to lower the privacy protections that the government had promised the American people," Cohn said. "The government should be requiring companies to raise the level of privacy protection if they want government contracts."
The episode recalls a dispute in January when critics complained that a redesigned White House Web site featured embedded Google YouTube videos -- depicting events such as the president's weekly address -- that used tracking cookies. The White House and Google later reassured users that they had stopped collecting data.
But the current ban on cookies, according to senior OMB officials, applies only to federal agencies and not third parties. That means that a visitor to http://www.whitehouse.gov, for example, isn't tracked by the government, but information about a user who clicks on a YouTube video on the site could be tracked by Google, according to a source at the company with knowledge of the partnership with the Obama administration.
Google spokeswoman Christine Chen directed broader questions to the government, but said in a statement that the White House use of YouTube "is just one example of how government and citizens communicate more effectively online, and we are proud of having worked closely with the White House to provide privacy protections for users."
In a May 28 letter responding to EPIC's public records request, Zachariah I. Miller, a GSA presidential management fellow, said "...GSA and the rest of the Government do take personal privacy seriously and apply all existing privacy statutes and regulations in this area."
Similar to Online StoresVivek Kundra, the government's chief information officer, and OMB official Michael Fitzpatrick, wrote in a July 24 blog posting that the policy review is intended to improve customer service by allowing agencies to analyze how people use their sites and to remember individual visitors' "data, settings or preferences." Such use is similar to online stores' creation of personalized "shopping cart" services that have won wide public acceptance.
The pair proposed that if the change is made, visitors be clearly notified that tracking technologies are being used and allow them to opt out without penalty. For technologies that track users over more than a single Internet session, known as "persistent identifiers," there would be higher levels of privacy safeguards, they said.
EFF and another group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, have said that the time has come to expand privacy safeguards to new tracking technologies. At the same time, they say that the cookie ban might be too broad, keeping the government from improving its services for the public.
The Disabled United Nations
As described on a United Nations website, CRPD is an international treaty that identifies the rights of persons with disabilities as well as the obligations on member states parties to the Convention to promote, protect and ensure those rights. The Convention also establishes two implementation mechanisms: the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is the body of “independent experts” that monitors implementation of the Convention by the member state parties, and the Conference of States Parties, established to consider matters regarding implementation.
If this Convention, signed to date by 142 member states, were merely a non-binding expression of international aspirations to improve the lives of the disabled and to include them in the mainstream of society whenever possible, it would be unobjectionable. But, unfortunately, it is a legally binding treaty, which will potentially interfere with the United States’ control over its own domestic policy-making process. At the same time, it is fatally flawed in at least one crucial respect - the Convention does not even bother to come up with an agreed upon definition of “disability” or “persons with disabilities”, which is the very subject of the Convention!
One would think that such fundamental definitions would be necessary when it comes to creating programs to deal with the underlying subject matter. But this is the United Nations, after all, which for decades has been unable to define other major terms such as terrorism, much less effectively address the problem. The UN should deal with its own disabled functioning before trying to tackle a problem for the world’s population that it cannot even define.
The United Nations website devoted to explaining the CRPD rationalizes the lack of definition this way:
“First, there is recognition that “disability” is an evolving concept resulting from attitudinal and environmental barriers hindering the participation of persons with disabilities in society. Consequently, the notion of “disability” is not fixed….
Second, disability is not considered as a medical condition, but rather as a result of the interaction between negative attitudes or an unwelcoming environment with the condition of particular persons”.
In other words, “disability” is in the eyes of the beholder. And who will be establishing international norms on interpreting this “evolving concept”, which are intended to become part of the body of international law that each member state party is supposed to incorporate into its own laws? The United Nations, of course.
Although lacking a definition of what “disability” or “persons with disabilities” even means, the Convention nevertheless imposes the obligations upon member states to adopt legislative, administrative and other measures to give effect to the Convention, to nullify or amend any laws or regulations considered inconsistent with the Convention and to “ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the present Convention.”
All member state parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concerning how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially within two years of accepting the Convention and thereafter every four years. The Committee examines each report and makes such suggestions and recommendations on the report as it may consider appropriate, which it forwards to the state party concerned who in turn is expected to implement these suggestions and recommendations.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention, which the United States has not signed yet, gives the Committee competence to examine individual complaints with regard to alleged violations of the Convention by member state parties to the Protocol.
The United States already has in place very comprehensive protections for the disabled, which are embodied in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Our legislation, by the way, does include a definition of “disability” in relation to an individual as follows:
“(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
(B) a record of such an impairment; or
(C) being regarded as having such an impairment”
“Major life activities”, in turn, are defined in the ADA to include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, and the operation of major bodily functions.
In other words, the ADA, unlike the UN Convention, defines with some precision whom it intends to cover. It then sets out the rights, protections and remedies for the people intended to be covered. Our courts have had nearly two decades of experience in interpreting this statute within its own bounds.
Now along comes a vaguely worded UN Convention that we have signed, setting up an alternative set of rights and obligations with respect to something that it cannot even define but that it has nevertheless enshrined as a universal human right.
The problem for us is that the majority of the Supreme Court is inclined to make active use of international norms coming out of the United Nations in their judicial decisions. At least four of the current Supreme Court justices have written or concurred in opinions that make significant use of foreign and international laws in the interpretation of constitutional provisions – Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Kennedy, and Stevens. The newest justice, who has also expressed support for using foreign and international law in U.S. judicial decisions, is Justice Sonia Sottomayor. That makes a solid majority on our Supreme Court that may defer to the United Nations Convention. President Obama’s next nominees will only add to this majority.
Here is an example how the process may play out. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities makes specific reference to the right to receive “free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes”. The phrase “sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health” has long been interpreted in UN circles as encompassing an unfettered right to abortion.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that, in making its recommendations to the United States on how to best implement the Convention’s obligations as part of our national legislation, the UN Committee advises that there is now a universal right to abortion for the disabled, which could include any pregnant women claiming short or long term mental problems as a result of their pregnancies under the UN’s “evolving concept” of disabilities. The Obama administration and the pro-choice liberals in Congress are reportedly seeking in their health care legislation to include funding of abortions anyway, as part of their new proposed government-sponsored insurance plan. But if they do not succeed in getting abortion funding included in the final bill, the Supreme Court may well conclude that the UN Convention we signed mandates it in any event as a universal human right. This is but just one example of the mischief that the UN Convention signed by the Obama administration can bring about.
The UN itself is a disabled organization. It should not be permitted to have any influence whatsoever on how our political and judicial systems choose to deal with disabled persons, abortion or any other domestic matter - period.
Joseph A. Klein is the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom.
I Thought 'Dissent Is Patriotic'
I Thought 'Dissent Is Patriotic'
Dissent against the Left is, naturally, another matter.
By: Dennis Prager
Living in liberal Los Angeles, I am surrounded by people -- and bumper stickers -- I do not agree with.
One of the more popular liberal bumper stickers of the last decade tells us "Dissent is Patriotic." Now, as it happens, it is impossible to truly disagree with that phrase, not because it is self-evidently true, but because it is self-evidently meaningless. As are most left-wing bumper stickers.
For example, another popular liberal bumper sticker proclaims, "War Is not the Answer." It, too, is completely meaningless. If the question is, "What is the square root of 8?" war is not the answer. But if the question is "How do you stop genocidal regimes?" war probably is the answer.
As concerns "Dissent is Patriotic," the fact is that dissent is neither patriotic nor unpatriotic. Sometimes it is one, sometimes the other, sometimes it has nothing to do with patriotism. The right to dissent is a basic American value. But that is not what the bumper sticker says.
Those who dissented when Alabama schools were racially integrated were not acting patriotically. Those who dissented against British rule in North America are considered our greatest patriots. Those who dissent against the doctrine that global warming caused by human beings is leading to worldwide catastrophe are courageous and probably right, but their dissent is neither patriotic nor unpatriotic.
The worst part of the liberal mantra, "Dissent is Patriotic," however, is not that is meaningless. It is that it is apparently meant solely to defend liberal and left dissent. Dissent against the right is inherently patriotic.
Dissent against the left is another matter. To Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and to the New York Times Paul Krugman and every other left-wing commentator I have read on the issue, those who dissent against the Obama/Democratic Party health care plan are not only not patriotic; they are Nazis, mobs, white racists (according to Krugman's non-sequitur thesis) and are always organized. They are activists sent by health insurance companies, the Republican Party, or by some other nefarious right-wing organization.
To the left, it is almost inconceivable that normal "hardworking" Americans, even Democrats, might find the idea of an immense increase in government intrusion into our lives frightening.
I wonder how Paul Krugman and Nancy Pelosi would explain my physician, Dr. Michael Richman. He is a thoracic-cardio surgeon in Santa Monica, Calif. who is liberal, who voted for Barack Obama, and who has disdain for most health insurance companies. Yet, he came on my radio show last week to announce that he deeply regrets having voted for Obama in light of the damage the president's plan would do to American medicine.
Now, if Dr. Richman attends a Democratic congressman's town hall meeting to protest the congressman's support for the government taking over about 16 percent of the gross domestic product, will he, too, be dismissed as a neo-Nazi or health insurance company stooge?
The answer is, probably yes. In fact, that is exactly what happened -- and captured on local Atlanta TV -- in Georgia's 13th Congressional District this past weekend. A local physician, Dr. Brian Hill, a urologist, went to a town hall meeting organized by Democratic Congressman David Scott. When Dr. Hill asked in a calm voice why the Congressman would support a government health plan in light of the failing government health plan in Massachusetts, Rep. Scott began yelling at him about people from outside the district coming to "hijack this event" and that those at his town hall meeting raising the health care issue should have had "the decency" to call the congressman's office to set up a meeting to discuss the issue and not take over the town hall meeting.
As reported by WXIA-TV News, the local NBC affiliate, however, Dr. Hill does live and vote in the congressman's district, had called the congressman's office numerous times and got no response, and is not a Republican.
But such people as Dr. Richman in California and Dr. Hill in Georgia don't exist in the Democratic Party's or in Paul Krugman's mind. Like most of the left since Marx, the American left today has created an image of the world to which reality is subservient. Left-wing theories define reality, not vice versa. And in that closed world, left-wing dissent is patriotic, while dissent against the left is fascistic at worst, or paid for by the greedy at best.
By BETSY MCCAUGHEY
THE health bills coming out of Congress would put the de cisions about your care in the hands of presidential appointees. They'd decide what plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have and what seniors get under Medicare.
Yet at least two of President Obama's top health advisers should never be trusted with that power.
Start with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.
Emanuel bluntly admits that the cuts will not be pain-free. "Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality are merely 'lipstick' cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change," he wrote last year (Health Affairs Feb. 27, 2008).
Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, "as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others" (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008).
Yes, that's what patients want their doctors to do. But Emanuel wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.
Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.
Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).
Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.
He explicitly defends discrimination against older patients: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years" (Lancet, Jan. 31).
Obama's healthcare horror
Obama's healthcare horror
Heads should roll -- beginning with Nancy Pelosi's!
By Camille Paglia
Aug. 12, 2009 | Buyer's remorse? Not me. At the North American summit in Guadalajara this week, President Obama resumed the role he is best at -- representing the U.S. with dignity and authority abroad. This is why I, for one, voted for Obama and continue to support him. The damage done to U.S. prestige by the feckless, buffoonish George W. Bush will take years to repair. Obama has barely begun the crucial mission that he was elected to do.
Having said that, I must confess my dismay bordering on horror at the amateurism of the White House apparatus for domestic policy. When will heads start to roll? I was glad to see the White House counsel booted, as well as Michelle Obama's chief of staff, and hope it's a harbinger of things to come. Except for that wily fox, David Axelrod, who could charm gold threads out of moonbeams, Obama seems to be surrounded by juvenile tinhorns, bumbling mediocrities and crass bully boys.
Case in point: the administration's grotesque mishandling of healthcare reform, one of the most vital issues facing the nation. Ever since Hillary Clinton's megalomaniacal annihilation of our last best chance at reform in 1993 (all of which was suppressed by the mainstream media when she was running for president), Democrats have been longing for that happy day when this issue would once again be front and center.
But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises -- or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.
There is plenty of blame to go around. Obama's aggressive endorsement of a healthcare plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land. The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.
You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you're happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.
I just don't get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? The U.S. is gigantic; many of our states are bigger than whole European nations. The bureaucracy required to institute and manage a nationalized health system here would be Byzantine beyond belief and would vampirically absorb whatever savings Obama thinks could be made. And the transition period would be a nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups, which we can ill afford with a faltering economy.
As with the massive boondoggle of the stimulus package, which Obama foolishly let Congress turn into a pork rut, too much has been attempted all at once; focused, targeted initiatives would, instead, have won wide public support. How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again? Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves.
With the Republican party leaderless and in backbiting disarray following its destruction by the ideologically incoherent George W. Bush, Democrats are apparently eager to join the hara-kiri brigade. What looked like smooth coasting to the 2010 election has now become a nail-biter. Both major parties have become a rats' nest of hypocrisy and incompetence. That, combined with our stratospheric, near-criminal indebtedness to China (which could destroy the dollar overnight), should raise signal flags. Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions?
What does either party stand for these days? Republican politicians, with their endless scandals, are hardly exemplars of traditional moral values. Nor have they generated new ideas for healthcare, except for medical savings accounts, which would be pathetically inadequate in a major crisis for anyone earning at or below a median income.
And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the "mob" -- a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech.
But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.
Read the rest of this lengthy 3 page article here> http://www.salon.com/opinion/paglia/...ls/index1.html
Leftist Hate Crimes
How Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts created the atmosphere of fear, loathing, and intimidation that exploded into union violence.
By: Ben Johnson
If the Left’s standards of justice prevailed, violence at townhall meetings in St. Louis and Tampa would be prosecuted as a Democratic hate crime. In recent weeks, left-wingers have tried to blame the murder of abortionist George Tiller on Bill O’Reilly and drafted a hate crimes bill that chills free speech. However, it was Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts who created an atmosphere of fear, loathing, and intimidation that exploded into union violence against private citizens.
As the Left would say, the recent violence “did not occur in a vacuum.” Congressional Democrats, faced with hemorrhaging support for nationalizing health care insurance, systematically dismissed their constituents as pawns of pernicious drug companies, branded them “un-American” troublemakers employing “Brown Shirt tactics,” and asserted their activism is killing thousands or millions of innocent Americans.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi got the hyperbole rolling, insisting, “Insurance companies are out there in full force carpet bombing, Shock and Awe, against a public option.” Attacking the industry titans poll-tested well, and soon the entire Democratic caucus claimed the citizen uprising was little more than an “Astroturf” sham financed by insurance and pharmaceutical barons. The fact that they provided no proof of this assertion slowed them down not one bit.
Even after the violence, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer published an op-ed in Monday’s USA Today calling townhall protesters “un-American.” Not content questioning the patriotism of such opponents, their colleague Brian Baird, D-WA, skipped a townhall meeting in his district, telling local media, “What we're seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics. I mean that very seriously.”
According to Congressional Democrats, the great townhall putsch has extracted a bitter harvest. The Democratic Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. Byron Dorgan, maintained in its tract Why We Must Act: Eight Years of Inaction Contributed to High Costs and a Rising Number of Uninsured, “In 2006, 22,000 people died because they did not have health insurance.” Sen. Dick Durbin (who has been known to make invidious Nazi comparisons himself), blamed the tactics on avaricious insurance companies, who “are making a fortune off the current healthcare system and they want to keep their profit margins protected, and they want to stop change.” By this reasoning, the middle American protesters are not constituents who disagree with Madam Speaker but unpatriotic Nazis doing the work of shadowy corporate overlords, whose actions kill 22,000 Americans annually. Can anyone be surprised by violence against murderous, greedy crypto-Nazis? MSNBC’s David Shuster proved ironically prescient when he asked Rep. Jim Moran, D-VA, if anti-nationalization protesters were “putting our president in some sort of danger because of some wacko that will see this stuff and say, ‘Oh, yes, it’s fascism and the way we dealt with Adolf Hitler was to try to kill him, so therefore, let’s do this with our president’?”
One of the uniformed SEIU members arrested for assaulting Kenneth Gladney in St. Louis last Thursday used precisely this defense. (As I outlined in “Soros Care,” the SEIU is an integral component of the Soros-funded coterie pushing for the government health care takeover.) When a conservative fingered him in Gladney’s attack, the union man justified himself, saying, “He attacked America!” (Here’s the video; it happens at one minute in.) Media reports indicate a black SEIU member arrested in the assault called Gladney, who is also black, a racial slur, indicating he does not see his opponent as an authentic member of his own race.
The presence of union thugs at these meetings was no accident but was facilitated by leftists and Democratic members of Congress. The Soros-funded lobbying group Health Care for America Now! (HCAN) strategy bulletin Fight Back against the Right has made the rounds on leftist websites. Its underlying principle – turn out left-wing activists to drown out conservative citizens – has been accepted by members of Congress. “If they wanna organize, we’ll out-organize them,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, a member of the House Progressive Caucus and a former Chicago community organizer. “If they turn out 100, we can turn out 200.” Eyewitnesses have noted SEIU and other union activists are being sneaked into reserved seating at the meetings, presumably with the knowledge of the Democratic Congressmen.
Thus, left-wing Democrats incited the crowds with allegations of Nazism and unnecessary deaths, delegitimized their majority position on the issue, and then placed union members in close physical proximity to the enemy. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice signaled that properly directed violence would be overlooked when it dropped all charges against the three members of the New Black Panther Party who brandished weapons and intimidated white voters at a Philadelphia polling place last November.
At least one leftist Congresswoman has seen the value of launching such high-profile, raucous protests before. Jan Schakowsky has experience turning violent mobs into legislative victories. Schakowsky, who sounded similarly negative themes about this spring’s tea parties, organized a senior citizens’ protest against then-Congressman Dan Rostenkowski over the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988. As Rostenkowski exited a meeting with the leadership of local seniors groups, an angry mob demanded to speak to him. Rostenkowski, who made no such promise, ran to his car. Senior citizen then pelted his vehicle with protest signs, and shouted “Killer! Killer!” as he tried to drive off. Although Rostenkowski never changed his mind on the issue, 240 other Congressmen changed theirs and repealed the bill. Schakowsky later called this “a pivotal event.”
Yet when left-wing MSNBC interviewer Lawrence O’Donnell asked Schakowsky if she “organized this very organized protest,” Schakowsky dissembled: “No, no, no, no, actually not. I was there that day as head of the [Illinois] State Council of Senior Citizens, very different. The Congressman would not come in and talk to that group of seniors, who were upset about the catastrophic health care bill that didn’t provide long-term care to seniors…The motivation was different. The action was very different.”
Schakowsky sang a different tune in front of the 2003 “Take Back America” conference, boasting, “When I was director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens, our group was chasing Dan Rostenkowski down the street.”
Nor is it true the seniors objected to the act’s not providing “long-term care to seniors.” The act provided such coverage to all Medicare recipients – by levying a new tax on 40 percent of seniors, when 45 percent of the elderly already had “more comprehensive” supplemental insurance through their employers. Some of the signs protesters rammed into Rostenkowski’s car read, “Don’t Tax the Seniors” and “Read My Lips: Catastrophic Act is a Seniors Tax.” Theirs was an anti-tax, smaller government rally.
Then as now, the people rose up to oppose an expanded government health care benefit favored by the Washington intelligentsia, because it raised their taxes to provide a service inferior to the one many already enjoyed through the free market. That history should be instructive as Obama seeks to nationalize the health insurance industry by squeezing a much larger group, the 85 percent of American residents (N.B.: not Americans citizens) who already have private health insurance, with incalculably higher taxes and pending service denials.
Unfortunately, making the argument can now get one “flagged” by the feds – and possibly brutalized by their union allies.
One Nation Under Debt
One Nation Under Debt
When will the administration’s supporters recognize that the country can’t spend its way to prosperity?
By: Vasko Kohlmayer
Show me the money! That seems to be the rallying cry of the dwindling number of people who still support the federal government’s debt-driving economic spending.
“I actually think that what we need now is another round of stimulus,” said economist Joseph Stiglitz in a recent CNN interview. In this era of budget busting deficits and mountainous debts, one would think that these must be the words of a fiscal crank. But Joseph Stiglitz does not fit the description: A professor at Columbia University, he won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001. He has also served as Chief Economist of the World Bank and Chair of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors.
Stiglitz’s sterling credentials notwithstanding, there was something very wrong with his CNN appearance: Almost nothing he said made sense. For instance, when asked by his interlocutor whether he was “worried about the amount of money this government is spending,” Stiglitz nonchalantly replied:
It all depends on what you do with the money. You know, businesses borrow all the time. If you borrow and create an asset, then the country’s balance sheet, our overall wealth can actually be stronger. If we invest in technology, if we invest in education, if we invest in infrastructure…these are high return investments.
Comparing government to a business when talking about spending is simply ludicrous. To begin with, any business with our government's level of debt would be in bankruptcy by now. The public debt of the federal government, according to the administration's own estimates, will soon exceed America's annual economic output. On Stiglitz’s analogy, it is as if a corporation carried a debt burden equal to its yearly revenues.
The public debt, however, does not represent the full extent of the government’s indebtedness. Apart from what it owes to holders of treasuries, it is also liable for over $50 trillion in future payments to beneficiaries of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Altogether, the government is on the hook for more than $65 trillion, which is more than the world's annual combined economic output.
Unsurprisingly, a growing number of observers are now coming to the conclusion that it is simply impossible to meet all these obligations. But rather than facing up to the problem, the political class has found an easy way out. Using an accounting sleight-of-hand, they simply erased entitlements from the national balance sheet. Needless to say, it is a crime for businesses to conceal their liabilities in this way. Indeed, if any business behaved as irresponsibly and dishonestly as our federal government does, it would end up in bankruptcy proceedings, its bonds would be junk, and its management, in all probability, in jail.
There is an even deeper problem with Stiglitz's analogy of Washington and the private sector. This analogy is premised on the implicit assumption that politicians – like successful business leaders – are capable of spending money wisely and carefully. But a raft of recent evidence indicates otherwise.
Take, for example, the government’s handling of the General Motors crisis. Concluding that the company was “too big to fail,” the politicians decided it had to be bailed out. They subsequently “invested” over $50 billion to prop it up. At one point, they even insisted that once the company recovered, taxpayers could make a profit. Things did not turn out quite that way, however, when GM went bankrupt. Now owning a majority stake in the reorganized company, the US government is in charge. This is bad news, because it means that more money will be lost. James Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation warns that:
More harmful than the direct cost… may be the cost of government management of this firm. History provides no reason to think anyone in D.C. knows how to run a car company. A look at the enterprises that Washington already runs – including the Postal Service and Amtrak – does not reassure.
As if to make Gattuso's point, President Obama announced last Wednesday that GM will get another $400 million for development of advanced battery technology to be used in its hybrid plug-in car, the Chevrolet Volt. Centered on a product American car buyers do not seem to want, the whole project already has all makings of an expensive boondoggle.
Some analysts estimate that close to $100 billion will have been wasted by the time the politicians are through with GM. To put this in perspective, the amount is more than five times the annual funding of NASA. And let us not forget that this figure only represents the cost of “saving” a single company. It is chilling to imagine how much will be wasted in the effort to save the whole economy.
Thus does Stiglitz's call to entrust the politicians with another large pile of money to “invest” on our behalf betray a disconnect from reality. Politicians almost always spend wastefully, in ways they think will further their own interests and electoral prospects. There is no better illustration of this than the last stimulus bill put together by Obama and his allies in Congress, which was nothing more than a taxpayer-sponsored giveaway to favored Democratic constituencies. Here are some items from it:
•Grants to fund arts projects in non-profit sector - $50 million
•Grants to rehabilitate and improve energy efficiency on Native American housing programs - $510 million
•Funds for building and rehabilitating low-income housing using green technology - $2.2 billion
•Grants for special education programs - $12.2 billion
•Indian Health Services IT development and deployment - $85 million
•Funding for 'Title I' education programs for disadvantaged children - $13 billion
•Extra money for AmeriCorps volunteer programs - $160 million
•Extra money for Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology - $2 billion
•Head Start" programs for low-income preschoolers - $1 billion
•Grants to states for childcare services for low-income working parents - $2 billion
How the above will stimulate the economy is unclear. Not that this seems to matter to the defenders of the administration’s fiscal policies, who increasingly use fear to make their point. If we don't spend, this argument runs, the economy is going to be weaker, our tax revenues are going to be lower, and we'll have a deficit, anyway.
This claim, too, is perfectly nonsensical. Deficits occur when the government spends more than it takes in. As such, deficits result from the kind of overspending that took place as a result of the stimulus. If the government stops its fiscal excesses, there will be no more budget shortfalls.
To illustrate, consider that this year the federal government will post a budget shortfall of some $2 trillion. This is because it will spend $4 trillion, but it will have only have collected $2 trillion in revenues. The $2 trillion gap is the deficit. To close that gap it has to borrow – or print – money.
Implicitly, at least, even the administration’s most ardent supporters seem to understand that the spending spree cannot go on forever. Speaking about Americans’ spending habits, Joseph Stiglitz observed that the “problem is the United States, we're spending beyond its means. And the savings rate was zero. The fact is that means we're going to have to increase our savings rate to bring it into a more sustainable level.”
The professor obviously recognizes the imprudence of living beyond one's means when it comes to the American people, yet he refuses to hold the federal government to the same standard. But why should the government be absolved of the responsibility and spending restraint that Stiglitz counsels for the country at large? No over-indebted government in history has ever ended up well. If it stays on its current course, America will be no exception.
Elderly Swing Against Obama Plan
Elderly Swing Against Obama Plan
And when the elderly change their voting habits, they tend to do so for a very, very long time.
By: Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
The most ominous signal yet for the Obama health care plan emerged in the poll by Scott Rasmussen released yesterday. While public support for the plan fell to a new low (42% support, 53% oppose -- down five points in two weeks), the elderly emerged as the strongest opposition group. Those over 65 rejected the plan by 39-56 while almost half -- 46% -- said they were "strongly opposed" to it.
The group that supports the plan most strongly is those likely to be least affected, voters under the age of thirty, 67% of whom support the proposals.
The Democratic Senators and Congressmen can well choose to ignore polls. Polls go up. Polls go down. They may figure that the public will have moved on by the time they run for re-election, particularly those Senators who are not up in 2010. With four or six years to go in their terms, they can afford a relaxed view of polling data.
But the Democratic Party as a whole cannot afford to ignore a massive defection in the ranks of the elderly, one of its key building blocks. Ever since the New Deal coalition was cobbled together by FDR, the elderly have been a major component. Worried about Republican designs on their Social Security, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
But the Obama proposals, which many see correctly as a major cut in Medicare, might be seminal in driving them en masse away from the Democrats.
The Democratic Party is built on six pillars -- blacks, Latinos, single women, young people, union members, and the elderly. If legislation threatens one of those pillars, it threatens the stability of the entire partisan structure. And Obama's health care reform seems to do just that.
With 40% of the savings in medical spending coming from Medicare, the senior citizens of America are coming to see the Obama proposals as an assault on their health care system. Since their needs are fully met by Medicare, they see no need for monkeying with the system and are highly suspicious of any changes. When they watch as their fellow seniors attend town meetings to protest to their Congressmen about these cuts and are labeled "un-American" for their pains, their alienation from the Democrats just grows.
The fissure Obama is driving between his party and the elderly will not soon heal. When the elderly change their voting habits, they tend to do so for a very, very long time. Even Senators who are up in 2012 or 2014 should worry that their votes for the Obama plan could doom their ability to attract elderly support.
As to the young people who back the plan, once they learn that they will have to pay steep premiums for health care coverage, whether they want to or not, their support is likely to cool. Under the bill, for example, those making $30,000 a year would have to pay up to 7% of their income in health insurance premiums before they could get a government subsidy. A $2,100 bill for such a young person might seem affordable to Obama, but perhaps not to them. Thus, the legislation may well come to be seen as a tax on the young, another of the key constituencies of the Democratic Party.
The cost of Obama's health care changes just keeps growing -- financially and politically.
Obama's Apartheid Plan For Jerusalem
Obama's Apartheid Plan For Jerusalem
South Africa comes to Israel at the President's hand.
By: Steven Plaut / The Jewish Press
The administration has a real problem with Jews seeking to live in two neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the Sheikh Jarrah section, at the foot of Mount Scopus, and the Simon the Righteous neighborhood, located close to the pre-1967 cease-fire lines that once separated Israel from Jordan. The latter is an area whose Jewish roots go back at least two millennia. It was Jewish when the Arabs were still moon worshippers and London just a field of mud.
Even worse, the Obama people are promoting an arbitrary, selective apartheid for Jerusalem directed only against Jews - Arabs, including Arabs from the West Bank, who do not hold Israeli citizenship should be free to live in any predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem (as well as in Jewish neighborhoods in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Beersheva and elsewhere).
During World War II, Hitler's main agent for recruiting Muslims to the Nazi banner was Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. A terrorist leader, he fled Jerusalem when the British attempted to arrest him and spent part of the war as the guest of honor of the Nazis.
The Mufti had owned some property in what is now the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. That property was legally purchased by American businessman Irving Moskowitz, who has owned the property for 20 years now and has a permit to construct an apartment building there in place of the current structure on the site, the Shepherd's Hotel.
The Obama administration is claiming that since the property once belonged to the Grand Mufti and is now in a predominantly Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Israel should freeze and halt all Jewish building there. Evidently, under Obama's new affirmative apartheid policy for Jerusalem, only Arabs should be permitted to build in East Jerusalem.
Now, Obama happens to lives not far from Arlington Cemetery, which sits on land confiscated from Confederate General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. Israel has at least as much right to use the property taken from the Grand Mufti as the U.S. has to fill up Gen. Lee's plantation with graves.
The idea that Israel should prevent Jews from building in East Jerusalem because Palestinians claim some sort of right to it is as absurd as suggesting that all construction in the District of Columbia be frozen because the British once claimed rights over it.
Obama's people are also up in arms because Israel removed some illegal Arab squatters from land they did not own in Jerusalem's Simon the Righteous neighborhood. This was a Jewish neighborhood until the Jordanians conquered it and evicted all the Jews there in an act of ethnic cleansing. The Israeli Supreme Court has repeatedly ruledthat the land in question belongs legally to Jews.
The United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 called for the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state alongside it. The Arab state never arose because the land that had been set aside for it was gobbled up by the Arab countries that sent their armies to annihilate the Jews.
The UN partition granted Jerusalem's Mount Scopus, with its hospital and university facilities, to Israel. Access by Jews to the area was supposed to be free and unfettered. But Arab terrorist militias placed Mount Scopus under siege and attacked any vehicle trying to reach it. The Mufti himself plannedthe massacre that followed.
On April 13, 1948, a large convoy consisting mainly of Jewish doctors and nurses tried to reach the hospital on Mount Scopus. It was attacked in Sheikh Jarrah at the mount's foothills. The Jewish vehicles were hit by mines and strafed by gunfire and other weapons.
Some 79 Jews and a British soldier were murdered by the terrorists of Sheikh Jarrah. The bodies were so badly burned that most of them could not be identified. The victims included the head of Hadassah hospital and the head of its medical school.
In recent years, Arab-occupied Sheikh Jarrah has again been the frequent scene of terrorism and violence against Jews. During the recent Gaza campaign, Arab thugs attacks Jews driving or walking near Mount Scopus.
Obama is concerned about the potential for unrest and violence if Jews move to the property they own in Sheikh Jarrah and other Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. But of course he would never propose removing the Arab residents of those areas in order to restore tranquility. His Klan Plan consists only of preventing Jews from moving in and ruining the neighborhood.
Jews have exactly as much right to Sheikh Jarrah as the U.S. government had to the Lee Plantation that became Arlington Cemetery. And the rights in both cases were won in exactly the same way - through bloodshed.
Gates: 'A few years' of combat in Afghanistan
Gates: 'A few years' of combat in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon presented a grim portrait of the Afghanistan war Thursday, offering no assurances about how long Americans will be fighting there or how many U.S. combat troops it will take to win.
Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida will take "a few years," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, with success on a larger scale in the desperately poor country a much longer proposition. He acknowledged that the Taliban has a firm hold on parts of the country President Barack Obama has called vital to U.S. security.
Congress wants answers to what lawmakers described as basic questions to soothe a war-weary American public.
"In the intelligence business, we always used to categorize information in two ways, secrets and mysteries," Gates, a former CIA director, told a Pentagon news conference.
He added: "Mysteries were those where there were too many variables to predict. And I think that how long U.S. forces will be in Afghanistan is in that area."
With 62,000 U.S. troops already in the country, and another 6,000 headed there by the end of the year, Gates suggested there is little appetite in Washington to add many more.
He said his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is free to ask for whatever he needs, but Gates said when the general submits a revised war plan in the coming weeks it will not contain a request to expand the U.S. fighting force.
McChrystal is expected to identify shortfalls that could be filled by U.S. forces, but a formal request would come only later. The White House has made no secret of its skepticism about further troop additions in Afghanistan, and Gates said Thursday he still was worried that too many American forces could turn Afghans against those trying to help them.
Obama has made Afghanistan one of his top foreign policy priorities. But his administration is grappling with refocusing on Afghanistan, which the U.S. invaded in October 2001 to hunt for Osama bin Laden, while disentangling 130,000 American troops from Iraq.
In a report released earlier this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned the Obama administration that unanswered questions about lingering U.S. involvement in Afghanistan could frustrate the public.
"The administration has raised the stakes by transforming the Afghan war from a limited intervention into a more ambitious and potentially risky counterinsurgency," the Senate report concluded. "These core questions about commitment and sacrifice can be answered only through a rigorous and informed national debate."
Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., cited "risks and rewards associated with our increasing commitment to the war in Afghanistan."
As the fight moves toward its ninth year this fall, Gates said allied forces must show this year that they are turning the tide.
"It's just not possible to predict specific periods of time when you're in a conflict like this, where ... the enemy has a vote and where there are so many variables," Gates said.
Appearing alongside Gates, the nation's second-highest ranking military officer agreed there is no date certain for an exit.
Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine Gen. James Cartwright said he is looking for evidence of U.S. and NATO troops increasingly turning security missions over to Afghan forces as a sign of when Americans might ramp down their presence.
"When you start to see that attitude change, then you start to have a sense that things are going to move in a direction that would be towards the end of the violence side of this equation," Cartwright said.
The Senate report also noted the wide-ranging timeline for U.S. troops in the fight cited by unidentified military leaders, policy-makers and outside experts around Washington: anywhere from two years to over a decade.
"None of the civilian officials or military officers interviewed in Afghanistan and elsewhere expected substantial progress in the short term. They talked in terms of years two, five and 10," the report noted.
The varying timelines, in part, may reflect politics.
Capitol Hill has grown wary of approving annual war chests after years of ever-increasing costs for Iraq. Obama has asked Congress for $68 billion next year to fund defense spending in Afghanistan. The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, recently asked for another $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending, The Washington Post reported this week.
Military officials believe the Afghanistan mission can only succeed if troops are there far longer — anywhere from five years to 12 years.
Cartwright suggested that some changes will be needed "pretty soon."
"The IED fight is pretty lethal," Cartwright said, referring to improvised explosive devices left on roadsides which are now the cause of the majority of U.S. and NATO deaths.
Last month 49 coalition troops died in bomb attacks, a more than six-fold increase from the eight killed in roadside and suicide bomb attacks in July 2008, according to U.S. figures.
The Audacity of Dissent
The Audacity of Dissent
Democrats and the White House try to silence growing grassroots opposition to ObamaCare.
By: Gregory Gethard
All across the country, Americans alarmed by the Obama administration’s proposed overhaul of health care have been coming together to vent their concerns in town-hall meetings and protests. Some are worried about the possible effects of ObamaCare on health care services, the cost of insurance, and the recovery of the economy; others are troubled by the intrusion of government into their lives.
Given his background, one might expect President Obama to take seriously this vigorous grassroots reaction to his policies. Instead, aided by Congressional Democrats, the White House has taken to painting this mass outpouring of civic discontent as a fringe phenomenon – driven by extremists, un-American in its aims, and requiring careful monitoring so that any “fishy” concerns and criticisms about the administration’s health care plans are reported to the proper (read: government) channels.
The town-hall critics won’t be so easily silenced. One of the primary reasons so many have flocked to these meetings concerns the cost of the reforms that the administration seeks. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the cost of the Senate’s proposed health care bill at $1 trillion. With a price tag of that size, many are concerned about its potential to increase the ever-growing budget deficit, which the Obama administration itself says will approach $1.84 trillion by 2010. A deficit that big, many worry, could have dire ramifications for the economy.
On the minds of many, too, is the possibility that the administration will raise taxes on the middle class – even as it has denied all intentions of doing so. But the arithmetic of health care reform only serves to bolster suspicions of a looming tax hike. In order to pay for the plan, the government must raise $544 billion in taxes, which will supposedly come from those making $250,000 per year or more. But given that consumer spending still has yet to rebound, and that personal incomes are still falling, it’s hard to see how instituting $544 billion in new taxes will benefit the economy. And if the rich don’t generate the required revenue, the middle class will likely be forced to pick up the tab.
Cost is just one of the contentious questions surrounding ObamaCare. Others are concerned about the government intruding into their health care. The administration boasts that they are simply creating a government-sponsored health care plan that would compete with private insurers. But this presents many problems for the private insurers with which the government intends to compete. According to Texas Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, who wrote in the Christian Science Monitor:
Obama's claim that "if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan" rings hollow. Government intervention in private markets has consequences. A public option wouldn't "level the playing field" – it would destroy it. After all, a government plan can afford to lose money indefinitely. Private plans don't have that luxury. Unable to match the government's market manipulation, they'd soon fold. Employers would drop private insurance, thereby decreasing choice and moving the country toward a single-payer system. Without private insurers making up the difference, government-controlled prices would reduce the supply of healthcare services and lead to further rationing.
Many are also concerned about so-called “death panels” in which a government bureaucrat could be placed in a position to determine if it would cost too much money to keep someone alive. While there is certainly some hysteria about this fear, the fact is that the government does intend to play a role during end-of-life scenarios. If some version of ObamaCare is passed, doctors may be given an incentive to go over end-of-life counseling with patients; to receive these funds, a doctor must adhere to a government-enforced list of questions during these sessions. ABC News chief medical editor, Dr. Timothy Johnson, supports these provisions, but he warns that they may cross a line, saying that this provision “maybe has too much the flavor of reporting back to big government or big brother."
With so much to dislike in the health care legislation, it’s easy to see why people have been turning out in droves to town hall meetings. And the numbers show that people are against it: a recent Rasmussen Reports survey found that 53% now oppose the plan, up nine points since the end of June. Re The backlash against health care reform is also reflected in the president’s slipping polling numbers. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 52 percent of people surveyed no longer support the way Obama is handling the health care issue. And he currently has a 50 percent approval rating, down 7 percent in a single month – largely, it seems, because of health care.
Unable to convince the public to support its reforms, the administration, with Congressional Democrats leading the charge, has turned on the growing opposition. While Obama has started to bend the facts in his public statements about health care, other Democrats are making disparaging remarks about the vocal opposition at town hall meetings. In a USA Today op-ed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the town-hall protests “un-American.”
Now-Democrat Arlen Specter has found himself embroiled in this fray. Earlier this week, Specter hosted a series of Town Hall meetings throughout central Pennsylvania; much like his brethren across the country, he has been met with very loud crowds opposed to health care. However, Specter has cast their opinions aside, saying these people were “unrepresentative” of the American people, despite polls showing otherwise. Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill publicly admonished an audience that had become loud during her comments. There’s even video of longtime Democratic Michigan Congressman John Dingell comparing the town hall demonstrators to the Ku Klux Klan.
But while the House Democrats are painting those opposed to health care reform as un-American, the administration has decided to go another route entirely. Last week, on its official website, The White House asked citizens to report on each other:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mainstream media has also helped paint the town-hall protesters as fringe extremists. Timeswatch, a website that monitors biase in New York Times articles, has done an excellent job comparing media coverage of the health care debate versus coverage of George W. Bush’s attempts at overhauling Social Security. One glaring example of the Times’ portrayal of the town hall protestors was clear on Tuesday, when an article on Specter’s meeting described angry crowds that were “almost entirely white and irritable.” Yes those that heckled then-Senator Rick Santorum at a similar style meeting held in 2005 were described as “freewheeling.”
It’s a new age of irony that we live in. The president is a self-described community organizer who used his skills at grassroots activism to launch a populist movement that swept him into office. Now his administration, along with its Congressional allies, is worried about a determined civic movement that is turning against it.
The folks turning up for the town-halls may be maligned by their elected officials. They may be painted as rage-filled lunatics by the media. But unfortunately for the Obama administration and its transformational vision for health care, they aren’t going away.
The Perils of Going Green
The Obama administration is now accepting applications for $3 billion in government grants to spur renewable energy projects throughout the country, the Business Facilities blog reported last week. The president has pledged to double renewable energy production in three years. Yet the president doesn’t seem to realize how far from reality are his hopes for replacing fossil fuels with “renewables.”
In particular, Obama naively seems to think that solar and geothermal energy will make America secure one day. “We know the cost of our oil addiction all too well,” he said in a May 27 speech specifically touting solar power at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, home of the largest solar electric power facility in the country.
To cure the country of its “addiction,” Obama promised that the government would spend $467 million from the $787 billion economic “stimulus” package to expand the development and use of solar and geothermal energy throughout the United States.
There certainly is money left unspent in the stimulus funds, since only about 10 percent has gone out the door so far. But it is wise use of taxpayer funds to spend it on renewable energy projects?
The president certainly seems to think so. In Nevada, Obama proudly pointed that “more than 72,000 solar panels” constructed on a portion of a land fill “provide 25 percent of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work here at Nellis. That’s the equivalent of powering about 13,000 homes during the day.”
The president’s inspired sales pitch aside, the actual promise of solar energy is much more limited. Consider that in terms of energy-generating capacity, solar energy is the smallest of all the renewable energy sources, with a bare .95 gigawatts of capacity in place in 2009. A gigawatt is one billion watts of power. This compares with a total electric generating capacity from all sources (coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear and other renewals) of 4,069 gigawatts, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Energy from geothermal sources, meanwhile, was calculated as a mere 2.4 gigawatts in 2009.
The long-term prospects for renewable energy aren’t much better. Solar power—both in its solar thermal and its solar photovoltaic forms—is expected to total only 1.24 gigawatts in the year 2030. Similarly, the EIA projects electricity generated by geothermal sources at 2.4 gigawatts this year and only 3.01 in the year 2030 by the EIA. An EIA spokesman explained that the projections did not include any extraordinary future investment in solar. But such investments would have to be enormous to make solar a sizeable component of our electrical energy needs.
Undeterred, President Obama remains committed to creating a “green industry” that will increase energy efficiency at a cost of $16 billion. The industry will also create “green” jobs, including installing solar panels. These green jobs will reputedly pay up to 20 percent more than other jobs, and are more likely to be union jobs.
In 2009, state and federal governments are even offering tax credits to buy solar panels for homes. It may take as long as five years, however, for a homeowner to recover the cost of panels in terms of energy savings.
California has more homes with solar panels than any other state. Since 1998 rebates have been given for installing solar panels. In 1994, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced the Million Solar Roofs program.
Solar is a growing industry. But all is not sunshine and happiness when it comes to solar energy. There are little-publicized solar panel dangers. Even with its positives, solar energy has major drawbacks that could cause considerable harm to our environment. The big problem is in the production and disposal of the solar panels. Solar panels currently are made with various toxic chemicals including silicon. It is a major component in their construction and is the reason that they must be carefully manufactured and recycled.
That’s why the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition recently released a report urging the industry to pursue more sustainable materials to build its products to ensure that solar energy is truly as green as advertised. Other green groups are alarmed, as well. “If precautions are not properly taken then there can be dire consequences. There have been many deaths and communities destroyed due to the toxic byproducts of using silicon,” declared the website “Pays to Live Green.”
China serves as a model of the possible dangers of the green industry. The Chinese company Luoyamg Zhonggui High Technology is a major producer of polysilicon used in solar panels around the world. A byproduct of its production is highly toxic. One town in China was so polluted by a silicon byproduct, the land became unusable.
In a paper written for the Centre for Research and Globalization, geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer examined the outlook for various forms of energy. He wrote:
“Using photovoltaics, the U.S. would require 17 percent of the planet’s entire surface area, or 59 percent of the land surface [to produce enough solar energy] to replace its current daily oil consumption....While we certainly should expand our usage of renewable resources, we cannot realistically expect them to replace hydrocarbons....we will be dependent upon oil and natural gas for the majority of our energy needs.”
So far, the hype behind renewable energy has not matched the reality. The president may have hopeful visions of a sun-powered country, but Americans should understand that, for the time being at least, our main source of energy is likely to be the bugbear of the green movement: good old fashioned fossil fuels.
Failure is an Option
The White House’s plan for a government-run public insurance option goes down in defeat.
By: Jacob Laksin
As recently as this June, President Obama insisted that a government-run insurance program, the so-called “public option,” was a core component of his plan to overhaul American health care. But with public support plummeting for the president’s stewardship of the health care issue, town halls across the country abuzz with an energized grassroots opposition, and even some Democrats expressing qualms about the public option, the administration has been forced to fall back from its position that health insurance must become the latest in the growing list of the federal government’s responsibilities.
The first sign that the administration was in retreat came this Saturday. While touting his health care reform in Grand Junction, Colorado, President Obama sounded a diffident note, asserting that the “public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health-care reform” but “just one sliver of it.” In the context of his earlier statement, this June, that “Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans,” the president’s new stance seemed to signal a faltering commitment to the government-run plan. That impression was reinforced the next day, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN that the public option “is not the essential element” of president’s health care plan.
The administration’s concession is not entirely voluntary. A dizzying succession of polls – including last week’s Marist poll, which found that some 45 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of health care, including a swelling swath of independent voters – suggest that the president has lost traction on the make-or-break issue of his first term. The same message has been sent by the now-famous health care town halls across the country, which threaten to do for ObamaCare what this spring’s Tea Parties did for the administration’s economic stimulus package: ignite a genuine and broad-based political movement that drags down the president’s once-unassailable appeal and creates electoral problems for his Democratic allies in Congress.
By no intent on the administration’s part, the public option became the catalyst for this civic insurgency. Yet that was not completely unexpected: For many critics, the government-run insurance program represents the worst of the policies floating around Washington as the prospect of health care reform looms – a fundamentally bad idea that could set the stage for worse to come.
Not the least of the public option’s flaws is conceptual: Simply, it would do the opposite of what the administration has promised – namely, foster competition among private insurers and create a more affordable insurance market for Americans. As many health care experts have noted, the actual effect of a public plan would be to crowd out private insurers, stifle competition, and force more Americans into a government-run plan. With taxpayer funds at its disposal, a government program would be able to operate at a loss – a luxury unavailable to private insurers, who would have to increase premiums to compete or else go out of business.
Bolstering these concerns, a July analysis of the public option plan in the House health care bill (the American Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009), by the Lewin Group, found that nearly 104 million Americans would end up in the government plan if some version of the legislation were passed, while 83 million would lose private coverage. For the millions who ultimately would have to give up coverage under the government plan, the public option would be anything but optional.
Yet another concern was that the public option was merely the tip of a more massive – and radical – legislative iceberg: the introduction of a universal “single payer” system on the model of Canada’s. Rep. Barney Frank did nothing to discourage those suspicions when he confessed, in effect, that the public option was a Trojan Horse for single-payer health care. Democrats didn’t have the votes to pass a single-payer program, Frank admitted, but if “we get a good public option it could lead to single payer and that is the best way to reach single payer.” No wonder opponents were up in arms.
The administration’s response to such concerns was underwhelming. During a June press conference, Obama acknowledged that “there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers” that the public plan could be “subsidized by taxpayers endlessly.” But the president never explained away this risk, instead deferring to supporters who promised that it was nothing to worry about: The costs of the public plan would be covered by enrollee premiums, not taxpayer dollars, and there was no danger of the government subsidizing its own program.
But as the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner has pointed out, to believe that the federal government would not prop up its own program is to ignore history. Medicare, the model for the public option, is a case in point. When it was first created in 1965, premiums paid for 50 percent of the cost of physician services. That number ultimately fell by half. Taxpayers were left to pick up the tab.
The Medicare example is instructive for another reason, as well. Had it become law, the public option would have been administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, the same agency that now oversees Medicare. As a troubling preview into the future, consider that, according to the Heritage Foundation, Medicare is facing a debt burden of nearly $30 trillion over the next 75 years.
With the president’s move away from the public option this week, that prospect may be less likely. It’s too early, however, to say that the public option is truly dead and buried. Though increasingly unpopular even within Democratic ranks – some Senate Democrats have objected that the plan is unfair to private insurers – the public option still enjoys widespread support on the activist Left, and the administration is already catching flack for even suggesting that it could be dropped from consideration. Whether this is significant will depend on whether the president is prepared to alienate the self-styled “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” whose onetime figurehead, Howard Dean, announced just this week that he won’t support “health reform without” the public option.
That political calculation may explain why the administration has moved to muddle its current position on the public option. For instance, shortly after Kathleen Sebelius dismissed the necessity of the public plan, White House health reform communications director Linda Douglass released a damage-control statement assuring that “nothing has changed.” The president, she wrote, still “believes the public option is the best way” to bring about a cheaper, more competitive health care market. So far, at least, that qualification has not satisfied critics on either side of the political divide.
But even if the administration has abandoned its goal of a public option, the danger remains that it could enact a government-run health care program in a different guise. Thus the emerging talk of non-profit insurance cooperatives. Run by nonprofit insurers, these co-ops are being sold as a compromise approach that meets critics and supporters of the public option halfway.
Behind the appealing concept, though, may be a less appealing reality: The co-ops would be government programs in all but name. As the Pacific Research Institute’s Sally Pipes tells Front Page’s Jamie Glazov, “The co-ops would be regulated by a federal-governing board set up by the feds who would determine what benefits must be included in a health insurance plan, what premiums would cost, and setting of rules.” It’s no coincidence that Democrats like Montana’s Max Baucus have supported a national co-op “that accomplishes the objectives of a public option.” For backers of a public option, the fashionably named co-ops may be a stealth means to the same end.
Still, there is one very good reason to think that in its most politically unpalatable form, the public option is indeed a goner: it simply does not have enough votes to pass the House and the Senate. There remain abundant reasons to be alarmed about whatever legislation does emerge from Congress – especially its expected trillion-dollar price tag and the possibility of a health care mandate for businesses and individuals that has proven such a failure in Massachusetts. But the worst feature of ObamaCare may be a thing of the past. For now, the administration has simply run out of options.
Why Obama Blinked
Why Obama Blinked
Victor Davis Hanson sheds light on the unfolding drama of a president whose unpopular proposals threaten to ruin his popularity.
By: Jamie Glazov
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at Stanford University"s Hoover Institution.
I’d like to talk to you today about Obama’s retreat on health care and the hit he is taking in the polls.
The President has announced that his administration may abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.
Your take on this retreat? What’s the significance here?
Hanson: Obama has discovered that his statist proposals are more unpopular than he is popular. But more importantly, dozens of Democratic Congress people sent a message to him that they simply cannot run next year in their purple districts on cap-and-trade energy taxes, $2 trillion deficits, socialized medicine, and higher taxes, with periodic gaffes like the Sotomayor "wise Latina" cut and the Gates "stupidly" fiasco. At some point, they made the decision that hope and change was being trumped by town hall meetings and as a result are making the necessary adjustments on health care.
If Obama is wise, he will do a little tinkering, and declare victory, and it will all go the way of Hillary-care. Then we will see whether Obama has a Clinton 1994 moment or prefers to go the Jimmy Carter oblivion route. Even more importantly is the President's reaction to the setback, whether he will smile and move on, or lash out at "them" who "raised the bar" on him in a 'downright mean" way.
FP: What is your view of the town hall protestors and their effectiveness?
Hanson: Well, they are less provocative than Code Pink, Moveon.org, and Michael Moore, who until this year were canonized as principled dissidents. Pelosi et al. once upon a time thought the boisterous anti-Bush demonstrators were reflective of the finest tradition of American protest. I'm sure our President, the ex-community organizer, would agree. As long as the town-hallers are non-violent and allow meetings to proceed as planned, I think they are admirable participants in direct democracy. Note they are increasingly non-partisan, but more representative of a senior cohort who fear Medicare will be looted for many of those who choose not to purchase catastrophic health care plans, illegal aliens, and others who make decisions for a variety of reasons not to acquire a private plan.
FP: So you believe that Obama’s Health Care plans are, ultimately, doomed to fail?
Hanson: Well, I think he will now tinker and trim, and borrow some money to enable more to be able to have catastrophic insurance; but the notion of Hillary-care II I think just isn't going to make it. The original secret dream was a single-payer system, then the fall-back was a Canadian-like system, then came a government medicare-like plan "competing" with private plans--and I think in the end they will just nuance the present system and declare victory. Who knows? Maybe they will follow the war on terror plan, when they damned tribunals, renditions, Predators, etc. as Bush's totalitarian agenda--and then when in office adopted it whole hog: they could take some ideas from some moderates and conservatives, declare them their own, and get something more than we have now as proof of Obama's statecraft.
FP: You referred earlier to Jimmy Carter’s “oblivion route.” Tell us a bit about it
Hanson: Well, Obama shares some of Carter's self-righteousness and messianic sense of self, and may really think, as did Carter, that his superior intellect and moral sense will inevitably be appreciated by hoi polloi--and therefore he will persist in the sermonizing, ramming down our throats the pie-in-the-sky therapeutic agendas, and then playing the wounded fawn when the rest of us don't appreciate the genius of our President.
So if he does all that, he just won't adjust--and we will probably get Carter stagflation at home, and a series of provocative challenges abroad. One cannot reinvent physics and say there is no consequence to running up annual $2 trillion deficits, or think that apologizing and appeasing rather creepy fellows like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Ortega, Putin, and the rest will not have consequences down the line.
FP: So what is the overall good news regarding this retreat? What are the positive signs it gives off? What does it tell us and what hope does it give?
Hanson: Oh, I think it is all good news. Obama is now a mere mortal again, and will have to succeed or fail on his own merits, since a ministry-of-truth like obsequious media, vapid hope-and-change sloganeering, and tons of money have not exempted him from the normal political realities. So either Obama will go back and lick his wounds, study Clinton's metamorphosis in 1995, and begin governing as promised in a 'no more red state/blue state' fashion, or he will persist in the European socialist mode and follow Pelosi, Reid, Frank, and the other hard-core partisans over the cliff, shrieking about how unfair it is, how illiberal the public is, how dastardly are Fox News, Drudge, and Rush Limbaugh all the way down into the political abyss.
FP: All of this is not happening at the best time for Obama. His approval rating has been dropping lately. One recent poll has his approval rating at 47 % and his disapproval at 52%.
What is going on?
Hanson: Two observations: one, Obama, in hubristic fashion confused general unhappiness with the two-term incumbent George W. Bush (who like Truman in 1952 was orphaned in the succession campaign), uncertainty in the midst of a recession and financial panic, and good will toward our first African-American president with a mandate for big government, higher taxes, nationalization, identity politics, and expansive liberal entitlement. The two were not synonymous; the country remains largely right/center, and Obama is losing an historic opportunity to govern from the center, as Clinton resorted to after his own 1994 disaster.
Two, the charisma and spell of the campaign have worn off. Obama is not reifying his 'no more red state/blue state' healing rhetoric, but turning out to be highly partisan, often unfortunately untruthful and gratuitously tough in off-teleprompter commentary, and highly sensitive to criticism. If his health care policies stagnate, if cap-and-trade crashes and burns, if the recession continues, and taxes must fall on the sacred 95% who were promised exemption even to meet $2 trillion annual deficits, and if his identity politics persist (e.g., the Gates incident, the "wise Latina", the Holder "cowards" outburst, etc.), then his polls will hit 40%, and we should expect his supporters in anguish to allege 'racism' to explain the President's unpopularity. In truth, a fawning press has ensured Obama adulation in his decline in popularity, while in the past demonizing Bush as he too fell in the polls.
FP: In what ways does our country remain largely right/center?
Hanson: It still prefers low taxes, limited government, strong national defense, secure and enforced borders, more domestic gas and oil exploration and nuclear energy development, an end to affirmative action, strong ties with traditional allies like Britain and Israel, and on most social issues remains traditional like conventional marriage and no federal subsidies for abortions.
FP: What would governing from the center mean for Obama? In other words, what would he be doing different if he rose to that challenge?
Hanson:Well, just imagine: Obama enters office and realizes that the bailout, coupled with Bush's prior $500 billion shortfall,left us with a $1 trillion shortfall. So instead of doubling it, he rides out the recession, and offers a plan to balance the budget. He could have modified rather than sought to replace the present health care system. Resorting to the Clintonincome tax rates was enough without trying to lift caps on income subject to FICA taxes, as w re surcharges, at a time when state income tax rates are climbing.
Abroad, one liberal apology, not dozens, was enough. "Bush did it" is getting old after eight months. One can see that when he did seek the middle, such as the Gates retention at defense, he found success. And for all the campaign rhetoric about Bush shredding the Constitution, note that Obama in quiet fashion kept tribunals, renditions, wiretaps, intercepts, Predator missions, the Bush/Petraeus Iraq withdrawal plan, and troops in Afghanistan .
In short, anytime Obama sought moderate agendas, he enjoyed broad support. The question is not if, but when Obama realizes that the newfound prominence of a Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank et al. is what may well wreck his presidency. With friends like those, who needs enemies?
FP: Expand for us a bit on why Clinton resorted to governing from the center after 1994. What did he do and what did it mean for the country?
Hanson: The successful 1994 Gingrich Contract for America was a reaction to Clinton's initial plans for Hillary care, open homosexuality in the military, and a host of planned new entitlements and further tax increases. By 1995-6 Morris had Clinton's ear and the two adopted "triangulation", or the tactic of running against both the ultra-conservative and liberal congressional factions. Not all of it was just politics, but valuable legislation like balance budget plans, deregulation, an "end of big government" credo, and welfare reform. Clinton triangulated to survive; and he managed to win again in 1996--again without receiving a majority of the vote. Despite tax increases, there were two years of budget surpluses, reduced welfare rolls, and stronger defense such as the efforts to stop the Balkans genocide. True, much of Clinton's few successes and undeniable popularity, despite his glaring character flaws, were due to Morris's cynicism, the candidacy of Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, the implosion of Newt Gingrich, and the disastrous Republican complicity in the shut-down of the government, but nonetheless Clinton the pragmatist prospered when Clinton the ideologue had failed utterly (not unlike the story of his Arkansas experiences as well.)
FP: How has Obama been untruthful?
Hanson: In a variety of ways:
 The constant refashioning of history--as in the crazy Cairo speech that alleged the US ended slavery without violence, or that the Arab world was responsible for things from advanced medicine to the printing press, or that Muslims in Cordoba were beacons of tolerance during the Inquisition (cf. the chronology).
 The simple exaggerations that are nonsensical, whether his grandfather liberated Auschwitz, his parents first meeting at a civil rights march, or that if we inflate our tires properly we can thereby eliminate the need to drill offshore or in Alaska.
 Then there was the autobiographical revisionism about his real ties with Ayers, Rezko, Wright, Pfleger, etc. that were in fact quite close but air brushed away. But these are mere details.
 What is more dishonest are the ways in which he simply trashed Bush for things like rendition and military tribunals and then adopted them; or during the campaign suddenly swore off public financing and became the first candidate in three decades in the general election to do that, after saying he would not. We never heard a word from him that he was on record saying that the surge would make things worse. The result was Obama naturally campaigned one way, and immediately began to govern another. Imagine that in October 2008 Obama had said:
"I plan to run a $2 trillion deficit / stimulus, take over GM, Chrysler, AIG, etc. and refashion the order of creditors, nationalize health care, de facto stall on fossil fuel exploration, push through cap and trade, apologize to Europe, Turkey, the Muslim world, create distance between Israel and the US, etc."
I don't think he would have had a chance. He was the ultimate stealth candidate who knew that masking his intent was the only way to get elected. "Hope and Change" really meant "I am an old-fashioned statist liberal whose views are at odds with most of America, but which are in fact good for these le implemented from on high by gifted elites like myself--an agenda that means I must remain both charismatic and duplicitous in order that my personal popularity can carry through my unpopular agenda."
Once Obama learns that his charisma wears thin, watch out--I think critics will be accused of all sorts of things for their apostasy.
FP: What most concerns you about Obama?
Hanson: I admire his set oratory, confidence, and ease under pressure. But I am worried on a number of counts:
[A] He distances himself from American history and traditions, as if he is a third party that can enjoy the prestige and power of the US but at the same time not be subject to criticism from its envious enemies.
[B}His naiveté about human nature and his ignorance. He really does think that problems with a Putin, Chavez, Ahmadinejad, etc. were due to Bush and can be solved with his charismatic rhetoric, apologies, good intentions, and empathy, rather than seeing that the regional interests of such autocrats cannot be reconciled with US interests in free commerce, safe seas, human freedom, and the integrity of existing borders.
[C] He has never run anything -- other than having dispersed someone else's money as a foundation board member. His cursus honorum is Ivy League, Chicago organizing, Chicago politics, Illinois politics, and he so seems completely unaware of the dilemma of those who run small construction companies, medical practices, real estate offices, etc.--the small businesses that are the backbone of America.
He has conflated them with Wall Street-- as if making $250,000 a year is like taking a $10 million yearly bonus from AIG.
Finally, he seems to believe in a 'spread the wealth' equality of result creed that history shows has brought disaster everywhere it has been tried and failed. We are mimicking Europe at a time when they are having earnest discussions about trimming government and seeking more market than government solutions.
FP: Victor Davis Hanson, thank you so much for gracing us with your presence at Frontpage Interview. Your wisdom is priceless.