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10/31/2009
COSTUMED POLITICOS DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY AT CAPITOL HILL HALLOWEEN BALL

Don’t bother looking for it because you won’t find any other report on this shindig anywhere else. The Ball was held in the bowels of the National Archives where artifacts like the alien spacecraft that crashed at Roswell are housed, along with Obama’s REAL birth certificate (he was actually born in Hoboken, NJ), and proof that Glenn Beck is a paid agent of Chinese intelligence sent to turn American conservatives into a bunch of weepy little girls.

The fact is, this was a top secret Halloween party sponsored by the NSA, CIA, and DIA - the real spooks. So well planned was this operation, that the FBI was engaged to run a counter-op; a full dress party at the Washington Hilton that featured 200 Special Agents who impersonated famous politicos in disguise. The press knew something was amiss because the partygoers didn’t drink half of what professional politicians imbibe when out on the town. But only a couple of bloggers - me and a gay mommy blogger whom I will not link to, figured out that the Hilton party was a scam.

Sure enough, my faithful Capitol Hill source came through for me once again. This source has fed me information in the past that allowed me to break several important stories such as the scoop I had about Nancy Pelosi’s tryst with Rush Limbaugh at the Fairmont in San Francisco, as well as the hot story I did on the Jay Rockefeller cross dressing episode at a football game in Morgantown (he was dressed as a WVU cheerleader). Now he has given me the low down on this Halloween soire.

I cannot vouch for the total accuracy of what follows. But here is the report from my trusted source on various Capitol Hill personalities who attended the Ball.

I will give you three guesses what Nancy Pelosi was costumed as and the first two don’t count. Yes, but not just any witch. Pelosi came decked out as the Wicked Witch of the West complete with real Ruby Slippers (supplied by Andy Stern of the SEIU). On her arm, a real Winged Monkey - or maybe that was David Obey.

Robert Byrd came as a ghost. The sheet he had over his head looked very old - as if he had used it for something else many years ago. The hood he wore was also quite striking. Black people were giving him funny looks all night long.

Harry Reid showed up in a Sweeney Todd costume. Many thought the scalpel he openly brandished had something to do with health care reform, although nobody took the Majority Leader up on his offer for a haircut.

Chris Matthews came dressed up as a lapdog. He was cute as a button - until he started to hump the legs of most of the females present. Urinating on every Republican he got close to did not endear him to partygoers either.

John Boehner wowed the assemblage with his costume - a striking representation of a eunuch. Like most of the Republicans, he got way too drunk and ended up at the close of the evening in a corner crying it was no fair that Mitch McConnell stole his idea for his costume. He thought of coming as a castrated pansy ass first.

New Gingrich, as befitting his status as a potential presidential candidate, came costumed as Ronald Reagan. There were 30 other Republicans dressed as The Gipper, all swearing they believed in RR’s agenda, and were loyal to his memory - at least for the night, anyway.

Barney Frank was impressive in his ACORN costume. But he bitched all night about the fact that all the other nut costumes had already been rented by the time he made it to the costume shop.

Michael Steele wore an unusual costume - the Headless Horseman. Nobody got it.

Keith Olberman was dressed as R.P. McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Or perhaps he was wearing that strait jacket for real. No one had the courage to ask.

Glenn Beck’s Little Miss Muffett get up was an inspired choice. He wept when he finished 2nd in the “Best Costume” contest.

Mike Huckabee was pretty scary in his George W. Bush mask. Or was it a mask?

Who was that politician dressed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing? No one is sure and the Secret Service Agents who surrounded him all night weren’t talking. Whoever it was, he had an aide that followed him around all night with a teleprompter.

There was no mistaking Joe Biden who came dressed in the same costume he wears every year; Bozo the clown.

Sarah Palin was lovely as the Queen of Hearts. She seemed to relish screaming at the top of her voice “Off with his Head!” at every Republican she believed wasn’t conservative enough. I think she was joking.

John McCain was great in his horse costume. Too bad the disguise got all turned around so that the back of the horse was what everybody saw. He kept insisting he was a “Maverick” except the only person who agreed with him was Arthur Sulzberger who showed up in a Leonardo De Caprio costume from Titanic.

A good time was had by all, I’m told. Winner of the “Best Costume” went to Rham Emanuel who looked truly spiffy in his Godfather suit. Funny, but by the end of the night, there were considerably fewer administration opponents around than when the party started.

They’ll turn up eventually - I think. Might I suggest dragging the Potomac?

By: Rick Moran at 9:50 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

10/29/2009
OBAMA’S TIMELY VISIT TO DOVER

President Barack Obama may be a cussed liberal, a naive child in some respects, a player of “Chicago Way” politics, and an arrogant chief executive with a thin skin.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t see him as a human being. And the burden he carries as Commander in Chief was brought home to him, I’m sure, last night with his unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base to welcome home fallen heroes.

Obama is a complex man who is still something of a mystery to the American people - at least those who don’t see him as the devil incarnate trying to set up a socialist dictatorship. There is a lot of fakery in being president no matter who you are, but when the genuine moments peek through, we get a glimpse of the real man whose job it is to protect us and the nation.

Some things, you just can’t fake. Clinton at Oklahoma City. George W. Bush talking about his son’s torments. Ronald Reagan at Point du Hoc.

And now, Obama at Dover:

The president arrived at Dover AFB at 12:34am after 40-minute chopper ride from the White House. An Air Force C-17 carrying the 18 fallen U.S. personnel had arrived at Dover before the president. Among the dead on board were 7 U.S. Army soldiers and 3 DEA agents killed when their MH-47 Chinook crashed at Darreh-ye-bum, and 8 U.S. soldiers killed when their STRYKER personnel vehicle was struck by IED blast in the Arghandab River Valley.

It was a somber event.

The military confirmed the name of only one of the soldiers whose transfer the President witnessed: Sgt Dale R. Griffin, from Terre Haute, Indiana, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom.

At one point before the dignified transfers, President Obama spent time on the plane, accompanied by just Beers, otherwise alone with the eighteen fallen

At 3:39 am the President walked up the ramp of the C-17 to attend a short prayer given by Major Richard S. Bach, an Air Force chaplain. Obama emerged minutes later, the last in a line of personnel, and stood at attention in the cool night breeze, his hands cupped at his side.

At 3:50 am the flag-draped transfer case–not a coffin or casket–was carried from the plane to a waiting vehicle while all those participating saluted.

Griffin’s family gave permission for the media to cover the transfer.

The three DEA agents killed were identified as 37-year-old Forrest Leamon and 30-year-old Chad Michael, both from Virginia, and 37-year-old Michael Weston of Washington. Weston, like Obama, was a Harvard Law School graduate.

Obama’s participation in this sad military tradition comes at a critical time for the President, as he weighs sending as many as 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan. President Obama continues to deliberate with his commanders and advisors and will likely announce his decision after the Afghan elections on November 7 and before he departs for Asia on November 11, though the announcement could come after he returns from the Asia trip.

The New York Times referred to Obama’s trip as a “symbolic event” designed to show the president is thinking deeply about what to do in Afghanistan. This may very well be true. But the president is not made of stone. And the emotion that animated his face during this solemn, heart rending ceremony showed that he understands his responsibilities. And his words a few days ago to Marines at a Naval Air Station in Florida reflected the seriousness with which he is approaching the problem. “I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way,” he told them. Would that President Lyndon Johnson have said something similar in 1964.

Whether he will do “the right thing” (whatever that is) in Afghanistan is an entirely different question. While I sympathize with his dilemma, I criticize the time he is taking to make up his mind. I know he is trying to build “consensus” in the government for his policy but it was apparent weeks ago that his administration is riven by this decision and that reaching a consensus is probably out of the question. Also, the issues he seems to be stuck over are political ones; more troops, or less certainly has a military component but in the president’s case, he is just as certainly looking over his left shoulder at the base of his support who either wants to wind the war down or start getting out of Afghanistan immediately. And he is almost certainly wrestling with the language of commitment as well for the same reason.

This goes to a very basic question we should be asking about this president; can he be decisive? Does he have the ability to “go it alone” if he is convinced he is right and so many disagree? Our policy in Afghanistan is a good test case for this yardstick of presidential leadership. So far, I am not impressed. Splitting the difference is not an option here. He either must go “all in” or start pushing away from the table.

And thus, his trip to Dover and a visit with the families of the fallen. Bush never got the credit he deserved for this painful presidential chore - made all the more searing by the stinging words of some family members who blamed the president for their child’s death. What few media reports emerged from these emotional sessions were difficult to read. But seeing Bush as a human being was not in the liberal’s playbook so these visits were either ignored or were churlishly commented upon.

I am glad the president made the trip. I wonder how or if it will affect his thinking on Afghanistan? Will it steel his resolve to formulate a policy that will give meaning to their deaths by trying to carry on and pacify the country, thus infusing their sacrifice with meaning? Or does he already see Afghanistan as a lost cause and will look for the quickest way out consistent with assuring the safety of our troops and leaving some kind of government in place that can fend for itself?

As I said, a dilemma to be sure. Whatever he decides, it can’t hurt that he will have the faces of the family members of our dead soldiers at the front of his mind when he finally makes up his mind.

By: Rick Moran at 8:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (39)

10/28/2009
DOES THE GOVERNMENT THINK YOU’RE STUPID? OR A CHILD?

My latest AIP column is up and it deals with the passage in the House of the Consumer Finance Protection Agency (CFPA) and how another alphabet soup agency will protect us from our own stupidity.

A sample:

I am often vexed lately when reading what our government is doing. On the one hand, I find it hard to fault the intentions of those who wish to make our lives “easier.” On the other hand, I want to throttle them for insulting my intelligence by proposing to do something for me that any reasonably aware 10 year old should be able to do for himself.

If the modern welfare state teaches us anything, it is that we must be cocooned and protected as if we were a newborn babe, or prevented from harming ourselves because we’re too stupid to know any better. It’s not enough that government warn us that the stove is hot. They must put on oven mitts for us and then place a 10 foot high sign in front of our face telling us not to touch anything.

I get this feeling of being patted on the head and told I’m a good boy when reading about the brand new Consumer Finance Protection Agency (CFPA) - another in a long line of alphabet soup government watchdog agencies who are ostensibly set up to protect us from rapacious corporations who would do us harm. And, as you might have guessed, the CFPA has also been constituted to protect us from our own stupidity.

In this case, it will be financial products from which we will be spared the consequences of any irresponsible, ill-informed decisions we might make. The stated reason is to prevent another financial meltdown like the one that occurred a year ago.

I am not against financial regulation - far from it. I am against government taking it upon itself to act as a knight protector against our own ill informed, lazy decision making.

There are already laws on the books to deal with unscrupulous mortgage consultants, crooked brokers, and other get rich quick schemers who don’t make any headway against those who conscientiously review and examine documents, ask questions, and generally take personal responsibility for their own decisions in financial matters.

If the crook lies, or misleads, he and his firm are not only liable for criminal penalties but losses can be recovered in civil court. The point being, we don’t need a whole new agency that will end up stifling financial innovation by limiting who can purchase complex financial instruments, while forcing financial institutions to offer “vanilla” products to consumers they feel are not savvy enough to understand risk.

Buying a mortgage is not rocket science. Sue and I took a night off from watching TV to read every word of the agreement, draw up a list of questions, and would not sign on the dotted line until every one of our concerns were met and questions were answered. We spent an hour with our insurance broker so that we completely understood that aspect of the purchase.

The potential for abuse by this agency is astronomical (the power to investigate and punish will be in the hands of the director - a political appointee). And there is the probability that fewer people will be able to get mortgages because the seller will not be able to offer a wide variety of solutions in order to get a customer into a home.

Credit cards are a different story, and I wholeheartedly endorse reforms in that area. But do we need a new agency for that? Or would common sense legislation that would prohibit industry practices that costs consumers and merchants billions of dollars in unnecessary fees be adequate?

The CFPA is good government gone wild. We don’t need it, and it should be defeated in the senate.

By: Rick Moran at 8:14 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

10/27/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: STORM BREWING IN NY23

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, it’s an All American Thinker night as I welcome Editor Tom Lifson, Rich Baehr, and Ed Lasky for a close look at the race in NY23 as well as a discussion of the latest in health care reform.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 4:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

YES TO HOFFMAN, BUT NO LITMUS TEST PLEASE

I have little doubt but that my plea not to make the NY23 race a litmus test for who get’s to play in the Republican party sandbox will fall on deaf ears, but it must be made regardless.

Yes, Hoffman is by far the better candidate than hapless Scozzafava - the winner of the Margaret Sanger Award from Family Planning Advocates. This is not the worst thing about her. But accepting an award named after the second most prominent and enthusiastic proponent of eugenics in history - after Adolf Hitler - shows either a shocking ignorance of what Sanger’s views on sterilizing and giving forced abortions to “undesirables” like blacks and immigrants actually were, or a political tone deafness that should disqualify her from big time politics.

Indeed, Scozzafava’s campaign has been marked by a not ready for prime time amateurishness, that includes the uproariously funny video of her standing in front of Hoffman’s campaign headquarters holding a press conference while “Hoffman for Congress” signs were arrayed en masse in the background. That, and other clueless statements have destroyed her candidacy so that the most recent poll shows her in 3rd place.

It is a mystery why the GOP establishment in New York and Washington chose her for the race. She apparently supported the stim bill - something no other Republican in Congress did - and she supports the anti-democratic card check bill being pushed by organized labor. For whatever reason, this seemed perfectly fine to Newt Gingrich (who has defended her) as well as the NRCC who flung $1 million into her lap.

But is she conservative enough to be a Republican?

The answer to that question is why I believe that who you support in the NY23 race should not be a litmus test for establishing a baseline for who can identify themselves as a “Republican.” Is someone who supports gun rights, is against cap and trade, opposes most aspects of Obamacare (including the public option), wants to make Bush’s tax cuts permanent while supporting a repeal of the death tax, supports earmark reform, voted against the Paterson budget, and has a decidedly conservative voting record on fiscal matters worthy of being identified as a Republican?

Apparently, not if you are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.

I will grant that anyone who would have voted for Porkulus and card check should not be supported when a legitimate, reliable conservative like Hoffman is running in the same race.

But suppose there was no Hoffman? The national GOP erred badly both in Florida and NY23 not because they backed candidates who shouldn’t be Republicans but because there were excellent conservative alternatives to Scozzafava and Crist begging for their support. But we better get used to the idea that there are going to be candidates running in many northeastern/New England districts that wouldn’t fit in at a Louisiana clambake but would feel right at home at a Maine Lobsterfest.

Yes, there should be limits to who gets to wear the GOP label. But I don’t think Scozzafava comes very close to the barrier. Gingrich is wrong to label her a good conservative. And the national party was wrong to waste a million bucks on her. But this kind of hysteria from Malkin is almost inexplicable:

If you have given to the NRCC, RNC, or Newt Gingrich under the impression that they are using the money to support conservatism, you might want to ask for your money back.

As I mentioned in my column post on the NY23 special election, the NRCC is using conservatives’ money to back a radical leftist and attack a bona fide, viable conservative candidate for Congress in a safe Republican district. Gingrich has endorsed the radical leftist.

I love Michelle Malkin. She used to be a big supporter of this blog and showed me many personal kindnesses over the years. I used to work for her as comment moderator for her blog. She is a smart, usually savvy about politics, and an independent voice on the right.

But her description of Scozzafava as a “radical leftist” is off the deep end. Yes, she has appeared on the Working Families Party ballot line in New York - no doubt as a result of her stance on gay marriage and abortion (WFP is supporting Owens the Democrat in this election). And it is true that some of that party’s financial support has come from ACORN and SEIU, although referring to the WFP as the party of ACORN is an exaggeration.

But the complicated nature of New York state politics doesn’t make that unusual nor should it necessarily disqualify her from membership in the Republican party - nor should the fact that her husband is a union organizer. Scozzafava said she would have voted to defund ACORN as a result of the exposes done by Big Government. Is that something a “radical leftist” would do?

She supports the individual’s right to bear arms. Is that a position normally taken by a “radical leftist?

She supports the Bush tax cuts and repeal of the death tax. Radical leftist?

She opposes cap and trade. Radical leftist?

Are all pro-choice and pro-gay marriage politicians “radical leftists?” There is a libertarian case to be made for both so unless you want to brand the pro-choice wing of the GOP “radical leftists” I suggest we tone down the rhetoric a bit. (Not all gay marriage advocates are radical leftists either. Dick Cheney anyone?)

It’s one thing to oppose Scozzafava because there’s a better candidate in the race. It’s something totally different to slime her as a radical leftist when she clearly is not. That is hyperbole, and a gross exaggeration. Getting on the ballot line of as many parties as possible is the way the game is played in New York - one of the few “fusion” states left where a candidate maximizes their chances of winning by garnering the endorsement of parties from across the political spectrum. It makes for some strange bedfellows at times but is hardly cause to read anyone out of either party because they do what is necessary to win the election.

And to show where this kind of madness is leading, Malkin and others have now proclaimed New Gingrich not conservative enough because he endorsed the decision of the New York country organizations who chose Scozzafava. Gingrich was wrong to do so. But does this disqualify one of the leading conservative minds in America from a position of leadership?

Apparently Malkin also believes Gingrich unworthy because he once appeared with Nancy Pelosi in a commercial about climate change, took a charter school tour with Al Sharpton, and appeared with Hillary Clinton to promote some of his pet projects. Has it now become verboten to even appear with the enemy in a public forum? Supporting reasonable legislation on emissions, school reform, and support for some kind of health care reform is hardly leftist, or radical, or even very moderate - unless one’s definition of “conservatism” is so narrow that you could drive a piece of spaghetti through it.

If Malkin and those who join her in this pogrom keep it up, the next GOP convention will be just large enough to be held in my kitchen.

I understand and even agree with the notion that candidates like Hoffman are good for the party and that the GOP establishment definitely needs a wake up call. But trying to marginalize Newt Gingrich? Referring to a moderate Republican as a “radical leftist?” This is madness and can only lead to self destruction as conservatives actively seek out and destroy those whose views on a couple of issues are at variance with their own.

Fight against the Scozzafava’s in the party if you feel you must. Deny them leadership positions, choice seats on important committees, a speaking role at conventions - do all of that if you feel that strongly about it.

But once you start the process of subtraction from the party as a result of your disagreements on very few issues, there is only one way that the GOP will end up; permanent minority status with conservatives continuing to howl in the political wilderness.

By: Rick Moran at 10:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (24)

10/26/2009
WHY THE SHORTAGE OF SWINE FLU VACCINE?

I took some time this morning to do a little research on this issue, going back to last April when the first hint that Swine Flu would be a problem in the US was dropped.

In the ensuing months, the government conscientiously planned for an epidemic - a “worst case scenario” as laid out by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius back in July. Funds totaling more than $700 million were made available from HHS to purchase vaccines from the 5 remaining vaccine makers (a whole separate story of government interference in the market that reduced the number of vaccine makers by 2/3 over the previous decade), as well as help states and local governments gear up for the crisis. In addition, more than $3 billion in preparedness funds will come from the stim bill, as well as monies redirected from WMD funds.

This was all done months ago and would appear to show the Obama administration out front of the problem.

At a planning meeting in July, the government set a goal of having 120 million doses of the vaccine by mid-October, with 200 million doses by the end of the year.

Then in August, it became apparent that there were snafus in making the antigens that protect us from the Flu. This put the whole process of approval by the FDA back a couple of months.

Hence, large scale manufacture of the vaccine was delayed. And as it has been reported, the government hasn’t even come close to the 120 million doses promised. In fact, there are about 30 million doses that will have been made available by the end of the week. And even if the companies making it are at peak production (they are not quite there yet evidently), the goal of 200 million doses will also prove to be elusive. The companies may very well have been able to manufacture something close to that number, but foreign orders will cut into the number of US doses available anyway.

Federal officials had projected that 40 million doses would be on hand by Oct. 15, but not even 13 million doses had arrived by Tuesday.

“They [federal health officials] made some earlier projections, but it looks like a number of those projections have been overly optimistic,” said Dr. Ciro Sumaya, a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, and a member of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

On Tuesday, a top CDC official acknowledged that production of the vaccine was lagging, with a revised goal now of 50 million doses by mid-November and 150 million by year’s end.

So what happened. Whose fault is it?

In 2004, the shortage of Flu vaccine was George Bush’s fault. Just ask any Democrat:

As public health officials scramble to find more flu vaccine and experts debate how to increase the US supply, presidential candidate John Kerry hopes voters will come to one conclusion – the severe shortage the United States now faces is President George Bush’s fault.

Over the past several days, the vaccine shortage has been injected squarely into the presidential race, as Bush defends his administration and Kerry tries to hold him responsible for the loss of nearly 50 million doses of vaccine - half this season’s expected supply.

Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, released a radio advertisement yesterday stoking fears over the shortage as congressional Democrats blamed Bush for not addressing well-documented problems in the vaccine industry.

The British government closed down a vaccine maker because 50 million doses were contaminated - most of those earmarked for the US market.

And those “well documented problems” were the result of government policy going back to the Clinton administration, that allowed people to sue vaccine makers for adverse reactions to the vaccine - some of them ridiculous. This drove costs through the roof which convinced most vaccine makers to get out of the business altogether. You can argue about whether trial lawyers reaped the benefits of such a policy, but the result was the same; there are as many manufacturers of vaccine in the country as their are fingers on one of your hands.

But since the Democrats made blaming Bush a national pastime - even for stuff that was out of his control -shouldn’t we now turn the tables and blame Obama for this radical mismanagement in government planning? How could he be so far off in his estimate of doses that would be available? Was it incompetence? Stupidity? Wishful thinking?

Obviously, we can’t use the Bush standard of blame. Obama is smart. He’s competent. He sometimes speaks in complete sentences. He says “nuclear” and not “nuclar.” He wrote two books - yeah two.

Those are all good reasons to hold Obama harmless for the laughable-if-it-wasn’t-so-serious shortage of flu shots. Come to think of it, maybe the Democrats should have held Bush harmless for circumstances beyond his control too.

I can dream, can’t I?

Never mind. The real reason that there is a shortage of Swine Flu vaccine is very simple: it’s damned hard to make:

Experts such as Sumaya explained that glitches can — and apparently did — occur at several points in the complex process of developing a vaccine, especially for a virus that was first identified in April.

“It shows how there are many steps before you get a vaccine that’s available — the production, the testing, the packaging, the allocation and distribution. And there may be problems at every step, so as you go from one to the other to the other that slows things down,” he said Thursday.

Sumaya was attending a meeting of the CDC advisory committee in Atlanta, where the experts were collecting information on vaccine supply and demand, as well as getting up to speed on the latest H1N1 developments, how the virus is spreading across the country, how many people have been hospitalized and how many have died.

In explaining the vaccine delay, Sumaya said that, first, the H1N1 virus did not grow as quickly as expected during a half-century old — and often-criticized — egg-based production technique.

Second, he said, “because there was kind of a rush to get things done, there were some packaging areas that they [federal officials] had thought wouldn’t take long, yet they did.”

“Even in the distribution, to find certain target groups so it reaches them first, we have to have a sense of what is going on across the country, which is a dynamic situation,” he added.

Then there are the twin demands facing vaccine manufacturers to produce two different vaccines at the same time — one for swine flu and one for seasonal flu.

There’s a longer than anticipated time to grow the antigen, safely package it for distribution (that British contamination snafu in 2004 was the result of inadequate safeguards in packaging), and get it to areas of the country in some kind of rough prioritization.

No sense in blaming government. I think I showed pretty convincingly that the CDC and HHS have been on top of this problem from the get go. But their best laid plans came acropper when Mother Nature refused to cooperate in the growing of the virus in chicken eggs. That, and as always, there were apparently some questions about how safe the vaccine actually is. The anti-vaccination, psuedo-science crowd is making more and more headway despite the science showing that modern flu vaccines are safe and effective. Some people are going to die because they believed that crap. I hope the Luddites can sleep at night.

So even though it would be very nice to blame Obama for the lack of Swine Flu vaccines, we must content ourselves with the usual - making fun of his ears, calling him out for his inability to speak contemporaneously without a teleprompter, and criticizing him for getting up in the morning - all the important stuff.

And did you notice? He’s a black man.

By: Rick Moran at 9:26 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

10/25/2009
WILL WE MAKE HEZBALLAH ANOTHER ‘PARTNER FOR PEACE?’

I can’t believe that failing to name the perpetrators of the Marine Barracks bombing from 26 years ago in a White House statement on the anniversary of that attack can be dismissed as an oversight.

First, the White House statement on the anniversary:

“On the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, we remember today the 241 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors who lost their lives 26 years ago as the result of a horrific terrorist attack that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The military personnel serving in Beirut were there to bring peace and stability to Lebanon after years of internal strife and conflict. The murder of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines on this day on 1983 remains a senseless tragedy….In remembering this terrible day of loss, we are at the same time hopeful that a new government in Lebanon will soon be formed. We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people.”

Barry Rubin notes the absence of any named cultprits:

All of these forces, however, are left anonymous. No one is named for involvement in that “horrific terrorist attack.” And, of course the attack was not “senseless” but part of an Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah campaign to take over Lebanon and drive U.S. influence out of the region. In fact, it was counted as a great victory for these forces since it showed America’s vulnerability to being hit by terrorism–an inspiration for September 11?–and did succeed in paralyzing the U.S. effort in Lebanon. Ultimately, this lead to the withdrawal of the peace-keeping forces altogether, paving the way for Syria’s turning Lebanon into a satellite state for two decades at a great financial and strategic profit. .

None of these attacks were perpetrated by al-Qaida, the only group that remains a target of this administration’s version of a war on terrorism, a phrase which is no longer used.

It is bad enough the administration doesn’t say any of this. Is it aware of these factors at all?

Indeed, the president’s advisor on terrorism is on record as saying that Hizballah is no longer a terrorist group, which opens the door for U.S. contacts in future.

This raises the question of the declaration’s final sentence.

The evidence is pretty solid. We have COMINT linking known Hezballah members to the planning for the bombing. We have reports from informers, and defectors regarding the Palestinian’s participation, and other intel pointing the finger directly at the Iranian and Syrian governments who offered material support for the attack.

I would argue that failing to name the guilty dishonors the memory of those Marines, and others who have been murdered by Hezballah. And as Rubin points out, the very description of the attack is whitewashed.

I think this is a clear sign that the administration plans on making Hezballah a “partner for peace” in negotiations with Israel. By bending over backward not to give offense to Hezballah, the administration continues it’s unilateral “foreign policy by gesture” in hopes that the Shia terrorist group will magically lose its fanatical hatred of Israel - and us - and join in some kind of grand bargain that would banish war from the Levant forever.

In this case, as in their outreach to Iran and Syria, the administration is banking on the idea that speaking softly (or virtually ignoring events like the Iranian uprising, and naming Hezballah guilty of mass murdering Americans) will woo the radical fundamentalists that run Hezballah into a marriage with Israel that will allow them to live side by side in peace.

For in truth, Hezballah is not going anywhere. They will not disband. They will not give up their weapons. They will not abide by UN resolutions that require them to disarm. They will not stop until they control Lebanon. They don’t hide this goal from anyone - least of all the Lebanese people. And everyone knows that if Hezballah controls Lebanon, then Syria and Iran control Lebanon. In case you think otherwise, this would not be in the interest of the United States.

But…and it’s something of a big “but:” Despite being on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, Hezballah - for better or worse (and it’s definitely worse) is also a political party in Lebanon that controls what has come to be known as “March 13th” coalition who oppose the ruling Sunni/Christian majority. The confessional arrangement of power sharing in Lebanon gives these opposition forces a considerable say in the Lebanese cabinet.

And of course, they have the guns and have proven they are not shy in using them if the situation calls for it. That reality is the real governing force in Lebanon and the Sunnis and Christians ignore it at their peril. The “March 14th” governing coalition knows it can only go so far on some issues before Hezballah will put the hammer down and use their militia as they did last year in almost starting another civil war when the government threatened to remove a Syrian communications nexus from the airport. That incident led to the “Doha Accords” that shifted the balance in the cabinet toward the opposition, while establishing a framework to change the election laws in Hezballah’s favor.

So perhaps the point isn’t so much will the US talk to Hezballah but rather what role they will play in US talks with Lebanon? They are a legitimate part of the democratically elected Lebanese government. We could no more refuse to include them in talks than we could if we were to talk to any other divided government in the world.

Therefore, it makes sense (from the administration’s point of view) that we remove them from the terror list and allow US representatives to negotiate with them - as long as it occurs within the framework of talks with the Lebanese government.

Several European countries have already removed them from their own list of terrorist organizations. So the question is what might be gained from keeping them on the list?

It strengthens the hand of the Sunnis, for one thing. We have been careful in our relationship with the majority in Lebanon, wisely using King Abdullah as a proxy for many of our dealings with them. Too close a relationship with either France or the US would damage the Sunni’s in the eyes of many Lebanese, while undercutting the argument that Hezballah is little more than a catspaw for Syria and/or Iran. The Lebanese Sunnis have a traditionally close relationship with the Saudis and Abdullah has done quite well for us over the last few years.

Also, by keeping Hezballah on the terror list, we can maintain the idea that if they were to attack Israel again, we could hold the Lebanese government relatively blameless. By acknowledging them as an entity separate from the government, any rocket attacks or invasion of Israel would allow us to maintain connections to the Sunnis and their Christian allies. Eventually, even the Sunnis had to side with Hezballah in the 2006 Israeli war because of the enormous damage to Lebanese infrastructure imposed by the Israeli air force. But isolating Hezballah if they were to attack again would help the Sunnis in the post war political environment - as it did in the last election.

But it appears that the Obama administration is laying the groundwork to remove the terror group from the State Department’s list. That would be a mistake in my opinion and might cause significant problems for the Sunni/Christian majority.

And just how it would advance the cause of peace in the Middle East isn’t clear either - unless you believe a leopard can change its spots or the sun can be commanded to rise in the west. Then you may very well believe that Hezballah has something positive to offer to the peace process. Until they obey security council resolutions demanding that they disarm, their status as a terrorist group should not change. They are now fully resupplied with 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel and have the ideological justification to attack their Jewish neighbor anytime they see an advantage to be gained.

This is not a peace partner. And legitimizing them - even though they may be a legitimate political organzation - may make another war more likely.

By: Rick Moran at 10:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

10/24/2009
OBAMA’S RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICY IS THE RIGHT APPROACH

One of the few commendable parts of the Stimulus Bill was the money devoted to seeking alternative energy sources. I don’t believe it will lead to “millions of new jobs” - that’s pure politics and doesn’t take into account the millions of “old” jobs that will be lost. Experts are divided whether there will be a net gain in employment - and we won’t see any evidence of that for a couple of decades.

But the president’s emphasis on developing these technologies is spot on. And, I think to a very large degree, his approach is a sound one.

Everyone agrees we must wean ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, and eventually we must radically alter the economy in order to deal with declining oil supplies.

It isn’t really a question of drilling. The fact is, the world is partially a victim of America’s success in in applying our soft power in ways that have caused an explosion of economic activity in the third world that has resulted in massive increases in demand for oil the world over. China and India - two huge nations - are seeing big increases in their energy needs every year. Coal is only a stopgap measure for both - not only for its problems with carbon emissions but the suffocating air pollution that goes with it.

Globalization, coupled with our developmental aid over the last couple of decades, has caused a revolution in living standards. OPEC nations are at near capacity in supplying clients with oil and the price remains high. This should tell you that the demand curve is outstripping supply. And the gap is getting wider.

(The question of whether we are already at “Peak Oil” production is separate to the question of current supply. There are encouraging signs of some new finds in South America and the Caribbean, but those fields will only delay the inevitable crunch by a few years at most.)

So the quest for renewables is both necessary and immediate. And the president has come up with a plan via the stim bill that will ratchet up research and development while allowing the market to pick winners and losers.

It’s really the kind of public-private partnership that we need to see the kinds of innovative technologies that will revolutionize the way we live and change the economy in ways we can barely fathom now.

Why not let the market handle the whole thing? Ordinarily, that would be the optimum solution. But we’re talking about dollar amounts for basic research that are far beyond the capacity of any company to pay for - or generate the speed necessary to make this transition before supplies really start to pinch.

The days when a Thomas Edison could fund his own lab and turn out miraculous invention and invention are gone. While we shouldn’t entirely dismiss the work of American tinkerers, the fact is, in order to overcome the technological and engineering problems associated with making us independent of foreign oil, develop “clean coal” applications, take us to the next level in solar, wind, and car battery power, and fix our electric power grid, it will take the massive infusions of cash into research that Obama is proposing.

Oversight, as this New York Times editorial mentioned at the time of the stim bill passage, will be vitally important:

Eighty-billion dollars is still a lot of money. And the federal agencies overseeing its disbursement must provide strong regulation and firm guidance to ensure that it is spent wisely. Money invested in a modern electricity grid, for instance, will have been badly spent if it is used merely to build transmission towers to move energy from old coal-fired power plants. It will be well spent if it helps move clean energy, such as wind and solar power, from, say, Texas, to distant cities that need it.

That is just one of many provisions that will bear close watching as the money flows to states, cities and businesses.

Yes, there is some waste in the bill - including monies earmarked for AMTRAK and a dubious high speed rail project. But there is also a long overdue $11 billion in grants and $6 billion in loans to develop a “smart grid” for our electrical needs. Europeans are far ahead of us in this area and once completed, the new grid will not only make our energy use more efficient, but also provide better service to electricity consumers while keeping cost increases down.

I am also a little dubious about the $25 billion the government is spending to “weatherize” homes and retrofit government buildings to be more energy conscious. Given past history, bureaucrats always seem to find ways to redefine what “retrofit” means. Look for a lot of bells and whistles added to government buildings without much in energy savings.

That said, we should be excited about a tenfold increase in monies given for research into better car batteries (they are improving almost every year), and a tenfold increase in developing “clean coal” technologies. Of the latter, I am less excited simply because the entire coal industry is going to be decimated if cap and trade goes through in the senate. Developing a costly solution for an industry that is being shoved to the sidelines may not be the most efficient use of that money.

But the $20 billion in tax incentives to develop alternative fuels and energy sources is the key. Note that the incentives will not favor one company over another and could set off a gold rush toward energy innovation that would almost certainly hasten improvements in these technologies. For instance, we will probably discover just how viable energy produced by wind power can be when used on an industrial scale. It won’t work everywhere - just as solar power will have its limits. But the trick is to come up with the right combination that will dramatically reduce our dependence on oil.

Obviously, no plan is without its drawbacks. It will take decades to see the kind of progress that will really make a difference. Alternative energy sources currently supply less than 3% of our needs. It will take a sustained effort over many years to bring these technologies online, and the national will to make changes in how we think of energy and how we use it. No easy task, that, as President Obama said at MIT yesterday:

Now, while the challenges today are different, we have to draw on the same spirit of innovation that’s always been central to our success. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy. There may be plenty of room for debate as to how we transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels — we all understand there’s no silver bullet to do it. There’s going to be a lot of debate about how we move from an economy that’s importing oil to one that’s exporting clean energy technology; how we harness the innovative potential on display here at MIT to create millions of new jobs; and how we will lead the world to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. There are going to be all sorts of debates, both in the laboratory and on Capitol Hill. But there’s no question that we must do all these things.

Countries on every corner of this Earth now recognize that energy supplies are growing scarcer, energy demands are growing larger, and rising energy use imperils the planet we will leave to future generations. And that’s why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century. From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation. It’s that simple.

I would quibble with the president and add that the bio-tech revolution - one we are currently leading but in danger of falling back - will also determine which nation “leads the global economy.” But he is correct to make the search for viable renewables into a race.

And given this excellent head start, I wouldn’t bet against America just yet.

UPDATE

Nick Loris at the Heritage blog also finds some good things in the president’s speech at MIT. But he also points out what I did - that the idea these programs will result in a net gain of jobs is dubious at best.

But the green stimulus, free lunch rhetoric neglects the costs, both real and opportunity costs, that come with a government stimulus. Heritage analyst Ben Lieberman writes that a green stimulus is actually a contradiction in terms: “Support for renewables would likely cost more jobs than are created. For example, subsidies for wind and solar energy would, at least from the narrow perspective of the wind and solar industries, create new jobs as more of these systems are manufactured and installed. But the tax dollars needed to help pay for them cost jobs elsewhere, as would the pricey electricity they produce.”

Our analysis of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill finds that there will be 1.9 million fewer jobs by 2012 after accounting for green jobs. Job losses would grow to 2.5 million by 2035. This makes us a cap and trade naysayer, who Obama attacks towards the end of his speech.

I really wish the president would simply stick to promoting these programs as a spur to innovation rather than some kind of jobs program. He is on much firmer ground, as Loris points out, when talking about the spirit of entrepreneurship that these monies will ignite.

By: Rick Moran at 10:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (30)

10/23/2009
WAR ON FOX OR BUSINESS AS USUAL?
CATEGORY: Media, Politics

Is Fox News a “real” news organization? Surely you joke (and don’t call me Shirley.)

If the definition of a news organization is to disseminate information to the American people in a fair and balanced manner, Fox don’t cut it.

And if you think the network that fact checked an SNL comedy skit cuts it, you’re a joke.

Or if you think the network that had an on air discussion between one of its anchors and a guest about whether Dick Cheney is mentally stable cuts it as a “real” news network, I wonder how ignorant you can be.

Or if you think the network whose news director said in a memo, “”We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn’t mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable when the facts don’t warrant that…” during the 2004 election cuts it as a “real” news network, you need to get your head out of your ass.

I could keep going but I have limited time today. The point is simple, obvious, and remarkably clear to anyone not so wrapped up in their own partisan personae that they are blinded to the truth.

There is no such thing as a “fair and balanced” media organization. The idea that any network on TV today does not push a partisan agenda for one side or the other is laughable.

Does Fox pursue a partisan agenda more vigorously than others? Like to see a study on that but my guess would probably be yes they do. So congratu-f**king-lations CNN and MSNBC; you aren’t quite as bad as Fox.

Is that what the left is hanging its hat on in this case? That CNN and other partisan Democratic networks aren’t as bad as Fox?

Or maybe they believe that the partisan Democratic networks are perfectly unbiased, balanced, and give the straight dope on conservatives and Republicans?

Holy Jesus nobody can be that stupid.

Anyone dumb enough to get all their news from Fox deserves to see the world only through a conservative Republican prism Just as anyone dumb enough to watch only Democratic partisan networks deserves a similar fate.

I know what the partisans are lining up to say; “Yeah, but Fox promoted the tea parties, and did all sorts of other poopy stuff that makes them more than partisan - they are an arm of the Republican party.”

OK - ya got me. Fox is worse than CNN and MSNBC, and CBS, NBC, ABC, and all the print media put together. Happy? Good.

What’s the point? What, you think you’re going to shut them down? You think they’re going to bleed viewers? You think they’re going to reduce their influence one iota with the people who they are already influencing?

This entire attack is an exercise in preening, self indulgent, intellectual and cultural elitism. You believe the rubes are too stupid to think for themselves so, in your infinite wisdom (and infinite capacity to fool yourselves) you will show them the way.

Get real. And get off it. If you don’t like it, don’t watch. And telling someone else what they should be watching is so arrogant I wouldn’t be surprised if you think so highly of yourself that you make constant attempts at auto-fellatio. (If you discover how, drop me a note.)

If you think this is an attempt to “marginalize” Fox with other “real news” (Ha!) outlets, I would question your sanity. Get a clue: Other news outlets already marginalize Fox. And look how well that has played out.

No, the real issue isn’t that the Democrats and the left is attacking Fox. The issue is the White House going after the network hammer and tongs.

This seems more like pique than policy. Just what is it they expect to accomplish? Yank their FCC license? That Nixonian threat would no doubt cheer the left while leaving them completely unaware of the monumental irony inherent in their desire.

Allah thinks it’s “containment” they’re after - a bid to make sure no stories on Fox “crossover” into “legitimate” media. But few are crossing over now. Besides, the tone of coverage on the other partisan networks is still pleasant enough towards the administration, that you wonder why they’re so worried.

And unfortunately for the White House, they are forgetting one teeny, tiny little detail in their splendid little war; the internet and talk radio are perfectly capable of driving any story compelling enough into the mainstream. That’s why this entire campaign seems more personal than political. If Obama wants to play King Canute and command the tides not roll in, he is welcome to try. But stories that are damaging to his administration - if they are factually accurate and juicy enough - are going to be covered by everybody anyway.

Unless this is an attempt to intimidate the entire media universe into reporting only happy talk stuff. But I doubt that. I could never see the White House going after CNN like this no matter what they did. And CNN knows it. So do the rest of them.

No, this is definitely personal. And a little weird, don’t you think? If there’s nothing really to gain, and if it’s not going to matter to Fox in their coverage (it won’t), I come full circle and ask why?

It has certainly energized the base. Liberals are swooning in ecstasy. Media Matters is even coordinating with the White House in their effort to…what? Silence Fox? Bring them down? Change their coverage?

I don’t get it.

As far as this being, “unprecedented,” Cole takes care of that meme. It didn’t start with Bush either, of course. Since Carter, the White House has become more and more aggressive with the media in trying to reward friends, punish foes, and shape the news to their liking. Obama has just taken the next logical step. In the process, they have totally emasculated the White House press corps, reducing them to errand persons who do little more than read from administration handouts and repeat administration spin from their “sources.”

No, there is no rhyme nor reason to this attack. It may, in fact, energize conservatives as much as it is pleasing the left. The administration has also succeeded in generating a little sympathy for Fox among those “real” news outlets. Perhaps they recognize their own vulnerability for not being a “legitimate” news organization under the next GOP administration.

If there’s one thing about Washington that is perpetually true - What goes around, comes around.

By: Rick Moran at 11:30 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (34)

THE BIG ‘DOC FIX’ FLOP

My latest at Pajamas Media is up, and its about the “doc fix” that failed in the senate.

A sample:

There are times when politics approaches the sublime level of art, where the sheer audaciousness and breathtaking arrogance of the players, along with the elegance of their schemes, achieves the same effect that one gets while gazing on the Pietà or watching Pulp Fiction. The shortening of breath, the quickening of the heartbeat — responses to the joy in recognizing the awesome majesty in the clever ways the greatest politicians can separate the taxpayer from his hard earned coin or simply pull the wool over his eyes while he is being fleeced.

Is this a great country, or what?

That’s the feeling I got while observing Harry Reid and the Democrats as they attempted the most brazen and shameless legislative switcheroo in quite some time.

Yes, it’s the “doc fix” or, more prosaically, the “big ugly bribe” that the American Medical Association eagerly grasped with both gloved hands and sold their principles for a little more cash when treating Medicare patients.

The story, as it broke in The Hill, is that a secret meeting took place last week between Reid, Max Baucus, Chris Dodd, a couple of White House aides (including Rahm Emanuel), and representatives of the AMA and other doctors groups. At the meeting, the majority leader offered to restore cuts in Medicare payments to doctors that were mandated by a 1997 law that was supposed to reform Medicare. Never mind that Medicare is going to go broke and that those cuts were designed to help forestall that unhappy happenstance.

Problem: Those cuts were already figured in to the health care reform bills moving their way through Congress with the lightening speed of a three-toed sloth making its way to the ground for breakfast only to alight around dinner time. The cuts were counted as “savings” in order to fulfill the president’s pledge not to add “one dime” to the deficit when passing health care reform.

No worries, says Fast Harry. And he proceeded to make an offer to the docs that they simply couldn’t refuse.

Read the whole thing.

By: Rick Moran at 7:54 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)