Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will abortion help torpedo Obama's health care bill?

Here's an interview with Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak from Michigan. He points out that there are 15 to 20 Democrat Congressmen who, I believe, previously voted for health care in the US House but won't in the future if the next bill includes taxpayer funding of abortion which the new Obama health care bill does. There's not a lot of discussion on that in the media but I'm sure Congressional leaders and the President's people are aware of it. Though I wonder if they're thinking they can jam it through and these folks won't in the end vote against it.

Stupak notes there are other reasons members of Congress won't vote for Obama's bill as it currently stands.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is Evan Bayh's real goal higher office?

Democrat Senator Evan Bayh's shocked the political establishment when he announced he wouldn't seek re-election. Many saw it as a commentary on the dismal prospects for incumbents in November. Bayh said he was getting out because the Senate was not a fun place to be. The place was broken and too partisan.

I heard one of his TV interviews and he sounded very much like a man who was looking at higher office. He hammered the political extremists on both ends of the political spectrum and sounded like an outsider even though he's been in DC for quite a while. With $13 million in the bank, it sounded like he was trying to position himself as a middle of the road candidate who should be considered for higher office.

Gary Bauer noted that his record is anything but moderate.
This morning, many pundits are singing Bayh’s praises and bemoaning his retirement. I feel compelled to devote some space in this report to debunking the myth of “Evan Bayh, the bi-partisan moderate.” While Bayh occasionally threw a bone to his conservative Hoosier constituency, his rating with Citizens Against Government Waste is 25%, and 19% with the National Taxpayers Union. Bayh’s lifetime pro-family score with Campaign for Working Families is just 18%. That’s pathetic for someone who purportedly represents the “moderate center” of American politics. Here’s a sample of Bayh’s voting record:
  • FOR socialized medicine.
  • FOR hate crimes legislation.
  • FOR Obama’s pork-barrel spending stimulus bill.
  • FOR taxpayer-funding of groups that promote abortion.
  • FOR card-check legislation.
  • AGAINST English as our national language.
  • AGAINST efforts to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
  • AGAINST the confirmation of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
  • AGAINST domestic oil exploration.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Giving capitalism a bad name. Cronyism by government.

Government is giving capitalism a bad name. In a story by Michael Barone, he talks about "crony capitalism".

He points out what happens when big government gets together with big business.
Lobbyists, reports the Center for Responsive Politics, had a record 2009 in Barack Obama's Washington. Despite candidate Obama's promises to shun them, they raked in $3,470,000,000. Somewhere up there, Tommy Corcoran is chuckling.

Last week, amid Washington's blizzards, Obama was asked about the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and the $9 million bonus for Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

"I know both these guys; they are very savvy businessmen," he said. "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth." So much for campaign-trail denunciations of "fat cat" bankers and bloated bonuses.

From what I know, Dimon and Blankfein are in fact first-rate CEOs, as able in their way as Henry J. Kaiser. Their banks soured on mortgage-backed securities before most of their competitors and started unloading them early or, in Goldman's case, getting them insured by AIG (and getting the government to pay 100 cents on the dollar for them, thanks to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, then head of the New York Fed). They paid their TARP money back as fast as they could, with interest.

But the savviness that Obama handsomely acknowledged has been evident not only in their business judgment but in their politics. Goldman employee contributions to Democrats in 2008 ranked second only to those employed by the University of California. JPMorgan Chase's employees ranked No. 7. The stereotype of Wall Street being Republican is decades out of date.

Crony capitalism is now the order of the day in the United States. The government and the United Auto Workers own General Motors and Chrysler, which aren't likely to pay back their billions in TARP money anytime soon, if ever. Meanwhile, the government tells Americans to stop driving Toyotas.

The government was going to remake the health care sector, and so Billy Tauzin and other health care industry lobbyists were busy in the White House cutting deals to keep their clients above water. The government was going to remake the energy sector, and utility CEOs and lobbyists have been busy flaunting their green credentials.

As my Washington Examiner colleague Timothy Carney has been documenting, Big Business has been busy lobbying Big Government for "reforms" that serve big companies' interests. Wal-Mart backs a health care mandate, Philip Morris shapes tobacco regulation, General Electric is setting up a joint venture to trade carbon offsets (wasn't that Enron's line of work back in the day?).

The picture is not pretty. Government's pets -- or, in the president's words, "savvy businessmen" -- use government to get policies that will give them competitive advantages and stifle smaller competitors. Pleasing their masters in government is now absorbing the psychic energy of CEOs who used to concentrate on meeting consumers' needs in order to make profits.

Back in the 1940s, there was an excuse for crony capitalism -- there was a war on. And FDR had a gift for picking people who, like Kaiser, delivered the goods. Today, that excuse is not available, and it's far from apparent that Obama has that gift.

What's interesting about its current manifestation is it's happening under the Obama Administration in a massive way - the supposed guardian of the man in the street.

I've seen this happen here in Minnesota when state government got together with the health care industry in the 1990s to carve up the health care industry and consolidate it down to a few companies.

The problem isn't capitalism but the failure to government to fulfill its proper role as a referee of the market, enforcing the rule of law, insuring a level playing field. Not picking winners and losers.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Giving health care and retirement decisions back to individuals is both a racial and conservative idea.

The whole debate over health care bills in Congress is really a microcosm of the broader debate over the appropriate role for government in American society. Obama, who certainly has a more collectivist vision for the role of government, has run up against resistance from the American people who are concerned about expanding government control of health care and the cost. And the massively growing government debt and economic problems are also likely to act as a brake on other efforts to expand government control and involvment in other areas as well.

What's the alternative to this collectivist, nanny state vision? It's a return to individual responsibility and a more limited government. One person who's raising the standard for an alternative vision of government is Congressman Paul Ryan.

He wants to return control and responsibility for health care - Medicare and Medicaid - and retirement - Social Security- to individuals rather than letting the government continue to run the costs through the roof and lead these programs to the cliff of bankruptcy.

As Michael Gerson wrote in a column printed in today's Star Tribune:
The new era of Democratic bipartisanship, like cut flowers in a vase, wilted in less than a week. During his question time at the recent House Republican retreat, President Obama elevated Congressman and budget expert Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as a "sincere guy" whose budget blueprint -- which, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), eventually achieves a balanced budget -- has "some ideas in there that I would agree with." Days later, Democratic legislators held a conference call to lambaste Ryan's plan as a vicious, voucherizing, privatizing assault on Social Security, Medicare and every nonmillionaire American. Progressive advocacy groups and liberal bloggers joined the jeering.

From a political perspective, Democratic leaders are right to single out Ryan for unkind attention. He is among their greatest, long-term threats. He possesses the appeal of a young Jack Kemp (for whom both Ryan and I once worked). Like Kemp, Ryan is aggressively likable, crackling with ideas and shockingly sincere.

But unlike Kemp -- who didn't give a rip for deficits, being focused exclusively on economic growth -- Ryan is the cheerful prophet of deficit doom. In a few weeks, he expects the CBO to report that, in the 10th year of Obama's budget, the federal government will "spend nearly a trillion dollars a year, just on interest! This traps us as a country. Inflation will wipe out savings and hurt people on fixed incomes. A plunging dollar will make goods more expensive. High tax rates will undermine economic growth. It is the path of national decline."

But unlike other deficit hawks, Ryan courageously -- some would say foolhardily -- presents his own alternative. His budget road map offers many proposals, but one big vision. Over time, Ryan concentrates government spending on the poor through means-tested programs, patching holes in the safety net while making entitlements more sustainable. He saves money by providing the middle class with defined-contribution benefits -- private retirement accounts and health vouchers -- that are more portable but less generous in the long run. And he expects a growing economy, liberated from debt and inflation, to provide more real gains for middle-class citizens than they lose from lower government benefits.

Ryanism is not only a technical solution to endless deficits; it represents an alternative political philosophy. Democrats have attempted to build a political constituency for the welfare state by expanding its provisions to larger and larger portions of the middle class. Ryan proposes a federal system that focuses on helping the poor, while encouraging the middle class to take more personal responsibility in a dynamic economy. It is the appeal of security vs. the appeal of independence and enterprise.

Both sides of this debate make serious arguments, rooted in differing visions of justice and freedom. But the advocates of security, including Obama, have a serious problem: They are currently on a path to economic ruin.

I think this is ultimately the way to go. Restore responsibility to individuals and view government as the last line of help for those in need rather than the first. For those who say people are unable or unwilling to take responsibility, one has to ask, has the government been successful in addressing these needs? I think not. Health care and retirement programs are seeing rising costs and approaching bankruptcy unless there are major changes.

What's interesting is this conservative plan is really the radical one. As Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein writes:

Paul Ryan's budget is a radical document that rolls a live grenade under current policy. Social Security? Ryan adds private accounts. Medicaid? Ryan privatizes it. Medicare? Same thing. Health care? Ryan repeals the subsidy for employer-provided insurance, replacing it with a tax credit. The boyish Ryan is a conservative darling, but there's nothing conservative about his document. It does not respect, much less preserve, the status quo. But then, that's a point in Ryan's favor. The status quo will bankrupt our country. On that, Ryan's radicalism is welcome, and all too rare.

In this respect, the conservative solution is the radical one while President Obama's approach is simply more of the status quo. Ryan's "roadmap" proposals can be found here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Evidence that NOW is truly "pro-abortion".

National Organization for Women's (NOW) apoplectic response to Focus on the Family's life affirming ad during the Super Bowl demonstrates that they are truly pro-abortion and not "pro-choice".

Presumably if they were pro-choice they'd want women to get more information on all sides of the issue. In fact, their hysterical response demonstrates that they are really pro-abortion. Anything which is not abortion affirming is a threat and to be opposed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The discrediting of the global warming movement.

It looks the ideology surrounding global warming is being mugged by a gang of facts. In an article entitled, "The Great Global Warming Collapse" a number of problems are surfacing to discredit the global warming movement.
In 2007, the most comprehensive report to date on global warming, issued by the respected United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made a shocking claim: The Himalayan glaciers could melt away as soon as 2035....

But the claim was rubbish, and the world's top glaciologists knew it. It was based not on rigorously peer-reviewed science but on an anecdotal report by the WWF itself. When its background came to light on the eve of Copenhagen, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, shrugged it off. But now, even leading scientists and environmental groups admit the IPCC is facing a crisis of credibility that makes the Climategate affair look like small change.

“The global warming movement as we have known it is dead,” the brilliant analyst Walter Russell Mead says in his blog on The American Interest. It was done in by a combination of bad science and bad politics.

The impetus for the Copenhagen conference was that the science makes it imperative for us to act. But even if that were true – and even if we knew what to do – a global deal was never in the cards. As Mr. Mead writes, “The global warming movement proposed a complex set of international agreements involving vast transfers of funds, intrusive regulations in national economies, and substantial changes to the domestic political economies of most countries on the planet.” Copenhagen was never going to produce a breakthrough. It was a dead end.

And now, the science scandals just keep on coming. First there was the vast cache of e-mails leaked from the University of East Anglia, home of a crucial research unit responsible for collecting temperature data. Although not fatal to the science, they revealed a snakepit of scheming to keep contradictory research from being published, make imperfect data look better, and withhold information from unfriendly third parties. If science is supposed to be open and transparent, these guys acted as if they had a lot to hide.

Despite widespread efforts to play down the Climategate e-mails, they were very damaging. An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian – among the most aggressive advocates for action on climate change – has found that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed, and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

Meantime, the IPCC – the body widely regarded, until now, as the ultimate authority on climate science – is looking worse and worse. After it was forced to retract its claim about melting glaciers, Mr. Pachauri dismissed the error as a one-off. But other IPCC claims have turned out to be just as groundless.

For example, it warned that large tracts of the Amazon rain forest might be wiped out by global warming because they are extremely susceptible to even modest decreases in rainfall. The sole source for that claim, reports The Sunday Times of London, was a magazine article written by a pair of climate activists, one of whom worked for the WWF. One scientist contacted by the Times, a specialist in tropical forest ecology, called the article “a mess.”

Worse still, the Times has discovered that Mr. Pachauri's own Energy and Resources Unit, based in New Delhi, has collected millions in grants to study the effects of glacial melting – all on the strength of that bogus glacier claim, which happens to have been endorsed by the same scientist who now runs the unit that got the money. Even so, the IPCC chief is hanging tough. He insists the attacks on him are being orchestrated by companies facing lower profits.

Until now, anyone who questioned the credibility of the IPCC was labelled as a climate skeptic, or worse. But many climate scientists now sense a sinking ship, and they're bailing out. Among them is Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria who acknowledges that the climate body has crossed the line into advocacy. Even Britain's Greenpeace has called for Mr. Pachauri's resignation. India says it will establish its own body to monitor the effects of global warming because it “cannot rely” on the IPCC.

None of this is to say that global warming isn't real, or that human activity doesn't play a role, or that the IPCC is entirely wrong, or that measures to curb greenhouse-gas emissions aren't valid. But the strategy pursued by activists (including scientists who have crossed the line into advocacy) has turned out to be fatally flawed.

By exaggerating the certainties, papering over the gaps, demonizing the skeptics and peddling tales of imminent catastrophe, they've discredited the entire climate-change movement. The political damage will be severe. As Mr. Mead succinctly puts it: “Skeptics up, Obama down, cap-and-trade dead.” That also goes for Canada, whose climate policies are inevitably tied to those of the United States.

“I don't think it's healthy to dismiss proper skepticism,” says John Beddington, the chief scientific adviser to the British government. He is a staunch believer in man-made climate change, but he also points out the complexity of climate science. “Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can't be changed.” In his view, it's time to stop circling the wagons and throw open the doors. How much the public will keep caring is another matter.

The question remains, how long before politics catches up to the facts.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Study shows abstinence education works. Washington Post describes it as a "landmark study".

A study demonstrates that common sense still works. Abstinence education actually works according to a study by a University of Pennsylvania professor. A Washington Post story titled, "Study finds focus on abstinence in sex-ed classes can delay sexual activity" says the study is a "landmark study"."

It's pretty significant if the Washington Post is describing an abstinence study as landmark.

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can convince a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for the nation's embattled efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

In the first carefully designed study to evaluate the controversial approach to sex ed, researchers found that only about a third of 6th and 7th graders who went through sessions focused on abstinence started having sex in the next two years. In contrast, nearly half of students who got other classes, including those that included information about contraception, became sexually active.

"I think we've written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence," said John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who led the federally funded study. "Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used."

The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, comes amid intense debate over how to reduce sexual activity, pregnancies, births and sexually transmitted diseases among children and teenagers. After declining for more than a decade, births, pregnancies and STDs among U.S. teens have begun increasing again.

Others are describing it as a game changer.

"This new study is game-changing," said Sarah Brown, who leads the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "For the first time, there is strong evidence that an abstinence-only intervention can help very young teens delay sex and reduce their recent sexual activity as well."

The new study is the first to evaluate an abstinence program using a carefully "controlled" design that compared it directly to alternative strategies -- considered the highest level of scientific evidence.

"This takes away the main pillar of opposition to abstinence education," said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who wrote the criteria for federal funding of abstinence programs. "I've always known that abstinence programs have gotten a bad rap."

It looks like some traditional opponents of abstinence are playing a bit of the spin game.

Even long-time critics of the approach praised the new study, saying it provided strong evidence that such programs can work and may deserve taxpayer support.

"One of the things that's exciting about this study is that it says we have a new tool to add to our repertoire," said Monica Rodriguez, vice president for education and training at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

While others are attacking the study.

Several critics of abstinence-only approach argued that the curriculum tested was not representative of most abstinence programs. It did not take on a moralistic tone as many abstinence programs do. Most notably, the sessions encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until they were married, did not portray sex outside of marriage as never appropriate or disparage condoms.

"There is no data in this study to support the 'abstain-until marriage' programs, which research proved ineffective during the Bush administration," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth.

But abstinence supporters disputed that, saying that the new program was essentially the same as other good abstinence programs.

"The take-home message is that we need a variety of interventions to address an epidemic like HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy," Jemmott said. "There are populations that really want an abstinence intervention. They are against telling children about condoms. This study suggests abstinence programs can be part of the mix of programs that we offer."
I think what condom proponents fear, and rightfully so, is the success of a true abstinence education curricula. Certainly that's what most parents want and establishing it's success will draw people away from the condom approach. Facts are the facts. Sex is intended for the marriage relationship. It's the healthiest and happiest approach to take. The devastating, rotten fruit of the sexual revolution are increasingly evident for all to see.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton wants to tax the rich in Minnesota - big time.

Former US Senator Mark Dayton, who wants to be our next governor, announced his proposal to "tax the rich" and receptivity for a new state owned casino.
Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, a DFL candidate for governor, is offering new details of his "tax the rich" proposal.

Dayton has frequently talked on the campaign trail about his proposal to raise income taxes for the wealthiest 10 percent of Minnesotans. He said the change would bring fairness to the tax system and provide the state much-needed revenue.

During a wide-ranging news conference Monday, Dayton said he would propose three new income tax tiers. He also said households with annual income of $150,000 and above would have to pay more.

"You've got three ways you can balance the budget," said Dayton. "You can raise taxes on the richest Minnesotans. You can raise taxes on the rest of Minnesotans, or you can pretend you're going to wave some magic wand and $5 billion to $7 billion is going to disappear from state spending without consequence to anyone, which is the Republican answer right now, which belongs more on the comic page than it does on the front page"...

In another place, he suggests this would raise about a $1 billion.

This tax favoritism for the rich is costing our schools, universities, hospitals and other essential services upwards of $1 billion per year. It may be great for political support and campaign contributions. But it's terrible for Minnesota. It's unfair, and it's wrong.

Then he says he wants to open a state run casino to raise $200 million a year.

Dayton also said Monday he would consider supporting a Twin Cities casino to raise money for Minnesota's ailing budget, but not for a new Vikings stadium. He said a metro-area casino would raise about $200 million a year.

He says such a facility would bring "much needed competition" to Mystic Lake Casino, the only tribally run casino in the Twin Cities. The Prior Lake establishment is owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

A few observations.

  • He would seem to not realize or care that "the rich" are also the people who create jobs which employ lower income folks. So one can expect his proposal to hurt employment and cause businesses to leave the state.
  • His casino idea will no doubt alienate the Indian Tribes which have been huge DFL supporters.
  • Casinos and gambling actually cost the state money in terms of all the social problems which result.
  • Raising taxes on the wealthy would only hit a small portion of the current state deficit. If it's a $5.4 billion deficit that's $1,000 per man, woman and child. I'm curious how much of that deficit he'd be willing to eliminate through spending cuts.
  • I have to give him credit for being very up front with his desire to raise taxes rather than being vague and non-committal. Hopefully, his announcement will make people realize that this is probably the tip of the iceberg. There will be a lot more tax increase proposals following this one if it's already a centerpiece of his campaign.