Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Closed Until January 2, 2010
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Happy New Year from the East Coast


Oops, that was a picture of the Acorn Drop in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Hmmm, nope, that's the Peach Drop in Atlanta...

Wrong again! This is the Dill Drop in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania!


Did you think that New York City was the only city to drop stuff on New Year's Eve? Here's a list brought to you by Wikipedia (and completely unverifiable). By the way, when traveling in Pennsylvania around New Year's Eve, it's best to always look up or wear a hard hat. Apparently, they like to drop stuff ALOT on New Year's Eve!!!

And finally, who can end the year without Dave Barry's Year in Review.

Enjoy and have a Happy and Healthy 2010!!!
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San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

Pictured is the riverboat California on San Francisco Bay during last year's New Year fireworks displays. The cruises are set up every year for both locals and tourists to get a truly dramatic view of The City and the fireworks which are coordinated at multiple locations on the Wharf, Crissie Field and the Embarcadero (I can see Crissie Field and the Wharf from my nothern windows, but the Embarcadero is hidden from me by Russian Hill). Across the Bay to the north, fireworks are also set off on the Marin side of the Golden Gate.

New Year's Eve in San Francisco is not as concentrated as it is in the Big Apple. We really don't have a place as large or easily-accessible as Times Square, so we spread our festivities out over prime locations in The City. The Union Square (downtown) celebrations have been severely cut back because of some unruly behavior over the years, but everything else seems to go well, happily, and unrestricted. Our waterfront is visible from nearly all locations on the Bay, from Berkeley to Richmond, to Sausalito and to points south as well, so the waterfront displays give the most fun to the largest number of people.

NOTE: Readers of the San Francisco Chronicle have been frustrated for years by the poor service, rude bus drivers, and general filthiness of the Muni buses which carry a large portion of The City's workforce every day. At last, the head of the transport workers union explains why, with that record, Muni bus drivers (and Muni employees in general) are the third highest paid transport workers in the United States. I should have known. It's because the transit employees have to pay a portion of their health care benefits, unlike the other City employees. Somehow, I'm not convinced, and apparently either is a large portion of the population which has to ride those buses regularly. To add insult to injury, they all got a $3,000 Christmas bonus to help them pay for their "cadillac" insurance policies as well as a federal exemption for the taxes we mere citizens will have to pay if Pelosi's socialized medicine plans succeed.

NOTE: In other developments, a Chronicle writer in the Mommy Files has her panties in a bunch over the deleterious results of people watching the movie A Christmas Story. Most of you know the story (it's a Christmas classic). But for those who don't, author Jean Shepherd creates a story built around a boy named Ralphie Parker whose sole wish for Christmas is to get a Red Ryder BB gun. There is considerable hilarity about his wish, including the immediate refrain "you'll put somebody's eye out" from every adult who hears his wish.

Oh my God!, the author of the Chronicle piece informs us that 21,000 children are wounded every year by BB guns (incomprehensibly, she includes charged pellet guns with BB guns). I think that's about half as many as are injured each year by bicycle accidents, but what the hell. We must agonize. We must worry. We must lose sleep. We must protect our children from every possible risk of harm. We must ask ourselves if "any child under the age of 16 should have a BB gun." Aw, nuts. Kids under 16 shouldn't have anything that thoughtful parents haven't considered carefully, after giving due contemplation to their children's propensities, their intelligence level and the availability of adult supervision. I don't want any child to be injured, but given that this is the real world, the only way to protect a child completely is to put the kid in a plastic bubble, monitored 24 hours a day by experts of every sort. Life itself involves risk, adult or child. Some risks cannot be avoided, others can be minimized, but the risks are always there. So as my younger friends say, "lighten up, dude."

NOTE: In a rare display of firmness, Senate Republicans have forced the Democrats to reconsider the 12 to 7 vote confirming in the Judiciary Committee the Obama nomination of former ACLU attorney and current temporary federal magistrate Edward Chen. Chen is a typical Obamist, with a bigger mouth and a highly-visible paper trail. As an attorney, he unsuccesfully argued in federal court against California Prop 209 (The Civil Rights Initiative) which ended affirmative action in California in public contracts and public education. He later voiced his views about Katrina and New Orleans by publicy asking if "the government's response to Katrina would have been quicker if the victims had been white and middle-class rather than poor and black." Aha! A wise Chinese male who sees the world in the same terms as new justice Sotomayor. The Committee has now reconsidered sending the nomination to the full Senate, but my guess is that this is just a matter of time. Yet maybe some Senators will be a little less timid about questioning the potential permanent judge on the San Francisco federal bench about his racist views than they were with Red Sonia. I have my own candidate for a bench presently devoid of anyone of Chinese ancestry: John Yoo. Remember him from my previous posts? He's the UC Berkeley law school professor who isn't afraid of Eric Holder and his political show trials. But Holder is plenty afraid of him, considering that Holder withdrew all charges against Yoo for advising President Bush on what were acceptable interrogation techniques that the Obamists didn't like. Yoo essentially said "bring it on." Holder chose not to.

NOTE: San Francisco has suddenly found itself with the biggest annual drop in homicides in history. The Chronicle says it's "inexplicable." Unfortunately for its mystification, the article goes on to tell us that the drop was particularly dramatic in the largely-black Bay View, Western Addition and Hunter's Point areas where the police have dramatically increased gang control units and targeted enforcement, and the largely-Latino Mission district where anti-gang units have been doubled and tripled over the past year in reaction to the gang murders, led by the notorious MS-13 thugs. Before anybody decides this is "racist," it in fact means that the largest drop in homicides were among blacks and Latinos killing other blacks and Latinos. It has never been a black-white or Latino-white dichotomy.

It seems to me that the drop in homicides is not, then, entirely "inexplicable." However, I'll grant the Chron some of its mystification, since the same pattern seems to be appearing in New York City, Oakland, Los Angeles, and many other major cities. Maybe they have their own versions of San Francisco's logical intense concentration on gang-dominated and high crime areas, or maybe the thugs are just too depressed to go out of the house during this economic meltdown.

Well, that's it for now. Time to get ready for New Year celebrations with family and friends. I see a bright future in the new year for America through the fog of Obamism. As they say, it always seems darkest before the dawn.

But before I close, I know some of you are wondering if I'm going to do anything on Chronicle columnist Mark Morford. Well, in my own little way, I may have pushed his name a bit farther than I had intended. Late last week, Big Hollywood picked up on one of his recent bizarre columns. So if you haven't already read it, here's Morford's review of Avatar: Please mount my hot blue alien.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

UCLA Challenges The Death Panelists

The picture you're seeing is the main entrance to the newly-upgraded UCLA Medical Center. As a UC Berkely alum, I teased my son unmercifully for graduating from our junior cousin to the south. But it was always good-natured ribbing. Both have excellent medical schools, but UCLA's is better-known, and has just recently been rated one of the top three hospitals in the nation.

Of course, I've also made a few cracks about its cross-town rival which is attached to USC. Now UCLA is a public university, and USC is a private university, but everything's a little strange in California. The proudest part of the UC center in L.A. is that it is known as the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Its much less prestigious rival became part of the Los Angeles County USC Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Center. The County Medical Center was once an architectural wonder and a decent medical facility. As it grew older, it felt it needed both the attachment to a major university (USC) and identification with the demographic it served (Central and South Central Los Angeles). While UCLA's prestige increased every year, the County Center became a place reminiscent of the horror stories of medical practice in 19th century England.

By 2005, the care became so dangerous at the Martin Luther King Trauma Center, that it was de-certified, and ultimately closed. Four accidental patient deaths from negligent doctors and nurses in one day merely capped nearly ten years of declining and ever more incompetent treatment at the Center. Recently, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center was re-opened in a different part of town, but the County/USC Center has shown very few signs of improvement. Public university with ever-increasing accolades, versus private university with an unenviable record. So we can't always assume that public is necessarily bad, or that private is automatically better. The difference here is that the doctors and medical experts run the UCLA Medical Center, and County bureaucrats, politicians and university administrators run the County/USC Medical Center. I will admit that it's a rather unusual reversal of roles.

As interesting as that contrast may be, that is not the real purpose of this article. The real purpose is to point out that in keeping with its high reputation, UCLA has led the way in a particular area of health care of extreme interest to the majority of Americans who are watching the potential crippling of health care and death of elderly patients being jammed down their throats by the Obama administration. UCLA has published a "UCLA Medical Center at the Heart of End-of-Life Debates" series which was capped on December 23 with a front page piece largely opposing and attacking the federal government's analysis of how to ration health care, particularly for the elderly and critically ill. The study and conclusions were joined by four other western university medical schools, including UCSF.

UCLA has long had the reputation of staffing doctors who will go to any length to save a life. "If you come into this hospital, we're not going to let you die," according to Dr. David T. Feinberg, the Center's chief executive (a doctor as the executive deciding on life and death--who'd a thunk it?). The government plan (as best we can tell amidst all the confusion) decides on two factors: "Is this life capable of being saved?" and "Does the patient fit into a category which allows for extraordinary life-saving techniques?" (old folks need not apply, and money is an object).

UCLA decides on the basis of "Is the patient still alive, and is there any way known to medical science to save him?" The Obama administration and a recent Dartmouth study gives UCLA minus points for "spending the most on end-of-life care" with what they claim produces no discernible difference in the end results." The obvious question is "how do they know that?" The UCLA doctors are not spendthrifts, although their facilities couldn't be more state-of-the-art, but they say that "they recognize a difficult truth: It can be hard, sometimes impossible, to know which critically ill patients will benefit and which will not."

The Dartmouth Study considers only the costs of treating patients who have ultimately died after the life-saving treatment, but ignores the ones who survive. So their conclusion as to "no difference in results" is meaningless. But it's a government bureaucrat's dream. "Hmm, old, chronic life-endangering illness, most likely treatment too expensive. REJECT."

Good doctors consider all the factors, including alternate (and frequently less expensive) treatments. UCLA does exactly that. They cite the example (their study shows it's a typical example, not merely anecdotal) of one Salah Putrus, age 71. He was referred to UCLA for a heart transplant after at least two other hospitals and several doctors had given up any hope of his surviving the surgery, or surviving it for any appreciable period of time. The doctors at UCLA reviewed his medical history carefully, and used all those "expensive" machines that can test just about anything, and concluded the heart surgery was not only dangerous for a man in his condition, but unnecessary as well. They put him on a drug regimen to reduce the amount of water he was retaining. They removed some teeth that were potential sources of infection. Mr. Putrus has been out of the UCLA Med Center for over six months now, his health has improved exponentially, and he is no longer considered in active need of a transplant.

Rhetorical question: Which would have been more expensive--a heart transplant that would likely have killed the patient or left him with a very short life expectancy, or the use of doctors and state-of-the-art equipment which determined that the transplant wasn't even necessary. And add to that, that heart can only be used once. The doctors and the equipment can be utilized over, and over, and over.

The Los Angeles Times, a big fan of Obamacare, nevertheless picked up on the findings of the UCLA series, and concluded that in the case of heart failure patients, "the hospitals that spend the most seem to save the most lives." An obvious fact entirely missed by Obamacare and the sycophantic Dartmouth study. For those who believe that health care is a matter of mere numbers and statistics, I suggest that if they are older or suffering from a chronic life-endangering illness, they should consider being treated at UCLA Medical Center rather than at Dartmouth.
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Obama: A Year Of Failing Dangerously

Obama called the recent terrorist attack in Detroit a “systematic failure.” That sounds like a pretty fair description of the entire Obama administration. Let’s look back on the year that was.

Obama came into power with no experience, no skills, no plan and no history of learning from his mistakes. So it should have come as no surprise that things started poorly and only got worse from there.

Indeed, right out of the gate, Obama ran into a little problem. . . appointment after appointment proved to be a disaster. Many didn’t pay their taxes, some were lobbyists (making a mockery of Obama’s no lobbyist policy). One of his czars quit after a few weeks because he didn’t know what the heck he was doing. Another turned out to be a Mao worshiper. One was a racist. And another came as close to being a pedophile as you can get without being caught naked with a kid.

Almost before his rear end hit the big chair, Obama signed into law a disastrous $780 billion “stimulus” plan that cost more jobs than it created. To cover his mistake, he sent out Slow Joe Biden to lie about the number of jobs his stimulus plan “created or saved.” Sadly for Obama, Joe no lie good and people caught on pretty quickly.

So he doubled down on stupid by handing truckloads of money to GM so that GM could remake itself into the exact same company it was before it got the money.

But Obama didn’t just help his union friends at GM, his banking buddies did pretty well too. As regional banks all over the country collapsed, the nation’s biggest banks (heavy contributors to the Democratic party) got hundreds of billions in cash and trillions in loan guarantees to beef up their balance sheets.

His administration then authorized hefty bonuses to AIG, only to feign outrage when the public heard about it. Learning nothing from his mistakes, Obama authorized huge salaries for the officers and directors of Fannie and Freddie Mac.

Fresh off that screw-up, Obama “acted stupidly” by accusing a Cambridge, Mass police officer of racism for arresting an as~hole who happened to be black. That one kind of put an end to this “post racial” delusion.

So did he learn from his mistakes? No. Instead, he took Air Farce One for a joyride and dive bombed New York City for fun.

Soon he turned to the meat of his agenda: (1) cap and trade (died in the Senate); (2) card check (died in the House); (3) banking “reform” (which seems to have vanished into Chris Dodd’s pocket); and (4) mortgage reform, which saved no one’s mortgage.

His ObamaCare plan went from bad to laughable, as the Democrats set about slaughtering each other. This turned a very liberal bill into the biggest special interest sop of all time. Drug monopolies were protected from competition. Doctors got bribed. AARP got bribed. The trial lawyers got an end to medical malpractice reform. The list goes on and on. But the coup de grĂ¢ce, tens of millions of people will be forced to buy insurance, with virtually no cost or price controls. Can’t beat that with a stick!

And when Obama had to give the “speech of his administration” to save it, all he managed to do was wipe out what was left of the plan’s support.

Do you remember Obama’s big achievement in Copenhagen? If you read our article on this, you would know that the “deal” wasn’t really a deal so much as a statement of wishful thinking. But there’s more. Apparently, the assembly was so put out by Obama’s magic deal that they refused to adopt the agreement. Instead, the document was “officially noted,” meaning that the agreement is officially nonbinding and any country that wants to ignore it can. This was underscored by Chinese lead negotiator Su Wei, who said this agreement is “not an agreed document, it was not formally endorsed or adopted.”

And, just in case you’re wondering, two non-bindings do not make a binding.

Now to his credit, not everything Obama did was a failure. He did act swiftly to order the military to take out those Somali pirates, that’s good. He even sent some ships to fight piracy. Of course, hijackings still reached an all time high in 2009, so maybe this wasn’t such a success either.

Obama’s talk-shop politics failed in Honduras, Iran, Russia, North Korea, China, and anywhere else it was tried. The Hondurans wrapped him around the Axle Rod. Not only did Team Obama not manage to get Zelaya returned to office, but Zelaya still hasn’t managed to leave the Brazilian Embassy because the Hondurans plan to arrest him once he does.

Iran ignored him and went on building their “peace bomb,” while North Korea playfully tossed missiles into the Pacific in spite of Obama’s harshest wishes. China refused to stop manipulating their currency or stop buying weapons or even tone down their suddenly very aggressive foreign policy. Obama sold out the Poles and the Czechs to the Russians in exchange for help on Iran, which never came.

The whole fighting terrorism thing didn’t go so well either. When a Muslim terrorist decided to shoot American soldiers at Fort Hood, Team Obama seemed incapable of identifying the bad guy. Rather that focusing on the Islamic Terrorist, Team Obama spent their time trying to keep us rednecks in flyover country from stringin’ us up an A-rab! Woo hoo!

His “speech of his administration” on Afghanistan won nobody over (3% tops) for his Afghanistan plan, unless you count the Taliban. They really liked it.

As he’s piddled, Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia all plunged further and further into chaos and the arms of Al Qaeda.

His response to the Detroit bombing again showed a lack of a steady hand. Not only did he wait three days to address the public, but he seems incapable of grasping that the terrorist acted in the name of Islam and was affiliated with some very bad people. Even worse, he sent his clowns to entertain us rather than assure us, like when Butch Napolitano assured us that “our system did not work,” right after assuring us that “the system worked.” I feel better already.

Remember that “speech of his administration” he gave in Cairo? “We bad, you good, let’s all come together coo coo ca choo.” That worked. ** rolls eyes ** Nothing but peace and happiness in the Middle East now.

Gitmo? Still open. . . though one suspect has been granted a field trip to New York for a trial.

We don’t even have word if Obama’s golf game has improved!

In fact, looking back over 2009, there is nothing that this man has done right. His administration truly has been a “systematic failure.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m glad his agenda lies in tatters. But it would have been nice to have an actual leader in office who did the little things. . . like stimulating the economy or stopping Iran from nuking us. But I guess we’re not getting that with this administration.

Oh well. Better luck next year.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Question: New Year's Resolutions

With the new year upon us, it’s time to play the resolutions game. You know the one, where you swear to do things and then you see how fast you can break those promises! Well I’m through with that. This year I’m sticking with my resolutions. In fact, that’s my only resolution: “This year, I resolve to stick with my resolutions.” I’m feeling quite confident of my chances. What are your resolutions? [+] Read More...

Can A Liberal Be Right About American Exceptionalism?

I just read a piece by liberal Ron Rosenbaum that makes me think that liberals occasionally understand the flaws in the conservative agenda better than many conservatives. That is not to say that Rosenbaum has a firm grip on the conservative mind, but can see a damaging flaw in the conservative movement in today's political climate. He has concluded that the right wing throws the words "American exceptionalism" around almost as mindlessly as his own left wing uses the words "fascist" and "racist." I must reluctantly agree.

As a short introduction to Rosenbaum for those who are unfamiliar with his writing, his opening paragraphs in the article start out with: "Don't get me wrong, I love America. I honor those who sacrificed and still sacrifice to protect and defend our freedom. And unlike most liberals, I actually listen to conservative talk radio. I think El Rush has a good b.s. detector (as well as a good b.s. projector) and I'll take Imus' word that Sean Hannity is a nice guy, although his prideful sense of his own righteousness rivals that of the Spanish Inquisition. In fact, the sin of pride (aka self-righteousness) is what I'm here to talk about today.

"The meme I'm talking about is the one where everyone is called upon to pledge allegiance to the doctrine of 'American exceptionalism.' Frankly I don't think many of the callers (and I'm not sure about Hannity himself) know what they're talking about when they use the word 'exceptionalism.' These days, on Hannity's show at least, it's mainly used in a simple-minded, dumbed-down, loutish 'we're number one!' Freddie Mercury 'we are the champions of the world,' boastful, sin of pride way."

Frankly, I had been thinking along the same lines. I'm a bit less critical of Hannity, but that might be because I occasionally pop over to his TV show on Fox News Channel, and have never heard his radio show. I sometimes see too much "rah-rahism," and too little thinking, but I'm certainly not in disagreement with much of his underlying patriotic agenda. More importantly, I am a firm and deep believer in American exceptionalism myself, and I suspect that my view of that is not much different from Rosenbaum's, and quite different from a great deal of what I hear and see from my friends on the right.

The picture I used illustrates one of those misconceptions about American Exceptionalism. Too many think it's another way of saying "manifest destiny," an expression whose time has come--and gone. It served the nation well (admittedly over the bodies of more than a few of the native residents) as the fledgling nation extended itself from sea to shining sea. The concept was a creature of its time, and contained large portions of racial thinking and religious fervor. Not much worse than its contemporary beliefs throughout the world, but definitely long outdated. White people in general (including all the colonizer nations of Europe) were destined to rule the world, and America was particularly suited to be the big fish in that pond.

Another large group seems to think along the lines that America is exceptional because we seem to have come out on top (a sort of worldwide social Darwinism). As Rosenbaum puts it: "[That view of exceptionalism] is a doctrine that [cannot] be taken seriously as anything but jingoistic boasting (Outta my way, lesser nations, I'm cutting to the head of the line 'cause I'm an American and we're exceptional)."

But don't make the mistake of thinking that I agree with everything Rosenbaum says. He's far too much the relativist, and excuses Barack Obama's many mis-steps in explaining America and American ways to others. "But recently 'American exceptionalism' has been used to club Obama, who, when asked whether he believed in American exceptionalism, replied with something like, 'sure, just as the British believe in British exceptionalism, etc.'" Rosenbaum sees that comment as "a remarkable instance of intellectual integrity not submitting to the demand for jingoistic blather." I see that as a lack of intellect and a complete lack of understanding what an American president should be saying about his own nation.

Obama's answer should have been a simple "yes," or in the alternative (my preference) to use those legal credentials he questionably holds to explain, in his best University of Chicago constitutional law professor way, that "American exceptionalism is not about military, economic or moral superiority but rather those bedrock principles upon which America was founded and bled for, to wit, a constitutional republic, embodied in a Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and giving a proper respect to Almighty God, which struggled more mightily than any other to guarantee the freedom of mankind and the potential to be a great force for good throughout the world."

You'll notice that in my version, I have avoided both Obama's multiple apologies for pretty much everything America has ever said or done, while at the same time avoiding Hannity's simplistic (and untrue) "We ain't got nothin' to apologize for." Apologies (or refusals to recognize the facts) are substitutes for critical thinking and honest patriotism. And as for good hard-nosed realpolitik, nations don't apologize to anyone, even their own people. Apologies are for individuals to be made to those whom they have harmed. Nations (at least good nations) see their flaws and do their best to correct them. I truly believe that America has done more of this "national correction" than any other nation on earth, including fighting a bloody Civil War to produce the rights only partially realized in the documents of the Founding Fathers.

Having said that, I agree with Rosenbaum that flaunting our goodness is, indeed, the sin of pride. Too often, genuinely good and patriotic Americans flaunt the good others have accomplished, now and in the past. And that is merely the mirror image of apologizing for the evil others have done. The exceptionalism of America is that it is the only nation which has produced such an extraordinary group as the Founders who produced two documents which do not make perfect citizens, but rather have guided a nation by rules which best allow for advancing the good in human beings while restraining the evil.

American exceptionalism should never be used as a phrase which means American "superiority." We have gone from thirteen small colonies to the leader of the free world because of the American exceptionalism evidenced in the Declaration and the Constitution. Even the great patriot George M. Cohan wrote that under that grand old flag, there's "never a boast or brag." Confidence and firmness must not be mistaken for manifest arrogance. A much more thoughtful author wrote "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall." Proverbs 16:18

It is that true exceptionalism which has made America a great nation. It is not the oft-quoted, and nonexistent Tocquevillianism "America is great because she is good." Nor has America's preeminent position in the world been the result of despotic uses of power or industrial militarization of the American soul. America's exceptionalism is the result of its founding documents, the good will of great men and women, and the freedom to combine Judeo-Christian beliefs into an entirely non-religious form of government which seeks perfection, but never claims it. As a result, America has had to fight, and use its great military capabilities to advance freedom throughout the world. As a human institution, it has made some major mistakes. Yet it didn't produce a true imperial power. If it had, Germany and Japan would currently be colonies of the United States rather than allies free to express their own views and go their own way, while Britain and France would be friendly satrapies.

So the next time you hear someone braying about American exceptionalism, ask yourself if that person has the least clue what he or she is talking about. Mindless adherence to a patriotic mantra serves nobody well. The true patriot knows why America is exceptional, and can explain it without using meaningless catchphrases.
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Year-End Greetings From Ahmadinejad

President Obama waves farewell to his adoring fans as he prepares to head off to the sunnier climes of Hawaii to spend the Christmas-New Year holiday with his family (whoever they may be). Shortly before Christmas, he received an end-of-year message from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad summing up the autocrat's year long dealings with the open hand of The One. The message was essentially "stuff it you fool, we're going to do whatever we damned well please, so kindly keep talking while doing nothing."

Almost a year ago, Obama promised to extend the open hand of friendship to everyone, so long as they would unclench their fists. And how well has that worked out with the leader of Iran? So far, he's sucker-punched the Lamb three or four times with that clenched fist. "Let's talk some more--Pow!" In his most-recent suicidal gesture of naivete, Obama proposed that the world rid itself of its nuclear arms. Ahmadinejad's reply? "Bam! Sure, fool, just as soon as you get rid of all 8,000 of your nuclear arms. Trust me. I'm not really going to sock you again." It's like Charlie Brown and Lucy on an international scale. And like Charlie Brown, Obama just refuses to learn.

While Obama spent the year on the America's Apology Tour, his counterpart in Iran has been very busy as well. When Obama timidly questioned A-Jad about the discovery of a secret nuclear development facility, the leader of Iran replied: "Zap! And if you like that one, wait until you see the rest of them, you wuss." While The One was busy flitting around the world extending his open hand to everyone and bowing to foreign royalty, Ahmadinejad was generally at home, tending to business. Like the development of two-stage rockets to carry the nuclear arms he is developing at his energy research facilities.

The Iranian masses were in revolt against the Iranian rigged election, and although Obama doesn't know how to make a fist, he gave them a good swat with the back of his hand. Then he returned the open hand to his competitor. Even during the huge anti-government demonstrations last week at the funeral of dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Obama made a few tepid remarks about "possible" oppression in the vile dictatorship which he insists on referring to as "The Islamic Republic of Iran." Most recently, the oppressors have killed and wounded dozens of anti-government demonstrators. Obama's criticism of the Islamic Republic from the greens in Hawaii was "fore!" The Islamic Republic isn't the problem, jerk, it's the Ahmadinejad government of Iran. Obama's advisers at home have advised him never to miss an opportunity to exploit a crisis, but overseas he has been advised never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Obama believes he can out-talk Ahmadinejad, but there's little chance of that. And unlike Obama, A-Jad can talk and chew gum at the same time. While hurling insults at the West, tossing death-threats at Israel, and heaping verbal offal on Obama, the dictator's other ability is in play. He's supervising the rapid development of Iran's nuclear capabilities. Obambi is still just talking and making cow-eyes at the cameras. The opportunity missed, of course, is open support for the dissidents and the cessation of mere talk. If our peacenik-in-chief is unwilling to take any military action to stop the threat to Israel and Europe (and eventually, the United States), the least he could do is throw a monkey-wrench into Iran's machinery by distracting the military and the politicians in a battle simply to hold onto their ill-gotten power.

Obama has already peace-talked Russia into open opposition to meaningful sanctions against Iran by unilaterally pulling the missile defense shield out from under Eastern Europe. They haven't exactly punched him yet, but at one meeting, the entire Russian delegation pointedly refused to shake his open hand. While talking about "fundamentally re-making America," he has gotten America so far into hock that major creditor Red China also laughs at the idea of sanctions against Iran. Western Europe shares the talking trait with Obama, and though publicly willing to go along with sanctions against Iran, the governments are privately terrified by Iran's threats, and see no reason to believe that their former military benefactor across the Atlantic is willing to help them defend themselves.

Dogs can smell fear, and Ahmadinejad is a son of a, well, you know. Back on November 4, which is tenderly know as "hate America day" in Iran since it marks the date of the seizure of the American embassy during the watch of another talker (from Georgia), there were staged government demonstrations. But they weren't the only ones. An even larger group of dissidents showed up, and shouted, among other things, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them." And The One largely ignored their pleas, instead recommitting himself to good relations with The Islamic Republic of Iran. Ahmadinejad thereupon strengthened the police and the military to roust the dissidents, as violently as possible without arousing the suspicions of the fellow travelers at the Associated Press.

And what of the rapid progress of nuclear development in Iran? If it can't be stopped, and were the Iranian dictatorship to be overthrown with the assistance of American support, we would at least face a much more reasonable, and perhaps even pro-Western Iran. Though a nuclear Iran would change the entire dynamic in the Middle East, it would at least be one less murderous regime out to nuke Tel Aviv, Paris, London, or New York City.

The secular head of the current Iranian regime is a madman with delusions of grandeur. If you know the story of the Iranian version of Islam, you know that he is working hard to bring about the conditions that will bring "the hidden imam" out of the closet to oversee the Muslim version of Armageddon. Meanwhile, America has a messiah with no clothes (or brain, for that matter). Although Israel denies that it has nuclear weapons, it is unlikely that it does not. But Israel would use nuclear weapons only against an attack on Israel itself, never offensively. The Great American Talker has just recently denied Israel a viable alternative--a new generation of bunker-buster bombs which would easily penetrate the underground facilities where Imadinnerjacket is building his nuclear weapons and preparing to deploy his missiles in violation of a long string of UN reprimands and meaningless threats. With Iran's Russian and Chinese-developed long-range radar antiaircraft facilities nearly in place and operable, Israel is quickly being estopped from making conventional airborne attacks on Iran.

Obama could use an updated version of the chastened and reinvigorated John Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union upon the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." Just add Israel to that list, replace Soviet Union with Iran, and you've got one helluva an argument for scaring the other members of the Iranian government into a more reasonable course while strengthening the resolve of the Iranian people not to be utterly destroyed to preserve a government they hate. By then the Russians had figured out that Kennedy was no longer a callow youth to be dragged around by his ear. I'm not very confident that the same can be said about the waffling Obama.

In order to avoid a Middle East theater-wide war it is vital that the Iranian dissidents become successful Iranian revolutionaries. Obama doesn't know or care about the concept "if you want peace, prepare for war." But A-Jad clearly know its mirror version--"if you want war, prepare for it." If the terrorist regime in Iran is not overthrown, and soon, there will be only military options remaining. And those will be necessary as the result of an Iranian attack, possibly nuclear, on one of its neighbors. I think we can guess which one would be first.

Obama's leftist credentials leave him almost entirely incapable of finding a way to supply arms and military support to the Iranian dissidents. But the Iranians are the best-educated Islamic nation of all, and the huge and growing youth population is plenty smart enough to know how to obtain what they need if a major power like America gives at least strong support to their movement. But Obama thinks he can still play both ends against the middle and talk everybody into a satisfactory resolution of "the problem." Not much real physical support was given to the Russian, Polish, Czech or East German dissidents, but we had a President who was willing to challenge them on their own ground, and speak forcefully enough that the oppressors had at least to wonder if we might cross that line into covert or even overt military support of the freedom movements. Ultimately, not only did that allow the satellite states to overthrow their regimes, but ended the seventy-year reign of the communist party in the former Soviet Union. Reagan put cruise missiles into Europe, Obama took missile defenses out.

Time is not on the side of the West. America must prepare the way with more than sweet words, and convince Russia and China that at the very least they should stay out of the way and not assist the tyrannical Iran regime against whatever action is taken. Saddam Hussein used biochemical weapons to protect his mad regime, and it cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kurds and other citizens of his own country. What makes this verbose sissy of a President think that someone like Ahmadinejad won't do far worse with nuclear weapons and a means to deliver them into places that now will have no missile defenses?
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Go West Young Voter!

A little good news from the electoral map. For at least three decades now, Americans have been moving away from the sclerotic old-line liberal states in the Northeast. They’ve been moving to the much more conservative South and West. In so doing, they are gradually shifting the political balance of power between conservative and liberal states. The 2010 Census will continue this trend, and that’s bad news for the Democrats.

Over Christmas, two different political data firms released remarkably similar estimates of how the 2010 census will affect the distribution of House seats (and electoral votes). These reports were based on 2009 Census data.

According to these firms, eight states will gain a total of eleven new House seats: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas (4 seats), Utah and Washington. Notice that these are states that tend to vote heavily Republican, with the exception of Washington.

At the same time, ten states will lose those eleven seats: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio (2 seats) and Pennsylvania. What do these states have in common? Other than Louisiana, they’re reliably Democratic. . . sorry Ohio, it’s true.

This could result in a shift in the House (and Presidential electoral votes) of nine votes for the Republicans, depending on how the redistricting is handled within each state. The Politico projects a seven vote swing.

Seven votes would have killed PelosiCare in the House.

More importantly, these changes are getting closer to breaking the parity between liberal and conservative states. If these changes continue, in a couple of decades, it may become virtually impossible for a liberal to be elected President or for a liberal party to control the House of Representatives (the Senate is different).

Indeed, this could become an electoral advantage similar to that enjoyed by the Labor Party in Britain, where the Conservatives need to win by almost double digits just to become the majority party. The same could one day become true in this country, with the Democrats on the short end of the stick.

Such a change would have a significant effect on the Democratic Party. They would need to adapt, by moving to the right, or forever face regional irrelevance. It would also mean that states like California, which spends itself into a drunken stupor and then begs the other forty-nine states for help, will need to change their ways. All of this would be great for the country.

But that is all down the road. These changes won’t take effect until 2012. And in 2012, it is unlikely that the Republicans will need an electoral advantage to win. Unless the Republicans choose a truly bad candidate (and I can think of a couple who are rather popular right now) they should be able to sweep aside Obama and his Democratic allies, whose entire agenda is opposed by around 60% of the public and close to 70% of non-Democrats.

In any event, the days of liberalism in the United States may be numbered. So let’s encourage this trend to continue. If you know anyone who is conservative, and they aren’t happy living in one of those decaying worker’s paradises in the North, tell them to go West. . .

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Tale Of Michelle And The Cookie Jar

First Lady Michelle Obama has become the co-president to her husband that Hillary Clinton only dreamed of being. She is with him everywhere, making speeches, giving orders, running up the public debt. And if the early reports are substantiated, she's right there with him practicing crooked Chicago politics and extending them to the federal level.

The "cookie jar" that Michelle may have had her hand in is the mini-scandal that could conceivably be the Obama Watergate. Remember the dust-up awhile back about the Inspector General who was removed from office without so much as a "thank you for your loyal service?" IG Gerald Walpin was removed from his office (literally) for getting too close to proving a nefarious connection between the Obamas, a crooked California mayor, and a couple of questionable community organizations. Walpin filed suit to regain his job as watchdog over the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), at least until the normal expiration of his term of office.

Walpin was investigating CNCS, its chairman, Alan D. Solomont, and most particularly former NBA star Kevin Johnson, who is now the mayor of Sacramento, California. Johnson, a personal friend and enthusiastic supporter of the Obamas, was also a director of AmeriCorps (soon to be re-named The Obama Youth Corps) which is a creature of CNCS. Even before the Obamas came into office, there was an investigation into serious allegations of misuse of AmeriCorps funds by Johnson. The Obamas, Chairman Solomont, and the new acting U.S. Attorney in Sacramento were greatly displeased by the investigation, and have since done everything possible to keep Walpin out of office and the investigation gone like the New Black Panther cases in Philadelphia.

House Member Darryl Issa (R-California) and Sen. Charles Grassle (R-Iowa) have been following the investigation and the attempt to suppress it, and are now actively informing their constituents about the latest developments. Walpin had been warned to back off the investigation by Obama administration officials, but refused. The Inspector General statute requires that any IG whose services are going to be terminated ("removed from office") must receive thirty days notice of such intention to terminate. Walpin was apparently getting too close to wait for that thirty days to pass, so instead of terminating him, they suspended him "effective immediately" (he was placed on paid administrative leave, thus avoiding the termination appellation). That, as a practical matter, stopped the investigation without the legal niceties of giving Walpin notice and opportunity to defend himself or to complete his investigation. The entire purpose of the thirty day requirement is fend off political interference with an ongoing investigation.

Among the ginned-up charges against Walpin were allegations that he had gone senile overnight and didn't express himself in a proper logical manner at a couple of meetings with the Obama nay-sayers. Walpin, on the other hand, was not so senile as to forget to demand his rights. And in doing so, he hired some attorneys to file suit to gain his position back. His legal charge against the administration is that the "suspension" was in fact a "termination" in all but name. On December 7, Obama administration lawyers filed briefs in federal court claiming that Walpin's charges were completely without merit, and should be dismissed without a hearing. It is not a big stretch to believe that the motion is an indication of how fearful the administration is that any of this dictatorial activity will be documented in court records.

So where does the unelected and unofficial co-president fit into this scenario? Michelle Obama, without being vetted by the Senate or receiving any official sanction for her position, was given "a central role in the national service agenda." That would, and does, include AmeriCorps. Walpin was removed just as the investigation was showing a close working relationship between Chairman Solomont and the First Lady. Rep Issa reacted angrily to the latest court action by the administration. On December 11, he wrote a pointed and damning official letter to Chairman Solomont, specifically accusing Solomont of making false statements about his relationships.

"After Mr. Walpin's removal, there was speculation in the press that former Chief of Staff to the First Lady Jackie Norris may have influenced the President's action because she left the White House to become a senior advisor at CNCS around the time of Mr. Walpin's removal. Accordingly, Committee investigators specifically asked if you discussed any Corporation business, including the issues relating to the Corporation's Office of Inspector General, with Ms. Norris. You indicated that you did not. The White House announced on June 4, 2009, that Ms. Norris had been appointed Senior Advisor to the Corporation. In light of all this, it seems highly implausible that you would meet with Ms. Norris on June 9, 2009 and not discuss the Inspector General who was fired the very next day."

And the plot thickens. When Congressional investigators questioned White House aides about the obvious connections, the aides terminated the sessions as soon as the questions became pointed about Michelle Obama, Solomont and Norris. Chicago-style politics have now reached the highest levels of the executive branch of the federal government.

For those of you who have searched the mainstream media for all of these developments and found little or nothing, you might be wondering why I might use the expression "Obama Watergate," I remind you that the original Watergate started out as the investigation of a common burglary, and ended up making its way all the way to the White House, resulting in the resignation of a president. With the current makeup of the Congress, there's no chance of impeachment to spur the president into resignation if this story has legs. And if the Obamas are as good at suppressing scandal as the Clintons, this one could fade as fast as Whitewater (with a few sacrificial lambs being sent to the slaughter). But the 2010 elections are less than a year away, and the situation on the ground could change radically.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reid's Got Nothing On Stephen A. Douglas

Remember that guy who ran against Abe Lincoln in Illinois, sparking one of the most famous debates in American history? Douglas went on to be the Democratic Senator from Illinois, including re-appointment six years later. Much has been made about current Senator Harry Reid (soon to be ex Senator Reid, D-Nevada) having pushed through health care legislation that is "unprecedented" (to borrow a refrain from Barack Obama) in its disregard for the public will. But is that true?

An article by Michael Barone of US News and World Report spurred the old historian in me, and took me back to the time of Douglas. He also points out that Barack Obama is making the other mistake--believing that the passage of government take-over of the entire health care system will "settle the issue once and for all."

Before I switched to medieval history and (oddly) the 20th century American city as my college emphasis for my B.A., I was interested in the pre-Civil War era. So naturally, I was drawn to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and more importantly for the purposes of this piece, the aftermath of Douglas's election which resulted in the Kansas-Nebraska of 1854. You think that the health care "compromise" is divisive. It's got nothing on Douglas and the Act.

The age-old debate over slavery had supposedly been settled by the Missouri Compromise thirty-four years earlier (the "Corrupt Bargain" which brought John Quincy Adams the presidency and Henry Clay the position of Secretary of State). But that bargain didn't contemplate the future massive growth in territories which would eventually become states. The Compromise prohibited new slave-holding states to the South anywhere north of the old territory of Arkansas. With ever-expanding territories opening to the north and the west, the slave states were demanding that slavery be allowed in all the states. The North was quickly moving towards an absolutist abolitionist position--no slavery anywhere in the United States.

And thus came the Douglas compromise that satisfied nobody, though it was intended to satisfy everyone. Douglas, much like Reid, knew what was best for America, and he was going to shove it down America's throat whether the citizens liked it or not. The Kansas-Nebraska Act provided that new territories (future states) were allowed to choose on their own whether to be slave or free. Very democratic, don't you think? The Congress was heavily Democratic, and was much-divided over the slavery issue. Northern Democrats often opposed slavery, but were not willing to risk losing the South by imposing abolition on them. And though there were fewer Senators at the time, Douglas faced the Reid dilemma. The votes in the Senate were evenly divided between those favoring the bill, and those opposing. In order to pass, Douglas needed one vote--which eventually turned out to be his own (unlike Reid).

So let's see how this victory for Douglas turned out. At the time of passage, the Democrats had won the White House with 254 electoral votes to the new Republican Party's 42. The Senate was nearly evenly divided with the Democrats having the edge. After passage of the bill, the next election cycle produced a minor change in the makeup of the Senate (remember, only one-third of the Senate was selected every two years). But over in the House (which gets a complete cleansing every two years) the Democratic majority was converted by 1858 to a 116 to 83 Republican majority, a 26% gain for the Republicans and a staggering 49% loss for the Democrats (Barone's numbers were slightly off). The Democrats would have to wait another twenty years to have a majority in the House.

Kansas was about to become a state. Under the Missouri Compromise, it could only come into the Union as a free state. But the brilliant Kansas-Nebraska act changed that dynamic completely. In an early precursor to the Civil War, Southerners who supported slavery poured into Kansas to battle anti-slavery Northerners. Soon, the new state became known as "bleeding Kansas." In 1858, Abe Lincoln ran against Douglas, but lost (the Illinois legislature preferred Douglas, and though Lincoln won a majority of the voters, legislatures then still appointed Senators). Two years later, Lincoln ran for President, won, and all hell broke loose.

Yet at the time of passage, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was said to settle for all time, immutably, the issue of slavery. A huge majority of Americans opposed slavery, but the makeup of the electoral college and the appointment of Senators by the legislatures of a (then) basically evenly-divided number of states allowed Senatorial maneuvering to thwart the clear will of the majority. The large numbers of the North were outflanked by the much more sparsely-populated Southern delegations.

Today, the Obama-Reid forces are likewise crowing about their victory with a health care bill that will "fundamentally change America," and which cannot be undone. I suspect that the history-deprived Reid and Obama know little or nothing about the Kansas-Nebraska Act nor has either of them heard the expression "Pyrrhic victory." Douglas was by far a better magician than Reid. Against the clear will of the majority of Americans, he managed to pass a piece of legislation that tried to fool everyone, and succeeded using little more than his own rhetorical talents.

Reid had bribes--and plenty of them. The Nebraska half of Kansas-Nebraska was awarded huge reductions in state costs for Medicaid in exchange for the vote of its Senator. Louisiana was handed somewhere between $300 million and $400 million in federal largess. And yet the question remains: Will this "health reform bill for the ages" even survive the necessary reconciliation between the House and Senate bills? The constituency for the Blue Dog Democrats is furious over the government takeover of all things medical. The left wing base of the Democratic Party is equally furious over the lack of a "public option." Even Democrats who voted for the bill are hesitant over the provisions which may or may not allow for public funds being used for abortions.

Meanwhile, the Republican base, the independents, and the large and growing tea party movement are solidly opposed to almost any form of government health care. And even Democratic-controlled pollsters are showing that the general public is heavily-opposed to government interference in the health care business in anything even faintly resembling its current form. And the lies the Democrats have told about the actual cost of the "reform" have infuriated just about everyone.

There is going to be plenty of metaphorical blood spilled over this bill and any of its potential successors. If the least popular and least democratic bill in decades should pass,it is unlikely to survive in any recognizable form after the 2010-2012 elections. Contrary to popular belief and the desires of the leftocrats, there are multiple methods of undoing whatever ultimately comes out of the Congress this term. That includes a last-minute provision declaring that the decision of a bureaucrat who determines what certain care should cost cannot be overriden by Congress. Talk about unconsitutional delegation of power! That also unlawfully takes inherent power from the legislative branch, and moves it to the executive branch. The short-term damage will be immense, and it will take Herculean efforts to repair that damage. The patient is sick, but nowhere yet near death.

Since there is no longer a Confederacy vs. the Union conflict in the nation, it is highly unlikely that this will cause much spilling of real blood, but it's going to get very nasty out there. The last thing we conservatives need to do is go into despair if some form of socialized medicine is actually enacted. Lincoln lost battle after battle, and yet won the war. We will ultimately succeed as well, and with a little luck and the Good Lord willing, we'll have done it with ballots rather than bullets.
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The Unrepealable Bill. . .

The latest bit making the rounds of the blogosphere is that Harry Reid inserted language into the health care bill “that makes it impossible to repeal or amended the bill.” There is some truth to this, but it’s not what you think. Nor is such a thing even possible. In any event, Reid's language raises an interesting constitutional issue that may destroy this part of the bill. Let’s talk about what is really going on.
This Language Does Not Affect The Entire Bill
The first, most important thing to grasp is that the language in question does not affect the entire bill -- it relates only to a Board that will be established to recommend changes to Medicare to lower the growth of Medicare costs. Here’s how the Board works.

The Board will not come into existence until 2014. Thereafter, each year that the Chief Actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services determines that the growth rate in the cost of Medicare services exceeds the expected growth rate, the Board shall put together a list of recommendations to cut total Medicare spending to the targeted growth rate or slightly lower.

BUT, the proposal cannot include (1) recommendations to ration health care, (2) recommendations to raise revenues or Medicare premiums, (3) recommendations to increase cost sharing, i.e. deductibles or co-pays, or (4) recommendations to change eligibility requirements. (Basically, they will have to recommend cuts to reimbursement rates to doctors.)

Each recommendation must include an explanation of the proposal and the reasons for its inclusion and an actuarial opinion by the Chief Actuary that the proposal meets the requirements of this legislation. Interestingly, each proposal must also include “a legislative proposal that implements the recommendations.” (more on this later)

The proposal must then be presented to the Congress. This is where the language in question comes in. Starting around page 1017 of the bill, the bill describes how the Senate and House must handle these proposals. This includes the rather controversially provision that prevents House or Senate members from offering any amendment to the Board’s proposals (or to this part of the bill), unless 3/5th of the Senate votes to waive this requirement.

That sounds bad. But hold on.
This Is Not Unprecedented
This is basically the format used in the 1980s with the base closing commission. When it became apparent that it was impossible to handle base closings with any rationality because every Congressman from every district with a military base would fight to the death and cut any dirty deal they could to keep their base open, the parties agreed to create an independent base closing commission. That commission was charged with coming up with a list of bases to close, based on various non-political factors. The list was then forwarded to Congress for an up or down vote. No one could amend the list. By refusing to allow amendments by individual House members or Senators, Congress managed to close unneeded bases without being stopped by the normal political process. On the surface, this is the same thing.

Further, in 2006, Sen. John Kyl (R- Az) identified at least twenty-six rule-making statutes that limit the ability of Senators to amend legislation. One, the Budget Act, has been in force for more than thirty years.

Thus, this is nothing new. But this is no reason to fret.
This Can’t Actually Bind Future Congresses
Despite the language preventing future Congresses from changing this legislation or these proposals without a supermajority, that language can’t actually control what a future Congress does. One Congress cannot bind a future Congress.

Article I, section 5, clause 2 of the Constitution states that “[e]ach house may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” In 1892, the Supreme Court took a look at this clause in United States v. Ballin, 144 U.S. 1 (1892). In that case, the Supreme Court held that this clause grants each Congress the powers to amend their rules whenever a simple majority of the quorum are present. And this power is continuing, meaning it can be exercised at any time by any Congress: “[The] power to make rules is not one which once exercised is exhausted. It is a continuous power, always subject to be exercised by [either] house.”

Therefore, one Congress cannot bind a future Congress. Indeed, one Congress cannot even bind itself -- each Congress has the power to change it rules by simple majority vote at any time.

Thus, while Reid’s language looks authoritative, future Congresses can ignore it. . . it will only have effect until a majority of either house of Congress decides to change it.

Consequently, this is not the big deal people are making it out to be.

But there is something else in this language that troubles me.
The Board’s Proposals Can Be Enacted Without Congress?
Throughout this section, Reid allows the Secretary to implement the Board’s proposals even without Congressional approval. This is a troubling issue because this represents an abdication of Congress’s legislative powers to the Executive.

Under the Constitution, the power to enact legislation lies entirely with the Congress. It may not grant this power to the Executive. In the past, this was strictly enforced and the Supreme Court would strike down anything that gave the Executive the power to make law, rather than calling upon the Executive to enforce the law. In particular, this appeared in cases where laws were struck down for being “too vague.” If a law did not clearly define what the Executive was supposed to do, the Supreme Court would strike it down.

But this has been eroded to the point of disappearing. Indeed, the most infamous moment probably came with the Americans With Disabilities Act, where the Congress actually refused to include a meaningful definition of “disability,” instead leaving it up to the Executive and the courts to determine.

Yet, Reid's law may revive this prohibition. Think back to the language I mentioned above. The Board not only recommends changes, but Reid is requiring the Board to include “a legislative proposal that implements the recommendations.” This is fairly strong evidence that the Board’s recommendations do not involve merely filling in the gaps of clear legislation, but instead involve creating law. Indeed, if the Board weren’t creating law, there would be no reason to allow the Congress to weigh in on these proposals -- in fact, it would violate the separation of powers to let the Congress approve an agency action.

Thus, if I were to challenge this statute in court, I would argue that this abdicates the legislative function because it allows the Executive to take actions that the law itself recognizes as needing the approval of Congress, i.e. law making.

Will a court accept this? They should. The legal theory is entirely sound. And if they do, then Reid’s control-freak behavior will have resulted in this entire section of ObamaCare being wiped out by the courts.

Nice work Harry.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

click me. . .
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Merry Christmas From San Francisco

And we'll see you back here after the holiday. [+] Read More...

So That We May Be Safe At Home On Christmas

The solemn yet beautiful picture you see depicts the Christmas wreaths placed each year on the graves of our warriors at Arlington National Cemetery, fallen in battle so that we may celebrate the birth of Christ with our families and friends, safe and warm at home. I hope we can all take just a few minutes out of our busy lives to say a prayer of thanks for those who gave that last full measure of devotion and for those they have left behind. We at Commentarama wish you all a very joyful Christmas.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men."

And the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called "Wonderful; Counselor; The Mighty God; The Everlasting Father; The Prince of Peace."
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas from New York

Thoughout the centuries, he has been known as SinterKlaas in Belgium and the Netherlands, Father Christmas in England, Pere Noel in France, and Kris Kingle in Germany. But it was this classic poem, first published 183 years ago today in the Troy (New York) Sentinal, that gave first breath to the iconic American version. A plaque at 22nd Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan designates the exact spot where sugar-plummed visions of St. Nicholas first danced in our child-like heads.

A Visit from Saint Nicholas
by Clement Clark Moore

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

May sugar plums and child-like wonder keep you always young at heart!
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Updated: Give Me A Break. . .

I hate writing this kind of article, especially just before Christmas. But I find myself frustrated. This morning I visited one of those bigger "conservative" blogs and I was shocked at the utter petulance and ignorance being displayed. Conservatives like to think of themselves as rational, but these people are giving HuffPo a run for their money when it comes to whining, spite and know-nothing-ism. Today's topics of choice: the evil Mitch McConnell has agreed to let the Democrats vote early on the health care bill! Off with his head!!!

I kid you not, this supposedly respectable conservative site was jam-packed with hundreds of losers whining in full on hate mode about the "sell out" by the evil Republicans. "Sell out"? That's right. Apparently, McConnell is going to let the Democrats vote early! Off with his head!! There were calls for McConnell to resign. There were the usual unsupported allegations of dirty deals and the paranoid claims that somehow the Republicans did this to satisfy their own secret agenda -- an agenda that we just know involves something unAmerican. And there was just a lot of whining about the Republicans.

For the record, voting today, tomorrow or Sunday won't change by a minute the moment when the conference committee begins its work. Nor will it change by a second the moment this bill either hits or doesn't hit Obama's desk. Nor will it change the outcome of the vote -- unless you are stupid enough to believe (as many were at this site) that some Democrat, each of whom has gone all in on this bill, will suddenly have a change of heart and sacrifice everything to be on the side of reason. Not going to happen. Nothing changes by moving this vote except that these Senators get home a few hours earlier. Big whoop.

Yet. that's enough to set these people off. They need to gain some perspective. They remind me of divorce clients who come through the door and aren't concerned in the least with working out a good deal or making sure their kids are taken care of. . . all they want is to make their soon-to-be-ex spouse suffer. It's childish, it's stupid, it's spiteful, and it's not the kind of behavior in which conservatives engage.

So you want to tear apart the Republican leadership because they didn't make the Democrats miss Christmas Eve, huh? Wow, that's grown up. It's also stupid to attack a rather effective Republican leadership over something so totally minor. Or did you forget that this is the same leadership that used every available avenue to expose this bill and its flaws to the American people, driving down its popularity to unprecedented lows for a major piece of legislation.

This is the same leadership that kept every single Republican together on this issue, thereby allowing the moderate Senate Democrats to gut large parts of this bill. Do you not realize there would still be a public option or the Medicare expansion if the Republicans had not held together? Do you not realize that the abortion language that may still kill this bill in the House exists only because Republicans helped to insert it? Do you not realize that a single Republican vote would have allowed the media to call this bipartisan? Yet, you're upset because a few Democrats will get home a couple hours early? Grow up.

I actually heard some idiots on talk radio the other day blaming the Republicans for not stopping the health care bill entirely. They were "just sure" the Republicans didn't stop the bill "because they wanted it too." Seek professional help.

It is time that conservatives start thinking instead of knee-jerking. Too many are flying into a rage at the slightest hint of something they don't like. They are not picking their battles. They aren't discerning friend or foe. And most are not even bothering to understand if they are right or wrong about what they're whining about -- like this issue about the "unrepealable health care bill" which I'll debunk after Christmas.

And frankly, if you're whining about something this minor -- something which will not change anything, then I and all other reasonable people can only conclude that you are a whiner who doesn't like anything, and I, frankly, can no longer take anything you complain about seriously.

There is much to be concerned about in Washington today. But if you fly off the handle and attack your own side for every minor infraction, real or imagined, you will guarantee a Democratic victory in 2010. . . and you will be responsible for the damage done to this country.


I don't normally post what other blog say, but Hot Air hit this issue squarely, and points out there could be a strategy reason for this -- media coverage of the bill:

So he held out for a Christmas Eve vote anyway, even though it’s not a vote on the final final bill and it’ll be a pure formality if they get 60 tomorrow for cloture. What’s the problem? They’ve all got kids and grandkids they want to see on Christmas, as do their staffers. Why work late if you don’t have to and doing so would accomplish nothing? Pure spite is a poor political strategy, especially when the basic symbolic point — forcing the Dems to wait until the last possible day to pass this travesty — is preserved.

Actually, the early vote will achieve something the late vote couldn’t: A full day of media devoted to a bill the public hates and which both left and right agree is garbage. Good luck getting people to watch the news after dark on Christmas Eve; now, thanks to the new arrangement, they’ll have almost 12 extra hours to stew about it before the holiday draws them away. McConnell knows what he’s doing here.

It continues:

But back to the problem at hand: Reid wanted to leave town earlier than 7 p.m. So McConnell offered him a deal. The Senate comes back into session on January 20, just a few days before the State of the Union address. McConnell offered to hold the health care vote a few hours earlier on Christmas Eve if Reid would agree to take up the debt limit issue on January 20, and would further agree to hold a specific roll-call vote that day on raising the debt ceiling, and would further agree to consider, and vote on, five Republican amendments related to out-of-control federal spending.

In the debt debate — the one Democrats didn’t want to have — GOP senators are expected to offer amendments to end the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, as well as amendments on a budget-cutting package, on a deficit-control commission and other spending-related items.

“So days before the president’s State of the Union, where he has said he is going to talk about getting the deficit under control, we are going to force a vote on raising the government’s credit card limit because we are maxed out,” says the Senate aide. “We’re going to force them to vote on ending TARP, deficit control — things they don’t want to do. And it’ll be on the first day back, when everybody’s paying attention.”

“They want to get the hell out of here,” the aide says of Democrats. “They traded away a vote on the debt limit to get out of town a few hours earlier. It’s a bad deal for them.”

There’s no doubt Republicans wanted to get out of Washington, too. But according to the source, leaving early was not a big concern at the Senate GOP policy lunch yesterday. Republicans were prepared to stay until Christmas Eve night; it was Democrats who wanted to leave.

So did McConnell surrender? It doesn’t seem so. It was Reid who wanted to leave more than McConnell, and it was Reid who gave up something in order to get an earlier vote. McConnell didn’t have much bargaining power — no leader with just 40 votes would — but he used it to get as much as he could.

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A Christmas Message From The Elves. . .

By the Boiler Room Elves

Yes, we know what you are thinking. An article from the Boiler Room Elves? Two days before Christmas?! Shouldn't we be toiling away in some northern toy factory? Clearly, you need a lesson in Elf history.

Many, many years ago, our ancestors found what appeared to be paradise. It was a happy place, with a jolly, charismatic leader who promised ho-ho-hope and change. He promised green pointy shoes to each according to his needs and he foreswore profit. He made big promises, like a four week work-year with full benefits, and government housing for all. The Elves were enticed by his idealistic philosophy, and they followed him with great expectations.

But it wasn’t long before some of the Elves began to feel slightly oppressed. While this leader was indeed jolly, he also kept lists of people’s behavior and spied on them as they slept. Were the free healthcare and free housing projects worth swearing to his "nice, not naughty" code of conduct?

And spying wasn’t all. To control healthcare costs, he forbade us from eating sweets, and he banned smoking -- though he is himself a secret smoker.

It was the Bakers' Guild that broke first. Elves without cookies are like Dwarves without lasagna. They could no longer take the rules, and they refused to pay the fines. So they left the village and they headed south to the Keebler Forests.

Others soon followed. They wanted freedom. They didn’t want their leader telling them what they could or could not do. They wanted the freedom to make their world as they saw fit. Some had visions of innovations they wanted to try. Others just wanted to be left alone. There is more to being an Elf than living in comfort and being taken care of.

Thus came The Great Schism that forever split Elfkind into separate wings, those that wanted comfort but cared not for freedom, and those that wanted freedom to find their own comfort. And on that day, Elfrich August von Hayek nailed a copy of The Sleighride to Serfdom on the door of the toy factory. Our eyes had been opened.

Modern times find the Elves spread all over the globe, and, indeed, further.

The Santa Elves who stayed behind live happily in their workers “paradise,” unaware that the net income from giving away toys for free year after year hasn't quite kept up with the expenses, and now, sadly, their way of life is quietly crumbling. Christmas toy demand is up, and the Elves are asked to work ever longer, which of course they are unaccustomed to doing. Their healthcare system, too... well candy canes and egg nog take their toll and let's not talk about life expectancy up there. (They cut a lot of corners.)

In the South, the Elves are happier. The Baker’s Guild incorporated and they make a mint selling dozens of types of cookies all year long. One of their own recently became Treasury Secretary.

We Boiler Room Elves chose a different path. Ours is not the way of butter and sugar, but of machinery and innovation. Life is not perfect, but it has been fair. Competition from cheap boiler rooms in Asia has cost many an Elf their job. But we are resilient and we will make better boilers, more efficient boilers. And those that lost their jobs have found work in other fields or created other fields. Did know that every time you run an internet search, it’s an Elf that compiles the results!

Sadly, many younger Elves who never experienced life behind the Toy Curtain revere what they see as a more sophisticated system up north. If Santa’s Elves can live so carefree with no worries, why can’t the rest of us, they ask from a safe, ignorant distance. But they are young and foolish. They will learn soon enough that promises that sound too good to be true are never true and “free lunches” come at too high a cost.

In any case, though, Christmas time for the Boiler Room Elves is much like for any of you. Cards to write, egg nog to drink, government take-overs to protest, and Merry Christmas wishes to send to everyone we know - online and IRL. So Merry Christmas everyone! Jingle a shoe-bell for us.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mad-Lib Obama Style

We probably shouldn’t admit this, but someone in the White House sent us an audio recording of our young President going about his daily routine. We thought we’d share the transcript with you.

[Obama’s Voice]

Where did I put that troop plan? There it is. . . no, that’s not it. Oh here it is. . . no this isn’t it either. Must have left it in Copenhagen.

Hey, what’s this? A ‘Mad-Lib.’ I remember these from my youth. We used to do these in the madrassas between prayers. I wonder how this got here? Oh well, never turn down a lucky find, or a Nobel Prize! *chuckles*

Let’s see, how does this work again? ‘Read the clues and insert words, then flip the page and read the finished product.’ Great, I. . . uh, I’m great at reading.

Ok, the first one. Name someone with whom you disagree? Those. . . who. . . oppose. . . Wait! *scratching noise* I’ve got a better one: Pe. . .losi.

Name something people cherish? Healthcare. That seems important to people.

A body part. Heh heh. . . a butt.

Another body part. Brain.

Let’s see, something you say when you’re upset. Screw you.

Oh man there are a lot of these. Heart, brain, sewage, flatulence. If I’d known it took this much work, I wouldn’t have started. Something long? Let’s keep to the theme -- stool sample. No, better just put ‘stool’. . . just in case this ends up in the Presidential archives like that damn coloring book. Ok, just a few more. Drunk, socks, gunk.

Enough. Time to read. Ok. . . Man, that’s hard to read. It might be easier to read on the old teleprompter.

*clicking noise*

That’s better. Let’s see. . .
All the Whos down in Whoville liked Healthcare a lot,
But the Pelosi, who lived just west of Whoville, did not.
*chuckles* Isn’t that the truth?!
The Pelosi hated healthcare, all without reason.
Oh, please don’t ask why, there’s no reason you would believe in.
It could be, perhaps, that her shoes were too tight.
Or maybe her butt wasn’t screwed on just right.
But I think that the best reason of all
May have been that her brain was two sizes too small.
*chuckles* Really nailed her!

Think I’ll skip ahead. . . took away health care. . . taxed the Whos. . . yada yada yada. Here we go.
They're finding out now that no Healthcare is coming.
They're just waking up, I know just what they'll do.
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
Then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry, "Screw you!"
This is amazing. It’s like this book can tell the future! I should get Rahm to read this when he gets back from having his rear end waxed.
You're a monster, Ms. Pelosi.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of sewage.
You've got flatulence in your soul.
Ms. Pelosi. I wouldn't touch you, with a...thirty-nine-and-a-half foot stool.
*chuckles* All that college stuff finally pays off!
You're a foul one, Ms. Pelosi.
You're a nasty, wasty drunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks.
Your soul is full of gunk.
And she’s got a lot of junk in the trunk, magic book!

[Outside voices]

Oh shoot, someone’s coming, better look busy. Ah, yeah, I think 30,000 more troops should be good. That’ll show those Romanians who’s boss. Who says I can't make a decision?!

That’s where the tape cut out. We don’t quite know what to make of it yet, but if we reach any conclusions (or if we invade Romania), we’ll let you know.

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China Is A Free Nation (Well, Sort Of)

Doug Bandow at The American Spectator had an interesting take on China last week. Lest anyone think he's a China-propagandist, he starts his article with "Repeat after me: the People's Republic of China is an authoritarian country. Political leaders are not elected. Religious persecution is real. China is not free." But there's a point where China at least appears to be much more open than America. And that's in travel restrictions.

He goes on: "Yet to visit the PRC is to visit a nation that feels free. It's remarkably easy to get a visa. The consular office in Washington, D.C. is always crowded: pay an extra $30 and get same-day service. It's a lotharder for Chinese to get a visa from the U.S. government. Blacklisting presumably occurs, but most bettingmust be perfunctory. Given the time difference, the Washington consulate is handing out visas while the Beijing Foreign Ministry is sleeping. The PRC appears to have decided to err on the side of collecting U.S. dollars."

He goes on to describe his own experience in traveling to China. He cites the lack of an overtly forbidding security presence at Beijing airport. He allows that most Chinese and foreigners are quickly moved through the "nothing to declare" customs line. He actually carried copies of two foreign policy policy books which were somewhat critical of China, and yet was passed right through, and says that it at least appears that nobody is checked for much of anything that wouldn't be openly "subversive."

Once inside the country, travel is rarely restricted. Having arrived with his visa intact, Bandow was allowed to travel to tourist spots which are remarkably free of old communist ways. Western franchise chains such as McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken are ubiquitous. The stores are filled with merchandise of all kinds, at reasonable prices, and in capitalist-like abundance. Bandow goes on to say: "This is no longer an impoverished regimented society in which everything is limited. In Shenyang I went to dinner with other conferees at a traditional Chinese restaurant where all the waiters and waitresses were wearing Santa caps and (secular) Christmas decorations covered the walls. It could have been any of dozens of U.S. establishments."

Everyone appears to be going on their way unimpeded. Cell phones appear to be attached to nearly every Chinese ear. Automobiles are catching up with bicycles as a major method of getting around. He was able, without difficulty getting onto the internet and English-language sites (although he says that every time he tried a Google search, it came up in German, so he switched to the AOL search engine instead). We all know that the Chinese restrictions on information are some of the tightest in the world, but most information was readily available. Unlike his experience in North Korea, where he felt he was being watched at all times, even in his sleep, Bandow felt free to do or say pretty much anything he wanted, and to find willing Chinese participants in his conversations.

The communists are still very much around, but seem helpless to stop this growth of the free exchange of ideas propelled by the Chinese love of acquiring goodies on the market. That will probably continue to be true, unless China/American relations deteriorate suddenly or the government senses that America has changed its tune and elected a leader of equal importance to their own.

I have never traveled to China (my entire experience with the far east was a couple of trips to Seoul to negotiate the official bribes necessary for a client of mine to open a Malibu Grand Prix racing park franchise). But I do know that Bandow is no blind liberal, and several of my friends have traveled to China and come back with similar stories. The average Chinese citizen (as opposed to the high-echelon autocrats) seems to want very much to compete with America rather than crush an enemy. In the cities and outside of the military, the Chinese both admire and mimic American ways.

Bandow concludes by saying "But some day, whether it comes in two, three, or four decades, the two countries are likely to meet as global equals. That will force the U.S. to operate very differently, especially in Asia. It behooves Washington to prepare for what is coming, and to begin thinking about how it should respond to that day." I see that as a very reasonable way of viewing things.

As the old guard dies out (and I mean old--they all seem to last into their eighties), and newer blood comes in which has grown up with the ever-increasing freedom of choices, America will probably end up treating China the same way it now treats former enemies such as Japan and Germany. And unless something terrible and unforeseen happens, this will have been accomplished without any further shooting wars between the two nations or their surrogates. I won't see it, but maybe my children and their children will.

Now, about Russia . . . .
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