Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fortune Magazine critiques Health Care Reform … and it is devastating.

The MSM has been totally in the tank for anything Obama. They have treated the health care debate as a giant scorecard about who is gaining and who is losing, and demonizing those who disagree with The One. Fortune Magazine breaks that mold. It carefully and thoroughly dissects the two bills being rushed through the House and Senate. It analyzes five critical freedoms Americans would lose under the current health bills. 1. Freedom to choose what's in your plan 2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs 3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage 4. Freedom to keep your existing plan 5. Freedom to choose your doctors The article concludes with this: The best solution is to move to a let-freedom-ring regime of high deductibles, no community rating, no standard benefits, and cross-state shopping for bargains (another market-based reform that's strictly taboo in the bills). I'll propose my own solution in another piece soon on For now, we suffer with a flawed health-care system, but we still have our Five Freedoms. Call them the Five Endangered Freedoms Read it all here. It is a devastating article. Pass it on to your friends. Also, make sure to make your Congressional Representative and Senators aware of your feelings.

Fighting back against red light cameras

I always get a chuckle when there is a victory against red light and speed cameras. They have morphed quickly into money machines from their avowed purpose of making our streets safer. However a citizens’ revolt is brewing and some of their tactics are both devious and creative. Some are more crude and direct efforts such as this one from the NY Post

Two oddballs have been busted for swiping nearly 20 percent of the city's red-light cameras right under Big Brother's nose, The Post has learned. They allegedly drove around town in a pickup truck with a cherry-picker to dismantle 22 of the high-end Nikons from their street poles. The devices are used to identify red-light-running drivers, who then are issued tickets by mail. The suspects peddled an estimated $88,000 worth of goods to a camera resale shop for $300 each to feed their heroin habits…. 

The next is a report about some creative students at Wooton and Richard Montgomery High Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland who manufacture replicas of license tags on their computers with bogus numbers and temporarily stick them on top of the existing tags for just enough time to make a high speed run past the speed camera. They call it “speed camera pimping.” Then some poor oofus a hundred miles away is mailed a letter declaring him guilty and demanding $40 be sent to Montgomery County. At some point the students will discover the Chief of Police’s tag numbers and put him through the mill. 

And finally an ingenious and successful method of neutralizing of red light and speed cameras is going on in Washington DC, home of 290 of them, roughly 10% of the nation’s total. The Washington Examiner reports drivers are using software called Phantom Alert in conjunction with their iPhones and GPSs to alert them to the cameras. Phantom Alert allows users to post camera locations on their system as a “Point of Interest.” Then others are alerted to these POIs when their iPhone’s or GPS tells them they are near. All this has Washington’s police chief hopping mad. 

That has irked D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier, who promised her officers would pick up their game to counteract the devices, which can also help drivers dodge sobriety checkpoints. "I think that's the whole point of this program," she told The Examiner. "It's designed to circumvent law enforcement -- law enforcement that is designed specifically to save lives." The new technology streams to iPhones and global positioning system devices, sounding off an alarm as drivers approach speed or red-light cameras. Lanier said the technology is a "cowardly tactic" and "people who overly rely on those and break the law anyway are going to get caught" in one way or another. Boo-hoo!

Update: In addition to Phantom Alert, there is free software for iPhones and newer model Blackberries available from Trapster.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Health Care Reform --- Say no to separate but unequal treatment for the Political Class

Congress should first write a Health Care Reform Bill for themselves, and then make it available to the rest of the country. The concept there are two classes of people in the country, a political class and the great unwashed (us) that have separate and distinctly unequal access to health care, is abhorrent. They are the ones who will get treatment at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center, and we will have VA quality care. There is a difference! The Senate bill specifically exempts Congress and Federal employees from provisions of health care reform they are cramming down our throats. And this provision will be what survives in the final bill. We should accept nothing less than equal coverage for all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Coming, health rationing for seniors … alternatives can be found.

Rest assured heath care rationing for seniors is coming. It is happening in the UK and Canada where certain procedures are simply denied at a certain age or interminable waits face those who need care. Rationing to control costs is just the nature of government run health care. The poster child for excessive costs is hip replacements for the elderly. And they will be on the chopping block. Obama himself suggested pain pills might have been a better alternative for his grandmother than a hip replacement she had been considering. But for those who have suffered hip problems, it is a quality of life procedure no amount of pain killers can substitute for. So what are the alternatives? India now offers a hip replacement for under $5,000 (using an FDA approved prosthesis) compared to $25,000 to $30,000 in the US. That's not much different than out of pocket expenses now. In the global economy, procedures denied those in the US can and will eventually be available closer to our borders than India, perhaps in Mexico, Costa Rica and yes, even Canada. That would be ironic! It is comforting to know there are alternatives. It is discouraging that under the ideological premise, government knows better than its citizens, we end up driving medical jobs overseas. Government simply doesn’t feel the pain. We do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interesting camouflage schemes for aircraft.

Camouflage has been with us for over 150 years. From the days of the British in India giving up their whites for khakis to blend into the dusty countryside, efforts have been made to hinder the enemy from seeing and identifying friendly troops and equipment.

Here are some aircraft photos of the more recent efforts to hide and deceive hostile forces. Some are designed to blend in to the background, some are designed to hide the true shape or give a false aspect. Of interest is the Canadian CF-18 with a black canopy painted on the bottom of the plane to deceive an adversary. Pixelated camo used on US Army uniforms is now being applied to combat aircraft. Even with radar and infrared, eyeballs are still crucial for air to air combat, and a half second of confusion can be enough to allow a plane to escape.

Fox News stomps its liberal competitors.

Fox News is on a tear. Its ratings have surged and its competitors have declined, not just in share, but in total numbers. When Fox News began in 1996 it was given little chance for success. But by 2001 it began surpassing CNN the only other all news cable channel at the time. The hunger for better balance, so lacking at CNN, vaulted FNC into the lead. It now has prime time demo ratings larger than its two competitors combined. From Media Life Magazine: When Barack Obama arrived at the White House six months ago, there was a lot of speculation that conservative media outlets would see ratings shoot up as unhappy Republicans turned to shows whose hosts were critical of the new administration's agenda. For the cable news networks, that appears to be the case. Fox News, the No. 1 cable news network and the most right-leaning of the bunch, is surging. At the same time, CNN is sinking, with its ratings sometimes slipping below those for liberal-leaning MSNBC. And further… For the quarter in 25-54s in primetime, Fox News was up 50 percent from the year-earlier period, to an average 518,000 viewers. MSNBC ranked No. 2 for the first time ever for a full quarter, but it was down 1 percent to 268,000 viewers. CNN’s audience plummeted 19 percent, to 240,000 viewers in the demographic.

CBS vs. Rather warms up … if ever there were a case there should be two losers, this is it.

From the Dow Jones Newswire: A state judge on Tuesday reinstated a fraud claim by former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather in a $70 million lawsuit against CBS Corp. (CBS). At a hearing Tuesday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman ruled that Rather could file an amended complaint in the case that alleges fraud by CBS. The judge had previously thrown out the fraud claim. Rather has alleged in part that CBS violated his contract by failing to provide him enough airtime on "60 Minutes" or "60 Minutes II" after removing him as anchor of CBS Evening News in March 2005 following a controversy over a 2004 report about President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. The judge ordered the first draft of the independent panel’s report be turned over to Rather’s lawyers. The independent panel set up by CBS was made up of former Attorney General Dick Thornburg and retired AP President Louis Boccardi to make a judgment on the controversial segment. If Rather thinks this will help him, he may be mistaken. In what seemed an unusual step, the independent panel allowed CBS to review the report “for libel” before it was released to the public, hence Rather’s desire to see if CBS influenced its findings. I followed the case closely and was surprised the panel made no conclusion as to whether the documents were forgeries. The only expert typographical witness concluded emphatically they could not have been done on a typewriter from that era. I felt the panel pulled its punches, concluding only that the 60 Minutes segment should not have run and not making any conclusion on the veracity of the documents. Information concluding the documents were forgeries could damage Rather, but also come back to bite CBS for not properly vetting such incendiary charges as Rather made against a sitting President at the height of the election cycle. It’s really a moot point since no one from the Bush administration is going to sue. The case is almost two years old now and is moving with the speed of molasses. The appeals court has yet to rule on whether the case can still proceed. That decision should come soon. It seems both sides are just going through the motions. The one consolation is this case is chewing up gobs of money from both sides and accomplishing very little.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hillary vs. the White House … Blue on Blue

Today’s NY Times carries a story on Hillary’s efforts to regain her stature as Secretary of State after she failed to accompany Obama on his trip to Russia and talk she was being elbowed aside by the White House. The Times puff piece follows an earlier story in the same vein from AFP via Breitbart. Island Turtle covered the changing relationship between the two in an article last week entitled: Is Secretary of State Clinton on the way out? The Times story describes her speech yesterday to the Council on Foreign Relations as a muscular approach, especially on Iran, and more reflective of her position when she was campaigning against Obama for the Democratic nomination. The story also reveals some of the friction between her and the White House:

In recent weeks, the administration’s top Iran policy maker was reassigned from the State Department to the White House’s National Security Council; Mrs. Clinton’s candidate to lead the United States Agency for International Development has been tangled up in a vetting process; and she has failed to get her choices into some plum ambassadorships, notably Japan, which went to a fund-raiser for President Obama. Also, the White House recently scuttled Mrs. Clinton’s effort to bring Sidney Blumenthal, a journalist and confidant of both her and former President Bill Clinton, into the State Department.

Now any senior executive faced with list like that would have one thought in mind; call your headhunter FAST. But not a Clinton. Never! It’s to the mattresses, in the vernacular of the Godfather. While Sidney Blumenthal didn’t get an office adjoining Hillary, he won’t be far away. He is a Clinton loyalist who was a White House aide to Bill, and plays hardball. He reportedly worked with Hillary to defuse the “Bimbo Explosion” and was instrumental in seeing that private letters from Kathleen Willey to the President, protected by the Privacy Act, were released to the press to damage her. Kathleen Willey suffered mafia style intimidation she felt was an effort to keep her from testifying at the impeachment and trial. Above all Blumenthal knows how to work the press and get the right kind of information on the air and in the papers. He’s the type of person you want on your side when the going gets dirty. It’s easy to understand why the White House rejected him. In another bit of intrigue, Bill is planning to attend a fundraiser next Monday for Carolyn Maloney who is challenging Kristen Gillibrand in the Democrat primary for Hillary’s old senate seat. Obama is supporting Gillibrand. You figure that one out! The article ends with a couple of zingers directed at the White House:

Mr. Obama, officials said, was frustrated by his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, when he met with King Abdullah and failed to extract any meaningful gestures toward Israel to revive the peace process….

(Translation: Obama was ineffective) And this. No translation needed.

The White House has also asserted its privilege in naming ambassadors, passing over Mrs. Clinton’s preferred candidate for Japan — Joseph S. Nye Jr., a Harvard expert on foreign policy — in favor of John V. Roos, a Silicon Valley lawyer who is close to Mr. Obama. Aides to Mrs. Clinton said she accepted such decisions with equanimity. But she has been vocal in her frustration about the way White House vetting requirements have delayed the nomination of a new director of the Agency for International Development.

Blue on Blue, too good to be true!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1970s The Population Bomb … 2009 Global Warming. Settled Science Then and Now?

Zombietime has unearthed some truly loathsome writings that Obama’s new Science Czar, John Holdren, coauthored with Anne and Paul Ehrich (of The Population Bomb fame). The book, published in 1977: Ecoscience, Population, Resources, Environment is filled with the same fearmongering the global warmists are promoting today. It alleges with certitude, if nothing is done rapidly and forcefully, humanity will be doomed to mass starvations. The rhetoric is eerily similar to the doomsday predictions of global warming. From the Holdren’s book: Humanity cannot afford to muddle through the rest of the twentieth century; the risks are too great, and the stakes are too high. This may be the last opportunity to choose our own and our descendants' destiny. Failing to choose or making the wrong choices may lead to catastrophe. But it must never be forgotten that the right choices could lead to a much better world. The solutions are draconian, including forced abortions: Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society. And taking babies from mothers: One way to carry out this disapproval might be to insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption—especially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone. If a single mother really wished to keep her baby, she might be obliged to go through adoption proceedings and demonstrate her ability to support and care for it. Adoption proceedings probably should remain more difficult for single people than for married couples, in recognition of the relative difficulty of raising children alone. And birth control chemicals added to drinking water: Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control. Indeed, this would pose some very difficult political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems. No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements: it must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals…. All enforced by an all knowing Planetary Regime: The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries' shares within their regional limits. Control of population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the Regime would have some power to enforce the agreed limits. Of course none of the dire predictions occurred. There were no mass starvations. What famines happened were primarily from wars or political oppression, such as North Korea, Sudan, Somalia and the Congo. Settled Science was wrong then, as it is now. The purveyors of warming pseudo science, now prefer to call it Global Change as major areas in the US and Europe shiver during a summer without a summer. Somehow snow in June in the Dakotas doesn’t conjure up an image of an overheated planet. The purpose of both these scenarios was and is to establish absolute power in the hands of those who think they have our best interests at heart -- those with infallible knowledge to do good. But as with the monarchies of old, these elites simply want the power to control those they look down on. Read the passages over again, read the book. Is this the world we want to live in? This country rid itself of absolutist rule over two hundred years ago. We don’t need it now.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lance Armstrong, a true champion

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent story today on the return of Lance Armstrong to the Tour de France, cycling’s most prestigious race. At this moment he is in second place, only a fraction of a second behind. At 37, ancient by cycling standards, he is coming out of retirement that followed his 2005 win. He has won seven consecutive Tours, more than any other. The story is about the French warming up to him. It’s about time! I responded to the article. I would like to share my comments with you. "[M]any of the locals saw him as cold, arrogant and overly competitive."

My comments:

If they watched him race, they couldn't feel that way. When Lance's arch rival, Jan Uhlrich, took a spill on a hill climb, Lance doubled back to wait for him to remount and then won the race in one the greatest examples of sportsmanship ever. At another time he let Ivan Basso from a competitive team win a mountain stage he could easily have taken. Basso had given his all to pull a breakaway that left the two well in the lead. Both finished with the same time, but Lance gave him the glory of a stage win. When the organizers gimmicked the race and rules for the 2004 Tour to keep him from tying for most Tour wins, he never complained. What they did was limit the gain a team could achieve in the Team Time Trials that Lance's team had won the year before by an astronomical 3 plus minutes. For 2004 the maximum gain allowed between first and second was only 20 seconds and 10 seconds for every position after that. Lance's team won by 1 min 07 seconds, but was only given the 20 seconds. Lance had struggled a bit on the mountain stages the year before, so the organizers loaded the last 10 stages with 6 in the mountains (including an unprecidented 3 back to back). Lance won three, tied on time in one (Basso) and took the Tour. In my opinion Lance Armstrong is the world's greatest athlete, ever. And he has character. Any animus by the French against Lance is anti-Americanism. He was a non-European dominating a European sport. The French, especially their governing class, have a tough time with that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Robert Strange McNamara … a strange man

Robert McNamara died Monday at the age of 93. Not a lot will be written about him because he is reviled by the left for his role in the Viet Nam war, and reviled by others for his mismanagement and failures. I am one of the latter. McNamara throughout his career held himself in higher regard than those around him did. He felt his intelligence trumped all, even when he was barking up the wrong tree. Prior to being tapped by Jack Kennedy for Defense Secretary, he was President of Ford. He came to Ford as one of a dozen or so intellectuals Henry Ford II surrounded himself with when he realized he wasn’t the brightest bulb on the block. McNamara was largely responsible for the Edsel, a one size fits all concept the public would flock to because it was a Mercury sized product (big is better) that could be sold at a Ford price. It flopped and was killed in one of shortest production runs ever, just over two years. (Note: There is a lot of revisionist history about McNamara’s support for the Edsel. Countless recent articles and obituaries have him “actively opposed” to the Edsel, one even that he tried to sabotage it by pricing it too high. At the time of the Edsel launch in September 1957 he had been the president for 2 years of the Ford Division, the division that was responsible for it. Had he wanted to kill the Edsel, there is no doubt he could have. He didn’t. Contemporaneous writings do not indicate such doubts. At the time of the Mustang launch in 1964, countless articles compared Ioccaca’s success with the Mustang to McNamara’s failure with the Edsel. Only recent articles talk about his "opposition") For all his intellectual prowess he had trouble with details. When the Air Force wanted to reopen the production line for the F-105 in 1961, McNamara wanted the Air Force to buy the more capable Navy F4H Phantom II instead (actually one of his better decisions). During hearings, the Air Force referred to it as the F-110, their designation for the F4H (Navy designations were sequential by manufacturer, in this case H for McDonnell, the Air Force’s strictly sequential). This confused McNamara no end. Solution: He changed the designation system. Early on he looked for economies from commonality, not a bad concept but often impractical. One challenged service pride, by proposing common belt buckles for all services. Government contracted belt buckles of that era cost between 8 and 12 cents each, but with about 5 million a year, it would save some $150,000. The services were up in arms. McNamara and his whiz kids had no concept of service pride, where enlisted Marines often opt to pay for their own custom fitted dress uniforms at great expense, and they weren’t about to wear a brushed nickel buckle from the Air Force. Fortunately reason prevailed, but the incident spawned an ongoing torrent of underground and back channels communications about the Secretary. And it wasn’t positive. Early in his tenure rumors abounded that McNamara wanted to eliminate the Navy’s aircraft carriers and turn all aviation over to the Air Force. This was rejected, but instead McNamara mandated new carriers not be nuclear powered. This was based on a flawed Rand study that showed a nuclear task force would cost a miniscule 1% more than a conventional. The study was skewed to favor conventional propulsion as well as McNamara’s desires. It used a 20 year lifetime for a carrier (carriers built in that era actually stayed in commission over 45 years) and assumed no combat operations, only peacetime. Within three years we would discover how flawed the study was. To conduct flight ops from Yankee station off of North Vietnam, especially on hot, humid and calm summer days, carriers had to operate at full speed for sufficient wind over deck to launch. Because of the fuel consuming high speeds, carriers had to be refueled every 48 hours, necessitating a constant tanker train just to keep the carrier going. Eventually the nuclear powered Enterprise was brought over from the Atlantic Fleet to help alleviate the problem. His decision was invalidated after he left office. All carriers since then have been built with nuclear power. The communication revolution during the Vietnam War allowed command and control to be shifted from the field to Washington, which McNamara took full advantage of. Targets in the north were selected and planned in Washington with number of sorties, time over target together with other such minutia as bomb size and fuzing. Often this led to ridiculous situations as when the Navy had to beg to delay launches to allow the morning haze to burn off so they could find their targets. During much of the war, two targets were selected each week, one for the Air Force and one for the Navy. 100 sorties a day were allowed for each service. While this made life in the Pentagon simpler and predictable, it played havoc in the field. On the first day of a new target the North Vietnamese knew the target for the week. With this knowledge they moved their deadly anti- aircraft defenses to the new target, safe in the assumption no other target would be chosen for 6 days. My personal belief is we could have significantly altered the course of the war had we mined the port of Haiphong in 1967 or 8. We eventually did in 1972, but by that time we were committed to pulling out, and used it as a bargaining chip, not to win the war. There were massive amounts or military supplies entering that port to keep the war effort going in the south. Mining is a passive form of warfare that puts the onus on the ship’s owner and skipper. Nothing blows up unless a skipper decides to challenge the embargo. But McNamara opposed mining, mistakingly thinking it would bring China into the war by diminishing the Soviet role. But that totally ignores the antipathy caused by 850 years of occupation of Vietnam by the Chinese. McNamara’s efforts to quantify the tides of war, something he developed as an assistant to General LeMay during the fire raids on Japan, led to the use of body counts to evaluate our success in Vietnam. This often spawned needless and sometimes intentional collateral damage to inflate the counts. It also gave support to those opposing the war. I could keep going on, but I won’t other than to say Robert McNamara’s ineptness was a major factor in our defeat in SE Asia. The loss of our presence there eliminated any threat to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forces in Cambodia. Shortly after our departure they took over and slaughtered a third of Cambodia's population, nearly 2 million lost souls.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is Secretary of State Clinton on the way out?

There appears to be a rift developing between President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. It was bound to happen sometime. Her job has been diluted by four special envoys that report, not to her, but directly to the President. Her cabinet position was a buyoff to gain the Clintons’ support after Obama’s nomination. I reported on a secret meeting between Bill Clinton and candidate Obama in Harlem on 9/11, where no doubt a deal was made.. But deals between political enemies are short lived, especially when their purpose has been served. Obama got what he wanted, her heavily female loyalists and the presidency. She is excess baggage now -- especially when she challenges him on a critical issue. The first sign of friction came in a leak to the Washington Times yesterday that she and Obama had been on different wavelengths on the Iran crackdown. It goes on to say when Obama finally toughened his position, he blindsided her when he announced it. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged President Obama for two days to toughen his language on Iran before he did so, and then was surprised when he condemned Iran's crackdown on demonstrators last week, administration officials say…. This was the first known example of awkwardness between the two former rivals for the Democratic nomination for president since they made up following Mr. Obama's election. The disagreement also gave some insight into the Obama administration's foreign policy decision-making process five months into its term. The officials said they were familiar with the language Mr. Obama used in his news conference because it was sent to the State Department a day earlier, but that Mrs. Clinton did not know until he uttered the words that he would choose that moment to make them public. Then later in the day Secretary Clinton announced she would not accompany Obama on his trip to Moscow and would send a substitute instead. History will probably be made in Moscow with an agreement to reduce nuclear warheads to 1,500 on both sides. This is too important for Hillary to miss because of a cast on her arm, but she will. From AFP via Breitbart: Secretary Clinton is not going to go to Moscow. She is going to designate a State Department official to go," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. He did not give a reason but Clinton cancelled a trip to Greece and Italy last week because she is recovering from a broken elbow. There has always been bad blood between the Obama and Clinton camps, but most figured she would hang in there until late 2010 and form an exploratory committee to run for president in early 2011. She has the best political advisor in her husband, and it may well be he sees the new administration headed in a suicidal direction. Is it Obama tiring of Clinton or the other way around? Probably a bit of both. And I doubt it will get any better soon.