Friday, July 31, 2009

You Want It Bad? You'll Get It Bad

When selling their $787B stimulus package, the Administration made "shovel ready projects" yet another basis for one of Sally's drinking games (take a drink every time you hear it). They also said this money needed to get out the door immediately to repair our failing infrastructure and used the case of the Minneapolis bridge collapse as an example of the looming crisis with the state of our nation's bridge spans. This little story about the wrong bridges getting just about all of these funds while the most needy went unserviced indicates one of the problems with government employees when it comes to spending the taxpayers' money...there are too few of them who have an integrity to doing what is right vs doing whatever gets them the most money now before someone else who is even less inclined to do the right thing snatches that money away from them. And I've watched this occur up close and personal in over 7 years of inside the beltway government service (those of you who recall my railing over the term "budget dust" have experienced how much I admire this trait). I will say that I am pleased that my home state, the great Commonwealth of Virginia, along with South Carolina, eschewed that kind of approach and vectored the money to the most needy bridge repairs. I wonder if Alaska's famous "bridge to nowhere" got funds to repave their unused lane surfaces. This is also why I think it is utterly IMPOSSIBLE for a government run health care system to reduce costs of health care, to save money or to target dollars to the most genuinely required services. Until we change the culture of "budget dust" and "end of fiscal year money grabs" so prevalent throughout virtually all governments, there is no way I will vote for anything new to be run by government.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

All Time High (April 1 2009): 192.2
Diet start (June 1): 189
Last Friday: 180.0
Today: 178

Pretty good week on the diet front--though it would be more proper to call it the "eating like a normal human being and exercising more" front.

It's time again ladies and gentlemen, for Big Fat Friday Free For All--your chance to pop off, carp, kvetch or pontificate. What's on your mind, worthy readers?

The Beer Summit

Well, the President, the Vice President, and the nation's most famous "disturbing the peace" duo sat down for a frosty mug last night in the White House gardens. I saw some of the breathless coverage on CNN as it was happening, and it was pretty pathetic (the coverage, that is).

All in all, I think this was a smart move by the President and well-executed. Crowley continues to impress ("Two gentlemen agree to disagree on a particular issue") and I think the President has pretty much tamped this one down (until Gates decides to sue the police, at which point all bets are off).

I was enamored with the President's "cocktail party" receptions earlier in the Administration, but I haven't heard much of them lately. I'd hoped he would keep them up. It is a bit ironic that a guy who doesn't drink is so very much interested in a President's having a few drinks with his co-workers....but I have this "MadMen" inspired view of the world that the late 50's and early 60's were a civilized time, and that there was very little a late-afternoon martini wouldn't improve.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Keith Hennessey Gives a Virtuoso Performance on Healthcare

This might very well be the most important post yet here on the CW. Apparently, the White House sent out an email to its supporters yesterday outlining the President's views on health care.

Keith Hennessey (fast becoming a national treasure) has produced a rejoinder to the current Democratic plans in the form of an email response to the President.

You will not likely find anywhere (no, not even on CW Television!) a more coherent, straightforward explanation of a sound conservative approach to reforming health care--and several strong criticisms of the current direction in which Congress appears to be heading.

Read this. Then read it again. Then try to poke holes in it. Then read it again and begin to pass it along to your friends. This is the narrative, this is what conservatives have been looking for on healthcare.

You're Looking at My Gut Aren't You? I'm Working On It!

Marc Ambinder on Megan McArdle weighing in on the Obesity Movement. Now there's an oxymoron. Ok, I'm sorry. I've been known to rail now and again about the "epidemic," though I don't think I've demonized larger folks. I definitely don't like this portents of greater government overreach. I will offer this observation. I suspect that in crowded places (DC in the summertime), it takes me just a little bit longer to get where I'm going because walking around these days is like being a frigate in the Strait of Malacca with nothing but Super Tankers all around.

Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95%

I know I write about this stuff a lot, but it just blows my mind. The 2007 tax year data has been analyzed by the IRS and The Tax Foundation has put out a press release detailing some of the findings.

In 2007, the top 1% (income in excess of $410,000) paid 40.4% of the income tax burden, and the bottom 95% paid 39.4%. Some additional perspective:

--There are 1.4 million taxpayers in the top 1%. There are 134 million in the bottom 95%

--The cries of the Bush tax cuts benefiting the rich disproportionately are bunk. Since the tax cuts, the top 1 percent’s share increased 2 points while the bottom 95% share decreased 5 percentage points.

--The bottom 40% of taxpayers pay NO income tax--in fact, most get money from the government in the form of a check.

Don't believe the rhetoric. We have a phenomenally "progressive" tax system in which the rich in our country bear a heavier burden than the rich in most European countries. That 4 in 10 of our workers pay nothing toward the daily operations of the Federal government is a scandal.

What's a Trillion Dollars Worth?

Have a look. H/T NRO

The Last Word on the Birther Nutbags

National Review Online's editorial should end the debate for any thinking conservative on the President's origins. No, that's not entirely true. Thinking conservatives dismissed this one a long time ago.

In Praise of Profit

Stephen Carter, a professor at Yale Law School, rises in defense of profit--even profit in the--hold on now--health care industry. It's a good read and very sensible.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama: Efforts to Delay Health Care Reform a Political Ploy

One more time, Mr. President. Which party has the 70 vote margin in the house and the 20 vote margin in the Senate? Exactly WHO is it that is holding up health care, sir? You've got all the votes you need in your own party---but---what's that? Oh--YOU DON'T? YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE THE VOTES YOU NEED IN YOUR OWN PARTY? Well now, then how in God's name do you expect Republicans to vote for it?

Brother can you spare a dime...or a buck?

Just thought I'd share my daily email from the Obama campaign. They're pretty shameless in their appeals for cash--this one is no different:

Sally, you've probably seen the headlines: Opponents of change are doing everything they can to delay health insurance reform. As a Republican strategy memo concluded, "If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it." They're betting that as time goes by, our energy will flag, our movement will weaken, and they'll ultimately be able to block any change. But they just don't get it -- thanks to the regular Americans who are reaching out in neighborhoods nationwide, our movement is expanding every day. In fact, over the weekend, we surpassed our big goal of 1 million people taking action for health insurance reform. And with your help, we'll keep growing and prove that our opponents' strategy of "delay, delay, delay" simply won't work. So I want to ask you for something unusual: Can you chip in $1 each day until we pass real health insurance reform? A huge response will show the insurance companies and their allies in Congress that their delay tactics will only make our movement stronger.
Here's how it works: We'll bill your credit card for 30 days' worth of donations now and once a month until the President signs real health insurance reform into law. The cost of inaction on health insurance reform is astounding. Every day, 14,000 more Americans lose their coverage. Premiums continue to rise at three times the rate of wages. And each day, more small businesses are forced to choose between covering their employees and keeping their doors open. But that doesn't stop our opponents from trying to bog down the process with legislative tricks. And at the same time, they're attacking the President for "moving too fast," even though Washington has been talking about the need for comprehensive health insurance reform since the days of Harry Truman! What they don't realize is that outside of Washington, our campaign keeps growing. We've reached our "million" milestone, but the stories behind that number are even more impressive: grassroots press conferences with small-business owners in Missouri, more than 1,200 people at an organizing meeting in Minnesota, huge events outside local Senate offices in Florida, and so much more. That's why our dollar-a-day campaign is so important: If the few senators and representatives who are opposing reform understand that dragging their heels makes us stronger every day -- and that the grassroots pressure on them will increase -- they'll be far less willing to keep slowing down the process. Can you help? Please donate $1 per day until we pass real health insurance reform.
What do you think - brilliant and clever or mildly disturbing? And has any 'regular American' reached out in your neighborhood?

Vick a Vike?

Hey Sally--the fun just keeps rollin' in the Twin Cities, donchya know?

Interesting Biofuel News

Story here about a new process for creating biofuels by using genetically-engineered micro-organisms who--well--basically poop ethanol (hey, I'm a history major).

I'm a minor investor in an ethanol distribution company, and one of the questions often asked is about the perception that the ethanol industry drove up food prices two years ago. There's little evidence to support this, but the perception remains. Diversifying biofuel stocks is a good idea if it can be done in an energy efficient manner....

Have You Driven a Ford, Lately?

News here (H/T Instapundit) that 46% of the American public is "more likely" (than what?) to buy a Ford because they didn't take the bailout money. Now there's something for stockpickers to think about.

As some of you may know, I am in an obsessively futile car-search phase right now, and I have to tell you that Ford's stance during the automobile "crisis" definitely got my attention. Ford's Fusion Hybrid is a great looking car that's easy on the carbonized dinosaurs, and some of the Stinkin' Lincoln products are beginning to look good again too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Other Gates on Iran--And What to Do About Iranian Nukes

The Israeli Defense Minister--Ehud Barak--last seen as Prime Minister having the rug pulled out from under him by Yassir Arafat--paid a visit to the Pentagon yesterday. There, Secretary of Defense stressed that "non-military actions" can deter Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

I'm a little skeptical of this view, given how much coin Russia pulls in through its support for the "peaceful" nuclear program in Tehran, and how critical Iran feels a nuclear weapon is to its security.

We're in a tough position on this one. In order to appear states-man-like, we need to continue to push for these non-military actions, even though they are entirely unlikely to work. We need to be helpful and supportive of our allies in Tel Aviv, without giving them the green light to re-arrange some buildings in the Iranian outback. And we need to continue to adhere to the politically correct view that nuclear proliferation is something that can be controlled, even though there is gathering evidence to the contrary (yes, there have only been a few "new" nuclear nations in the past twenty years--but that's not none).

I wrote a paper once (available upon request) in which I advocated publicly welcoming Iran to the "nuclear club"--and then letting them know what the rules are. And we get to make the rules--it's like that when you invented nukes and you've got thousands of them. If you (Iran) pass your technology to a terrorist group--we'll vaporize Qom. If you attack a neighbor with nuclear weapons--we'll vaporize Isfahan. You see, the problem with Iranian aspirations for nuclear weapons is that there hasn't been any kind of public debate about the wisdom of it--and by that--I mean the responsibilities a nation takes on when it takes on nukes. Use doctrine--command and control, stuff like that. Iran has a relatively free press and a well-educated public. To this point, there hasn't been any kind of a public debate about whether having nukes is worth all the fuss. We could drive that debate by raising in the average Iranian citizen's mind serious doubts about his own security being hazarded by his government. We've seen the propensity of some citizens there to take to the streets--lets give them more to protest.

Of course--some of you are sitting there saying "a-ha---CW is NAIVE! If they take to the streets, they'll be protesting American bullying, not their own government's actions." And to that I say--"so what?". This is the big leagues--nuclear weapons. We once sat eyeball to eyeball with the Soviet Union and responsible policymakers used terms like "mutual assured destruction" and "flexible response". Now's not the time to go all wobbly on nukes. We may not be able to get the toothpaste back in the tube, but we damn sure can let the Iranian people in on how we'll expect their government to act when and if they do get the bomb.

Honduran President Sets the Record Straight

This story is beginning to come out, little by little. President Obama's reflexive jump on the bandwagon of his Book Club chum Chavez seems a little precipitous.

Iowahawk on the Gates Affair

Characteristically funny. H/T Steve Hayward on FB

Monday, July 27, 2009

Trouble in Charm City

What's up with Baltimore? I'd wager that Baghdad was safer yesterday....

Robert Samuelson on Healthcare

The continued Obama Administration fixation on "insuring the uninsured" cannot and will not bring healthcare costs down--it will raise costs for everyone else. Only structural reform will do that--and I'm not sure a population grown content with the steady drip of entitlements will be prepared to make those sacrifices. The President's rosy statements notwithstanding, universal healthcare will either come at the cost of 1) the private health insurance system 2) tax increases on everyone or 3) both.

Samuelson covers the ground superbly here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

NFL Camps Open

Thank God. College ball can't be far behind.

NJ and VA giving GOP Hope

New Jersey and Virginia hold their governor's elections (I hate the word "gubernatorial") one year after the Presidential elections, and so they tend to be viewed as canaries in the coalmine for a new administration (Christine Todd Whitman and George Allen's victories in 1993 being seen as harbingers of the Republican takeover of Congress comes to mind).

In the NJ race, the Republican is up big on the sitting Dem Governor, and in VA, the Republican is leading the Dem. The Obama Administration rightly sees these elections as mini-referendums on its performance, and they've begun to get involved.

Sally's been doing a good job in keeping us up to speed on the Virginia race--is there anyone in New Jersey who'd like to volunteer to watch that race for us?

China's Buying Up the French Wine Country

Very interesting article here about recent purchases of expensive vineyards/chateaus in France by up and coming Chinese companies. Putting aside for a moment the voracious appetite for foreign investments underway in China--the rationale here--buying a piece of history, a piece of monarchy, a piece of tradition of land ownership and productivity--seems very interesting and yet another sign of the lessening impact of Marxism and Maoism on the Chinese people.

The Chinese are like the Dutch and English of the 17th and 18th centuries...and they will be rewarded for it.

Digital Nomad Bleg

Interesting article here, especially if you are a would-be "digital nomad". Though I think the folks in this article are doing it with a lot more "meaning" than I, the concepts are still relevant.

My new job is one in which I am "at work" wherever my computer and brain are. I'm in the process of setting up an nice "home office" in the Kitten's garage (semi-finished), and my employer has graciously provided me with the tools and permission to pursue my living in this manner.

Mostly, I work out of the garage and the apartment in Arlington. But the Arlington pad has become an expensive convenience, and I will regrettably let its lease lapse at the end of October. Since virtually all of my "customers" are on that side of the Chesapeake Bay, I will still be spending a great deal of time in the "big city" I've been actively seeking places where I can kill an hour or two between meetings in active, productive work. For instance, I arrived at my Friday afternoon meeting an hour early, as the margin I'd build in for the ride from the Eastern Shore proved unnecessary. Lucky for me, the Washington Navy Yard has a nice little niche of leather couches tucked into the little promenade where the convenience store, fast-food joints, and barber shops are. So I plopped down, set up my computer with cell-card internet access, and used the time productively.

Those of you in the DC/NOVA region with other ideas on where to "nomad", please let me know.

Stupid Is As Stupid Votes

I'm stepping in here so CW doesn't lose his citizen credentials in his home know, the state that doesn't need GPS ("what exit?"), the one with no left turns (what's with that anyway?), the state where you can't pump your own gas (actually, I wish that would spread to other states). I speak of the Garden State. New Jersey. Or just Jersey. Or Joisey.

As much as I rail about DC criminal, "Mayor for Life", Councilman Marion Barry, I really would be negligent for not railing equally about Hoboken Criminal "Mayor for Three Weeks" Peter Cammarano. Now, like DC, Hoboken is no pantheon of political propriety, but it appears people are actually starting to take seriously (as opposed to the "aww, isn't that quaint" view of former Providence (RI) "Mayor for Life" Buddy Cianci's criminal escapades) the brash boldness with which elected officials break the law here. That's refreshing, at least to this admitted Hoboken outsider-for-life.

But the real test will come with the next elections. Buddy Cianci was reelected so often that he became one of the longest serving "major" city mayors of all time in the US. Had it not been for his mandatory assignment to federal housing, he might still be mayor. And get this, he won, initially, on an anti-corruption campaign. And he remains one of RI's most beloved celebrities. So, in essence, who could really blame him? It appears that he was giving his city's residents what they wanted. And doing it exceedingly well (if you look at it with legal blinders). Same might be said for Marion Barry, unless you were one of the rare DC taxpayers. If people are serious about "cleaning up government", then it is really less up to law enforcement than it is up to the voter. And as long as voters are content to elect people they know are stealing taxes (present and future...think wrongly-earned pensions), helping other criminals "cut in line" for all manner of permits and city services in front of those law-abiding, tax-paying constituents, etc, we'll continue to have the veterans like Barry and Cianci and the rookies like Cammarano.

Stupid is as stupid does, voters.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rush is Right

Frequent readers know I am not a Rush Limbaugh fan, so it wasn't easy to just type the headline to this post.

But he's right on this one. The media created and supported this Presidency when it was only a candidacy. Turning on it would mean a collective error in judgment of mythic proportion--which is why it will be slow to come.

But when it does come, it will be devastating.

It's not about him, it's about the American people

Interesting story here regarding the VA gubernatorial race and the potential endorsement of the well-respected Douglas Wilder. Seems he is resistant to endorsing the Dem candidate despite lobbying from the White House. The White House's wildly compelling argument? Keeping the seat blue is important to the President's public standing.

Healthcare Stresses the Democrats

The Democrats, a Party in name only (really a loose configuration of interest groups), is having a bit of trouble using its filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and its 70 seat majority in the House to pass the President' healthcare plan (whoops, we don't have one of them--we've got Nancy Pelosi's!). If Congress were a parliament, it would be said that Mr. Obama presides over a "coalition government". And the coalition is strained.

This is delicious stuff. Watching them come apart at the seams is a guilty pleasure. Now I know there will be those who bemoan my words as more obfuscatory blather from a right-wing zealot dedicated to seeing that nothing gets done on healthcare. Those of you here who've read my thoughts and watched my videos know otherwise. When the President is sufficiently bloodied and realizes that the only way he gets landmark legislation with lasting consequences is to work with the Republicans and actually COMPROMISE, he'll get a bill through. But until then, let the bloodying continue.

The Henry Louis Gates Affair

I have remained silent on this matter, though I have not been uninterested. Others have discussed it on the blog within yesterday's Friday Free For All and made very good points about restraint, civil conduct, etc--all of which resonated with me.

But my silence is born of other factors. Unlike the President, gathering facts DOES have an impact on my decision to render an opinion.

And so, I've gathered enough facts to render a few opinions, but I warn readers whose minds are made up on this one in one fashion or another that I may disappoint you here.

I use as my model here the process followed in Admiralty Court proceedings, one in which blame/responsibility can be shared, and in which financial culpability can be affixed based on just "how responsible" one is.

So here goes--a series of opinions.

1. Blame is shared here. I cannot say for sure in what proportion, but I believe both men to have selected unwise courses of action.

2. Henry Louis Gates is a racial arsonist, a practitioner and beneficiary of black victimhood in America. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't have a legitimate beef.

3. The President acted unwisely in criticizing the police action mere seconds after claiming not to have the facts.

4. The President acted wisely in calling Sgt. Crowley to apologize.

5. This is not--as Mr. Gates would have us believe--"racial profiling". Racial profiling is a cop pulling over black people because he thinks black people smoke more pot than white people, and he might find pot in the car. This was a policeman responding to a breaking-and-entering call. That he was unaware 1) as to who Henry Louis Gates is and 2) that Gates lived in that dwelling is understandable given the American public's notorious inability to identify public figures (ever watch the Tonight Show?) and Henry Louis Gates' extremely limited fame. I am a current events and pop culture maven--and if a picture of Henry Louis Gates were shown to me before this incident, I would not have been able to identify him (though if I were shown a group of pictures and asked "which one is HLG" I probably could have.

6. Mr. Gates is reported to have behaved in an uncivil manner, leading to his arrest. It is an open question to me as to just how civil one has to be in one's own house. We shouldn't forget this--whatever Gates was doing--he was doing it in his own house, a fact that was established. This is not an excuse, it is however mitigating.

7. I do not understand exactly why Mr. Gates was handcuffed and arrested. But I also do not understand police protocols and law enforcement procedures. I am willing to give the police the benefit of the doubt on this one, that their protocols indicated that he should be taken in. If that is however the case, I think I'd like to examine the reasons behind the protocol.

8. This is not--as one of my African-American friends wrote on Facebook yesterday--a sign that "of how far we have not come". Presumably the Mayor of Cambridge (black) and the Governor of Massachusetts (black) earned their posts with significant white support...notice how I don't point to the fact that our President is half-black, as folks on the other side of this argument like to say how that is not indicative of any real or sustained change in attitudes--just his personal popularity. This is an incredibly unfortunate situation, made worse by Mr. Gates' obvious desire to use it to his personal advantage.

9. While I cannot speak to Sgt. Crowley's actions during the arrest (as I was not there and do not possess understanding of the protocols guiding his actions), I do believe he has acted responsibly thus far in the post-incident fallout.

Keith Hennessey Surveys the Healthcare Battlefield

An absolute must-read.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Big Fat Friday Free For All

Good Friday, all, and welcome to the weekend. First, the diet news:

All Time High (April 1 2009): 192.2
Diet start (June 1): 189
Last Friday: 180.2
Today: 180

Things have slowed a bit, but today's result is a bit "skewed" by a post-movie dinner last night that went until 1030. Bigger loss next week, promise.

Went to see the new Harry Potter movie last night--it was good, but I gotta tell you, it is nice to have someone along (The Kitten) who has read the books. Without someone to "interpret" some of what you see and hear, you miss a good bit of the nuance.

What's on your mind this week?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The President's Press Conference

Many thanks to Sally, Robert Thorn and Smoothfur for holding down the fort last night during the President's press conference. I had a meeting that ran late in Arlington and then was on the road to the farm. I suppose I could have listened to it on the radio, but I got involved with my Teaching Company course (The Great Ideas of Philosophy) and forgot to tune in. The lecture that took me home was one on the Federalist Papers, and any discussion of Alexander Hamilton trumps listening to the President any day--no matter who the President is.

That said, I've now devoured the morning wrap-ups of the event, and I've read through the comments on the blog. Sally's comment gets to the heart of the political side of the health care debate. The bottom line here is that he's got sufficient Democratic votes to pass anything he wants--so if he can't get what he wants through, his beef is with his own party.

"Anonymous Joe"made what he felt was a "balanced" comment, questioning whether the posters had given GWB's decision to go to war " you are questioning BHO's health care proposals". Putting aside for a moment the notion that there is anything "balanced" about his question, I would answer for myself, no, I did not question GWB's going to war like I am questioning BHO's health care proposals, and there's a very simple reason why--I AGREED WITH GOING TO WAR IN IRAQ. One does not agree with a policy, and then spend time disparaging it, at least not beyond the doors of those facilities dedicated to the rehabilitation of diseased minds. One does disparage policies with which one it ideology if you wish (and remember--ideology isn't a bad word here on the CW). And there are clearly people here who disagree with the way the President and many of his party wish to reform the health care system. I reference readers again to the title of the blog--"Conservative" Wahoo. Not "Balanced" Wahoo. That the overwhelming majority of people here would be ideologically opposed to much of the Democratic government takeover of healthcare should not surprise anyone.

Now--onto "balance". "Balance" isn't a schoolyard taunt--"oh yeah, well where were you when Bush took us to war!" "Balance" isn't accusing someone of "palpable hatred" because of policy differences--ideologically based or not. "Balance" (my view) is injecting into the debate points or questions that might cause one to have to defend a position. "Balance" might be asking just what is wrong with trying to see that every American has health care. "Balance" might be asking whether or not BHO is simply being politically pragmatic (a skill upon which I personally place great weight) in shifts in his positions. "Balance" could include asking whether a millionaire paying $5000 more a year in income taxes is too big a burden to bear in closing the gap on the number of uninsured people. There are a ton of very important questions that could be asked of someone who is ideologically opposed to the President/Congressional Democrat's healthcare plan, and I have great faith that the readers of this blog would rise to the challenge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

LiveBlog the President's News Conference HERE!

I won't be able to join in, as I'll be driving out to the farm--but please use the comments portion of this post to LiveBlog "The One" this evening. I look forward to reading the reviews!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And Some Days You Get The Horns...

Have you ever had one of these days?

H/T: Fail Blog

New on Conservative Wahoo TV--More Healthcare!

Catch the latest video here.

"Cigarettes, Whiskey, and Wild, Wild Women"

My kind of prescription for long life. Hey, it worked for him. Reminds me of a quote attributed to the great English footballer George best...goes something like "I've spent 90% of my fortune on women and booze, and the rest I wasted."

Some Lefty Views on Soaking the Rich for Healthcare

Greg Mankiw provided us with these two views of left-of-center economists, neither of whom believes soaking the rich is the way to improve healthcare. Wahooligan asked in a post yesterday for this blog to cover the issue of healthcare more meaningfully, and so in an effort to do so, I'll be looking for more information to distribute.

Simply put, soaking the rich to pay for everyone else's healthcare does NOTHING but reinforce the notion that healthcare has no costs (except of course, to those whose taxes are raised). Soaking the rich does nothing to impact THE DEMAND side of healthcare, the side in which defensive medicine and a detachment from the true cost of procedures to the consumer conspire to drive up healthcare costs beyond the rate of inflation.

So if we did raise taxes on the rich to finance universal healthcare, it might ensure more of the uninsured (but not all of them) , but it would do nothing at all to help the lot of everyone else who believes that there is a problem with our healthcare system.

One thing I'd like to put out there for public discussion...I was talking with a friend recently who was talking about the costs of healthcare to him, his wife and three children. I asked him how much it cost him to cover his family, and the answer was in the neighborhood of $800 a month. This was--to him--excessive. So I did a little math in my head and asked him straight up..."dude, you're bitching about paying $2000 a year per person for 1) the piece of mind of knowing that your family won't be financially crippled in the event of a catastrophic health condition and 2) for truly world class healthcare along the way?" This fellow was pulling down somewhere are $120K a year, so what this boiled down to was about a tenth of his annual take home. This is to much to take? Other people should be taxed at a higher rate so that you don't have to put out a tenth of your income for healthcare? And let's not forget--because he's "insured", when his family members do go into the system for some reason, they are very likely to be ridiculously over treated and overtested...something for which he will suffer very little additional financial penalty.

What value did he place on that piece of mind? Clearly not $9600 aggregate dollars....but you see, that's the trouble with insurance. It's an expensive nuisance....until you really need it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Here's One for the Second Amendment Crowd....

I've made no secret since starting this blog that I depart from Conservative orthodoxy on several issues; one of these is the 2nd Amendment. While it is the law of the land and as such, worthy of respect, I have always considered it a quaint relic of colonial life and due for some much needed "updating". As a good Conservative, I do not wish to see that "updating" occur in the courts or in the legislatures, but in the Constitutionally mandated manner in which that document is caused to be altered.

So here's an interesting case. Apparently Senator John Thune (R-SD) has put forward legislation that will create a national standard (read--superior to any and all state law created) for concealed weapons carrying permits. I do not support this legislation, and I agree with the Washington Post that it should be opposed.

The right to keep and bear arms--like freedom of speech and assembly--is not absolute, and the case law on this is not in dispute. The states may indeed place reasonable restrictions on who can own guns, where they can carry them, and how they must be disposed of--among other things. Creation of a national standard for concealed carry pre-supposes that all states support concealed carry. And they don't. Additionally, the creation of a national standard is a direct assault on another cherished Conservative principle--equally well-enshrined in our Constitution--that of Federalism. The several states are not potted plants; there are facets of legislative inquiry that are solely theirs, and others they share with the national legislature. A national standard removes from the legislative bodies closer to the people the right/duty to regulate what is essentially a public safety issue--not a constitutional rights issue.

This bill is a simply bit of red meat thrown to those who characteristically support untrammeled and unregulated exercise of 2nd Amendment rights...but it makes little sense and ought to be opposed out of hand.

Obama's Poll Numbers Slipping

Lots to wade through here and it is clear that the President's lofty early numbers are beginning to become more realistic. He remains very popular personally, but his policies and actions are beginning to be more closely scrutinized by the public. The decline in his numbers is starkest among independents, the large muddle in the middle that determines Presidential elections.

Republicans must continue to target centrist/right of center leaning independents who went Obama's way in 2008. On health care, the path to victory and legislative power is in presenting these voters with a reasonable program for reforming health care that does not threaten the care they already have. Insuring more of the uninsured would be nice, but not necessary.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ronald Reagan on Socialized Medicine

H/T: Jonah Goldberg, NRO

I'm a fan of Ronald Reagan, there's no doubt about it. But I must admit to deviating from Conservative orthodoxy when it comes to my admiration. You see, while I am a fan of his time as President, I find that the true genius of Ronald Reagan was evident in the 50's and 60's when he was sort of a roaming spokesman at large for Conservative ideas that had gone out of fashion.

This audio tape is evidence of that genius. No one wrote this stuff for Reagan...he did it himself. He was deeply steeped in the ideas and ideology of Conservatism, and he knew of what he spoke. Listen to the edge in his voice....listen to the rhetoric....this is a man at the top of his rhetorical game, a man who even then was showing the kind of mettle that would eventually rally the Conservative cause.

And yes, I'm sorry to all the Sarah Palin supporters out there--it is exactly on this point that I find Governor Palin to be lacking. Yes she's a fresh political face. Yes she can wow a crowd. Yes she has refined political instincts. But at the level of mastery, at the level of confidence, at the level of knowing upon what here ideas are based...I find her lacking. Ronald Reagan led a movement that he essentially created, and he did it with words he conjured from ideas he truly understood. I'd be thrilled if Sarah Palin could emerge to lead Conservatives into ascendancy. I just don't think there's enough there there. Yet.

Behold, the Incomparable Mark Steyn

Another classic.

Is America's Image Overseas Improving?

David Ignatius attempts this morning to give a six-month report card on the Obama foreign policy. Along the way, he breezily makes the point about America's image overseas having been raised, resuscitated, increased or whatever. And for evidence he cites.....two former American national security advisers.

How about consulting someone from the Polish government, whose bold steps in cooperating on central European missile-defense policy were turned into a political nightmare by the retrenchment of the Obama Administration. Or how about someone from the British Foreign Office--you remember them, right--our special friends--to see how "special" they feel nowadays. Or perhaps one could interview someone from the Israeli government, and ask whether Obama's ridiculous relativism in his Cairo speech (yes there was a Holocaust that killed six million Jews, but there are also Palestinian refugee camps....) makes our most important Middle East ally feel any better about their precarious position. Maybe Ignatius could talk to someone in either France or Germany's Ministry of Finance and ask them how they feel about the "stimulative" nature of Mr. Obama's spending proposals.

For further evidence of America's enhanced position in the world, Ignatius turns to that wizened arbiter of international relations....Rahm Emanuel, who happens to also be President Obama's Chief of Staff. Here's Emanuel on the state of play: "We have taken off the table reflexive anti-Americanism as a reason not to deal with us," says Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. "We're not shimmying in the end zone. But we are a long way from where we began."

The naivete of these folks is stunning.

Liberals Whine About Sotomayor

Here's a story about hyperventilating liberals who feel as though last week's confirmation hearing featuring President Obama's "wise Latina" nominee Judge Sotomayor represented a "missed opportunity" for liberalism. Here's one statement:

"Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal think tank, called them "a totally missed opportunity. . . . The progressive legal project hit rock bottom [last] week."

I can't figure out whether such drama represents 1) legitimate concern as to the liberal credentials/nature of the nominee or 2) just part of the vast left-wing conspiracy playbook to continue to try and convince Senators of Judge Sotomayor's centrist, non-liberal judicial demeanor. Because if it is #1, then they are showing startling political naivete.

Barack Obama was elected President by publicly suppressing his liberal record and his liberal views. To the extent that he advocated policies that could be viewed as liberal, he couched them in moderate language and extolled them with moderate rhetoric. In office, he is veering the country dramatically to the left, all the while seeming like a moderate, common-sense kind of guy. I think that Americans are beginning to realize this, but we may be too far along for us to do much about it right now.

Sotomayor's public "moderate-ness" is the result of the coaching job she got from the White House, based on its polling data and its knowledge that liberal ideas are not very popular with voters--especially when exposed to scrutiny. Yes, I know--a liberal won the presidency....but he did so by convincing voters he WASN'T a liberal. Sotomayor's path to the Supreme Court--virtually assured from the beginning--would be smoother and play more nicely in the Obama narrative if she too came off as a common-sense moderate.

Anyone who believes the over-heated rhetoric of the liberal intelligentsia is getting snookered...they are all ecstatic over the nomination of Judge Sotomayor, and their only disappointment is that she isn't replacing Scalia, Thomas, Alito or Roberts.

Tom Watson Leading the British Open

With today's round yet to be played, 59-year old Tom Watson sits atop the British Open leaderboard (you know, the tournament in which Tiger Woods missed the cut). Fifty-nine years old. Unreal.

I'm 44 years old, and I feel every ache and pain in the morning. My golf swing is a mere shadow of what it was twenty years ago, when I possessed a lower back that didn't yell at me with every swing. The thought of a 59 year old body playing four rounds of championship level golf is mind-blowing.

Tom Watson's always been a favorite of my father's, so I'm pretty sure he'll be watching every shot. But watch out for Retief Goosen....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mudge on Iran

From Big Fat Free For All Friday, Mudge asks:

This from the LA Times report of today's resurgence of unrest in Tehran:

"As hard-liners repeated their signature cries of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," riled-up Mousavi supporters overpowered them with chants of "Death to Russia" and "Death to China," the Islamic Republic's powerful United Nations Security Council protectors."

To what degree do you think Iranians have been encouraged to take on their clerics/dictators after watching Sadaam Hussein overthrown next door? Of course, such a discussion would not occur in the MSM so thought I'd raise it here.

Honest Ob - He Cannot Tell a (Total) Lie

Actually, he can, but this one is just a partial lie...for now.

Excellent post here from about the House version of the Health Care plan about which Great Leader continually assures us with fatherly, comforting tones, that we can keep our existing health care coverage if we like it.

Well, true...sort of...for a little while...

I wrote before that I believe this President is committed to taking this country to a new level of that is decidedly different from what the framers ever intended. I am also more and more convinced that he will go to great lengths to achieve that decidedly different America including employing a level of deception that eclipses that of even Nixon and Kennedy. Yes, that's right, I included JFK in the same deception category as Nixon (although JFK was much better at it). Still, BHO makes both of them look like Jon Lovitz when it comes to masterful deception (aka lying).

A Future for Hillary?

I find Peggy Noonan as insipid as the next guy, but one segment of her WSJ column today struck me as interesting.

"Mrs. Clinton is in a different position now. By this spring it must have become apparent to her that when the nice new president came and offered her the secretary of state job, and she said yes, she got rolled. What he got was clear: He took her off the chessboard. She wouldn't be in the Senate being a counterforce, wouldn't be planning her next move or become the rallying point of anti-Obama Democrats. She'd be on board, part of the team and invested in the administration's success, for now its success would ensure her future. If their relationship didn't work, nobody would think it was his fault.
What she would not have known was that she would be a public face of American diplomacy—not the face but a face—and not a decisive inside power. The portfolio for key areas—Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Mideast—was day by day given to others. She was sent off to do interviews on "Good Morning Manila." In a foreign-affairs apparatus of clashing egos, she'd be just another ego. A Henry Kissinger or George Shultz would never have allowed this. She didn't even go to the G-8 or the Russia meeting. President Obama, that canny fellow, only wants Obama in the room. It is true she broke her elbow, but they make it sound like a farming accident where her elbow was torn from her arm as she fed the thresher. Tina Brown wrote a witty column saying Mr. Obama should let Hillary out of her burqa.
But you know, one thing Mrs. Clinton's learned is how to wait. Things turn on a dime, you wake up in the morning and there's a new headline that changes everything. Sooner or later Mr. Obama is going to get in trouble, sooner or later the trouble will take hold and settle in, and sooner or later she will be the unsullied one who quietly did her duty in spite of the slights to which she's been subjected. And when that happens, she will emerge—reluctantly, painfully—as the Democratic alternative. The one who almost won, who knew—who learned the hard way—that you can't do everything all at once, that it's the economy, stupid.
They will look like kids playing with history. Hillary isn't a kid. She's experienced, and has been roughed up by history. Watch. She'll roll right back."

Does anyone think she might be back?

Two Thoughts on Walter Cronkite's Passing

One. When the news of a famous person passing is announced, and a brief retrospective is offered showing career high points, isn't 20 minutes or so of coverage sufficient? Must we hear for hours (and in some cases days) about this passing? Does it make one callous and coldhearted if they say enough is enough after half an hour?

Two. The most BS commentary I heard last night was from Sam Donaldson, who offered that Cronkite was an anchor of a different time, reporting the facts and engendering the trust of America. Donaldson's take was that now the news is different and that newsmen and women offer opinions with their news. (Quite an astute observation there Sam). But what was interesting is he seemed to ascribe that merely to the era and not at all to a lack of journalistic standards.

Do we even want another anchor that we can trust in a way that our parents trusted Cronkite?

Outlook Hazy, Try Again Later

In yet another sign the adults are finally in control of things in Washington, President Obama’s economic advisor Lawrence Summers declared before a gathering at the Peterson Institute for International Economics that the US economic cliff dive has finally ended.

What statistic does he cite to back up his assertion? Corporate earnings, retail sales or new housing starts? Nah, that stuff is strictly for amateurs.

Google searches.

The number of people searching for the term “economic depression” on Google is down to normal levels, indicating a shift in consumer sentiment Summers told the group.

But what Summers failed to disclose was that search traffic for “hurtling uncontrollably toward the Sun” and “9th Circle of Economic Hell” was up 24% and 31%, respectively.

If you begin to notice Summers carrying a Magic 8 Ball to Obama’s meetings, run for the hills. Quickly.

Friday, July 17, 2009


A pretty effective video produced by the House GOP:

This clip highlights one of my pet peeves with the President – his insistence on the use of the summary statement as a CYA (“As I’ve maintained from the start of the campaign”, “As I’ve stated on numerous occasions”, etc.), even when the facts would seem to contradict him.

Not that the media would call him on it.

H/T: The Weekly Standard

Big Fat Friday Free-For All

Last Friday: 181.4
Today: 180.2

Time again for "Big Fat Friday Free For All", your chance to sound off. What's on your mind? Lots going on out there--health care, cap and trade, Joe Biden's malapropisms, Robert Thorn's parody posts....

What are you reading? I'm reading "Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From The Mouths Of Boobs

In one of his more unintentionally hilarious pitches of administration policy to date, Vice President “Bazooka” Joe Biden told a gathering of the AARP this afternoon that the administration needed to go spend money in order to keep from going bankrupt.

Um. wow.

I keep looking over to for its link to “Bidenisms”, but no such luck…

The CIA and Congressional Democrats

I've watched this latest dust-up between the CIA and Congress and waited for there to be some light amidst the heat. On the one hand, you've got the Director of the CIA sort of breathlessly heading over to the Congress to divulge this assassination team thing, there to be greeted by a group of Democrats spoiling for a fight in order to save the honor of their wounded (by the CIA) speaker Pelosi. On the other, you've got folks from the CIA saying "wait a minute, we didn't inform Congress because this was not an operational program; it was "on the drawing board", it was a concept/plan."

I think as things shake out, it will turn out to be pretty much as the CIA says...that there was no need to tell Congress yet--and that the leaks that came out of the Congress after Panetta's admission were a good sign of why it is you keep stuff FROM Congress until you absolutely have to tell them.

What bothers me at this point though is WHY THE HELL WE HAVEN'T HAD THIS PROGRAM UP AND OPERATIONAL? Here I am, fat, dumb, and happy since 9-11, thinking that we had guys out there around the world taking these Islamo-fascists down one at a time (a la Spielberg's "Munich"). But no. We were just talking about it. We were just planning it. We were doing just enough to not have to tell Congress about it.

Al-Quaeda must be quaking in its boots.

Sotomayor Dodges Questions--She Should Dodge Them All

Story in the Post this morning about how Judge Sotomayor was a bit "elusive" before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday (as Alito and Roberts were before her). Good. She should be elusive. In fact, she should refuse to answer any and all questions.

Here's my point. Sonia Sotomayor has a long and distinguished record as a prosecutor, federal judge, and federal appeals court judge. The Constitution gives the Senate the "advise and consent" power on nominees to the Federal bench. Just once--I'd like to see a nominee with a record like Sotomayor's say in their opening statement "I'm a good lawyer, I'm a good judge, my record speaks for itself. You have before you all you need to make your decision on my fitness to serve. I'd like to serve on the Supreme Court, in fact, it has been a dream of mine for my entire lawyerly life. But it is not so important to me that I will play the amiable dunce in your political game. I respect the Constitution and the wisdom of the framers in placing my nomination before you for your consent. That power of yours however does not levy a responsibility upon me to participate in your proceedings. I wish you great success in your proceedings however you may wish to measure it, but I shall not answer any of your questions."

Let's be honest here--Robert Bork taught us all that the way to get to the Supreme Court is to answer as few questions straight on as you can. Since his nomination, elusive and evasive answers have been the norm, and the confirmation proceedings have become like North Korean show trials. Every member of that committee already has all the information they need to support or dispute her nomination, and nothing she says is going to change that. Either you are someone who sees her vast experience on the federal bench as proof enough of her fitness to serve, or you are someone who sees that vast experience as evidence of a judicial philosophy that renders her unfit to serve. There is no other choice. The rest of this is all kabuki theater, and it is a waste of time and money.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nanny State Alert

Apparently, the news keeps getting worse on the "banned product" front. On the heels of the Pentagon study that recommends a complete ban on smoking, the State Department is recommending its own ban.


WASHINGTON (TNN) -- You've seen the iconic picture of a state department staffer with messy sexy hair, but that could soon be a thing of the past.

The State Department is considering a ban on the sale and use of hair products in the foreign service.

A new study commissioned by the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services recommends a complete ban on hair product, which would end hair product sales in Northwest DC, embassies and consulate canteens and prohibit stylish hair by anyone in the foreign service, not even diplomats on the way to a gala.

According to the study, hair product use impairs diplomatic readiness in the short term. Over the long term, it can cause serious health problems, including scalp cancer and skin disease, especially on the fingertips.

The Health and Human Service’s top health officials are studying the report's suggestions and will make recommendations to the State Department's policy team and Secretary of State Clinton.

The study recommends phasing out hair product products such as pomades and gel over a five- to 10-year period.

However, the suggested ban does not sit well with many stationed in embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world including an a prominent special envoy who wished to remain anonymous. He said foreign service officers abroad need to style.

"When you're abroad and you've been going days on end with minimum conditioning, that hit of hair product can make a difference," said the official, who was in charge of diplomacy in one of the world’s hotspots.

Other diplomats questioned whether this was a good time to stamp out hair product, given the the world’s excitement about the new administration and the expected lavish galas that will likely accompany future official state visits.

"For some, unfortunately, they feel that sexy hair provides a common bond with counterparts, especially in Europe. Well if you take it away, what is the replacement?" said Economic Officer Javier O’Reilly.

“The State Department supports the goal of a hair product-free diplomatic corps”, said spokeswoman Bobbie Smith.

"However, achieving that goal will depend on coincident reductions of hair product use in the civilian population," she said.

Dr. Nick Riviera, the author of the study, found that civilians outside major metropolitan areas don't style as much as foreign service officers. Two in three foreign service officers and diplomats style, he said, adding that among the general population, that number is less than one in five.

WaPost on Soaking the Rich to Pay for Health Care

The Washington Post came out this morning with an editorial criticizing Congressional Democrats plan to surcharge high earners in order to pay for the President's breathtaking expansion of government control of health care. The key sentence for me:

"Pretending that "the rich" alone can fund government, let alone the kind of activist government that the president and Congress envision, is bad policy any way you look at it. "

That said, the Post simply couldn't completely shake off its left of center biases--witness the tripe from the first paragraph:

"THERE IS a serious case to be made that the U.S. income tax system should become more progressive. The average rate paid by the top 1 percent of households shrank from 33 percent in 1986 to about 23 percent in 2006. At the same time, the share of adjusted gross income claimed by that highest-earning sliver of American society doubled, from 11 percent to 22 percent. So, in principle, higher taxes for the well-heeled could make sense -- as part of a broader rationalization of the unduly complex tax code."

What the Post fails to mention is the significant increase in the share of total income taxes PAID by the top 1% in that time. While their rate may have fallen, their contributions as a part of the total have GREATLY increased.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Little Bit About My Slice of Paradise in the New York Times

He's lying really is terrible on the Eastern Shore. Horrible. Don't move there.

A Reason Take-down on Obama's Plan to "make college affordable for everyone"

Here's a great little video that captures some of the things I've been saying here about throwing more money into higher education. Of note are the comments of Charles Murray, a national asset.

H/T: Instapundit

Sotomayor Pledges Fidelity to the Law

Of course she does. Because she's not now addressing a group of female lawyers, or a group of urban rights activists, or a group of ethnic victimization merchants--or any other group who feels for some reason that the law is insufficient to protect their rights and that empathic judges of diverse and varied "experiences" are best suited to issue justice. She's addressing the Senate committee examining her fitness to serve on the Supreme Court, made up at least in part by people who believe the law is sufficient, and where insufficient, the actions to be taken are those by the political branch.

My thinking has evolved quite a bit on this nomination. I remain convinced that elections have consequences, and in this case, the consequence is that Barack Obama gets to nominate someone he feels thinks about the law like he does. I think it is also essential that an up or down vote be taken on the nominee.

But Republicans must oppose this nomination, and oppose it with direct attacks on judicial philosophy. It is not enough to say that she is fit to serve on the Supreme Court because she has been confirmed twice already by the Senate in inferior courts. That is irrelevant. This is the court of last resort; the framers placed the confirmation power in the political branch, thereby making the "advise and consent" function a wholly political one. While law school records, private practice and time on the bench all serve to give individual Senators a better sense of the overall state of qualification for service, it is in the political process that one's ultimate fitness to serve becomes apparent. The political process has played out to a point in which Judge Sotomayor's elevation to Justice Sotomayor is virtually assured; but the process has not played out to the point where those whose ideology and politics require them to oppose the nomination should sit quietly by and defer to the Executive.

Ideology seems to have become a bad word when it comes to judicial nominees. I believe that the Framers displayed great wisdom in placing judicial confirmations in the political branch, knowing all along that fitness to serve was not simply a function of with whom one had read the law.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obamacare is Dead

....or at least much of it. News this morning of leading lawmakers asserting the growing impossibility of Obamacare coming up for a vote before the August recess. One thing the President and his staff learned from TARP and the Stimulus was that the faster things are acted upon ( and the less discussion/reading of bills that occurs), the more likely they are to pass when one's party controls the Congress.

But as legislators go home and face their constituents, they are going to find a group of people who will begin to ask increasingly more difficult questions....and they'll bring the abstract into fine relief. "Health care is broken" they'll say. Then they'll say "don't mess with mine and don't raise my taxes to pay for anyone else's". Small businesses will talk about employer mandates killing jobs. Though the press isn't saying it (because they don't want to offend their patron), any hope that the President had of pushing through a radical overhaul of the system is dead.

This is a good thing. In my prior life in the Pentagon, I used to lead teams that were constituted of representatives from each of the Armed Services. One time, I pulled aside a particularly intractable fellow to ask why he was so difficult to work with--why he seemed to get in the way of virtually everything we were trying to do. "If nothing happens" he said, "nothing bad happens." As a political Conservative, I had to give him that.

Hopefully, what the recess will do is arm legislators with a better sense of what the art of the possible is. I want to see a system in which those UNABLE to afford medical insurance can find coverage. But I also want to see a system in which people are more financially involved in their own health care, where the costs are understood by doctors and patients alike. I want to see TRUE MARKET FORCES applied to healthcare, not some monstrous hybrid in which the government sets its own terms and leaves private insurers to suffer the consequences.

Obama White House Works Hard

Little fluff here from the WaPost on working at the White House. Apparently it is news that folks there work long days, are maniacally driven, etc. The only good thing about this article is that there was recognition that hard work at the White House didn't start with "the one".

I had an opportunity to join the Bush White House as I left the Navy, as a staffer on the "Homeland Security Council" (soon to be--correctly--tucked back into the National Security Council). Going over to the Old Executive Office Building and talking with the guy who would be my boss (a Special Assistant to the President who made $15000 a year less than I did as a Navy Commander) was a delightful experience, and eye opening. Yes, the people there work like dogs (and this was year 6 of the Bush Administration)--more to the point, they do it in a ridiculously under-resourced way. The offices are tiny, phones are shared, desks are carved out of whatever little space can be found. I know Mudge would be very happy to see folks toiling under these conditions, but when you added up the 14 hour days--every day--the crummy compensation, and the mean working conditions, it simply wasn't for me.

National Security Adviser James Jones had come under some leaked criticism from un-named sources in the White House because of his gentlemanly 10-12 hour days. He has said that anything more than that simply points to bad time management. I tend to agree with him.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Businessman Calls It Quits in California. Why? Taxes.

Read this one....try not to shake your head in disdain. I dare you.

The President Talks About the Economy; Get's Fileted by Keith Hennessey

Here's the President's oped and here is Hennessey's tour de force. I wish I could write like Hennessey.....

You Were the Result of Scientific Experiments

I don't have kids, yet so I won't pretend to have any insight into how hard or important the discussion of "where you came from" is between a parent and a child. I only vaguely remember the notion of a discussion with my parents, probably because I came about the standard way. So, beyond getting over the idea of my parents "doing it" - whenever it did dawn on me - there wasn't much reason for hubbub or deep thought about it. I have to say, though, that way Fay Johnson, coordinator for the Center for Surrogate Parenting in California, told her daughter evoked an image of some movie villainess.

“I said: ‘Lily, well, Natalie and Dad were never a couple. You were ONLY created in the doctor’s office because I was going to be your mother. Would you like to see your birth certificate — because I’m going to be your mother for-EVER. Muhuahahahahahahahaha!!

Ok. Some emphasis and poetic license taken, but I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Teaching Company

I want to share with my (handful) of readers a very cool line of products. Because I drive back and forth from my home with the Kitten on the Eastern Shore to DC and Northern VA regularly, I spend a good deal of time in the car. I kill the time listening to the radio and obliterating my monthly cell phone minute level. A good friend of mine (Bill Carrier, Executive Coach without equal!) recommended "The Teaching Company" to me a few months back, and I finally took the plunge.

What The Teaching Company does is package undergraduate level courses on DVD/CD or for download to your MP3 player. You can get as into the course as you desire--you can follow along with the lecture guide (in advance of listening in your car, hopefully), or you can just--as I do--listen along for the pure pleasure of learning. I am through Part I of the V part lecture series "The Great Ideas of Philosophy"--each part contains roughly 12-30 minute lectures. I can't tell you how quickly the time flies in the car--for that period of time, I'm transported back to a UVA lecture hall, listening to the instruction of a fantastic professor imparting knowledge to me as a great gift. For years and years, I've heard and misused terms like "metaphysics", "ontological" and "epistemological", and hopefully, I won't do that anymore!

If you go to the website, don't be fooled by the prices. Every single course goes on sale at least once a year, so I exclusively buy off the "sale" site. I'm using these courses as my personal battle against Alzheimer's, though I may be getting on it a bit early.

Wind Energy Losing Steam

I'm a huge fan of wind energy (just think if we could turn Joe Biden into an energy source!), and as part of a portfolio of energy sources, wind has a great future here in the US. As PART of a portfolio. Likely to be only a SMALL part. But a part nonetheless.

But wind is running into, well, headwinds. It is expensive to plant turbines in the seabed (or on land for that matter). The downturn in the worldwide economy leaves little investment capital available for those companies who would generate the power in the first place.

Of equal importance though is the availability of transmission paths from generation site to "the grid". I looked at this problem quite a bit in my last job, and I found myself somewhat flummoxed by the complexity of it all. There really isn't a "grid" in any real sense. There is an inelegantly engineered, cobbled together patchwork of generation, conditioning and distribution capability, none of which any one entity owns enough of for the investment in its upgrading to make much economic sense. I remember doing a little research and finding that about 8% of all electrical power generated in the US is lost--to line loss and transformation loss. This is billions of dollars worth of power, but between the generators, the distributors, the wholesalers and the power companies--no one suffers "too much" loss, so it becomes a cost of doing business simply passed along to the customer (who does wind up paying for it).

It costs a lot of money to take the power generated by wind (think about it, the turbines spin at a rate caused by the strength of the wind, so that electricity generated is all over the map--as opposed to a constant speed generator) and condition it for distribution. Folks gotta step's where the "gubment" DOES have a role. The free market will be slow to develop national infrastructure appropriate to this task--if at all. Again--no one has enough of a skin in the game to justify the capital expenses. I am a fan of the federal government doing as little as is necessary to carry out its enumerated Constitutional authority. Unscrewing the nation's electrical generation and distribution system falls into this category.

Dems Agree to Tax Hike to Fund Health Care

Here we go--the forces of class envy, the "soak the rich" crowd who believe we ought to hamstring the most productive Americans in order to provide healthcare to everyone else--are moving forward with their plan to place an income tax surcharge on wealthy Americans (atop the already rising rates that will accompany the Obama Administration desire to let Bush tax cuts expire).

House Democrats should find some tougher sledding in the Senate, but I'm just not sure that the country hasn't decided that the rich ought to be punished for the present state of the economy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The F-22 Taking Flak

Long story here, but worth reading. We have a habit in this country of building really superneat high tech stuff that doesn't work perfectly at first and then getting our panties in a wad about it. Then we work out the kinks and the stuff works fine.

I hope that's the case here....though I'm not sure it is. The F-22 was conceived of in the waning days of the Cold War, and it has taken that long for us to field it. I'm just not sure there is a strategic case for it anymore, certainly not in the numbers the USAF wants to buy. I'm all for building expensive, high tech stuff to advance our technology edge, but there's got to be a point where we bring some sanity to the process.

The comments of Clinton era DoD man John Hamre are devastating: "We knew that the F-22 was going to cost more than the Air Force thought it was going to cost and we budgeted the lower number, and I was there," Hamre told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April. "I'm not proud of it," Hamre added in a recent interview." And I think John Hamre's a good man.

UPDATE: Sorry, link now included.

Obama To Wrestle With Afghanistan

It looks like out new commander in Afghanistan, the very well thought of General Stan McChrystal, is likely to come forward with a request to--again--dramatically increase the number of troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

Clearly there will be no rest for the weary. Our ground forces are stretched mighty thin, and the multiple combat tours are taking their toll.

That said, the President should give McChrystal a chance to make his case and then make his decision based on the best available information. One cannot sit back and laud George Bush for his fortitude in doubling down in Iraq, and then cry "quagmire" in Afghanistan. The new President and the new commander deserve support in trying to win--on whatever terms "winning" comes to mean for them.

The one thing I don't get though is the reference to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT's) that are now largely being led by USAF and USN officers. Both McChrystal and the head of our Special Operations Command (ADM Eric Olson) believe that Special Forces Officers should be leading these teams because of the skills they have. The story cites push back from the Navy and Air Force on this. First of all, the reason the Navy and Air Force picked these missions up in the first place is because we didn't have enough Snake Eaters to go around. Secondly, I cannot honestly conceive of the Chief of Naval Operations WANTING to continue to send Ship CO's and Aircraft Squadron Commanders out to Afghanistan to in these jobs.
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