Archive for September, 2009

Public option goes down in Senate committee — twice

The Senate Finance Committee voted this afternoon to defeat Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s proposal to add a public option to Chairman Max Baucus’ bill…then voted against a public option a second time, on an amendment offered by Sen. Chuck Schumer. More coverage here and here.

No, this isn’t nearly the end of the debate over a public option for health insurance. No, a vote in committee doesn’t always guarantee a vote when the whole body takes up a bill and a public option amendment is put forward again. But this afternoon’s votes do suggest that the Senate’s red-state Democrats (I believe “Blue Dog Democrats” applies only to members of the House) are willing to cast a public vote, rather than just speaking out, against a provision that their more liberal colleagues have insisted upon.

The fat lady hasn’t even started driving to the theater.

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Afghanistan: The only thing Obama won’t talk about?

Some quick hits on Afghanistan:

  • Anyone watching the “60 Minutes” segment last night on Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, our top commander in Afghanistan for about 70 days now, must have been struck by this comment from McChrystal to reporter David Martin:

“I’ve talked to the president, since I’ve been here, once on a VTC [video teleconferece].”

Once in 70 days? In the 70 days leading up to a decision on whether to send tens of thousands more American soldiers to the country, or possibly to scale down the mission drastically? From a president who this week and last week alone has found time to attend Bill Clinton’s gabfest and to travel all the way to Denmark to make a pitch for Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympics bid?

Unacceptable.

  • David Brooks makes the anti-George Will argument on Afghanistan, saying the costs of failure would be too high and that we’ve only just begun to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that stands a chance of succeeding.
  • There may some help on the …

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A Georgia professor’s fight for due process

Think it’s hard to defend yourself in a he said, she said situation? Try he said, who said.

That’s been the challenge faced by Thomas Thibeault, who until last month was a professor of English at East Georgia College in Swainsboro. His case bears all the characteristics of the decline in free speech and due process at America’s universities.

There are still several unknowns in this case — including the things still unknown to Thibeault himself, which is part of the problem. But this much is beyond dispute:

On Aug. 5, Thibeault attended a faculty training session where he criticized the college’s sexual harassment policy as lacking provisions to protect the accused. Two days later, he was summoned to the office of college President John B. Black, who asked him to resign due to his “long history of sexual harassment,” or else be fired and have the unspecified allegations against him aired publicly.

In the seven weeks since that meeting, Black has told Thibeault by letter that a …

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Obama and health care: Why Americans aren’t buying his pitch

President Obama has been talking seemingly nonstop about health-care reform for about three months now. Yet the New York Times declares Americans still “confused and anxious about a health care overhaul”: A recent poll by the newspaper and CBS News found a plurality of 46 percent doesn’t know enough about the president’s reform plans to say whether they support or oppose them. Only 30 percent strongly support them; 23 percent strongly oppose them.

Why hasn’t Obama been able to take control of this debate?

It isn’t for lack of manufacturing concern about the topic. In January, only 2 percent of Americans considered health care our most important problem; that number has grown steadily to 19 percent this month, second only to the economy.

It isn’t for lack of talking about health care. Just 4 percent of those polled think the president is making too few speeches and public appearances to talk about his proposals.

It isn’t for lack of reading about health-care proposals on the …

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Facts are cooling off climate alarmism

It’s an inconvenient time for world leaders to be speechifying about global warming — earlier this week at the United Nations, today and tomorrow at a G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. The supposed certainty behind their push for new eco-regulation is melting faster than the Arctic ice.

Global temperatures have held steady for several years, contrary to the expectations of statistical models. This month, a leading German user of these climate models predicted temperatures would fall for “one or two decades” to come.

Why the reprieve? The German, Mojib Latif, cited changing currents in the northern Atlantic Ocean. He even went a step further, saying the currents were also responsible for an unknown portion of the warming in the late 20th century.

Perhaps sensing that a future filled with research grants was about to go up in smoke, Latif hastened to clarify that 20 years of cooling would not mean “global warming [was] disappearing.”

But of course. Only someone in Latif’s line of work …

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Some reasons why we spend so much on health care

One of the key arguments underpinning Democrats’ push for health-care reform is that not only do we spend more money on health care than other rich countries, but we get less for it. In particular, critics cite international statistics showing that our life expectancy is lower than that of people in France, Japan and other countries.

Well, the New York Times’ John Tierney reports on a study that may have just put paid to the notion that our health-care system is responsible for our lower life expectancy. Samuel Preston, a demographer and expert on mortality rates from diseases at the University of Pennsylvania, says we are not “in dire straits” according to his review of the international data. Writes Tierney:

No one denies that the American system has problems, including its extraordinarily high costs and unnecessary treatments. But Dr. Preston and other researchers say that the costs aren’t solely due to inefficiency. Americans pay more for health care partly because they …

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How Bush saved the country from…Bush

An interesting thesis from the New York Times’ resident conservative, Ross Douthat: George W. Bush may have made or contributed mightily to some big messes, but he did have the guts/guile/good sense to embrace solutions to those messes. Douthat writes:

America has had its share of disastrous chief executives. But few have gone as far as Bush did in trying to repair their worst mistakes. Those mistakes were the Iraq war — both the decision to invade and the conduct of the occupation — and the irrational exuberance that stoked the housing bubble. The repairs were the surge, undertaken at a time when the political class was ready to abandon Iraq to the furies, and last fall’s unprecedented economic bailout.

Both fixes remain controversial. But for the moment, both look like the sort of disaster-averting interventions for which presidents get canonized. It’s just that in Bush’s case, the disasters he averted were created on his watch.

There is no doubt that the surge salvaged a …

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Moving past our summer of incivility

The movie “Pleasantville” depicts a town whose residents, slowly at first, but ever more rapidly, abandon their old social mores. They effectively leave their stuffy old town behind in search of an exciting new place.

OK, now how do we get out of Unpleasantville?

The latest bout of hand-wringing about What’s Happened to Our Society has focused on our new axis of incivility: Joe Wilson, Kanye West and Serena Williams.

But it’s been more than just a couple of rough weeks for propriety. Before Wilson, West and Williams came Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley in Cambridge, and shouting matches and fisticuffs at town-hall meetings.

Here in Georgia, we had the Wal-Mart baby slapper. Out west, a University of Oregon football player marked the game’s renewed emphasis on sportsmanship by punching a Boise State athlete who taunted him during postgame handshakes, and then charging the stands before coaches restrained him.

Perhaps worst of all, there’s been the steady chorus of “racist!” and …

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The constitutional case against individual health mandates

The key to barring health insurers from denying applicants with pre-existing conditions, as Democrats and a fair number of Republicans in Congress say they would like to do, is to mandate health-insurance coverage. Otherwise, a large number of Americans might make the calculation that it would be cheaper to forgo insurance until they contracted a disease that was expensive to treat. This is one part of the health-reform debate that transcends the public option question, because it’s unlikely that either private insurers or the government could afford to accept customers with pre-existing conditions if there were no mandate.

But can Congress lawfully issue such a mandate? David Rivkin and Lee Casey, two former Justice Department officials from the Reagan era, argue here that it can’t. Rivkin and Casey speculate that Congress would cite its (often misused) power to regulate interstate commerce to justify issuing a mandate — or, more precisely, a high excise tax on uninsured …

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Lewis, Scott vote to keep funding ACORN

The House just this afternoon voted 345 to 75 to withdraw federal funding for scandal-plagued ACORN, after a similar measure passed the Senate 83 to 7 on Monday.

ACORN has been embarrassed by a string of videos revealing that employees in at least five cities counseled a man and woman posing as a pimp and prostitute on how to evade various laws. But two of Georgia’s 13 members of the House saw fit anyway to continue giving federal funds to the outfit: John Lewis and David Scott.

I’ll post whatever explanations Reps. Lewis and Scott offer for their votes when I can.

Full House roll call is available here.

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