I‘ve got to tell you I’m a lot less excited about “the bow” Barack Obama gave the Emperor of Japan than many on the right. But it does, surprisingly, show an amazing lack of sophistication in our supposed cool and sophisticated President. Not about Japanese culture in particular – a bow is not necessarily a bad thing if it is a bow of equals. His was decidedly not a bow of equals. But instead it demonstrates his lack of knowledge concerning the job he holds. American presidents don’t bow (at least to that extent) to foreign kings or emperors. Just as we don’t dip our flag to any king or emperor, we don’t bow before them. In fact, we made sure that we’d never have ranks and/or titles of nobility in this country by essentially outlawing them. His bow is just another in a long line of indicators that he’s not well prepared for the job.
I think what offends Americans – at least some Americans – is the type of bow Mr. Obama used. Too deep, eyes to the ground, etc. etc. You can read all of the critiques elsewhere. Had he matched the Emperor’s bow (much like the bow he gave the Empress), no problem.
You have to wonder who his protocol people are and whether or not he listened to them or did this on his own. Regardless, he looked foolish and that’s not what we pay our Presidents to do. Of course, as some have pointed out, it’s probably, better than blowing your lunch in the Japanese PM’s lap George HW Bush did – but not much.
In diplomacy, symbolism is very, very important. So is tradition. Both were set on their ear with the bow. You have to wonder when Obama is going to realize that with the job comes the examination of every single thing he does or doesn’t do. But in the big scheme of things, I find his gaff below to be much worse than his bow to the Emperor of Japan.
Commander’s in Chief salute or put their hands over their hearts at appropriate times during ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Veteran’s day (like when everyone else is saluting or putting their hand over their heart). They don’t stand there giving a crotch salute. Typically self-absorbed, I’m sure he just completely forgot this particular ceremony wasn’t all about him.
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Subject(s): KSM to be tried in NY -what does that mean? Suddenly the administration is interested in jobs (not “saved” but real) – about time isn’t it? Is political correctness driving this denial of Ft. Hood shooter Hasan’s religion playing a role in the massacre? New unemployment numbers. Are we in for depression era unemployment? When does this “thorough process” examining Afghanistan and our role there become the dithering of an executive who can’t, or won’t, make a decision?
One of the most persistent myths pushed by the health care “reformers” is that if you like what you have, nothing will change. Yes, friends, according to them, you can have something for nothing.
And nothing exemplifies the silliness of the claim than that which says Medicare recipients will continue to receive the same level of treatment they do now, but government will cut $500 billion from Medicare to pay for it.
For those that need it, a new study now makes official the fact that such cuts will indeed change the levels of treatment and benefits Medicare patients will receive. My guess is, this isn’t the “change” senior citizens voted for.
A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.
The report, requested by House Republicans, found that Medicare cuts contained in the health package approved by the House on Nov. 7 are likely to prove so costly to hospitals and nursing homes that they could stop taking Medicare altogether.
Congress could intervene to avoid such an outcome, but “so doing would likely result in significantly smaller actual savings” than is currently projected, according to the analysis by the chief actuary for the agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid. That would wipe out a big chunk of the financing for the health-care reform package, which is projected to cost $1.05 trillion over the next decade.
First, what happened to the reported cost of 894 billion when the bill first came out? Now it is being “projected to cost” 1.05 trillion – over the threshold. And, as everyone has been paying attention has said, the supposed savings will come at the cost of Medicare benefits for seniors.
In fact, according to this report, the cuts “would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others”. Already low reimbursement rates cut even further would force hospitals and nursing home to reconsider taking Medicare patients at all.
No word if such cuts it will have any effect on this:
The government paid more than $47 billion in questionable Medicare claims including medical treatment showing little relation to a patient’s condition, wasting taxpayer dollars at a rate nearly three times the previous year.
Excerpts of a new federal report, obtained by The Associated Press, show a dramatic increase in improper payments in the $440 billion Medicare program that has been cited by government auditors as a high risk for fraud and waste for 20 years.
Look, there’s no question that Medicare, as structured, is going to break the bank. But then whose fault is that? It is and always has been a government run program, and it has about 50 trillion in unfunded liabilities in our future. So obviously that’s a program that badly needs reform.
But that wasn’t the point of the over all reform, was it? This was the “if you like what you have, you can keep it” reform. The point is that’s all a crock of rabbit pellets. This has nothing to do with leaving what exists alone – either on the government side (Medicare or Medicaid) or the private side (public option).
There’s more to the story though. The politics of this. What the Democrats in the House have presented is a bill which is so much smoke and mirrors it is embarrassing. Democrats know they have to get the number down in order to sell this travesty as not adding to the deficit. They also know how very important a demographic seniors are. So you have to look at this and ask, “are they really willing to risk their majority by making seniors mad? Are they willing to let themselves be defeated by making the hard decision to cut Medicare programs and effect senior’s Medicare benefits?
Of course not. It’s one thing to put it in a bill as a device to “balance” your spending. It’s another thing to do the actually cutting. And, if the “doc fix” bill is any indication, they have absolutely no intention of doing so:
So, to avoid its own prescribed draconian cuts in Medicare doctors’ payments, Congress goes through an annual Chinese fire drill to prevent its goofy formula from being implemented each year. As a budgetary matter, the accumulated cuts now amount to an automatic reduction in physician payment of 21 percent effective next year. That prospect has the professional medical organizations in a tizzy, and they are willing to do anything – anything, mind you- to avoid that fate worse than death, even to the point of formally embracing H.R. 3962, the gargantuan 2032 page House health care bill.
To lure the desperate doctors into bed with the liberals, their big ugly “public option” and all (analogously, a longer prison sentence, but better food and more yard time), the Congressional leadership included a “permanent fix” to Medicare physician payment in the original version of the 1018 page House bill, small increases, no cuts. But they carved it out because its cost made the House health care bill appear too expensive. So, to keep that version “looking cheaper”, they created another vehicle (H.R 3961), a companion bill, that would provide for a permanent Medicare “doc fix” at a ten year cost of $210 billion.
Or said succinctly – it’s all BS. Democrats not only intend to add to the deficit, they intend it in a big way, all the while telling us all lies about how it all stacks up as smoothly as the world’s most accomplished con artist. Is this the “change we asked for?”
Editorializing today, the New York Times says:
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took a bold and principled step on Friday toward repairing the damage wrought by former President George W. Bush with his decision to discard the nation’s well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations.
From that entirely unnecessary policy (the United States had the tools to detain, charge and bring terrorists to justice) flowed a terrible legacy of torture and open-ended incarceration. It left President Obama with yet another mess to clean up on an urgent basis.
Of course this minimizes the arguments to Bush did or didn’t follow “the nation’s well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations.”
In fact there were no “well-established systems” in existence at all as we found out. Anyone who remembers what happened as we began to take in these “detainees captured in antiterrorist operations” knows that no system at all existed. There was a tremendous amount of debate and legal research done to try to determine what sort of status these people should or could be held under. And that’s not been established in full to this day.
For instance, the NYT claims that “open-ended incarceration” has been ended by the Obama administration’s move. But that’s simply not true. As the Washington Post reports:
That leaves up to 75 individuals remaining at Guantanamo who could continue to be held under the laws of war because they are deemed too dangerous to release, but cannot be prosecuted because of evidentiary issues and limits on the use of classified material.
So it appears, given the evidence, that open-ended incarcerations continue. Why? Because we still don’t have a comprehensive legal policy with which to deal with these people. As the Obama administration found out when it tried to close Guantanamo, the legal questions were indeed complex and unresolved. And, at least 75 individuals continue to face the possibility of open-ended incarceration because of that – a year into the Obama administrations tenure.
The Times continues:
On Friday, Attorney General Holder announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four others accused in the plot will be tried in a fashion that will not further erode American justice or shame Americans. It promises to finally provide justice for the victims of 9/11.
Mr. Holder said those prisoners would be prosecuted in federal court in Manhattan. It was an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush’s disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases.
Well, that’s the official spin, I suppose, but my guess is it has more to do with leftist politics than any concern for justice and I think James Taranto has the best take on what is most likely about this move:
As Morris Davis, a retired military prosecutor, argued the other day in The Wall Street Journal, under the administration’s plan, “the standard of justice for each detainee will depend in large part upon the government’s assessment of how high the prosecution’s evidence can jump and which evidentiary bar it can clear.” Detainees will get a “fair trial” in civilian court only if their conviction is assured. By implication, that suggests that detainees who go before military commissions will get an unfair trial. Presumably the administration would deny this and say the commission trials will be fair too. But if so, why is such a trial not good enough for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?
The answer seems to be that the administration is conducting a limited number of civilian trials of high-profile terrorists for show, so as to win “credibility” with the international left. These trials will differ from an ordinary show trial in that the process will be fair even though the verdict is predetermined. But people who wrongly think that either military commissions or detention without trial are unjust will not be satisfied with some detainees getting civilian trials–unless, of course, they are simply eager to be impressed by Barack Obama.
I think he’s exactly right. These are indeed show trials, considered safe enough (the evidence is overwhelming enough that classified evidence won’t be necessary) to ensure conviction. These trials will have little to do with “justice”, but they will have much to do with shutting up or at least muffling the leftist base which still isn’t satisfied with what the administration has accomplished in terms of closing Gitmo. These trials buy the administration more time.
Note also what Tranto says about the implication that exists concerning military tribunals. The Times says it out loud:
Regrettably, the decision fell short of a clean break. Five other Guantánamo detainees are to be tried before a military commission for the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of planning the attack.
The rules for the commissions were recently revised to bring them closer to military standards. And Mr. Holder cites the fact that the Cole bombing was an attack on a military target to justify a military trial. But that does not cure the problem of relying on a new system outside the regular military justice system. Nor does it erase the appearance that the government is forum-shopping to win convictions. Most broadly, it fails to establish a clear framework for assigning cases to regular courts or military commissions going forward.
The rules revisions the Times cites were cosmetic at best. But note that the editorial doesn’t mince words concerning its disdain for the military tribunal. The fact that those being tried before the tribunal actually attacked a military target doesn’t stop the Times from claiming “forum shopping” as the key to their continued use.
So let’s review – KSM is going to NY for trial. That, supposedly, is a clean break with the awful Bush years and open-ended incarceration and military tribunals. Except it’s not. 75 remain in open-ended incarceration at Gitmo. And 5 will face justice in front of military tribunals.
In fact, the only thing that has happened is a couple of show trials, which could just as easily been done in Guantanamo (or if they want a Federal Court – how about Miami), are going to be held in an attempt to “prove” that things have changed.
The Times is obviously fooled into believing that. And, that proves one thing – that politically at least, the Obama adminstration got this one right.
Charles Krauthammer takes on the developing media spin about Ft. Hood murders.
That, of course, is that Hasan’s religion had nothing to do with any of this – instead he had just heard so much from returning vets that he “snapped”. He, in effect, developed secondary PTSD. Says Krauthammer:
Really? What about the doctors and nurses, the counselors and physical therapists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who every day hear and live with the pain and the suffering of returning soldiers? How many of them then picked up a gun and shot 51 innocents?
And what about civilian psychiatrists — not the Upper West Side therapist treating Woody Allen neurotics, but the thousands of doctors working with hospitalized psychotics — who every day hear not just tales but cries of the most excruciating anguish, of the most unimaginable torment? How many of those doctors commit mass murder?
It is a pretty untenable and unbelievable attempt to divert attention away from the elephant in the room – the fact that Hasan was a radicalized muslim who proselytized for his religion (something his colleagues heard but neither reported or did anything about), had “SoA” (Soldier of Allah) on his business card and shouted “Allahu Akbar” when he began his murder spree.
As Krauthammer points out the religious aspect of this is something the politically correct crowd would prefer to ignore. Instead they literally invent something to replace it on the fly and in its stead:
Secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, a handy invention to allow one to ignore the obvious.
And the perfect moral finesse. Medicalizing mass murder not only exonerates. It turns the murderer into a victim, indeed a sympathetic one.
And it isn’t a recent attempt on the part of the media. Consider this – not even one full day after the massacre at Ft. Hood, Newsweek’s Andrew Bast wrote this:
What if Thursday’s atrocious slaughter at Fort Hood only signals that the worst is yet to come? The murder scene Thursday afternoon at the Killeen, Texas, military base, the largest in the country, was heart-wrenching. Details remained murky, but at least 13 are dead and 30 wounded in a killing spree that may momentarily remind us of a reality that most Americans can readily forget: soldiers and their families are living, and bending, under a harrowing and unrelenting stress that will not let up any time soon. And the U.S. military could well be reaching a breaking point as the president decides to send more troops into Afghanistan.
It’s hard to draw too many conclusions right now, but we do know this: Thursday night, authorities shot and then apprehended the lone suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. A psychiatrist who was set to deploy to Iraq at the end of the month, Hasan reportedly opened fire around the Fort Hood Readiness Center, where troops are prepared for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And though this scene is a most extreme and tragic outlier, it comes at a time when the stress of combat has affected so many soldiers individually that it makes it increasingly difficult for the military as a whole to deploy for wars abroad.
Not even a full day after the murders, you have the stage being set for precisely what Krauthammer notes – medicalizing (stress, PTSD, victim) the tragedy instead of pointing to the real reason – or even mentioning it.
Fast forward to yesterday and an AP story:
Rising suicide rates and a shooting spree last week by an Army psychiatrist at a base in Fort Hood, Texas, have raised new questions about the effects of combat stress and the state of the military’s mental health system.
For most, Hasan’s “shooting spree” has raised few questions about the effect of combat stress and the state of the military’s mental health system.
Instead it has raised questions about the media’s insistence on crediting the obvious for his “shooting spree” and why they’re so afraid to confront it? Does combat raise stress – yes, of course it does. It always has. This is nothing new. But given what we’ve learned, that’s not why Hasan murdered 13 people.
Yet, as the AP story shows, that’s still the track some in the media prefer over the apparent truth of the matter.
Political correctness. As we’ve learned now, it kills. Unfortunately, not all of us have learned that as AP, Newsweek and a whole host of other poilitically correct apologists for Hasan’s motives continue to prove.
Dana Milbank does a pre-emptive strike on possible criticism of Obama’s globe trotting during a time of domestic economic woe. He notes that the “normally querulous opposition” hasn’t said a word about the fact that he’s spent 12% of his presidency outside the country and has more trips planned before the end of the year – a record unsurpassed by any president.
Why no criticism per Milbank? Heh … why do you think?
Normally, Obama’s wanderlust would be a liability, because Americans care more about the economy than foreign affairs. But the normal rules don’t seem to apply this year, largely because Obama’s predecessor left the nation’s world standing in a shambles. While Republicans may be tempted to criticize Obama for being “intercontinental,” as Bush would have put it, “the ability to change the way America is viewed is powerful,” a senior Obama adviser said Thursday, “and they are afraid of looking petty.”
Polling by the Pew Research Center at the end of Bush’s presidency found that 70 percent of Americans thought the country had become less respected in the world (only 5 percent said “more respected”), and most of them thought the decline in standing was a major problem.
“Repairing our image overseas was an important consideration for the public,” said Andrew Kohut, the poll’s director. Americans have given Obama credit for a “dramatic improvement” in the nation’s standing, he said.
Here’s an alternative thought for Milbank to consider. The reason the “normally querulous opposition” isn’t saying much, and, in fact, is complaining he isn’t gone enough (fall of the Berlin wall) is when he’s gone he isn’t here mucking things up. Or more succinctly, it’s to their advantage to have him gone.
On a separate subject, my theory as to why he’s going so much has to do with his realization that he is in over his head and as his poll numbers and popularity sink here, he seeks a narcissistic boost elsewhere. One of the main reasons, as some have theorized, he didn’t go to Berlin is there wasn’t enough about him in the program. Of course that didn’t stop him from inserting a totally irrelevant fact that when the wall fell those there at the time wouldn’t have imagined the US would have a president of “African descent” in office in his two minutes speech. What that had to do with anything is beyond me but it is another indicator of how self-absorbed the man is. On his Asian swing, as with his other visits to foreign countries, he will indeed be the center of attention. And, of course, issuing apologies as for the US as is his want, he can’t help but be more popular than a predecessor who didn’t do that sort of thing.
Whether the new “standing” we supposedly enjoy means anything at all really isn’t explored in the Milbank column. Apparently if that new standing is based on contempt (and the popularity of a US leader who panders too it) rather than respect, that’s fine – just so the numbers are “better” than they were previously. Because that means all kinds of important things to America – like more jobs, a better economy, a resolution on Afghanistan and much, much more.
Some tax facts from the Tax Foundation [pdf]to ponder while you work toward paying off the government’s first claim on your paycheck today.
Fact 1: Not everyone is doing that.
Today, 46 million tax filers have no income tax liability after taking advantage of all of the credits and deductions in the tax code—one-third of all tax filers. Obama’s tax polices, such as the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, will increase the number of non-payers to more than 63 million.
Or 63 million won’t , as Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation says, have any “skin in the game”. Why should they care about tax policy or how tax money is spent?
Fact 2: Not all tax cuts/credits are good.
[T]he most politically popular tax cuts actually give the government more control over the economy rather than less. Even the credits enacted with the best of intentions—such as the $1,000 child credit, hybrid vehicle credit, or adoption credit—are bad tax policy because they attempt to induce people to make choices politicians think are right while rewarding select industries at the expense of others.
Or said another way, we again have government picking winners and losers, which few people would accept as something it should be doing. Politicians use their first claim on what you earn to reward you by not taking it if you do what they want. Is that your idea of the function of government?
Fact 3: High corporate taxes punish workers.
As the new study explains, there is a growing body of evidence that a large share of corporate taxes is really borne by workers—most of whom are not wealthy. Using statistical methods, the new study found that for every $1 rise in state and local corporate tax collections, real wages in that area fell by $2.50 five years later. The reverse is also true: wages rose by $2.50 for every $1 reduction in state and local corporate income taxes.
If wages are depressed in your particular state or locality, check out the corporate tax rate – as we’ve pointed out for years, corporations don’t pay taxes, they pass them on.
Fact 4: US corporate taxes are high.
Average OECD top corporate tax rate: 26.29 percent. Average U.S. top rate: 39.1 percent.
And of course after spending time demonizing corporations as rich and greedy, the present administration and Congress want to raise these taxes even higher. Then they’ll have another job summit and wonder why unemployment continues to get worse and wages are stagnant.
Fact 5: The rich actually pay more than their “fair share”.
Share of federal income tax paid by top 1 percent: 40.4 percent. Share paid by bottom 95 percent: 39.4 percent.
In fact, the rich pay more than 95% of the taxpayers out there – and the plan is to tap them for even more. Because, of course, they’re rich, and that automatically makes them “greedy”. Not in the plan is how the government will make up the revenue it plans on collecting with this new tax when the rich do what is necessary to protect what is theirs from the increased government looting.
Fact 6: Tax increases cost nearly twice the revenue raised.
“With every dollar of revenue, the proposed tax hikes cost the economy an extra 86 cents.”
Called “deadweight loss” high taxes distort the economy by artificially affecting decisions, such as:
…how much people choose to work by decreasing the financial reward to labor. High tax rates also may discourage savings, affect investment choices, and change the way households spend their money. For these reasons, economists recommend low tax rates and broad tax bases.
But that’s not at all what we now have – 63 million projected to be paying no taxes at all, corporate taxes higher than the OECD average and going higher and 1% of the population paying more in taxes than 95%?
If you can’t see what’s wrong with this picture and where it portends to leave us as we try to “recover” from the recession, then you’re being willfully blind. And, if some of this isn’t addressed and changed in the upcoming jobs summit, nothing is going to change to improve the employment situation. We have a tax structure that is anti-growth, anti-business and anti-liberty. The unfortunate thing is the present administration and Congress are working on legislation right now which will actually increase the tax burden exponentially and have projected trillion dollar budget deficits for the next 10 years.
How, given the above and the inevitable result of their unconscionable planned government spending spree (and taxes to support it) are we going to “grow” our way out of this?
Gallup’s latest poll says it is:
President Hugo Chavez’s popularity among Venezuelans has waned in recent years. Less than half of Venezuelans (47%) in August 2009 said they approved of Chavez’ job performance — down from 61% in late 2006 when he was elected to a second six-year term.
That’s not a good sign for a
dictator “president for life”. And what’s even worse is his inability to do much about what is causing that decline but attempt to distract attention by stirring up an existential threat (Colombia).
The reasons for this decline in popularity aren’t hard to figure out. Again, Gallup:
This year, 30% of Venezuelans said economic conditions in their city or area are improving, down from 47% in 2008 and 63% in 2007. Electricity and water shortages have become frequent, and violent crime is rampant in much of the country. This year, 23% of Venezuelans said they feel safe walking alone in their areas at night, the second-lowest figure among the 67 countries in which Gallup asked the question.
Politicians, whether socialist or capitalist, are held responsible for their country’s ability to provide the basics in life – especially when in the past those basics were cheap and plentiful. And, politicians are also held responsible for providing basic security. In all areas the socialist “Bolivarian revolution” is failing. And, because of actions by Chavez over the years to nationalize many industries, Venezuelans who supported Chavez are now beginning to see his government as more of a threat to them:
Conversely, concern about the heavy hand Chavez has demonstrated in the recent wave of nationalizations may be growing. The proportion of Venezuelans who said people in the country can feel very confident their private property will be respected by the government has dropped to 40% this year, from 52% in 2007. And 44% of Venezuelans currently agree that life is very hard for those who oppose the government, up from 36% in 2008.
As Megan McArdle points out, Chavez was able to paper over much of this when the price of oil was high and revenue plentiful, but at the present price and faced with the fact that because he diverted money from the state run oil company PDVSA to fund social programs, his golden goose is on life support. And Chavez has been forced to impose some unpopular restrictions:
President Hugo Chávez has been facing a public outcry in recent weeks over power failures that, after six nationwide blackouts in the last two years, are cutting electricity for hours each day in rural areas and in industrial cities like Valencia and Ciudad Guayana. Now, water rationing has been introduced here in the capital.
The deterioration of services is perplexing to many here, especially because the country had grown used to cheap, plentiful electricity and water in recent decades. But even as the oil boom was enriching his government and Mr. Chávez asserted greater control over utilities and other industries in this decade, public services seemed only to decay, adding to residents’ frustrations.
With oil revenues declining and the economy slowing, the shortages may have no quick fixes in sight. The government announced some emergency measures this week, including limits on imports of air-conditioning systems, rate increases for consumers of large amounts of power and the building of new gas-fired power plants, which would not be completed until the middle of the next decade.
Combine that with growing food shortages and rampant inflation and the picture is not pretty for our boy Hugo. And while his popularity remains slightly north of the critical 50% mark, his job approval rating of 46% portends a fall for that as well. Chavez, like all socialists, is finding out the hard way that they call them the laws of economics for a reason. You just wonder if we’ll learn something from his inevitable decline.