Hopefully I’ll be up to reading and posting later today.
Monthly Archives: September 2009
Lovely. Now you can throw liberals’ favorite stupid rhyme back in their faces. I’ve been thinking about the soldiers in Afghanistan a lot lately… I picture these soldiers fighting, waiting, dying, fighting, dying waiting…waiting for some leadership, some support from their commander-in-chief besides the tired rhetoric and analyses. Afghanistan is a mess. Our economy and our wars are the real crises in this country, NOT the manufactured health care “crisis.” Yeah, today: real crisis here… 87% satisfied with their private health insurance. Have any of you ever asked yourself why this health care “crisis” is taking precedent over the more dire situations are country currently faces? Why Obamacare is being rushed through even though our country is bankrupt and cannot afford it? Just curious.
Back to Afghanistan.
Nice read over at RedState. Obama needs to act. One way or the other.
Wednesday, September 23rd at 3:37PM EDT
On February 17, 2009 (just about a month after swearing an oath to defend his Country against all enemies foreign and domestic) it was reported that Barack Obama was committing an additional 17,000 troops to the Afghanistan “conflict” in order “[t]o meet urgent security needs.”
We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists. So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future…To achieve our goals, we need a stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy.”
Two days later, on March 29, 2009 it was reported that Barack Obama was committing “4,000 troops to Afghanistan along with hundreds of civilian specialists in an effort to confront what he considers “the central challenge facing [that] country.” Now the master of indecisiveness is promising “to announce new strategies for both countries Friday” (September 25, 2009).
To the detriment of us all, while Obama waffles and flips and flops (like the fish out of water we all knew he WOULD be in trying to fake it as a legitimate Commander in Chief) between all these strategies he can’t seem to make up his mind about, 317 MORE Soldiers have died fighting in defense of Operation Enduring Freedom which is more than 30% of the total lives lost during the entire 8 years of the conflict.
This is a record no man should ever be proud of. Barack Obama’s incompetence is directly and solely to blame for the flag-draped coffins of grief that have been delivered upon hundreds of American families and shame to the office he should never have been allowed to hold.
Let us go back in time to the Petraeus report to Congress in the spring of 2008 and the eerily similar difficulties the General had in Iraq.
Various elements push Iraqs ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists, and criminal gangs pose significant threats. Al Qaedas senior leaders, who still view Iraq as the central front in their global strategy, send funding, direction, and foreign fighters to Iraq. Actions by neighboring states compound Iraqs challenges. Syria has taken some steps to reduce the flow of foreign fighters through its territory, but not enough to shut down the key network that supports AQI. And Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way, through its lethal support to the Special Groups. Finally, insufficient Iraqi governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust, and corruption add to Iraqs problems. These challenges and recent weeks violence notwithstanding, Iraqs ethno-sectarian competition in many areas is now taking place more through debate and less through violence. In fact, the recent escalation of violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq was dealt with temporarily, at least, by most parties acknowledging that the rational way ahead is political dialogue rather than street fighting.
I admit to not being a Military strategy expert, but it’s not much of a stretch for me to see how similar the difficulties in Iraq were back then to the issues General McChrystal finds himself confronted with today. In asking for more troops on HIS battlefield, along with a host of other resources and a palpable desperation in suggesting that failure in Afghanistan is clearly NOT out of the question, General McChrystal has this to say about the state of the war in Afghanistan:
The stakes in Afghanistan are high. NATO’s Comprehensive Strategic Political Military Plan and President Obama’s strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and prevent their return to Afghanistan have lad out a clear path of what we must do. Stability in Afghanistan is an imperative; if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or has insufficient capability to counter transnational terrorists – Afghanistan could again become a base for terrorism, with obvious implications for regional stability.
The situation in Afghanistan is serious; neither success nor failure can be taken for granted. Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many overall indicators suggest the situation is deteriorating. We face not only a growing and resilient insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans — in both their government and the international community — that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents. Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.
Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying harder or “doubling down” on the previous strategy. Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.
Many of the specifics that McChrystal goes on to discuss in this report suggest, like in Iraq, that we need to be with and among the Afghans…that we need to provide them with security and justice and a belief that they can trust their government and its representatives (first using our OWN security resources while the Afghans themselves can assume these responsibilities) and that we can prove to them that we stand with them in this fight until they can stand on their own…however long and at whatever cost might be necessary for them (and us) to do so. It is this approach that gave the Iraqis the confidence to come forward and confide in us regarding where the bad guys were, what they were up to, and WHO they were that mingled amongst them. No such trust exists in Afghanistan today, and no actions from the Obama administration thus far in its existence have given the Afghan people any reason to believe we can be trusted any time soon.
For all that can be fairly said about the mistakes of the Bush Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan, one thing has become quite apparent; Obama has not learned from any of them. He may be interested in success, but sadly the success Obama seeks appears to be in the voting booth and not on the battlefield. In the meantime, Soldiers die as they await a strategy and a plan…and the resources necessary…to accomplish them.
AMEN! Maybe those who look to foreign countries, stupid celebrities, and sentimentalist rhetoric for political guidance should try looking at ugly dudes who know and respect the Constitution.
Richard A Epstein, 09.22.09, 12:00 AM EDT
Will the Supreme Court calm the convulsions?
The current incoherent struggle over health care reform is fast coming to a head. This past week, Sen. Max Baucus‘ “mark” on America’s Health Future Act laid an egg largely because it was too timid to satisfy the health care hawks in the House of Representatives. Baucus did not build in a public option; and he showed specks of mercy to employer health care plans that the democratic House regards as the villain of the piece. So the political action may well swing back to the House’s grotesque confection, H.R. 3200–America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. Good grief.
As a small-state libertarian, I cringe. To see how revolutionary the legislation is, first note how H.R. 3200 eviscerates President Obama’s oft-repeated promise that “if you like your current health care program, keep it.” Yes, but only for a day. The House’s “grandfathering” provision of existing plans is gutted by grotesquely restricted limitations. Stable health plans necessarily experience a turnover in enrollees, in policy provisions and in prices. But Section 102 of the House Bill allows any of these commonplace events to knock out grandfather status. Add one new employee to the rolls, and the plan is no longer grandfathered.
From day one all private health plans face this Hobson’s choice: Either go through the government exchange or go it alone. That freedom, however, comes at a steep price, as H.R. 3200 offers the carrots of fancy tax and affordability credits only to employers who go through the government exchange. Simultaneously, it heaps heavy payroll taxes on plans that steer clear of its clutches.
So, by default, all private firms will operate at the sufferance of the new Health Choices Commissioner (HCC), who can nix a proposed Quality Health Benefit Plan (QHBP) that doesn’t offer “acceptable coverage” to potential plan participants. Like clockwork, H.R. 3200 then kills all underwriting discretion. It allows no exclusions for pre-existing conditions; it requires guaranteed issue to all applicants and renewal of all policies, except for non-payment of premiums; it mandates parity for mental health and substance abuse programs; and it limits premium variations from top to bottom, a 2 to 1 ratio, even though high-risk seniors cost about five times as much to insure as healthy people in their 20s.
Each plan, moreover, needs to receive prior approval from the HCC who “negotiates with such entities for the offering of such plans” upon receipt of their “bids.” The regulatory noose is drawn even tighter because Section 116(a) requires all QHBPs to meet a “medical loss ratio.” In plain English the health care plan has to eat all losses in bad years but rebate excess profits in good years. Naturally, the HCC decides how much profit is too much.
The combined effect of these provisions thus turns all private health care providers into public utilities. At this point, the United States Constitution should protect these private health care plans from state confiscation of their shareholder-invested capital, just as it does with other regulated industries like telecommunications and electricity. Historically, financial regulation has been subject to tougher judicial scrutiny than land use regulation. With land use, the courts give local communities extensive power to regulate aesthetics and neighborhood character. But those physical externalities vanish when the only issue on the table is whether or not the government system allows health care firms a fair return on their invested capital.
Let us hope therefore that these regulated firms can challenge H.R. 3200 in court before it grinds them to dust. For that challenge to succeed the Supreme Court can no longer overlook the broad danger that vast delegated powers pose to the simple “rule of law” values like simplicity and consistency. It cannot indulge in the fiction that the flaws in the basic structure will be corrected by intelligent administration. It must keep an entire industry from falling prey to an arbitrary, balky and untested administrative process that wrecks one-sixth of the economy. It can’t let firms be driven to inertia until the HCC sorts through the pile of applications on its desk. Wake up, Supreme Court! H.R. 3200 does nothing to facilitate new entry, to control health care costs, ease medical malpractice burdens–or ironically to help the uninsured population. The bill is political and economic madness. Accordingly, judicial invalidation is a moral and social necessity—unless Congress comes to its senses first.
Richard A. Epstein is a professor of law at the University of Chicago, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and visiting law professor at New York University Law School. He writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.
1. get a group of “celebrities”
2. Have said “celebrities” dumb-down and trivialize a complex, dire issue by demonizing rich insurance executives.
3. Make up statistics
What a load of steaming, pretentious shit. I tend to know I’m on the right side of an argument when out-of-touch, over-paid, egotistical hollywood hypocrites are on the opposite end of the issue from me. Unbelievable: Class warfare waged by people who don’t have to worry about the govt takeover of health insurance since they belong to SAG and, conveniently, unions are exempt from Obamacare. Why is that? Hmm. It is idiotic to think that this entire problem dwindles down to the salaries of a few insurance company execs, because, ya know, there’s so little competition out there. I don’t hold it against celebrities – they get paid to act stupid. And I’m pretty sure if they sited that 80% stat there’d be a footnote up Will Ferrell’s ass. Interesting note pointed out by allah @hotair:
Will Ferrell Salary
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006): $20,000,000
- Bewitched (2005): $20,000,000
- Kicking & Screaming (2005): $20,000,000
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004): $7,000,000
No one who pocketed $20 million for any movie, let alone Bewitched and Talladega Nights, has any room to talk about overpaid execs.
Huge story.. Ya think anyone else besides Andrew Breitbart will have the balls to cover it? Nah.
Big Hollywood today reveals the extensive proof that shows the White House used the National Endowment for the Arts to push a political agenda favorable to President Obama. But it gets worse: the Administration lied about it, and tried to cover it up.
You already know the background: an NEA spokesman participated in a conference call designed to encourage artists to further Obama’s legislative agenda. This was revealed back in August at Big Hollywood. What is new today is the full transcript of the call — and how clearly the NEA was involved in urging artists to propagandize for Obama.
Naturally, the NEA and the Obama administration denied this. According to the Los Angeles Times (in a blog post, of course, and not an actual newsprint story), the NEA denied any purpose to further a legislative agenda:
The NEA issued a statement saying that it took part in the conference to help inform arts organizations about opportunities to sponsor volunteer service projects themselves, or have their members take part in other volunteer efforts. “This call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda, and any suggestions to that end are simply false,” the statement said.
The White House similarly denied any desire to further a legislative agenda:
Responding by e-mail Wednesday, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said the Aug. 10 teleconference “was not meant to promote any legislative agenda — it was a discussion on the United We Serve effort and how all Americans can participate.”
If Big Media had been paying attention, it could have demonstrated these denials to be rank lies. But Big Media fell asleep, leaving isolated organs of conservative media to pick up the ball and run it down the field. So, now, today, the full transcript is revealed, showing how badly Big Media missed the story.
The newly revealed full transcript of the call clearly demonstrates that the NEA participated in an unseemly (and possibly illegal) effort to influence artists to propagandize on behalf of the president’s political agenda. Let’s look at some aspects of the call that make it clear that, as Patrick Courrielche says with admirable restraint: “The NEA and the White House did encourage a handpicked, pro-Obama arts group to address issues under contentious national debate.”
One of the first speakers on the call was Michael Skolnik, the “political director” for Def-Jam co-founder Russell Simmons. Skolnik made it quite clear that the artists were gathered together because of their support for Obama’s agenda. Skolnik said that he had been “asked by folks in the White House and folks in the NEA” to “help bring together the independent artists community around the country.” He told the callers that “the goal of all this and the goal of this phone call” included the effort “to support some of the president’s initiatives” and “to push the president and push his administration.”
The Obama Hope poster
Skolnik cited the famous Obama Hope poster as “a great example” of “the role that we played during the campaign for the president.” He told callers that “the president has a clear arts agenda” and that “all of us who are on this phone call were selected for a reason” — namely, “you are the ones that lead by example in your communities. You are the thought leaders. You are the ones that . . . tell our country and our young people sort of what to do and what to be into; and what’s cool and what’s not cool.” (A fuller version of Skolnik’s quotes is set forth here for context.)
A bit later in the call, Buffy Wicks spoke up. Wicks is the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and served as the head of Obama’s Missouri campaign, and also as the campaign’s California Field Director.
Far from taking issue with Skolnik’s highly politicized description of the purpose of the call, Wicks added to it. Like Skolnik, Wicks indicated that she was talking to a hand-picked group of Obama-supporting artists. She told the assembled listeners that she has “really just a deep, deep appreciation for all the work that you all put into the campaign for the two plus years that we all worked together.” She said: “we won and that’s exciting, and now we have to take all that energy and make it really meaningful.” Why, I feel certain that she is not talking about promoting any legislative agenda, don’t you?
Wicks said that “change doesn’t come easy, but then now that I’m actually in the White House and working towards furthering this agenda, this very aggressive agenda” she realized that there is a need to “engage people at a local level and to engage them in the process.” Towards that end, she told the artists, “we need you, and we’re going to need your help, and we’re going to come at you with some specific asks here.”
In discussing the “specific asks” she veered deeply into policy. Wicks identified four main areas where people can engage in “service.” Two of them seem relatively innocuous: education and community renewal. But the first two she mentioned are clearly two of Obama’s biggest hot-button issues: health care and “energy and environment” (as in cap and trade). Speaking of “context,” Courrielche reminds us that the “context” surrounding this call was that it took place in early August — at a time when Congress was headed into a recess, and it appeared that the Obama administration was losing the debate on health care.
Wicks discussed so much policy with the artists that she even felt the need to apologize:
I know I’m throwing a lot of government stuff at you guys, so bear with me. It’s the world we live in now. We’re actually running the government.
What does this have to do with art?
Wicks discussed how the administration sees “service” as a “platform” by which the administration can take “folks who have just been engaged in electoral politics” and “engage them in really the process of governing.” The “service” certainly sounded like obeisance to leftist causes; Wicks described how she wants folks “to connect with federal agencies, with labor unions, progressive groups, face groups, women’s groups, you name it.” Yes, you name it! As long as it’s a leftist group, it can be part of “service”!
Finally, we get to the comments of Yosi Sergant, the (former) Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts. (Sergant was later reassigned after Glenn Beck played portions of the phone call on his TV show. Sergant is still with the NEA in some other capacity.)
Like Wicks and Skolnik, Sergant saw the call participants as Obama supporters. He says that the call itself is
reflective of all the hard work that went down during the campaign, all the time and energy that each and every one of you put in, myself included, it’s paying off.
This is what we fought for. We fought for a chance to be at the table and not only at the table but we’re setting the table.
He said more than once that “this is a community that knows how to make a stink.” The NEA official then virtually ordered the presumably willing participants to create art that would support the president’s views on the policy areas previously identified by Wicks:
We are participating in history as it’s being made. So bear with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely and we can really work together to move the needle and to get stuff done. Pick — I would encourage you to pick something whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know, there’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service.
My ask would be to apply artistic, you know, your artistic creative communities’ utilities and bring them to the table.
I guess it worked. As Big Hollywood has previously reported:
Within 48 hours of this phone call, 21 arts organizations endorsed President Obama’s health-care reform plan. Within days, Rock the Vote started an all out blitz that included a “health care design contest.”
In perhaps the most fascinating exchange, a caller named Liz Ban asked:
I think for the people that are on the inside of government to talk for a minute about Organizing For America and the differences between Organizing For America and Serve.gov and what we can do to help on critical advocacy issues like health care reform, cap and trade policy, if that should help move policies through the government, because this is a really important role that our creative community can also play.
That question is answered by Nell Abernathy, the director of outreach for United We Serve, a federal agency run through the Corporation for National and Community Service (this is apparently the “corporation” to which Sergant referred). As you read Abernathy’s words, you can easily picture the wink and the nod as she explains that the federal agencies can’t explicitly advocate specific policy changes:
Yeah, I can address that a little bit, and the reason only a little bit is largely because in my role at a federal agency, I’m precluded from going too far down the specific steps what people can do to advocate. But we have to, for these legal reasons, remain really separate what we do here from what OFA is doing, and so they’re basically two separate goals with the same idea. We use the same techniques, organizing strategies, because basically they’re both run by people from the campaign. But Serve.gov and the United We Serve initiative is based on the direct service addressing needs through volunteering today bipartisan support ideas than OFA, which is obviously advocating for policy change on these specific issues.
Got that? It’s “two separate goals with the same idea” and “both run by people for the campaign” but [wink wink] we can’t advocate policy change because [wink wink] we’re a federal agency.
Luckily, Mr. Skolnik jumps in to cut through the B.S., which he’s allowed to do because he doesn’t work for the government:
Well, I can speak on that because fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t work for the government. This is Michael, again, but I can speak a little bit on that, and then I’ll wrap this up.
I think that’s a good point, Liz. Organizing For America, which was created after the campaign which now houses, as we said, in the Democratic party and is run by Mitch Stewart, who is part of the campaign, he’s the executive director, it is what the Democratic party has created to help advocate on behalf of the president, on behalf of the president’s policies to get them passed in government.
So what I had hoped in bringing this group together with the great hosts, which again, I want to thank for reaching out to their communities was that we could begin to bring together our community in the same enthusiasm, with the same enthusiasm and with the same energy that we all saw in each other during the campaign, and we could continue to work together on issues as important as United We Serve and Service and begin here and continue to work together on other issues that we feel are important, as we mentioned some of them, health care and others . . .
Whoops! United We Serve is the federal agency that Ms. Abernathy had just said [wink wink] had to remain separate from policy, and here is Skolnik mushing the two together.
Why This Story Is Important
It would be a mistake to dismiss this story as unimportant because there is no jaw-dropping angle like ACORN staffers’ apparent complicity in trafficking in under-age children for prostitution. Consider what is happening: the NEA is encouraging artists to create propaganda for a president’s policy initiatives. This is a corrosive precedent — and what’s more, it illustrates the overarching danger of the Obama administration: government, by increasingly taking over various aspects of American society, threatens to bend society to the will of a single man.
It would also be a mistake to dismiss the story as old just because the basic contours of the story were revealed in August. Since then, the NEA and the Obama administration have denied pursuing a legislative agenda in the call; today it is clear that they lied. What’s more, they tried to cover it up with the reassignment of Sergant. And the media played right along, for the most part acting as though that was the end of it.
The most obviously interesting question in all this going forward is whether laws were broken with this call.
Regardless of the answer to that question, this is an important story with implications that go beyond the NEA. Here’s the bottom line. Before today, Obama took over car companies and used his power over those companies to further his agenda of producing cars he believed consumers should own. Today, he increases government power over artists, to harness their creative powers to the “service” of his political agenda. What will come tomorrow, when Our Leader takes over health care, new industries, or God knows what else?
This situation makes me sick. I’ve posted about it before, but here is another clearly-written, current account of the problem.