Sunday, August 30, 2009

Attorney General Holder Does Another Political Favor

Attorney General Eric Holder has done another big political favor for another Friend Of Barack. He, and his department, have killed the "pay for play" investigation of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and his associates. That investigation was responsible for Richardson's withdrawal from nomination to President Barack Obama's cabinet as Commerce Secretary.

The AP story says "The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials," and quotes "a person familiar with the investigation" as saying "It's over. There's nothing. It was killed in Washington." Other reports indicated the decision was made by the Attorney General himself.

These decisions are normally made by the U.S. Attorney in whose district the corresponding grand jury operates. This practice is intended to insure against most interference of Washington politics in prosecutorial decisions. The fact that this decision was made in Washington suggests knowledge that indictments were warranted, and were coming — otherwise no Washington interference would be needed. Its timing suggests either that the indictments were very close to being issued, or that the Obama Administration wants to appoint Richardson to some post soon and needed to make this investigation go away.

Most of the coverage of this news has been rather cursory, providing no more information than in the AP story cited above. The one exception I have seen has been the story in our local paper, the Albuquerque Journal (subscription required). Here's part of that report:

A letter to defense lawyers from U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt sent late Thursday said the United States "will not seek to bring charges against your clients" arising out of the New Mexico Finance Authority's award of financial work to California-based CDR Financial Products.

Fouratt went on to say, however, that the investigation revealed that CDR and its officers made substantial contributions to Richardson's political organizations while the company was seeking the work and that "pressure from the governor's office resulted in corruption of the procurement process so that CDR would be awarded such work."

The three-paragraph letter — obtained by the Journal from private attorneys in the case — said the notification "shall not preclude the United States or the grand jury from reinstituting such an investigation without notification if ... circumstances warrant ..."

. . .

The letter said, "It is not to be interpreted as an exoneration of any party's conduct."

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos responded late Thursday, saying, "The prosecutor's letter is wrong on the facts and appears to be nothing more than sour grapes."

My reaction when I read this story was two-fold:
  1. The statement by Richardson's spokesman was wrong — and self-serving. I read the letter excerpt as a clear statement that wrongdoing has been found, even if indictments have not been issued. It also strongly suggests the U.S. Attorney's disagreement with Washington's interference in this case.
  2. That the decision not to pursue indictments "is not to be interpreted as an exoneration of any party's conduct" and "shall not preclude the United States or the grand jury from reinstituting such an investigation without notification if ... circumstances warrant ..." seems to be warning the Richardson group not to get too cocky, that the investigation/indictments can easily be reactivated once there is an attorney general more interested in the rule of law than political favortism. In effect, it says "This isn't over." That aspect of the U.S. Attorney's letter may be the reason for the Richardson spokesman's "sour grapes" response.
    (There is another reason for thinking this issue is not finished. As has been noted elsewhere, for example here, the Securities and Exchange Commission is also probing pay-for-play cases in several states. It is not known whether these probes include one in New Mexico.)

All this still doesn't answer the questions about why this action was taken, and why now. But Bill Richardson is a former U.N. Ambassador who was reported last year as being under consideration for appointment as Secretary of State. And he has been in the news, for quite uncommon things, a couple of times lately. One was just weeks ago when a group of North Korean officials came to meet with him in Santa Fe. And at the time of this news from the Justice Department, he was leading a trade delegation in Cuba. Supposedly, neither action was taken on behalf of the White House, but Richardson is reporting to Obama next week on his Cuban trip.

It has also been suggested the investigation was killed because this scandal goes much deeper than we have known, potentially involving "significant portions of the Democrat Party." If that is so, expect more pressure to close the SEC (and other) pay-for-play investigations in the near future.

All of which is interesting, but provides no answers. And what we are left with is just another action by the politicized Obama/Holder Justice Department — Chicago politics being played out in Washington, DC, and across the country.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Holder Should Be Careful

Attorney General Eric Holder should be very careful. Yes, he needs to pander to Barack Obama's extreme leftist base. But if he establishes this precedent, he is likely to be among the targets when the opposition applies the same precedent to the politicized Holder Justice Department.

UPDATE: Let me repeat, with emphasis: he needs to pander to Barack Obama's extreme leftist base. That's why Barack Obama is letting his flunky Eric Holder pursue this "issue".

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Government Demonstrates Its Efficiency

To get the auto dealerships to front the money for the Cash for Clunkers program, the government guaranteed them they would have their reimbursements within ten days. But CBS television outlet KRKE in Albuquerque reports that, for the state of New Mexico,

Dealers across the state are owed more than $3.6 million, according to a dealers' group which says that so far Uncle Sam has only written three checks totaling about $14,000. (emphasis added)
The dealers in other states are in the same fix. That's why a lot of them dumped the Cash for Clunkers program early — they just couldn't afford to make more large interest-free loans to Uncle Sam. Because of government delays, it appears, some dealers are having cash flow problems big enough they're having trouble making their payroll.

There it is, yet another example of the kind of efficiency we have come to expect from the federal government. Everyone else in the country is expected to pay their obligations in a timely manner. Why not the government? I guess the government feels it's above the laws that apply to everyone else.

Instapundit comments:

They can't handle this, but they'll handle healthcare? . . .
They promised FedEx, but they're delivering the Post Office. . . .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Government Demonstrates Its Effectiveness

... and Trever hits a home run in showing the results

Trever's cartoons can be seen in the Albuquerque Journal

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

... And the Referees, Too

How would you feel if you took your team to a tournament and found that the tournament's referees belonged to one of the other teams? Not to their league, not to their area, but to the team itself. How would you feel about the likelihood of the games being refereed fairly? And how would you feel when you learned those referees had the power to change the rules of the game — and didn't have to apply those rules equally to your team and theirs?

I suspect you'd figure the other team wasn't competing fairly, that it would be getting improper assistance from the referees. And you would be right. That's why this kind of situation is not allowed in any legitimate competition.

But that's exactly the situation the Congress wants to create in healthcare insurance. They (the federal government) already have the referees (regulators), and they're working at creating a team (the "public option") to compete against the insurance companies. And they're doing it all in the name of "increasing competition" and "keeping the insurance companies honest". (As if someone dishonest can keep someone else honest.) That's why the so-called "public option" must be defeated.

The "health care co-ops" would probably be no better. It's theoretically possible for them to be set up like shopping centers, as places where the various companies have their stores and compete against each other, without the government owning or operating — or having anything to do with — the shopping center. But they're being sold under the banner of "managed competition" — an oxymoron which really means destroying it so there's no competition at all.

Remember, the government is incapable of competing fairly. (And it's not just me saying so: "The government is a predator, not a competitor.") That's why doing nothing may not be good, but it's better than any of the healthcare bills currently being considered by Congress.

The Wrong Target

"Obamacare Death Panels" have been in the news. A number of folks have talked about them, but it seems it was Sarah Palin (in a Facebook entry) who tagged them with that title. That entry caused a lot of discussion, some of it rather heated. Within a few days, Senators announced that the provisions for end of life counseling sessions were being removed from the Senate bill.

There's a problem with this: The counseling sessions aren't the problem (at least as long as there are protections so they don't become coercive). The problem is that the real death panels are the ones that will decide how health care will be rationed. They will decide what kind of patient will be allowed the medical care they need, and what kind of patient will be denied that care. They may not be deciding on individual patients, but they will be no less pernicious and immoral for that distinction. That small distinction will just let the panel members commit deliberate negligent homicide while convincing themselves they can pretend their hands are still clean.

These panels are still in the bills. And as Rich Lowry has noted,

the debate over the last two weeks has been unhelpful in one respect — it has focused attention on the end-of-life counseling when the deeper problem is the bill itself. The "death panels" may be dead, but the real threat remains.
What the Senate has identified as the "death panels" have been removed, but that's really just misdirection. The real death panels remain in the bills.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

About the "Public Option"

It's axiomatic throughout so many government departments — the government is not allowed to compete with private business. Why? Because the United States government is incapable of competing fairly.

It's a matter of structure, not of malice or intent. Think about it: Government organizations don't count salaries among their costs — those are funded under a separate line item. They also don't pay overhead or property taxes (among other things), and they don't have to follow state or local regulations. The differences in accounting standards, alone, are enough to insure against a level playing field; the rest just make the problem worse.

Here's the bottom line: A "public option" or "healthcare coop" will destroy competition and bankrupt health insurance companies unless it is very carefully crafted. And Congress has demonstrated it is incapable of carefully doing anything.

There are a huge number of companies in the United States offering healthcare insurance. If the Congress really wants to increase competition, all it has to do is allow them to compete nationally — just like they can in the Medicare Supplemental / Medicare Advantage arena.

Remove the barriers and they will compete. Implement government "competition" and they will die. In the former case, costs will come down. In the latter, costs will skyrocket.

Congressional actions will demonstrate what Congress really wants to do, as opposed to what they want to pretend they want to do. If Congress presses ahead with the "public option", it will demonstrate an intent to socialize medical care with a single payer scheme leading to a national healthcare program.

Doing nothing may not be good, but it's better than any of the bills currently being considered by Congress.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Preemptive Surrender at Yale

The Yale University Press has apparently decided to surrender to a threat that has not yet been made. It will publish a book about the controversy over the "Mohammed cartoons" without showing the cartoons that were (supposedly) the cause of the furor.

This kind of cowardice is incredible, and illogical. The people who have made such threats in the past, and may in the future, do not need reasons for their threats and violence. They have consistently shown they will invent whatever excuse/pretense they may feel the need for.

Therefore, to make life easier for the Yale University Press, and as a public service, I provide here a re-link to a post from February 2006 showing the cartoons and providing some context from the time period in which they were originally published. (The link is also provided among my favorites, on the right of this web page.) And I have checked — most of the links still work!

Can You Keep Your Health Insurance Under Obamacare?

President Barack Obama keeps repeating words very close to “If you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it.” His surrogates keep repeating this, too. Linda Douglass, for example, paraphrasing him on the White House blog, saying

For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.
It's one of the big selling points in his campaign to sell his healthcare reform plan.
[Yes, I know — Strictly speaking, none of the healthcare bills in the Congress are "Obama's healthcare plan". Obama hasn't provided any plan. But he has made it clear he supports HB3200, the healthcare bill that Pelosi brought out of the Waxman committee and got passed by the House of Representatives just before the August recess. One can argue about whether that support makes the bill Obama's plan, but I will use that shorthand here.

I also think it's funny to hear the Democrats piss & moan about calling this “Obama's plan” when even Democrat icon and former Senator Tom Daschle, Obama's original choice as Secretary of Health and Human Services, describes it that way.]

So it keeps getting repeated, but is it true? Strictly speaking, yes, it is true. It is also a complete fraud.

There is nothing in the current version of HB3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, that says you will be required to change your health insurance. That's why the repeated statement by President Obama and the other proponents of the bill is true, strictly speaking.

But, as is so often the case in Washington, that is not the whole story. Just look at Section 102 on page 16, entitled “Protecting the Choice to Keep Current Coverage”. In Section 102(a)(1)(A), a subsection of the “Limitation on New Enrollment” it says

“Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day” of the year the legislation becomes law.
But the bill goes on. Section 102(a)(2) says your company can't change any of the benefits, and Section 102(b) says your plan must meet all of the bill's requirements within five years. So your company can't reduce your benefits, or increase them, without dumping you on the “public option”, yet it has to make all the changes demanded by the Congressional Democrats. How long do you think it will be before some bureaucrat decides those changes, as implemented, void your “grandfathered” plan and terminate your coverage?

But that's not the insidious part. That “Limitation on New Enrollment” in Section 102(a)(1)(A) says your company's new hires are legally prohibited from getting the healthcare plan you have. They will end up on the “public option”. In addition, anyone who retires or moves to another company leaves your healthcare plan, and no one is allowed to be added. How long can your healthcare insurance provider continue offering your plan under those conditions? Clearly not very long. Probably not as long as the five year “grace period” in Section 102(b). The result:

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won’t be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.
The government will not order us to change our health insurance — it will just make it impossible for us to keep it.

So President Obama's statement is true, strictly speaking, but is also a complete fraud. And we're all screwed if this bill passes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

They Know the Anger is Real

A columnist has hit the nail on the head. For all their claims and pretenses to the contrary, the White House and the Democrats in Congress know the opposition to their health care "reform" bill is not phony — they know it's a grassroots movement, and not astroturf.

All the proof we need that Obama and Democrats recognize the authenticity of this grass-roots protest is their hysterical reaction to it. They wouldn't be hyperventilating about it if they believed it to be fake, but would use their super-majorities to ram through this bill.
If they thought the opposition wasn't real, they would press ahead without a second thought. Their reactions demonstrate that they're lying. And that they're scared.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another Townhall, Another Plant

President Obama had a townhall meeting in New Hampshire to promote the Democrats' healthcare "reform" proposal. At the townhall, he took a few questions. The townhall must have been held in a greenhouse, because at least some (maybe all) of the questions and questioners were plants — just like in his campaign events last year.

Obama and his people seem to be constitutionally incapable of running an honest or legitimate event. You'd think they were crooked, dirty Chicago political machine operatives.

Oh, ... wait ....

UPDATE: It's not just President Obama's townhalls. The greehnouses include (at least) the townhall with Texas Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee, where the Congresswoman took an adulatory question from a local pediatrician — who wasn't really a doctor and was apparently there with an Obama organizer who was known for the Che Guevara flag on her Houston office wall. More lies. More deception. More plants.