Factcheck Corrects Giuliani’s Incorrect Statements on Clinton and Lawsuits

Factcheck.org found that, once again, Rudy Giuliani doesn’t have his facts right. From their summary:

Former Sen. Fred Thompson got the facts straight for his GOP debate debut Oct. 9. But former Mayor Rudy Giuliani added to a lengthening string of exaggerations and misstatements:

  • Giuliani claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton once called the free-market economy “the most destructive force in modern America.” She didn’t say that. She quoted another author who said free markets were “disruptive.” She also said free markets bring prosperity.
  • The mayor falsely claimed Clinton proposes to give $1,000 to “everybody.” Her proposed subsidies to workers’ retirement accounts would be for couples making up to $60,000 a year and would be $500 for those making up to $100,000.
  • Giuliani falsely claimed that more than 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is spent on “frivolous” lawsuits. The figure is from a study about the cost of all lawsuits.

The article provides more detail on these issues. Regarding Giuliani’s misquotation of Clinton on the free market economy they wrote:

Misquoting Hillary: Giuliani wrongly attributed a quote to Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton, and he got the quote wrong as well:
Giuliani: And the leading Democratic candidate once said that the unfettered free market is the most destructive force in modern America.

Sen. Clinton, the “leading” candidate in public opinion polls, never said that. The quote is by Alan Ehrenhalt, author and executive editor of Governing magazine. Furthermore, Ehrenhalt didn’t call the free market “destructive” but used the somewhat softer term “radically disruptive.” As Clinton quoted him in her book, “It Takes a Village”:
Ehrenhalt: The unfettered free market has been the most radically disruptive force in American life in the last generation, busting up neighborhoods….

To be sure, Sen. Clinton agreed with that sentiment. But she also said in the same book, on the next page, that “the economy is also creating millions of new jobs, with small businesses starting at a record pace.” And later she said the free market is “the driving force behind our prosperity.” She was asked about the Ehrenhalt quote in a C-SPAN interview in 1996, and gave this response:

Clinton: I believe that. That’s why I put it in the book…. I just believe that there’s got to be a healthy tension among all of our institutions in society, and that the market is the driving force behind our prosperity, our freedom in so many respects to make our lives our own but that it cannot be permitted just to run roughshod over people’s lives as well.

Giuliani misleads when he says Clinton called the free market “destructive,” when what she has really said is that it is both disruptive to neighborhoods and people’s lives, and a driving force behind prosperity.

Jimmy Carter Calls Dick Cheney a Disaster for the Country

Ok, I know Jimmy Carter was a weak president and had his own faults. That doesn’t make his assessment of Dick Cheney any less true.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday denounced Vice President Dick Cheney as a “disaster” for the country and a “militant” who has had an excessive influence in setting foreign policy.

Cheney has been on the wrong side of the debate on many issues, including an internal White House discussion over Syria in which the vice president is thought to be pushing a tough approach, Carter said.

“He’s a militant who avoided any service of his own in the military and he has been most forceful in the last 10 years or more in fulfilling some of his more ancient commitments that the United States has a right to inject its power through military means in other parts of the world,” Carter told the BBC World News America in an interview to air later on Wednesday.

“You know he’s been a disaster for our country,” Carter said. “I think he’s been overly persuasive on President George Bush and quite often he’s prevailed.”

Besides, despite all of Carter’s faults, he was a far better president than Bush and far less of a disaster than Cheney.

Waxman’s Committee Denies Paranoid Claims From the Right Wing

The right wing typically achieves power, or at present attempts to grasp on to what they have left, by demonizing the opposition and claiming they support positions which they do not. They know that they stand no chance when their views are put up against the actual views of their opponents.

We’ve frequently seen the false claims that liberals support socialized medicine, or even socialism in general, and will take away both people’s guns and bibles. Another common meme on the right over the past few months is that liberals oppose free speech and want to bring back the fairness doctrine to shut down right wing talk radio. Of course this is a proposal I’ve seen discussed frequently by the right with minimal interest on the left. Many of the claims from the right are based upon paranoid stories that Congressman Henry Waxman is planning to shut down talk radio with the support of the Democratic majority.
Following such a report by The American Spectator, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has issued a statment debunking these claims:

Fictitious American Spectator Story Creates Confusion

On October 8, 2007, the American Spectator printed a fictitious story alleging that Congressman Waxman and the House Oversight Committee were investigating conservative and Republican talk show radio programs.

The American Spectator report is completely false and was written without any documentation or attribution. There is not now nor has there ever been any investigation of this subject. But even though there is no truth to the story, the hoax has been repeated on Fox News (transcript below) and several blogs (Family Research Council, Instapundit, ).

The American Spectator should immediately retract its report and apologize for the confusion its fictitious report has caused.

No need to fear. Rush Limbaugh will remain free to continue to smear the troops and twelve year olds regardless of the facts.

Peggy Noonan is Taking Barack Obama More Seriously

Peggy Noonan has made a number of excellent points in recent months. She has questioned John McCain’s decision to pander to the religious right and written favorably of opposition to the war from both Chuck Hagel and John Kerry. In July she was even quite critical of George Bush. Now I see that that her views on Barack Obama have improved from last December when she considered him The Man from Nowhere.

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they’d agreed upon with staff. What’s the phrase we use about education? Hit Search Function. Hit Open. Right-click. “Equity in education is essential, Tim . . .”

You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I’ve started to lean forward a little when he talks.

She also has some favorable comments about Chris Dodd:

Chris Dodd is the head of the Senate Banking Committee, and nothing if not sophisticated. In the post-9/11 world, sophisticated is not so bad. He’s been in the Senate 27 years. In earlier years his thinking on government, his assumptions about what can and should be expected of it, veered from the utopian to the world-weary, and were sometimes both at once. But if you listen to him and watch him in debate, you might legitimately conclude this is a candidate who understands how it all works and what time it is. He’s one of the grown-ups.

Noonan returned to discussing Obama as an alternative to Hillary Clinton:

Mr. Obama’s experience, as we all know, is as limited as Mrs. Clinton’s, which is to say limited indeed. She has held elective office for only 6 1/2 years. Before that she was first lady of Arkansas and then first lady of the United States. He has held national office for only 3 1/2 years, and before that was a state legislator for eight years. But he has impressed people, and not with money, résumé or clout but something rarer, natural gifts. That’s not nothing. Big talent is rare, and deserves consideration.

And yet the Democrats remain in their Hillary trance.

Not all, of course. Each candidate has his band of supporters, his little base. Mr. Obama is fortunate to have one with the grace and vigor of Ted Sorensen, John F. Kennedy’s great staffer and speechwriter, who told me this week, “I am supporting Obama.” He has known and liked the other main candidates, has “no objection to a female commander-in-chief and no ill feelings stemming from the Clinton stains on the escutcheon of the White House.” But Mr. Obama is “the one serious potential nominee of the Democratic Party who is most likely to win” and most likely “to end the tragic occupation of Iraq on terms compatible with our country’s best interests and traditional values.”

When I asked if his support was connected in any way to the idea of breaking away from the Bush-Clinton-Bush rotation, he said, “Above all, I believe this country needs change, and continuing the 20-year hold on the White House of the same two families is not my idea of change.”

Noonan is tired of the alternation between a Bush and a Clinton and ends with a good point:

It would be understandable if they were families of a most extraordinary natural distinction and self-sacrifice. But these are not the Adamses of Massachusetts we’re talking about. You’ve noticed, right?

Global Humidity

It’s common to confuse current weather for long term climate change, and on hit sticky days I’ve heard people joke that the real problem isn’t global warming but global humidity. The bad news is that there’s evidence that global warming might also make the humidity worse:

The world isn’t just getting hotter from man-made global warming, it’s getting stickier. It really is the humidity. The amount of moisture in the air near the surface — the stuff that makes hot weather unbearable — increased 2.2 percent in just under three decades. And computer models show that the only explanation is man-made global warming, according to a study published in Thursday’s journal Nature.

“This humidity change is an important contribution to heat stress in humans as a result of global warming,” said Nathan Gillett of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, a co-author of the study.

Gillett studied changes in specific humidity, which is a measurement of total moisture in the air, between 1973-2002. Increases in humidity can be dangerous to people because it makes the body less efficient at cooling itself, said University of Miami health and climate researcher Laurence Kalkstein. He was not connected with the research.

Humidity increased over most of the globe, including the eastern United States, said study co-author Katharine Willett, a climate researcher at Yale University. However, a few regions, including the U.S. West, South Africa and parts of Australia were drier.

The finding isn’t surprising to climate scientists. Physics dictates that warmer air can hold more moisture. But Gillett’s study shows that the increase in humidity already is significant and can be attributed to gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

To show that this is man-made, Gillett ran computer models to simulate past climate conditions and studied what would happen to humidity if there were no man-made greenhouse gases. It didn’t match reality.

He looked at what would happen from just man-made greenhouse gases. That didn’t match either. Then he looked at the combination of natural conditions and greenhouse gases. The results were nearly identical to the year-by-year increases in humidity.

Voodoo Economics and the Collapse of the Republican Party

Recently David Brooks discussed the collapse of the Republican Party but missed all the real reasons. While there are many problems, most come down to a combination of incompetence in governing, such as with Iraq and Katrina, increased government intrusion in individual’s lives as they promote the social policies of the religious right, and a disconnect from reality in many of their views. The last can be seen in their rejection of science, such as their views on evolution and global warming, their disputed claims about Iraq such as the presence of WMD and a connection to 9/11, their promotion of alternative history, such as in their denial of the nation’s foundation in separation of church and state and their views on the near-absolute power of the Executive Branch, and in promoting what previously was called Voodoo Economics.

Steven Pearlstein saw one component of how the Republicans ignore reality in economics in writing about last night’s debate:

…for two hours yesterday, the nine white men who would be president were each peddling the Big Lie that the only way to ensure economic growth is by cutting all the taxes ever created — and when you’re finished with that, cutting them some more.

Two hours, nine candidates, each one vowing to slash federal spending, but only one (Mitt Romney) able to mention a program whose funding he would cut (some advanced technology program).

In case there was any doubt about his feelings about Romney, Pearlstein had considerable criticism of Romney’s positions, which were not limited to these comments on taxation:

It is becoming clear, not just from this and previous debates but also from their speeches and position papers, that the leading Republican candidates aren’t serious about economic issues.

Romney, for example, issued a 23-point economic plan yesterday that, if you didn’t know better, you might think was a parody written by Jon Stewart for “The Daily Show.”

In addition to proposing additional cuts in every major revenue source (income, inheritance and corporate taxes), he would effectively eliminate all taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains; make all health-care spending tax-deductible; give additional tax breaks to make America “energy independent”; and provide a rebate to businesses for tax payments that might be “embedded” in the cost of anything they export. He opposes raising the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax.

Clearly, Romney’s view is that the tax code is supposed to be used in the service of every economic objective other than raising revenue for government services. He figures his other initiatives — like repairing transportation infrastructure, improving education and worker retraining, and strictly enforcing immigration laws — can be accomplished without spending an extra dime.

Pearlstein didn’t think much of the other leading Republican candidates either (reserving good words only for Huckabee).

As hackneyed as it is, however, the Romney plan is a four-course meal compared with the policy pu-pu platter offered so far by Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and even the straight-talking McCain.

Support for Voodoo Economics provides just one additional example of why the Republicans have collapsed due to the unrealistic and fanatic ideas they promote. Virtually everybody desires lower taxes, and a party which is seen as the one which will keep taxes lower has a built-in advantage. However, most also realize that a certain level of taxation is necessary, and realize that sooner or later if we cut taxes too far, especially in a time of war, we will pay a worse price. By moving from the party of sensible main street businessmen who want to keep taxes as low as realistically possible to extremists who call for absolute pledges against raising taxes, and claiming this will bring in more revenue, the Republican Party seriously harmed their reality. When added to the many other areas beyond economics where Republicans lost touch with reality, their collapse is easy to understand.

The 50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged. There’s no doubt that both Rand and her more fanatic followers have many faults, but there is also value to her work which should not be forgotten. As I recently wrote, Rand fled the Soviet Union and her ideas were shaped “when the Bolsheviks broke into her father’s pharmacy and declared his livelihood the property of the state.” During a period when Marxism was often seen as the dominant philosophy reshaping the world, Rand helped provide a much-needed moral argument for capitalism. While the viewpoint can be taken too far, Rand also displays a bold message on the power of the individual and value of excellence.

Among the tributes to Atlas Shrugged being posted on its anniversary, Michelle Malkin points out an article from Robert Trancinski which states:

No one could have conceived of the achievements of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution before they happened–and these new events required a radical re-evaluation of conventional ideas. Yet the intellectuals failed to perform such a re-evaluation.

For example, in 1816, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, a group of Britain’s best young literary minds–including Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who later became Mary Shelley)–gathered together to explore their new school of literature, which they called “Gothic” because it took its inspiration from the mysticism of the Middle Ages. In that spirit, they challenged each other to write the best ghost story, and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein–a story which portrays the quest for scientific and technological knowledge as a kind of dangerous madness.

Just as capitalism was propelling us forward into a technological future that would, among other advantages, double the average human lifespan, the intellectuals were looking backward to the Middle Ages and predicting that all of this new science and technology would bring disaster. (They’re still doing it, except that now they conjure up the bogeyman of global warming in the place of Frankenstein’s monster.)

A few decades later, a German intellectual named Karl Marx gave one of the most influential accounts of the new capitalist system–and he got everything wrong. An Industrial Revolution driven by scientific and technological advances springing from the minds of a few extraordinary individuals, he would describe as the anonymous, collective product of brute physical labor; an economic system of liberty, he would describe as a system of oppression; a system built on the right to property he would describe as a system based of expropriation–and then he would propose actual oppression and expropriation as the solution.

This has been the pattern of the artists and intellectuals in dealing with the most significant phenomenon of our age. While the world was transformed around them, they refused to grasp the real meaning of these events, choosing to ignore or denigrate the forces that were rapidly improving human life.

In this context, we can see the widest significance of Ayn Rand’s literary and philosophical achievement. She was the first thinker and artist to fully grasp the meaning of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution and to give them expression both in literature and in philosophy.

The most radical aspect of Atlas Shrugged is that Ayn Rand found suspense, heroism, and profound philosophical meaning in the achievements of the entrepreneurs and industrialists who were reshaping the world.

Atlas Shrugged was written in an age of creeping global socialism. Extrapolating from the trends of the day, Ayn Rand projected a future in which most of the world’s nations are collapsing into the poverty and oppression of socialist “people’s states,” while America itself is collapsing under the weight of an increasing government takeover of the economy.

She saw the dramatic potential in asking a single question: what would happen if the innovative entrepreneurs and businessmen–after decades of being vilified and regulated–started to disappear? The disappearance of the world’s productive geniuses provides the novel’s central mystery, both factually and intellectually.

The right is often in error when it sees every government action as “creeping global socialism” and argues that action by private business is always superior to that done by government and blindly ignores any evidence to the contrary. Similarly, many on the left are just as much in error when they fail to acknowledge the benefits of the free market or always see businessmen as villains, as David Kelley wrote about in The Wall Street Journal today.

Flag Wearing To The Point of Fanaticism

Eugene Volokh has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal which compares wearing a flag pin to telling one’s wife that he loves her:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he doesn’t tell his wife he loves her any more, because “I love you” has become a substitute for “true love.” The Illinois senator said he hopes to show his love by explaining his ideas about their relationship to her. Guess what the wife would think about that…

But the essence is similar: Wearing a flag pin is not supposed to be an explanation or an argument, just as “I love you” is not supposed to be an explanation or an argument. It’s supposed to be a traditional statement of affection, powerful because it’s cliché.

Once again seeing someone argue why Obama should wear a flag pin reminds me of the AIDS Ribbon episode of Seinfeld. Beyond this, there is something rather creepy about the manner in which the authoritarian right believes people must outwardly express love for their country in the same manner as a husband would naturally express love for his wife. The closer analogy I see to this perversion of the meaning of patriotism is not love for one’s wife but the personality cults and demands for signs of loyalty typically seen in Communist and other dictatorial societies. This is hardly the type of society which the founding fathers had in mind.

John Stossel Presents More Fantasy Scenarios For The Health Care Crisis

John Stossel continues to promote fantasy as a solution for the health care crisis. Last week I discussed how Stossel promoted generous plans offered to a minority of people in this country as a solution. Today he cherry picks unusual situations to ignore the overall problem.

The first example Stossel gives is of laser surgery which people purchase out of pocket without insurance. This is an elective procedure which people who cannot afford it simply go without and instead continue to wear glasses and contact lenses. This offers no solution for necessary medical services which large numbers of people cannot afford. The average person who is uninsured is simply not sitting around with tons of extra cash burning holes in their pockets which can be used for medical procedures.

Stossel’s other example is of a small number of general practitioners who work on a cash basis. This works fine for covering minor problems which are quickly resolved. This does not work for those who have chronic medical problems and those with serious problems requiring hospitalizations, expensive testing, or many surgical procedures. This also leads to putting off preventative care and routine care of chronic problems, increasing health care expenses in the long run. Once again,the average person who is uninsured is simply not sitting around with tons of extra cash burning holes in their pockets which can be used for medical care.

Stossel promotes a fantasy world where MRI’s and bypass surgery would be sold inexpensively if insurance wasn’t covering the cost. Maybe it would be cheaper, but there is a limit to the amount of high tech medicine which would be available without the money necessary for its development. Stossel contradicts a common conservative opposition to health care reform. Conservatives commonly argue that if government cuts down on what is spent the United States would lose its edge in the world in subspeciality medical care. You cannot have it both ways and argue that government regulations would lead to insufficient money to preserve our medical system but argue that it can be preserved by having people pay out of pocket.

People like Stossel live in a world where only the affluent are considered. Most people are not offered the type of HSA he previously discussed where the employer gives extra money to pay for their out of pocket expenses. Many people cannot afford laser eye surgery, and certainly cannot afford to foot the bill for their medical expenses on an ongoing basis. Health care expenses are already a major cause of bankruptcy due to the large number who are under-insured as well as those who are uninsured.

Ignoring the problem and fantasy solutions will not solve the problem. Any solution for the health care crisis must have a reasonable answer for those who do not have access to sufficient insurance to cover their medical needs at an affordable price.