Thursday, July 30, 2009

Better Listen Up Congress, Because We are 'Fed' Up!

We have the best health care in the world so why not use that as a foundation on which to build a comparable opportunity for others? That did not square with Obama's plan to remake America so now Obama's healthcare ambulance is rolling off the highway into a ditch of his own making.

So what to do? Again he is making the wrong decision by resorting to scare tactics and lies about the effect of what he is proposing. No wonder his ideas are meeting resistance. There is no Right Wing Conspiracy, it is simply American's beginning to realize they are being taken down a path they do not like and by someone they are increasingly beginning to justifiably distrust.(See 1, 1a and 1b below.)

Bullying and lying seems to be Obamas' strong suit and it will get him and our nation in a lot of trouble. Both articles posted in previous memos. (See 2 and 2a below.)

Buckle up, Congress is driving us over a cliff. (See 3 below.)

This letter was read on the Glenn Beck show and is worth reading if you have not heard its content. The writer speaks my sentiments and the sentiments of millions who have been far too silent but we are beginning to be heard loud and clear. Listen up Congress - we are 'fed' up! (See 4 below.)


1)Support Slips for Health Plan:Obama Push Faces Growing Doubts in Poll; Overhaul Advances in House, Senate.

Support for President Barack Obama's health-care effort has declined over the past five weeks, particularly among those who already have insurance, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found, amid prolonged debate over costs and quality of care.

In mid-June, respondents were evenly divided when asked whether they thought Mr. Obama's health plan was a good or bad idea. In the new poll, conducted July 24-27, 42% called it a bad idea while 36% said it was a good idea.

Among those with private insurance, the proportion calling the plan a bad idea rose to 47% from 37%.

Declining popularity of the health-care overhaul reflects rising anxiety over the federal budget deficit and congressional debate over the most contentious aspects of the legislation, including how to pay for it. The poll also shows concern over the role of government in determining personal medical decisions.

Trying to regain momentum, Mr. Obama is shifting his pitch to new consumer-protection rules for insurance companies, part of a bid to win over Americans who already have coverage.

David Axelrod, one of the president's top advisers, acknowledged that the White House's months-long focus on controlling medical costs hasn't worked. "Consumer protections are a lot more tangible," he said.

On Wednesday, Democratic leaders in the House reached accord with conservative party members to move their bill through the last of three committees, although the full House won't vote on the measure until at least September. "Failure is not an option," said California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman.

The White House is eager to show progress and build public support before Congress breaks for summer, when opponents plan to continue their campaign. "If this bill hangs out there over the August recess my guess is it will get shredded," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio), said.

In the Journal poll, only two in 10 people said the quality of their own care would improve under the Obama plan; just 15% of those with private insurance thought it would. Twice as many overall, and three times as many with private coverage, predicted their own care would get worse.

"You can't pass a substantial health reform unless privately insured people see there's a benefit for them," said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducts the poll with Democrat Peter D. Hart.

Support for former President Bill Clinton's health plan hovered in similar territory in 1994 on its way to defeat. But the Clinton plan never made it as far in Congress as the Obama effort has this year. Indeed, the poll showed strong support among respondents for ideas common to all of the pieces of health-care legislation being considered by Congress.

When given several details of the proposal, 56% said they favored the plan compared with 38% who oppose it.

The description given to poll respondents didn't include a public-insurance plan, which divides the public, nor specifics about what income levels might be taxed to fund the plan.

The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points for the overall sample.

Mr. Obama has focused sharply on cost control for businesses and Americans who have seen premiums rise faster than wages.

But those efforts have been hurt by the debate in Washington, which has been dominated by the $1 trillion, 10-year price tag for covering the uninsured. That makes it hard to persuade people that the bill will lead to reduced costs, said Mr. Axelrod.

"People are properly skeptical about any proposals out of Washington that speak to cost because they've been singed by past experience," said the senior Obama adviser.

At a town hall meeting in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, the president outlined a series of policies, many of which the insurance industry has agreed to accept.

The president said, for example, he wants rules that would require insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, cap out-of-pocket expenses, bar insurers from dropping people who become seriously ill, ban annual or lifetime coverage caps, and allow adults to stay on their parents' plans through age 26.

The Blue Dogs -- a key group of conservative Democrats -- agreed to terms of Obama's health-care proposal. The development is a boost for the president, WSJ's Laura Meckler reports.
"If you've got health insurance, then the reform we're proposing will also help you because it will provide you more stability and more security," Mr. Obama said.

On the question of how to pay for the measure, the poll found only one idea with majority support: a surtax on the rich, the approach taken in the bill moving through the House, but which isn't expected in the Senate version.

Public support for fining businesses that don't offer insurance dropped from last month, with half of those polled now in favor. Only four in 10 liked the idea of taxing insurance companies that offer particularly generous health plans, an idea that has gained currency in the Senate Finance Committee.

The poll found that Mr. Obama's overall ratings have fallen amid worries over the economy, with the decline due almost entirely to dwindling support by Republicans. His score is solid by historical standards but no longer at the high-flying levels of his early weeks.

Overall, Mr. Obama's ratings fell on a series of measures. His job approval now stands at 53%, down from a high of 61% in April. That is three points higher than President George W. Bush had in June 2001, following a contentious election victory.

The proportion of people who said it was very or fairly likely that Mr. Obama would bring "real change" dropped to 51% from 61% in February. The share of those who said he could be trusted to keep his word fell to 48% this month from 58% in April.

Mr. Hart, the Democratic pollster, said rising concerns over employment and the economy explained Mr. Obama's falling ratings.

"He seems embroiled in so many of the issues of the day without much sense of relief on the economic front," he said.

The poll also found a rising sense of partisanship. More than three in 10 surveyed said the current Congress has been more partisan and divided than in the past, compared with just 11% who said it has been less partisan.

In February, people were more likely to blame Republicans by a two-to-one margin. This month, they were divided over who to blame, with most saying both parties were at fault.

On other issues, the poll found:

Strong support for Sonia Sotomayor, Mr. Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Forty-four percent of people said they strongly or somewhat supported her confirmation with 30% opposed.

Falling support for the economic stimulus plan, with 34% in favor, down from 44% in February; 43% now say it is a bad idea.

Two-thirds of people said they knew enough about the controversy surrounding the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to form an opinion. Of them, about one in three said both Mr. Gates and the police officer were equally at fault, 27% said Mr. Gates was more at fault and 11% said the officer was more to blame.

1a) Obama Has Aura but Doesn't Know How To Legislate
By Michael Barone

Aura dazzles, but argument gets things done. Consider the debate on the Democrats' health care bill and the increasingly negative response to Barack Obama's performance. Democrats have the numbers to pass a health care bill -- 256 votes in the House, 38 more than the 218 majority; 60 votes in the Senate, enough to defeat a filibuster. But they haven't come up with the arguments, at least yet, to put those numbers on the board. It's something not many predicted that bright January inauguration morning.

We knew that day that Obama was good at aura, at generating enthusiasm for the prospect of hope and change. His inspiring speeches -- the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines, the race speech in Philadelphia, the countless rallies in primary and caucus and target states -- helped him capture the Democratic nomination and then win the presidency by the biggest percentage margin in 20 years.

But it turns out that Obama is not so good at argument. Inspiration is one thing, persuasion another. He created the impression on the campaign trail that he was familiar with major issues and readily ticked off his positions on them. But he has not proved so good at legislating.

One reason perhaps is that he has had little practice. He served as a legislator for a dozen years before becoming president, but was only rarely an active one. He spent one of his eight years as an Illinois state senator running unsuccessfully for Congress and two of them running successfully for U.S. senator. He spent two of his years in the U.S. Senate running for president. During all of his seven non-campaign years as a legislator, he was in the minority party.

In other words, he's never done much work putting legislation together -- especially legislation that channels vast flows of money and affects the workings of parts of the economy that deeply affect people's lives. This lack of experience is starting to show. On the major legislation considered this year -- the stimulus, cap-and-trade, health care -- the Obama White House has done little or nothing to set down markers, to provide guidance, to establish boundaries and no-go areas.

The administration could have insisted that the stimulus package concentrate spending in the next year. It didn't. It could have insisted that the cap-and-trade bill generate the revenue that was supposed to underwrite health care. It didn't. It could have decided either to seek a bipartisan health care bill or insist that a Democratic bill be budget-neutral. It didn't -- and it still hasn't made this basic policy choice.

Most of Obama's top White House staffers are politics operatives, not policy wonks. The one leading policy wonk on health care, Budget Director Peter Orszag, has either missed signals of danger or has failed to communicate their seriousness to his colleagues. On Feb. 25, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf, a Democratic appointee, signaled in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee that the CBO would not credit health care bills with the budget savings the administration was promising.

Orszag, as a former CBO director himself, should have realized what this meant, which is that Democrats would have to shape their bills accordingly. They didn't, and were stunned when CBO came out in June and this month with estimates of little or no savings.

And someone in the White House should have taken note when 40 Blue Dog Democrats signed a letter dated July 9 warning that they wouldn't vote for anything like the health care bills being considered in committee.
Without those 40 votes, Democrats don't have a majority in the House. It's unusual for dissenting members of the majority to set down such a public marker. Predictably, they haven't backed down so far, despite foot-stomping by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a chat session with Obama.

Obama's July 22 press conference was intended to rally support for the Democrats' health care bills. It didn't. The president eschewed serious arguments and rattled off campaign-type talking points. Those used to be enough to elicit cheers from enthusiastic audiences in Iowa and Virginia.

But aura can only take you so far, particularly when you diminish it by disrespecting the Cambridge police department. Being president means being more than commenter-in-chief. You need to know how to legislate. You need not just aura but argument.


HOUSE Democrats are playing a game of Whack-a-Mole as they try to devise a health-reform bill to re-engineer one-sixth of our economy, but the latest "agreement" announced Wednesday makes no progress in repairing the deeply flawed legislation.

Dissident "Blue Dog" Democrats on the key House Energy and Commerce Committee had been holding the bill hostage to a list of a dozen demands, saying it costs too much and fails to address systemic problems in the nation's ailing health-care sector.

But yesterday, after days of negotiations with congressional and White House leaders, a spokesman for the group, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), announced an agreement he said would reduce the bill's cost, increase the number of small businesses exempt from its requirements and weaken a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

But the Blue Dogs clearly made a deal for the sake of making a deal.

The best part of the agreement is that it delays any vote in the full House until after the August recess, so people can digest the details. When they head home this weekend, House members are sure to hear from incensed constituents alarmed about the impact of "reform" on their care.

All the other "concessions" granted to the Blue Dogs don't add up to much. Start with the cost of the bill, which they supposedly reduced by $100 billion: Problem is, the total price tag still will be nearly $1 trillion.

Not many Americans are going to believe that spending $1 trillion more on health care will somehow lower its costs. In fact, the director of the Congressional Budget Office testified that a similar bill before the Senate would "significantly expand" health costs, increase the deficit, and drive the nation more deeply into debt. The Blue Dogs' agreement does nothing to alter that fundamental fact.

And Americans don't believe the promises of politicians that they'll be able to keep the doctors and health coverage they have now. Numerous studies have shown that tens of millions of Americans are sure to lose their private insurance as government strong-arms them out of business.

The Blue Dogs said they got an agreement that government will "negotiate" its prices with doctors and hospitals. But government doesn't negotiate; it dictates prices.

Seniors are increasingly alarmed because they have learned that much of the "savings" to pay for health reform will come out of reductions in Medicare spending. They rightly fear that the government will start rationing their health care.

And Americans know that, once the reform plan is in place, tax increases won't just hit the rich but the middle class as well.

A sleeper issue that has received very little attention so far is the "individual mandate." Once the American people find out that the federal government is going to force them to purchase a health-insurance policy that it designs and compel them to pay premiums it sets -- and fine them if they don't comply -- they'll realize how deeply health "reform" will intrude into their lives.

There are no assurances that other House Democrats will go along with yesterday's deal. And the Senate is even further from an agreement than the House.

Meanwhile, President Obama has scaled back his pitch for sweeping health reform involving universal coverage and huge cost reductions. In speeches yesterday, he became a pitchman for insurance market reforms and "consumer protections" -- the lowest common denominator of health reform.

The president clearly will fail in his attempt to steamroll the House and Senate to vote on a bill before leaving for the August recess. And this may foretell failure for his sweeping reform agenda as well.

House Republicans put some new chips on the table on Wednesday in unveiling their own health reform plan, with a likely price tag of $700 billion. It offers a mix of tax credits and deductions to help people buy insurance, gives people more options to purchase private health insurance, and includes medical malpractice reform. It also avoids unpopular mandates on individuals and businesses to buy coverage.

Lawmakers should prepare to head back to the drawing board when they return in the fall with new ideas and feedback from constituents fresh in their minds.

Grace-Marie Turner is presi dent of the Galen Institute, a re search organization focused on market-based health-reform ideas.

2).The President Takes a Hard Line on Israel:Yet he doesn’t want to be seen as ‘meddling’ in Iran

In foreign policy, President Barack Obama has demonstrated a disturbing propensity to curry favor with our adversaries at the expense of our friends.

The Czechs and Poles are rightly concerned that they will be sacrificed on the altar of better U.S. relations with Russia. And the Israelis fear that the Obama administration’s desired opening to the Muslim world will be achieved at their expense. Mr. Obama’s attempted bullying of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a case in point.

Mr. Netanyahu was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister on March 31. Shortly thereafter, the Obama administration confronted Israel’s new leader in a very public way regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank, an area partially controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. This was an extremely unusual way for an American president to greet the new leader of a liberal democracy that’s a close ally of the U.S.

The Obama administration was not satisfied with a series of understandings crafted by the Bush administration that, while not freezing settlements, had nonetheless achieved a significant reduction in settlement construction. During a May press conference with the Egyptian foreign minister, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Mr. Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions.”

Subsequently, Mr. Obama demanded that Israel freeze construction in east Jerusalem. Of course, Mr. Netanyahu rejected Mr. Obama’s demand. He declared that Jerusalem is an open, undivided city “that has no separation according to religion or national affiliation.” Mr. Netanyahu added that “we cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem.”

If Jews were prohibited from buying property in New York, London, Paris or Rome, there would be an international outcry. Why, Mr. Netanyahu wondered, should the standard be different for Jerusalem?

Mr. Obama is woefully wrong if he believes that his confrontational style will provide an incentive for the Palestinians and the members of the Arab League to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute. It will simply reinforce the long-standing Arab belief that the U.S. can “deliver” Israel if it only has the will to do so, thereby reducing Arab incentives to make concessions in direct negotiations with Israel.

As if on cue, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian National Authority, announced that he would not negotiate on any issue with the new Israeli government until Mr. Obama’s settlement conditions are met.

In addition to the building freeze in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Mr. Abbas insisted on four other unilateral, non-negotiable concessions: First, an independent Palestinian state; second, that Israel pulls back to its pre-June 1967 borders, minus a Palestinian land bridge between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; third, a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel; and fourth, resolution of all permanent status issues on the basis of the 2002 Abdullah plan calling on Arabs to normalize relations with Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders. The “right of return,” in particular, is a non-starter.

If Mr. Obama seeks a Palestinian Arab state, he is going about it the wrong way. The fact is that Mr. Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution and an end to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank—as long as the Palestinians accept Israel as a legitimate Jewish state and cannot militarily threaten it. Israel has been willing to accept a two-state solution since the United Nations partition resolution for Palestine in 1947, but the Arabs have refused. They are not interested in creating a separate Palestinian Arab state but in destroying Israel as a Jewish state.

The Obama approach in the Middle East is predicated on what might be called the Arab “grievance narrative,” which holds that Israel was created as a result of Western guilt about the Holocaust. It is also based on the idea that, as the president suggested in his Cairo speech, there is moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Palestinian “dislocation.”

Such language illustrates an inability to make distinctions. Arabs launched a war against Jewish self-determination and the state of Israel long before any Israeli “occupation” of their lands. When Israel seized land in a defensive war, it was the Arabs, not the Israelis, who kept Palestinian “refugees” in limbo for three generations to await Israel’s destruction.

As Mr. Netanyahu reminded Mr. Obama after the latter’s Cairo speech, the Arab claim that Israel was a land grab by the great powers to salve the collective conscience of the West after the Holocaust is a slander. On the contrary, he observed, Israel’s right to its homeland rests on the longstanding historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. This right was ratified by the unanimous and legitimizing votes of the League of Nations and the U.N. Security Council’s permanent members, and validated by over 60 years of Israel’s successful, democratic statehood.

Israel’s “right to exist” was expressed best by Israeli diplomat Abba Eban in 1981. He wrote, “Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair, awaiting acknowledgment. . . . There is certainly no other state, big or small, young or old, that would consider mere recognition of its ‘right to exist’ a favor, or a negotiable concession.”

Mr. Netanyahu might also have added that Israel’s control of the West Bank (territory that should properly be called “disputed” rather than “occupied”), was the result of defeating the Arab powers who initiated the Six Day War of 1967. The status of aggressors and defenders is not interchangeable. Neither is the status of victorious powers and defeated ones.

Nonetheless, Israel has taken unilateral steps toward peace, steps not reciprocated by the Palestinians. When Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, dismantling 21 settlements and displacing over 9,000 residents, it conducted the most comprehensive test of the “land for peace” concept in the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Yet Israel was rewarded with the creation of a terrorist enclave governed by Hamas, rather than the peaceful, responsible neighbor Israel would need in order to accept a Palestinian Arab state.

Unlike Hamas, the corrupt Palestinian National Authority that holds sway in the West Bank has nominally accepted Israel’s right to exist but has never given up the “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees.” That right, if implemented, would mean the end of Israel’s existence.

Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians requires compromises on both sides. U.S. pressure on Israel, without any on the Palestinians, will not achieve the desired outcome.

Earlier this summer, the president justified his decision to downplay even rhetorical support for the Iranian protesters who rose up against their government and its fraudulent election. He did not wish the U.S. to appear to be “meddling” in Iranian affairs. He apparently feels no similar constraint when it comes to Israel.

Mr. Owens is editor of Orbis, the quarterly journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

2a) Obama Lied Early And Often About Israel
By Jonathan Mark

Here’’s an item from the Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2008, during the campaign: “Even as he won support in Chicago’s Palestinian community, Obama tried to forge ties with advocates for Israel. In 2000, he submitted a policy paper to CityPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee, that among other things supported a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a position far out of step from that of his Palestinian friends. The PAC concluded that Obama’s position paper “suggests he is strongly pro-Israel on all of the major issues.”

Obama’s campaign volunteers within Jewish organizations and the Jewish media pointed to endorsements such as that one, endorsements over the course of seven years, to assuage Jewish fears about Obama.

Now here’s an item from this week: Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was summoned to the State Department to be scolded because Jews were building a house in Jerusalem.

Obama’s supporters often said “Bush lied.” Did Obama lie? When he was telling Jewish audiences for the better part of seven years that he believed in a united Israeli Jerusalem, did he mean it? Or can we trust Ali Abinemeh, editor of Electonic Intifada who wrote in March, 2008:

“Over the years since I first saw Obama speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.

“As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.” He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, ‘Keep up the good work!’”

Clearly, Obama wasn’t being upfront. He said so himself. Either he was telling lies to the Jewish PACS or he was telling lies to American Palestinians. And most Jewish journalists and most Jewish leaders were OK with that. They wanted him to win anyway. They exerted more energy debunking anonymous e-mails about Obama than they did on examining and publicizing Obama’s habit of saying one thing to Zionists and another thing to anti-Zionists, such as his friends at Electronic Intifada. Now that he’s president he’s finally being upfront. Most Israelis don’t like it. Most American Jews don’t care.

3) Health Care Reform: Fasten Your Seatbelts -- Congress is at the Wheel
By Walter Shapiro

The truest legislative assessment of the prospects for health care reform was uttered by none other than Bette Davis in "All About Eve:"

"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."
Just when it seemed like Congress was going to slink into its August recess with everything in suspended animation, both Senate and House negotiators reported unexpected progress Wednesday afternoon in easing bills through key committees.

The Senate Finance Committee proudly announced that it had whacked $100 billion off the projected 10-year, $1-trillion cost of the proposed legislation. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also reported that it had cut a deal with moderate Blue Dog Democrats to limit the sweep of the bill and to curtail the scope of a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers.
While Barack Obama's August deadline had long ago drifted off on a summer's breeze, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confidently issued a mid-afternoon statement, promising that the legislation would emerge from the Energy and Commerce Committee this week. But then liberals on the committee rebelled at the concessions to the Blue Dogs over watering down the public option – thereby postponing, at least until Thursday, work on the bill.

(We interrupt this story to offer an updated Surgeon General's warning: "Trying to follow these legislative machinations is dangerous to your health and sanity.")
The best way to understand the health care battles ahead is to remember what Vermont Sen. George Aiken shrewdly recommended as the American strategy at the height of the Vietnam War: "Just declare victory and go home." The White House and the congressional Democratic leadership are too committed to passing a bill to ever admit defeat. So whatever ungainly, mud-caked mess finally emerges from the legislative quagmire, Obama and Company are going to face an irresistible temptation to declare victory and call it health care reform.

Media consultants and pollsters who advise vulnerable Democratic legislators are reluctant to antagonize the White House by talking on the record about the political pressures that their clients face in backing Obama on health care. But before this legislative crusade is over, many Democrats elected from traditionally Republican states or districts will face a long, dark night of the soul over the health care bill.

The political dangers for Democrats come in all shapes and sizes. There is what might be called the Page 579 Problem – a minor provision buried in the intricacies of the health care bill could morph into a potent symbol of governmental excess when demonized in 30-second Republican attack ads. Sticker shock may also be an obstacle. No matter how it is paid for, voters may balk at the federal government spending, say, $900 billion for anything (even free drinking cups from the fountain of youth). Another political risk could come from the Medicare meltdown as voters over 65 (quite happy with their government-run medical care, thank you) angrily protest any potential cutbacks in their favorite program, wedged in under the guise of reducing overall health care costs.

The truth is that – no matter how many town meetings and press conferences Obama holds – health care reform will remain an abstraction until there is an actual bill summary that voters can analyze. That is why polls during this phase of legislative jousting should be viewed with caution since they are riddled with hypothetical questions. (A New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday found that 46 percent of the voters approve and 38 disapprove of the way Obama is handling health care.) But the real political test will come in the fall. A Democratic strategist explains, "Then the big question that voters will ask about the bill is 'What's in it for me?'"

Beneath the widespread altruistic belief that health care is a basic human right lays a self-interested personal cost-benefit analysis. This was equally true during Bill and Hillary Clinton's ill-fated 1993 drive to pass health care reform. As pollster Stan Greenberg, who advised Clinton during his first term, recalls in a New Republic article, "Judging whether the plan would help or hurt one's family suddenly became the dominant predictor... of support for or opposition to the Clinton health care plan."

Top Democrats make the argument to each other that if the party this time around cannot pass health care reform – the Holy Grail since Harry Truman – it will face a rebellion from voters for over-promising and legislative ineptitude. As 34-year-old Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello, who defeated a six-term GOP incumbent in 2008, puts it, "The most important thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the freshman class got elected by running for problem-solving over partisanship." Perriello, who supports the public option, is staunchly in favor of reform even though he is among the 60 Democratic incumbents targeted by a Republican National Committee radio ad that ridicules Obama's proposals as "a dangerous experiment."
There are actually Democratic insiders who believe that passing health care reform is more politically important going into the congressional elections than even the economy. In contrast, Republican pollster David Winston, who advises the congressional GOP leadership, persuasively argues, "This is ultimately going to be an election about jobs. And there's going to be one number that people will follow – and that's the unemployment rate."

An under-appreciated problem facing Democrats in passing legislation is that many of the benefits will not kick in until after Obama runs for a second term in 2012. Yes, not until after the 2012 elections. Under the original and more liberal version of the House bill, the uninsured would not receive government subsidies to purchase their own health insurance until 2013, nor would the public plan be established until then. (Medicare, in contrast, was up and running 11 months after Lyndon

Johnson signed the legislation in 1965).
Part of the delay would be from the sheer complexity of setting up the elaborate system of rewards and penalties that will be needed to move the nation close to providing health care for all Americans. If, for example, large employers would be mandated to provide health insurance for their workers, that requirement could not be levied overnight. Also, under current congressional budget rules, the longer it takes for a program to fully take effect, the less the purported cost would be over 10 years. So as the health care legislation inevitably gets whittled down during House and Senate negotiations, the phase-in period is apt to be further extended in order to reduce cost estimates.

Obama is also grappling with the "Why Now?" dilemma. At a town meeting Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., the president repeated his refrain that the status quo is unsustainable. "If we do nothing," Obama declared, "I can almost guarantee you your (health insurance) premiums will double over the next 10 years, because that's what they did over the last 10 years." It is nearly impossible to argue with this long-term math. The problem for the president – and the congressional Democrats – is that it is hard to create a sense of this-is-the-moment urgency to pass legislation designed to ward off problems that are still just over the horizon.
None of this is designed to argue that Obama-style health care reform is unattainable in political terms or undesirable in policy terms. But even with lopsided Democratic congressional majorities, even with the president's mastery of the bully pulpit, even with Wednesday's small-step legislative progress, the legislative struggle over the next few months will be daunting. So fasten your seatbelts -- the real action on Capitol Hill has only just begun.

4) We, The People, Are Coming!!

This 53 year old mother and grandmother has given us a voice. (Her letter was read on the Glenn Beck show.)

GLENN BECK: I got a letter from a woman in Arizona. She writes an
open letter to our nation's leadership: I'm a home grown American
citizen, 53, registered Democrat all my life. Before the last
presidential election I registered as a Republican because I no longer
felt the Democratic Party represents my views or works to pursue
issues important to me. Now I no longer feel the Republican Party
represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. The
fact is I no longer feel any political party or representative in
Washington represents my views or works to pursue the issues important to me. There must be someone. Please tell me who you are. Please stand up and tell me that you are there and that you're willing to fight for our Constitution as it was written. Please stand up now.

You might ask yourself what my views and issues are that I would
horribly feel so disenfranchised by both major political parties.
What kind of nut job am I? Will you please tell me? Well, these are
briefly my views and issues for which I seek representation:

One, illegal immigration. I want you to stop coddling illegal
immigrants and secure our borders. Close the underground tunnels.
Stop the violence and the trafficking in drugs and people. No
amnesty, not again. Been there, done that, no resolution. P.S. I'm
not a racist. This isn't to be confused with legal immigration.

Two, the TARP bill, I want it repealed and I want no further funding
supplied to it. We told you no, but you did it anyway. I want the
remaining unfunded 95% repealed. Freeze, repeal.

Three: Czars, I want the circumvention of our checks and balances
stopped immediately. Fire the czars. No more czars.. Government
officials answer to the process, not to the president.. Stop trampling
on our Constitution and honor it.

Four, cap and trade. The debate on global warming is not over.
There is more to say.

Five, universal healthcare. I will not be rushed into another
expensive decision. Don't you dare try to pass this in the middle of
the night and then go on break. Slow down!

Six, growing government control. I want states rights and
sovereignty fully restored. I want less government in my life, not
more. Shrink it down. Mind your own business. You have enough to
take care of with your real obligations. Why don't you start there?

Seven, ACORN. I do not want ACORN and its affiliates in charge of
our 2010 census. I want them investigated. I also do not want
mandatory escrow fees contributed to them every time on every real
estate deal that closes. Stop the funding to ACORN and its affiliates
pending impartial audits and investigations. I do not trust them with
taking the census over with our taxpayer money. I don't trust them
with our taxpayer money.. Face up to the allegations against them and get it resolved before taxpayers get any more involved with them. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, hello. Stop protecting
your political buddies. You work for us, the people. Investigate.

Eight, redistribution of wealth. No, no, no. I work for my money.
It is mine. I have always worked for people with more money than I
have because they gave me jobs. That is the only redistribution of
wealth that I will support. I never got a job from a poor person.
Why do you want me to hate my employers? Why—what do you have against shareholders making a profit?

Nine, charitable contributions. Although I never got a job from a
poor person, I have helped many in need. Charity belongs in our local
communities, where we know our needs best and can use our local talent and our local resources. Butt out, please. We want to do it

Ten, corporate bailouts. Knock it off. Sink or swim like the rest
of us. If there are hard times ahead, we'll be better off just
getting into it and letting the strong survive. Quick and painful.
Have you ever ripped off a Band-Aid? We will pull together. Great
things happen in America under great hardship. Give us the chance to innovate. We cannot disappoint you more than you have disappointed us.

Eleven, transparency and accountability. How about it? No, really,
how about it? Let's have it. Let's say we give the buzzwords a rest
and have some straight honest talk. Please try—please stop
manipulating and trying to appease me with clever wording. I am not
the idiot you obviously take me for. Stop sneaking around and meeting in back rooms making deals with your friends. It will only be a prelude to your criminal investigation. Stop hiding things from me.

Twelve, unprecedented quick spending. Stop it now. Take a breath.
Listen to the people. Let's just slow down and get some input from
some nonpoliticians on the subject. Stop making everything an
emergency. Stop speed reading our bills into law. I am not an
activist. I am not a community organizer. Nor am I a terrorist, a
militant or a violent person. I am a parent and a grandparent. I
work. I'm busy. I'm busy. I am busy, and I am tired. I thought we
elected competent people to take care of the business of government so that we could work, raise our families, pay our bills, have a little
recreation, complain about taxes, endure our hardships, pursue our
personal goals, cut our lawn, wash our cars on the weekends and be
responsible contributing members of society and teach our children to be the same all while living in the home of the free and land of the

I entrusted you with upholding the Constitution. I believed in the
checks and balances to keep from getting far off course. What
happened? You are very far off course. Do you really think I find
humor in the hiring of a speed reader to unintelligently ramble all
through a bill that you signed into law without knowing what it
contained? I do not. It is a mockery of the responsibility I have
entrusted to you. It is a slap in the face. I am not laughing at your
arrogance. Why is it that I feel as if you would not trust me to make
a single decision about my own life and how I would live it but you
should expect that I should trust you with the debt that you have laid
on all of us and our children? We did not want the TARP bill. We
said no. We would repeal it if we could. I am sure that we still
cannot. There is such urgency and recklessness in all of the recent

From my perspective, it seems that all of you have gone insane. I
also know that I am far from alone in these feelings. Do you honestly
feel that your current pursuits have merit to patriotic Americans? We
want it to stop.. We want to put the brakes on everything that is
being rushed by us and forced upon us. We want our voice back. You have forced us to put our lives on hold to straighten out the mess
that you are making. We will have to give up our vacations, our time
spent with our children, any relaxation time we may have had and money we cannot afford to spend on you to bring our concerns to Washington.
Our president often knows all the right buzzword is unsustainable.
Well, no kidding. How many tens of thousands of dollars did the focus group cost to come up with that word? We don't want your overpriced words. Stop treating us like we're morons.

We want all of you to stop focusing on your reelection and do the
job we want done, not the job you want done or the job your party
wants done. You work for us and at this rate I guarantee you not for
long because we are coming. We will be heard and we will be
represented. You think we're so busy with our lives that we will
never come for you? We are the formerly silent majority, all of us
who quietly work , pay taxes, obey the law, vote, save money, keep our noses to the grindstone and we are now looking up at you. You have awakened us, the patriotic spirit so strong and so powerful that it had been sleeping too long.. You have pushed us too far. Our numbers are great. They may surprise you. For every one of us who will be there, there will be hundreds more that could not come. Unlike you, we have their trust. We will represent them honestly, rest assured…
They will be at the polls on voting day to usher you out of office. We
have cancelled vacations. We will use our last few dollars saved. We
will find the representation among us and a grassroots campaign will
flourish. We didn't ask for this fight. But the gloves are coming
off. We do not come in violence, but we are angry. You will
represent us or you will be replaced with someone who will. There are candidates among us when he will rise like a Phoenix from the ashes that you have made of our constitution.

Democrat, Republican, independent, libertarian. Understand this.
We don't care. Political parties are meaningless to us. Patriotic
Americans are willing to do right by us and our Constitution and that
is all that matters to us now. We are going to fire all of you who
abuse power and seek more. It is not your power. It is ours and we
want it back… We entrusted you with it and you abused it. You are
dishonorable. You are dishonest. As Americans we are ashamed of you.
You have brought shame to us. If you are not representing the wants
and needs of your constituency loudly and consistently, in spite of
the objections of your party, you will be fired. Did you hear? We no
longer care about your political parties. You need to be loyal to us,
not to them. Because we will get you fired and they will not save

If you do or can represent me, my issues, my views, please stand up.
Make your identity known. You need to make some noise about it.
Speak up. I need to know who you are. If you do not speak up, you
will be herded out with the rest of the sheep and we will replace the
whole damn congress if need be one by one. We are coming. Are we
coming for you? Who do you represent? What do you represent?
Listen. Because we are coming. We the people are coming.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Selling Out America To Obtain Change Where Unwanted!

Tracinski points the way. What we need is a good old fashion rebellion. 2010 may be a rough year for over-reaching Democrats.(See 1 and 1a below.)

Is betrayal of what the public wants, has, wishes to retain in the works? Obama hell bent for health care change so heat on Baucus increases to produce and that means pressure mounts on Grassley to provide respectable Republican cover.Will both or either sell out the American public toobtain uwanted and unwarranted change?(See 2 below.)

China concerned about our mounting debt as well they should be. They own us! (See 3below.)

Is Nouri al-Maliki paying off Iran with recent raid on dissidents right after we withdraw our troops who protected them? (See 4 below.)

Thomas Frank tries to place the Gates matter into a reasonable perspective. (See 5 below.)

A British physician laments their system and blames it on believing health care is a right. (Theodore Dalrymple is the pen name of Anthony Daniels, a British physician. He is a contributing editor to the City Journal.) (See 6 below.)

When all initiatives fail blame Israel for doing the dirty work of a puslanimous West. Obama continues to be slapped by Iran with his own hand, so pressuring Israel not to defend itself remains his only option.

Crusty old John Bolton, Liberal's worst nightmare speaks out again. (See 7 below.)

Oil traders become the new Obama'pinata.' Speculation is evil and government controllable. Yes, government can even control human nature. Government spending, however, remains uncontrollable and speculative spending on worthless and/or questionable projects continues to abound. Any hypocrisy there? (See 8 below.)

I just had an engaging conversation with a dear minister friend of mine about health care rationing. He opposes what is currently being attempted by the Obama administration though he agrees we should do more to make our health care system less costly, more efficient and available. However he believes health care is not a right, does not appear as such anywhere in our Constitution though the pursuit of happiness can be stretched to include a lot of social do goods.

With respect to health care rationing, he is of the view that God and love are synonymous and everything else is embellishment. Only God gives and has the right to decide when life ends. Economics, education etc. play a role in terms of what an individual can do about their life but government bureaucrats should not supplant God when it comes to determining who shall die and who shall live. Hitler tried, he reminded me, and we know where that took the world.

Beware progress is being made. (See 9 below.)


1) Losing Control of Your Health Care
By Robert Tracinski

The trademark political tactic of the Obama administration is speed: ramming legislation through Congress as fast as possible—too fast for anyone to subject the bills to scrutiny, search for objectionable provisions, or develop effective counter-arguments in a public debate. They push the bills through so fast that even President Obama and his allies in Congress don't have time to read them and don't know what's in them.

That's why we should be relieved that Obama's health-care bill did not get pushed through before the August congressional recess. The bill got blocked, in part, because the people got just enough time to start reading it. And the more time we get to read it, the less we're going to like it.

On Capitol Hill, the aspect of the bill that makes legislators most uncomfortable is the trillions of dollars of new spending it will require. The president has already maxed out the national credit card on the deeply unpopular auto bailouts and stimulus package, leaving Congress with the sense that new spending is something they cannot afford, either economically or politically.

But outside of Washington, the provision of the bill that is raising the greatest concern is the fact that it is designed to push us out of our existing private health insurance plans and into a government-controlled plan. This is directly in contradiction to President Obama's repeated assurances that government-run health insurance will merely be an "option" and that we will be allowed to keep our existing private health insurance.

Even this so-called "public option" was an attempt to crowd out private health insurance by luring people into government-subsidized insurance. But it turns out that Obama's legislation contains provisions that will kill private health insurance directly.

Quite simply, the bill bans insurance companies from writing new private individual policies. (If you get your health-insurance through your employer, you eventually face the same fate, too.) The bill's defenders claim that private insurers will be able to write new policies—but they will have to do so through a government-run health-insurance "exchange." Investor's Business Daily explains what this means:

The exchange will be a highly regulated clearinghouse of providers that meet the government's standards. Only those providers that follow Washington's stringent guidelines will be allowed to join this exclusive club.
The government, through an unelected health choices commissioner, will set premiums, dictate benefits, determine deductibles, and establish coverage. Exchange participants will be required to insure anyone who asks to be covered and to accept all renewals…. [T]he weight of the mandates will mean only five or six providers will be able to survive and sell coverage in the exchange.

In other words, private insurance companies will be offered the privilege of administering health-insurance policies whose terms are written by government bureaucrats.

But the people are catching on. All of the relentless propaganda about how "our health care system is broken" is an attempt by the left to evade one big fact: most people are happy with their private health insurance and are terrified of giving up control of their health care to a "health choices commissioner"—the government bureaucrat who will be entitled to make all of our health choices for us.

Yes, there are many distortions in the market for health care and health insurance, distortions introduced by decades of government regulation and billions in government spending, but our private insurance still gives us the best care in the world—and crucially, more control over our own health-care than anywhere else in the world.

This is very clear to me because my family has been a pretty significant user of medical care in the past few years. Two years ago, our first child was born, and we now have a second child on the way. In between, my wife was in a semi-serious car accident. So we've spent our share of time in hospitals and examination rooms recently, and I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the quality of care we have received.

Three experiences stand out. When my first son, Walter, was born, one of the pediatricians noticed that his heart was making a slight noise, so he sent us up for a consultation with a pediatric cardiologist. I have a good knowledge of science, and I have a few friends who are doctors and engineers, so I consider myself a decent judge of experts. It's not too difficult to tell when you're dealing with a physician who really knows what he's talking about and is able to answer your questions clearly and thoroughly. I was very impressed with this cardiologist, who performed an echocardiogram (a high-precision ultrasound imaging of the heart) and explained that what the pediatrician heard was actually a normal sound—what he called the "singing" of the "heart strings" that connect opposite walls of the ventricles. It was a thorough cardiac workup that relieved all of our anxieties—with no need to get on a waiting list or ask anyone's permission or go through some arcane cost-benefit analysis.

After Sherri's car accident, she experienced some vision problems. Since she is very near-sighted, she is at heightened risk for retinal detachment, and she was afraid that the impact of the collision—she was rear-ended by a truck going about 60 miles per hour—could have broken her retina loose. So again we searched around for the best expert we could find, a very impressive retina specialist, who did a very thorough check.

More recently, we went in for an ultrasound on the new baby. If you think an ultrasound is just about getting a grainy image of the fetus, you haven't seen one lately. In this ultrasound, our physician looked at the development of the baby's internal organs and the brain. Using Doppler ultrasound, which is able to track the direction and rate of motion, he looked at the blood flow through the baby's heart. And he performed a whole other series of measurements (the length of the femur, the circumference of the skull, etc.) which are markers for potential birth defects. It was a thorough physical check-up—way more thorough than anything I've ever had—performed long before the baby is born.

Now notice that all of these examples are, fortunately, about medical issues that did not turn out to be a problem. Which makes them precisely the kind of tests that would be very easy for bean-counting bureaucrats to deny on the grounds that they are not cost-effective. Not cost-effective, that is, for the government. But I didn't have to worry about what was cost-effective for the government. I only had to think about what was cost-effective for me. I was able to make the choice based on what my insurance would cover and—since I have a Health Savings Account, one of the few pro-free-market health-care reforms Congress has managed to pass—what I could afford to pay in deductibles and premiums.

My experience with the "health care system"—i.e., with our own doctors and nurses—has been a dream. I am not wealthy by any means (I am a self-employed writer, which should say just about everything right there), and I have no special connections or "pull." Yet I have had no difficulty making sure that my family receives top-quality care.

The key is that we are in control. This system works at allowing us to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Many other Americans grasp this, and that is why we are terrified that Barack Obama wants to smash it all to pieces.

A few days ago, I got an e-mail from Vern Hodgins, a long-time subscriber from Canada, who recounted a very opposite experience with Canada's health-care system. Read this carefully, because if Obama gets his way, the happy story I recounted above is not the future.

This is:

"My wife and I relocated to a new community. For my wife, that meant finding a new doctor, which became a six-year wait. During that time, she had to do with a local outpatient clinic, which rotates its medical staff. It is rare to see the same doctor twice, which renders continuity feeble at best. As well, the rules do not allow rotation doctors to provide full physical examinations; only a family physician may do that.
"While waiting in line for a family doctor, my wife became ill. Typically, a patient gets about ten minutes with a community clinic doctor, which for my wife meant cursory examinations and referrals to physiotherapists and chiropractors.

"My wife's condition worsened and we could not do anything about it. Finally, the government granted her a family doctor. That doctor also gave her a cursory exam, diagnosed her ailment as a sports injury, and referred her to more physio and chiropractic treatment. Her condition worsened still, and still her doctor insisted it was a sports injury.

"Fed up with my dear wife whimpering her nights away in pain, I visited her doctor. The doctor's receptionist rudely rebuffed me, saying my wife had to wait in line just like everyone else because despite what I thought, she was no more or less special than anyone else.

"The next morning I described my wife's condition to a work colleague who is a doctor. Having never met my wife, and with only my description, that doctor told me to get my wife into a hospital immediately because she was certain it was a metastasized cancer.

"Sure enough, as soon as the hospital emergency staff saw my wife, they knew; it was advanced non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which had dissolved some of her collarbone. My wife had to be told her prognosis was not good, that she had to prepare for the worst. Fortunately for me, my doctor colleague, a high profile media individual, used her influence to get my wife the best specialists in the country—which, yes, meant that my wife is somewhat more special after all. She survived. She endured the most aggressive treatment regimen there is, and though she's left with considerable damage from the radiation, she's alive.

"The incompetent family doctor, who misdiagnosed, suffered no consequence. As well, my wife must keep the same family doctor unless she wishes to wait another six years or so.

"That's socialized medicine. Worse still, one may not openly criticize our system without being told to move to America if we don't like the world's finest socialized medical system. Criticizing our system is tantamount to being a global warming 'denier.' The propaganda is that effective."

Anyone can have a family doctor who makes a wrong diagnosis—but in America, you're not stuck with him. I'm a fan of the TV show "Mystery Diagnosis," which tells the real stories of people with very rare medical conditions who spend years trying to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. One of the things these patients talk about is how you have to "be your own advocate," and most of the cases are solved when the patient himself searches for information on the Internet and finds a specialist who is an expert in his disease.

But how can you be your own advocate under socialized medicine? It is outlawed, because you are no longer in control of your own health care. You have no freedom to choose a physician, or to seek out a specialist on your own, or to decide what medical tests you will pay for.

Mr. Hodgins concludes his story by saying, "In Canada, the patient is not a client; deference goes to the doctor." I don't think that's quite accurate, because I've known a few doctors who had to work under the Canadian system, and it's no treat for them, either. In Canada's system, deference goes to the state. Care is denied in order to cut costs and save trouble for the government.

The Democrats' attempt to eliminate individual private health insurance, combined with the enormous, multi-trillion-dollar price tag of their health-care bill, tells us that this is what they want for America, too. The purpose of this bill is not to save money or provide better care or—try not to laugh—provide "health choices." Its purpose is to make us dependent on the government for the most important needs of our lives.

What we need is a political rebellion in favor of independence, which is the only real guarantee of our security and happiness. And to preserve our independence from government, we need to send the message that any legislation that even remotely threatens private health insurance is a red line that politicians dare not cross.

1a) Backlash: Dem dangers mount
By: Charles Mahtesian and Josh Kraushaar

Democrats giddy with possibilities only six months ago now confront a perilous 2010 landscape signaled by troublesome signs of President Barack Obama’s political mortality, the plunging popularity of many governors and rising disquiet among many vulnerable House Democrats.

The issue advantage has shifted as well, with Democrats facing the brunt of criticism about the pace of stimulus package spending, anxiety over rising unemployment rates and widespread uneasiness over the twin pillars of Obama’s legislative agenda: his cap-and-trade approach to climate change and the emerging health care bill.

Bolstered by historical trends that work in the GOP’s favor — midterm elections are typically hostile to the party in power — and the prospect of the first election in a decade without former President George W. Bush either on the ballot or in office, Republicans find themselves on the offensive for the first time since 2004.

None of this is to say that the Democratic congressional majorities are in serious jeopardy. The GOP has suffered some significant setbacks, ranging from headline-grabbing personal indiscretions to Sen. Arlen Specter’s party switch, and it continues to be plagued by an inability to present its own new ideas.

Yet the possibilities GOP officials now imagine are a dramatic shift from the bleak prospects that the 2010 midterm elections presented for the party at the beginning of the year.

Back then, the newly elected president was fresh off a sweeping victory and riding a wave of inaugural goodwill. The Republican Party’s standing had seemingly hit rock bottom in the polls. The enormous Democratic House majority looked unassailable, and the party’s advantage in the Senate looked nearly as formidable, with the GOP forced to defend more Senate seats in total in 2010 than Democrats — a predicament exacerbated by a handful of Republican retirements in key battleground states.

“There’s a sense building among Republicans that 2010 is going to be a far better political environment than 2008 or 2006,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “Part of that is because we have a Democratic president and a Democratic-controlled Senate and House that are promoting fiscally dangerous policies for the future of the country. Part of it is we don’t have the burden of Iraq as we did in 2006 and don’t have the economy on the Republicans’ watch as we had in 2008.”

In one sign of the reconfigured landscape, Republican candidates lead in the polls in this fall’s closely watched gubernatorial elections — in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey, where first-term Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine trails his challenger by double digits, a far-reaching corruption investigation has led to the resignation of one member of Corzine’s Cabinet and insider speculation about whether Corzine should be replaced on the ticket in November by a more viable Democratic nominee.

Corzine, who has shown no indication he’s willing or interested in stepping down, isn’t the only Democratic governor buffeted by the political winds. A handful of Democrats whose seats are up for election in 2010, including Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, have recently seen their approval ratings plummet below 40 percent — dangerous territory for an incumbent.

In New York, Gov. David Paterson faces similarly daunting numbers, and other first-term Democratic governors from Ohio to Iowa to Colorado have also seen their approval ratings move in the wrong direction. In Pennsylvania, a recent Quinnipiac University poll reported Gov. Ed Rendell with the lowest approval rating of his two terms in office.

“What’s hurting the Democrats badly is that people are afraid of the deficit and spending. They don’t see signs of economic growth, and people are worried,” said GOP pollster John McLaughlin. “If you look at the economy right now, voters gave the Democrats benefit of the doubt, they thought the stimulus would work, employment would recede — and they’re finding out now it’s not the case.”

The polls tell only part of the story. National Republicans have recently met with success in persuading a number of top recruits to commit to 2010 races that not so long ago looked considerably less attractive — the surest signal that potential GOP candidates view the playing field as less tilted against them than just a few months earlier.

One of them, former state Sen. Steve Stivers — who lost narrowly to Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) in 2008 — announced he’d seek a rematch earlier this month, citing the growing debt and Ohio’s double-digit unemployment rate.

Another highly sought-after GOP recruit, state Sen. Alan Nunnelee, plans to declare his candidacy later this week against Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.), who was elected to Congress in a 2008 special-election upset. His announcement comes amid 11 percent unemployment in the congressional district, with one county’s rate running as high as 16.9 percent in June.

“They see the Congress spending at a rate we’ve not seen in years; they’re making commitments for future generations — and we’re not seeing any results,” said Nunnelee. “Somebody needs to step up and hold the Obama administration accountable.”

Former Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) also recently committed to running in 2010, putting aside his gubernatorial ambitions to try to reclaim the House seat he held for six years. His decision came on the heels of the energy and climate bill that narrowly passed the House on June 26 — an exceptionally tough vote for freshman Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.), who represents an oil-and-gas-producing district.

“[Teague’s] cap-and-trade vote is the thing that put my decision over the hump,” said Pearce. “There are 23,000 statewide jobs in the oil and gas industry — and if this bill is passed, this will kill many of those jobs.”

Two notable Republican Senate candidates considered uniquely suited to running in their Democratic-leaning states — former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk — also committed to running in recent weeks, in states that Obama carried easily in 2008.

Because of GOP retirements in key battleground states, Republicans will be fortunate just to hold down their losses in the Senate next year. Still, if nothing else, the outlook is not nearly as grim as in January, when Republicans were poised to defend 19 seats to just 15 for the Democrats.

Now, as a result of Obama’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s resignation from the Senate, and the appointment of two Democratic senators to Cabinet positions, both parties are now defending 18 seats each in 2010 — with Democrats defending four seats now held by appointed senators that suddenly look more competitive than they would have been otherwise.

“The fact that [Republicans] have a bunch of open seats to hold and an unfavorable map to deal with will probably serve to limit their gains,” said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. “I think [National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John] Cornyn’s efforts will have been a tremendous success if the NRSC holds their own in the 2010 elections, setting the table for significant 2012 gains.”

For Republicans, the news isn’t entirely promising. There’s been no surge in GOP voter registration and little evidence that the party brand is experiencing a recovery. Last month, a New York Times/CBS poll reported that the GOP’s favorability ratings remained at a record-breaking low — 28 percent, down from a high of 59 percent in November 1994.

“You can’t turn around in a year what, in fact, had accumulated over the economic policies of the failed Bush policies over the past eight years,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told POLITICO. “Their top candidates continue to be largely a throwback to the past and are embracing the out-of-touch positions Republicans have shown on the economy.”

There are other factors that stand to reset the 2010 landscape once again and return the commanding heights to the Democrats — particularly a resurgence of the economy and if Congress can point to significant legislative accomplishments.

“How the economy is doing a year from now is going to have a major impact on what the cycle is like for us,” said veteran Democratic consultant Jason Ralston, who has developed media campaigns for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. “It’s understandable voters are anxious. The question is, six months to a year from now, do they feel that the economy has turned the corner?”

2) The public option is not dead. Yet!
Max Baucus and the Blue Dogs are gumming up the works, but other Democrats say there's still hope for healthcare
By Mike Madden

To hear the White House tell it, you can glimpse one future model for healthcare delivery at the Cleveland Clinic, which President Obama visited last week as part of his push for healthcare reform legislation. Doctors in the Ohio healthcare company work in teams, with treatment of various ailments carefully coordinated no matter how many specialists get involved. At the Cleveland Clinic, the whole point is to look at the overall health of the patient, not just one facet.

And as August approaches, the White House must be wishing there was a similar coordinated care model to apply in dealing with Congress. Legislation to reform a healthcare system that simply isn't sustainable long-term is mired in negotiations on both sides of Capitol Hill -- and without careful attention paid to the overall health of the bill, the tradeoffs needed to keep the process moving might drag it off course. Looking particularly vulnerable right now is any version of the public option, which for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is the beating heart of healthcare reform.

In the House, a handful of conservative Blue Dog Democrats have teamed up with Republicans to keep the Energy and Commerce Committee from voting on the legislation; negotiations to get them back on board are focused on how a proposed government-run public health insurance plan would set the rates it pays doctors. In the Senate, a bipartisan klatsch of centrist Finance Committee members led by Democratic chairman Max Baucus of Montana and meeting in secret talks seems ready to dump the public option altogether, replacing it with some sort of co-op scheme, the details of which are still being hashed out. If the compromises wind up devouring the legislation's initial principles, healthcare reform could turn out to be a drug whose side effects are as bad as the disease.

The Blue Dogs who are holding up the House bill have been friendly with the insurance industry for years -- a report out last week found the healthcare sector has already given nearly $300,000 to the Blue Dog PAC this year. Baucus, meanwhile, has received nearly $3 million from healthcare businesses over his career, though he stopped taking contributions from the industry on June 1.

Already, Democrats who aren't participating in the Finance Committee's negotiations are eyeing Baucus and his six-senator cabal a little warily. "The public intuitively understands -- way better than some people here -- that a public option will keep the insurance companies honest," said Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has already passed its own bill that includes a public plan. Polls show voters agree with the idea, though depending on how the question is framed, the results can vary widely. "There is lots of evidence that a public plan option kind of thing works," Brown said. "There is no real evidence that we could put together a co-op and scale it up and make it work on a national level."

The White House is staying in close touch with negotiations on both sides of Capitol Hill -- some of Obama's top healthcare aides sat in on the Senate Finance group's talks on Sunday, for instance. The administration line is still that any progress is better than none, and that as long as the legislation is still moving along, there's no reason to panic. "We've not yet seen ... the plan that might arise from the Senate Finance Committee or under what umbrella it will come out of the committee, with whose support," press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. Obama remains committed to reform that slows the increase in healthcare costs -- if things continue as they are, by 2018, healthcare will account for $1 out of every $5 spent in the U.S. economy -- and bans insurance companies from dumping patients due to preexisting conditions. Premium costs have risen much faster than salaries in recent years; the U.S. spends more money on healthcare than any nation in the world, without much evidence that the quality of the care is any better. The White House also says any reform must cover the 46 million people who don't have insurance.

For now, those broad goals don't seem to be threatened by the legislation's recent loss in momentum. A Senate Democratic source noted that no matter what the Finance Committee comes up with, the legislation would still make it easier and cheaper for people to buy insurance, expand coverage, end the preexisting conditions hassle and cut Medicare subsidies to insurance companies. Outside experts said the same thing. "People understand that the status quo isn't going to work," said Peter Harbage, a healthcare expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, which has been pushing hard for reform that lines up with Obama's outline. When the last reform effort failed, "in 1993, there wasn't widespread acceptance of that idea." Harbage thinks a public option is the best way to hold costs down and keep private insurance companies in line, but he said a co-op might be able to do that, too, depending on the details. The details, for now at least, remain a mystery to anyone who's not involved in the negotiations.

Many Senate Democrats also still seem to prefer a public insurance option, rather than a co-op. Even lawmakers who were skeptical of the public option to begin with admit that the co-op idea is only picking up steam now because the Finance Committee is focusing on it. That might not be enough to carry it through. So lawmakers who aren't involved in the talks aren't quite willing to write off the Finance Committee's compromise without seeing it. But they're starting to run out of patience. The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said there was "high anxiety" as Baucus slogs through negotiations with the panel's top Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa. "This is really behind closed doors with six senators," Durbin said. "The rest of us are truly on the outside." The only message Democratic leadership has really conveyed to Baucus? "Hurry up," Durbin said. Baucus wouldn't say much Tuesday about the progress of the talks, or when the talks will be done.

What supporters of reform take pains to note is that none of the current slowdown was all that surprising, even though Obama had originally set an August deadline that neither the House nor the Senate will wind up meeting.

And in the end, Obama -- and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate -- should still have the final word. The bill could shift to the left again in later negotiations between the House and Senate, even if it has to shift to the right now to stay on track. "Because you want three Republicans to come along on this, we're going to betray what the American people want? I don't think so," Brown said. "Just because Finance was slower doesn't mean that they're stronger or that their plan will carry the day ... I'm very certain that whatever comes out of the Finance Committee, [healthcare reform] won't look like that when President Obama signs it."

3)Chinese Convey Concern on Growing U.S. Debt: At Joint Meeting, Geithner Plays Down Worries, Saying That Both Countries Agree on Need to Maintain Stimulus Spending.

A show of unity from the U.S. and China at the end of a high-profile two-day conference was overshadowed by continuing Chinese concerns about the U.S.'s growing pile of debt.

The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, a forum designed to foster closer cooperation, closed on a similar note to that set at the start by President Barack Obama, who stressed the countries'"mutual interests."

The two powers vowed to maintain efforts to pull the global economy out of recession and shore up financial markets. They also agreed on a plan to create more-balanced global growth in the future.

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Getty Images Xie Zhenhua, seated at left, vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, and U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, seated at right. Behind them, left to right, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Zhang Guobao, also a vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, look on.
But like a banker visiting an overextended borrower, Chinese economic leaders repeatedly conveyed to their U.S. hosts the importance of managing the U.S. debt. Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, in talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other officials, urged the U.S. to protect the value of the dollar.

"As a major reserve currency-issuing country in the world, the U.S. should balance and properly handle the impact of the dollar's supply," Mr. Wang said through an interpreter Tuesday.

China's Finance Minister Xie Xuren said the delegation "expressed the view that credible steps should be taken to prevent fiscal risks and to ensure sustainability" and that "high attention should be given to fiscal deficits." He said Mr. Geithner "stated clearly" that the U.S. is placing "a lot of importance" on the deficit.

Mr. Geithner, speaking at the summit's close Tuesday, said he wasn't concerned about China's focus, saying he believes the two countries are in "a very similar place" and that both agree on the need to keep fiscal and monetary stimulus in place.

"China, like the United States, understands that as we see recovery take hold, we're going to need to reverse those exceptional actions," he said.

China, the biggest creditor nation to the U.S., has been increasingly vocal about the potential inflationary impact of the U.S.'s monetary and fiscal policies. An estimated two-thirds of its more than $2 trillion in reserves is in dollar assets, including more than $800 billion in Treasurys.

Chinese officials have said they aren't calling for a withdrawal of the fiscal or monetary stimulus measures with the world still mired in recession. Mr. Wang acknowledged that the priority is for China and the U.S. to continue to boost demand to help lift up the world economy.

As a practical matter, there is little the Chinese can actually do beyond pressing for action. With so much of its holdings in U.S. dollars, China risks harming the value of its portfolio if it were to begin selling U.S. dollars.

"They don't want the U.S. economy to collapse because they are highly dependent on the U.S. economy in terms of economic activity and ... because they have a lot of their financial eggs in this basket," said Ted Truman, an economist with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Nonetheless, the Chinese focus has augured a shift in the relationship between the two countries. The Obama administration had hoped to use the summit to persuade the Chinese to make their economy less export-dependent. China's tightly managed currency policy, which used to top the agenda when the two met, was only "touched upon" by the U.S. side and didn't garner a response from Chinese officials, said Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China.

Top U.S. officials sought to reassure the Chinese about the rising debt load throughout the meeting, according to David Loevinger, the Treasury's senior coordinator for China affairs. Both sides had "serious questions" about the sustainability of each other's crisis measures, he said.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talked about the exit strategies being considered by the central bank, Mr. Loevinger told reporters Monday. Lawrence Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, and budget director Peter Orszag reaffirmed the administration's commitment to bringing down the fiscal deficit to a sustainable level by 2013. The administration estimates it will hit $1.8 trillion this fiscal year.

Mr. Orszag offered several ways that the administration plans to bring down the deficit.

In a twist, the focus on the deficit may help the U.S. make its argument that China should become less export-dependent and more focused on consumer demand.

The proposal agreed to by the two powers involves the U.S. continuing to bring down the current-account deficit and raise its savings rate, with China supporting consumption and moving away from export-led growth.

4) Iraqi Troops Raid Iranian Dissident Camp, in Nod to Tehran.

Iraqi forces stormed a camp of more than 3,000 members of an Iranian dissident group that until recently had been protected by the U.S. military, in the biggest unilateral operation since American forces withdrew from Iraq's cities a month ago.

Iran has long demanded that Iraq take action against the group, the Mujahedin e-Khalq, or MEK, but the U.S. had stood in its way.

The willingness to go ahead with the raid appears to point to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's balancing act between his two most important allies, as the U.S. gradually pulls out of the country and neighboring Iran seeks to expand its influence.

Associated Press In this image provided by the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, Iraqi police clash with protestors opposition group's camp northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday.
Iraqi forces seized control of the camp by force after the camp's leaders refused requests by Iraqi police to enter the camp peacefully to establish a police station there, according to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, and a spokesman for Prime Minister Maliki.

The raid was within Iraq's rights, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday, and the Iraqi government has assured it that no member of the group in Iraq will be forcibly transferred to a country where he or she fears persecution.

"This is really a matter for the government of Iraq to handle. This is completely within their purview. But we are closely monitoring it," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

The MEK, whose name means People's Mujahedin of Iran, has been based in Iraq since the early 1980s, when Saddam Hussein gave members refuge along with formal military training and arms. The MEK staged attacks against Iranian officials, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was left partially paralyzed by an MEK attack.

It also targeted U.S. officials in Iran in the 1970s, and the group is designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department.

The MEK renounced violence in 2001 and enjoys some support among hawks in Washington because of its claims to be a pro-American, pro-democracy alternative to Iran's ruling clerics. The U.S. disarmed the group in 2003, and protected its Iraq base, known as Camp Ashraf, in part because of the group's opposition to Tehran.

Gen. Odierno said the Iraqis hadn't given the U.S. advance warning of the raid. Iraq's government had vowed to move against the group after the U.S. handed over control over the territory three months ago -- promising to deal humanely with the group.

Residents of Camp Ashraf said hundreds of Iraqi security forces tore down the camp's walls on Tuesday afternoon with bulldozers. The forces fired water cannon and tear gas and swung batons against camp residents who tried to block their entry, residents said. The operation against the sprawling desert compound 80 miles north of Baghdad and about 70 miles from Iran's border was continuing into the night, they said.

A U.S. military official said the Iraqis used primarily tear gas and smoke grenades, as opposed to live ammunition or other deadly weaponry.

"They promised to deal with the MEK in a humane fashion," Gen. Odierno told a small group of reporters at his office near Baghdad's airport. "That's what we've been watching for and so far they're abiding by that."

.There were conflicting reports of casualties during the assault. The MEK said four people had been killed and about 300 men and women had been wounded, but Iraqi media reported just 10 injuries. The reports of violence couldn't be independently confirmed. The MEK has a history of making exaggerated claims to journalists -- though it earned some credibility for being the first to find out about Iran's controversial nuclear-fuel program in 2002.

The MEK was disarmed by the U.S. in 2003, and since then has focused on nonmilitary means of fighting the Iranian regime, such as creating and disseminating Internet propaganda.

The MEK says it is the leading Iranian opposition group, but it his little public support in the country. Supporters of current opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi reject the group.

The MEK lost much of its popular support inside Iran after it fought alongside Iraq's army against Iran in the 1980s. It has also alienated many Iraqis after it was accused of helping Mr. Hussein violently suppress rebellions by Iraq's Kurdish and Shiite minorities, charges the MEK has denied.

With such resentment in Iraq, the raid could win domestic favor for Mr. Maliki, who faces a national election early next year.

Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, has maintained close ties to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and spoken out against the prospect of an American military strike on Iran. At the same time, he has cracked down on Iranian-backed Shiite militias and repeatedly declared that Iran shouldn't interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.

Inside Camp Ashraf, MEK members, many of whom have been raised since childhood by MEK followers, dress in matching olive and khaki fatigues and live monk-like celibate lives.

Iraq has said it hopes to deport camp residents, but that is unlikely to happen soon. Many hold U.S., Canadian and European passports, but may resist repatriation. There is fear that MEK members will be in danger if they are returned to Iran.

For now, the Iraqi government appears to simply be establishing a presence inside the camp, according to a senior Western adviser to the Iraqi government. "There's nothing the government can do with them and no place to put them," the adviser said.

5)The Gates of Political Distraction: Obama’s mistake was falling for a culture war diversion.

The essential point about Gates-gate, or the tempest over last week’s arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., is this: Most liberal commentary on the subject has taken race as its theme. Conservative commentators, by contrast, have furiously hit the class button.

Liberals, by and large, immediately plugged the event into their unfair-racial-profiling template, and proceeded to call for blacks and whites to “listen to each other’s narratives” and other such anodyne niceties even after it started to seem that police racism was probably not what caused the incident.

Conservatives, meanwhile, were following their own “narrative,” the one in which racism is often exaggerated and the real victim is the unassuming common man scorned by the deference-demanding “liberal elite.” Commentators on the right zeroed in on the fact that Mr. Gates is an “Ivy League big shot,” a “limousine liberal,” and a star professor at Harvard, an institution they regard with special loathing. They pointed out that Mr. Gates allegedly addressed the cop with that deathless snob phrase, “you don’t know who you’re messing with”; they reminded us that Cambridge, Mass., is home to a particularly obnoxious combination of left-wing orthodoxy and upper-class entitlement; and they boiled over Mr. Gates’s demand that the officer “beg my forgiveness.”

“Don’t you just love a rich guy who summers on the Vineyard asking a working-class cop to ‘beg’? How perfectly Cambridge,” wrote the right-wing radio talker Michael Graham in the Boston Herald.

Conservatives won this round in the culture wars, not merely because most of the facts broke their way, but because their grievance is one that a certain species of liberal never seems to grasp. Whether the issue is abortion, evolution or recycling, these liberal patricians are forever astonished to discover that the professions and institutions and attitudes that they revere are seen by others as arrogance and affectation.

The “elitism” narrative routinely blind-sides them, takes them by surprise again and again. There they are, feeling good about their solidarity with the coffee-growers of Guatemala, and then they find themselves on the receiving end of criticism from, say, the plumbers of Ohio.

The Gates incident was a trap that could not have been better crafted to ensnare President Barack Obama, who is himself a loyal son of academia’s most prestigious reaches, and to whom it was immediately obvious, even without benefit of the facts, that the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in the situation.

Mr. Obama’s way of backing out of his gaffe was just as telling: He invited Mr. Gates and the policeman who arrested him to the White House for a beer, the beverage so often a gauge of a politician’s blue-collar bona fides. One symbolic gesture, hopefully, can exorcise another.

Class is always an ironic issue in American politics, and the irony this time is particularly poignant. We are in the midst of a great national debate about how to make health care affordable; almost nothing is more important to working-class Americans. “For the health of the nation, both physically and economically, we need a system with a public option,” Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, wrote recently in the Huffington Post. “And we need it now.”

But whether working families get it now depends to a large degree on Mr. Obama’s personal popularity. And now comes Gates-gate, this latest burst of fake populism from the right. Waving the banner of the long-suffering working class, the tax-cutting friends of the top 2% have managed to dent the president’s credibility, to momentarily halt his forward movement on the health-care issue.

Umbrage at a Harvard professor’s class snobbery, in other words, might derail this generation’s greatest hope for actually mitigating the class divide.

Another irony: Long before he became a hostage to the culture wars, Henry Louis Gates had another career as a pithy commentator on the culture wars. The false appeal of victimization was something he understood well. In “Loose Canons,” his 1992 book on the subject, he joked that his colleagues should “award a prize at the end [of a conference] for the panelist, respondent, or contestant most oppressed.”

But when he sits down for that can of beer in the White House, it is another passage from his book that I hope Mr. Gates remembers. Speaking for liberal academics, he wrote in 1992 that “success has spoiled us; the right has robbed us of our dyspepsia; and the routinized production of righteous indignation is allowed to substitute for critical rigor.”

Today the cranking out of righteous indignation is a robust growth industry, and it threatens to do far worse than cloud our critical faculties. Help us to put the culture wars aside, Professor Gates. Too much is on the line these days.

6)Is There a ‘Right’ to Health Care? In Britain, its recognition has led to substandard care

If there is a right to health care, someone has the duty to provide it. Inevitably, that “someone” is the government. Concrete benefits in pursuance of abstract rights, however, can be provided by the government only by constant coercion.

People sometimes argue in favor of a universal human right to health care by saying that health care is different from all other human goods or products. It is supposedly an important precondition of life itself. This is wrong: There are several other, much more important preconditions of human existence, such as food, shelter and clothing.

Everyone agrees that hunger is a bad thing (as is overeating), but few suppose there is a right to a healthy, balanced diet, or that if there was, the federal government would be the best at providing and distributing it to each and every American.

Where does the right to health care come from? Did it exist in, say, 250 B.C., or in A.D. 1750? If it did, how was it that our ancestors, who were no less intelligent than we, failed completely to notice it?

If, on the other hand, the right to health care did not exist in those benighted days, how did it come into existence, and how did we come to recognize it once it did?

When the supposed right to health care is widely recognized, as in the United Kingdom, it tends to reduce moral imagination. Whenever I deny the existence of a right to health care to a Briton who asserts it, he replies, “So you think it is all right for people to be left to die in the street?”

When I then ask my interlocutor whether he can think of any reason why people should not be left to die in the street, other than that they have a right to health care, he is generally reduced to silence. He cannot think of one.

Moreover, the right to grant is also the right to deny. And in times of economic stringency, when the first call on public expenditure is the payment of the salaries and pensions of health-care staff, we can rely with absolute confidence on the capacity of government sophists to find good reasons for doing bad things.

The question of health care is not one of rights but of how best in practice to organize it. America is certainly not a perfect model in this regard. But neither is Britain, where a universal right to health care has been recognized longest in the Western world.

Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world. Even Greeks living in Britain return home for medical treatment if they are physically able to do so.

The government-run health-care system—which in the U.K. is believed to be the necessary institutional corollary to an inalienable right to health care—has pauperized the entire population. This is not to say that in every last case the treatment is bad: A pauper may be well or badly treated, according to the inclination, temperament and abilities of those providing the treatment. But a pauper must accept what he is given.

Universality is closely allied as an ideal, ideologically, to that of equality. But equality is not desirable in itself. To provide everyone with the same bad quality of care would satisfy the demand for equality. (Not coincidentally, British survival rates for cancer and heart disease are much below those of other European countries, where patients need to make at least some payment for their care.)

In any case, the universality of government health care in pursuance of the abstract right to it in Britain has not ensured equality. After 60 years of universal health care, free at the point of usage and funded by taxation, inequalities between the richest and poorest sections of the population have not been reduced. But Britain does have the dirtiest, most broken-down hospitals in Europe.

There is no right to health care—any more than there is a right to chicken Kiev every second Thursday of the month.

7).It’s Crunch Time for Israel on Iran: After years of failed diplomacy no one will be able to call an attack precipitous

Legions of senior American officials have descended on Jerusalem recently, but the most important of them has been Defense Secretary Robert Gates. His central objective was to dissuade Israel from carrying out military strikes against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. Under the guise of counseling “patience,” Mr. Gates again conveyed President Barack Obama’s emphatic thumbs down on military force.

The public outcome of Mr. Gates’s visit appeared polite but inconclusive. Yet Iran’s progress with nuclear weapons and air defenses means Israel’s military option is declining over time. It will have to make a decision soon, and it will be no surprise if Israel strikes by year’s end. Israel’s choice could determine whether Iran obtains nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Obama’s approach to Tehran has been his “open hand,” yet his gesture has not only been ignored by Iran but deemed irrelevant as the country looks inward to resolve the aftermath of its fraudulent election. The hardliner “winner” of that election, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was recently forced to fire a deputy who once said something vaguely soothing about Israel. Clearly, negotiations with the White House are not exactly topping the Iranian agenda.

Beyond that, Mr. Obama’s negotiation strategy faces insuperable time pressure. French President Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed that Iran must re-start negotiations with the West by September’s G-20 summit. But this means little when, with each passing day, Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile laboratories, production facilities and military bases are all churning. Israel is focused on these facts, not the illusion of “tough” diplomacy.

Israel rejects another feature of Mr. Obama’s diplomatic stance. The Israelis do not believe that progress with the Palestinians will facilitate a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Though Mr. Gates and others have pressed this fanciful analysis, Israel will not be moved.

Worse, Mr. Obama has no new strategic thinking on Iran. He vaguely promises to offer the country the carrot of diplomacy—followed by an empty threat of sanctions down the road if Iran does not comply with the U.S.’s requests. This is precisely the European Union’s approach, which has failed for over six years.

There’s no reason Iran would suddenly now bow to Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts, especially after its embarrassing election in June. So with diplomacy out the door, how will Iran be tamed?

Mr. Gates’ mission had extraordinary significance. Israel sees the political and military landscape in a very inauspicious light. It also worries that, once ensnared in negotiations, the Obama administration will find it very hard to extricate itself. The Israelis are probably right. To prove the success of his “open hand,” Mr. Obama will declare victory for “diplomacy” even if it means little to no gains on Iran’s nuclear program.

Under the worst-case scenario, Iran will continue improving its nuclear facilities and Mr. Obama will become the first U.S. president to tie the issue of Israel’s nuclear capabilities into negotiations about Iran’s.

Israel understands that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent commitment to extend the U.S. “defense umbrella” to Israel is not a guarantee of nuclear retaliation, and that it is wholly insufficient to deter Iran from obliterating Israel if it so decides. In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s comment tacitly concedes that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, exactly the wrong message. Since Israel, like the U.S., is well aware its missile defense system is imperfect, whatever Mr. Gates said about the “defense umbrella” will be politely ignored.

Relations between the U.S. and Israel are more strained now than at any time since the 1956 Suez Canal crisis. Mr. Gates’s message for Israel not to act on Iran, and the U.S. pressure he brought to bear, highlight the weight of Israel’s lonely burden.

Striking Iran’s nuclear program will not be precipitous or poorly thought out. Israel’s attack, if it happens, will have followed enormously difficult deliberation over terrible imponderables, and years of patiently waiting on innumerable failed diplomatic efforts. Absent Israeli action, prepare for a nuclear Iran.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

8) .The Politics of ‘Speculation’: Some pre-emptive scapegoating over rising oil prices.

The oil speculators are back—that is, back in the cross-hairs of the political class. On Tuesday, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler uttered the Pentagon-like phrase that “every option must be on the table” to curb “excessive speculation.” If you’re wondering what makes speculation “excessive,” in Washington the answer is this: Speculation becomes excessive when prices move in a politically inconvenient direction. Which brings us to the real meaning of the three days of theater, er, hearings that Mr. Gensler is conducting this week.

Last summer, as oil prices were peaking, the CFTC launched an investigation into whether $100-plus oil was the result of market manipulation by those “speculators.” That interim report, issued in July 2008, concluded that price movements were largely driven by—wait for it— supply and demand.

The report noted, among other findings, that so-called speculators were net short during some of the biggest run-ups in oil prices over the past several years. In other words, they were, if anything, putting downward pressure on prices during some big spikes. The CFTC also found that markets in which futures trading is outlawed altogether—such as onions (yes, onions)—price volatility tended to be even greater than in commodities like oil with deep and efficient futures markets.

Oil prices began their six-month, 80% slide about the time that report was issued. But since last December oil prices have climbed back up again, and consumer gasoline prices have climbed along with them. This is not popular with voters. Three weeks ago, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned on these pages about the dangers of “damaging speculation.” Now the U.S. is getting into the act in the form of Obama appointee Mr. Gensler—and Congress can’t be far behind.

So the Gensler CFTC is now poised to issue a follow-up repudiating the commission’s earlier findings. This week’s hearings are being held without the benefit of the CFTC’s actual findings, which are due out in August—but no matter. The CFTC’s about-face is all about the politics, not the economics, of price discovery. And the real goal is not to blame the evil speculators for last year’s price spike or this year’s oil rally, but to lay the groundwork for explaining away the commodity-price bull run that we’re likely to see as a result of the Federal Reserve’s easy money and the Obama Administration’s spending and debt party.

As the CFTC’s 2008 report noted, price signals drive discovery and exploration, albeit with a lag. Low prices today beget shortages tomorrow, while high prices today encourage the discovery and development of future supply. Those prices, in turn, are not the product of any economic model or forecast, but are the sum total of the bids and offers available on the spot and futures markets.

In all of this, what nobody has managed to explain is what, exactly, happened to the omnipotent speculators between July and December 2008. Did they all go on vacation? Perhaps they paused for a six-month drinking binge with their winnings before returning to manipulate us anew in 2009.

No, what we really have here is the age-old scapegoating that our superstitious ancestors would have recognized. The only twist in Mr. Gensler’s case is that he’s trying to scape the goats pre-emptively. On our current fiscal and monetary policy course, the dollar is not done falling and interest rates have barely begun to rise. Both of these market moves will be felt in the commodities markets, as they were after Alan Greenspan cut short-term rates to 1% in 2003-2004. So better to send the posse after the speculators now than to confront the consequences of Washington’s policy errors.

There is an alternative to the market price—it’s called price controls. And the danger is that this is where we’re headed politically. If curbing speculation by limiting trader positions or restricting the ability of “non-commercial” buyers to trade is a politically acceptable way to dampen volatility (remember the onions), the logical next step is a political diktat that oil will not be bought or sold above a certain price.

Truth is, we need more speculators, not less. They’re the people who can help prices find the right level, because there is no “right” level other than the one the market gives us. And that’s why, in turn, excessive speculation is nothing more—or less—than a convenient fiction for when prices don’t move the way politicians would like