…go your freedoms!

It’s a Trap!

The debt ceiling deal framework released by the Speaker’s office (in powerpoint form) does a great job of spinning a troubling bill.  Now to be clear, I am a debt-ceiling raise proponent, and I supported both bills that passed the House.  I support the goal of cutting spending in two tranches, and I support automatic cuts that enforce discipline on the political actors to reduce spending commensurate with the debt limit increase.

But the “triggers” that are intended to create incentives for all parties to achieve a solution by Thanksgiving create a no-win scenario for Republicans in November. To wit:

  • The Medicare cuts that would go into effect if the Joint Committee’s (“JC”) recommended cuts are not enacted are supposed to scare Democrats into accept the JC’s proposal.  Not so.  The cuts to Medicare don’t reduce benefits — they reduce reimbursements to doctors and hospitals.  So rather than require seniors to pay something for their health care and thereby make better decisions, the Medicare cuts would drive more health care providers away from serving Medicare patients, making health care less available for seniors.  No cost-reductions there – seniors will still get care, but they’ll have to drive farther and wait longer to get it.  That’s rationing by a thousand cuts.  So if Republicans fail to accept the JC proposal, they will give Democrats another talking point in their Mediscare campaign (Tea Party radicals, not Obamacare = health care rationing for seniors) without saving a dime in actual health care costs.
  • Despite representing around 20% of the federal budget, defense will comprise 50 cents of every dollar in the “trigger” cuts that occur if the JC’s recommendations are not passed by Congress.   If ever there was a sign that the Democratic Party has abandoned national security as a political issue, this is it.  Prominent figures across the center-right, from Allen West to John Bolton to Joe Lieberman, have sounded the alarm against these cuts, which would not come with any fundamental restructuring of our vision of defense policy.  We’d still be in Iraq (and losing ground).  We’d still be in Afghanistan (but leaving too soon).  We’d still be in Libya (for some unknown reason).  And we’d still be defending Europe from a superpower that we helped vanquish two decades ago.  But we’d be doing all of these tasks, which no other military in the world could handle simultaneously, with less armor, less ammunition, fewer soldiers, and less high-tech weaponry.  Think we’ve got a peace dividend to cash?  Consider the following graph.

h/t Heritage Foundation

And then consider that Democrats have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to strike a $750 billion hole in defense and blame it on the Tea Party, merely by refusing to make further cuts in spending.  Is there anything easier for a Democrat than refusing to cut the national budget?

Why in the world, then, would Democrats ever be serious in trying to achieve a consensus for spending cuts in November?  The alternative to military and Medicare cuts are domestic programs, precisely the things they refused to cut all summer in the face of debt default.  The automatic cuts are great for them politically, and the Medicare cuts can be undone once Democrats regain control over the budgetary process (to cheers from the Left and seniors, who will come back “home” to the Democrats).  The defense cuts, however, will be permanent — they will enrage the Right, starve our military of resources, and all but demand a pullback from “overseas contingency operations” that Obama can now say he is forced to end due to budgetary concerns.

This deal is a blueprint for Democratic political revival over the next 15 months.  Do not throw the Democrats into that briar patch, Republicans.  Admiral Ackbar knows best.

You knew it was coming.

The Five – An Intro

Hey folks.  You may (or more likely, may not) have noticed that I’ve been in a serious blogging hiatus lately.  That’s been due to equal parts work, lack of time, and good ol’ fashioned writer’s block.  But I’ve missed this a lot, and I want to try something to get back in a groove.  Hence, this post.

For as long as I can keep it up, I’m going to try to make at least one post a day that includes Five things: a Photo of mine, a Memory, a Shared idea from something I read or heard, a Thanks/appreciation, and something fresh and New.  These won’t necessarily be political things – in fact, most probably won’t be.  If you’re just here for the politics, then you may just want to hope that I come around quickly and start unleashing my inner conservative warrior with relish again soon.  Otherwise, enjoy my attempt at structured writing to kick me out of my doldrums.  Don’t be surprised if this is more intermittent than I am hoping, but I’ll do my best.  And now, the Five.

A Photo

Waterfalls are probably my favorite natural feature. This is the top of one of the finest waterfall canyons I've ever walked: Johnston Canyon, in Banff, Alberta.

A Memory

This picture was taken only two days after I was involved in a serious car accident while on vacation in the Canadian Rockies.  It resulted in the death of the two motorcyclists who hit our car but thankfully no serious injuries to my family.  It was shockingly sudden, both how the event destroyed our family holiday, and how we were back on vacation within 24 hours, with a new car, a revised itinerary, and a renewed (if distracted) focus on some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve witnessed.  While the accident affected all of us (my stepdad just signed the settlement with the insurance company this month, 2 years later), I’m pleased that we were strong enough to marshal on and enjoy the remainder of the vacation.  It’s a reminder that tragedy can strike at any time, and that the world in its wonder continues, with or without us.  It’s up to us to choose to rejoin it.

A Share

Michael Barone’s article on the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) guidance on campus justice reminds us how far from “liberal” thought our liberal overlords have taken us.  Having myself participated in the campus justice system of my alma mater, I can speak to the desire of student justices and representatives to treat their fellow students fairly.  What often gets lost, however, is how administrators can’t help but use the system for their own agendas.  Campuses all across the country have used seemingly-innocuous conduct rules to attack the Greek system, excoriate Christian groups, and chill free speech by conservative students.  The OCR letter is aimed at making it easier to do just that, and it shows us that liberals’ work will never be done until they brainwash reform collegiate communities into perfect shadowboxes of their ideology.  Voltaire would not be pleased.

A Thanks

A belated thanks to USAA, Hertz, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for making the awful hours after the accident described above easier than I ever could have imagined.  Each of them went out of their way to help us move quickly beyond the tragedy.

Something New

Are we over-automating in some areas of our life?  I’m no Luddite, and I love my iPad and XM Radio as much as the next guy.  But sometimes I think of my electric toothbrush sometimes and wonder, really?  I brushed my teeth just fine for the first 30 years of my life – no cavities even!  Is this something I need to plug into the grid for?  Same with my grocery list app on my iPad.  I found myself using a LOT more time the other day trying to get exactly what I needed typed into my tablet, when less than half the effort would have created a perfectly-acceptable, pencil-scribbled list to take to the supermarket.

We’re always in the midst of questioning whether some of the time/space/material saving devices of our recent past are really better for us – think reusable grocery bags.  And regardless of whether you think global warming is upon us or a ginned-up conspiracy to take away your luxury shower head, energy costs money and resources.  So maybe before you choose to add that next app to our smartphone because you can, consider whether it’s a smart or dumb way to perform that task.  It may save you time and money in the end.

It’s Nice To Be Right…

…but it’s even nicer to have a federal judge agree that you’re right.

On to the Supreme Court.  Or just repeal the darn thing and get it over with.

P.S. – for all my lawyer-geek readers, here’s the full opinion.  (h/t National Review).

One thing we’ve learned in the past several cycles is that Democrats truly believe they can only lose elections when they are stolen from them.  Democrats should rightly win all elections.  Republicans only win when secret money is deployed from overseas, dimwitted citizens are scared out of their minds, and nefarious special interests get stealth candidates to attack real public servants.

Of course, with evil forces such as these on the march,what right-thinking liberals shouldn’t use any means necessary to defeat them?  Today’s sampling of such means includes:

Of course, such efforts don’t always turn out as intended.  A group called the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign sought to solicit hundreds of thousands of Democrats to use Chicago’s new “vote by mail” system, but glitches with the paperwork appear to have thrown a hitch into the scheme.  Unless voting officials can sort it all out in a week, the affected voters could either lose their opportunity vote or at least be so confused by it all that they don’t bother.  Call it a little karma coming back around Alexi Giannoulias’ way — his bank failed its customers, and now his turnout machine is failing him.

Now every election year, there are new reports of voter fraud and manipulation that crop up in the hothouse atmosphere that is a political campaign.  Most turn out to be false, or at least unproven.  Others turn out to be very true, but go unpunished.  And still others are told as wistful memories by union officials:

So don’t believe everything you hear.  But don’t tell me it doesn’t happen.  I’ve watched union thugs take down signs five times in two hours on a road outside a precinct.  I’ve responded to a complaint by a voter who said she could only be given Democrat ballots in her union hall precinct (and this was the 2004 general election), only to be told with a smirk that the voter (a 48-year old doctor) must have misunderstood.  Be vigilant out there, folks.  We’re too close to allow shenanigans to get in the way.

As discussed in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece today, there’s emerging evidence that Democrats intend to move all of their most controversial legislation — and their hearts’ deepest desires — to a lame duck session after the November elections.  That way, their members don’t have to take tough votes in advance of their elections in the fall, but Democrats still get to take advantage of their once-in-a-generation situation of huge majorities in Congress with a friendly president.  Card check, cap-and-trade, higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — it’s all in the lame-duck agenda.

There is nothing illegal, unconstitutional, or improper about this.  It is, however, anti-democratic, cynical, and entirely preventable.  In response, the 41 Republican members of the U.S. Senate should issue a joint statement, signed by everyone, making it clear that while they will attend and participate in any session of the Senate that is called, they will all vote against cloture on every piece of legislation brought to the floor during a lame-duck session (at least assuming there is no imminent threat to the nation or somesuch thing).

That kind of statement, made now rather than in November, will take the pressure off folks like Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe.  They might be inclined to vote in favor of certain of the Democrats’ measures on a substantive basis, but they have to resent being used to pass legislation that, had it been voted on in October, could have won the Republicans a couple more Senate seats.  By saying now that they’re happy to vote on anything they bring up before November, they give themselves cover in case they are forced to vote on items their constituencies would expect them to support.   Senators can then say, “I would have voted for it if the Democrats had operated with transparency and honor before the election, but I can’t support this manipulative lame-duck agenda, no matter what it is.”

There They Go Again…

Speaking about the new financial services legislation that they were up all night to complete, Sen. Chris Dodd saw fit to paraphrase Nancy Pelosi in one of her finer moments:

“No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we’ve done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done.”

Am I the only one who is flabbergasted that the Democrats think this is an acceptable line of argument?  Would you ever tell your boss, “You know, I think it’s a great company, but we’re going to have to buy it to find out what’s in it.”  Or “Yeah, I think we did great last quarter, but we’re going to have to file that financial statement to find out what’s in it.”  It’s the political equivalent of buying a car off Craigslist without seeing it first, and justifying it by saying, “It took me losing a lot of money on a few other lemons to reach this historic achievement.”

It would almost be overlooked as a vapid statement by a 70-something Senator who didn’t sleep the night before, but Pelosi’s statement has been mocked so thoroughly — it appears in seemingly every story about the health care bill containing nasty surprises — no politician worth his salt could repeat such words without instantly realizing his error.  Of course, the guy is retiring, after all.

No wonder Democrats are hitting historic lows in the generic ballot.  As Barone says, it’s a lethal mixture of pervasive incompetence and unpopular ideology.

UPDATE: Rob Long pointed out this gem from the same press conference. about the same bill.

“This is about as important as it gets, because it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), a chief architect of the compromise.

Oh, good.  So we don’t have to worry at all.