Friday Digest

Digest

Apr. 9, 2010

The Foundation

“Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” –James Madison

Government & Politics

‘Where’s My Free Health Care?’

Now that ObamaCare has brought Hope ‘n’ Change™ to all the Fruited Plain, citizens are attempting to claim their fair share. However, it appears that, as McClatchy News notes, “Americans are struggling to understand how – and when – the sweeping measure will affect them.”

Insurance companies, doctors' offices and hospitals have been inundated with calls reflecting that confusion. According to Carrie McLean, a licensed agent for eHealthInsurance.com, “They’re saying, ‘Where do we get the free ObamaCare, and how do I sign up for that?’”

McClatchy, of course, doesn’t blame Democrats for this misunderstanding; it blames conservatives: “That widespread misconception may have originated in part from distorted rhetoric about the legislation bubbling up from the hyper-partisan debate about it in Washington and some media outlets, such as when opponents denounced it as socialism.”

We’ll give them one concession: Technically, ObamaCare is more fascist than socialist, in part because it isn’t initially single-payer. Still, fascism and socialism are ugly twin stepsisters.

For McClatchy to blame defenders of liberty for Americans' misunderstanding of Democrats' misleading promises is yet another example of journalistic malpractice. The Leftmedia has been on board the ObamaCare bandwagon since the 2008 campaign, telling us how it will “provide” or “expand” health care to “all Americans.” Likewise, Democrats have lauded themselves for providing “health care for every American” instead of admitting that they’re going to force us to buy it. Thus, it’s understandable that the average uninformed Joe would mistake an unconstitutional and tyrannical law for a goodie bag of freebies – at least once 2014 rolls around and all provisions kick in.

These dupes should remember what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in March: “[W]e have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Apparently, while IRS authority to withhold tax refunds from those who don’t buy insurance is in the bill, free health care isn’t.

Dr. Galt Won’t See You Now

After the recent passing of ObamaCare, a Florida urologist taped a sign to the door of his practice: “If you voted for Obama, seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your health care begin right now, not in four years.” Read more here.

GOP Has Some ‘Splainin’ to Do

“Although it is not unusual for either party to spend money in tony settings to cater to wealthy donors,” The Washington Post reports, “the RNC’s latest filings captured widespread attention for one expenditure at a risque nightclub: $1,946.25 for ‘meals’ at Voyeur in West Hollywood, which features topless dancers wearing horse bridles and other bondage gear while mimicking sex acts.”

As late-night comedian Jay Leno quipped, “You know what I call a Republican that spends a lot of money in a strip club? A Democrat.”

A Republican National Committee staff member was fired as a result of the expenditure, RNC chief of staff Ken McKay resigned, and a donor who attended the club has been asked to reimburse the Committee. That hasn’t stopped criticism of Chairman Michael Steele for his lax fiscal management, though. The Post notes, “The RNC had more than $22 million on hand when he arrived last year, but is down to less than $10 million, despite raising a record $96 million during that time, records show.” Steele raised $10 million less last year than the RNC did in 2005, and has spent $10 million more, including significantly more on private planes, limousines, catering and flowers.

Inexplicably, Steele accused critics of racism. Asked if “as an African-American” he has “a slimmer margin for error than another chairman would,” Steele agreed: “The honest answer is yes.” Can’t you just see the donations pouring in now?

When asked about Steele’s comments, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, himself a former RNC Chairman, retorted, “When you’re a fat redneck like me and got an accent like mine, you can say, ‘Well, they’re going to hold me to a higher standard.’”

News From the Swamp: Cap-n-Tax

The Senate is about to take another crack at a cap-n-tax bill to curb carbon emissions. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have allied to create a bill that would reportedly cut emissions some 80 percent by 2050. The bill sets out to achieve this by developing separate limits for manufacturers and utilities. Special interests representing manufacturers, farmers, the nuclear industry, the coal industry and others others who stand to be hurt are already lining up with requests for compensation and preferential treatment so that they won’t be harmed by the new legislation. Don’t fret, though – the harm will be spread around just fine, with the bill killing an estimated 2.5 million jobs, reducing the GDP by almost $10 trillion, and adding $1,000 to annual energy costs for a family of four.

Unemployment Aid Lapses

Senators were so eager to get out of town for the Easter recess that they neglected to do anything about the lapse in unemployment insurance funding. As of Monday, April 12, unemployment benefits will temporarily expire for approximately 200,000 Americans. Senate Democrats wanted to push an extension of benefits under an emergency measure that would have allowed them to circumvent “pay as you go” rules, but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) blocked the move, demanding that spending should be cut someplace else in order to cover the costs. The Senate is expected to take up the extension measure when it returns to work next week. If approved, it will be the seventh deadline extension since June 2008.

Income Redistribution: Obama Expands Housing Fund

The Obama administration is planning to divert up to $600 million to its “hardest hit” list of financially troubled homeowners. The money used would be $50 billion from TARP and would go to a selection of states experiencing depressed housing sales and high unemployment. The states that will receive funds include North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Ohio and Oregon. This follows an earlier round of funding in February that went to California, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. Just another example of BO rewarding failure and punishing success.

Titanic Investments

Runaway federal spending continues to accelerate the U.S. toward its fiscal judgment day. Contrary to Democrats' claims of fiscal austerity, Barack Obama’s budget will accumulate nearly $10 trillion in budget deficits over the next decade. By 2020, this unsustainable federal debt will reach 90 percent of the economic output of the United States. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the federal public debt of $6.3 trillion ($56,000 per household) when Obama took office is now $8.2 trillion ($72,000 per household) and will climb to more than $20 trillion ($170,000+ per household) by 2020.

Somewhat aware that bankrupting the nation is unpopular with the voters, the Obama administration is misrepresenting the true costs of their socializing huge portions of our economy. As part of the health “reform” debacle, liberals also nationalized our student loan program. In support of this sneaky and illegitimate federal takeover (and its elimination of thousands of banking jobs), the president claims that cutting out the middleman from the government-subsidized loan program will save “real money” by slicing $68 billion from the deficit by 2020. The irony of claiming that $68 billion is real money compared to the $20 trillion in deficits Obama is otherwise racking up is apparently lost on him.

Further discrediting Obama’s claims is a new CBO analysis which notes that socializing the loan program actually adds $52 billion to the deficit. The $120 billion difference between Obama’s fiction and CBO reality comes from factoring in all of the program’s costs that Obama “forgot” to include. In what has become a tiresome pattern, Democrat claims of saving “real” money with Obama at the helm are as futile as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, since the fiscal iceberg awaiting our arrival continues to grow larger.

National Security

Peace(keeper) for Our Time

Barack Obama just released his overhauled Nuclear Posture Review, the document outlining U.S. nuclear policy. While we’re pleasantly surprised that he didn’t announce America would immediately scrap our entire nuclear arsenal and cede all power to the UN, somewhat less surprising is his continued trajectory on a course of international weakness and decline of American prominence.

Further accentuating that decline and acting against his defense secretary’s advice and better judgment, the Chosen One renounced development of any new nuclear weapons. Not only that, he also signed the “New Start” treaty with Russia, reducing U.S. nuclear capacity by 30 percent by capping nuclear warheads at 1,550 per nation.

This, along with a dramatic shift in a long-held mainstay of American nuclear policy – deliberate ambiguity concerning use of nuclear weapons – all but green-lights Iran’s nuclear arms development program. (What’s Farsi for “thank you,” again?) The new policy specifically precludes the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if those states attack the U.S. with other forms of WMD (chemical, biological, cyber, etc.) – a dangerous “first” in the history of U.S. nuclear policy.

Obama’s stated rationale for barring development of any new nuclear weapons is to “move the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete” by setting an example for the rest of the world. This strategy is inlaid in a broader plan that includes creating incentives for countries to give up their nuclear ambitions.

Far be it from us to point out the obvious concerning such “incentives” and their effect on rogue nations such as Iran – specifically, that sanctions have not worked. Beyond that, UN “action” hasn’t worked, world apology tours haven’t worked, and offers of diplomatic ties haven’t worked. We therefore remain skeptical about the success of any “incentives” offered by the current administration.

Further, based on the message conveyed by this latest policy shift, Obama seems comfortable with the apparent inevitability of Iran’s becoming a nuclear state. Given the rhetoric and obvious disposition of those in Iranian leadership who advocate for a nuclear-capable Iran, if they get the bomb, they’re apt to use it. Such a capability may be close at hand. The testimony of a recently defected Iranian nuclear scientist is likely to put teeth behind the CIA’s latest assessment that Iran is now fully capable of producing nuclear weapons. Of course, a nuclear-tipped Iran is absolutely unthinkable to Israel, and we should anticipate Israel’s unilateral remedy for the same, along with a sizable conflagration in its wake.

As to setting an example for the rest of the world, the issue is not simply about setting an example – a thermonuclear fireball over Washington sets quite an example, for instance – but rather, which example is set. Sadly, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain crafted the current example being set for Iran. We remember him, of course, as the “peace-for-our-time” failure whose marshmallow stance toward Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as well as his willingness to throw Czechoslovakia under the bus helped usher in World War II.

Unfortunately, Obama, like Chamberlain, doesn’t appreciate that force is the only incentive tyrants understand. Unquestionably, a mushroom cloud darkening the skies over a would-be nuclear weapons facility is a far more convincing “incentive” than a handicapped U.S. nuclear policy. No, Mr. Chamberlain – er, Mr. Obama – we don’t need another empty “peace-for-our-time” guarantee. What we need is a modernized Peacekeeper – along with a policy backbone to go with it.

No More ‘Islamic Radicalism’

Not content with disarming the United States, the commander in chief has decided to remove the words “Islamic radicalism” from the National Security Strategy. According to the Associated Press, “The revisions are part of a larger effort about which the White House talks openly, one that seeks to change not just how the U.S. talks to Muslim nations, but also what it talks to them about, from health care and science to business startups and education.”

In other words, Barack Obama and his troop of cheese-eating surrender monkeys have apparently come to the conclusion that we need not worry about such radicalism or to fret about defending the nation from it. Since 9/11, the NSS has stated, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.” This seems obvious to us, but the Left is eager to appease, and such clarity is clearly unacceptable.

Judicial Benchmarks: NSA Wiretaps Ruled Illegal

Last Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that National Security Agency (NSA) investigators had acted illegally in 2006 when they conducted warrantless wiretaps of several phone conversations between an Islamic charity, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and its lawyers without a search warrant. U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs had shown “they were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance” by the NSA. The investigators were operating under a program started by President George W. Bush after 9/11. While government investigators are typically required to obtain search warrants issued by judges before intercepting domestic phone calls or other electronic communications, the Bush program allowed NSA officials to bypass the courts and intercept communications believed to be connected to al-Qa'ida.

The Justice Department had argued, as did the Bush administration, that the lawsuit fell under the “state’s secret privilege” and threatened to expose intelligence work, and so must be thrown out. Naturally, the Obama regime insisted that it came to this conclusion more thoughtfully than did the Bush administration. (Wouldn’t want to be seen agreeing with Bush on anything, now, would we?) Judge Walker disagreed, ruling that it should be assumed that the NSA investigators lacked legal standing.

This case raises tough issues. On the one hand, we are in an asymmetrical war with Jihadistan, and the normal due process of law should never apply to any enemy during wartime. In this case, if the NSA investigators had cause to believe the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation was involved with the enemy, the wiretapping should be allowed. On the other hand, the government must never be allowed to grow accustomed to bypassing search warrants and due process. Indeed, the federal government is lawless enough as it is. The last thing we want to see is the Obama/Pelosi/Reid crime syndicate casually listening in on those “violent” Tea Partiers without a warrant.

Strike Two for Obama TSA Nominees

After Erroll Southers, Barack Obama’s first Transportation Security Administration nominee, bailed out earlier this year when a number of serious allegations surfaced against him, the White House thought they had a winner with their second choice.

But retired Army Major General Robert Harding was also forced to withdraw this week due to questions about his work in defense contracting. While his 33 years of service in the military was untarnished, the Harding Security Associates firm he founded upon entering civilian life engaged in questionable practices to obtain lucrative contracts. Overbilling on a contract by $1.8 million was one issue, and winning a $99.7 million deal in part by claiming to be a “service-disabled” veteran was another. His disability? Harding suffers from sleep apnea – certainly a serious condition but not one usually associated with combat service.

As has more often become the case under Obama, Harding cited the “distractions” of these allegations as his prime reason for withdrawing from consideration. So the TSA will stagger on without a permanent head until Obama can find a political ally without any baggage. That could be a long and eventually futile search, with our national security becoming the real victim.

From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File

In a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) was questioning Admiral Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific fleet, about stationing 5,000 additional U.S. Marines and their families on the Pacific island of Guam.

After trying to impress everyone with his knowledge of the size of the island (he botched the facts anyway), Johnson, whose congressional salary is $174,000 per year, expressed his fear that “the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and, uh, capsize.”

No, it wasn’t April Fools' Day. See the video for yourself. On the up side, we do have to commend Admiral Willard on his gracious response: “We don’t anticipate that.”

Business & Economy

Offshore Shilling

Last’s week’s announcement by Barack Obama to “expand” offshore drilling says more than meets the ear. For beyond the president’s rhetoric of needing “vital energy sources to maintain our economic growth and our security” (with which we agree in principle) lies the truth about his move. As the Heritage Foundation notes, the president’s plan “will actually decrease and delay future U.S. oil production.” Indeed, while pledging new exploration off the Atlantic Coast, Obama canceled four pending lease sales off the Alaskan coast. Additionally, he “delayed a planned lease off Virginia until at least 2012, and placed some areas off limits for at least seven years.”

Why the political show? The president has yet to gather enough support to unleash cap-n-tax on the American economy, and by appearing to cede ground on drilling, he hopes to gain ground on that economy-crushing climate legislation. Even the ever-liberal New York Times agrees, noting that the proposal is in part “intended to … help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation.” The Los Angeles Times wrote that the president’s plan “was driven largely by the politics of his agenda on energy and climate change – not by hopes of changing the nation’s energy supply.”

It has been said that every action has two reasons: the stated reason and the real reason. Obama’s quasi-drilling announcement is certainly proof of this axiom.

Regulatory Commissars: EPA Regulations Will Be Expensive

Call it cap-and-trade by another name. Last week, the EPA announced the nation’s first regulations on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from cars. Starting in 2011, automakers will be required to cut GHG emissions annually, reaching a 250-grams-per-mile cap by the 2016 model year.

As Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) notes, the regulations translate into a “backdoor energy tax on consumers.” This is only the beginning. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson promised more regulations ahead as “the Clean Air Act talks about additional regulation[s] needed once greenhouse gas pollution is acknowledged to be exactly that.”

Of course, “acknowledged by whom?” might be a good question to ask, as the EPA is basing its actions largely on information from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This group’s charter presupposes “human-induced climate change,” and its history is tainted by advocating non-peer-reviewed findings.

Despite a polluted process and regulations that Jackson admits “won’t have any meaningful climate impacts,” the EPA is proceeding with guidelines which, according to the Energy Information Administration, will cause gas prices to spike 77 percent above baseline projections, cost at least three million jobs, and cut annual average household income by more than $4,000.

All that to “save the world” from a small fraction of the 3 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide that is man-produced rather than nature-produced. Your tax dollars at work.

Lowering Great Expectations

Back when the Obama regime was new and clean, it promised that, with the passage of the economic stimulus bill, we wouldn’t see the unemployment rate exceed 8 percent. We all know what’s happened since, as the rate surged beyond 10 percent before settling back slightly to its current 9.7 percent rate.

Yet the administration crowed when 162,000 jobs were created in March, numbers which were the best in more than two years even if they were artificially buoyed by the federal government’s hiring nearly 50,000 census workers. Nevertheless, some economists believe the economy is turning the corner because hiring is up. The economy must create at least 100,000 jobs a month just to maintain the current unemployment rate. In any case, far more than 162,000 new jobs per month will be needed to address adequately the unemployment rate and the eight million jobs lost in the current recession.

Perhaps these economists with the rose-colored glasses haven’t looked around the minority community. Despite the Democrats' traditional mantra of being friendly to minorities, nearly one in six African-Americans is unemployed. Their 16.6 percent unemployment rate is barely trailed by the 13.3 percent rate Hispanics endure. More shamefully, young veterans lured by the promise of job training in exchange for military service have an unemployment rate of 14.7 percent.

If the goal is to make all Americans more prosperous, it’s apparent that there’s much work to be done to help the minority population secure jobs. Abolishing additional “stimulus” frauds and the minimum wage would be a start. But if a perpetual underclass and racial tension are the aim, the policies enacted thus far by this administration are just what the doctor ordered.

Culture & Policy

Climate Change This Week: Nothing to See Here, Move Along

After wading through the 1,000 emails “stolen” or “uncovered” (depending on what one believes) from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has exonerated the CRU and its director Phil Jones of wrongdoing. The fact that in his emails Jones spoke of a “trick” to “hide the decline” of temperatures did not seem to factor into their decision.

The world learned of the CRU’s draconian views on silencing their opponents and hiding scientific data late last year, when Climategate exploded just ahead of the Copenhagen conference. The liberated emails told of the CRU’s attacks on scientists who disagreed with them, as well as how they planned to keep their opponents' work – and other data that disproves manmade climate change – from the public.

Clearly, the House of Commons is in the tank for the envirofascists. Committee chair Phil Willis referred to the emails as “pretty appalling” and notes the CRU’s “refusal to share data,” yet, incredibly enough, still found that their reputation is “intact.” In addition, the Committee felt the need to further vindicate the CRU by declaring that the emails did not dispute the “scientific consensus” that “global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity.” The Committee did give the CRU a verbal slap on the wrist for not being more forthcoming with its data but made sure to tell the media that doing so will only help the case for manmade climate change.

Two other inquiries will be made into whether Jones and the CRU violated freedom of information laws, froze out dissenters, or “massaged” the data, but, judging from the decision already reached by the Committee, the chances of an unbiased assessment are slim-to-none.

There seems to be no end to the conflicting conclusions reached by the scientific community on this issue. The same day that Time Magazine released its “terrifying” article on the melting Arctic ice, Britain’s Daily Mail reported that scientists are actually seeing the most ice in the region since March 2001. How to explain these discrepancies? The answer, of course, is politics. It’s no coincidence that those who believe in manmade climate change are pushing a leftist political and financial agenda. It’s also no coincidence that they (i.e., the East Anglia “scientists” and most Western media outlets) are the ones fighting dirty to convince the rest of us.

Second Amendment: Court Upholds DC Gun Restrictions

On March 26, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled that Washington, DC’s current gun regulations do not violate the Second Amendment. Washington, of course, lost the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down the District’s outright handgun ban. After that ruling, however, the city put in place new requirements on registration and continues to ban semi-automatic rifles (a.k.a. “assault weapons”) and large-capacity magazines. Dick Heller, the plaintiff in the 2008 case, sued again. No doubt the decision will be appealed. The Supreme Court is also expected to rule later this year on Chicago’s handgun ban. We expect the Second Amendment to prevail.

To Keep and Bear Arms

Nineteen-year old Billy Jean Tiffey III was caught robbing a house in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the homeowner arrived. Michael Lish had just entered the back of his house when he heard noise coming from the master bedroom, so he went to check things out. Once Michael neared the bedroom and noticed the thief, Tiffey approached him with a sword he had taken from the house. When Tiffey did not comply with Lish’s request to stop approaching him, Lish pulled out his gun and shot him. However, the suspect then pulled a gun of his own. Lish was ready, and shot him two more times, killing him.

Also among the intruder’s collection of weapons was a .38 caliber handgun, a 9mm handgun taken from inside the homeowner’s house, a stun gun and a knife. Tiffey had also just been released from jail and had a history of drug offenses and driving under the influence.

Around the Nation: About That ‘Christian’ Militia

Just whom did the FBI arrest in the Michigan militia case? Were they really a “Christian” militia – as reported by the Leftmedia? And just why was the FBI so suddenly and keenly interested in their activities?

The headlines could have read, “Democrat lunatic twists Christian principles while playing soldier.” According to the Toledo Blade, Jacob J. Ward, a 33-year-old member of the so-called “Hutaree” (the group’s word for “Christian warrior”) was a registered Democrat in Ohio. The others were registered to vote in Michigan, which has open primaries, so their party preferences have not been reported. Our point is not to broad-brush all Democrats as potential domestic terrorists – we’ll leave such illogic to the DHS when speaking of Gulf War vets. But it’s too early to be jumping to any conclusions and wise to keep a healthy skepticism of any press depictions of “right-wing” or “Christian extremist” groups. Anyone can claim to be a “Christian,” and we doubt that many Democrats are right-wingers. So even if the Hutaree proclaimed themselves “Christians,” the appellation is easily hijacked and twisted.

This brings us to a second point: The interesting timing of this arrest. The group was reportedly under investigation for years. Would a big arrest of a “right-wing Christian” extremist group be useful to the Democrats at this particular time? While Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were desperately trying to shove ObamaCare down our throats, members of the Tea Party Movement were making it a tough sell. The arrests couldn’t possibly have been timed to lend support to unsubstantiated reports of the Tea Party protesters yelling racial epithets or threatening members of Congress, could they? It couldn’t be that the far-leftist Southern Poverty Law Center is now unduly influencing the activities of the FBI, could it? The sealed indictments make further investigation difficult, but stay tuned.

This Week’s ‘Alpha Jackass’ Award

When asked to name his favorite Chicago White Sox players, Barack Obama, the self-proclaimed “South Side Kid,” did his usual filibuster and never answered the question, though he did fondly recall “Cominskey” Park (the old park was called Comiskey). What a genuine baseball fan. Read more here.

And Last…

In case you were too busy destroying the planet by leaving a light on to read a book, “Earth Hour” was Saturday, March 27. That’s the one hour on one Saturday night a year during which leftists turn out the lights – not to remind themselves how far technology has advanced in 150 years, but to assuage their own guilt. Well, in one particular home, things took a turn for the worse. Canadian Environment Minister Barry Penner was enjoying the candlelight with his wife when their cat brushed up against the flame and set himself on fire. “Suddenly there was a poof of smoke,” Penner said. “He looked somewhat disgruntled.” Luckily, “Ranger” wasn’t seriously injured. Penner noted, “His hair is a little bit singed and his pride is somewhat affected.” The Penners, being the environmentally conscious do-gooders that they are, made sure only to open the windows to air out the house rather than run a fan. After all, if global warming continues unabated, it could be cat-astrophic.