December 9, 2011

Allen West Apologizes for Congress Not Doing Enough of Its Job

Filed under: Activism,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:00 pm

A two-parter totaling 15 minutes — worth listening to every moment (Part 1; Part 2):

A few of West’s points:

  • We have a do-nothing Senate, NOT a do-nothing Congress.
  • Payroll tax cuts “speed up the demise of Social Security in America.”
  • “There is no leadership emanating from the White House.”

Press Virtually Ignores Upheld Holy Land Foundation Appeals Court Verdict, Fails to Mention CAIR Connection

Holy_Land_FoundationOn Wednesday, as Terry Baynes at Reuters reported, “A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of five leaders of an Islamic charity on charges of funneling money and supplies to Hamas, designated a “terrorist” group following a 1995 executive order by President Bill Clinton. …” The organization involved was the Holy Land Foundation based in Texas. The five involved received sentences of 15 to 65 years.

Reuters appears to have been virtually unique in covering the story at a national level, and from all appearances very few establishment press outlets picked it up. What follows are various search results in attempts to find coverage of the story:

(more…)

Liberal High-Speed Rail Fan Disses Ohio’s Now-Defunct Slow Choo-Choo Plan; Ted Strickland, Buckeye State Lefty Bloggers Hardest Hit

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:27 pm

ChooChooTrainKidsOn Wednesday, Will Oremus at Slate announced the probable death of major high-speed rail undertakings in the U.S., and seemed generally less than pleased about it:

If you live in Los Angeles, Orlando, Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee, Raleigh, or any number of other U.S. cities, chances are you’ve read a news story that started something like this: “Imagine stepping on a train in [your city] and stepping off in [another major city] just two-and-a-half hours later. This dream could become a reality in the next [unrealistic number] years, thanks to plans for a national network of high-speed rail lines.”

Well, you can stop imagining it now. High-speed rail isn’t happening in America. Not anytime soon. Probably not ever.

… Though Republicans’ outright rejection of high-speed rail is short-sighted, so were many of the plans themselves.

If it made sense, Republicans wouldn’t reject it. The examples where it makes sense are very few and far between, if any.

Oremus set aside space for a special rip at what Ohio’s Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, whose middle name should be “Short-sighted,” planned to do before he became the first incumbent Buckeye State governor in 36 years to taste defeat, which came at the hands of Republican John Kasich in November 2010:

The Europeans define high-speed trains as those that travel at speeds of 155 miles per hour or more (or 125 mph for tracks that are upgraded, rather than newly built). Wisconsin’s proposed $823 million Milwaukee-to-Madison line was to reach 110 mph, at most, in between stops in cities such as Brookfield and Oconomowoc. Ohio’s version was even slower, with trains on an upgraded freight-rail track topping out at 79 mph. With stops, the trip from Cincinnati to Cleveland would have been significantly slower by rail than by car. Who would ride such a thing? Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, bemoaned the jobs that would be lost when his Republican successor killed the project. But at a cost of $400 million, this was job creation of the sort that John Maynard Keynes himself would have eyed skeptically.

The answer to Oremus’s question is that virtually nobody would have ridden “such a thing,” and that the $400 million “gift” from the Obama administration would have obligated the state to endless operating deficits and periodic bouts of additional capital spending — just to make Strickland, a few businesses near the train stops, very few travelers, and a handful of Ohio’s fiscally illiterate lefty bloggers feel good about themselves.

Thank goodness John Kasich turned down the “free” money. Maybe if magnetic levitation trains, or “maglev,” which Oremus discusses at the end of his column, become an affordable reality, things might work out differently — decades from now. Until then, so long, slow choo-choo.

Taranto on Bogus AP ‘Fact Check’: They ‘Literally Doesn’t Know the Meaning of the Word ‘Fact”

Yesterday, Anne Gearan at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, wrote what she called a “Fact Check” piece about a political promise. Really.

Two Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, are both promising to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if they should become the nation’s next president. There’s literally no way to “fact check” something that is only a promise, but Gearan wasted over 500 words pretending to do just that. She couldn’t even buy a clue that her item’s title (“FACT CHECK: Israel embassy promise may be empty”) gives away the, uh, fact that it wasn’t a “fact check” at all. Jim Taranto at the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web minced no words in critiquing AP’s and Gearan’s cluelessness (bolds are mine):

Newt Year in Jerusalem
The Associated Press literally doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fact.”

… The trouble here is that there isn’t a fact to check. Gingrich’s statement is one of intent, not fact. To the extent that the headline is true, it is because it is trivial. Any promise by any politician “may be empty.”

Here is the most persuasive part of Gearan’s rebuttal:

THE FACTS: A promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has become a standard part of pro-Israel political rhetoric. Similar pledges were made during their campaigns by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But no administration has ever acted on such a promise once in office. . . .

A 1995 U.S. law recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. embassy to move to Jerusalem from a neutral site in nearby Tel Aviv. Using their presidential power, Clinton, Bush and Obama have routinely suspended the relocation of the embassy while saying the U.S. is still committed to doing it.
Apart from the bizarre reference to Tel Aviv as “a neutral site”–most Arab and Muslim countries refuse to recognize Israeli sovereignty at all, not just in Jerusalem and the West Bank–these paragraphs are factual.

the idea that Gingrich’s pledge is contrary to fact because other politicians have failed to keep the same promise is beyond ludicrous. Did the AP in 2008 run a “fact check” rebutting Barack Obama’s promise to enact “heath-care reform” because so many previous presidents have futilely done so?

It gets worse. Here’s another paragraph Gearan offers in support of the claim that Gingrich’s promise is empty:

If the United States were to move its embassy in the absence of a peace deal, the act would be a symbolically explosive step. It would be seen as a prejudgment of those negotiations and spark anger throughout the Arab world. It also would destroy any appearance that the U.S. can be a credible and neutral mediator in peace talks.

The factual content of this paragraph is zero; it is pure speculation and opinion. It may be realistic speculation and informed opinion, but the language of certitude does not turn a statement about what may happen under a hypothetical circumstance into a fact.

the AP published what is essentially an opinion piece, and a rather lazy one at that. … to label that a “fact check”–as if it had some greater authority than actual reporting–is fundamentally dishonest.

That AP’s labeling of the two candidates’ promises as “facts” is incorrect is indeed a fact. Whether the action was dishonest, insufferably dumb, or blindly agenda-driven would be a matter of opinion.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Coverage of Bitter Former CMS Head Berwick’s Speech Ignores His Support of Rationing and ‘Death Panels’ in the UK

DonaldBerwickDec2011Awwww. Don Berwick is unhappy. In a speech Wednesday at the annual conference of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement excerpted at the Boston Globe’s White Coat Notes blog, the man whom Congress would not confirm as Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator seventeen months after President Obama gave him a recess appointment lashed out at his critics, especially their use of the terms “rationing” and “death panels,” describing the employment of the latter term as “beyond cruelty.”

Neither Chelsea Conaboy’s introduction at the Globe excerpt nor Sam Baker’s coverage at the Hill’s Healthwatch blog brought up why the two terms Berwick despises so accurately describe his health care views, which include his belief that the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last year — the one where, as Nancy Pelosi warned, we’re still figuring out what’s really in it — is, as he told Boston station WBUR, “majestic.” What follows is most of Conaboy’s intro, which almost completely ignored the overheated rhetoric in the speech excerpts which followed:

Dr. Don Berwick often speaks of the Affordable Care Act as a “majestic” law. Yesterday afternoon the former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator spoke during the annual conference of the Cambridge-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which he led for nearly 20 years, about experiencing majesty.

… Berwick outlined five principles to guide change in health care:

1. Put the patient first.2. Among those, put the poor and disadvantaged first, “those in the beginning, the end, and the shadows of life. Let us meet the moral test.”

3. Start at scale. “There is no more time left for timidity. Pilots will not suffice.”

4. Return the money. “It is crucial that the employers and wage-earners and unions and states and taxpayers – those who actually pay the health care bill – see that bill fall.”

5. Act locally. Every community must mobilize, he said.

Here are some lowlights from Berwick’s speech (bolds are mine); especially note his unwitting admission in the first excerpted paragraph that ObamaCare is in day-to-day operation what the bureaucrats say it is (i.e., its 2,000 pages are “only a framework”):

And, I got the chance to help pilot toward harbor the most important health care policy of our time – the Affordable Care Act. A majestic law. I learned that a law is only a framework; it’s like an architect’s sketch. If it’s going to help anyone, it has to be transformed into the specifications that regulations and guidance documents.

… Cynicism grips Washington. It grips Washington far too much, far too much for a place that could instead remind us continually of the grandeur of democracy. . .

Cynicism diverts energy from the great moral test. It toys with deception, and deception destroys. Let me give you an example: the outrageous rhetoric about “death panels” – the claim, nonsense, fabricated out of nothing but fear and lies, that some plot is afoot to, literally, kill patients under the guise of end-of-life care. That is hogwash. It is purveyed by cynics; it employs deception; and it destroys hope. It is beyond cruelty to have subjected our elders, especially, to groundless fear in the pure service of political agendas.

The truth, of course, is that there are no “death panels” here, and there never have been. The truth is that, as our society has aged and as we have learned to care well for the chronically ill, many of us face years in the twilight our lives when our health fades and our need for help grows and changes.

And, while we are at it, what about “rationing?” The distorted and demagogic use of that term is another travesty in our public debate. In some way, the whole idea of improvement – the whole, wonderful idea that brings us –thousands – together this very afternoon – is that rationing – denying care to anyone who needs it is not necessary. That is, it is not necessary if, and only if, we work tirelessly and always to improve the way we try to meet that need.

The true rationers are those who impede improvement, who stand in the way of change, and who thereby force choices that we can avoid through better care. It boggles my mind that the same people who cry “foul” about rationing an instant later argue to reduce health care benefits for the needy, to defund crucial programs of care and prevention, and to shift thousands of dollars of annual costs to people – elders, the poor, the disabled – who are least able to bear them.

As has been documented so many times in New Media but almost never mentioned in the establishment press, Berwick can scream all he wants, but the fact is that he is on record as a big fan of rationing and the functional equivalent of death panels. Why? Because he’s a big fan or the UK’s National Health Service, particularly its NICE (National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness) protocols, which are all about, well, life-death decisions made by bureaucrats (aka “death panels”) and overt rationing of care.

Steven Ertelt at LifeNews.com had one of many relevant write-ups of Berwick’s worldview two weeks ago when Berwick resigned from CMS after it became clear that his confirmation fight was doomed (bolds are mine):

Berwick is an outspoken admirer of the British National Health Service and its rationing arm, the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness (NICE).

During a 2008 speech to British physicians, Berwick said “I am romantic about the National Health Service. I love it,” and calling it “generous, hopeful, confident, joyous, and just.”

Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote about the problems with Berwick in an opinion column at the Daily Caller.

… In his comments lauding the British health care system, Tanner says “Berwick was referring to a British health care system where 750,000 patients are awaiting admission to NHS hospitals.”

“The government’s official target for diagnostic testing was a wait of no more than 18 weeks by 2008. The reality doesn’t come close. The latest estimates suggest that for most specialties, only 30 to 50 percent of patients are treated within 18 weeks. For trauma and orthopedics patients, the figure is only 20 percent,” he writes.

“Overall, more than half of British patients wait more than 18 weeks for care. Every year, 50,000 surgeries are canceled because patients become too sick on the waiting list to proceed,’ he continues.

“The one thing the NHS is good at is saving money. After all, it is far cheaper to let the sick die than to provide care,” Tanner adds.

NICE is at the forefront of the rationing in the British health care system.

“It acts as a comparative-effectiveness tool for NHS, comparing various treatments and determining whether the benefits the patient receives, such as prolonged life, are cost-efficient for the government,” Tanner explains. “NICE, however, is not simply a government agency that helps bureaucrats decide if one treatment is better than another. With the creation of NICE, the U.K. government has effectively put a dollar amount to how much a citizen’s life is worth.”

This is what Berwick has said he admires, and his speech only served to fill a very deep well with gallons of crocodile tears. Too bad, so sad, Don. You’re lucky that the establishment press carried your water one more time.

As to “beyond cruelty,” the emailer who tipped me to Berwick’s speech and its press coverage asks, “So what does he call an ad showing Paul Ryan wheeling an elderly woman off a cliff?”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Levin on Romney, Gingrich, the State of the GOP Race, and Romney’s Dirty Tricks

Filed under: Economy,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:57 pm

Mark Levin has said on other occasions that he wants either Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann to get the nomination.

He says that the two leading candidates are not conservative.

Romney, obvious; Gingrich, too many big-gov ideas.

But then Levin gets into Romney’s tactics, four years ago and now:

In 2007-2008, Romney was tied, despite empty denials, to an anti-Fred Thompson web site (phonyfred.org).

Levin’s complaint about Romney’s latest substance-free attack is focuses on this item at the Corner on Thursday:

Romney Allies Blast Gingrich: ‘Irrational’
December 8, 2011 10:07 A.M.
By Robert Costa

Mitt Romney’s senior advisers say that Newt Gingrich isn’t merely a competitor in the GOP primary, with differing policy proposals and life experience. Instead, they call Gingrich an unreliable and unsteady egoist who, if nominated, would spell disaster for the party.

In a conference call with reporters, former New Hampshire governor John Sununu and former Missouri senator Jim Talent blasted Gingrich, focusing on his criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan. Talent, for his part, expressed repeated disappointment about Gingrich’s days as speaker …

Look, I have serious problems with Newt that he is somehow going to have to resolve for me and hasn’t, and his tenure as Speaker has lots of very sincere critics. But the attack by clowns like Sununu (who gave us Supreme Court justice David Souter, and if I recall correctly was a big promoter of Bush 41′s “no new taxes” pledge break) is too much.

From my perspective, both candidates are egoists, but Mitt Romney is far more unsteady and far, far more unreliable.

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (120911)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:00 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder follows. Other topics are also fair game.

__________________________________________

Yours truly received what is from all appearances a legitimate visit from OWS supporter “Shazz Baric,” who calls himself “Shazz Barbaric.” His comment, and my response, are here.

I would ask readers to pray for our country that people with (Bar)Baric’s mindset never achieve anything resembling real power — but given the White House’s current occupant, it may be too late for that.

__________________________________________

At the Detroit News“GM trims salaried workers; White-collar ranks thinned slowly in global streamlining.” Interesting quote from the company’s chairman: “Literally, we have 7,000 more people working on the same amount of work on our competitors … It’s just like the Communist Party in China in the 1960s. There has to be a cultural revolution here.”

That’s a mighty tone-deaf statement, both historically (millions died) and politically, from a company bailed out by a White House which once had Mao-lover Anita Dunn on the payroll — as an Interim Director of Communications, no less.

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Pethokoukis: “Why Obama needs to make Reaganomics disappear.” Two-word reason (not an excuse not to go read the whole thing): “Reaganomics worked.”

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Reason: “Obama Promises to Save the Middle Class by Enslaving It; Nothing says middle-class triumph like more regulation, unionism, cronyism and endless spending.”

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Michelle Malkin watched Eric Holder’s congressional testimony yesterday. It’s a good thing for my TV that I didn’t. Selected observations:

  • “Sheila Jackson Lee can’t even remember BP Agent Brian Terry’s name while pretending to care.”
  • “Issa is treating Holder as ‘hostile witness’ because…he is one.”
  • “GOP Rep Franks Franks reestablishes that Holder hasn’t produced all pertinent #fastandfurious emails and won’t.”

Holder lied; Brian Terry and dozens of other died.

Related, at the Weekly Standard: “‘Lying,’ Holder Says, ‘Has to Do With Your State of Mind.’” Specifically, “… it all has to do with your state of mind and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that would be considered perjury or a lie.” Well then, the pardons for Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby and others who allegedly lied to the FBI because they didn’t provide identical answers to the same questions several weeks apart should arrive any day now, right? (/sarc)

Also related, via AWR Hawkins at BigGovernment.com“Impeachment Is Not Enough, Holder Needs to Be Handcuffed … If Bill Clinton had obstructed justice to this degree, even Senator Trent Lott would have manned up and removed him from office.”

Positivity: Students rally behind Catholic school teacher with leukemia

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Bethesday, Maryland:

Dec 9, 2011 / 01:52 am

Kate Truax, a beloved literature teacher for fifth, sixth and seventh graders at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Bethesda, Md. is receiving an outpouring of support from her students as she undergoes treatment for leukemia.

After receiving treatment for breast cancer during the 2009-2010 school year, Truax was diagnosed with leukemia.

She has been a patient at the John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, where she underwent a bone marrow transplant on Oct. 25.

Truax’s students have eagerly volunteered to support Truax anyway they can.

The school organized 60 consecutive hours of Eucharistic adoration, with students, teachers, parents and other members of the school community offering prayers for Truax.

Students at Our Lady of Lourdes, who have stayed in touch with Truax via Skype, also found other ways to rally around their teacher.

In May, Truax was surprised during a video chat to see that two male teachers and several dozen students had shaved their heads in a gesture of solidarity. Truax’s hair had fallen out as a result of her treatment.

On Dec. 5, more than 20 girls from the school cut at least 10 inches from their hair and donated it in Truax’s honor to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair due to illness or accident.

Patricia McGann, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, said that Truax has “always gone above and beyond for her students” and that they “absolutely love” her. …

Go here for the rest of the story.