Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Enabling Missile Technology To Go To China – Again

One of the reasons Democrats are pounded on their seeming lack of interest in National Security are things like this:

President Obama recently shifted authority for approving sales to China of missile and space technology from the White House to the Commerce Department — a move critics say will loosen export controls and potentially benefit Chinese missile development.

The president issued a little-noticed “presidential determination” Sept. 29 that delegated authority for determining whether missile and space exports should be approved for China to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Now the folks at Commerce say, hey, don’t worry, we’ll make sure they don’t get the good stuff:

Commerce officials say the shift will not cause controls to be loosened in regards to the export of missile and space technology.

Eugene Cottilli, a spokesman for Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, said under new policy the U.S. government will rigorously monitor all sensitive exports to China.

Except this is exactly the same set up which, under the Clinton administration, enabled China’s missile and rocket program to make its own “great leap forward”.

Let’s summarize – previous setup under Commerce:  rocket and missile technology manages to find its way to China.   Setup is changed to where the entity charged with national security must approve such sales:  technology transfer stops.

So why, then, would you abandon something that works and re-erect the setup that didn’t?

Well, one could logically conclude, among other things, that you’re not real serious about national security – that’s why.


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Will Balloon Boy Be The New Schiavo?

Call it a hunch .., because, well, it is … but I have this sneaky suspicion that the balloon boy and his family will turn into the new Schiavo case for the GOP. None of us know what actually happened, and anybody with an ounce of human dignity can only be happy that the child was not actually an errant passenger in that derelict dirigible. All the skepticism seems to hinge upon an offhand comment from a six-year-old, whom I know from experience are less than reliable sources of information (“What did you do in school today, son?” “Nothing.” “Did you play with any of your friends?” “I don’t remember.”). Yet, the way this story is being pressed, I fully expect that some Republican upstart is going to seize the opportunity to turn the attention on him or herself, turning what should be a passing tale of tragedy averted into a crusade for (yet more) state control over the task of parenting.

I truly hope that I’m wrong. That cooler heads will prevail. That, if indeed the parents set this whole thing up as a publicity stunt, the local authorities will handle it sternly, yet quietly. “We” don’t need to be involved, and even more importantly, there is no reason at all that Congress should be sticking it’s nose into the situation.

But I can’t help but think, given how the GOP so successfully delegitimized itself in the now-infamous Terry Schiavo case, somehow or another they will find a way to do so here. The perceived moral high ground will be too tempting, once again, and the party that used to believe in limited government (at least, during the Reagan years) will find a way to insert itself into a place that no limited-government advocate would ever want to be. When all we should be thinking is, “thank God that kid is safe.”

With the current challenges to the entrenched Republican power, I can understand why taking up the banner for poor Falcon’s safety will seem so irresistible. After all, establishment candidates are having a difficult time with the conservative base, and anyone whose been paying attention knows that the boiling Tea Partiers are not particularly keen to just toss out Democrats in the next election. Republicans who continue to support the profligate ways of Washington are just as vulnerable.

All the more reason then to show how the Grand Old Party cares more about life and death than those dirty Democrats, just a they did with Schiavo, by meddling in the affairs of a local issue that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans for the rest of the country. Hey, those votes aren’t going to buy themselves!

This is one of those times that I really hope I’m wrong, and that reasonable minds prevail. But politics being what it is, I think there is a very real chance that some idiot Republican is going to start a movement in Congress to save the Falcons of the world. Because Lord knows that when there’s a problem to be solved, only the federal government can provide the necessary answers.

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Senate Health Care Bill Will See 1/3 Of US On Welfare

That’s a truly stunning number.  90 million will be on either SCHIP or Medicaid (not Medicare … Medicaid) if the Senate Finance version of health care becomes ObamaCare according to the Heritage Foundation:

But of those 29 million with new insurance coverage, almost half (14 million), will get their coverage through the welfare programs Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). That is equivalent to adding every resident of Ohio and Nevada to the welfare rolls.

In other words, for half of those Americans who are being promised health reform, they are going to be stunned to find themselves in a welfare office applying for Medicaid. Under the current baselines for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), there will be 76 million individuals served by these programs for at least some part of the year in 2019. If the SFC proposal becomes law, the number on Medicaid/SCHIP will top 90 million.

So why does the government want to push so many people into SCHIP and Medicaid asks Heritage? Because it is cheaper than providing them with competitive (and private) health care coverage (and access). Medicaid pays about 20 to 25% less than private insurance. As you might imagine then, it is hard to find doctors or hospitals which accept Medicaid patients. The obvious question then is how are those who do going to handle this huge influx of patients? The obvious answer is “not very well”. Shorter office visits and longer waits for appointments are inevitable.

And here’s another hidden truth:

The majority of individuals moved into Medicaid will be young and healthy. Keeping them on welfare rolls will shift even more costs to individuals and families buying private health insurance, as doctors and hospitals recoup their losses from Medicare/SCHIP by charging more to the privately insured. In effect, the congressional policy seems to be to expand dependency by discriminating against individuals based on their income.

Emphasis mine. With the addition, then, of a public option – the Democrats “single payer” Trojan Horse – companies would begin dumping employees coverage in favor of a cheaper “fine” for doing so. The rest is fairly inevitable. “Choice and competition” would then become redefined post-modern terms having nothing to do with their traditional meanings.

I listened to Sen. Judd Gregg yesterday talking about legislative tipping points. He said that at some point in the life of a bill, its passage become inevitable. He says some form of health care legislation is going to pass and Democrats will use whatever parliamentary tricks necessary to do so. That’s now beyond question. What its final form will be is the only question. That said, it’s worth remembering the words of Cheri Jacobus when considering the final form of the bill and what passage of this monstrosity will eventually mean to our freedoms and liberty:

A little bit of government control over health care requires even more government control over healthcare in order to make it all “work.”

Of course that’s “work” as defined by government which has no relevance whatsoever to cost, efficiency or quality. Especially when they are in full control.  The unfunded future liabilities of current government programs make that abundantly clear.  So given their track record you have to ask:  how did they suddenly become the experts in how to make this system better?  Counter-intuitive, isn’t it?

One-third of the country on medical welfare. It just staggers the mind. The rhetorical questions, being studiously ignored by the media and Congress, abound – who will pay for this? What choice will we really have? Where is the real competition? By what right do you make us participate in this (“right”, not power)? Why can’t we opt out? Etc.

I think we all know the answers.


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Quote Of The Day

Peter Beinart is pretty sure Barack Obama is on his way to political superstardom and therefore liberals ought to quit whining about his lack of accomplishment:

If he gets health-care reform, Obama will have done more to rebuild the American welfare state in one year than his two Democratic predecessors, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, did in a combined twelve.

That has got to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Because rebuilding the “American welfare state” is what government is all about.


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Your Government BS Statistic Of The Day – “Saved” And Created Jobs

The Magic Unicorn and Snake Oil show that is the federal government has invented a new statistic for your entertainment, because it certainly has no real meaning. Why do I say that, you ask?

Well read this and tell me what you think:

The first direct stimulus reports showed that stimulus contracts saved or created just 30,083 jobs, prompting more Republican criticism of the $787 billion package.

The data posted Thursday was the result of the government’s initial attempt at counting actual stimulus jobs. Obama administration officials stressed that data was partial — it represented just $16 billion out of the $339 billion awarded — but they said it exceeded their projections.

Two points – we have no idea, given that number, what percentage were “saved” and what percentage were created. But it is clear that the claim of saving a job is a useful tool to pad the total. Even then, however, that means that each “saved” or created job cost you, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, $533,000 per job. And yes, that’s for those “saved” as well.

Doesn’t government efficiency just dazzle the heck out of you?

Fear not, though, you haven’t seen all the magic unicorns or snake oil yet. Feast your eyes on this:

“All signs — from private estimates to this fragmentary data — point to the conclusion that the Recovery Act did indeed create or save about 1 million jobs in its first seven months, a much needed lift in a very difficult period for our economy,” said Jared Bernstein, the chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden.

According to the White House recovery office’s rough calculations, the 30,083 jobs number projects out to a total of 1.2 million jobs saved or created by the stimulus through September.

Yessiree – when they get into the projecting business, why it’s even better than they thought. It seems – according to those wonderful projections – that we’ve been able to “save” or create 1.2 million jobs, at least in the world of statistics. Again, how many are “saved” vs. created seems to be an unknown. But whatever the mix, 1.2 million seems to be the number they’ll be crowing about.

Of course what they’ll be trying to forget are those other numbers they originally promised when they were selling the magic unicorns and snake oil called “the stimulus”. Seems the rubes were told that passage of that fantastic piece of legislation would most certainly “save” or create 3 to 4 million jobs.

Oh … that and keep unemployment under 8%.

Drink up folks – Dr. Obama’s elixer is guaranteed not to slip, rip, tear,  get rusty or roll down the hill sideways. Helps your wallet, does you good and makes child birth pleasant, besides the benefit you get from it. Now who’ll have another bottle of Dr. Obama’s Magic stimulus tonic?

Ah, Dr. Krugman wants more, doesn’t he?


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CBO Outs Cap-And-Trade Lies – Democrats Don’t Care

Which lies?  Well in this case I’m talking about the lie that cap-and-trade will be a green job bonanza and an overall job producer and that it will stimulate the economy. Not so says the CBO:

So, instead of stimulating economic growth, it will slow it and instead of creating net jobs, it will be a job killer. Tell me again how that’s a “good thing” in a recession?

A House-passed bill that targets climate change through a cap-and-trade system of pollution credits would slow the nation’s economic growth slightly over the next few decades and would create “significant” job losses fr-om fossil fuel industries as the country shifts to renewable energy, the head of the Congressional Budget Office told a Senate energy panel Wednesday.

CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf emphasized that his estimates contained significant uncertainties and “do not include any benefits from averting climate change,” but his message nevertheless contrasted sharply with those of President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders, who have suggested that a cap on carbon emissions would help revive the U.S. economy.

How much will it slow the economy? Elmendorf’s estimates:

Elmendorf testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the cap-and-trade provisions of the House bill — in which emitters of greenhouse gases would be able to buy and sell pollution credits — would cut the nation’s gross domestic product by 0.25 to 0.75 percent in 2020 compared with “what it would otherwise have been,” and by 1 to 3.5 percent in 2050.

That in the face of growing skepticism over the science supporting the premise that a) man is causing the climate change problem and b) that man can actually “change” nature’s direction in that regard.

But that doesn’t matter. Reps Waxman and Markey have decided that it is necessary regardless of the science, cost or what you want. They have a planet to save you see and it’s all our fault we’re in the situation we’re in now:

“The harsh reality is that America’s global warming and energy challenges are just too important for us to keep mailing it in by not enacting a comprehensive energy and global warming bill.”

So they plan on passing this tax which will slow growth, increase joblessness and impact most those who can afford it the least. Why would they concern themselves with that when the possibility exists they might be able to save a couple of polar bears.

Congress’s approval ratings effectively reflect their priorities – and as you can tell, constituents have figured out their priorities have nothing to do with the needs of constituents or the nation.


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The False Self-Esteem Generation Are Now Parents

We’ve talked about the effects that false self-esteem is likely to have on children raised to think every little thing they did, to include failure, was “awesome”.  A couple of decades ago, some parents of the “me” generation adopted the false self-esteem nonsense Nathaniel Branden published in ‘The Psychology of Self-Esteem” (1969) which purported that the most important factor in raising a child was instilling a health sense of self-worth:

For decades afterward, children’s television shows reminded their young viewers that they were the most important people in the world. Teachers heaped praise upon even the most lackluster students, and little league coaches dispensed trophies to anyone who showed up to play. Criticism and competition became suspect.

That spawned the “all about me” generation. And that generation is now parents. As you might imagine, the way they were raised has had a less than desireable effect on how some of them approach the job of being a mom or dad. Christine Rosen has a long but fascinating article covering the topic. It’s worth the read and should stimulate some very interesting commentary.


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Putin, Iran, Nuke Talks And First Strikes

Vladimir “Pooty Poot” Putin, with the opportunity to either back the words of Russia’s president that sometimes sanctions are just necessary or the Foreign Minister’s words of yesterday, chose to back the FM’s:

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme was “premature”.

Putin, who many diplomats, analysts, and Russian citizens believe is still Russia’s paramount leader despite stepping down as president last year, was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow for two days of talks.

“There is no need to frighten the Iranians,” Putin told reporters in Beijing after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

“We need to look for a compromise. If a compromise is not found, and the discussions end in a fiasco, then we will see.”

“And if now, before making any steps (towards holding talks) we start announcing some sanctions, then we won’t be creating favourable conditions for them (talks) to end positively. This is why it is premature to talk about this now.”

There’s more afoot here than just stiffing the US, although that seems to have become a bit of a game for the Russians lately. Iran is very important in the Russian scheme to have hegemony over its “near abroad”. It is interested in Iran, not because of its oil, but mostly because of its natural gas. Russia is the major supplier of NG to Europe. Iran is another potential source. Russia sees an advantage in exercising nominal control over Iran’s supply of NG by maintaining friendly relations. That control allows them to use the supply of NG as leverage.  Power and money talk – “reset” buttons don’t.

Another little change in Russia’s approach to the world today is their possible change in their nuclear arms strategy:

Russia is weighing changes to its military doctrine that would allow for a “preventive” nuclear strike against its enemies — even those armed only with conventional weapons. The news comes just as American diplomats are trying to get Russia to cut down its nuclear stockpile, and put the squeeze on Iran’s suspect nuclear program.

Not exactly the position you’d like to see them take if you have a goal of reducing nuclear stockpiles. And note that Russia not only reserves the right to make a preemptive nuclear strike, but reserves that right to use nuclear weapons against a foe that is armed with conventional weapons only.

As for those talks, this seems to be the Russian negotiating position:

In the interview, he takes a swipe at the United States and NATO, saying that the alliance “continues to press for the admission of new members to NATO, the military activities of the bloc are intensifying, and U.S. strategic forces are conducting intensive exercises to improve the management of strategic nuclear weapons.”

In other words, Moscow is holding to a hard line, precisely at a time when Washington is trying to play nice. The administration wants the Kremlin’s help — to pressure Iran, to revive the arms-control process — but the bear still needs to brandish nukes.

Cutting through the clutter, it seems their initial demands will have little to do with nukes and everything to do with what they deem encroachments into their sphere of influence. That may lead to some talks about nuke stockpiles, but it appears those may end up aimed mostly at US reductions and not so much those of the Russians (who may claim to have unilaterally gotten rid of many nukes because they couldn’t afford to keep them up during the transition from the USSR to its present state).

In the meantime, it is reported that the US will allow Russian inspectors on US sites – apparently granted with absolutely nothing in return. Again.

If you have the feeling we’re going to get rolled in any future nuclear arms talks, join the club.


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“Zero Tolerance” May Cost Eagle Scout West Point Opportunity

I think this case may actually be more representative of what Michael was trying to get across the other day in his post about the 6 year old’s eating utensils:

As a 17-year-old Eagle Scout continues to wait out a one-month suspension from his upstate New York high school for having a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car, the U.S. Military Academy says the missed school days could pose a big problem when it reviews his application.

Yes, you read it right, the two inch knife, a gift from his grandfather, was in a locked car in a survival kit. Ironically, the knife is not even considered to be a “weapon” by the New York State Education Department definitions. But that didn’t stop the school from suspending Matthew Whalen for 5 days when they found out he had the knife in his car.  It later tacked on another 15 days after a hearing (he must have stood up for himself).

Whalen has plans to apply to West Point but is concerned this suspension will hurt him when the review process is done:

On Wednesday, West Point’s director of admissions told that Whalen’s suspension alone wouldn’t be a “show-stopper” and “didn’t appear to be a big issue” for the youth, though it will appear on his record as the military academy considers his moral and ethical fiber.

“My concern would be, how does this impact on his academics?” said Col. Deborah McDonald, the academy’s head of admissions. “Because 20 (school) days is a long time to be suspended.”

And it goes without saying, in an environment as competitive as being admitted to West Point, this could knock him out of the running.

Says the Superintendent of Schools in Troy, NY:

But the Lansingburgh School District is not budging. A person reached at the home of a school board member referred all calls to the superintendent, who told a local newspaper he thinks the punishment was “appropriate and fair,” and that it was necessary for the district to enforce its zero-tolerance policy evenly.

“Sometimes young people do things they may not see as serious,” Superintendent George Goodwin told the Albany Times-Union. “We look at any possession of any type of knife as serious.”

“Appropriate and fair”? A 2 inch knife locked in a car is “serious” enough to warrant a 20 day suspension?

That’s absurd. And so is hiding behind the “we must enforce the policy evenly”.

New York State, by the way, doesn’t require rigid adherence to “zero tolerance” or “even” enforcement. Apparently they think the districts should have discretion over how the policy is enforced, implying at least, that it expects its administrators to use their freaking heads when they consider each case and not make more of something than it really is, such as this case.

Meanwhile a seemingly good kid who wants to go to West Point is watching his chances melt away while the idiots hiding behind “zero tolerance” rule refuse to reconsider the 20 day suspension:

“The board hasn’t even taken the issue,” said Bryan Whalen, Matthew’s father. “As far as the superintendent is concerned, he’s made his decision and we haven’t been offered the opportunity to even appeal that at a board meeting.”

This is a text book case about why “zero tolerance” is, on its face, an absurd policy that can and does end up hurting good students. Superintendents have a responsibility to the students in their district and hiding behind inflexible rules that hurt those students instead of doing the hard work of fairly judging the situation and giving an appropriate punishment (if punishment is deemed necessary) is an abrogation of that responsibility.

It is my considered opinion that Superintendent George Goodwin should be suspended without pay for 20 working days for being an irresponsible administrator more interested in ducking the situation than doing what is right for his students.  It is time to scrap “zero tolerance” and put administrators back to work using their heads instead of hiding behind inflexible and in many cases, stupid rules.


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So Much For “The Content Of His Character” In Baltimore

If the mayor isn’t black then that’s unacceptable to the Maryland NAACP.  You see the present mayor (who is black) is about to be convicted of seven theft-related charges will have to vacate the office.  That has put the state NAACP in a low hover.  Apparently they don’t want the governor appointing someone that doesn’t look like them if that’s the case. Marvin L. Cheatham, the president of the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP had this to say:

“Our concern is who would the governor appoint?” Cheatham said. “Here you have a predominantly African-American city. What if the governor appointed somebody white? … Would he appoint someone Irish to be the mayor?”

Oh my goodness – someone white? Heaven forbid! And lord help us all, certainly not someone “Irish”!

Now to the point – let’s replace some words, shall we?

“Our concern is who would the governor appoint?” Cheatham said. “Here you have a predominantly white city. What if the governor appointed somebody black? … Would he appoint someone African-American to be the mayor?”

Anyone – what would that statement be branded as? Here, let me spell it out for you. It would be called r-a-c-i-s-t.

Racist. And it is blatant racism, just like the real quote above it.

Here’s the irony.

The governor has absolutely nothing to do with such an appointment. Nada. The state defers to the city, and the city council president becomes the mayor to fill the term per the city charter.  All of this came from Cheatham hearing someone discuss the topic on a talk radio show.  It was all nonsense.

But that didn’t stop the state NAACP at the behest of Cheatham from passing a resolution asking the governor to defer to the city in picking the next mayor. As Cheatham says it passed “nearly unanimously” with little debate.

Cheatham also said he worried that a future Republican governor could appoint someone from his party to lead a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 9 to 1. “Would not the Republican governor have the ability to pick a Republican mayor?” he asked. “We just think there are some unanswered questions about the process,” Cheatham said.

We think so too, Mr. Cheatham – like why you use code words like “Republican” when, in fact, you mean “white”, you racist twit.

“Post-racial” my rear end.  Time for a little diversity training in MD, wouldn’t you say?


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