Monday, August 31, 2009

Obama Approval Hits New Low

Not just nationally, but in Kentucky:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as President?

36% Approve
61% Disapprove
3% Not Sure

To put that in perspective, this poll indicates that Obama is probably losing support from people that voted for him in Kentucky last November (he got 41% of the vote in Kentucky). He's doing even worse than John Kerry did in 2004 (Kerry got 39% of the vote in the Bluegrass State).

And it's not everyone. It's him.

Kentucky's top Senator Mitch McConnell and its Democratic Governor Steve Beshear (whose Republican opponent did only marginally better than Obama did in the last election) both poll around 47 or 48% approval and similar disapproval.

There hasn't been a poll out lately in Indiana showing Obama's approval rating.

Anyone care to guess whether it's better or worse than Obama's vote percentage last November?

The Government Can

ObamaCare Fact Check

Presented for your consideration, a series of (unfortunately lengthy) factual palate cleansers in preparation for Baron Hill's town hall Monday evening.

Where to begin?

First of all, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says that ObamaCare will, indeed and in fact, cover illegal aliens.

The Washington Examiner:

In what he called the “first myth” being spread by critics of his proposal for a government-run health care system, Obama said they are wrong in claiming illegal immigrants will be covered: “That is not true. Illegal immigrants would not be covered. That idea has not even been on the table.” Obama said.

Well, Mr. President, that idea must have been tucked under a stack of background briefing papers over there in the corner of the table because the Congressional Research Service (CRS) says this about H.R. 3200, the Obamacare bill approved just before the recess by the House Energy and Commerce Committee chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA:

“Under H.R. 3200, a ‘Health Insurance Exchange’ would begin operation in 2013 and would offer private plans alongside a public option…H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens—whether legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently—participating in the Exchange.”

CRS also notes that the bill has no provision for requiring those seeking coverage or services to provided proof of citizenship. So, absent some major amendments to the legislation and a credible, concrete enforcement effort in action, looks like the myth on this issue is the one being spread by Obama, Reid, Pelosi, et. al.

The San Francisco Examiner:

In its subsection on health insurance subsidies (known as "affordability credits"), HR 3200 does state, "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." That would seem to solve the problem, but it's more rhetoric than reality. The bill contains no verification requirement or enforcement process for citizenship or legal residency, as exists for other federal benefit programs. The only verification required for the subsidies pertains to family income. Beyond that, as the CRS report notes, everything is left in the hands of the Health Choices Commissioner.

House Democrats defeated all attempts in committee to add an enforcement mechanism that would require proof of citizenship or legal residency for those getting subsidies.

Additionally, they are not only covered under the system, they are required to have coverage (bought or provided by Medicaid):

CRS also notes that “undocumented aliens” who have a “substantial presence” in the US would be required to buy health insurance (page 4) through the exchanges in HR3200. They would also become eligible for “emergency Medicaid,” although not normal Medicaid (page 6) for up to five years.

And the entire CRS report itself can be read here (PDF warning).

Second, Factcheck.org, which has been cited by Baron Hill as a source for debunking "myths" and "lies" about health care reform, says that ObamaCare will pay for abortions.

From their website:

Will health care legislation mean "government funding of abortion"?

President Obama said Wednesday that’s "not true" and among several "fabrications" being spread by "people who are bearing false witness." But abortion foes say it’s the president who’s making a false claim. "President Obama today brazenly misrepresented the abortion-related component" of health care legislation, said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee. So which side is right?

The truth is that bills now before Congress don’t require federal money to be used for supporting abortion coverage. So the president is right to that limited extent. But it’s equally true that House and Senate legislation would allow a new "public" insurance plan to cover abortions, despite language added to the House bill that technically forbids using public funds to pay for them. Obama has said in the past that "reproductive services" would be covered by his public plan, so it’s likely that any new federal insurance plan would cover abortion unless Congress expressly prohibits that. Low- and moderate-income persons who would choose the "public plan" would qualify for federal subsidies to purchase it. Private plans that cover abortion also could be purchased with the help of federal subsidies. Therefore, we judge that the president goes too far when he calls the statements that government would be funding abortions "fabrications."

Abortion foes quickly denounced Obama’s statement as untrue. The NRLC’s Johnson said “the bill backed by the White House (H.R. 3200) explicitly authorizes the government plan to cover all elective abortions.” And our analysis shows that Johnson’s statement is correct. Though we of course take no position on whether the legislation should allow or not allow coverage for abortions, the House bill does just that.

As for the House bill as it stands now, it’s a matter of fact that it would allow both a “public plan” and newly subsidized private plans to cover all abortions.

H.R. 3200, it's worth noting, was the bill that Baron voted to approve out of committee just before Congress recessed.

Baron has spoken quite highly of Factcheck.org in the past, particularly as a part of his recent Q & A with the Madison Courier. It will be interesting to see his opinion of their judgment of the facts about this aspect of ObamaCare.

Third, serious questions have been raised in no less than the Washington Post about the constitutionality of ObamaCare's "individual mandate" requiring that all Americans have health insurance.

The piece in question notes:

President Obama has called for a serious and reasoned debate about his plans to overhaul the health-care system. Any such debate must include the question of whether it is constitutional for the federal government to adopt and implement the president's proposals. Consider one element known as the "individual mandate," which would require every American to have health insurance, if not through an employer then by individual purchase. This requirement would particularly affect young adults, who often choose to save the expense and go without coverage. Without the young to subsidize the old, a comprehensive national health system will not work. But can Congress require every American to buy health insurance?

In short, no. The Constitution assigns only limited, enumerated powers to Congress and none, including the power to regulate interstate commerce or to impose taxes, would support a federal mandate requiring anyone who is otherwise without health insurance to buy it.

Although the Supreme Court has interpreted Congress's commerce power expansively, this type of mandate would not pass muster even under the most aggressive commerce clause cases.


The federal government does not have the power to regulate Americans simply because they are there. Significantly, in two key cases, United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000), the Supreme Court specifically rejected the proposition that the commerce clause allowed Congress to regulate noneconomic activities merely because, through a chain of causal effects, they might have an economic impact. These decisions reflect judicial recognition that the commerce clause is not infinitely elastic and that, by enumerating its powers, the framers denied Congress the type of general police power that is freely exercised by the states.

This leaves mandate supporters with few palatable options. Congress could attempt to condition some federal benefit on the acquisition of insurance. States, for example, usually condition issuance of a car registration on proof of automobile insurance, or on a sizable payment into an uninsured motorist fund. Even this, however, cannot achieve universal health coverage. No federal program or entitlement applies to the entire population, and it is difficult to conceive of a "benefit" that some part of the population would not choose to eschew.

The other obvious alternative is to use Congress's power to tax and spend. In an effort, perhaps, to anchor this mandate in that power, the Senate version of the individual mandate envisions that failure to comply would be met with a penalty, to be collected by the IRS. This arrangement, however, is not constitutional either.

Like the commerce power, the power to tax gives the federal government vast authority over the public, and it is well settled that Congress can impose a tax for regulatory rather than purely revenue-raising purposes. Yet Congress cannot use its power to tax solely as a means of controlling conduct that it could not otherwise reach through the commerce clause or any other constitutional provision.

Although the court's interpretation of the commerce power's breadth has changed since that time, it has not repudiated the fundamental principle that Congress cannot use a tax to regulate conduct that is otherwise indisputably beyond its regulatory power.

Of course, these constitutional impediments can be avoided if Congress is willing to raise corporate and/or income taxes enough to fund fully a new national health system. Absent this politically dangerous -- and therefore unlikely -- scenario, advocates of universal health coverage must accept that Congress's power, like that of the other branches, has limits. These limits apply regardless of how important the issue may be, and neither Congress nor the president can take constitutional short cuts. The genius of our system is that, no matter how convinced our elected officials may be that certain measures are in the public interest, their goals can be accomplished only in accord with the powers and processes the Constitution mandates, processes that inevitably make them accountable to the American people.

Fourth, the infamous Section 1233 of the bill, the so-called "death panels" remains a concern until it is completely removed from the legislation.

This is not a concern for the sometimes hyperbolic reasons that are often cited, but for more practical reasons (which I have discussed in the past) relating to it being a slippery slope and the serious potential unintended consequences of that sort of policy.

Fifth, by Baron's own admission, there have been no Republican negotiations in the House on this legislation.



It is entirely a Democratic work.

Sixth, according to the Washington Post and USA Today, the House bill will cut funding to Medicare (in particular Medicare Advantage) by some $160+ billion, particularly harming the 20,000+ seniors in the 9th District here in southern Indiana that use Medicare Advantage.

The Washington Post:

More than one-fifth of the 45 million Medicare beneficiaries are in Medicare Advantage plans operated by insurance companies like Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth. The House bill would cut payments to private plans by more than $160 billion over 10 years.

In the past, insurers reacted to such cuts by increasing premiums, reducing benefits or pulling out of the Medicare market, and beneficiaries complained loudly.

In effect, Mr. Obama says he can cut bloated Medicare payments to inefficient health care providers without adversely affecting any beneficiaries. Many doctors are dubious.

USA Today:

About 10.2 million Medicare recipients are in Medicare Advantage. Under that program, the government pays insurers a set amount per Medicare beneficiary. Obama ridiculed it as costly and redundant, but the plan provides additional benefits, such as vision, dental and hearing, to seniors and helps coordinate health care for those with chronic conditions, says Robert Zirkelbach at the trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

How many of those seniors on Medicare Advantage do you think are going to vote for a Congressman that took their health care plan away from them?

Seventh, it is not true that you will be able to keep your health care plan.

Again, a fact check by USA Today, looking into Obama's claim:

“Under the reform we’re proposing, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”

Not necessarily. In an analysis of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 10 million workers could lose employer-provided benefits and would have to find other insurance.

The Washington Post has also debunked this Obama claim:

However, under legislation drafted by House and Senate Democrats, that [you can keep your existing health care plan] would not necessarily be true.

The legislation could also prompt some employers to drop coverage, congressional budget analysts say.

In a report last month on a bill advanced by House Democrats, the Congressional Budget Office said millions of people would gain employment-based coverage and millions would lose it.

Obama's promise is not just at odds with legislative proposals -- it is also at odds with reality. Under the current system, employers can drop coverage, alter benefit packages and switch insurers.

Nothing in ObamaCare guarantees that people satisfied with their current coverage will be able to keep it, and there are powerful (and perverse) incentives for employers to dump employees onto (potentially inferior) public plans rather than keep them on their health care existing plans.

Eighth, AARP has not endorsed any of the legislation currently being considered by Congress, despite claims at times to the contrary.

ABC News debunks this one:

President Obama today suggested that the health care reform legislation for which he’s pushing has been endorsed by the American Association of Retired Person.

“We have the AARP on board because they know this is a good deal for our seniors,” the president said.

At another point he said: “Well, first of all, another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow we're going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not. AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, okay?”

The problem?

The AARP hasn't endorsed any plan yet.

The country's largest advocacy group for Americans over 50 issued a statement after the event saying, "While the President was correct that AARP will not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate."

In other words, their opposition is in large measure because the proposed legislation does indeed contain cuts to Medicare.

Ninth and lastly, the bill requires that the IRS divulge all manner of private individual tax records and personal financial information to the friendly-sounding "Health Choices Commissioner."

From CBS News come three troubling provisions:

Section 431(a) of the bill says that the IRS must divulge taxpayer identity information, including the filing status, the modified adjusted gross income, the number of dependents, and "other information as is prescribed by" regulation. That information will be provided to the new Health Choices Commissioner and state health programs and used to determine who qualifies for "affordability credits."

Section 245(b)(2)(A) says the IRS must divulge tax return details -- there's no specified limit on what's available or unavailable -- to the Health Choices Commissioner. The purpose, again, is to verify "affordability credits."

Section 1801(a) says that the Social Security Administration can obtain tax return data on anyone who may be eligible for a "low-income prescription drug subsidy" but has not applied for it.

Over at the Institute for Policy Innovation (a free-market think tank and presumably no fan of Obamacare), Tom Giovanetti argues that: "How many thousands of federal employees will have access to your records? The privacy of your health records will be only as good as the most nosy, most dishonest and most malcontented federal employee.... So say good-bye to privacy from the federal government. It was fun while it lasted for 233 years."

If you're going to Baron Hill's town hall, arm yourself with facts.

Baron claims that he's read the bill.

Ask him about its more troubling provisions, such as the ones above, and ask him why he voted for them.

If he indeed read what he voted for, he must presumably have found these measures to meet with his approval and he owes his constituents an explanation as to why.

And that explanation can't simply be a dismissal about "propaganda" or "myths" or "lies."

Every single one of these nine items comes from reputable media outlets that have done hard factual reporting about this legislation.

I'd trust them before I'd trust a career politician. Indeed, in some cases Baron Hill has in the past cited these very sources himself, so he can hardly find them to be unacceptable now.

Harry Reid Threatens Nevada's Largest Newspaper, Gets Called Out for It

Ben Franklin once said that one should never pick fights with men that buy their ink by the barrel.

It's wisdom that Harry Reid doesn't seem to recognize.

Democratic Councilman Criticizes Baron Hill for “Political Terrorists” Smear

From the Madison Courier:

Councilman critical of Hill for calling protesters "terrorists"

City Council member Rick Berry said Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Baron Hill should apologize for calling health reform bill protesters "terrorists" and should have town-hall meetings.

Hill told The Washington Post two weeks ago that he did not intend to have town-hall meetings open to the public, as congressmen from other districts have done during the August recess, only to be heckled by constituents.

"I'm trying to control the event," the Post quoted Hill saying. "What I don't want to do is create an opportunity for the people who are political terrorists to blow up the meeting and not try to answer thoughtful questions."

Berry, speaking from the council table during the City Council meeting, said he "took great offense" from Hill's quote.

"I know what a terrorist is," said Berry, who like Hill is a Democrat. "It's not a citizen who is scared and wants answers and wants his congressman to do his job."

Berry, who is in his first term on the council, also said, "I'm ticked off. I really am."

People speaking out against the health reform bill "are regular, ordinary American citizens that are scared," Berry said.

Council President Damon Welch, a Republican, said to Berry, "I totally agree," and other council members seemed to voice support also, though none gave a speech.

Bit dated but still topical; wish I had noticed the article sooner.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Baron Town Halls to “Showcase Diverse Views”

Leslie Stedman's column in the Courier-Journal this week:

U.S. Rep. Baron Hill is sure to be facing a big crowd Monday night as he hosts his first town hall meeting in the 9th Congressional District since the health care issue heated up.

The question is whether that crowd will also be hostile.

I think it's safe to assume that the audience in the Hoosier Room at Indiana University Southeast is going to include a number of folks who dislike the health care proposals approved by House committees.

There will probably be some harsh words, and even heated exchanges, between opponents of the plans and Hill, a Democrat who believes that health care reform is necessary.

But I expect there will be folks there as well who support the reform ideas, some who support a single-payer government system who won't think the current proposals go far enough.

And I think the discussion will remain fairly civil.

Despite disruptions that plagued many of the early congressional town hall meetings on health care, I'm betting that 9th District constituents will assume their voices will be heard more clearly if they're articulate about their opposition, rather than antagonistic.

That's not to say they won't be passionate.

I've had calls and e-mails from some of these health care opponents, and they are not at all happy about what Congress is considering.

Many believe that Congress is going too far, particularly with a plan to create a government-sponsored insurance plan that would compete with existing for-profit programs.

I've talked to opponents who make intelligent, well-considered arguments that the health care plan is just too much government intervention, especially on the heels of government bailouts of banks and other financial companies and the enormous stimulus package that attempts to prop up the U.S. economy.

But the opponents' cause isn't helped by the opponents who are using hyperbole and scare tactics to try to stop the health care debate. Even e-mails sent out by Republicans about Hill's Monday meeting have a sense of panic about them, urging supporters to call the congressman's office “as soon as possible or you will not get in.”

Actually, Hill's office has assured me that it is not taking reservations for the event. Entry will be on a first-come, first-served basis and won't be based on party affiliation or views on the issue.

Security will be on hand — just as it is at all Hill town hall events — to ensure that people can express their views safely.

Now it will be up to those who attend — the supporter and the opponents — to behave in a way that makes free expression of those views possible.

I would generally agree, in large measure.

Even if the hall isn't packed in advance with supporters of ObamaCare (Obama's website already has 74 people as having RSVP'ed to attend, as of this posting, in New Albany and 86 people in Bloomington; and in Bloomington they are providing people with signs and doing phone banks on Monday to try and pack the event with ObamaCare supporters), I fully expect some sort of contrivance (or contrivances) to limit people from being heard. This may come from limiting access to microphones or requiring questions to be written down in advance and vetted.

The biggest limitation, though, is probably going to come from the time being allocated to the event itself. In the past, with the public less interested in town halls than they are now, Baron's town halls tended to take about two hours. I attended Baron's town halls in 2007 and in 2008. In both years, they tended to last about two hours.

Of that two hours, Baron usually took about twenty or even thirty minutes at the start to give an opening statement or progress report about what Congress has been up to. He also tended to use that period to "make a case" for why he voted the way that he did.

Currently, Baron's town hall is scheduled to last one hour. If Baron sticks to past practice, a goodly proportion of that hour would be consumed before anyone has even asked a single question. This would mean that, despite hugely greater public interest, Baron is actually allocating less time to public questioning than in years with less public interest.

You might have anywhere from ten to thirty times as many people at one of these town halls than in a normal year, yet Baron appears to plan to allocate less than half the amount of time to questioning than in a normal year.

That wouldn't be right.

The event tomorrow at IUS should be pointed, but civil. The one in Bloomington on Wednesday will probably be anything but.

In Bloomington, the lefties are nuttier and the righties are crazier than in any other place in southern Indiana.

Talk about "showcasing diverse views."

Message to Baron: “When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself a public property.”

A letter to the editor in the Courier-Journal (on the second page, toward the bottom):

Hill should show up

I have watched with interest the many news clips from town halls across the United States. Sometimes they show the best side of public discourse. Sometimes they show the worst as both angry citizens and elected officials simply resort to name-calling.

Our local congressman, Baron Hill, has decided not to engage in any public forums during the recess and simply dismisses these angry citizens as “political

terrorists.” I believe Hill's decision to avoid his constituents, with or with out the ridiculous slander he used to rationalize it, to be the worst response of all.

As Thomas Jefferson said: “When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself a public property.”

Regardless of his ultimate opinion on the health care debate, Baron Hill owes it to his constituents to stand amongst us, state his opinions and answer questions. That, at a minimum, is his job.

RODNEY SCOTT
Sellersburg, Ind. 47172

Obama Justice Department: Investigations for the CIA, But No Investigations for the Crooked Democrat Governor of New Mexico

Ah, irony, we've been expecting you.

Commentary Magazine:

So naturally, we are reinvestigating the CIA. In a sane world, Pelosi would be on the hot seat, the grandstanders who decried Bush’s antiterror policies would be discredited, and Dick Cheney would be taking a victory lap. But we have long since passed the point at which facts matter. The Obama team shamelessly airbrushes the past, rejects the techniques that kept us safe, and continues with full prosecutorial zeal against what it perceives as the real enemies—the intelligence operatives and Bush officials who successfully extracted key information.

The American people haven’t shown much interest in the netroot inquests, don’t like the idea of closing Guantanamo, and, I suspect, would be horrified if CIA employees were ever tried. At some point the politically obsessed Obama White House may realize they’ve embarked on a foolhardy course of action. Not out of decency or a revived sense of concern for national security, but for the sake of their own political survival, they may eventually decide that enough is enough. But we aren’t there yet

As the Wall Street Journal notes, Nancy Pelosi lied about being briefed about controversial terrorist interrogation methods:

Congress also knew about it. The IG report belies House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claims that she wasn't told about all this. "In the fall of 2002, the Agency briefed the leadership of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of both standard techniques and EITs. . . . Representatives . . . continued to brief the leadership of the Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of EITs and detentions in February and March 2003. The [CIA] General Counsel says that none of the participants expressed any concern about the techniques or the Program . . ." Ditto in September 2003.

And those methods worked:

The most revealing portion of the IG report documents the program's results. The CIA's "detention and interrogation of terrorists has provided intelligence that has enabled the identification and apprehension of other terrorists and warned of terrorist plots planned for the United States and around the world." That included the identification of Jose Padilla and Binyam Muhammed, who planned to detonate a dirty bomb, and the arrest of previously unknown members of an al Qaeda cell in Karachi, Pakistan, designated to pilot an aircraft attack in the U.S. The information also made the CIA aware of plots to attack the U.S. consulate in Karachi, hijack aircraft to fly into Heathrow, loosen track spikes to derail a U.S. train, blow up U.S. gas stations, fly an airplane into a California building, and cut the lines of suspension bridges in New York.

While the report doesn't take a position on the value of enhanced techniques, the facts speak loudly that they caused detainees to yield important information. The report notes that early on Zubaydah provided some information, but that the waterboard resulted in "increased production." It also notes that since the use of the waterboard, "Zubaydah has appeared to be cooperative."

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who planned the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was not waterboarded. "However," says the report, "following the use of [enhanced techniques], he provided information about his most current operational planning as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of [enhanced techniques]."

Then there's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who directed the 9/11 attacks. The report cites him as the "most prolific" provider of information. Yet it later notes that KSM, "an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete." The report explains that KSM was then waterboarded 183 times, and it redacts the rest of the section. This suggests that what interrogators gleaned was valuable enough that it requires classification even today.

What a Justice Department we have. If you're in the CIA and you're defending the country from its enemies, you get investigated.

But if you're a Democrat governor being investigated on corruption charges, Obama's Justice Department will decide to look the other way and not investigate you at all:

SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former high-ranking members of his administration won't be criminally charged in a yearlong federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations involving one of the Democratic governor's large political donors, someone familiar with the case said.

The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe.

"It's over. There's nothing. It was killed in Washington," the person told The Associated Press.

"It was killed in Washington."

Respect for the Dead

Respect for the Dead
Power Line notes:

Now the Democrats reportedly are readying to push their health care bill with a "win one for Teddy" theme.

This strikes me as pretty dumb. Kennedy was never popular with the general public. He was an effective behind-the-scenes Senator, but it was always we conservatives--not the liberals--who wanted to paint him as the face of the Democratic Party. Even his scandals, at this' point, are old news. I think it will be hard to find a single voter who will change his mind about Obamacare if they call it Kennedycare, but there will probably be more than a few who see it as a transparently cynical ploy.

A recent poll showed that only 24% of Americans supported the idea of Democrats "going it alone" on ObamaCare.

So let's get this straight. Hugely unpopular legislation is now going to be named after a divisive figure that Republicans have successfully vilified for the past three decades.

And this is supposed to help it get passed, when only one American in four favors a purely partisan ram-through of ObamaCare?

Legislation Co-Sponsored by Evan Bayh Would Give Obama Authority to Takeover Internet


Cartoon from Day By Day.

Article from CBS News:

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They're not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CBSNews.com has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version allows the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

"I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness," says Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. "It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill."

Rockefeller's revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a "cybersecurity workforce plan" from every federal agency, a "dashboard" pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a "comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy" in six months -- even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.

The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "As soon as you're saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it's going to be a really big issue," he says.

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" if necessary for "the national defense and security." The White House is supposed to engage in "periodic mapping" of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies "shall share" requested information with the federal government. ("Cyber" is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)

And who, you might ask, are the sponsors of this legislation?

There are only three:

Ben Nelson (D) of Florida
Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine
Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana

Quote of the Day

Rien ne rehausse l'autorité mieux que le silence, splendeur des forts et refuge des faibles.

Nothing builds authority up like silence, splendor of the strong and shelter of the weak.

- Charles de Gaulle

Friday, August 28, 2009

Greg Garrison: Something Ate Baron Hill, and He's Just Not Right Anymore

From Human Events:

Time was, Baron Hill was best known for his jump shot and tenacious defense when he was starting at guard in the heartland of basketball mania, the Hoosier state. He was successful in parlaying that notoriety, a good persona and “Blue Dog” political philosophy into a multi-term stint in the Congress, representing his home district, the 9th.

For about a year, I was on his schedule for a weekly radio interview on my daily show in Indianapolis, and the conversations were pretty even-keeled and we all thought, above-average radio. Then he disappeared. No explanation, just poof, gone. But what was evident in those days was that he was a pretty independent guy, conservative on public spending and possessed of a plain-talk style that fit well in his coal country district. That was then; this is now.

Hill lost his seat 5 years ago to a conservative patriot named Mike Sodrel, a truck driver-turned transportation magnate, but got his seat back the next election (2006). And something happened in the interim. Gone were the old Midwestern values and all that plain talk, replaced with a remarkable and unmistakable ugly streak of wacko liberalism that has resulted in actions by the old point guard that put him closer to Karl Marx than to any Hoosier.

A few months back he got the rush from the Obamaniacs to vote -- first in committee and then on the floor of the House -- for a cap and trade scheme that the Holy One himself has oft promised would bankrupt the coal business and cause utility bills to skyrocket. Yup, Baron Hill shucked his Midwestern values for a fundraiser by Kid President and a ride on Air Force One back to D.C. following the required sellout of his people.

Now he appears to be on the road to supporting socialized medicine, too, babbling out the statist media’s talking points and the spew of terrified invective the administration has resorted to in its panic-stricken effort to blunt the rebellion they face all over the country. Only a few days back, he told the Washington Post he would host no town hall meetings unless he could control them and their content. Said he wouldn’t permit any of those hated “political terrorists” who with such temerity insist on speaking out against the Messiah. No really. That’s what he said. Political terrorists.

Well there have been a couple of Baron Shill sightings since the August recess began; one with some friendlies in the People’s Republic of Bloomington (home of Indiana University -- need I say more?) and there was one “closed” meeting of the Columbus Rotary Club where no one was permitted in unless invited -- and also a Rotarian. We just happen to have had a patriot in the room, one not from Columbus but a Rotarian nonetheless, who after initially being denied access was admitted upon proof of Rotarian bone fides.

Now Columbus is no hotbed of socialism of any kind, so even with the hand-picked audience strictly limited, his efforts to convince the locals of the horrors of the best health care in the history of mankind were less than enthusiastically received. My Rotary guy reports that Hill repeatedly attempted to gin up a sort of divide between the audience and their health care folks, made several references to our “broken healthcare system,” demonstrating a good grasp of Obama-speak. He used the “Blue Dog” moniker at least 16 times by my man’s count while extolling the virtues of the most expensive and intrusive assault on human liberty since the Stamp Act.

Fact is that Hill has sold out. Maybe the price was a cabinet post later on or a chance to replace Joe “gaff-o-matic” Biden on the ticket next time. Maybe it was that ride on the big plane with the Chosen One or the cigarette they shared afterward that rubbed off the last of the old dog’s blue luster.

Can’t really say, but this much is clear from out here in the cheap seats: These Blue Dogs have lain down with the fleas, the snakes and the other vermin who inhabit the Left, and whatever they may have been once upon a time, all that is left is a bunch of worn out old wind bags no longer capable of fidelity to those they represent or the constitution they swore to uphold and defend. The Baron is off to shoot some hoop in the White House gym with his new best friend, his feckless behavior and the knife in the backs of his constituents lost in the warm afterglow of that big glass of Kool-Aid he so eagerly drank.

Nice shot, Baron Shill, nice shot indeed.

Interesting shout-out to Mike Sodrel (a longtime friend of Garrison) in there.

I would hazard a guess that Baron's disappearance from Garrison's show coincided with the 2001 redistricting and the addition of Bloomington to the 9th Congressional District.

Some Definitions

A great letter to the editor in the News & Tribune by the Floyd County GOP chairman, Dave Matthews:

Definitions. Has anyone besides me noticed that the political environment is getting hot? There are lots of words and names flying around out there that probably have many of us confused. So, I just thought I’d help our Floyd County residents with a few definitions of terms they might not have understood before. Here goes.

• BLUE DOG: The thought here is that this Democrat is like a dog on a leash, who is straining so hard against the direction of his party that he is literally turning blue at the strain. Of course, one would assume that occasionally, this Democrat would vote against his party, indicating occasional disagreement.

He is a Democrat, but as a representative of conservative constituents back home, he just can’t vote against the will of those constituents whom he represents. Indiana does not have any of these.

• LAP DOG: This type of representative climbs up in the lap of his party’s leader, agrees with and votes for everything that leader recommends, whether or not it represents the will and opinions of his constituents. This dog loves the attention of being close to the leader and wouldn’t bite his hand no matter how much the issue hurts those whom he represents. Usually a lap dog thrives on strokes and lots of persuasive petting.

• POLITICAL TERRORIST: Anyone, especially from the opposing party, who expresses a difference of opinion from the representative. This title has been accompanied by synonymous name calling like “angry mob” and “un-American.”

Usually, these individuals are accused of striving to “blow up the meeting” and “not try to answer thoughtful questions.” The way to effectively handle political terrorists is to not meet with them at all, even if you do represent them.

• THE RICH: Those whom you expect to pay the bills for everyone else. This group is difficult to define because the level of income they make continues to be adjusted downwardly. Of course, ultimately it will describe anyone who has gained any level of financial independence and they will be expected to carry the load of those who make nothing.

• INDEPENDENCE: Formerly the name of a declaration describing the liberties gained by our nation. Antonym of “dependence,” the desired future state of all citizens. Current political theory suggests that the more dependent citizens can be made on the government, the easier they will be to control and the more income can be confiscated.

• ELDERLY: Anyone who has worked for any length of time to earn a retirement. One representing the heaviest burden on systems like health care and social security, both to which he or she has “contributed,” usually for decades. Interestingly enough, this group never gets so independent that they can’t be taxed and burdened more, usually on assets that they have already been taxed on for decades.

I know that with terms like these being thrown about frequently by the media and in certain political circles, it is easy for the average American to become confused. I hope these definitions will make it easier for all of us to understand exactly the type of representation we are being presented with in this non-Election Year.

There is probably one more definition, however, that Hoosiers need to be familiar with as we approach 2010 and our next opportunity to affect a “change” through our votes.

• LOSER: The term describing representatives who choose to ignore their constituents when they think we won’t remember their actions one year later. One who refuses to meet with those whom he represents. One who thinks he can force his agenda on his constituents, even when they vociferously object to those issues. One who thinks he is safe because he has been elected so many times.

Remember, Election Day is just 15 months away!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seymour Man Wonders: Where's Baron?

Baron HillA letter to the editor in the Seymour Tribune, the newspaper of Baron's home town:

While it may seem as a bit of a stretch to compare our current domestic situation to that of the fledgling United States of 1776, the current times are certainly trying men’s and women’s souls today.

Since this time a year ago, this country: has elected a new president, seen financial markets collapse (along with retirement accounts), witnessed an unprecedented expansion of the federal government into areas never before considered (the automobile industry and financial services), continues to experience 14.5 million persons unemployed (of which I am one) and is trying to come to grips with spending and deficit numbers measured in trillions of dollars.

Trying times indeed.

Now come our elected representatives with a proposal to “reform” health care. Multiple bills in multiple committees of both chambers of Congress, at least one bill 1,018 pages long, written in language only a lawyer could fully comprehend (maybe). Add to that the myriad opinions, analyses, rumors and outright misrepresentations by individuals and organizations on both sides of the issue and is it any wonder that the average constituent is a bit peeved? I know I am.

Where’s Baron?

Indiana 9th District Rep. Baron Hill has been in the middle of the process in the U.S. House on health care reform. He has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in the Washington Post during the mark-up of HR 3200. As one of the “Blue Dog Democrats,” he played a pivotal role in delaying the mark-up of this bill until some fiscal concessions were made. I salute him for those endeavors but I still have a lot of questions I would like to have answered by him.

However, Congressman Hill has so far refused to schedule any open meetings with constituents in this district for fear of the meeting being hijacked by frustrated people upset at the non-responsiveness of their representatives, as has happened at many town hall meetings throughout the country. He says he has been meeting privately with “business leaders and other stakeholders” to solicit their opinions. Am I or are my neighbors not stakeholders in this process?

Why will he not solicit our opinions? At this writing (Aug. 11) Congressman Hill is scheduled to give an address to the Rotary Club of Indianapolis. That is not in the 9th District (but it is where a lot of campaign cash comes from and a good place to lay groundwork for a race for governor, but I digress).

Since Baron chooses not to respond directly, perhaps I can get him to respond indirectly to the questions I have with regard to this issue. My questions to him (formulated by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a doctor and another stakeholder in this debate, and I have added some editorial comments) are:

1. How much is this “reform” going to cost and how are we going to pay for it? The Congressional Budget Office estimates this program to cost $1.7 trillion.

2. What programs will you cut and whose taxes will you raise to pay for health care reform?

3. What earmarks or pet projects that you have sponsored will you sacrifice for this reform?

4. Will you vote for a public option that requires taxpayer-funded abortion?

5. Do you support a public option and, if so, will you put your family on it?

6. Will you vote for a plan to allow a board of politicians and bureaucrats to override decisions by you and your doctor?

7. If you support a “comparative effectiveness board,” what qualifies you, as a politician, to practice medicine?

8. How will a public option plan run better than other failing government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid?

9. If increased spending on health care is the solution, why hasn’t it worked yet?

10. Are you more committed to doing reform right or quickly? You have said publicly you wanted to do this right, but what happens when Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Waxman start turning the screws?

There are many of us in this district and elsewhere who are concerned with recent events. We understand the need to control health care, energy and environmental costs, but we also know past efforts by government have not delivered the desired effects and in many cases only made things worse. Therefore we remain skeptical of larger governmental “solutions” now.

And many of us see the exponential growth and cost of government as threatening the very Republic itself.

If you feel this way, now is the time for you to stand up. Arm yourselves with facts, not shouts. Educate yourselves and your children on the issues. Write and or call your congressman, senators and newspapers so they know where you stand. Go to meetings and discuss further actions. Get involved.

Note that this letter is asking many of the same questions Baron was asked (and declined to answer) in the Madison Courier's Q & A session.

Salt in the Wounds

Salt in the Wounds

The Other Funeral

From The Economist:

IT'S far from the first time, and presumably won't be the last, that the deaths of two historically-significant figures occur on the same day or in close proximity—and that the subsequent saturation media coverage will slight one who deserves at least as much attention as the other. John F. Kennedy's assassination eclipsed the passing of Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis. Mother Theresa's death was a news footnote to the passing of the Princess of Wales. The same is likely to happen to Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the Iraqi Shia cleric, who died last night at age 59 in Iran.

The passing of Edward Kennedy certainly is a milestone in American politics, and an occasion of great sadness for his family and the tens of millions who held him in high esteem. But the death of Mr al-Hakim will have greater consequences for the world in the months and years to come. Although he served in no official government capacity, and despite the mistrust with which many Sunnis regarded him, Mr al-Hakim was a towering figure in the years after the American-led invasion, quietly labouring to calm the centrifugal forces unleashed by the explosive conflicts between Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.

It's hard to judge how much his illness—which barely had been reported in the West—affected the decision of his party to make a new alliance with Muqtada al-Sadr for January's elections, and exclude Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party. But it seems unlikely that Mr al-Hakim would have viewed such a split among Shias as a positive development. With violence on the rise again, and with Kurdish tensions threatening to boil over, Iraq will sorely miss Mr al-Hakim's skills and influence. The country will be an even less stable place without him.

Quote of the Day

The problems of our economy have occurred not as an outgrowth of laissez-faire, unbridled competition. They have occurred under the guidance of federal agencies, and under the umbrella of federal regulations.

– Senator Ted Kennedy in 1978, defending the deregulation of the trucking industry

Baron Caves, To Have Town Halls

Two of them, no less, next Monday and next Wednesday.

Mark your calendars.

From his website come the two press releases.

The town hall in New Albany on Monday:

Hill to Hold Public Forum in New Albany Monday Evening

WHO: Congressman Baron Hill and interested members of the community. Entrance into the event is on a first-come, first-served basis. Total number of participants will be determined by fire code capacity.

WHAT: Question-and-answer session with participating constituents and Hill.

WHEN: Monday, August 31, 2009, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. (EDT).

WHERE: Indiana University Southeast
Hoosier Room
4201 Grant Line Road
New Albany, Indiana.

The Courier-Journal lists the seating capacity of that room as about 400; the fire code capacity of it (standing room and so forth) is I think about twice that.

And the town hall in Bloomington on Wednesday:

Hill to Hold Public Forum in Bloomington Wednesday Evening

WHO: Congressman Baron Hill and interested members of the community. Entrance into the event is on a first-come, first-served basis. Total number of participants will be determined by fire code capacity.

WHAT: Question-and-answer session with participating constituents and Hill.

WHEN: Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. (EDT).

WHERE: Bloomington North High School
3901 North Kinser Pike
Bloomington, Indiana.

The fire code capacity of the auditorium at Bloomington North (where the event is to be held) is 998, or 971 with wheelchairs.

It will be interesting to see if they are packed or not (both packed with people and if they're packed in advance with friendly crowds of Democrats). It will also be interesting to see where they will find parking for that many people at IUS on a Monday night with classes in session.

The time being scheduled is interesting, at just one hour each. I have attended previous town halls put on by Baron Hill and they lasted about two hours (easily), and the crowds weren't anything like what we've been seeing nationwide this summer. I don't see how you could do a respectable town hall in just an hour.

Credit where due, obviously. Baron is at least having town halls. Maybe he'll stay longer than the scheduled period and hear everyone out that wants to speak. These certainly could not be considered serious events without more time being provided.

Katie Moreau, Baron's press handler, had a much more mature view of town hall attendees than her boss (who has termed them "political terrorists" and recently said he needed police protection from his own constituents).

Hill's spokeswoman Katie Moreau said she expects constituents who attend to be “pretty fired up,” as they are for most congressional town hall meetings. But she said she doesn't believe the forums will devolve into protests and angry exchanges that have taken place at similar events in some other congressional districts.

“We want to try to make sure those who want to voice something are heard,” Moreau said. “We're taking recommendations from other folks who have made this work.”

I would hope that at the end of these events, if nobody blows themselves up, Baron will apologize for his "political terrorists" comment.

But hope, as they say, springs eternal.

Dems Tie ObamaCare to Kennedy's Still-Warm Corpse, Hope for Change in Political Fortunes

From ABC News:

Democrats are hoping that the memory of Sen. Ted Kennedy will revive the Democratic Party's flagging push for health care reform.

"You've heard of 'win one for the Gipper'? There is going to be an atmosphere of 'win one for Teddy,'" Ralph G. Neas, the CEO of the liberal National Coalition on Health Care, told ABC News.

Democrats are hoping that Kennedy's influence in death may be even stronger than it was when he was alive as they push for President Obama's top domestic priority. Democratic officials hope that invoking Kennedy's passion for the issue will counter slippage in support for heatlh care reform.

To infuse Kennedy into the health-care debate, Democrats are planning to affix the former senator's name to the health-care legislation that emerges from Congress.

"The Left is exploiting him – his death and his legacy – and they are going to do it, as predicted, to push health care through," conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners today.

Conservatives for Patients Rights, a group which has been on television for months trying to defeat a government insurance option, announced today that it was halting "indefinitely" its television ad campaign.

Sigh. You can bet that liberal groups are getting ready to run more ads, not less. They'll campaign during the funeral and politicize Kennedy's death, and they'll take advantage of the unwillingness of conservatives to cross that line.

More broadly, I'm reminded of the Paul Wellstone funeral, which served as an ugly reminder of how partisan Democrats could be even in times of grief.

More on Harrison Sheriff Sacking Son-in-Law and Promoting His Wife to Police Chief

From the Corydon Democrat.

Note that there is no mention of the convening of the grand jury, as that information came out too late to make it into the paper by press time.

Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick recently demoted Eric Fischer from the chief's position and promoted his wife, Joyce, as the second in command.

Deatrick said yesterday afternoon the move was made so Fischer can focus on his campaign for sheriff in 2010. He said Fischer was "stipulated on what he can and can't say," and was more scrutinized as chief.

"There was no problem with it at all," Deatrick said.

Fischer, the sheriff's son-in-law, had been chief since May 2008, when Deatrick had a falling out with then-Chief Gary Gilley, who also has announced his intentions to run for sheriff in next year's election. Gilley had been chief of the sheriff's department since Deatrick first took office on Jan. 1, 2003. Deatrick was elected to a second term in 2006.

The sheriff said Fischer now can be paid overtime and receive holiday pay and potentially can make more money than he did as chief.

Fischer, who was reached by telephone yesterday while at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy near Plainfield, said he has not been notified by the sheriff of any changes in his status.

The sheriff also made two other changes in positions. He moved Cindy Avis, who has worked as a secretary at the sheriff's department, to the jail matron, the position formerly held by his wife, and he hired his son, Darrin, to succeed Avis as a secretary.

The Harrison County Auditor's office confirmed yesterday afternoon that the sheriff has requested a change in his wife's pay as well as the pay for Fischer and Avis to reflect their new roles. Those changes will be reflected on the next payroll; the new pay period began Sunday.

Notable line:

"Fischer, who was reached by telephone yesterday while at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy near Plainfield, said he has not been notified by the sheriff of any changes in his status."

The article says that the son-in-law was demoted to help his political ambitions (and escape these "stipulations on what he can and can't say" and also reduce "scrutiny"). That sort of sounds also like reasoning for the prior split between the sheriff and his police chief before Fisher (Gilley).

But if this demotion was made to help Fisher's political aspirations, then why wasn't Fisher aware of the change in his status when the Corydon Democrat's reporters contacted him?

Could he really have been sacked in favor of his mother-in-law (the sheriff's wife) and not yet been told about it?

Surely not.

When It Rains, It Pours: Second Grand Jury to Investigate Harrison Sheriff's Dept.

From the Courier-Journal:

A Harrison County grand jury is expected to be convened soon to review the circumstances surrounding the death of former county jail commander Christine Britton.

Britton, 28, died of a single gunshot wound to the head at her Ramsey home on March 29. Her estranged husband, county police officer John Britton, was present at the time.

Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd said Wednesday he will ask that the Britton case be handled by a regular grand jury, separate from the special grand jury that Special Prosecutor Nancy Jacobs requested this week to review allegations of sexual misconduct against Sheriff Mike Deatrick.

Superior Court Judge Roger Davis has agreed to Jacobs' request and set Oct. 30 to convene the panel. Byrd's office will ask Davis for the Britton grand jury to be convened sometime in the next 30 days.

Separate grand juries are needed to ensure that both matters “get a fair shake,” Byrd said.

Christine Britton was one of several sheriff's department employees who were interviewed by Indiana State Police as part of the Deatrick investigation.

On the day of her death, Britton called emergency dispatchers to report a domestic disturbance at her home. John Britton later made a second call, reporting that the couple had been fighting and that his wife had shot herself.

John Britton was temporarily placed on leave but has since returned to duty.

Christine Britton, from a well-known county family, was working as the jail's classification officer when she died but had served for a time as the jail commander. Her death stunned the community.

Six days after she died, Deatrick was hospitalized for heart problems. He did not return to work until earlier this month.

Greg Clark, a lawyer working on behalf of Christine Britton's family, said the family was pleased that a grand jury will review the matter and “hope that all the evidence is fully presented to them.”

The family “strongly feel a grand jury is proper under the circumstances,” Clark said.

A wrinkle in all of this is that Britton, as jail commander, was in charge of the surveillance system at the jail.

Britton's death came just as the Indiana State Police were seizing elements of that surveillance system, and just after they had questioned Britton about it.

There are questions about that surveillance system that are going to be asked by the other grand jury, and that other grand jury's mandate already explicitly permits a broader investigation of other individuals and related incidents (such as the surveillance system, those around it, and various involved circumstances).

Now there seems to be an interesting rush for separate grand juries.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hope You Had a Nice Vacation, Congressman

Hope You Had a Nice Vacation, Congressman

Quote of the Day

On the local level, we [have] witnessed constituents be rebuffed from having a town hall discussion, one of purest and oldest forums of American democracy, by their elected Congressional representative, Baron Hill, who expressed concern about “political terrorists.”

- Kelly Curran, in the News & Tribune

Baron's "political terrorists" line has gotten some serious legs. It's spreading across the district into all manner of coverage, letters, and other political discourse. It's a very corrosive, divisive, and offensive remark.

Normally, the Democrat-friendly local newspapers would ensure that virtually no coverage got out of a gaffe of this sort by somebody like Baron. But their grip is slipping. Word of it has gotten out and is spreading like wildfire.

The damage those two words did to Baron will be seen for months, if not years, to come. It might not finish him for 2010, but I think it certainly finished him--or at best direly wounded him--for 2012.

Politico: Baron Hill is “Engaging in Made-for-YouTube Crazy Talk”

Baron HillFrom Politico:

“TV loves a ruckus,” President Barack Obama noted at a town hall meeting in Montana this month.

He could have said the same about a few members of Congress.

With two wars still neither lost nor won, unemployment at 9.7 percent with a bullet and health reform currently dismantled and lying in pieces on the kitchen floor, a number of lawmakers have spent the hottest month of the summer making mountains out of the marginal and engaging in made-for-YouTube crazy talk that has all but crowded out real discussion of the very serious issues on the table.

If you’ve been off the grid, consider yourself lucky.

They then go on to itemize a number of politicians that have said nutty things over the past few weeks.

Among them, southern Indiana's own Baron Hill:

‘BUNKER’ HILL DROPS A BOMB

Assailed from both sides on the health care debate, Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) told the Washington Post in early August that he would not hold any town hall meetings during the recess because he didn’t want to expose himself to the disruptive tactics of protesters — whom he then called “political terrorists” who he feared would try to “blow up the meeting and not try to answer thoughtful questions.” In an equally shrewd effort to tamp down the outrage the phrase provoked, Hill used it again in an interview the next day.

The "Bunker Hill" thing fits; I'm sad that I didn't think of it first.

And the closing sentence is just made of epic win:

"In an equally shrewd effort to tamp down the outrage the phrase provoked, Hill used it again in an interview the next day."

Yup. That pretty much sums up Baron's August.

And, yes, there's YouTube video of Baron's crazy talk:



And here too, without the editing or music:

Fearful of Being Attacked by “Political Terrorists”, Baron Now Requires Police Escort

Baron HillThat's right. Baron Hill now says that he requires a police escort to protect him from the violent "political terrorists" that are threatening his ability to hold town halls and apparently, he says, threatening his very life.

There's got to be some sort of derangement syndrome or something involved here. Mere stupidity or political theatrics is probably not enough to cover the cracked lunacy that Baron is now demonstrating.

Poor Baron. He has been through four bruising and very heated political campaigns in eight years. In some of them, exchanges have been very heated at campaign events and town halls.

And yet this health care thing, this health care thing and the people opposed to it, require him to have police escorts to provide for his safety. They're "political terrorists" and they're out to get him.

That's just nuts.

From the Courier-Journal:

Greeted by applause Tuesday as he went before a group of federal workers to speak about health care reform, U.S. Rep. Baron Hill still couldn't overlook the heated arguments that have disrupted similar meetings elsewhere around the country.

“It's nice to get a little applause for a change,” Hill told the crowd of about 65 people at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library.

Baron's so brave, going before an audience of Federal employees held by a Federal employee association:

On Tuesday, Hill is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. with members of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association chapters 381 and 1777 in the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library's Strassweg Auditorium, 180 W. Spring St. in New Albany.

That's sort of like the Queen of England going before the housekeepers at Buckingham Palace for a question and answer session; it's a tremendously friendly environment.

To say that it's friendly is rather an understatement.

But later he gestured to two New Albany police officers at the back of the room. “I want to thank the police officers here today, who unfortunately have to follow me around because of the violent nature of this debate,” he said.

As I said above, this is just crazy.

How much did the city of New Albany have to pay those police officers to escort Baron Hill around so that he didn't have to cower in fear from his own constituents? Did Baron's office pick up the tab or did the city? Perhaps the tab was covered by the Federal government?

The violent nature of the debate? Has Baron Hill received any death threats that we haven't heard about? Has someone assaulted him or threatened him with harm? And if they have, what are the status of the police and FBI filings and investigations with regard to that?

Of course not. As far as we're all aware, nobody has done anything to Baron Hill at any of these events, and events across the country have not been violent either. Heated and pointed at times, yes, but exchanges of words are not exchanges of blows.

To say that these discussions and this debate (when Baron has appeared anywhere for a debate) has been peaceful here in southern Indiana is an understatement, particularly given the apparent presence of so many "terrorists" that are disagreeing so violently with Baron.

I would hate to think that Baron Hill is using New Albany's finest as a mere prop or as extras in another of his exaggerated displays of political theater; the people of southern Indiana deserve better from their Congressman.

It would be a shame to think that Baron is cowering behind those police officers because he's afraid to face his own constituents. It would also be sad if he didn't really need them and he's using them to engage in political theatrics.

I would also hate to think that Baron Hill could be using those police officers in an effort to intimidate his political opponents and prevent them from speaking out at Baron's public events. That would be the worst sort of tyranny.

Yet it was a mostly friendly crowd at the library and later in the day at a roundtable discussion with small business leaders at the office of One Southern Indiana, the chamber of commerce.

Hill, D-9th District, began the library meeting with the New Albany and Jeffersonville chapters of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association by debunking what he called lies being told by some opponents of health care reform. There are no proposals, for example, to have death panels decide on end-of-life treatment as some have claimed, he said.

“Don't believe this stuff folks,” he said. “… These are scare tactics by the opponents.”

Hill asked for a show of hands by those who want him to vote against the measure now before the House, and about six or seven people responded.

Those are six or seven brave government bureaucrats to say that they're opposing Obama's plan for health care reform.

In other news, there are six or seven new openings in local Federal offices. Hurry and apply.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because it doesn't have tort reform,” one said, a reference to civil lawsuits that often lead to large damage awards against health care providers.

Another answered, “I don't like it because it's over 1,000 pages and most of the congressmen have never even read it.”

“I've read it,” Hill said, adding that he believes there has to be some tort reform in the bill. But he conceded, “There's not any right now.”

If Baron has genuinely read the bill (and I'm not certain whether to believe him, given his rather tenuous hold on reality of late), then he's to be commended on that score.

Now if only the other 534 Congressmen and Senators also read it...

Hill said he can support a measure with or without a public health insurance option or purchasing cooperatives “as long as everybody is covered and there's no pre-existing conditions” that exclude coverage. He said he and other so-called Blue Dog Democrats also insist that the plan be revenue-neutral.

“How are my grandchildren going to pay for this?” asked Lanesville resident Greg Gertz.

How will it be paid for?

Well, either by causing hyperinflation from printing even more money, obscenely raising taxes, or putting us even more in debt to some very nice folks in China that have given us this really nice credit card.

Hill said the changes will be funded in part by administrative savings. But he added, “I think there probably is going to have to be some sort of tax increase.”

The current proposal from President Barack Obama is to raise taxes on individuals with incomes greater than $250,000 and families with incomes greater than $350,000, Hill told both meetings.

“That would be small business owners,” Matt Oakley, who is in commercial real estate, said at the One Southern Indiana session. “That would be big changes for small business owners.”

But Hill said reform would make health insurance more affordable for small businesses, and he was backed up by Karen Mills, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, who also attended the business group meeting.

Let's see. A government bureaucrat from the Obama administration backed up Baron. Surprised?

Let's carefully review what was said here, though.

Health care will become mandatory under ObamaCare. Everyone will have it.

So small businesses that don't provide health care (often for the owners or the employees) will have to provide it now. That's an increased cost.

On top of that, there's going to be a tax increase on those same small business owners. Their taxes (by Baron's own admission) are going to go up.

But don't worry! There will be "administrative savings."

I feel so much better now, knowing the sorts of administrative savings and profound efficiencies and cost cutting that are so common to huge government programs.

Ed Jerdonek, president of Luckett & Farley construction, told Hill that what “keeps me awake at night” is deficit spending and the money going to bailouts and programs like the just-ended Cash for Clunkers.

“I just want to appeal to you to restrain the spending,” Jerdonek said.

Hill said he also is bothered by the spending, and that's why he and other Blue Dogs are insisting on a return to so-called “pay-go” rules of the 1990s requiring that new spending not add to the deficit.

Of course!

It all makes sense to me now!

A concern about not adding to the deficit!

That's why Baron voted for Obama's budget-busting budget and for his pork-stuffed stimulus package that hasn't worked.

What an amazing discovery!

Baron's concerned about the deficit!

The two 90-minute meetings were quiet with one exception. A man who attended the federal workers meeting but who is not a NARFE member was escorted out after loudly pressing a series of questions at Hill.

A political terrorist! Guards! Seize him! Take him to Gitmo!

All that police protection (the political terrorists, don't you know) and they were only needed to drag away one rowdy constituent who dared to question the almighty Congressman.

Hill said he will hold town hall meetings on the health legislation next week at times and locations to be determined.

I'm looking forward to that.

I wonder what sort of gimmick Baron and his staff will devise to limit questioning from the public (and prevent people from recording his no-doubt numerous gaffes, as he did last year, documented here, here, here, and here).

It will also be interesting to see how many police officers Baron has present at these forthcoming events to intimidate the people, err... use as extras in his political theatrics, err... protect him from "violent political terrorists."

Grand Jury Convened in Harrison Sheriff Investigation; Sheriff Names Wife Police Chief

Only in Harrison County, it seems, do things like this happen.

From the Courier-Journal:

A special grand jury will hear evidence from a 16-month criminal investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Harrison County Sheriff Mike Deatrick.

Special Prosecutor Nancy Jacobs filed a motion Tuesday in Harrison Superior Court asking that the grand jury be convened. A separate motion by Jacobs sought authority to offer additional evidence to the panel about the actions of other, unspecified individuals connected to the sheriff's case.

After Jacobs met with Harrison Superior Court Judge Roger Davis, the judge scheduled Oct. 30 to select the special grand jurors. The panel eventually would decide whether to recommend criminal charges against the sheriff or others.

Neither Deatrick, 64, nor his lawyer, Bart Betteau of New Albany, returned calls Tuesday seeking comment on the development. Jacobs, the Switzerland County chief deputy prosecutor, could not be reached for comment.

In May 2008, two employees of Deatrick -- dispatchers Deana M. Decker and Melissa Graham -- accused the sheriff in a federal employment discrimination complaint of grabbing their breasts and making sexual remarks to them. Decker also alleged that Deatrick once reached down her pants.

Within days after the women's complaints were made public, Decker and Graham told police that Deatrick had returned one evening to the jail and justice center complex with his wife, county jail matron Joyce Deatrick, and that the sheriff displayed a handgun. The women alleged that he looked at them menacingly as he held the gun while they worked the dispatch desk.

In court documents, Indiana State Police detective David Mitchell indicated that police would review digital surveillance videos from security cameras that night, in addition to conducting interviews of jail and justice center employees. He also indicated that police were reviewing whether anyone had tampered with the surveillance system computer.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reviewed the women's discrimination complaints. Later, the U.S. Justice Department sued Deatrick and Harrison County in federal court in New Albany, a case that was merged with the federal lawsuit the women had filed. That action was settled in June by the county for $375,500.

Decker, a dispatcher for the sheriff's department, and Graham, a former dispatcher who now works in the county's animal shelter, did not return phone messages Tuesday seeking comment on the motions to convene a grand jury.

Deatrick, a Democrat who is midway through his second term as sheriff, was hospitalized earlier this year with heart problems but returned to work last week.

On Monday, Harrison County commissioners were notified by Deatrick's son-in-law, Eric Fischer, that he had been demoted as police chief in favor of Joyce Deatrick.

There are several noteworthy items of news here.

1) They are convening a grand jury.

2) The grand jury won't be limited to investigating the sheriff himself, but will investigate (and question) others potentially related to the case.

3) Deatrick has returned from medical leave; he had been on leave since suffering from heart problems.

4) Deatrick has sacked his police chief, who happened to be his son-in-law. As if that wasn't keeping it "in the family" enough, he replaced his son-in-law with his wife. That's right, his wife Joyce (previously the jail matron) is now the police chief.

Yet again, this whole situation leaves me at a loss for words.

Has anything like this ever happened in any other county in Indiana? Kentucky? Any state?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Iowahawk: Obamassiah to Partner with God

Hilarity:

For Immediate Release

U.S. Government Unveils Health Care Partnership With God Inc.

WASHINGTON (Iowahawk Business PR Wire) -- U.S. Government CEO Barack Obama announced today that his firm had embarked on a new joint venture with metaphysical industrial giant God, saying that "We are God’s partners in matters of life and death."

"This partnership is a natural," said Obama. "We both are unfathomably large, we both control people's lives, we both work in mysterious ways, we both have a fanatical customer base. Instead of competing, it just made basic business sense to work together to become the premier developer of mission critical life-and-death operating systems."

The announcement came before the annual GodCon trade show in Las Vegas, where Obama gave a product demo of the iGod heath care rationing device, the first of what he said would be "many development projects" between US Government and God. He encouraged independent God developers to support the closed-source iGod / iGov health care platform, warning that "woe be unto the unlicensed app developer, for he shall be smote by a vengeful hail of ACORNs."

Other iGod apps currently in beta test include an end-of-life calculator, income leveler, and a wireless database detector for anti-government heretics and apostates.

"I believe this exciting health care partnership opportunity with the Almighty will be every bit as successful as our previous peace partnerships in the Middle East, and will pave the way for an eventual merger," said Obama. No date has been set for Government-God merger plans, but the FTC has signalled it would give quick approval.

To finance the project, Obama said US Government would seek US$2 trillion in a 103rd round of involuntary venture capital.

Headquartered in Washington DC, U.S. Government (NASDAQ: USAGOV) employs over 4,000,000 full time workers, with projected 2009 revenues of US$1.7 trillion and EBITDA of (minus) $2.1 trillion. Founded in 1789, the firm produces a diversified portfolio of products and services including military operations, postal delivery, free money, automobiles, and I.O.U.s. Its Health Care division has been in business since 1965.

God, Inc. is a privately traded, infinitely dimensionless enterprise headquartered on the ethereal plane, and has been the largest vendor of corporeal reality, including life and death, since its founding at the alpha origin of time. Its financial prospectus and mission statement were unavailable at press time.

Design Fail in Star Wars

A moment of sci-fi levity from John Scalzi:

I'll come right out and say it: Star Wars has a badly-designed universe; so poorly-designed, in fact, that one can say that a significant goal of all those Star Wars novels is to rationalize and mitigate the bad design choices of the movies. Need examples? Here's ten.

R2-D2
Sure, he's cute, but the flaws in his design are obvious the first time he approaches anything but the shallowest of stairs. Also: He has jets, a periscope, a taser and oil canisters to make enforcer droids fall about in slapsticky fashion -- and no voice synthesizer. Imagine that design conversation: "Yes, we can afford slapstick oil and tasers, but we'll never get a 30-cent voice chip past accounting. That's just madness."

C-3PO
Can't fully extend his arms; has a bunch of exposed wiring in his abs; walks and runs as if he has the droid equivalent of arthritis. And you say, well, he was put together by an eight-year-old. Yes, but a trip to the nearest Radio Shack would fix that. Also, I'm still waiting to hear the rationale for making a protocol droid a shrieking coward, aside from George Lucas rummaging through a box of offensive stereotypes (which he'd later return to while building Jar-Jar Binks) and picking out the "mincing gay man" module.

Lightsabers
Yes, I know, I want one too. But I tell you what: I want one with a hand guard. Otherwise every lightsaber battle would consist of sabers clashing and then their owners sliding as quickly as possible down the shaft to lop off their opponent's fingers. You say: Lightsabers can slice through anything but another lightsaber, so what are you going to make a hand guard out of? I say: Dude, if you have the technology to make a lightsaber, you have the technology to make a light hand guard.

Blasters
A tactical nightmare: They're incredibly loud, especially for firing what are essentially light beams. The fire ordnance is so slow it can be dodged, and it comes out as a streak of light that reveals your position to your enemies. Let's not even go near the idea of light beams being slow enough to dodge; that's just something you have let go of, or risk insanity.

Landspeeders and other flying vehicles
Here's the thing: In the Star Wars universe, there are no seatbelts. And maybe if you're flying your hoity-toity vehicle on Coruscant, you have, like, a force field that keeps you flying out of your seat. But Luke's X-34 speeder on Tatooine? The Yugo of speeders, man. One hard stop, and out you go.

Stormtrooper Uniforms
They stand out like a sore thumb in every environment but snow, the helmets restrict view ("I can't see a thing in this helmet!" -- Luke Skywalker), and the armor is penetrable by single shots from blasters. Add it all up and you have to wonder why stormtroopers don't just walk around naked, save for blinders and flip-flops.

Death Star
An unshielded exhaust port leading directly to the central reactor? Really? And when you rebuild it, your solution to this problem is four paths into the central core so large that you can literally fly a spaceship through them? Brilliant. Note to the Emperor: Someone on your Death Star design staff is in the pay of Rebel forces. Oh, right, you can't get the memo because someone threw you down a huge exposed shaft in your Death Star throne room.

Bad design in Star Wars is not just limited to stuff; evolution here seems wacky, too. Three choice bits:

Sarlaac
A monstrous yet immobile creature who lives in an exposed pit in the middle of a lifeless desert, waiting for large animals to apparently feel suicidal and trek out to throw themselves in? Yeah, not so much. Not every Sarlaac can count on an intergalactic mob boss to feed it tidbits.

That Asteroid Worm Thing in Empire Strikes Back
So, large space worm lives in asteroid, disguises itself as a cave and waits for unwary spaceships to fly by so it can eat them? Makes the Sarlaac look like a marvel of natural selection, it does.

Midi-Chlorians
Oh, man, don't get me started. Except to say this: If in fact a high concentration of midi-chlorians is the difference between being a common schmoe and being a dude who can Force Choke his enemies, the black market in midi-chlorian injections must be amazing.

Star Trek fans, don't get smug: I'm going after it next.

Ace adds:

Here's one he missed: Star Wars architecture consists chiefly of incredibly high central wells with galleries ringing them, the uppermost galleries 150 feet 50 meters above the ground.

And catwalks and retractable (why?) bridges spanning well-nigh bottomess pits.

And often stairs reaching high up above the ground.

You know what doesn't exist in the Star Wars universe?

Banisters and hand-rails and guard-rails.

Not once, when you see these soaring catwalks high above the metal floor, or these vertiginous balconies 300 feet 100 meters above the reactor core, will you ever see a guard-rail to keep people from pitching over the edge to their Wilhelm screaming doom.

Not once. They simply do not exist in the Star Wars universe.

And many of these catwalks and access-bridges are quite narrow-- no wider than a womp-rat.

I am not sure how you would possibly explain this in-universe, except maybe the Jedi, having the power to telekinetically pull people to their deaths over the edges of tall balconies so long as that pathway isn't blocked by a banister, used their Jedi Mind Trick powers to convince the galaxies' architects that banisters, hand-rails, and guard-rails were aesthetically repellent.