Monday, November 29, 2010

Obama Has Always Had His Priorities

If you pirate music or movies and endanger the livelihood of his movie star buddies, Obama is coming to get you.

If you leak secret diplomatic cables and damage the foreign policy of the country he leads, Obama isn't going to do anything.

Marc Thiessen, on the opinion page of the Washington Post:

Just this past week, the federal government took decisive action to shut down more than 70 Web sites that were disseminating pirated music and movies. Hollywood is safe, but WikiLeaks is free to disseminate classified documents without consequence.

“If Lugar Doesn’t Represent the Will of the Electorate, Then He Doesn’t Belong in Office.”

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air takes it to the New York Times' recent paean to their latest favorite "maverick" Republican, Dick Lugar:

Since when is Dick Lugar the canary in the coal mine for Republicanism? I’m not a Lugar hater by any stretch; he’s a six-term Senator and has done some good work on Capitol Hill for the GOP. However, Republicans around the country have made clear that they want ObamaCare challenged by every legal means at hand — and a large number of independents feel the same way. If Lugar doesn’t represent the will of the electorate, then he doesn’t belong in office.

And that is exactly what primaries and elections tell us. When did it suddenly become unacceptable to test that in a primary? Do elections put us “beyond redemption,” or does Danforth really want to suggest that Lugar and others similarly ensconced in power should be placed beyond accountability? Danforth and the Times seem to forget that we have a representative government, not a ruling class, and that voters get to decide who those representatives will be.

This republic managed to stand before Dick Lugar came along. If Lugar loses an election, it will manage to stand as the sun rises in the east. Also, one personal word of advice for Senator Lugar: beware of being the NYT’s favorite Republican “maverick.” That was John McCain’s position until early 2008, when the Times began a months-long smear campaign against him. Being the NYT’s favorite Republican is somewhat akin to being a snake’s favorite mouse.

That last line is particularly memorable:

"Being the NYT’s favorite Republican is somewhat akin to being a snake’s favorite mouse."

Fox News to be 2012 GOP Pre-Primary?

Dick Morris thinks so.

Basically, his theory is that so many Republican primary voters watch Fox News that appearances on the network will become a de facto vetting and primary process for Republicans in 2012.

This would be a process that would advantage folks like Mike Pence (who appears frequently on Fox) to say nothing of folks like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee (who are paid contributors to Fox, Palin as a commentator and Huckabee as a show host). Folks like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and fellow Hoosier Mitch Daniels would be left out in the cold.

Morris, of course, might be just a bit biased; he's a contributor and "analyst" for Fox News, too.

But, just as a thought, isn't there something just a little bit unnerving about having the possible next leader of the free world being vetted by voters based entirely upon their appearances on Hannity?

Monday WikiLeaks Roundup

According to Jake Tapper, Obama is now trying to close the barn door after the animals have already gotten lose:

The White House today instructed federal departments and agencies to take immediate steps to try to prevent any future Wikileaks-like disclosures.

“The recent irresponsible disclosure by WikiLeaks has resulted in significant damage to our national security,” wrote director of the Office of Management and Budget Jack Lew, in a memo posted this morning at the OMB website. “Any failure by agencies to safeguard classified information pursuant to relevant laws… is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Each federal department and agency that handles classified information is being instructed to create a “security assessment team” to review the implementation of procedures to safeguard such information, a review to include making sure that no employee has access to information beyond what is necessary to do his or her job effectively.

It was unclear why this memo is being released now, after the third Wikileaks document dump, instead of after the first one.

Max Boot thinks that the New York Times should disclose its internal memos and emails, just like it published the WikiLeaks cables:

Isn’t it presumptuous to assume that readers of the New York Times have no right to know what is being done in their name by the editors of the New York Times? Isn’t it important for us to learn “the unvarnished story” of how the Times makes its editorial decisions — such as the decision to publish the WikiLeaks documents? Sure, we know the official explanation — it’s in the newspaper. But what happened behind the scenes? Maybe there were embarrassing squabbles that will make for juicy reading? Therefore, I humbly suggest that in the interest of the greater public good (as determined by me), Bill Keller, the editor, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, should release to the world all their private e-mails and memos concerning WikiLeaks.

Actually, let’s make our document request broader: the Times should share with the world all its internal correspondence going back years. That would include, of course, memos that disclose the identity of anonymous sources, including sources who may have risked their lives to reveal information to Times reporters. Of course, just as it does with government documents, we would give the Times the privilege of redacting a few names and facts — at least in a few of the versions that are published on the Internet.

My suspicion — call it a hunch — is that the Times won’t accept my modest suggestion. Their position, in effect, is “secrecy for me but not for thee.” But why? Can the Times editors possibly argue with a straight face that their deliberations are more important and more privileged than the work of our soldiers and diplomats? No doubt the editors can see all the damage that releasing their own documents would do — it would have a chilling effect on internal discourse and on the willingness of sources to share information with Times reporters. But they seem blind to the fact that precisely the same damage is being done to the United States government with consequences potentially far more momentous.

The most persuasive argument the Times has made is that “most of these documents will be made public regardless of what The Times decides.” That’s true, but that doesn’t eradicate the Times’s responsibility for choosing to act as a press agent and megaphone for WikiLeaks. When in 1942 the Chicago Tribune published an article making clear that the U.S. had broken Japanese codes before the Battle of Midway, other newspapers did not rush to hype the scoop. They let it pass with virtually no notice, and the Japanese may never have become aware of the disclosure. Imagine if a similar attitude were shown today by so-called responsible media organs. How many people would really go to the WikiLeaks website to trawl through hundreds of thousands of memoranda? Some harm would undoubtedly still result from WikiLeaks’s action, but it would be far less than when mainstream media organs amplify Wikileaks’s irresponsible disclosures.

New York Congressman Peter King (a Republican) is pushing for WikiLeaks to be designated as a terrorist organization. This would allow us to demand the extradition of Julian Assange, seize the organization's assets, and (best of all, perhaps) pursue measures against anyone that helped to fund him and his organization.

Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who is scheduled to become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Monday that WikiLeaks should be designated a terrorist organization for releasing hundreds of thousands of secret and classified government documents.

“The benefit of that is, we would be able to seize their assets and we would be able to stop anyone from helping them in any way,” King said, appearing on MSNBC.

King also hinted at getting WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, extradited for prosecution in the U.S. Naming WikiLeaks a terrorist group would help the U.S. government, he said, “as far as trying to get them extradited, trying to get them to take action against them.”

“Either we’re serious about this or we’re not. I know people may think this is a bit of a stretch, but I analogize it as the RICO statute, where they had a pretty narrow definition of criminal enterprise in the beginning, but now that’s been expanded quite a bit to deal with contemporary problems,” King said.

David Frum (of all people) believes that the leaks make war with Iran more likely, not less:

But here’s the ghastliest irony of the leak. If it was Julian Assange’s intention to use information hacked from U.S. computer systems to protect Iran from U.S. military action, he has very likely massively failed at his own purpose.

The leak makes military conflict between Iran and the United States more likely, not less. The leak has changed the political equation in ways that reduce the restraint on U.S. policy.

The Wall Street Journal and CNN were offered the WikiLeaks cables, but turned them down:

In a strategy aimed at raising its profile, WikiLeaks has been teaming up with news organizations on its leaks. Last week it offered The Wall Street Journal access to a portion of the documents it possesses if the Journal signed a confidentiality agreement. The Journal declined.

“We didn’t want to agree to a set of pre-conditions related to the disclosure of the Wikileaks documents without even being given a broad understanding of what these documents contained,” a spokeswoman for the paper said.

CNN also declined to make an agreement with WikiLeaks. It declined to comment further.

China has less control over North Korea than most people in the public think, and some in the Chinese government are favorably disposed and open to South Korea absorbing the North.

Obama scrapped missile defenses in eastern Europe (to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic) in a deliberate and calculated play to get Russian support for sanctions against Iran. Russia still hasn't agreed to any such sanctions. The Poles and the Czechs are not likely to be happy to have been sold down the river to their historic oppressor for nothing.

The whistle blowing web site, publishing diplomatic cables and other documents via The New York Times, the Guardian (UK) and other media outlets, show that George Bush’s anti-missile shield plan to station 10 interceptor rockets in Poland not far from the Kaliningrad (Russia) border and a radar system in the Czech Republic was seen as an obstacle by Washington in getting tougher sanctions against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The diplomatic cables show that the US believes that Iran has already received missiles from North Korea which could threaten western Europe.

Ace of Spades has a great comparison of the New York Times' differing opinions (and double standards) on illegal leaks of US diplomatic cables versus the disclosure of ClimateGate documents.

NYT on leaking diplomatic cables:

“The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The New York Times and a number of publications in Europe were given access to the material several weeks ago and agreed to begin publication of articles based on the cables online on Sunday. The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.” New York Times editorial 29/11/2010

NYT on publishing ClimateGate documents:

“The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.” Andrew Revkin, Environment Editor, New York Times Nov 20, 2009.

Macleans thinks that this will actually lead to less transparent government. I can't imagine why.

First, there is a very real potential that these data will lead to the deaths of Afghan and Iraqi citizens. While Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claims the website scrubbed out information that could harm western forces, ordinary Afghans and Iraqis weren’t as lucky. As a result, the names and locations of people who have risked their lives to help us have been made public. Even if none of these people are ever harmed, shouldn’t it be our democratic government making this decision, not a disgruntled junior soldier or a highly secretive organization? Leaving such decisions to the discretion of Assange is grossly irresponsible.

Second, these releases of data will likely lead to a more closed government. While many interpret it as progress when any and all data is made public, these national security releases will likely have the opposite effect. Much of the information released was classified at a low level. This means that it was widely available to, and presumably used by, a very large number of people in the U.S. military and the diplomatic community. It also makes it susceptible to leaks. The certain result of the leaks is that this type of data will be more highly classified from now on, making it of less use to those tasked with protecting us. Another possibility is that this type of data will no longer be recorded at all, with governments doing more and more of their business verbally, or in absolute secret.

These are bad outcomes for those that want more open and transparent government, as well as for those that believe, as I do, that much more information about how our government fights wars on our behalf should be subject to public scrutiny.

Marc Ambinder has a great must-read post about how an Army private, Bradley Manning, was apparently able to leak all of these documents. It's interestingly largely devoid of Obama apologism and spin, which is unusual for Ambinder.

And, lastly, it seems that Obama's entire foreign policy vision of the Middle East (namely, the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the need for a solution to it above all else) is completely, totally, horribly at odds with reality based on cables about the meetings between the two leaders.

They're more worried about Iran having nukes on their border than with the Israelis reaching a deal with the Palestinians:

King Abdullah expected to talk about militarily confronting Iran, and he couldn’t believe it when Obama kept reciting bromides about the earth-shattering importance of the Israeli/Arab conflict and his enthusiasm for solving it. That was a regular public topic between the two – Obama’s first talk with Abdullah focused on Gaza and the President later emphasized his abiding support for Saudi Arabia’s “Israel Has To Commit Suicide” plan – but the King kind of thought he was dealing with a serious person who could separate spectacle from policy. Instead he got the equivalent of an International Relations graduate student enamored with pseudo-sophisticated “insights” he’d gleaned from Arab media outlets. Ergo, meltdown.

Wow. Just, wow.

And there's hundreds of thousands of these things yet to be published.

“Cheap Bastard” Rokita to Sleep on Couch

Readers of this blog know that I've not always seen eye-to-eye with Todd Rokita when he was Secretary of State.

This item in the Wall Street Journal, though, deserves the kudos of Hoosiers everywhere.

Freshman Todd Rokita (R., Ind.) was floored when shown a 600-square-foot, $2,000-a-month studio. He'll sleep in his office instead. "I'm not doing this as a political stunt," he says. "I'm doing this because I'm a cheap b—." Most House members earn $174,000 a year and maintain homes in their districts.

Unpardonable

Unpardonable

New York Times Hails Lugar as “Maverick”

Lugar and ObamaSunday's New York Times looks at Dick Lugar's growing contrarian streak and the possibility of him facing a conservative primary challenger next year.

WASHINGTON — Mavericks are not in vogue these days on Capitol Hill, a place where hyper-partisanship and obduracy seem to be their own rewards.

But Senator Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican who played that role long before it had a brand name, is standing against his party on a number of significant issues at a politically dangerous time to do so.

A reliable conservative for decades on every issue, he nonetheless fought President Ronald Reagan — and prevailed — on apartheid penalties and over the Philippine presidential election. He went head to head with Senator Jesse Helms in the 1990s over the nomination of William F. Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, as ambassador to Mexico.

Now, in the heat of the post-primary lame-duck Congressional session, he is defying his party on an earmark ban, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, a military spending authorization bill and an arms control treaty with Russia.

He even declined to sign a brief supporting state lawsuits against President Obama’s health care law because he saw it as political posturing.

Now Mr. Lugar’s willingness to buck his party is leading to talk that he will face a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate when he runs for re-election in 2012. It is a possibility that Mr. Lugar, who said the current environment in Washington was “disappointing” and “without a doubt” the most polarized he had seen since joining the Senate in 1977, understands clearly even as he declines to modify his positions.

“I’m always optimistic,” he said in an interview in his office on Wednesday, “that good reasoning, good will and proper spirit is going to lead to constructive results even as I describe, as I have, intense polarization that I think is currently there.”

Even after the midterm rout that will remove many long-serving members from Congress, the idea that Mr. Lugar would be vulnerable to a primary challenge is a chilling notion to many Republicans, a symbol of symbolism gone too far.

“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

Mr. Danforth, who was first elected the same year as Mr. Lugar, added, “I’m glad Lugar’s there and I’m not.”

Mr. Lugar has a long history of carefully chosen battles. He had a deep admiration for Reagan, with whom he worked closely on several military issues, yet at times opposed him.

As such, disagreeing with his colleagues these days on legislation backed by Democrats seems like small change. “There is nothing going on presently that seems to me that has the significance to the world or in terms of foreign policy as those two events,” he said.

The exception, he added, is the New Start treaty, under which the United States and Russia would pare their nuclear arsenals and resume lapsed mutual inspections, a signature foreign policy goal of the Obama administration. Republican colleagues have opposed the treaty and would prefer to push the matter into the 112th Congress, which begins in January, potentially dooming it.

This has upset Mr. Lugar, who called on his colleagues to “do your duty” before they broke for Thanksgiving. Nuclear disarmament is an issue Mr. Lugar has pursued most of his career; in the 1990s he teamed with Sam Nunn, then a Democratic senator from Georgia, on their own program to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Obama became involved in the Nunn-Lugar efforts as a senator and traveled with Mr. Lugar to Russia in 2005.

Mr. Lugar’s recent breaks with his party have stirred the attention of Indiana Tea Party groups, who have him in their sights. “Senator Lugar has been an upstanding citizen representing us in D. C.,” said Diane Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Tea Party. “But over the years, he has become more moderate in his voting.”

Removing him “will be a difficult challenge,” Ms. Hubbard conceded. “But we do believe it’s doable, and we think the climate is right for it and we believe it is a must.”

Mr. Lugar said he understood that despondence over the economic crisis, a sense that government is more intrusive and a fear that the country’s position on the global stage is becoming more precarious “are the underlying concerns” of partisan troubles. But, he said, “The people speaking to them are speaking to them in extremes.”

While Republicans enjoyed much success in the midterms in Indiana, most winning candidates had tenuous or no ties to the Tea Party movement. One thing going for Mr. Lugar about 2012, said Matt Bergbower, an assistant professor of political science at Indiana State University, “is the Tea Party here has been sort of secondary in nature.”

Mr. Lugar will leave nothing to chance. He conducted an internal poll after the election that showed that his popularity was high, and wrote a three-page letter to a family he saw featured in a newspaper, identified as Tea Party supporters, explaining his background as a small-business man and an observant Methodist.

“I’m very conscious of it,” Mr. Lugar said of a primary threat. “I’ve been in public life a long time.”

But in the end, he said, “I will continue to be Dick Lugar, and I will try to do the best job I can” in explaining his positions to the people of Indiana. “It’s not my nature to simply seek controversy.”

"It’s not my nature to simply seek controversy."

Which is why he's apparently doing a lot to provoke conservatives.

WikiLeaks' Latest Antics

Perspectives on the leaking of a quarter of a million American diplomatic cables varies. The folks doing the leaking (and publishing of what WikiLeaks has given them) appear to think there's some high moral value to what they're doing.

The reality is that this leaking has probably significantly damaged American foreign policy, damaged our diplomatic credibility, and harmed the simple ability of American diplomats abroad to serve the interests of their country.

While that might create warm fuzzy thoughts in the mind of the accused racist and pervert Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, it shouldn't make any American (or American reporter, columnist, newspaper publisher, or even disgruntled Army private) feel better about themselves.

The Economist provides some good perspective on the leaks:

It's part of the nature of human communication that one doesn't always say the same thing to every audience. There are perfectly good reasons why you don't always tell the same story to your boss as you do to your spouse. There are things Washington needs to tell Riyadh to explain what it's just told Jerusalem and things Washington needs to tell Jerusalem to explain what it's just told Riyadh, and these cables shouldn't be crossed. There's nothing wrong with this. It's inevitable. And it wouldn't make the world a better place if Washington were unable to say anything to Jerusalem without its being heard by Riyadh, any more than it would if you were unable to tell your spouse anything without its being heard by your boss.

At this point, what WikiLeaks is doing seems like tattling: telling Sally what Billy said to Jane. It's sometimes possible that Sally really ought to know what Billy said to Jane, if Billy were engaged in some morally culpable deception. But in general, we frown on gossips. If there's something particularly damning in the diplomatic cables WikiLeaks has gotten a hold of, the organisation should bring together a board of experienced people with different perspectives to review the merits of releasing that particular cable. But simply grabbing as many diplomatic cables as you can get your hands on and making them public is not a socially worthy activity.

There are echoes here of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's famously aggressive position that society is evolving towards more transparency and less privacy (a belief which is certainly convenient for a social-networking site that wants to be able to sell users' data). Maybe it's something about tech geeks, or maybe it's just related to the self-interest of people and organisations whose particuarl strength lies in an ability to get a hold of other people's information. But it definitely seems like we're learning a lesson here: while information may want to be free, human beings are usually better off when it's on a leash.

Sir Henry Wotton, a British diplomat during the Thirty Years' War, once noted that, "An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country."

There's not a lot of lying visible, at least in the cables released so far.

Much of what the cables contain are remarkably candid reports about the goings-on in foreign capitals and governments. Assessments that are clear-eyed and accurate. They're sometimes unflattering about foreign governments, foreign leaders, and the policies of foreign countries, it's true, but that doesn't make them wrong. They contain the sort of advice that Americans should be glad that their diplomats are making to their leaders, and the sort of information we should be glad that our leaders are receiving.

For all of the talk from time to time among American conservatives about members of the Foreign Service "going native" and becoming more advocates to Amreica for the policies of foreign governments than advocates of American policy to foreign governments, that doesn't at all appear to be the case here.

Perhaps that's why Julian Assange found the cables so horrible and worthy of being revealed to the world.

Of course, Mr Assange seems likely to revel in the attention of this latest "leak" and suffer no penalty or prosecution for it whatsoever. It's not clear that any significant penalty (or greater penalty) awaits the lowly Army private that leaked the documents.

Yes, these sensitive and secret diplomatic cables were apparently leaked by a fricking Army private. That's right, the most powerful country in the world can have its relations with every other country on earth laid bare by an Army private. Since when do Army privates get access to this sort of thing? Who set up that access policy? Where is the inquiry to ensure future leaks do not take place?

Recently, the head of Russian espionage operations in the United States defected, fleeing Moscow for parts unknown (presumably to America). It was a major blow to Russian spy efforts in the United States.

How did the Russians respond? They openly spoke to their newspapers about having already sent assassins abroad to hunt for the defector and murder him.

We've probably been at least as badly harmed by Julian Assange and this lowly Army private than the Russians were harmed by that defection.

How did Obama respond? He sent a letter.

No, seriously. He sent a letter.

Professor William Jacobson, over at Legal Insurrection, has some thoughts about that:

The U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran on November 4, 1979, was the start of 444 days which came to define Jimmy Carter. The U.S. government was revealed to be powerless and the President weak. Those among us who were alive and conscious during those days have embedded the feelings of helplessness.

There have been many comparisons of Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, focused on the economy. But the continuing leak of documents by Wikileaks has become for Obama what the Iranian hostage crisis was to Carter.

The Wikileaks folks trot the globe with impunity and funnel documents to the press at will, for the purpose of damaging U.S. relations with other countries, our war efforts, and our intelligence capability. And we do almost nothing about it.

Whether or not someone gets killed as a direct result of a Wikileaks disclosure, the damage to our country is deep, as allies and sources among enemies will stop cooperating with us for fear of exposure, our diplomats will be hesitant to speak frankly with headquarters, and our intelligence on al-Qaeda and others will be compromised.

We are the laughingstock of the world, an impotent superpower whose response to those who aid our enemies is to write a letter asking them not to do it. Yes, Harold Koh the State Department's chief lawyer, send a demand freakin' letter to Wikileaks. It went something like this (my paraphrase):

Dear Wikileaks,

Please give us our stuff back because it was really mean of you to take it and give it to all your friends.

Sincerely,

Harold Koh

Here is the letter which should have been delivered months ago:

Dear Wikileaks,

If you publish any more material we will hunt you down no matter the cost, and you either will be killed while resisting arrest or you will spend the rest of you lives in solitary confinement in a Supermax prison, where the highlight of your day will be 1 hour spent in a cage instead of your cell. Don't look up, that sound of propellers in the air is not a Predator drone.

Sincerely,

Harold Koh

Want to get a clue how clueless is the White House? Get this paragraph from the White House statement on the leak (emphasis mine):

President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal. By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.

Oh yes, let's be sure to get in a pitch for "responsible, accountable, and open government."

Have we lost our minds? Wikileaks is about hurting us, bringing us down, damaging our relations with others, rendering us impotent. This is not about open government policy, as if Wikileaks went a bit too far on its class project.

Julian Assange should have been indicted by now, and if the law did not allow more punitive measures in this circumstance, then the law should have been changed after the first document dump. Assange is an enemy of our country and should be treated as such.

Instead, we're writing letters and lecturing on accountable and open government.

Stick a fork in Obama, he's Jimmy Carter.

Obama may be Jimmy Carter. (At this point, that's being unkind to Jimmy Carter.)

He may well be done. I certainly hope so.

But he's going to go on sending very stern letters for another two years while the national security of our country is allowed to further deteriorate and its foreign policy (to the extent that Obama even has a foreign policy outside of apologizing for the horrible country he now leads) is allowed to be crippled.

Heaven help us.

Pence on the Presidency & the Constitution

An interesting speech by the Indiana Congressman, published in Imprimis.

Time for a Trip in the Way Back Machine

Jim Shella tells us about how the statistics support Obama's recent visit to Kokomo:

President Barack Obama has new unemployment numbers to point to on his visit to Kokomo today and they support his contention that Kokomo is on the rebound. The jobless rate in Howard County is now 10.9 percent, down from 11.4 percent a month ago.

The unemployment picture in Indiana as a whole is better, too. The rate is 9.9 percent, down from 10.1 percent.

Unemployment in Kokomo (Howard County) is now 10.9%. That's great; it's certainly movement in the right direction.

Ball State Daily News notes:

Obama last visited Kokomo, Indiana in April 2008. As part of that visit, he held a town hall meeting where he discussed recent layoffs in the community and called for new investments in clean energy, manufacturing and education.

So let's judge the president by his progress, shall we?

In April of 2008, when Obama was stumping in Kokomo while running for president and one month before the Democratic primary in Indiana, unemployment in Howard County (according to the Stats Indiana website) was 7.1% (it was 7.3% in October of 2008, one month before the general election).

Obama has a long way to go to get Kokomo back to where it was when he first found it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Hill: Lugar Tells Tea Party to Drop Dead

Lugar and ObamaI'm guessing that his message is being received loud and clear.

The Hill:

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) appears to be daring the Tea Party to challenge him in the 2012 Senate primary.

While most of his GOP colleagues are heeding the advice of their Senate campaign chiefs and preparing for conservative primary challengers, Lugar is bucking his party on several high-profile issues.

Last week, he split with Senate Republicans, rejecting a voluntary, two-year ban on congressional earmarks.

He posed for pictures with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as part of a photo-op on the START arms-control treaty between the U.S. and Russia, which is expected to come up for a vote next month. Lugar, in contrast to most of his GOP colleagues, supports the treaty.

He’s also said he would vote to take up the defense authorization bill, which contains a repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, as long as Democrats allow a fair amendment process.

And he’s one of nine Republican senators who did not sign onto a legal brief challenging the healthcare reform law. Aside from Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), Lugar is the only Republican up for reelection in 2012 who didn’t lend his name.

In an interview with The Hill, Lugar said he is well-aware of his differences with other Republicans, but denied the party has become too conservative for him or that he is considering retirement.

“These are just areas where I’ve had stances for a long time,” Lugar said. “I didn’t adopt them to be contrary. I think what’s occurring is, the Democrats are trying to get passage for things in the last stages of their majority, so a number of these issues have arisen because of that. I have no other explanation.”

In a political atmosphere that has seen successful Tea Party primary challenges to incumbent GOP senators such as Bob Bennett of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, some analysts say Lugar’s independent streak could spell trouble.

Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, says Republican centrists such as Bob Corker (Tenn.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lugar will be probable targets.

“If I was Dick Lugar, I would certainly expect a challenge,” he said. “Any Republican up in 2012 shouldn’t discount the possibility of a Tea Party challenge. Those voters have proven they are interested in forcing a certain discipline in the party, and anybody who veers away from that shouldn’t be surprised.”

But Lugar has several reasons to be confident. He recently released an internal poll that showed him as the most popular Republican in Indiana, and he has some $2.4 million in the bank.

Also, he saw Republican Dan Coats beat Tea Party favorites Marlin Stutzman and banker Don Bates Jr. in the 2010 Indiana GOP Senate primary. Coats went on to win the general election.

And Lugar hasn’t faced a tough election since 1982.

But Tea Party groups are already batting around names for the 2012 primary, including Bates, conservative state Sen. Mike Delph and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Another one to watch is Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose term expires in 2012. He’s a Tea Party favorite, though there has been speculation Daniels will make a presidential bid.

Lugar, 78, a native of Indianapolis, has already announced plans to seek reelection. He has served in the Senate since 1977, after eight years as Indianapolis mayor, and has twice chaired the Senate’s Agriculture and Foreign Relations committees. A frequent overseas traveler, he is widely respected in the GOP conference for his views on foreign policy, which Democrats are using to try to persuade other Republicans to support the START Treaty.

Lugar’s independent streak is well-known — a friend of the president’s, he voted for Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. He also co-sponsored the DREAM Act with Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to provide a path to legal residency for children of illegal immigrants.

Citing that background, Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor and Senate analyst for The Cook Political Report, said Lugar is simply being himself. Like Rothenberg, she expects he will draw a primary challenge.

“His vote ratings on defense and foreign policy have always been a little more moderate,” Duffy said. “He’s also been very clear on his position on Supreme Court nominees — as long as they are qualified, then he would support them. These long-held views are very likely to earn Lugar a primary in 2012. But he remains popular and would be favored to win the nomination. This is not to say that he won’t have a lot of work to do to avoid suffering the fates of Sens. Bennett and Murkowski.”

There may be a certain amount of "old guy crankiness" in Lugar's behavior with regard to the tea party (and conservatives more broadly). He'll be eighty when he runs for reelection, and there's almost a "Get the hell off my lawn!" quality to some of this stuff. As The Hill notes, it's almost like he wants to wave a provocative red flag in front of the angry bull.

Birch's Boy Not Going to Run for Governor

Evan Bayh and Barack ObamaI'm fairly certain that we can attribute Evan Bayh's statements on Wednesday in Politico to him having made that decision.

Standing alongside Barack Obama in Indiana at this point is pretty much a sure-fire way to kill any future political aspirations you might have. After all, the only Hoosier Democrat in Congress that survived the election (at least in a competitive district) was one who ran against Obama instead of campaigning with him.

Of course, maybe Bayh realizes that he's pissed off the liberal base of his party so much that he'll need to stand by Obama just to get through the primary without an embarrassing defeat (so that he can get beat in November).

Politico:

President Barack Obama has a good chance of winning Indiana in 2012 if the economy bounces back, Sen. Evan Bayh predicted Tuesday, adding that he would come out to campaign for Obama’s reelection.

The revival of the auto industry is proof that Obama made the right call on intervening, Bayh, a centrist Democrat who announced in February he wouldn’t seek a third term, told reporters in Kokomo, Ind., after Obama spoke at a Chrysler plant there.

“Well, the bottom line is: We’ve saved hundreds of jobs, hundreds of businesses. The taxpayers are going to get repaid with interest,” Bayh told reporters. “It was the right thing to do.”

Bayh was optimistic on Obama’s reelection bid.

“If the economy does begin to come back, as I suspect it will, I think his prospects for reelection are pretty good,” he said. “He’s focused on jobs and growing the economy. That’s what Hoosiers, regardless of their political persuasion, are interested in.”

Asked if he would campaign for Obama in the 2012 election cycle, Bayh said, “If he invites me, I’ll come.”

I love that last bit from Birch's Boy: "If he invites me, I'll come."

He'll come?

What a mental slip-up.

Yeah, that's because he's virtually never in Indiana and doesn't even live here, so he'd have to come here to do any campaigning.

When Dealing with Obama, Maybe the GOP Should Start Naming Its Price?

A hefty dose of snark from Commentary:

Obama has no other foreign policy accomplishments aside from whatever he has gotten out of our newly styled relationship with Russia. This is called “reset” because it sounds so much better than “appeasement.” Putin has much to show for his dealings with Obama. Missile-defense facilities were yanked out of Poland and the Czech Republic. We’ve been rather mute about the Russian thugocracy’s repressive tactics, and Russia still occupies a chunk of Georgia.

So we are down to voting for an arms-control treaty, regardless of the merits, because otherwise Obama will look worse than he already does. Does this sound familiar? It’s akin to the Middle East peace talks bribe-a-thon, which was also meant to save the president from embarrassment (but merely has convinced onlookers, as one Israel expert put it, that the Obama diplomats “have taken leave of their senses”).

And what of the timing? In the case of both the Middles East and New START agreements, the deals must happen NOW — again, because Obama needs a boost.

Perhaps Sen. Jon Kyl had it wrong in declaring there will be no treaty ratification in the lame duck session. Really, that’s not the way to manage Obama. Instead, it’s time for the GOP senators to name their price. The Israelis got planes, promises to be defended in the UN, and a guarantee that the Obama team absolutely, positively won’t ask for any more settlement freezes. What could the GOP Senate get? They have already secured a multi-billion-dollar modernization plan, but is that really “enough”? Obama, you see, is desperate to get a deal, so the Republican senators should get creative — agreement on the Bush tax cuts, a dealing on spending cuts, etc. Too much? Oh no, the Republicans can tell the White House that this is called “reset.” And the name of the game is to create an exceptionally imbalanced relationship in which the only benefit to Obama is the right to tout his dealmaking skills.

I'm not thinking that would work.

For Obama, appeasement is how you deal with foreign dictators, but "standing tough" is how you deal with conservatives.

It's an important distinction for everyone to make; the guy has his priorities.

Carter Named to Replace Grooms

From the Courier-Journal:

The Clark County Republican Party has chosen E. Wayne Carter to replace Ron Grooms on the Jeffersonville City Council through the end of Grooms’ term.

Grooms was elected to the State Senate on Nov. 2 and resigned from his at-large seat on the council to take his new position.

Carter is a retired banker and currently is on the Jeffersonville Drainage Board. He also is secretary of the Clark County Republican Central Committee.

Carter’s first council meeting will be Dec. 6. His term will end Dec. 31, 2011.

Wayne Carter is a stand-up guy; Jeffersonville couldn't have a better city councilman.

North Korea

North Korea

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good News: Ground Zero Mosque Wants $5 Million Grant from 9/11 Rebuilding Fund

You can't make this stuff up.

Really, you can't.

Quote of the Day: Barbara Bush on Sarah Palin

Ouch.

"I sat next to her once," Mrs. Bush told CNN's Larry King about Palin. "Thought she was beautiful -- and I think she's very happy in Alaska -- and I hope she'll stay there."

The Obama Foreign Policy: Dictatorships Attack America Over Human Rights Abuses at U.N.

Nothing quite like getting lectured over torture by representatives from Cuba, denounced for abuses against women by Iran (where a woman is about to be stoned to death for adultery), and decried for police brutality by North Korea (a totalitarian police state that starves its own people).

To sit quietly through the hypocritical rantings of a bunch of despotic third world hellholes obviously requires a special kind of stupid.



The response of the head of the American delegation at the end of this absurd spectacle was particularly disgusting:

"Thanks to very many of the delegations for [their] thoughtful comments and suggestions."

49% Don't Want Obama Reelected, But New Poll Shows Mitch 36% to Obama 45%

From Quinnipiac:

President Barack Obama does not deserve a second term, American voters say 49 - 43 percent, and he is in a statistical dead heat with possible Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Obama leads Sarah Palin 48 - 40 percent.

Romney, Huckabee, Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are bunched together when Republican voters are asked who they prefer for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds.

Democratic voters say 64 - 27 percent they do not want anyone to challenge President Obama for their party's nomination in 2012.

"The Democratic base remains squarely behind President Barack Obama when it comes to his re-election, but his weakness among independent voters at this point makes his 2012 election prospects uncertain," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"The demographic splits in the electorate when voters are asked whether the president deserves a second term is a roadmap for his re-election strategists on how they need to focus their appeal. Only 39 percent of men, 34 percent of whites, 35 percent of political independents and 38 percent of those over age 35 think he deserves four more years in the Oval Office."

In trial heats for 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney receives 45 percent to 44 percent for Obama, while the president gets 46 percent to 44 percent for Mr. Huckabee. Matched against Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a virtual unknown to most voters, the president leads 45 - 36 percent.

"At this point, former Alaska Gov. Palin runs the worst against President Obama. Daniels is essentially a generic Republican because of his anonymity to most voters. Obama only gets 45 percent against him while he gets 48 percent against Ms. Palin," said Brown. "She is very unpopular among independents and although she recently said she thought she could defeat Obama, the data does not now necessarily support that assertion."

"Unlike Daniels, who is a political unknown to most Americans, virtually all voters have formed an opinion about Palin and that opinion is not encouraging for her candidacy."

Ms. Palin is viewed the most negatively by the American people of the possible Republican candidates in 2012. She is viewed unfavorable by 51 percent of voters and favorably by 36 percent. Among independents, the key swing voting bloc, she has a negative 54 - 33 percent favorability rating.

Huckabee gets a 41 - 25 percent favorability rating and Romney gets a 38 - 26 percent score. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets a negative 30 - 43 percent score.

Obama gets a 48 - 48 percent split overall, with a negative 43 - 52 percent among independent voters.

There's something amusing about considering Mitch Daniels "a generic Republican", since that is something he most assuredly is not.

It would be interesting to see how that polling would shape up if more voters, particularly independents, knew more about Daniels. Unfortunately, that's something we're likely to see only if he decides to run.

The poll includes limited crosstabs for their questions, including demographic breakdowns on the responses to the Obama vs Mitch head-to-head. Those numbers are quite interesting; I would hazard to say that they're even encouraging given that Mitch has a story to tell about his time as governor of Indiana and most people don't know it (everybody already knows Obama's "story").

Don't Touch His Junk?

Don't Touch His Junk?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shout-Out

I'd like to take a moment to welcome Floyd County Republican Party Chairman Dave Matthews to the Hoosier blogosphere. His musings can be found at the aptly-named blog "Dave's Hoosier GOP".

I'm all for more GOP county chairmen blogging about politics, particularly GOP county chairmen in southern Indiana. Now, when they curse "that damn blogger", there's at least a small chance that they might be referring to someone else.

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes has an excellent look at the remarkable campaign of Marco Rubio, who went from being a nobody candidate scorned by pundits and national party leaders to being a senator-elect that gave the party's radio address the week after the election.

It should be required reading for any potential candidate hoping to unseat Dick Lugar in two years.

Mitt Romney for President? First, We'll Have to Thank Him for ObamaCare

Power Line is scathing:

[The Wall Street Journal's Peter] Wallsten quoted a Democratic MIT economist whom Wallsten credits with assisting the design of Romneycare: "If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now [with the passage of the new federal law], it's Mitt Romney. He designed the structure of the federal bill." Sack quoted Romney himself to almost equally devastating effect: "Whether you like what we did or think it stinks to high heaven, the point is we solved it at our level." Really? He then compared the two plans: "I like the things that are similar, I don't like the things that are different, and that's why I vehemently oppose Obamacare." It's not exactly a rallying cry, and the Times story includes a few more painful details.

Suffice it to say that Governor Romney is probably not the man to lead the resistance to Obamaism. If he isn't yet toast, I can't help but think he should be.

Of course, the guys at Power Line are hardly impartial; they're more than a little favorable to former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who as far as I can tell is a bland, flavorless politician resembling a Republican version of Evan Bayh (but yet with several redeeming conservative and spine-related qualities that Bayh obviously lacks). Even so, their criticism of Romney seems pretty salient regardless of who his opponent or opponents might be in the presidential primary.

“Yes We Did” (Elect Republicans, That Is)

Jake Tapper says "Huh?"

Huh? President Obama Tells Volunteers That In Midterms "You Guys Turned 'Yes We Can' Into 'Yes We Did'

Members of Organizing for America – the president’s former campaign committee – received a text message today asking them to call 888-206-1431 “to hear a special message from President Obama.”

In the recorded message, the president says, “Thank you for the tireless work, you guys organized the single largest midterm election effort in this history of our party…You turned ‘Yes We Can’ into ‘Yes We Did.’”

“You didn’t sit this one out even when all the pundits said it was hopeless and because of that we are stronger,” the president said.

Considering that President Obama himself called the election “a shellacking,” with Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives, six Senate seats, 20 state legislatures, one might be forgiven for wondering exactly he thinks his volunteers did – other than valiantly trying but failing to get enough voters to the polls.

As ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer has pointed out, according to exit polls, 29 million Obama voters from 2008 didn’t show up to vote in the midterms.

“Thirteen percent of Obama voters defected to Republicans for Congress,” Langer noted.

Women – who won women voters by 13 points in 2008 -- voted 49-48 percent for Democratic vs. Republican House candidate -- the best for Republicans among women in national House vote in exit polls since 1982.”

In terms of party self-identification, Democrats went to the polls in 2008 with a seven point advantage in 2008, 40-33% over Republicans. This year it was 36-36 percent.

Swing-voting independents went for Obama by 8 points in 2008; this year they favored Republicans for the House 55-39 percent – the Republicans' biggest win among independents in exit polls since 1982.

Young voters, in particular, were a disaster this year. Eighteen-to-29 year olds comprised 18% of the electorate in 2008 and only 12 percent earlier this month.

One example: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, was elected in the 2006 Democratic wave and reelected in the 2008 Obama surge.

As Politico points out, in 2008, Shea-Porter scored 4,715 votes in Durham, NH, which includes the University of New Hampshire.

That number was only 2,510 in 2010.

Andy Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center, told Politico that political activity on campus was “nonexistent…There is absolutely no interest” in politics at UNH. “We have this idea that students are really interested in campaigns and elections, but for the most part, they don’t pay attention to this stuff.”

There's something delightful and splendid about quoting Obama's claims and then the point-by-point rebuttal of just how bad the election was for Democrats across the board in terms of results with each demographic.

And on that topic, Sean Trende over at RealClearPolitics has a two-part (here and here) look at the disintegration of the electoral coalition that put Obama into office in 2008. It's not a prediction of the future obviously (Clinton looked pretty bad off headed into Thanksgiving in 1994), but it appears that it will be quite difficult to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lugar Still Co-Sponsoring DREAM Act

Lugar and ObamaIt's almost like he's trying to draw a primary challenger.

Red State:

So the Republicans win sweeping, historic victories across the country on election night. They largely repudiate the Democrats’ agenda.

One of the issues out in fly over country was the DREAM Act to set a pathway for citizenship for illegal aliens who’ve managed to go to college.

Many, many people across the country oppose it and a lot of Republicans on the campaign trail used it as an example of Democratic lunacy.

So Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, as his first act after returning to Washington following the elections, introduces two versions of the DREAM Act.

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), up for re-election in just two short years, makes as his first act back being the bi-partisan co-sponsor of both versions of the DREAM Act.

Welcome to Washington.

This isn't exactly news. Lugar co-sponsored one version in 2009 and the other back in September. In fact, there's a whole section on Lugar's website dedicated to the DREAM Act.

Of course, just because it's not news doesn't make it any better.

This Red State reminder comes swift on the heels of Lugar's interesting decision to oppose a two-year moratorium on earmarks by the Senate GOP:

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar says he opposes a GOP moratorium on earmarks in the Senate because it gives the false impression that Congress is attempting to meet the public demand to reduce spending.

Lugar told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne that giving President Obama greater authority to direct spending is not the answer. Lugar says lawmakers would be better off reducing spending on entitlement and discretionary spending programs.

Republican senators on Tuesday endorsed a nonbinding moratorium on earmarks by a voice vote in a closed meeting.

This decision by Lugar seems to put him in the august company of the likes of Lisa Murkowski and at odds with (the apparently much more conservative and not facing reelection) Dan Coats, who is soon to join him in the Senate.

I suppose that our senior senator is taking solace in his favorability numbers in his recently-released poll (in which he polled a whole lot about Richard Mourdock, interestingly).

Lugar has a campaign warchest of about $2.3 million as of the end of Q3. That sounds impressive in and of itself, though it pales in comparison to the ten million Bayh has left from his stillborn presidential campaign.

But the amount of money Lugar has also pales in comparison to another contest of note, namely the $4.3 million Charlie Crist raised in his first quarter running for the Senate in Florida (as a Republican, at the time).

Lugar's favorability numbers (66% according to his own polling) compare similarly to Charlie Crist's numbers in early 2009. In January of 2009, Marco Rubio (who went on to defeat Crist) was polling at a mere 4%.

Of course, today, Charlie Crist is now the lame duck governor of Florida and Marco Rubio is now senator-elect.

I'm not thinking that Dick Lugar can find much reassurance in his polling numbers this early out. He's certainly not helping himself by tacking to the left.

Harrison County to Spend $8 Million to Bail Out Local Hospital

I thought this sort of thing was limited to Washington.

From the Courier-Journal:

Harrison County Hospital officials have asked for and received a commitment from the county commissioners for $8 million to help the recently built facility pay down some long-term debt it has been forced to refinance.

The pledge marked the second time that the Corydon-based hospital’s executives and board of directors have asked Harrison leaders for big-ticket financial support. But the latest backing came quickly, after hospital officials made an hour-long presentation Monday night, in contrast to nearly three years of negotiations before county leaders were persuaded to help pay for a new hospital.

The seven-member County Council also must sign off on the latest deal.

“We’re pleased. ... Our mission here was to pay down our debt,” hospital administrator Steve Taylor said as he left Monday night’s meeting.

The hospital opened a new $48 million facility in early 2008, funding the project with $12 million from the county, its own cash reserves and bonds now totaling $28.1 million. The financing plan included paying Chase Bank additional fees annually to provide a five-year letter of credit to secure the bonds.

But hospital officials said Chase informed them earlier this year that they would not renew the credit agreement for five years and instead extended it for one year at a higher price. That means paying an additional $40,000 per month, said Taylor, who said the change “really created a sense of urgency” for the hospital to explore ways to restructure the financing.

Other hospitals have faced similar problems with financing debt as banks have changed the way they do business, particularly with publicly owned hospitals that struggle to stay profitable, said Jerimi Ullom, an Indianapolis lawyer advising the Harrison hospital.

When financing was arranged for Harrison’s new hospital, Taylor said, letters of credit were an accepted way to keep debt payments as low as possible, similar to a homeowner who chooses a less expensive but short-term variable rate mortgage over a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

To refinance, the hospital proposed combining $8 million of its own money with the county’s $8 million to reduce its debt to $12 million. A cooperative of three community banks have expressed interest in setting up a 20-year loan, which should provide more stability, said Jeff Davis, the hospital’s chief financial officer.

Commissioner Terry Miller asked whether the hospital had considered using its $8 million to shrink the debt to $20 million, then using county property taxes or economic-development income taxes to secure the notes as some other communities have done.

Although hospital executives indicated they’d be receptive to that idea, Miller said later he fears that Harrison’s casino tax revenue – now more than $22 million a year – might be reduced some day, leaving county taxpayers on the hook.

“I don’t know what kind of money” the county is going to have in the future, Miller said.

Commissioner Carl “Buck” Mathes said he supports the hospital’s effort despite concerns about whether its assets ultimately are under control of the county government. “I’m willing to help,” he said.

Commissioner chairman James Goldman was absent.

Mathes made a motion, seconded by Miller, asking the board of directors of the Harrison County Community Foundation to consider a loan of $8 million that would be repaid with money the county now receives directly from Horseshoe Southern Indiana and deposits in an endowment fund. The community foundation oversees the fund.

Steve Gilliland, the foundation’s executive director who attended the meeting, said he would take the commissioners’ request to the board Dec. 6. He indicated board members probably would go along with the proposal.

The commissioners arranged a similar deal to help pay $9 million toward remodeling the old hospital building on Atwood Street for government offices.

And the Corydon Democrat:

Like many county hospitals throughout the country, Harrison County Hospital in Corydon has found it difficult in the battered financial climate to find banks willing to back its debt. Because HCH's financial backer, Chase Bank, decided only to renew the letter-of-credit agreement on a one-year basis and to significantly increase the yearly payment, HCH representatives Monday evening visited the Harrison County Board of Commissioners to request $8 million to help buy down the hospital's debt.

The board took the initial steps to do so, by agreeing to pursue an agreement which would see the payment made out of the community fund of the Harrison County Community Foundation. The fund would be replenished as riverboat gaming funds are received. The agreement will be similar to the one used to help fund the old hospital-government center project, which required $9 million from the community fund.

Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes made the motion to send the request on to the county council and the HCCF board of directors; Commissioner Terry Miller seconded (Commissioner chair James Goldman was absent).

The $8 million, plus another $8 million from hospital cash reserves, will bring the debt from $28 million to $12 million, which is a figure local banks will work with.

The topic, along with a couple of fire department bids, drew quite a crowd at the board's second regular meeting of the month. Extra chairs had to be brought in to accommodate attendees.

Jerimi J. Ullom, attorney with Hall Render Killian Heath and Lyman, based in Indianapolis, said prior to the financial crisis of 2008, the type of financing HCH secured was typical. Since then, however, he said things have changed with banks.

"Now, unfortunately, it's affecting the hospital," he said. "Banks are less and less willing to renew them (letters of credit)."

Ullom said he has worked with a lot of county hospitals in the last two years dealing with this situation.

The increase in yearly payment to Chase was the bank's way of encouraging the hospital to find another solution, Ullom said. Chase raised the letter of credit fee by approximately $450,000 per year, for a total of $1.6 million.

"It's like having a sword hung over your head," Jeff Davis, HCH's chief financial officer, said.

Davis made it clear that the hospital has not defaulted on any payments with Chase.

Steve Taylor, the hospital's chief executive officer, described the financial market change since 2008 as "incredible."

He said if the hospital can get the debt down to a manageable level, it probably wouldn't need the backing of the county.

"The key is to get our debt down," he said.

Taylor concluded by saying that the hospital plans to continue to grow and be one of the major employers in the county; he then asked the county to provide financial support.

Davis said another reason debt continues to climb is that the number of underinsured and uninsured patients has continued to rise, along with the number of Medicaid patients.

"Medicaid is almost as bad as uninsured," he said.

The hospital gets paid about 15 cents to every $1 back for Medicaid patients.

He also said people have deferred care, such as putting off a surgery.

"We're just being paid less for what we're doing," Davis said.

Davis said he'd like to get the $8 million appropriation approved by the end of the year. "The sooner the better," he said.

The council will hear the request at its meeting Monday at 7 p.m., at the courthouse in Corydon.

In other business, board legal counsel John E. Colin opened bids for two fire truck apparatuses, one for more than $365,000 for the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Department and one for $310,000 for the Ramsey Volunteer Fire Department. The county has already approved funding for the departments. For Ramsey, the county approved $200,000, and Jackson Township Trustee Joe Martin plans to supply the remaining funding.

The board passed an additional to the council of just more than $27,000 for a maintenance vehicle and $18,000 for cleaning equipment for maintenance supervisor David Simon.

An additional of $3,300 was also approved for council review for part-time funding for Animal Control Officer Bruce LaHue.

I was at the commissioners' meeting where they approved the $8 million bailout. They asked more questions to a county maintenance guy who was buying a new truck (total cost of $27,000) than they asked of the hospital representatives (total potential cost of $8 million).

This doesn't strike me as something that can be rushed. At the very least, a whole lot of questions need to be asked by the county council before they follow the commissioners' lead in voting for the bailout.

Democrats: Now a Two-State Party

Not just a regional party, mind you, a two-state party:

A Smart Politics analysis of 81 election cycles dating back to 1850 finds that the Democratic Party now comprises a larger percentage of Californians and New Yorkers in the U.S. House than at any point since California joined the Union.

When the 112th Congress convenes in January, 28.1 percent of the Democratic caucus will hail from California (34 members) and New York (20 members).

The pendulum swings, I know, but geez.

This dysfunctional proportion, by the way, probably has a whole lot to do with why Nancy Pelosi is still the leader of the now-minority House Democrats, despite their ranks being slaughtered earlier this month.

Between the California delegation, the progressives, and the women (to say nothing of the Congressional Black Caucus), she has enough votes to prevent virtually any serious opposition.

Quantitative Easing Explained



You may have already seen this video (it's been viewed over 1.6 million times already). If you haven't, watch it.

You'll have to laugh.

Otherwise, you'll cry.

Thoughts about the Physical Characteristics of Presidential Candidates

Hot Air wonders if Chris Christie (he's a big guy) is helped or hurt by his size; they don't think that it harms him a bit (I'd agree).

They even quote one article about the New Jersey governor possibly running for President:

Appearing on a Philadelphia Fox affiliate, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia professor and political analyst, opined that Christie was too fat to make a successful presidential bid. “He doesn’t have the body type to win,” Hill said. “Let’s be honest… he’s fat.”

I've heard similar things about Mitch Daniels. He can't be a successful presidential candidate because he's short, or doesn't have a full head of hair, or whatever else.

I'm not thinking that physical characteristics are going to be viewed, broadly, by the American electorate as a shortcoming in the next presidential election, whether for Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or whoever else runs.

Why?

Because I think that a lot of people voted in 2008 on the basis of physical characteristics, and they (whether they'll admit it openly or not) seem by the outcome of the recent midterm elections to regret the results of having done so.

Decisions, Decisions

Decision Points
Contentions:

“I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea,” the CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid said of Harry Truman. “But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like. It’s character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.”

So he does. And so, one day, will George W. Bush.

I'm in the process of reading George W. Bush's book. I'm impressed thus far; it's surprisingly readable, with a sort of dry humor (from time to time) that I can appreciate.

Missing One

The Courier-Journal's Jim Carroll blogs about the presence of two new Senators in D.C. after the election.

Most of the newcomers who won Senate and House races on Nov. 2 don't start work until January.

But there were two special elections for Senate seats among the contests earlier this month, and the victors in those races are now sitting in the Senate for the last days of the 111th Congress.

Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia has taken over from Democratic Sen. Carte Goodwin, who held the seat temporarily after Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd died in June.

And Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware is now a new senator, replacing Democratic Sen. Ted Kaufman, who was appointed to the seat after Democrat Joe Biden left the Senate in January 2009 to become President Barack Obama's vice president.

Conspicuously absent from that mention is Mark Kirk, the Republican who won the scandal-plagued seat formerly held by Barack Obama.

Why is Kirk absent, you ask? Because Illinois has delayed certifying his election; he won't enter the Senate until November 29.

Interesting, isn't it, how Delaware and West Virginia can rush Democrats into the Senate, but Illinois delays seating a Republican?

Oh the Humanity

Oh the Humanity
I think that you could scratch out Pelosi on this cartoon and change it to "Pat Bauer", and it would apply equally to Indiana House Democrats.

Quantitative Easing

Quantitative Easing

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Democratic Strategists for Carter and Clinton to Obama: Don't Run for Reelection

And the vehicle for the delivery of their message?

The Washington Post:

President Obama must decide now how he wants to govern in the two years leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

In recent days, he has offered differing visions of how he might approach the country's problems. At one point, he spoke of the need for "mid-course corrections." At another, he expressed a desire to take ideas from both sides of the aisle. And before this month's midterm elections, he said he believed that the next two years would involve "hand-to-hand combat" with Republicans, whom he also referred to as "enemies."

This is a critical moment for the country. From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future. Under these circumstances, Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones.

To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012.

If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.

We do not come to this conclusion lightly. But it is clear, we believe, that the president has largely lost the consent of the governed. The midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party. The president has almost no credibility left with Republicans and little with independents.

Obama himself once said to Diane Sawyer: "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president." He now has the chance to deliver on that idea.

I'm thinking that Dear Leader isn't going to listen.

After all, it's all about him, and his entire (short) career is that of an ideologue, not of a pragmatist.

Obama Disappointed in Lack of Media Fawning

Oh, how things have changed.

Bill Kristol:

At his November 12 press conference in Seoul, President Obama was asked the following question by CBS’s Chip Reid: “What was the number-one complaint, concern, or piece of advice that you got from foreign leaders about the U.S. economy and your stewardship of the economy?”

Whereupon the president began his response with a complaint: “What about compliments?” he asked. “You didn’t put that in the list.”

Well, soorrrrrry, Mr. President.

Poor President Obama. He’s (allegedly) getting all these compliments from his fellow world leaders—and the press just isn’t interested in having him tell us about them. True, President Obama became accustomed, as a candidate, to having a compliant press corps. But even so. After a contentious economic summit where the president was forced to defend the Fed’s ill-advised monetary policies, a summit that followed on the heels of the biggest midterm electoral defeat ever suffered by an elected first-term president, a defeat partly due to his ill-advised fiscal policies, did Obama really expect a reporter to stand up at the end of last week and ask, “Mr. President, what compliments did you receive from foreign leaders?”

That is, apparently, exactly what the president expected.

And that has us worried. We’ve assumed the president would learn from the voters’ repudiation of his party on November 2. We’ve assumed he would learn from reality’s refutation of his policies over the last two years. But the vanity that Jonathan V. Last elaborates on elsewhere in this issue seems to be standing in the way of such learning. President Obama has been mugged both by the voters and by reality—but he thinks that he’s still looking good, that he deserves plaudits, and that the only problem is people don’t know about all the compliments he’s been getting.

It may be true, as Mark Twain observed, that “an occasional compliment is necessary to keep up one’s self-respect.” So let’s hope the compliments the president claims he was getting from his fellow leaders have done the job of bolstering his self-respect. Perhaps now he can get on with doing what’s right for the country.

It’s not that hard. The president can compromise with Republicans in Congress to extend current tax rates for the next few years, which would give the economy a boost. He can—with the support of most economists—urge the Fed to stop the quantitative easing before we really destroy the role of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. He can engage in a healthy competition with the Republican House in cutting unnecessary domestic discretionary spending. He can stand up to the false and dangerous allure of cutting defense when our military is stretched thin, and when our defense R&D and procurement are underfunded. As commander in chief, he can—with Republican support—lead us to success in Afghanistan.

All the president has to do is abandon some foolish ideological presuppositions, get down to work, and stop fishing for compliments. If he did so, he’d end up getting genuine compliments—from us and, we dare say, from the American people. And then his self-respect would have a firmer ground than vanity.

Can you even imagine Obama getting asked this sort of question by the press two years ago? One year ago? Even six months ago?

As amazing as Obama's vanity is the change that (some) members of the media seem to have had in reporting on him, and asking questions of him. This sort of question was unthinkable not too long ago, but the fawning sort of question Obama clearly preferred from the White House press corps was (sadly) typical in the recent past.

Bad government flourishes in the dark. How much of where Obama finds himself now, and where this county finds itself, owes to the media's fawning treatment of candidate and later President Obama?

Politico Looks at Possible Lugar Primary

There's not much here but the conventional wisdom we've already seen discussed in newspapers and columns closer to home:

Another potential conservative target is Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, a former GOP presidential candidate whose votes to confirm Democratic-nominated Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have caused consternation on the right.

“I think it’s very possible that there will be a primary challenge,” said Micah Clark, who serves as executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana. “With the conservative base, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with his judicial votes.”

State Sen. Mike Delph, 2010 GOP Senate candidate Don Bates, and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock are the most frequently mentioned potential challengers but it’s Delph who is viewed as most likely to take on the five-term incumbent. Delph took to his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon, writing that Lugar is “wrong on illegal immigration, especially Amnesty. He is wrong on the new Start Treaty…I think Richard Mourdock would agree.”

The 2010 Republican primary for Indiana’s open Senate seat offered an encouraging sign for Lugar, however, as the GOP establishment’s favorite, former Sen. Dan Coats, managed to fend off a bid by state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, who had some tea party backing.

“The question is whether there is a conservative revolt that [Lugar] can’t withstand,” said Clark, “or whether it is a John McCain-J.D. Hayworth-type thing.”

I don't think so much it's a matter of a McCain-Hayworth type of thing but rather whether conservatives, as they did against Dan Coats, split their votes between two (or more) candidates and thus in so doing ensure Dick Lugar's renomination and likely reelection.

Dan Coats received only forty percent of the Republican primary vote. His (more conservative) opponents split sixty percent of the vote between them.

What reason is there to think that Lugar would fair better than Coats, or conservatives would fair worse? Coats, after all, could at least lay claim to having been more conservative than Lugar during his time in the Senate.

The real question is whether Lugar will benefit from multiple serious primary contenders or whether he will face just one (and whether that one will be as sufficiently flawed as J.D. Hayworth was, which enabled McCain to relentlessly attack him; neither Mourdock nor Delph nor Bates would appear to fall into this category).

Tweet of the Day

"Bush didn't care about poor people." Whereas Obama cares about them so much, he keeps creating more of them so they won't be lonely.

- Jim Treacher

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lugar Polling Possible Mourdock Challenge?

From fellow blogger Diana Vice:

This turn of events [a possible Mourdock challenge to Lugar] might explain the phone call that my daughter received a couple days before the election wherein a lengthy phone conversation took place as she was grilled about her opinions of Richard Lugar.

After a few generic questions about political preferences, the caller asked several pointed questions about whether or not my daughter would support Richard Lugar if he were to run against Richard Mourdock and others.

When my daughter stated that she would vote against Richard Lugar no matter who ran against him in a primary race, the caller followed up by asking if she would change her mind if Lugar opposed President Obama's healthcare agenda. My daughter answered no, she would not vote for Richard Lugar regardless of what position he took on healthcare.

The caller followed-up by asking my daughter if she was associated with the Tea Party movement. Although my daughter is not affiliated with the tea party movement in a political sense, she did say that she would support tea party candidates such as Sarah Palin over all others. She said it was clear that it was not a message that the caller wanted to hear.

While I can't specifically say why the poll was conducted, I have to wonder if those in the Lugar camp are getting a little nervous. We can only hope that Lugar's liberal voting record and repugnant political associations are starting to catch up with him.

Let's just hope that Lugar becomes the next political casualty courtesy of the tea party movement.

Boy, it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in Dick Lugar's office over the next couple of days.

The tea party has toppled mightier figures than Dick Lugar in the past year. The real question will be whether they will continue to be able to do so going into 2012.

2012 GOP Presidential Hopeful Rankings

National Journal rates Mike Pence as #8 on their Republican presidential hopeful list. Mitch Daniels rates #9.

Though, as Jim Shella notes, not many people nationally know who Mitch Daniels is:

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has a 58% approval rating in Indiana and 98% name recognition according to the WISH TV Indiana poll. The picture is far different outside the state according to a new AP poll.

Just 24% of voters nationally view the governor favorably, with 13% taking an unfavorable view. A whopping 63% had no opinion. It’s a clear indication that Daniels has a lot of work to do if he goes ahead with a run for the White House.

On the bright side, he scored better than South Dakota Senator John Thune.

John Thune rates #3 on the above list.

Marching Orders

Marching Orders
I mean, let's just be honest here, what could possibly go wrong with making San Francisco's Congresswoman the leader of your party? Anything? Surely not.

And, irony of ironies, Nancy Pelosi is going to use the same "ram-it-through" tactics that passed ObamaCare to get herself reelected as leader of (now much smaller) House Democratic caucus before they can think better of continuing to follow her madness.

Politico:

Pelosi announced Friday that she’s running for minority leader in the new Congress, and her election still seems on track. But a movement by conservative Blue Dogs to block her ascent has picked up support from some liberals and even a handful of longtime Pelosi allies, who question whether she is the best person to lead the battered party in the House.

At least 15 Democrats have said publicly that they have lost faith in her ability to lead — a number backed up by as many as two dozen more who are indicating the same thing privately, while others haven’t yet taken sides.

Liberal Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) sent a letter to colleagues asking them to support a plan to forestall leadership elections until December — a clear effort to give the anti-Pelosi forces time to coalesce. Democratic leaders plan to go forward with the leadership contests Nov. 17, according to sources familiar with a Wednesday afternoon conference call.

Pelosi asked her colleagues whether there was any sense in delaying the votes – as suggested by DeFazio and Kaptur — and got a uniform response that there is no reason to postpone them, according to one source who noted it’s in the interests of the current leadership team to move fast.

To paraphrase Madame Speaker herself, they need to vote to keep her for leader so that they can find out what she's going to do once she's still their leader.

Only, haven't they already seen what she's done to them as their leader?

Pay No Attention to the Recession

Pay No Attention to the Recession
Of course, I think that the monster in the background is considerably larger in the image on the right, in large measure because of the actions of the guy in the image on the left.

On the bright side, the health care law apparently doesn't contain a severability clause (one of those "notwithstanding any provision of this act being found unconstitutional, the rest of the act shall continue to be in force" things that is normally the sine qua non of legal documents of any kind).

That means that if the courts overturn any portion of the law, the entire thing would basically be overturned with it. And the chances of that seem actually promising (lengthy, but well worth the read):

When 21 states and several private groups initiated lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Obama health care law earlier this year, critics denounced the suits as frivolous political grandstanding. But it is increasingly clear that the plaintiffs have a serious case with a real chance of victory.

The suits focus primarily on challenges to the new law's "individual mandate," which requires most American citizens to purchase a government-approved health insurance plan by 2014 or pay a fine. One of the cases was filed by 20 state governments and the National Federation of Independent Business in a federal court in Florida. Another was initiated by the Commonwealth of Virginia in a federal court in this state, and a third by the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan.

The judges considering the Florida and Virginia cases have both issued rulings rejecting the federal government's motions to dismiss the suits and indicating that the mandate can't be upheld based on current Supreme Court precedent. By contrast, Michigan district Judge George Caram Steeh wrote a decision concluding that the mandate is constitutional. But even he agreed that the case raises an "issue of first impression."

In the most recent of the three rulings, Florida federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson wrote that the government's claim that the mandate is clearly authorized by existing Supreme Court precedent is "not even a close call." He points out that "[t]he power that the individual mandate seeks to harness is simply without prior precedent," because no previous Supreme Court decision ever authorized Congress to force ordinary citizens to buy products they did not want.

An August ruling in the Virginia case by federal District Judge Henry Hudson reached the same conclusion. As Judge Hudson points out, "[n]o reported case from any federal appellate court" has ever ruled that Congress' powers "include the regulation of a person's decision not to purchase a product."

The federal government claims that Congress has the power to impose the mandate under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Tax Clause of the Constitution. On the first two claims, Judge Vinson ruled that Supreme Court precedent doesn't clearly support the government, thereby enabling the plaintiffs' lawsuit to go forward. He outright rejected the government's claim that the mandate is constitutional because it is a "tax." It is instead a financial penalty for refusing to comply with a federal regulation. As Judge Vinson pointed out, congressional leaders consistently emphasized before the law's enactment that it was not a tax.

In September 2009, President Obama himself noted that "for us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase." He was right. If the mandate qualifies as a tax merely because it punishes violators with a fine, then Congress could require Americans to do almost anything on pain of having to pay a fine if they refuse. It could, for example, force citizens to buy virtually any product, such as purchasing General Motors cars for the purpose of helping the struggling auto industry.

The government's Commerce Clause argument is equally dubious. The Clause gives Congress authority to regulate "Commerce . . . among the several states." But the individual mandate regulates that which is neither commercial nor interstate.

Virtually all purchases of health insurance are intrastate because a combination of state and federal law makes it illegal to purchase health insurance across state lines. Moreover, the object of the mandate isn't even commerce at all. Instead of regulating pre-existing commerce, the bill forces people to engage in commercial transactions they would have otherwise avoided.

A series of flawed Supreme Court decisions have expanded Congress' Commerce Clause authority well beyond what the text of the Constitution permits. These rulings allow the federal government to regulate almost any "economic activ ity." But, as Judge Vinson emphasized, even they do not give Congress the power to regulate people "based solely on citizenship and on being alive." Far from engaging in "economic activity," people who decide not to purchase health insurance are actually refraining from doing so.

In his decision in the Michigan case, Judge Steeh argued that the mandate is constitutional under the Commerce Clause because deciding not to purchase health insurance is an "economic decision."

"Economic decisions," he reasoned, include decisions not to engage in economic activity. This approach would allow the Commerce Clause to cover virtually any choice of any kind. Any decision to do anything is necessarily a decision not to use the same time and effort to engage in "economic activity."

If I choose to spend an hour sleeping, I necessarily choose not to spend that time working or buying products. Under Judge Steeh's logic, the Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to force workers to get up earlier in the morning so that they would spend more time on the job.

Some defenders of the law claim that the individual mandate is similar to federal laws banning racial discrimination against customers by businesses such as motels and restaurants. But federal antidiscrimination laws apply only to existing businesses already engaged in commercial activity in the regulated industry. By contrast, uninsured individuals are not businesses and, by definition, are not participating in the insurance industry.

The federal government also argues that the mandate is authorized by the Necessary and Proper Clause, which gives Congress the power to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" other powers Congress is granted by the Constitution.

Even if the mandate is "necessary," it is not "proper" under our constitutional system of limited federal authority. If the Clause allows Congress to adopt the individual mandate, the same logic would justify almost any other requirement Congress might impose on individuals, thereby gutting the principle of limited federal power.

The legal battle over the mandate is far from over. The Florida and Virginia rulings are not final decisions. Both cases, as well as the Michigan decision, are sure to be appealed to the federal courts of appeals and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.

The anti-mandate plaintiffs still face an uphill struggle. Courts are rarely willing to strike down a law that is a centerpiece of the political agenda of the president and his party. Nonetheless, it is increasingly clear that lawsuits are far from "frivolous" and have a real chance to prevail.

So maybe the elephant guy in the cartoon won't need to hold up a sign, but can instead get on with fighting the monster lurking behind him.

One can hope, at least.