Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Presidential Reality Check (Update)

Keith Hennesey does a fair job of fisking President Obama’s Washington Post editorial in which Obama tries to put a happy face on what his administration has done thus far to combat the recession. Hennesy included a chart by Don Marron that graphically takes Obama to task on one of his favorite claims, namely:

Nearly six months ago, my administration took office amid the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Marron’s chart:

image1

Now Obama’s claim is certainly close to being true, but by 1/10th of a percent, it isn’t quite there. And, it could be argued, the past 6 months of this administration’s policies has moved it closer to being what he claims than it was when he took office.

But when he talks about the gloom and doom of the “most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression”, remember this chart. He and the Democrats are and have been using that claim as a means of justifying all sorts of deficit spending. It is also the means to justify health care reform (claim: health care spending is going to “bankrupt us”) and cap-and-trade (claim: the route to fiscal health is “green jobs” and “green industry”).

The point here is to understand how overplayed the “most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression” really is. Yeah, it’s a nasty one, but in comparison to the Great Depression it simply doesn’t compare. In fact, it isn’t even close.

UPDATE: Here’s a perfect example of an exaggerated and, naturally, unfalsifiable claim by a politician.

~McQ

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Podcast for 12 Jul 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the health care bill that will presented on the House floor.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) UPDATED

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s): Honduras/China, pending legislation on the environment (cap-and-trade) and health care and some of the “nuggets” to be found in there, the question of another stimulus and Obama’s claim this one is working just fine – and anything else we feel like talking about.

UPDATE [Dale]: Health care, too.

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Damned Global Warming Skeptics

Why don’t they just shut up!

The science is settled! We have consensus.

Well, except for those 32,000 American scientists who have signed a petition saying they don’t agree that anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming is threatening society as we know it.

And now we have another one – another skeptical scientist who attempts to enlighten the cult of AGW as to how the science actually works.  I’ll let him lay it out:

So why the fuss lately about man-made global warming? The melting Arctic? Do you know we’ve only been monitoring the extent of Arctic ice via satellites since 1979? And while Arctic ice coverage has declined, it’s actually been rising since 2006. And have you heard Antarctic sea ice has increased by nearly 14% since 1979?

The global warming crowd is quick to blame the release of carbon dioxide thru the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gasoline, natural gas, and coal, for warming our climate and setting us on a path for doom.

Since before the industrial revolution the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising, up to around 385 parts per million by volume today. That amounts to a miniscule 0.0385% of the atmosphere. Increased CO2 levels are beneficial to plants since they require carbon dioxide to grow. In this experiment, plants exposed to CO2 levels of 1,090 parts per million by volume by far exhibited the most growth.

So, does carbon dioxide drive the climate? The answer is no!

Natural cycles play a much bigger role with the sun at the top of the list. A look at total solar irradiance since 1600 shows a distinct correlation to temperature readings. Readings are higher now than anytime in the past 400 years!

Then there’s El Nino Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, the Pacific-North American Teleconnection, Milankovitch forcing, ocean variations, and so on and so forth.

Is there any way to model all these variables? Again, the answer is no! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has tried and failed!

Back in 2001 the IPCC released a suite of computer model solutions depicting the future state of the atmosphere. These reports by the IPCC are used repeatedly to drive policy around the world. But, if you look at what’s happened since then, global temperatures are actually on a downward trend, whether you look at actual thermometer readings across the world or satellite-derived temperatures. This when the IPCC models were predicting continued warming.

Can you believe it? Another one who insists models at least be able to model what is happening by using all the variables? And that the models be able to actually predict what is happening instead of modeling something that isn’t?

What’s up with demands like that?! We’ve heard from the oracle, he’s told us the earth has a fever and that’s that.

Gore said it, enough “scientists” believed it and that ends it!

Now let’s get that cap-and-trade bill through the Senate and save the planet.

~McQ

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The Magic Of Paying For Healthcare

I‘m so glad that the Democrats have settled on how to pay for their latest government boondoggle even if it is the same old formula:

House Democrats will ask the wealthiest Americans to help pay for overhauling the health care system with a $550 billion income tax increase, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Friday.

The proposal calls for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 in adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $350,000, said the chairman, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.

It would generate about $550 billion over 10 years to pay about half the cost of the legislation, Mr. Rangel said. As the proposal envisions it, the rest of the cost would be covered by lower spending on Medicare, the government health plan for the elderly, and other health care savings.

Tax the rich and squeeze the health care industry with lower Medicare payments. Sounds like a very “healthy” and stable way of paying for “health care reform” doesn’t it?  A perfectly sure way to accomplish the stated Obama priorities of “expanding health insurance coverage to virtually all Americans and curtailing the steep rise in the cost of medical care while improving patient outcomes.”

Expand coverage, cut payments and improve outcomes.

Yup – “I believe!”

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Questions and Observations #4

For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” stands for.

  • I thought one of the things the Obama administration was promising it wouldn’t do was use signing statements to ignore the law? Apparently not.
  • It would appear that a witch-hunt for “extremists” in the military is building. First we had the DHS warning claiming veterans might be recruited by right-wing extremist organizations. Then Alcee Hastings proposes law (a law already on the books, btw) to prohibit “extremists” from joining the military. Now the Southern Poverty Law Center is asking Congress to investigate the military based on a couple of postings it found on a suspect website.  The premise, of course, is because we now have a black Democratic president, there is more of a threat from such extremists who might be in the military.
  • Government’s attempt to regulate every aspect of your life takes another step in that direction, but in an unexpected area – licensing yoga teachers. Of course, government knows so much about yoga to begin with. In fact, all this will do is add cost and paperwork to something which is at the moment, self-regulated by the market.  What it will do for yoga is present an government imposed bar to entry.  And, of course, create another revenue stream where none previously existed.
  • Electric cars? The panacea? Not according to the Government Accounting Office which claims, at best, they’d reduce CO2 emissions by 4 – 5% but would see that negated by increased travel because users would drive more believing their use isn’t a threat to the environment. And then there’s the lithium problem.
  • David Brooks sat through an entire dinner with a Republican Senator’s hand on his inner thigh? Really? Why? And what does that say about David Brooks?
  • Corporations which have taken taxpayer money are on notice not to book meetings at fancy resorts. But government (which exists on nothing but taxpayer money)? No problem.
  • Mark Steyn wonders if the era of “soft despotism” has begun here? It’s a good description of what is going on I think.  For the record, Obama isn’t the initiator of it, he’s just an accelerant. The only problem with “soft despotism” is it usually turns to the garden-variety hard despotism after a while.
  • Timing is everything, isn’t it? In the midst of the recession, the federal minimum wage is scheduled to increase by 70 cents an hour to $7.25 on July 24th. That’ll certainly help the recovery and create jobs, won’t it?

I’ll add more as I find them – check back throughout the day.

~McQ

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Paranoia, The Destroyer

Obviously, as one with a severe bent towards freedom, I think it is always advisable to keep a close eye on what our government is doing. Especially when it comes to said government granting itself extraordinary powers over the conduct of our lives, and/or over our liberty, in light of particular opinions we might hold, or because of the people we hang around with. The danger in allowing the government latitude to impinge upon our liberty in such cases should be apparent. However, sometimes people start seeing a red under their bed, or a little yellow man in their head, and act just a wee bit paranoid about actions that the government has proposed.

And it goes like this:

… legislation quietly making its way through Congress would give the White House power to categorize political opponents as hate groups and even send Americans to detention centers on abandoned military bases.

Rep. Alcee Hastings – the impeached Florida judge Nancy Pelosi tried to install as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until her own party members rebelled – introduced an amendment to the defense authorization bill that gives Attorney General Eric Holder sole discretion to label groups that oppose government policy on guns, abortion, immigration, states’ rights, or a host of other issues. In a June 25 speech on the House floor, Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, blasted the idea: “This sounds an alarm for many of us because of the recent shocking and offensive report released by the Department of Homeland Security which labeled, arguably, a majority of Americans as ‘extremists.'”

Another Hastings bill (HR 645) authorizes $360 million in 2009 and 2010 to set up “not fewer than six national emergency centers on military installations” capable of housing “a large number of individuals affected by an emergency or major disaster.” But Section 2 (b) 4 allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to use the camps “to meet other appropriate needs” – none of which are specified. This is the kind of blank check that Congress should never, ever sign.

It’s not paranoid to be extremely wary of legislation that would give two unelected government officials power to legally declare someone a “domestic terrorist” and send them to a government-run camp.

(my emphasis)

In support of author Mark Tapscott’s ipse dixit argument that this isn’t paranoia, he points to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. That’s a fair enough point (i.e. it has happened before here), but the analogy between Hastings’ amendment and the WWII internment camps is still pretty weak. For one thing, the internments were not done on the sly, as Tapscott suggests is being done now, and secondly, rounding up a relatively small number of people during WWII, is a lot more plausible than attempting to imprison half the country.

Ed Morrissey also pours some cold water on Tapscott’s theory:

To be fair on the second point, most legislation includes phrases similar to the “meet other appropriate needs” as a means of allowing flexibility in using facilities commissioned by Congress. Under unforeseen circumstances even apart from creating concentration camps for abortion opponents, the six national emergency centers might need to get some use other than housing military personnel or civilians evacuated from a disaster area. That language allows the Pentagon and Homeland Security leeway to adapt for other issues without having to worry that lawyers will descend upon them like locusts for not strictly limiting use to the statutes.

Nevertheless, I decided to delve into the Hastings amendment that Tapscott referred to, and which can be read in its entirety here (pdf). This is the pertinent language that woke some people up feelin’ kinda queer:

‘(2) DEFINITION OF HATE GROUP.—In this subsection, the terms ‘group associated with hate-related violence’ or ‘hate group’ mean the following: …

(G) Other groups or organizations that are determined by the Attorney General to be of a violent, extremist nature.

First of all, note the qualifier “violent” in that definition. Just being pro-life or anti-tax would not bring one under the aegis of this provision unless you also advocated violence in support of the cause.

The other part that seems to have been missed by some, is that this entire amendment is aimed at rooting out hate-group supporters from the military:

(1) PROHIBITION.—A person associated or affiliated with a group associated with hate-related violence against groups or persons or the United States Government, as determined by the Attorney General, may not be recruited, enlisted, or retained in the armed forces.

In other words, the worst thing that can happen as a result of this bill is that someone could be unfairly kept out of the military. I don’t want that any more than I expect anyone else does, but it’s sure a far cry from rounding up Republicans and throwing them in gulags.

That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the amendment. As many of you probably already know, the military already has several provisions on the books prohibiting associations with extremist hate groups. Moreover, as Rep. Franks noted in arguing against the amendment, when viewed in light of the recent DHS report, allowing unelected and unaccountable officials to determine on their own who is an extremist or not seems like a pretty bad idea:

I take extreme offense that the federal government – through a report issued under the authority of a Cabinet-level official – would dare to categorize people who are “dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition or abortion or immigration” as “right-wing extremists” and it begs the question of whether the Attorney General, under Mr. Hastings’ Amendment, can look to the Napolitano report to decide who is an extremist, or can make the same categorization of the majority of Americans as extremists who may then be kept from joining the military, or who may be discharged.

The desire to risk one’s life on foreign soil for one’s country may well be considered “extreme.” To spill blood on a foreign battlefield in the name of freedom requires extreme devotion.

This amendment could have been written in a way that is more consistent with current DOD policy, which prohibits military personnel from participating in “organizations that espouse supremacist causes; or attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, or national origin…”

So, not only is Hastings’ amendment redundant, it’s also an undesirable (and perhaps unconstitutional) grant of power to the Attorney General. Clearly the amendment as drafted could use some work, and it should be watched and commented upon. However, none of it suggests that Hastings is planning on helping the Obama Administration to unilaterally declare “groups that oppose government policy on guns, abortion, immigration, states’ rights, or a host of other issues” hate groups and then have them carted off to Guantanamo-on-the-Mainland.

heck, even Franks didn’t go so far as to suggest that Democrats want to literally wall off their political rivals. Instead, he claimed that the real intentions of the House were not being reflected in the amendment:

The military has many laws and regulations in place to counter racism and the enlistment of racist militants. Recruits must be thoroughly vetted, and must even explain the symbolism behind their tattoos, body markings and writings. I understand that there is concern that the rules and regulations governing vetting of recruits are not being followed as vigilantly as they could be, and this is a legitimate cause for concern. At the same time, this is a call for better enforcement of the laws in place, rather than a sweeping categorization of persons as “extremists,” as we saw in Janet Napolitano’s agency’s report.

I want to state unequivocally that I believe that it is not the intent of this Congress to label pro-lifers, federalism proponents, and pro-immigration enforcement groups and their affiliates as extremists under the bill. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle should make a strong effort to assuage these concerns and make our intentions clear.

(my emphasis)

Is this an example of poor legislative drafting? Sure. Is the Hastings amendment really necessary in light of existing military rules and regulations? Probably not. Is it a good idea to give unaccountable officials the power to label groups of Americans as extremists simply because of some opinions that they might hold? No, no it isn’t. Does this amendment represent an empowerment of the federal government to intern a large swath of conservative America? Don’t be so paranoid.

Calling the government to account for straying outside it’s bounds of power is always a good idea, but being paranoid about it doesn’t help your cause, and may in fact hurt it. You’re blowing it all with paranoia. You may be feelin’ guilty, feelin’ scared, seeing hidden cameras everywhere, but you’ve got to Stop! Hold on. Stay in control.

‘Cuz paranoia is the destroyer.

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Gird Thy Self – With Health Care “Reform”, The Tax Man Cometh

It should be abundantly clear by now, to even the slowest among us, that the promise that 95% of Americans wouldn’t see their taxes raised by one dime during an Obama administration was a flat out lie.

Of course, given the promise of health care and the cap-and-tax proposal pushed by candidate and now President Obama, the 95% should have been able to figure out the lie well before the election. But they didn’t.

The Heritage Foundation has laid out the proposed taxes Congress is looking at to fund this 1.5 Trillion “Health Care Reform” legislation being proposed (note: consider this 1.5 Trillion estimate in light of the Medicare estimate back in the ’60s. It was a low ball load of blarney then and I have little doubt that this estimate is a low ball one as well).

Proposed tax hikes in this category[tax the rich – ed.] include: 1) capping the value of itemized deductions including gifts to charities; 2) a 3% surtax on households earning more than $250,000; and 3) a millionaires tax.

But the left is beginning to figure out that you can only squeeze so much revenue from class warfare taxation. So Congress is also considering a slew of other taxes that will, again, force Obama to break his not tax hike promise. These include: 1) a tax on soda; 2) a tax on beer; 3) an increase in employer and employee payroll taxes; 4) a flat tax on health insurance companies; 5) broaden the Medicare tax on investment income; 6) an employer mandate; and 7) a value added tax on everything but food, housing, and Medicare. And we’re sure we missed some.

There’s no other way to “save money on health care” than to tax the hell out of those who will be stuck with the system they cobble together.

Then add cap-and-trade’s impact (and taxes) to the mix and explain how an economy already reeling with a loss of 15 Trillion in wealth is going to recover when more and more of the private sector’s money (and wealth) goes to government?

~McQ

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F-35: Last Manned Fighter?

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seems to think that may be the case.

So, what the aviation side of this is, I think, is very much focused on this change. And I think we’re at the beginning of this change. I mean, there are those that see JSF as the last manned fighter — or fighter-bomber, or jet. And I’m one of — you know, I’m one that’s inclined to believe that. I don’t know if that’s exactly right. But, this all speaks to the change that goes out, you know, many — obviously, decades, including how much unmanned we’re going to have and how it’s going to be resourced.

I’m not one inclined to believe that necessarily (at least not with the technology today). Although I did read that the Air Force will, this year for the first time, train more UAV pilots than fighter pilots, I think there will always be a role for fighter pilots in combat. Why? Because of the air superiority role. UAVs – drones if you prefer – can fulfill the close air support role, and even a tactical and strategic bombing role. But, at least with the technology we have today, I simply can’t see an unmanned “fighter” having the advantage over a manned fighter in the air superiority role.

And without air superiority, you don’t fly UAVs.

Here’s someone who agrees with Mullen:

I guess I’m with Mullen; there are currently jobs that manned warplanes can do that drones can’t perform (human pilots are more visually capable than even the best drones, for example), but a) drones are getting better, b) drones are so much cheaper, and c)taking the pilot out means that you can do a lot of funky, interesting things with an advanced airframe. This isn’t to say that the F-35 (or even the F-22) have no role; they’ll continue to be useful frames for the jobs they’re intended to do for a substantial period of time. But I don’t think there’s a next “next generation” of fighter aircraft.

Addressing b) above, things like this don’t help the manned fighter side.  But then “cheap” doesn’t always translate into “most effective” either.

Thoughts?

~McQ

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Obama Administration Sees Acquittal As No Bar To Further Jail Time

A very interesting exchange. Below is a transcript from the recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the legal treatment of terrorism suspects. It is between Sen Mel Martinez and Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson. Don’t forget that Johnson’s remarks reflect the current administration’s policy concerning these suspects [emphasis added]:

Martinez: If we are doing Article III [civilian] trials…we then also are talking about closing Guantanamo by the end of the year. There’s no way for 220-some-odd people to be prosecuted through some proceeding, whether Article III or military commissions, in that time frame. So where will they then be? I guess they’ll be here. And what about those who are acquitted? Where do they go? What happens to them?

Johnson: You’re correct. You can’t prosecute some significant subset of 229 people before January. So those that we think are prosecutable and should be detained, we will continue to detain, whether it’s at Guantanamo or someplace else. The question of what happens if there’s an acquittal…I think that as a matter of legal authority, if you have the authority under the laws of war to detain someone…it is true irrespective of what happens on the prosecution side.

Martinez: So therefore the prosecution becomes a moot point?

Johnson: Oh no, I’m not saying that at all. You raised the issue of what happens if there’s an acquittal, and in my judgment, as a matter of legal authority…if a review panel has determined this person is a security threat…and should not be released, if for some reason he is not convicted for a lengthy prison sentence, then as a matter of legal authority I think it’s our view that we would have the ability to detain him.

I’m completely in the dark as to how this administration, after all its condemnation and demonization of the previous administration is one iota different when it comes to the question of these detainees.

Again, it seems more like form over substance. It is about “Gitmo”, not rights for detainees or “fair trials” or whatever, is it? It’s about closing down a place. The detainees, however – except for those vacationing in Bermuda – are essentially in the very same place that they were in when the previous administration was in power. In fact, it could be argued that they had a better chance with the previous administration. Although they were slow in getting the tribunals going, I don’t recall any mention of ignoring an acquittal and keeping the detainee in prison anyway.

Due process? We don’t need no stinkin’ due process.

I seem to remember the left was ready to impeach Bush and put him on trial as a war criminal for this sort of thinking.

Let freedom ring.

~McQ

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