At least one high-profile attorney says the declassified Department of Justice memos detailing interrogation techniques prove the U.S. did not torture, even as the ACLU and some lawmakers claim the memos are proof positive the Bush administration did.
David Rivkin, a constitutional lawyer and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, released a statement Friday saying the release of four memos provides a “great benefit” to the former president.
“This data is analyzed in great detail to establish that the use of these techniques does not inflict either physical or psychological damage,” said Rivkin, who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “The conclusions (the) memos reach — that the specific interrogation techniques used by the CIA did not constitute torture — are eminently reasonable.”
Friday, April 17th, 2009
Democratic blogger Ezra Klein appears to be positioning Dem health care reforms as a way to cut costs, on the grounds that a reformed system will be able to make “hard choices” and “rational” coverage decisions, by which Klein seems to mean “not providing” treatments that are unproven or too expensive–when “a person’s life, or health, is not worth the price.” Matthew Yglesias’ recent post seems to be saying the same thing, though clarity isn’t its strong suit. (He must have left it on Journolist.)
Isn’t it an epic mistake to try to sell Democratic health care reform on this basis? Possible sales pitch: “Our plan will deny you unnecessary treatments!” Or maybe just “Republicans say ‘yes.’ Democrats say ‘no’!” Is that really why the middle class will sign on to a revolutionary multi-trillion dollar shift in spending–so the government can decide their life or health “is not worth the price”? I mean, how could it lose?
The “rational,” cost-cutting, “hard-choices” pitch isn’t just awful marketing–I don’t even think it’s accurate. Put it this way: I’m for universal health care in large part precisely because I think the government will be less tough-minded and cost-conscious when it comes to the inevitable rationing of care than for-profit insurance companies will be. Take Arnold Kling’s example of a young patient with cancer, where “the best hope is a treatment that costs $100,000 and offers a chance of success of 1 in 200.” No “rational bureaucracy” would spend $20 million to save a life, Kling argues. I doubt any private insurance company is going to write a policy that spends $20 million to save a life. But I think the government–faced with demands from patient groups and disease lobbies and treatment providers and Oprah and run, ultimately, by politicians as terrified of being held responsible for denying treatment as they are quick to pander to the public’s sentimental bias toward life–is less likely to be “rational” than the private sector.
That is to say, the government’s more likely to pay for the treatment (assuming a doctor recommends it). So it’s government for me.
He’s right, right and he’s wrong.
Right: It’s a bad idea for Democrats to tip their hand and admit they want to ration healthcare — their scam has been to fool people into thinking efficiencies will allow everyone to get any treatment they desire and still pay less. (Line up for your free lunch here, sucker.)
Right: government health care will be as political as the Pentagon. California already pays $1 million for heart transplant for prison lifers.
Wrong: we can’t bankrupts ourselves to pay for every treatment for everyone. And the government is we, at least when it comes to picking up the check. In the specific, we all think price is no object for our loved ones. In general, where policy must make sense, cost must be an object.
I saw this graph on Iraq Stock Exchange and thought I should share. It represents the ISX index monthly closing figures between November 2004 and February 2009. The picture speaks for itself.
Given the direction of developments in Iraq over the last two years there is no irony at all. In fact I see that the image quite accurately reflects the ups and downs of the period represented in the graph—not just in the economy, but in every aspect of life. The irony, however, is striking if we are to compare this with markets elsewhere under the global economic crisis!
If there’s only one stock market has made significant gains in 2009 then it is Iraq’s. While the size of the market and transaction taking place within it are tiny, the percentage of growth is amazing.
As you can see, between August 2008 and January 2009, the market index gained approximately 60% more points. By the end of February 2009 it had more than doubled again. Now if we add the gains made through March, the line would skyrocket beyond the limits of the chart.
Of course growth in a market where only $4-5 million worth of stocks are exchanged each session does not mean much in absolute figures. It reflects, however, the potentials of the economy and the rate at which progress can happen once conditions are favorable.
By now, most people have seen the Youtube clip of the 47 year old Scottish spinster winning hearts on “Britain’s Got Talent.” If not, watch it here:
But there’s also her rendition of Cry Me a River, which you can listen to here. The playback can be choppy, but you realize that besides having a beautiful voice, Boyle has exquisite phrasing.
by J.C. Phillips
In his book “Democracy in America”, 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville writes, “the more government stands in the place of associations, the more will individuals, losing the notion of combining together, require its assistance.” De Tocqueville recognized that we are making a Faustian bargain when we buy into the political promise of material wealth and well being if only we allow government to manage our society. The promise is false and the result is to put at risk the morals and intelligence of a democratic people.
In recognizing the importance of associations – that is individuals coming together to celebrate and/or address issues in their communities — De Tocqueville gave voice to the real meaning of personal responsibility.
One often hears the term “personal responsibility” or “personal accountability” used in connection with people taking ownership of the consequences of some (usually bad) behavior. Indeed on the political right, the term is also understood to mean taking care of one’s own business or lifting oneself up with their own bootstraps. There is truth in both definitions. However, as popularly read, both characterizations shade the idea with a negative light when in fact the idea is a positive force that, as de Tocqueville indicates, is just as much about taking care of each other as it is about taking care of ourselves.
It is, as the term suggests a question of ownership, but not only ownership of the consequences of our individual decisions and of the thinking that motivates those choices; it is also about ownership of the duties and privileges that come with living in a “free” democratic society. Who owns our bodies and who owns our communities? The quick answer is that “we” do. Every one of us is as accountable to each other for the health of our communities as we are responsible for the conduct of our personal lives. That accountability manifests itself in associations formed by citizens in order to address the concerns of the community. Happily such associations are not dead…yet. We see them all the time: neighborhood watch groups; church ministries that serve the poor; parents groups that raise money for schools to list but a few examples.
Without question, personal responsibility is also manifest in the pursuit of what the Greeks called arête or excellence. It is the striving for excellence in our daily lives — excellence in our work and in our relationships both with our fellow man and with the larger society. The pursuit of that excellence is best accomplished by practicing virtue. So in a larger sense, the idea of personal responsibility is acceptance of the ageless belief in a nexus between virtue and happiness: the better people we are the happier we will be. But it is also recognition that our health and well being are tied to that of our neighbor.
America’s founders of course claimed that not only was there a connection between virtue and happiness, but there also existed one between virtue and freedom.
The most important of the revolutionary ideas upon which our nation was founded is that all men-regardless of race or culture-arrive on earth with inalienable and equal rights to life, liberty and private property. The next most important is the idea that only righteous men can govern themselves. James Madison said that we staked the whole of our republic and all of its institutions on the capacity for men to govern themselves according to the ten commandments of God. Madison, like de Tocqueville, recognized the importance of men’s behavior – their pursuit of arête – in maintaining a free nation. Madison, like de Tocqueville recognized that if Americans couldn’t live virtuous lives then our republic would fail. Americans would not be free. And they would not be bound into slavery by an external enemy, but instead would willingly hand over their freedom to a government that promised wealth, health and equality (as opposed to liberty). Rather than bond together under the righteous banner of loving thy neighbor, Americans would allow their freedom to be crushed under the weight of a constant stream of laws, rules and entitlements designed to deliver on a promise that personal responsibility was designed to keep.
De Tocqueville recognized the enticement of the bargain, but he also understood that in time the resulting subjection would lead men “to surrender the exercise of their own will;” It would break their spirits and sap their character. He grasped the essential truth that personal responsibility is actually the guarantor of our liberty.
…The fear of future federal tax hikes is fueling the tea-party movement.
This is an important development. In 2008, voters were less worried about taxes than they had been in previous elections. Why? Because the 15 years between President Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax hike and Barack Obama’s increase in cigarette taxes in February was the longest stretch in U.S. history without a federal tax increase. President George W. Bush’s tax cuts also cut 13 million people on the lower-end of the income scale from the income tax rolls — people who don’t pay taxes aren’t worried about the tax burden.
So far, Mr. Obama has decided to let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2011 and avoid forcing Democrats to take a tough vote. But the tea parties reveal how hard it will be for the president to hide the Democrats’ tax-and-spend tendencies from voters.
Mr. Obama plans to boost federal spending 25% while nearly tripling the national debt over 10 years. Americans know that this kind of spending will have economic consequences, including new taxes being imposed by the new progressives.
It hasn’t gotten a ton of attention, but people are fed up with the complexity of their tax code and ready to do something about it. The Tax Foundation’s 2009 Annual Tax Attitudes (which was conducted Feb. 18-27, by Harris) shows us that many Americans are willing to trade popular deductions for lower rates and a simpler code. There’s also been a flurry of interest among Americans in replacing the current system with a national sales tax or a flat tax.
The open question is whether Republicans will be boosted by the nascent tea-party movement. House Republicans smartly offered a proposed spending plan this year that would freeze nondefense discretionary spending, suspend earmarks for five years, and reform entitlements. But cutting spending won’t be enough. Taxes matter — and will matter more in the coming years.
The 2009 Tax Foundation survey found that Americans believe that taxes should, on average, take just 15.6% of a person’s wages. And 88% of Americans in the same poll believe that there should be a cap on all federal, state, and local taxes of 29% or less — there is still a constituency out there that will favor tax cutting politicians.
But to tap into that constituency Republicans will have to link lower taxes to money in voters’ pockets, and economic growth and jobs. They must explain why the GOP approach will lead to greater prosperity. Such arguments are not self-executing. They require leaders to make them, time and again, as Reagan once did.