Monthly Archives: January 2012
There’s simply no basis to believe that voter fraud exists and that steps to ensure the integrity of the voting system are necessary. None.
For a year now, LoPorto has steadfastly maintained his innocence, along with current Rensselaer County Democratic Elections Commissioner Edward McDonough, who refused to comment on the case Tuesday. They are the first indicted officials to be tried in a widespread investigation that has implicated eight Democrats, including county and city elected officials and party operatives. Four defendants have already pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, and what has already unfolded exposes just how easy it could be for political insiders to illegally manipulate the electoral system.
Voters told Fox News they never filled out absentee ballot applications for the 2009 Working Families Party primary, and were later stunned to learn the applications were, in fact, turned in to the Board of Elections, with ballots cast in their names. Democratic candidates routinely try to secure the Working Families electoral line to obtain more votes in the general election. The party was associated with the now-defunct community group ACORN.
"Jackals prey upon the weakest member of the herd. That’s what happened here," LoPorto’s attorney Michael Feit said of the guilty pleas in which former officials admitted forging ballot applications and submitting them as legitimate votes.
Feit concedes "there is no question" that someone tried to steal the election. "It is awful, it’s despicable, it’s terrible," he added.
But of course, his client is innocent.
Read the rest. Then tell me there’s no chance this doesn’t go on in a lot more places than upstate NY.
But most attempts to limit freedom tend to be like zombies – even dead they tend to end up walking among us again at some future time. But until then, good news:
House and Senate leaders abandoned plans to move on SOPA and PIPA on Friday — the surest sign yet that a wave of online protests have killed the controversial anti-piracy legislation for now and maybe forever.
SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said his committee won’t take up the bill as planned next month — and that he’d have to “wait until there is wider agreement on a solution” before moving forward.
Apparently even within the halls of Congress, where given some of the decisions that are routinely made would make one question the amount of oxygen in the air, they appear to have figured this one out. Oh, and it is an election year. [head slap]
But don’t get too excited … they’ll be back in some form or fashion. Instead of doing the hard work necessary to create law that will protect intellectual property rights while not being overly broad and draconian, these zombies will simply change clothes, get new names and be back in another session.
Yes, Czar Kathleen (Sebelius,
Czar Secretary of Health Care HHS and the final arbiter of all things ObamaCare) has declared that your insurer will now, without compensation or charge, do the following:
The Obama administration said Friday that health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women without charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities.
You may take a knee in thanks. Said Czar Kathleen:
“This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost-sharing,” Ms. Sebelius said.
Because, you know, the devices and services are delivered by magic fairies and don’t cost anyone anything.
No wonder Obama chose Disneyland as the venue for his speech yesterday.
The religious question aside, where in the world does this bunch get off deciding I have to pay for someone else’s contraception?
Because that’s what is going to happen … the bill, just like taxes to corporations, is going to find its way into my premium in some form or fashion (TANSTAAFL).
The order is an administration interpretation of this:
The 2010 health care law says insurers must cover “preventive health services” and cannot charge for them.
“Preventive health services”. Wow … how broadly can that be interpreted. Well, broadly enough to include contraception as a “preventive health service” I suppose.
Which means, I assume, that the sky is the limit. Creative interpretation is only limited by … not much, huh?
We have a czar. She has an agenda. She is the final, unaccountable “decider”.
What could possibly go wrong with that?
As we stand by and wait for the ObamaCare law to take effect, enthusiasm within the medical profession seems to be waning (even more) as that time nears:
In late December, a survey of 501 physicians was released by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions research group, whose parent company serves clients in the health care industry. Nearly half (48%) expected health reform to hurt their incomes this year, while 73% said it would not reduce costs.
Though this isn’t a scientific survey, and other such surveys have and will show physicians’ support for the Affordable Care Act, the early glimpse of the law’s potential impact will likely lead to economic pain for doctors and a diminished system for their patients. Indeed, the Deloitte survey found that 69% of the physicians are "pessimistic about the future of medicine" because of the law.
It may not be scientific, but it certainly seems indicative of attitudes in the medical profession. I mentioned one example of what was shaping this sort of an opinion in an earlier post.
Here’s another little factoid one might find interesting that tells a bit of a story too:
An online survey in September by the Jackson & Coker physician recruitment firm — based on 1,611 doctors who chose to respond — reflected that the majority of doctors don’t believe that the AMA represents their views. The primary reason: the AMA’s support of the legislation. Just 13% of those surveyed backed the Affordable Care Act.
As you recall, the American Medical Association came out in favor of the law.
There’s an unintended consequence from all of this (some would argue it’s intended):
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the USA will be 160,000 physicians short by 2025 (when all patients would be insured under ObamaCare), and this is without even considering those doctors who will limit their practice to insured patients because of decreasing reimbursements or who retire early when faced with increasing costs with little return.
Of course the reason to mention that perhaps the consequences are intended is to point out that this still isn’t the single payer system that those who passed the legislation preferred.
So one has to wonder, how does an ideologue take the lemon of ObamaCare and make it into the socialist lemonade of a government run single-payer system. Well what exists in the form of ObamaCare is certainly a good step one, isn’t it?
It will be so unsatisfactory that one supposes there will be a terrible outcry. With fewer health care workers, care will get worse, not better (to my knowledge the population of the country is still expanding, not contracting). That’s a simple fact that is irrefutable.
Depending on who is in power in DC, government will present itself as the savior to this awful “market failure”. And the usual suspects will dutifully echo and expand on how the market has again let us all down. The result of this will be the final elimination of private insurance as an option for most and the expansion of government control in the guise of the left’s much desired single-payer system
Of course, to make that work, the conscription of all health care workers as government employees.
That scenario isn’t as far fetched as some would like to believe or contend. Obviously, the court fight that’s going on right now will have some say in how or if the scenario develops that way. However, assuming the law is upheld for the sake of argument, and having observed the way the political world works for decades, I think the scenario is quite plausible.
And of course, single payer will be a disaster. Why? Because as Medicare continually proves, bureaucrats think they know more than doctors and certainly more than patients.
There is widespread support, in Congress and among economists, for the broad ideal that Medicare would save money if it paid for better outcomes instead of more procedures. But 20 years of trying to shift the program in that direction have yielded little to no progress, CBO said Wednesday.
CBO analyzed six programs designed to improve care coordination for patients with chronic diseases. They either made no difference or were actually more expensive than the traditional payment system.
That’s because, as noted in the link I cited earlier to the previous post, the bureaucrats refuse to revise their system of payment based on what would best serve the patient. And it isn’t a far stretch to believe the same system would be extant in any single-payer plan. Politicians and economists come and go, but bureaucracies live forever.
So the bomb sits out there ticking away. If it is allowed to explode, it will destroy health care as we know it today and most likely impose an even more debilitated form of Medicare on all. Yes, most seniors say they like Medicare – do they have a choice? Would they like to see an even less capable form of it exist? Just ask them.
In the meantime remember – Freedom equals choice. Whenever choices are limited so is your liberty. When government gets in the business of limiting your choices it is no longer in the business of ensuring your liberty. And limiting your choices in all sorts of areas, to include health care, is exactly the business our government is in today.
Another, in a long line of reasons, to retire the current occupant of the White House in November.
Robert Samuelson, writing in the Washington Post, correctly dissects the Obama decision to reject the Keystone Pipeline into its two proper constituent parts: politics and the net practical effect:
President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn’t often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and — beyond the symbolism — won’t even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his reelection that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances.
Aside from the political and public relations victory, environmentalists won’t get much. Stopping the pipeline won’t halt the development of tar sands, to which the Canadian government is committed; therefore, there will be little effect on global-warming emissions. Indeed, Obama’s decision might add to them. If Canada builds a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific for export to Asia, moving all that oil across the ocean by tanker will create extra emissions. There will also be the risk of added spills.
The unions are in his pocket, or so this decision would seem to say. Not in his pocket and not particularly happy with him at the moment are the members of the radical environmentalist movement. He apparently thinks they’re important to his re-election. This was a political move designed to shore up that constituency with the implied promise of permanent rejection of the project after he’s re-elected. That’s the message to them (whether it is true or not, they’ll still vote for him now because they know a Republican will okay it). He most likely figures the unions will suck it up and support him and, my guess now, he’ll find a bone he can throw their way sometime between now and November.
That leaves the practical effect of his rejection to the overall environmentalist goal of “reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. The effect? It will likely mean even more emissions than running the pipeline through the US. As Samuelson points out the tar sands will be developed and exploited, the product will be transported through a pipeline and most likely that pipeline will now run to the west coast of Canada instead of our Gulf refineries. But unlike the trip by pipeline to the coast, there will then be an added step of transporting it by sea to China.
Great win there enviro-types.
But there’s even more damage done by this decision.
Now consider how Obama’s decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder. Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the United States, could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.
It’s not “relatively secure”, it is very secure. Canada is and has been our largest supplier of “foreign” oil for years. And they’re both a friend and a neighbor. How more secure – other than having the tar sands within our borders – can a supply get? What we have an opportunity to do here is displace the commensurate amount of foreign oil from unfriendly and insecure sources by the amount the tar sands would yield.
Sound like good policy? Sound like a smart move? Of course it does. So why the rejection of such a seemingly common sense decision. See reason one above: politics. This is all about election year politics. The president who claims to have the best interest of all Americans at heart has just demonstrated that that claim is nonsense. He’s catered to a particular election year constituency in deference to what is obviously best for the nation.
…Obama’s decision forgoes all the project’s jobs. There’s some dispute over the magnitude. Project sponsor TransCanada claims 20,000, split between construction (13,000) and manufacturing (7,000) of everything from pumps to control equipment. Apparently, this refers to “job years,” meaning one job for one year. If so, the actual number of jobs would be about half that spread over two years. Whatever the figure, it’s in the thousands and thus important in a country hungering for work. And Keystone XL is precisely the sort of infrastructure project that Obama claims to favor.
What has supposedly been the focus of Obama for some time – that’s right, jobs and infrastructure. His rhetoric has been all about how we need to create jobs and improve our infrastructure. Here you have a infrastructure project – an actual shovel ready one – that will provide jobs and he rejects it and, as usual, tries to shift the blame to Republicans for something he decided. The implication, of course, is he might have made a different decision if they’d have let him vote “present” until after the election. Because, you see, they’ve now forced him to tack this stupid decision on his less than impressive record as president – and now he’ll have to run on it. As usual, the blame-shifter in chief had decided it is someone else’s fault.
And in case you were wondering about the timeline on this project, it goes pretty much like this:
The State Department had spent three years evaluating Keystone and appeared ready to approve the project by year-end 2011. Then the administration, citing opposition to the pipeline’s route in Nebraska, reversed course and postponed a decision to 2013 — after the election.
By the way, the supposed primary excuses for the rejection was the opposition to the pipeline mounted by Nebraska. In fact, as POLITICO reports, the White House used the Republican governor there, Dave Heineman, as cover for its decision. Heineman takes exception to that:
"I want to say I’m very disappointed," Heineman told POLITICO. "I think the president made a mistake."
"Really what he was saying in denying the permit was ‘no’ to American jobs and ‘yes’ to a greater dependence on Middle Eastern oil," he said. "We want to put America back to work."
Why is Heineman disappointed? Because there was a way in the works to let the project go ahead while negotiations were finalized that would have satisfied Heineman and the states initial objections:
He said that his Legislature and his administration were working to get the final approvals in place and that the State Department should have approved conditionally while Nebraska worked out the final route. The company seeking to build the pipeline, TransCanada, was perfectly willing to begin construction at either end and finish in Nebraska, according to Heineman.
But the unilateral president, in a fit of political pique and in full political mode, decided to dump the project … at least for now. Those ready shovels could be breaking ground today. Instead, we have to hope, if and when the decision is reversed, that it hasn’t been overcome by events and Canadians aren’t loading tar sand oil on Chinese ships.
Naturally the administration thinks Heineman’s idea is just, well, inappropriate:
“It’s the responsibility of the State Department to grant this permit, which really looks at the crossing of the international boundary. … It’s important for us to look at the full pipeline and not move forward on such a major infrastructure project that will be a part of the country and the landscape for many years in pieces like that. I hadn’t heard about the governor proposing this, but we don’t really think that’s an approach that really deals with the national interest question in an appropriate way," Assistant Secretary of State Kerri Ann Jones said on a conference call.
Right. Of course. Naturally.
Say’s the governor:
"If you’re a decisive president and you want to put America back to work, you can find a way to get to yes," Heineman said about the administration’s response. "That’s what most governors do. So I’m just not buying that."
Yeah, neither am I. Neither are 70% of the voters.
Politics … pure and simple.
Jobs president? Don’t make me laugh.
National security first? Nope, politics first.
Concerned with all Americans? Seriously?
An “act of national insanity”? Spot on.
As bad as the GOP field is, it is nice, every now and then to be reminded of what constitutes the alternative:
Six House Democrats, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), want to set up a "Reasonable Profits Board" to control gas profits.
The Democrats, worried about higher gas prices, want to set up a board that would apply a "windfall profit tax" as high as 100 percent on the sale of oil and gas, according to their legislation. The bill provides no specific guidance for how the board would determine what constitutes a reasonable profit.
The Gas Price Spike Act, H.R. 3784, would apply a windfall tax on the sale of oil and gas that ranges from 50 percent to 100 percent on all surplus earnings exceeding "a reasonable profit."
Good lord. Remember, this guy was a presidential candidate on the other side of the political fence.
Kucinich said these tax revenues would be used to fund alternative transportation programs when oil-and-gas prices spike.
"Gas prices continue to rise, creating a hardship for the American people," he said. "At the same time, oil companies are making record profits gouging their customers. This bill would tax only the excess profits and create forward-thinking transportation alternatives."
Specifically, he said the money would be used to fund a tax credit on the purchase of fuel-efficient cars and set up a grant program for mass transit programs when oil-and-gas prices are high.
Yeah, because these guys are so good at picking winners and losers and directing markets, huh?
[T]he Integrated Oil and Gas industry made an average profit of 6.2 cents per dollar of sales, which ranks #114 out of 215 industries by profit margin, and puts oil companies right in the middle of industries by profitability.
In fact, it is apparently the periodical publishing sector that the Kucinich cabal should be after – they’re obviously gouging their customers, making a windfall profit of 51.7% for heaven sake. Down with Newsweek! Down with TIME! Down with Ladies Home Journal!
Question: if this were to, heaven forbid, pass, who would end up paying the tax?
The fact that this fool thinks this is a good idea and has managed to get 5 other crack-pots to sign on is simply another in a long line of signs of how poorly we are served by our political class.
But as one commenter to the piece said upon surveying this nonsense, perhaps there could be a silver lining:
This is great- now we need a "Reasonable Spending Board" to monitor our Congress. We need a "Reasonable Ethics Board" to punish members of Congress who use their office to enrich themselves. A "Reasonable Taxation Board" to prevent the government from taking too much of our money.
Etc. Yeah, it’s a joke, but you get the point. Supposedly all that was contained in the Constitution – but we’ve all seen how that’s worked, haven’t we?
Today’s economic statistical releases:
The Consumer Price Index was unchanged in December. The Core CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, rose only 0.1%.
Housing starts slipped to a 650,000 annualized rate in December. Housing permits, though, rose to a 6798,000 rate, which is encouraging.
Initial jobless claims dropped by 50,000 to an unexpectedly low 352,000, the largest weekly drop since September 2005. The 4-week moving average dropped from 381,750 to 379,000. Continuing claims also greatly improved, falling 215,000 to 3.432 million.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to -47.4 from the last reading’s -44.7.
The Philadelphia Fed’s survey shows a drop in general business conditions to 7.3 from last month’s 10.3.
All sorts of things popping within the GOP’s primary venue.
1. Gingrich’s ex-wife to unload in an interview with ABC News who, it seems or at least it is claimed, had some sort of ethical debate about when to air it. Apparently ratings won and it will air tonight when it could have a very adverse effect on a surging Gingrich’s chances there (at least according to one poll).
I don’t blame his ex for giving the interview, but ABC and ethics in the same sentence did caused me to laugh out loud.
2. Rick Santorum apparently won the Iowa Caucus. My reaction? *Yawn* He certainly didn’t come close in New Hampshire and it looks like he’s going to bomb in South Carolina and Florida. The world has moved on.
As someone ask, why again does Iowa get to go first? And what does Iowa really mean? If you can’t get the count right, maybe you should go last. Yeah, if you didn’t pick up on it, I’m not a caucus fan.
3. Rick Perry calls it a day and will quit the race. That helps clear the field a bit more. He’ll endorse Gingrich (all the non-Romneys will endorse Gingrich until Gingrich drops out). If ever there was a case of a missed opportunity, Rick Perry may define it for this election season.
4. And, after 15 or so "debates", Michael Barone concludes that the GOP candidates still aren’t ready for prime time. I had hoped this tedious series of debates would have sharpened and toughened them up, but instead, I tend to agree with Barone … still an unprepared field.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled drudgery and thank you for stopping by.
In Lybia, the expected – at least for those who paid attention and had a rudimentary understanding of modern Islam – is beginning to happen:
Throughout this country, Libyans are discovering that their hard fought battle to win freedoms is at risk. Puritanical Muslims known as Salafis are applying a rigid form of Islam in more and more communities. They have clamped down on the sale of alcohol and demolished the tombs of saints where many local people worship.
Throughout Libya, Gaddafi’s fall has emboldened Salafis, who were persecuted and imprisoned under the now deceased leader. They have increased their public presence, taken over mosques, and even hoisted the flag of al-Qaeda over the courthouse in Benghazi where the revolution began eleven months ago. In the capital of Tripoli, Salafis have destroyed more than six shrines. In one incident, dozens swarmed mausoleums belonging to two Muslim mystics and dug up their bodies so that worshippers could no longer visit their tombs. They also burned the relics around the shrines.
The Salafis are the same group that has done well in the Egyptian elections. Speaking of Egypt, Robert R. Reilly makes some important points about that country and Islam in general, taking apart a Matthew Kaminski article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Arab Democracy Is the Best Bet for a Muslim Reformation." He points out the problems associated with the “propensity to project Western conceptions and norms onto the Islamic world, where they are largely irrelevant.” It’s an interesting read.
"The appeal of political Islam… grows when religiosity is repressed." Islamism is a reaction to modernity, not to repression. It would grow regardless. With the shackles off in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, watch it grow even more. To think that it will diminish because it is not repressed is a dangerous fantasy. Thanks to the Arab Spring, it now has the opportunity to seize control, and most likely will do so. Democratic elections have simply revealed the strength of the view that "Islam is the answer."
And Reilly stomps on the notion that “democracy” will provide the necessary reformation of Islam. Instead, he points out, the Islamists are the reformation:
Kaminski calls for a Reformation in Islam, without seeming to realize that Islamism is that Reformation. Be careful of what you wish for. One reason that the Islamic world became calcified is that the "gates of ijtihad" were closed in the Middle Ages. This meant that the authority for making original interpretations of the Koran or the hadith had been withdrawn because the sharia had, by that time, covered every possible situation in human life with a specific ruling. The Islamists today have reclaimed the authority of individual interpretation in order to wipe out the Islamic jurisprudence that stands in their way, most particularly in their use of indiscriminate violence and terrorism.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood:
"Salafists… practice Osama bin Laden’s creed of Islam." No, bin Laden’s creed of Islam is not Salafist, but came directly from the Muslim Brotherhood and is infected with its ideology, which was partially obtained from Western totalitarianism. His teacher in Saudi Arabia was Mohammed al Banna, the brother of the founder of the Muslim brotherhood, Hassan al Banna. Salafism, on the other hand, is an ancient and integral part of Islam.
Reilly points out that “[w]ishful thinking can be dangerous when it distorts reality.” And that’s precisely what many in the West have done – engage in wishful thinking and project “Western conceptions and norms onto the Islamic world” where they simply don’t fit.
Engaging in an honest assessment grounded in at least an understanding of Islam and human nature should have disabused a rational person of such wishful thinking. The information was there, the history was there, and the conclusions weren’t that hard to reach if objectively put together.
Unfortunately our government apparently prefers to engage in wishful thinking along with many others in the West. The outcome in Libya and Egypt, given who was involved and how that has worked in other countries should have been obvious. But instead many in the West, such as Kaminski chose to believe in fictions like the Muslim Brotherhood’s declared “moderation” and their supposed belief in sharing power with secularists. Oh you may see that at least given lip service for a while, at least until they fully consolidate their power, but that’s not their plan.
These two “revolutions” made the Middle East a more dangerous and oppressive place. Our government chose to ignore the reality of the Muslim Brotherhood’s extremism for a more sanitized and moderate model (which it used to justify its support) and aided and abetted the Islamists in Libya – while pretending they didn’t really exist — through direct intervention in a conflict that was simply none of our business.
Now, unfortunately, we have to live with the results.
Somehow both of these will be spun into “foreign policy successes”, just watch.