I have to wonder what our State Department and President, who seem completely enamored with process over actual democratic institutions, will have to say about this:
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega announced Sunday, on the 30th anniversary of the leftist Sandinista revolution he led, that he would seek a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to seek reelection.
Following in the footsteps of elected regional allies, Ortega told thousands of supporters here that he would seek a referendum to let “the people say if they want to reward or punish” their leaders with reelection.
His close leftist allies who have had rules changed enabling them to remain in power include presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.
In the last month President Manuel Zelaya in neighboring Honduras was ousted in a coup by his own military after seeking similar action.
My guess is they’ll applaud this even while it has essentially established “democratic” dictatorships in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. And my guess is the “certified election results” are complete for Nicaragua, just as they were for Hodura’s Zelaya, even as I write this. They only need to be produced at the proper time to “validate” the referendum.
Call it the Venezuelan model.
And our puddin’ heads in Washington will again applaud this step toward totalitarianism as a wonderful exercise in democracy we should all support.
Meanwhile those meanies in Honduras who take their Constitution too seriously? Not so much.
At least not the Medicaid portion. The reason, of course, is states are on the hook to pay about 43% of Medicaid costs. Under the pending legislation, and depending on which plan you look at (House or Senate), Medicaid would expand 11% to 20%.
As you might imagine, that would impose a huge new mandate on the states already struggling with huge budget deficits and revenue shortfalls.
State governors, in Biloxi MS for the National Governors Association meeting, expressed bi-partisan disapproval of the plans.
“I think the governors would all agree that what we don’t want from the federal government is unfunded mandates,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican, the group’s incoming chairman. “We can’t have the Congress impose requirements that we are forced to absorb beyond our capacity to do so.”
The House plan would pay for all of the costs of new enrollments and expand Medicaid the least (11%). The Senate version, however, would expand it the most (up to 20%) and would only pay full costs for 5 years. And the Senate’s answer to the states about how to fund the mandate?
Go into debt, of course:
One of the proposals being considered by the Finance Committee would encourage states to issue bonds to cover the costs of expanding Medicaid. Governors in both parties revolted, trumpeting their opposition in a conference call last week with Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who leads the committee.
The point is that not all costs are being surfaced when the total cost of this bill at the federal level is all that is cited. The House bill, for instance, would cost an estimated $438 billion over 10 years. I want to emphasize the word “estimated” and remind readers that there has never been an estimated cost I’m aware of that has come in on or under the projection.
Of course the Senate version, with expanded coverage, would cost more and shift the cost to states in 5 years. So you’ll not only be paying for this monstrosity at a federal level, but you can count on being tapped at a state level as well.
You know, the word “hero” gets tossed around a lot these days. That’s not to say there aren’t heroes in our midst, there certainly are, but sometimes it’s just a good idea to sit back for a second and reflect on the word and its real meaning.
If you’re a fan of the HBO series “Band of Brothers”, then you know what real heroes look like. The paratroopers of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division were soldiers we got to know during that series through the depiction of their heroic actions throughout the unit’s fight through Europe.
They became real people on the screen. That’s because we got to know the real people the actors were portraying in a series of interviews with the survivors of the unit which were cut in at intervals throughout the film.
Well, with little notice or fanfare, one of Easy Company’s heroes made his final jump on June 17th of this year. SSG Darrell “Shifty” Powers has joined the 101st immortals, passing away last month as a result of cancer. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, his death barely got a notice.
Today, members of the milblog community are holding a virtual memorial for Shifty Powers, a man who helps define the word hero. Here’s a portion of an email that has gone viral which does a much better job than I can in giving you an idea of who Shifty Powers was:
Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry.
If you’ve seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.
I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the “Screaming Eagle”, the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.
Making conversation, I asked him if he’d been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st.
I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made. Quietly and humbly, he said “Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 . . . ” at which point my heart skipped.
At that point, again, very humbly, he said “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?”
At this point my heart stopped. I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what D-Day was.
At that point he said “I also made a second jump into Holland, into Arnhem.”
I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day. I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France, and he said “Yes. And it’s real sad because these days so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can’t make the trip.”
My heart was in my throat and I didn’t know what to say. I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach, while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats.
When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I’d take his in coach. He said “No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy.” His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.
Today is a day to remember what he did and reflect on that. Of course his understated “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy” doesn’t even begin to describe what jumping into Normandy entailed:
“I could hear bullets and shrapnel hitting the plane. As I jumped out the door, I could see that the left motor was on fire.” – Darrell Shifty Powers talking about jumping over Normandy, France, on D-Day.
Real heroes really don’t talk about it much, and they usually don’t include themselves when they do.
There are some real heroes that live among us and they deserve more than just a passing notice when they die. Shifty Powers was one of those heroes.
May he rest in peace and in the acclaim for his deeds he so richly deserves.
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother
Except when locked in a battle in which it is trying to fool the public into accepting a 1 trillion plus spending program as a “money saver”. Then, apparently, it is quite all right to delay the scheduled release of its revised budget numbers (based on known economic indicators):
The White House is being forced to acknowledge the wide gap between its once-upbeat predictions about the economy and today’s bleak landscape.
The administration’s annual midsummer budget update is sure to show higher deficits and unemployment and slower growth than projected in President Barack Obama’s budget in February and update in May, and that could complicate his efforts to get his signature health care and global-warming proposals through Congress.
The release of the update – usually scheduled for mid-July – has been put off until the middle of next month, giving rise to speculation the White House is delaying the bad news at least until Congress leaves town on its August 7 summer recess.
And, of course, what it hopes to have in its pocket at that time is a health care reform bill passed by Congress. So why delay the budget update? Well, it isn’t going to be kind to the administration’s rosy speculation concerning deficit and growth, that’s why:
“Instead of a dream, this routine report could be a nightmare,” Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department official and White House spokesman under President George W. Bush, said of the delayed budget update. “There are some things that can’t be escaped.”
The administration earlier this year predicted that unemployment would peak at about 9 percent without a big stimulus package and 8 percent with one. Congress did pass a $787 billion two-year stimulus measure, yet unemployment soared to 9.5 percent in June and appears headed for double digits.
Obama’s current forecast anticipates 3.2 percent growth next year, then 4 percent or higher growth from 2011 to 2013. Private forecasts are less optimistic, especially for next year.
Any downward revision in growth or revenue projections would mean that budget deficits would be far higher than the administration is now suggesting.
And then there’s the debt problem, which is headed to new and dizzying heights:
The nation’s debt – the total of accumulated annual budget deficits – now stands at $11.6 trillion. In the scheme of things, that’s more important than talking about the “deficit,” which only looks at a one-year slice of bookkeeping and totally ignores previous indebtedness that is still outstanding.
Even so, the administration has projected that the annual deficit for the current budget year will hit $1.84 trillion, four times the size of last year’s deficit of $455 billion. Private forecasters suggest that shortfall may actually top $2 trillion.
The administration has projected that the annual deficit for the current budget year will hit $1.84 trillion, four times the size of last year’s deficit of $455 billion. Private forecasters suggest that shortfall may top $2 trillion.
If a higher deficit and lower growth numbers are not part of the administration’s budget update, that will lead to charges that the White House is manipulating its figures to offer too rosy an outlook – the same criticism leveled at previous administrations.
Of course, if it does include the higher deficit and lower growth numbers, as it should, it would also most likely kill the costly push toward health care “reform”. And that is why it is being delayed.
How do I say that with such assurance? Because this is a routine and easily produced report despite what the administration is trying to claim.
White House officials say it is now expected in mid-August. They blame the delay on the fact that this is a transition year between presidencies and note that Obama didn’t release his full budget until early May – instead of the first week in February, when he put out just an outline.
Still, the update mainly involves plugging in changes in economic indicators, not revising program-by-program details. And indicators such as unemployment and gross domestic product changes have been public knowledge for some time.
Consider this: if those budget numbers looked good, would the White House postpone revealing them? Obama could use all the good news he can get at the moment, especially with two big-spending bills stalling in Congress.
Ironically, the White House budget director was making the rounds claiming those trying to delay the vote on health care were trying to kill it, all the while the administration is delaying the budget report with the purpose of depriving law makers the information they need in their consideration of the cost of such legislation.
Meanwhile, we are apparently on course to eat our way into prosperity as the Recovery Act spends your hard earned dollars on … cheese.
Who are these people?
I’m obviously mistaken if I think they’re in office to represent the citizens of the United States of America. Apparently, instead, they represent the Chinese:
“It’s important that those who consume the products being made all around the world to the benefit of America — and it’s our own consumption activity that’s causing the emission of greenhouse gases, then quite frankly Americans need to pay for that,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.
That’s United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, folks.
Of course, after Locke shoots off his mouth and forgets for whom he works, the Joe Biden treatment comes into play. Behold, the official disclaimer that makes it all officially okeydokey:
“Secretary Locke has been very clear on emphasizing the importance of fair trade as a part of the United States’ relationship with China. He believes U.S. companies should not be disadvantaged by Chinese imports not bound by responsible policies to reduce carbon emissions. China and the US must work together to ensure a level playing field and reduce our carbon footprints. The Secretary’s trip to China demonstrated his commitment to fair trade and his belief that both the United States and China can benefit from shared investments and cooperation in clean energy that will lead to commercial and environmental benefits for both countries.”
In other words, he didn’t say what he said and we say so. Orwell would be freakin’ proud.
I swear – sometimes words just fail me when I watch the absolute travesty our government has become. And no, not just since January. But they sure have caused the process to speed up.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, Bryan, and Dale engage in the usual libertarian carping about government, and whether or not we “owe” the GOP something. We don’t, by the way.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
We now have the White House Budget Director weighing in on health care reform legislation:
ORSZAG: We have to remember: there are some who are advocating delay simply because they don’t have anything to put on the table. The typical Washington bureaucratic game of — ‘if you don’t have a better alternative, just delay in the hope that that kills something’ is partly what’s playing out here.
Of course what Peter Orszag seems not to understand is that most of those trying to delay (and eventually kill) the legislative monstrosity called “health care reform” are quite happy with putting nothing on the table as they don’t buy into the manufactured crisis being whipped up by the administration.
Nothing of earth shaking consequence is going to happen in the health care world if this bill isn’t passed before August. In fact, most likely that statement is true of next August and the following one as well.
What you really hear Orszag subtly acknowledging is the longer this goes on, the more people are going to become aware of what is in the bill and object to the cost and intrusion. This isn’t about “better alternatives” or their lack thereof. This is about the administration’s fear that delay means defeat because of what’s in the bill. Hence the attempt to rush something through before it can be read and understood and certainly before members of Congress have to go home and face their angry and concerned constituents.
That’s the basic message of a post by Melissa Clouthier blasting those who voted for Bob Barr.
Here, let me quote her:
Don’t blame me!” Bellowed one of my redneck relatives,” I voted for Ross Perot!” Did ya now? And that vote wasn’t a “screw you” vote, that felt inwardly satisfying while it also served Bill Clinton the presidency on a nice, silver platter (the one taking a prominent position on a shelf in his sprawling residence out on Long Island)? Oh no! It was a vote of conscience. It was a morally superior vote. Sniff.
Have conservatives, libertarians, and other factions on the Right learned nothing from history?
So now, people are coming out of the woodwork saying, “Don’t blame me! I voted for Bob Barr!” I ask you, Is that something to be proud of?
You know, when you start something like this, it is usually best to have the facts at hand so you don’t say something silly like:
President Obama is a disaster for America and I hold those who voted for Bob Barr every bit as accountable as if the so-called principled person voted for Barack Obama himself. It was a vote that aided and abetted an enemy of freedom. How can a freedom-loving person be proud of this?
Bob Barr pulled all of 511,324 votes. Statistically that’s 0% of the electorate. Had every Bob Barr voter voted for John McCain, he’d have ended up with 58,854,995 votes instead of 58,343,671 to Obama’s 66,882,230.
Apparently Clouthier believes that libertarians are a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP and due a righteous lecture for their lack of support.
It may be time for a little reality check for the good doctor.
A) Obviously if every vote Barr got had gone to McCain, it wouldn’t have increased McCain’s final count by even a percentage point. So the attempt to blame your abysmally poor GOP candidate’s abysmally poor showing on Barr voters is technically a non-starter.
B) The reason the GOP sucked so badly in the last election has absolutely nothing to do with Bob Barr and/or libertarians. It had to do with how poorly your party governed. Like most libertarians I haven’t voted for a Republican since Reagan. And frankly what happened to the size of government under Reagan is one reason why. Bush compounded the problem (Medicare Part D? “No Child Left Behind”?) and the eternally squishy McCain promised more of the same.
C) The only reason libertarians even somewhat identify with your party is because it sometimes pretends to be concerned about less spending and smaller government. Unfortunately, as I imply above, the GOP mostly just talks the talk and rarely walks the walk.
D) The GOP picked John McCain, not libertarians. John McCain was the worst of all worlds and your party gave him the nod. He was a candidate who had once been considered as a VP pick for John Kerry for heaven sake! He proved he was an enemy of the 1st Amendment with his campaign finance bill. His definition of “compromise” was to give the Democrats what they want.
E) Libertarians don’t owe the GOP a damned thing. You want libertarian support? Then quit whining and lecturing and earn it! Put up candidates that actually do what you claim to want to do in terms of spending and the size of government. Yeah, that’s right – cut spending drastically and reduce the size of government radically and then you can start asking why libertarians aren’t supporting the GOP. Then you’ll have grounds to do so. But until then – we owe you nothing.
Barack Obama sits in the White House not because of Bob Barr or the libertarian vote. He sits there because the GOP has completely and totally failed to live up to its claimed philosophy and its word for decades. John McCain’s nomination told libertarians all they needed to know about the lack of seriousness within the GOP to remedy that situation.
If the GOP wants libertarian votes, then it had better mend its ways. We don’t do “tents” and we don’t do “plantations” and we don’t belong to the GOP. You want us, you’d better do what it takes to get us – and you’re not even close right now.
UPDATE: Melissa Clouthier graciously acknowledges my criticism and for the most part understands the reason for it. She does, however, ask a couple of questions that deserve an answer and make a couple off remarks that deserve comment.
A Barr vote did nothing except register discontent.
Really? So those who voted for Barr couldn’t conceivably have been voting “for” something, only “registering discontent”?
With that bit of disrespect as a preface, here are the questions:
What about the next election? You know, when there are more impure Republicans? Do the libertarians plan to vote for an independent or vote for a Democrat?
Well now that it is hopefully clear that libertarians will actually vote for something and not just “register discontent”, the answer should be obvious. So here’s a question for the GOP – who do you plan to run that will cause us to vote for you? The ball is in your court, not ours.
All I’m saying is that McCain WOULD be better than Obama and I don’t want to see the Right fracture into delusion that nets us socialists in charge. That is worse. Much worse. It is worse right now.
In the case of McCain, “would be better” is really a non-starter of an argument for him among libertarians. In defeat, of course, he’s suddenly sounding Republican again, but McCain is a Snowe/Collins “Republican” from way back. Frankly I think you’ll find most libertarians believe that Obama and McCain are equally awful, just in different areas.
But the Libertarians don’t help anything by flopping around at the edges and indulging in third party fantasies. Libertarians needs to put their formidable energy into the Republican party at the bottom and take the party back to constitutional greatness.
Fixing the GOP is your job, not ours – you need to quit trying to outsource it. Libertarians have no desire to be a part of the GOP per se because there is enough not to like to keep us away. But libertarians will support a GOP that commits itself to the principles of less spending, smaller government and less government intrusion. But only when the GOP actually does something about them – find and run a candidate who actually believes in those principles and elect Republicans to Congress who will help he or she act on those principles.
Until then libertarians aren’t going to support the GOP. You can call it “flopping around the edges” or whatever you wish, but that won’t change the fact that until the GOP actually does the hard work of recreating itself in alignment with its stated principles it can’t expect support from libertarians just because the GOP thinks the Democrat’s candidate is worse than theirs.
Turns out the $787 billion “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” (AARA) was not designed for full economic recovery, but rather to “stabilize” the downturn. That’s the word from White House officials today, who held off-camera briefings with reporters on how the AARA is working so far.
“This legislation was designed to cushion the downturn,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. “That’s why we have always talked about this as one function of economic recovery.”
When pressed about the change in terminology, Gibbs said he was not trying to temper expectations after the fact. “I can probably find 15 or 20 occasions when I said this in the lead up,” Gibbs said, explaining that he had always defined the AARA as part of a “multi-legged stool.”
Of course when we were in such a gawd-awful rush to pass the thing it was sold like this:
That is why I have moved quickly to work with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will immediately jumpstart job creation and long-term growth. …
Jumpstart job creation and long-term growth? That sounds like what a “stimulus” plan should be designed to do. That’s what it promised to do (remember the warning that without the AARA unemployment would go over 8%?).
It is also what it has failed to do.
So, revising history on the fly, it was now never designed to that.
No wonder Amazon is out there deleting Orwell books from Kindle – who needs to read fiction when you have an administration like this.
One of the things I love about living in the South is the food. Yeah, I know all about the propensity to fry just about anything that can be eaten. That includes two of those foods I love – fried okra and fried green tomatoes. And hell, if you haven’t had a fried pickle, you just haven’t lived.
But there’s much more to it than fried food.
For instance there is one goody that you’re most likely not going to find in a Pennsylvania roadside produce stand that is almost a staple at a Southern produce stand. I speak, reverently, of boiled peanuts. I can’t tell you how many northerners I’ve converted over the years to this Southern delicacy. I’ve stopped many a time while driving from, say Huntsville, AL to Montgomery to pick up a hot quart of these beauties. With plenty of paper towels and an ability to drive with my knee, I’ve eaten these things until the steering wheel has a bit of a salt crust. Please note: If you’ve been driving down I-75 and stopped at Jim Bob’s Pecan Farm and bought a can of “boiled peanuts” you are a true Yankee (and Jim Bob is still chuckling about it).
Another of my Southern favorites is the tomato sandwich (or “mater sammich” if you want to go deep South). Now, before you get all excited and run off to make one, there are some things you need to know. While it is indeed a simple delight it does have certain stringent requirements that must be met before it is certified as the “real deal”. So pay attention.
First, it has to be on white bread. And not some “artesian”, whole grain ,fru-fru white bread. We’re talking Wonder Bread white bread. Yup, if it isn’t made with overprocessed bleached white flour with no nutritional value, it’s not fit for a tomato sandwich.
Secondly it has to have mayonnaise on it. Real mayonnaise – not “lite” or aioli or any other nasty concoction that’s low on cholesterol. Mayonnaise. Real, honest to goodness, artery clogging Hellman’s. Or Duke’s.
There is a heretic band of Southerners who claim Miracle Whip is a sanctioned substitute, but purists turn up their nose at such a desecration of a sacred Southern staple.
And, of course, wonderful, vine ripe, plump and thick homegrown tomato slices. And that’s where the eternal hunt for the tastiest tomato comes in.
Now obviously you can grow your own – and that’s preferred. But if, in your harried and hurried life, lovingly caring for a few dozen tomato vines isn’t in your future, you must, of necessity, develop your tomato sources. And trust me one of them isn’t Publix, home of more tasteless tomatoes than Food Giant. Or is it the other way around. Over the years grocery stores have tried their best to improve their tomato selection, even dragging in the little red golf balls still on the vines. But they still taste like the picked-green-and-gassed store-bought maters.
No we’re talking sources which grow their own, vine ripen them and have enough for others to buy. As you might imagine Southerners hold their tomato sources close. We’re likely to share our winter tomato sources because we can appreciate the need for a decent tomato during that season when the tomato craving hits you. We all know a year round produce place that imports Florida tomatoes. Not the picked-green-boxed-and-gassed variety, but those that are vine ripened and sold locally in FL. While they’re a commercial brand in which most of the taste has been genetically removed in favor of pest resistance and longevity in storage, they still have enough tomato taste to get you through the dark times.
But when summer rolls around, it is everyone for themselves. And July is the peak of tomato hunting season because that’s when the heirlooms come in. For taste, it’s pretty darn hard to beat ’em. There’s a type for every taste (this morning I visited my heirloom source and came home with some beauties the size of my fist).
However, other than taste, there are other requirements for the perfect tomato sandwich tomato. I mentioned plump. Like in not grainy or mealy. Ye gods there is nothing worse than cutting into what looks like a fantastic tomato and finding the inside all mealy. Blech.
The tomato must be red, although some sort of orangish or pinkish tomatos, if they’re heirlooms, are becoming grudgingly accepted. But as good as they taste in a salad, don’t hand me any yellow looking tomato in my tomato sandwich.
Last but not least, it has to smell like a tomato. If I have to tell you what a tomato smells like, I’ll just refer you back to Food Giant because you wouldn’t know a good tomato if you were formally introduced.
So take your white bread, mayonnaise and beautiful, plump and tasty tomato and combine to make a sandwich. Salt and pepper to taste. By the way, the healthy aspects of the tomato are enough to offset the health destroying aspects of the bread and mayo making this a health neutral treat and not likely to be banned under the upcoming new health care regime.