Friday, August 5, 2011

Top 10 Reads of the Week – August 5, 2011

Getting Bin Laden – Nicholas Schmidle [New Yorker]

Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team Six, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo—a Belgian Malinois—were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicopters’ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft.

Fifteen minutes later, the helicopters ducked into an alpine valley and slipped, undetected, into Pakistani airspace. For more than sixty years, Pakistan’s military has maintained a state of high alert against its eastern neighbor, India. Because of this obsession, Pakistan’s “principal air defenses are all pointing east,” Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army and the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,” told me. Senior defense and Administration officials concur with this assessment, but a Pakistani senior military official, whom I reached at his office, in Rawalpindi, disagreed. “No one leaves their borders unattended,” he said. Though he declined to elaborate on the location or orientation of Pakistan’s radars—“It’s not where the radars are or aren’t”—he said that the American infiltration was the result of “technological gaps we have vis-à-vis the U.S.” The Black Hawks, each of which had two pilots and a crewman from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the Night Stalkers, had been modified to mask heat, noise, and movement; the copters’ exteriors had sharp, flat angles and were covered with radar-dampening “skin.” … Read the Rest

Heroes, sidekicks do what Obama can’t – John E. Sununu [Boston Globe]

AS THE DUST settles from the debt ceiling battle, hindsight suggests that President Obama might have benefited from an early screening of the Clint Eastwood movie “Kelly’s Heroes.’’ There, he might have found inspiration. In the penultimate scene, Don Rickles, playing a wounded GI, assesses the challenge of stealing gold bars from a bank guarded by a menacing tank. “Make a deal,’’ comes Rickles’s sly advice. “A DEAL deal! Maybe the guy’s a Republican.’’

Big or small, that’s exactly what this debt fight was always about - cutting a deal. The president had an opportunity to strike big with a high-profile summit, but found playing politics was more attractive than saying yes. Love them or hate them, successful budget summits were legacy moments for Presidents Clinton in 1997 and Bush in 1990. Unfortunately for Obama, recognizing he’s in a negotiation and negotiating effectively are two very different things… Read the Rest

Boehner Repeals Murphy’s Law – William McGurn [Wall Street Journal]

When it comes to Murphy's Law—the idea that anything that can go wrong, will—we Irish have our corollary: Murphy was an optimist.

Even from this sunny perspective, it's hard to look at the debt-ceiling compromise and see it as anything but a conservative victory. It's not just that Speaker of the House John Boehner succeeded in imposing some conditions in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling. It's that the deal has Democrats, including the president, essentially signing on to the Republican framework for defining the Beltway's budget problem: spending that is too high rather than taxes that are too low… Read the Rest

It’s the day the emperor officially has no clothes – John Podhoretz [New York Post]

If Barack Obama loses next November, we'll look back on Sunday -- July 31, 2011 -- as the day he became a one-termer.

He demonstrated the one key quality common to all unsuccessful leaders: Haplessness.

In the most confrontational partisan moment of his presidency, Obama ended up looking remarkably powerless. He didn't get his way. To put it mildly… Read the Rest

 How to Turn a Recovery into Another Recession – Victor Davis Hanson [NRO’s The Corner Blog]

If one wished to ensure that the recession that officially began in December 2007 and officially ended in June/July 2009 would not be followed by a robust recovery but an anemic one characterized by a 1938-like stasis of high unemployment, weak growth, and massive deficits, I would do the following — both to confuse and antagonize the job-hiring classes: 

a) Ensure uncertainty in the private sector so that it continues to cut back and hoard cash. That climate of doubt might be best accomplished by serial talk of higher taxes and new entitlement costs born by the employer such as a federal take-over of health care… Read the Rest

To Hell with You People – Jonah Goldberg [National Review Online]

Look, I am past exhausted talking about liberal media bias. It’s real, we all know it, and people who deny it aren’t even fooling themselves. But some things just have to be pointed out. This morning I watched the first 15 minutes of the Today Show. I don’t particularly love or even like the program, but I find it useful to see what the producers think is the big news of the day. And sometimes Chuck Todd is on, and I like him. If I sound defensive about watching the show it’s only because I am.

Anyway, the first ten minutes was about Gabby Giffords’ return to the House yesterday. I’m not sure it merited the full ten minutes or trumped the hard news that later followed, but it’s a great story and everyone is rooting for the lady, so I’m fine with it… Read the Rest

Obama’s new fundraising speech: 2008 was really bad, so I need a second term – Andrew Malcolm [Los Angeles Times]

After a rough month of enforced presidenting from within the White House, President Obama fled Washington and governing Wednesday, back to Chicago allegedly to celebrate his birthday with home folks.

But, of course, the real reason was campaigning for money, raising more of it from the Windy City for his billion-dollar reelection campaign. The Wednesday highlight was supposed to be a high-stakes dinner with the president, which isn't really dinner with the president because he just arrives late, speaks briefly and leaves without eating. The tab: $35,800 per plate… Read the Rest

O’Care truth sinks in – Michael Walsh [New York Post]

The first ideological tentacles of ObamaCare began snaking their way into the pocketbooks of private insurers and the consciences of religious Americans when, on Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines requiring insurers to provide free birth control -- including “morning-after” abortion pills -- in the name of “women’s health.”

“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Insurers will have to provide the services without deductibles, co-pays or any other charges.

In other words, the federal government -- choosing sides in the culture war -- now considers “unplanned” pregnancy to be a preventable disease… Read the Rest

CADILLAC COVERAGE: The High Cost of Public Employee Health Benefits – Josh Barro [The Manhattan Institute]

Ed Note: this one’s wonky.

In light of budget deficits and the need to identify ways to reduce spending in states across the U.S., increasing public discussion has focused on health-care costs for public employees. Much of that discussion has focused on the relatively low share of insurance premiums paid by government workers, when compared with their private-sector counterparts. Although this is a real phenomenon, it is not the only, or even the most important, reason for high health-insurance costs.

This report explores the reasons that government-employee benefits cost more, and it makes concrete recommendations for how costs can be brought into line with those of the private sector… Read the Rest

Tax Reform’s Moment? – Stephen Moore [Wall Street Journal]

'Let's go with the radical approach." That's what then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood exclaimed to his top tax aide during a legendary two-pitchers-of-beer lunch at Washington's Irish Times in the spring of 1986. They were trying to figure out how to save Ronald Reagan's dream of a sweeping tax overhaul that appeared dead in the Senate. That lunch changed history.

By going "radical," Mr. Packwood meant a wholesale restructuring of the tax system. His plan was to slash the 50% top tax rate to 28%—which was far lower than even the 35% rate Reagan had proposed—terminate all but the most sacred deductions, and go to war with the high-powered corporate lobbyists on K Street. And miracle of miracles, "radical" carried the day in one of the most improbable legislative victories in a generation. A majority of Republicans and Democrats in both houses voted for imposing the lowest tax rates since the 1920s. This was Congress at its very best… Read the Rest

The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

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