Archive for October, 2009
October 28th, 2009 at 11:17 am
Global “Blasphemy” Treaty Tests Obama’s Faith in Engagement

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Organization of the Islamic Council (OIC) is pushing members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to approve of a proposed treaty to limit religiously offensive language or speech. Since the United States is now a member of the UNHRC, the proposal offers President Barack Obama yet another chance to see if engagement will lead to better results than confrontation.

The United States under Barack Obama recently joined the UNHRC, maligned for years as the mouthpiece for countries that are themselves flagrant human rights abusers. A “new” council formed in 2006. President Obama’s hope is that as an engaged member, the US can further reform – and its own interests. This case will test his theory.

Consider the wording put forth by Pakistan, written on behalf of the OIC. It proposes “legal prohibition of publication of material that negatively stereotypes, insults or uses offensive language” on matters regarded by religious followers as “sacred or inherent to their dignity as human beings.”

This gives broad latitude to governments to decide what’s offensive. Countries such as Pakistan already have national blasphemy laws, but a global treaty would give them international cover to suppress minority religious groups with the excuse that these groups offend mainstream beliefs.”

October 28th, 2009 at 10:59 am
Rep. Blackburn Introduces Internet Freedom Bill
Posted by Print

Despite recent bureaucratic attempts to regulate and control the Internet, there are at least some in Congress who realize that an open Internet cannot coexist with government regulation.

This week, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced H.R. 3942, a bill to block the FCC’s net neutrality regulations.  As Blackburn lamented, “The Internet is the last truly open public marketplace.  Its openness is the key to its efficiency and success.  Not all public spaces need to be regulated spaces.”

At present, H.R. 3942 has no cosponsors, but that only means you should call your representative and urge them to sign on to support Internet freedom.

Read the text of the bill here.  Read more of CFIF on net neutrality here.

October 28th, 2009 at 10:08 am
Your Government at Work
Posted by Print

From Mark Tapscott, Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Examiner:

Federal Emergency Management Agency deputy administrator Timothy Manning told a congressional panel [Tuesday, October 27] that his organization had spent $5 million during the last 18 months reviewing how it spent $29 billion since 2002, but still doesn’t know what it got for the money.”

October 28th, 2009 at 8:55 am
Morning Links
Posted by Print

RedStateHouse Memo Shows 47 Democrats Opposed to ObamaCare
Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionDemocrats Struggle on Health Care Overhaul
National Review OnlineCan ObamaCare be Stopped?
Washington ExaminerHow Google, Amazon Profit from Net Neutrality
Political WireCorzine Leads by Five in New Jersey
WSJ EditorialLieberman Steps Up
Washington PostCan Economy Motor Ahead?

Federal Debt: $11.927 trillion

October 28th, 2009 at 12:02 am
Groundhog’s Day for Foreign Affairs “News”

True, February is still a few months away. When it comes to reporting the “news” in foreign affairs, however, there are some stories that just won’t go away.  Joshua Keating over at Foreign Policy has compiled a darkly humorous compilation of the stories that never seem to get old. (Or, at least never get a new angle.) Here are some of the headlines (see if you can pick the year): “North Korea to return to negotiating table”; “Pakistan finally getting tough with the Taliban”; “Israel preparing military strike against Iran”; “Dollar to be replaced as global reserve currency”; “Fidel Castro is dying”; and of course, “Israel and Palestinians reach peace deal.”

October 27th, 2009 at 2:55 pm
Markets Down on ‘Public Option’
Posted by Print

According to, the online prediction market, Harry Reid’s (D-NV) announcement of a modified public option put the chances of ObamaCare’s passage on the ropes.

Earlier this month, markets gave the public option a 30 percent chance of passing before December 31, 2009.  After Reid’s announcement of a “compromise” bill, the odds are now just 7.1 percent, according to intrade.

Let’s hope the market is right, as it usually is in all aspects of life.  Call your Senator at 202-224-3121 and tell them to oppose Senator Reid’s pathetic attempt at health care “reform.”

October 27th, 2009 at 12:57 pm
Net Neutrality, the Next “Systemic Risk” for the U.S. Economy

James Pethokoukis, Money and Politics columnist and blogger for Reuters, notes that the FCC’s decision to proceed with a process of imposing so-called Net Neutrality rules on Internet network providers is not only “curious as well as wrongheaded,” it could result in the next “systemic risk” for the U.S. economy.

Questioning the wisdom and necessity of strict Internet regulations to be imposed under the false promise of “neutrality,” Pethokoukis wrote:

The financial crisis that has convulsed the global economy for the past two years should be a potent reminder to communications regulators that the best of government intentions can create horrible, though unintended, consequences. …

“Like physicians and Fed governors, the first goal of regulators should be to do no harm. And that is especially true when they are trying to impose a solution in search of a problem. Broadband prices, for one thing, are on the decline. The average cost of consumer broadband has dropped to less than $20 a month from $50 a month in 2001. And more people have access. As late of 2004, 70 percent of households still used dial-up modems for web access. Today, just 10 percent do with broadband speeds doubling over that period. Tough to find a market failure here. …

“But the FCC — with the full encouragement of the Obama administration — nonetheless intends to push forward with seeming little concern about the unintended consequences of intervening into a well-functioning sector vital to the American economy. At the very least, the FCC will likely face years of court battles over the rule that could serve to paralyze the sector. Now there’s your systemic risk.”

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, whose company has been lobbying hard in support of Net Neutrality, admitted recently, “It is possible for the government to screw the Internet up, big-time.”

Perhaps Google and other large corporate content providers who wish to use the heavy hand of government to continue to freeload on the backs of ordinary Internet consumers should heed Schmidt’s warning.

October 27th, 2009 at 10:56 am
Latest Ramirez Cartoon: Obama’s Enemies List

Below is the latest from Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez.

If you haven’t done so already, read “All the President’s Boys and Girls,” Thomas Humber’s recent commentary on this issue.

View more of Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website.

October 27th, 2009 at 9:35 am
Ford Gains Market Share While Bailed-Out Counterparts Decline
Posted by Print

When Ford abstained from accepting federal bailout dollars, observers rightfully worried that it would suffer a competitive disadvantage compared to its new Obama-favored counterparts General Motors (GM) and Chrysler.

But so far, a funny thing has happened thanks to American consumers.  Ford has actually gained in its share of American market sales, whereas GM and Chrysler have declined.  According to CNW Marketing Research, Ford jumped from approximately 12% of domestic auto sales in the third quarter of 2008 to approximately 17% in the third quarter of 2009.  In contrast, GM fell from approximately 27% to 22%, and Chrysler fell from approximately 8% to 6% during that span.  The only other major automaker to gain in market share over the past year was Toyota, but its increase isn’t nearly as dramatic as Ford’s.

Several factors may have contributed to Ford’s improvement, but Americans have sent a clear signal in rewarding it for righting its course the old-fashioned way, while rebuking GM and Chrysler for jumping onto the Obama bailout bandwagon.

October 27th, 2009 at 7:41 am
Morning Links
Posted by Print
October 26th, 2009 at 7:45 pm
Better Living Through Education Cuts
Posted by Print

One of the loneliest titles in American life is “education reformer”. You spend your entire career trying to disrupt entrenched interests, upset a stubborn status quo, and come to grips with an issue that everyone proclaims to care about but no one really acts on.

In recent years, a handful of reformers have started proving themselves at the local level — From Michelle Rhee in Washington D.C. to Joel Klein in New York City and — prior to becoming Secretary of Education (easily the best pick in the Obama Cabinet) — Arne Duncan in Chicago.

Any serious accounting of these figures should also include Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the principal of a series of minority-heavy charter schools in Oakland, California. With a regimen of discipline, back-to-basics academics, and political incorrectness (how many other public schools could get away with extolling the virtues of the free market in their charter?), Dr. Chavis turned one of the lowest performing middle schools in California into one of the top schools in the state in less than a decade.

I’ll be profiling Chavis and other education reformers in a column later this week, but for a taste of his principled irreverence, take a look at this video, where he argues that cutting education budgets is the best thing that could happen to public schools:

Dr. Ben Chavis on Education Budgets

October 26th, 2009 at 4:35 pm
In the Nut House with Nancy
Posted by Print

From the Associated Press:

A government-sponsored ‘public option’ for health care lives, though it may be more attractive to skeptics if it goes by a different moniker, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday.

“In an appearance at a Florida senior center, the Democratic leader referred to the so-called public option as ‘the consumer option.’  Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., appeared by Pelosi’s side and used the term ‘competitive option.’

“Both suggested new terminology might get them past any lingering doubts among the public – or consumers or competitors.”

Read the full article here.

October 26th, 2009 at 3:59 pm
Closed-Door Talks Produce Health Care Bill … Sort Of
Posted by Print

In the past two weeks, Senators Harry Reid and Max Baucus, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other higher-ups in the administration have been behind closed doors crafting a government takeover of health care.

Senator Reid has been the chief architect of a plan to “meld” bills from the Health Education and Labor Committee and the Finance Committee.  Today, Reid emerged from his smoke-filled room with legislation that includes a so-called public option and a health care co-op.

This compromise between liberal Democrats and uber-liberal Democrats now heads to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which will attempt to put a price tag on the rag-tag, budget-busting piece of … legislation. The White House hopes this version of ObamaCare will be enough to garner at least 60 votes in the Senate.

Call Congress at 202-224-3121 and tell them to vote “No” on Senator Reid’s health care “compromise.” Click here for more details on the legislation.  Click here for CFIF’s coverage of the health care debate.

October 26th, 2009 at 3:57 pm
Tony Blair for Holy Roman Emperor?

Although the official title would be “President of the European Union”, Tony Blair’s private campaign to become the face of the European bureaucracy recalls the mid-level horsetrading and indeterminate power structure of the Holy Roman Empire. According to Newsweek, no less than 27 heads of state will meet to confer the prestige of speaking on behalf of Europe to the world. As with the Habsburgs, Blair’s Catholicism, fluency in French, and ability to please several ethnic and geographical interests at once are smoothing the path towards becoming the next in a long line of Continental potentates.

As for the actual job description, it’s still unclear what Blair would be expected to do with the post. Who knows; perhaps he could find work for that other politician of the Baby Boom Generation that refuses to go away…

October 26th, 2009 at 3:08 pm
Obama’s Approach to Public Policy

In the current issue of National Affairs, William Schambra gives a thoughtful analysis of President Barack Obama’s approach to solving public policy problems:

In one policy area after another — from transportation to science, urban policy to auto policy — Obama’s formulation is virtually identical: selfishness or ideological rigidity has led us to look at the problem in isolated pieces rather than as an all-encompassing system; we must put aside parochialism to take the long systemic view; and when we finally formulate a uniform national policy supported by empirical and objective data rather than shallow, insular opinion, we will arrive at solutions that are not only more effective but less costly as well. This is the mantra of the policy presidency.”

It’s also a tune out of harmony with America’s constitutional system of checks-and-balances. In order to be successful under Obama’s Progressive-inspired notion of policy making, the creation, implementation, and administration of policies must be shielded from people with priorities that differ from the expert-determined norm.

To be successful by its own definition, each of its policies must necessarily be rational, coherent, and all-encompassing, whether the issue is health care, energy, or education. And yet, as the early Progressives knew all too well, critical elements of the constitutional system — the executive cabinet, federal decentralization, the separation of powers, and the extended commercial republic — serve to shred and fragment policy proposals as they make their way from the minds of their expert designers through departmental bureaucracy and legislative committees (not to mention their hearings in the court of public opinion). Once enacted, the execution of policy is similarly trammeled by our political system’s fragmented dispersal of administrative authority. The result is often policy that is irrational, incoherent, and partial. Policies not designed to take account of that reality usually turn to mush in practice.”

Though lengthy, this post is worth the time it takes to read. Hopefully, by the time the next presidential election rolls around, someone will have thought about how to redefine the limits of human knowledge in a way that reaffirms human dignity and encourages human flourishing. Otherwise, we may be fighting to overcome a new consensus that the elites really do know best.

October 26th, 2009 at 1:16 pm
New Poll in NY-23
Posted by Print

For readers following the race in New York’s 23rd congressional district (upstate NY), the Club for Growth has released a new poll showing conservative candidate Doug Hoffman leading by four points.

Hoffman, with 31.3% in the poll, leads Democrat Bill Owens (27%) and Republican challenger Dede Scozzafava (19.7%).

This race in rural upstate New York has garnered national attention and endorsements from prominent conservatives.  Newt Gingrich has endorsed Scozzafava, while Sarah Palin and Dick Armey have endorsed Hoffman.

More info here and here.

October 26th, 2009 at 10:24 am
Google Chief Fears Internet Overregulation… Yet Favors Net “Neutrality?”
Posted by Print

Here’s a contradiction to chew on for a while:  Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt tells The Washington Post that he’s wary about destructive overregulation of the Internet…  Yet he simultaneously favors so-called Net “Neutrality?”

According to Mr. Schmidt, “it is possible for the government to screw up the Internet, bigtime.”  The article reports that he went so far as to say that “it would be a terrible idea for the government to involve itself as a regulator of the broader Internet.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

But how can Mr. Schmidt square his accurate concern about destructive Internet regulation with his advocacy of Net “Neutrality,” which would needlessly introduce federal rules into Internet service for the first time?  Stated simply, he can’t.  Nevertheless, he and Google foolishly advocate Net “Neutrality” because they believe it serves their short-term corporate interest.  Of course, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries initially believed the same thing about ObamaCare, before belatedly recognizing the toxic longer-term reality…

October 26th, 2009 at 8:56 am
Morning Links
Posted by Print
October 25th, 2009 at 7:04 pm
The Audacity of Amnesia
Posted by Print

As President Obama mulls over General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan — and former Vice President Cheney hits the current administration hard for what he calls “dithering” — the White House has hit back with some heavy accusations.

Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, has claimed that the Bush Administration ignored the strategic planning process for the war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs alleges that the Bush White House let a request for more troops in Afghanistan fall stillborn for nearly a year.

You can debate the merits of various approaches and the trade-offs that are always necessary in national security policy. But as someone who was in the Bush White House during the time in question, I can testify to the fact that Afghan planning was very high on the agenda in the waning days of the administration. Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has done the legwork to bear this out and his new piece pushes back against the Obama Administration’s claims with great clarity. Among the best passages:

One Bush veteran asks, “If it’s true that the Bush administration sat on these troop requests for eight months, is the White House suggesting that the Pentagon was incompetent or negligent or both? That would be a good question to put to the defense secretary–and President Obama is in a position to make him talk.”

I couldn’t reach Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, but I did talk to a senior defense official who serves with him. This person stressed that Gates has gone to great lengths to avoid being dragged into political fights between administrations. Nonetheless, he offered a strong rebuke to the present White House political team.

“There was no request on anyone’s desk for eight months,” said the defense official. “There was not a request that went to the White House because we didn’t have forces to commit. So on the facts, they’re wrong.”

In reality, the Bush Administration stayed quiet on the options going forward into Afghanistan so that Obama wouldn’t have his choices muddied by having them labeled as recycled goods from the previous president.  That they are now using that fact as a cudgel speaks very poorly of the current denizens of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Read Hayes’ entire piece here.

October 25th, 2009 at 9:32 am
The News According to Obama
Posted by Print

“Good Evening. This is Walter Crankcase reporting for State News.

“We are unable to report tonight that President Obama is still dithering over the decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan because former Vice President Cheney said it and Fox News reported it first.

“Turning to other news, the Obama family has posed for its official White House portrait. Isn’t that just the cuddliest First Family you ever saw? Robert, leave that visual up for the rest of the broadcast. It’s much better than those boring unemployment numbers and that deficit graph.

“After the break, we’ll be back with an exclusive report on Rahm Emanuel’s Thanksgiving plans, and the ACORN choir will premiere its Christmas carol, “What Will Santa Bring the Hos?”

“Robert, can we leave the First Family portrait up during commercials?”