Patterico's Pontifications


Obama’s Rules of Engagement: Calling Lawyers for Permission to Kill Terrorists

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:24 pm

When we have the terrorists in our crosshairs, we are still calling the lawyers to ask permission to fire.

Quite literally.

An excellent Wall Street Journal article highlights the infuriating rules of engagement that we are operating under in Afghanistan:

When Capt. Zinni spotted the four men planting the booby trap on the afternoon of Feb. 17, the first thing he did was call his lawyer.

“Judge!” he yelled.

Capt. Matthew Andrew, judge advocate for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, advises the battalion about when it is legal to order the airstrikes. He examined the figures on the video feed closely. “I think you got it,” Capt. Andrew said, giving the OK for the strike.

But, the story reports, Zinni (son of Anthony Zinni) ended up spotting kids nearby — so the strike was called off. The terrorists ended up getting away.

Is it just an accident that some kids were wandering near insurgents planting a booby trap? Almost certainly not:

Capt. Zinni had seen this scenario before in Marjah. Insurgents using women and children for cover as they moved weapons or crossed open spaces into fighting positions in buildings. In this case, the captain was certain that the children were acting—either by their own volition or under coercion—as shields for the men planting the bomb.

The way the Taliban see it, he thought, they’d win either way: The Americans might hold their fire and allow them to plant a bomb unmolested. Or the Americans might kill a few civilians, a propaganda victory for an insurgent force increasingly adept at using the media to spread its message.

Leftist critics will point to another Journal article that shows what might happen when the rules of engagement are not followed. In an airstrike far from Marjah, 27 civilians were killed. The attack appears to have been a mistake — an attack on a purely civilian target.

My view is that, like friendly fire casualties (which are shockingly commonplace, far more than most people realize), casualties like this are a tragic but unavoidable result of war. War is not clean and it is not perfect. But that doesn’t mean that we should hold our fire when children are being used as human shields, as apparently occurred in the initial example above. Those insurgents may have successfully set another bomb that might kill our soldiers elsewhere. We shouldn’t be putting soldiers’ lives at stake for the sake of a propaganda victory.

There are no easy answers. But I fear that our enemy’s lack of morality, coupled with Obama’s hyper-concern for the good opinion of Afghanis, may be costing us the blood of our young men in uniform.

If so, that is not acceptable.

We should change the rules of engagement, so that the next time we have some killers in our crosshairs, we kill them before they kill us.

Pull the trigger . . . and leave the lawyers out of it.

Michelle Obama Goes Shopping

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 9:31 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Accompanied by America’s best-paid bag boy.


PS – Yes, I am just kidding.

Handicapping the House

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 9:12 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

It’s still a long way until November but ex-NRCC chairman Tom Davis says there’s an even chance the GOP could retake the House:

“Former Virginia congressman Tom Davis, who twice chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee, says the odds are “at least 50-50” that the GOP regains control of the U.S. House in November’s elections. And he notes the House has never flipped control from one party to the other unless the Senate did, too.
He sees in particular a “Republican tsunami” in the South.

“This is the third straight congressional election that’s been nationalized,” Davis says, a test not of individual candidates for the House and Senate but of broad voter judgments about the political parties and national leaders. “They say all politics is local. It’s not.”

However, Davis noted that changes in jobs or the war could alter his opinion.

The Cook Political Report shows Republicans with only a few seats at risk, while the Democrats’ list of vulnerable seats grows weekly. This week has Democrats with 53 seats listed as ‘Lean or Toss Up’ and Republicans have 6 ‘Lean or Toss Up’ seats. A year ago, the Report showed Democrats with 23 seats listed as ‘Lean or Toss Up’ while Republicans still had 6 seats.


The Salt Debate

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 8:48 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Is salt as bad for us as scientists and doctors say? Some say Yes and some say No:

“Dr. McCarron and his colleagues analyzed surveys from 33 countries around the world and reported that, despite wide differences in diet and culture, people generally consumed about the same amount of salt. There were a few exceptions, like tribes isolated in the Amazon and Africa, but the vast majority of people ate more salt than recommended in the current American dietary guidelines.

The results were so similar in so many places that Dr. McCarron hypothesized that networks in the brain regulate sodium appetite so that people consume a set daily level of salt. If so, that might help explain one apparent paradox related to reports that Americans are consuming more daily calories than they used to. Extra food would be expected to come with additional salt, yet there has not been a clear upward trend in daily salt consumption evident over the years in urinalysis studies, which are considered the best gauge because they directly measure salt levels instead of relying on estimates based on people’s recollections of what they ate. Why no extra salt? One prominent advocate of salt reduction, Dr. Lawrence Appel of Johns Hopkins University, said that inconsistent techniques in conducting the urinalysis surveys may be masking a real upward trend in salt consumption.

But Dr. McCarron called the measurements reliable and said they could be explained by the set-point theory:

As Americans ate more calories, they could have eased up on some of the saltier choices so that their overall sodium consumption remained constant. By that same logic, he speculated, if future policies reduce the average amount of salt in food, people might compensate by seeking out saltier foods — or by simply eating still more of everything.”

Salt skeptics want “a rigorous test of the low-salt diet in a randomized clinical trial.” Salt reformers say testing is unnecessary and “too time-consuming and expensive.”

This debate sounds familiar, doesn’t it?


Just Another Car Company

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 8:32 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Congress is preparing for the Toyota oversight hearings amid reports that federal prosecutors have initiated a criminal probe of Toyota’s safety problems:

“Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Toyota’s safety troubles, the Japanese automaker confirmed Monday, as the company’s leadership braces for tough questions in congressional hearings this week about its recent spate of recalls.

Toyota officials said the company received a subpoena from a federal grand jury in New York on Feb. 8 requesting documents related to unintended acceleration of some Toyota vehicles and the braking system of its popular Prius hybrid.”

It’s “dark days” for Toyota and NHTSA’s chairman overseer, Secretary of Transportation (and Republican) Ray LaHood:

“It’s dark days for Toyota, for sure,” said John Heitmann, a University of Dayton professor who specializes in automotive history. “This won’t kill Toyota , but it will level them to a playing field they’re not used to: Being just another car company like everyone else.”

The committees also appear to have NHTSA in their crosshairs. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the House Energy and Commerce Committee chair, and House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak , D-Mich., warned Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a letter Monday that he better be prepared to answer specific questions about NHTSA’s inadequacies at Tuesday’s hearing.

The letter states that NHTSA has received 2,600 complaints between 2000 and 2010 about sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles but only opened “cursory investigation” in 2004.

Waxman also noted that “NHTSA appears to lack the technical expertise necessary to analyze whether incidents of sudden unintended acceleration are caused by defects in the cars’ electronics systems.”

Maybe this is what happens with an education system that likes to teach liberal arts instead of science, and a government that likes to hire JDs instead of engineers.


ObamaCare: The White House proposal

Filed under: General — Karl @ 6:25 pm

[Posted by Karl]

Although Patterico and DRJ have covered the basics, Pat asked me for additional comment.  Substantively, I would add that the White House version of ObamaCare hikes the mandate penalty and bulldozes existing health insurance policies more that the versions passed by each chamber of Congress.  However, it is not clear that the substance of the White House draft matters (yet).

It is obvious to anyone paying attention that the White House draft, like the Potemkin “health summit” Pres. Obama is staging this week, is primarily about setting the stage for Congressional Democrats to push ObamaCare through in a partisan fashi0n via budget reconciliation.  The latest draft is: (a) a convenient document for Obama to use in his attempt to set up the GOP as the bad guys at the meeting; (b) Obama’s suggested compromise to House and Senate Dems; or (c) both of the above.  Thus, the question is how well it serves those purposes, especially (b), as the point of the exercise is to get Congress moving.

By that measure, the success of the White House draft seems mixed.  Earlier today, ABC News reported:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., believes passing the bill is “possibly doable,” a senior White House official said. “But she may ultimately decide the math is impossible.”

If that does not work, the next plan is to push a more modest bill — a smaller expansion of health insurance reform, some tax breaks for small businesses to help provide insurance for employees, a more modest expansion of Medicaid and the creation of the health insurance exchanges.

On the other hand, House Maj. Whip James Clyburn came out a few hours later to claim that the Dems would pass a new healthcare reform bill with a larger majority than it did on its first bill.  Is that claim backed by the reaction of members, as Clyburn claimed — or was it damage control for Pelosi’s comments?  No one really knows.

What we do know is that the White House draft mostly reflects the negotiations that occurred between House and Senate Dems before the election of Scott Brown denied Dems a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  And we were told that Dems were close to a final deal at that point.  But if such a deal was in place then — and the House is on board now — the House would be geared up to pass the Senate bill and “fix” it with a reconciliation bill.  Yet there is little sign that is the case… for now.  The White House draft — and the “summit” — do not seem to have changed the underlying fundamentals, i.e., that the House is not keen to pass the Senate bill, which makes reconciliation procedurally difficult.  That’s why the White House needs the “summit.” The Democrats have continually their members further down the plank, based on the need to “keep the process moving.” Now they are inventing new steps in the process.


CBO Hasn’t Scored ObamaCare

Filed under: Health Care,Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 1:24 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Congressional Budget Office has posted a notice saying it hasn’t scored President Obama’s new health care proposal because it’s different than past proposals and it was just received:

“We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones.”

Obama says it will cost another trillion, but the CBO let the cat out of the bag over two months ago. Instead of working on health care legislation that saves money, the Democrats have been hard at work making sure they can’t let the public see how much this thing really costs.


Caption the Golf Pic

Filed under: Sports — DRJ @ 12:57 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Austin American-Statesman golf blog Backspin posts a desert golf photo and is asking for captions. I don’t know a good caption but I’d sure like to know what this guy was doing.


ObamaCare Revealed: Hey, How Does Spending Another Trillion Dollars Grab You?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:35 am

Obama has released his health care plan (we are now allowed to call it ObamaCare), and it will cost us $1 trillion. (What’s another trillion?) The AP weighs in with its timeless even-handed treatment:

President Barack Obama is putting forward a nearly $1 trillion, 10-year health care plan that would allow the government to deny or roll back egregious insurance premium increases that infuriated consumers.

“Egregious.” The fair and balanced treatment doesn’t end there:

Posted Monday morning on the White House Web site, the plan would provide coverage to more than 31 million Americans now uninsured without adding to the federal deficit.

Would it, now? Or, does it merely claim to?

Just how are we going to spend $1 trillion without adding to the deficit? Let’s look at the proposal itself for the details:

It puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.

Ah. It’s OK to spend $1 trillion more, you see, because we’ll get it back by cutting fraud and abuse. That oughta work great. Who better to cut government spending than Barack Obama?

I wonder if I could secure a bank loan that is twice what I could afford with that argument. “Mr. Bank Man, I will make up the difference by reining in waste, fraud, and abuse in our household.” I doubt it. (Five years ago, I probably could have — and we all saw where that lax attitude towards debt got us.)

The plan lacks a public option. Hey, that part comes later. First we just have to get that $1 trillion camel’s nose inside the tent.

According to the New York Times, it also lacks a Stupak amendment:

And the bill offers the Senate’s less restrictive language on abortion; it does not include the so-called “Stupak amendment,” which would bar insurers from offering abortion coverage to anyone buying a policy with a federal subsidy. The absence of the Stupak provision, named for Representative Bart Stupak, the conservative Michigan Democrat, could complicate matters for Mr. Obama in the House, where conservatives, led by Mr. Stupak, are adamant that the provision be included.

Federal dollars for abortions? This just gets better and better!

But you had me at $1 trillion.

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