Archive for February, 2010
February 27th, 2010 at 11:42 pm
Representative John Smoltz?

Be on the lookout for another interesting congressional race, this time in Georgia.  Today’s announcement by Rep. John Linder that he won’t seek reelection is fueling speculation that former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz might be tossing his baseball cap in the political ring.  Besides throwing a wicked fastball, Smoltz is an Evangelical Christian who is a legendary competitor in everything he does.  If he does decide to run, he’ll run to win – hard.

February 27th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
Mossad Assassins Unmasked by Dubai CCTV

In case you missed it, Israel’s Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations (Mossad) has been accused of carrying out an elaborate assassination of Hamas’ military leader in a Dubai hotel.  Though the hit was a success because the target was killed, ordinarily it is considered a failure if the perpetrators’ identities are discovered.  According to a former CIA agent writing in The Wall Street Journal, the operation was executed flawlessly save for one new wrinkle that the agents apparently didn’t anticipate: closed-circuit television (CCTV).

I can only speculate about where exactly the hit went wrong. But I would guess the assassins failed to account for the marked advance in technology. Not only were there closed-circuit TV cameras in the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated and at the airport, but Dubai has at its fingertips the best security consultants in the world. The consultants merely had to run advanced software through all of Dubai’s digital data before, during and after the assassination to connect the assassins in time and place.

Nearly every public space in the developed world features “eyes in the sky” connected to CCTV feeds monitored by either private security personnel or government agents.  Though unpopular with citizens, governments love cameras because they increase Big Brother’s presence while reducing manpower.  Maybe that’s why Britain has more CCTV installations than China.  Usually, the primary justification for using CCTV is that it protects society from dangerous individuals.  How ironic it is that the best all this surveillance can do is identify a group after it kills an individual.  Now, with Dubai police releasing headshots of the hit squad, it looks like as many as 26 Israeli agents will need to find a new line of work.

However, Mossad shouldn’t have any problem finding replacements.  Media coverage of the assassination has touched off “Mossad mania” in Israel with the agency receiving record agent applications and stores selling out of its memorabilia.  Even when technology makes caps success at a one hit wonder, there will always be plenty of people offering themselves as the next James Bond.

February 26th, 2010 at 4:06 pm
Video: A Deficit of Trust

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the facade that is the administration’s debt-reduction commission and, specifically, how appointing a panel of has-been politicians to give Washington cover for tax hikes is not exactly a profile in courage.



February 26th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
DHS Loses 1,000 Computers a Year; Department Not Worried

Thanks to a report by Colorado’s Independence Institute based on FOIA requests, we now know that the Department of Homeland Security loses about 1,000 computers a year.  You read that right.  And DHS has absolutely no idea where they are.  Fear not, though, because a department spokesman assures an incredulous public that no one is at risk because there wasn’t any sensitive information on the lost computers.

Assuming that’s true, then why did DHS need the computers in the first place?  If there is nothing particularly important stored on the computers such that losing 1,000 of them in one year doesn’t impede DHS’s ability to secure the homeland, why spend taxpayer money on them?  Maybe that money could be better spent on other programs that help prevent another undie-bomber.  You know, something that helps the system “work.”

H/T: World Net Daily

February 26th, 2010 at 2:12 pm
Charlie Crist to Run as an Independent?

That’s the rumor coming out of Florida Republican circles and RedState’s Erick Erickson.  Not that such a move would be too much of a surprise since Crist is still the sitting governor of Florida and is losing by 18% to former state house speaker, Marco Rubio.  He needs something to spice up his campaign, and going rogue would certainly do it.  The question is, though, what kind of voter would Crist try to attract once he became un-tethered from a political party?

This isn’t the same scenario that faced Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) when he ran as an independent after losing the Connecticut Democratic primary to Ned Lamont in 2006.  There, netroots activists took over the election and alienated much of Lieberman’s comparatively moderate base.  Lieberman was also aided by some not so subtle help from the Bush Administration seeing the Iraq War supporter as an ally on foreign affairs.  Neither factor is present in this year’s Florida U.S. Senate race.  Not only is Rubio building the kind of following that could deliver a decisive victory among Republicans and Independents, there is no indication that the Obama Administration will coordinate with Crist to the detriment of the likely Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek.

If Crist truly is considering leaving the GOP, he should instead “suspend” his campaign and concentrate on ending his one term as governor on as good a note as possible.  Otherwise, he’ll do further damage to his reputation while simultaneously wasting Floridians time and money on an ill-conceived vanity tour.

February 26th, 2010 at 12:43 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:  Deficits Are a Symptom … Not the Disease
Lee:  Obama’s “Hope” – The New Tramp Stamp of Political Decals
Humber:  Visions of Our Government-Controlled Medical Future, With or Without ObamaCare

Freedom Minute Video:  A Deficit of Trust
Podcast:  The Administration’s Missteps
Jester’s Courtroom:  Hockey Players in Penalty Box for Attending Olympics

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.

February 26th, 2010 at 10:36 am
Yesterday’s Healthcare Summit Did Accomplish Something
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Many political pundits immediately labeled yesterday’s healthcare summit a failure simply because it failed to result in some misplaced compromise.  But that is too narrow a perspective.  For conservatives and libertarians, the conference actually served a positive purpose.

Pardon our cynicism, but Barack Obama’s purpose in convening the conference was not to consider opponents’ legitimate points or data.  Despite Democrats’ baseless “party of ‘no'” broadsides, multiple Republican alternatives to ObamaCare have been readily available for months for all to see.  Rather, Obama’s goal was to once again ascend the stage and provide yet another “last and final” lecture to Americans on the wisdom of ObamaCare.  After all, he revealed his opinion on why his efforts had failed so far when he absurdly stated in his State of the Union address that, “I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.”

Thus, as liberals almost invariably do, Obama mischaracterized his failure as one of tactics or communication to the plodding American electorate, rather than one of defective policy.

Obama remains under the strange impression that all he needs to do is take the stage once again to cast his magical spell, and the fawning media reflexively praises him every time.  His September healthcare speech to a joint session of Congress, his State of the Union address and his recent appearance before a Republican Congressional gathering are the latest examples.  But if he is such an effective persuader and communicator, why does he keep having to repeat the same tired points?

That brings us to the reason why yesterday’s summit was a success for opponents of the ObamaCare takeover.  Namely, that Obama not only failed to dazzle the assembled opposition, but actually got schooled.  As just one example, Obama attempted to scold Senator Lamar Alexander (R – Tennessee) by saying, “this is an example of where we’ve got to get our facts straight.”  A short time later, Obama was forced to admit that ~he~ was the one whose “facts weren’t straight.”  Moreover, Obama clearly appeared petulant and flustered, and avoided even attempting to battle rising Republican Congressional superstar Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin) on Ryan’s substantive data and argument.

Meanwhile, the American people were able to witness the avalanche of reasons why ObamaCare is a toxic proposal.  For that reason, yesterday was a victory for conservatives and libertarians who oppose Obama’s healthcare boondoggle, and a loss for those seeking to impose it.

February 26th, 2010 at 9:38 am
Ramirez Cartoon: After the ObamaCare Summit

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

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

February 26th, 2010 at 2:29 am
Breaking the Iron Triangle of Health Care
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During today’s health care summit at Blair House, Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso (an orthopedic surgeon by trade) dropped the jaws of Democrats in attendance by declaring that individuals who only have “catastrophic care” health insurance (which Democrats had been spent all day citing as a moral failure) often make better medical decisions than people with more comprehensive plans. Barasso’s reason was simple — these consumers actually have to consider the cost of their treatments.

Though President Obama and Congressman Henry Waxman were quick to ridicule Barasso, he got to a truth that is at the very root of meaningful health care reform: the system can’t work as long as consumers are being insulated from costs.

Two economic maxims suffice to make the point: (1) “If you’re paying, I’ll have the steak” — There is no incentive to keep your spending under control when someone else is footing the bill (2) “No one washes a rental car” — Ownership is the best motivation for vigilance, because if something goes wrong, you’ll be the one eating the costs. Having someone else shield you from health care expenditures only weakens your incentive to be vigilant in regard to your own well-being

Earlier in the day’s proceedings, Obama and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois rained on the tort reform parade by claiming that the $5 billion a year that could be saved by reforming the malpractice system would be a drop in the $2 trillion health care bucket (as an aside, I’ve always thought this is a bizarre rationale — how can anyone expect to realize large savings if they ignore all the incremental savings that will get them there?). Yet if tort reform was too picayune, why are Democrats ignoring Barrasso’s point, which got to the heart of what drives health care costs through the roof?

The problem with modern health care is that is built on a triangular model. In most cases, one person pays for the care (an employer), one person consumes the care (the patient) and one person provides the care (the doctor). This is a recipe for unhappiness and inflation, because the person who consumes is unaccountable to the person that pays, and the person that provides is unaccountable to the person they provide for (Harvard’s Regina Herzlinger has been invaluable on this point).

The Republican talking point is that health care needs to be reformed in small, incremental chunks. That may be a sound legislative strategy, but it’s not true as a matter of policy. The system needs to be fundamentally reformed and placed on a consumer-driven basis (and yes, conservatives, you can learn from Europe — Switzerland has a pretty good model. If you’re really in the mood for right-wing apostasy take a gander at Whole Foods’ ideas too). Subsidies are always going to be necessary for the indigent, but more far-reaching government control is not the answer. Comprehensive reform that makes health care market-driven is.

February 26th, 2010 at 12:41 am
Digital Kneecapping

If you or someone you know has attended a public and/or secular university in the last few decades, you’ve probably heard about the leftward tilt in the academy.  Some propose an Academic Bill of Rights requiring professors and schools to teach all sides of an issue instead of whatever uniformly diverse viewpoint has been approved by ‘60s radicals masquerading as accreditation agencies.  Others – like Gary North – have a different method for overcoming liberal classroom bias: “digital kneecapping.”

As explained by North in this article, digital kneecapping is a process where a conservative or libertarian college student can use a blog, some subject matter expertise, and a little community organizing to turn the tables on a holier-than-thou professor.

1. Set up a blog site that allows interaction (a forum).

2. Post key questions on the blog. Refer to your confusion. “If he is saying that, then how can we explain this?” Provide the summary of your position. Provide links to supporting data. Do not attack him. Undermine confidence in him.

3. Once you have a few questions posted, hand out a card before class begins. Have the site’s address on the card. Invite others to share their views.

4. Position this blog as a discussion group in which each person helps the others to do better in class. It’s a joint effort to pass the course.

5. If he is forcing mindless regurgitation on exams, ask if others have experienced lower grades for not doing this. Ask what the best way is to give him what he wants, even though what he is saying seems so one-sided. (The phrase one-sided is a killer in academia, where one-sidedness is universally practiced, and is also universally disparaged as not conforming to the search for truth.)

6. If word gets out to the department chairman that he is not playing fair, he has a big problem — not because he is not playing fair, but because he has been caught and is being exposed where the Administration can see this. The Administration worries about alumni, who might quit donating if the media find out. This is kneecapping.

7. He can respond on the forum. He then deals with you as the top gun; it’s your forum, not his. He comes to it on your terms. He has never had to do this with students. He has played the toady with his superiors to get where he is. He has never had to do this with mere students. This puts him on the defensive. It forces him to defend his ideas and his behavior. You cannot believe the pain this inflicts.

8. If he ignores your site, you can slice him up, piece by piece, day by day, after each lecture. This is not kneecapping. This is death by a thousand cuts.

For my part, I’ll take North’s approach over a legally imposed “Academic Bill of Rights” any day.  The spring semester is still young, so get those blogs rolling!

February 25th, 2010 at 11:56 pm
It Really Is Terrible Being the Smartest Person in the Room

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Broadcast News has a news executive sarcastically telling Holly Hunter’s character that it must be great being the smartest person in the room. On the brink of tears, Hunter confesses the truth: “No; it’s terrible!”

Such is the fate of Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States and occasional scold of congressional Republicans. In case you missed it, President Obama hosted handpicked members of representatives and senators at Blair House today to discuss health care “reform.” After watching the morning session of the seven-hour long affair, Yuval Levin offered this observation about the president’s most recent foray into legislative deliberation.

But he doesn’t seem like the President of the United States—more like a slightly cranky committee chairman or a patronizing professor who thinks that saying something is “a legitimate argument” is a way to avoid having an argument. He is diminished by the circumstances, he’s cranky and prickly when challenged, and he’s got no one to help him. The other Democrats around the table have been worse than unimpressive.

Among other things that could be said, the president doesn’t come across as the kind of guy anyone would want to have a beer with. Coupled with his condescending use of other people’s first names when they would not dare break protocol to call him Barry, the president increasingly looks like what he may very well be: a smarter-than-everyone-else-in-the-room jerk.

February 25th, 2010 at 6:11 pm
The Skunk in the Room at the Health Care Summit
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Today’s Health Care Summit was conveniently set up to be a clash of Democratic versus Republican ideas, plans, proposals, largely positioning the Republicans as obstructionists.

But the animal in the room was not an elephant, but a skunk.

The fact, now seemingly long since forgotten, is that the U.S. Senate has passed its version of health care reform.  If the House of Representatives simply passes the Senate bill as is, and the President, who crafted his most recent plan largely on the Senate bill, signs it, then the game is over, and the Democrats’ Senate bill becomes law.

But just as Senate Republicans did not have the votes (at the time) to stop the Senate bill, House Republicans do not have the votes to stop the House from enacting the Senate bill.

The obstruction is now and has been House Democrats, who will not accept the Senate bill.

People should just remember that as the attacks on “obstruction” continue.

February 25th, 2010 at 1:48 pm
159 Ways ObamaCare Is a Government Takeover of Health Care

During today’s White House Health Care Summit, President Obama continues to insist that his plan to reform the nation’s health care system is not a government takeover of health care. 

Countering the president’s claim, the Senate Republican Policy Committee released a list of 159 new boards, bureaucracies and programs created in the Senate-passed bill, which serves as the framework for President Obama’s “new” health care proposal, a summary of which was released earlier this week.

View the entire RPC list here.

February 25th, 2010 at 1:31 pm
On Health Care, Are Washington Politicians Clueless or Do They Just Not Care?

As President Obama and certain Members of Congress continue with their health care dog-and-pony show today, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey is out confirming what should already be obvious to all politicians in Washington:  The health care bills under current consideration are about as popular as Congress itself.

As CNN reports it:

Twenty-five percent of people questioned in the poll say Congress should pass legislation similar to the bills passed by both chambers, with 48 percent saying lawmakers should work on an entirely new bill and a quarter saying Congress should stop all work on health care reform.”

In politics, those numbers amount to near universal opposition.   But we digress.

February 25th, 2010 at 12:43 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Health Care Summit

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

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

February 24th, 2010 at 2:53 pm
Holy Cao! Moderate Dems Take Note…

The Associated Press reports:

The lone Republican lawmaker to support Democratic health care legislation has seen his fundraising drop by nearly 40 percent since his vote, and he is quickly burning through a dwindling bank account after resorting to a costly national fundraising operation.”

That “lone Republican lawmaker” is Joseph Cao of Louisiana.  Obama won Cao’s district in 2008 with 75% of the vote.

Hey all you so-called “moderate” Dems seeking reelection in November:  Still think it’s a good idea to vote “Yes” on ObamaCare?

February 24th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama at Waterloo

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

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

February 24th, 2010 at 10:23 am
Net Neutrality: Get Out of the Way, Bureaucrats
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In an op-ed publish today by The Daily Caller, CFIF’s Jeffrey Mazzella and Timothy Lee warn that proposed “Net Neutrality” rules being considered by President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission threaten to stifle Internet innovation and cut off tens of billions of dollars in private investment  in the deployment of high-speed broadband networks. 

Thanks to private investments of $60 billion or more annually by Internet service providers, the World Wide Web has blossomed over the past decade into a tool that most Americans use daily to access news, information and entertainment. We also use it to communicate with family and friends, to share photos with loved ones, and for education and civic participation purposes. The Internet drives increased commerce and promises efficiencies in the healthcare and energy sectors. It motivates new innovation and jobs on a pace that continues to surpass our collective imagination.

All this has been made possible primarily because the Internet has remained largely unregulated. Its growth and development have been gated not by federal bureaucrats, but rather by users’ individual wants, needs and dreams.

But all of that could change if net neutrality regulations are put in place. …

Read the full piece here.

Join the fight to stop the government takeover of the Internet here.

February 24th, 2010 at 1:11 am
Why Son of Stimulus is a Bad Idea
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With five Republicans voting for cloture in the Senate– Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Kit Bond, George Voinovich, and (surprise!) Scott Brown — we should expect the Congress to pass its new “jobs bill” this week (in reality, this is like a 100-calorie pack version of the stimulus).

It’s not surprising that some Republicans are feeling the pressure to get behind this legislation. The perennial temptation in times of economic crisis is to get behind anything that seems like it could make a difference. This is not that piece of legislation.

Let’s start with the basics: At $15 billion, this package could be financed with what’s between the cushions of the sofas in the Oval Office. But that’s still $15 billion in new debt that can’t be justified without a commensurate kick to the economy. This package can’t deliver that kick.

The big hooks for Republicans are going to be the exemption from payroll taxes for new employees through the rest of the year and the $1,000 tax credit for new employees who are retained for a year. These provisions will have positive economic effects, but they will be very subtle. Because this bill only aims to jumpstart the employment side of the market without addressing broader economic conditions, it will make it slightly cheaper to hire new employees, but won’t create enough economic activity to justify employers adding many new hires to their payrolls. As with the similar plan that was tried during the Carter years, this most likely means that the majority of the benefits will go to hires that would have been made with or without the package. Given the limited time horizon of the bill, we should also expect its net effects to be similar to “Cash for Clunkers” — that is, just moving up hiring decisions instead of changing the fundamentals behind them.

The other provisions are no more impressive. This package will subsidize further borrowing by local and state governments, which only continues the sugar-high spending that simply can’t be sustained even in the best of economic times. And while infrastructure spending is certainly a legitimate function of government, it’s hard to sell as a strategy for increasing employment. After all, the mark of good infrastructure development — quick, efficient construction — is fundamentally at odds with the idea of creating jobs that are meant to endure for the long-term.

This certainly isn’t the worst piece of legislation to come out of the Age of Obama, but it also isn’t much more than a placebo. Until Washington begins to focus on shrinking the size of government, however, we shouldn’t expect the prescription to change much.

February 23rd, 2010 at 5:33 pm
The Strange Case of Rashad Hussain: How Many Fools Does It Take To Spoil a Cover-up?
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Not so many if the White House is involved.

The White House has named Rashad Hussain, a White House lawyer, to be envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference (which requires no Senate confirmation).

But Hussain said in 2004 that Sami al-Arian, the notorious Florida college professor, was the victim of “politically motivated persecutions,” even though al-Arian subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to aid a terrorist group.

The White House claimed the comments weren’t made by Hussain, but by al-Arian’s daughter, as did the publication that had originally reported the comments as Hussain’s but later strangely edited them out.

Finally, Hussain himself admitted the comments, which he described as “ill conceived or not well formulated,” (sometimes referred to as the “I was mistaken when I said Hitler wasn’t all bad” defense).

Okay, teeny tiny cover-up aborted as it was heating up.  But here’s the real question:  President Obama was editor of Harvard’s law review and Hussain an editor of Yale’s.  Were both too busy at those prestigious positions to take their respective law schools’ ethics courses?