Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

American Caesar?

Katherine Jean Lopez had this to say the other day at The Corner:

Yesterday, at a rally for R. Creigh Deeds in Virginia, President Obama said: “I don’t want the folks who created the mess do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.”

For Barack Obama, democracy appears to be a distraction. He really does seem to view himself as a Caesar.

Shortly after taking office, Obama held a meeting with governors. At the time, one person in the room relayed Obama’s request that critics and skeptics of the stimulus plan keep their concerns to themselves. Just let me do it, was his attitude. He got pushback and he wasn’t happy. He wanted democratically elected state governors to shut up so he could do as he pleased. He knows better and we should respect that, seems to be the attitude.

There seems to be quite a bit more of an authoritarian streak in Barack Obama than one might think. I was willing to dismiss the first statement at the Deeds event as a little red meat for the locals. But I wasn’t aware of the second incident, which makes dismissing the first a little less likely.

Then this story coincidentally showed up which adds fuel to the fire:

President Obama has issued signing statements claiming the authority to bypass dozens of provisions of bills enacted into law since he took office, provoking mounting criticism by lawmakers from both parties.

Apparently Obama feels much the same as his predecessor did about the laws passed by Congress – he doesn’t have to obey provisions he doesn’t care for:

They were reacting to a statement Mr. Obama issued after signing a bill that expanded assistance to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank while requiring the administration to pressure the organizations to adopt certain policies. Mr. Obama said he could disregard the negotiation instructions under his power to conduct foreign relations.

[…]

Other laws Mr. Obama has said he need not obey as written include format requirements for budget requests, limits on whom he may appoint to a commission, and a restriction on putting troops under United Nations command.

While there is some argument to be made about Congress getting into the foreign relations area, there’s certainly none which should arise from budget questions or other domestic legal considerations. However, there is a very easy way for Obama to confront Congress over areas he thinks they overstep their bounds – veto the bill. Instead, displaying that authoritarian streak, he chooses to disregard the law and do what he wants to do through a signing statement.

All of this after calling Bush’s use of signing statements “abuse” and promising much greater restraint than practiced in the previous administration. Thus far, at least according to a Democratic Congress, no such restraint has been practiced and it appears Congress deems his use to date just as “abusive” as they did George Bush’s use of signing statements.

Two things are obvious, at least to me – one, he has an agenda and he doesn’t like anyone standing in his way as he tries to accomplish it, to include the law. And two, he’s a glib pretender when it comes to bi-partisan ship or opposition in general. He wants none. The two statements highlighted by Lopez above are simply extended examples of his “I won” quote (and the not so subtle but implied “so shut up”) Obama gave not long after taking office.

Lopez entitled her NRO posting, “American Caesar”. The more I watch this guy operate, the more I’m coming to believe she may have a point.

~McQ

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Quote Of The Day

It comes from Paul Krugman

So it seems that we aren’t going to have a second Great Depression after all. What saved us? The answer, basically, is Big Government.

Is it? Or is it a false premise?

Who said we were headed for a “second Great Depression”? And how does a non-falsifiable claim prove the point that “Big Government” saved us from anything?

~McQ

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Niki Tsongas Should Work For Burger King

Watch this video (Via Michele Malkin), or at least the first 5 minutes of it. In it you’ll see Niki Tsongas tell two whoppers. Seriously – the first topic she covers is about consultation with a physician about end of life care.

She claims such counseling is not mandatory and would only take place at the behest of the patient with the doctor merely getting compensated for his time if the patient decides to bring it up.

Charles Lane, in the Washington Post, refutes that claim:

Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren’t quite “purely voluntary,” as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) asserts. To me, “purely voluntary” means “not unless the patient requests one.” Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive — money — to do so. Indeed, that’s an incentive to insist.

That’s whopper number one. Number two is Tsongas’ attempt to claim that what she describes as her health care plan is the same thing they’re trying to put together for the American people.

Here’s the transcript of that particular moment:

CONSTITUENT: My question to you, Congresswoman Tsongas, is that if this is such a great plan, why did you opt out of it when you took the vote [loud applause, standing ovation]?

TSONGAS: People often say why don’t the American people have what those of us in Congress have. [Audience erupts] Let me explain what I have. Let me explain what I have. What I have is a tremendous array — you know, last year when I went to a discussion — what I have is a tremendous array of choices. And I made a choice based on what I was willing to pay for and what made sense in terms of coverage for me and my family. [Audience shouts out: “We want choice! We want choice!] This is essentially what we are creating for the American people. We are creating greater choice.

Tsongas is claiming that you will have the same choice she claims she has – pick from a “tremendous array”, make a choice based on “what I was willing to pay” and “what made sense in terms of coverage for me and my family”.

But you are not being offered any of that. None. You’ll be offered a very limited array of insuance that meets the criteria the government sets for entry into the “public plan” and will include mandated coverage you must buy whether you want it or not.

If you don’t believe me read what Shawn Tully of Forbes has to say about your “choices” contained in the bills:

The bills in both houses require that Americans purchase insurance through “qualified” plans offered by health-care “exchanges” that would be set up in each state. The rub is that the plans can’t really compete based on what they offer. The reason: The federal government will impose a minimum list of benefits that each plan is required to offer.

Today, many states require these “standard benefits packages” — and they’re a major cause for the rise in health-care costs. Every group, from chiropractors to alcohol-abuse counselors, do lobbying to get included. Connecticut, for example, requires reimbursement for hair transplants, hearing aids, and in vitro fertilization.

The Senate bill would require coverage for prescription drugs, mental-health benefits, and substance-abuse services. It also requires policies to insure “children” until the age of 26. That’s just the starting list. The bills would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to add to the list of required benefits, based on recommendations from a committee of experts. Americans, therefore, wouldn’t even know what’s in their plans and what they’re required to pay for, directly or indirectly, until after the bills become law.

Two blatant falsehoods within the first 4 minutes, put out there by a member of Congress who has either not read the bill or is purposely distorting the truth to make it sound more palatable. What’s interesting is it appears, given the response to both, that her constituents are quite aware of when they’re being deceived.

As an aside, about 9 seconds in you’ll see a sign which has a picture of Barack Obama with a Hitler-style moustache. Look carefully at the url on the bottom of the pic. It’s from an organization whose founder has, 7 times, run for the presidency of the US as a Democrat. Yeah, he’s a whack-job, but he’s the left’s whack-job.

~McQ

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Americans Are Cooling Toward Global Warming

Part of the reason is the financial situation and part of it is the new evidence that science is producing which is making Americans more skeptical about the AGW crowd’s claims.

Recent  Gallup polls carry the news:

Here’s what Gallup found: The number of Americans who say the media have exaggerated global warming jumped to a record 41 percent in 2009, up from 35 percent a year ago. The most marked increase came among political independents, whose ranks of doubters swelled from 33 percent to 44 percent. Republican doubters grew from 59 percent to 66 percent, while Democratic skeptics stayed at around 20 percent.

What’s more, fewer Americans believe the effects of global warming have started to occur: 53 percent see signs of a hotter planet, down from 61 percent in 2008. Global warming placed last among eight environmental concerns Gallup asked respondents to rank, with water pollution landing the top spot.

Another recent Gallup study found that, for the first time in 25 years of polling, more Americans care about economic growth than the environment. Just 42 percent of people surveyed said the environment takes precedence over growth, while 51 percent asserted expansion carries more weight. That reverses results from 2008, when 49 percent of respondents said the environment was paramount and 42 percent said economic growth came first. In 1985, the poll’s first year, 61 percent placed a bigger priority on the environment, while 28 percent ranked economic growth highest.

Scientists have begun to push back against those who have been claiming “consensus” for so long. And, Americans are simply becoming more informed about the matter. Part of that is the effect of the new media which has broken the monopoly hold of the mass media’s ability to shape public opinion. As the poll points out, Americans increasingly think the media is exaggerating the problem. That skepticism has to be based in something, and the only media carrying the skeptical side of the argument is the new media.

Obviously, since the financial meltdown, priorities have also changed. While AGW was apparently never a high priority among environmental priorities, it is dead last now. That’s again because people are becoming more informed about the economic impact of the draconian legislative measures being touted as a solution. And as time goes by, and there is more of a focus put on cap-and-trade legislation, I expect the numbers in opposition to go up even further.

Naturally the opposition disagrees and cites polls from Pew and the National Wildlife Federation that they claim contradict Gallup (no date for those two polls is given). But as you recall, Rasmussen had a very recent poll which had similar results to the Gallup poll.

The radical agenda is in trouble, folks. Whether that means Democrats will “listen” as they claim they do, is another matter entirely. I fully expect them to attempt to ram both health care and cap-and-trade through. But that doesn’t mean we have to give them a pass if they do. Be your “un-American” best and tell them loudly and strongly that cap-and-trade is not a good thing for the US and is not something that should be passed while the science of AGW is decidedly unproven.

Again, what’s the freakin’ rush?

~McQ

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Another Democrat Health Care “Fact” Bites The Dust

When we were still talking about “health care reform”, before it was renamed “health insurance reform”, one of the big selling points was government was going to change the way we did business. I.e. it was going to stress “preventive care” which, so the Dems claimed, would be less costly in the long-run.

The CBO, however, has said, “not so fast”. In a letter to Henry Waxman, among others, Dr. Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office writes:

“Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall,” Elmendorf wrote. “That result may seem counterintuitive.

“For example, many observers point to cases in which a simple medical test, if given early enough, can reveal a condition that is treatable at a fraction of the cost of treating that same illness after it has progressed. In such cases, an ounce of prevention improves health and reduces spending — for that individual,” Elmendorf wrote. “But when analyzing the effects of preventive care on total spending for health care, it is important to recognize that doctors do not know beforehand which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case of acute illness, it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway. … Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness.”

This is another in a long line of “facts” the Democrats have attempted to use to sell their “more coverage, better care, less cost” health care insurance reform. And it is another “fact” that has been found to be false.

Going through Elmendorf’s reasoning provides a very good explanation of why it is false. But I’ll bet that none of that reasoning or information will find its way into Democratic talking points about the goals of this legislation. Instead the false “fact” about preventive care lowering overall costs will stubbornly remain.

If so, my suggestion is you send it in as a “fishy” statement to be refuted by the White House crew that deals with these sorts of fishy facts.

Oh wait, nevermind. Apparently the White House has already dealt with the fishy CBO’s report- well sort of:

Responding to the CBO letter, Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, said that, “to work, prevention has to be targeted. Proven services need to be directed to populations that need it, as the CBO letter suggests. We will continue to work with Congress on ensuring that dollars are spent on prevention that gets the biggest bang for the buck.”

Douglass argued, however, that there would be long-term financial savings, saying “we can’t forget that many of the benefits of prevention will accrue to the Federal government in thel long term as opposed to the near term. Prevention results in longer, healthier, more productive lives — yielding savings that don’t typically show up on a score sheet. We have to return to common sense: keeping people out of a doctor’s office or hospitals saves money. Seventy-five per cent of our health care spending goes to treat chronic diseases, many of which could be prevented from developing in the first place . Proven preventive services are worth it.”

Notice that the CBO says the problem is that preventive care can’t be targeted because doctors have no idea who would benefit until they run batteries of tests on everyone. And that is what the CBO highlights as running the costs up.

Additionally, no one is claiming “proven preventive services” don’t work or aren’t “worth it”. What CBO is claiming is they’re not “less costly”, something Douglass avoids addressing. All in all a most unsatisfactory and fishy response to the CBO argument.

~McQ

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Pelosi Calls Health Care Protesters “Un-American” (Update)

Last night, Twitter was all atwitter with the Drudge rumor that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer had penned a USA Today editorial in which they called the health care protesters “un-American”. My reaction was, “surely they can’t be that dumb “.

To use a variation on a phrase, “Yes they can”:

These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

Of course the rest of whatever message they have in the editorial will be lost because of this bit of abject stupidity. Americans have little tolerance for being characterized as “un-American” when they speak out at meetings with the representatives who work for them. And they’re especially intolerant of those who purport to be political leaders and use language like that.

But then, no one has ever tried to make the case that Nancy Pelosi, or Steny Hoyer for that matter, had good political instincts. You know, for instance, that the editorial is most likely Pelosi’s idea, and she wanted Hoyer for cover. Allowing himself to be used that way doesn’t say much for Hoyer’s political acumen, and Nancy Pelosi’s lack thereof is legendary. This editorial just puts a cherry on top.

It is one thing to plead for civil debate and ask the rhetoric be toned down. That would most likely find some sympathetic ears out there and perhaps even agreement from some on the other side . Instead, apparently completely clueless to building sentiment against the legislation in question, Pelosi and Hoyer decide on the “enemy” approach. Characterize good Americans who are tired of being lied too as “un-American” when they approach their representative with questions and get a little steamed when he or she avoid answering them or pops off with talking points which everyone knows are a bunch of crap.

Yup, that makes them “un-American”. They’re un-American for demanding answers from slippery pols who seem to have their minds made up about the legislation and were hoping to hold pro-forma townhalls stuffed with friendly faces to validate their position. They’re un-American for disrupting what are supposed to be “shut up and listen” sessions instead of open forums in which constituents ask questions and receive answers to them. They’re un-American for coming out and demanding their representatives actually represent them and not their party.

Pelosi, Hoyer and most of the Democrats are apparently tone deaf when it comes to this issue. This is their agenda, not the country’s agenda, and they seem bound and determined to push through something that the country is telling them loudly at townhalls and through various polls, that they do not want.

Instead of listening, like Pelosi has said they planned on doing during the recess they’ve decided to declare war on the American public, because that public isn’t following along like good little sheep and allowing the Democrat judas goat to lead them into health care hell.

They have questions, like “what’s the rush”? And “have you read the bill”? And “if not, why not and what business do you have voting or even holding an opinion on something you haven’t read?”

Of course it’s rather hard to hold a “discussion” or a “debate” with someone who hasn’t read what they’ll be voting on. It also makes it obvious that when they try to tell you what’s in the bill they haven’t read that they’re spouting words someone else has given them which may or may not have any basis in fact.

And Pelosi has the gall and temerity to call Americans who object to that, however loudly, “un-American”? She truly is the poster-child for everything that is wrong with a seniority system. She’s been a disaster for the Democrats and has gone over the line with this statement. As is obvious, she has again put party in front of what is best for the country. She should resign her post as Speaker of the House in shame for such an outlandish insult to the American people.

UPDATE:
An example of a lefty blog which either chooses to ignore the point, or completely misses it in favor of pretending the outrage on the right is completely misplaced.

~McQ

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Podcast for 09 Aug 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the furor over the Health Care bill.

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 – Tonight 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

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

Subject(s): Health care – the protests and how the Democrats have been handling them so far. Honduras. Cash for Clunkers. And others stuff is we so choose.

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Got My Bit Of Astroturf (update)

Back during the presidential campaign, I signed on to Barack Obama’s website to receive email “alerts”. As an avid blogger, I wanted the info firsthand.

Obviously that information is now part of a coordinated astroturfing campaign:

organizing_america_email_header

Friend —

I wanted to send you an urgent invitation to an important town hall with Rep. Hank Johnson on Monday evening (August 10th). He’ll be talking to constituents and gathering feedback — this is an ideal opportunity to make sure your support for health insurance reform is seen and heard at exactly the right time.

Our congressional representatives are back home this month, and they’re facing more and more pressure from special interests on health insurance reform. It’s critical that we get out there and show them where we stand.

I hope you can join us.

What: Health Care Town Hall with
Rep. Hank Johnson

Where: Georgia Perimeter College
555 North Indian Creek Drive
Clarkston, GA 30021

When: Monday, August 10th
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

RSVP

Our representatives are under attack by Washington insiders, insurance companies, and well-financed special interests who don’t go a day without spreading lies and stirring up fear. We need to show that we’re sick and tired of it, and that we’re ready for real change, this year.

Please try to arrive early to the town hall, and make sure that the most powerful voices in this debate are those calling for real reform, not angrily clamoring for the status quo.

RSVP here:

http://ga.barackobama.com/ClarkstonTH

Thanks,

Lee

Lee Goodall
Georgia State Director
Organizing for America

P.S. — Before the event, please print off a flyer to display and make sure that your support is visible.

I’m not in Hank Johnson’s congressional district, but apparently that doesn’t matter. So feel free to copy the url and “RSVP”. If you’re in the area, feel free to drop by.

UPDATE: More astroturfing. This time from Mitch Stewart, the Director of Organizing America (a subsidiary of ACORN International – just kidding, kind of):

Friend —

All throughout August, our members of Congress are back in town. Insurance companies and partisan attack groups are stirring up fear with false rumors about the President’s plan, and it’s extremely important that folks like you speak up now.

So we’ve cooked up an easy, powerful way for you to make a big impression: Office Visits for Health Reform.

All this week, OFA members like you will be stopping by local congressional offices to show our support for insurance reform. You can have a quick conversation with the local staff, tell your personal story, or even just drop off a customized flyer and say that reform matters to you.

We’ll provide everything you need: the address, phone number, and open hours for the office, information about how the health care crisis affects your state for you to drop off (with the option of adding your personal story), and a step-by-step guide for your visit.

According to our records, you live near Rep. John Linder’s office in Lawrenceville, GA.

Sign up now to visit Rep. John Linder’s office in Lawrenceville this week.

(Not your representative, or think there might be another office that’s easier for you to get to? Click here to find a different office.)

As you’ve probably seen in the news, special interest attack groups are stirring up partisan mobs with lies about health reform, and it’s getting ugly. Across the country, members of Congress who support reform are being shouted down, physically assaulted, hung in effigy, and receiving death threats. We can’t let extremists hijack this debate, or confuse Congress about where the people stand.

Office Visits for Health Reform are our chance to show that the vast majority of American voters know that the cost of inaction is too high to bear, and strongly support passing health reform in 2009.

Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like this before. The congressional staff is there to listen, and your opinion as a constituent matters a lot. And if you bring a friend, you’ll have more fun and make an even greater impact.

Click below to sign up for an Office Visit for Health Reform:

http://my.barackobama.com/OfficeVisit

Wherever you live, these visits matter: Many representatives are pushing hard toward reform, and they are taking a lot of heat from special interests. They deserve our thanks and need our support to continue the fight. But those who are still putting insurance companies and partisan point-scoring ahead of their constituents must know that voters are watching — and that we expect better.

Earlier this week, the President wrote that “this is the moment our movement was built for” and asked us all to commit to join at least one event this month. This is the way to answer that call, and rise to the challenge of this moment together.

Thank you for going the extra mile when it matters the most,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart
Director
Organizing for America

I’m just flattered beyond belief. This time they got it right – Rep. Linder is my congressman. Of course he’s not going to vote for this nonsense, but apparently it again doesn’t matter if you are a member of his district or not. You are encouraged to stop by, deliver your preprinted flyer and “discuss”” health care with him. And you may want to take a square of astroturf as well just to let him from whence this all came.

~McQ

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California Chutzpa

The disaster that is California government has now turned into the theater of the absurd:

Small businesses that received $682 million in IOUs from the state say California expects them to pay taxes on the worthless scraps of paper, but refuses to accept its own IOUs to pay debts or taxes.

The vendors have filed a federal class-action lawsuit. But the depth that government will stoop too to collect revenue never surprises me. With housing prices crashing everywhere, local governments continued to try to collect at the same value rates as before or, in some places, actually raise the taxes.

And here we have California issuing, what to this point are absolutely valueless promises to pay – maybe – and then expecting those in receipt of those worthless bits of script to treat them as real money and to pay taxes on the amount in real money.

The onions it takes to make that sort of demand is just breathtaking. Or perhaps arrogance is a better word. But regardless it is just a stunning thing to behold.

And, as an aside, you can’t help but wonder what California will pay the lawyers it hire to defend its indefensible demand. As a further aside, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the court find in the state’s favor.

~McQ

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