Archive for November, 2009
November 23rd, 2009 at 3:48 pm
Quote of the Day
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This might be a bit too “wonky” but here is the take from two Harvard economists on fiscal policy:

Fiscal stimuli based upon tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than those based upon spending increases. As for fiscal adjustments, those based upon spending cuts and no tax increases are more likely to reduce deficits and debt over GDP ratios than those based upon tax increases.

Bottom line: tax increases are bad.
HT: Greg Mankiw

November 23rd, 2009 at 2:03 pm
Predicting the Future of Free Speech
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These days, the future of free speech looks grim.  However, the WSJ and FantasySCOTUS predict that the government will lose in the pivotal case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Of the 286 predictions, 67 percent believe that the Supreme Court will overrule the D.C. Circuit Court and find that “Hillary: The Movie” is not covered by current campaign finance regulations.  The final verdict: free speech wins.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that these are just predictions and the longer the Court sits on the opinion, the more free speech suffers.

Read more here, here and here.

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:24 pm
Why Is Geithner Denying Responsibility?
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In an uncharacteristically heated exchange last week at the House Joint Economic Committee, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner astonisingly denied any responsibility for financial decisions that helped trigger our current downturn.

Representative Kevin Brady (R – Texas) recited a litany of Geithner’s errors and concluded, “the public has lost all confidence in your ability to do the job.”  Peering from behind his oversized forehead and beady little eyes, Geithner replied, “what I can’t take responsibility for is the legacy of crises you’ve bequeathed this country.”

On what planet is Geithner living?

This is the man who, in addition to failing to pay federal income taxes, served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  Let’s see…  Chief of the Federal Reserve, driver of the loose money monetary bubble,  in the city that is the financial center of the world, whose speculation and ensuing meltdown sparked the economic downturn… Perhaps he was asleep at his desk throughout his tenure, thereby absolving him from responsibility?

Come to think of it, that might also explain his blatant failure to pay taxes.

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:04 pm
New Application for Counterinsurgency in California?

The California city of Salinas is ready to give counterinsurgency a try because the gang problem is out of control.

In the space of 11 days this year, seven people were murdered in Salinas. Each killing, like the record 25 homicides the previous year, spilled from the gang warfare that this summer pushed the homicide rate in the city of 140,000 to three times that of Los Angeles. Residents retreated indoors at night, and Mayor Dennis Donohue affirmed his decision to seek help from an unlikely source: the U.S. military.

Since February, combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been advising Salinas police on counterinsurgency strategy, bringing lessons from the battlefield to the meanest streets in an American city.

“This is our surge,” said Donohue, who solicited the assistance from the elite Naval Postgraduate School, 20 miles and a world away in Monterey. “When the public heard about this, they thought we were going to send the Navy SEALs into Salinas.”

Not quite. But the lessons learned from General David Petraeus’ successful counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq include the importance of creating trust between citizens and law enforcement. As in Iraq, the people most affected by the violence are suspicious of those charged with protecting them. Changing that dynamic is essential in order to achieve victory. And in order to change the dynamic, Salinas is going to need more boots on the ground so that police can cover more ground while building stronger relationships in the community.

Who knows; maybe if this domestic surge works as well as the one in Iraq, the Obama Administration might stop dithering and go for the win in Afghanistan.

November 23rd, 2009 at 11:33 am
What Was in That Bill?
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Unfortunately for taxpayers, patients and health care professionals, the Senate successfully invoked cloture on its health care plan last Saturday.  With only 60 votes needed to proceed to consideration of the bill, Harry Reid got his 60 votes.

Since few Senators likely read the entire 2,074-page piece of legislation, here’s a quick breakdown, courtesy of Senator Coburn, of what was in the bill.

  • 8 – new taxes created in the bill.
  • 70 – government programs created in the bill.
  • 3,607 – uses of the word “shall.”
  • 24 million – patients left without health care.
  • $494 billion – in new tax hikes.
  • $2.5 trillion – total cost of the legislation.
November 23rd, 2009 at 10:16 am
Let the Propaganda Begin!

In an apparent expression of thanksgiving, a lawyer for one of the five terrorists to be put on trial in New York said that his client and the others are planning to plead “not guilty” in order to “give their assessment about American foreign policy.” And just what might their assessment be?

Their assessment is negative.”

Glad we’re spending millions of dollars to hear that message!  Bear in mind, the accused don’t dispute whether they are responsible for the 9/11 attacks. They just want to “air their criticisms” while standing trial in the world’s media capitol. Perhaps this Thursday we can name the bird Eric Holder in honor of the nation’s #1 turkey.

November 23rd, 2009 at 9:07 am
Morning Links
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November 23rd, 2009 at 2:21 am
Mr. Pitts, Call Your Editor
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Sometimes I think the best way for conservatives to dominate public opinion would be to just get out of the way and let liberals do all the talking.

A good example of this principle can be found in the new column by the Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts. In a defense of Attorney General Holder’s decision to bring Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other Al Qaeda terrorists to trial in civilian courts, Pitts claims that the primary motivation of those opposed to the move is a visceral need for vengeance:

Pitts’ response:

But you have to wonder: Are our emotional needs the most important consideration here?

It’s worth remembering that even the architects of the greatest barbarism in history had their day in court. After burning away 11 million lives, the leaders of the Nazi regime found themselves facing not summary execution, but a trial before a military tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany.

As prosecutor Robert Jackson put it: “That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.”

One little problem. The enlightened example cited by Mr. Pitts was a military tribunal — exactly what KSM and company would have had if the Attorney General hadn’t booked their Manhattan vacation.  Never mind that Nuremberg only took place after World War II had ended …

November 21st, 2009 at 1:11 pm
Real Health Care Reform

Today’s Wall Street Journal profiles Dr. Devi Shetty, an Indian heart surgeon finding a way to deliver quality health care at lower prices.

Dr. Shetty, who entered the limelight in the early 1990s as Mother Teresa’s cardiac surgeon, offers cutting-edge medical care in India at a fraction of what it costs elsewhere in the world. His flagship heart hospital charges $2,000, on average, for open-heart surgery, compared with hospitals in the U.S. that are paid between $20,000 and $100,000, depending on the complexity of the surgery.

The approach has transformed health care in India through a simple premise that works in other industries: economies of scale. By driving huge volumes, even of procedures as sophisticated, delicate and dangerous as heart surgery, Dr. Shetty has managed to drive down the cost of health care in his nation of one billion.

Using economies of scale also allows doctors working at Shetty’s hospital to specialize in specific types of heart ailments by conducting the procedure hundreds, if not thousands, of times. This kind of repetition reduces the risk of something going wrong during surgery, thus leading to better patient outcomes.

When discussing how to reduce costs while maintaining quality, Shetty offers an insight that stands in stark contrast to the “comprehensive” reform of health care currently being pursued by the Democratic Party in America. “What health care needs is process innovation, not product innovation.” Perhaps the best line in the whole article is Shetty’s observation about implementing real, lasting changes that will bend the health care cost curve down. “In health care you can’t do one big thing and reduce the price. We have to do 1,000 small things.” That’s the view helping thousands of poor farmers and their children get better heart health at prices they can afford.

You can read the entire article here.

November 21st, 2009 at 9:36 am
Roland Burris Hit with Dreaded, Devastating Admonition Letter
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In a move sure to raise questions regarding the torture of U.S. Senators by a secretive government cabal, the Senate Ethics Committee has written Senator Roland Burris (D-Ill) a letter. 

The admonishment letter, long argued by advocates of more humane punishment to be the senatorial equivalent of water-boarding, is said to be a “sternly worded rebuke,” from which Burris is unlikely to recover before dinner.

The letter, which took months of closed-door scheming to prepare, cites Burris for “providing incorrect, inconsistent, misleading or incomplete information to the public, the Senate and those conducting legitimate inquiries into your appointment to the Senate [by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich].”

Recognizing the severity of such a letter and attempting to reduce public criticism over the harshness of its language, heretofore reserved for such acts as appearing on the Senate floor with one’s pockets stuffed with $100 bills,  the Senate Ethics Committee recommends no further punishment.

Since Burris has announced that he will not seek re-election, he will be allowed to vote on serious matters affecting the American people and be afforded all Senatorial privileges only through the remainder of his appointed term, which runs until 2010.

November 21st, 2009 at 9:22 am
And You Thought Mary Landrieu Could Be Bought for a Mere $100 Million
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New Orleans Times-Picayune:  “With help from [Senate Majority Leader] Reid, the health care bill provides Louisiana with between $100 million and $300 million in Medicaid financing for fiscal 2011.”

Must have been one of those rounding errors that caused the rest of the mainstream media to report only the lower number.

Harry Reid will get a little back, for himself, not taxpayers, when Landrieu and James Carville host a New Orleans fundraiser for him on December 12 at $4800 a pop.

h/t:  Martin Kady II,

November 20th, 2009 at 2:21 pm
So That’s Why They Call It Climate Change

Unfortunately for Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the Copenhagen crew, it looks like the people in charge of documenting the science that keeps the Left’s green ambitions in bloom have been cooking the books.  In emails and other documents hacked, stolen, and posted from Britain’s Hadley Climatic Research Centre several high profile climatologists discuss ways to “hide the decline” of global temperatures.

One of the first reports on the now publicized documents can be found here.

Update: Here’s a helpful paper (PDF) from the Heartland Institute discussing the use of misleading charts and graphs in the global warming debate.  The reference to “Mike’s Nature trick” in the smoking gun email from Phil Jones is to the famous “hockey stick graph” showing a dramatic uptick in global temperatures.  The discussion in the PDF specifically addresses that graph, among others.

November 20th, 2009 at 2:08 pm
Bad News on Health Care
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Senator Ben Nelson, a key conservative Democrat, has announced that he will vote “yea” on the motion to proceed tomorrow.

Part of his statement:

This weekend, I will vote for the motion to proceed to bring that debate onto the Senate floor. The Senate should start trying to fix a health care system that costs too much and delivers too little for Nebraskans.

Throughout my Senate career I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct. That’s what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about.

According to Politico, this means that the health care bill will likely make it through its first procedural hurdle.  Senator Nelson cited the ability to amend the bill as a reason for his “yea” vote tomorrow, but unless he removes the tax increases, the mandates, the government-run public option, and the thousands of new federal regulations, then any attempt to “amend” the bill will be pointless.

Given his public statement, it’s unlikely that Senator Nelson’s position will change in the next 24 hours, but if you live in Nebraska you can still give him a call and urge him to oppose the Senate’s health care bill.

D.C. Office: 202-224-6551
Kearney Office: 308-293-5918
Lincoln Office: 402-441-4600
Omaha Office: 402-391-3411

You can also call Congress at 202-224-3121 and tell them to vote “No” on tomorrow night’s cloture motion.

November 20th, 2009 at 1:34 pm
Europe’s Harriet Miers

Although it is painful to criticize a fellow name-bearer (no relation), the selection of Britain’s Lady Ashton for European High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – the second most important position in the European Union – is yet another indictment of consensus-driven politics. Who else but a collection of power-protecting politicians would select a person charged with being the international face of European diplomacy of whom this could be written:

Lady Ashton was so unprepared for her “promotion” that she had no speech prepared when she held a press conference with Mr. Van Rompuy (the new European president). She was telephoned to see if she would accept the job once Mr. Brown switched his allegiance to the only other Briton with a chance of capturing one of the prized jobs.

She has been a commissioner for 13 months, since Lord Mandelson was brought back to the Cabinet. She has been Leader of the House of Lords but has no experience as a foreign minister and has never been elected. Mr. Brown said the appointment showed Britain was “at the heart of the future of Europe” and was leading the way in extending women’s representation.

In the span of a month, Britain went from defending the candidacies of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and current Foreign Secretary David Miliband to promoting a Trade Commissioner who has never won a single vote.  Hey, at least the nation is leading the way in extending women’s representation!  Good grief.

November 20th, 2009 at 12:17 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out.  For those readers who don’t receive it in their e-mail inboxes or if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, below is a summary of its contents:

Senik:  The Obama Doctrine – Bend at the Waist
Lee:  Obama Administration Imitates Hugo Chavez on Internet
CFIF Staff:  Dear Senior Citizens, Part Three
Batkins:  President Obama’s Fictional Job Factory
Ellis:  When Illegal Aliens Take Over the House, Courtesy of the U.S. Senate  

Freedom Minute Video:  Climate of Fear
Podcast:  The Fight Continues Over Lawsuit Abuse – Interview with Ted Frank
Jester’s Courtroom:  Fleeing Suspect Sues Police

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update, sign up here.

November 20th, 2009 at 10:48 am
Health Care Votes for Sale: $100 Million a Pop

It’s a well known fact that Majority Leader Harry Reid is scrambling to find the 60 votes necessary to move his government-run health care bill to the Senate floor.  Indeed, Reid is doing everything in his power to “encourage” the three or four Democrats supposedly on the fence to vote “yea” tomorrow night on the motion to proceed on the legislation.

And when we say everything, we mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reports:

On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for “certain states recovering from a major disaster.” 

The section spends two pages defining which “states” would qualify, saying, among other things, that it would be states that “during the preceding 7 fiscal years” have been declared a “major disaster area.” 

I am told the section applies to exactly one state:  Louisiana, the home of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has been playing hard to get on the health care bill.

In other words, the bill spends two pages describing [what] could be written with a single world:  Louisiana.

The price tag for this provision?  Karl writes, “According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.”

Read the full story, complete with the actual bill language, here.

November 20th, 2009 at 9:13 am
Morning Links
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New York TimesA Tilt Away from Social Issues
Charles KrauthammerA Travesty in New York
The HillGAO Finds Flaws in Stimulus Data
Washington ExaminerGoogle-Funded Net Neutrality
PoliticoGOP Governors Eye Big 2010 Gains
National Review OnlineThe Health Care Vote
Roll CallReport Shows Most Bills Subject to Cloture Pass

Federal Debt: $12.013 trillion

November 19th, 2009 at 7:38 pm
The Day the Climate Stood Still

Apologies for the misleading headline.  According to recent reports by climatologists, it’s actually been several years since the globe we call Earth ceased warming.  Although many global warming alarmists are at a loss to explain how a supposedly constant increase in global temperature could stop without warning (and just before a conference to fund its decrease), that doesn’t mean the cause for the sudden cessation is unknown.  In fact, the real head scratcher here is how the mainstream media missed the obvious reason for winning the war on climate change.

Since at least 1970, Ed Begley, Jr. has waged a one man war for the environment.  That year he bought his first electric car and celebrated the first Earth Day.  As detailed in an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Begley is SERIOUS about his eco-responsibilities.  He cooks food in a solar oven that “sits in the yard and gets up to about 375 degrees on a sunny day.”  When he dies he wants to put his 205 pounds of organic matter to good use.  “I want to be buried with a cardboard box and a sheet and put in the earth.”  After all, we come from the earth, and return to the earth, right?

But life for an eco-warrior and global warming stopper isn’t just about capping your cooking temperatures and trading in your coffin.  There are hassles too.  According to Begley, the worst thing about being green is “when you don’t have a recycling bin nearby and you have to carry garbage around in your car to get it home.”  That would be the two bedroom, one and a half bath home he shares with his wife and daughter.  It’s also the one he’s plowed steady sums of money into adding a bevy of cutting-edge technologies to reduce his carbon footprint.

So while the climatologists scramble to fix their computer models and the diplomats try to convince each other that spending for a warmer day is still needed (if not necessary), remember the man who through eco-mortification and carbon penance became the green hued saint that saved the planet.  (Until it starts warming again…)

November 19th, 2009 at 6:09 pm
Pelosi-Nomics: Decrease Opportunities, Increase Costs

An opportunity cost is a term used in economics to identify the next-best-option you didn’t choose. For example, if a person has $20 and buys a book instead of a CD, the opportunity cost is the foregone CD. Of course, in order to have an opportunity cost, you need an opportunity to choose. One of the arguments against enhancing an already heavy tax burden on high-end earners is that many of them will move to other, less oppressive countries. If regulations of Wall Street pile up too high, the best and brightest will go to London or Hong Kong. In that scenario, the opportunity cost would be choosing not to live in America.

But where economists see rational behavior enabled by choices, Democrats usually see greed propelled by self-interest. Thus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is making it clear she intends to increase the costs of financial transactions by eliminating a financier’s opportunities to live and work in less taxed locales. How? By mandating a global tax that would remove any incentive for highly skilled workers to relocate overseas.

Any tax imposed on financial transactions would have to take effect internationally to prevent Wall Street jobs and related business moving overseas, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.

“It would have to be an international rule, not just a U.S. rule,” Pelosi said at a news conference. “We couldn’t do it alone, we’d have to do it as an international initiative.”

True, bringing all financial transactions under a universal system of regulation would take care of the “problem” of people trying to avoid confiscatory taxation. On the other hand, it also decreases the likelihood that highly motivated people will be able to create wealth through the financial system. Once again, with one notable exception, the modern Democratic Party is about as anti-choice as a collection of policy makers can be.

November 19th, 2009 at 5:36 pm
Another Saturday Night Health Care Vote
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This time, the Senate has scheduled a midnight vote on health care, when the nation will once again be engaging in less destructive activities, like watching college football.

According to Senate sources, the actual vote on cloture will take place around 8:00 this Saturday night.  If the cloture motion garners 60 votes, then it will only take 51 Senators to pass the final version, and all indications are that Democrats have at least 55 votes to pass the health care bill.

The Senate will actually begin its Saturday session in the morning, so citizens have all day to lobby against the largest government takeover of health care in history.

You can call Congress at 202-224-3121 and tell them to vote “No” on the Senate’s health care bill.  Don’t let moderates off of the hook.   A vote for cloture is a vote for final passage of the bill.

Indications are that at least two Democrats are hesitant to support the legislation but it is up to taxpayers across the country to keep the pressure on moderate Senators.