Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Axelrod Assertion

Presidential advisor David Axelrod was interviewed a few minutes after the conclusion of President Obama's health care speech last Wednesday. That interview has produced some coverage, mostly of his shot "I don't know what medical school Dick Morris went to." (My thought was, it was evidently a better one than Axelrod's.)

UPDATE: Dick Morris' response was better. He said something close to "That's not the issue. The issue is elementary school. It's really that simple." END UPDATE

I heard that interview when it occurred. And I heard David Axelrod make an incredibly important statement in that interview. But, even now, I have seen no coverage of that statement.

Axelrod was asked about Dick Morris' warning that Obama's plan would lead to rationing of health care by dumping millions more people into the system without doing anything to add to the numbers of doctors and nurses. Axelrod answered, saying that was a phony issue. He said those people are already getting care — they're just getting it now in emergency rooms instead of medical offices.

Stop and think about what Axelrod said there — two huge things in one single statement. (1) He said plainly that the lack of health insurance does not translate into a lack of health care. (2) He also said everyone is getting medical care now, so there is no "crisis" to be dealt with.

People will differ on whether Axelrod's assertion in this interview is accurate. But here's the thing: If it's not, the warning is right and rationing is a serious danger. If it is, it substantially undercuts the rationale for the current health care initiative.

Barack Obama's New Health Care Plan

I missed some of President Barack Obama's health care speech last Wednesday. (I didn't hear Congressman Joe Wilson's intra-speech response until later, on the news.) But I did see much of the speech, though, and some interviews and commentaries afterward.

One part of the speech really stood out to me. Obama said quite clearly that he is open to considering all serious proposals for inclusion in his health care program. He said, for example,

Now, this is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight -- Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.
That makes it sound like this speech was prepared for the introduction of a new issue — with or without an initial proposal. It's right for a time when the proposal outlines are being defined, not when the bill has already passed one House.

There's something else, too: A number of the statements Obama made about his proposal, even just in the part of the speech I heard, are at odds with what's in the one bill that's available to be read (HR3200). This strongly suggests the Obama White House is about to drop the current House bill and start over, or embrace a highly modified Senate bill, especially when coupled with Obama's stated openness to any "serious set of proposals". Otherwise he spent nearly an hour Wednesday evening being dishonest with us all.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 — Never Forget!

It started out as an ordinary day. It didn't stay that way for long. I had just finished my shower in the Mountain time zone, and was getting dressed, when I heard the news that an airplane had hit a building in New York. I thought it had to be an accident.

I was having a glass of milk before driving to work when news came of the second plane hitting the other tower of the World Trade Center. It was now obvious we were under attack.

The best thing I could do is go to my workplace. It's closer than my home to the base areas where I could assist if needed. So I went. I was still on my way when the Pentagon was hit. News of the collapse of the World Trade Center South Tower broke as I pulled into a workplace parking spot.

News of the collapse of the World Trade Center North Tower and of the crash in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, reached me at my workplace by radio and internet — the latter seeming terribly slow. By the time my employer told everyone to go home, it had become clear no part of the attack was in our area. Whether we were ever a part of the enemy's plans, or whether whether some part of their plan had been thwarted, was not clear.

I didn't try to leave immediately; I knew there would be a traffic problem. But after a while, I walked out. I came within sight of the parking lot, and saw a traffic jam that made me think of the one that occurred when a snowstorm closed the city as Operation Desert Storm began. I went back to my office to follow the news developments.

The traffic jam was gone by the time I came back out an hour and a half later. The drive home was spooky. My route took me through the roads closest to the city's airport. The activity there was normally a constant, but now there was nothing moving. At all. I drove by, got home, and spent the rest of the day following the news.

Even today, eight years later, the strong impressions of that day remain with me. I suspect they always will.

9-11 -- We Remember

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome Back, Congressman

The Congressmen (and Senators) have every reason to be in a black mood. First, they managed to mess things up pretty royally before leaving for their recess. Then they discovered that, in their policy pandering to their Dear Leader, they managed to incur the wrath of most of their constituents. (That's why so many tried to avoid meeting with consittuents.) No wonder they feel the way they do!

I doubt they learned anything, though. So they're just down and frustrated. And likely to remain so.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Economic Incompetence or Malice?

President Obama said we had to pass the "stimulus package" quickly — so much so we couldn't afford the time for the Senators and Congressmen to actually read the bill they were being asked to pass. We were assured this bill was necessary to get the economy moving again and keep our workers employed, and that it really would accomplish both those things.

Now the latest monthly unemployment numbers are out. Here they are, graphed with the Administration's analysis of what the results would be with and without their "recovery plan", a.k.a. the "stimulus package".

I find this performance extremely disturbing, no matter which way I look at it. I would like to think the Administration has/had enough economic competence (or access to enough economic competence) to be able to project the likely course of the recession and its primary features. But if that is so, then the "stimulus package" clearly wasn't a stimulus. Maybe that was because Obama "farmed out" its preparation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her friends, who loaded it up with pork and payoffs for their political cronies. Maybe it was at least partly because the Administration decided, despite their campaign claims, to take their economic advice from people like Van Jones and Barney Frank instead of from folks like Paul Volcker and Warren Buffett — and created, as a result, an anti-stimulus bill (with pork and payoffs) for their "stimulus package". Or just maybe, even if they could project the recession's unmodified course, they really had no clue what to do to change it.

On the other hand, it may be that the blue lines on the graph were just made up, too. That would suggest an Administration with great competence in running a political campaign, but with no economic knowledge or competence beyond the Keynesian knee-jerk response of "throw money at it."

Gee — it appears all the explanations for the comparison between projection and performance include one or both of economic incompetence and malice on the part of this Administration. It's very likely they never understood what this recession was doing, and why. But even putting the best possible face on it, at the very least, they have no one who knows what to do about our current condition.

Meanwhile, as reported on today's ABC radio news, the Obama Administration says the stimulus is clearly working. I suppose the veracity of that statement depends on what the "stimulus" is really intended to do.

FBI Foreign Intelligence Tasking

President Barack Obama has approved creation of a new, special terrorism-era interrogation unit to be supervised by the White House, a top aide said Monday [August 24], further distancing his administration from President George W. Bush's detainee policies.

. . .

The unit would be led by an FBI official, with a deputy director from somewhere in the government's vast intelligence apparatus, and members from across agencies. It will be directly supervised by the White House, but the senior administration officials insisted the unit's agency bosses will make operational decisions, not the White House. [emphasis added]

Obama spokesman announces interrogation unit, August 24, 2009

Three primary thoughts come to me about this:
  1. First, the statement that "the unit's agency bosses will make operational decisions, not the White House" is simply not believable. Or, more accurately, one could say it will be true as long as the unit's bosses make their decisions the way the White House people tell them to.
  2. Second, this effectively takes the CIA out of foreign intelligence collection, their primary charter since 1947. Charles Krauthammer is right:
    And lastly, and most importantly, the interrogation of high-level enemy terrorists has been removed from the CIA. It's now in the hands of the FBI and White House.

    Now, what's left? Signal intelligence is not CIA, it's NSA. Human intelligence — any important intelligence — is not CIA anymore. It's in the FBI and the White House.

    So it is Central Intelligence, but it doesn't gather intelligence. All that's left is analyzing intelligence. Well, you don't need $30 billion a year for analysis. You can hire the RAND corporation who will do it at 1/100th of the cost and save billions of dollars that you could waste on the Cash for Clunkers and purchase every secondhand car in America.

    This is a real institutional problem...The Obama administration has relegated the CIA to the role it had pre-9/11. And we know what that resulted in.

  3. Third, and to my mind most important, this move ignores (and probably violates) the law. Statutes give responsibility and authority for foreign intelligence operations to the CIA, and give responsibility and authority for domestic intelligence operations to the FBI. By law the CIA is allowed no domestic role, and the FBI is allowed no foreign role in intelligence.
Stepping back and taking a broader look, it appears to me that Barack Obama and his associates are permanently mired in the late-1960's radicalism they were raised in. They automatically and unthinkingly consider the CIA and all its operations to be inherently evil. That is why they are ignoring the prior investigation of CIA interrogations, and the determination of the Department of Justice that no laws were broken; they are determined to prosecute this "obvious evil", and thereby persecute those who saved hundreds - or, more probably, thousands - of American lives. Indeed, such are their ideological blinders that I will be very surprised if they don't go the rest of the way and do what they are convinced the Church Committee should have done — completely disband the CIA.

Meanwhile, consider President Obama's choice to run the CIA, Leon Panetta. He is consistently being countermanded, denigrated, ignored, and now cut out of the process by which the decisions affecting his agency are being made. Worse yet, in the view of Obama's inner circle, he has dared to stand up to them and defend his agency — including, reportedly, in an angry shouting match in the White House. And for that impertinence, apparently, he has had his primary mission involuntarily amputated.

To his credit, Panetta has not backed down. Instead, he finalized a decision on Thursday, August 27, that the CIA will pay the legal costs of employees caught up in the investigations announced August 24 by Attorney General Eric Holder. (One factor in that decision may be that Holder apparently intends a broader investigation than he has yet admitted. That same news article notes that "Unnamed Federal officials also said that they expect the inquiry, which will be conducted by veteran Federal prosecutor John H. Durham, to involve many more individuals than the small group of intelligence officers and contractors implicated in the CIA Inspector General report that prompted Holder to order the inquiry." [emphasis added])

To summarize: The transfer of foreign intelligence responsibility and authority to the FBI is improper and probably illegal. And the reasons behind this action appear to be unrelated to the excuse being used.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Smart Car

I like the Smart Car. It's cute. I liked seeing it in Europe a few years ago. I liked the fact that it's engineered by Daimler-Benz. I might have bought one if they'd been imported into the U.S. at the time I was needing to replace my old car (a Dodge Intrepid with 157,000+ miles on it).

Now I'm glad I didn't. No matter now well-engineered something is, it's going to lose when it goes up against the "big dogs".

Yes, it's hard to see. Look just in front of the red truck and the ambulance.

I Remember Pete Stark

I lived in Oakland, California, some years ago. Fortney "Pete" Stark was the Congressman from my district. He was an extreme left-wing liberal wacko then. He hasn't learned anything since.