Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

That Was Then. This Is Now.

So, the deal was supposed to work like this: The government takes over Chrysler, then sells a big chunk of it to Fiat.  In return, Chrysler would give us all these cool, American-made electric cars that would turn the planet sparkly, and make the unicorns smile.

6 April 2009:

If you’re tooling around in a Chrysler electric vehicle in a few years, you’ll still be driving an American car.

While some other companies are looking to foreign battery suppliers, Chrysler said Monday that it’s going to stay all-American. It announced it is choosing A123 Systems, a Massachusetts company, as its battery supplier. A123 will make the battery packs for Chrysler’s wave of electric vehicles at a new plant in Michigan. The first will hit the streets in 2010, says Lou Rhodes, vice president of advanced vehicle engineering for Chrysler. With Monday’s announcement, Chrysler is “that much closer” to getting its vehicle on the road.

Of course, the news that it could generate more American jobs could play well in Washington, D.C., where Chrysler is under the gun from the Obama administration to close its deal with Italy’s Fiat and take other drastic steps if it wants up to $6 billion in additional government loans.

How’s that working out for us?

11 November, 2009:

Chrysler has disbanded the engineering team that was trying to bring three electric models to market as a rush job, Automotive News reports today. Chrysler cited its devotion to electric vehicles as one of the key reasons why the Obama administration and Congress needed to give it $12.5 billion in bailout money, the News points out.

The change of heart on electric vehicles has come under Fiat. At a marathon presentation of Chrysler’s five-year strategy, CEO Sergio Marchionne talked about just about everything on Chrysler’s plate last week except its earlier electric-car plans. With the group’s disbanding, Chrysler’s electric plans will be melded into Fiat’s. Marchionne is apparently no fan of electric power:

He says electrics will only make up 1% or 2% of Fiat sales by 2014 and that he doesn’t put a lot of faith in the technology until battery developments are pushed forward.

Now, the unicorns are crying.  And considering the money we shelled out, we should be, too.

If you’re tooling around in a Chrysler electric vehicle in a few years, you’ll still be driving an American car.

While some other companies are looking to foreign battery suppliers, Chrysler said Monday that it’s going to stay all-American. It announced it is choosing A123 Systems, a Massachusetts company, as its battery supplier. A123 will make the battery packs for Chrysler’s wave of electric vehicles at a new plant in Michigan. The first will hit the streets in 2010, says Lou Rhodes, vice president of advanced vehicle engineering for Chrysler. With Monday’s announcement, Chrysler is “that much closer” to getting its vehicle on the road.

Of course, the news that it could generate more American jobs could play well in Washington, D.C., where Chrysler is under the gun from the Obama administration to close its deal with Italy’s Fiat and take other drastic steps if it wants up to $6 billion in additional government loans.

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Ft. Hood – Intel Failure A Contributor?

One of the jobs of intelligence services is to “connect the dots” and paint a picture with them of looming threats.

Does anyone remember what one of the supposed lessons of 9/11 was?  That intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the services all need to talk and share what they know.  It was the compartmentalization of intelligence which some blame the tragedy of 9/11 on.  The dots were there, but each agency and service was holding them close to their chest and not sharing.  As it turned out, what each had wasn’t enough for that agency or service to positively identify the threat, but when put together, after the fact, painted a pretty clear picture that they should have seen.

Almost 9 years later, if what we’re hearing about Ft. Hood is true, the same problem, at least to some degree, still exists:

Pentagon officials said Tuesday that no one in the U.S. intelligence or law-enforcement community, despite all the new ways information is shared, warned them that accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been in contact with a radical Islamic cleric living in Yemen who had known three of the 9/11 hijackers. The officials said that information was provided to them only after Thursday’s shooting spree.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was tipped about Maj. Hasan based on his communications with the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, was probably in the best position to flag officials at the Army or the Pentagon. But the FBI says communications between the men were innocuous and didn’t warrant more than the basic assessment it performed. Without directly pointing any fingers, the bureau also says members of the military served on two separate FBI-led counterterrorism task forces that reviewed the contacts between Mr. Awlaki and Maj. Hasan.

The content of the pair’s communications didn’t raise red flags because terrorism task-force members checked with the military and found that Maj. Hasan was an Army psychiatrist who conducted research and was working on a master’s degree, FBI officials said.

So assumptions were made by the FBI that apparently made them decide this wasn’t information which needed to be shared with the organization with whom Hasan worked. However, had that information been added to the already growing information the Army was acquiring about Hasan internally, would it have made a difference?

I, nor anyone else, can answer that question. However, the fact remains, given the existence of this information, that the Army’s information about Hasan was incomplete. And, it can be suggested, had it been provided, the Army may have taken a much more critical look at Hasan than it apparently did.

That’s not to say Hasan would have been removed, forced out of the Army or anything else by the disclosure of this information. He may have been. But it does give you an idea of what an intelligence failure – in this case the failure to share information that we now know may have connected the dots the Army already had, or prompted them into a more thorough investigation – can cost lives.

There are many, many more things to discuss about this massacre, but that’s one that shouldn’t be among them. This was supposedly solved by all those commissions and a intelligence czar and regulations and laws which required everyone share intel. Now we have a prima facia case where we find out that isn’t the case. And the results were deadly.

This also points to what may be a wider problem and one that could be – again – just as deadly, if not more so, in the future. This needs to be fixed once and for all, and if heads need to figuratively roll to reinforce the point and make it happen, then get to choppin’.

~McQ

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The Judas Goat (update)

Bill Clinton visited Senatorial Democrats yesterday and told them to “just do it” when it comes to passing the health care bill.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Clinton told the caucus that when the bill is passed, the American public will begin to realize that “none of the bad things that people are talking about will come to pass.”

Well, except their taxes are going up immediately with no benefit (until 2013) and possibly killing any recovery – not to mention the debt increasing.  And then there’s that little thing about the majority of Americans not wanting anything to do with the monstrosity the Democrats have concocted and preferring they kill this bill and start over with clearer and much more limited goals.  Not to mention the polls which show a majority of the country agreeing it’s headed in the wrong direction, mostly because of the radical increase in the size and scope of government. Or how about joblessness and economic recovery ignored for more government intrusion and spending?

But hey, Dems, blow all that off, listen to Bill and suck it up. He wouldn’t lie to you, would he?

Meanwhile Gallup, apparently not privy to the Clinton promise, found:

Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48% to 44% among registered voters in the latest update on Gallup’s generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, after trailing by six points in July and two points last month.

Phaa – no biggie, Bill has it all figured out:

But, he pointed out that while Republicans have already been emboldened by divisions within the Democratic Party over reform, passing a bill can turn the tide.

“And the opposition has already been generated,” he said, “but if the support gets disenchanted, then the turnout goes down and surveys don’t mean anything.”

Except, perhaps, the “survey” taken on the first Tuesday in November of 2010 – less than a year away. But let’s not dwell on negatives!

So “don’t worry, be happy”, Dems. Do the Clinton thing and take one for the party. I mean it’s not like Bill Clinton has ever given bad advice or been at the helm during an electoral disaster, is it?

UPDATE: An apparently inspired Harry Reid has put the Senate health care bill on the Senate calendar. That alone ought to tell you how bad an idea this is for Democrats.

~McQ

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Happy Veteran’s Day

I wrote this in 2006, and it is as true today as then. Our combat troops are the best the world has ever seen – but without those who support them so well they wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective as they are.

—————-

Anyone who doubts all veteran’s are heroes need read no further. But for the vast majority of you who do, I’d like to take a little different slant in my tribute than you might read elsewhere. Most of the time when you read tributes to vets, they’re filled with the stories of those who’ve suffered in combat and we see pictures showing the battle-weary combat vets which pointedly make the argument about the sacrifices our veterans have made and continue to make.

But not all sacrifices are made on the field of battle. While infantry, armor and artillery are the combat arms – the tip of the spear – they, better than anyone, know how important the team that makes up the rest of the spear are to their success on the battlefield.

Those F-16s don’t show up on target at the right time unless that kid flying the boom of a KC10 tanker at 30,000 feet at 2am doesn’t do his job. That sabot round from an M1A1 fired at a threatening T72 isn’t there unless the truck driver hauling ammo day in and day out gets that ammo where it needs to be when it needs to be there.

Veterans are the guys like the cook who gets up every morning at 3:30 am and begins to prepare breakfast for his guys and gals. The kid below deck on an aircraft carrier who makes sure the F/A 18 he’s responsible for maintaining is in perfect shape and ready to fly. The nurse who holds a dying soldier’s hand as he takes his last breath, wipes away the tears, straightens her uniform and heads out to do it again.

He’s the kid in the fuel soaked coveralls who hasn’t slept in 2 days gassing up another Bradley from his fuel tanker. The company clerk who makes sure all of the promotion orders are correct and in on time, or the instructor in basic training who ensures those he trains get his full attention and who puts his all into helping them learn important lessons that will save their lives. He’s the recruiter who’d rather be where the action is, but does what is necessary to make sure he gets the best and brightest available for his branch of service. Or the MP at the gate who shows up every day, does her job to the very best of her ability and never complains.

Most vets have never seen combat in the sense we think of it. But every single solitary one of them has contributed in vital ways to the success of our combat efforts. Without those who support the combat troops, success would impossible. Without the wrench turners, truck drivers, fuel handlers, cooks, clerks and all those like them, the greatest military the world has ever seen is an “also ran.”

It doesn’t matter what a vet did during his or her service, it matters that he or she chose to serve and do whatever vital job they were assigned to the best of their ability. It isn’t about medals, it isn’t about glory, it isn’t about what job they did. It is about the fact that when their country called, they stood up and answered. They are all, every one of them, heroes.

To all the vets out there – Happy Veteran’s Day.

And thank you for your service.

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My Favorite Part of the House Health Care Bill

Coming in at 1,992 pages, I’m sure there’s something in there that appeals to everyone.  But if I had to pick any part of the bill to single out for special mention, it’s this:

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

Now, it’s a bit more complicated than that, because it requires that you wilfully evade the tax by refusing to pay it, or by fraudulently claiming reduced income in order to evade income taxation under the IRS code.  But still, the statutory authority is there to send you to federal prison for five years for essentially refusing to maintain the appropriate medical coverage, and then refusing to pay the 2.5% income tax surcharge.

No doubt this will make the public much more excited about the House version of health care reform then they were previously.

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Serving

As Uncle J at Blackfive says, this is  “the most realistic depiction of life during wartime you may ever see short of enlisting yourself.”

Gotta agree with him about that:

Best description I’ve ever heard?

98% pure boredom punctuated by 2% stark terror.  This covers 98% of the experience.

~McQ

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Surprise – Health Care Reform Is Just Another Costly Entitlement

Interestingly the truth, in this particular case, comes from a liberal writer from the New Yorker – Joe Cassidy – who says:

“The U.S. government is making a costly and open-ended commitment,” he writes. “Let’s not pretend that it isn’t a big deal, or that it will be self-financing, or that it will work out exactly as planned. It won’t. What is really unfolding, I suspect, is the scenario that many conservatives feared. The Obama Administration . . . is creating a new entitlement program, which, once established, will be virtually impossible to rescind.”

Word.

Also what this blog and may others have been pointing out for months – 9 months to be precise. This monstrosity is exactly what Cassidy says it is. But it is worth it according to Cassidy because it will have a positive two-fold effect as far as he’s concerned:

Because, according to Mr. Cassidy, ObamaCare serves the twin goals of “making the United States a more equitable country” and furthering the Democrats’ “political calculus.”

The radical egalitarians plan on ramping the welfare state back up to a degree hitherto unknown, only to satisfy their radical and uneducated view of “fairness”. And, the “political calculus” remark is fairly depressing too. The whole point is to make more people dependent on government and thus strengthen the Democrat’s base. If you think this will be the end of their redistribution machinations, you haven’t been paying attention.

As for lying about both the cost and the effect? Well, Mr. Cassidy finds that pretty easy to rationalize:

“Putting on my amateur historian’s cap, I might even claim that some subterfuge is historically necessary to get great reforms enacted.”

Subterfuge. Of course. All’s fair when the goal is “good”.

It’s pretty contemptible if you ask me – but there it is, in Cassidy’s own words. My guess is he was one of those who was highly offended by what he considered to be Bush’s “lies”. But for his cause – no problem. Because Joe Cassidy and his ilk know so much better than you or I what is good for us – just ask him.  And he has absolutely no problem with government ramming it down our throat if necessary.  After all, “that’s how great reform is enacted”.

~McQ

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So Again, Why Are We Headed Down The Same Road?

In a little noted Financial Times article yesterday, it reported:

The European Union’s public debt could by 2014 rise to 100 per cent of gross domestic product – a year’s economic output – unless governments take firm action to restore fiscal discipline, EU finance ministers will be warned on Monday.

The EU claims that the measures the countries of the union took to “rescue Europe’s financial sector and combat recession” are to blame.

But then, 7 or 8 paragraphs later, we get to the real “tip of the iceberg”:

The Commission identifies five countries as at particular risk – Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Spain and the UK – because their public finances will come under strain from large increases in pension and healthcare costs, and high deficits triggered by the financial crisis.

This is particularly the case for Greece, which faces the second-highest increase in age-related expenditure in the EU, while its high debt ratio adds to concerns on sustainability.

Pension and health care costs? Translated into US lingo – Social Security and Medicare. You know the two programs with 50+ trillion in unfunded future liabilities? So tell me again why we want to go even further off this debt cliff by enacting government run health care?

Now I know you’ve been led to believe that Euro socialism is magic and that their health care delivers amazing care at much less cost than ours. But in reality, it doesn’t do better on either measure. The 5 countries listed above are only those in the “worst” shape. Any guess what they’ll have to do to bring their “free” health care costs in line, so, like Greece, they won’t see the cost at 135% of GDP next year?

Cuts in spending. Cuts in benefits. Cuts in care. Rationing.

And for countries like the UK, where the medical workers work for the government, what options or choices will medical consumers be left with? There is no real private market.  Government killed that decades ago.

Is that really what we want here? My goodness, the evidence is out there and many of us seem to want to remain willfully blind to the consequences of what we’re considering here in countries who are now doing it. The arrogance and hubris of that is simply mindboggling. Want to see the economy killed and debt skyrocket? Hope the Senate passes “health care reform” then. We can race Greece to see who can run up the biggest percentage of debt vs our GDP. And given the way this Congress and President think, we’ll “win”.

~McQ

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Help Valor IT Reach It’s Goal

Folks I normally don’t ask for donations or money.  But I’m making an exception today for one of the best organizations I know and for one of the best causes I know.  The organization is Soldier’s Angels.   The cause is their “Valor IT” fund raiser – now heading into its final weekend.

Soldier’s Angels is an organization of volunteers which adopts individual soldiers and keeps them in the things they need during their deployments. They also work extensively with the wounded and the families of the wounded. They have representatives in Germany who care for our wounded when they arrive from the theaters of war. They fly families there to be with their loved ones. They are, in short, one of the most magnificent volunteer organizations going.

Valor IT is their brain child. Back a few years ago, they hooked one of our wounded who was not doing as well as everyone hoped with a lap top and software that could translate his spoken word. As he later said, it made him feel whole again and reconnected him to the world and his loved ones. More importantly, it made all the difference in the world to his recovery.

So now SA has a drive every year to buy and give laptops with that voice capability (if necessary) to our wounded warriors. And the difference it makes is, as with the first one, unbelievable.

With today being the birthday of the United States Marines (Semper Fi Marines) and with Veteran’s day on tomorrow, I ask you to consider a small donation to the cause. You can go to Soldier’s Angels here.  Just click on the laptop icon and you’re on your way to helping to change the life of one of our badly wounded warriors.

If you’ve already given thank you for doing so. If you haven’t, please consider doing so – you don’t know how much good it will do and how very much it will be appreciated.  And, as mentioned, it is the perfect way to say “thank you” for Veteran’s day.

~McQ

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So Where Does Ms. Kelo Go To Get Her Home Back?

I‘m sure she’d appreciate it given how hard she fought to save it.  But alas it is no longer there.  In one of the biggest “Constitutional” travesties in my lifetime, the Supreme Court sided with the city of New London to essentially give the property to a private concern which had promised to “lure jobs” to the town.  In a total misuse of eminent domain, the property on which Ms. Kelo’s house used to sit is a “wasteland of weeds”.  And Pfizer, the company that was going to bring all those jobs in return for the condemnation?

Pfizer’s laying off and closing up shop there:

Pfizer Inc. will shut down its massive New London research and development headquarters and transfer most of the 1,400 people working there to Groton, the pharmaceutical giant said Monday….

Pfizer is now deciding what to do with its giant New London offices, and will consider selling it, leasing it and other options, a company spokeswoman said.

How about just handing them over to Ms. Kelo? In this disgraceful, but landmark case, 5 justices managed to somehow twist the law to the point that they agreed taking the town’s taking of the Kelo property for redevelopment at the be behest of Pfizer, a private concern, on the promise of more jobs somehow met the ‘public use’ criteria. The ruling put the property of every American in jeopardy of taking for almost anything a local government can dream up. And it remains in jeopardy today.  Pfizer should have been left to offer homeowners a price if they wanted that land so badly.  It should never have seen the government, at any level, involve itself.  And it darn sure shouldn’t have seen the Supreme Court approving the use of “eminent domain” to take the property.

Scott Bullock, Kelo’s co-counsel in the case, told me: “This shows the folly of these redevelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain.”

I’ll go one further than Mr. Bullock – this wasn’t an “abuse” of eminent domain, this completely rewrote eminent domain, to the detriment of the right of private property. The Kelo ruling was wrong and it was as anti-liberty as any recent ruling the Supreme Court has made. If you had confidence that the SCOTUS had your back on Constitutional matters, this ruling alone should have disabused yourself of that notion.

And look how well it has ended.

~McQ

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