Date ►►► July 30, 2009
On the Lighter Side - Mythic Words We Believe In
I'm writing a more substantial piece, but it's really dragging. So I decided to lighten up with a confession: There is no such a word as intricities.
Yes, I confess: For years, I thought it existed. I was well aware of the (actual) word "intricacies," but I'd somehow got it into my head that there was that similar but distinct word intricities that was more or less a synonym.
Has any of you ever done such a thing -- accidentally made up an ersatz word but thought it was real?
I know at least one other person: Friend Lee was perfectly familiar with the word multitudinous; but somehow a nonexistent variant got lodged in his brain -- and for hundreds of years, he described New York hordes, Bengali swarms, and Carter's collection of catastrophes as multidinuous.
I'm not particularly interested in simple misunderstanding of the meaning of a real word; I had a girlfriend -- I think it was before Sachi and I married -- who insisted that so-and-so's behavior was more than silly... it was supercilious! But I'm interested today in the misbegotten creation of brand, new vocabulary -- involuntary neologism -- birthing a never-before-seen word into the English language by sheerest mischance.
I think I'll start calling such words neologasms (and no, that isn't one).
I'm also not interested in deliberate neologism, from Shakespeare supposedly creating the word "assassinate" to Norm Crosby coining the utterly apt "beertender." To qualify as a neologasm, a created word must be an honest mistake; and it must persist in vocabulary long enough to thoroughly humiliate its unwitting creator.
Non-native English speakers can come up with some great neologasms: Sachi once described herself as being too squirmish to eat snake; she insisted that one of her friends annoyed her by acting smuggish; and she suggested, when money was tight, that we needed to be more frugalent.
Then there are neologasmic phrases, where words are put together in a way that's not quite right -- but might discover a serendipitous meaning all their own. Someone who can't seem to get his life together after the death of a loved one might suffer from post-mortem depression; people in trouble might have grown up on the wrong side of the bed; the young make foolish mistakes because they're still green behind the ears; and I myself once accidentally (not on purpose!) got annoyed enough at an acquaintance to tell him not to stick his head in an ostrich. But that last doesn't really count, because I realized immediately that it wasn't exactly what I meant to say.
So is this unique to me and those folks frudulous enough to hang around me? Or are there other corralections of people who create stimular neologasms?
Date ►►► July 29, 2009
Deliver us from the "Birthers"
If there’s anything nuttier than the Harvard University professor Henry Gates trying to stir up sympathy for his “black man in America” plight because a cop asked to see his ID when he was seen breaking into his own home, it’s watching the “Birther” nutcases continue to pursue the lunacy that somehow President Barack Obama is not a natural-born American citizen.
Even though that eminent southender John McCain (the horse was going north, you see) and his people would have loved to come up with proof that “The One” wasn’t a natural-born citizen, they didn’t find any substance to the claim. Don’t you think that if there were something that proved that Obama was actually a native born African that they would have found it -- and exploited it? Even McCain was not such an incompetent candidate that he would have let that easy pitch go by without swinging at it!
This ludicrous obsession, which is fanned by far right wing loons like Michael Savage and Alan Keyes, and by Democrat Philip J. Berg -- but not, you’ll notice, by savvy political observers like Rush Limbaugh -- is the equivalent of those who say that the CIA brought down the Twin Towers, or that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were actually in Studio 51 faking the moon landing 40 years ago.
Lord knows there are enough conspiracy theories going around on both ends of the political spectrum. All you have to do is log onto the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post, where they continue to blame Swine Flu or the Heartbreak of Psoriasis on Dick Cheney or George Bush. But I really hate to see conservatives wasting their energy and making themselves and fellow Republicans look ridiculous by pursuing something that makes people look at them like they look at homeless people who walk around without cell phones, yet still talk to themselves.
We have plenty to fight Obama on, such as attacking Bush for spending too much, and then spending four times as much, or for taking over the car industry or for taking over health care or for taking over … actually I can’t think of anything he hasn’t tried to take over.
Let’s leave silly conspiracy theories for the silly and marshal our adult arguments to take down this socialist!
Senate Democrats: Caving - or Bushwhacking?
AP breathlessly reports that the Democratic leadership has "reached a shaky peace" with the somewhat moderate Blue-Dog Democrats (which AP calls "the party's rebellious rank-and-file conservatives"):
The House changes, which drew immediate opposition from liberals in the chamber, would reduce the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance, exempt additional businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and change the terms of a government insurance option.
What does "change the terms" mean? A New York Times story clarifies that the shaky peace retains the most odious element of ObamaCare, the government so-called "option" -- which won't be optional at all, if your employer dumps his plan in favor of heavily taxpayer-subsidized government-controlled health care:
While the federal government would still establish and run a new public health insurance program, to compete with insurers, the new entity would not use Medicare rates to pay doctors and hospitals. Instead, the government plan would negotiate rates with health care providers, just as private insurers often do.
On the Senate side of the Capitol rotunda, however, the deal being cut in the Senate Finance Committee omits the government option in favor of "non-profit cooperatives" -- which the shaky House peace also includes... another provision that might undercut private health insurance and employer-offered health insurance, if those co-ops are allowed to operate at a loss, then receive regular bail-outs by the feds (as happens with Amtrack, for example). From AP:
More problematic from the Democrats' point of view is a tentative agreement [in the Senate Finance Committee] to omit a provision in which the government would sell insurance in competition with private industry. In its place, the group is expected to recommend non-profit cooperatives that could operate at the state, regional or even national level.
Let's suppose, for sake of argument, that this is how it's ultimately passed in each chamber and sent to the Joint Committee for reconciliation: The House enacts government-controlled health care plus non-profit co-ops, the Senate only enacts the co-ops. Suppose further, as would almost certainly be the case, that Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) appoints to the joint committee a strong majority of senators who support the government "option." This would of course result in that provision being reinserted into the joint version of the bill, which is then sent to both chambers of Congress.
Can the resulting bill be filibustered? If not, then of course it will pass; there is no way that Republican senators plus Blue-Dog democrats equals 51 votes against it. But if it can be filibustered, then there is a very good opportunity to kill the bill: If, say, 37 of the 40 Republicans vote against cloture, then it would only take four Blue Dogs to get to 41, which means the best the rest of the Democrats (and the defecting Republicans) can get for cloture is 59 -- which is not enough. I suspect that at least four moderate Democrats in normally Republican states will be afraid to thwart their constituents, so will vote against cloture... knowing that the other Democrats will eventually have to compromise, so there will be a bill -- just not the current bill.
So it's an important question to analyze: Can the bill be filibustered?
In theory, if a bill enacts a provision that was already included in the budget resolution, and if the budget resolution includes "reconciliation instructions" prohibiting amendments and limiting debate, then the bill cannot be filibustered; it only takes a simple majority to enact it. But there is an exception, which I'll get to in a moment.
On April 29th, the Democrats (with no Republican votes) enacted the budget resolution for fiscal year 2010, which begins on October 1st; and they did indeed include health-care reform and "reconciliation instructions":
The budget resolution also includes reconciliation instructions for healthcare and education overhaul proposals, which Republicans lambasted. Under reconciliation, healthcare and education legislation would only need 51 votes, thwarting any Senate filibuster.
At a meeting of conferees Monday, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg, R-N.H., characterized the move as a power grab and likened Democrats to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for including reconciliation in the budget resolution. Obama was criticized by some lawmakers recently for shaking Chavez's hand in a visit earlier this month to Latin America.
"I can understand shaking Chavez's hand, but I can't understand accepting his politics, and basically shutting down the minority," Gregg said. "It will harm the final product."
So facially, it would appear the Senate Democrats can "bushwhack" their own Blue Dogs by tricking them into voting for a health-care "reform" bill that does not include government insurance, then sneak it back in during the joint conference and pass it over the objections of Republicans and even the Blue Dogs themselves.
But in that same passage quoted above, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND, 95%) opines that he does not believe the nervy tactic will work:
Conrad, who opposed the use of reconciliation to pass major legislation, said he did not believe that healthcare legislation would be written with its use.
"I believe, as people get into it, they will find that it just doesn't work well for that purpose," Conrad said. "I believe health care will be done under the regular order."
What did Sen. Conrad, a Democrat, mean by that? Why wouldn't it work?
There's one potential fly in the Democratic ointment: There is a provision of law called the Byrd Rule which allows, under certain circumstances, any senator to raise a "point of order" and object to any provision of any bill that falls under the reconciliation rule of no filibustering... so long as the Senate parliamentarian determines that the provision violates any one of the six "tests" the Byrd Rule sets up. In such a case, the provision is called "extraneous," and it is stripped from the bill -- unless it's waived by the full Senate. And the Byrd Rule can only be waived by (you guessed it) a cloture-like vote of 60 senators.
In other words, a filibuster is ordinarily not allowed for a bill that is covered by reconciliation; but if a provision of that bill violates the Byrd Rule (any one of the six tests), and if any senator objects to it on those grounds -- and if the parliamentarian agrees that the provision breaks the rules -- then that provision will be stripped from the bill unless 60 senators vote to let it stay.
(The only other person who could stop that process would be the Presiding Officer of the Senate, I believe, who could in theory overrule the Senate Parliamentarian's decision about whether the provision violates one of the Byrd Rule tests.)
The purpose of the Byrd Rule (named after Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, 79%) is to prevent the budget resolution being used to shield non-budgetary bills or provisions of bills from filibuster. For example, you couldn't push handgun prohibition or a repeal of the ban on partial-birth abortion through the Senate without being subject to filibuster merely by first including it in the budget resolution, because neither of those has anything to do with the federal budget, except incidentally. (Unless you had a pliant parliamentarian or a tyrannical Presiding Officer of the Senate.)
Here are the six tests:
Byrd rule tests - Section 313(b)(1) of the Congressional Budget Act sets forth six tests for matters to be considered extraneous under the Byrd rule. The criteria apply to provisions that:
- do not produce a change in outlays or revenues;
- produce changes in outlays or revenue which are merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;
- are outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure;
- increase outlays or decrease revenue if the provision's title, as a whole, fails to achieve the Senate reporting committee's reconciliation instructions;
- increase net outlays or decrease revenue during a fiscal year after the years covered by the reconciliation bill unless the provision's title, as a whole, remains budget neutral;
- contain recommendations regarding the OASDI (social security) trust funds.
In the case of ObamaCare, the two important tests are numbers four and five, highlighted above in blue: If the government-option provision increases spending (which of course it does) and the ObamaCare bill as a whole fails to conform to the instructions in the budget resolution; or if the government-option provision continues to increase spending even after the period covered by the budget resolution (ten years) -- unless the entire ObamaCare bill can be shown to be "budget neutral" -- that is, it doesn't increase the deficit any more than the budget resolution allows it to do.
But here is the problem for Democrats: In order to shoehorn the government takeover of health-care into the budget resolution last April, they had to declare that it would pay for itself... that ObamaCare would be deficit neutral. From the House Committee on the Budget "fact sheet:
Assumes Health Reform Will Be Paid for so that it Does Not Add to the Deficit -- Our budget leaves it to the authorizing committees to determine both the policy and how to pay for health care reform.
So any provision of ObamaCare that spends money is subject to the Byrd Rule, unless (a) the Democrats can get the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to declare that, contrary to their earlier claim that the bill would add an extra several hundred billion dollars to the deficit, it's really going to add nothing at all to the deficit; and (b) that the provision in question won't cost a dime beyond the year 2020.
Each of these assertions would be risible, of course; the bill grossly expands the deficit, and the provision in question will require spending for as long as it exists. Since the Democrats certainly don't want to enact ObamaCare with a "sunset" clause, so that it automatically ends after ten years, they're going to have to live with the Byrd Rule.
I do not believe that the CBO will go along with either of these preposterous fantasies... in which case, as soon as the bill comes back from the joint committee, and the Democrats try to claim that under reconciliation, it cannot be filibustered, any single Republican -- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 80%), for example -- can rise to a point of order, object to the goverment "option" and any other odious measure under the Byrd Rule, and force a vote where the Dems need to get 60 votes to prevent those provisions being stripped out.
That is what Michael Barone meant yesterday when he said, on Hugh Hewitt's show, that under the Byrd Rule, Democrats will be unable to prevent filibusters of the health-care reform act. That's what Sen. McConnell meant when he said today on the same show that the bill "would be subject to filibuster."
But wait! What if the Senate Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, simply ignores reality and declares that the Byrd Rule doesn't apply? Sure, in theory he could do that; and in fact, he has been heavily lobbied by both sides of the aisle since it became clear that the Democrats were going to taint the budget bill with reconciliation instructions for ObamaCare, to try to prevent a GOP filibuster.
But according to the Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper that is considered quite authoritative, if the Democrats expect the parliamentarian to back their partisan power grab, they picked a horse that is backing up the wrong tree:
“I talk to him regularly. He is not looking forward to this,” [former parliamentarian Robert] Dove told The Hill. “All I can tell you is he’s a very good man. He will call it straight. He will make all kind of enemies....”
Both parties are already lobbying Frumin. Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee and Senate aides from both parties have met with him to discuss the Byrd rule, named after initial sponsor Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.). Frumin told Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) a few weeks ago that legislation passed through the reconciliation process may end up looking like “Swiss cheese,” because certain provisions of a bill may survive while others are stricken, Conrad said....
“He’s known for being substantively rigorous and he understands the value of precedent,” said Stan Collender, a partner at Qorvis Communications and a former Democratic budget aide. “He’s not likely to just come up with a ruling that’s completely off the wall. He’s known to do his job really well and tries to call it pretty straight.”
The upshot of bottom line of this analysis is that I do not believe the Democrats will be permitted by the parliamentarian to abuse the reconciliation process to jam ObamaCare through the Senate; nor do I believe the Presiding Officer of the Senate would be so reckless as to overrule the parliamentarian... as that might cause Republican and Blue Dog senators to bring the entire body to a screeching halt, thus imperiling not only certain provisions of ObamaCare, but the entire bill, plus every other element of the radical agenda of President Barack H. Obama.
It would also hand a powerfully effective issue to GOP senatorial challengers next year: "Democrats stifle the Senate's own parliamentarian in order to take away your health insurance!"
One way or another, they are going to have to get 60 senators to agree specifically on the government "option," on taxing your health benefits, on employer mandates, and on every other controversial element of the Obamacle's attempted government hijacking of Americans' health care. Further, I do not believe that those 60 votes currently exist, and support will only weaken as we pass into September and October. So I don't believe the Democrats will be able to pull this off.
Date ►►► July 28, 2009
The Curious Case of the Omitted Admission
The Congressional Budget Office -- in a futile attempt to make up for outing the real costs of ObamaCare in a previous report -- has just attempted to push the program forward by asserting that the existence of a "government option" wouldn't cause any real mischief:
President Obama and his Democratic allies, scrambling to broker a health care deal Monday, finally got an upbeat assessment from Congress' official scorekeeper when it said the plan for government-run coverage would not force out private insurers.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer trumpeted the report from the Congressional Budget Office, Congress' nonpartisan budget analyst, that said private insurers could survive competition from a government health insurance option -- contradicting a chief criticism from Republicans.
"Now we've heard that the reform will represent a government takeover of health care. A point of fact: The opposite is true," said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. [No mere opinion here -- the CBO has a Magic 8-Ball that actually works!]
(On a completely unrelated side-issue, last week President Barack H. "Lucky Lefty" Obama summoned the CBO's director, Douglas Elmendorf, to la Casa Blanca for a meet-the-Obamacle meeting last week... just after he testified that ObamaCare wouldn't save a dime and would probably cost more than just doing nothing. He reportedly left the meeting carrying a package that turned out to contain a dead fish.)
But the most delicious part is a left-handed admission from the CBO of just how much power such a government option would put in the president's hand:
Republicans touted a report from theLewin Group, a health research firm owned by an insurance company, that predicted 100 million people out of the 160 million now covered by employer-sponsored insurance would go to the government coverage.
But the CBO estimates about 12 million people would opt for the public plan. The wide difference in estimates is the result of drastically different assumptions about the price of the plans. CBO estimated the public plan would cost 10 percent less than private plans, compared with the Lewin Group estimate that it would be 20 percent cheaper.
So if I may translate: What CBO is really saying is that the administration -- that is, Barack Obama -- has the power to forcibly shift up to 100 million people from the insurance they have now (and for the most part like) to the parallel government-run health-care system... merely by increasing the taxpayer subsidy of the government plan from 10% to 20%.
At any moment after passage, the president could unilaterally squeeze that trigger, without any subsequent congressional action required, and voilà: Two-thirds of those who currently have employer-offered insurance will be ejected, higgledy-piggledy, from their current plans and shoehorned into a British- or Canadian-style, government-run, ration-and-wait plan... whether they want it or not.
Thank goodness Mr. Obama is the One We Have Been Waiting For; if he weren't, if he were a lesser mortal, he might just squeeze that trigger. And then where would we be?
I found this juxtaposition fascinating -- in a horrifying sort of way. First, we certainly can't talk to those scheming Honduran diplomats... they represent the coup leaders:
The U.S. government said Tuesday it has revoked the diplomatic visas of four Honduran officials, stepping up pressure on coup-installed leaders who insist they can resist international demands to restore the ousted president.
The U.S. State Department did not name the four, but a Honduran official said they included the Supreme Court magistrate who ordered the arrest of ousted President Manuel Zelda and the president of Honduras' Congress.
The State Department is also reviewing the visas of all officials serving under interim President Roberto Micheletti, department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
(How dare the Honduran Supreme Court rule according to the Honduran constitution, rather than sit quietly and wait for instructions from the One They Have Been Waiting For!)
But of course, we can't simply refuse to talk to people; that would be puerile and unproductive:
A concerted effort to start unprecedented talks between Taliban and British and American envoys was outlined yesterday in a significant change in tactics designed to bring about a breakthrough in the attritional, eight-year conflict in Afghanistan.
Senior ministers and commanders on the ground believe they have created the right conditions to open up a dialogue with "second-tier" local leaders now the Taliban have been forced back in a swath of Helmand province.
Oh, I know, I know; it seems just a tad inconsistent:
- Refusing even to allow into the United States diplomats and officials from one of the most pro-American countries in Central America, because they refused to sit idly while a Cuba- and Venezuela-backed wannabe dictator unilaterally and illegally changed the constitution to allow him to become President for Life;
- And then turning around and opening a diplomatic initiative with the terrorist group that (a) was fully complicit in the September 11th attacks, and that (b) we ousted in a -- well, not exactly a coup; in our case, we used a full military invasion to institute regime change. (See? Totally different.)
It may seem inconsistent, hypocritical, hysterical, adolescent, cement-headed, awkward, slovenly, ad-hominem, and amateurish... but appearances can be deceiving: Perhaps President Barack H. Obama is just living by the motto that defines his life: Keep your enemies close, and your mortal enemies actually in bed with you.
But then again, maybe the president is signalling that he now has second thoughts about the war of Christianist aggression in Afghanistan, started by a previous administration. Maybe this is the first step towards demanding that the current illegal "government" of that country disband, fly to the Hague, and surrender themselves... so that the legitimate government of 2001 and prior can retake its rightful place in Kabul.
I understand that later this year, the president plans to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special-Olympics Spokesman Joe "Litella" Biden to South Korea to share a beer with President Lee Myung-bak and PM Han Seung-soo -- then deliver a long and serious lecture about dissolving the South Korean entity and making amends for their war of imperialist aggression against their northern brothers 59 years ago.
Cross-toasted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 27, 2009
Another Immodest Proposal: Housecalls R Us
Some discussion in the comments of a previous post here center around the problem of poor people, seniors, and illegal aliens (with some obvious overlap) using emergency rooms and trauma centers as doctor's offices. That is, these patients cannot or will not, for various reasons, visit ordinary doctors' offices for their non-emergency conditions; so they clog up ERs with relatively minor injuries, illness, and conditions. Over and above the health-insurance debate, this causes problems of overcrowded ERs and real emergencies going untreated; and it can lead (along with unwarranted lawsuits and over-the-top judgments) to such centers for emergency care actually being shut down, due to the financial drain on the associated hospital.
So what can be done?
The illegal-alien component in this problem is considerable: They often can't get insurance, can't afford regular checkups -- and they're afraid to go to doctors and give a history, because they might be deported. Of course, the real solution to this component of the ER problem is to resolve the problem of illegal immigration itself. Long-time readers of Big Lizards know that I strongly support a comprehensive, four-part policy:
- Reforming the legal immigration system to make it more rational, predictable, and just, so that we admit those most easily assimilated, rather than favored ethnicities or nationalities;
- Building a wall to keep out those who don't qualify for legal immigration under the new standards;
- Immunizing legal residents who are not yet citizens from the raft of minimum-wage laws -- so we get our low-wage workers not from temporaries, with no loyalty to the U.S., but from those who are in the process of becoming citizens;
- And offering a plea-bargain (not "amnesty") to those currently here illegally, wherein they (a) pay a fine, (b) pay any back taxes they may owe, and (c) then and only then receive legal residency -- so long as (d) they have otherwise behaved themselves while living here illegally. (I also support deportation of illegals convicted of crimes here, as soon as they finish their sentences.) Naturally, we need a more technologically sophisticated "green card" with biometrics, and an upgraded and updated database of citizens, residents, and tourists.
But that's not likely to happen anytime soon. Under the Obama-Pelosi-Reid administration, we may instead very well get a "solution" that even I would call amnesty... but that hasn't even been seriously proposed yet (thank goodness). So what can we do in the meanwhile? And what can we do about American citizens and legal residents who also use the ER as a doctor's office for their children's colds or their own arthiritis?
I have a suggestion... but I don't know how much it would really help or whether there are serious impediments that would make it impractical. Thus, I throw it open to the massmind of the Big Lizards readership, many of whom have far more experience than I:
Housecalls R Us
Proposed: The federal government should encourage more young doctors to join Mobile Care Units that make housecalls and neighborhood calls. The incentive should be partial or even complete forgiveness of federally guaranteed med-school loans, along with grants to states to offer similar forgiveness of state-guaranteed loans, for doctors (especially those who speak a useful foreign language) who agree to serve their residencies in such MCUs... sort of like the program to encourage newly minted doctors to move to rural areas for their residencies.
MCUs would be focused in urban areas where urgent-care centers are overused for non-urgent situations; the idea would be to make regular medical visits to residents who would otherwise use ERs; the doctors would perform regular checkups, non-emergency treatment, and could call for emergency transport for any actual urgent medical problems they discover. The doctors would not be allowed to report suspected illegal aliens. (I believe all police should be required to report any criminal suspect here illegally to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; but doctors aren't cops. Without the prohibition against MCU doctors reporting, illegals might just run and hide when the MCUs come to their neighborhood, negating the whole point.)
Each unit would be assigned to a particular neighborhood or group of neighborhoods, depending on the population of impoverished or otherwise "disadvantaged" patients (perhaps using the proxy measurement of non-emergency ER visits); some very dense neighborhoods would get multiple MCUs. This would in particular include new-immigrant-heavy neighborhoods, poor and high-crime neighborhoods, ethnic enclaves, and so forth.
The doctors would be accompanied by registered nurses (same sort of debt-forgiveness deal), and by social-service bureaucrats who could work out payment plans for patients, including signing them up for whatever subsidized insurance programs or other benefits are already available for residents (legal or illegal). Patients would be required to pay something, that "something" being determined by actual need. MCUs would also include trained and armed security guards, for obvious reasons.
Finally, the program would include some tort reform for those doctors and nurses participating in the program, raising the standard of proof required for liability and limiting judgments to some reasonable level, along with the feds offering medical malpractice insurance to the participants; this to allay fears that some junkie or wino given perfectly proper treatment will nevertheless die, and his heirs will see the death as their ticket to lifelong wealth.
As to cost, if we made 50,000 Mobile positions available per year, and if the average medical resident was able to get the feds to pay off $50,000 of his debt, that would cost $2.5 billion directly -- plus administrative, logistical, and insurance costs; call it $7.5 to $10 billion. Some of that would be direct payoffs, the rest would be block grants to states.
Does anybody here think that would help relieve the ERs, trauma-care centers, and urgent-care centers? Would it encourage more of the so-called "underclass" to get regular, non-ER medical checkups and other care? Would it save taxpayer money in the long run? Would it cause more problems than it solved? Could it even be done legally? And is it already being done on a national level, and I've just never heard about it?
I'm definitely groping for a solution here, so your input is urgently needed to solve this emergency without too much mental trauma.
Date ►►► July 25, 2009
The Funny Thing Is, Obama Could Easily Have a Health Care Bill, If...
...If he really just wanted a bill -- as opposed to this bill, the Pelosi bill.
I know this is a crazy idea that nobody would ever even consider; no Democratic president would ever, ever consider triangulating between the three main congressional sects. But if Barack H. Obama were simply to reach across the aisle not only to the Blue Dogs but even to the Republicans (eeeeeeeeeeeee!), and offer an actual compromise, he would almost certainly get a third to a half of the liberals as well (they would be getting something they wanted -- say, more government help for low-income Americans to buy health insurance -- and they're predisposed to support the Obamacle anyway).
- No "government option;"
- Mandated medical insurance (using the jiggery pokery of withholding some portion of federal Medicare payments to states that don't have some form of insurance requirement and enforcement, since the feds cannot directly order the little people to buy insurance, I wouldn't think);
- Assistance to low-income Americans -- say, up to 150% or 200% of the poverty line -- to buy private or group insurance;
- Looser rules for group insurance, to allow more creative "groups" for insurance consumers, beyond the usual group=employees model;
- Expanding the size of an MSA that can be deducted from income tax, and allowing individuals to deduct all of their health-insurance premiums, if they itemize;
- Shifting Medicare and Medicaid from defined benefit to defined contribution -- where the contribution from the feds is to pay some portion of a group insurance premium -- with the particular plan to be chosen by the Medicare/Medicaid recipient from a list of eligible plans. Recipients could choose the cheapest plan and pay some small portion of it; or they could pick a more expensive plan with better coverage, and pay a larger portion. The feds would pay the same amount no matter what plan is chosen; if a recipient wants more, he can pay for it.
- Allowing insurance companies to sell to anyone in any state (that the feds can certainly do; it's obviously related to interstate commerce);
- Requiring insurance companies that sell across state lines to accept people with preexisting conditions at about the same rates as everyone else, or a little higher, using the same model as allotting bad drivers among different automobile insurance companies as "assigned risks;"
- Maybe one or two other things to drag in this or that group.
If Obama really, really wants a bill, this would do it: He would get most of the Republicans, all of the Blue Dogs, and a third or more of the liberals who don't want to destroy their own president; that adds up to a minimum of 230 in the House and at least 55 in the Senate, in both cases likely more. The die-hards on both Left and Right could vote against it to satisfy their constituents, but it would still pass... and I doubt the Left could scrape together 41 senators willing to shoot down such a clear compromise via filibuster, and risk more voter wrath.
So the question is this... Which is more important to you, Mr. One We Have Been Waiting For -- getting some forward momentum towards resolving the problem of 46.7 million uninsured Americans (most of whom can afford insurance, they just don't want to); or gobbling one seventh of the nation's economy into the belly of the bureaucratic beast?
The first option, the blue pill, is almost risk-free, and will give a huge boost to your approval rating. The second option -- red pill -- is very, very risky, could end in a complete debacle that would (as you yourself said) destroy your presidency... and would almost certainly look like a really, really, really bad deal in three years, with many Americans already losing the health insurance they liked, just as you're running for a return engagement at la Casa Blanca. Which bitter pill would you swallow, blue or red?
I predict that when it becomes clear that Congress is simply not going to enact Emanuel's Folly, sometime in September, Obama will suddenly turn into a triangulating pragmatist... and we'll see a compromise health-care bill along the lines of the outline above.
Date ►►► July 24, 2009
Exposure: the Dark Night of Crowleygates
The initial (default) response of liberals, especially black liberals, to the Crowleygates scandal -- that because Sgt. James Crowley is white and Prof. Henry Louis Gates, jr., is black, this can only be a case of police racism or even "racial profiling" -- reaffirms a disturbing conclusion of mine from long back: With every step towards a more colorblind society, liberals instead see a mirror-image step in the opposite direction... whenever things get better, liberals see them getting worse, instead.
I have come to believe this is no coincidence. In fact, if whites and blacks (and all other minorities) actually started seeing the content of each other's character, rather than the color of each other's skin, it would devastate the march of liberalism, which depends upon helplessness and fear. Therefore, since "progressive" policy is more fundamental to the liberal worldview than mere racial harmony, any move towards colorblindness is seen as a great setback to civilization.
The net effect is that blacks are encouraged to believe increasingly risible falsehoods about "racial profiling" and "institutional racism," such as the absurdity that covert racism that can hardly be detected is worse than overt racism like Jim Crow laws. More blacks are consciously resegregating themselves socially from whites and resorting to what can only be described as "mau mauing;" and whites are now being socially (and sometimes legally) punished -- for not having a racialist viewpoint... it shows their reactionary mindsets, you understand -- their denial, their own unexamined racism!
We saw the same ugly effect during President Bill Clinton's "conversations about race" national breast-beating tour: When you put the camera on a black person and demand he talk about race, he feels tremendous pressure to dredge up real or fabricated examples of "racism" he has experienced, seen, or even just heard about -- rather than recalling the thousands of instances in which he was not treated differently or unfairly, even in situations that would surely have provoked real racism in the 1950s or 1960s. And when you put the camera on a white person and make the same demand that he expostulate on race, he experiences an almost irresistable impulse to apologize for the least infraction against political correctness... even begging forgiveness for unvocalized thoughtcrime.
Both tendencies are more marked among liberals; but even non-liberals feel the intense coercion of liberalism to see the American people as deeply, eternally, and irredeemably racist. This is terribly destructive to both minorities (especially blacks) and majorities:
- Minorities internalize the liberal myth that they can "never rise above their race," that they will never get a fair shake, that they can never succeed.
They also learn, from society, to blame every failure, from being fired to being arrested to being assaulted, on external forces beyond their control... so it's useless trying to control them by, e.g., improving their work habits, obeying the law, or picking a different, less violent crowd to hang around. This leads to a truculent, passive-aggressive apathy in some, and in others, "the rage of a privileged class," to lift the title of Ellis Cose's 1994 book. (Readers can decide for themselves which path Professor Gates chose.)
- Majorities feel like they're edging their way through a particularly dense minefield, where they must not only watch every word they say but are frequently called upon to belly-crawl for things they never did, or said, or even thought (in fact, they must apologize even for denying that they are racists).
In the minds of many liberals, "rage" has become a defense against impropriety, whether simply boorish behavior or actual criminal conduct. The first time I heard of "black rage" raised as a legal defense was when the vile and despicable William Kunstler -- lead attorney for Long Island Railroad killer Colin Ferguson (until Ferguson insisted upon representing himself) -- admitted that Ferguson had indeed shot six people to death and wounded 19 others on a commuter train in 1994; but Kunstler argued that Ferguson should be acquitted... because, as a black man, he had grown up in a "racist society" that quite understandably led to black rage. That is, Kunstler's "defense" was that Ferguson was enraged at the time he opened fire.
Who can argue with that?
During the O.J. Simpson trial at the same time, blacks almost reflexively rallied behind Simpson and accused the police of framing him, despite the mountain of evidence that Simpson was guilty. After the shameful acquittal, a black acquaintance of mine -- very moderate (though liberal), thoroughly middle-income with middle-class values and upbringing, with a good job and a talent for writing -- cheered the verdict. I asked him why, since he agreed that Simpson was probably guilty... and his answer is seared, seared in my brain. He said (this is an exact quotation), "At least a brother got away with it for once."
Two innocent people butchered due to Simpson's jealous, uncontrollable rage... but that's all right, because at least a black man managed to get away with murder! ("For once.")
Which brings us to the New York Times story linked above, relating liberal reactions to Crowleygates. The following facts are undisputed by Prof. Gates:
- Gates and another man were trying to break open the door of Gate's house;
- A concerned neighbor, thinking there was a burglary in progress, called the police;
- The police arrived in response to the call and found Gates inside his home; Gates said it was his own home, and Sgt. James Crowley demanded identification with a picture and the address;
- Gates, by his own admission, was belligerent from the start -- demanding Crowley's name and badge number immediately after showing his own ID and refusing to come outside to speak to them;
- Gates began accusing Crowley of racism for nothing more than demanding identification;
- Gates followed Crowley back out the door and onto the lawn after the initial incident was over, while Crowley was trying to leave;
- Outside, Gates continued to berate Crowley (in front of witnesses) as a racist.
Keep in mind all that inexplicable and frankly provacative, enraged, and challenging behavior of Gates; now read some of the statements gathered by the Times. They quote both black and white, but all of their interviewees appear to be liberals:
“No matter how much education you have as a person of color, you still can’t escape institutional racism,” said Keith E. Horton, a sports and entertainment lawyer in Chicago who is black. “That’s what the issue is to me....”
“It is unwise for anyone of any race to raise their voice to a law enforcement officer,” said Al Vivian, a diversity consultant in Atlanta who is black. “But the result at the end of the day is this was a man who violated no law, was in his own house, who is the top academic star at the top academic school in the nation, and he was still taken away and arrested....”
“It seems to me that Dr. Gates was simply arrested for being upset, and he was arrested for being upset because he’s a black man,” said Wayne Martin, 25, an official at the Atlanta Housing Authority, who is also black.
The way Mr. Martin described himself, he could be the very definition of a “post-racial” American. “I have children I’m trying to raise not to see race,” he said. “I’m beyond the whole black-white thing. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Yet Mr. Martin could not think of any other way than racism to explain what had happened to Professor Gates....
Sabine Charles, 37, a white cardiologist who lives in Hyde Park, is married to a black man and said that she could not count how many times people had interrupted the two over the years to ask her, quietly, “Is this man bothering you?”
“I say, ‘Guess what? He’s not! We’re actually on a romantic date, can’t you tell?’ ” she said. “Even here in this diverse area I’ve heard people say, ‘Look at those black guys coming toward us.’ I say, ‘Yes, but they’re wearing lacrosse shorts and Calvin Klein jeans. They’re probably the kids of the professor down the street.’ ” [Pardon my skepticism, but I doubt she has ever had the conversation she supposedly transcribes above.]
“You have to be able to discern differences between people,” she said, criticizing the practice of racial profiling. “It’s very frustrating....”
Mr. Vivian [the "diversity consultant" quoted above], 47, said that he had been unfairly stopped by the police in the past, but that he lived by “an unwritten code” for dealing with these incidents. And Dr. Gates certainly did not obey the code, he said.
Quiet politeness is Rule No. 1 in surviving an incident of racial profiling, he said. So is the frequent use of the word “sir....”
That there is a well-known code of behavior familiar to most minorities who are stopped by the police, Mr. Vivian said, is testament enough of a problem.
(Note the frequent confusion in this case between racism and "racial profiling" -- which makes absolutely no sense, as Gates was, in fact, the person that the neighbor saw and reported breaking into the house. He was not some unrelated person grabbed off the street merely for "driving while black," or somesuch.)
Those of us who are white, and who have ever been stopped or held by the police, could explain to Mr. Vivian (if that is his real name) that the same "code of behavior" is required by everybody who comes into contact with law enforcement -- majority and minority alike.
When I was at university, I was stopped and held on suspicion of burglary for about 45 minutes; I became the center of twelve police officers, who had arrived in eight different vehicles. Eventually, the sergeant rolled up in a station wagon -- which tells you how long ago this was -- took one look and said, "No, that's not him." Trust me on this: I behaved with exactly the "code of behavior" that Mr. V. says is "testament enough of a problem," that is, of racial profiling.
This brings up another problem in the racism narrative: Many middle-class, non-criminal blacks are unaware that the problems that occasionally beset them occasionally beset everyone, even whites. They get pulled over by a cop who seems not to have a definite purpose in mind; after some conversation, the cop lets them go... and they assume they were just profiled.
Well, they probably were: It may be a clear-cut case of auto-profiling. The cops got a call to be on the lookout for a bank-robbery suspect driving a white pickup with a license plate beginning 2S----. The police spot just such a vehicle on the freeway in the area, so they pull it over and investigate. The "investigation" comprises asking questions that any innocent person can answer logically and coherently -- such as "where are you coming from," "where are you going," and "is this your own driver's license?" -- but which criminals often have a deuced hard time answering at all. (If you don't believe it, watch a few episodes of Cops.)
What happened to Gates could happen to anybody, even to a white banker. The distinction is how Prof. Gates responded to the police contact. I assert that anybody acting as Gates did would likely have been arrested, no matter the race of the suspect or of the cop. But Gates is unaware of that fact, because he will not allow himself even to consider the possibility ("convictions make convicts," as Robert Anton Wilson was fond of saying): "It can't be true, because it would be so deflating to my ego if it were true!"
Another interviewee said: "“[T]he Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.” Oh, wait, my mistake; that wasn't an interview in the Times... that was our illustrative President.
Alas, I believe that Barack H. Obama sees himself not just as the 44th President of the United States, but as the black man in the White House. My pal and former blogboss Patterico aptly caricatured Obama's initial statement as "I’m not taking sides on the Gates arrest -- but man, did the black man get screwed yet again!"
Liberals have utterly internalized a culture of victimhood: Liberal blacks see racism lurking behind every non-black face (and cannot see it at all behind a black face, not even Jeremiah Wright); liberal whites feel overwhelming soul-killing guilt for every act of racism, real or imagined, ever committed -- even by unrelated people decades or centuries ago -- so long as the perpetrators were white.
Sadly, the liberal narrative has been pushed so hard and so suffocatingly that liberal racialism, where "everything is determined by race," has become the default position of most Americans, even non-liberals. (Just as liberal economics, from New Deal-ism to Great Society-ism to Obamism, has settled in as the default economic position of the huge bulk of Americans.)
Even for conservatives, it's hard to wriggle out from under that heavy, stifling blanket; consider that Dennis Prager has often said that he totally opposes affirmative action... except for blacks, who, after all, have been treated shamefully by us whites. He cannot seem to comprehend that the blacks whining today have by and large not been treated shamefully; and the whites feeling guilty today did not themselves have anything to do with whatever shameful treatment occurred in the past... they're feeling racial guilt, which is the internal version of collective punishment.
My own experience tells me the self-inflicted resegregation of blacks and other minorities, and the equally self-inflicted wallowing in proxy guilt by whites, has gotten worse, not better, over the past 10-15 years... so the liberal narrative is not working as advertised. However, it may well be working as covertly intended.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 23, 2009
Oh Please Don't Throw Me into that Brady Patch, Ms. Pelosi!
I can understand corruption; simple venality is easily fathomed: A person with a broken moral compass (or none at all) sees ethical behavior as mere obstacle, so he finds a way to squirm around it to get what he wants anyway.
But what offends me most about nearly every act of political corruption is the sheer stupidity of it: Nine times out of ten, by acting unethically, the corrupt damage themselves far worse than if they'd simply done right. Call this "etholution in action," or perhaps the third law of ethical physics: For every unethical action, there is an opposite and equal (or greater) backlash.
Illustrative example forthcomes...
According to Roll Call (the magazine run by liberal Democrat Morton Kondracke, formerly of the Beltway Boys), Democrats are trying to suppress Republicans critical of ObamaCare by denying them franking privileges to communicate with their own constituents about the current ObamaCare legislation being written in Congress... unless they cease disagreeing about the plan's effect and adopt the Democrats' position instead:
House Republicans are crying foul and claiming that the Democrats are using their majority to prevent GOP Members from communicating with their constituents.
The dispute centers on a chart created by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee to illustrate the organization of the Democratic health care plan.
At first glance, Brady’s chart resembles a board game: a colorful collection of shapes and images with a web of lines connecting them.
But a closer look at the image reveals a complicated menagerie of government offices and programs that Republicans say will be created if the leading Democratic health care plan becomes law.
In a memo sent Monday to Republicans on the House franking commission, Democrats argue that sending the chart to constituents as official mail would violate House rules because the information is misleading.
(My apologies for the "printer friendly" version; but rather unaccountably, it's the only version that doesn't require a subscription to Roll Call.)
For those unfamiliar with the term, "franking privileges" means free postage for congressmen to mail their constitutents, so long as the communications are not out and out campaign mailers ("Vote for me!").
Whenever your representative or senator sends you a newsletter or vote alert, he doesn't have to pay postage. The privilege is important, because otherwise some congressmen with smaller budgets -- usually minority members, since the budgets are controlled by the majority -- might be unable to communicate with the people they represent in their own districts.
As you probably guess, this is a fearsome weapon in corrupt hands: If the majority selectively denies franking privileges for the minority, it can control the debate by silencing opposition. And that appears to be exactly what is happening in this case: Democrats are trying to silence Republicans, while allowing their own side to send as much free mail supporting ObamaCare as it wants, so long as it's careful to phrase the support as mere "explanation" or "description" -- exactly what they want to stop the GOP from doing.
The hook that Democrats hang their decision on is that they say Rep. Brady's flowchart is "false and misleading." Now those terms have regular definitions, but each also has a tendentious redefinition supplied by the Left: According to the leftist lexicon, what advances leftism is "true," and what retards leftism is, by definition, "false." But of course, they must make some nod, a fig leaf, towards a party-neutral reason; that's the least they can do.
Never let it be said that the Democrats fail to do the least they can do! I haven't read the entire memo -- I can't find a copy -- but here are the only specific examples of the Brady chart being either false or misleading that Roll Call mentions:
- "The chart’s illustration of low-income subsidies is also 'misleading and false,' Democrats argue."
- "Democrats argue that the chart depicts a 'Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund' that is 'simply a recipient of IRS funds, with no outflow. ... This is false.'"
The first accusation is nothing more than an assertion with no specifics. That particular box (red rectangle with sharp corners, west sou'west on the Brady flowchart) reads, "Low-Income Subsidy (families with 4x poverty level);" but the Democrats fail to tell us -- or Roll Call fails to quote them, which seems unlikely -- why this is "false" and what the actual elligibility test is.
Had Democrats given specifics, Republicans could respond by explaining why they believe the "four times" figure is more accurate than the Democrats' figure; since Democrats gave us nothing, we throw this one in the dustbin.
The second accusation at least has specificity... but it's arguably false, as a quick glance at the chart itself (linked above) demonstrates. The Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund (HIETF) is a red rectangle with rounded corners in the northwest corner of the flowchart. You will notice that is has an input from the yellow IRS diamond (as Democrats note).
But there is also a thin, red line connecting the HIETF with the Treasury Department -- a white elipse just northeast of the HIETF box. Alas, that line has no arrowhead, so we do not know if it is a one-way connection, and if so, which way it points.
The Democrats assume that means it's one-way... pointing from Treasury to the HIETF. But it could just as easily be a passthrough from HIETF, through Treasury (which must cut checks), to the Public Health Investment Fund, which is another red, round-cornered rectangle about midway between east and west on the north side (we're still following the thin, red line).
There are two ways to interpret that thin, red line connecting HIETF and Treasury:
- The line means two-way monetary traffic: HIETF receives money from the Treasury Department, and it also sends money through Treasury to other targets via the Public Health Investment Fund... funding favored Democratic constituents -- institutional, corporate, and private.
- Or, Republican ninnies think the trust fund only collects money and never dispurses any; it just accumulates billions upon billions of dollars for no apparent reason.
The Democratic memo wants you to believe the latter; but this doesn't even make sense from a Republican perspective; it's a serious breech of ethics, if not the law, if HIETF will funnel money through the Public Health Investment Fund to left-leaning entities; but a bloated reserve of gigadollars in a big tank somewhere not only wouldn't benefit Democrats, it wouldn't even fit the Republican narrative of profligate Democratic spending!
So we have two possible interpretations of a statement (or flowchart, in this case): One is rational and fits the narrative of the folks making the statement; the other does not fit that narrative, and is totally doltish to boot. The simple logic of Occam's Razor compels us to adopt the former interpretation -- not the ludicrous latter one.
But let's get to the real point at last. What has been the effect of the Democrats' corrupt stifling of Republican opposition to ObamaCare? Let's see:
Republicans quickly embraced Brady’s chart, and over the past week about 50 Members have posted it on their Congressional Web sites or used it in a floor speech. It has also been posted on the home page of the Republican National Committee.
Odd... the flowchart appears to be getting out anyway, despite the best efforts at Democratic corruption. But wait, let's take a step backwards... because in addition to appearing on Republican websites, it has also now been discussed in Roll Call -- and the chart is on that website, too.
But as they say with the Ginzu knives, that's not all! Roll Call is a very distinguished magazine -- and it's run by a liberal! So unlike stories in, e.g., the Washington Times or Weekly Standard, the controversy over mailing the flowchart will very likely leak out from Roll Call and into other magazines, newspapers, and elite media sources. In fact, the longer the fight rages, the greater the chance that the flowchart will get on television, and the attempted suppression discussed on radio, and both story and chart printed in major newspapers across the nation.
By contrast, had the Democrats simply allowed the Republicans to mail their blasted mailer, (a) it would only have gone to people in districts that are already Republican; and (b) it would probably be thrown into the trash unopened by the great majority of its recipients... as they routinely do with all mailings from their representatives and senators. To put it bluntly but honestly, the Democrats' own corruption now guarantees a hugely wider distribution of Rep. Brady's flowchart: Far more people will see it and read it than ever would have opened the original mailer.
The Democratic culture of corruption that led them to try to suppress the speech of their GOP opponents has already produced, and will continue to produce, a virulent backlash against the Democrats themselves, generating dramatically increased exposure of the exact damaging flowchart they tried to suppress.
Somehow, someway, Brer Republican managed to trick Brer Democrat into flinging the Brady flowchart into the briar patch. Once again, the Left has overreached and outsmarted itself. But I reckon Democrats just can't help it; as Uncle Remus said -- or at least as he's quoted at Disneyland's Splash Mountain ride -- "You can't run away from yourself -- there ain't no place that far!"
Cross-posted at Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 22, 2009
Newsflash: Palin May Be Charged With Defending Herself Against Ethics Charges
The assault on Sarah Palin passed absurdity long ago; it now makes a deep incursion into surreality. To wit, the newest charge from "independent investigator" Thomas Daniel:
An independent investigator has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts, in the latest legal distraction for the former vice presidential candidate as she prepares to leave office this week.
The report obtained by The Associated Press says Palin is securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust, set up by supporters.
And the substance of the charge?
An investigator for the state Personnel Board says in his July 14 report that there is probable cause to believe Palin used or attempted to use her official position for personal gain because she authorized the creation of the trust as the "official" legal defense fund....
The fund aims to help Palin pay off debts stemming from multiple ethics complaints against her, most of which have been dismissed. Palin says she owes more than $500,000 in legal fees, and she cited the mounting toll of the ethics probes as one of the reasons she is leaving office.
Given that the Palins are not independently wealthy -- not like, say, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) or Sen. JFK (D-MA, 100%) -- legal expenses upwards of half a million spondulicks could by themselves sink her political career by forcing her family into bankruptcy. An obvious strategy for political opponents of some public official, knowing he is not rolling in long green, is to inundate him with scores of non-meritorious ethics complaints, until he runs dry of enough money to pay lawyers. (It takes virtually no money to file the complaint; but it takes tens of thousands of dollars to defend oneself against it.)
Such tactics are the political equivalent of a distributed denial-of-service attack on a computer server.
In a state that does not pay for defending its government officials from complaints that are dismissed, such as Alaska, the only alternative is for the targeted official to create a legal defense fund. So what are Palin's enemies doing now? They're trying to prevent her from utilizing just such a fund:
The practical effect of the ruling on Palin will be more financial than anything else. The report recommends that Palin refuse to accept payment from the defense fund, and that the complaint be resolved without a formal hearing before the Alaska Personnel Board.
But what is supposed to be the problem? Of course she benefits from the fund -- that's what it's overtly for. But it's not an official act of the governor, it doesn't use any taxpayer funds, it's entirely voluntary, and contributions are limited to $150 per person -- so it doesn't even provide the opportunity for bribery. How is this unethical? Unless Mr. Daniel believes that all legal defense funds are inherently unethical... and that appears to be exactly his position:
In his report, attorney Thomas Daniel said his interpretation of the ethics act is consistent with common sense.
An ordinary citizen facing legal charges is not likely to be able to generate donations to a legal defense fund, he wrote. "In contrast, Governor Palin is able to generate donations because of the fact that she is a public official and a public figure. Were it not for the fact that she is governor and a national political figure, it is unlikely that many citizens would donate money to her legal defense fund."
Perhaps Daniel should consider that, were it not for the fact that she is governor and a national political figure, it is unlikely that she would need a bloody legal defense fund in the first place!
We are deep, deep into Dali-land and Magritte-ville now. Sarah Palin affects the Left like the full moon affects a werewolf; and despite the fact that she leaves office in four days, the lunatics are still in full bay... and will probably continue through the next decade, at least.
HeistWatch - Day 1
Day 1 after the Washington Times reported that the chief of staff to impeached Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, Enrique Flores Lanza, may have stolen millions of dollars in cash from the Central Bank of Honduras, three days before Zelaya himself was arrested for treason...
So far, I have found only one newspaper that has even so much as mentioned the charges: the Miami Herald -- which, for obvious reasons, has a greater interest than most in reporting stories connected to Red Cuba and Baja America. But even the Herald only gives it a single, cursory sentence:
In addition, Zelaya's chief of staff, Enrique Flores Lanza, is accused of abuse of power and misuse of public funds for withdrawing about $2.2 million [sic] in cash from the Central Bank on June 24.
(The "sic" above denotes that the Washington Times in fact reported that Lanza withdrew a total of $2.75 million -- not $2.2 million.)
One might expect a newspaper to wonder: If the chief of staff of the current president -- a president attempting to do an end-run around a constitutional prohibition on a referendum to extend his rule -- "is accused of... withdrawing about $2.2 million in cash from the Central Bank"...is it possible that chief of staff might have done so under orders from his boss? Perhaps to pay for the referendum -- or to buy votes. Isn't the question at least worth investigating?
So far, the answer is "Yes, it isn't even worth investigating;" not even by a newspaper that does not stand in lockstep with Fidel and Raul Castro, Oogo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega. I find that sad, very sad.
Once and future Zelaya posts on Big Lizards and Hot Air's rogues' gallery:
- Piddling Away Greatness, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery
- The Curious Case of Tegucigalpa's Traveling Traitor
- Reuters Still Stuck on "Coup"-pid
- Coup on You!, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery
- Did Zelaya Pull a Bank Heist Before Skedaddling?, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery
Did Zelaya Pull a Bank Heist Before Skedaddling?
The Washington Times reports that Honduran prosecutors have witnesses and a surveillance video indicating that then-President Manuel Zelaya or Chief of Staff Enrique Flores Lanza may have done exactly that.
More precisely, prosecutors claim that on June 24th, somebody went to the Central Bank of Honduras and "withdrew" $2.2 million equivalent in Honduran lempiras; the money was driven to Lanza's office, allege the witnesses. A second withdrawal of $550,000 equivalent was ordered by Lanza some hours later, according to government documents the Times says it obtained.
Supposedly, the cash was to be used during the "referendum," which the Honduran supreme court declared illegal; but I don't know for what. One would expect that ordinary government expenses for plebescites would be handled by means other than ferrying bags of currency around Tegucigalpa. The obvious implication (if the accusation is true) is that Zelaya was trying to "buy" his own illegal vote.
But this is more a tease than an accusation; I am not yet convinced by the Times' reporting that this really happened, or that if it did, Zelaya himself had anything to do with it. But I believe there is enough evidence at least to warrant posting a heads-up; it will be interesting to see whether the antique media ever catches up with this story -- and catches on to the pathetic astroturfing they've engaged in nonstop since he fled the country, trying to make it appear that a "grassroots" groundswell of support was erupting from the bowels of massed humanity, crying out for Zelaya to return in triumph.
Will they investigate the charge? Will they even bother reporting it? I think it's worth the risk of getting burned by a bum lead, if this turns out to be nothing, in order to test the mettle of the media: Will we see one word of this in the Washington Post, the New York Times, or CNN?
Keep watching the skies...
Earlier posts on Big Lizards and Hot Air's rogues' gallery:
- Piddling Away Greatness, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery
- The Curious Case of Tegucigalpa's Traveling Traitor
- Reuters Still Stuck on "Coup"-pid
- Coup on You!, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 21, 2009
Coup on You!
In mounting desperation, Barack H. Obama and his band of merry men now demand the restoration of Manuel "Mel" Zelaya as dictator of Honduras on the same time schedule as the typical "revolutionary" (radical leftist, that is) Obamic legislation -- e.g., government-run health care, crippling energy production, and shooting trillions of dollars of Monopoly money at every problem, hoping something sticks: The administration demands the legitimate impeachment of Zelaya be overturned and the dictator reinstated right now, this very minute -- and to hell with the Honduran constitution, Honduran law, and the Honduran supreme court:
The United States and Europe stepped up pressure on Honduras' de facto government on Tuesday as deposed President Manuel Zelaya and his supporters called on Washington to pave the way for his return....
The U.S. government threw its weight behind Arias' proposal that Zelaya, who was toppled in a June 28 coup, be reinstated to set up a coalition government.
"We're in constant contact with a number of countries in the hemisphere regarding the situation in Honduras, and we believe the Arias mediation is the right way to go, and the time is now to ... resolve this issue," State Department deputy spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters.
"We think that this is the best (way) ... to restore the constitutional order in the country, and we want to see that happen now," he said.
Do not argue with us, do not question us; you'll do what you're told to do -- and be quick about it!
Submitted for your approval, our previous profferings:
- Piddling Away Greatness, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery
- The Curious Case of Tegucigalpa's Traveling Traitor
- Reuters Still Stuck on "Coup"-pid
Why the hysterical haste and high-pressure tactics? Because, just like the radical legislation, the One knows that Mr. Time is not his friend: The more time passes, the more opposition grows among Republicans and even moderate Democrats.
Republicans are finally fighting back hard against the unprecedented kow-towing to America's enemies in Central and South America. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC, 100%) has exercised his authority under Senate rules to put the kibosh on two confirmation hearings, at least for a week or so. And he and other Republicans are demanding the administration explain why we're siding with Venezuela's Oogo Chavez, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, and los bros Castro (two Stalinists and a fascist)... and why we're lining up against the rule of law in Honduras:
Conservative Senator Jim DeMint, who has expressed concern over Washington's call for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to be reinstated, invoked his right to ask the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to postpone voting to confirm Arturo Valenzuela, currently a professor at Georgetown University, to be assistant secretary of state.
DeMint also asked for a delay in confirming Thomas Shannon as U.S. ambassador to Brazil. Shannon currently holds the assistant secretary's post.
(The definitive analysis so far of the legality of the Honduran supreme court's removal of Zelaya is by Miguel Estrada, in an opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times, of all places.)
But back to the first story. Reuters completely accepts Zelaya's own narrative of what happened, of course; that's to be expected. Then they roll out a new supporter of Zelaya, besides those leftist regimes already outed (Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica): Now Brazil joins the chorus of yapping Yorkies who insist that Zelaya be reinstated, so he'll have a legitimate shot at perverting the constitution with an illegal "referendum," stage-managed by Venezuela, making Zelaya in effect President for Life... just like his pals Oogo, Raul, and Fidel.
See? International support for Zelaya has expanded far beyond just a couple of socialist-headed, U.S.-hating, Latin American countries -- Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua -- plus the socialist-headed, U.S.-hating Organization of American States and the socialist-headed, U.S.-hating United Nations General Assembly; it now includes two more socialist-headed, U.S.-hating, Latin American countries: Costa Rica and Brazil.
It should be clear why the Obamacle chose up sides so rapidly; it was a no-brainer!
Here's the punchline... a perfect demonstration of how, no matter how tightly a lie is nailed across the doors and windows, truth will nevertheless find a crack and leak out:
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim called U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week to complain that talks were dragging on too long and that Zelaya should be reinstated without conditions, a Brazilian diplomat said.
"The negotiations must not reward a coup, which could in turn encourage other coups," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Come to think of it, using the tendentious redefinition of "coup d'état" that Zelaya, Castro & Castro, Chavez, Ortega, and Barack H. Obama use -- i.e., "legally removing a leftist president from office for attempting to seize dictatorial powers" -- perhaps the fear of "other coups" is precisely what so very much worries our own "Zelaya," currently sitting in la Casa Blanca and openly speculating about repealing the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
A strange and hopeful pattern has developed in the new administration: Projects are commenced with great fanfare, flourishes, and pompous circumstance. Everything is rush, rush, rush... for a short while.
Then the president appears to lose interest... and another revolutionary policy is put upon the back burner and promptly forgotten, heard no more, as the next --
-- as the next revolutionary policy elbows out the former to strut and fret its hour upon the stage.
The most recent policy to tumble into the realm of forgotten toys is, evidently, closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility; at least, that is the inference I draw from the fact that on the same day Barack H. Obama delayed publication of an important economic report until after Congress recesses, he also put off for half a year a task force that is supposed to evaluate interrogation and detention policies at Guantanamo Bay:
President Obama on Monday extended by six months a task force charged with determining how terrorism suspects should be interrogated, held in custody or handed over to other countries, putting in jeopardy his promise to close the military detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by January.
The move came on the same day the president pushed back the release of a congressionally mandated report on the nation's economic conditions, and the White House began to extend a self-imposed deadline for overhauling the nation's health care system.
Just how long is the president's attention span? If we wait long enough, will he just forget all about nationalizing the automakers, the banks, and health care?
I think I just had an epiphany (though I understand those are surgically removable these days): We've noticed that every Obamic policy is a screaming, four-alarm emergency that must be enacted not just now but yesterday, and for God's sake without congressmen wasting time actually reading the bills they vote on. Perhaps the reason is that Obama's aides know full well that if a bill takes longer than two weeks to pass, the POTUS has already lost interest,and is off playing with a newer toy (or perhaps the box in which it was delivered). The previous bill finds itself on the way to dusty death.
I can see where that would create the sense of a "ticking clock" among Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and his posse... like trying to hold an important conversation with a six year old child, or Lindsay Lohan: You have only a limited window of communication.
Note, for example, that Obama made the decision on July 20th to push --
-- to push the task force back by six months... meaning it would start (here's where my math degrees come in handy) on January 20th, 2010. Which makes it rather difficult to be ready to set the policies in time to find locations for all the detainees and still shut Gitmo down -- by January 22nd.
But don't worry; long before then, President Obama will probably have forgotten that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility even exists; we can only hope!
And remember how his very first order as president was going to be an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq within six months? The attention-span window on that one didn't even last from November 4th (election) to January 20th (inauguration).
By the time he was sworn in, Obama had also utterly forgotten that just a couple of months earlier, he had savagely attacked George W. Bush for his profligate, unaccountable stimulus package. And Jiminy Cricket, that tax cut for 95% of all Americans occupied the president's consciousness for such a long spell!
Most presidents occasionally have convenient lapses of memory; it's a survival trait. But Obama's interests wax and wane in the blink of a political eye, giving every impression of some functional variant on Attention Deficit Disorder. It just makes him and the country look like flakes.
I reckon that's one definition of "change we can believe in": From now until 2012, if you don't like the weather in D.C., just wait ten minutes.
Date ►►► July 20, 2009
Free Speech: Threat, or Menace?
This is more or less an open thread. I solicit your opinions in the comments; don't disappoint me!
Resolved: There is no general "right" to nonverbal "speech," and indeed, some should be banned.
Freedom of speech has always historically meant the freedom to express ideas in words; the modern fancy that any action whatsoever can be considered "speech" if it conveys, however indirectly, a message is unsustainable in logical argument.
Mere outrage is not by itself a message; at best, it's a medium... and freedom of speech does not imply freedom of every medium of expression. For example, does freedom of speech include the "right" of two high-school students to strip naked in the classroom and have sex? But they may thus be expressing the "message" that they are in love. And does it include "selling" property that doesn't belong to you, without the real owner's permission? But that may express your belief that all property should be distributed equally among everyone.
Speech literally means speech -- talking, words, sentences -- not anything that moves anyone to do or think anything. Granted, some nonverbal communication might be accorded the brevet status of speech; "flipping the bird," for example, or maybe even something as rude as mooning a speaker you hate. But those are privileges, not rights, and they can be allowed or forbidden on the whim of the authorities... so long as those authorities are even-handed in their judgments and don't use their power to advance one cause while restricting or retarding another. (But that can be a separate cause of action -- you can go to court and argue that the government is abusing its power to suppress nonverbal speech.)
Finally, there are some images and other nonverbal communications that are so vile and degrading that they literally harm people -- permanently and irrevocably -- either through encouraging horrific and ghastly behavior, or simply via psychological scarring and moral numbing. The victims include children, of course, but often adults as well.
Consider snuff films, even those that do not actually kill or harm any of the actors (adult or child), but create an amazingly realistic depiction of such sexual violence and murder. If we cannot ban a film, for example, that graphically depicts the sodomistic rape of a child (even if faked) -- and revels in such behavior, depicting it as normal and pleasurable -- then we are no longer a civilization, just a gathering of atavistic voyeurs and beastial bipeds.
At least "mere words" haven't the power to move people towards the soulless night of absolute amorality, as graphic or other nonverbal communication can. Can we not at least restrict "freedom of speech" to actual speech, words, which can be countered... and allow communities to ban some types of nonverbal "speech" that simply cannot be counterprogrammed, no matter how many wholesome, family-value programs are made available in response?
Sometimes, mere words are not sufficient to express a powerful, important idea in its fullness. For thousands of years, human beings have used nonverbal media -- everything from music to art to sculpture to dance to what today we would call protest and passive resistance -- to communicate and advance ideas that simply cannot be adequeately conveyed by words... either because the authorities won't allow the words to be spoken, or because the idea itself is ineffable.
For only one example, can religious experience be reduced to mere words? Suppose some government banned the Catholic mass -- but allowed a transcript to be printed and distributed. Freedom of religion aside, would that satisfy the intent of freedom of speech?
Great Britain at one time banned the singing of Irish revolutionary songs in the six counties (Ulster) in northern Ireland. Presumably, one could recite the words, but not sing them. Is that an acceptable limit on freedom of speech? Who, besides the government itself, benefits from such censorship of music?
If Iran bans the act of displaying an American flag on Iranian soil, doesn't that violate Iranians' freedom of speech? Could anything, words or actions, be more eloquent in expressing how a Persian might feel about what the mullahs have done to Iran, and the fights they have picked, than hoisting the flag of the freest country on Planet Earth, which is of course Iran's Great Satan?
Some ideas are ineffable: They cannot be fully described verbally, but only approximated; they cannot be properly argued or advanced with mere words. If we allow governments to ban nonverbal communication, they will inevitably use that authority to suppress those ineffable ideas that threaten their own hegemony or power (such as freedom, liberty, democracy, and disfavored religions), while blithely allowing nonverbal "speech" supporting those ineffable ideas that the government likes (like obedience to authority, or the singular divinity of Allah). That is certainly the pattern in every country that suppresses nonverbal "speech"... suppression is never "even-handed!"
Our only defense to vile and degrading nonverbal speech is to produce moral and uplifting speech (verbal and nonverbal) to combat the former. It can never be right for government to decide what types of speech, verbal or nonverbal, shall be allowed; suppressing the one is no different from suppressing the other: Both boil down to thought control, which is just another word for tyranny.
No matter how irredeemable some communication is, suppressing it comes at too high a moral cost.
My thoughts on this topic are driven in part by this story, but also by some of the bizarre and nauseating "installations" and "performance art" that has littered the fine arts for some years now... works that serve as defining examples of charlatanism, such as segmented human corpses, sexual self-mutilation, and the antics of people like, e.g., Lisa Suckdog.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
The Day the Universe Changed...
Or at least, the day it should have...
"One small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind"
No, the "international community" never landed on the Moon
Date ►►► July 19, 2009
Reuters Still Stuck on "Coup"-pid
I reckon the antique media still thinks they're living back in the days of "Uncle Walter."
Reading this Reuters story about "talks" between negotiators for deposed leftist wannabe-dictator and the legitimate government of Honduras is a little like reading Pravda: It all seems perfectly sane, perfectly rational -- but originating from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away:
Prospects for a breakthrough in Honduras' political crisis looked dim on Sunday, with negotiators for deposed President Manuel Zelaya and coup leaders divided over his proposed reinstatement....
Envoys sent by Zelaya, a leftist ousted in a June 28 military coup, and interim leader Roberto Micheletti said the main stumbling block was [Oscar] Arias' proposal that Zelaya return to power and form a government that shared power with his rivals.
Our previous offerings on this subject are:
- Piddling Away Greatness, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery
- The Curious Case of Tegucigalpa's Traveling Traitor
Perhaps Reuters thinks that if it just keeps saying "coup" often enough, eventually everybody will start to believe it! It's a magical spell. In all, the story uses the word "coup" to describe the arrest and impeachment of Manuel Zelaya three times; one time it uses the phrase "the army toppled Zelaya;" they refer to the impeachment as "Central America's worst crisis since the end of the Cold War;" and they inform us that "Zelaya has wide international support for his desire to return to power" -- by which they mean:
- The Castros in Cuba;
- Oogo Chavez in Venezuela;
- Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua;
- The Left-dominated and controlled Organization of American States (see "Piddling Away Greatness," linked above);
- And the U.N. General Assembly... currently run by President Rev. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, a liberation-theology Catholic priest (almost defrocked) and a former Sandinista leader (foreign minister under Ortega).
(Just five years ago, shortly before Ronald Reagan's death, Brockmann referred to him as "the butcher of my people." Rev. Brockmann has never apologized for, or even explained the rationale of, the Sandinistas' butchering of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, as they struggled to maintain their stranglehold on that country.)
We do learn a couple of actual facts, so the story is not a total waste of phosphor:
- Zelaya is no longer in Costa Rica; he is now ensconced out in Nicaragua... probably lunching in one of the palatial estates that his pal, President Daniel Ortega, leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front and raper of his 11 year old stepdaughter, "liberated" just after being voted out of office.
(Was that coup by the Sandinistas -- an actual coup d'état, by the way -- also a "crisis?" I don't recall the "unbiased" news media thinking so at the time.)
- The United States is in constant contact with Zelaya -- the enthusiastic chum of Ortgega, Oogo Chavez, and los Bros Castro -- and feverishly working to restore him to power in Honduras.
On that last point, if this doesn't make you wince, you haven't been paying attention:
"We are indeed concerned about (Zelaya) going back," the second official said [anonymously -- of course], adding that Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon "is in practically daily contact with him, urging him to allow (the) Arias process to play out."
The "Arias" referred to is Oscar Arias -- Nobel Peace Prize winner, also winner of the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, and recipient of "over fifty honorary degrees, including doctorates from Harvard University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Oberlin College, Wake Forest University, Ithaca College and Washington University in St. Louis," according to his Wikipedia entry.
He is a member of Economists for Peace and Security, as well as the International Criminal Court's Trust Fund for Victims. He is a member of Costa Rica's National Liberation Party. Hey, kids -- see if you can guess Arias' political ideology...!
Incidentally, speaking of creeping socialist Newspeak revisionism, here is Wikipedia's description of the 1980s and 90s in Central America, the crisis that Oscar Arias resolved in order to win his Nobel Fleece Prize:
Arias received the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his work towards the signing of the Esquipulas II Accords. This was a plan intended to promote democracy and peace on the Central American isthmus during a time of great turmoil: popular indigenous movements and guerrillas were struggling against repressive governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, which were backed by the United States under the auspices of the Cold War; the reactionary Contras, supported by the United States in the now-infamous Iran-Contra affair, were fighting an insurgency against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua; Honduras, only recently wresting political power from its military, was caught in the middle as a base for U.S. military forces; and on Costa Rica's other border, Panama faced the oppression of Manuel Noriega's military dictatorship. With the support of Arias, the various armed conflicts ended within the decade (Guatemala's civil war finally ended in 1996).
Either Oscar Arias rewrote his own Wikipedia entry -- or else maybe Lt. John F. Kerry did. Either way, yeah, that's how I remember that "time of great turmoil"...!
Arias is, of course, the most perfect envoy to mediate between the two sides in Honduras -- the dictator, Zelaya, and the legitimate president, Roberto Micheletti; he certainly has no conflicts of interest.
True, Arias, too, was frustrated by a Costa Rican constitution that strictly banned presidents seeking a second term. True, Arias, too, tried to get the Costa Rican Supreme Court to overturn that clause, but he was completely rebuffed by the Court.
But in Arias' case, rather than turn to Venezuela to print illegal "ballots," so that the Dear Leader's followers could hold a sham "referendum" to allow him to run for as many terms as he wanted, Arias took a different path: He packed the court with hand-picked cronies, who then overturned the previous decision.
See? Arias' personal experience at illegally circumventing term-limits is totally different from Zelaya's. No conflict of interest there!
Ye gods. Do reporters actually live in a literal cone of silence? Or do they just consciously and with ignorance aforethought ensure that they never, ever, ever come into contact with anybody whose worldview differs from theirs in the least degree? Heavens, their ideological purity might be tainted by the serial heresies of neocons.
I picture an entire newsroom full of journalists who still, to this day, boycott grapes; who jump up and do "the wave" whenever they see Oogo Chavez on the tube; who tie the knot at Che Guevara-themed wedding ceremonies; who casually write that Cuba has the greatest health-care system in the whole world... and insert that lecture into a breaking-news story about Paula Abdul no longer being a judge on American Idol.
They're the lost media generation, and they're irredeemable. We shall have to wait until today's middle-school kids grow up to see a return to adult supervision of the nation's newswriting... our "first draft of history."
Date ►►► July 18, 2009
The Price of Presidential Poltroonery
On July 2nd, the Iraq government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unilaterally issued guidelines to the withdrawal of forces agreement; nothing could make more clear how much we have lost by not having President George W. Bush to kick around anymore.
The sudden guidelines, which took American military commanders completely by surprise, included the demand that we cease all joint patrols with Iraqi forces:
In a curt missive issued by the Baghdad Operations Command on July 2 -- the day after Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops to bases outside city centers -- Iraq's top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to "stop all joint patrols" in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to "notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement"....
The new guidelines are a reflection of rising tensions between the two governments. Iraqi leaders increasingly see the agreement as an opportunity to show their citizens that they are now unequivocally in charge and that their dependence on the U.S. military is minimal and waning.
The new "guidelines" also reflect demands from Iran. What's next -- no Jewish Marines allowed in Iraq?
I am convinced this Iraqi betrayal would never have happened under President Bush; of all people in the world, Iraqis are most acutely aware of George W. Bush's resolve, his toughness, and his refusal to compromise American security, even to accomodate the vanity of an ally.
But the new administration is a different kettle of monkeys: Maliki understands that President Barack H. Obama is in full diplomatic retreat virtually everywhere, from Russia to North Korea to China -- even to our allies in Europe and Latin America. (Were I a psychologist or psychiatrist, I might speculate that his insensate hunger to meet other heads of state anytime, anywhere, for any reason, and without any preconditions is perhaps best understood as an unconscious need to be loved and approved, possibly due to being abandoned by his father; but I'm not, so I won't.)
In particular, Maliki sees the Obamacle kow-towing to Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even to the extent of releasing the very Qods Force officers who have been directing the violence and murder by splinter groups of the Mahdi Miliia against not only American and Coalition forces but Iraqis as well:
The strict application of the agreement coincides with what U.S. military officials in Washington say has been an escalation of attacks against their forces by Iranian-backed Shiite extremist groups, to which they have been unable to fully respond....
A spate of high-casualty suicide bombings in Shiite neighborhoods, attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq and related Sunni insurgent groups, has overshadowed the increase of attacks by Iran-backed Shiite extremists, U.S. official say....
The three primary groups -- Asaib al-Haq, Khataib Hezbollah and the Promised Day Brigades -- emerged from the "special groups" of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia of radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which terrorized Baghdad and southern Iraq beginning in 2006. All receive training, funding and direction from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.
"One of the things we still have to find out, as we pull out from the cities, is how much effectiveness we're going to have against some of these particular target sets," the military intelligence official said. "That's one of the very sensitive parts of this whole story."
Sensitive -- you think?
Does anybody believe that Barack Obama is ever going to crack down on Iran, in Iraq or anywhere else, so long as there is the faintest thread of a possibility in the One's mind that he can "talk Iran out of" building a nuclear bomb?
Does anybody think Obama would fight to preserve effective rules of engagement from depredations by the Iraqi Council of Representatives (acting as a stalking horse for Iran) -- or even from our own congressional defeatists trying, once again, to cripple our fighting ability?
Or would he just shrug and go with the flow? Especially if he is completely engrossed in trying to enact his domestic agenda to nationalize health care, the entire banking system, and all energy use; raise taxes back to Carter-era rates; and triple the national debt?
I think our military is quite chary of picking a fight with a tough enemy like Qods Force, unless they can be certain that the Commander in Chief will back our hand 100%. Since certainty is certainly lacking, considering the new CinC, I'm not sanguine about our willingness to go after those "three primary groups" of Shia attacking American forces in Iraq.
Worse, Iraqis are extremely sensitive to signs of their allies going wobbly; in the Middle East, an "ally" is a temporary arrangement subject to change at a moment's notice. If Iraqis gain the faintest sense that we cannot be relied upon, then they will find an ally who is more steadfast. Looking around, now that Bush is gone, there are but two other players in Iraq who have been there from the beginning and who appear determined to stay until the bitter end: al-Qaeda and Iran.
I worry that if Obama continues to send a message of weakness, vacillation, and subservience, the Iraqi Shia, in the face of an increasing tempo of attacks from the former, will naturally turn to the latter:
Maliki has occasionally criticized interference by Shiite Iran's Islamic government in Iraqi affairs. But he has also maintained close ties to Iran and has played down U.S. insistence that Iran is deeply involved, through the Quds Force, in training and controlling the Iraqi Shiite extremists.
U.S. intelligence has seen "no discernible increase in Tehran's support to Shia extremists in recent months," and the attack level is still low compared with previous years, U.S. counterterrorism official said. But senior military commanders maintained that Iran still supports the Shiite militias, and that their attacks now focus almost exclusively on U.S. forces.
With the replacement of George Bush by Barack Obama, the mullahs, the bloodthirsty, megalomaniacal, Twelver mullahs, may win after all; and all that blood and treasure will be flushed away. But the most galling part is this: After physically wrenching a brilliant victory around to a humiliating defeat, does anyone expect the One to accept responsibilty for his own stupid decisions?
Of course not; he'll blame Bush. Obama will crow that this proves he was right all along; the war was unwinnable from the start!
There is one possible saving grace: The troop-withdrawal agreement necessarily contains a lot of vagueness and ambiguity (this is, after all, the Middle East). We might interpret it to make Iraq's unnegotiated "guidelines" to withdrawal invalid.
Naturally, that would be a higher level decision than a mere military commander could make. It's political; it transcends strategy. Such a decision requires some stubbornness, resolution, military acumen, and just a little spine. And it must come from the political command, through the Department of Defense, the State Department, the intelligence agencies, and ultimately from the president himself.
Date ►►► July 17, 2009
Cool Ain't Cool
Just seven years ago at this time, Sachi and I were preparing ourselves for an extensive trip hiking in the Grand Canyon. We knew it would probably be hot, so we were training ourselves by deliberately going out and hiking (here in SoCal) in July and August.
By this time, mid-July 2002, we were routinely getting temps here over 100° F, some days as high as 105° F in the shade (not that there's much shade on the ridge hike we take). We were day-hiking while wearing full-sized backpacks filled with rocks and bottled water, to simulate a full pack.
Even so, we really weren't prepared at all when we got to Grand Canyon. During one hike along Clear Creek Trail, the temperature in the sun (there is no shade on that part of the Kaibab Plateau) was more than 125° F: That's as high as our thermometer registers, and it was pegged. Sachi swore she was evaporating.
Even during the night, the temperature never dropped below 100° F until an hour or so before dawn, the coldest time of day. We should know; we got dehydrated and suffered through the night before turning back the next morning.
And this was on September 24th-25th, 2002. (This isn't my seven-years faded memory; I just now went to the file and looked it up.) I can't imagine how hellish it would have been two months earlier.
What's the point? Well, so far this year, the temperature here in Southern California has only topped 90° F once, I think. And according to the 7-day forcast by the National Weather Service for Phantom Ranch (right at the bottom of Bright Angel Trail, on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon), the highs range from 109° F to 113° F, and the overnight lows are mid to high 70s! In mid-July!
The hottest temperature ever recorded at Phantom Ranch, according to the National Park Service, was 120° F in the shade, "on several dates." Clearly, the current temperature is much lower than the maximum, and indeed, significantly lower than just seven years ago -- both in SoCal and in the Grand Canyon.
I worry a lot more about global cooling than I do about global warming; at least the latter would be accompanied by a staggering increase in crop growth. Global glaciation could well be accompanied by worldwide crop failures.
Vikings -- the sea warriors, not the football team -- called their island Greenland precisely because it was lush and burgeoning; they even grew grapes for wine there. Today it's pretty much ice-locked; but I doubt even Al Gore could find a way to blame the Mediaeval Warm Period on industrial release of carbon dioxide.
During the last actual full-blown glaciation -- which peaked about 18,000 years ago -- the ice sheets completely blanketed Canada and Alaska and came all the way down to Minneapolis. They carved out the Great Lakes, and the ice-melt filled them. Glaciers created Niagara Falls (by rerouting the river) and the Ohio River system.
Oh, and another minor side effect: Glaciation produced a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska... which is why the Americas were already inhabited by humans (and old-world mammals) before Columbus got here... or even Vikings.
"Too hot" just means too hot. Maybe a little rise in the sea level, but nothing a good seawall can't handle; the Dutch have been reclaiming land from below sea level since the 1500s. It doesn't mean molten lava lakes in Kansas.
But "too cold" can mean "no longer human habitable," at least not without massive technological intervention, which most of the rest of the world could not possibly afford: hydroponics, animal-protein synthesis, underground raising of livestock, nuclear powered heating, environmental suits for venturing outside, transportation challenges, and so forth.
For our own sakes, let's hope that if we're destined to live to see the nightmarish predictions of a group of global alarmists come true -- it's the ones of today, not the global-cooling nuts of the 1970s!
Ten Things He Hates About Us
Ten Uniquements [ thirteen no, wait -- fourteen!] that Barack H. Obama hates about the America he inherited -- and how he plans to change all that. Obviously not every person in the United States will fit every instance of American exceptionalism on this list; in fact, some folks will see the entire list as alien and frightening. (We have a name for such people; we call them "liberals.")
But for the most part, this list defines the character of America. And even with the staggering pressure that modern life puts upon these eternal verities, America still exhibits these character traits more strongly than any other country on God's green earth. Collectively, they are what make us unique on the globe: uniquely moral, uniquely powerful, uniquely rich, and uniquely free.
So here they are, The Ten Uniquements:
Americans are self-reliant: They want work, not welfare; their own insurance, not government-controlled health care; and an open choice where to send their kids for school (or to educate them at home).
Obama wants to change America so that everybody must rely upon the government for every aspect of life, from womb to tomb.
Americans are personally generous: We prefer our aid to be voluntary, not coerced, enforced, or expropriated by some government bureaucrat sitting in D.C. (or the Hague).
Obama wants to institutionalize and nationalize all acts of emergency aid, foreign and domestic... and make them into entitlements.
Americans are individually empowered: If attacked by criminals or terrorists, they would rather rely on their own weapons to defend themselves and theirs than comply with their attackers' demands and hope the police finally arrive. (Viz., from women shooting attempted rapists to what the passengers of Flight 93 did)
The One We Have Been Waiting For With Bated Breath has made it plain that, were it up to him, Americans would be disarmed, forcing them to depend upon overwhelmed and underfunded police forces. Except for rich Hollywood liberals -- and of course politicians -- who would have heavily armed bodyguards at beck and call.
Americans are antiracists, antisexists, and anticreedists: We really don't judge people by the color of their skins; worse, we actually do insist upon judging them by the content of their characters!
"Justice" Sonia Sotomayor.
For those tasks that require government, Americans prefer that government be as small and close to them as possible: city before county, county instead of state, state in preference to national; and for goodness' sake, national always ahead of international!
No comment necessary.
Americans would rather limp along under a government that is too weak than be crushed by a government that is too strong: They demand lower taxes, even if that means fewer programs.
The Obamacle and his faction in Congress now openly talk about hiking taxes back up to where they were under Jimmy Carter. But realistically, that's nowhere near enough to pay for their rapacity; that would require an average of 60%-70% for everyone.
Similarly, Americans prefer smaller companies: We encourage individuals to start up small businesses, rather than longing for the entire workforce to be tied to a handful of giant, multinational conglomerates.
Taxing "the rich" inevitably means especially heavy taxes on small business; taxing medical-insurance payments kills small business; high interest rates -- guaranteed, once government runs the economy -- means the utter destruction of small business; and extending the power of unions into every company, no matter how small, will bring about the consolidation of all labor into one big glob of corporatism... which is, of course, the goal of the "liberal fascism" that Jonah Goldberg describes.
Americans are not envious: Each of us sees himself (or his children) as perhaps being rich one day, so we don't punish success.
The B.O. administration is brazen in its contempt for a flat or even semi-flat tax system; they want a sharply "progressive" tax rate, where "the rich" are socked with higher and higher surtaxes, windfall profit taxes, inheritance taxes, and a gargantuan capital-gains tax. (Of course, they also intend to define "rich" downward until it includes everybody who isn't on welfare... and they also favor a highly regressive national sales tax in addition to a progressive income tax. Perhaps they're just happy taxers and loopy looters.)
But they also support regulations to enforce, not just equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome, no matter what life choices someone makes; they long for a Harrison Bergeron world, where everyone is truly equal -- even if that means a "Handicapper General" to ensure that all are equally poor and equally miserable.
Americans are evangelists: We believe in spreading the faith of "ethical monotheism" everywhere, even to places that have never known anything but religious oppression and "holy" warfare. (Even many of us non-religious Americans support that goal!)
Obama sees religion as the handmaiden of radical politics, as his twenty-year association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright demonstrates. His liberal goodfellas in Congress side with the ACLU on most of its attacks on public religious displays. (But on one occasion, Obama himself went against form, nominating the evangelical Christian Francis Collins to head up the NIH.)
Americans are evangelists: We believe in spreading the government of individualism, Capitalism, and deregulated democratic republicanism everywhere, even to places that have never known anything but despotism and crony-cannibalism.
Barack "Lucky Lefty" Obama prefers instead to import into America all the evils of foreign welfare states and tyrannies -- from the government health care of Britain, Canada, and Japan, to the corporate nationalizations of Oogo Chavez's Venezuela, to the rule-by-decree of banana republics from South America to the South Pacific, to the torpid fatalism and dhimmitude of much of the Middle East.
Oh, heck -- let's make it a baker's dozen:
Americans are adamantly participatory: We cannot be silenced, disenfranchised, shut up, sent home, pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered... our lives (and thoughts and votes) are our own. We are cardinals, not ordinals.
Obama prefers that Congress simply enact his proposals without regard for the people; if the people get unruly enough, he will dissolve them and appoint a new people (subject to Senate confirmation).
Bills are shoved through committees on swift, party-line votes; and he instructs the full House and Senate have it on his desk in a couple of weeks... preferably without representatives and senators confusing matters by trying actually to read the bills before passing them.
For the rest of us, we should stand quietly in line and wait for instructions.
Americans are bold, brave, and grand: Our plans are expansive, not cramped; our crusades are universal, not limited; our expectations are sky-high; and our demands are impossible... yet we regularly meet them.
The B.O. administration tells us we must slash our expectations of future medical cures, "spend money to keep from going bankrupt," bow to the wishes of Putin, Kim, and Ahmadinejad, close Guantanamo Bay, get out of the Middle East, stop making waves, don't expect prosperity anytime soon -- and stop using energy. Or else. I fear a terrible malaise is creeping out of la Casa Blanca.
Americans are stubborn, obstinant, querulous, gritty, cantankerous, peevish, grudge-nursing, quick to anger, and often violently intemperate... and those are our best qualities! That's why we're still around, the oldest government in the world still functioning by and large according to its foundational documents, with no sign of dying -- or allowing Lucky Lefty from Chicago to turn America into New Amsterdam.
Obama wants America to be liked. To be liked, we must be nice. To be nice is to be accomodating -- to everyone else. We've had our turn; in all fairness, it's now time to hand the reins to other countries -- say, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela, and Russia. Let them drive for a few decades.
Oh, all right... and "one to grow on":
Americans are brutally honest: We despise corruption -- of the soul or of the public purse.
Obama prefers Chicago Rules -- vote buying, suing his opponents off the ballot, suppressing his opponents' vote count, elections run by union thugs, back-room deals, White House threats against reluctant congressmen, and pals and gals making a killing off of sweetheart stimulous deals. It's no shock -- from little ACORNs, mighty orcs grow.
There you go -- some indeterminate number of things he hates about us, about America as it is -- and what he wants to overthrow and create in its place... America as he thinks it should be. Now, what are we going to do about it?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 16, 2009
The Obamacle's "Drag and Drop" War Against the War Against the Axis
I believe we can safely generalize to this extent: President Barack H. Obama may propose, but his attention wanes when he must then dispose.
Two days after taking office, he ordered a halt in all proceedings of the military hearings desperately trying to try detainees in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, pending an administrative "review." He electifyied the Left (and electrocuted the Right) with a round of stunning rhetoric (Obama "proposes"); but when it came time to actually conduct the review, he lost interest -- nobody "disposes" (and Moses supposes his toeses are roses).
The review lags, and cases drag and droop. Soon some cases may finally drop from sheer inattention:
The unfinished review of the cases against 229 suspected terrorists held at the detention center here has slowed the legal process to a crawl, leaving military prosecutors - and even judges - bewildered as to how to move forward....
In another hearing Wednesday, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, a top aide to Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, spent 90 minutes in a high-security courtroom behind razor-wire fences as military prosecutors argued to delay the case until at least September - the deadline for the review.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Seamus Quinn, a military prosecutor, told the judge that proceeding with the case now "would be an injustice to all concerned." He said the delay is needed to "address and eliminate all possible challenges" to the government's case.
Defense attorneys also went on the attack, asking the military judges to either dismiss the charges or move forward. "You cannot sit somebody in indefinite detention. It violates every principle we have as Americans," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Travis Owens, a lawyer representing Al Qosi.
The reason prosecutors moved for a postponement in the Qosi case is that, when the review ends -- if there ever is an end -- Congress will almost certainly have to rewrite the entire rulebook (yet again), in order to satisfy Obama's (and Hillary Clinton's, and Joe Biden's) sense of "fair play for terrorists." If the trials proceed now, then in September or October -- whether the hearing was complete or not -- they will have to start all over.
Defense attorneys are playing "damned if you do, damned if you don't," knowing that it's win-win for them:
If trial is delayed, they will argue that the detainee's right to a speedy trial is being violated.
And if it's not, then they'll argue that the rules were changed in the middle of the game!
Both claims will likely find much support from a chronically conflicted White House, which might jump at the chance to use a legalism as an end-run around actually trying terrorists at all, at all.
But why are we in this situation in the first place? Because on January 22nd, the barely unwrapped Obamacle issued a barely pondered pronunciamento. That brought to an abrupt halt proceedings that had been carefully crafted by a combination of a White House that had been fighting the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis for years, two different Congresses, and the United States Supreme Court -- ruling twice.
So, how is the B.O. review going so far?
A government task force has reviewed half of cases against the 229 suspects to determine which ones should be transferred, tried or held indefinitely, said a military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The White House did not respond to questions about the status of the review and the delays in proceedings.
Some "military official" -- a general? rear admiral lower half? colonel? 2nd lieutenant? PO-3? -- says the Obamarama has managed to review 114½ cases in a scant six months; presumably those are the easier ones. Does that mean it's going to be another year gone before they've reviewed the toughies?
And what happens if Obama forgets to rescind his executive order closing Guantanamo Bay before finishing the review -- are all detainees simply released into the wild, without even being tagged? But how will we know their migration routes, their mating proclivities, or even if they're becoming endangered?
Closing the military prison - as Mr. Obama has vowed to do by January - has proved far more difficult than originally thought.
Gee, you think?
Here's a partial timeline of the Dashing Dance of the Detainees:
November 13, 2001: President George W. Bush announces that some detainees will be tried by military tribunal. Democrats drag the proceedings out as much as possible, kicking and screaming every step of the way.
During the 2004 campaign: Democrats demand that all detainees be transferred to civilian courts and tried alongside federal credit-union robbers and marijuana smugglers.
December 30th, 2005: President Bush signs the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which limits all interrogations by Department of Defense employees to those allowed by the Army Field Manual, but also makes explicit that unlawful enemy combatants detained outside the territory of the United States have no habeas corpus rights to file petitions in U.S. federal courts. CIA and other non-military interrogators are prohibited from using "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," but not restricted to the Army Field Manual. Classifications (lawful or unlawful enemy combatant) finally start to roll.
June 29, 2006: US Supreme Court rules in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld -- actually, Justice Anthony Kennedy rules, since the case was 5-3 (Chief Justice Roberts recused himself, having ruled against Hamdan as a circus-court judge) -- that the military tribunals set up by President Bush are inadequate; Court strongly hints that Congress should enact legislation. Everything on hold.
September 28th-29th, 2006: Congress enacts legislation, passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). Classifications start over from scratch, but at least they finally start to roll. Again.
June 29th, 2007: The Supreme Court, which had earlier chosen not to hear the cases Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States challenging the MCA, changes its mind and says it will hear the cases. Everything on hold. Again.
December 5th, 2007: Supreme Court hears oral arguments. Everything still on hold.
June 12th, 2008: Supreme Court rules -- actually, once again, Anthony Kennedy rules, since the case was 5-4 -- striking down the MCA as well as the DTA, holding that neither of these acts gives enough rights to terrorists in al-Qaeda and other jihadist organizations. The Court holds that the MCA is inadequate (congressional legislation notwithstanding), and that terrorist prisoners captured on the battlefield deserve either full-blown civilian trials, or at least a military trial that is at least as "fair" as, say, an American soldier being court-martialed for, e.g., robbing a military credit union or smuggling marijuana. Everything must start over from scratch.
November 4th, 2008: Barack H. Obama elected president of the United States. Everything on hold. Again.
January 22nd, 2009: Obama issues EO formally suspending all prosecutions of terrorist detainees until his scream team finishes reviewing all cases. Whenever that turns out to be. Everything at a dead stop, except for defense motions to dismiss charges on grounds that terrorists are being denied a speedy trial.
And now, the punchline:
[O]n May 21, Mr. Obama said in a speech at the National Archives in Washington that the tribunals are "an appropriate venue for trying detainees for violations of the laws of war." But at the same time, he lashed out at the Bush administration for what he called undue delays. [!]
"For over seven years, we have detained hundreds of people at Guantanamo. During that time, the system of military commissions that were in place at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting a grand total of three suspected terrorists. Let me repeat that - three convictions in over seven years. Instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts at prosecution met setback after setback, cases lingered on," he said.
I can't imagine why we haven't convicted more terrorists -- it's eerie; it's... inexplicable!
I fear that on the issue of military
tribunals commissions courts-martial civilian trials indefinite detention under Obama's, not Bush's orders, the One We Have Been Waiting For is still keeping us waiting, while once again he votes -- "Present!"
Who's an Embryo? Plan B...
Caroming off our previous post on the appointment of Dr. Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., as the director of the National Institutes of Health -- in which we argued that extreme pro-lifers were wrong to try to derail the appointment because of a miniscule doctrinal difference that actually made no difference in the real world -- conservative columnist Cal Thomas (who also supports Collins) now weighs in: He reports that extreme pro-choicers are also unhappy with Collins... because they're worried he might introduce a note of conscience into medicine. Can't have that!
(Alas, Thomas' argument is diminished, as he slips in an instance of Godwin's Law that may overshadow the main point.)
The recent New York Times story announcing the president's selection of Dr. Collins ("who led the government's successful effort to sequence the human genome") reflects what would be considered bigotry or sexism if applied to someone because of his or her race or gender. Reporter Gardiner Harris writes that one of the objections to Dr. Collins (he names no objectors, which is the pattern of a smear) "is his very public embrace of religion. He wrote a book called 'The Language of God' and he has given many talks and interviews in which he described his conversion to Christianity as a 27-year-old medical student."
I don't know exactly what story he references, so I can't read it and see if Thomas' charge is fair; nor am I going to spend any time looking it up: I have other irons to fry.
But I have certainly seen that same ad-hominem attack on Collins coming from ultra-secular materialist liberals, Socialists, and self-described atheists I personally know, when I recommended his book, the Language of God... so I have no difficulty believing that the attack is once again raised in response to the Collins appointment: He can't be a real scientist, because belief in God is fundamentally irrational and demonstrates a disordered mind.
Normally I despise the facile "argument" that if so-and-so draws fire from both the extreme Right and extreme Left, he must, as in the Goldilocks story, be ju-u-u-ust right; it's juvenile and generally a cross between a crocodile and an abalone... that is, a crocabalone. But in this very particular case, I think two ends attacking the middle does tell us something good and fine about Collins (and again, a rare rave to President Barack H. Obama for making the appointment).
Collins draws fire precisely because he sees no conflict between faith and science, and in particular, between evangelical Christianity and modern evolutionary theory; his own success in the scientific field is a living refutation of the warped pronunciamentos of those secularists (e.g., Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, Philip Pullman) who say that studying evolution necessarily makes one an atheist... as well as the religious who refuse, for reasons of faith, to accept evolution -- including Ben Stein, Michael Medved, Ann Coulter, and indeed everyone at the Discovery Institute, from Michael Behe up and down the line.
In this case, the fact that both extremes of the debate turn their rhetorical guns on Collins -- generally without troubling to read what he writes or listen to what he says -- does indeed show that he represents the Kirkian mean between the Spockian and Bonesian poles, to which scientists and the religious should all aspire.
I find it interesting that the very same atheists I personally know -- literally, the exact same individuals -- also dismiss any story from the Washington Times because it's "a Moonie newspaper!" -- as if the paper itself being owned by the Unification Church "proves" that Wesley Pruden, John F. Solomon, John McCaslin, Greg Pierce, Cal Thomas, Mark Steyn, Jeffrey Birnbaum, Bill Gertz, Frank Gaffney, David Brooks, Bill Sammon, Tony Blankley, Tony Snow, and every other writer or editor who has ever worked for the newspaper must himself be -- a Moonie! -- and therefore incapable of reporting without inserting Unification Church propaganda and evangelism into every story, column, or editorial decision.
This type of rhetorical attack -- Argument by Religious Repulsion -- appears to be a habit, possibly an addiction, with some.
Flesh-Eating Robots, Ook! Well... Not Exactly
This Fox News story got picked up by Drudge, likely because of its lurid title: Upcoming Military Robot Could Feed on Dead Bodies. It really begs for an exclamation mark, doesn't it? Maybe even an illustrative graphic as Wolf Howling might use; Goya springs to mind...
Goya - Saturn devouring his son
For that very reason, I initially didn't bother clicking on it. At the urging of occasional collaborator (with us, I mean, not our enemies) Brad Linaweaver, I finally read the story, then clicked over and read the long presentation by the company itself, Robotic Technologies, Inc.
It is an interesting concept: an "unmanned ground vehicle" (UGV), similar to the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs -- Predators, for example) we've all come to know and love. But as I suspected, the horror-movie touch about the robot eating "animal and human corpses" appears to have been invented out of whole cloth by a Fox News writer who gives the impression of being a 12 year old fanboy who stumbled over a cache of old E.C. comics.
It's true that in addition to other, more traditional fuels (kerosene, butane, gasoline, etc.), the robot -- charmingly named Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot, or EATR -- can also "ingest," that is, burn, biomass. While technically, animal flesh (including humans) can be considered biomass, in reality the most likely forraged fuel would be plant matter, not flesh. I don't know much about Rankine cycle steam engines, which is what powers the EATR; but I would guess that it would take an awful lot of battery power to saw an animal carcass into pieces small enough to "eat"... and it would be hard to burn something with that high a water content in a combustion chamber that generally doesn't exceed 1050°F (565°C), about 200-300° less than an automobile engine.
But eating what it's intended to eat -- grass, wood chips, paper, even a discarded bottle of vegetable oil, depending on how bright the NIST 4D/RCS Autonomous Intelligent Control eventually becomes -- it would be a very nice platform for very long-term missions, months perhaps -- missions that range from surveillance, depending on how quiet Robot Technologies can make it, to unmanned but almost certainly human-directed attack.
In theory, it can scale up to the size of a modified Humvee or small armored vehicled, with perhaps an artillery piece, rocket launchers, or a Gatling-gun antipersonnel weapon, à la the M61 Vulcan (which can fire about 100 rounds per second). It could be a devastating weapon in combat, and of course it would be immune to chemical or biological attack -- though a firehose or waterdrop might quench its fire.
Let's be clear, though; this is not a potential Bolo tank. Burning biomass is not the future of heavy tanks (or super-super-super-super-super-heavy, if we're talking about the Keith Laumer series). Even if it were to hew down and "ingest" the General Sherman redwood, I doubt that would supply enough steam power to moving something weighing as much as a guided-missile frigate even fifty centimeters. For moving at speed, I think you would need a fission power plant -- a big one.
However, used as a ground analog of the Predator, it can be very effective and useful, especially in extremely rugged terrain that is difficult passage for vehicles with human cargo. (There are places in Afghanistan and Pakistan where the most effective military vehicle is a horse. Or even a mule.)
But I will make two predictions that I think are pretty solid:
- If this vehicle is finally deployed (and I think it will be; it's all down to engineering details now), it will never be given autonomy to acquire its own targets and attack them; it will always require human authorization to proceed.
The reason for this one should be clear: politics. Imagine the hue and cry were one of these Death EATRs to mistakenly fire upon and kill or maim a group of American military personnel, or a group of non-combatant children or nuns or somesuch. And don't try to tell me the system will be perfect and never make such a mistake! Murphy's Law operates in military equipment as well as, and possibly better than, in civilian arenas.
But if every shot is confirmed by a trained human being before firing, then even if he makes a terrible and tragic mistake, Americans won't blame the EATR or demand it be mothballed; they'll blame the "pilot," perhaps demanding that he be mothballed.
- And if this vehicle is finally deployed, I absolutely guarantee that it will be designed in such a way that it will never, ever, ever "ingest" a human being... any human, no matter how long dead, and no matter what side (if any) he fought on.
This one should be even more obvious: Just imagine the grisly YouTube!
But it is an interesting concept, one that is inevitable, given the success of our UAVs. I presume we'll also soon have:
- UWVs (water)
- ULVs (littoral -- that is, amphibious)
- USVs (submersibles)
- And eventually the trickiest of all, UUVs -- unmanned urban vehicles.
That last might have to have "walking" capability; I envison something like Dr. Octopus from Marvel Comics (with a great movie visualization in Spider Man 2), walking across city streets, stepping over obstacles, or even clawing its way up the side of a building. Each of these is just a variant on the original UAV design, though each has its own engineering details to overcome.
But the one I'm waiting for with baited hook is the UTV; that would be a real Godsend to me: the unmanned taxi vehicle, or driverless limousine. Golly, would I love to just loll back in my seat, reading a book and sipping a soda, and have the car take me right to my destination! Maybe even via a combination of air travel and street driving for the last, little bit. (The truly great Schwarzenegger science-fiction movie, the Sixth Day, had one of these babies.)
That future cannot possibly come too soon for me.
Date ►►► July 15, 2009
Has the commenting facility stopped working again?
Or have I finally achieved my life's ambition of getting everybody in the world simultaneously to stop speaking to me?
If the former, can someone tell me what's wrong via the "Lizardly Tips" e-mail address displayed in the right-hand sidebar, below the perpetually free advert for Power Line Video?
And if the latter, then go ahead and don't speak to me... see if I care, you lousy bunch of tree-hugging, plague-infested, insect eating, beady-eyed, naked-tailed, mangy members of order Rodentia.
(And if the former, please completely ignore the sentence immediately preceding. I was just talking to a friend of mine on Bluetooth.)
It's already a huge scandal that President Barack H. Obama just released Qods Force insurgents/terrorists in what appears to be, horribly enough, quid pro quo for Iran releasing a journalist it had seized (probably for just such an exchange).
But now the Washington Times reports that two anonymous "senior U.S. officials" -- one current and one former -- claim we captured those Qods Force officers as nothing more than innocent civilian "hostages," to force Iran to do our bidding:
Three members of Iran's elite Quds Force who were seized in Iraq by the United States were held for more than two years even though they had not been involved in anti-U.S. activities [!] and were functioning as diplomats at the time, a former and a currently serving senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
The former official, who served in Iraq and was in a position to know about the issue but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that the three -- who were turned over to the Iraqis last week and then to Iran -- were in effect "hostages" taken to try to persuade Iran to reduce its support for anti-U.S. violence in Iraq.
Among all the slanders slung by the hard Left (inside and outside our government) at the Bush administration and at American soldiers and Marines, this has to be the vilest: Now a craven pair of "senior U.S. officials" brazenly equates the United States with Iran, the ultimate insult of moral equivalence.
How much would anyone care to bet that these "officials" are senior members of the permanent, floating bureaucracy? Top CIA analysts, for example, or perhaps senior State Department officers, something of that ilk.
And a side bet: They would proudly proclaim themselves political "Realists," hoping to force diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Iran by any means necessary, even if they have to cripple America's own bargaining position in the process.
Presidents may go and come; yet the American nomenklatura's war against American exceptionalism, American self-defense, even America itself abides... for all eternity.
The Curious Case of Tegucigalpa's Traveling Traitor
I highly recommend the excellent Los Angeles Times commentary-analysis by filibustered D.C. Circus nominee Miguel Estrada; he makes an excellent legal (and moral) case that:
- The ouster of former Honduran President (and now accused traitor) Manuel Zelaya was perfectly legal (and a darned good idea), not only in accord with the Honduran constitution, but also at the express direction of the Supreme Court of Honduras;
- The arrest of Zelaya by the military was also properly carried out under both an arrest warrant and a search warrant issued by the Supreme Court;
- That the replacement of Zelaya with Roberto Micheletti (as acting president until the November elections) was also completely legitimate: Vice President Elvin Ernesto Santos Ordóñez had already resigned (to run next November for president); the newly-minted "Vice President Commissioner" (Arístides Mejía Carranza) -- a position that had never before existed -- was not in the line of succession; and that left Micheletti, as President of the National Congress, next at bat;
- And that this ouster satisfies no element of the basic definition of a "coup d'état." It was in fact what we would call an impeachment and conviction under the rules established by the Honduran constitution.
On point 4, as Estrada -- who himself immigrated here from Honduras at age seventeen -- sums up:
As noted, Article 239 states clearly that one who behaves as Zelaya did in attempting to change presidential succession ceases immediately to be president. If there were any doubt on that score, the Congress removed it by convening immediately after Zelaya's arrest, condemning his illegal conduct and overwhelmingly voting (122 to 6) to remove him from office. The Congress is led by Zelaya's own Liberal Party (although it is true that Zelaya and his party have grown apart as he has moved left). Because Zelaya's vice president had earlier quit to run in the November elections, the next person in the line of succession was Micheletti, the Liberal leader of Congress. He was named to complete the remaining months of Zelaya's term.
It cannot be right to call this a "coup." Micheletti was lawfully made president by the country's elected Congress. The president is a civilian. The Honduran Congress and courts continue to function as before. The armed forces are under civilian control. The elections scheduled for November are still scheduled for November. Indeed, after reviewing the Constitution and consulting with the Supreme Court, the Congress and the electoral tribunal, respected Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga recently stated that the only possible conclusion is that Zelaya had lawfully been ousted under Article 239 before he was arrested, and that democracy in Honduras continues fully to operate in accordance with law. All Honduran bishops joined Rodriguez in this pronouncement.
But Estrada leaves us with one very curious mystery worthy of Perry Mason: Why was accused traitor Zelaya sent into immediate exile in Costa Rica instead of being prosecuted?
Before we get too deep into the Honduran jungle -- excuse me, "rainforest" -- our previous offering on the Zelaya impeachment was Piddling Away Greatness, also cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery.
Here's how Estrada describes the case (the Honduran case, I mean, not the Deadly Verdict):
It would seem from this that Zelaya's arrest by the military was legal, and rather well justified to boot. But, unfortunately, the tale did not end there. Rather than taking Zelaya to jail and then to court to face charges, the military shipped him off to Costa Rica. No one has yet explained persuasively why summarily sending Zelaya into exile in this manner was legal, and it most likely wasn't....
True, Zelaya should not have been arbitrarily exiled from his homeland. That, however, does not mean he must be reinstalled as president of Honduras. It merely makes him an indicted private citizen with a meritorious immigration beef against his country.
I believe I have found the key to the mystery (with apologies to nineteenth-century French occultist Éliphas Lévi, who of course wrote La Clef des Grands Mystères, the Key to the Mysteries -- which has nothing whatsoever to do with this post.) My key to the present mystery is contained in the two sentences I highlighted in blue above: Micheletti (and a plurality of the National Congress) share membership in Zelaya's Liberal Party.
And it's a fairly thin plurality at that: 62 Liberal Party seats to 55 National Party seats (out of a total of 128 congressmen). This is almost an exact reversal from the previous election in 2001, when the Liberals had 55 seats to the National's 61. And of course, the next election is just around the corner, less than 20 weeks away, on November 29th.
It seems to me a no-brainer that the removal of Zelaya from office, his replacement with another president (of the same party), and arrest, all for the crimes of treason and abuse of authority, stands a good chance of tainting his political party in the elections a few weeks hence, no matter what else may happen. Even though the party moved swiftly to remove Zelaya once he began angling to make himself "president for life," like his buddy Oogo Chavez in Venezuela, the reality is that some percent of marginal Liberal voters will switch to the rival (and more conservative, and very much more pro-American) National Party.
A swing of just 3% - 4% from Liberal to National could easily mean a swing of four seats, giving the National Party a plurality of 59-58. A swing of six seats -- which often happens when the previous election was close -- would put them nearly back where they were in 2001, with the National Party up 61 to 56.
Even worse for the Liberals, in the last election, Zelaya only beat National Party nominee Porfirio Lobo Sosa by 49.9 to 46.2 (3.7%). Again, a tiny switch of less than 2% from Liberal to National would give Honduras a new presidential party.
At the moment, the National Party has a (very narrow) working majority, being allied with other parties; but the Liberals control the presidency. If, as I suspect, the Zelaya scandal throws a cocked hat into the electoral ring, the Liberals could find themselves in the position the American Democrats were in 2001 or the Republicans are today: Exiled from all banches of national government.
So how does this explain the mysterious exiling of Zelaya? Fairly well, I believe: The only chance the Liberals have is to bury the Zelaya scandal in a shallow grave; so the very last thing they would want is an actual court trial, for heaven's sake.
With Zelaya in exile, and if Micheletti can possibly persuade him to shut his pie hole and stop making trouble, maybe things would quiet down, giving Liberals a chance to get beyond that whole "treason" flap. Perhaps the Liberals could even play off Micheletti's few months of incumbency to persuade voters at least to let them retain the presidency, even if their functioning deficit in the National Congress gets worse. With divided government, there is always hope one can get one's way at least some of the time.
So it again seems obvious which party benefits from hustling Zelaya off to neutral Costa Rica... at least until after the election.
But a vital question remains unanswered: Who actually ordered Zelaya sent away? The military arrested him under Supreme Court orders, but they would need separate, explicit orders to exile him. I can't find a precise enough timetable to see whether the exile was ordered before or after Michelitti was declared acting president.
If after, then the exile was probably ordered by Michelitti himself, under his acting presidential authority. But if before, then it would have to have been ordered by the Congress, since nobody else is left: I can't see the Supreme Court going to such great lengths to follow the law -- and then issuing such a flagrantly illegal order. If Michelitti is the culprit, then all the legal blame for exile rests on the Liberal Party; but if it's Congress, then the Nationalists must also share that blame.
It would be very illuminating to find out; alack, the elite media are too busy obsessing about the Honduran "coup d'état" of a "democratically elected president" to trouble to find out such basic facts as who actually ordered Zelaya's exile.
But in either case, if Zelaya is actually brought back to Honduras before November, and his crimes fully aired just before the elections, that will almost certainly provoke a long string of pointed questions about the complicity of other members of the Liberal Party in those felonies -- and their participation in and support for the machinations of Oogo Chavez and Los Bros Castro. Not to overlook the "secondary allies" of Zelaya, including Iran and their pet terrorist group, Hezbollah, who have been very active in Latin America in recent years (with Oogo's aid, comfort, and complicity).
If all the poison that lurks in the Honduran mud hatches out, as Robert Graves might put it, then almost certainly, the Liberal Party, the "presidential party, will get re-tagged as the "treason party." This could cause a much more significant vote shift, and might give the National Party not only the presidency but even an absolute majority in Congress.
Why didn't Miguel Estrada mention this possibility? I'm sure he closely follows the politics of the country in which he was born and raised. I can only conclude that, in true judicially conservative fashion, he chose to decide the case on the narrowest possible grounds. And speculating as to why Zelaya was sent into exile was not essential to finding that the removal, replacement, and arrest (though not the exile) of Manuel Zelaya was entirely legal -- which was the only case he was interested in making.
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 14, 2009
Lies Wide Shut Too: Mystery Solved!
Four days ago, in the first installation of Lies Wide Shut (I didn't realize there would be a second), we discussed the mystery presented to us by the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:
On June 26th, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), sent a letter to ranking Republican member Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 88%); Reyes claimed that two days earlier, in a classified briefing by CIA Director Leon Panetta (a hyper-partisan Democratic former House member), the director admitted the CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush....
(A CIA spokesman says Panetta denies saying any such thing in his briefing.)
Then yesterday, somebody on the committee or at CIA leaked a second letter (obtained by Politico), sent by seven other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, also to the director; in it, the seven echo Reyes's claim: That Panetta testified that "top CIA officials" concealed CIA operations from Congress and "misled them over the span of last eight years."
But of course, all eight accusers coyly refuse to say exactly what the CIA is supposed to have misled them about; they just allow the nation to draw the "obvious," but not necessarily accurate, conclusion.
Democrats are using this bit of fluff to prop up the wobbly Squeaker of the House, insinuating -- with no lawful way to debunk it -- that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) was truthful when she said the CIA "never told her" we had already waterboarded a terrorist detainee and planned to waterboard a couple more.
The mystery, of course, is exactly what CIA Director Leon Panetta "admitted" to the House Intelligence Committee. Did he actually say, quote, "The CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush?" Did he literally say, "Top CIA officials concealed CIA operations from Congress and misled them over the span of last eight years?" I think such a suggestion is not only fabricated, it's risible. Particularly since he stands by his previous publicly released statement that the CIA has never had a policy of misleading or lying to Congress: Say what you will about Panetta's politics, nobody has ever accused him of being a dope.
But the Democratic members of the House Intel Committee steadfastly refuse to tell us exactly what he confessed that so riled them... though they repeatedly imply (nudge nudge, wink wink) that it "vindicated" Pelosi's claim that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding.
But over the last couple, three days, enough information has crept out that I think we can finally make a very shrewd guess what Chairman Reyes, et al, really meant: Several newspapers have reported that Panetta testified that the CIA kicked around a plan to assassinate top al-Qaeda leaders using ground-ops teams... but despite eight years of blue-skying, they could never figure out how even to start.
And the "misleading Congress" part? Then-Vice President Dick Cheney evidently told the CIA not to brief Congress on the vague ideas and inchoate dreams -- not until an operational plan came to fruition. Why not? Because legally, they didn't have to; and strategically, it would have been catastrophic to do so:
CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress on June 24 that he had canceled the effort to kill al-Qaida leaders with hit teams soon after learning about the operation. Panetta also told lawmakers that former Vice President Dick Cheney directed the CIA not to inform Congress of the specifics of the secret program.
Intelligence officials say the operation never progressed passed a planning stage and therefore didn't merit congressional notification.
The New York Times concurs:
Since 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency has developed plans to dispatch small teams overseas to kill senior Qaeda terrorists, according to current and former government officials.
The plans remained vague and were never carried out, the officials said, and Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, canceled the program last month....
Mr. Panetta scuttled the program, which would have relied on paramilitary teams, shortly after the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center recently informed him of its existence. The next day, June 24, he told Congressional Intelligence Committees that the plan had been hidden from lawmakers, initially at the instruction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Evidently, Democrats on the House I-Com are absolutely beside themselves that they were not immediately and completely informed of every single thought, idea, suggestion, or pious hope of a plan the CIA might discuss during a meeting -- even those that are "never carried out." They appear to believe "oversight" means the same as "managed," and that congressmen should be privy to all internal CIA discussions -- so that they can "call the shots," right?
But as I indicated in the previous Big Lizards piece, informing Congress is equivalent to calling the TImes and the Washington Post, because that's exactly where the top-secret briefing will end up within a week. This raises an interesting question: Are these Intel members actually bothered because Cheney denied them yet another opportunity to accuse the CIA and Bush administration of war crimes, atrocities, and crimes against humanity? Sadly, Panetta had already canceled the program (that never got off the tarmac) before congressmen had a chance to out it!
But back to the real issue: the still unadmitted yet unrebutted charge that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) lied in her teeth when she swore, over and over again (alas not under oath), that the CIA never told her we had waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed... and that we were going to do it again!
You'll recall that when we last left this tidbit hanging, the House I-Com Democrats suggested -- but never explicitly claimed -- that the Panetta revelations now made Pelosi's story more credible; it's now clear that the reason they were so coy is that they knew very well what Panetta had really said... and it had nothing to do with Pelosi's hysterical denials that she knew anything about waterboarding, and that by her silence in the face of that knowledge, she had tacitly assented to its use.
To this day, she still refuses to "put up or shut up" on that accusation:
It's been almost two months since Pelosi claimed the CIA lied to her about what interrogation methods they'd used on detainees. That accusation prompted Panetta's statement defending the agency.
Since then, the speaker has refused to take any more questions on the subject. While Pelosi took numerous questions today, she deflected most and left matters in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee....
[House Minority Leader John] Boehner [R-OH, 92%] renewed his call today for Pelosi to either "put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize" to the intelligence committee.
So we've learned something over the past halfweek; we've learned the exact syllogism by which Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee (including its chairman) vindicate Pelosi on the eve of the new Intel-bill debate in Congress:
- After the attacks on September 11th, 2001, George W. Bush issued an executive order that we could kill high-value targets (HVTs) in al-Qaeda;
- In order to minimize civilian casualties from missile strikes on HVTs (of the kind that now plague our efforts in Pakistan), the CIA tried to figure out how to take out al-Qaeda leaders via ground teams;
- Alas, they never could develop a workable plan, and they never carried through;
- Dick Cheney told the CIA to keep a lid on the floating ideas until they were actually ready for implementation (no sense spilling beans prematurely, endangering future operations);
- So he instructed the CIA not to report all the non-plans that they didn't carry out to Congress -- it not being a normal part of oversight duties for House members to demand an inventory of all random and unactualized thoughts, blue-sky hopes, and dreams of CIA agents;
- Years later, new CIA Director Leon Panetta canceled the non-project that was never operational anyway -- and told appropriate members of Congress that the CIA had failed to report that it never executed a plan that it didn't tell Congress about because it was never anything but a will'o'wisp;
- Therefore, the CIA must surely have lied to Squeaker Pelosi about waterboarding.
Hey, it only stands to reason!
It's nice to know that Ms. Pelosi presides over not just "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," but also the Congress with the most incisive grasp of formal logic. Gosh, I just can't wait for the full congressional probe!
Date ►►► July 13, 2009
Who's an Embryo? St. Francis of Genomia at the NIH
Those who follow Big Lizards religiously (have you all put on your phylacteries before reading?) know that we're big on Dr. Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the evangelical Christian who headed up the Human Genome Project -- and especially on his book the Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. In fact, we've spoken in favor of his ideas (and highly recommended his book) in the following Lizardian posts, from the oldest (August 28th, 2006) to today:
- Jury Nullification Or Nullifying the Jury?
- I appear to have become a Nazi...
- Expelled: No Intelligence Offered - part 1 (Win Ben Stein's Monkey Trial!)
- Expelled: No Intelligence Offered - part 2 (Ben in the Dock)
- The Nuclear Winter of Conservative Discontent
- The Membrane Connecting Science, Morality, and Aesthetics - More Thoughts
- Who's an Embryo? St. Francis of Genomia at the NIH
But who is Francis Collins? This post is going to be long, so I'll tuck the rest away behind the Slither on...
Collins' main thrust in his first book (he is secretive about the subject of his second, but he had to resign from his government position at the National Institutes of Health -- NIH -- to write it) is that there is no essential conflict between Christian faith and evolution by natural selection (hence, "evolutionary biology"). Collins uses the term "BioLogos" for the particular branch of theistic evolution he supports, the "wind up the universe and let it run" thesis: God created the universe and all its physical laws and constants, set the initial conditions, and then allowed it to evolve naturally.
Being omniscient and omnipotent, God deliberately set everything up so that moral human beings (and perhaps other sentient, moral creatures elsewhere) would eventually evolve; so in that sense, you could call it a version of creationism. But it's quite distinct from the Biblical creationism that ruled the creationist roost until a series of legal setbacks in the 1980s, and also from "Intelligent Design," the current method of back-dooring creationism into the public schools by not using certain words -- e.g., "God," "Lord," "Creator" -- and using code words instead ("Designer"): BioLogos requires no direct intervention or manipulation, no "fine tuning," to run its course; in Collins' view, God got it right at the first time and doesn't need mid-course corrections.
So it likely comes as no surprise that we soundly applaud, and even jump up and cheer a bit (in a dignified way, you understand), President Barack H. Obama's announcement last Wednesday appointing Collins to head up the NIH, subject to Senate confirmation. This will put Collins in control (along with the Advisory Committee to the Director) of all federal funding for medical, biomedical, and health-care research, both direct -- "intramural research" at the NIH's main campus in Bethesda, MD -- and indirect, by funding "extramural research" conducted by private universities, hospitals, and other medical research facilities outside government.
I myself am also unsurprised that some more absolutist members of the evangelical community are upset by the appointment; they fret that he will not be as -- all right, I'll say it -- not as doctrinaire as they themselves would be, particularly regarding stem-cell research:
President Obama's nomination of Francis Collins to be director of the National Institutes of Health has resulted in pro-life advocates expressing concerns about the views regarding unborn life held by the world-renowned scientist and evangelical Christian....
In announcing his intention to nominate Collins, the president described him as "one of the top scientists in the world," adding "his groundbreaking work has changed the very ways we consider our health and examine disease...."
Since Obama announced Collins' nomination July 8, some evangelical and pro-life spokesmen have taken issue with the nominee's comments about embryonic stem cell research and cloning.
A Southern Baptist philosophy professor at Union University said Collins needs to make his views clear before he takes over as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which oversees federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Extraction of stem cells from an embryo requires the destruction of a tiny human being less than a week old.
Whoa, stop right there; that is not, strictly speaking, true, as we have discussed here. There is already a procedure for extracting stem cells from human embryos non-destructively, utilizing the same procedure used in preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to extract cells from living embryos to test for various genetic diseases... extractions that leave the embryo intact and still growing normally.
Besides non-destructive ESCR, there are also other types of stem cells, of course; they can be found in somatic (bodily) cells of various types: uterine cells, placental cells, amneotic fluid cells, testicular cells, dental cells, mammary cells, and so forth. Many of these latter have already been used extensively in medical therapies; embryonic stem cells have barely been used so far, but they still show tremendous promise.
President George W. Bush had issued an executive order (EO 13435) on June 20, 2007 that specifically funded:
[R]esearch on the isolation, derivation, production, and testing of stem cells that are capable of producing all or almost all of the cell types of the developing body and may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions, but are derived without creating a human embryo for research purposes or destroying, discarding, or subjecting to harm a human embryo or fetus.
We posted on that, too... in a post noting that one of Obama's earliest EOs (March 9th) after assuming office was to revoke EO 12435, killing the requirement to fund non-destructive stem-cell research, even as he lifted the federal-funding ban on destructive ESCR. (Anything you need to know, you can learn from Big Lizards.) The natural conclusion most drew was that Obama supported destructive ESCR and was uninterested in or even hostile to non-destructive stem-cell research, either embryonic or somatic... both of which positions comport with his ultra-liberal base.
Federal stem-cell research funding policy is still governed by President Obama's EO 13505, according to the NIH website; I doubt that NIH's "final regulations," issued last Monday, July 6th, 2009, differ from this, since federal agencies are bound by relevant executive orders.
But it's important to note that Obama did not order a ban on future funding of non-destructive stem-cell research; he just revoked Bush's EO that ordered NIH to actively seek out opportunities to fund such research. Bush asked NIH to conduct research in non-destructive stem-cell therapies; but it seems Obama would not particularly care if all that research withered on the vine.
(There is also a federal law, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, preventing NIH or any other federal agency from directly funding the killing of embryos to create new lines. But once such lines are created privately, under Obama's EO 13505, they are fair game for federal funding.)
Still and all, the technique for non-destructive ESCR, somatic cell nucleus transfer, exists; it simply is not necessarily federally funded, now that the Obamacle presides. So the statement in the Townhall.com article above is at a mimum misleading, and might even be called fraudulent -- unless it "stems" from simple ignorance, which itself is not very reassuring. But we continue with the attack on Collins:
Collins was mistaken or misleading in comments about Obama's position on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, said Justin Barnard, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Intellectual Discipleship at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
At Obama's direction, NIH issued final regulations July 6 governing federal funding of stem cell research. In a May interview Collins said Obama's position "is not very radical" because Obama basically said "what Bush said in August of 2001" when the former president announced his policy. But that is not the case, Barnard says. The new NIH guidelines allow research not only on lines that were in existence when Obama made his announcement but new stem cell lines, Barnard wrote in a July 13 commentary for Public Discourse. Obama's position in fact is a "dramatic shift" from Bush's, Barnard said.
In these and other comments, Collins "is less than clear" regarding "the metaphysics and moral value of human life," Barnard wrote.
Perry Mason for the defense...
"Less than clear" is a term that can be equally applied to Barnard's attack: Is he saying that Collins supports the creation of new stem-cell lines from existing human embryos, or from other kinds of stem cells? And even if the former, does he mean embryos created for the purpose of research -- or embryos that were already created for reproductive purposes (in vitrio fertilization), remain unused, and are already slated to be destroyed? Barnard's deliberately vague wording leaves his accusation a complete muddle.
He does make one charge very explicitly in his Public Discourse article. First, a little background from Collins himself, quoted by Barnard:
Basically, what the president’s executive order said and what the NIH in its draft guidelines has now made more clear is that federal funds will be allowable, assuming these draft guidelines get finalized, for stem cell lines that were developed from leftover embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics. And in a way, this is not very radical because that’s what Bush said in August of 2001 when he became the first president to authorize federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. Remember, it wasn’t allowed at all before his statement. But he said only lines that were developed before 9 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2001, could be used, which obviously seems like a bit of an arbitrary deadline.
Now Obama is saying, what about the 700 lines that have been developed since then, which are actually scientifically more useful? The early lines had problems. These new lines will now be allowed as well. Remember, though, that just means the funds will be allowed for the study of those lines, not for creating new ones. That is prevented by the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which people expect will probably remain there unless Congress decides to take it away. My bet is that they probably won’t, and I’m not sure that it’s necessary for them to do so in terms of supporting research. The use of private funds to develop new lines might be sufficient.
Barnard then pounces, flattening a very difficult, complex question into an easy soundbite of utter moral certitude, an "eternal verity":
Collins’s comments here are remarkable on several different levels. To begin, it is unclear whether Collins has any moral qualms about the wanton destruction of innocent human life given his apparent optimism about the sufficiency of private funds for the doing the federal government’s dirty work. [There's that weasel-word "unclear" again! -- the Mgt.] But even if one supposes that he’s not happy about it, his analysis of the difference between the Bush administration policy and the new Obama guidelines is mistaken at best, misleading at worst. For the August 9, 2001 deadline under the Bush administration was imposed precisely to take away the incentive for private entities to engage in more embryo destruction. Of course, as Collins’s remarks make clear, this did not prevent private entities from doing so. And apparently, they did so at least 700 times. (Of course, who knows how many embryos it actually took to get the 700 lines to which Collins refers!) And if the Obama guidelines were written so as to allow funding for these 700 lines and only these 700 lines, they would, in that respect, be similar to the Bush guidelines. But the new Obama guidelines do not limit the use of NIH funds exclusively to these existing, additional 700 lines.
Knowing this, Collins chose his words carefully when he said, “Remember, though, that just means the funds will be allowed for the study of those lines, not for creating new ones.” By the letter of the law, what Collins here claims is true. The new NIH guidelines do not permit the use of federal funds for creating new human embryonic stem cell lines. This is because, as Collins points out, such activity is prohibited by the Dickey amendment. Moreover, the guidelines do allow for the study of those 700 lines that have been produced since August 9, 2001. What Collins does not say, however, is that the new NIH guidelines also allow for federal funds to be used in studying new human embryonic stem cell lines that are created (by private entities, of course) beyond the 700 currently in existence. This represents a dramatic shift in policy from the previous Bush administration regulations. And Collins is doing nothing more than engaging in rhetorical subterfuge to suggest otherwise.
Collins in the dock...
This really boils down to one philosophical question: Do we admit the reality that:
- In vitrio fertilization will continue
- Excess embryos (beyond those that are implanted in a womb) will continue to be created, and
- Those excess embryos will either be destroyed outright or frozen in suspended animation for eternity (or until someone pulls the plug)?
If so, then neither Obama's EO or the new NIH policy provides an "incentive" to create embryos for purposes of research; the incentive already exists (via fertility therapy) to create far more embryos than could ever safely be implanted, and far more than could ever be used in research anyway -- a point that Barnard himself glosses over. (Just as he imputes pejorative motives and moral beliefs to Collins that Barnard could not possibly know unless he's a telepath.) The embryos are there and will continue to be there, with or without federal funding.
If we accept that such lines will be created willy nilly, entirely privately -- as Barnard himself admits -- then the only question is whether we allow federal funding to research those new lines... or only to research the old, degraded lines created the exact same way, but prior to 9 PM, August 8th, 2001.
This is certainly not the black-and-white issue that Barnard pretends; it's both more nuanced and more profound. But Barnard demands utter conformity to the most restrictive possible moral interpretation, or he launches a crusade against the heretic.
He has chosen his target well. Barnard knows that such high-level, future funding decisions are generally made by the Director of the NIH in conjunction with his Advisory Council; and he knows that director is going to be Francis Collins; there is no serious senatorial opposition to the appointment.
So what are Collins' thoughts on ESCR -- destructive and non-destructive -- and other kinds of stem-cell research? Fortunately, we have the answer to that question in his own words, from a series of interviews he gave, excerpts of which have been collated by a Christian blog.
First, on the precise moral question above, from an interview in Salon (the interviewer's questions are in blue):
Geneticists are sometimes accused of "playing God," especially when it comes to genetic engineering. And there are various thorny bioethical issues. What's your position on stem cell research?
Stem cells have been discussed for 10 years, and yet I fear that much of that discussion has been more heat than light. First of all, I believe that the product of a sperm and an egg, which is the first cell that goes on to develop a human being, deserves considerable moral consequences. This is an entity that ultimately becomes a human. So I would be opposed to the idea of creating embryos by mixing sperm and eggs together and then experimenting on the outcome of that, purely to understand research questions. On the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands of such embryos in freezers at in vitro fertilization clinics. In the process of in vitro fertilization, you almost invariably end up with more embryos than you can reimplant safely. The plausibility of those ever being reimplanted in the future -- more than a few of them -- is extremely low. Is it more ethical to leave them in those freezers forever or throw them away? Or is it more ethical to come up with some sort of use for those embryos that could help people? I think that's not been widely discussed.
So your position is that they should be used for research if they already exist and they're never going to be used to create a human life?
I think that's the more ethical stance. And I say this as a private citizen and not as a representative of the U.S. government, even though I'm employed by the federal government at the National Institutes of Health. Now let me say, there's another aspect of this topic that I think is even more confusing -- a different approach which is more promising medically. It's this thing called somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is where you take a cell from a living person -- a skin cell, for instance. You take out its nucleus, which is where the DNA is, and you insert that nucleus into the environment of an egg cell, which has lost its nucleus. Now think about this. We have a skin cell, and we have an egg cell with no nucleus. Neither of those would be things that anybody would argue has moral status. Then you give a zap of electricity and you wait a couple of days. And that environment convinces that skin cell that it can go back in time and it can become anything it wants to be. That is an enormously powerful opportunity because the cell would then be received by that same person who happened to need, say, neurons for their Parkinson's disease or pancreas cells for their diabetes without a transplant rejection.
Isn't this the process that is otherwise known as cloning?
Yeah, it's called cloning, which is a very unfortunate term because it conjures up the idea that you're trying to create a copy of that human being. And at this point, you're doing nothing of the sort. You're trying to create a cell line that could be used to substitute for something that a person desperately needs. It would only become a cloned person if you then intentionally decided to take those cells and reimplant them in the uterus of a recipient woman. And that, obviously, is something that we should not and must not and probably should legislate against. But until you get to that point, it's not clear to me that you're dealing with something that deserves to be called an embryo or deserves to be given moral status.
Let an urgent point not be forgot...
This is a much more sophisticated response than Barnard's; Barnard wants to anwers this... but the only way he can do so is to deny there is any moral distinction between the union of a human egg and human sperm -- and the union of a denucleated human egg and a human skin-cell nucleus.
His thesis appears to be that anything that could conceivably grow into a human being -- even if that would require future intervention by doctors, and even if it has never been demonstrated in the lab yet -- is a human being. But of course, once egg and skin-cell nucleus are combined but before electricity is added, I can still say it "could conceivably grow into a human being"... assuming "future intervention by doctors," including the spark. Does that mean such a union is already a human being?
In fact, I can still say the same after two cells have been extracted but before they are combined. This oddball definition not only entirely removes the necessity of sperm, its structure disturbingly reminds me of Roe v. Wade's test of whether a foetus can survive outside the womb: In both cases, the test of human personhood depends upon the state of medical technology du jour:
Nobody ever has cloned a human being; we don't even know if it would ever be possible to grow such a "cloned" embryo into a human.
- So if we're not actually able to clone human beings in 2009, then a cell created by somatic cell nucleus transfer is not a human person by Barnard's thesis.
- But if ten years later, we are able to clone humans, then those same, exact cells from 2009 magically transmaugrify into human beings by 2019 -- even though they are utterly identical in every respect to what they were ten years ago, having been kept on ice all that time.
(If an old growth spotted owl leaves its old-growth tree, flies a few feet away, and nests in a young tree, it becomes a member of a whole new species!)
I'm with Collins on this: I consider such a definition preposterous and unscientific. We must have a definition of "human person" that doesn't change with every advance in medical science, one that seeks a deeper element of humanity than superficial morphological characteristics -- what I refer to as a "movable verity," rather than an "eternal verity," because it's robust enough to remain consistent even as technology changes around it.
When, for example, does the soul enter a human body?
- If you believe that occurs sometime after conception, then is the developing embryo still a human being even before being ensouled?
- And even if you believe that occurs "precisely" at conception, then when "precisely" do you define conception itself to have taken place? (a) When the soon-to-be successful sperm starts to penetrate the egg's cellular wall? (b) When it works its way fully inside the egg? (c) When it contacts the egg nucleus? (d) When it combines chemically? Or (e) when it first divides into a blastocyst? Conception is a continuum, like everything else in biology -- conception, gestation, birth, and even death.
- Finally, no matter how one defines conception in the normal circumstance -- does the soul also enter into a cloned cell at the moment of transfering the nucelus of a non-sperm cell into the egg, even though no combining of DNA occurs?
- Does it occur after the electrical charge is applied?
- Or does it not occur at all, since there is no bisexual reproduction taking place in any event?
Is a human body a person, absent a soul?
These are not easy questions; but without answering them, we cannot decide "who's an embryo" -- and what isn't.
Shouldn't we then, just for safety's sake, accept the Barnard thesis that anything that could conceivably grow into a human is therefore automatically a human person from the moment of its creation, no matter how? Shouldn't that be the default presumption?
Not necessarily... because such a presumption is not cost-free in the realm of human life. Making that presumption will inevitably kill people -- people already living, breathing, thinking, and feeling.
Collins understands, as Barnard gives no evidence of understanding, that ESCR comprises more than just the rights of human embryos; it also includes the rights of those already born and suffering, even dying, from potentially curable diseases. As often happens in law, the two rights must be weighed against each other in individual cases and a just decision reached. From part 2 of an interview of Collins for a PBS television show titled Think Tank:
So I think one thing we ought to do is, sort of, tone down the rhetoric and try to get our scientific facts straight. So stem cells-- there's lots of different kinds of stem cells. The kind that I think many people are most concerned about are the ones that are derived from a human embryo which is produced by a sperm and an egg coming together. The way you and I got here.
There are hundreds of thousands of those embryos currently frozen away in in vitro fertilization clinics. And it is absolutely unrealistic to imagine that anything will happen to those other than they're eventually getting discarded. So as much as I think human embryos deserve moral status, it is hard to see why it's more ethical to throw them away than to take some that are destined for discarding and do something that might help somebody.
Reality and the limits of dogma...
Morality is never a lightswitch; it's never either all-the-way on or all-the-way off. Morality always exists on a continuum, because human life and the human condition exist on a continuum (recall my example of conception above). That's why each case must be judged individually -- under general guidelines.
(It's a terrible and dangerous error to try to write too much specificity into a guideline; that's how you end up with "zero tolerance" drug laws that expel a girl from high school for taking Mydol for her menstrual cramps.)
Even if one believes that a human zygote (fertilized egg) is a human being, not even the most ardent pro-lifer argues that a zygote can feel the pain of its own destruction; that capacity clearly comes much later in ontogeny. But a person suffering from Cystic Fibrosis certainly does feel the pain as that disease destroys him by inches until he finally dies an agonizing, suffocating death. Is it black-and-white that each zygote is morally equal, on a one-to-one basis, to every already-born person?
I see a whopping huge moral distinction between killing a zygote to save a teenager -- and killing a newborn baby to save that same teenager. Perhaps it's just sentimentality; but sentiment is as much a part of humanity as rigorous logic. Sentimentally, I attach far more value to a newborn, or even to a seven month old foetus, than to a human zygote... let alone to a cell produced by somatic cell nucleus transfer, a.k.a. "therapeutic cloning."
Professor Justin Barnard sees no moral distinction whatsoever. Early in his Public Discourse article, he refers to the destruction of human embryos as "the wanton destruction of innocent human life;" then towards the end, he adds the following tendentious codicil:
[T]he embryo produced by cloning enjoys the same moral status, whatever one judges that to be, as the embryo produced the old-fashioned way.
Since we know what Barnard "judges that to be," he must see no moral distinction at all between a skin-cell nucleus stuck into a denucleated egg cell and given a spark of electricity -- and a teenager dying of CF.
I consider that position vile and thuggish if he holds it merely for political purposes, and monstrous if he holds it honestly. (A lack of hypocrisy doesn't necessarily ameliorate a grotesque idea; I'm sure that many advocates of eugenics were quite sincere in wanting to eliminate inferior humans.)
But why can't we just use the stem-cell lines for which even George W. Bush approved federal funding, those generated before 9 PM, August 9th, 2001? Simple: Because they are old, degraded, and no longer work very well. In the interview linked above, Ben Wattenberg asks whether Collins agrees with the Bush decision to restrict federal funding for ESCR to those lines that already existed. Collins responds:
But as a scientist -- I would say we are currently not making as much progress as we could if we had access to more of these stem cell lines. The ones that are currently available for federal funding is a very limited set and they clearly have flaws that make them hard to use. But you know what? I think that kind of stem cell research is actually not the part that's going to be most interesting.
The part that's really showing the most promise is to take a skin cell from you or me and convince that cell, which has the complete genome, to go back in time and become capable of making a liver cell or a brain cell or a blood -- cell if you need it to. That reprogramming. That's called somatic cell nuclear transfer in the current mode. And yet people still refer to those products as an embryo. Well, there's no sperm and egg involved here.
And that's where I think we've really gotten muddled. That the distinction between these various types of biology has been all murkified. And people are beginning to argue in very irrational ways based on a lack of understanding what the science says. If we could back off from all of the, sort of, hard edged rhetoric and really say, okay, what is science teaching us, I suspect that the moral dilemmas are not nearly as rough as people think they are.
Finally, I think this response in a third interview for Christianity Today sums up and clarifies Collins' beliefs (which Barnard claims are "less than clear"), not only as to ESCR but human cloning as well (see p. 5):
[E]ven if the safety issues were solved, would human reproductive cloning be an acceptable practice? It wouldn't be for me. I believe that human beings have come into this world by having a mother and a father. To undertake a different pathway of creating a human being is a profound departure from the normal state of things. I have yet to hear a compelling argument for why we need to do that.
It is a classic example of a collision between two very important principles. One is the sanctity of human life and the other is our strong mandate as human beings to alleviate suffering and to treat terrible diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's, and spinal-cord injury. The very promising embryonic stem-cell research might potentially provide remarkable cures for those disorders. We don't know that, but it might. And at the same time, many people feel, I think justifiably, this type of research is taking liberties with the notion of the sanctity of human life, by manipulating cells derived from a human embryo.
It's rare that we get a presidential nominee to an important scientific (or legal) position who has thought as deeply and consistently about the great moral dilemmas as Francis Collins has. It's even rarer that after such thought, he remains so close to what I would call the best conservative principles of individualism, respect for human life and dignity, and ethical scientific inquiry. (And it's especially dumbfounding that a president who would call himself "the One We Have Been Waiting For" would make such an appointment. One would think that the One would be more apt to attempt to use somatic cell nucleus transfer to appoint an exact clone of himself to head up NIH.)
But for heaven's sake, let's grab this one while we can. Let's not make a big stink just because Francis Collins' evangelical Christian position on stem cells is an angstrom apart from that of the most dogmatic true believer, such as Professor Barnard. For God's sake, Obama could have named Peter Singer!
Collins is an amazingly good choice for NIH Director. He will be sensitive to human-life issues, a strong advocate for scientific inquiry, and not only not hostile to, but actually embracing of issues of faith, religion, and morals in federal funding of biomedical and health-care research.
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 12, 2009
No, America, There Ain't No Sanity Clause...
...His real name is Attorney General Eric Himpton Holder, Jr.:
"You have the responsibility of enforcing the nation's laws, and you have to be seen as neutral, detached, and nonpartisan in that effort," Holder says. "But the reality of being A.G. is that I'm also part of the president's team. I want the president to succeed; I campaigned for him. I share his world view and values."
These are not just the philosophical musings of a new attorney general. Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do.
O frabjous day. Callooh. Callay.
But "brutal interrogation practices?" Oh yes, we all know what that means: making terrorists stand while being questioned, the horrific "attention grab," even putting a detainee in a box with a -- caterpillar. Even so, we all know which particular "brutal" tactic Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman has in mind... the sadistic application of hydrogen hydroxide to the flesh of immobilized victims.
But won't this drag Barack H. Obama's administration into a confrontation it really doesn't want while it's trying to gain bipartisan approval of an ambitious domestic agenda? Perhaps so; but that's just the price Gen. Holder must pay for keeping our honor clean:
While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."
Before we progress, I must hasten to reassure readers that there is no prejudice or partisanship about Mr. Klaidman or his employer; in fact, it would be hard to find a more objective, unbiased source than Newsweek... as can be seen here:
Alone among cabinet officers, attorneys general are partisan appointees expected to rise above partisanship. All struggle to find a happy medium between loyalty and independence. Few succeed. At one extreme looms Alberto Gonzales, who allowed the Justice Department to be run like Tammany Hall. At the other is Janet Reno, whose righteousness and folksy eccentricities marginalized her within the Clinton administration. Lean too far one way and you corrupt the office, too far the other way and you render yourself impotent.
See? The piece criticizes both Left and Right equally: Reno was simply too idealistic, honest, and decent for the job -- while Gonzales was a corrupt, murdering, torturing thug. Honestly, what could be fairer?
Perhaps only Holder himself. In the article, Klaidman gathers his courage together and dares to ask about Holder's role in pardoning fugitive financier Marc Rich -- after Rich's wife donated scads of money to the Clinton library and the Democratic Party... a fact which, we must admit, Klaidman fails to mention in the article. But surely this was only due to him being understandably reluctant to rake a dead horse over the coals.
He does, however, elicit the most important point: Despite approving the Marc Rich pardon (over the objection of just about every career prosecutor at the Justice Department) -- and despite Holder's previous position as Bill Clinton's and Rahm Emanuel's sock puppet in the DoJ -- Holder was completely innocent of any wrongdoing in that affair. He wasn't a crook, like his bosses; he was just a naïf, an inanimate object batted hither and yon by the machinations of others... a political shuttlecock, according to his wife, Sharon Malone:
When I ask Malone the inevitable questions about Rich, she looks pained. "It was awful; it was a terrible time," she says. But she also casts the episode as a lesson about character, arguing that her husband's trusting nature was exploited by Rich's conniving lawyers.
(Those cunning linguists who connived on behalf of Rich would of course include Irv Lewis "Scooter" Libby... and we all know how evil and corrupt he is. Clearly, that completely exonerates Holder of any responsibility or accountability.)
I think there really is a very good chance that Holder will finally pull the trigger, that he'll appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush's Brain Karl Rove, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, CIA Director George Tenet, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, DoD General Counsel William Haynes, Jay Bybee of the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo of the DoJ's OLC, and a cast of thousands -- of CIA interrogators and American military personnel.
Else, why employ Newsweek to resurrect an issue that had already died away? Why raise the Left's hopes into the stratosphere again, if you only plan to dash them in the end like Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football? Heck, doing that might decisively turn the Democratic base against the One, so they sit out next year's congressional elections. Surely Holder wouldn't want that!
But General Holder has faith in the fairness and forgiveness of the American people; he believes that when the public hears the full perfidy of the Bush torture regime -- trickling water on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's face, which even the anti-war Left has compared to the Chinese Water Torture... except that our worthy Chinese brothers could never have been as cruel and inhumane as the Bushies were; slapping the faces of top members of al-Qaeda; and... that caterpillar incident that still gives Gen. Holder and President B.O. the willies -- there will be a "a groundswell of support for an independent probe."
Oh, wait; my mistake. That's not what Holder thinks now... that's what he thought back in April, when he first strongly hinted that a criminal probe of the previous administration was in the offing. Didn't quite pan out back then: When the "torture memos" were released, the public reacted with emotions that ranged from a shrug from the huge bulk of the population -- to misplaced, admiring praise for interrogators' ingenuity in protecting America from a follow-on attack after September 11th, 2001.
Of course, that last ugly reaction was from charter members of the same vast, right-wing conspiracy that shot down Hillary Clinton's previous attempt at putting all medical care in America under strict government control; led the Swift Boat Vets' hideous slanders and libels against the greatest war hero of the Vietnam holocaust, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%) -- imagine, accusing Kerry of bearing false witness against his fellow Vietnam Veterans! -- and even the same VRWC that stole both the 2000 and 2004 elections.
But I digress. Let's just forget that such bloodthirsty ghouls even exist within America. Even so, the rest of the population signally failed to rise up as one with torches, forks, and knives when they learned about the atrocities the previous administration visited upon guests who had not even been convicted in a civilian criminal court. After the torture memos were released...
Holder and his team celebrated quietly, and waited for national outrage to build. But they'd miscalculated. The memos had already received such public notoriety that the new details in them did not shock many people. (Even the revelation, a few days later, that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and another detainee had been waterboarded hundreds of times did not drastically alter the contours of the story.)
But that was then, this is now. Perhaps nobody was particularly outraged by the fiendish devices we used upon those who (supposedly) carried out the 9/11 attacks; but that was back in April, when President Obama had sky-high approval ratings in every poll. (Well, almost every. At least several.) Perhaps people were just so happy that America had finally, finally elected an African American president, thus was no longer the most racist country on the face of the Earth, that they just couldn't muster a bad emotion or a discouraging word about anyone... not even against the Bushies.
Surely now that voters are losing confidence in Obama's economic plans, having grave doubts about his bipartisanship, starting to worry that he's dismantling the very intelligence policies that have kept us safe for the past eight years, getting nervous that Barack H. Obama may be out of his depth (or his mind), and increasingly convinced he's on a madcap quest to turn America into the Netherlands -- which may be on the verge of becoming a Moslem state in a generation -- surely with such terrifying and stomach lurching danger on all sides, voters will turn with a great sigh of relief to the much easier to understand and much more urgent task of putting all the top officials of the previous administration in prison, for the crime of going overboard in protecting American citizens (without the slightest regard for the rights of jihadis).
Yes, this time everything will be totally different. This time, the mass of men and women from sea to shining sea will be filled with revulsion at the suffering of the waterboarding victims -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and several thousand American military volunteers during SERE-school training. (The latter don't count, however, because they're cruder, less well educated, and were probably going to be stuk in irak anyway; the al-Qaeda detainees are sensitive plants, and must be treated more kindly than American grunts and SEALs.)
But politics will surely follow policy. Seeing the administration at last turn its sites on the real enemy we face in these parlous times -- George W. Bush and his rampaging Republicans -- ecstatic voters will rally behind the Obamacle, as he restores America's reputation, repairs relations with our traditional allies (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, the United Nations, China, North Korea), and makes Americans finally feel clean again. This will translate into a Democratic landslide in 2010, bringing FDR-like control of Congress, and the president's reelection two years later -- followed, the year after that, by the swift and emphatic repeal of that pesky 22nd Amendment.
See? In the end, surely Attorney General Eric Holder will discover that he can do the righteous thing, while at the very same time advancing the political fortunes of the One We Have Been Waiting For. (As in, "Just wait until your father gets home, you nation of cowards!")
Who says you can't eat your cake and have it, too?
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 10, 2009
Is ABC Tappering Off Obamania? Heck No!
Today, ABC's Jake Tapper stoops to rebut the charge that President Barack H. Obama ogled a sixteen year old Brazilian girl in L'Aquila, Italy.
Tapper struggles manfully to suggest the president was merely looking down to help wife Michelle down some steep steps; Tapper even posts video of the incident -- but is forced to conclude "Although: not everyone agrees. Judge for yourself."
All right; judge! (I can't embed it here; you must go to the link.)
To be fair to Tapper, it's clearly a humorous piece; the laughter in the background may be his colleagues in the newsroom during whichever show broadcast this clip. Still and all, I find it interesting that ABC continues to see itself as an adjunct PR firm for the administration. Somehow I doubt such a video would have been released -- even as humor! -- on behalf of George W. Bush's reputation and marriage...
My own take: It looks to me as if his first glance was absolutely at the girl's gluteus maxi-maximus. Then he seems to realize what he's doing and that he's doing it directly in front of his wife... so he turns it into a "let me help you down these steps, Michelle ma belle" move -- much like when you think you see a friend and raise your hand in a preliminary wave, then abruptly realize it's a total stranger, so you seamlessly turn it into a quick brush to "smooth down" your hair.
Hey, I'd've looked at her too... and I don't give a hoot if she's only sixteen. I wouldn't date her (not even were I single), but I won't censor my eyeballs!
Date ►►► July 9, 2009
Easy (?) Eradication of Starvation in Africa - the Pournelle Program
John Hinderaker -- my favorite blogger on my favorite blog -- has a nice post up noting a rare occasion where Barack H. Obama actually says something coherent, rational, and that I (and likely most of youse) can really get behind.
In Credit Where It's Due, John highlights a talk and Q&A in (or perhaps just about) Africa, where Obama comes down squarely on the side of "democracy and transparency and rule of law, in the protection of property rights, in anti-corruption efforts.... And... a direct correlation between governance and prosperity."
It got me thinking about Africa and starvation, and a conversation I had when I was a teenager, mumblety-mumble years ago.
Back then, I used to hang around at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), a major science-fiction club in North Hollywood, a "city" within the city limits of Los Angeles. Probably the oldest continuously meeting SF club in the United States, having been founded as a chapter of Hugo Gernsback's Science Fiction League in 1934 -- the year before my father was born.
Among others who regularly attended was SF writer Jerry Pournelle. He was propounding on starvation in Africa; it hasn't gotten much better... and in places like Zimbabwe and South Africa, erstwhile breadbaskets of the dark continent, decidedly worse.
"All you really need," boomed Jerry, beer in hand (he has since quit drinking), "is food irradiation -- and a crapload of Seal-a-Meals." (Having lost much of his hearing as an artillery captain in the Korean War, fighting a rear-guard action during the retreat down the Frozen Choson, Jerry tends to yell everything at a volume that would bring a jackhammer operator to tears.)
His point was that the problem was not production so much as distribution and storage. But I had my own suggestion of one more plank in the platform -- a policy that would vastly improve both elements of feeding the multitudes. I waved my hand and got his attention:
"And kill all the Communists, too," I added; Jerry paused, then smiled and raised his beer bottle in silent salute.
Alas, today the Commies aren't the only group of people in Africa begging to be exterminated.
Finally, the Ultimate Word on the A.D.D.D.D.A. - Lizards' Prediction Pans Out!
This is the last (I think) post on this bizarre and surreal chapter of the New York state senate. Our previous posts on this tintinnabulant topic are:
- New York Democracy + Chicago Rules... Hijinks Ensue
- More on the Anti-Democratic Democrats' Denial of Democracy in Albany
- Penultimate Word on on the Anti-Democratic Democrats' Denial of Democracy in Albany
- No Time for Sergeants - the First Post-Penultimate Word on the A.D.D.D.D.A.
Two A.D.D.D.D.A. posts ago, on June 16th, Big Lizards made the following prediction:
The majority leadership of Dean Skelos now hangs by a Gordian thread of Damocles: All the Democrats need do is offer both amnesty and a promotion to Espada (and possibly the squelching of the various ethics charges against him), and they can reel him back in. If Espada has a pact with Monserrate, the two can easily enforce the caucus's capitulation by threatening to re-bolt and start the nightmare all over again if the caucus doesn't deliver.
I suspect the Democratic caucus sees the "mene mene tekel upharsin" writ on the wall of the Senate's executive washroom, and they will do exactly this; Smith will be cast down, the terms agreed upon, and Espada will return to the fold, probably within a week from today.
We stand by our previous prediction:
- Once Smith is gone, the Democrats will bite the bullet and cut a deal -- legitimate or corrupt -- with Espada and Monserrate, and they will rejoin the fold. The insurrection will fizzle, and Democrats will again be in charge.
- And the New York State Senate will swiftly pass the same-sex marriage bill already approved by the State Assembly, becoming the fourth state (after Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire) to enact SSM without being extorted by the judicial branch.
Surprise! Today the state Democrats and Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. made good on our predictions:
- Espada is returning to the the Democratic caucus.
- Espada gets his promotion; he will now be majority leader of the state senate.
- Sen. Malcolm Smith, erstwhile leader of the senate, is relegated to a largely ceremonial post during "a transition period of an undetermined length."
- The Democrats will regain control of the state senate with a bare 32-30 majority.
- The Republicans are betrayed by a Janus-faced Democratic ally. Again. ("I'll hold the football, Charlie Brown, and you come running and kick it.")
- And while they haven't yet passed a same-sex marriage (SSM) bill, it's clearly in the offing, along with other Democratic dream bills.
Anent that last point, it's so late in the day that we might get a brief reprieve, at least until next session:
Senate leaders, sounding by turns apologetic, fatigued and self-congratulatory, vowed to quickly take up the scores of bills they had neglected during the leadership struggle....
Senators were uncertain Thursday when or whether several high-profile issues stalled by the leadership battle, including same-sex marriage and changes in rent control laws, would be taken up. The regular legislative session ended on June 22.
All this came a little later than we expected: They fumfahed around longer than I thought any sane group of people could tolerate; but of course, they're not only Democrats, they're New Yorkers. In the end, it was fear of dispossession that finally awakened them:
But it appears that Mr. Espada may have been driven to make a deal to return as majority leader out of fear of being marginalized, because a separate Democratic faction was moving to establish a power-sharing deal with the Republicans.
Indeed, the Democrats have become increasingly polarized, often along racial lines. Mr. Espada and other Hispanic senators have pushed for more influence from Mr. Smith and Mr. Sampson, who are black.
Separately, the faction of seven white Democrats, led by Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, that had sought the power-sharing deal with the Republicans is especially uneasy with Mr. Espada, who faces investigations related to nonprofit health clinics he runs, his campaign finance practices and whether his primary residence is in the Bronx. Any arrangement they reached with Republicans would probably have pushed Mr. Espada aside.
For an amusing coda, the Republicans are gleefully licking their dentures in pre-prandial, salivary anticipation; they don't expect the reconciliation to last much longer than a Hollywood marriage:
Dean G. Skelos, the leader of the Senate Republicans, speculated that the Democratic caucus would break apart again.
“This is my prediction,” Mr. Skelos said at his own news conference, his caucus surrounding him. “Within a few months, maybe six months, there is going to be so much discord within that conference that we’re going to be running the Senate, all right?”
He added: “There are so many factions there that would like to, quite honestly, slit the other factions’ throat. I think it’s going to be very, very difficult to lead and govern.”
And day 's at the morn;
Morning 's at seven;
The hill-side 's dew-pearl'd;
The lark 's on the wing;
The snail 's on the thorn;
God 's in His heaven --
All 's right with the world!
In this case, Browning's got it a bit wrong: God's laughing in His heaven; and all's Left in the world again... especially its epicenter, the zero-point from which all other distances are measured: New York.
Case closed; a Mark VII production.
Lies Wide Shut
On June 26th, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), sent a letter to ranking Republican member Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 88%); Reyes claimed that two days earlier, in a classified briefing by CIA Director Leon Panetta (a hyper-partisan Democratic former House member), the director admitted the CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush:
Exactly what actions Panetta disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee on June 24 is unclear, but committee chairman Silvestre Reyes said that the CIA outright lied in one case.
"These notifications have led me to conclude that this committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one case) was affirmatively lied to," Reyes wrote in a letter Tuesday to Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the committee's senior Republican. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.
Reyes said in the letter that he is considering opening a full investigation.
(A CIA spokesman says Panetta denies saying any such thing in his briefing; see below)
Then yesterday, somebody on the committee or at CIA leaked a second letter (obtained by Politico), sent by seven other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, also to the director; in it, the seven echo Reyes's claim: That Panetta testified that "top CIA officials" concealed CIA operations from Congress and "misled them over the span of last eight years." (For the full text of this second letter, see the slither on.)
But of course, all eight accusers coyly refuse to say exactly what the CIA is supposed to have misled them about; they just allow the nation to draw the "obvious," but not necessarily accurate, conclusion.
Democrats are using this bit of fluff to prop up the wobbly Squeaker of the House, insinuating -- with no lawful way to debunk it -- that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) was truthful when she said the CIA "never told her" we had already waterboarded a terrorist detainee and planned to waterboard a couple more:
In the letter [from the seven], Democrats demanded that Panetta correct a statement he issued on May 15 -- just after Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading her during the Bush years about the agency's use of waterboarding techniques -- stating that it is not the CIA's "policy or practice to mislead Congress...."
Democrats refused to say today what exactly Panetta told the members during the June meeting, citing the need to keep sensitive intelligence information classified. But committee members said they were appalled to learn from Panetta that the CIA had been misled them over the span of last eight years....
Asked if the letter should silence debate about whether she was fair in her characterization that the CIA had misled about its use of waterboarding, Pelosi shot back, "I didn't know there was any question about propriety." [sic -- "propriety?"]
And here is another one of those remarkably convenient coincidences that seem to crop up with great frequency in the Pelosi Congress:
[Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ, 100%), one of the seven signers] said that the release of the letter [from the seven] was timed to coincide today with the start of debate on an intelligence reauthorization bill. Among those issues up for debate is whether the number of lawmakers briefed on the CIA’s actions should be expanded.
How amazing that the letter from the seven insinuators was sent nearly two weeks ago, but leaked only yesterday, just before the hearings... during which Republicans intend once again to demand that Speaker Pelosi either put up or shut up -- that she either show some evidence to back her accusation that the CIA lied to her, or else retract her bizarre claim and apologize:
Reyes and other committee Democrats sent Hoekstra a letter saying that CIA Director Leon Panetta had acknowledged that senior CIA officials have misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001. But a GOP spokesman has suggested that the letter was timed to deflect a controversy involving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's knowledge of CIA interrogation techniques.
Hoekstra told CBS' "The Early Show" on Thursday that it appears that Reyes is "working on the political equation."
Meanwhile, Pelosi herself is busy ducking questions and pretending she had no knowledge of the leaked letters and didn't orchestrate them to save her own shaky reputation and increasingly untenable tenure as Squeaker of the House:
It's been almost two months since Pelosi claimed the CIA lied to her about what interrogation methods they'd used on detainees. That accusation prompted Panetta's statement defending the agency.
Since then, the speaker has refused to take any more questions on the subject. While Pelosi took numerous questions today, she deflected most and left matters in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee....
[House Minority Leader John] Boehner [R-OH, 92%] renewed his call today for Pelosi to either "put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize" to the intelligence committee.
Nobody privy to the actual intelligence, not even Reyes and the seven dwarfs, has explicitly claimed that Panetta said the CIA lied about briefing Pelosi or anyone else on waterboarding; but neither can anyone explicitly dispute it without winding up in la calabooza. And for that matter, Panetta's spokesman denies that Panetta said any such thing in the first place; from the Politico piece:
CIA spokesman George Little told the Washington Independent late Wednesday that the claim that Panetta admitted his agency has misled Congress is "completely wrong." He added, "Director Panetta stands by his May 15 statement."
The charge -- that one of these supposed "misleadings" was whether Pelosi and other Democrats were briefed on waterboarding -- is inuendo, based upon unavailable evidence that cannot be checked or validated in any way. It just hovers overhead as an a priori accusation: unverifiable, unrebuttable, irrefutable. Well, who can argue with that!
The Democrats get to wallow in triumphalism: See? We Democrats had no inkling we were torturing detainees; we surely would have stopped it if we knew; so don't blame us, it's all George Bush's fault! And Republicans are stymied, since the only way to rebut the claim is to leak classified intelligence.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are using this alleged (and denied) "misleading" to demand that henceforth, the CIA must brief every member of both House and Senate Intelligence Committees on every CIA action; from the Washington Times piece:
House Republicans oppose at least one provision in the intelligence authorization bill, and they have an unusual ally: the White House.
Obama's aides have said they will recommend he veto the bill if it includes a Democratic-written provision requiring the president to notify the intelligence committees in their entirety about covert CIA activities.
Under current law, the president is only obligated to notify the top Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate and the senior Democratic and Republican members on each chamber's intelligence committee.
Democrats want to open the briefings to all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees unless committee leaders agreed otherwise. That would be about 40 lawmakers, depending on shifting membership rosters, instead of the eight required by law.
They claim the Bush administration sought to undermine congressional oversight. However, the White House is concerned that briefing more lawmakers might compromise the most sensitive U.S. intelligence operations.
Gee, you think?
To demonstrate the insanity of this proposal -- pushed by congressional Democrats and opposed by Republicans and President Barack H. Obama -- all we need do is take a look at some of the Democrats on the two committees.
When Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV, 94%) was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (he is still a member but no longer chairman), he was one of the leaders in abusing his intelligence access to perpetuate the "Bush lied, people died" meme; he repeatedly stated that no prewar intelligence supported the idea that Saddam Hussein had ongoing chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs -- even though he himself had earlier stated the exact opposite, and despite a wealth of intelligence indicating exactly that, published in the committee's own report on pre-war intelligence during Rockefeller tenure.
Rockefeller also agreed with a CBS interviewer's question, on September 9th, 2006, that "the world would be better off today if the United States had never invaded Iraq -- even if it means Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq."
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 100%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, 90%), all current members of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- Feinstein is the chairman -- wrote a letter in July, 2007, demanding a "special prosecutor" be appointed to investigate then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for perjury... because of a trivial difference between Gonzales' testimony and that of then-FBI Director Robert Mueller over the exact subject of a hospital-room discussion between Gonzales and former Attorney General John Ashcroft three years earlier.
Mueller, who was not present during the conversation itself, gained the impression afterwards that the discussion had been about the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP); but Gonzales testified to Congress three years later that it was about a different but similar surveillance program. And for that, four Democratic senators wanted to send Gonzales to federal prison -- the three mentioned above, plus Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%).
To complete the humiliation, the very next day -- July 29th, 2007 -- the New York Times published a story revealing that the subject was not, in fact, the TSP... it was the "data mining" surveillance program. So Gonzales had been telling the truth all along, and it was Mueller who misunderstood which program was under discussion. None of the senators who had called for Gonzales to be jugged for perjury ever apologized, including the three who today sit on the Senate Intelligence Commmittee; they just quietly dropped their demand.
This bespeaks such unseriousness of purpose -- at a time when the Iraq war was flagging, Gen. David Petraeus' new counterinsurgency strategy was just starting, and more than ever we needed our government to show solidarity and steadfastness -- that I question whether any of these three should even be allowed to serve on such a delicate and supposedly bipartisan committee as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Turning to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the current chairman, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-CA, 82%), flunked an intelligence quiz just a month before he was slated to assume that position; the quiz included such tricky, unfair questions as whether al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite. (Reyes' answer: "They are probably both," followed by "Predominantly -- probably Shiite.")
Note: The CNN site is a shambles; when you first go to the link, you may see nothing but black where the text should be. But I discovered that if you click inside the text area, then Select All, you should be able to see a ghostly image of the selected text.
Thank goodness for the "multiple layers of editing" we find in the elite news media.
The next ranking Democrat on the committee is Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL, 100%)... a former federal judge who was impeached and removed from office for accepting a $150,000 bribe, then perjuring himself when caught.
Yep, there's a reliable, trustworthy, expert gaggle of folks that I'd love to see be constantly apprised of the most vital, ongoing, and heavily classified CIA operations. American's national security would be vitally compromised if congressmen like Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Alcee Hastings weren't allowed to fully exert their "oversight authority" over our primary intelligence-gathering agency.
Let the full committee in both houses see everything. Better yet, why not the entire Congress, all 435 of them? Why should we slight former vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, %) -- who leaked an intelligence report, unclassified but still strictly confidential, to a CBS reporter, so compromising himself that he resigned from the committee?
Heck, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation keeps telling us, "Information wants to be free."
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Full text of the letter from the seven insinuators to the Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Director
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20505
Dear Director Panetta,
You recall, no doubt, that on May 15, 2009, you stated the following in a letter to CIA employees:
Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all Members of Congress, and misled Members for a number of years from 2001 to this week. This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods.
In light of your testimony, we ask that you publicly correct your statement of May 15, 2009.
Anna G. Eshoo
Rush D. Holt
Alcee L. Hastings
John F. Tierny
Janice D. Schakowsky
Date ►►► July 8, 2009
Professor Liberal's House of Waffles
The Dithercratic Party just can't make up its mind about the economy and the budget; but at least they've narrowed down the options:
- The Obama stimulus package may have been too much...
- ...Or too little...
- ...Or possibly just right.
But that's as fine as they can shave it:
Democrats who control the levers of power in Washington are divided over whether to push for more deficit spending to end the recession and stem job losses, complicating the possibility of a second stimulus bill....
President Barack Obama underscored the dilemma by addressing both sides of the argument. In an interview with ABC News yesterday, he said unemployment approaching 10 percent is something “we wrestle with constantly.” He added that spending more borrowed money is “potentially counterproductive.”
(Off the record, Barack H. Obama told the ABC interviewer, longtime journalist Rahm Emanuel, that in the event such a bill landed on the Oval Office desk, the president was "almost certain, or at least somewhat likely," to vote "present.")
The hemming and hawing makes little difference, because it's unlikely that a second stimulus porkage can be passed anyway: Given the colossal failure of the first Obamic mitzvah on the economy, liberal Democrats who favor a second will have to resort that time-honored rhetorical tool: In for a Penny, In for a Metric Tonne. While this works with most Democrats, the "Blue Dogs" will be less than blown away:
With the White House and congressional Democrats focused on a major health-care overhaul and a climate bill, some lawmakers expressed pessimism about the likelihood of such legislation.
“I’m not sure how you would do it,” said the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois. He said he would leave any decision on the need for a fiscal stimulus to “the president’s evaluation.”[And the Bellman cried “Silence! Not even a shriek!”
And excitedly tingled his bell.]
Republicans seized on the unemployment rate and job losses of about 6.5 million since the recession began in December 2007 as validation of their vote against the measure in February.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a floor speech yesterday that Democratic proponents of the stimulus program “over-promised on results and now their predictions are coming back to them.”[“Oh, skip your dear uncle!” the Bellman exclaimed,
As he angrily tingled his bell.]
McConnell mocked the idea of another stimulus. He called it “mind-boggling” and a worse idea than the previous one, which he said “has been demonstrably proven to have failed.” He added, “There is no education in the second kick of a mule.” [George Allen lives! -- the Mgt.]
The Democrats made their beds, and now they've got a tiger by the tail. It's not likely to wriggle off the hook by Fall, when the liberal elite hoped to pass yet another unstimulating stimulus -- this time harder and louder.
Now if only I could feel more confident about the deposing of King Capintax and the midnight burial of ObamaCare... with a garlic steak through its heart.
Flash - Palin Damaged Among Anti-Palin Republicans!
In a shocking turn of events, a Rasmussen poll finds that among the group of Republicans least likely to vote for Sarah Palin under any circumstances, a plurality believes she hurt her chances by resigning as governor of Alaska. Even more stunningly, among those GOPs most likely to vote for her before the move, she is least damaged.
You could knock me over with a sledge hammer:
Conservative Republicans are the least fazed by Palin’s decision to resign. Just 37% think she’s hurt her chances of winning the nomination, compared to 52% of moderate Republicans.
GOP voters who are Evangelical Christians are fairly evenly divided but a narrow plurality say Palin’s resignation helps her political chances more than hurts them. But the plurality of other Protestants (41%) and Catholics (46%) disagree, seeing the governor’s move as hurtful politically.
In general, the higher a Republican voter’s income level and educational achievement, the more likely he or she is to think Palin’s decision to resign will hurt her bid for the GOP nomination.
Sadly, Rasmussen didn't break it down by whether a respondent previously supported Palin -- did the move actually change any minds at all? The best we can do is note that the more elite a Republican is, the greater the chance that he never supported the anti-elite "Caribou Barbie" in the first place; and the more conservative a Republican is, the more likely he was to support Palin -- before and after the resignation.
A Gallup poll found much the same non-effect: Those least likely ever to vote for Palin, especially Democrats, are the ones most likely to say her resignation made them less likely. (What, less than zero?)
My read on these polls is that it's relentlessly obvious and quotidian: If you don't like somebody in the first place, you're probably irritated by everything she does, including how she brushes her teeth. But if you like her, you seek benign explanations for every action, no matter how bizarre it would otherwise be -- if done by somebody you dislike.
The conclusion I draw is: Sarah Palin's resignation has not hurt her one bit. By the time she runs for either (a) the presidency in 2012 (which I have always thought highly unlikely) or (b) the U.S. Senate against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, 58%*) in 2010 (which makes much more sense to me; but I reiterate) -- the fact that she resigned from the governorship in 2009 will be meaningless, except as a "shibboleth" to distinguish supporters from detractors.
By the same coin, the resignation has not helped Palin win supporters; but it has freed her up to run hard against Murkowski in the primaries, should she wish... something she really couldn't do as the sitting governor, as that would be unseemly.
Given the immediate-impression response, I believe the pros far outweigh the cons for Palin making the move she did: Elite and moderate Republicans, and of course Democrats, have yet another reason to dislike her; but they were always going to be her biggest problem anyway, and there is no real change. She hasn't lost her conserative base.
But she will be free to travel all around the country giving speeches, fundraising for other Republicans, maybe even doing a television or radio show; and of course, free to run hard against RINO Lisa Murkowski, the only (politically) surviving member of the Alaska old-boy troika.
When Lisa's father Frank Murkowski resigned his Senate seat after being elected governor, one of his first official acts was to appoint his daughter to the Senate seat he had just abandoned. Besides the Murkowskis, the third member of the troika was "Senator for life" Ted Stevens; but he lost his Senate seat the election following his conviction -- after prosecutorial misconduct -- in a corruption trial. (Which doesn't make him innocent, just not proven guilty; not being an organ of the American judicial system, I am not obliged to consider everyone "innocent until proven guilty in a court of law." Bill Ayers and O.J. Simpson spring to mind.)
If Sarah Palin sees one of her life missions as ridding Alaska of the last vestige of that circle of sump and porkinstance, it would be extremely tempting to run against Lisa Murkowski... who was barely reelected in 2004, the one time she actually ran for the United States Senate. As I wrote in the previous lizardian post linked above:
Even with the pull of Stevens and Murkowski, then the most powerful pols in Alaska, [Lisa Murkowski] barely squeaked out a minority victory over former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, 48.62 to 45.51. Had 4,800 votes gone the other way, she would have been defeated without ever having been elected to that seat. This does not inspire confidence that she can pull it off again next year, even against the same candidate.
So (fingers crossed, as I'm very much a Palinista) the resignation does not so far appear to have hurt her among her core constituents; and I suspect that when it comes down to it, even most Republicans who are put off by Palin will vote for her against almost any Democrat. In Alaska, that means that if she knocks off Murkowski in the primary, I think she will win the general... probably with a greater victory margin that Murkowski would, assuming she even could.
And if I'm wrong, and Palin does run for president in 2012 -- perhaps she'll end up in the VP slot again; but this time on a ticket that is much more likely to win, since it isn't 2008 -- and the eventual nominee won't be that "lovable conservative," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 63%).
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 7, 2009
Piddling Away Greatness
Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- presumably speaking for her boss -- doubled down on supporting erstwhile Honduran president and would-be dictator José Manuel Zelaya Rosales (a.k.a. Mel Zelaya) instead of rule of law in Honduras:
A day after failing to land in Honduras to confront the interim government that ousted him in a coup, Zelaya boarded a plane bound for Washington, where U.S. officials said he would meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Zelaya told a news conference Monday night that he hopes to ensure U.S. support for diplomatic efforts to see him restored to power.
"Tomorrow we hope to get support for these pronouncements," Zelaya said before heading to the airport in Managua.
Clinton and President Barack H. Obama superficially seem to be oblivious to the sequence of events that led to Zelaya's arrest, removal from office, and voluntary exile... but are they really just misinformed? (The full timeline of events in Honduras make clear what really happened, which is the polar opposite of what our antique media tell us.)
I believe at first mere ignorance was exactly the problem: The first time the ongoing, fluid situation in Honduras was explained to Obama, I suspect that all he heard was, "Wugga-wugga liberal wigga wagga union supporter woggle boggle ousted by the military roggle doggle coup d'état." He chose to stitch this muddle together into a narrative that reads, "The liberal, democratically elected President of Honduras was overthrown by a military junta."
Alas, Obama is probably the most impulsive man ever to sit in the big chair in la Casa Blanca; he appears allergic to debate, discussion, deliberation, contemplation, thinking things through, weighing consequences, examining the pros and cons, hearing from all sides before making a decision -- and of course retrospection.
By now, of course, he knows full well what really happened; but it seems he simply cannot bring himself to admit that he misunderstood so egregiously in the first five minutes -- which, coincidentally, was when he committed himself to supporting Zelaya, come what may; see our earlier Big Lizards post "Old Shoes and Barackends."
The military has a term they use for the decision-making process; they call it the OODA loop, for "Observe, Orient, Decide and Act." But the Obamacle appears to have found a different route to decision making.
He Partially listens to a random aide, acts on his first Impulse, angrily and bitterly Defends whatever snap-judgment action he took, Doubles-down on that first impulse, Laughs off any subsequent, game-changing information... then furiously Echos the pronunciamentos of any allies he might have gathered on the issue, no matter who they are -- or whether their own interests align with or are diametrically opposed to America's.
We can call this the Obamic PIDDLE loop, which generally morphs quite rapidly into an infinite regress. Let's see it play out in the Honduras case:
- Partially listen: Somehow, President Obama got the idea stuck in his brain that there was an actual military coup in Honduras, where the entire elected government was overthrown and some generalissimo or military junta took command.
- Impulsively decide: Stung by constant accusations of fence-sitting and waffling, Obama often "demonstrates his leadership" by making a snap decision based on his instincts. Alas, those "instincts" are formed on the basis of bullet (1) above: Outraged that such a fine, decent man as Mel Zelaya was ousted by a military junta (sic), Obama immediately ordered Honduras to reinstate the socialist apparatchik, and he aligned his interests (thought not the nation's) with Zelaya cronies in Nicaragua, Chile, Venezuela, and Cuba.
- Defend his decision: Once he'd made the decision to strongarm Zelaya back into power, President Obama was stunned by the democratic pushback even here in the United States. Instead of rethinking his position, he backed and filled, trying retroactively to justify the unjustifiable decision he made based upon an ill-formed conclusion. (Obama always defends, never discusses.)
Double-down: It frequently happens, in the course of human events, that a snap decision made on the basis of erroneous information doesn't pan out (now there's a revelation!) A smart feller backs off and thinks it all through a second time -- for example, George W. Bush picking a new general (David Petraeus) with a new strategy (counterinsurgency) to turn around the Iraq war.
Alas, Barack Obama's response to failure is not to rethink, rework, rewrite... it's to retrench, rinse, and repeat, ad infinitum. Thus, the doubling down we see in today's Hillary story: The Obamacle cannot back away, because that would be to admit that he goofed it up in the first place; so he goes "all in" on a bad bluff, hoping for a miracle -- or a chance to accidentally kick over the table, forcing a misdeal.
- Laugh off subsequent facts: As more and more facts have become available -- e.g., Zelaya's pre-arrest antics, the Honduran constitution, the participation of the Honduran Supreme Court, the fact that Zelaya's replacement, Roberto Micheletti, is next in succession to the presidency and from Zelaya's own Liberal party anyway -- a greater number of ordinary American voters will begin to realize that the White House is on the wrong side of this crucial issue. The only two responses available to Obama are (a) to do a one-eighty and start supporting the rule of law, democracy, and the Honduran people... or (b) to mock, hoot, scoff, and laugh away the inconvenient truth, lest it take root. Pish tosh. Nonsense. Who you gonna believe, me or your own lyin' eyes?
Echo his allies du jour: In the end, like every poor debater, Barack H. Obama must turn to the only argument left to try to salvage his reputation: the appeal to authority. In this case, he can but turn to his only allies in this disgraceful betrayal of Western and American values... a murderer's row of dictators, Communists, and fascists -- and the American press, which continues to haul water for the president on this one -- as if a lie becomes truth when sung in chorus.
As Michael Ramirez so wonderfully lampooned (see the Power Line link up top), the President of the United States has relegated himself and his administration to "parroting" the denunciations and diktats of the vilest demagogues in the Western hemisphere: President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua -- premier of the Stalinist "Sandinista National Liberation Front;" Oogo Chavez -- "il Duce" of Venezuela; the Rev. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann -- President of the UN General Assembly, liberation theologist, and former foreign minister to Ortega's Sandinista government; José Miguel Insulza -- the Secretary General of the Organization of American States and also a Socialist, the man who declared last year that Venezuela had "no connection" with any terrorist groups; and of course los bros Castro, Fidel and Raul.
In practice, step 6 occurs within 24 hours of the beginning of the PIDDLE loop... and it dominates the latter stages, as President Obama relies more and more on his friends and allies in whatever action he has decided to take. Eventually, he simply takes on their characteristics as protective coloration, like a chameleon takes on the colors of its surrounding environment, and for the same reason: to hide from predators.
In effect, Obama's temporary allies become his tribe, and he turns to them over and again for advice, comfort, and friendship. As a consequence, he turns away from those critics whose unwanted facts and uncomfortable observations make him feel bad -- the worst sin in the liberal pantheon.
Far from bridging the ideological gap in Washington, Obama's de facto tribalism segregates administration officials and lawmakers more than at any time since the Second World War. And his PIDDLE loop decision making apparatus guarantees even more presidential isolation from dissenting opinion, both here and abroad.
He is not only piddling away any greatness his administration might have exhibited -- having been gifted with extraordinary times -- he is also piddling away America's greatness; that should never be tolerated... not even by other liberals who are not quite so radical, if there is any such rara avis left.
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► July 6, 2009
Our Take on That Whole Big Sarah Palin Thing with Ace of Spades and Ed Morrissey, as Filtered Through Our Man Karl
Karl -- that Hot Air guy who sometimes throws a crumb or two to Patterico (and never even once to me, the villain!) -- reposted on Patterico's Pontifications what he had already reposted on Hot Air (with some commentary in the identical posts): Ace of Spades' comment in one of the threads of his own blog, this post written by guest blogger "Russ from Winterset" in response to earlier posts by Ace Himself, viz., here (complete with "flaming death" animation) and here... and I'll lay you 8 to 5 you have no idea what I just wrote, and I couldn't possibly repeat it anyway.
But you have the gist, I think: Ace said something critical about Sarah Palin after she announced she was resigning the governship of Alaska (effective July 26th); he was a bit roughed up by the commenters, and he took umbrage, striking back in comment number 324.
The best place to read Ace's response and Karl's commentary is at the Patterico link above; I don't want to shovel any more readership to those fat cat, capitalist, imperialist running dogs at Hot Air, where all the posters get paid a six-figure salary, and to which they won't even invite me. I would be so happy to belly up to the trough. What's wrong with a lizard among the piggies? Is it some commentary about me being somewhat vertically challenged?
And I'm sorry about that "running dog" crack. It will never happen again, especially if I'm invited.
I seem to have gotten a bit off track. My point was this: I actually troubled to read all the way through the comment stream at Patterico's (up through comment 58, the last one at the time I read); and I did not see a single comment that was "over the top," abusive, Ace- or Ed-hating (the captain has also be rather critical of Palin's move), or in any other way inappropriate as commentary on what was unquestionably harsh criticism of the soon-to-be erstwhile governor.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the calm and measured tone... as I suspect was Karl; judging from his final remark in the post, he expected the same vitriol on Patterico's he alleges occurred on Ace of Spades and Hot Air. (I didn't read the 758 comments on the former or the 664 comments on the latter -- and certainly not the literally thousands on the Ed Morrissey post at Hot Air -- so I cannot characterize them from personal observation.)
This leads me to regurgitate one of my infamous Lizardian Maxims: You buttered your bread, now sleep in it. From what I've read, Ace can be very aggressive in his blogpostings, sometimes even resorting to the sort of obscenity-laced tirades I expect more from lefty bloggers -- and writers on mainstream, left-leaning publications; and Keith Olbermann -- than from the Right.
I'm not knocking that style; it's no more valid or invalid than any other. And the comparison above is not to content; on that score, Ace has every lefty blogger in Niven's known universe beat hands down. I'm only talking about the style, which isn't my cuppa.
It attracts a certain kind of commenter, and it sets a certain tone, both of which (in my opinion) generate precisely the kind of magma-spewing verbal assaults that Karl tells us occurred on Ace of Spades, leading to comment 324.
As a counterexample, I cite the civil and civilized conversation in the comments to Karl's reposting on Patterico's Pontifications. Patterico himself occasionally goes off the rails, railing at, e.g., Andrew Sullivan or Tom Boggioni (whoever he was); but it's not often. His normal mode is much more analytical, if perhaps not as contemplative as those by his guest bloggers Karl and "Jack Dunphy," or as reportorial as those by his other guest blogger, the divine Ms. DRJ. (I could also cite another blog I know well, the acme of measured, logical, soft-spoken, sagacious commentary across the entire blogosphere; but modesty forbids.)
Of course, this thesis of mine breaks down a bit in the case of Ed Morrissey, as he too is the epitome of measured, soft-spoken, etc. But has case is exceptional, mere fallout via guilt by association at Hot Air and spillover from the content-similarity between what Ed and Ace said. Leaving that oddity aside (and as always, taking as gospel Karl's and Patterico's characterization of the verbal gobsmacking of Morrissey), the response here and on PP is worlds apart from the response at Hot Air and Ace of Spades.
That yawning chasm of invective cannot be explained by reference to "Palinistas" vs. "Frumquats." It can only be explained, it seems to me, by the equally vast distinction between the audiences at PP (and BL) and those at Ace and Hot Air. The latter sites appeal to mass numbers of readers far beyond even Patterico's meagre imagining: 68,000 per day at Ace and 620,000 per day (!) at Hot Air, vice a mere 8,000 a day at Patterico's... and, ah, a little bit less than that at Big Lizards. (All right, about 90% less.) The only way to get those kinds of numbers is, to put it brutally, to toss a lot of red meat -- hot, visceral posts in primary colors, with little shading or pedantry.
Ace is a milblogger, so this kind of thing comes naturally to him; and Hot Air was founded by Our Dearest Michelle -- who comes from the world of television news and news analysis, where numbers are measured by the million: A profession that rates the popularity of its practitioners every week can never wallow in contemplative commentary, not if it wants to survive.
I do believe that this entire imbroglio is not really about David Frum's anti-Palin animus being absurdly exaggerated (which it is), nor about the admittedly Pavlovian response of Palin's fan base (in which Sachi and I number; I'm getting her Sarah Palin glasses for our anniversary). Rather, it's really all about the different approaches, target audiences, and founding examples set by different blogs... and it's why, even with the microbial page-view numbers a blog like this one generates, compared to the beluga whale-sized numbers of Ace of Spades (and the Jupiterian numbers racked up by Hot Air), Big Lizards will never be driven from the blogosphere.
Those who read us are evidently not fully satisfied by the larger blogs -- else they wouldn't bother. Like a microcosm of the free market itself, "buyers" of blogposts will seek out specific "sellers," even if there are many other sellers peddling similar, but not identical, products. This is the essence of freedom, of Capitalism -- and the polar opposite of the top-down, one size fits all approach not only of big government, but of Big Energy, Big Health Care, Big Automotive, Big Food, Big Computer, and all the other industries that superficially seem to be dominated by a few Brobdingnagian players... who even so, never can quite eradicate their Lilliputian competitors.
Let a thousand flowers bloom, and long may the market reign!
Date ►►► July 5, 2009
Spreading the Holiday Smear
So you've been wondering how the administration of President Barack H. Obama (and Vice President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., a.k.a. a guy named Joe) would spin the rather damning facts that:
- Their economic policies are in ruins;
- Their wildly expanded (far above what President George W. Bush pushed) "stimulus" package has failed to stimulate anything but more unemployment;
- That said unemployment rate, in fact, is higher than at any time since the worst of the recession in 1986;
- They themselves have predicted trillion-dollar deficits for the next ten plus years (numbers hard to wrap one's frontal lobes around), which nearly every economists admits will lead to massive inflation fairly soon (coupled with no growth -- Jimmy Carter style "stagflation");
- They have nationalized two of the Big Three automobile giants, several banks, an insurance company, and they threaten to nationalize -- well, just about every other sector of the economy they can get their hands on, including health care and the weather -- all to no effect (no good effect, that is);
- The American people appear to have lost all confidence in Obama's economic policies;
- And that the only response of the Democratic Party -- is to suggest more (and more devious) taxes to levy against those disloyal people... including a "Fair Tax" proposal in addition to raising income taxes. (Hey, Medved was right!)
I know you've been dying to hear what they could possibly say to turn all that around to their benefit. Somehow.
Wonder no longer; Mr. Biden has the scoop:
"The truth is, there was a misreading of just how bad an economy we inherited," said Biden, who is leading the administration's effort to implement it's $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
And there you have the answer: More than six months into the new administration, with a complete radical rewrite of economic policy rammed through a supine Congress -- and it's still all George Bush's fault!
But fret not; Biden realizes that the administration he is rumored to be a member of cannot entirely escape scrutiny; he understands that they, too, must give an accounting. Consequently, he spreads the responsibilty around a bit:
"Now, that doesn't -- I'm not -- it's now our responsibility. So the second question becomes, did the economic package we put in place, including the Recovery Act, is it the right package given the circumstances we're in? And we believe it is the right package given the circumstances we're in," he told me.
So having carefully weighed all the pros and cons, the administration gives itself, oh, let's say a B—... and gives George W. Bush an F minus minus minus. But don't take it out on the current administration; it's not as if they just make these scores up, you know.
Oddly, the journalist who authored this ABC blog entry did not really press Biden on the manifest failures so far; nor on the fairly obvious fact that, having completely changed everything Bush had done, they have consequently assumed all responsibility and accountability for its failures... that Obama and Biden cannot blame the ill effects on the policies of the Bush administration when (a) they have put their own, utterly different policies in place -- and (b) it got much, much worse when they did.
It's doubly odd that a news organization so respected for its unbiased, adversarial relationship with the current president would so neglect its duty to question, probe, and confront to get to the real truth. And it's especially shocking that a such a beloved career journalist as George Snuffleupagus would fail to ask such obvious follow-up questions. I can only conclude that there simply wasn't any time to ask them.
I know he would've if he could've: After all, Snuffleupagus was a great enough newsman to seize control of This Week with David Brinkley from pikers like Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts after its intelligent designer and namesake retired; Snuffleupagus must be one of the pantheon of reporter demigods, right up there with Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, and Helen Thomas.
I'm sure he'll get around to holding Biden's nose to the fire as soon as humanly possible.
Sachi adds: What a real journalist would ask as a follow-up question is: "So you're saying you implemented a massive economic stimulus package before fully understanding the full scope of problem; isn't that more than a little irresponsible?"
Date ►►► July 4, 2009
Happy Pro-American, Exceptionalist, Patriotic, Liberty-Filled Independence Day!
Happy Independence Day - 1916 meets 2009
(I wonder how many liberals see today as the goy equivalent of Yom Kippur?)
In Which the Lizards Dabble in Palin-tology
All right, so Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska made the shocker announcement today: She is not running for reeelction in 2010; in fact, she is resigning as of Sunday, July 26th, 2009. Future career plans left unannounced.
Much speculation centers on the possiblity that she will run for the presidency in 2012; that's certainly what most commenters on Power Line seem to think, according to John Hinderaker. (I'm sure that Paul Mirengoff will shortly weigh in with a discouraging word.)
I concur in part and dissent in part from John's take on this development. John is skeptical that she is going to run for president after just three quarters of a term as governor:
Most observers assume that means she will devote full time to running for President. I guess so. Frankly, it seems bizarre to me, unless Palin calculates that in order to run she will have to spend most of her time in the lower 48, and the logistics of doing that while continuing as Governor are impossible.
I concur; she is not yet seasoned enough. If Obama is reelected, she could be a plausible candidate in 2016; and if a Republican is elected in 2012, she will still be young enough in 2020, at age 56, to be a strong contender. But what is she to do in the meantime to keep her name in circulation and bolster her future presidential viability?
Though he offers no prediction of the future plans for most everybody's favorite soccer mom (everybody except John S. McCain's campaign mangler, Steve Schmidt, I presume), I get the feeling John believes she is not going to run for elective office again; this subtextual dismissal is the part to which I dissent. I believe a much more likely possibility is being ignored...
Palin has a good shot running in the Senate primary against Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, 58%). Murkowski is a very liberal (and often very embarassing) RINO; she is a legacy-babe, having originally been appointed to the Senate by her father, Frank Murkowski, when he resigned his Senate seat to become governor in 2002.
Sen. Murkowski has a number of positions that don't sit well with conservatives and most Republicans:
- She opposed the "nuclear option" for ending the endless Democratic fillibusters of Bush appointees, thus undercutting the president's ability to move the bench even further towards judicial restraint;
- She strongly favors taxpayer-supported embryonic stem-cell research, even without the use of technology that leaves the embryo intact;
- Murkowski is very, very pro-choice for a Republican; she's not in Ted Kennedy-land, but she's much further left on this issue than Palin.
- She voted to raise the ridiculous biofuels standard fivefold, requiring production of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022 (we currently use about 7 billion gallons).
She is still better than nearly any Democrat, of course; for example, she strongly supports drilling for oil and natural gas in Alaska, even in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). But I can certainly understand a conservative like Palin hoping to replace Murkowski with someone who... well, with someone who thinks more like Sarah Palin.
Too, Frank Murkowski was part of the good old boy network in Alaska that Palin has fought so long and hard to overthrow. The other corrupt, old blackguard in that clubbiest of clubs is of course Ted Stevens -- notwithstanding that his corruption conviction was thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct (after which, Stevens was thankfully not heard to remark, "Guilty as sin, free as a bird... only in America!")
Mr. Stevens was defeated in his bid for reelection in 2008, in no small measure because of his (tainted) conviction; but his last successful endeavor was to help reelect -- wait for it -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2004, when she ran for her first election after Daddy appointed her. So with Frank Murkowski as her father and Ted Steven as her mentor, Lisa Murkowski in many ways exemplifies all that is wrong with the Republican machine in that state.
And Murkowski herself had a brush with the same sort of corruption that has tainted the GOP in Alaska for many years; she bought property from Bob Penney, a businessman in Anchorage, for what appeared to be very much less than the land was worth, leading to speculation that it was an illegal gift. The day after it was referred to the Senate ethics committee, she sold the property back to Penney for what she had paid. She also failed to report significant income ($100,000 over three years) on her Senate disclosure forms and had to file amended disclosures.
Even with the pull of Stevens and Murkowski, then the most powerful pols in Alaska, she barely squeaked out a minority victory over former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, 48.62 to 45.51. Had 4,800 votes gone the other way, she would have been defeated without ever having been elected to that seat. This does not inspire confidence that she can pull it off again next year, even against the same candidate.
So for many reasons, I can see soon-to-be-ex Gov. Palin wanting to mail L-Murk back to Anchorage, C.O.D.
But of course, even the Right would think it pretty gauche for Palin to campaign against sitting Republican Sen. Murkowski in the primary -- while Palin was still the Republican governor of the state: It would be ill-mannered.
But if she were to return to being a private citizen, then all barriers to challenging Murkowski in the primary would be removed; she could make a full-throated run against Murkowski on all three points -- Murkowski's politics, her ethics, and her electability. I'm not prepared to make this an actual prediction at this juncture, but I think it a very distinct possibility. Don't be surprised if she announces her candidacy for the U.S. Senate later this year.
Date ►►► July 3, 2009
Puppet on a News Wire
In a previous post, I noted how the New York Times, the Washington Post, and AP had all recently engaged not only in heretical questioning of the mysterious ways of the One, but had even mocked him.
Today, Power Line adds the more personal, visceral, and (dare I say it) honest reaction of the doyenne of dimwitted Democrats, Helen Thomas (she was once a journalist, now she's just a spectator allowed to sit at the big kids' table). She compares him (unfavorably) to another recent president -- well, "recent" on the time scale of Ms. Thomas, at whose first presser, it is rumored, all the gentlemen wore knee-pants and powdered wigs:
Following a testy exchange during Wednesday's briefing with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas told CNSNews.com that not even Richard Nixon tried to control the press the way President Obama is trying to control the press.
"Nixon didn't try to do that," Thomas said. "They couldn't control (the media). They didn't try.
"What the hell do they think we are, puppets?" Thomas said.
While it's amusing to see fellow liberal fascists (in the Goldbergian sense) beating up on the president, it begs the real question: Are they puppets after all?
I suspect the answer is -- No, they are not... and Barack H. Obama is about to find that out in a most unpleasant way.
I know many readers of this blog are startled, having thought I would say they were, in fact, puppets; but that is assuredly not the way they see themselves, as Thomas' outburst and the earlier mockery should indicate.
So what do they see when they look in their magic mirrors? I am absolutely convinced that most elite "journalists" envision themselves as co-pilots of the magical misery tour that is Obamunism:
- I'm certain they support everything he is doing to turn America, at the very least, into a Euroleft welfare state, in which every major industry is partially or wholly owned by the government;
- I'm positive they salivate, like Pavlov's dogs, at the thought of government-run health care;
- And I am secure in saying they think a massive tax increase is the "adult" thing to do -- no more of this pie in the face fantasy that we can help the ailing economy by clipping the wings of government and letting the private sector resume control... those are heartless industrialists we're talking about, robber barons!
But Obama has made the dreadful mistake of treating co-conspirators as employees, as his own, personal PR flacks. In journalism, economics, and the arts, the elites see themselves as Barack Obama's equals -- not his subordinates. And it boils their blood when he orders them around: "Put this story Robert Gibbs wrote on the front page -- stop demanding investigations -- you don't have to decide what to publish, I'll tell you what to publish -- go fetch me a hamburger, Pinch, and I want fries with that!"
The president's problem is that he can't wrap his planet-sized ego around the fact that the elites have egos that are just as big, or perhaps a smidgeon bigger. They, too, are used to having their "people" cater to their every momentary whim; they're not used to being told to clean the windows and take out the rubbish.
But Obama's own ego will not allow him to see them as anything other than extensions of Barack Obama, part of the body that is the Obamacle; and he cannot treat them as independent cronies, because he sees that term as an oxymoron: Cronies, by his own definition, obey and ask no questions other those the White House chooses to plant on them, for purposes of deluding the masses that Obama's "town hall" meetings are anything but stage-managed photo-ops.
So Obama will continue to treat the elite media, Hollywood, and Big Science as ring-kissing lickspittles, and the acolytes will get madder and madder; until eventually -- like kernals of corn in hot fat -- they will start to pop. And once they get going, President Obama may well be inundated by a tidal wave of bad press that could even rival the worst journalistic excesses that plagued the Bush Administration.
After all, hell hath no fury like a kept woman scorned.
Date ►►► July 1, 2009
The Membrane Connecting Science, Morality, and Aesthetics - More Thoughts
In the comments of a previous post, frequent commenter Geoman wrote the following:
Which brings me to this: the involvement of god or supernatural forces, in any way shape or form, automatically negates your argument as science.
This is true, as far as it goes: Of course discussion of the nature of God is not "science." But not being science is not synonymous with not being worth discussing or not rational or not serious... or even not real. That error -- made by virtually all those particular scientists (or science writers) who also happen to be atheists, is just as egregious as Michael Behe claiming that evolution requires the specific finger of God to arrange various systems of a bacterium into a flagellum.
All that science can say about non-scientific questions is -- science can't say anything about non-scientific questions.
That does not translate to, "Non-scientific questions are nonsense that need never be considered." It also doesn't translate to, "Things outside science are fantasies that don't really exist." But we do need to recognize that they can be neither proven nor disproven by the scientific method; they may well be urgent, vital questions -- but they must be discussed and debated without the imprimatur of "science."
The danger of mistaking any systematized mode of thinking for the only such available is twofold:
- That we try to drape the mantle of science over questions of politics, religion, morality, aesthetics, or sociology.
This results in, e.g., "social Darwinism," where the undeniable reality of evolutionary biology (henceforth "evo-bio") is abused to declare one race or class of people to be superior to another. (Oddly enough, those making such declarations invariably find themselves in the superior, never the inferior group.)
As noted earlier in the comments of the linked post, such ideological abuse-of-theory does not invalidate the original science that was perverted; but it can taint it politically, causing people wrongly to reject it, in the mistaken belief that the abuse is a "natural consequence" of the real science... and under the well-known fallacy that if the natural consequence of something is bad, its supposed source must be false. ("It can't be true, because it would be so dreadful if it were!")
The corollary danger, though, is just as grim:
- That we reject anything not provable by science as fiction, fantasy, or meaningless sentimentality.
What an ugly world that would be! And a dangerous one; as above, you cannot "prove" traditional morality (justice, decency, loyalty, courage, and such) by science... so such hyper-rationalists must reject morality as a guide to behavior. They must also reject aesthetic considerations such as beauty, taste, and love; as well as frivolities such as play and recreation. One becomes an automaton.
To be a whole person, we need both scientific rationalism and other varieties of rationalism. To be a whole society, we need all of the above, but also religious rationalism -- a certain kind of religion, that which Dennis Prager identifies as "ethical monotheism." Individuals may not need religion to be moral, but Prager has convinced me that societies do.
Each kind of reasoning must stay in its proper sphere, but each sphere must have some limited volume of overlap with all of the others. As organic minds, we cannot compartmentalize, say, our scientific from our religious reasoning: Each must take account of the other, or we fall prey to Multiple Epistemology Syndrome -- one mode of thinking tells us something is true, while another tells us equally strongly that it is false; and there is no way to mediate between the severed pieces of mind.
The proper answer to the question of evo-bio and Mankind is to accept that evo-bio is how our bodies biologically evolved... and also, that if a theistic God exists, He clearly chose evo-bio as the means to create us (and also as the means to create porpoises, penguins, pike eels, petunias, and paramecia).
By definition of omniscience, a theistic God would know that setting the various laws of the universe and physical constants the way they are, along with a particular initial state of matter and energy, would result eventually in us. But that also requires us to accept that the same space-time and mass-energy "initial condition" might also have created (and continue to create) similar evo-bio elsewhere. In other words, if God works miracles by science, we might not be unique. There may be others out there going through similar intellectual angst, confronting equivalent crises of faith or science; we cannot rule it out by glib vanity and Biblical narcissism.
That same God would necessarily transcend the physical universe (or else He couldn't have created it!) -- so if He exists, he can also be the source of kinds of reasoning that transcend scientific reasoning. That doesn't make them better; they just answer different questions than does scientific reasoning.
In other words, the religious have no reason to reject science a priori; nor do the scientific have any reason to reject religion a priori. They exist quite comfortably side by side; and neither pursuit is inherently useless, meaningless, sterile, or Orwellian.
This seems very obvious to me (and to such prominent religious scientists as Francis Collins), and I've never understood why it seems such a stumbling block to a majority in both camps, the scientific and the religious.
With Fiends Like These...
Is the worm beginning to turn the tide?
AP breathlessly writes about President Barack H. Obama's health-care insurapalooza today in Virginia -- but look what they're saying! The tough-love starts with the headline: "Emotion, few details, in Obama's health care pitch"... and it only goes south from there:
"The health care changes that Obama called for Wednesday would reshape the nation's medical landscape. He says he wants to cover nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, to persuade doctors to stress quality over quantity of care, to squeeze billions of dollars from spending.
"But details on exactly how to do those things were generally lacking in his hour-long town hall forum before a friendly, hand-picked audience in a Washington suburb."
"Some of Obama's questioners Wednesday were from friendly sources, including a member of the Service Employees International Union and a member of Health Care for America Now, which organized a Capitol Hill rally last week calling for an overhaul. White House aides selected other questions submitted by people on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
"Republicans said the event was a political sham designed to help Obama, not to inform the public.
"'Americans are already skeptical about the cost and adverse impact of the president's health care plans,' Republican National Committee spokesman Trevor Francis said. 'Stacking the audience and preselecting questions may make for a good TV, but it's the wrong way to engage in a meaningful discussion about reforming health care.'"
"'The biggest thing we can do to hold down costs is to change the incentives of a health care system that automatically equates expensive care with better care,' the president said. He said the formula system drives up costs 'but doesn't make you better.'
Obama did not make specific recommendations for changing the incentive formulas."
- "Obama said, however, that he is working with the American Medical Association to explore ways to reduce liability for doctors and hospitals 'when they've done nothing wrong.' He offered no specifics for a problem that has vexed the medical and legal industries for decades."
"Obama said a government-run 'single-payer' health care system works well in some countries. But it is not appropriate in the United States, he said, because so many people get insurance through their employers working with private companies.
Still, he again called for a government-run 'public option' to compete with private insurers, a plan that many Republicans oppose."
Each of these points is factually correct, and one might argue that each is neutral; but they are not presented in a neutral way... and astonishingly enough, the spin is entirely anti-ObamaCare.
Even the last point presents the government option as a refutation of his pledge not to push a "single-payer" system, tacitly accepting the well-founded GOP warning that a subsidized and privileged government option will necessarily drive employers away from private plans for their employees, plans that are overtaxed, heavily regulated, and disfavored in a myriad other ways.
The Washington Post was nearly as bad; please pay close attention to the adjectives used in the opening of their story:
President Obama offered today a wonkish defense of his embattled health care reform effort during an hour-long town hall meeting in Annandale that featured seven questions, including one sent in via Twitter and several from a hand-picked audience of supporters.
As the president's health care bill struggles on Capitol Hill, the administration increasingly is seeking to pressure lawmakers with evidence of the public's desire to get something done as well as proof that the health care industry is a stakeholder in -- not an opponent of -- the effort.
The tone sometimes turns neutral, but never pro-Obama. And I nearly fell out of my chair reading this a few paragraphs later:
In the highly stage-managed event, questions for Obama came from a live audience selected by the White House and the college, and from Internet questions chosen by the administration's own new-media team.
Of the seven questions the president answered, four were selected by his own staff from people who submitted videos on the White House Web site or who responded to a request for "tweets" from the administration.
The president called randomly on three audience members. Each turned out to be members of groups with close ties to his administration: the SEIU union, Health Care for America Now, and Organizing for America, which is a part of the Democratic National Committee. White House officials said that was a coincidence.
Yeah, yeah, a "coincidence" -- that's the ticket!
If the president turns to the New York Times for succor, he will be disappointed. Here is a news commentary story on the global-warming bill just passed in the House; the story is written by John M. Broder, and it's found in the Politics section, not among the Op-Eds:
As the most ambitious energy and climate-change legislation ever introduced in Congress made its way to a floor vote last Friday, it grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts intended to win the votes of wavering lawmakers and the support of powerful industries.
The deal making continued right up until the final minutes, with the bill’s co-author Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, doling out billions of dollars in promises on the House floor to secure the final votes needed for passage.
The rest of the piece details some of these payoffs -- including a number that are sure to produce screams of anguish and rage from potential Obama supporters, including:
- Utilities that operate coal-power plants will receive "tens of billions of dollars worth of free pollution permits," as well as "billions for work on technology to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal combustion to help meet future pollution targets." Broder notes that the deal was negotiated by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA, 84%), "a conservative Democrat from Virginia’s coal country;" that is the only concession to the Times' traditional animus against "conservatives." (When did someone who votes 84% liberal become a conservative Democrat?)
- A billion dollars of pork for Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL, 33%) to distribute around Chicago.
- "Democrats from Southeastern states" got a special deal: reducing the target for getting energy from renewable resources from 25% to 15%, "with states given the ability to reduce it further if they cannot meet the target."
- More tens of billions of dollars in government goodies for refineries, rural energy co-ops, and a massive expansion of "carbon offsets" that can be sold by argibusiness -- as well as shifting their regulatory burden from the EPA to the "farmer-friendly Department of Agriculture."
I wonder if this change in the media weather has something to do with the Obamacle's sagging approval ratings? Today, Rasmussem Reports has the president's approval down to 54% positive, 45% negative -- which can hardly be called "sky high" anymore -- and with an approval index (percent strongly approving minus percent strongly disapproving) in negative territory, at —1% -- 32% strongly approve, 33% strongly disapprove.
CNN/Opinion Research notes that, although Obama's approval remains high at 61%...
"Since March, Obama's approval rating has gone down one percentage point each month in CNN polls," notes CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
If that continues for another year...
In the current ABC/Washington Post poll, Obama's approval advantage has dropped from 43 points in February to 34 points in June -- still high, but still shrinking.
Gallup still maintains the fiction that Obama's approval is 2-1 positive; but even they show his disapproval rating rising 20 points since he was inaugurated.
In any event, no matter what the reason, the antique news media have begun to wake from their Obamic torpor: They are finally starting to question the One about his supposed solutions, though they still give him a pass on his own litany of the problems he "inherited" from "the previous administration." (Watch for them to give Barack Obama the credit for winning the Iraq war, because the final pullout will occur on his watch.)
Huzzah. Now let's see some actual coverage of the many, varied, and far more American Republican alternatives to Obamunism.
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