Patterico's Pontifications


Ben Sheffner Busts the New York Daily News

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:17 pm

Good stuff.

More Fires from Space

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:41 pm

A fascinating picture of a tragic fire:

More Fires from Space

Is Justice Stevens Retiring?

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 10:37 pm

It certainly appears possible. Jan Crawford Greenburg reports:

Talk about ending the summer with a bang! The AP’s Mark Sherman confirms today that Justice Stevens has only hired one of his four law clerks for next year, which of course is setting off widespread speculation that the 89-year-old senior justice will be leaving the Court at the end of this term.

(Remember it was Mark who reported back in April that Justice Souter hadn’t hired any of his clerks for this year. That story sprung the leak that Souter was, in fact, planning to head home to New Hampshire this summer for good.)

Stevens has shown no signs of slowing down — he’s an active questioner from the bench and appears as engaged as ever. But because of his age — and his wife’s reportedly declining health — Stevens has been the odds-on favorite as the next justice to retire. As Mark points out, he typically hires clerks well in advance — so the fact that he’s only hired one (retired justices get one law clerk, instead of four) could be a signal.

If true, this is no more reason to panic than Souter’s retirement was. Both are among the court’s staunchest liberals. Sotomayor replacing Souter was mostly a wash. On the negative side of the ledger, she is younger, more race conscious, and less bright. On the positive side, she is possibly stronger on criminal justice issues, has a history of mostly non-radical opinions (albeit with at least one glaring exception) . . . and is less bright. Yes, that’s a good thing as well as a bad thing.

Also, she’s not a weirdo who eats apple cores.

Whoever replaces Stevens — if he is retiring — will almost certainly be no more liberal than Stevens. They will be much younger, but that’s what you get when you elect a President.

I predicted Sotomayor, but I can’t handicap this one. Any ideas? The time to speculate is now!

“Death Pathways” in the UK

Filed under: Health Care,Obama — DRJ @ 9:56 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Telegraph reports British doctors are warning that patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under a National Health Service scheme that helps end their lives:

“In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.

Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.

But this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn.”

One doctor describes it as a “death pathway,” a term that is reminiscent of the “death panel” we’ve heard so much about.


“This is Your National Security Advisor”

Filed under: Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 8:03 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Quote of the Day regarding Obama’s National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.):

“Summarizing, the metrics are showing success and Obama is doing better than the previous administration. But there is no tally sheet, and the whole issue of killing and capturing more people misses the point. But more to the point, we are killing and capturing more people.

Got it? Neither do I. Your NSA is not a serious man.”

H/T Instapundit who asks, “Feel safer now?”


Wild-Eyed Paranoia at Organizing for America

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 6:47 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Texas parents are joining the boycott of Barack Obama’s speech to students next Tuesday, and the Houston Independent School District has “directed principals to give parents a heads-up if they are planning lessons around Obama’s speech so parents can opt out their children.” Parents are concerned students will miss important lessons if they participate in related instructional activities or that they will be ostracized if they don’t participate.

But Obama does have his defenders:

“It’s hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than attacking the president of the United States for talking to students about the importance of getting a good education and being a good citizen,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors public education in Texas.

“I wish our elected leaders were responsible enough to denounce this kind of wild-eyed paranoia,” Miller said. “But the problem is too many of them are actually feeding this kind of nonsense — like when the governor flirts with secessionists and State Board of Education members say the president sympathizes with terrorists.”

I feel your pain, Ms. Miller. It’s like when the official Obama website asks supporters to send out notices and wage a coordinated phone campaign against Americans exercising their First Amendment Rights:

“All 50 States are coordinating in this – as we fight back against our own Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists who are subverting the American Democratic Process, whipped to a frenzy by their Fox Propaganda Network ceaselessly re-seizing power for their treacherous leaders.”

Now we know. Organizing for America = “wild-eyed paranoia.”


Obama’s Education Department Wakes Up

Filed under: Education,Obama — DRJ @ 5:32 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Via The Campaign Spot, it seems the Education Department has removed the section of the instructional materials regarding Obama’s 9/8/09 speech to students that asks them to write letters detailing how they can help the President, and tells teachers to hold the letters to use later “to make students accountable to their goals.”

Jim Geraghty sees this as a good news, bad news kind of story:

“It looks like somebody at the Department of Education woke up, smelled the coffee, and realized they would have a lot of angry parents on their hands if homework assignments included requirements to pledge to help the Obama administration. In light of this, I expect the president’s remarks will be pretty uncontroversial. But this legitimizes quite a bit of conservatives’ skepticism and wariness, because it means some folks in the Department of Education didn’t realize what an atrocious and inappropriate idea it was.”

I think parents need to know as much as possible regarding how their children’s schools handle Obama’s speech. Hopefully schools will welcome parents on Tuesday or, alternatively, choose not to show Obama’s speech if some parents object. After all, Obama may very well continue his recent focus on religion and morals, and we all know that’s not allowed in today’s schools.

H/T no one you know.


Uncleared Brush Contributed to LA Wildfire

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 5:04 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The U.S. Forest Service obtained permits to clear brush in areas near LA’s Station Fire but stopped work because of weather, wind, and environmental rules:

“Months before the huge blaze erupted, the U.S. Forest Service obtained permits to burn away the undergrowth and brush on more than 1,700 acres of the Angeles National Forest. But just 193 acres had been cleared by the time the fire broke out, Forest Service resource officer Steve Bear said.

The agency defended its efforts, saying weather, wind and environmental rules tightly limit how often these “prescribed burns” can be conducted.

Bear said crews using machinery and hand tools managed to trim 5,000 acres in the forest this year before the money ran out. Ideally, “at least a couple thousand more acres” would have been cleared.”

The fire has destroyed “more than five dozen homes, killed two firefighters and forced thousands of people to flee.”

Environmentalists argue prescribed burns are dangerous and can affect air quality and pose hazards if they can’t be controlled. Due to the need for compliance with environmental rules and delays caused by related lawsuits, some experts argue the best policy is to simply prohibit building in fire-prone areas.

The article is fuzzy on when the Forest Service stopped or limited its efforts to clear brush — saying only that it was “earlier this year” — so it sounds like this happened in the first or second quarter of 2009. The fact that it isn’t blamed on the Bush Administration suggests it was after the Obama Administration took office.


UCLA Study: President’s Pro-Labor Policies Pushed America Into Depression

Filed under: Economics,Obama — DRJ @ 12:45 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The UCLA study is based on the policies of President Herbert Hoover:

Pro-labor policies pushed by President Herbert Hoover after the stock market crash of 1929 accounted for close to two-thirds of the drop in the nation’s gross domestic product over the two years that followed, causing what might otherwise have been a bad recession to slip into the Great Depression, a UCLA economist concludes in a new study.

“These findings suggest that the recession was three times worse — at a minimum — than it would otherwise have been, because of Hoover,” said Lee E. Ohanian, a UCLA professor of economics.

“These findings suggest that the recession was three times worse — at a minimum — than it would otherwise have been, because of Hoover,” said Lee E. Ohanian, a UCLA professor of economics.
Hoover’s approach is unlikely to be considered today as a means of responding to economic crisis, but it does illustrate the perils of ill-conceived government policies in times of economic upheaval and confusion, says Ohanian, a macroeconomist who specializes in economic crises.

“Hoover’s response illustrates the danger of knee-jerk policy reactions in a time of crisis,” he said. “Almost always when bad policies are adopted, it’s during a period of crisis. The real risk is picking a cure that turns out to be worse than the disease.”

Ohanian’s study is reportedly unlike prior studies because it is based on quantifiable data regarding Hoover’s labor-market distortions. Hopefully President Barack Obama has it high up on his lengthy reading list.


Is ObamaCare’s problem the brand instead of the plan?

Filed under: General — Karl @ 8:24 am

[Posted by Karl]

The Democrats’ attempted takeover of the US healthcare system continues a long, hard slog. The House leadership will try to recover from a brutal August recess with reassurances to moderates that the so-called “public option” is something way down the road, “something that would go into effect in 2013, only after benchmarks and pilot programs are studied.” On the other side of the Hill, Sen. Grassley claims that a bipartisan panel of key Senators have concluded that the “public option” has to go. That hasn’t stopped liberals from salivating over the notion that reconciliation would force Democrats to pursue the most heavy-handed version of the public option, despite Pres. Obama’s desire that reconciliation be a last resort.

Next week, Pres. Obama plans to list specific goals that any health insurance reform plan that arrives at his desk must achieve. He is also suggesting he is willing to stare down the progressive caucus if jettioning the government-run insurance plan will get him a bill. But Pres. Obama has talked about his preferences on “pay for” mechanisms and his ambivalence about the “public option” before, so this too may be more an attempt to calm Congress than real news.

Greg Sargent probably hopes that Pres. Obama’s latest attempt at selling healthcare reform will clear up the confusion people told CBS News they have on the issue. But Sargent has a larger, more interesting point:

This could be ominous not just for the prospects of good health care reform but also for Obama’s broader agenda: The new CBS News poll’s internals show confidence dropping fast in the idea that government can be an effective provider of health care coverage.

That’s problematic. It raises the question of whether the broader, renewed faith the public had in government when Obama took over is receding, perhaps dramatically.

Asked whether “government” or “private insurers” could do a better job of providing health care coverage, only 36% chose government — down a surprising 14 points from June.

Meanwhile, nearly half, or 47%, said government would do a worse job — up 13 points from June. Both of those are pretty big swings.

Allahpundit also touches on this point:

The fascinating, and potentially important, detail: When asked about specific provisions of ObamaCare — i.e. the public option, statutory ceilings on premiums, guaranteeing insurance irrespective of preexisting conditions, etc. — people are widely supportive. I don’t know how to explain that except to think that (a) public ignorance about the plan really is as bad as CBS claims, which doesn’t say much for The One’s vaunted communications skills, or (b) the country’s now reached such an anti-government fervor that they’re fatally suspicious of even those programs whose particulars they agree with in principle.

The poll numbers on the specifics can be misleading. For example, we know that support for the public option craters if you ask people to pay as little as $500 annually for it. And the polling on other health insurance reforms does not ask people about the individual mandate necessary to support them.

However, taking the poll numbers at face value, Sargent and Allahpundit raise an intriguing notion. The vast majority of the public — like the vast majority of Congress — have not read the bills pending on the Hill. Their opinions will necessarily be based on general impressions. Liberals no doubt think the public is confused or misled, even though the Democrats have unleashed a torrent of misinformation about their plans.

But the Democrats’ problem may be much deeper than that. The public has had just over seven months to judge the Obama administration and the Democrat-led Congress, and has been reminded of what the Democrats are about. They see the fantastically expensive stimulus package failed to stimulate the economy to date, and they are reminded of who the Democrats are. They hear Democrats gush with praise over the legislative record of the late Sen. Kennedy, and are reminded of who the Democrats are. They hear Pres. Obama try to reassure people by comparing the public option to the Post Office, and are reminded of who the Democrats are.

They are reminded of how government programs grow or die — and virtually never die. Bloggers like Rick Moran may think slippery slope arguments are unconvincing, but it is most people’s experience of government. Thus, they are inclined to believe that costs will not be controlled, that various provisions of the bills could well be Trojan Horses for worse things to come, and so on.

In short, the Democrats’ real problem may be their reputation as the party of big government. The GOP did not do well during the Bush administration, but the Democrats have made them look like pikers in short order. As Sargent’s fears, that problem would extend beyond ObamaCare — and be near-insoluble to boot.


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