Thursday, December 31, 2009

My favorite blog posts of 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blue-state Democrats are going to get screwed by ObamaCare.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way, but it did:

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole.

New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.
The original purpose of ObamaCare with its "public option" was to make health care dollars, in effect, fungible by laundering them through the federal government. The blue welfare states that are going bankrupt over health care costs would get their massive tax burdens shifted to the federal level in exchange for new health care dollars to make up the shortfalls. The low-taxing red states would see federal tax increases that would pay for it all. The economically healthy red states would, in effect, get looted to prop up the economically collapsing blue states. If the conservative political elites running the red states ended up being surplanted by a new class of liberal Quislings, so much the better as far as President Obama is concerned.

The massive mission failure for Obama is that the public option is not passing through Congress. Without some mechanism for looting the red states and paying the money into the blue states, the effect of the bill is just one big federal mandate to force the blue states into collapse even faster than they are already.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Made I him king for this?

Senator Buckingham seems to be sleeping poorly now that our new Richard, King of the Senate has been crowned with 60 votes:
Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, after securing a sweetheart deal for his state as part of the health insurance reform bill, said Tuesday that three other senators have told him they want to bargain for the same kind of special treatment.

"Three senators came up to me just now on the (Senate) floor, and said, 'Now we understand what you did. We'll be seeking this funding too'," Nelson said.

But the Democratic senator, who has faced a heap of criticism for appearing to trade his vote on health care for millions in federal Medicaid money, said he's considering asking that the Nebraska deal be stripped from the bill.

Though he defended the exemption as a "fair deal," he said he never asked for the full federal funding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ended up granting his state. Nelson said he instead asked that states be allowed to refuse an expansion of Medicaid.

"This is the way Senate leadership chose to handle it. I never asked for 100 percent funding," he said.
Senator Nelson is obviously guilty as hell and he knows it. His Democratic colleagues are obviously stupid as hell if they think that Harry Reid is going to offer special deals to his own stooges.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Dollhouse" at the Christmas hiatus

Season 2 episodes 9 and 10 aired last Friday night. Here are some thoughts about them.
  • Episode 9 proved once again that in the Whedon-verse, the only unstoppable, universal warriors are mousy, 100-pound white chicks. Victor, aka Anthony Ceccoli, might be a professional soldier and Iraq war veteran, but he's only flesh and blood. Echo, on the other hand, can routinely knock-out 200-pound soldiers with a single punch, take out multiple combatants in hand-to-hand combat at once, and defeat an entire army of mind-linked drone soldiers by hacking into their mental network.

  • Aside from the omnicompetent Echo, "Dollhouse" is driven by the bait-and-switch dynamic. For most of episode 9, the bait is that Adelle DeWitt is incapacitated by a drunken stupor which gives Boyd and Topher a chance to download Echo with massive levels of hard-core military training. This sets up the switch, which is Adelle magically switching from pathetic stupor to decisive action by having everyone involved arrested at the end of the episode. In episode 10, the bait is that Adelle DeWitt is openly threatening her subordinates with execution on an daily if not hourly basis to keep them in line. Then there is the switch: Adelle was only pretending to be super evil until she had enough dirt on Rossum, so now she's everybody's loyal and caring leader once again.

  • Episode 10 did finally reveal to the audience what the infamous "attic" was. It was slightly macabre but, ultimately, rather highly television-derivative.

  • Going into the Christmas hiatus for the show, it's easy to see that we haven't really gotten much from Joss Whedon to justify keeping the show alive. We've discovered that the evil corporation is even more evil than we had been led to believe (big shocker there), we received two episodes that revolve around a satirical pun (aka Senator Perrin aka George W. Bush), and we watched the season 1 "Echo has sex with a weirdo" engagement of the week format turn into the season 2 "Echo kicks some weirdo's ass" engagement of the week format. The only really breakthrough episode this season was "Belonging", and that's pretty much it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The irony of the Obama administration

The central irony of the Obama administration is the fact that Barack Obama the man had devoted his intellectual life to the anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist dogma of the Left, but that Barack Obama the president has devoted his first term in office to a domestic policy that is essentially internal colonialism.

You, the peasant of red-state America, will devote your life to supplying raw materials -- primarily tax dollars and carbon offsets -- to your government. In exchange, you'll get whatever suite of services the government feels is necessary for maintaining your lifestyle of stark utilitarian efficiency. In the case of the Senate's health care bill, Lefties are freely admitting that a lot of people are going to end up getting totally hosed by it:
As it is this bill places a huge financial burden on a lot of people who can not afford it. Don't expect a lot of gratitude from them for “solving” their health insurance problem.
On the other hand, the bill is bad for the "natives" but still cool for the "Colonial Office", so some Lefties are still willing to back it:
So what about the question in the title of this post [Should the Senate health care bill be killed]? My answer is no. In the end, as awful as this bill is, I have to side with Krugman and Reich. The argument I find most convincing is that you have to pass something to get your foot in the door for future reforms. If the bill dies, that is it for health care reform for a good long time. Pass the bill, which does do some good things along with its more deplorable parts, and you establish the basic idea of universal health insurance. It will be pretty hard for future Republican majorities to take it away.
Red State gets it (author's boldface):
The world will understand America has changed. Our country is now run by elites who are printing money, debasing our currency to throw at massive new spending and deficit creating programs — and actually believe they are both moral and politically smart. Just 19% of the public believes this plan will not increase the deficit.

What comes next is very discomforting to think about. But we have now crossed that line from what our country was into something else, and that something else has nothing whatsoever with the country being a Republic. There will be a reckoning for this, and it will not be pleasant — not for anyone.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Left's last argument for the Senate health care bill

Here's Jason Rosenhouse's take on why the Senate health care bill should be supported by the Left. He's essentially saying that he supports the bill because, hey, if you want to make an omelette, you must be willing to break a few eggs:
So what about the question in the title of this post[Should the Bill be Killed?] My answer is no. In the end, as awful as this bill is, I have to side with Krugman and Reich. The argument I find most convincing is that you have to pass something to get your foot in the door for future reforms. If the bill dies, that is it for health care reform for a good long time. Pass the bill, which does do some good things along with its more deplorable parts, and you establish the basic idea of universal health insurance. It will be pretty hard for future Republican majorities to take it away.

The Left is revolting (over Obamacare, that is).

The Left has awoken to the fact that the Senate's health care bill is a wet dream for "Big Insurance". Howard Dean got the ball rolling and it's been downhill ever since:
The frictions reflect the tortured state of negotiations over Obama's top domestic legislative priority as the White House and Democratic leadership in the U.S. Congress seek to piece together enough supporters to approve a healthcare plan that Republicans oppose.

Leading the grousing from the left has been Howard Dean, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who ran unsuccessfully for his party's presidential nomination in 2004.

Dean, a medical doctor and former governor of Vermont, in recent days has said a Senate healthcare bill that Obama supports and which is lurching toward a possible vote in coming days should be killed.

Dean and others on the left argue that the Senate legislation does not permit competition with medical insurance companies, would expand private insurers' grip on healthcare and does not really amount to reform.

His complaint came because Senate leaders have ditched a plan for a government-run insurance plan and a measure that would allow people under 65 to buy into the Medicare government insurance plan for the elderly.
To be honest, Dean has a point. The original plan of the Democratic health care reformers was to make the private health care system hell for consumers. This would cause the public to shift into the government option en masse and bingo, single-payer would be achieved. The problem is that the government option can't pass the congress, which means that only that nasty hell part is left in the bill.

Or think about it this way: the wet dream of every evil Big Insurance CEO is to (1) force everyone to buy insurance; (2) at arbitrarily high prices; (3) and get nothing in return; (4) with no competition. So what does the Senate health care bill do:
  1. It includes an individual mandate to buy insurance and no public option, so the private insurance companies can force you (or your employer) to buy insurance, or people are going to go to prison.

  2. It lets private insurance companies raise premiums as much as they want. In fact, the federal government will be paying insurance companies to raise premiums in the form of massive new health care subsidies

  3. Even if your premium is 100% paid in full, the insurance companies will still be able to deny you care by claiming "government rationing". Of course, the insurance companies will be controlling the government rationing boards through their paid lobbyists.

  4. The existing health care monopolies will remain intact, and most likely get even worse since the massive new federal taxes and regulations will present a formidable barrier to market entry.
So how did the Left end up getting so royally screwed by their own party in Congress? Face it, the average Democratic congressman is a Know-Nothing who would vote for a ham sandwich if Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid told him that it was a health care bill. This is great for the Left when the health care bill contains things that the Left wants. This bites the Left on the ass when the health care bill is antithetical to everything that the Left stands for.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yet more "Dollhouse" blogging

Episodes 7 and 8 of "Dollhouse" season 2 aired last Friday night. I interpreted the episodes as two more spins down into the death spiral, but my judgement might have been biased by news of the show's cancellation by Fox. In any case, here are some thoughts as to what went wrong and what went right in these epsiodes.
  • Episode 7 started with Ballard and Echo roaming around the American southwest, on the run from the "Dollhouse", and trying to break a poor, oppressed Hispanic woman out of a prison run by corrupt Anglo cops. In other words, Ballard and Echo were an "A-Team" (minus B. A., Face, and Murdoch, that is). Just close your eyes for a minute and imagine how purely awesome it would have been if "Dollhouse" had been the "A-Team" with a brainwashing machine in the back of the van.

  • The other half of episode 7 was essentially a bait-and-switch to do some essential character damage control. Adelle DeWitt is supposed to be the tough-as-nails boss lady of the Los Angeles dollhouse. In reality, for most of the series to date, Adelle has been more of a pushover than anything else. In season one, she essentially plays the enlightened leader against Laurence Dominic, who floats all of the tough decisions for her first. In the first half of season two, she tends to get pushed around by her boss, Harding.

    The dollhouse half of episode 7 is designed to give Adelle her bitch reputation back. The episode starts with Adelle suffering an entirely random and completely inexplicable demotion to tea-serving girl at the hands of Harding. After being humiliated as a woman by the boys club, Adelle finally has an excuse for betraying Topher in order to get her old job back. The net effect of the episode is to bring us right back to the L.A. dollhouse status quo, except with evil Adelle instead of morally conflicted Adelle.

  • Episode 8 is the long-awaited return of Alpha. The first revelation is that Echo's quest to bring down the dollhouse is presumably doomed to failure, since Alpha turns all of the dolls into mindless killer dolls and they still can't bring down the dollhouse.

  • The second revelation is that Paul Ballard has finally gotten mind-wiped, in the sense of suffering brain-death at the hands of Alpha. Of course, everyone following the show knew from the very start of season 2 that Ballard was going to be turned into a doll. The reason why is also obvious: Paul Ballard was too masculine. In the Whedon-verse, the only unstoppable, butt-kicking, nail-chewing, kick-your-ass-at-three-in-the-morning hand-to-hand combatants are mousy, 100 pound women. Ballard was the one male character who was allowed to kick ass in season 1, so turning him into a vegetable in season 2 is karmic retribution from Whedon.

  • Finally, episode 8 ends with Ballard brain-dead and Echo back in the dollhouse. It's clear that episode 4 -- the episode where Ballard is mysteriously missing -- was mostly likely moved out of order in an attempt to save the show during its November hiatus.

The ultimate impression that I've gotten from Dollhouse season 2 is one of torpor. The highest priority of all of their actors is not getting typecast as a character from a dead show, because that's the way they've all been acting since day one (except for Eliza Dushku, who seems determined to go down with the sinking ship). The end effect is exactly what one would expect: every episode has 90% of the cast moping around waiting for Echo to do her job of the week.

Monday, December 07, 2009

In case you were wondering why "Dollhouse" got cancelled...

It turns out that season 2 of "Dollhouse" will focus on a Senator who seems to resemble a certain real-life person:
[Daniel Perrin], introduced during season two, is a third-generation United States Senator who was kidnapped by the Rossum Corporation for the purpose of being turned into an Active. His mind was subsequently heavily altered via fake memories implants regarding his wife (really his handler) and his personality, turning him from a drunken slacker known for partying, into a super-serious politician and reformer. Though his conditioning was undone and he escaped along with Echo, it was ultimately restored and per Rossum's orders, "debunked" the myth of the existence of the Dollhouse per his master's orders.
According to last Friday's two "Dollhouse" episodes, Daniel Perrin is a scion of a long-term WASP political family. He attends college at Yale and turns into a heavy-drinking party boy. Then the Rossum Corporation gives him a "conversion experience" and turns him into an ultra-committed Senator and Presidential contender -- and Rossum-controlled corporate stooge.

In other words, Senator Perrin is George W. Bush. Given that "Dollhouse" airs on Fox, I'm going to assume that Senator Perrin was Joss Whedon's way of having the show commit "hari-kari".

The Senate majority leader beclowns himself yet again.

When Democrats are the Senate minority, they are firm believers in the sacred right of the minority party to filibuster legisation. When Democrats are the Senate majority, only evil Hitlers would dare to filibuster their legislation. Here's the latest from Senate majority leader Harry Reid on the subject:

But Reid argued that Republicans are using the same stalling tactics employed in the pre-Civil War era.

"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right," Reid said Monday. "When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough.'"

He continued: "When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn't quite right.

"When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."
These statements demonstrate that Senator Reid has an utterly amazing level of ignorance about American history. Talk radio has been hammering Senator Reid on this all day: most of these people that the Senator has been complaining about were Democrats!

For example, Republicans never argued for the country to slow down on confronting slavery. The Republican party formed because they thought the country was already to slow and complacent to deal with the evils of slavery. It was the Democrats who fought a tooth-and-nail defense of slavery, not Republicans. Democrats to this day still hold a Jefferson-Jackson dinner to commemorate the two most prominent slaveholding Democrats in American history.

Here's a point that talk radio missed. Senator Reid claims that pre-civil rights era politicians are using the same filibuster threats that Republicans are making today. This is entirely false. Why? Because the Senate liberalized the filibuster rule in 1975! If the Senate had the same filibuster rule that it had in the 1960s, this year's health care reform bills would have been killed and buried months ago.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

President Obama's big speech on Afghanistan

I'm going to go through the transcript of President Obama's speech and read between the lines to illuminate what the President is really saying. The speech starts out with the canonical post-Cold War history of Afghanistan with respect to the Taliban. Obama identified American neglect as one cause for the rise of the Taliban. In particular, he points out that:
Al Qaeda's base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban, a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.
Obama is making the point that the Elder Bush's policy towards Afghanistan, namely establish some kind of reasonably responsible government and then get the hell out, was a failure with disastrous consequences. Moving on, Obama makes the following point about the Younger Bush:
Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It's enough to say that, for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention, and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.
In other words, the Younger Bush's policy towards Afghanistan, namely establish some kind of reasonably responsible government and then get the hell out, was a failure with disastrous consequences:
But while we have achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, Al Qaiea's leadership established a safe haven there. Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it's been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces.

Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with Al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

Now, throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war.

Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. And that's why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops.
Now Obama is going to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. What is the new policy for Afghanistan? First, Obama is going to establish a reasonably responsible government there:
To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny Al Qaida a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.
Second, Obama is going to get us the hell out:
After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.
Essentially, President Obama has just announced that our war aim in Afghanistan is to restore the Younger Bush-era status quo. In 2011, we'll have Taliban that is still killing people, but not killing lots of people. We'll have an Afghan government that is corrupt, deals drugs, etc., but not launching terror attacks on the West. Osama bin Laden will still be hiding out in the same old cave. Then we'll forget about Afghanistan and all the Americans will go home.

President Obama then addresses some of his critics. First, he counters the criticism that Afghanistan is a new Vietnam
Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.
Obama is lying through his teeth here. First, the Taliban are a broad-based insurgency since (a) they're strong enough that we've abandoned hope of trying to wipe the Taliban out; and (b) when Pakistan was given a choice between fighting the Taliban or suffering a coup at the hands of the Taliban, Pakistan had to think things over for a while. Also, the reason why North Vietnam didn't use vietnamese terror agents to attack the United States homeland, is because they didn't need them. Americans were already doing that for them (not that I'd expect a President whose best friend was Bill Ayers to admit it).

Obama also addresses the argument that the United States should do more in Afghanistan than Obama is committing himself to accomplishing:
Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort, one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost and what we need to achieve to secure our interests.
It's tempting to interpret this as Obama committing himself to "passing the buck" to someone else. Obama later clarifies thaat "passing the buck" is a necessity in what I interpret as the major bombshell of the speech:
Indeed, I'm mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who, in discussing our national security, said, "Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs."

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance. We failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills. Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children.

Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce, so we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.

All told, by the time I took office, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. And going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I'll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military; it underwrites our diplomacy; it taps the potential of our people and allows investment in new industry; and it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last.

That's why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open- ended: because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own.
Obama's admission is perfectly clear. We cannot do more than maintain stalemate in Afghanistan because the United States no longer has the military capacity to achieve anything other than stalemate in Afghanistan.