Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

Krauthammer – 2 for 2

Via The Corner, Charles Krauthammer on Fox’s News Hour with Brett Bair. First he talks about the pre-negotiated reduction of nuclear arms between Russia and the US:

That was the deal that Obama really was lusting after as a way to come home and to wave a diplomatic success.

The problem is that any deal on offensive nuclear weaponry is either useless or a detriment to the United States.

Useless because it makes no difference above a certain level how many warheads you have. We could suspend our negotiations today and say to the Russians: You can construct as many warheads as you want and spend yourselves into penury, as the Soviets did, to make weapons that are redundant, that will do nothing more than make the rubble bounce, as Churchill once said memorably.

It could be a detriment because the Russians have insisted on linkage between offensive and defensive weaponry. The reason it’s a detriment is because we have a huge technological advantage on defensive weaponry. We can shoot down a missile. The Russians can’t.

For 25 years, the Russians have attempted to get a curb on American defensive weaponry, starting at Reykjavik, where Gorbachev attempted to swindle Reagan out of our strategic defenses. Reagan said no. Bush 1 said no. Clinton said no. And Bush 2 said no.

Obama is wavering on this, and I think it could be a real catastrophe if he concedes. He already is wavering on the missile shield in Eastern Europe. Medvedev said we [he and Obama] agreed on linkage, and Obama himself had said it would be the subject of extensive negotiations.

Why negotiations with the Russians over a shield in the Czech Republic and Poland?

If he gives away the missile shield then he’s essentially given the Russian the advantage of not having to worry about losing any warheads to anti-missile defenses, thereby making any cuts, even by a third, painless. And, of course, he’s already ceded ground by agreeing to linkage and subjecting such a defense to “extensive negotiations”.

Reducing nuclear weapons is a laudable accomplishment. But weakening our defenses against such weapons as the price isn’t.

Sarah Palin:

If she thinks that this decision is a way to advance her political career, she is delusional. She could survive this. It’s possible. It may not be a fatal decision, but it’s not an advancement.

It is a quitting, and I think it’s largely a personal decision, a reasonable one. There was a lot of heat, a lot of attacks, and she wanted out, and that’s OK.

If there was a political calculation, it would have to be—if it were rational—that after the age of Obama, you know, way down the road, there are second acts in American politics. Reagan returned. Nixon returned. Clinton returned. It’s possible.

But she has to make herself serious. If she imagined she is going to be a Reagan-in-the-wilderness in the ’70’s and lead a movement, she has to be like Reagan, who was a serious man with serious ideas, who studied, who wrote, who thought, and made himself a major figure. If she doesn’t do that, she’s toast.

As much as I like Sarah Palin as a personality, I think Krauthammer has put his finger on her problem – she isn’t a Reagan or a Thatcher, or even a Nixon or Clinton. And as I’ve implied in some commentary to another blog post, with this highly partisan and poisonous political atmophere which gets 24/7 coverage, second acts are very, very hard to come by. And, as Krauthammer notes, when it’s “quitting” that defines your departure, a second act may be impossible.

~McQ

Speaking of Cap-and-Trade, More Inconvenient Truths

From Anthony Watts:

Given the U.S. Senate is about to vote upon the most complex and costly plan to regulate greenhouse gases, while the EPA suppresses earlier versions of the chart shown below from a senior analyst, this should give some pause to those who are rational thinkers. For those that see only dogma, I expect this will be greeted with jeers.

The chart in question is here:

uah_jun09

What it shows is we’ve undergone another drop in temperature this past month (coolest June since 1958). In fact:

This latest drop in global temperatures means despite his dire warnings, the Earth has cooled .74°F since former Vice President Al Gore released “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006.

It is also the information that the EPA tried to suppress recently despite the Obama administration’s pledge that science would now take precedence over ideology.

The new information adds to an 8 year trend of dropping global temperatures. Here’s another view of the same chart with a few important annotations:AIT-Index-7_09

The earth no more has a fever than Al Gore has a clue. But the science that continues to contest and debunk the nonsense Gore and the warmers have pushed out there is having a tough time overcoming the institutional impetus of a Congress, which is ideologically vested in the old message. And, of course, there’s the massive amounts of money and power (both for the government and certain private sources which have helped foment this panic) to be derived from legislation such as cap-and-trade.

This is a massive attempt by government to take more control of the economy, based in shaky science at best, and as Anthony Watts claims, pure dogma. When warmers such as Paul Krugman are reduced to calling scientific skeptics “traitors to the planet”, you know they’ve essentially lost the argument and now have only emotional and populist rhetoric left to defend the indefensible.

~McQ

Is Cap-and-Trade a Job Killer?

Of course it is.  If it wasn’t, why would a provision such as this be in the bill?

According to Friday’s Washington Times, the legislation includes language that provides, should it become law, that people who lose their jobs because of it “could get a weekly paycheck for up to three years, subsidies to find new work and other generous benefits—courtesy of Uncle Sam.”

How generous are these benefits? Well, according to the Times, “Adversely affected employees in oil, coal and other fossil-fuel sector jobs would qualify for a weekly check worth 70 percent of their current salary for up to three years. In addition, they would get $1,500 for job-search assistance and $1,500 for moving expenses from the bill’s ‘climate change worker adjustment assistance’ program, which is expected to cost $4.2 billion from 2011 to 2019.”

Unlike thinking countries who do indeed see a future for alternative energy (but understand “future” is the key word), it appears our government is set on destroying our current “fossil-fuel sector” and hope something will be available on the scale necessary among the alternatives to pick up the slack.

The term “amazingly short-sighted” seems appropriate here, doesn’t it? After Nancy Pelosi’s “jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs” comment concerning the ostensible purpose of the bill the Democrats then build in a provision which apparently is designed to soften the blow of legislatively killing a vital industry that, at the moment, has no real replacement.

Brilliant.

~McQ

Robert McNamara Dies

Joe Galloway, Vietnam’s “Ernie Pyle”, sums up my feelings about McNamara’s death about as well as anyone:

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” —Clarence Darrow (1857–1938)

Well, the aptly named Robert Strange McNamara has finally shuffled off to join LBJ and Dick Nixon in the 7th level of Hell.

McNamara was the original bean-counter — a man who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing.

~McQ

The White House Reacts To The Violence In China

Well, not exactly “reacts”. Instead it issues a statement when asked for a reaction:

We are deeply concerned over reports of many deaths and injuries from violence in Urumqi in western China. Reports, so far, are unclear about the circumstances surrounding the deaths and injuries, so it would be premature to comment or speculate further. We call on all in Xinjiang to exercise restraint.

Wasn’t this the same basic message candidate Obama issued concerning Georgia – You boys quite fighting now, you hear?

Here, let me finish the statement for them:

Because, you know, freedom isn’t worth fighting for, and besides Hillary made it clear we weren’t going to be bothering the Chicoms about human rights anymore – so you’re on your own.

Meanwhile an Amber alert has been issued for Hillary who has apparently gone missing in the State Department (although it is being reported that she’s going to meet with former Honduran president Mel Zelaya later this week).

Previous post on the situation that the White House seems not to know much about here.

~McQ

A Closer Look At European Health Care

We continue to hear how wonderful it is as compared to the horrible US system.

But is it? One of the fundamental truths of any health care system is you have infinite demand meeting finite resources (beds, doctors, availability, etc). Whatever system a country has, that truth doesn’t change.

So, regardless of system, there is going to be some sort of rationing. It is unavoidable and inevitable.

Now add a desire to control and cut costs associated with the provision of health care to the mix (the promise of every one of these government systems). On the one side, as European nations have done, access to health care is expanded to include everyone. On the other hand, these same nations attempt to control health care costs.

The result? Very mixed. France is always held up as the exception to the rule that government health care can’t be both good and inexpensive. But a closer examination seems to indicate that it isn’t an exception at all:

A World Health Organization survey in 2000 found that France had the world’s best health system. But that has come at a high price; health budgets have been in the red since 1988.

In 1996, France introduced targets for health insurance spending. But a decade later, the deficit had doubled to 49 billion euros ($69 billion).

“I would warn Americans that once the government gets its nose into health care, it’s hard to stop the dangerous effects later,” said Valentin Petkantchin, of the Institut Economique Molinari in France. He said many private providers have been pushed out, forcing a dependence on an overstretched public system.

Why have private providers been “pushed out”? Because government has provided health care “cheaper” than do private providers (and obviously at a loss given the deficit). Notice I said “cheaper”. That doesn’t necessarily mean “better”.

And the same thing is being seen in other European health care systems which are considered “models” of government run health care:

Similar scenarios have been unfolding in the Netherlands and Switzerland, where everyone must buy health insurance.

“The minute you make health insurance mandatory, people start overusing it,” said Dr. Alphonse Crespo, an orthopedic surgeon and research director at Switzerland’s Institut Constant de Rebecque. “If I have a cold, I might go see a doctor because I am already paying a health insurance premium.”

Cost-cutting has also hit Switzerland. The numbers of beds have dropped, hospitals have merged, and specialist care has become harder to find. A 2007 survey found that in some hospitals in Geneva and Lausanne, the rates of medical mistakes had jumped by up to 40 percent. Long ranked among the world’s top four health systems, Switzerland dropped to 8th place in a Europe-wide survey last year.

Dr. Crespo’s point is simply an astute observation of human nature. If something doesn’t directly cost the user, why would the user ration the use of such a benefit?

The use, however, still costs someone or something. The doctor must be paid, the institution must be paid, etc. So in the end, the only way to control costs is to cut payments. Eventually, the incentives to enter the health care field become less attractive (unless you like long hours, overrun waiting rooms, minimal time with patients, being second-guessed by a bureaucracy and making much less than a private system allows for compensation) and there are fewer that enter the field. Hospital beds then drop, hospitals merge and there are fewer specialists available to serve the population as Switzerland is discovering.

And then there’s the lack of innovation to face.

Bureaucracies are slow to adopt new medical technologies. In Britain and Germany, even after new drugs are approved, access to them is complicated because independent agencies must decide if they are worth buying.

When the breast cancer drug Herceptin was proven to be effective in 1998, it was available almost immediately in the U.S. But it took another four years for the U.K. to start buying it for British breast cancer patients.

The promise that has been made in the US is health care reform will return the decision making to the doctor. But that’s simply a false promise given the priorities of the reform we’ve been promised. It is to cut cost and make care “affordable” to all. Somewhere is a bureaucracy in waiting which will decide what “affordable” means – and it won’t include your doctor.

So you can expect innovation to begin to slow. Why invest billions when a bureaucracy will decide whether or not it’s a medicine or treatment worth the cost. The same bureaucracy will also decide what it will pay for your innovation. Of course, if the innovator can’t recover the cost of development and make a profit as incentive toward more innovation, the probability exits the developer will simply stop such research.

“Government control of health care is not a panacea,” said Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London think-tank. “The U.S. health system is a bit of a mess, but based on what’s happened in some countries in Europe, I’d be nervous about recommending more government involvement.”

Words of wisdom most likely to be ignored by our legislators here. And the unfortunate thing is it will not only destroy an excellent health care system here, but, given the level of government spending forecast, tank the rest of the economy as well.

~McQ

[HT: Carol D]

So What Could Cap-and-Trade Eventually Bring?

Well if the UK is any example, “green jackets”, a sort of environmental police force with the power to enter and search (with a blanket “warrant”) any company it so chooses to inspect. Is “Gestapo-like” tactics a stretch?

The boys in green are coming as the Environment Agency sets up a squad to police companies generating excessive CO2 emissions.

The agency is creating a unit of about 50 auditors and inspectors, complete with warrant cards and the power to search company premises to enforce the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which comes into effect next year.

Decked out in green jackets, the enforcers will be able to demand access to company property, view power meters, call up electricity and gas bills and examine carbon-trading records for an estimated 6,000 British businesses. Ed Mitchell, head of business performance and regulation at the Environment Agency, said the squad would help to bring emissions under control. “Climate change and CO2 are the world’s biggest issues right now. The Carbon Reduction Commitment is one of the ways in which Britain is responding.”

The formation of the green police overcomes a psychological hurdle in the battle against climate change. Ministers have long recognised the need to have new categories of taxes and criminal offences for CO2 emissions, but fear a repetition of the fuel tax protests in 2000 when lorry drivers blockaded refineries.

Criminal offenses for “CO2 emissions” – Orwell saw this coming but clearly he didn’t understand that it would be based in criminalizing a natural byproduct of respiration and trace atmospheric gas, did he?

Again, it’s the precedent this sets which is both upsetting and dangerous. Probable cause? Green Jackets don’t need no probable cause!

Let freedom ring.

~McQ

Deadly Clashes in China

I assume, since China is a totalitarian state, that the US won’t have anything to say about the violence there for at least 10 days:

The official death toll in riots in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region rose sharply Monday, with the government saying that 140 had been killed in what appears to be one of the deadliest episodes of unrest in China in decades.

Police said at least 828 other people were injured in violence that began Sunday in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Witnesses said the conflicts pitted security forces against demonstrators, and members of the region’s Turkic-speaking Uighur ethnic group against members of the country’s Han Chinese majority. Many among the predominantly Muslim Uighurs have chafed at Chinese government rule.

[…]

As evening fell in Urumqi Monday, witnesses said that paramilitary troops of the People’s Armed Police, backed by armored personnel carriers, were patrolling largely calm city streets. Many businesses remained shuttered and gates of the city’s central bazaar, which was the scene of unrest Sunday night, were closed.

Police said they were still searching for dozens of people suspected of fanning the violence. Several hundred people have already been arrested in connection with the riot, police said, and the government said it was bringing “ethnic officials” from nearby areas to help with interrogations.

Of course the reason given by the Chinese government is much the same as that given by the Iranian government concerning the problems there –

The government blamed the unrest on a prominent exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, an activist group. Sunday’s demonstration was “instigated and directed from abroad,” according to a government statement cited by Xinhua.

Given that statement, you can expect silence from the Obama administration as they’ll want to ensure they’re not seen as “meddling” in China’s internal affairs. And I can promise you that the Uighur dissidents being rounded up by China’s police forces will not be offered a vacation in Bermuda.

Apparently the only country in which the “no meddling” policy is waved is Honduras.

~McQ

Zelaya Tries To Return To Honduras

He took off a few hours ago from the US in – wait for it – a Venezuelan plane. Naturally the UN has actually gotten off of its rear-end and taken what, for it, is “action”. The UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann and a number of journalists are accompanying former Honduran president Mel Zelaya.

Honduras, naturally, has said Zelaya isn’t welcome and has stated they will arrest him should he try to reenter the country. The OAS, in the meantime, has suspended Honduras from the organization.

The interim government (which some news organizations are characterizing as a “military government”) pleads for the rest of the world to back off and let Honduras work this out.

But, with apparently everything under control and in tip top shape in their respective countries, the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay, along with the head of the OAS have time to fly  to El Salvador to “monitor events.”

Meanwhile it is reported that Nicaragua is moving troops toward the Honduran border.  All of this tacitly green-lighted by the Obama administration’s stance.

Fausta is now reporting:

The Venezuelan plane carrying deposed president Mel Zelaya landed in El Salvador, according to Honduran daily El Heraldo. Venezuelan chancellor Nicolás Maduro verified that the airplane was Venezuelan and identified it as YV-1496.

But that’s not meddling – no siree.

Honduras has reported it will not allow the landing of the Venezuelan aircraft carrying Zelaya in Honduras. My guess is they’ll now try to drive into Honduras from El Salvador.

Developing …

Questions and Observations #3

For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” means.

  • Whether you love her, hate her or really don’t care, it is hard too argue against the assertion that  Sarah Palin effectively ended any national aspirations she might have had by announcing her pending resignation (assuming there isn’t some extremely compelling private family reason for doing so). The first thing any political opponent is going to say is “she quit on the citizens of Alaska, will she quit on you?”
  • The story about the Washington Post selling access to the Obama administration isn’t just about the WaPo. Seems to me there had to be some a) knowledge of the plan and b) cooperation from the White House for it to have been as far along as it was. After all, the first “salon” was scheduled to be held at the publisher’s home in 2 weeks. Is anyone exploring that angle?
  • How concerned is Saudi Arabia with the probability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons? Apparently enough to make it known they’ll turn a blind eye to any Israeli incursion which crosses the kingdom in order to strike Iran.
  • Apparently the scales have finally fallen from Colin Powell’s eyes concerning Obama and the direction he’s taking this country. Formerly Powell’s message was that American’s wanted more government and were willing to pay for it. He now says he’s concerned with the number of programs, the legislation associated with them and the cost of the additional government they’ll entail. “We can’t pay for it,” he’s now saying? Better late than never, I suppose, but this just underscores my disaffection with Powell politically.
  • Speaking of Sarah Palin, apparently the federal investigation rumors (FBI looking into irregularities concerning the sports complex in Wasilla, etc.) and pending indictment are false. An FBI spokesman in Alaska has said there is no pending indictment or ongoing investigations of her. Concerning the ongoing rumor he says, “it’s just not true”.
  • The after effects of the recent “election” in Iran continue to eat away at the foundation of the “Islamic Republic”. The Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum split with Ayotallah Khamenei declaring both the election and the new govenrment “illegitimate”. That is a very public and unprecedented challenge to Khamenei’s power. Additionally Moussavi’s campaign has released a report that outlines the election violations in detail. These are very serious challenges to the regime’s legitimacy.
  • Speaking of Iran, it appears that while the world is ready to ratchet up the pressure on the regime in light of its brutal put down of pro-democracy protesters, the Obama administration is apparently prepared to block any sanctions agreed upon at the G8 summit. I swear I can’t figure that bunch out – support the dictator in Iran and mischaracterize a legal use of constitutional power in Honduras in support of another would-be dictator there.
  • The law of unintended consequences continues to operate unabated. Governments, desperate for revenue, have raised property taxes all across the country. Homeowners, knowing their home values have plummeted, are filing an unprecedented number of appeals. Those appeals are costing the governments huge amounts of money in refunds and attorney’s fees. However, homeowners should note that if they don’t appeal, the government will gladly screw them to the wall with an unjustified tax increase. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?

~McQ