Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 29, 2009

Tivoli Gardens, Anyone?

That whooshing sound you hear in the distance is the air coming out of the balloon called Anthropogenic Global Warming.

It began with the hacking of a computer network at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, one of the premier climate-research centers in the world, on November 17. The hacking (or perhaps it was a whistleblower leak — as far as I know, it is not yet clear which) resulted in the posting of more than a 1,000 e-mail messages among scientists at the very center of the AGW alarm. They were, to put it mildly, embarrassing, revealing narrow-mindedness, the deliberate attempt to suppress the publication in the peer-reviewed literature of articles that did not fit the AGW agenda, and attempts to keep dissenting scientists from seeing the basis of their conclusions. A good summary of events up to now can be found here.

But these e-mails , however damaging, were not a smoking gun, just evidence of bad behavior. Scientists, of course, can be careless with word choice, nasty, vindictive, and driven to win the argument at all costs, just like the rest of us.

But today the Times of London has published a revelation that, if not a smoking gun, is pretty close. The University of East Anglia scientists had refused numerous attempts by other scientists they regarded as unfriendly to see the raw data. But when confronted with a freedom-of-information-act request (Britain now has a FOIA, too), they were forced to admit that they had thrown away much of the raw data upon which their conclusions regarding global warming over the past 150 years had been based.

In order to make such data consistent, it needs to be adjusted in various ways, and there is nothing nefarious about that. (The adjustment might be as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. Or say a weather station that had been located out in a potato field when it was installed in 1927 now finds itself behind a strip mall in a densely populated suburb. The data over the past 82 years would obviously need to be adjusted to take into account the fact that a suburban strip mall is inherently more heat-producing than a potato field.)

But without the raw data, it is impossible to check the work, and checking each other’s work lies at the very heart of the scientific method. Without the raw data, the adjusted data is useless. So if the destruction of the raw data was accidental, it was inexcusable. If it was deliberate, it was a scientific felony. If the data is now irretrievably lost, it is a tragedy.

Roger Simon suggests calling off the meeting  in Copenhagen scheduled for December 7, as the delegates really have nothing to discuss. That would be a blow to Copenhagen, to be sure, as the delegations from 192 countries will be spending a lot of money. But, as Roger points out, Copenhagen is a city with many charms, and Tivoli Gardens is well worth a visit on its own. Better they enjoy those charms at our expense than cost the world trillions in foregone economic growth for no good reason.

That whooshing sound you hear in the distance is the air coming out of the balloon called Anthropogenic Global Warming.

It began with the hacking of a computer network at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, one of the premier climate-research centers in the world, on November 17. The hacking (or perhaps it was a whistleblower leak — as far as I know, it is not yet clear which) resulted in the posting of more than a 1,000 e-mail messages among scientists at the very center of the AGW alarm. They were, to put it mildly, embarrassing, revealing narrow-mindedness, the deliberate attempt to suppress the publication in the peer-reviewed literature of articles that did not fit the AGW agenda, and attempts to keep dissenting scientists from seeing the basis of their conclusions. A good summary of events up to now can be found here.

But these e-mails , however damaging, were not a smoking gun, just evidence of bad behavior. Scientists, of course, can be careless with word choice, nasty, vindictive, and driven to win the argument at all costs, just like the rest of us.

But today the Times of London has published a revelation that, if not a smoking gun, is pretty close. The University of East Anglia scientists had refused numerous attempts by other scientists they regarded as unfriendly to see the raw data. But when confronted with a freedom-of-information-act request (Britain now has a FOIA, too), they were forced to admit that they had thrown away much of the raw data upon which their conclusions regarding global warming over the past 150 years had been based.

In order to make such data consistent, it needs to be adjusted in various ways, and there is nothing nefarious about that. (The adjustment might be as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. Or say a weather station that had been located out in a potato field when it was installed in 1927 now finds itself behind a strip mall in a densely populated suburb. The data over the past 82 years would obviously need to be adjusted to take into account the fact that a suburban strip mall is inherently more heat-producing than a potato field.)

But without the raw data, it is impossible to check the work, and checking each other’s work lies at the very heart of the scientific method. Without the raw data, the adjusted data is useless. So if the destruction of the raw data was accidental, it was inexcusable. If it was deliberate, it was a scientific felony. If the data is now irretrievably lost, it is a tragedy.

Roger Simon suggests calling off the meeting  in Copenhagen scheduled for December 7, as the delegates really have nothing to discuss. That would be a blow to Copenhagen, to be sure, as the delegations from 192 countries will be spending a lot of money. But, as Roger points out, Copenhagen is a city with many charms, and Tivoli Gardens is well worth a visit on its own. Better they enjoy those charms at our expense than cost the world trillions in foregone economic growth for no good reason.

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Obama’s Foreign-Policy Naivete Is Making War More Likely

John has already commented on the news that Iran has announced plans to build 10 more uranium-enrichment facilities. I want to stress how humiliating this news is, or should be, for the Obama administration, indeed for the entire Democratic party’s foreign-policy establishment. For years the Democrats’ wise men and wise women were bitterly critical of the Bush administration’s alleged failure to reach out to Iran, even though in the second term there was actually quite a bit of outreach, with U.S. representatives meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva and Baghdad. But never mind. The Democratic establishment somehow talked itself into believing that the real problem was American enmity toward Iran. If only the U.S. would reach out some more, they suggested, Iran would surely give up or at least suspend its nuclear ambitions. Barack Obama’s genius during the campaign was to take the most extreme version of this position, with his promise to meet personally with the leaders of Iran and other anti-American dictatorships during his first year in office — another campaign pledge that, mercifully, appears unlikely to be fulfilled. Hillary Clinton, back when she was a presidential candidate, criticized Obama correctly for his naiveté, but she too put her faith in diplomacy with Iran.

Now after almost a year in office we see where Obama’s outreach has gotten us: nowhere. Actually that’s not quite accurate. The administration has made an impact: if the latest pronouncements from Tehran are to be believed, Obama’s policies are making the problem worse, not better, because they are leading to an expansion of the Iranian nuclear program. This should hardly be a surprise. Toothless as the Bush policy was toward Iran, at least there was an element of deterrence as long as George W. Bush himself was in the White House. The mullahs could always sweat a little as they imagined that they might be next in line to feel American military power after Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, there was evidence that they temporarily suspended parts of their nuclear program after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There is no such concern now. The odds of U.S. military action against the Iranian nuclear program — probably the only thing that could serve as serious deterrent — have gone from remote to nonexistent. Obama’s efforts at glad-handing have been interpreted, correctly, as evidence of American weakness and a further spur to nuclear development. Khameini and Ahmadinejad & Co. aren’t even bothering to be polite as they brush aside offers, such as the one to export their uranium for enrichment abroad. They wear their contempt for the West quite openly because they are not afraid of suffering any repercussions.

It is just possible that the Iranians have overplayed their hand. Perhaps the latest Iranian outrages will prompt a rethink in the White House as occurred during the Carter administration when the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan shocked another naive president into realizing that his own goodwill would not be enough to overcome determined adversaries. But at the moment, that is a faint hope. The best we can expect in the short term is more toothless Security Council resolutions with sanctions that will do nothing to slow down the Iranian march toward its nuclear dreams. That, in turn, means that an Israeli strike against Iran is getting more likely, even though Israel probably does not have the capability to disrupt the Iranian program for more than a limited period. In sum: through his determination to avoid a conflict with Iran, Obama is making war more likely.

John has already commented on the news that Iran has announced plans to build 10 more uranium-enrichment facilities. I want to stress how humiliating this news is, or should be, for the Obama administration, indeed for the entire Democratic party’s foreign-policy establishment. For years the Democrats’ wise men and wise women were bitterly critical of the Bush administration’s alleged failure to reach out to Iran, even though in the second term there was actually quite a bit of outreach, with U.S. representatives meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva and Baghdad. But never mind. The Democratic establishment somehow talked itself into believing that the real problem was American enmity toward Iran. If only the U.S. would reach out some more, they suggested, Iran would surely give up or at least suspend its nuclear ambitions. Barack Obama’s genius during the campaign was to take the most extreme version of this position, with his promise to meet personally with the leaders of Iran and other anti-American dictatorships during his first year in office — another campaign pledge that, mercifully, appears unlikely to be fulfilled. Hillary Clinton, back when she was a presidential candidate, criticized Obama correctly for his naiveté, but she too put her faith in diplomacy with Iran.

Now after almost a year in office we see where Obama’s outreach has gotten us: nowhere. Actually that’s not quite accurate. The administration has made an impact: if the latest pronouncements from Tehran are to be believed, Obama’s policies are making the problem worse, not better, because they are leading to an expansion of the Iranian nuclear program. This should hardly be a surprise. Toothless as the Bush policy was toward Iran, at least there was an element of deterrence as long as George W. Bush himself was in the White House. The mullahs could always sweat a little as they imagined that they might be next in line to feel American military power after Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, there was evidence that they temporarily suspended parts of their nuclear program after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There is no such concern now. The odds of U.S. military action against the Iranian nuclear program — probably the only thing that could serve as serious deterrent — have gone from remote to nonexistent. Obama’s efforts at glad-handing have been interpreted, correctly, as evidence of American weakness and a further spur to nuclear development. Khameini and Ahmadinejad & Co. aren’t even bothering to be polite as they brush aside offers, such as the one to export their uranium for enrichment abroad. They wear their contempt for the West quite openly because they are not afraid of suffering any repercussions.

It is just possible that the Iranians have overplayed their hand. Perhaps the latest Iranian outrages will prompt a rethink in the White House as occurred during the Carter administration when the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan shocked another naive president into realizing that his own goodwill would not be enough to overcome determined adversaries. But at the moment, that is a faint hope. The best we can expect in the short term is more toothless Security Council resolutions with sanctions that will do nothing to slow down the Iranian march toward its nuclear dreams. That, in turn, means that an Israeli strike against Iran is getting more likely, even though Israel probably does not have the capability to disrupt the Iranian program for more than a limited period. In sum: through his determination to avoid a conflict with Iran, Obama is making war more likely.

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Iran Speeds Up

Iran has announced its intention to build 10 new nuclear-enrichment sites. What? How could this be? Surely the international community’s outrage at Iran’s deception, which then led last week to a really strong letter to the editor — excuse me, scolding from the International Atomic Weapons Agency — was going to teach the Persians a thing or two!

It would seem logical to assume the purpose of these multiple sites is to make a successful military strike to downgrade or destroy Iran’s nuclear-bomb-making capacity difficult to the point of impossibility. It would be hard enough for Israel or the United States to stage a complex series of simultaneous surprise aerial bombings against four locations; from four to 14 would certainly be beyond Israel’s capacity and would significantly strain our own.

Remember when everybody was saying, including in the Democratic primary for president, that it would be unacceptable for Iran to get the bomb? Remember when President Bush said those who allowed Iran to get the bomb would enjoy the same reputation in the annals of history as the Western leaders at Munich?

Iran has announced its intention to build 10 new nuclear-enrichment sites. What? How could this be? Surely the international community’s outrage at Iran’s deception, which then led last week to a really strong letter to the editor — excuse me, scolding from the International Atomic Weapons Agency — was going to teach the Persians a thing or two!

It would seem logical to assume the purpose of these multiple sites is to make a successful military strike to downgrade or destroy Iran’s nuclear-bomb-making capacity difficult to the point of impossibility. It would be hard enough for Israel or the United States to stage a complex series of simultaneous surprise aerial bombings against four locations; from four to 14 would certainly be beyond Israel’s capacity and would significantly strain our own.

Remember when everybody was saying, including in the Democratic primary for president, that it would be unacceptable for Iran to get the bomb? Remember when President Bush said those who allowed Iran to get the bomb would enjoy the same reputation in the annals of history as the Western leaders at Munich?

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Birthday Wishes

Shulamit Aloni, a former head of Israel’s Meretz party, gave an interview to Yedioth on her 81st birthday. “It’s hard for me to say a kind word about the state today,” she said.

“No one should be speaking this nonsense about ‘blood on the hands.’ Since 2000, with the launching of the second intifada, we have murdered thousands. We too have blood on our hands,” she remarked.

“We need to release those demanded (by Hamas) immediately,” she went on. …

“We are a nefarious people. What we are doing in the West Bank is worse than all the pogroms done to the Jews.” But she qualified her statement by saying she was “not referring to the Nazis, but the Cossacks.”

Conventional leftist self-hatred, as these things go. But this comment on Israeli politics was interesting:

“The Right has two left hands, but the Left doesn’t even exist today,” she said.

Here’s a free political insight: that’s because most Israelis don’t loathe their country, and they know the Aloni-Meretz faction does.

Shulamit Aloni, a former head of Israel’s Meretz party, gave an interview to Yedioth on her 81st birthday. “It’s hard for me to say a kind word about the state today,” she said.

“No one should be speaking this nonsense about ‘blood on the hands.’ Since 2000, with the launching of the second intifada, we have murdered thousands. We too have blood on our hands,” she remarked.

“We need to release those demanded (by Hamas) immediately,” she went on. …

“We are a nefarious people. What we are doing in the West Bank is worse than all the pogroms done to the Jews.” But she qualified her statement by saying she was “not referring to the Nazis, but the Cossacks.”

Conventional leftist self-hatred, as these things go. But this comment on Israeli politics was interesting:

“The Right has two left hands, but the Left doesn’t even exist today,” she said.

Here’s a free political insight: that’s because most Israelis don’t loathe their country, and they know the Aloni-Meretz faction does.

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The Dubai Effect

Max Boot is quite right that the Middle East needs Dubai, and not only because it embraces modernity and flouts the region’s taboos. It’s also an example of good government, at least by the Arab world’s standards, and good economics if you look past its excesses.

The United Arab Emirates’ most extravagant city-state has a more or less transparent market economy and a degree of personal freedom rarely found elsewhere in the Middle East outside Israel and Lebanon. The government doesn’t micromanage the personal lives of its citizens as in Iran and Saudi Arabia, nor does it smother the economy with heavy state socialism as in Egypt and Syria. Its bureaucracy is efficient — investors don’t spend years acquiring permits and filling out paperwork before they can open a shopping center, a hotel, or a Starbucks. The Islamic religion is respected as it is everywhere else in the Middle East, but clerics don’t make the rules. Read More

Max Boot is quite right that the Middle East needs Dubai, and not only because it embraces modernity and flouts the region’s taboos. It’s also an example of good government, at least by the Arab world’s standards, and good economics if you look past its excesses.

The United Arab Emirates’ most extravagant city-state has a more or less transparent market economy and a degree of personal freedom rarely found elsewhere in the Middle East outside Israel and Lebanon. The government doesn’t micromanage the personal lives of its citizens as in Iran and Saudi Arabia, nor does it smother the economy with heavy state socialism as in Egypt and Syria. Its bureaucracy is efficient — investors don’t spend years acquiring permits and filling out paperwork before they can open a shopping center, a hotel, or a Starbucks. The Islamic religion is respected as it is everywhere else in the Middle East, but clerics don’t make the rules.

Lebanon and Iraq have both been hailed as possible models for the rest of the region, but they aren’t really. Maybe they will be someday, but they aren’t today. Freewheeling Lebanon is more or less democratic, but it’s unstable. It blows up every year. The Beirut Spring in 2005 ousted the Syrian military dictatorship, but shaking off Iran and its private Hezbollah militia has proved nearly impossible. Iraq is likewise still too violent and dysfunctional to be an inspiring model right now.

Many of the skyscrapering steel and glass cities of the Persian Gulf feel like soulless shopping malls. It wouldn’t occur to anyone to suggest that one of these places is “the Paris of the Middle East,” as Beirut has often been called. Dubai’s outrageous attractions and socially liberal atmosphere, however, makes it something like a Las Vegas of the Middle East as a traveler’s destination. And it really is something like a Hong Kong or Singapore as a place to do business.

It features prominently in Vali Nasr’s compelling new book Forces of Fortune, where he argues that the Middle East may finally liberalize politically after it has first been transformed economically by a middle-class commercial revolution. Most in the West haven’t noticed, but that revolution has already begun. And what he calls “the Dubai effect” is a key part of it.

“People in the region who visit Dubai,” he writes, “return home wondering why their governments can’t issue passports in a day or provide clean mosques and schools, better airports, airlines and roads, and above all better government.”

He’s right. Most Beirutis I know look down on Dubai as artificial and gimmicky, but just about everyone else in the region who isn’t a radical Islamist thinks it’s amazing.

It’s different geopolitically, too. The government is more sincerely pro-American than the nominally pro-American governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Michael Yon put it this way when he visited in 2006 on his way to Iraq: “Our friends in the UAE want the Coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan to succeed, and they are vocal about it. While much of the west, including many of our oldest allies, postures on about how the war on terror is a horrible mistake, the sentiment in the UAE is that it would be a horrible mistake not to face the facts about our common enemy, an enemy that might be just as happy to destroy the UAE as America.”

Its leadership has also stepped a long way back from the Arab-Israeli conflict. Neither Dubai nor any of the other UAE emirates have gone so far as to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but they also aren’t participating in the conflict or making it worse. Israeli citizens can and do visit, which is unthinkable almost everywhere else in the Arab world. A rotating tower designed by an Israeli architect is slated to be completed next year. There isn’t a chance that even Egypt or Jordan, both of which have signed peace treaties, would let an Israeli design one of their architectural set pieces.

Dubai has problems, of course, aside from the inevitable bursting of its financial bubble. Its government is a fairly benign dictatorship, especially compared with the likes of Syria and Iran, but it’s a dictatorship all the same. Many of its imported laborers live and work in ghastly conditions, and some are lured there under false pretenses.

It’s flawed, it’s weird, and its overall model of development can’t be ported everywhere else. Only so many cities can build ski resorts in the desert and underwater hotel rooms that go for $5,000 a night. But Dubai’s model needn’t be copied and pasted as-is, and Nasr’s “Dubai effect” is a powerful thing. The city proves to everyone who goes there that when an Arab Muslim country opens up its economy, keeps the clerics out of the saddle, and eschews radical causes, it can build places that are impressive not just by local standards but by international standards as well. If even half its foreign and domestic policies are adopted by its neighbors, the region will be a much nicer place for the people who live there, and less of a headache for everyone else.

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Will He Prove Them Wrong?

The Washington Post‘s editors are nervous about the president’s upcoming speech on Afghanistan:

Mr. Obama’s prolonged deliberations and some of his public comments have made clear that he will embark on this new course reluctantly. That is understandable, given the problems in Afghanistan and the lack of Democratic support for an expanded war. Yet once he has chosen his strategy, it’s vital that the president commit himself fully to its success. That requires sending enough troops to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and describing the new commitment in a way that will convince Afghans, allies, the Taliban and the leaders of neighboring Pakistan that the United States is determined to succeed. It also means avoiding hedges and conditions that could doom the escalation before it begins.

Here Obama has made his own job worse. By empowering the likes of Joe Biden and his domestic policy advisers to second-guess the recommendation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and to warn openly of the domestic consequences of embracing the only viable plan for victory, the president has signaled that he’s looking over his shoulder. The sole target of his concern has not been the enemy and the horrendous potential consequences of a halfhearted effort. Instead he’s been fixated on his left-wing base. He’s obsessed over an exit strategy, forgetting that his predecessor won a war without one and that George W. Bush’s wartime troubles stemmed not from failing to  promise an end date but from letting a losing strategy persist too long. Obama’s also muddied the waters on the identity of the enemy and whether we can achieve “victory,” a word never uttered but essential to leading a war effort.

Now, as the editors note, “Both Americans and Afghans wonder whether the president believes in the war and has the will to win it.” One way for Obama to demonstrate that he takes being commander in chief seriously would be to dismiss his left-wingers’ “tax the war” gambit, designed to undermine support for the effort we are about to undertake. He should be clear that this is sheer hypocrisy (where’s the stimulus surtax?) and won’t be realistically entertained.

Frankly, it might be a good time for the president to battle his left flank and demonstrate some moxie, if he has it. The world and a vast number of centrists in America, not to mention conservatives, think he’s a wimp. This is his time to prove them wrong.

The Washington Post‘s editors are nervous about the president’s upcoming speech on Afghanistan:

Mr. Obama’s prolonged deliberations and some of his public comments have made clear that he will embark on this new course reluctantly. That is understandable, given the problems in Afghanistan and the lack of Democratic support for an expanded war. Yet once he has chosen his strategy, it’s vital that the president commit himself fully to its success. That requires sending enough troops to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and describing the new commitment in a way that will convince Afghans, allies, the Taliban and the leaders of neighboring Pakistan that the United States is determined to succeed. It also means avoiding hedges and conditions that could doom the escalation before it begins.

Here Obama has made his own job worse. By empowering the likes of Joe Biden and his domestic policy advisers to second-guess the recommendation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and to warn openly of the domestic consequences of embracing the only viable plan for victory, the president has signaled that he’s looking over his shoulder. The sole target of his concern has not been the enemy and the horrendous potential consequences of a halfhearted effort. Instead he’s been fixated on his left-wing base. He’s obsessed over an exit strategy, forgetting that his predecessor won a war without one and that George W. Bush’s wartime troubles stemmed not from failing to  promise an end date but from letting a losing strategy persist too long. Obama’s also muddied the waters on the identity of the enemy and whether we can achieve “victory,” a word never uttered but essential to leading a war effort.

Now, as the editors note, “Both Americans and Afghans wonder whether the president believes in the war and has the will to win it.” One way for Obama to demonstrate that he takes being commander in chief seriously would be to dismiss his left-wingers’ “tax the war” gambit, designed to undermine support for the effort we are about to undertake. He should be clear that this is sheer hypocrisy (where’s the stimulus surtax?) and won’t be realistically entertained.

Frankly, it might be a good time for the president to battle his left flank and demonstrate some moxie, if he has it. The world and a vast number of centrists in America, not to mention conservatives, think he’s a wimp. This is his time to prove them wrong.

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Taxing Our Patience

The Hill, reminding us that certain senators have promised not to raise taxes, explains just how many taxes there are in the pending health-care bill:

Individuals would face penalties for failing to purchase insurance and those earning more than $200,000 would see their Medicare payroll tax rise from 1.45 percent to 1.95 percent. The payroll tax rise would hit couples earning $250,000 or more.

The measure would also impose a $2 billion annual tax on medical devices such as pacemakers; a broad $6.7 billion annual tax on the health insurance industry; a 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery; and would eliminate tax deductions for employer-provided prescription drug coverage in retirement.

An analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation found that in the year 2019, 77 percent of the cost of the tax increases proposed in the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare bill would be carried by families earning less than $250,000 a year.

There is a total of $494B by some estimation. And, of course, this flies in the face of Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. Specifically, labor unions aren’t very happy about the tax on so-called Cadillac health-care plans (which were in many collective-bargaining negotiations provided in lieu of higher wages or other benefits): “Labor unions have opposed this tax, which funds a substantial portion of the bill, because they argue that it would hit many unionized, working-class families.”

All this would be bad enough in ordinary times but we are, after all, not yet out of the recession. Can anyone really imagine that hundreds of billions in new taxes are going to help matters? We are continually told that taxes are receding as a top issue. The way to test that proposition is to vote for massive tax hikes, in violation of a specific campaign pledge in the middle of an economic downturn. How many lawmakers will have the nerve to find out?

The Hill, reminding us that certain senators have promised not to raise taxes, explains just how many taxes there are in the pending health-care bill:

Individuals would face penalties for failing to purchase insurance and those earning more than $200,000 would see their Medicare payroll tax rise from 1.45 percent to 1.95 percent. The payroll tax rise would hit couples earning $250,000 or more.

The measure would also impose a $2 billion annual tax on medical devices such as pacemakers; a broad $6.7 billion annual tax on the health insurance industry; a 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery; and would eliminate tax deductions for employer-provided prescription drug coverage in retirement.

An analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation found that in the year 2019, 77 percent of the cost of the tax increases proposed in the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare bill would be carried by families earning less than $250,000 a year.

There is a total of $494B by some estimation. And, of course, this flies in the face of Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. Specifically, labor unions aren’t very happy about the tax on so-called Cadillac health-care plans (which were in many collective-bargaining negotiations provided in lieu of higher wages or other benefits): “Labor unions have opposed this tax, which funds a substantial portion of the bill, because they argue that it would hit many unionized, working-class families.”

All this would be bad enough in ordinary times but we are, after all, not yet out of the recession. Can anyone really imagine that hundreds of billions in new taxes are going to help matters? We are continually told that taxes are receding as a top issue. The way to test that proposition is to vote for massive tax hikes, in violation of a specific campaign pledge in the middle of an economic downturn. How many lawmakers will have the nerve to find out?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

You have to strain to find the Washington Post‘s editors acknowledging that Obama’s Honduras policy has been a bust.

Elliott Abrams on the human-rights consequences of raising “multilateralism” to the end-all and be-all of American foreign policy: “Multilateral diplomacy means small talk with torturers, tea with dictators, negotiations with regimes that survive through sheer brutal repression — and it means putting such unpleasant facts aside to gather UN votes and seek consensus.”

David Ignatius has figured out what scares Democrats: “If the Fed’s projections are right, the public is going to be very angry next year — at big business and at the elected officials who have spent trillions of dollars without putting the country fully back to work.” Translation: they mortgaged our future economic security and growth for nothing.

Clarence Page is scared about the gap in enthusiasm, which shows that in 2010, “81 percent of self-described Republicans say they are certain or likely to vote, compared to 65 percent of independent voters and only 56 percent of Democrats.”

Charles Krauthammer keeps getting hung up on that whole Constitution thing: “I think what’s interesting about Obama is he is going to be at the U.N. [conference in Copenhagen] to announce the [new] policy about climate change on the basis of — nothing. He is going to be proposing what the House has passed — that he knows is not going to pass in the Senate. And we are actually a constitutional democracy where the president can’t announce a policy unilaterally. It actually has to pass the two houses of the Congress, and our allies abroad know that, and they’re going to look at this announcement he is going to make and think it … extremely strange.”

Apparently Americans don’t like panels of experts telling them what to do about health care: “A federal medical panel’s recommendation that women can now wait until age 50 to get a routine mammogram instead of age 40 is stirring up strong debate. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 81% of adults disagree with the panel’s recommendation. Just nine percent (8%) agree with the new guideline, and another nine percent (9%) are not sure.”

We certainly have seen lots of these already: “It’s one of the oldest tricks in the presidential playbook: when you want to focus attention on an issue, hold a meeting and call it a ‘summit.’” But if you really don’t have a plan to address unemployment and your agenda items are anti–job growth (e.g., raising taxes on small businesses), is it such a good idea to hold a summit?

The New York Times pans Obama’s Middle East approach: “Nine months later, the president’s promising peace initiative has unraveled. The Israelis have refused to stop all building. The Palestinians say that they won’t talk to the Israelis until they do, and President Mahmoud Abbas is so despondent he has threatened to quit. Arab states are refusing to do anything. Mr. Obama’s own credibility is so diminished (his approval rating in Israel is 4 percent) that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever.” And to boot, even the Times can see that George Mitchell and Rahm Emanuel bear responsibility for the debacle. So will either be canned?

You have to strain to find the Washington Post‘s editors acknowledging that Obama’s Honduras policy has been a bust.

Elliott Abrams on the human-rights consequences of raising “multilateralism” to the end-all and be-all of American foreign policy: “Multilateral diplomacy means small talk with torturers, tea with dictators, negotiations with regimes that survive through sheer brutal repression — and it means putting such unpleasant facts aside to gather UN votes and seek consensus.”

David Ignatius has figured out what scares Democrats: “If the Fed’s projections are right, the public is going to be very angry next year — at big business and at the elected officials who have spent trillions of dollars without putting the country fully back to work.” Translation: they mortgaged our future economic security and growth for nothing.

Clarence Page is scared about the gap in enthusiasm, which shows that in 2010, “81 percent of self-described Republicans say they are certain or likely to vote, compared to 65 percent of independent voters and only 56 percent of Democrats.”

Charles Krauthammer keeps getting hung up on that whole Constitution thing: “I think what’s interesting about Obama is he is going to be at the U.N. [conference in Copenhagen] to announce the [new] policy about climate change on the basis of — nothing. He is going to be proposing what the House has passed — that he knows is not going to pass in the Senate. And we are actually a constitutional democracy where the president can’t announce a policy unilaterally. It actually has to pass the two houses of the Congress, and our allies abroad know that, and they’re going to look at this announcement he is going to make and think it … extremely strange.”

Apparently Americans don’t like panels of experts telling them what to do about health care: “A federal medical panel’s recommendation that women can now wait until age 50 to get a routine mammogram instead of age 40 is stirring up strong debate. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 81% of adults disagree with the panel’s recommendation. Just nine percent (8%) agree with the new guideline, and another nine percent (9%) are not sure.”

We certainly have seen lots of these already: “It’s one of the oldest tricks in the presidential playbook: when you want to focus attention on an issue, hold a meeting and call it a ‘summit.’” But if you really don’t have a plan to address unemployment and your agenda items are anti–job growth (e.g., raising taxes on small businesses), is it such a good idea to hold a summit?

The New York Times pans Obama’s Middle East approach: “Nine months later, the president’s promising peace initiative has unraveled. The Israelis have refused to stop all building. The Palestinians say that they won’t talk to the Israelis until they do, and President Mahmoud Abbas is so despondent he has threatened to quit. Arab states are refusing to do anything. Mr. Obama’s own credibility is so diminished (his approval rating in Israel is 4 percent) that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever.” And to boot, even the Times can see that George Mitchell and Rahm Emanuel bear responsibility for the debacle. So will either be canned?

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