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July 12th 2009

Hiatus

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am putting Cheat-Seeking Missiles on hiatus so I can devote all my spare time to a writing project that needs to proceed in all due haste so I can wrap it up while it’s still as timely as it is now.  This was a hard decision to make since C-SM is my therapy, but I’ve got a psychiatrist’s number handy if I need it.

Please do click the RSS feed button. That way you’ll know if I lose all discipline and post something, and you’ll also find out when the big project is wrapped up, and unwrapped … all at the same time!

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July 1st 2009

A Little Post-Waxman-Markey Clarity

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K, gang, let’s start prepping for the Senate showdown and, hopefully, the crashing and oh- so- carbon- emitting burning of the cap and tax lunacy.  Let’s start in a chilly place that by rights should be one of the leading proponents of global warming.  Lord knows, the weather certainly could stand to get a wee bit warmer in Scotland.

But for reasons unfathomable by rational minds, Scotland has decided its proper role as a nation is to lead the lemmings off the global warming cliff.  It hails itself, claiming it has the world’s most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals – a 42 percent reduction by 2020 and a mind-numbingly stupid 80 percent slash by 2050. Just listen to Scotland’s Climate Minister (Climate Minister?! He should be filed on the spot! Have you seen Scotland’s climate? Disgusting!) says about it all:

Scotland can be proud of this bill, the most ambitious and comprehensive piece of climate change legislation anywhere in the world. As a country, we are leading global action and expect others to follow our lead as we look to the international summit in Copenhagen this December.

I bet it’s going to be bone-chillingly cold in Copenhagen this December – big global warming confab or not.

I bring all this up because in Scotland’s goals we see what’s ahead for a cap and tax America.

Get ready for hefty fines if your household doesn’t do its part. And heftier fines if your business doesn’t. That’s now the rule in Scotland.

Prepare yourself for the Greenshirts busting into your house in search of plastic bags, or forcing your corporation to drop its theft-resistant packaging for something more easy to steal. OK, they’re not yet breaking down doors in Scotland, but they are attacking plastic bags as heinous, anti-social tools of destruction, only slightly more acceptable than the dreaded product packaging.

To incentivize thrifty Scots to part with some of their cash to reduce their carbon footprints, the Scotish Parliament has approved a 50 pound reduction in a local tax.  That sounds exactly like Obama thinking.  Everyone who pitches in to save the planet gets a tax cut.  Never mind that you’ll spend a 500, or 1,000 or 10,000 pounds to insulate your quaint cottage or install solar – that 50-pound tax cut is exactly the sort of great incentive a big government control freak would come up with. And we have more than a few of those in DC.

Not all the Scots are buying it, of course.  Here’s university prof Dr. James Buckee attempting too late to interject some rationality into all this:

“As far as reducing emissions by 80 per cent, banning the internal combustion engine, and coal-fired power stations from Scotland would not get close to doing it. This is clearly unobtainable.

“More energy has been expended on finding ways to infringe on human activity than has gone into understanding the science.”

Heh.  Loved that.  And speaking of understanding the science, there was one heck of an article in Forbes the other day, Waxman-Markey Flunks the Math.  Math is the base of all science, so that’s bad news for the Warmies. Here we go with the basics:

In the U.S., electricity is produced from these sources. If you are reading this on a handheld and can’t read Wikipedia’s wonderful pie chart, here is the breakdown:

48.9% — Coal
20% — Natural Gas
19.3% — Nuclear
1.6% — Petroleum

Got that? A tick over 88% of U.S. electricity comes from three sources: coal, gas and nuclear. Petroleum brings the contribution of so-called “evil” energy–that is, energy that is carbon- or uranium-based–to almost 90%.

The remaining sources of U.S. electricity, the renewables, are, by comparison, tiny players:

7.1% — Hydroelectric
2.4% — Other Renewables
0.7% — Other

Hydroelectric accounts for 70% of renewable energy in America. But, of course, hydro is mostly tapped out. Almost every dam that could be built has been built. Ironically enough, political opposition to building more dams comes from the same crowd of tree huggers who oppose coal, gas and uranium.

Waxman-Markey is all about punitively taxing the energy sources that make up 90 percent of our electrical generation, in order to subsidize the 10 percent that’s renewable.  Well, really 3 percent if you don’t count hydroelectric generation, which isn’t targeted for big Waxman-Markey subsidies. The author then reveals what the bill is all about; not stopping global warming, but good ol’ politics as usual:

In other words, Waxman-Markey is betting the future of U.S. electricity production on sources that now contribute 3% or supply 10 million Americans with electricity. That’s enough juice for the people in Waxman’s Los Angeles County. Or, if you prefer, for Nancy Pelosi’s metro San Francisco plus Markey’s metro Boston.

Well, what about electricity for the other 295 million? You can’t get there from here with Waxman-Markey. At very best, solar, wind and cellulosic ethanol will make 20% contributions by 2025. The smart money would bet on 10%.

Besides, those nasty ol’ Devil fuels are doing very well on the technology front, advancing at a clip that rivals or surpasses gains made in alternative energy.  Engines are cleaner and more efficient, fuels burn hotter and cleaner, and extraction and processing technologies are greener than ever.

There simply is no reason for Waxman-Markey … except for power-grabbing and money-sucking.  But there is a great alternative, an absolutely brilliant alternative, promoted today by Doug Ross:

We start with the most useless government agencies we can find. The Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, The Department of Health and Human Services, The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FCC and Amtrak. For the sake of argument, let’s say that together, they consume $250 billion a year.

Congress’ job? They would be required to cut spending for these ridiculous bureaucracies according to the following schedule (which I had a lot of fun creating — all numbers in billions).

2012 – $250
2013 – $210
2014 – $190
2015 – $160
2016  – $140
2017 – $120
2018 – $110
2019 – $100
2020 – $90
2021 – $75
2022 – $60
2023 – $50

Pay-cuts? Layoffs? Closing unnecessary facilities? Who gives a crap? That’s for them to figure out.

How do you like Cap-and-trade now, Democrats?

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June 29th 2009

Crazifornia – Regulators Want To Ban Big TVs

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ere’s a simple proposition:  If you want to watch a big TV that uses more electricity, you simply exert your right to pay a bigger electric bill in return for a bigger picture.  That is unless you live in Crazifornia where know-it-all bureaucrats stand ready to strip Californians of their ability – or right – to watch big-screen TVs.

You know Crazifornia – the state where this book is a bestseller.

The effort by the California Energy Commissars … er, Commission … won the bureaucrats a Golden Trashcan from conservative California news aggregator FlashReport. The award is given sparingly to particularly “onerous” – in FashReport publisher Jon Fleischman’s word; I’d use “fascist” – legislation or regulation.

Last March libertarian OC Register columnist Steve Greenhut wrote about the plan:

In their continuing quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, state regulators have uncovered a new villain in the war on global warming : your big screen TV

Couch potatoes, beware.

The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal that would ban California retailers from selling all but the most energy-efficient televisions. Critics say the news standards could take 25 percent of televisions off the market — most of them 40 inches or larger.

I read it back then, but haven’t heard anything else since, and figured maybe the bureaucrats had been slapped back into place.  Not so.  Here’s Fleischman:

I figured that this proposal, like that California Air Resources Board Report [CARB] that talked about banning black cars, would be rolled up and put into a file cabinet somewhere – a bad idea conceived by some government eco-bureaucrat that would never fly in the real world…

But I was wrong – and the CEC is actually DEAD SERIOUS about punching a huge whole in the California economy, and severely limiting consumer choice in big screen televisions, implementing a ban on many of them starting in 2011, with even more being banned starting in 2013.

The CEC is looking to move forward with proposed language for the ban in the coming weeks – under the guise of “adopting energy efficiency standards for televisions.”

You may have heard sporatic chatter that California is once again leading the nation – this time in unemployment, high taxes and barriers to business.  But don’t bother CARB with such trivialities.  Jobs, schmobs.  And who needs state revenues, even if we are bleeding out to the tune of $23 billion?  The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)  has published a study that shows by banning big-screen TVs, the state could lose as much as $50 million a year in tax revenue and lose 4,600 jobs in TV sales, distribution and installation. That’s 4,600 tax-paying jobs that would no longer be contributing to the state’s ailing economy.

The worst of it is the dishonesty CARB uses when talking to us about their plan. The bureaucrats must think we are so dumb.  This is from the CARB Web site’s FAQ:

Q: Is California considering banning plasma, large screen or HD televisions?

A: No, the state is not banning any type of TV. Consumers have the freedom to choose any type and size of television that meets the efficiency standard.

Never mind that TVs that don’t meet the standard would be, you know, banned. It’s no different from Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs proclaiming that there’s freedom in Iran – it’s the same insolent betrayal of truth by the forces in power.

You can walk into any consumer electronics store and buy an Energy Star-rated big-screen TV, with assurance that it is the most energy efficient brand available. Don’t bother the CARB bureaucrats with such niceties; it’s power of the political sort they’re concerned with, much more than power of the energy sort. And Fleischman reports that CARB itself isn’t too hot on Energy Star:

The CEC, of course, derides the EnergyStar program in their FAQ document, emphasizing that, in essence, because it is a voluntary program, EnergyStar doesn’t go far enough.

I did note that the CEC touts as supporters of this program California’s three heavily state-regulating power utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric. So I dropped a call into a longtime [FlashReport] friend who is a prominent executive with one of these companies – this person made it clear to me — after confirming that I would leave their name out of it – that the utilities are in a bind. These regulations are being proposed and advocated by their regulators. So they don’t have a choice but to support them. He said it is now commonplace for the utilities to have to publicly feign support for “social engineering programs” because they simply cannot afford to alienate their regulators.

Quick question: Does what I’ve just described to you sound like the workings of a democratic government or a fascist one?

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June 29th 2009

Chamomile Tea Time Pearce 2005-2009

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e lost our wonderful friend and companion Cammie yesterday. She was only four – 28 in our years.

With her sister Pepper, we went on one of our normal walks at about 11 a.m.  It was a beautiful Sunday morning, in the low 80s, with lots for the girls to sniff and explore.  When we were almost home, Cammie sat under a tree and didn’t want to go any further.  I carried her home and Incredible Wife and I tried to cool her with ice packs and a dip in the sink. When that didn’t work, we called our wonderful vet, Dr. Eberhart, who also has a tan and white Cavalier.

He hydrated her and treated her for symptom after symptom that followed from her heat stroke, then late last night, he took her home with him so he could watch her. She was doing much better – responsive, comfortable.  But shortly after they got to his house, while she was sitting on his lap, she passed away.

It was quite a shock to us – we all expected to have her around for another 10 years. She left us with an unwanted lesson in how fleeting this life is and how important it is to have your relationship with your creator in order.  And, in her unbounded and exuberant love for us, she also gave us a lesson we will never, ever forget about the nature of God’s love for us.

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June 25th 2009

Crazifornia: Imperial Imperviousness

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esidents of other states may think they know how crazy things are in California, but I don’t think the power of human imagination is anywhere great enough to really capture just how insane this state is.  I mean, it’s like that book on the right is a best-seller here.

So I’m starting this periodic feature, Crazifornia, to help out-of-staters get a better understanding … and in-staters to realize that it’s way past time to throw all the #@$%!s out.

Today’s subject: Rainfall.

You’ve heard about our drought, so you’d think we’d love rain but in San Diego a few years back, the Regional Water Quality Control Board – let’s just call it “the San Diego Board” instead of the alternative SDRWQCB – tried to declare rain to be a toxic substance as soon as it hit the ground.  Why? Why because then they could regulate it even more, of course!  They figured it would pick up all sorts of human-caused nastiness as soon as it touched down, and that would allow the Board to force citizens and businesses to treat it before it left their property – or face nasty fines if they failed to.

That bizarre campaign ulitmately failed, but the spirit lived on.

The Ventura Board – following some very secretive deliberations – just passed a new set of regulations for runoff that requires that all new development (they never hit existing development – voters live in existing development!) to meet strict limits for “effective impervious area,” or EIA.  That would be the portion of the parcel that becomes impervious as roads, roofs, sidewalks and driveways are built over it.

Ventura’s Board figured it would limit EIA to 30 percent for urban infill properties and … gasp … five percent for “greenfield” developments.  You can make more than five percent of a greenfield site impervious, but if you do, you have to capture every single drop that falls on that remainder of the impervious area and either infiltrate it into the ground, use it on the site, or hold it on the site until every last molecule of it evaporates.

As you can imagine, that will drive up the cost of new construction dramatically … and why?  In any good storm, water will run naturally off of more than five percent of any greenfield site.  And if runoff is such a big problem, why not treat it like sewage, let it flow  to a regional treatment, clean it and release it?

We tried to get that cost effective and reasonable idea approved by any number of regional boards, but they said they wanted the conveyance systems – be it a creek or a concrete-lined channel – to be “fishable” and “swimable.”  We had some fun with that, creating this image of what every Southern Californian would rather do than go to a nearby beach.

Up and down the state, Regional Boards are foisting this kind of insanity, pretending its normal human behavior.  And they’re getting away with it.

Now you may have heard that California is in just a bit of a financial squeeze, facing a $24 billion budget deficit and suffering an unemployment rate that’s a couple points higher than the depressing-enough national rate. Encouraging new construction would help get us out of this mess, since each new home generates three new jobs, $300,000 in economic output, $16,000 in state tax revenues and $3,000 in local tax revenues, according to the Building Industry Association of Southern California.

But instead of encouraging the end of the recession, California keeps doing things like these new stormwater regs, which make new homes, factories, schools and hospitals more expensive to build, more difficult to finance, and ultimately less likely to ever happen.  And why?  Even environmental groups report that beach water quality is way up – yet no one sees the need to stop ratcheting up the regulations.

Welcome to Crazifornia.

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June 24th 2009

The Rush Towards Energy Dependence

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n much of the US, this has been the coldest June in a couple decades, yet the Dem/Eco cabal is trying to slam a massive, punative energy tax through Congress in the name of saving the planet from global warming. The Waxman-Markey carbon tax bill sped through the House without the intense committee review such a far-reaching and costly piece of legislation would normally review and now the 1,200-page bill is slated for floor debate and vote by the end of this week.

Here’s the Heritage Foundation analysis. Read it and ask yourself, “Why are the Dems slamming this through with minimal debate?”

The current version does not weaken the stringent targets and timetables for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. They must decline by 3 percent in 2012, 17 percent by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050. Since fossil fuels comprise 85 percent of the nation’s energy and there is no way to cheaply substitute for them, the targets amount to energy rationing. Prices for gasoline, electricity, and natural gas have to rise high enough so that individuals and businesses are forced to use less of them. Economic pain is how these ever-tightening targets are met.

The Heritage Foundation estimates electricity costs rising by 90 percent by 2035, gasoline by 58 percent, and natural gas by 55 percent. A household of four can expect to pay $1,241 more for energy annually by that year. And since higher energy costs raise the price of everything else, the total impact of this energy tax would reach nearly $3,000 per household per year from 2012-2035. Total gross domestic product losses average $383 billion annually from 2012-2035 and would total $9.4 trillion dollars.

Oh, but that’s not what Obama is focused on, no sir.  He knows the new and improved talking points, as Matt Dempsey from Sen. Inhoff’s staff points out:

Don’t say “climate change” or “global warming,” or even worse, “cap-and-trade,” anymore; use “clean energy economy.” As the New York Times and LA Times have recently reported, the White House, concerned by the lack of support for their “cap-and-trade” initiatives, is using poll-tested talking points to help push one of the President’s biggest priorities:

“The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is ‘global warming.’ The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.”  – New York Times, May 2, 2009

“Scratch ‘cap and trade’ and ‘global warming,’ Democratic pollsters tell Obama. They’re ineffective…Control the language, politicians know, and you stand a better chance of controlling the debate. So the Obama administration, in its push to enact sweeping energy and healthcare policies, has begun refining the phrases it uses in an effort to shape public opinion. Words that have been vetted in focus groups and polls are seeping into the White House lexicon, while others considered too scary or confounding are falling away.” – LA Times, May 11, 2009

In reviewing the transcript from President Obama’s press conference [yesterday], it looks like the President has nailed his new talking points:

“Now the second issue I want to address is our ongoing effort to build a clean energy economy. This week, the House of Representatives is moving ahead on historic legislation that will transform the way we produce and use energy in America. This legislation will spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet. …

These incentives will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.

And that will lead to the development of new technologies that lead to new industries that could create millions of new jobs in America — jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.

At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air that we breathe. It also provides assistance to businesses and communities as they make the gradual transition to clean-energy technologies. …

We all know why this is so important. The nation that leads in the creation of a clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century’s global economy. That’s what this legislation seeks to achieve. It’s a bill that will open the door to a better future for this nation, and that’s why I urge members of Congress to come together and pass it.”

There he goes again, looking for the magic words that that will make us fawn over the brilliance of what he’s doing.  But we know better. We see Waxman-Markey for what it is - global warming cap-and-trade legislation, a monstrous new energy tax on American businesses and families, a job-destoyer and a competitiveness-killer.

On the last point, competitiveness, the Institute for 21st Century Energy and U.S. Chamber make a compelling argument in their white paper, Taxing Our Way to Energy Insecurity Again.  It points out that the Congressional Research Service found that a similar energy tax, the Windfall Profits Tax, led to as much as an 8% decline in domestic energy production and as much as a 13% increase in imports, because it raised the cost of domestic energy.  Waxman-Markey will do exactly the same thing – despite all the president’s fine talk about greater energy independence:

Now, two decades after the demise of the WPT, the new administration has included proposals of a similar nature in its FY 2010 budget proposed to Congress last month. To finance record high spending for administration priorities, the budget aims to impose new taxes that again will raise the costs of producing domestic oil and natural gas and place U.S. businesses at a disadvantage with foreign government-owned oil and gas companies. This budget proposal would creates new taxes and fees, while repealing several long-standing tax rules for companies that incur significant economic risk in exploring for oil and natural gas without any guarantee of profitable recovery.

The elimination of these tax rules is not about “closing loopholes” as some have suggested. These provisions were specifically crafted by Congress to create and preserve American jobs and to increase the country’s energy security by supporting greater domestic production. Similar tax rules, not proposed for elimination, apply to other industries. Thus, these new tax changes disproportionately target one industry simply to finance increased federal spending.

For all the negative impacts of the WPT, the promised revenues were only 20 percent of what Congress promised when enacting the legislation.  Isn’t that always the case – they promise less impact and more revenues, but get exactly the opposite.

Waxman-Markey’s taxes on domestic production to fund Obama’s welfare agenda will force up oil imports:

To remain competitive, domestic producers will be forced to bear the additional costs of production caused by new taxes and fees, thereby creating an inherent disincentive for them to increase production of domestic oil and gas resources, and in some cases even creating a disincentive for them to maintain existing production levels. Absent a significant drop in demand, the only way to meet the resulting supply gap this will create is to import more oil. Today we import about 60% of the oil consumed in the United States, and history has proven increased taxes will only serve to increase that percentage.

The disincentivizing of exploration is exactly what Waxman-Markey sets out to do; it just doesn’t acknowledge that America still needs oil and gas, so if can’t produce it competitively here, we will get it competitively elsewhere.  But, of course, knocking down US production will only drive up foreign prices and the net effect will more than wipe out any “middle class tax cut” promised by the president. Says the American Petroleum Institute’s Jack Gerard:

This [legislation] places a disproportionate burden on all consumers of gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, jet fuel, propane and other petroleum products. If you drive, fly, take the bus or the train, your costs are going up.”

That would be all of us … who work.  Add to that if you buy food, products or services, your costs are going up, then you begin to see the all-sector impact this legislation, so bereft of probing public review, will have.

In a letter to Congress, Gerard notes that the oil and gas industry currently funds 44 percent of the national investment in alternative energy – investments that would be limited by the impact of higher energy taxes on profitability.  Profits, not sales, fund R&D.  He concludes by begging Congress to be rational and mindful:

At a time when we can least afford it, these provisions and others have the effect of driving up energy costs, creating a competitive disadvantage for American business, and imperiling thousands, if not millions, of jobs.  These jobs and their economic productivity should not be jeopardized.

Given the scope and breadth of the Waxman-Markey bill, the House should take the time necessary to get this legislation right. It is too important to be pushed by an arbitrary deadline. Jobs and the health of the American economy depend on a more balanced approach.

Unfortunately, getting legislation right and taking time to seek balance is nowhere on the agenda of Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress.  They have shown almost daily since January 20 that they intend to scream “FIRE!” and rush legislation pell-mell towards the exits. They seem to know that in 2010 they will lose their all-powerful majority, and have elected to go ahead and lose it in the name of driving to change America – an America that up until now has been the driving force of the global economy and the global beacon of liberty.

If the Dems succeed in pushing through this legislation without major modification, it won’t be the same America.

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June 23rd 2009

A Little MasterCharge Humor

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ost of a bowl of soup at homeless shelter: $0.00 dollars.

Having Michelle Obama serve you your soup: $0.00 dollars.

Snapping a picture of a homeless person who is receiving a government-funded meal while taking a picture of the First Lady using a Blackberry cell phone:  Priceless.

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June 19th 2009

Obama Keeps His ‘No Lobbyist’ Promise – Sort Of

Are you keeping a promise if it’s just a symbolic promise-keeping?  Of course not … unless you’re Barack Obama.  Then you can do stuff like this:

WASHINGTON (NYT) — When President Obama arrived at the Mandarin Oriental hotel for a fund-raising reception on Thursday night, the new White House rules of political purity were in order: no lobbyists allowed.

But at the same downtown hotel on Friday morning, registered lobbyists have not only been invited to attend an issues conference with Democratic leaders, but they have also been asked to come with a $5,000 check in hand if they want to stay in good favor with the party’s House and Senate re-election committees.

The practicality of Mr. Obama’s pledge to change the ways of Washington is colliding once more with the reality of how money, influence and governance interact here. He repeatedly declared while campaigning last year that he would “not take a dime” from lobbyists or political action committees.

So to follow through with that promise, Mr. Obama is simply leaving the room.

I just love all this “change you can believe in” hogwash! And so, apparently, does Robert “Gotta Get A Message To You” Gibbs:

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, dismissed a suggestion on Thursday that the rules were a sleight of hand. He said no lobbyists would be on hand when Mr. Obama addressed the donors, which is what he promised in the campaign.

“People know where the president stands,” Mr. Gibbs told reporters. Asked whether Mr. Obama would agree with critics who suggested it was hypocritical, he demurred and added, “We’re not taking their money.”

There. Now we know where the president stands. We just don’t know why he bothers standing there.

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June 19th 2009

Congress To O: You’re Not Gonna Git Mo Gitmo Bucks

Congress may be full of Democrats, but it’s not full of idiots … well, not complete idiots.  The new emergency war bill, stuffed as it is with $20 billion in non-defense garbage like the $1 billion clunker buy-back abomination, doesn’t contain one penny for the closure of Obama’s Guantanamo closing madness.

Worse for the Prez, it puts restrictions on his recent dark, secretive schemes to transfer jihadists to other nations.  You know, demanding transparency; that sort of thing the candidate loved but the president shuns.

The members of Congress have become aware the folks back home don’t want a bunch of Mohammed Atta wannabees hanging out by their neighborhood Seven-11.  Too bad they haven’t quite grasped that we don’t want to sell the future of the country down the river on socialist schemes, either.

The $106 emergency bill – what’s not an emergency in DC nowadays? – prohibits the prez from releasing any Gitmo detainees into the U.S., prevents them from being transfered here for prosecution without the preparation of something akin to a Jihadist Impact Report, and requires the prez to disclose the deals he cuts with other nations before detainees can be transfered to them and does a risk analysis.

How can they so resolutely slap down this bit of presidential lunacy and still let him speed through transformational measures that  will impact us and future generations with debt and destruction of the free market?

Oh, yeah: Iit’s just their intense interest in self-preservation. It’s easier to face the voters after selling out the economy and constitution than it is to face them after letting out terrorists.

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June 16th 2009

Most Ridiculous Story Of 2009 (3) – I Wanna Be George Tiller

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nlike some folks I know of the other political persuasion, I revel in reading the other side’s point of view, so this morning I read Why I Plan to Emulate Dr. George Tiller by med student Rozalyn Farmer Love on AlterNet.  I really don’t want to put the story into nomination for the Most Ridiculous Story of 2009 because Love has, on the surface at least, tried so earnestly to bridge an all but unbridgeable gap.

That’s worth kudos and shouldn’t lead to catcalls of “Ridiculous!”  Had the author been honest in her examples, I might have been citing this article as a must read instead of including it in this year’s running.

Let’s get the formalities taken care of:  To be considered, a piece must be written by a serious writer about a serious subject in all seriousness, yet go far beyond the sublime, settling heavily into the imbecilic.  By those criteria, I suppose that Love will be an also-ran come December 31 (especially given the stories in the hopper thus far by a couple Rulers of the Ridiculous, Gary Kamiya and Glenn Greenwald), but let’s see how this stacks up.

The author starts by seeking affinity, which may seem odd given that the piece is on the decidedly left-wing AlterNet, but don’t give her demerits for that; it was originally published in the Atlanta daily.  Here’s her pitch:

I’m a third-year medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I plan to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. I dream of delivering healthy babies, working with families and supporting midwifery. But as part of my practice, I also envision providing abortions to women who need them.

The road I took to get here isn’t your stereotypical one. My parents are conservative Christians who believe abortion is wrong. Growing up, I naturally shared their view. But I’ve also wanted to be a doctor since I was 4 years old, and in high school, I began to feel drawn to issues of women’s health. In college, I designed my own major to broaden my understanding of women’s health by including psychology, sociology and women’s studies.

OK, so she’s from a conservative, church-going background, she’s focused and driven, and she’s gone out of her way to pursue her life-long dream.  Kudos, we can all relate.  But why, then, does she start the column with this intro:

If I’d passed her on the street, I probably wouldn’t have known her. Her gait is a bit stiff and her left eye somehow different from her right. She’s not famous, exactly, but some people might know her name: Emily Lyons. She’s the nurse who survived the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham at the hands of Eric Rudolph.

It’s a bit curious to me that someone who works in an abortion clinic should get heroic status, but Love tells us:

Watching her walk slowly into our fund-raiser on her husband’s arm — a woman who’d endured more than 18 operations — I thought of all she’d been through and knew that I’d come to the right decision in my support of reproductive rights.

Everyone in their right mind has to feel sorry for the tragedy that was interjected into Emily Lyons’ life.  It should never have happened.  Of course, had she chosen a more morally acceptable field of medicine to practice in, she would have lived a different life.  Providing abortions is hardly a high-risk occupation, with a mortality rate of, what, one a decade or so?  But Lyons’ career choice ended up costing her a lot, because of the evil and irrational reaction it created in Eric Rudolph’s mind.

Next we learn of another moment of inspiration to Love, related in her usual inclusive, mellowing style:

I agree that ending an unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy. When I advocate for reproductive rights, for choice, I don’t claim that abortion is morally acceptable. I think that it’s a very private, intensely personal decision. But I was stunned when one of my professors, a pathologist and a Planned Parenthood supporter, told me that decades ago, entire wings of the university’s hospital were filled with women dying from infections caused by botched abortions.

Really?  Entire wings?!  Let’s assume conservatively that it was just two wings of the university’s hospital and they had, oh, 20 beds in each wing. That means 40 beds filled with women dying from infections from botched abortions at any one time.  Let’s assume, again conservatively, that it took them two weeks to die.  That means we would have been cycling through 40 deaths 26 times a year, or 1,040 botched abortion deaths per year in one hospital.

According to wiki.answers.com, there were 7,569 hospitals in America in 2005, so let’s say, conservatively again, there were 5,000 “decades ago.”  If all these women were in fact dying in all these hospital wings as Love has so gullibly believed from such a credible source as a Planned Parenthood leader, why, we would have been racking up 5.2 million botched abortion deaths a year in this country!

Why didn’t Planned Parenthood do a better job of letting us know this back then?

Any deaths from a botched abortion is horrible, and it presents a morally credible argument for abortion, whether you accept it or not.  Judging the relative value of one human being over another is at its heart a moral issue, and the case can be made that the value of protecting grown women from painful deaths justifies the taking of a pre-born life.  But it is immoral to present your moral arguments with wildly skewed, incorrect evidence.

Another driver for Love was this:

At the same time [she was studying women's health issues], I found myself shocked at how little many of my friends — women who were studying biology and planning to become doctors — knew about their own sexual health. They didn’t know about or couldn’t get the reproductive health care they needed because of barriers put up by their culture, their religion and their parents. (emphasis added)

This is a third-year med student, so we are talking here about women who are currently in their 20s and 30s.  Why are federal, state and local governments giving millions of dollars a year to Planned Parenthood and various sex education/health clinic programs if smart women who are in pre-med can’t get the care they need?  Didn’t the SCOTUS rule that anti-abortion demonstrators can’t block clinics?  Do you need your pastor’s permission to get an abortion?

What did these women need, anyway? Late term abortions on the pew of a church?  I can’t imagine what they couldn’t get.  Honestly, you’d think Love was talking about tribal women in north Africa, not American women in the late 20th and early 21st century.

So Love, who tells us she still goes to church and is considered “a good person” by her old Christian friends, has gradually abandoned the morality of her youth, and accepted the morality of the abortionists.  But late-term abortion?  Letting a baby drop into the birth canal and sticking a gizmo into its brain and scrambling it? Cutting it apart to get it out?  Well, that took her a while:

As I continue my education, my views on abortion are still evolving. Take late-term abortions. When I first heard about them, I was horrified.

It wasn’t until I spent time in ultrasound rooms in graduate school that I began to see late-trimester abortions in a very different light. In one case, the patient’s baby had just been diagnosed with a lethal congenital anomaly. The high likelihood was that it wouldn’t survive after birth for more than a few minutes. As long as the baby remained in her mother’s womb, however, she would live. I asked the physician what this woman’s options were. The answer was, not many. She could choose to continue the pregnancy, but then she might be waiting for almost 20 more weeks to give birth to a baby that would never take more than a few breaths on its own. She was past the point where she could legally terminate the pregnancy in Alabama. If she could get an appointment in Atlanta within the next week, she might be able to have the procedure there. Beyond that, there were only a few physicians in the nation who would perform an abortion in such a case.

I could hardly wrap my mind around the agony that this woman and her husband must have been facing. They needed a caring physician to help them through this dark moment, and if they chose not to continue the pregnancy, they also needed a physician who was both skilled enough and brave enough to provide them with the care they needed. They needed Dr. Tiller.

Again, Love cites a morally defensible position, whether you agree with it or not.  Is a two-breath life a life worth living?  But how many partial birth abortions are like the tragedy she presented as her motivator?  Such stats are all over the board, as you can imagine, so let’s go to the abortionists’ mouth and see what they have to say:

Kansas requires physicians to report reasons for performing PBAs. Of the 240 PBAs [Partial Birth Abortions] reported in Kansas in 1998 and 1999, there were none where the mother’s life was at risk; in every case the attending physician certified “that continuing the pregnancy will constitute a substantial and irreversible impairment of the patient’s mental function” [i.e., she didn't want a baby] and that there was not a substantial physical risk to the mother from the pregnancy.[29] No PBAs have been reported since 1999 in Kansas, but other abortions performed at 22 weeks gestation or later must similarly be reported. For these as well, few if any are cited as involving risk to the mother’s life; typically, risk to the mother of “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” is cited.[29]

Physicians who perform large numbers of PBAs have stated that many are performed for elective reasons. In an interview with American Medical News, M. Haskell stated that about 80% of the PBAs he performed were purely elective, with the remainder performed for genetic reasons.[30] In testimony to Congress, J. McMahon reported that for about 2,000-2,100 PBAs he had performed, 1,183 (56%) were for fetal “flaws” or “indicators”, 175 (9%) were for maternal “indicators” [see next paragraph], and the remainder (about 700, or 35%) were elective.[31] McMahon further indicated that elective abortions comprised 20% of those he performed after 21 weeks gestation, and none of those he performed after 26 weeks.[32]

McMahon’s 1995 testimony to the House Judiciary Committee gave more detailed statistics, which have been analyzed by physicians P. Smith and K. Dowling. Among maternal indicators, the single most frequent was maternal depression (39, or 1.9% of total), with 28 attributed to maternal health conditions “consistent with the birth of a normal child (e.g. sickle cell trait, prolapsed uterus, small pelvis)” (1.3% of total) and the remainder (5% of total) for other maternal factors ranging from maternal health risk to “spousal drug exposure” and “substance abuse”. Those performed for fetal indicators included some for lesser conditions such as 9 (0.4% of total) for cleft lip-palate, 24 (1.1% of total) for cystic hydroma, and other for conditions either surgically correctable or involving lesser degrees of neurologic/mental impairment.[32, 33] (emphasis added, Johnston Archive)

Love picked the easy way out, the minority case she could justify. What will she do when a woman comes into her clinic and says, “I know I’m in my last weeks, but my junkie boyfriend just left me for a stripper and I’d rather not deal with a kid, at least until I’m off parole.  Could you just kill the little f***er for me?” Where’s the nobility of purpose in that? What is the moral justification?

For all her considerable efforts to connect with us so we understand her position, Love leaves us with an argument about as compelling as a Planned Parenthood position paper arguing against letting pregnant women see sonograms.  She has picked her cases very carefully, presented them unrealistically, and created a perfect world for justifying abortions.

Give her credit for bravery and points for trying, but to use a fantasy world to argue a real-world position is just ridiculous.

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