Wall Street Journal
The National Security Agency’s Internet communications surveillance is so vast that it can reach nearly 75% of all online communications, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
President Barack Obama has gone to great lengths recently to downplay the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, telling Americans that the government isn’t spying on them and publicly discussing reforms that would protect privacy. But the Wall Street Journal’s report indicates that the snooping programs do in fact retain both email and phone communications between American citizens.
“The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say,” noted the Wall Street Journal.
“The NSA’s filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S.,” the paper added. “But officials say the system’s broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.”
In an excellent piece urging that oral contraception become available over the counter that ran in this morning’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose résumé includes a litany of health policy wonkery, sounded the death knell of both big government’s dominion over one aspect of reproductive health, and the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over that policy. Further, Jindal’s position masterfully bridges the gap between social conservatives and libertarians, as it accounts for both market-based health care (vs. Obamacare) and the protection of religious liberty and conscience (also vs. Obamacare). Here’s an excerpt:
The Wall Street Journal editorial board today floats House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as the best possible vice presidential running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney:
The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.
Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda—before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP’s new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.
As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn’t get mad, or at least he doesn’t show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity.
On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual report on economic freedom across the globe that measures interventionist government policies and ranks countries accordingly.
Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, gives us an idea of what we’ll find in this year’s report, and it’s not pretty:
As Friedrich A. Hayek foresaw decades ago, “The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Thus, the battle of ideas must also be a battle for the meaning of the very words with which we debate. Is it “progressive” to utilize the coercive power of the state to redistribute and level incomes within a society? Is it “liberal” to build a massive state apparatus to regulate conditions of employment, usage of energy, and access to capital? The answers to such questions will determine how we live as individuals in the 21st century.
The 2012 Index of Economic Freedom documents a global economy that is engaged in this evolving battle between the forces of government and free markets. Today’s troubles have been neither accidental nor inevitable. The problems we face are the outcomes of politically driven and economically self-defeating policy decisions that have turned an economic slowdown into an accelerating decline.
Unfortunately, the report shows that the United States has, once again, lost more economic freedoms as corruption, cronyism, government spending, and a poor monetary policy continue to drag us down. While we are still ranked as “mostly free,” we can no longer say our economy is the ambition of the world.
Today is going to be a day of discussing sheer politics, and little more. At this point, we are well beyond talks of policy and the only thing that matters for the next 12 hours is whether some members of Congress can be convinced, for whatever reason, to cast a Yea or Nea vote on the House floor on the health care overhaul.
But let us not forget the important philosophic differences that are at play in this debate.
In this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, the editorial board takes a minute to look past the politics, and reminds us of what is behind the battle over true health care reform:
In our world of infinite wants but finite resources, there are only two ways to allocate any good or service: either through prices and the choices of millions of individuals, or through central government planning and political discretion.
That is really what it’s all about. Who decides. Who controls. And who you think makes better decisions.
The Journal even reprinted a 1996 essay from the late economist Milton Friedman on their op-ed page. Now, if something written nearly 15 years ago still has relevance in the current moment of contemporary politics, you know it must be something special.
So, in between your vote counting on this Sunday afternoon, take a moment to read Friedman’s immortal words.
I’m grateful that Dr. Tom DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College, took the time to write a rebuttal to an inexplicably ignorant hit-piece recently published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “A Short Banking History of the United States.”
The author of this article, Mr. John Steele Gordon, makes a number of spurious claims in an attempt to discredit the economic philosophy of sound money controlled by the people, and defend Alexander Hamilton’s loyalty to banking interests in the drive to create a private central bank to own our money supply.
During testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, an Obama Administration official admitted that as much as 40% of the IT systems needed to support the federal Obamacare exchange website, Healthcare.gov, still need to be built so that the scheme can function properly.
“How much do we have to build today, still. I mean, what do we need to build — 50%, 40%, 30%?” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) asked Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“I think it’s — just an approximation — we’re probably sitting somewhere between 60% and 70% [completion],” said Chao, a key official in construction of the website, adding after a follow up that payment systems to insurers still need to be built.
That’s right, folks, the payment system that would send premiums to insurers for the health plans purchased on the federal exchange has not been built.
Not only did President Barack Obama tell Americans that they could keep their health plans under Obamacare, he also said on numerous occasions that they could keep their doctors. Like his health plan promise, there was no ambiguity or nuance to the statement.
“Under the reform that I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you’ll keep your doctor,” said President Obama on July 29, 2009. “If you like your health care plan, you will keep your plan.”
“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” he said, again, on March 10, 2010. “I’m the father of two young girls –- I don’t want anybody interfering between my family and their doctor.”
Despite that promise by President Obama, many Americans are losing their doctors. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that UnitedHealth Group dropped thousands of doctors from its Medicare Advantage network, leaving many seniors without access to the doctors they liked and trusted:
We’re finally getting an idea of how many enrollments were completed through the disastrous federal Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov, and the numbers are ominous. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday afternoon that somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000 enrollments were submitted to participating private health insurers in October:
So far, private health plans have received enrollment data for 40,000 to 50,000 users of the federal marketplace, the people familiar with the figures said. The federal marketplace uses an industry-standard format to exchange enrollment information, known as an 834 transmission.
Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt said Monday she couldn’t confirm the enrollment numbers. She added, “We have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time.”
This number doesn’t include the enrollments from the 15 separate state Obamacare exchanges. Avalere Health reported that there were 49,100 enrollments in 12 of those exchanges, though that includes enrollments in November. That doesn’t include California, Massachusetts or Oregon, the latter of which hasn’t enrolled a single person.
So the early estimate is approximately 50,000 enrollments into private health insurance plans during the month of October, the first month in which the federal exchange was open. That’s going to go up as states that haven’t reported their numbers finally released them.
If you listen to President Barack Obama and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the fact that millions people will lose their health insurance coverage will be forced to buy a plan is not a big deal.
After all, we’re only talking about 5% of the American public, as both Obama and Carney have put it. That’s faceless statistic that has little meaning to administration officials, politicians, and bureaucrats who’ve spent more than four years crafting the law and corresponding mandates and regulations.
But for many Americans, the changes they’re seeing in their health insurance coverage has very real consequences. In the case of Edie Littlefield Sundby, a stage-4 cancer patient, what Obamacare has done to her coverage could come at the expense of her life.
“Everyone now is clamoring about Affordable Care Act winners and losers. I am one of the losers,” wrote Sundby in an op-ed published last weekend at the Wall Street Journal.
“My grievance is not political; all my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics. For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky,” she continued. “But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.”
Sundby, who received notice of cancellation of her existing coverage in January, was happy with her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, writing complimentary of their responsiveness to her condition and the availability of the claims office.