Thursday, March 1, 2012

Quick Hits - March 1, 2012

This morning, the US Senate voted 51-48 to reject the Blunt Amendment - an amendment to override the Obamacare / HHS mandate that ordered religious organizations to provide free contraceptives, sterilization, and abortafacients to their employees regardless of any religious objections or beliefs that the organization held against those services.

Democrats opposed the amendment saying that this was a conservative effort to place limitations on a woman's right to choose and obtain free contraceptives.  Republicans supported the amendment saying that the regulatory mandate by the Obama Administration was an effort of the Administration to take away a religious organizations constitutional right to object to providing services that ran contrary to their religious doctrine and teachings.

This reflects the efforts of misdirection being undertaken by the progressive left since the mandate was announced by the Obama Administration.  The issue has not lessened even with the Administration's efforts to sidestep the constitutional issue by ordering that the insurance company of the religious organization, and not the organization itself, is required to provide the above services for free...ignoring that many of these organizations are self-insured.

New Jersey's Senator Frank Lautenberg offered this particularly vapid argument in the debate prior to the vote:
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) arguing prior to the vote that Republicans wanted to roll back women’s rights to the “dark ages” when they were considered property.
“The Republicans want to take us forward to the dark ages again… when women were property that you could easily control, even trade if you wanted to,” said Lautenberg. “Its appalling we are having this debate in the 21st century.”
Hyperbole is one thing - but invoking the 'dark ages'?  [No, while tempted, I will not make the obvious joke about Lautenberg's age.]

The Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, including 2 independents (Sanders, VT and Lieberman, CT) who caucus with the Democrats.

Three Democrats, Bob Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Ben Nelson (NE) voted in favor of the Blunt Amendment to roll back the mandate.  One Republican, Olympia Snowe (ME), crossed over to vote to oppose the amendment.

Religious organizations continue to oppose the mandate and a number have already announced legal challenges on the basis of the mandate being an unconstitutional limitation on religious freedoms.

Hot Air looked at the impact of this on religious institutions, like the Catholic Church...which could close their hospitals, private schools, and other facilities like over this mandate...
The Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation. It operates 12.6 percent of hospitals in the U.S., according to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., accounting for 15.6 percent of all admissions and 14.5 percent of all hospital expenses, a total for Catholic hospitals in 2010 of $98.6 billion. Whom do these hospitals serve? Catholic hospitals handle more than their share of Medicare (16.6 percent) and Medicaid (13.65) discharges, meaning that more than one in six seniors and disabled patients get attention from these hospitals, and more than one in every eight low-income patients as well. Almost a third (32 percent) of these hospitals are located in rural areas, where patients usually have few other options for care.

Compared to their competition, Catholic hospitals take a leading role in providing less-profitable services to patients. They lead the sector in breast cancer screenings, nutrition programs, trauma, geriatric services, and social work. In most of these areas, other non-profits come close, but hospitals run by state and local governments fall significantly off the pace. Where patients have trouble paying for care, Catholic hospitals cover more of the costs. For instance, Catholic Health Services in Florida provides free care to families below 200 percent of federal poverty line, accepting Medicaid reimbursements as payment in full, and caps costs at 20 percent of household income for families that fall between 200 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line.

Imagine the impact if these hospitals shut down, discounting the other 400-plus health centers and 1,500 specialized homes that the Catholic Church operates as part of its mission that would also disappear. Thanks to the economic models of these hospitals, no one will rush to buy them. One in six patients in the current system would have to vie for service in the remaining system, which would have to absorb almost $100 billion in costs each year to treat them. Over 120,000 beds would disappear from an already-stressed system.

The poor and working class families that get assistance from Catholic benefactors would end up having to pay more for their care than they do under the current system. Rural patients would have to travel farther for medical care, and services like social work and breast-cancer screenings would fall to the less-efficient government-run institutions. That would not only impact the poor and working class patients, but would create much longer wait times for everyone else in the system. Finally, over a half-million people employed by Catholic hospitals now would lose their jobs almost overnight, which would have a big impact on the economy as well as on health care.
The Administration wants to push the religion of the state - and they are willing to hurt those who they claim to support and represent in the name of furthering the religion and power of the state.

Olympia Snowe, the only Republican to vote against the Blunt Amendment, announced her surprise decision yesterday to stop her re-election campaign and retire when her term expires in January 2013.  In her announcment, she noted that the reason for her decision to retire was the polarization that is taking place in the Senate between the left and the right.

Given the timing of the Blunt Amendment, and Snowe's long time support for contraceptive and women's choice, I thought that this was one of the issues where Snowe finally tired of seeing her liberal / moderate positions being out of place with the center-right positions of most of the GOP Senate or US.  But, perhaps there is something beyond the claims of polarization that is behind her surprise decision - a fraud lawsuit against her husband's business combined with a Tea Party challenger to her seat?

Politico, an increasingly left leaning online publication, responds to Snowe's decision with this article lamenting the collapse of the political center - or specifically, the wishywashy middle that enabled the left in continuing efforts to compromise.  Compromise, in this case, is defined as the right surrendering their positions and beliefs in favor of the positions and beliefs of the left.

Politico envisions a new center developing to counter, not the polarization of the progressive left, but of the conservative right and they hope a weakening of the conservative right.

President Obama has indicated that he will veto a bill currently in Congress that will provide water to California's Central Valley - and bring an end to the dust bowl that Congress created...
Nunes’ Sacramento-San Joaquin Water Reliability Act goes to a vote in the House Wednesday and if it passes, it will guarantee that water the farmers paid for finally gets to the parched Central Valley. It will put an end to the sorry stream of shriveled vineyards, blackened almond groves and unemployed farm workers standing in alms lines for bagged carrots from China.

The insanity of the current policies against some of America’s most productive farmers in one of the world’s richest farm belts is largely the work leftist politicians from the wealthy enclaves of the San Francisco Bay Area. This group has exerted its political muscle on the less politically powerful region that produces more than half the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. — with $26 billion in annual sales.

“The bill restores the flow of water and establishes a framework for meaningful environmental improvements. It is a repudiation of the left’s assault on rural communities, which began with the decimation of the West’s timber industry and now is focused on Central Valley agriculture,” Nunes told IBD.


H.R. 1837 would undermine five years of collaboration between local, State, and Federal stakeholders to develop the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. It would codify 20-year old, outdated science as the basis for managing California’s water resources, resulting in inequitable treatment of one group of water users over another. And, contrary to 100 years of reclamation law that exhibits congressional deference to State water law, the bill would preempt California water law.

The bill also would reject the long-standing principle that beneficiaries should pay both the cost of developing water supplies and of mitigating any resulting development impacts, and would exacerbate current water shortages by repealing water pricing reforms that provide incentives for contractors to conserve water supplies.
Unfortunately, the Administration sees the protection of the 'Delta Smelt' a fish that we really don't know if it is endangered, taking precedence over farmlands, agricultural production, and jobs. Victor Davis Hanson, a 5th generation resident / farmer in the Central Valley writes often of the changes in the Central Valley - and the challenges the farmers have in the region. Produce that we used to grow here, we now have to import from Mexico, China, and other countries. Prices are higher for the produce as well. All for putting ideology - in this case rabid environmental ideology before the needs of the country and its people.

The San Diego UT takes on President Obama's other double game - this one on fossil fuels and high gasoline prices in an editorial earlier this week...
We just wish the Obama administration and its green allies would own up to the consequences of their policies. If they believe fossil fuels are such a threat to the environment and national security that we should transition away from them, whatever the cost to consumers, they should openly and transparently make the case. Instead, we see policies that reflect this belief – accompanied by rhetoric meant to hide it.
..seeing a similar focus towards ideology over the needs of the country and the American people.

Only 54% of Young Adults - age 18-24 - have a job today - the lowest level in 64 years for this demographic and 7% worse than when President Obama took office in January 2009.  This group provided significant support for President Obama's election, enthusiastically embracing the Hope and Change mantra. 

How's that hopey changey thingy working out now?

CBS News is reporting that despite the data that is being circulated by the Obama Administration that we continue to have very low inflation, the American Institute for Economic Research is reporting that the 'real' inflation rate is at 8%. 

This should not come as much of a surprise to anyone who does the weekly food shopping...

Is the Obama Administration considering releasing convicted terrorist mastermind Sheikh Omar Adbel Rahman, aka 'The Blind Sheikh', to Egypt as part of an exchange to get the release of 16 American's being detained and subject to trial by the Egyptian interim government?

The Arabic language paper al-Arabiya is reporting that the Obama Administration is considering the release and exchange to end the potential of the trial and gain the release of the 16 American NGO workers as part of a program to send up to 50 Egyptians in a prisoner exchange.  The paper also is reporting that the offer was suggested by the Obama Administration and not part of any demands being made by the Egyptian government.  The story is not on any of the English language versions of the paper or website - just in Arabic.

Rahman was convicted in 1995 as the mastermind for a major series of terrorist acts, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and plotting to bomb NYC landmarks and bridges.  He is also the author of the fatwa that green lighted the 9/11/01 terrorist attack on the United States.

The article linked comes from Andrew McCarthy, the lead prosecutor against Rahman who gained the conviction - and subsequent sentencing of him to life without parole.

Despite the apologies offered by President Obama and other government / military officials, violence continues in Afghanistan related to the US destruction of Qurans desecrated by Taliban prisoners.  Today, two US service members were killed by supposedly trusted Afghani colleagues - the 3rd such incident since riots erupted a week ago over the destruction of the desecrated Qurans.

While some still argue for continued US and NATO military presence in Afghanistan - noting that those behind the violence are only a small representation of the Afghani population (Max Boot in the WSJ earlier this week), others are looking at the policies and direction of the Obama Administration vis a vis Afghanistan as well as the conditions there - and suggesting, like conservative columnist Cal Thomas does today, Leave Afghanistan Now!
So what's the point? Are we to stay only until after the election so Obama won't be asked, "Who lost Afghanistan?" If our troops are coming out anyway and if the administration can't define victory, or commit the resources necessary to achieve it, waiting longer only ensures more casualties. As with Vietnam, that is a waste of blood and treasure. Ask the ghosts of the more than 58,000 fallen whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, or the ghosts of the politicians who are responsible for putting them in their graves.
The Syrian Government is claiming today that they have recaptured the Baba Amr district of Homs - and that it is calling in the Red Cross and other aid organizations to bring emergency humanitarian supplies for the civilians in the area.  The Free Syrian Army released information today that they staged a tactical retreat from the district to spare 4,000 civilians from additional suffering under government assault and bombardment.

Heavy fighting is also reported in another district of Homs, Karm al-Zeitun - which is under tank / infantry / artillery assault from three sides.

On This Day in History

No year or age, but Happy Birthday to my Mother!

1692 - Salem Witch Trials begin

1781 - The Articles of Confederation are ratified.  These articles guided the new United States until the current Constitution was ratified in 1789.

1872 - Yellowstone National Park was established - the first national park.

1932 - The 20 month old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh III, was kidnapped from the family home in Hopewell, NJ.  Left behind was a ransom note demanding $50,000 - which was paid.  In May, the son's body was found near the Lindbergh home - he had been murdered on the night of the kidnapping.  In 1934, after passing some of the ransom money, Bruno Hauptman was arrested and charged after more money associated with the ransom was found in his home.  He proclaimed his innocence, but was found guilty in a sensational trial.  Hauptman was executed in 1935.

1950 - Klaus Fuchs was convicted of giving US atomic bomb secrets to the USSR

1961 - President John Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps

1969 - NY Yankee star Mickey Mantle announces his retirement from baseball - ending a career that started in 1951 and included 12 American League pennants and 7 World Series wins.

1971 - The Weather Underground detonates a bomb in the US Capital building in Washington DC - causing $300,000 in damage but no injuries.  Obama friends and political supporters Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were founders of the Weather Underground.

2003 - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured by CIA and Pakistani agents in Islamabad, Pakistan - KSM was the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US, and responsible for the beheading of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl.

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