Archive for March 2010

Justice for Phoebe

In 7th grade I was bullied relentlessly, and the abuse didn’t end until I graduated from elementary school and went to an all boys prep school in the city. The experience left me with an instinctive and vicious hatred of bullies – whether they are kids or adults – and became the crucible that forged my identity. One reason I support human rights is because I don’t like to see anyone – American, Chinese or Burmese, bullied by those in authority. I fought offshoring because I saw IT workers being bullied by their bosses and an economic system that drove down the cost of labor. I have given hell to my son’s school administrators and teachers over any whiff of bullying occurring in his schools. I even support Israel partly because no ethnic group has been bullied by so many for so long.

So when I read the story of Phoebe Prince, a beautiful girl from Ireland who committed suicide after being bullied by rejects from a Lord of the Flies sequel, my blood goes cold and my heart breaks. All the hallmarks were there making her a target, and the school did nothing. She was new to the school district and had no connections to anyone. She spoke with an accent. She was different and also of the age when girls become the most vicious towards each other. Had she arrived two year earlier or later she would have most likely avoided the hazing and survived, but Phoebe had the unfortunate luck to arrive at South Hadley High School at just the right moment. Add in the fact that the school’s teachers and administrators didn’t give a damn – and worse, ignored the advice of an anti-bullying consultant hired to advise them – and the likelihood of Phoebe ending up dead became a near-certainty.

Now the teachers and administrators of South Hadley High School are scrambling like roaches under the intense glare of the national media, and of course, the inevitable lawsuit. Some parents of the bullies are already using the “bitch deserved it” defense for their little psychopathic darlings as their little ones’ dreams are threatened with jail time. Of course even the most sadistic prison experiences that lay ahead for these animals will not bring Phoebe back to life nor surpass the horror she experienced the last five months of her life.

Her teachers and school administrators aren’t being charged, which is a shame. But if my kid was in that school I would not rest until each and every one of them had lost their teaching certificates and their abilities to hold a job involving children ever again. They know they are guilty, and they know that we know they are guilty, and those in the community should never forget their failure to bear the responsibility they chose to carry by being teachers at South Hadley High School.

Jihadi Rights Watch

The Times has a piece on what happens when a human rights organization goes bad. Human Rights Watch has been a relentless critic of Israel and the United States.

Some conflict zones get much more coverage than others. For instance, HRW has published five heavily publicised reports on Israel and the Palestinian territories since the January 2009 war.

In 20 years they have published only four reports on the conflict in Indian-controlled Kashmir, for example, even though the conflict has taken at least 80,000 lives in these two decades, and torture and extrajudicial murder have taken place on a vast scale. Perhaps even more tellingly, HRW has not published any report on the postelection violence and repression in Iran more than six months after the event.

...

“They are thinking about how it’s going to be used politically in Washington. And it’s not a priority for them because Iran is just not a bad guy that they are interested in highlighting. Their hearts are not in it. Let’s face it, the thing that really excites them is Israel.”

This led to the criticism of the organization by the groups founder, Robert Bernstein, in the New York Times.

“Nowhere is this (bias) more evident than its work in the Middle East,” he wrote. “The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human-rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel… than of any other country in the region.”

The article in The Times also mentions Amnesty International’s alliance with the Cageprisoners – a program run by Taliban spokesman Moazzam Begg – and Human Rights Watch’s fund raising campaign in Saudi Arabia. I suppose freedom of religion and the equality of the sexes aren’t human rights worth watching by the group – at least when petrodollars are at stake and Jews still walk the earth.

UPDATE 4/29/2010:
The New Republic has a feature article on the same subject.

When Democrats Attack

Norman Leboon, the man arrested for threatening to kill Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va) and his family, donated twice to Obama’s presidential campaign. This comes a month after Amy Bishop shot and killed three faculty members at the University of Alabama – Huntsville. Bishop was fanatical about Obama to the point where she was off-putting according to her family. While the media is scrutinizing Tea Party rosters for radicals, these guys are out there making the news.

4/2/2010 UPDATE:
One of the indicted Hutaree militia leaders is a registered Democrat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most opposing the civil rights movement in the South fifty years ago were Democrats.

Jacob J. Ward is a registered Democrat who voted in the 2004 and 2008 elections.

The Council Has Spoken: March 26, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room – Tom Hanks shows stunning ignorance when he claims Americans were engaged in racial genocide against the Japanese during WWII

Noncouncil: Abe Greenwald / Contentions – Outsmarting history

Full voting here.

Why Tom Hanks Is Wrong About the Pacific War

Tom Hanks recently said “They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different.” Hanks’s opinion seems to be based on the American propaganda at the time, much of which would be considered racist today. But setting aside the Japanese genocidal campaign in China, let’s take a moment to consider what Japan would look like today if what Hanks said is true.

If Hanks was correct, there would be no independent Japan today; it would be an American state populated by white Americans. Instead Japan is completely true to its 2500 year history and character.

This came about due to the conscious efforts by the American military and Foreign Service. Starting around 1943 Americans were debating what a post-war Japan would look like. It was decided that after the war the country would have the militarized elements of its society stripped out (most of these had crept in during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s as Japan’s history was romanticized by the militarists so it wasn’t tinkering with Japan’s “DNA”) and returning the country to its pre-militarist democracy: the Taisho period at the turn of the 20th century. Japan would be rebuilt as if the 1930’s and 1940’s had never happened – just without the modernizing military (that would be provided by the USA).

The Japanese were stunned. They even kept their Emperor – although the Occupation Authority made sure that the laws passed by the Japanese Diet made him a figurehead along the lines of the British Monarchy. The Americans just pulled the military out of civilian life and left the rest of Japanese society alone. I personally believe that it was this treatment which allowed the Japanese economy to recover so quickly after the devastation of the war more than America’s open market – but that’s a debatable point and impossible to prove.

In the end, however, I view our rebuilding of Japan – and Europe under the Marshall Plan – as truly America’s Finest Hour. It’s what separated us from other conquering empires, and which even today causes me to laugh whenever I hear some lefty rant about “American Imperialism.”

UPDATE:
Bookworm Room goes into more detail and does a better overall job explaining how Tom Hanks’s comments shows a disturbing lack of historical knowledge for someone who has made his career at least partly on historical narratives.

Michael Yon – Warthog

My favorite fighter plane of all time is the A-10 Warthog. It isn’t fast, and it isn’t pretty, but it can be an infantryman’s best friend. Michael Yon writes about the plane here.

Scorched Earth

As an observer of politics for most of my 40+ years, I’ve seen some weird things. Watching John Dean testify during the Watergate hearings was pretty strange, as was the testimony of a pilot who flew guns to the Contras during the Iran-Contra affair 13 years later. And don’t get me started about Clinton’s interview under oath when he argued the meaning of the word “is.”  But in those decades I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as downright bizarre as the past weeks’ ramming through of health care legislation.

I’m not alone. Here’s what one friend said:

I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed in our government than right now. If you need a new car you don’t buy a car that you know has a ton of problems (under the guise of fixing those problems later), and that’s what I feel we did with this reform… Its sad that our politicians are so blinded by their own ego and sense of accomplishment that they don’t see that most of us don’t want this reform. Fix the economy, get people employed, go after Wall St. robber barons…don’t make back room deals with big pharma and celebrate blindly.

Another wrote:
There are just too many fundamental flaws in our legislative process for a reform bill like this to ever really make much of a difference (other than cost us more money).

We have witnessed the President, aided by the House and Senate majority leaders, push through a broad set of far-reaching laws in complete disregard of public opinion. When he lacked the 60 votes in the Senate, Obama threatened to use reconciliation to get what he wanted. When reconciliation looked problematic, the idea of  “Deem and Pass” was floated to make reconciliation look more palatable. Obama made any deal he needed to push through his health care plan – promising anything to anyone in order to secure its passage.

Had the “pro-life” Democrats not sold their votes for 40 pieces of silver, would he have used Deem and Pass? Given the so-called (and aptly named) “Slaughter Solution” I believe he would have. If Deem and Pass had been blocked, I’m sure he, Pelosi, and Reid would have found some other way to push the measure through. At this point I can’t imagine anything stopping Obama. Given his Chicago pals I’m sure there were already plans made that were illegal or, using the PC euphemism, “extra-legal.” Luckily for the Republic those plans weren’t necessary; nuking the law into being with reconciliation was enough.

So here we are, a new day with a new health care plan in place. The liberal media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and NPR have been singing hosannas since yesterday morning. There are few references to the cost of the plan, and fewer to the public outcry. Republican opposition is mentioned in passing when it’s mentioned at all. Fox News stands alone for pointing out the blatant lies underlying the budget gimmickry that makes the plan appear to cut the deficit when in actuality it will add to it.

The fact that not a single Republican voted for the plan is truly noteworthy. Nancy Pelosi said that the people who opposed Obamacare today were the same people that opposed Medicare 40 years ago, yet back then 13 Republican senators out of 32, and 70 out of 140 Republican congressmen voted for the plan.  Even the Iraq War was supported by 29 out of 50 Democratic senators, and 82 out of 209 Democratic congressmen. If there has been a more partisan vote on an important piece of legislation in the history of the House or Senate, I can’t think of it.

The ramifications of this vote are going to be felt for the next year, not just by the people – both of my friends mentioned above are independents and one voted for Obama – and not just by the Republicans. Don’t forget that 34 Democrats in the House voted “No.” The only way I see these guys surviving is with the help of the Tea Party or the Republican party boss’s in their districts keeping their hot-headed unknowns from running.

Playing hard ball politics is one thing, but what has happened over the past two months goes beyond sports analogies. Obama declared war on the majority of Americans who opposed this bill and on the laws put into place to keep the majority party from abusing its power. As someone who opposed the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton and who doesn’t take the threat lightly, I believe that what President Obama has done may not be an impeachable offense, it sure does raise the specter of the subject. Obama has pushed the limits of his power beyond what Nixon did (it wasn’t the crime that got Nixon it was the cover-up afterward); one would have to go back to Franklin D. Roosevelt to find a president who pushed the constitutional boundaries of the Oval Office as far as our current commander in chief. Since Obama sees himself in the as FDR reincarnated I don’t believe the similarities are unintentional.  Who knows? If the Supreme Court strikes down the health care plan, unlikely as that may happen, would Obama attempt to pack the court or perhaps find cause to remove one of the conservative members from the bench? The fact that Clarence Thomas’s wife has appeared in the news recently for launching a Tea Party may be the beginning of something much bigger and even uglier than what we have seen so far this year.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Obama and his Chicago thugs were as vicious in foreign policy as they are when it comes to domestic politics. Unfortunately Obama and his crew are as supine and weak when it comes to American enemies abroad as they are ruthless and tough domestically. Iran continues developing nuclear weapons, and America does nothing. The thugocracy continues running its own little drug export-funded jail in Burma, and the American administration is silent. North Korea bleats and gets a cookie. China and Russia continue funding human rights abusing regimes from Cuba to the Sudan, and we apologize for inconveniencing them and press plastic reset buttons.  The only time the administration shows its teeth abroad is to our friends like the UK, Honduras, Colombia and most recently Israel. Obama would rather have a photo-op with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez than the elected prime minister of America’s best and some say only ally in the Middle East.

Imagine the fury unleashed over the past two weeks over the health care plan being aimed at Iran over its nuclear weapons program, or China for its protection of Sudan, Burma and North Korea, or the Palestinians for their continued anti-Semitic and anti-American propaganda.  Instead we get apologies and Hillary Clinton going door to door begging for UN sanctions “that bite” or “don’t bite” or what-have-you. Those apologies will come in handy after a few hundred thousand Jews are vaporized in Israel by nuclear tipped missiles launched from Iran made in North Korea using Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons know how.

2013 Regrets

I was going to write a piece about the demise of the filibuster, but then I found this piece which says pretty much exactly what I was going to write.

The problem will come when the Republicans again take over control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. The Democrats remembered how the Republicans in the Bush years threatened to change the filibuster rule (using weak and transparently self-serving constitutional arguments) to back the Democrats off filibustering Bush Supreme Court nominees. The Republicans will remember how a Democrat President who was a staunch supporter (and user) of the filibuster rule when he himself was in the Senate minority was happy to see the filibuster circumvented. They will also remember that he abandoned the filibuster in order to pass a major and controversial piece of legislation – exactly the kind of legislation that the filibuster, if it has any purpose, was designed to to moderate in order to garner crossparty support and broad legitimacy.

  • In the memories of many Republicans, the filibuster will have become a one way door in which the Democrats can pass things by ignoring the filibuster, but Republicans require supermajorities.
  • (emph. ad.) And it will be a door that can be broken by fifty Republican Senators and an allied Vice President. It is easy to imagine that a Republican President with narrow congressional majorities will take such a path to undo many liberal policies and enact many conservative policies of that would not have gotten sixty votes in the Senate and therefore not have passed in so pure a form or perhaps not passed at all.

    The Democrats nuked the filibuster for the sake of their beloved health care reform yesterday. But the history of American politics is like a pendulum, and given the energy of the Tea Party movement, it’s already swinging fast to the right. When the Republicans take control of Congress and the White House and slam through the Right’s agenda on everything from abortion to judicial nominees, the Democrats will come to regret their decision.

    The Council Has Spoken: March 19, 2010

    Congratulations to this week’s winners.

    Council: Wolf Howling -  AP Goes APE Over Texas School Book Changes

    Noncouncil: Walter Russell Mead’s Blog-The American Interest - Is this Lobby different from all others?

    Full voting here.

    Democrats About to Self-Destruct

    Unfortunately they’re going to take us with them.

    Gotta love Michael Ramirez at TownHall.com...

    The United States of Venezuela

    I have been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. When I was in primary school I watched the Watergate Hearings and tried to understand what was going on. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening, but I knew that it was important.

    Fast forward over thirty-five years. This time I know what is happening and recognize it’s importance, and maybe as a result I can’t watch with the same detachment I had when I was eight years old.

    What is happening with Obama’s health care legislation is one of the most disgusting abuse of power events I can recall. For the past three months we have witnessed the legislative process built up over the Constitution’s 220 years shattered by the House, Senate and Executive Democratic leadership. First the Republican’s filibuster in the Senate survived by the election of Scott Brown. To get around that the Pelosi, Reid and Obama dusted off the nuclear option, reconciliation – a process that Sen. Robert Byrd, it’s designer, and Obama himself claimed should not be used to pass health care. Now Speaker Pelosi, apparently lacking the majority of house votes necessary to pass the bill in reconciliation, is threatening to use “Deem and Pass” – a maneuver that allows the bill to move forward without a vote.

    As one political commentator on Fox News pointed out, why have a Congress if you are simply going to make laws without following the rules? Yes, reconciliation and even “deem and pass” have been used before, but on minor changes to bills and budgets, not the partisan $1 trillion government takeovers of the private sector. He felt that the whole health care mess was ripping at the very fabric of the legislative process.

    It’s not uncommon for legislative bodies to do whatever it takes to please a leader. For example Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez demanded and eventually received the power he needed to turn Venezuela from a multi-party democratic state to a one-party communist state. Venezuela’s economy has gone from one of Latin America’s most vibrant to the zombie-like communist state the likes of which I thought we saw the last of when the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989.

    This is not to say that Obama is an American Hugo Chavez. As much as I detest and dislike our current president, I don’t see him as anywhere near as dangerous as Hugo Chavez. What I do see, however, is the President, along with the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader setting precedents that will be used in the future by others holding their positions who may have more in common with Chavez. By ignoring the limits today with health care, what will stop others from ignoring the limits of legislative power on declaring war, defaulting on debt, or making abortion or gay marriage illegal? What Obama, Reid and Pelosi are doing today is damaging the legislative process and making it easier for demagogues to use it in the future. In that respect today’s Congress is not very different from Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly that voted in 1999 to revise the Venezuelan constitution to make it more to Chavez’s liking.

    But there is one key difference between that 1999 assembly and America’s 2010 Congress: the National Assembly’s vote didn’t use parliamentary tricks to pass the law.

    I wish a member of Congress would stand up under the dome and say “Madame Speaker, have you no shame?” What won’t Pelosi, Reid and Obama do to pass one of their prized pieces of legislation? It’s clear that they don’t care what happens to the legislative process as a result of ramming this bill through. Pelosi and Reid know they are on a death-march. It is likely that come November either or both will be out of a job. Obama’s position is safer – for now – and his executive authority will prevent Republicans from undoing this monstrosity until 2013 at the earliest.

    There will come a time, though, when Democrats will regret the tear they have made in the fabric of our nation. It’s not unimaginable that we will see a Republican House, Senate and President sometime within the next decade. The legislative branch, one of the 3 equal branches of our government, will have weakened itself for what? A likely one term president who is more concerned with being an historical figure than with governing. And when that happens, the Democrats will have no choice but to sit on the sidelines and watch the Right run amok. Beyond that, though, lies the greater danger that an unknown demagogue will arise on the Left or the Right, and use Congress to rubber stamp his policies.

    After all, that’s all that Venezuela’s National Assembly has become: a rubber stamp for Hugo Chavez’s whims.

    The Council Has Spoken: March 12, 2010

    Congratulations to this week’s winners.

    Council: JoshuaPunditObama Tells Israel They Have No Right To Their Religious Shrines

    Noncouncil: Joel J. Sprayregen/ American ThinkerObama’s Iran Policy Collapses to the Accompaniment of Mockery Around the Globe

    Full voting here.

    The Council Has Spoken: March 5, 2010

    Congratulations to this week’s winners.

    Council: Wolf HowlingPublic Sector Unions: A Toxin, A Crisis & An Opportunity

    Noncouncil: Chicago BoyzWhy Alternative Power Is and Will Remain Useless

    Full voting here.

    Smut for Scripture Antidote

    Some atheists there are whipping up the Religious Right with a stand where people can trade in their Bible for porn. Here’s how to have fun with college kids at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

    Offer a copy of the Koran to the little Liberal behind the stand and see if he pees himself.

    My guess is that the stand – and the moronic thinking behind it – would disappear very, very quickly.

    The 2010 Healthcare Games

    As of today physicians are faced with an across the board 21% cut on Medicare. This is a sword that has been hanging over the heads of physicians for 12 years, and today the sword is falling. Even though I’m married to a doctor and believe that doctors should be paid like lawyers, it’s about time.

    Congress passed the cuts in the mid 1990’s as a method to contain escalating medicare cuts. But for 12 years Congress has put off the cuts for a year at a time, and each respite makes next years cuts look even bigger. This scares the politicians from even attempting to cut the entitlement, resulting in another year of theater where Congress pretends the health of the Medicare system is just fine and physicians look at ways to reduce their Medicare patient population.

    At a certain point you’ve got to scratch your head and wonder why elected officials are setting the price of a service in the first place. Hadn’t we fought a Cold War to prevent just that – the government takeover of a free marketplace? How different is Congress demanding a 21% across the board cut in Medicare from Hugo Chavez who threatens to jail anyone for raising prices after a currency devaluation?

    What’s so ironic that even hardcore Leftist English Lit professors can’t appreciate is the fact that the same group of elected idiots that perform this yearly charade want to take their meddling in the Free Market to another level by taking over ALL of healthcare with the acquiescence of the private insurers. Even the American Medical Association – the group that exists solely to lobby Congress on behalf of medical professionals – supported Obamacare against the wishes of its rank and file.

    There are three explanations for the AMA support of Obamacare. First reason: the AMA claims that is supports Obamacare because “All Americans deserve affordable, high-quality health coverage so they can get the medical care they need.” Affordable AND High Quality. It reminds me of the engineering maxim “better, faster, cheaper – pick any two.” With healthcare we can choose just two of three types of care: high-quality, affordable, and timely. What the AMA is proposing is Canada, where waiting for care is the norm.

    The second reason, which is more closer to the truth in my opinion, is that the AMA backed Obamacare even when the plan promised $500 billion in Medicare cuts to pay for the expanded coverage. Since the cuts were never expected to be enforced by the Obama administration, the AMA felt that it was a safe bet. In the same way the AMA received guarantees that the immediate threat of Medicare cuts would be permanently removed as part of the health care reform package.

    The last reason: professional lobbyists who stay in Washington too long develop a form of Stockholm Syndrome where they empathize with their opponents and forget the needs of those who sent them there (and pay their salaries). Physicians tend to be very liberal socially but very conservative when it comes to finances – especially those in private practice. Politically they tend to vote independent with a slight lean to the Left of Center. The AMA lobbyists are salaried. They don’t have to worry about “eating what they kill” as most practicing physicians do. So it’s easy for them to get caught up in the liberal celebration of Obama and forget that those they are supposedly fighting for are fiscal conservatives.

    Senator Jim Bunning’s procedural motion forced the issue of the cuts that would never happen by allowing Congress to recess before an emergency stay in the 21% cut could be enforced. The cuts have been promised for 12 years, and every year Congress holds them off for another year. It’s not surprising that the AMA would expect the charade to continue given Congress’s track record.

    The AMA is screaming. “Our message to the U.S. Senate is stop playing games with Medicare patients and the physicians who care for them,” said AMA President J. James Rohack, M.D. “It is shocking that the Senate would abandon our most vulnerable patients, making them the collateral damage of their procedural games.”

    Promising $500 billion in cuts to medicare and then saddling our nation with a half trillion dollars worth of treasury bonds is a game too, but the AMA was willing to play that game. Now the game is over and the AMA has lost.

    More than likely the Democrats will keep the cuts from biting by overriding Bunnings’ procedural motion this week. However the damage is done. The episode serves as a reminder of how politicians do not belong in control of health care decisions (yes that means in regards to abortion as well) and how much a disaster Medicare has become. It also shows the impotence of an organization that lost touch with those it represents. That statement applies equally to Congress and the AMA.