Saturday, October 23, 2010

All the President's Rooms

In February of 2009, President Obama chastised Wall Street for irresponsible spending of the taxpayers hard-earned bailout money.  Remember this famous quote?
It all began at a town hall in Elkhart, Ind., on Feb. 9, 2009, when Obama discussed how federal bailout money should be spent: "You can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime."
Well next month, the First Family will be taking a trip to Mumbai, India that will make the expense of even the most extravagant corporate Sin City event look (in the words of Herman Cain) "like a rounding error."  From The Economic Times (of India):
To ensure fool-proof security, the President’s team has booked the entire the Taj Mahal Hotel, including 570 rooms, all banquets and restaurants. Since his security contingent and staff will comprise a huge number, 125 rooms at Taj President have also been booked, apart from 80 to 90 rooms each in Grand Hyatt and The Oberoi hotels. The NCPA, where the President is expected to meet representatives from the business community, has also been entirely booked. The officer said, “Obama’s contingent is huge. There are two jumbo jets coming along with Air Force One, which will be flanked by security jets. There will be 30 to 40 secret service agents, who will arrive before him. The President’s convoy has 45 cars, including the Lincoln Continental in which the President travels.”

Since Obama will stay in a hotel that is on sea front, elaborate coastal security arrangements have been made by the US Navy in consonance with the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. “There will be US naval ships, along with Indian vessels , patrolling the sea till about 330-km from the shore. This is to negate the possibility of a missile being fired from a distance,” the officer said.

The President will be accompanied by his chefs, not because he would not like to savour Indian cuisine, but to ensure his food is not spiked.
Almost 800 rooms.  You can check out the room rates for the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower here.  Hint:  it's a five star hotel.  Not cheap. 

This international boondoggle will seem even more surreal when seen through the prism of an election four days earlier which saw the President's party lose control of the House and the Senate.

Update:  The President is also catching it from the left for the upcoming trip.  But for different reasons, of course.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

UC Professor: Global warming scam "the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist"

On Friday, The Washington Post dutifully ran an uncontested (and I might add, pathetically whiney) opinion piece from Penn State meteorology professor Michael Mann assailing the "anti-science bent" of current political discourse.  What the Post completely ignored was the resignation of a sixty-seven year member of the American Physical Society over the corruption of science that has been propagated by the once esteemed organization. (The American Institute of Physics has an excellent oral history interview with Professor Lewis here.)

The letter is so compelling that James Delingpole at The Telegraph (UK) has elected to reproduce it in its entirety and without further comment, as have I:

From: Hal Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara
To: Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society
6 October 2010
Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago). Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence---it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d'ĂȘtre of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford's book organizes the facts very well.) I don't believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer "explanatory" screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind---simply to bring the subject into the open.

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members' interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people's motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don't think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I'm not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.


Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President's Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making)

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Audacity of Retraction?

At the DNC Convention in 2004, then Illinois Senator Barack Obama delivered the keynote address, ostensibly on behalf of the hapless Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Viewing that speech today is quite revealing.  It wasn't a campaign speech for Kerry, but for the Prairie State Senator himself.  The Obama signs, the chorus of adoring spectators, and the choreography of their elated cheers, even then, was quite creepy.  His words, however, were indeed inspiring . . . then.  At 4:50 he quotes the Declaration of Independence, complete with reference to "Our Creator."  Around the 11:16 mark he questions sending our military into battle without "enough troops."  The most famous quote comes around 13:33:
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

Really. On Wednesday in a radio interview, President Obama abandoned the soaring ethereal rhetoric of 2004 and invoked a rather malevolent tone:
Everybody in the barbershops, the beauty shops, and at work -- everybody's got to understand: This is a huge election," he said. "If we turn out in strong numbers, then we will do fine. If we do not, if we are depressed and decide, well, you know, Barack's not running right now, so I'm just going to stay home, then I'm going to have my hands full up here on Capitol Hill."

Days before the release of a key jobs report, Obama said most of the job losses his administration gets blamed for occurred before "any of my economic plans were put into place," and that the country is still "experiencing the hangover from the misguided policies" of the last decade.

Obama said a big voter turnout was vital, both to counter millions of dollars being spent by outside groups and the enthusiasm Republicans have demonstrated.

"They are fired up. They are mobilized. They see an opportunity to take back the House, maybe take back the Senate," he said. "If they're successful in doing that, they've already said they're going to go back to the same policies that were in place during the Bush administration. That means that we are going to have just hand-to-hand combat up here on Capitol Hill." (emphasis mine)

Hand-to hand combat?  This President doesn't know the meaning of those words and really should refrain from using metaphors which include the language of real war.  It's simply not credible.

And another thing, who says beauty shop any more?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Social Network

Newsweek's David Lyons suggests the origins of Facebook movie, The Social Network, set for release on October 1, exposes a serious and insidious threat to the future of the U.S. economy:
The risk is that by focusing an entire generation of bright young entrepreneurs on such silly things, we’ll fall behind in creating the fundamental building blocks of our economy. The transistor and the integrated circuit gave rise to the last half century of prosperity. But what comes next? “If we distract people with the lure of easy money, with making companies that don’t solve anything hard, we’re going to wind up derailing the thing that has been driving our economy,” Myhrvold says.

We’ve already fallen behind in areas like alternative energy, better batteries, and nanotechnology. Instead of racing to catch up, we’re buying seeds and garden gnomes on Facebook. This won’t end well.
The author seems to suggest that an intervention of some kind is needed to insure that venture money and America's talent are focused on the right things.  An intervention by whom?  Although he doesn't come out and say so, I'm thinking he means the federal government.  And why not?  The statist media has yet to find a non-existent national or world crisis for which the federal government can't provide an inefficient, ineffective, wasteful and fiscally immoral solution.  Admittedly I am an old free markets relic of a bygone age, but I find Lyons argument entirely unpersuasive.

The real societal revelation of a movie about Facebook is better captured by an insightful pre-teen friend of mine (Thanks, JS):

My ultimate regards to Mr. Fincher for his outstanding work in taking the 'person-with-no-life' scenario to the next level. Really. Here, we have Facebook, a website supposedly to connect with old friends but is really used to have obssesive compensation rants about their problems and how mighty they think they are, and then we have the film world, a place where looks matter more than brains and faces are more recognizable than talents. You know what happens when they are combined? A dramatic, action, political, movie about; Facebook! Because apparently the film world is making an 'original breakthrough'.

Just the thought of the making of Facebook, a website to talk on, being brought up as a serious movie idea makes me rather tempestuous. Maybe I'm off my meds or something, but this new movie 'The Social Network' will probably destroy more brain cells than sucking helium. Now, if you want to go see it, then by all means, go see it. I'm not stopping you. But think about something else you can do in that time. And it better not be checking your Facebook status.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Emeritus Status for Old Terrorists

In a surprising development, the Trustees of the University of Illinois today denied emeritus status to its retired Weather Underground terrorist professor, William Ayers.  The unanimous vote came after an impassioned statement by board chair, Christopher Kennedy, son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.  From the Chicago Tribune:
In a very unusual move, University of Illinois trustees Thursday denied giving emeritus status to controversial retired professor William Ayers.

The vote, at a U. of I. board meeting in Urbana, was unanimous and came after a passionate speech by board chair Christopher Kennedy, who invoked the 1968 assassination of his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in saying that he was voting his conscience.

The other trustees, without comment, also voted against the appointment.

Ayers, the Vietnam War-era radical, had been an education faculty member at UIC since 1987. He retired effective Aug. 31 and then sought the emeritus faculty status, a largely honorific title that includes some benefits such as library privileges.

A co-founder of the Weather Underground anti-war group, Ayers was frequently in the media spotlight and, as such, was one of the university's best-known faculty members.

While trustees regularly vote on emeritus appointments, they rarely comment about them.

But in an emotional statement, Kennedy discussed his reasons for voting against Ayers' request.

"I am guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way," Kennedy said.

He said he could not confer the title "to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father."

Kennedy was referring to a 1974 book co-authored by Ayers, "Prairie Fire," which was dedicated to a long list of people including Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan and "all political prisoners in the U.S."

Ayers became a controversial figure in Barack Obama's presidential campaign because they worked on a school-reform initiative together, leading opponents to say Obama was linked to a "terrorist." UIC was forced to release more than 1,000 files detailing the activities of that group. The university also faced questions in 2001 after Ayers wrote in his memoir about helping with the non-fatal bombings of government buildings.

According to the UIC faculty handbook, the granting of emeritus status is "based on merit" and is "an extraordinary title that is given for extraordinary service."

Kennedy said he hoped faculty, staff and Illinois residents "understand my motives and my reasoning" and concluded: "How could I do anything else?"
It may seem a small thing, but it is noteworthy that Kennedy took a stand against one of President Obama's most radical, leftist ideological mentors.  I think his father would be proud.
 “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”          - Robert F. Kennedy


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

House GOP Pledge to America

Thursday morning, House Republicans will release their "Pledge to America."  National Review has obtained an advance copy and Daniel Foster has offered his assessment today at The Corner.  His designation of its strengths and weaknesses seems fair on balance, but I would point out that we are in the closing days of a critical election season, and some of its shortcomings can assuredly be attributed to that reality.

I am struck by his conclusion, in which Foster illuminates the preamble to the GOP Pledge:
That commitment to limited government and constitutionalism is signaled early on, in a preamble full of philosophical flourishes that borrow from America’s founding documents. The Pledge declares that “Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive” the “economic, political, and religious liberty” of men and women, “it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.”

In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent.

An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.

An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.

Rising joblessness, crushing debt, and a polarizing political environment are fraying the bonds among our people and blurring our sense of national purpose.

Like free peoples of the past, our citizens refuse to accommodate a government that believes it can replace the will of the people with its own. The American people are speaking out, demanding that we realign our country’s compass with its founding principles and apply those principles to solve our common problems for the common good.

The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated.

With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America.
I hope and pray the Republicans will stand and deliver on these powerful words and sacred promises.

CBS News has posted the full text of the Pledge to America here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Obama Scrubs "Our Creator" from Declaration of Independence Preamble

Jason McNew at American Thinker notes that President Obama has suddenly taken to quoting the Founding Fathers.....well, sort of:
Hobbes, Locke, and Cicero be damned. President Obama single handedly overturns Natural Law. [snip].

Friday evening President Obama addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. At around 22:30, he incorporates part of the preamble of The Declaration of Independence, removing "Creator".

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..... endowed with certain unalienable rights, life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"

After President Obama says "created equal...", there is a long pause during which he scowls and blinks several times. For once, he may actually have opted to not read something that was on the teleprompter. Is looks like he is disgusted and decided it would be better not to read what the preamble actually says.

President Obama, if our Creator is not the purveyor of our human rights, then who is? The government?
Check out the video here.

Perhaps the President is trying to hedge against a popular backlash that might ensue if he makes an overt reference to God.  Not so, acccording to an Independence Day report by Scott Rasmussen:
The Declaration of Independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, asserts that “we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 88% of American Adults agree with this phrase. Only six percent (6%) do not.
Perhaps we should just add Friday's performance to the list of "bizarre" actions described by Dinesh D'Souza in his cover story this week at Forbes Magazine.

The Real John Boehner

Who is John Boehner?  If you got all your information from President Obama, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, The Washington Post and The New York Times you would certainly think he was a corrupt, empty suit, out of touch, and oh, I almost forgot...exceptionally tanned, elitist.  It's a sad state of American journalism that you have to look across the pond to The Telegraph to get more than DNC talking points on the man who may become Speaker of the House in 2011.  Tony Harnden writes (via KJ at The Corner):
Democrats have started a website that claims he spent $1 million on "luxury hotels, exclusive golf resorts and gourmet dining for himself and his fat-cat contributors". On the I-75 freeway outside Cincinnati, a huge poster showing a tanned Mr Boehner playing golf accuses him of teeing off 119 times in a year.

Yet Mr Boehner's life story is the type of classic up-by-the-bootstraps tale of the American Dream that can put a tear in a voter's eye. As his story becomes better known, the Democrats could even be drawing favourable attention upon him. Right now, most Americans have never heard of Mr Boehner, and fewer still can pronounce his name, which rhymes with Rayner. The alleged elitist country club Republican is an Ohio Congressman who grew up in near poverty.

His sister Lynda Meineke, who is 51, is a waitress and bar tender at Andy's Cafe in Carthage, Ohio, a family business that was founded by their grandfather Andy Boehner in 1938. As a child, one of Mr Boehner's jobs was to mop the floor.

Sitting outside the bar this week, sipping a bottle of Bud Light and smoking a cigarette, Mrs Meineke described her childhood as "cramped" but happy. "We learned how to share. If there was a toy, it wasn't just for you but for all the younger ones."

Mr Boehner, 61, is the second of 12 who grew up in a German-Irish family in Reading, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati. All but two of them still live within a few miles of each other. Two are unemployed and most of the others have blue-collar jobs.

The future Congressman started work as a janitor and took seven years to get his degree – the first in the family to do so – because he had several jobs to pay his way. He joined a plastics and packaging company, rising to president before entering local politics by being elected to the town board.

The family house on Hill Street initially had two bedrooms with Mr Boehner and three brothers sleeping in one, their sister in another and their parents on a pull-out bed in the living room. Their father Earl later built a three-bedroom extension.

Mrs Meineke, whose husband is an unemployed builder, still lives in the modest house. She remembers her father rising at dawn to go off to the café, which he ran with his twin brother and was a favourite with truck drivers.

"Then my mother would get up before all of us, and drink coffee and listen to the radio, packing our lunches and writing our names on all the brown bags.
Read the whole thing.

There can and will be honest and energetic debate over whether Boehner is the right man to fill the top job in the House if the GOP wins back the majority in November.  Fred Barnes predicts Eric Cantor will become speaker.  Perhaps he will be challenged by one of the Tea Party superstars like Paul Ryan or Michelle Bachmann.  It's too soon to tell.  But in my view, conservatives should speak up and speak out for this guy:

I think the background music "Don't Tread on Me" by Metallica adds a nice touch.  (h/t fearblocke)

Update:  The ubiquitous crew of has made Harnden's piece a Must Read for the weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Democrat Rep. Gene Taylor (MS-4) Signs on to Repeal Health Care Bill

This evening I received an energized voice message from my sister informing me that her congressman, Gene Taylor (D-MS) had signed on to Steve King's (R-IA) petition to repeal the health care reform bill, becoming the first Democrat to do so.  Jake Sherman at Politico shares my sister's hunch that this is an important development:
Taylor is the 172nd person to sign on the act to repeal the bill – following conservative Republican Rep. Steve King (Iowa), who offered the act on June 16. The entire House Republican leadership has also signed onto the petition. Taylor is the second person to join the effort to repeal the bill since the August recess, following Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach.

Taylor underscores how unpopular the legislation is in some conservative districts held by Democrats — although he voted against the bill. Taylor, though, has bucked trends for years, holding onto the Gulf Coast seat since 1989.

He earned some conservative praise for his signature.

“We are pleased to see Representative Gene Taylor choosing principle over party,” Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham said in a news release. “His commitment to representing his constituents, who have been opposed to Obamacare from the beginning, is refreshing.”
Indeed.  Congressman Taylor has a long and strong record of voting for principle over politics and listening to his constituents.  Perhaps he will be invited to make the key note address at the 2012 Republican Convention in a reprise of former Georgia Governor, then Senator Zell Miller's stunning performance in 2004:

Read more from Ed Morrissey and The Wall Street Journal here and here.  H/T Leslie!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Constitution State" Health Insurers Cry Foul on Obamacare

On Monday I told you about HHS Secretary Kathleen's Sibelius's warning to health insurers that they would find themselves in the statist penalty box if they tried to raise rates and blame it on Obamacare.  On Tuesday, I told you that Republican nominee and former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon was giving Connecticut Democratic AG Richard Blumenthal (and Vietnam Veteran wannabe now that the war is over) a run for the money in the race to replace retiring Christopher "Friend of Angelo" Dodd in the United States Senate.

Today, in a serendipitous amalgamation of these seemingly unrelated revelations, we learn that the companies that provide health insurance to the citizenry of the historically solid blue state of Connecticut are requesting significant rate increases to assuage the devastating blow that the new Democratic health care mandates deliver.  From
Health insurers are asking for immediate rate hikes of more than 20 percent in Connecticut for some plans, citing rising medical costs and federal health reform laws as reasons.

Both issues — the new federal health care reform and rising medical costs — are significant drivers of the increases, according to filings by insurers with state regulators that were reviewed by The Courant.

It remains to be seen how much of the requests will be approved. Many people might not see an increase before Jan. 1, and these proposed changes would largely affect new business, mostly in the individual market.

But the overall price shift is the clearest indicator yet of what customers and employers can expect when health insurers submit proposed 2011 rates in late October and November. The current round of price requests launches a clash between insurers who say the increases are justified and consumer advocates and government officials who say the numbers are wildly inflated.

Aetna asked earlier this summer for an average 24.7 percent increase over last year for small-group HMO plans. State regulators approved an average increase of 18 percent for all of Aetna's small-group plans and 14.2 percent for large-group and middle-market plans, according to Aetna and an initial review of documents provided to The Courant by the state Insurance Department.

A complete tally of average price requests is not available, as the Insurance Department must decide on hundreds of health plans and variations of plans for the five major companies offering medical coverage in Connecticut. But an examination of the documents suggests that the requests might be even larger than those of recent years at a time when health insurance has become a political hot potato leading into the midterm elections.

In what might appear to be an oddity, companies are citing a huge range of effects that the health care reform mandates will have on plan prices — from near zero to well over 20 percent. The reason is that among all the plans, some already deliver the provisions required by health reform, while others do not.

ConnectiCare is seeking an average 22.2 percent hike for its individual-market HMO plans, according to a filing with state regulators. The insurer's plans would result in an average annual increase of about 13 percent for the overall individual market, including HMO and other plans; 12 percent for small-group plans; and 11 percent to 12 percent for large-group plans, said vice president of actuarial services Kevin Grozio.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut, by far the largest insurer of Connecticut residents, said in a letter that it expects the federal health reform law to increase rates by as much as 22.9 percent for just a single provision — removing annual spending caps. The mandate to provide benefits to children regardless of pre-existing conditions will raise premiums by 4.8 percent, Anthem said in the letter. Mandated preventive care with no deductibles would raise rates by as much as 8.5 percent, Anthem said.

It was unclear how those separate factors would add up for Anthem's plans, but those potential increases were all on top of rising medical costs.

CIGNA Corp. is asking for an increase of up to 1.3 percent for adding preventive care provisions, a 1 percent increase for waiving pre-existing conditions for children up to 19, and an increase of 14.5 percent for children from birth to 18 for new business, according to the Insurance Department.
I wonder how the prospect of soaring health insurance premiums will sit with Blumenthal's life raft, the women voters of Connecticut?  Methinks, not so much.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

McMahon Surging in Connecticut

If you want a clear omen that dark clouds are gathering for the Democrats in November, check out today's Quinnipiac University poll results for the Connecticut U.S. Senate race:
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat, leads Republican former wrestling executive Linda McMahon 51 - 45 percent among likely voters in the U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Another 3 percent are undecided and 11 percent of those who do name a candidate say they could change their mind by Election Day. This is the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University's first general election likely voter survey in Connecticut in this election cycle and can not be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters.

In today's survey, conducted by telephone with live interviewers, Blumenthal leads 87 - 10 percent among Democrats and gets 47 percent of independent voters to McMahon's 46 percent. McMahon leads 91 - 9 percent among Republicans. Women back Blumenthal 56 - 41 percent, while men split 47 - 48 percent.

Among those backing McMahon, 42 percent say their vote is mainly against Blumenthal, while 53 percent say they mainly are pro-McMahon. Blumenthal backers are 22 percent anti- McMahon and 73 percent pro-Blumenthal.

"This is now a 6 point race among likely voters. With seven weeks to go and lots of money to be spent, anything can happen," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.

"For Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, an elected official with a 70 percent approval rating, this race is surprisingly close. It is not that voters are wild about McMahon; her favorability rating is tepid. And many of her supporters are more anti-Blumenthal."

"The question is whether Linda McMahon can ride the anti-establishment, anti-Democratic wave to victory in blue Connecticut, a state that hasn't voted for a Republican for Senator since Lowell Weicker in 1982," Dr. Schwartz added.

"President Barack Obama appears to be a drag on Blumenthal, even in Connecticut, where the President's job approval rating is a negative 45 - 52 percent.

"McMahon would be Connecticut's first female Senator. But it is Blumenthal's advantage among women that is making the difference in the race. While men have a mixed opinion of both candidates, women are divided on McMahon but love Blumenthal by a more than 2-1 margin. It may be because women are less likely than men to be turned off byBlumenthal's Vietnam misstatements, and more likely to be turned off by McMahon's wrestling background." (emphasis mine)
Perhaps my views are completely alien to those of most Connecticut women, but I sincerely doubt it, and certainly hope not.  Here are my two cents:

Blumenthal's "misstatements" about his Vietnam service offend me greatly. His explanations and the rallying cries of his veteran constituents do not change that for me.  On multiple occasions he made statements that were knowingly false and misleading to aggrandize himself with his audience of the moment.

McMahon's professional career in the world of professional wrestling and her personal fortune were the product of hard work at a family business in an industry clearly dominated by men.  I'm not a wrestling fan.  Never have been.  But I do know how difficult it is to be successful and grow a small business.  And it won't hurt that she knows a little something about theatrics and fighting if she makes it to Washington.

In my mind, it would be a sweet ending to Chris Dodd's long overdue departure from the Senate.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zero Tolerance for ObamaCare Dissent at HHS

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius sent a chilling message to Karen Ignagni, the top lobbyist for America's health insurance industry.  Her message (from the HHS website funded by American taxpayers) states, in part:
Dear Ms. Ignagni:

It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases. (emphasis added)
When the peerless, acute-thinking Michael Barone issues a warning that a member of the executive branch has overstepped, it is time to take notice.  From Townhall  (H/T
"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

That sounds like a stern headmistress dressing down some sophomores who have been misbehaving. But it's actually from a letter sent Thursday from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans -- the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies.

Sebelius objects to claims by health insurers that they are raising premiums because of increased costs imposed by the Obamacare law passed by Congress last March.

She acknowledges that many of the law's "key protections" take effect later this month and does not deny that these impose additional costs on insurers. But she says that "according to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact ... will be minimal."

Well, that's reassuring. Er, except that if that's the conclusion of "some" industry and academic experts, it's presumably not the conclusion of all industry and academic experts, or the secretary would have said so.

Sebelius also argues that "any premium increases will be moderated by out-of-pocket savings resulting from the law." But she's pretty vague about the numbers -- "up to $1 billion in 2013." Anyone who watches TV ads knows that "up to" can mean zero.
Read the whole thing.  I think Barone is being too soft on Sibelius.  Rather than a stern headmistress, her self-righteous antics remind me of another health care dictator from the movies.   Nurse Ratched:

The difference is, unlike the residents under Nurse Ratched's "care", we Americans still have a voice and a choice.  At least for now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Union

Leon Russell and Elton John first performed together  on piano and guitar forty years ago. On October 19, they will release a new album entitled The Union.

I became a fan of Leon Russell back in the mid-seventies after seeing him in concert with my college roommate. Elton John describes Russell as the most influential pianist in his career and captures my feelings about him in an interview promoting the album on Amazon, confessing that he's pissed off that people seem to have forgotten about him. Here's a recording of one of the songs, "I Should Have Sent Roses."

What's interesting to me is how Russell's mastery of the piano sharpened through the years.  Compare this 1971 recording session to a later performance here.  This enduring pair definitely gives life to another song from the album, "You're Never Too Old."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Take the Hill in CA-51

Neil Stevens at Red State shines a light on CA-51 candidate, Nick Popaditch, a former Gunnery Sergeant for the United States Marine Corps who served the U.S. bravely in Iraq:
Nick Popaditch is running for Congress. Previous occupation? Gunnery Sergeant, USMC. That patch he wears? Not preparing for Talk like a Pirate day, but rather a wound at Fallujah. His district? California’s 51st.

Oh yes, that district. Inland California tends to be right-leaning, but Imperial County is one big exception. It’s a poor expanse of desert along the Mexican border stretching from Arizona to San Diego County. Since redistricting shifted the seat’s number from 50 to 51, Democrat Bob Filner won by 19, 26, 27, and 48 points. This is not friendly territory, so it’s good we have a tough, strong, disciplined candidate like Nick Popaditch running there.
A few months back, a local left-wing newspaper, The Imperial Valley Press, decided to poke fun at Popaditch for his physical appearance by publishing this political cartoon:

Predictably, this American hero brushed off this impotent slander with clarity and humor on Fox News:

James Simpson at Big Government delivered an excellent presentation of the story at the time which is worth a read here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

NASA chief: foremost mission to improve relations with the Muslim world

In the midst of a faceoff with Congress over continuing funding for the Constellation space program, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden marked the one year anniversary of President Obama's Muslim outreach speech in Cairo by visiting the Middle East.  While there, he gave an astonishing interview with Al Jazeera wherein he revealed that his three main marching orders from the President have nothing to do with aeronautics or space.  From Fox News:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.

Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA's orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel.

"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering," Bolden said in the interview.
I bet you thought NASA was chartered to plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities.  Well, actually it was.  But in Obama's world view, I guess that's so 1960's.

Here's the entire interview:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Abnormal radiation detected near Korean border

Yesterday the world media was abuzz with reports of abnormally high levels of xenon detected near the border between North and South Korea.  Some reports questioned whether the high radiation was a result of a successful nuclear fusion test by North Korea.  Joshua Pollack at Arms Control Wonk suspects something less nefarious:
There are a handful of other ways that some excess radioactive xenon could have found its way to South Korea’s skies.

One possibility is the production of medical isotopes. But it doesn’t appear that there’s a facility big enough and close enough to have caused the spike.

A second possibility is a reprocessing facility, like North Korea’s “radiochemistry laboratory” at Yongbyon. Pyongyang claims to have finished its last reprocessing campaign there last year, but it’s possible that they were bluffing until recently.

Unfortunately for this theory, even if the plant had been operating in May 2010, the spent fuel would have aged too much to release much xenon. The half-lives of its radioisotopes are counted in hours or days. So scratch that idea.

The last important possibility is a nuclear reactor of one sort or another. It seems that whenever a reactor is started up or the pressure vessel is opened for refueling, gases escape, including xenon. A typical light-water reactor is refueled annually. And given all the power reactors across the Far East, that probably happens around there with some regularity.

All that’s really required to explain the unusual reading at Geojin is for a reactor startup or opening to have occurred within hundreds of miles in the previous week or so. Heck, if you want a specific candidate, Japan’s Monju breeder reactor was restarted on May 6.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Man sinks two holes-in-one in same round

When considering the odds of the Republicans taking back the House and the Senate in November, consider this long shot accomplishment reported by The Herald Sun (Australia).   (Picture: Raoul Kochanowski):
Even before he walked off the Tasmania Golf Club course at 4.45pm (AEST) yesterday, the local golfing community was abuzz with Mr Kube's amazing double, The Mercury reports.

"We looked it up on the internet and it said it was a one in 67,000,000 occurrence, so it's pretty rare," the 23-year-old said at the 19th hole.

Richard Skeggs, of the Tasmanian Golf Council agreed.

"I've heard of people having two in one round, but never in Tasmania," he said.

"It's very, very rare."

But Mr Kube is no ordinary golfer.

He plays off a two handicap, and is a member of the Tasmanian senior team that will contest the Interstate Series against all other states in Queensland in September.

His hole-in-one double happened in the TGC's regular Wednesday competition, which he only entered because he got off work earlier than expected.

His first hole-in-one was on the par three eighth hole using a six iron.

"I saw it go in the hole and I thought, it's good to have my first one (hole-in-one)," he said.

The second came on the par three 11th using an eight iron and the same brand new Srixon ball he dug out of his bag on the seventh.

"I thought it had a good chance on the 11th because it was headed straight at the pin," he said.

"It landed behind the hole and rolled back in."

Mr Kube played it cool while his golfing buddies went wild.

"I thought 'Oh well, that's two'. It has to happen to someone," he said.

Obama rails. Congress fails.

In the President's address today, he scolded he Republicans for their obstructionist ways, while conveniently ignoring the fact that the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has no intention of fulfilling its obligation under the law to create a 2011 budget.  The Heritage Foundation highlighted this blatant dereliction of duty last month:
Yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that, for the first time since 1974, the House will not pass a budget resolution this year. Since the Budget Act of 1974, Congress has been unable to conference a budget resolution only four times: in 1998, 2002, 2004, and 2006. But in every one of these years, the House fulfilled its obligation to American taxpayers to create a budget. This year, however, this will not be the case.

Without a House budget, no final and binding budget can be enacted. As the House Rules Committee website explains, “The budget resolution provides Congress with the opportunity to lay out its spending, revenue, borrowing and economic goals and serves as the vehicle for imposing internal budget discipline through established enforcement mechanisms.” No budget means no caps on discretionary spending, and makes it severely unlikely that the Bush tax cuts will be extended, raising taxes on low- and middle-income families in the midst of a recession.

Most importantly, though, the failure to pass a budget this year makes lawmakers’ priorities crystal clear: they’ve simply been too busy increasing spending to actually think about controlling it. 63 percent of Americans believe Obamacare will add to the federal deficit. At the beginning of this year, Congress increased the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion to accommodate more spending. And the budget proposed by President Obama promises to create record deficits in years to come.

Members of Congress may point to the President’s deficit commission as an excuse for this negligent behavior, but this is a cop out. As Heritage’s budget expert Brian Riedl writes, “Congress is under deadline to finance the FY 2011 spending bills before September 30—well before the commission is even scheduled to release its report. Furthermore, the commission itself is focused on longer-term budget issues, such as reducing the deficit by 2015. Finally, there is no guarantee that the deficit commission will even come up with a budget plan that can achieve the required support of 14 of its 18 commission members as well as sufficient congressional support.”

Clearly, Congress is unwilling to be held accountable for its reckless behavior or to take the tough action necessary to reverse it. Instead, lawmakers will continue to talk the talk of fiscal responsibility but walk—no run— at a breakneck pace towards larger deficits. Greece, here we come.
The Democratic members of Congress delegate climate legislation to the EPA; internet regulation to the FCC; immigration reform to the Justice Department; the national foreclosure problem to HUD and national behavior modification to HHS.  And when it comes to passing a budget resolution, as required by the Budget Act of 1974, they just yawn:
Budget?  Budget?  We don't need no stinking budget.  It would only highlight the fact that government spending is out of control and we incumbents haven't the integrity, desire or spines to do anything about it.

Latest Iranian cleric fatwa targets ......dogs

This Reuters news report speaks for itself:
Dogs are considered "unclean" under Islamic tradition but, while relatively rare in Iran, some people do keep them as pets.

By issuing a fatwa -- a religious ruling -- Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi has sent a clear message that this trend must stop.

"Friendship with dogs is a blind imitation of the West," he was quoted as saying in Javan daily. "There are lots of people in the West who love their dogs more than their wives and children."

Guard dogs and sheep dogs are considered acceptable under Islamic law but Iranians who carry dogs in their cars or take them to public parks can be stopped by police and fined.

The Koran does not explicitly prohibit contact with dogs, Shirazi said, but Islamic tradition showed it to be so. "We have lots of narrations in Islam that say dogs are unclean."

The interpretation of religious rules on personal conduct is a constant source of debate and potential conflict in Iran which has been an Islamic republic since a revolution ousted the Western-backed Shah in 1979.

Friday, June 18, 2010

NPR polling news bad for Democrats

Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics sees real trouble on the horizon for House Democrats in November:
The last week of House polls have reinforced the view I have held from April of this year that a 50-seat loss or so is the midpoint scenario for Democrats this fall, rather than the 25-40 seat range that most analysts seem to be talking about. This week's generic ballot tracking poll from Gallup shows Republicans with a 5-point lead, tying their previous best showing from 1994. The previous two weeks revealed a 6-point lead (the largest in 50 years of Gallup tracking) and a tie. Three datapoints do not a trend make. But it is hard to ignore that two of the best three generic ballot showings for Republicans ever in Gallup occurred in the last two weeks.

Rasmussen's tracking poll showed Republicans opening up a 10-point lead in the generic ballot. This is significantly larger than the .4 average that RCP currently shows. But Rasmussen is the only pollster who has imposed a likely voter screen since mid-May. Other pollsters will add likely voter screens later in the year, and that usually moves the ballot toward Republicans. [snip]

But the worst news for the Democrats comes from NPR's recent polling. Using a top-notch Republican and a top-notch Democratic polling firm, NPR polled 60 districts represented by Democrats that it considered the most competitive. It isn't a simple generic ballot - it named the actual candidates where incumbents were running. It further broke these down into two "tiers:" Tier I (the 30 Democratic districts it considered "most competitive") and Tier II, (the next most competitive 30 Democratic districts). NPR also polled the ten districts represented by Republicans that it considered the most competitive.

Obama's approval is horrible in both "tiers" of districts represented by Democrats. 53% of voters disapprove of him in the "Tier I" districts, while 56% disapprove in the "Tier II" districts, including a near-majority who strongly disapproves of the President. He's 50-50 in the districts held by Republicans, but Obama averaged a 16.15% victory in these districts in 2008 (the districts polled that are held by Democrats were carried by McCain by a point or so on average in 2008).

Against this landscape, it should not be surprising that NPR finds a Democratic debacle in the making in these districts. Voters prefer, on average, a Republican to the Democrat by 9 points in "Tier I" districts and by a 2 point margin in the "Tier II" districts. Among the most enthusiastic voters, it is even more ominous for Democrats: Republicans lead by 14 points in the 60 districts represented by Democrats. In the districts held by Republicans, by contrast, the Republican lead by 16 points over all, and by 21 points among the most enthusiastic voters.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Obama DOJ moves to dismiss health reform lawsuits of 20 states

In a motion filed late Wednesday, the Justice Department asked the Federal District Court in Pensacola to dismiss lawsuits by  20 states challenging the constitutionality of  President Obama's health care reform law.  From The Associated Press:
The motion filed late Wednesday says the U.S. District Court in Pensacola lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over some claims raised in the suit. The motion also says other parts of the lawsuit fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted.

A key issue in the suit by the states, National Federation of Independent Business and several individual taxpayers is whether the federal government can require individuals to purchase health care insurance and fine those who fail to do so.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said Thursday that the government's defenses clash with comments Obama made during the health care debate, "including the president's insistence on national television that the purchase mandate was absolutely not a tax."

In its arguments for the motion to dismiss, the Justice Department says the requirement to buy coverage is an exercise of Congress' constitutional power to tax and spend.

"The Supreme Court has long held that an exercise of this power is valid, even if it has a regulatory function, even if the revenue purpose is subsidiary, and even if the moneys raised are 'negligible,'" wrote a team of government lawyers led by Assistant Attorney General Tony West.

Karen Harned, executive director of National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, called the administration's argument a "bait-and-switch move" because of Obama's prior no-tax statements. She said the law itself does not used the word "tax" for the insurance requirement.
The Investor's Business Daily calls out the Obama administration for overt duplicity in wrapping the issue in the Congressional authority to tax and spend:
According to Obama’s Justice Department, the individual mandate is constitutional because “requiring individuals to buy health insurance is an exercise of Congress’ taxing authority.” (The National Federation of Independent Businesses has more here.)

President Obama insisted repeatedly during the health care debate that the individual mandate is “absolutely” not a tax increase.

More broadly, the administration’s legal position could create a big political problem. Back on Sept. 12, 2008, Obama said:

I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.

On multiple occasions Obama promised, “you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime.”

Some argue that Obama already violated that pledge when he signed the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan bill that boosted cigarette taxes. And that may, indeed, be the case.

But the individual mandate “tax” hits almost everyone and gives people no choice.

If the administration continues with its legal position, Obama is admitting he’s violated his tax pledge, giving political fodder to Republicans. But if he stops the DOJ, that weakens the case for an individual mandate, a critical part of ObamaCare.

Maintaining a campaign pledge vs. ramming through the transformation of American society? That’s a no-brainer for this president.
The chicanery of the Obama administration continues to astonish.  But what do you expect when the Speaker of the House of Representatives got away with this?


Will Obama's demand for $20 billion BP escrow backfire? Updated.

Wednesday's announcement that BP had agreed to President Obama's demand for creation of a $20 billion escrow to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon infuriated some GOP members of Congress and raised concerns of at least one Gulf state governor.  Not surprisingly, The Huffington Post attributes the negative response to a perceived vulnerability for political gain:
Republicans on the Hill have calculated that President Obama's successful demand that BP set up a $20 billion escrow account to pay out claims is ripe for political attack. In the wake of Wednesday's White House announcement, a host of GOP officials are raising questions about both the process by which the deal was made and the deal itself -- going so far as to apologize to BP on America's behalf.

"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) during a hearing on Thursday morning with BP's CEO Tony Hayward." I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown -- in this case a $20 billion shakedown -- with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation's future."

"I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize," Barton added. "I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown."
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said of the escrow announcement, "We think it will help ensure that BP is taking ownership."  But Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour expressed reservations and concern that the move may backfire.  From Fox News:
Mississippi's governor said Wednesday he's not sure the federal government should have made BP put $20 billion into escrow to compensate victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill because the company needs it to drill more wells and make money so it can pay up.

President Barack Obama insisted BP set the money aside, and the company agreed to put $5 billion a year into the fund for the next four years.

"If they take a huge amount of money and put it in an escrow account so they can't use it to drill oil wells and produce revenue, are they going to be able to pay us?" Gov. Haley Barbour told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Millions of gallons of oil have gushed into the Gulf since a BP well ruptured eight weeks ago off the Louisiana coast.

"We need them to generate revenue to be able to pay us," said Barbour, a Republican. "I worry that this escrow account reduces the chance of that rather than increasing the chances of that."
I think both criticisms have merit, but Barbour suggests that the escrow burden has the very real potential of reducing BP's ability to pay damage claims for this historic disaster.  A quick look at the company balance sheet seems to bear that out.  Democrats like to rail about the obscene profits of the oil industry, and, in fact, BP did earn a $16.7 billion profit in 2009.  But anyone with a modicum of knowledge about business, knows that companies prosper and fail on cash flow. In 2009, BP's year-end working capital was just over $8 billion.  In 2008 it was a negative $3.4 billion.  Removing $5 billion a year for four years from BP's current assets will seriously impede its ability to operate and grow its core business activities.  The Obama drilling moratorium certainly will not help. If BP declares bankruptcy, who will pay for the cleanup?  We all know the answer to that question.  The taxpayer.

Aesop's fable about the goose that laid the golden eggs taught us, "Much wants more and loses all."

Update:  Rep. Barton apologizes for his apology.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HHS misses multiple basic ObamaCare deadlines

The Daily Caller reports that multiple deadlines have been missed by the Department of Health and Human Services as the Obama administration scrambles to implement and sell the new health care reform law:
Key Republican lawmakers are pressing President Obama’s top health-care official for answers on why the administration has missed “numerous” early deadlines in implementing Obamacare.

The missed deadlines “are some of the most basic provisions of this law,” the June 16 letter says, the administration’s “failure to meet these deadlines does not bode well for the [law’s] more complicated provisions.”

As reported earlier by The Daily Caller, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already missed as many as four deadlines under the law – not on any major regulations — but still a worrisome trend, critics say.

Congressional staff and industry representatives had been asking HHS for a timeline specifying when it will issue the numerous regulations required by the law. They were shocked to find the agency has not produced such a document, one aide said.

The issue is important because vast industry sectors are trying to plan their own implementations of the health-care law and most of the details remain in bureaucrats’ hands, leaving a vacuum of uncertainty about the final burdens the law will impose.

The missed deadlines include creating task forces on breast cancer and Alaskan health care, publishing a list of new authorities granted under the law, and work on defining “underserved” areas that receive higher health-care subsidies.

HHS spokeswoman Jessica Santillo has noted the administration had already implemented numerous parts of the health care law in advance of deadlines.

Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, noted the missed deadlines stand in contrast to an aggressive public relations push by the White House and outside groups to sell the law.

“While the administration is focused on an aggressive, taxpayer-funded public relations campaign to combat the health care bill’s increasingly high disapproval numbers, they have missed numerous implementation deadlines. It is important that we carry out our congressional oversight responsibilities,” Camp said.

While missing deadlines, the administration has found time to send promotional material touting the law’s benefit, including a brochure for senior citizens and post cards from the IRS advertising tax breaks under the law.
Here's my interpretation of the administration position on the situation:  We don't know what's in the 2,409-page Senate bill and its 153-page House of Representative "fix-it" reconciliation bill that together constitute the new law, but we will implement its provisions as soon as we figure out what they are.  We're ahead of schedule on the easy stuff, but the hard stuff is, well, just hard.  But don't worry.  You are going to love it.  Everyone is going to love it.  Seniors are going to love it (oh, yeah, and check your mail because we are sending you a check for $250 to help you love it.)  And just in case that doesn't work, we are spending $125 million to explain it to you for the ten thousandth time.

Perhaps we should give HHS chief Kathleen Sibelius a break.  The phrase "the secretary," meaning Sibelius, appears 2,579 in the Senate bill and 49 times in the reconciliation bill.  The phrase "the secretary shall" appears 764 times in the Senate bill and 16 times in the reconciliation bill.  By any standard, that's quite a to do list.

Especially if you haven't read it.