Archive for November, 2009

If this happens, score one for Obama

The president said today in Seoul that he wants Congress to ratify a free-trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, preferably by next year. If this happens, it would be a big win for American industry: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it’s worth $35 billion in American exports.

It would also be the first significant foreign-policy win for President Obama — if (and that’s a big “if”) he can get Democrats in Congress to go along with it.

Congress has been skeptical of trade deals since Democrats took over in 2007, the continuation of a big about-face on trade by the party. From John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton, postwar American presidents (and Congresses, since Democrats ruled Capitol Hill for most of those years) pushed the cause of free trade, to the benefit of Americans and others around the world. Over the last decade or so, however, labor unions and environmentalists have dulled Democrats’ free-trade instincts in the name of imposing their ideological preferences and …

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KSM on trial in NYC: Part 2

Attorney General Eric Holder testified today before a Senate committee about his decision to try professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other jihadists in a federal court in New York City rather than through the military commission system. His words did not resolve any of the questions I raised about this move when he announced it last week. On the contrary, I’d say he made things worse.

MY QUESTION: Is the administration prepared to have KSM…acquitted because jurors are uncomfortable with some interrogation techniques used on him?

WHAT HOLDER SAID: “Failure is not an option. These are cases that have to be won. I don’t expect that we will have a contrary result.”

Sen. Herb Kohl, the Wisconsin Democrat, called this “an interesting point of view.” What he meant was: If we’re going to put these terrorists through civilian trials in order to prove something about America and our values to “the world,” should our top law-enforcement official be prejudging the …

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Harvard Medical dean gives Obama/PelosiCare an F

Jeffrey S. Flier, the dean of Harvard Medical School, takes on Washington’s approach to health reform, and no side is spared his disapproval:

Our health-care system suffers from problems of cost, access and quality, and needs major reform. Tax policy drives employment-based insurance; this begets overinsurance and drives costs upward while creating inequities for the unemployed and self-employed. A regulatory morass limits innovation. And deep flaws in Medicare and Medicaid drive spending without optimizing care.

Speeches and news reports can lead you to believe that proposed congressional legislation would tackle the problems of cost, access and quality. But that’s not true. The various bills do deal with access by expanding Medicaid and mandating subsidized insurance at substantial cost—and thus addresses an important social goal. However, there are no provisions to substantively control the growth of costs or raise the quality of care. So the overall effort will fail to …

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One not-so-short list for the GOP in 2012

Someone asked during yesterday’s discussion about Sarah Palin and her book whom I would consider a good presidential candidate for 2012. Assuming that President Obama will run for re-election and won’t be seriously challenged for the Democrats’ nomination, the focus is on the Republicans. At RealClearPolitics, Tom Bevan and Mike Memoli have compiled a list of five dark horses — by which they mean candidates that haven’t been getting the attention given to former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee Palin, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Their list: Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and…drumroll, please…Dick Cheney. They don’t say why they listed the potential candidates in this particular order.

They also list some “second-tier” candidates (shouldn’t that be …

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No Chinese rival for F-22? Think again

Back in July, when Congress was weighing whether to extend production of the F-22 Raptor, one of the frequent arguments against doing so was that top military brass didn’t even want more of the world’s most advanced fighter jet. This claim wasn’t really correct, since some Air Force generals disagreed with the push to end F-22 production, but it became accepted wisdom because Defense Secretary Robert Gates came out against the fighter.

Now we learn that one of the primary reasons for this determination by Gates — that China, likely to be our biggest rival in the 21st century, was “projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020″ — was dead wrong.

Aviation Week reports that Chinese military officials now say that they will soon be flight-testing a competitor to the F-22. The Chinese expect the jet to enter service in just eight to 10 years. Aviation Week quotes military analyst Richard Fisher explaining why this announcement — which just happens to come on the heels of …

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Obama: Creating or saving jobs, congressional districts

In the Obama administration’s oft-used phrase “jobs created or saved,” the word “created” has been applied very, well, creatively. The official figures include tens of thousands of jobs that exist only on paper or in the minds of confused people. You might say the job-counters did the counting very liberally.

The AJC’s Jeremy Redmon identified more than 1,500 of these bogus new jobs in an article Sunday. His findings, as well as others from around the country, are summarized on this map compiled by the Washington Examiner.

Now comes a report from ABC News that the figures also break down jobs data into congressional districts that don’t even exist — in Arizona alone, there are 14 non-existent districts cited. In Georgia, more than $6.2 million in stimulus spending is identified in the fictitious 14th, 19th, 21st, 25th, 27th, 86th and 00th. (Is zero-eth a word? Zero-est? New contest: Name the ordinal number for zero! Or, better yet, double-zero! Yes, we can!)

Don’t worry, the …

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On Palin and ‘Going Rogue’

A former editor of mine, Melanie Kirkpatrick, reviews Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” here. Her conclusion is about what I had expected, not having read the book yet myself: It’s a story about Palin’s life and the 2008 campaign that is unlikely to change many minds about the former Alaska governor.

I was told before the reviews started trickling out, by someone who would know, that Palin’s book would contain mostly predictable content — but also some controversial material that would make news for a couple of weeks. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence of that in the reviews I’ve read.

My guess is that few people are going to change their opinions of Palin, especially in a positive sense, unless she takes the time to build a substantial record that can’t be ignored. (If Hillary Clinton is any indication, the U.S. Senate is not the place to do that.)

Am I right? What would it take for you Palin critics out there to change your minds about her? How would you Palin supporters out …

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Before moving on transit, we need to know where we’re going

I like transit. Transit is not a liberal or conservative thing, per se, in places like New York City or London. Or in Brussels, where I used to take a streetcar to work every day.

How transit is done — now that’s another story. It is the story we’re still writing in Atlanta, with MARTA and other systems.

Governance matters: Atlantans haven’t always believed their investments in MARTA were being managed well. Funding matters: MARTA covers less than 30 percent of its operating costs with user fees (see page 72 of the PDF), a ratio that needs to increase.

In tandem with governance and funding, however, is vision. That’s one thing we have in Atlanta, if stacks and stacks of transit plans count for anything. But, says Beverly Scott, entering her third year as MARTA’s chief executive, “We never seem to get past the vision and plans.”

MARTA may be the country’s ninth-largest transit system, but transit is irrelevant to most metro Atlantans. Suburban systems add some …

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Water problem solved!

Splash! NASA moon strikes found significant water. By comparison, a pipeline to a desalination plant in Savannah doesn’t sound nearly so bad…

This image provided Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 by NASA shows the ejecta plume created by the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket about 20 seconds after after impact Oct. 9, 2009. It turns out there's plenty of water on the moon- at least near the lunar south pole, scientists said Friday. (AP Photo/NASA)

This image provided Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 by NASA shows the ejecta plume created by the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket about 20 seconds after after impact Oct. 9, 2009. It turns out there's plenty of water on the moon- at least near the lunar south pole, scientists said Friday. (AP Photo/NASA)

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American public: Health insurance isn’t government’s responsibility

Gallup.com

Gallup.com

This is a remarkable poll result, given the length of time during which this question has been asked. For the duration of George W. Bush’s presidency, the idea that government has a responsibility “to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage” won a strong public-opinion majority. In the past three years, that idea has lost one-third of its support. It’s now below 50 percent for the first time in at least a decade.

Not surprisingly, there’s a big split between Republicans and Democrats on this idea. But what is surprising is that Democratic support for it is lower now than it has been for most of the past 10 years.

Gallup.com

Gallup.com

I don’t see how this result can be anything other than an indictment of the way President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have approached health reform. It’s time to start over.

(H/T: Instapundit)

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