Monthly Archives: October 2009
The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, returned a bill to the legislature yesterday without his signature. He sent a letter, explaining the reasoning behind his veto of this”unecessary” legislation.
In this, I fully support the governor. It’s high time the legislature received this message, loud and clear.
Here’s an interesting twist:
A U.N. human rights investigator warned the United States Tuesday that its use of unmanned warplanes to carry out targeted executions may violate international law.
Philip Alston said that unless the Obama administration explains the legal basis for targeting particular individuals and the measures it is taking to comply with international humanitarian law which prohibits arbitrary executions, “it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.”
Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s investigator on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, raised the issue of U.S. Predator drones in a report to the General Assembly’s human rights committee and at a news conference afterwards, saying he has become increasingly concerned at the dramatic increase in their use, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since June.
June. So the Obama administration has one of its favorite excuses – blame Bush – preempted.
And the administration’s response?
He said the U.S. response — that the Geneva-based council and the General Assembly have no role in relation to killings during an armed conflict — “is simply untenable.”
“That would remove the great majority of issues that come before these bodies right now,” Alston said. “The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions are not, in fact, being carried out through the use of these weapons.”
You can’t help but appreciate the irony. They can, as would have the previous administration, stick with their claim that the UN’s Human Rights council has absolutely no jurisdiction or say in the issue (something I happen to agree with) and risk being branded “war criminals”, or they can capitulate to the “legal” argument and submit justification for using these weapons in combat against terrorists (thereby giving said council legitimacy and a say in how the weapons can and can’t be used).
Apparently the UN Human Rights council has yet to issue the same sort of warning to the Taliban who, when blowing up buildings in Pakistan and Afghanistan are, in fact committing “arbitrary executions” and “extrajudicial executions” with the use of their bombs.
But then, other than arbitrary in their application of anything (especially if it is a blow to the US) what would you expect from the UN?
A company named Boston Dynamics has developed a robot that mimics the way a human being walks – well, at least the way a slightly tipsy human being walks:
It was built to “to test military suits used to protect soldiers in chemical warfare”, and you can read the rest here.
Seeing that tipsy walk with red tennis shoes and a droid-looking body on top was mildly creepy. I can’t believe they missed the opportunity to increase the effect by putting an Arnold Schwarzenegger mannequin head on top.
(Found on GeekPress)
David Brooks has an article today in which he takes on the concept of a “pay czar” and opines that human arrogance is about to play into the law of unintended consequences in a huge and, most likely, unwanted way.
Arnold Kling takes the opportunity of the Brooks column to change the subject slightly and point out that while what Brooks says is true, the “pay czar” nonsense is really a diversion to keep us fr-om looking and focusing on one of the most serious problems in the financial meltdown – the government’s Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae:
The further into this crisis we go, the greater the share of subprime loans and mortgage losses are turning out to be located at Freddie and Fannie. Even one year ago, if you had asked me, I would have told you to expect at least 2/3 of the losses to be at companies like Citi and Bear, with less than 1/3 at Freddie and Fannie. It now looks quite different. Conservatively, 3/4 of taxpayers losses will be at Freddie and Fannie. Perhaps as much as 90 percent of taxpayer losses will be there.
Given the large role of Freddie and Fannie, it makes sense for politicians to create as large a diversion as possible. Hence, the brouhaha over bonuses at bailed-out banks.
Remember what supposedly started this meltdown was subprime loans. As Kling points out, guess where most of them are located? And, given the government role in these institutions (not to mention the “why” for such loans in terms of policy and incentives fr-om government) it isn’t at all surprising that -as it tries to convince us that government is the best choice for running health care- government tries to divert our attention fr-om its huge role in the meltdown to a group that may have only had a limited role but is a very unsympathetic group in the public’s eyes.
I am not sure if I wrote this on my blog, but I did write in a chapter of the forthcoming Fr-om Poverty to Prosperity (with Nick Schulz) that none of the major regulated institutions was involved in subprime.
But they are indeed the focus of the public’s ire thanks to the government’s demonization of them. Meanwhile, Freddie and Fannie escape both scrutiny and blame.
Which, Kling says, is similar to what is going on in the health care debate concerning the pubic option:
Incidentally, the debate over the “public option” in health reform also can be viewed as an exercise in symbolic politics and diversion. The point is to divert attention away from the bankruptcy of Medicare.
Absolutely correct. It is the point I continue to wonder about and see nowhere in any of opinion or fact based pieces concerning this subject. We are talking about turning over the rest of our health care to an institution that has run the piece it has had for decades into 52 trillion dollars of future debt. Yet we’re being told, by them, that they can run it more efficiently and for less money than private insurance. And, even in the face of evidence that it’s not true, a good portion of us have chosen to believe them.
It boggles the mind.
The White House tell us that the
government public option in health care insurance reform will introduce “choice and competition” into the insurance market. But when it comes to education, which already “enjoys” a government monopoly, “choice and competition” are not at all something White House has any desire to introduce.
And, in fact, it gets down right upset if you point that out:
President Obama isn’t taking kindly to a television ad that criticizes his opposition to a popular scholarship program for poor children, and his administration wants the ad pulled.
Former D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous of D.C. Children First said October 16 that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had recently approached him and told him to kill the ad.
The 30-second ad, which has been airing on FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, and News Channel 8 to viewers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, urges the president to reauthorize the federally-funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers of up to $7,500 for D.C. students to attend private schools.
The ad features Chavous and a young boy–one of 216 students whose scholarships were rescinded by the Department of Education earlier this year when the agency announced no new students would be allowed into the program. The ad also includes an excerpt taken from one of Obama’s campaign statements.
Of course what is being discussed is a voucher program which allows students to have actual “choice” in schools and does introduce competition in a system that could use it badly. And it is a program that is very popular among African-Americans because it allows them to put their children in other schools besides some of the nation’s worst-performing schools.
After embracing the teachers unions’ anti-voucher stance, the president now finds himself in the uncomfortable and awkward position of denying students access to a program that has strong bipartisan, local support, and that multiple studies say is helping poor African-American children succeed.
Little wonder then that the president and powerful allies like Holder–many of whom have benefited from school choice and are currently sending their children to expensive private schools–want the ad to go away.
Of course they want the ad to go away. It exposes the fact that the only choice this ideological administration will make is in favor of the special interest groups that can help it politically, even if it means children are stuck in bad schools. Politics over people.
The same holds true in the health
care insurance reform legislation. There is no real “choice and competition” involved. Those are instead words focus groups have approved and Democrats use to pull the wool over the eyes of the gullible. And, in the end, we’ll most likely end up with a government monopoly in the same shape as our education system and “choice and competition” will only be a faint echo of another in a long line of false promises used to gather power to the government to the detriment of our real freedom to choose.
Usually I’m in the camp that thinks Newt Gingrich is a pretty good political ideas man (and, frankly, believe that is the only role he should play in politics). But if you’ve been watching this Scozzafava/Hoffman dustup in NY-23, you have to wonder if someone dropped him on his head recently.
Here he is on Greta Van Susteren’s show talking about it and pushing the candidacy of a person anyone would objectively call a liberal Republican candidate. In fact, even Gingrich concedes that:
GINGRICH: Well, I just find it fascinating that my many friends who claim to be against Washington having too much power, they claim to be in favor of the 10th Amendment giving states back their rights, they claim to favor local control and local authority, now they suddenly get local control and local authority in upstate New York, they don’t like the outcome.
There were four Republican meetings. In all four meetings, State Representative Dede Scozzafava came in first. In all four meetings, Mr. Hoffman, the independent, came in either last or certainly not in the top three. He doesn’t live in the district. Dede Scozzafava…
VAN SUSTEREN: He doesn’t live in the district?
GINGRICH: No, he lives outside of the district. Dede Scozzafava is endorsed by the National Rifle Association for her 2nd Amendment position, has signed the no tax increase pledge, voted against the Democratic governor’s big-spending budget, is against the cap-and-trade tax increase on energy, is against the Obama health plan, and will vote for John Boehner, rather than Nancy Pelosi, to be Speaker.
Now, that’s adequately conservative in an upstate New York district. And on other issues, she’s about where the former Republican, McHugh, was. So I say to my many conservative friends who suddenly decided that whether they’re from Minnesota or Alaska or Texas, they know more than the upstate New York Republicans? I don’t think so. And I don’t think it’s a good precedent. And I think if this third party candidate takes away just enough votes to elect the Democrat, then we will have strengthened Nancy Pelosi by the divisiveness. We will not have strengthened the conservative movement.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is it that they have identified as why they think the independent candidate…
GINGRICH: Well, there’s no question, on social policy, she’s a liberal Republican.
VAN SUSTEREN: On such as abortion?
GINGRICH: On such as abortion, gay marriage, which means that she’s about where Rudy Giuliani was when he became mayor. And yet Rudy Giuliani was a great mayor. And so this idea that we’re suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we’re going to purge the party of anybody who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent — that guarantees Obama’s reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party.
First Gingrich tries to classify Hoffman as a 3rd party candidate. But while he’ll run under the “Conservative party” banner, he’s a conservative Republican. If elected he’ll caucus with the Republicans and he’ll most likely vote with them – probably more than Scozzafava would. And I would guess, given his conservative leanings, he too will be endorsed by the NRA, would sign a no tax increase pledge, would be against cap-and-trade, the health care debacle and would certainly vote for Boehner over Pelosi for Speaker.
Secondly, Gingrich is trying to sell the idea that only an “endorsed” Republican has any right to run. By gosh they met, they chose and Hoffman wasn’t the one. We’ve seen how well that’s worked out with other Republicans they’ve picked haven’t we? It is nonsense on a stick. But more importantly, for a guy who supposedly has his pulse on all things political, Gingrich is flat missing on this one. A recent Gallup poll has said 40 percent of the country describes itself as conservative. Hoffman is identified as solidly conservative. He now leads by 5 points. It would seem to me he might pick up on the fact that the conservative base is telling the party to quit supporting the Scozzafava’s of the world and start listening to its base. What in the world does Gingrich think all of the tea parties were about – business as usual? The contest in NY-23 is the manifestation of those protests showing up in a Congressional race.
Lastly, the “good enough for NY” meme he’s running is being disproven to his face. Mr. Bold Ideas is as cautious as an octogenarian with a walker crossing a 4 lane highway about pushing the conservative ideas he supposedly supports in what he considers a hostile environment. He’s ready to settle for less. He’s more than satisfied with the fact that she’s “a liberal Republican” even though, for most of the Republican base, that’s unacceptable. He’s bought into the conventional wisdom that a conservative can’t win in NY. But that very base liberal NY is raising the BS flag. They’ree tired of not having their principles represented in Congress.
Now whether or not you agree with the social conservative agenda (and I, for the most part, don’t – this is an analysis, not an endorsement), socialcons are a very large group within the conservative base. They will support the GOP if the GOP runs candidates they like (which explains why McCain did so poorly). They didn’t get that candidate in NY-23 so they’re supporting the type of the Republican they want. The message to the GOP couldn’t be clearer. Gingrich knows that, which is why I’m mystified by his seeming denial of the obvious. This isn’t a 3rd party attempt, this isn’t about what the “party” has decided and it isn’t about picking someone “good enough” for NY. It’s about the base saying in an election what they’ve been saying all across the country in “tea parties” – “Either live up to our principles – all of them – or we’ll find someone who will”. In NY-23, they think they have found that person, and they’re telling the Newt Gingrichs of the Republican party to either figure it out or to pound sand.
Gingrich believes this is a purge of the party that will guarantee the re-election of Obama. And he claims, invoking the holy name of Ronald Reagan, that’s not how the GOP won in the past:
It means that as somebody who worked with Reagan to create a majority in 1980 and somebody who worked to create a majority in 1994, I believe in a Republican Party big enough to have representation in every part of the country, and I believe you don’t strengthen yourself by having a purge. You strengthen yourself by attracting more people, not by driving people away.
I don’t recall Reagan playing the big tent card at all. I remember Reagan stating his principles, then living by them, and welcoming those who thought like him into to the tent. Gingrich, otoh, is talking about compromising principles to do that. They are not at all the same approach, and he’s too smart to not understand that. What the conservatives in NY-23 are doing is approaching it like Reagan did and they’re attracting supporters. That is the best way to fill the tent if you’re serious about principles. It is certainly not by saying “she’s good enough for NY” but she wouldn’t be good enough for, say, Georgia.
Of course a planet minus humans most likely would be too if you believe all the hype about AGW. And there are those among the radical environmentalists who believe that to be a laudable goal. So I’m not sure where, on the ranking of radicals with dumb ideas, this guy ranks:
People will need to consider turning vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.
In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
Direct emissions of methane fr-om cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas.
If one looks carefully at our teeth, they discover were omnivores. That means to most that we’re genetically set up to eat both meat and vegetables. Consequently it is rather suspect when one claims that one or the other would be “better” for us.
But, of course, that’s not what Stern is saying. He’s saying it would be better for the planet, you see. In fact, the planet couldn’t care less. It will be here in some form regardless of what we do. We cannot destroy it. At best, if you believe the specious science the AGW crowd is citing, the most we can do is change it slightly (as history has proven, “climate change” is a constant for the planet). And that is suspect since the “science” surrounding those beliefs claims we should be warming when in fact we’ve been cooling for a decade.
Stern believes attitudes toward meat can be changed to the point that it will be abandoned as a source of food:
He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating,” he said. “I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.”
PETA has been trying to change the attitude toward meat since I can remember, largely unsuccessfully. While people can certainly understand the dire consequences of drinking while driving or smoking on their lives and the lives of others, both behaviors continue anyway. And neither is a particularly good analogy when it comes to meat.
The only way such restrictions on vital sources of protein are going to take place is if governments buy into Stern’s nonsense and begin to limit production. And although he doesn’t overtly suggest such a scheme, the implication is certainly there:
Lord Stern said that Copenhagen presented a unique opportunity for the world to break free from its catastrophic current trajectory. He said that the world needed to agree to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 25 gigatonnes a year from the current level of 50 gigatonnes.
UN figures suggest that meat production is responsible for about 18 per cent of global carbon emissions, including the destruction of forest land for cattle ranching and the production of animal feeds such as soy.
There are many who suggest that the ultimate goal of environmentalists is a form of world government with teeth. I.e. one which has taxing and enforcement power. The “AGW emergency” provides a perfect pretext for such an organization. Carbon credits provide the taxing mechanism (since doing it “properly” would require a world body to administer it and collect the taxes). The enforcement arm isn’t as obvious yet.
That’s not to say that this nonsense is the key to the establishment of such a government. It is simply one of many schemes pointed toward that sort of outcome. As many have mentioned, the environmental movement, at least on the radical side, seems to have attracted all of the communists who were without a home after the collapse of the USSR. Centralized power and totalitarian rule “for the good of the planet” are part and parcel of their agenda (in fact, it is always part of the answer for them). And ideas such as Stern’s are the means by which the “emergency” can be avoided if only they’re allowed to implement rules and restrictions that are necessary to save us from ourselves. They are sure, to steal a phrase, “they (and their ideas) are the ones we’ve been waiting for”. Of course the law of unintended consequences never enters their thinking and the fate of millions of real people aren’t really their concern. It is all about “saving the planet”.
Our freedoms are under heavy assault both domestically and internationally. I can’t remember a recent time when the danger to them has been any higher. And nonsense like this and the AGW movement as a whole are aimed at further limiting them. Resistance, then, is the highest form of patriotism if we want to remain a free country. We need to be the “country of ‘no’”. Unfortunately, with our current leadership, I believe that may not be the case. Copenhagen will be our first indication of whether that’s true or not.
Sometimes the mask slips in the most unlikely places. The little watched Ed Schultz show on MSNBC hosted Ralph Nader and Barney Frank. Frank took heat from Nader for not, in Nader’s opinion, regulating the financial institutions enough. Frank responded by saying:
Democrats are “trying on every front to increase the role of government.”
Tell me again why the GOP shouldn’t be the party of “no”? They should embrace the role.
Or at least the results since the Obama White House made FOX News the focus of its attempt at dictating which organizations should or shouldn’t be taken as serious “news” organizations:
But the White House’s stance also gave extra lift to the network at a time when it is on track to record its best ratings year ever. This year, Fox News has averaged nearly 1.2 million viewers across all its programming, a 16% increase over the same period last year, according to Nielsen. In the two weeks since aides to President Obama took after the coverage, the audience has been 8% larger than the previous two weeks.
If anything, the Obama administration has succeeded in reinforcing Fox News’ identity as a thorn in the side of the establishment — a role the network loves to play.
What news organization wouldn’t love to play that role? Er, the NYT, LAT, WaPo, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN?
Maybe this is a little lesson for them as well.
We found out recently that the government perpetrated myth that the health insurance industry were a bunch of “robber barons” was a load. So how about this point that it likes to push about “waste” in our health care system?
Well Reuters obligingly publishes an article today entitled, “Healthcare system wastes up to $800 billion a year.”
The estimate is actually 505 to 800 billion but why not go with the higher number when your “perspective” is to support government reform. Anyway:
The U.S. healthcare system is just as wasteful as President Barack Obama says it is, and proposed reforms could be paid for by fixing some of the most obvious inefficiencies, preventing mistakes and fighting fraud, according to a Thomson Reuters report released on Monday.
The U.S. healthcare system wastes between $505 billion and $850 billion every year, the report from Robert Kelley, vice president of healthcare analytics at Thomson Reuters, found.
“America’s healthcare system is indeed hemorrhaging billions of dollars, and the opportunities to slow the fiscal bleeding are substantial,” the report reads.
“The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion is wasted annually. That’s one-third of the nation’s healthcare bill,” Kelley said in a statement.
So now we have 3 numbers to go with telling anyone with an ounce of sense that they’re really not sure how much waste there is. But for the sake of argument, let’s stick with the 800 billion. Obviously they intend too because this is the sop they’re going to throw out there and claim it will “pay” for their “reform”.
The list is rather interesting. For instance:
* Fraud makes up 22 percent of healthcare waste, or up to $200 billion a year in fraudulent Medicare claims, kickbacks for referrals for unnecessary services and other scams.
200 billion or 25% (not 22%) of the waste comes from the portion of the medical system the government already runs. The same system which now saddles us with 52 trillion dollars worth unfunded future obligations. To this point, the government has demonstrated absolutely no ability to curb such fraud or waste. In fact, it has never shown any interest or desire in tackling the problem. Why should we believe they’re serious about it now?
* Unnecessary care such as the overuse of antibiotics and lab tests to protect against malpractice exposure makes up 37 percent of healthcare waste or $200 to $300 billion a year.
37.5% of additional “waste” comes from doctors protecting themselves from malpractice law suits. Yet there is nothing addressing tort reform in these bills. How, then, does what the administration and Congress are offering address this problem? It doesn’t. It would be a fairly easy fix – but they’re ignoring it. It’s called special interest politics.
That means, to this point, 500 billion of the 800 billion dollars in “waste” are either unaddressed (tort reform) or have never been successfully addressed (Medicare).
* Administrative inefficiency and redundant paperwork account for 18 percent of healthcare waste.
Ever talk to a doctor about the administrative hoops one has to go through to get Medicare to pay for service. Certainly private insurance can be a hassle as well, but there are few if any doctors who won’t treat patients with private insurance while there are a whole host (and growing) who won’t treat Medicare patients. Or said more succinctly – it’s mostly a government paperwork problem.
* Preventable conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes cost $30 billion to $50 billion a year.
And that may or may not be helped by more preventive medicine – there are very mixed reviews on how cost effective it really is. However, even if it did a 100% better job than is now being done (which is extremely unlikely), a) it won’t cost less and b) it still remains up to those needing such treatment to seek it out. Regardless, at most it is 6% of this 800 billion in “waste”.
In summary, the government is responsible for 25 – 40% (add in about 15% of that admin number). Malpractice avoidance – something they could fix or at least lower with tort reform – accounts for 37.5% of the total. Preventable conditions may or may not constitute the final 6% described here. That leaves 14% or in undocumented waste, probably broken down in numerous smaller categories that are going unaddressed.
What this all means is government could clean up its own mess and cut waste to 600 billion, pass tort reform and cut it to 300 billion, make Medicare easier for doctors to administer and cut it to about 150 billion.
Instead we’re stuck with an attempt at a complete overhaul with the government trying to sell us on the idea that the problem is with the private sector and giving government more power over health care is the cure.
The cognitive dissonance is so loud you have to wear earplugs.