February 22, 2008

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘The Perils of Socialized Healthcare’) Is Up

(Carried to the top Friday evening to shed light on a disclosure non-controversy. See UPDATE.)

It’s here. I will post it at BizzyBlog on Sunday morning under a different title with the same content when the blackout lifts.

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UPDATE, 10:30 p.m. — A PJM reader has drawn attention in a comment at the PJM post to the fact that I have done business with three pharmaceutical companies, and thus must have a “conflict of interest” that might cause me to rail against socialized medicine so that those companies might benefit from the overwhelming weight of my advocacy.

This commenter did not correspond with me for clarification, but instead attempted to get me into hot water by just throwing a comment out there (there’s a word for that: gutless). I do not know who this person “Ray” is, but earlier this evening I responded to PJM management, which concluded based on what I presented that any kind of disclosure or disclaimer is unnecessary.

In case anyone is still awake, I haven’t made any presentations or developed any educational programs for employees at the named companies since 2005 (though it would be nice if that changed). During that time, I was never paid directly by those companies, but instead served as a sub-sub-contractor (in fact, they are identified as “clients of other trainers” on the relevant page at MonetaryMatters.com. To wit, I have never had a direct business relationship with those companies. Further details beyond these would bore readers to tears.

Reuters Uses Trumped-Up 2004 Story to Support Obama Military Equipment Claim

In an attempt to salvage some degree of credibility for presidential candidate Barack Obama’s assertions about military equipment shortages, Reuters reporter Andrew Gray went back to a long-discredited claim planted by a local Tennessee reporter, and resurrected a Donald Rumsfeld quote that was not relevant to his story topic.

First, Gray went to what Obama claimed, and how the Pentagon responded:

During the face-to-face encounter on Thursday evening, Obama said he had heard from an Army captain whose unit had served in Afghanistan without enough ammunition or vehicles.

Obama said it was easier for the troops to capture weapons from Taliban militants than it was “to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief,” President George W. Bush.

“I find that account pretty hard to imagine,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

“Despite the stress that we readily acknowledge on the force, one of the things that we do is make sure that all of our units and service members that are going into harm’s way are properly trained, equipped and with the leadership to be successful,” he said.

Whitman’s remarks were unusual as the Pentagon often declines to talk about comments from political campaigns.

Rough translation of the way-too-polite Pentagonese: Baloney claims like this are rarely raised by politicians, but this one was so out there we had to debunk it.

Gray then attempted to portray Obama’s claim as part of a longstanding pattern:

Military equipment shortages have been a big U.S. political issue, particularly in the early years of the Iraq war.

A U.S. soldier confronted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the topic in Kuwait in 2004, complaining that troops were forced to dig up scrap metal to protect their vehicles because the military did not have enough armor.

Rumsfeld famously replied that “you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time” — a remark that drew widespread criticism.

Gray conveniently “forgot” to inform readers that the soldier who “confronted” Rumsfeld was a National Guardsman coached by Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts, who later bragged about what he did in an e-mail.

The truth, of course, is more complicated than Gray’s last few paragraphs would lead you to believe, and casts the military’s attention to readiness in a more favorable light, as this December 2004 post at 2Slick’s Forum indicates (bold is mine; italics is 2Slick’s):

The only thing unusual about this particular “town hall meeting” was the fact that the press was invited. My coworkers and I wondered aloud about the wisdom of this decision, and I still can’t really see the logic there. The only thing I can think of is that the SECDEF intended to show that he has nothing to hide- sort of like a “full public disclosure” kind of thing. The problem with this is obvious. When the cameras are rolling and a soldier stands up and asks why the military isn’t doing anything to properly equip him for war, guess what happens? That’s right- the media machine immediately establishes a new “truth”- in this case it’s that the military is not equipping the force. Absolutely no effort is made to fact-check the soldier- his word is taken as pure gospel.

….. What SPC Wilson might not be aware of (at his level)- is that all vehicles that drive north into Iraq are required to have “level 3″ armor protection. If a vehicle does not meet this standard, it will not be driven up north- it will be carried on a flatbed truck. Once in Iraq, armored vehicles are used for driving off post, and unarmored vehicles are used for driving around on post. This policy is put out to each unit’s commanders well before the unit even arrives to Kuwait.

2Slick also mentioned that there was a significant ramp-up in production of needed vehicles in progress at the time. It turns out that additional vehicles were not produced as quickly as desired during the next few years. But the idea that soldiers weren’t, and aren’t, being provided the best of what was, and is, available is absurd — as is Grey’s reference back to the December 2004 incident, and Rumsfeld’s “famous reply,” as some kind of evidence that Obama had a valid point earlier this week.

The Pentagon has as much as said that Obama doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and what Gray dredged up from 2004 doesn’t change that.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, Feb. 23: Oh, this headline from Rusty at My Pet Jawa is great — “ABC ‘Fact Checks’ by Quoting Same Unamed Source as Obama” — as is his post. ABC’s Jack Tapper, who has his lucid moments, was apparently so relieved that the guy BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) referred to actually exists — as opposed to, say, certain characters in one of Obama’s books — that he had no skepticism about what he had to say. MPJ has quite a few pick-aparts.

UPDATE, Feb. 24: My head hurts after this from Confederate Yankee

We then find out that when this officer “didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough humvees,” he was referring to practice ammunition for two kinds of heavy weapons while in Fort Drum, New York.

That’s about 6,500 miles or so from Afghanistan. Other than that, the related claim by Obama holds up (/sarcasm).

UPDATE, Feb. 26: Here’s a big “so what?” from NPR brought to may attention by a commenter:

Gen. George Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, said Tuesday he has no reason to doubt Barack Obama’s recent account by an Army captain that a rifle platoon in Afghanistan didn’t have enough soldiers or weapons. But he questioned the assertion that the shortages prevented the troops from doing their job.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Casey said the incident would have occurred in 2003 and 2004 following the Iraq invasion. He said he remembers it as a “difficult time” trying to rush armor and other equipment to the troops.

The bolded text is where I’m leaving it. The central point of my post was that a Reuters reporter went back to yet another bogus 2004-related matter to support Obama’s assertion, which is at best half-true, and, if it didn’t affect troops’ abilities to do their jobs, is totally ….. bleeping ….. irrelevant.

Obama didn’t mention that what he was wasting the world’s time with in last week’s debate was something 4-5 years old that has no known bearing on current affairs. I’m not going to waste another minute on it, lest we waste yet more time a discussion over whether troops were prepared at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, which is why comments on this post have been closed.

AP Reporter’s Indicted Pol Writeups Differ Sharply (Renzi vs. Jefferson)

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:09 pm

There is no need to play the parlor game, "What party is this person a member of?" with this Associated Press story by Lara Jakes Jordan (Feb. 23 Note: The original link from AP’s hosted.ap.org site was changed; the story link now goes to Jordan’s story carried at SignOnSanDiego.com. Jordan’s report has been saved for future reference at BizzyBlog’s host for fair use and discussion purposes):

Congressman Charged in Land Deal

Republican Rep. Rick Renzi was indicted Friday on charges of extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other matters in an Arizona land swap scam that allegedly helped him collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs.

A 26-page federal indictment unsealed in Tucson, Ariz., accuses Renzi and two former business partners of embezzlement and conspiring to promote the sale of land that buyers could swap for property owned by the federal government.

….. Renzi is the Arizona chairman for GOP presidential front-runner Sen. John McCain’s campaign. McCain seemed surprised when asked in Indianapolis for his reaction to the indictment, choosing his words carefully, shaking his head and speaking slowly.

The instant party identification of an indicted politician would be perfectly acceptable, if Ms. Jordan were consistent. But she is not.

As NewsBusters’ Lynn Davidson noted last year, Jordan’s story on the indictment of Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) made no direct reference to his party affiliation (the standalone undated print version is here with Lara Jakes’s byline; the indicated authors of the same story dated June 4, 2007 are Lara Jakes Jordan and Matthew Barakat).

Jordan instead required curious readers to make it to the ninth paragraph, and then to infer that Jefferson must be a member of the same party as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

Louisiana congressman William Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and sought millions more in nearly a dozen separate schemes to enrich himself by using his office to broker business deals in Africa, according to a federal indictment Monday.

The charges came almost two years after investigators raided Jefferson’s home in Washington and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer.

The indictment lists 16 counts, including racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 235 years.

He is the first U.S. official to face charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits corporate bribery overseas.

Jefferson, through his lawyer, claimed innocence. He will be arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

….. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to push this week for Jefferson to be stripped of his seat on the Small Business Committee, according to a leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not yet been announced.

“If these charges are proven true, they constitute an egregious and unacceptable abuse of public trust and power,” said Pelosi, D-Calif. “Democrats are committed to upholding a high ethical standard and eliminating corruption and unethical behavior from the Congress.”

One would hope that identifying an alleged perpetrator’s party affiliation early on, regardless of the party involved, will become a habit for Ms. Jordan. Excuse me if I doubt this will happen.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (022208)

CNN = Castro News Network. Sources: Michael Graham, Babalu Blog, NewsBusters.

Never forget this e-mail, which Babalu got hold of in full:

From: Flexner, Allison
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:46 AM
To: *CNN Superdesk (TBS)
Cc: Neill, Morgan; Darlington, Shasta
Subject: Castro guidance

Some points on Castro – for adding to our anchor reads/reporting:
* Please say in our reporting that Castro stepped down in a letter he wrote to Granma (the communist party daily), as opposed to in a letter attributed to Fidel Castro. We have no reason to doubt he wrote his resignation letter, he has penned numerous articles over the past year and a half.
* Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba – namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration. in addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech.
* Also the Cuban government blames a lot of Cuba’s economic problems on the US embargo, and while that has caused some difficulties, (far less so than the collapse of the Soviet Union) the bulk of Cuba’s economic problems are due to Cuba’s failed economic polices. Some analysts would say the US embargo was a benefit to Castro politically – something to blame problems on, by what the Cubans call “the imperialist,” meddling in their affairs.
* While despised by some, he is seen as a revolutionary hero, especially with leftist in Latin America, for standing up to the United States.

Any questions, please call the international desk.

Allison

Just like CNN’s Eason Jordan in Iraq while Saddam Hussein ruled: Access at any price. They’ve learned nothing. Heck, they actually think they’re doing the right thing.

Graham asks: “Gee, I wonder if a similar email went out at CNN when Ronald Reagan died?”

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Virtual non-news from Pakistan — Islamist parties that gave free rein to the Taliban were ousted (HT AJ Strata) in the just-completed elections. A Google News search last night using the first sentence of the artci reported 128 articles; a story really isn’t getting wide coverage unless it’s getting hundreds more articles than that. I don’t believe the TV nets have touched it at all.

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ABC News/WaPo Poll, via AP — About nine days after polling with a high-teens lead, Hillary Clinton is now up by only 7 (50-43) in Ohio over the candidate I often refer to as BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama).

Oh, and Texas is a dead heat (HT Hot Air).

I believe Mrs. Clinton will lose by at least 5 in both states on March 4. Double-digit losses will not surprise me.

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An interesting perspective from Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media on the national debt (go to link for related graph):

Put it into individual terms: for a family of four, this puts their share of the national wealth at around $1.2 million, and their share of the national debt at about $648 thousand; or, just to make the comparison more glaring, about $0.648 million.

Even potentially more interesting, look at where the inflection points happened: the national net worth started to decline as the recession start(ed), in 2000, along with the .com bust. When does it start to go up again? At about the time the Bush tax cuts came into full effect.

What else happened about that time? Why, the Iraq War, of course. So, somehow with all the expenses of the war and all, national net worth is increasing, and has been since the war started.

Remember this the next time someone tells you how the Iraq War is sapping our national wealth.

That’s a little too flip for me, but there is an important nugget of truth in here. Asset values are based largely on expectations. To the extent that terrorists are defeated (or are at least kept at comfortable distance and/or thwarted in their attempts to do harm), and the homeland is kept safe (and, where it’s in our interests, keep other parts of the world accessible), our military props up asset values, and the economy. If we ever had a couple of additional “successful” terrorist attacks on US soil, and coupled that with an ongoing belief that occasional “successes” will continue to occur indefinitely, you would see asset values nosedive.

I do think the national debt has been allowed to grow way too large, and that it needs to be seriously dealt with. But Martin is correct that focusing on net worth is important. Especially because our national debt is so high/too high, we can’t afford to blow it overseas, as a war loss-driven major decline in asset values could wipe out the net worth.

Those who want to point out that there are billions in entitlement liabilities over and above the national debt Martin dealt with only make the point that asset values need to be propped up by any reasonable means that much stronger.

That should give the bring-’em-all-home crowd something to chew on for at least a few seconds.

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Thanks, NYT – Allah at Hot Air believes this about the pitiful attack piece on McCain from the New York Times:

So lame is the story, and so heavy the backlash among conservatives — but not exclusively conservatives — that they probably ended up doing Maverick a favor by running it.

Agree. Don’t call “our” baby ugly unless he really is. (We can point to a few examples of that on our own, thank-you-very-much.)

Thanks, Gray Lady.

Positivity: George Washington and a Little-Known Turning Point in American History

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 6:00 am

georgewashingtonThis post is intended to become a Washington’s Birthday BizzyBlog tradition.

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Few know that George Washington singlehandedly prevented a soldiers’ revolt in 1783.

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(from historyplace.com)

At the close of the Revolutionary War in America, a perilous moment in the life of the fledgling American democracy occurred as officers of the Continental Army met in Newburgh, New York, to discuss grievances and consider a possible insurrection against the rule of Congress.

They were angry over the failure of Congress to honor its promises to the army regarding salary, bounties and life pensions. The officers had heard from Philadelphia that the American government was going broke and that they might not be compensated at all.

On March 10, 1783, an anonymous letter was circulated among the officers of General Washington’s main camp at Newburgh. It addressed those complaints and called for an unauthorized meeting of officers to be held the next day to consider possible military solutions to the problems of the civilian government and its financial woes.

General Washington stopped that meeting from happening by forbidding the officers to meet at the unauthorized meeting. Instead, he suggested they meet a few days later, on March 15th, at the regular meeting of his officers.

Meanwhile, another anonymous letter was circulated, this time suggesting Washington himself was sympathetic to the claims of the malcontent officers.

And so on March 15, 1783, Washington’s officers gathered in a church building in Newburgh, effectively holding the fate of democracy in America in their hands.

Unexpectedly, General Washington himself showed up. He was not entirely welcomed by his men, but nevertheless, personally addressed them…

Gentlemen:
By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide…

Thus much, gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last – and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity consistent with your own honor, and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country. As I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty. As I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits. As I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army. As my heart has ever expanded with joy, when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen, when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests.

But how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser. If war continues, remove into the unsettled country, there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself. But who are they to defend? Our wives, our children, our farms, and other property which we leave behind us. Or, in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first (the latter cannot be removed) to perish in a wilderness, with hunger, cold, and nakedness? If peace takes place, never sheathe your swords, says he, until you have obtained full and ample justice; this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress or turning our arms against it (which is the apparent object, unless Congress can be compelled into instant compliance), has something so shocking in it that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! What can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather, is he not an insidious foe? Some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings when he recommends measures in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?

I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army; and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice. That their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their deliberations are slow. Why, then, should we distrust them? And, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired; and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe, for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No! most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance.

For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice), a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me, a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that, in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost of my abilities.

While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favor, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained; let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions, which were published to you two days ago, and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you, for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.

By thus determining and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes. You will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings. And you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, “Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”

This speech was not very well received by his men. Washington then took out a letter from a member of Congress explaining the financial difficulties of the government.

After reading a portion of the letter with his eyes squinting at the small writing, Washington suddenly stopped. His officers stared at him, wondering. Washington then reached into his coat pocket and took out a pair of reading glasses. Few of them knew he wore glasses, and were surprised.

“Gentlemen,” said Washington, “you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

In that moment of utter vulnerability, Washington’s men were deeply moved, even shamed, and many were quickly in tears, now looking with great affection at this aging man who had led them through so much. Washington read the remainder of the letter, then left without saying another word, realizing their sentiments.

His officers then cast a unanimous vote, essentially agreeing to the rule of Congress. Thus, the civilian government was preserved and the young experiment of democracy in America continued.