Obama administration's lack of transparency on national security

So much for promises on transparency:

While Hoekstra and King were briefed by the White House about the Detroit incident, the pair were also chafing yesterday at what they said was the Obama Administration’s tight control on information about the Detroit incident. As with the shooting at Ft. Hood in November, the White House has ordered federal agencies not to provide briefings or answer inquiries from members of Congress, leaving all such contacts to be handled by the White House.

“I don’t think I ever saw that throughout President Bush’s time in the White House. I could call directly to the director of the CIA or the [National Counterterrorism Center] and get whatever briefings I wanted,” Hoekstra said. He called the briefing limits “totally inappropriate,” but said the White House maintained the orders were needed because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

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Republican states expected to pick up House seats

Who knows how badly the Obama administration is going to muck around with the census count, but based on the current census projections the Republicans would have gotten seven more electoral votes in 2008 if the census changes had been in effect back then.

The projections offer some long-term encouragement for Republicans. President Barack Obama won nine of the 10 states slated to lose seats, and Democrats hold congressional delegation majorities in all but one (Louisiana).

"Based upon the results of the 2008 election for president but with the electoral vote for the 2012 election, the Republicans would see a slight gain under the projected apportionment of 7 votes," Polidata's Clark Bensen told POLITICO on Thursday. "Twelve of the 18 states with shifts voted for Obama in 2008 while 6 voted for McCain. Nine of the 12 Obama states would lose seats, while five of the six McCain states would gain." . . .



Another government regulation: Three hour maximum for planes on the tarmac

It seems like such an obvious regulation right? It is important to note first that airlines have a strong incentive to get things right to begin with. If they keep people a long time on the tarmac, people won't fly their airlines again.

This year through Oct. 31, there were 864 flights with taxi out times of three hours or more, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Transportation officials, using 2007 and 2008 data, said there are an average of 1,500 domestic flights a year carrying about 114,000 passengers that are delayed more than three hours. . . ."

That is an annual rate of 1,037 flights this year. For 2007 and 2008, it is an average of 822.5 million passengers and 10.94 million flights. So that is 0.01 percent of passengers were on flights delayed by more than three hours and 0.01 percent of flights.

So what are the implications? Given the huge fines per passenger, airlines won't even put people on planes if there is a chance that the plane won't take off soon. Zero tolerance rules also make about as much sense here as they do for schools or anything else. I would guess that many people have been on their plane queuing to take off when the FAA tells planes that they have to wait because of weather. Now suppose that after waiting for two and a half hours the FAA tells the airlines that they will soon give the all clear, would you like to have to go back to the terminal?

Passengers value getting to their destinations and they also value not being stuck on planes, but who is best to make those decisions? The customers or the government? It is also costly to return passengers to the terminal and remove baggage from the planes before the three hours are up. If airlines make the wrong decisions, what do you think will happen to whether passengers are willing to take their planes. If this is a significant problem, should airlines be competing against each other for passengers based on this issue? The rules will make the airlines more risk averse than passengers want them to be. One clear implication is that this will raise the price of air travel.

There are probably a range of responses that different airlines will take on their own. If you are in first class, you probably get served a lot even when you are on the tarmac. Some airlines will serve passengers in coach more than others. Those services cost something and passengers can pick the airlines that they want based upon price and whether they are willing to save a few dollars and take that additional risk. People can bring water bottles on the plane with them if they would rather save a few dollars and do it that way.

What bothered me was a report that the transportation department warned airlines not to appeal the decision.

There might be some tests that can be done given that the rules apply differently to different types of flights.

The regulations apply to domestic flights. U.S. carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers. Foreign carriers do not fly between two U.S. cities and are not covered by the rules. Tarmac strandings have mostly involved domestic flights, but the department is studying extending the three-hour limit to international flights, LaHood said. . . .


Merry Christmas!


Citizen with permitted concealed handgun law stops multiple victim public shooting

This didn't get much coverage presumably because no one was injured. As was pointed out to me contrast this case with the attack at a gun free zone (at a post office) in Virginia.

Marine Allegedly Upset With Military Status Opens Fire in Northwest OKC

Posted: Dec 17, 2009 7:48 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2009 4:09 PM
Featured Video
Man Arrested After Firing Shots, Standoff

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A man is in police custody after opening fire at a northwest Oklahoma City apartment complex near Hefner and Council roads.

Police said the man started firing multiple shots in the parking lot of the Tammaron Village apartments around 4 p.m. Thursday.

Witnesses said the man initially went into the apartment complex's main office. When employees locked him out, he opened fire in the parking lot.

As the man was firing shots, another citizen armed with a gun came around the corner and ordered the gunman to put his weapon down. The gunman dropped his weapon and ran into his father's apartment and barricaded himself inside.

Oklahoma City police, the tactical team and the bomb squad were called out to negotiate with the man. The man finally surrendered just before 7:30 Thursday evening.

Police said the man opened fire because he was upset with his military status.

Several people at the apartments told NEWS 9 the gunman was a Marine who was on leave and came home for the holidays.

Oklahoma City police Capt. Patrick Steward said the man was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. Police also said he was drunk at the time of the incident.

Police are not saying what branch of the military he was in or what his name is.

No one was injured during the incident. The gunman's name has not been released. It's not known if he will be facing any charges.

Thanks to David Burnett for the link.

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"U.S. Uncaps Support for Fannie, Freddie"

Didn't anyone learn anything from the last fiasco?

So far, the government has pumped $60 billion into Fannie Mae and $51 billion into Freddie Mac to keep each company solvent since it seized the firms in September 2008 under a legal authority known as "conservatorship." The companies, threatened by mounting mortgage defaults, were headed toward collapse.

At the time, the Treasury pledged to inject up to $100 billion of capital apiece as needed into the companies in exchange for preferred stock paying a 10% dividend. The Obama administration earlier this year doubled that commitment to $200 billion. . . .

What incentives are created by the government promising to pick up any and all losses born by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

The U.S. Treasury said it would provide capital as needed to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the next three years, effectively opening its checkbook to the government-controlled companies in a bid to reassure investors in their debt. . . .

Some more details here:

The Treasury Department said Thursday it removed the $400 billion financial cap on the money it will provide to keep the companies afloat. Already, taxpayers have shelled out $111 billion to the pair, and a senior Treasury official said losses are not expected to exceed the government's estimate this summer of $170 billion over 10 years. . . .

By making the change before year-end, Treasury sidestepped the need for an OK from a bailout-weary Congress.

While most analysts say the companies are unlikely to use the full $400 billion, Treasury officials said they decided to lift the caps to eliminate any uncertainty among investors about the government's commitments. But the timing of the announcement on a traditionally slow news day raised eyebrows.

"The companies are nowhere close to using the $400 billion they had before, so why do this now?" said Bert Ely, a banking consultant in Alexandria, Va. "It's possible we may see some horrendous numbers for the fourth quarter and, thus 2009, and Treasury wants to calm the markets." . . .

For some past posts see here.

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"More guns equal more crime? Not in 2009"

Remember these fears about what the large increase in gun sales over this last year would mean:

The high sales have alarmed some anti-gun groups. Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center said he worries about a revival of the anti-government militia movement of the Clinton era.

"This is a pattern that is repeating itself, and it is a pattern that has tremendous risk attached to it," Sugarmann said. . . .

Well, the initial numbers are in for the first half of the year.

The oft-cited credo that more guns equal more crime is being tested by facts on the ground this year: Even as gun ownership has surged in the US in the past year, violent crime, including murder and robbery, has dropped steeply.

Add to that the fact that many experts had predicted higher crime rates as the US grinds through a difficult recession, and the discrepancy has advocates on both sides of the Second Amendment debate rushing to their ramparts.

After several years of crime rates holding relatively steady, the FBI is reporting that violent crimes – including gun crimes – dropped dramatically in the first six months of 2009, with murder down 10 percent across the US as a whole.

Concurrently, the FBI reports that gun sales – especially of assault-style rifles and handguns, two main targets of gun-control groups – are up at least 12 percent nationally since the election of President Obama, a dramatic run on guns prompted in part by so-far-unwarranted fears that Democrats in Congress and the White House will curtail gun rights and carve apart the Second Amendment. . . .

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Piece that my son Roger helped write up at the Washington Times

My son Roger is working as an intern at the Washington Times. He helped write up this piece entitled: The war on Christmas escalates.

He also has a book review here: A (flawed) case against contractors.

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Stupak predicts problems for the Health Care Bill

CNS News has this interview with Congressman Stupak. I listened to the interview and it didn't sound as positive. This interview sounds like a good reason for an open conference between the House and Senate.

“If they expect the House to accept the Senate bill, it’s going to go down in flames,” Stupak told CNSNews.com in an interview.

CNSNews.com asked Stupak: “Are you prepared to vote for a bill that looks more like the Senate bill – and Senator Nelson’s language on abortion – than the House bill, with your language?”

“No, absolutely not,” said the Democratic congressman, whose district encompasses all of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and roughly one-quarter of the territory in the remainder of Michigan.

“The Senate bill will not receive support in the House,” Stupak said. “If they tell us we have to take that bill without changes, it will not survive the House. Regardless of the abortion language, there are just too many objectionable items in there that at least I see, and in talking with maybe a half-dozen other members, they sort of see the same thing.”

Stupak, like many in Congress, takes strong exception to the fact that, under the Senate plan, certain states would receive special “carve outs” for increased funding for Medicare/Medicaid.

“That’s not what it’s all about,” he said. “This is about health care, this is providing health care for all Americans – it’s not to see who can strike the best deal for their state. This is the wrong piece of legislation to try to do carve outs, or get an exception for your state and the rest of the country is supposed to pick up the tab. That’s not what health care is all about. That’s not the policy, that’s not the principle behind the bill. . . .

Stupak was incensed at the special deals.

“All the rest of us that live in states that did not receive that exception, why would we [be] inclined to give Nebraska or Florida or Louisiana a special break underneath the bill and expect the rest of us to pay for it?”

Beyond the carve-outs, Stupak pointed out that seniors “take some cuts in the Senate bill that are not found in the House bill [that] members are not going to accept” -- and that the bill would tax people who have “decent” health insurance programs.

“Aren’t you really going to force more people off health insurance?” Stupak said.

He added: “If you just take a look at my three main constituencies – Right to Life, labor unions, and senior citizens – the Senate bill is contrary to all their interests,” Stupak said. . . .

An overview of some of the new proposed rules in the health care bill can be seen here. For example,

Q: What if I refuse [getting health care]?

A: You’d face a fine. It would start at $95 a year in 2014 and rise to $750 a year by 2016, or as much as 2% of your income, capped at the value of a basic insurance plan.

Is this serious? Is a fine of even $750 or 2 percent of one's income going to make it financially worthwhile for people to get insurance when there is no penalty for pre-existing conditions?

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Besides his promise on abortion, Ben Nelson has apparently broken another promise on taxes

Americans for Tax Reform has this list of taxes.

Individual Mandate Tax (Page 324/Sec. 1501/$15 bil/Jan 2014): Starting in 2014, anyone not buying “qualifying” health insurance must pay an income surtax according to the higher of the following (page 71 of manager’s amendment updates Reid bill). . . .

Employer Mandate Tax (Page 348/Sec. 1513/$28 bil/Jan 2014): If an employer does not offer health coverage, and at least one employee qualifies for a health tax credit, the employer must pay an additional non-deductible tax of $750 for all full-time employees. Applies to all employers with 50 or more employees.

If the employer requires a waiting period to enroll in coverage of 30-60 days, there is a $400 tax per employee ($600 if the period is 60 days or longer).

Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans (Page 1979/Sec. 9001/$149.1 bil/Jan 2011): Starting in 2013, new 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans ($8500 single/$23,000 family). Higher threshold ($9850 single/$26,000 family) for early retirees and high-risk professions. CPI +1 percentage point indexed. Longshoremen have been exempted (page 362 of the manager’s amendment)

From 2013-2015, the 17 highest-cost states are 120% of this level.

Employer Reporting of Insurance on W-2 (Page 1996/Sec. 9002/Min$/Jan 2011): Preamble to taxing health benefits on individual tax returns.

Medicine Cabinet Tax (Page 1997/Sec. 9003/$5 bil/Jan 2011): No longer allowable to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin)

HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike (Page 1998/Sec. 9004/$1.3 bil/Jan 2011): Increases additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

FSA Cap (Page 1999/Sec. 9005/$13.3 bil/Jan 2011): Imposes cap on FSAs of $2500 (now unlimited). Indexed to inflation after 2011 (added on page 363 of manager’s amendment)

Corporate 1099-MISC Information Reporting (Page 1999/Sec. 9006/$17.1 bil/Jan 2012): Requires businesses to send 1099-MISC information tax forms to corporations (currently limited to individuals), a huge compliance burden for small employers

Excise Tax on Charitable Hospitals (page 2001/Sec. 9007/Min$/immediate): $50,000 per hospital if they fail to meet new "community health assessment needs," "financial assistance," and "billing and collection" rules set by HHS (updated on page 364 of manager’s amendment).

Tax on Innovator Drug Companies (Page 2010/Sec. 9008/ $22.2 bil/Jan 2010): $2.3 billion annual tax on the industry imposed relative to share of sales made that year.

Tax on Medical Device Manufacturers (Page 2020/Sec. 9009/$19.2 bil/Jan 2010): $2 billion annual tax on the industry imposed relative to shares of sales made that year. Exempts items retailing for <$100. Rises to $3 billion annually in 2017 (updated by page 364 of manager’s amendment).

Tax on Health Insurers (Page 2026/Sec. 9010/$59.6 bil/Jan 2011): $10 billion annual tax on the industry imposed relative to health insurance premiums collected that year. Phases in gradually until 2017. Fully-imposed on firms with $50 million in profits (updated on page 365 of manager’s amendment)

Eliminate tax deduction for employer-provided retirement Rx drug coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D (Page 2034/Sec. 9012/$5.4 bil/Jan 2011)

Raise "Haircut" for Medical Itemized Deduction from 7.5% to 10% of AGI (Page 2034/Sec. 9013/$15.2 bil/Jan 2013): Waived for 65+ taxpayers in 2013-2016 only

$500,000 Annual Executive Compensation Limit for Health Insurance Executives (Page 2035/Sec. 9014/$0.6 bil/Jan 2013)

Hike in Medicare Payroll Tax (Page 2040/Sec. 9015/$86.8 bil/Jan 2013) . . .

The 0.9% new rate addition is not deductible for the self-employment tax adjustment. Updated by page 372 of manager’s amendment.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield Tax Hike (Page 2044/Sec. 9016/$0.4 bil/Jan 2010): The special tax deduction in current law for Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies would only be allowed if 85 percent or more of premium revenues are spent on clinical services . . . .

More on Nelson: "Nebraska governor to Ben Nelson: Keep the money"

“The last few days have made Nebraskans so angry that now it’s a matter of principle,” Gov. David Heineman told POLITICO. “The federal government can keep that money.”

Told about the governor’s comments, Nelson said: “If he wants to subject Nebraska to future liability — it’s his call.” And he called it “foolish,” because the money wouldn’t be available until several years down the road, when other states would almost certainly lobby to get increased federal aid.

Nelson is engaged in a tense war of words with his home-state governor over his health care vote and the Medicaid deal he helped secure for their state, a signal that Nelson’s political opponents plan to bloody him up for his health-care stand — and that could impact his standing ahead of his 2012 reelection campaign.

“The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans — it’s very unusual for him,” Heineman said. “I am shocked.”

Asked about the governor’s direct aim at him, Nelson said it’s just “partisan politics.” . . .

An earlier Politico piece had this:

“Once people see a leader willing to take these kinds of deals, people have a tendency to withhold their votes until they get a similar deal. ... If you hold out, you, too, can be Ben Nelson, perhaps,” said Diana Evans, a Trinity College political science professor who studies the greasing done to pass legislation.

Obama is hardly the first president to try to grease the skids for vote-deprived legislation — but past presidential financial incentives seem fairly tame in comparison. . . .

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Schumer claims that every state got special treatment in health bill

Well, I would like to see some evidence of Schumer's claim.

“Every state got something [in the health care bill],” Schumer said.

It doesn't make much sense to tax everyone to give everyone special favors. The most likely outcome is to transfer money from one group to another.

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Why shouldn't war zone pregnancies be punished?

I had a number of years ago that 15 percent of women on naval craft in war zones after 9/11 became pregnant. If getting pregnant allows women to get out of service that they have gotten tired of doing, it really gives them a perverse incentive to get pregnant. I am willing to bet a significant amount of money that women serving in war zones get pregnant at higher rates than women of the same age and education level.

A recent military policy that added pregnancy to the list of reasons a soldier could be disciplined in a war zone will be rescinded by a new order drafted by the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Gen. Raymond Odierno drafted a broad new policy for the U.S. forces in Iraq that will take effect Jan. 1, and that order will not include a controversial pregnancy provision that one of his subordinate commanders enacted last month, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.

Odierno's order comes about a week after the pregnancy policy issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo triggered a storm of criticism. Cucolo had issued a policy that would allow soldiers who become pregnant and their sexual partners to be punished.

The order listed a variety of offenses, and the punishments for them could range from minor discipline to a court-martial. But in a conference call with reporters earlier this week, Cucolo said he would never actually seek to jail someone over the pregnancy provision.

And he said the policy was intended to emphasize the problems created when pregnant soldiers go home and leave behind a weaker unit. . . .

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Double counting savings in Health Care Bill

The CBO admits this, but they haven't gone back and fixed their earlier estimated savings.

"To describe the full amount of HI trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position."


White House tries to pressure Stupak to be quite about Abortion language in Senate Health Bill

CNSnews has this:

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said the White House and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives have been pressuring him not to speak out on the "compromise" abortion language in the Senate version of the health care bill.

“They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language,” Stupak told CNSNews.com in an interview on Tuesday. “Well, I don’t need anyone to sell me the language. I can read it. I’ve seen it. I’ve worked with it. I know what it says. I don’t need to have a conference with the White House. I have the legislation in front of me here.” . . .

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Peoria Mayor asks to let city try concealed handguns

I guess that this is an attempt to show that Illinoisans aren't any different than people in other states.

Dodge City was once known as a true frontier town of the Wild West, where lawlessness and gunslinging were common during the cattle drives of the late 1800s.

But the city also became an unusual reference point during the first public debate Tuesday on whether Peoria should serve as a pilot city for a statewide concealed-carry law.

At-large City Councilman Gary Sandberg questioned how residents will be able to possess concealed handguns at restaurants, taverns and other locations of Peoria that abut nearby cities that wouldn't have a concealed-carry law, such as Peoria Heights and West Peoria.

Sandberg also wondered how the law could be enforced at restaurants like La Gondola (formerly Leonardo's), where portions of the business are located in both Peoria and Peoria Heights.

"Will there be a board on the side of the building where they can hang the gun up like they do in Dodge City?" Sandberg asked during a debate on whether to include the concealed-carry provision on the city's 2010 list of legislative priorities.

Mayor Jim Ardis, a proponent of the legislation making Peoria a pilot city for a statewide concealed-carry law, replied he's never said that the Illinois law has to mirror activities of Dodge City and "didn't know if they have a place to hang a gun up at a restaurant."

He said he thinks there are ways to make the logistics of a Peoria-only law work. He also said details about the law will continue to be worked on with local lawmakers.

Illinois is one of only two states in the United States without any kind of concealed-carry law. Wisconsin is the other. . . .

Thanks to Tony Troglio for the link.



A noted psychiatrist discusses Zero Tolerance rules

Sally Satel discusses zero tolerance rules in schools here. "As a psychiatrist, not a lawyer, I believe that zero-tolerance policies violate common clinical sense."


Kathleen Sebelius explains that fund that everyone will put money into will be used to cover abortion

Here is a portion of an interview between HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and BlogHer interviewer Morra Aarons-Mele.

SEBELIUS: And I would say that the Senate language, which was negotiated by Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, who are very strong defenders of women’s health services and choices for women, take a big step forward from where the House left it with the Stupak amendment, and I think do a good job making sure there are choices for women, making sure there are going to be some plan options, and making sure that while public funds aren’t used, we are not isolating, discriminating against, or invading the privacy rights of women. That would be an accounting procedure, but everybody in the exchange would do the same thing, whether you’re male or female, whether you’re 75 or 25, you would all set aside a portion of your premium that would go into a fund, and it would not be earmarked for anything, it would be a separate account that everyone in the exchange would pay.

BLOGHER: It’s a bit confusing, but …

SEBELIUS: Okay. It is a bit confusing, but it’s really an accounting that would apply across the board and not just to women, and certainly not just to women who want to choose abortion coverage.

BLOGHER: Oh, that’s good, that’s good. . . .

To provide some context of what Ms. Aarons-Mele meant from "Oh, that’s good, that’s good," she wrote at Huffington Post: "Starting now, pro-choice Americans must figure out a way to increase our bargaining power so that soon, we can go head to head with the likes of the Bishops." It seems pretty clear that she is a strong advocate of abortion rights and that she understands that Kathleen Sebelius is saying that this is good news for funding abortions.

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The view of the health care bill from the insurance industry

I have written here that I thought that the "public option" was largely besides the point. Politico has this:

Love how the rhetoric [h]as been that insurers have won.

The last time I checked we didn't get an 80 billion "deal" in exchange for removing our biggest legislative issue.

In fact, while the govt run plan has been removed which is a win for taxpayers and for health plans, the fact is this bill is far from a "give away" to insurers. For instance:

1) The premium tax is now 10 billion more and will adversely impact people who are buying plans. As cbo has said this tax will be passed on but guess who will get blamed — health plans. Further it is not tax deductible meaning that some plans could have an effective tax rate above 100 percent.

2) Mandatory [medical loss ratio] — this is going to kill health insurers selling insurance in the individual market. By setting this standard and implementing it so quickly these plans will essentially be forced into jacking rates up or going out of business. And frankly this will undermine a lot of the good things that health plans do — disease management, care coordination and anti-fraud detection (which I imagine with taxpayer subsidies going to health plans is something the govt will want plans to focus on).

3) Other issues — there are a whole host of other new regs that will go into effect almost immediately making it virtually certain that existing contracts will have to be opened up and rates revisited.

4) Mandate — while the mandate has gotten a little stronger, it still won't be enough to materially effect the insurance take up rate thus causing everyone's rates to go up.

Democrats have been smart to set up many of these issues so that health plans take the fall for the disruption and costs increases that will occur.

Frankly while the media is focused on the govt run plan as a "win" for the industry this misses a whole host of other issues that directly increase regulations on insurers and make it harder to serve the individuals, families and employers who rely on insurers for coverage.

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Democratic Congressman Parker Griffith will switch to GOP over Health Care Bill

Democratic Congressman Parker Griffith, one of the few doctors in Congress, will switch to become a Republican because he is so upset with the Democratic health care bill. From Politico:

Griffith, who captured the seat in a close 2008 open seat contest, will become the first Republican to hold the historically Democratic, Huntsville-based district. A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith plans to blast the Democratic health care bill as a prime reason for his decision to switch parties—and is expected to cite his medical background as his authority on the subject. . . .


Copy of Final Health Care Bill is Available Here

Those interested can read the text of the entire bill here.

P. 1020, once this gets adopted, we are stuck with at least parts of it. The Independent Medicare Advisory Board cannot be repealed by future Congresses unless there is "an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Members of the Senate." So they are changing the Senate rules without having to get the normal two-thirds vote required under the Senate rules.

Senator DeMint has this enlightening discussion.

and I quote -- "it shall not be in order in the senate or the house of representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection."
This is not legislation. it's not law. This is a rule change. It's a pretty big deal. We will be passing a new law and at the same time creating a senate rule that makes it out of order to amend or even repeal the law.
I'm not even sure that it's constitutional, but if it is, it most certainly is a senate rule. I don't see why the majority party wouldn't put this in every bill. If you like your law, you most certainly would want it to have force for future senates.
I mean, we want to bind future congresses. this goes to the fundamental purpose of senate rules: to prevent a tyrannical majority from trampling the rights of the minority or of future congresses. . .



If Democrats are pinning their hopes on Health Care Bill, why do they want to pass it so far in front of the election?

Why do the Democrats believe that it is so horrible to let this issue slip into an election year if they think that passing this will help them so much politically?

Slumping in the polls and struggling to pass climate and financial legislation, President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders are counting on an historic health care victory to buoy their electoral prospects in 2010.

But Republicans argued Sunday that the issue is breaking their way, and liberal infighting indicates the party leadership has to win back its base along with the larger electorate.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been telling Democrats a win on the health issue will reverse the slide in public opinion, just as passage of another controversial proposal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifted President Bill Clinton in the polls. . . .


Eurostar trains stopped by severe cold

Here is one story that does mention the Eurostar trains have been canceled by the cold weather. This is apparently the first time that these trains have been stopped by cold weather.

LONDON (AFP) – Eurostar train services between Britain and Europe were suspended for a third straight day Monday due to the freezing weather, throwing the Christmas plans of thousands more people into chaos.
More than 24,000 people have already been affected, but the operator of the high-speed Channel Tunnel passenger trains linking London with Paris and Brussels said there would be no services Monday.
Eurostar said that following tests Monday to train modifications it would make an announcement about the prospects for travel Tuesday between the three major European capitals.
Eurostar sent out modified test trains Sunday to see if they could withstand the freezing temperatures and snowy conditions in northeastern France which are being blamed for causing five trains to break down in the under-sea tunnel on Friday.
"Eurostar will not be operating services on Monday," the company said in a statement. . . .

On this being the first time this has happened:

Eurostar spokesman Nick Mercer said the company would be running test trains in the tunnel on Sunday "to get to the bottom of this, really, quite abnormal situation."

"This is the first time in 15 years that we've encountered this problem. We run something like 20,000 trains a year, and this is the first time this has happened," he said. . . .

Here are some results for a search done Monday, December 21, 2009 at 6:20 PM
Number of stories in a Google news search on "Eurostar trains canceled": 1,806
Number of stories in a Google news search on "Eurostar trains canceled cold": 1,062
Number of stories in a Google news search on "Eurostar trains canceled cold "global warming"": 1

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The biggest obstacle for the health care bill is abortion

John Fund at the WSJ's Political Diary has this:

. . . While the House and Senate bills contain major differences, the most important politically concerns abortion, a subject where votes aren't easily moved. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, is opposed to Senate language that he says inadequately restricts federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortions. Pro-life groups say the Senate language involves "book-keeping contortions" to evade the 30-year-old Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion.

Rep. Stupak has assured colleagues that he has 10 fellow Democrats who will vote against any weakening of the Stupak Amendment, the strong ban on federal funding that was the final reason health care prevailed in the House. . . .

A final bill will need 218 House votes, assuming all members vote. But the Stupak language was rejected by the Senate, making the math dicey for Democrats. Rep. Joseph Cao, the only Republican to back the House bill, will drop off without firm pro-life language. And 11 Democrats who voted for the House bill have pledged in a letter to Speaker Pelosi that they "cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan."

Speaker Pelosi could make up for the loss of 10 pro-life votes by getting some of the 39 Democrats who voted against the bill the first time to change sides. But many of those Blue Dog moderates are also pro-life or come from districts where pro-life sentiment is strong. In addition, public support for the overall bill has only eroded since the House passed it in November, which naturally means some Members will be even less likely to climb aboard what they now consider a sinking legislative ship. . . .

Democrat . . . . . . . . . Win Margin . . . Winner presidential . . . . % supposedly uninsured
Scott Murphy(N.Y. 20) . . . . <1 . . . . Obama +3% . . . . . 12%
Bobby Bright(ALA. 2) . . . . <1 . . . . McCain +26% . . . . . 15%
Frank Kratovil Jr.(MD. 1) . . . . <1 . . . . McCain +19% . . . . . 11%
Walt Minnick(IDAHO 1) . . . . +1 . . . . McCain +26% . . . . . 20%
Eric Massa(N.Y. 29) . . . . +2 . . . . McCain +3% . . . . . 10%
Parker Griffith(ALA. 5) . . . . +3 . . . . McCain +23% . . . . . 16%
John Adler(N.J. 3) . . . . +4 . . . . Obama +5% . . . . . 11%
Glenn Nye(VA. 2) . . . . +5 . . . . Obama +2% . . . . . 12%
Chet Edwards(TEX. 17) . . . . +8 . . . . McCain +35% . . . . . 23%
Travis Childers(MISS. 1) . . . . +11 . . . . McCain +24% . . . . . 19%
John Boccieri(OHIO 16) . . . . +11 . . . . McCain +2% . . . . . 14%
Larry Kissell(N.C. 8) . . . . +11 . . . . Obama +5% . . . . . 20%
Jason Altmire(PA. 4) . . . . +12 . . . . McCain +11% . . . . . 9%
Harry Teague(N.M. 2) . . . . +12 . . . . McCain +1% . . . . . 25%
Betsy Markey(COLO. 4) . . . . +12 . . . . McCain +1% . . . . . 18%
Jim Marshall(GA. 8) . . . . +15 . . . . McCain +13% . . . . . 22%
Suzanne Kosmas(FLA. 24) . . . . +16 . . . . McCain +2% . . . . . 20%
Dennis J. Kucinich(OHIO 10) . . . . +18 . . . . Obama +20% . . . . . 13%
Lincoln Davis(TENN. 4) . . . . +21 . . . . McCain +29% . . . . . 17%
Allen Boyd(FLA. 2) . . . . +24 . . . . McCain +9% . . . . . 18%
Heath Shuler(N.C. 11) . . . . +26 . . . . McCain +5% . . . . . 21%
Tim Holden(PA. 17) . . . . +27 . . . . McCain +3% . . . . . 10%
Michael E. McMahon(N.Y. 13) . . . . +28 . . . . McCain +2% . . . . . 11%
Brian Baird(WASH. 3) . . . . +28 . . . . Obama +8% . . . . . 15%
Jim Matheson(UTAH 2) . . . . +29 . . . . McCain +18% . . . . . 16%
Ben Chandler(KY. 6) . . . . +29 . . . . McCain +12% . . . . . 16%
Ike Skelton(MO. 4) . . . . +32 . . . . McCain +22% . . . . . 17%
John Barrow(GA. 12) . . . . +32 . . . . Obama +11% . . . . . 21%
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin(S.D.) . . . . +35 . . . . McCain +8% . . . . . 14%
Mike McIntyre(N.C. 7) . . . . +38 . . . . McCain +5% . . . . . 23%
Dan Boren(OKLA. 2) . . . . +41 . . . . McCain +32% . . . . . 29%
Collin C. Peterson(MINN. 7) . . . . +45 . . . . McCain +3% . . . . . 11%
Bart Gordon(TENN. 6) . . . . +49 . . . . McCain +25% . . . . . 14%
Gene Taylor(MISS. 4) . . . . +49 . . . . McCain +35% . . . . . 22%
Mike Ross(ARK. 4) . . . . +72 . . . . McCain +19% . . . . . 22%
Rick Boucher(VA. 9) . . . . UNOPPOSED . . . . McCain +19% . . . . . 16%
Artur Davis(ALA. 7) . . . . UNOPPOSED . . . . Obama +48% . . . . . 19%
Charlie Melancon(LA. 3) . . . . UNOPPOSED . . . . McCain +24% . . . . . 18%
John Tanner(TENN. 8) . . . . UNOPPOSED

After looking at this list, can the Dems pick up 10 of these 39 Congressmen? Probably. Stopping the bill is possible, but it will take a lot of work.

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Some editorials from the Washington Times


Wikipedia rewrites Climate Science

Canada's Financial Post tries to correct a tiny fraction of the inaccuracies introduced at Wikipedia.

How Wikipedia’s green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles
By Lawrence Solomon

The Climategate Emails describe how a small band of climatologists cooked the books to make the last century seem dangerously warm.

The emails also describe how the band plotted to rewrite history as well as science, particularly by eliminating the Medieval Warm Period, a 400 year period that began around 1000 AD.

The Climategate Emails reveal something else, too: the enlistment of the most widely read source of information in the world — Wikipedia — in the wholesale rewriting of this history.

The Medieval Warm Period, which followed the meanness and cold of the Dark Ages, was a great time in human history — it allowed humans around the world to bask in a glorious warmth that vastly improved agriculture, increased life spans and otherwise bettered the human condition.

But the Medieval Warm Period was not so great for some humans in our own time — the same small band that believes the planet has now entered an unprecedented and dangerous warm period. As we now know from the Climategate Emails, this band saw the Medieval Warm Period as an enormous obstacle in their mission of spreading the word about global warming. If temperatures were warmer 1,000 years ago than today, the Climategate Emails explain in detail, their message that we now live in the warmest of all possible times would be undermined. As put by one band member, a Briton named Folland at the Hadley Centre, a Medieval Warm Period “dilutes the message rather significantly.”

Even before the Climategate Emails came to light, the problem posed by the Medieval Warm Period to this band was known. “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period” read a pre-Climategate email, circa 1995, as attested to at hearings of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. But the Climategate transcripts were more extensive and more illuminating — they provided an unvarnished look at the struggles that the climate practitioners underwent before settling on their scientific dogma. . . .

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Concealed handgun permits up 15 percent in Massachusetts

Even in Massachusetts the number of concealed handgun permits has been increasing. This comes to about 4 percent of the state's adult population in 2007. Since then the rate of concealed handgun permits has grown much faster than the population.

The number of gun permits issued in Massachusetts surged by more than 15 percent over the past two years, reversing nearly a decade of steady declines and marking a pronounced departure for a state known for its antigun sentiment.

The magnitude of the rise, evident in nearly every corner of the state, surprised law enforcement officials, and gun advocates and opponents alike. . . .

The increase in Class A permits - the largest and broadest category of gun license - amounted to a jump of more than 28,000 statewide to about 224,000 as of last month, according to data provided by the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

The number had previously been dropping, from about 239,000 in 2001 to 192,000 in 2007. Class A permits, commonly called “a license to carry,’’ are the only permits that allow individuals to carry concealed guns and own all types of legal firearms. . . .

Law enforcement officials said that, while the sharp increase in permits is unexpected, it does not portend any increase in gun violence.

“We’re concerned about criminals with guns, not law-abiding citizens,’’ said John A. Grossman, undersecretary of forensic science and technology for the state Office of Public Safety and Security. “It’s the illegal gun trafficking we’re really focused on.’’

Police chiefs and district attorneys echoed that, saying they see few crimes committed with legally licensed firearms. . . .

Thanks to Dr. Richard F. Griffiths for this link.

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