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Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

House kicks out a health bill.

Here is the House bill if you are so inclined:

Here is page caps deductibles at $1500 per individual and cost sharing at $5000. I once had a health insurance policy with a $20,000 deductible to protect myself against any catastrophic event. That's what insurance is supposed to do. It had $5 million in coverage and did what I needed it to do. If you wanted such policy now...too bad Bozo, you have to take this. If you want auto insurance where some dude checks your oil and tire pressure every morning and warms/cools your car and brings you coffee, you can get it but man will it cost you.
High deductible policies are out the window now, not in the choice set. Pay up sucker.

Just a few short years ago...

This photo shows our current Secretary of State holding up the details of her health care plan back in 1993. Let me gently remind any who will of the main provisions of that plan was to make it illegal and punishable by incarceration if you received outside attention from your personal doctor, even if you paid for it with your own money. That's right, they were going to lock you and your doctor up if any services were received outside the guidelines and auspices of the system. We're talking the big house. Back then Carnival Cruise Lines was outfitting ships for medical cruises 201 miles off the coast of the US outside of the jurisdiction of US laws. Take a cruise, see the doctor, have lunch, do some gambling, come back tomorrow.
Make no mistake. One of the hidden desires of Nancy and Harry is to insure you have no different health care experience than anyone else. Even if you have the money to pay for it. I'm not talking about getting in line for organ transplants, I'm talking the whole enchilada. It is not just "let's cover everyone and take care of our fellow citizens' needs." Nope, it is "you should not have more than the next person" even if you work for it and they lay around and smoke crack. No other economic good is viewed in the same way and it is total and utter rot.

Randy Parker Hall of Fame: Democrats who just say no to the public option.

All Star Line Up: Conrad of ND***Landrieu of LA***Lincoln of AR***Bayh of IN***McCaskill of MO. They have the guts to reject "command and obey" economics.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quote of the day....

"Part of the genius of Marxism, and a reason for its enduring appeal, is that it fed man's neurotic fear of social catastrophe while providing an avenue for moral transcendence." from Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal.

I'm from Chicago. This is how we get things done. And we don't need no stink'in help from youse.

The Chamber of Commerce is only the latest target of the Chicago Gang in the White House.

They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.

–Jim Malone,

"The Untouchables"

When Barack Obama promised to deliver "a new kind of politics" to Washington, most folk didn't picture Rahm Emanuel with a baseball bat. These days, the capital would make David Mamet, who wrote Malone's memorable movie dialogue, proud.

A White House set on kneecapping its opponents isn't, of course, entirely new. (See: Nixon) What is a little novel is the public and bare-knuckle way in which the Obama team is waging these campaigns against the other side.

In recent weeks the Windy City gang added a new name to their list of societal offenders: the Chamber of Commerce. For the cheek of disagreeing with Democrats on climate and financial regulation, it was reported the Oval Office will neuter the business lobby. Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett slammed the outfit as "old school," and warned CEOs they'd be wise to seek better protection.

That was after the president accused the business lobby of false advertising. And that recent black eye for the Chamber (when several companies, all with Democratic ties, quit in a huff)—think that happened on its own? ("Somebody messes with me, I'm gonna mess with him! Somebody steals from me, I'm gonna say you stole. Not talk to him for spitting on the sidewalk. Understand!?")

The Chamber can at least take comfort in crowds. Who isn't on the business end of the White House's sawed-off shotgun? First up were Chrysler bondholders who—upon balking at a White House deal that rewarded only unions—were privately threatened and then publicly excoriated by the president.

Next, every pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance executive in the nation was held out as a prime obstacle to health-care nirvana. And that was their reward for cooperating. When Humana warned customers about cuts to Medicare under "reform," the White House didn't bother to complain. They went straight for the gag order. When the insurance industry criticized the Baucus health bill, the response was this week's bill to strip them of their federal antitrust immunity. ("I want you to find this nancy-boy . . . I want him dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burned to the ground!")

This summer Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl criticized stimulus dollars. Obama cabinet secretaries sent letters to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. One read: "if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to the state, as Senator Kyl suggests," let us know. The Arizona Republic wrote: "Let's not mince words here: The White House is intent on shutting Kyl up . . . using whatever means necessary." When Sens. Robert Bennett and Lamar Alexander took issue with the administration's czars, the White House singled them out, by name, on its blog. Sen. Alexander was annoyed enough to take to the floor this week to warn the White House off an "enemies list."

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor? Targeted for the sin of being a up-and-coming conservative voice. Though even Mr. Cantor was shoved aside in August so the Chicago gang could target at least seven Democratic senators, via the president's campaign arm, Organizing for America, for not doing more on health care. ("What I'm saying is: What are you prepared to do??!!")

And don't forget Fox News Channel ("nothing but a lot of talk and a badge!"). Fox, like MSNBC, has its share of commentators. But according to Obama Communications Director Anita Dunn, the entire network is "opinion journalism masquerading as news." Many previous White House press officers, when faced with criticism, try this thing called outreach. The Chicago crowd has boycotted Fox altogether.

What makes these efforts notable is that they are not the lashing out of a frustrated political operation. They are calculated campaigns, designed to create bogeymen, to divide the opposition, to frighten players into compliance. The White House sees a once-in-a-generation opportunity on health care and climate. It is obsessed with winning these near-term battles, and will take no prisoners. It knows that CEOs are easily intimidated and (Fox News ratings aside) it is getting some of its way. Besides, roughing up conservatives gives the liberal blogosphere something to write about besides Guantanamo.

The Oval Office might be more concerned with the long term. It is 10 months in; more than three long years to go. The strategy to play dirty now and triangulate later is risky. One day, say when immigration reform comes due, the Chamber might come in handy. That is if the Chamber isn't too far gone.

White House targets also aren't dopes. The corporate community is realizing that playing nice doesn't guarantee safety. The health executives signed up for reform, only to remain the president's political piƱatas. It surely grates that the unions—now running their own ads against ObamaCare—haven't been targeted. If the choice is cooperate and get nailed, or oppose and possibly win, some might take that bet.

There's also the little fact that many Americans voted for this president in thrall to his vow to bring the country together. It's hard to do that amid gunfire, and voters might just notice.

("I do not approve of your methods! Yeah, well . . . You're not from Chicago.")

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My kinda girlie....

Long Distance Engagement...

This 19 year-old ex-cheerleader (now an Air

Force Security Forces Sniper) was watching a road that led to a NATO military

base when she observed a man digging by the road. She engaged

the target (i..e., she shot him). It turned out he was a bomb maker for the

Taliban, and he was burying an IED that was to be detonated when a

US patrol walked by 30 minutes later. It would have certainly killed and wounded

several soldiers.

The interesting fact of this story is the shot was measured at 725

yards. She shot him as he was bent over burying

the bomb. The shot went through his butt and into the bomb which

detonated; he was blown to pieces. The Air

Force made a motivational poster of her:

Folks, that's a shot 25 yards longer than seven football fields!)

And the last thing that came out of his mouth... was his bum! Allah Akbar!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sooner or later, we have to decide what we will and will not pay for out of public funds.

Why is it that medical care is the only economic good that people feel they are entitled to no matter what is needed and no matter what the cost? Is it because it is a matter of life and death? I suppose so...but then tell me how it is going to be paid for? No other good is viewed the same way...all you need regardless of the cost. As long as this is the attitude of the American public, Medicare will remain on an unsustainable path and will be the fiscal "tomato that ate Philadelphia". Social Security is but a tiny little problem compared to Medicare and Medicaid and the promised future unfunded liabilities (by the way, nothing has been said yet about long-term care of the elderly, paid for by Medicaid, which is the real resource eater). Sooner or later, we will have to decide what government will and will not pay for with Medicare and Medicaid. As the late and great Herb Stein once said "something that can't go on forever won't".

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Some intelligence briefing on Iran

I recently joined up as a member of It is a web site devoted to world affairs and analysis. These guys are very, very good. Here is a video they produced and had on their web page.

I also stumbled across this study of last March. I provide it only for those who may have scratched their heads and asked how it might be done. I am praying to Allah that it will not be. I don't know where the "hidden Imam" is and I don't want to find him. I view part of my function with this blog as that of providing information to help figure out where the world is and may be headed. That is my sole purpose with the following piece.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Nobel Geopolitics
October 12, 2009 | 1908 GMT

Graphic for Geopolitical Intelligence Report

By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last week. Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prize, which was to be awarded to the person who has accomplished “the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the promotion of peace congresses.” The mechanism for awarding the peace prize is very different from the other Nobel categories. Academic bodies, such as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, decide who wins the other prizes. Alfred Nobel’s will stated, however, that a committee of five selected by the Norwegian legislature, or Storting, should award the peace prize.
Related Series

* Special Series: Obama’s Foreign Policy Landscape

The committee that awarded the peace prize to Obama consists of chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, president of the Storting and former Labor Party prime minister and foreign minister of Norway; Kaci Kullmann Five, a former member of the Storting and president of the Conservative Party; Sissel Marie Ronbeck, a former Social Democratic member of the Storting; Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, a former member of the Storting and current senior adviser to the Progress Party; and Agot Valle, a current member of the Storting and spokeswoman on foreign affairs for the Socialist Left Party.

The peace prize committee is therefore a committee of politicians, some present members of parliament, some former members of parliament. Three come from the left (Jagland, Ronbeck and Valle). Two come from the right (Kullman and Ytterhorn). It is reasonable to say that the peace prize committee faithfully reproduces the full spectrum of Norwegian politics.
A Frequently Startling Prize

Prize recipients frequently have proved startling. For example, the first U.S. president to receive the prize was Theodore Roosevelt, who received it in 1906 for helping negotiate peace between Japan and Russia. Roosevelt genuinely sought peace, but ultimately because of American fears that an unbridled Japan would threaten U.S. interests in the Pacific. He sought peace to ensure that Japan would not eliminate Russian power in the Pacific and not hold Port Arthur or any of the other prizes of the Russo-Japanese War. To achieve this peace, he implied that the United States might intervene against Japan.

In brokering negotiations to try to block Japan from exploiting its victory over the Russians, Roosevelt was engaged in pure power politics. The Japanese were in fact quite bitter at the American intervention. (For their part, the Russians were preoccupied with domestic unrest.) But a treaty emerged from the talks, and peace prevailed. Though preserving a balance of power in the Pacific motivated Roosevelt, the Nobel committee didn’t seem to care. And given that Alfred Nobel didn’t provide much guidance about his intentions for the prize, choosing Roosevelt was as reasonable as the choices for most Nobel Peace Prizes.

In recent years, the awards have gone to political dissidents the committee approved of, such as the Dalai Lama and Lech Walesa, or people supporting causes it agreed with, such as Al Gore. Others were peacemakers in the Theodore Roosevelt mode, such as Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger for working toward peace in Vietnam and Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin for moving toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Two things must be remembered about the Nobel Peace Prize. The first is that Nobel was never clear about his intentions for it. The second is his decision to have it awarded by politicians from — and we hope the Norwegians will accept our advance apologies — a marginal country relative to the international system. This is not meant as a criticism of Norway, a country we have enjoyed in the past, but the Norwegians sometimes have an idiosyncratic way of viewing the world.

Therefore, the award to Obama was neither more or less odd than some of the previous awards made by five Norwegian politicians no one outside of Norway had ever heard of. But his win does give us an opportunity to consider an important question, namely, why Europeans generally think so highly of Obama.
Obama and the Europeans

Let’s begin by being careful with the term European. Eastern Europeans and Russians — all Europeans — do not think very highly of him. The British are reserved on the subject. But on the whole, other Europeans west of the former Soviet satellites and south and east of the English Channel think extremely well of him, and the Norwegians are reflecting this admiration. It is important to understand why they do.

The Europeans experienced catastrophes during the 20th century. Two world wars slaughtered generations of Europeans and shattered Europe’s economy. Just after the war, much of Europe maintained standards of living not far above that of the Third World. In a sense, Europe lost everything — millions of lives, empires, even sovereignty as the United States and the Soviet Union occupied and competed in Europe. The catastrophe of the 20th century defines Europe, and what the Europeans want to get away from.

The Cold War gave Europe the opportunity to recover economically, but only in the context of occupation and the threat of war between the Soviets and Americans. A half century of Soviet occupation seared Eastern European souls. During that time, the rest of Europe lived in a paradox of growing prosperity and the apparent imminence of another war. The Europeans were not in control of whether the war would come, or where or how it would be fought. There are therefore two Europes. One, the Europe that was first occupied by Nazi Germany and then by the Soviet Union still lives in the shadow of the dual catastrophes. The other, larger Europe, lives in the shadow of the United States.

Between 1945 and 1991, Western Europe lived in a confrontation with the Soviets. The Europeans lived in dread of Soviet occupation, and though tempted, never capitulated to the Soviets. That meant that the Europeans were forced to depend on the United States for their defense and economic stability, and were therefore subject to America’s will. How the Americans and Russians viewed each other would determine whether war would break out, not what the Europeans thought.

Every aggressive action by the United States, however trivial, was magnified a hundredfold in European minds, as they considered fearfully how the Soviets would respond. In fact, the Americans were much more restrained during the Cold War than Europeans at the time thought. Looking back, the U.S. position in Europe itself was quite passive. But the European terror was that some action in the rest of the world — Cuba, the Middle East, Vietnam — would cause the Soviets to respond in Europe, costing them everything they had built up.

In the European mind, the Americans prior to 1945 were liberators. After 1945 they were protectors, but protectors who could not be trusted to avoid triggering another war through recklessness or carelessness. The theme dominating European thinking about the United States was that the Americans were too immature, too mercurial and too powerful to really be trusted. From an American point of view, these were the same Europeans who engaged in unparalleled savagery between 1914 and 1945 all on their own, and the period after 1945 — when the Americans dominated Europe — was far more peaceful and prosperous than the previous period. But the European conviction that the Europeans were the sophisticated statesmen and prudent calculators while the Americans were unsophisticated and imprudent did not require an empirical basis. It was built on another reality, which was that Europe had lost everything, including real control over its fate, and that trusting its protector to be cautious was difficult.

The Europeans loathed many presidents, e.g., Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter was not respected. Two were liked: John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Kennedy relieved them of the burden of Dwight D. Eisenhower and his dour Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who was deeply distrusted. Clinton was liked for interesting reasons, and understanding this requires examining the post-Cold War era.
The United States and Europe After the Cold War

The year 1991 marked the end of the Cold War. For the first time since 1914, Europeans were prosperous, secure and recovering their sovereignty. The United States wanted little from the Europeans, something that delighted the Europeans. It was a rare historical moment in which the alliance existed in some institutional sense, but not in any major active form. The Balkans had to be dealt with, but those were the Balkans — not an area of major concern.

Europe could finally relax. Another world war would not erase its prosperity, and they were free from active American domination. They could shape their institutions, and they would. It was the perfect time for them, one they thought would last forever.

For the United States, 9/11 changed all that. The Europeans had deep sympathy for the United States post-Sept. 11, sympathy that was on the whole genuine. But the Europeans also believed that former U.S. President George W. Bush had overreacted to the attacks, threatening to unleash a reign of terror on them, engaging in unnecessary wars and above all not consulting them. The last claim was not altogether true: Bush frequently consulted the Europeans, but they frequently said no to his administration’s requests. The Europeans were appalled that Bush continued his policies in spite of their objections; they felt they were being dragged back into a Cold War-type situation for trivial reasons.

The Cold War revolved around Soviet domination of Europe. In the end, whatever the risks, the Cold War was worth the risk and the pain of U.S. domination. But to Europeans, the jihadist threat simply didn’t require the effort the United States was prepared to put into it. The United States seemed unsophisticated and reckless, like cowboys.

The older European view of the United States re-emerged, as did the old fear. Throughout the Cold War, the European fear was that a U.S. miscalculation would drag the Europeans into another catastrophic war. Bush’s approach to the jihadist war terrified them and deepened their resentment. Their hard-earned prosperity was in jeopardy again because of the Americans, this time for what the Europeans saw as an insufficient reason. The Americans were once again seen as overreacting, Europe’s greatest Cold War-era dread.

For Europe, prosperity had become an end in itself. It is ironic that the Europeans regard the Americans as obsessed with money when it is the Europeans who put economic considerations over all other things. But the Europeans mean something different when they talk about money. For the Europeans, money isn’t about piling it higher and higher. Instead, money is about security. Their economic goal is not to become wealthy but to be comfortable. Today’s Europeans value economic comfort above all other considerations. After Sept. 11, the United States seemed willing to take chances with the Europeans’ comfortable economic condition that the Europeans themselves didn’t want to take. They loathed George W. Bush for doing so.

Conversely, they love Obama because he took office promising to consult with them. They understood this promise in two ways. One was that in consulting the Europeans, Obama would give them veto power. Second, they understood him as being a president like Kennedy, namely, as one unwilling to take imprudent risks. How they remember Kennedy that way given the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the coup against Diem in Vietnam is hard to fathom, but of course, many Americans remember him the same way. The Europeans compare Obama to an imaginary Kennedy, but what they really think is that he is another Clinton.

Clinton was Clinton because of the times he lived in and not because of his nature: The collapse of the Soviet Union created a peaceful interregnum in which Clinton didn’t need to make demands on Europe’s comfortable prosperity. George W. Bush lived in a different world, and that caused him to resume taking risks and making demands.

Obama does not live in the 1990s. He is facing Afghanistan, Iran and a range of other crises up to and including a rising Russia that looks uncannily similar to the old Soviet Union. It is difficult to imagine how he can face these risks without taking actions that will be counter to the European wish to be allowed to remain comfortable, and worse, without ignoring the European desire to avoid what they will see as unreasonable U.S. demands. In fact, U.S.-German relations already are not particularly good on Obama’s watch. Obama has asked for troops in Afghanistan and been turned down, and has continued to call for NATO expansion, which the Germans don’t want.

The Norwegian politicians gave their prize to Obama because they believed that he would leave Europeans in their comfortable prosperity without making unreasonable demands. That is their definition of peace, and Obama seemed to promise that. The Norwegians on the prize committee seem unaware of the course U.S.-German relations have taken, or of Afghanistan and Iran. Alternatively, perhaps they believe Obama can navigate those waters without resorting to war. In that case, it is difficult to imagine what they make of the recent talks with Iran or planning on Afghanistan.

The Norwegians awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the president of their dreams, not the president who is dealing with Iran and Afghanistan. Obama is not a free actor. He is trapped by the reality he has found himself in, and that reality will push him far away from the Norwegian fantasy. In the end, the United States is the United States — and that is Europe’s nightmare, because the United States is not obsessed with maintaining Europe’s comfortable prosperity. The United States cannot afford to be, and in the end, neither can President Obama, Nobel Peace Prize or not.

From our friends at

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Battle of Tours: October 10, 732

Today is a major date in history. It is the 1277th anniversary of the Battle of Tours, up in west-central France. This is said to be the battle that stopped the advancement of Islam in Western Europe. The high water mark if you will in 732. It took until 1492 for the forces of Islam to be ejected from the European continent, out of the Spanish port of Grenada. Thus you sometimes hear Osama Bin Laden refer to "the crime of Iberia" meaning the ejection of Islam from the Iberian peninsula. The high water mark for the spread of Islam in eastern Europe came on September 11, 1683 when the Ottoman Empire was stopped at the gates of Vienna. And now you know why 9/11 happened on September 11th.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Social Security in a nut shell: Part III

This is Ida May Fuller, the first person ever to get a Social Security check. She paid in to Social Security a total of $24.75 in 1937-39. Her first check was for $22.54. She lived to be 100 and collected a total of $22,888.92. She hit the superfecta and did not even buy a ticket. I don't begrudge her this or any of our other proud senior citizens that fought the Depression and won World War II. What I am terribly troubled by, however, is the future projection of benefits and that is problem #3.

Problem: Ever rising real, inflation-adjusted benefits. Today, the average person at 65 gets about $14,000 per year in Social Security benefits. In 2050, the promised average benefits are $20,000 per year in 2009 dollars. Every generation gets higher and higher promised real, inflation-adjusted benefits. So what has been promised to today's 20 year olds is 40% higher than what people get today. This comes from legislation passed under Carter that indexes initial benefits to wages and not prices. The result is ever rising real benefits. Sorry folks but that is not sustainable either.

Solution: From the mortality tables and wage histories, actuarially, we can figure out within $1.32 how much is needed in the years to come to pay promised benefits. The Social Security trust fund runs out around 2042, although it could be sooner if economic growth takes a hit in the decades to come. It is estimated that after 2042, there will be taxes sufficient to cover 70% of promised benefits. Whamo! I propose to tell the American people that after 2042, you will receive 70% of what has been unrealistically promised. You now have 33 years to make adjustments to your retirement cash flow. In addition, there was talk of a "blended" indexation formula that made a great deal of sense to me. That is probably why it has not been spoken of again. This would change the indexing formula as follows: instead of indexing initial benefits to wages only, the bottom 1/3 of all recipients would continue to have their benefits indexed to wages, the middle 1/3 would have their initial benefits indexed by a 50-50 blend of wages and the Consumer Price Index, and the top 1/3 would have their initial benefits indexed to the CPI only. This would go a long way to correcting this pie-in-the-sky future promised benefits Candyland.

Remember, when all is said and done, we could have higher benefits with a stable worker-to-retiree ratio and economic growth...OR...we could have a declining worker-to-retiree ratio with stable real promised future benefits...BUT... we can not have a declining worker-to-retiree ratio with higher real promised future benefits. And of course, that is what we have right now.

As the late great Herbert Stein famously said, "something that can't go on forever...won't". And it won't.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Social Security in a nut shell: Part II

Monday we spoke of the increase in longevity that is stressing the Social Security system. Today we speak of the demographic change.

Problem 2: Declining worker-to-retiree ratio.
We are living longer and having fewer children. Back in 1950 there were 16 people working for every person retired. So, the pot of money that could be extracted to pay Mrs. McGillicuddy her Social Security was vast and so only a small sum needed to be taxed from each worker. The original tax was 1% on both employer and employee from 1937-49. Now it is 7.65% on both, with self-employed people paying the whole 15.3% whack themselves. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 34 people retired and collecting Social Security for every 100 people between the ages of 19 and 64 who are working. That is a far cry from a 16-to-1 ratio like in 1950. So do we continue to take more and more from fewer and fewer of tomorrow's workers to fund longer retirements? If your answer is "yes" then hit the floor and give me 10 push ups.

Solution: Massive immigration or increase the birth rate. Neither of which are likely to happen. So once again we come back to facing less benefits or taxing the economy out of productive existence.

I'm speechless except to say hooray for Dick Durbin!