Friday, July 31, 2009

Thoughts on the Jake Peavy Trade

I posted the following on the blog of Paul Depodesta, the current Assistant GM to Kevin Towers.

His blog is always enjoyable to read, and he's gracious enough to accept and respond to fan feedback.


I give the organization credit for having the courage to make this trade, and you personally for being willing to write about it, and address fan feedback.

I understand the rationale behind the trade, and when the hurt subsides and we see these guys in action, I will likely understand it even more.

That said, like Khalil Greene, this hurts, even more so with Jake's incredible accomplishments, and his place in franchise lore.

Being a younger fan, relatively speaking, it seems that the time has come for me to accept the fact that this franchise, more often than not, is just not going to be able to keep its big stars around for the entirety of their career. They'll get noticed here, become stars here, and then go somewhere else. This is just another chapter in that overall pattern.

Franchises like Oakland have shown that you can win that way (if not World Championships, mind you, in the case of the Beane teams) by constantly reinventing the roster. And to be sure, this is not the first time a team let its star go. The Red Sox let Pedro go, and they turned out to be right. He never produced for the Mets.

Peavy has not been healthy 100% of the time, and with his inclination towards power pitching and the strikeout, may yet prove to be more of a risk to the White Sox than they are bargaining for. One point ESPN made was how unusual it was for teams to be willing to trade for a player on the DL. You guys deserve credit for being able to pull this off at all, factoring that in.

But, the logic behind the trade aside, this is another let down for a fan base that hasn't had much to hang its hat on lately. This may be the lowest time for the Padres since the Tom Werner days. That early 90s crudfest beats today's malaise out only because we didn't even know if the franchise was still viable, particularly after the strike. (John Moores, history should note, saved baseball in San Diego, all ups and downs notwithstanding.)

I really hope that tangible good will come of today's action, sooner rather than later. I hope too that if the likes of Bell or A-Go are to be traded, the primary motivation will not be money. (I've no doubt that you like the players you are getting back, but I don't think I'm wrong in figuring that the primary motivation was Peavy's $15 million.)

I hope, for pete's sake, that something is going to be done about this lineup with the money we just saved. I think many fans expected that a Peavy trade would accomplish something towards improving that. (Your point about pitching is well taken, though.)

I hope that, as a fan, I will have a reason to start watching this team again, sooner rather than later.

Right now, I just feel let down, and "same old, same old."

My continued best wishes, and gratitude for your insights.


Thursday, June 4, 2009


.....Haven't really kept up on the vast majority of E3 news.

.........Just came across the trailer on Wii's Nintendo Channel.


Team Ninja partnering with Nintendo on a new Metroid game........

.............Team friggin' Ninja............




..................If you'll excuse me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Project Na-what?

Color me a mean curmudgeony skeptic on this Natal business.

Saw a commenter make a pretty good point, that went something like this: "So, I bought a 360 camera which is hardly used or supported anymore, and now they show me this new gaming technology that works...with a camera. Why should I buy THIS now?"

I'm skeptical on its potential for accurate detection, as well as the desirability of playing games without any controller. If I'm going to be shooting something, I'd like a realistic gun in my hands, like I can have with the Madkatz Perfect Shot for the Wii. If I want a realistic driving sim, I'd like an actual wheel to grip on to.

And do we really want to encourage people to be doing kung fu in their living rooms? Or "scanning" in their own skateboards to use as controllers? Looks like a lot of potential domestic mishaps....

And do Microsoft and Sony have to keep trying to out Wii the Wii? What's next, a dual screened PSP or Microsoft handheld?


Now watch me get proven wrong, and this thing work well and fly off the store shelves.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thoughts on the UCSD CR Situation

For background, see these pages:

My name is Michael Knudsen. I'm a recent UCSD College Republican alumni.

Here's what I see, as an alumni.

The CCR Executive Board has given me, and every single solitary UCSD CR alumni, the finger.

You have told us that a 23 year old organization...does not matter.

Nor does anyone now or previously involved in that organization.

For the record, that again is the (now former) UCSD College Republican official response to the board vote.

Of course, in politics, one can't always be certain what the meaning of the word "is" is.

So, apparently, one side's de-chartering is another side's misunderstanding from "disenfranchised opportunists."

(Just as an aside, I thought, as Republicans, disenfranchising people wasn't our thing?)

"No chapters were un-chartered, and no one removed from the organization. The vote was simply to determine which club was the rightful owner of the original UCSD charter based on the facts presented and the actions of those involved."

Ok...So, if one club is deemed to be the rightful owner of the original UCSD Charter, which the Exec Board said now belongs to the Triton College Republicans (with their proud 50 day old history)...just where, pray tell, does that leave the original UCSD CRs?

The original UCSD Charter, which once belonged to them, now, does not.

“Oh, you weren't un-chartered, guys. You just don't have your charter anymore. Get it?”

And how, pray tell, are alumni supposed to feel about this?

Taking a step back from the entire sorry affair that got us here, what has happened?

Based on the events with ONE class, the Executive Board has summarily dismissed ALL twenty plus years that came before.

By all means, explain to me why this should not be a big deal to alumni. You know, the people who built and made UCSD CRs into an active and successful chapter for two decades.

Explain to me why one of my best friends, Mark Mendoza, who had a fantastic year as UCSD CR Chair, should not care about the Executive Board's vote. Explain to me how this in no way negates his work, and the work of all the other UCSD CR Chairs. Explain to me why Inez shouldn't care about this.

For that matter, tell me what you have to say to those 500+ individuals who are on the UCSD CR mailing list.

Explain to me how your statement to them does NOT go something like this: "Hey, thanks for your involvement and interest in the College Republicans.

Now piss off. You don't matter."

Two plus two is easy math.

In that same vein, it sure looks like there just might have been just a teeny tiny conflict of interest with this board vote.

I mean, what do I know, right? I'm just a dumb UCSD alumni who doesn't matter, and I just don't know what I'm talking about, right?

This decision couldn't possibly have had anything to do with eliminating opposition votes, and anyone who disagrees is obviously listening to that "sniveling weasel" Alec Weisman.

As an alumni, and more importantly, as a friend of Alec's, how the hell am I supposed to take that?

How do you, Mr. Wolf, think that comes across not just to alumni, but to outside observers of this matter?

How are they supposed to take this: "Yes Matt Schenk it is a threat."

You know, when you say that something IS a THREAT, you might not want to act surprised when it is taken as such. Even if you follow with saying that you will "only" embarrass someone, it's pretty hard not to fixate on the acknowledgment that what you just said was INTENDED to be threatening.

And I'm just wondering, is all this honestly your idea of a mature, reasonable way to resolve this matter?

So you're pissed that Alec and the UCSD CRs aired out dirty laundry in front of visitors.

Issuing publicly viewable slurs, harassment, and threats is OBVIOUSLY the best way to show that you know how to resolve a crisis. Way to be a better man. Way to show the world how CCR solves its problems. Threats, insults, and intimidation. Truly, that's an inspiration to the Republican Party.

But I digress.

Back to what I see.

I see a good friend of mine threatened and degraded. Friends of mine, really, including all the current UCSD CRs.

I see an Executive Board flipping off anyone who has ever been involved in UCSD CRs. I see them deciding that an upstart "club" that doesn't even meet matters more than a 23 year old organization.

I see them siding with individuals who, it seems pretty damned clear, tried to manipulate matters within UCSD CRs to get their way. Worse, they lied to UCSD CR members to try and force the issue on Dejah's impeachment.

Last I checked, there was a word for that. Starts with "C", rhymes with "eruption."

I see my friends and former CR mates trying to exist as a club and move past the strife of this past year, only to be greeted with more threats, intimidation (they'll never work in politics again), and now, disbarment, because these "Triton Republicans" who didn't get what they wanted before, through outright lies and deceit, have some friends in high places.

The "Triton Republicans" didn't get Dejah Stanley kicked out as Chair before, so now, they're taking the ball home, making their own club...and you just gave them our charter. MY charter.

So really, aside from reminding us that we're all stupid friends of the sniveling weasel Alex "Wiseman,” do you have anything else to tell CR Alumni? Care to explain how proud CCR is of its actions? I sure as hell hope you are.

I know this much.

If this action is not reversed, and the original charter is not returned to the UCSD CRs, I will make sure to tell my children not to ever bother becoming California College Republicans.

I will tell them that the organization is a waste of their time. I will tell them that it not only tolerates infighting, it picks sides when it suits those in power.

I will tell my children that there is no point in them devoting their passion and their energy to such an outfit. It will only bring them disillusionment and despair. They won't spend their time actually fighting for what they believe in.

They'll spend time fighting amongst themselves, and the Executive Board will pick who wins. They won't actually be mature adults and solve the problem. Oh, and if my kids are on the wrong side, they'll all be a bunch of sniveling weasels.

My kids deserve better.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In Defense of Blackwater

By Michael Knudsen

On Jan. 29th, 2009, the Iraqi government officially barred the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide from providing security protection for U.S. diplomats. The reasoning behind this decision was that the company had used “excessive force” in carrying out its missions. (1)

Blackwater Worldwide, now renamed Xe (pronounced “Zee”), has become a favorite target of the American Left. (2)

Since an incident in September of 2007 in which 17 Iraqis were killed in Baghdad's Nisoor square, allegedly by Blackwater guards providing security, the company has been maligned as an outfit of mercenary, trigger happy maniacs. (3) (All five former Blackwater employees have pled not guilty to federal charges brought against them stemming from that incident.) (4)

Go to any online news piece regarding Blackwater, and watch the trolls come out in the comments. Take these samples from a Washington Post Article (5):

Commenter Jhiggins: “Blackwater is a criminal enterprise and its evangelical fundamentalist founder, Erik Prince, is a war profiteer. Blackwater is really a danger to our democracy—fifth column, if you will.” *

Commenter BlueTwo1: “We have experienced what it is like to live under evangelical, ultra-right-wing plutocrats. They do what they please. They do it in secret. They flout the laws. They gum up the works so they won't be questioned let alone prosecuted.” *

And in 2004, Democratic strategist Markos Moulitsos Zuniga of the Daily Kos had two choice words for four Blackwater members who were killed, and their bodies mutilated and dragged in Fallujah:

“Screw them.” (6)

This kind of slander is not limited to internet comments.

Trial lawyer Mike Papantonio, Air America (non)radio host and founder of, sums up all the leftist Blackwater smears rather neatly in his recent piece for the Pensacola News Journal. (7)

The “mercenary organization” was started by “phenomenally rich multimillionare inheritance baby Erik Prince.”(7)

It has “independent, unchecked power,” and is “creepy” and “unregulated.” (7)

America's military has won “two world wars without the help of American mercenaries.” (7)

And the coup de grace: “Soldiers enlisted in the U.S. military get paid about $70 a day to put themselves in harm's way, while Mr. Prince's private soldier gets about $1,500 a day for facing the same risks.” (7)

Where, oh where, to begin?

A blogger by the handle of Standish has a one-stop shop for rebutting this tripe. (The excellent blog, Blackwater Facts, is well worth your time.)

First and foremost, Blackwater is not a mercenary company. (8)

The international legal definition of the term comes from the 1977 Protocol 1 Amendment to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. There are six elements required for individuals or organizations to be considered mercenary. (8)

Among these are that the individuals must not be “either a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict.” They must “be recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict.” And they must be motivated “essentially by the desire for private gain” and promised “compensation substantially in excess of [that paid] to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party.” (9)

Blackwater's employees are nationals of the United States. Many of them are ex-military.

They are contracted by the U.S. State Department not to fight, but to “do security guard, logistics work, training and related jobs abroad.” (8)

In the words of Erik Prince (a former Navy Seal) himself, “We perform no offensive missions.” (10)

(The man was a Navy Seal, the elitist of the elite amongst our brave men and women in uniform. But obviously, to the Left, he's living from the silver spoon because he created an international security company. The notion is so ludicrous it would be laughable...were it not so detestable.)

Furthermore, consider these words of a Blackwater official (emphasis mine):

[Blackwater] is a company that was founded and exists to save lives. Everything is done in the interest of safety: training troops to defend themselves; building armored personnel carriers to keep troops alive in battle; building airships for surveillance to detect the bad guys; teaching cops how to effectively and safely rescue a hostage; helping people in executive-protection roles avoid an ambush in a vehicle; building an aviation division capable of performing rescue missions in war zones and natural disasters...In Katrina alone, 128 people were pulled to safety before a contract was ever awarded. In more than 20,000 diplomatic missions, no one protected by Blackwater has ever been seriously injured. (10)

Sure. Screw them. Right, Daily Kos?

(Remind me again, aren't we still stuck on the terrible response to Katrina, and by the way, how it was ALL Bush's fault?

Guess we all know the rules here. We can't give any credit to heroes who saved lives, or anything that went right in the hurricane's aftermath. Especially when, you know, the life savers are crazy right wing trigger happy monsters....)

And with regards to the motivations of Blackwater employees, and their supposedly outlandish pay?

Here's Standish on the former:

...Papantonio is slandering American veterans who return from their private lives to serve their country again in wartime. The story of helicopter pilot Art Laguna, who gave his life in defense of a trapped diplomat US diplomat in Iraq two years ago, shows the caliber of the military vets who join Blackwater: Unusually dedicated people. (8)

And concerning the money these “mercenaries” are supposedly rolling in?

This is nonsense, an allegation that was debunked during a congressional hearing nearly a year-and-a-half ago, and by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in August 2008. Blackwater guards make only a fraction [of $1,500 a day], and they have to pay their own expenses, from food, housing and healthcare to self-employment taxes and other items that soldiers receive as part of their non-taxable benefits. (8)

Mr. Papantonio's knowledge of American history is lacking as well.

The use of private contractors by the U.S. in wartime is hardly unique to Iraq.

The American Volunteer Group (AVG), i.e. the “Flying Tigers,” led by Claire Chennault, were “a private air force of American aviators who fought the Japanese in Burma, China, and Australia” in World War II. (8)

Washington and Jefferson both dabbled in private military companies, the former for the Revolutionary War, the latter to assist the Marines and Navy in engaging the Barbury Coast Pirates. (8)

“Privateering is one of the few businesses specifically authorized in the US Constitution, under the 'letters of marque and reprisal' clause in Article I, Section 8. Papantonio is a trial lawyer who doesn't even know the Constitution.” (8)

Oh, and since Mr. Papantonio has already changed the meaning of the word “mercenary,” perhaps he will be kind enough to provide us with a new definition of the word “unchecked.” As in “unchecked power.” Seeing as the State Department, the Justice Department, the Commerce Department and the Defense Department all have authority over Blackwater, I would be interested to know what “checked power” is. (8)

Now as to the tragic Sept. 2007 incident in which 17 Iraqis were killed. (“Screw them” when Blackwater employees die, string 'em up without a trial when they stand accused. Lovely standard we have for them, isn't it?)

First of all, Blackwater was accused of firing first without motive or provocation by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. (11)

As Chris Taylor wrote in 2007:

The MoI is the same organization the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq only two weeks ago called a 'ministry in name only' because it is ineffectual, inefficient, and sectarian. It is common knowledge that the MoI, infested with corruption and extortion, is now fully infiltrated by Jaysh al-Mahdi militia. (11)

So, we should trust that fine, upstanding civic organization instead of our own men who were fired upon, according to your Justice Department.

There's more.

Radio recordings and transcripts from the incident clearly indicate a prevalent use of the word “Contact!” just prior to the exchange of fire. “Contact” is a term for coming under enemy attack. The gunfire from said enemy was audible on the radio as well. (12, 13)

There are those bullet holes that magically found their way into all four vehicles of the convoy. (12)

There is the lead vehicle that somehow managed to be disabled by this “nonexistent” enemy fire. (13)

And there is the fact that the prosecution's star witness, an ex-Blackwater employee who admitted to killing civilians, did so in exchange for a lighter sentence. (14) As Standish writes, the prosecutors don't even know who shot whom, and yet all five men in this case are each charged with fourteen counts of manslaughter. (4)

Finally, about Blackwater's “excessive force"?

As of October 2007, through over 16,000 diplomatic movements, Blackwater employees had discharged their firearms a mere 195 times. (11)

And their rules of engagement were given to them by the State Department. It's all in the contract.

As R.J. Hillhouse wrote for the Christian Science Monitor:

“The State Department Diplomatic Security Service set up aggressive rules for the use of force for its contractors in what's called the Mission Firearms Policy. These rules are more aggressive than those used by the military for its contracted forces.” (15)

Those aggressive rules were put in place in order to make it easier to protect important diplomats and government officials, Iraqi and American alike. And as Chris Taylor notes, Blackwater for years has appealed to Congress to make nebulous elements of these combat protocols more specific, to improve accountability and lessen the chances of collateral damage. (11)

What happened at Nisoor Square was a tragedy, no question, and the loss of life must not be trivialized.

But what must also not be trivialized is the sacrifice, bravery, heroism, and valor of the men and women of Blackwater and many other private security companies.

They saved people in Katrina, and the Left spits on them.

Former soldiers volunteer to go back and place themselves directly in danger's path to protect people, and the Left calls them murderers and mercenaries.

They are our fellow American brothers and sisters, but to some, they don't deserve even a day in court.

Marybeth Laguna, widow of helicopter pilot Art Laguna, summed it up thus:

Just like soldiers, security contractors based in Iraq face daily threats to their lives. Rather than demonizing these men and women, we should be thanking them for the essential service they provide. Whether they are working for Blackwater or directly for the U.S. military, they are all risking their lives to work for the United States. And they deserve our respect. (16)

Truer words were never written.

Least we could do.



1. Associated Press, A look at Blackwater in Iraq during the war, (Jan. 29, 2009).

2. Standish, Blackwater Facts, Blackwater Retires Brand, Re-Names Its Units, (Feb. 17, 2009).

3. CBS News, Blackwater Guards Indicted for Shooting,;topStories (Dec. 5, 2008).

4. Standish, Blackwater Facts, “NOT GUILTY”, (Jan. 6, 2009).

5. Robert O'Harrow Jr., State Department Cancels Iraq Contract With Blackwater, (Jan. 30, 2009).

* These comments were placed on the above cited web article.

6. Michelle Malkin,, “SCREW THEM:” NOT A JOKE, (Apr. 1, 2005).

7. Mike Papantonio, Blackwater quietly expanding its reach, (Jan. 21, 2009).

8. Standish, Blackwater Facts, Out of Control Buffoonery- Trial Lawyer Embarrasses Himself with Ill-Informed Hit Piece, (Jan. 23, 3009).

9. Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts Art. 47.2 (June 8, 1977),

10. John McCaslin, Into Blackwater, (Nov. 11, 2008).

11. Chris Taylor, The Blackwater Bandwagon, (Oct. 7, 2007).

12. Standish, Blackwater Facts, Independent Source Verifies Blackwater Team Was Under Fire at Nisoor Square, (Dec. 22, 2008).

13. Standish, Blackwater Facts, Radio Logs Prove Blackwater Convoy Was Under Fire at Nisoor Square, (Dec. 21, 2008).

14. Standish. Blackwater Facts, AP Says New Evidence Discredits Federal Case Against Ex-Blackwater Guards, (Dec. 21, 2008).

15. R.J. Hillhouse, Don't Blame Blackwater, (Nov. 2, 2007).

16. Marybeth Laguna, My Husband Was a Blackwater Hero, (Nov. 30, 2008).

Survey of Shortfall

By Michael Knudsen

* Author's note: This piece was originally written in January of 2009. Some of the contents is out of date as a result. For example, California's budget has now passed (although it still has a shortfall.) The $40 billion deficit figure was from prior to its passing.

Our states' budgets are in trouble.

Big trouble.

According to CNN Money, no less than 43 of these United States are facing budget shortfalls. (1)

And we're not talking chump change here on dollar amounts.

“At the end of the last fiscal year, 29 states had shortfalls topping $48 billion.” (1)

That's a big number, but apparently, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

“The report suggests that because the current recession is worse than the previous recession, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities projected that nearly all states will face shortfalls, and the deficits should end up totaling over $100 billion [emphasis mine] in fiscal year 2010.” (1)

The billions and trillions that the Federal Government has been throwing around in economic stimuli packages have made us a bit numb to these big numbers. Our minds are incapable of processing them.

Here's my favorite means of putting this into perspective: A trillion seconds is 33,000 years.

So, if the Center's report is to be believed, the aggregate state budget deficit will be the number of seconds in 3,300 years by 2010.


In Ohio, their budget scenario is described as “the outline for a near-meltdown of state government services.” It amounts to “six prisons and several other corrections facilities shut down, the state parks system closed, a likely $2,000 tuition hike at state universities, all state agencies cut by 25 percent, and much more.” Governor Ted Strickland projects a cumulative $7.3 billion budget deficit by the end of 2011. (This number assumes that Ohio continues spending at its current level, receives no federal aid, and that the U.S. economy suffers a “severe manufacturing and financial contraction.” Absent these three factors, the Cincinnati Enquirer points out that the number should be closer to $4 billion.

I'm sure Ohioans feel much better now.) (2)

In Wisconsin, Governor Doyle in October described the budget hurdles as “very severe” for his state, a possible $3 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget. (3)

In Arizona, the red ink began even before Wall Street tanked in September. As of January last year, this amounted to $900 million in deficit funds for the 2008 fiscal year. (4)

Then, there's....California.

Oh, is there ever.

My fair state has a two year gap in revenue to the tune of $41.6 billion (that's billion with a “b”), according to Governor Schwarzenegger. (5)

Our budget deficit is bigger than the entire government doles of most other states combined.

It's gotten so bad here that the state will have to issue “I owe you”s on tax refunds, welfare checks, and student grants. (Hey, this would be fun. How 'bout taxpayers try doing the same to the collector?)

Naturally, when the government takes in less money than it wants to spend, the debate about where to make cuts, and whether or not to raise taxes, begins.

So what's the incoming California legislature's big idea for getting us out of this mess?

“[Assemblyman John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles)] said his priorities include an end to the two-thirds vote requirement for passing budgets and raising taxes, and changing the way that taxes are divided between the state and local governments to provide more stability to municipalities.” (7)

Translation: The Republican minority always just gets in the way. Let's make sure they don't get any say at all in blocking tax increases.

(And to be fair, CA voters recalled Gray Davis, a Democrat, and installed Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and here we are.

Smile. You're on Disillusioned Voter Camera.)

Three things are now commonplace in California: bad budgets, higher taxes, and native Californians leaving.

Regarding bad budgets, the San Diego Union Tribune's Chris Reed summed it up. “This is what it's come to for journos who cover Sacramento: surveying all the horrible budgets of the past and trying to figure out which was the worst of all.” (8)

Regarding higher taxes, consider that we've the six highest tax burden per capita among states. (9)

And regarding people leaving, 144,000 people found the exit last year, more than any other state. (And this was the fourth year in a row.) (10) Can't really blame them. Third highest unemployment in the nation, to top it all off. (9)

I don't think this was the “California Dreamin'” that The Mamas & The Papas had in mind.

In South Carolina, where its budget had to be pared by over $621 million, the exemption on grocery sales taxes took the blame for the shortfall from state economists.

“'There's a lot of states that don't tax groceries,' said Rep. James Smith, D-Richland. 'I don't think we can blame it entirely on the sales tax.'” (11)

(Defending tax cuts...from a Democrat? Don't hear that too often, at least not in California. But then again, South Carolina's 2009-10 budget is actually balanced, which NEVER happens here either.) (12)

In Wisconsin?

“But [Gov. Jim Doyle] made it clear he would seek other more targeted tax increases, including a tax on hospitals defeated by Republicans last year...”

Over to you, Republican Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch.

“'We need to make sure that families' budgets are strong and that they are sound,' Huebsch said in an interview. 'If we have a budget shortfall, it's not because we're taxing too little, it's because we're spending too much.'” (3)

(His second sentence is from the classic Reagan play book. But I do have to wonder what the citizens' budgets have to do with balancing the state budget. Nice sound byte, but the government has only the power to fix the latter. )

In Arizona, the two parties, as is typical, disagreed on a budget solution. Once again, the clever sound bytes came in.

“Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and two key Republicans in the Legislature are far apart in their proposals to balance the budget. They don't even agree on the amount to cut. The governor proposes $870 million and the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees put the number at $970 million.”

What say you, Governor's aide?

“'You don't have to take a meat ax to the budget to balance it,' said George Cunningham, Napolitano's budget chief.”(4)

Apparently, going from $870 to $970 million turns the cuts into a “meat ax.” (I guess the Democrat proposal was just a hair trimmer.)

Smelling funding cuts in the air, the University of Arizona had something to say.

“'If we continue to lose top faculty, the return on investment the state expects of us will not be realized,' [University of Arizona President Robert] Shelton said.” (4)

(Insert cheap shot about those poor old lifetime tenured professors who surely will go hungry with reductions of their six figure salaries here.)

Much harder to roll one's eyes at, or justify politically, are cuts in programs aimed at “the needy,” “the children,” or any combination thereof.

“'We want to make sure that [Arizona] doesn't balance its budget on the backs of children,' said Dana Wolfe Naimark, executive director of the Children's Action Alliance.” (4)

Back to Ohio: “[Gov. Strickland] also is making a persuasive case for specific, targeted aid- for Medicaid, unemployment assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other programs. That would help greatly, and we can be sure President-elect Barack Obama is listening to Strickland.” (2)

Back to Wisconsin: That $3 billion shortfall could lead to “job cuts, delays of approved expansions in health programs for the needy [emphasis mine] and scaling back new state money for public schools and universities. (3)

Even here in California, where the state already can't pay its bills, voters just approved Prop 3, a $980 million bond issue for Children's Hospital. (13, 14)

(We also approved Prop 1A, a “just shy of $10 billion” obligation for a high speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

I am reminded of the classic episode of The Simpsons where Springfield gets conned, “Music Man” style, into giving money for a non-existent monorail.) (15, 16)

Beyond the taxation and spending debates, the more fundamental issue here is this age-old battle between liberals and conservatives.

The former argue that the government can and should take care of the people, and can always tax more if need be to do so.

Mean ole' conservative curmudgeons like me argue that these programs, while well intentioned, usually can't be funded, are awash in wasteful spending, and often don't work as well as the private sector. (I would add also that we get so used to good economies, that we forget to plan for the inevitable bad ones.)

It's far easier to note what's wrong in government than to fix it. Far easier to play armchair governor, than to actually run things.

But that said, consider the following:

We have been here before.

“Squeezed by the worst budget crunch in almost a decade, states are scrambling to cut spending, avoid raising taxes and spare education.” (17)

Guess when that was written.


Nope. 2001.

Here's more from that same article: “According to a survey being released today, 35 states face a total budget shortfall or more than $25 billion for this fiscal year- the worst since 1992.” (17)

Sound familiar?

Economies go up, and economies go down. The same is true of government revenues.

It seems of late, however, that the solution is the same whenever both are on the wane.

“The [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] report... suggest[s] that the federal government provide states with stimulus money soon, instead of waiting for states to get further in trouble, and that the aid should be larger than the amount of money given to states in 2003, following the previous recession.” [Emphasis mine.] (1)

Why worry about balancing the budget and making a state government work when Uncle Sam can bail you out?

As one Maryland State Senator put it recently: “It doesn't matter if Maryland's broke, as long as Obama's President.” (18)

Why worry, indeed.



1. Catherine Clifford, 43 states in financial trouble,, (last updated Dec. 10, 2008).

2., Strickland's bleak picture of Ohio,, (last updated Dec. 14, 2008).

3. Jason Stein, Doyle Predicts $3 billion shortfall,, (Oct. 16, 2008).

4. Blake Murlock, State budget crunch: UA, social agencies, schools brace for worst,,
(Jan. 6, 2008).

5. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Budget Summary: Governor's Message,, (Jan. 9, 2009).

6. Allahpundit,, California goes bust: Tax refunds to be delayed,, (Jan. 16th, 2009).

7. Patrick McGreevy, Welcome to Sacramento, and good luck,,0,5967301.story, (Dec. 1, 2008).

8. Chris Reed, U-T Opinion Online: America's Finest Blog, Tiny consolation: It's not the worst state budget ever,, (Sept. 16, 2008).

9. Ed Morissey,, California Joblessness Now Third in the Nation,, (Nov. 22, 2008).

10. Michael R. Blood, Go East, young man? Californians look for the exit,, (Jan. 12, 2009).

11. John O'Connor, S.C. tax cuts get blame for budget woes,, (Dec. 3, 2008).

12. South Carolina Office of the Governor, Gov. Sanford Unveils 2009-10 Executive Budget,, (Jan. 9, 2009).

13. Office of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2008- Election Night Results- Proposition 3- Children's Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program, (last Updated Nov. 26, 2008).

14. Office of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Voter Information Guide- Prop 3 Children's Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program Initiative Statute, (accessed Jan. 19, 2009).

15. Office of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2008- Election Night Results- Proposition 1A- Safe, Reliable High-Speed Train Bond Act,, (last updated Nov. 26, 2008).

16. Office of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Voter Information Guide- Prop 1 High Speed Rail Bonds Legislative Initiative Amendment,, (accessed Jan. 19, 2009).

17. Haya El Nasser, Red ink overtakes state budgets,, (last updated Dec. 9, 2001).

18. Allahpundit,, State senator: It doesn't matter if Maryland is broke as long as Obama's President,, (Jan. 17, 2009).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Double those standards....

You know how the liberals in Congress (looking at you, Hillary) just love to trash the oil companies?

You know, because they get "windfall profits," which must be taxed into oblivion because it's just so unfair?

The profits from the companies that don't do much really, just, ya know, collect and refine oil into gasoline for us to use?

I mean, the geniuses on Capitol Hill are just such experts on energy production. I'm sure they could take over if all the oil companies decided to stop refining.

A government program could take the place of these evil private oil execs and their greedy little henchmen, I'm sure. What's another trillion bucks, after all? (And, of course, George Bush is making us spend this money. Obama doesn't bear any responsibility at all.)

So, what then, do these same self-righteous arbiters of fairness and righteousness have to say about one George Soros banking a cool $1.1 billion off the global recession?

You know, Soros, the guy who hates capitalism, except that he should be allowed to make billions in market speculation. The liberal, open border, secularist God (if I may) of the Obama nation? The backer of Media Matters, Air name the leftist smear outlet, he backs it?

.....George Soros never helped put a tank of gas in my car.


......But HIS profits are okay though. Because he gives left wing gutter snipes money.

....Those standards just keep on evolving, don't they?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Top Ten Reasons For ObamaCare Are Based On False Information

By Bruce Kesler

George Bernard Shaw warned “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” The major overhaul of American health care pursued by President Obama and his supporters is based on many false premises and is excessive and likely to do more harm than good. Tuning up and improvements already always dynamically occurs. Instead, ObamaCare is aimed at dramatically changing one-sixth of the US economy in ways that are untested or tested and found wanting, primarily involving huge increases in government direction of health care.

The details of ObamaCare are largely being left to Congress, the same body that stuffs the federal budget with earmarks, waste, and other programs that are not requested. ObamaCare is premised on claims for drastic changes in health care and major increases in government programs being necessary. Those claims are largely specious.

Below, the top ten specious premises for ObamaCare are discussed:

1. Comparing US Health Care To Other Developed Countries
2. US Health Care Spending Is More Than We Can Afford
3. Reform Overhaul Will Yield Major Savings
4. Increased Evidence-Based Medicine And Health Information Technology Will Significantly Improve Care and Reduce Costs
5. Present Administrative Costs And Insurer Profits Are Too High
6. US Consumer Dissatisfaction Requires Drastic Health Care Changes
7. Health Care Costs Are So High They Are A Major Cause Of Personal Bankruptcy
8. The Number Of Uninsured Is So Large That Drastic Health Care Changes Are Necessary
9. More Preventive Care Will Better Serve Consumers And Save Costs
10. Health Care Consumers Are Being Served By Drastic Health Care Changes

(More could be added, such as that government restraints on prescription drug prices will not impede incentives for innovations, but they are so transparently false that the list below dwells on other ObamaCare premises more misleading.)

1. Comparing US Health Care To Other Developed Countries: Those pushing for government-run health care are fond of comparing the US unfavorably to other developed countries with heavier government-run or directed systems. Actually, the US is more successful on comparative costs, efficiency of resource use, and outcome.

Typical of misleading statistics, a US advocate of government-run health care touts a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), comprised of the 30 most developed economies, favoring universal coverage as exists in most of the other OECD countries. The OECD report is actually titled a “working paper” by the three researchers. The encyclopedia defines a “working paper” as “a document created as a basis for discussion rather than as an authoritative text.” This OECD “working paper’s” statistics are misleading.

More accurately, a January 2009 analysis of the data gathered from the OECD points at life expectancy as the single best measure of outcomes. Excluding deaths by injury, to focus on health related outcome, “the US does the best of all the OECD countries” having the longest life expectancy.

Even the OECD “working paper” has to admit that the US’ higher infant mortality rate is misleading: “Even if there were uniform reporting standards of infant mortality across countries, a second limitation to using it as an indicator for health outcomes is the potential effect of certain interventions on the likelihood of a live birth. It is conceivable that additional health care provided in the second or third trimester causes a pregnancy that would almost assuredly be a stillborn to become a pregnancy with an improved chance of a live birth but also an above-average likelihood of dying within the first year. These interventions increase health care expenditures and result in the birth of more low-weight- and very low-weight babies, with significantly greater health problems.” The “working paper” does not address the moral issues or that most such babies go on to productive lives: “43% of children had survived without any impairment. Minor impairment was diagnosed in 39% and major impairment in 18% of assessed children.”

This OECD analysis also corrects per capita health spending to use price parity (comparative purchasing power) instead of oscillating currency exchange rates. The decline of the dollar compared to the Euro in the past decade did not increase the US’ comparative costs per person by 55%. In fact, other OECD countries’ health spending is understated by 56%, and “the US is no longer the highest [spending] country. France and Norway exceed the US in real health care consumption.” Still, other OECD countries’ spending on health care is lower than in the US.

The OECD analysis accounts for this, “because many health care systems use price controls to some extent….that systematically understate the economic cost of the health care system. The first is the hidden cost of nonprice rationing, while the second is the hidden cost of informal, black market co-payments.” Long waits, reduced access to advanced drugs and treatments, shifting development costs on to US consumers, traveling abroad for care, untracked side payments to providers are among the hidden costs.

The “working paper” admits that high US tort rewards drive up US health care costs via defensive medicine. “[P]rofessional liability reforms do indeed reduce the practice of defensive medicine.” Defensive medicine increases US health care costs by about 10%. Lawyers lead all groups in political contributions. In 2000, 86% of contributions from tort lawyers went to Democrats, one periodical calling them the “Cash Bar” for Democrats.”

In 2008 the percentage was 95%. ObamaCare proposals do not include tort reforms. Another health care result: malpractice premiums are two to three times higher for gynecologists delivering babies, leading many to cease, and the resulting medical care is lessened.

Finally, the OECD analysis measures the personnel inputs to health care, finding “it is clear that the US health care system is not a particularly high user of health care resources….the US resource use is 6th of 12, slightly below the mean.” The higher pay for doctors and nurses in the US “creates a large bias towards inaccurately portraying the US system as inefficient in producing health with health care resources,” and further ignores the US attracting its own and the best providers from other countries to benefit US health care.

2. US Health Care Spending Is More Than We Can Afford: As it has become more evidenced that the US does not compare unfavorably, the push for heavier government involvement has shifted toward saying we can’t afford the current and future costs. The affordability claim is exaggerated. We can afford more than previously, have chosen to, and benefited.

Our ability has greatly increased to pay for and enjoy a higher standard of living, allowing a shift in priorities. From 1901 to 2003, the percentage of personal expenditures on the necessities of food, clothing and housing declined by half from 79.8% to 50.1%, while the quality and amount has increased. Home ownership increased from 19.1% to 67%. Other personal discretionary spending was able to increase from 20.2% to 49.9%, including all the modern conveniences and pleasures. Voluntary sharing of the bounty has also increased as the percent given to charities has doubled. Personal spending for health care increased from about 2% to almost 5%. Although some may be pressed to spend on health care, the overwhelming majority can and do.

The US’s per person Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 5.4 times larger in 2008 than 1929 and disposable personal income 6.7 times larger, in inflation adjusted dollars, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The share of GDP spent on personal consumption has decreased from 74.7% to 70.5% during that time. Defense spending went from 9/10ths of a percent of GDP in 1929 to over 40% during World War II, in the teens during the 1950”s declining to about 6.6% by the end of the Cold War, further dropping to 3.8% prior to 9/11/2001 and rising to 5.2% in 2008. Nondefense federal and state and local spending has near doubled from 8.2% in 1929 to 12.7% of GDP in 1966’ Great Society expansion to an even larger 15.1% in 2008 and climbing rapidly under the Obama administration.

The Share of GDP spent on health care, per the US Department of Health and Human Services, has nearly tripled from 5.2% in 1960 to 16.2% of GDP in 2007. The primary cost driver is new technologies. The government share of that has almost doubled to 46.2% from 24.7%. By 2018, it is projected to rise to 20.3%.

This primarily reflects the increased spending by government on added coverage for more, and the vast improvements enjoyed by all from new drugs, technologies and treatments delivering significantly better prevention, relief and cures. The main competitor for this spending is the further large expansion of other social programs favored by liberals. Inflation-adjusted government spending has increased by a multiple of 58 times since 1929, by over 5-fold since 1946, and is sharply escalating now.

3. Reform Overhaul Will Yield Major Savings: Price Waterhouse analyzed the primary cost drivers in health care. Leading the pack are new technologies, public demand for broader coverage and access, and defensive medicine. ObamaCare is not proposing restraints on lawsuits, tort lawyers being a major constituency. Health care consumers’ demands for fast access to the latest and best is not contradicted.

The Lewin Group is the leading consultants to government and private groups on health plan costs. Lewin says the two closest Congressional proposals to Obama’s stated design, from Senator Baucus and from Senators Wyden and Bennett, would increase National Health Expenditures, while dramatically increasing employer costs. It is reported that Senator Baucus is expected to be the “architect” of the emerging detailed plan, and the Wyden-Bennett proposal enjoys major support, the Obama administration saying it will hand off detailing to Congress.

Senator Baucus, reported to be the main “architect” of the emerging detailed ObamaCare, is already pressuring the Congressional Budget Office to be “creative,” otherwise known as cooking the books.

4. Increased Evidence-Based Medicine And Health Information Technology Will Significantly Improve Care and Reduce Costs: ObamaCare proposes major increases in the use of evidence-based medicine. There is a strong case for increased analyses of the effectiveness of alternative treatments to have more evidence-based (also called performance-based or comparative-effectiveness)medicine. The above Price Waterhouse report cites a study that estimates as much as 30% of health care spending is excessive due to overuse, misuse and waste. It cites another study that defensive medicine increases health care spending by 10%. However, if major benefits are to emerge, they will be very expensive to find, seriously troubling and possibly dangerous to administer, and a long time coming. We should move very carefully and not faddishly rush pell-mell into this sphere.

At the American Legislative Exchange Council of about 2000 legislative members in all 50 states and 80 in Congress, a lengthy analysis raises many caveats about evidence-based medicine. Not only will it not guard against frivolous lawsuits, laudable sounding evidence-based medicine is scientifically and statistically ill-defined and ill-definable when it comes to actual clinical practice and individual variations in needs and efficacies. Also, the “integrity of medical decisionmaking” is not protected, leading to “cookbook” medicine. Further, for a variety of largely irremovable reasons, “[i]n fact, ‘evidence-based’ research results can strongly contradict each other.” Lastly, there is very little such “gold standard” analyses available due their huge cost and time consumption.

In a February 2009 New York Times article by a leading specialist, who supports increased evidence-based medicine, she “began searching for clinical trials on pay-for-performance plans” finding “most disturbingly, very few high quality studies on efficacy. Looking for a few good studies, it turned out, was like searching for a needle in a massive haystack of social experimentation.”

Further, with good reason, there is considerable expectation that such evidence-based medicine, with all its weaknesses, is intended or will inevitably lead to rationing that may be as harmful to many’s health as it is beneficial to costs.

President Obama chose his Chief of Staff’s brother, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, to be counselor on health care costs and coverage to Obama’s budget director. In his former position at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Emanuel told the Bloomberg interviewer he “focused on the ethics of conducting research and clinical trials as well as allocating medical resources – de facto rationing, he said.”

Dr. Robert Wachter, professor and Associate Chair of the UCSF’s Department of Medicine, Chief of Hospital Medicine at UCSF Medical Center, widely published peer reviewed author on quality, safety and health policy, wonders if “we are mature enough to make use of comparative effectiveness research?” He says, “I worry that we’re not.” He is critical of our excessive spending. But, his wide experience tells him, there’s “cautionary tales” from Britain’s efforts (typically in governmentese, acronymed NICE -- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence).

To me, NICE’s experience shows that rationing based on cost-effectiveness can be done, but we can count on it being about ten times harder in the United States (with our fragmented healthcare system, our sensationalist media, our hypertrophied legal system, and our tradition of individual benefit trumping the Good of the Commons) than it has been in the UK.

Dr. Wachter concludes with sheer hope, “But let’s not be na├»ve about it – one person’s ‘cost-ineffective’ procedure may be a provider’s mortgage payment, a manufacturer’s stock-levitator, and a patient’s last hope for survival.”

Without repeating the litanies of individual stories of critical health care denied in Britain, or elsewhere, by rationing, one need only recall Americans’ retreat from the far more lenient restrictions in our HMOs to be skeptical of the prospects for or outcomes from increased restrictions.

A close companion of evidence-based medicine is health information technology (HIT) to collect and carry individual’s records and tell providers the practices recommended or imposed. The promise is to reduce medical errors and costs. That promise seems remote.

The Obama ‘stimulus” bill included $20 billion to develop a national HIT system, with tens of billions more to be invested. In Britain, with a small fraction of our health care providers and facilities in a far less diverse health care system than ours, they’ve already spent over $18 billion, and it doesn’t work. It would not be unrealistic to expect US costs to well exceed $100 billion to reach a possible prototype.

There are advantages to a fully developed, interactive HIT. However, most medical providers will not reap rewards anywhere commensurate with the very high costs, requiring either far more government spending or imposed costs on providers driving up their expenses and charges. A few tightly controlled institutions, like Mayo and Kaiser, have expended great resources in developing highly customized HIT for themselves, but their utility or applicability to others is very limited. One of the key disadvantages of a national HIT is the increased ease with which rationing practice regimens can be imposed upon individual health care.

5. Present Administrative Costs And Insurer Profits Are Too High: The above Price Waterhouse analysis finds 86% of premiums being paid out for claims and an additional 5% for consumer services like prevention, wellness, care coordination, education, and information systems. Government compliance and reporting requirements cost another 6%. That leaves 3% for profits and reserves needed to generate added investments. Indeed, in 2008, Fortune Magazine’s compilation of industry profitability had health care insurance and managed care well behind some commonly assumed to have low profits such as railroads (12.4%). Discretionary entertainment (12.4%) is more profitable than necessary health insurance.

6. US Consumer Dissatisfaction Requires Drastic Health Care Changes: There are numerous polls with many Americans expressing dissatisfaction with the US health care system, usually asking general questions like “would you like to see major improvements.” However, more careful polling reveals quite the opposite in reality. For example, Gallup’s annual polls are summarized by Gallup thusly:

Gallup's annual Healthcare survey, conducted Nov. 11-14, [2007] finds 57% of Americans saying they are satisfied with the total cost they pay for their healthcare, while 39% are dissatisfied. These percentages have been quite stable in recent years…Americans are quite happy with their health plans. Eighty-three percent of Americans rate the quality of healthcare they receive as excellent or good, while only 15% say theirs is poor. Slightly less, 70%, say their healthcare coverage is excellent or good.

These ratings have been fairly stable in the seven years in which Gallup's Healthcare survey has been conducted. Similarly, votes on drastic overhauls have consistently lost. There is no public mandate for drastic health care changes.

7. Health Care Costs Are So High They Are A Major Cause Of Personal Bankruptcy: President Obama publicly claimed last week that “The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds." ABC News Director of Polling examined that claim and found it “simply unsupportable.” Examination of the basis for Obama’s claim and of other studies found the numbers vastly overstated.

The suspect Harvard research professor from whom Obama drew his claim cofounded an advocacy group to push for government-run, single-payer health care. Another professor with concerns for the impact of high medical costs on the uninsured says, “It stinks to be uninsured. I don’t want to be quoted saying anything else. But there are correct studies, and incorrect studies. For academics, the validity of the research methods matters.” It should for Presidents as well.

8. The Number Of Uninsured Is So Large That Drastic Health Care Changes Are Necessary: That about 16% in the US are uninsured is repeated as cause for universal coverage schemes to cover them that at the same time grossly changes the health care system and costs affecting the other 84%. Even if the other 84% were not negatively affected, the uninsured count is actually an overblown statistic.

The definition of uninsured includes all those lacking coverage any time in a year. Those lacking coverage for more than a year is 11%. The long term uninsured is primarily among working-age adults with low education.

The Kaiser Foundation offers a recent analysis of the uninsured. 19% can afford coverage but don’t purchase it. 25% are eligible for current programs but don’t enroll. That leaves 56% for whom affordability is considered too difficult, needing assistance. About 5 million, over 10%, of the uninsured are illegal immigrants, who tend to have low educations. About 19% of those needing assistance are illegal immigrants.

In short, less than half of those bemoaned as uninsured are legal residents in need of additional financial help. 16% becomes less than 8%. The negative impact of low-skilled illegal immigrants is most directly felt among low-skilled Americans, as a National Bureau of Economic Research analysis shows, low-wage competitors illegally in the US adding to low-wage/low-educated citizens’ difficulty in affording insurance.

Two related issues need addressing in updating the uninsured statistic. The large expansion of the federal SCHIP program just enacted will expand government coverage to more people and at higher incomes. Analysis shows that while reducing the number of uninsured, as many as 50% of those newly enrolled will be substituting previously affordable private insurance for low to no cost government coverage. Their taxpayer cost is larger than the entire present SCHIP program’s.

Another related issue is that some of the uninsured can afford coverage but are rejected for coverage or are priced out due to health conditions. The National Conference of State Legislatures offers useful information about these high risk, high care cost uninsureds. Over 200,000 are enrolled in state high risk pools, but there aren’t good numbers on how many more there are, which is surely much higher. The association of health insurers reports that about 11% of those applying for individual private insurance – by which there are about 25 million covered -- are rejected. About 11% of those offered policies is at above-standard premium rates. The insurers propose to cap surcharges at 50%. That may help some. For others, the 35 state high risk pools are frequently underfunded and have limited benefits. Some will be helped by the SCHIP expansion, but much more funding for high risk pools is needed. I guesstimate the annual cost at $12 billion (Double the average individual premium/cost of health care to $500/month and multiply by 2 million people.) Imposing this cost on private health plans through guaranteed enrollment will price others out of affordable coverage. It will also attract those who delay coverage until needing it, which imposes their costs on others and prices more out of coverage. Properly funding high risk pools will limit this coverage to those who more genuinely need it and not have the extra costs created by guaranteed enrollment for private plans.

9. More Preventive Care Will Better Serve Consumers And Save Costs: The February 2008 New England Journal of Medicine contains a review of 599 peer-reviewed articles between 2000-2005. The conclusion: “Studies have concluded that preventing illness can in some cases save money [and health] but in other cases can add to health care costs….[and] also sidesteps the question of whether such measures are generally more promising and efficient than the treatment of existing conditions.” The effectiveness of wellness programs is difficult to measure but are less costly than extensive additional testing of the population for rarely occurring illnesses. More early diagnosis uncovers some treatable illnesses but leads to more avoidable interventions, side effects, discomfort, and overuse of resources. Further, extended life health care costs are estimated to cost more, particularly for the aged.

Ironically, but consistent with a one-size-fits-all approach to health care, the Obama administration is eliminating subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans from private providers. Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits, care management and coordination. About 20% of Medicare enrollees have chosen Medicare Advantage plans, 57% of whom have incomes between $10-$30 thousand, 35% more of whom are minorities, and poorly provided rural area residents enrollment has increased over four-fold. A third as many Medicare Advantage members report delaying care due to costs as among traditional Medicare members. Aside from added benefits, Medicare Advantage members have lower out-of-pocket costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a savings of $157 billion over the next 10 years by eliminating this subsidy. Given the imminent financial collapse of Medicare, this economizing may be necessary, but given some of the other spending in Obama’s budget that may be seen as lower priority this subsidy may not be seen as high a priority to save from. Interestingly, AARP generally supports ObamaCare but its members benefit from and AARP profits from selling Medicare Advantage plans, so AARP is not in favor of this trimming.

10. Health Care Consumers Are Being Served By Drastic Health Care Changes: News reports of Obama administration health care parleys say that consumers are at the table. In fact, there are various interest groups each protecting the interests and costs of their members, usually at odds with each other. The interest groups’ before and behind curtain maneuvering is intense and complex, and much of what they’re telling the public misleading of intent or outcomes. Not nefarious in a free country, but each is angling to profit and enlarge from a bigger pie of spending. The only reliable measure of consumer preference is in general polling which, as shown above (point 6), has consumers not dissatisfied with their present arrangements.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Frankly, My Dear, Obama Doesn't Give a Damn

The Great Destabilization

Can America, the engine of the global economy, pull the rest of the world out of the quicksand?

By Mark Steyn

British prime minister Gordon Brown thought long and hard about what gift to bring on his visit to the White House last week. Barack Obama is the first African-American president, so the prime minister gave him an ornamental desk-pen holder hewn from the timbers of one of the Royal Navy’s anti-slaving ships of the 19th century, HMS Gannet. Even more appropriate, in 1909 the Gannet was renamed HMS President.

The president’s guest also presented him with the framed commission for HMS Resolute, the lost British ship retrieved from the Arctic and returned by America to London, and whose timbers were used for a thank-you gift Queen Victoria sent to Rutherford Hayes: the handsome desk that now sits in the Oval Office.

And, just to round things out, as a little stocking stuffer, Gordon Brown gave President Obama a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert’s seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill.

In return, America’s head of state gave the prime minister 25 DVDs of “classic American movies.”

Evidently, the White House gift shop was all out of “MY GOVERNMENT DELEGATION WENT TO WASHINGTON AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT” T-shirts. Still, the “classic American movies” set is a pretty good substitute, and it can set you back as much as $38.99 at Wal-Mart: Lot of classics in there, I’m sure — Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Sound of Music — though this sort of collection always slips in a couple of Dude, Where’s My Car? 3 and Police Academy 12 just to make up the numbers. I’ll be interested to know if Mr. Brown has anything to play the films on back home, since U.S.-format DVDs don’t work in United Kingdom DVD players.

It could be worse. The president might have given him the DVD of He’s Just Not That Into You. Gordon Brown landed back in London a sadder but wiser man. The Fleet Street correspondents reported sneeringly that he (and they) had been denied the usual twin-podia alternating-flags press conference. The Obama administration had supposedly penciled one in for the Rose Garden, but then there was that catastrophic snowfall (a light dusting). This must be the first world leaders’ press conference to be devastated by climate change. No doubt President Obama could have relocated it to a prestigious indoor venue, like the windowless room round the back of the White House furnace in Sub-Basement Level 5. But why bother? Some freak flood would have swept through and washed the prime minister and his DVD set into the Potomac and out to the Atlantic. And by the time the Coast Guard fished him out, the sodden classic movies wouldn’t work in any American DVD player any better than in the Brit one.

He did, however, get to give an almost entirely unreported address to Congress. U.S. legislators greeted his calls to resist protectionism with a round of applause, and then went back to adding up how much pork in the “Buy American” section of the stimulus bill would be heading their way.

I would make a modest prediction that in 2012, after four years of the man who was supposed to heal America’s relations with a world sick of all that swaggering cowboy unilateralism, those relations will be much worse. From Canada to India, the implications of the Obama ascendancy are becoming painfully clear. The other week Der Spiegel ran a piece called “Why Obamania Isn’t the Answer,” which might more usefully have been published before the Obamessiah held his big Berlin rally. Written by some bigshot with the German Council on Foreign Relations and illustrated by the old four-color hopey-changey posters all scratched up and worn out, the essay conceded that Europe had embraced Obama as a “European American.” Very true. The president is the most European American ever to sit in the Oval Office. And, because of that, he doesn’t need any actual European Europeans getting in the way — just as, at his big victory-night rally in Chicago, the first megastar president didn’t need any megastar megastars from Hollywood clogging up the joint: Movie stars who wanted to fly in were told by his minders that he didn’t want any other celebrities deflecting attention from him. Same with world leaders. If it’s any consolation to Gordon Brown, he’s just not that into any of you.

What Mr. Brown and the rest of the world want is for America, the engine of the global economy, to pull the rest of them out of the quicksand — which isn’t unreasonable. Even though a big chunk of the subprime/securitization/credit-bubble axis originated in the United States and got exported round the planet, the reality is that almost every one of America’s trading partners will wind up getting far harder hit.

And that was before Obama made clear that for him the economy takes a very distant back seat to the massive expansion of government for which it provides cover. That’s why he’s indifferent to the plummeting Dow. The president has made a strategic calculation that, to advance his plans for socialized health care, “green energy,” and a big-government state, it’s to his advantage for things to get worse. And, if things go from bad to worse in America, overseas they’ll go from worse to total societal collapse. We’ve already seen changes of government in Iceland and Latvia, rioting in Greece and Bulgaria. The great destabilization is starting on the fringes of Europe and working its way to the Continent’s center.

We’re seeing not just the first contraction in the global economy since 1945, but also the first crisis of globalization. This was the system America and the other leading economies encouraged everybody else to grab a piece of. But whatever piece you grabbed — exports in Taiwan, services in Ireland, construction in Spain, oligarchic industrial-scale kleptomania in Russia — it’s all crumbling. Ireland and Italy are nation-state versions of Bank of America and General Motors. In Eastern Europe, the countries way out on the end of the globalization chain can’t take a lot of heat without widespread unrest. And the fellows who’ll be picking up the tab are the Western European banks who loaned them all the money. Gordon Brown was hoping for a little more than: “I feel your pain. And have you ever seen The Wizard of Oz? It’s about this sweet little nobody who gets to pay a brief visit to the glittering Emerald City before being swept back to the reassuring familiarity of the poor thing’s broken-down windswept economically devastated monochrome dustbowl. You’ll love it!”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”? Oh, perish the thought. The prime minister flew 8,000 miles for dinner and a movie. But the president says he’ll call. Next week. Next month. Whatever.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2009 Mark Steyn

Obama's Radicalism Is Killing the Dow

One does wonder when the plunge in the Dow stops being all Bush's fault.

And hey, if Bush had said that he doesn't care about what the market is doing, and that it ALWAYS rises and falls clearly is in a would the public react? Might, perchance, the words "out of touch" come into play???

When the Messiah says it though, well now...

I mean, honestly, what do those dumb greedy investors know about sound economic policy?....


A financial crisis is the worst time to change the foundations of American capitalism.


It's hard not to see the continued sell-off on Wall Street and the growing fear on Main Street as a product, at least in part, of the realization that our new president's policies are designed to radically re-engineer the market-based U.S. economy, not just mitigate the recession and financial crisis.

The illusion that Barack Obama will lead from the economic center has quickly come to an end. Instead of combining the best policies of past Democratic presidents -- John Kennedy on taxes, Bill Clinton on welfare reform and a balanced budget, for instance -- President Obama is returning to Jimmy Carter's higher taxes and Mr. Clinton's draconian defense drawdown.

Mr. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget blueprint, by his own admission, redefines the role of government in our economy and society. The budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, adding more to the debt than all previous presidents -- from George Washington to George W. Bush -- combined. It reduces defense spending to a level not sustained since the dangerous days before World War II, while increasing nondefense spending (relative to GDP) to the highest level in U.S. history. And it would raise taxes to historically high levels (again, relative to GDP). And all of this before addressing the impending explosion in Social Security and Medicare costs.

To be fair, specific parts of the president's budget are admirable and deserve support: increased means-testing in agriculture and medical payments; permanent indexing of the alternative minimum tax and other tax reductions; recognizing the need for further financial rescue and likely losses thereon; and bringing spending into the budget that was previously in supplemental appropriations, such as funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The specific problems, however, far outweigh the positives. First are the quite optimistic forecasts, despite the higher taxes and government micromanagement that will harm the economy. The budget projects a much shallower recession and stronger recovery than private forecasters or the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office are projecting. It implies a vast amount of additional spending and higher taxes, above and beyond even these record levels. For example, it calls for a down payment on universal health care, with the additional "resources" needed "TBD" (to be determined).

Mr. Obama has bravely said he will deal with the projected deficits in Medicare and Social Security. While reform of these programs is vital, the president has shown little interest in reining in the growth of real spending per beneficiary, and he has rejected increasing the retirement age. Instead, he's proposed additional taxes on earnings above the current payroll tax cap of $106,800 -- a bad policy that would raise marginal tax rates still further and barely dent the long-run deficit.

Increasing the top tax rates on earnings to 39.6% and on capital gains and dividends to 20% will reduce incentives for our most productive citizens and small businesses to work, save and invest -- with effective rates higher still because of restrictions on itemized deductions and raising the Social Security cap. As every economics student learns, high marginal rates distort economic decisions, the damage from which rises with the square of the rates (doubling the rates quadruples the harm). The president claims he is only hitting 2% of the population, but many more will at some point be in these brackets.

As for energy policy, the president's cap-and-trade plan for CO2 would ensnare a vast network of covered sources, opening up countless opportunities for political manipulation, bureaucracy, or worse. It would likely exacerbate volatility in energy prices, as permit prices soar in booms and collapse in busts. The European emissions trading system has been a dismal failure. A direct, transparent carbon tax would be far better.

Moreover, the president's energy proposals radically underestimate the time frame for bringing alternatives plausibly to scale. His own Energy Department estimates we will need a lot more oil and gas in the meantime, necessitating $11 trillion in capital investment to avoid permanently higher prices.

The president proposes a large defense drawdown to pay for exploding nondefense outlays -- similar to those of Presidents Carter and Clinton -- which were widely perceived by both Republicans and Democrats as having gone too far, leaving large holes in our military. We paid a high price for those mistakes and should not repeat them.

The president's proposed limitations on the value of itemized deductions for those in the top tax brackets would clobber itemized charitable contributions, half of which are by those at the top. This change effectively increases the cost to the donor by roughly 20% (to just over 72 cents from 60 cents per dollar donated). Estimates of the responsiveness of giving to after-tax prices range from a bit above to a little below proportionate, so reductions in giving will be large and permanent, even after the recession ends and the financial markets rebound.

A similar effect will exacerbate tax flight from states like California and New York, which rely on steeply progressive income taxes collecting a large fraction of revenue from a small fraction of their residents. This attack on decentralization permeates the budget -- e.g., killing the private fee-for-service Medicare option -- and will curtail the experimentation, innovation and competition that provide a road map to greater effectiveness.

The pervasive government subsidies and mandates -- in health, pharmaceuticals, energy and the like -- will do a poor job of picking winners and losers (ask the Japanese or Europeans) and will be difficult to unwind as recipients lobby for continuation and expansion. Expanding the scale and scope of government largess means that more and more of our best entrepreneurs, managers and workers will spend their time and talent chasing handouts subject to bureaucratic diktats, not the marketplace needs and wants of consumers.

Our competitors have lower corporate tax rates and tax only domestic earnings, yet the budget seeks to restrict deferral of taxes on overseas earnings, arguing it drives jobs overseas. But the academic research (most notably by Mihir Desai, C. Fritz Foley and James Hines Jr.) reveals the opposite: American firms' overseas investments strengthen their domestic operations and employee compensation.

New and expanded refundable tax credits would raise the fraction of taxpayers paying no income taxes to almost 50% from 38%. This is potentially the most pernicious feature of the president's budget, because it would cement a permanent voting majority with no stake in controlling the cost of general government.

From the poorly designed stimulus bill and vague new financial rescue plan, to the enormous expansion of government spending, taxes and debt somehow permanently strengthening economic growth, the assumptions underlying the president's economic program seem bereft of rigorous analysis and a careful reading of history.

Unfortunately, our history suggests new government programs, however noble the intent, more often wind up delivering less, more slowly, at far higher cost than projected, with potentially damaging unintended consequences. The most recent case, of course, was the government's meddling in the housing market to bring home ownership to low-income families, which became a prime cause of the current economic and financial disaster.

On the growth effects of a large expansion of government, the European social welfare states present a window on our potential future: standards of living permanently 30% lower than ours. Rounding off perceived rough edges of our economic system may well be called for, but a major, perhaps irreversible, step toward a European-style social welfare state with its concomitant long-run economic stagnation is not.

Mr. Boskin is a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mr. President, Keep the Airwaves Free

We keep saying it.

Maybe when it's all shut down, and people lose their radio jobs, someone will listen.


As a former law professor, surely you understand the Bill of Rights.


Dear President Obama:

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as "local content," "diversity of ownership," and "public interest" rules -- all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?

You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.

As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the possible excesses of the federal government. The First Amendment says, in part, that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech -- which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.

When I began my national talk show in 1988, no one, including radio industry professionals, thought my syndication would work. There were only about 125 radio stations programming talk. And there were numerous news articles and opinion pieces predicting the fast death of the AM band, which was hemorrhaging audience and revenue to the FM band. Some blamed the lower-fidelity AM signals. But the big issue was broadcast content. It is no accident that the AM band was dying under the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which choked robust debate about important issues because of its onerous attempts at rationing the content of speech.

After the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980s, Congress passed legislation to reinstitute it. When President Reagan vetoed it, he declared that "This doctrine . . . requires Federal officials to supervise the editorial practices of broadcasters in an effort to ensure that they provide coverage of controversial issues and a reasonable opportunity for the airing of contrasting viewpoints of those issues. This type of content-based regulation by the Federal Government is . . . antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. . . . History has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee."

Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages. The explosion of talk radio has created legions of jobs and billions in economic value. Not bad for an industry that only 20 years ago was moribund. Content, content, content, Mr. President, is the reason for the huge turnaround of the past 20 years, not "funding" or "big money," as Mr. Clinton stated. And not only has the AM band been revitalized, but there is competition from other venues, such as Internet and satellite broadcasting. It is not an exaggeration to say that today, more than ever, anyone with a microphone and a computer can broadcast their views. And thousands do.

Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You've said you're against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you've not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.

I do not favor content-based regulation of National Public Radio, newspapers, or broadcast or cable TV networks. I would encourage you not to allow your office to be misused to advance a political vendetta against certain broadcasters whose opinions are not shared by many in your party and ideologically liberal groups such as Acorn, the Center for American Progress, and There is no groundswell of support behind this movement. Indeed, there is a groundswell against it.

The fact that the federal government issues broadcast licenses, the original purpose of which was to regulate radio signals, ought not become an excuse to destroy one of the most accessible and popular marketplaces of expression. The AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a "scarce" resource. So as the temporary custodian of your office, you should agree that the Constitution is more important than scoring transient political victories, even when couched in the language of public interest.

We in talk radio await your answer. What will it be? Government-imposed censorship disguised as "fairness" and "balance"? Or will the arena of ideas remain a free market?

Mr. Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lincoln's Legacy at 200

Good read on Lincoln, and the scarcely mentioned negative aspects of his presidency.

I think it's assuming a bit too much to say that slavery would have eventually ended in the South and/or that those states would have rejoined the Union, but the overall point is well made.

The Civil War was not fought to end slavery, and its legacy is a Federal Government that runs roughshod over the rights of individual states. (And, as the author notes, racial tension is far worse in modern day Northern states than it now is in the South.)

The Politically Incorrect Guide to U.S. History is a good read on this subject as well.

Lincoln's legacy at 200

Mark Alexander
From Patriot Post Vol. 09 No. 06se; Published 13 February 2009 | Print Email PDF

"If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." --Thomas Jefferson

February 12 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

During his inauguration, Barack Hussein Obama insisted on using Lincoln's Bible as he took his oath of office. Those who know their history might understand why Obama then proceeded to choke on that oath.

Obama, the nation's first half-African American president, was playing on Lincoln's status as "The Great Emancipator," though Obama himself is certainly not the descendant of slaves. His ancestors may well have been slaveholders, though -- and I am not talking about his maternal line. Tens of millions of Africans have been enslaved by other Africans in centuries past. Even though Chattel (house and field) and Pawnship (debt and ransom) slavery was legally abolished in most African nations by the 1930s, millions of African men, women and children remain enslaved today, at least those who escape the slaughter of tribal rivalry.

Not to be outdone by the Obama inaugural, Republican organizations are issuing accolades in honor of their party's patriarch, on this template: "The (name of state) Republican Party salutes and honors Abraham Lincoln on the celebration of his 200th birthday. An extraordinary leader in extraordinary times, Abraham Lincoln's greatness was rooted in his principled leadership and defense of the Constitution."


If the Republican Party would spend more energy linking its birthright to our Constitution rather than Lincoln, it might still enjoy the popular support it had under Ronald Reagan. Though Lincoln has already been canonized by those who settle for partial histories, in the words of John Adams, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

In our steadfast adherence to The Patriot Post's motto, Veritas Vos Liberabit ("the truth shall set you free"), and our mission to advocate for the restoration of constitutional limits on government, I am compelled to challenge our 16th president's iconic standing.

Lincoln is credited with being the greatest constitutional leader in history, having "preserved the Union," but his popular persona does not reconcile with the historical record. The constitutional federalism envisioned by our Founders and outlined by our Constitution's Bill of Rights was grossly violated by Abraham Lincoln. Arguably, he is responsible for the most grievous constitutional contravention in American history.

Needless to say, when one dares tread upon the record of such a divine figure as Lincoln, one risks all manner of ridicule, even hostility. That notwithstanding, we as Patriots should be willing to look at Lincoln's whole record, even though it may not please our sentiments or comport with the common folklore of most history books. Of course, challenging Lincoln's record is NOT tantamount to suggesting that he believed slavery was anything but an evil, abominable practice. Nor does this challenge suggest that Lincoln himself was not in possession of admirable qualities. It merely suggests, contrary to the popular record, that Lincoln was far from perfect.

It is fitting, then, in this week when the nation recognizes the anniversary of his birth, that we consider the real Lincoln -- albeit at great peril to the sensibilities of some of our friends and colleagues.

### Liberator of the oppressed...

The first of Lincoln's two most oft-noted achievements was ending the abomination of slavery. There is little doubt that Lincoln abhorred slavery, but likewise little doubt that he held racist views toward blacks. His own words undermine his hallowed status as the Great Emancipator.

For example, in his fourth debate with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln argued: "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races -- that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Lincoln declared, "What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races..."

In 1860, Lincoln's racial views were explicit in these words: "I think I would go for enslaving the black man, in preference to being enslaved myself. ... They say that between the nigger and the crocodile they go for the nigger. The proportion, therefore, is, that as the crocodile to the nigger so is the nigger to the white man."

As for delivering slaves from bondage, it was two years after the commencement of hostilities that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation -- to protests from free laborers in the North, who didn't want emancipated slaves migrating north and competing for their jobs. He did so only as a means to an end, victory in the bloody War Between the States -- "to do more to help the cause."

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery," said Lincoln in regard to the Proclamation. "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."

In truth, not a single slave was emancipated by the stroke of Lincoln's pen. The Proclamation freed only "slaves within any State ... the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States." In other words, Lincoln declared slaves were "free" in Confederate states, where his proclamation had no power, but excluded slaves in states that were not in rebellion, or areas controlled by the Union army. Slaves in Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware and Maryland were left in bondage.

His own secretary of state, William Seward, lamented, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free."

The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass was so angry with Lincoln for delaying the liberation of some slaves that he scarcely contacted him before 1863, noting that Lincoln was loyal only "to the welfare of the white race..." Ten years after Lincoln's death, Douglass wrote that Lincoln was "preeminently the white man's President" and American blacks were "at best only his step-children."

With his Proclamation, Lincoln succeeded in politicizing the issue and short-circuiting the moral solution to slavery, thus leaving the scourge of racial inequality to fester to this day -- in every state of the Union.

Many historians argue that Southern states would likely have reunited with Northern states before the end of the 19th century had Lincoln allowed for a peaceful and constitutionally accorded secession. Slavery would have been supplanted by moral imperative and technological advances in cotton production. Furthermore, under this reunification model, the constitutional order of the republic would have remained largely intact.

In fact, while the so-called "Civil War" (which by definition, the Union attack on the South was not) eradicated slavery, it also short-circuited the moral imperative regarding racism, leaving the nation with racial tensions that persist today. Ironically, there is now more evidence of ethnic tension in Boston than in Birmingham, in Los Angeles than in Atlanta, and in Chicago than in Charleston.

### Preserve the Union...

Of course, the second of Lincoln's most famous achievements was the preservation of the Union.

Despite common folklore, northern aggression was not predicated upon freeing slaves, but, according to Lincoln, "preserving the Union." In his First Inaugural Address Lincoln declared, "I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments."

"Implied, if not expressed"?

This is the first colossal example of errant constitutional interpretation, the advent of the so-called "Living Constitution."

Lincoln also threatened the use of force to maintain the Union when he said, "In [preserving the Union] there needs to be no bloodshed or violence ... unless it be forced upon the national authority."

On the other hand, according to the Confederacy, the War Between the States had as its sole objective the preservation of the constitutional sovereignty of the several states.

The Founding Fathers established the constitutional Union as a voluntary agreement among the several states, subordinate to the Declaration of Independence, which never mentions the nation as a singular entity, but instead repeatedly references the states as sovereign bodies, unanimously asserting their independence. To that end, our Constitution's author, James Madison, in an 1825 letter to our Declaration of Independence's author, Thomas Jefferson, asserted, "On the distinctive principles of the Government ... of the U. States, the best guides are to be found in ... The Declaration of Independence, as the fundamental Act of Union of these States."

The states, in ratifying the Constitution, established the federal government as their agent -- not the other way around. At Virginia's ratification convention, for example, the delegates affirmed "that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to injury or oppression." Were this not true, the federal government would not have been established as federal, but instead a national, unitary and unlimited authority. In large measure as a consequence of the War Between the States, the "federal" government has grown to become an all-but unitary and unlimited authority.

Our Founders upheld the individual sovereignty of the states, even though the wisdom of secessionist movements was a source of debate from the day the Constitution was ratified. Tellingly, Alexander Hamilton, the utmost proponent of centralization among the Founders, noted in Federalist No. 81 that waging war against the states "would be altogether forced and unwarrantable." At the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton argued, "Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself?"

To provide some context, three decades before the occupation of Fort Sumter, former secretary of war and then South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun argued, "Stripped of all its covering, the naked question is, whether ours is a federal or consolidated government; a constitutional or absolute one; a government resting solidly on the basis of the sovereignty of the states, or on the unrestrained will of a majority; a form of government, as in all other unlimited ones, in which injustice, violence, and force must ultimately prevail."

Two decades before the commencement of hostilities between the states, John Quincy Adams wrote, "If the day should ever come (may Heaven avert it!) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other ... far better will it be for the people of the disunited States to part in friendship with each other than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect Union. ... I hold that it is no perjury, that it is no high-treason, but the exercise of a sacred right to offer such a petition."

But the causal case for states' rights is most aptly demonstrated by the words and actions of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who detested slavery and opposed secession. In 1860, however, Gen. Lee declined Lincoln's request that he take command of the Army of the Potomac, saying that his first allegiance was to his home state of Virginia: "I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the army, and save in defense of my native state ... I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword." He would, soon thereafter, take command of the Army of Northern Virginia, rallying his officers with these words: "Let each man resolve to be victorious, and that the right of self-government, liberty and peace shall find him a defender."

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln employed lofty rhetoric to conceal the truth of our nation's most costly war -- a war that resulted in the deaths of some 600,000 Americans and the severe disabling of more than 400,000 others. He claimed to be fighting so that "this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." In fact, Lincoln was ensuring just the opposite by waging an appallingly bloody war while ignoring calls for negotiated peace. It was the "rebels" who were intent on self-government, and it was Lincoln who rejected their right to that end, despite our Founders' clear admonition to the contrary in the Declaration.

Moreover, had Lincoln's actions been subjected to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention (the first being codified in 1864), he and his principal military commanders, with Gen. William T. Sherman heading the list, would have been tried for war crimes. This included waging "total war" against not just combatants, but the entire civilian population. It is estimated that Sherman's march to the sea was responsible for the rape and murder of tens of thousands of civilians.

Further solidifying their wartime legacy, Sherman, Gen. Philip Sheridan, and young Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer (whose division blocked Gen. Lee's retreat from Appomattox), spent the next ten years waging unprecedented racial genocide against the Plains Indians.

Lincoln's war may have preserved the Union geographically (at great cost to the Constitution), but politically and philosophically, the constitutional foundation for a voluntary union was shredded by sword, rifle and cannon.

"Reconstruction" followed the war, and with it an additional period of Southern probation, plunder and misery, leading Robert E. Lee to conclude, "If I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand."

Little reported and lightly regarded in our history books is the way Lincoln abused and discarded the individual rights of Northern citizens. Tens of thousands of citizens were imprisoned (most without trial) for political opposition, or "treason," and their property confiscated. Habeas corpus and, in effect, the entire Bill of Rights was suspended. Newspapers were shut down and legislators detained so they could not offer any vote unfavorable to Lincoln's conquest.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence details remarkably similar abuses by King George to those committed by Lincoln: the "Military [became] independent of and superior to the Civil power"; he imposed taxes without consent; citizens were deprived "in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury"; state legislatures were suspended in order to prevent more secessions; he "plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people ... scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation."

### The final analysis...

Chief among the spoils of victory is the privilege of writing the history.

Lincoln said, "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."

Lincoln's enduring reputation is the result of his martyrdom. He was murdered on Good Friday and the metaphorical comparisons between Lincoln and Jesus were numerous.

Typical is this observation three days after his death by Parke Godwin, editor of the New York Evening Post: "No loss has been comparable to his. Never in human history has there been so universal, so spontaneous, so profound an expression of a nation's bereavement. [He was] our supremest leader -- our safest counselor -- our wisest friend -- our dear father."

A more thorough and dispassionate reading of history, however, reveals a substantial expanse between his reputation and his character.

"America will never be destroyed from the outside," Lincoln declared. "If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." Never were truer words spoken.

While the War Between the States concluded in 1865, the battle for states' rights -- the struggle to restore constitutional federalism -- remains spirited, particularly among the ranks of our Patriot readers.

In his inaugural speech, Barack Obama quoted Lincoln: "We are not enemies, but friends.... Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

Let us hope that he pays more heed to those words than did Lincoln.