a Teachable Moment – Just Not the One of Which He Was Thinking

The Cash for Clunkers program, it seems, intended to end in November, is virtually out of cash after four days. The program promised to give a $3,500 rebate for those moving up to a car yielding 5mpg better than what they were trading-in, and $4,500 for one that got 10mpg better. The car being traded-in had to be owned by the participant and insured during the last calendar year. The program was funded at $1 billion. At this rate, two different Democrat Members of Congress have estimated that the program will require an additional three to four billion dollars to run through the end of October.

This is a teachable moment.

If Congress is capable of underestimating the cost of a simple billion-dollar car sale by a factor of four or five, how can we trust them on the projected costs of a highly complex trillion-dollar healthcare deal? And, have we seen the future as far as having to bribe us (with our own money, I might remind you) into buying the “new” American cars?

and Now for Our Third Don’t-Have-Time-to-Read-It Emergency …

First we (and by “we”, I mean the group of ex-Goldman Sachs insiders advising us) picked and chose which “strategically vital” financials to prop up and which Goldman Sachs competitors to fail. That got us started. Then we gave dumber-than-TurboTax Tim Geithner $787 billion to “stimulate” a stagnating economy (“don’t have time to read the bill, just pass the damn thing before we all fall down!”) Next, in the face of 73% public opposition (the unwashed masses don’t know what’s good for them), we violated SEC regulations by placing the UAW ahead of secured lenders in the Chrysler bankruptcy and the White House took over General Motors. Then we discovered that, even though 78% of the 90% of the population that has health insurance is happy with it, we have a healthcare emergency. Two committees in the House slap together a trillion-dollar, 1,000-page bill allowing government to take over healthcare (“don’t have time to read the bill, just pass the damn thing before we all fall down!”) Fortunately, our vital young president had time to appoint 33 czars, effectively moving policy shaping and influence from the Cabinet to the West Wing, and to halt production of the world’s best fighter.

And now here comes our global warming/global cooling/foreign dependence/so 20th century hydrocarbon emergency. Thank God the House has already acted (“don’t have time to read the bill, just pass the damn thing before we all fall down!”) with a cap-and-trade scheme projected to cost us another trillion or so.

And that leads us to Germany calling a French idea to slap “carbon tariffs” on products from countries that are not trying to cut greenhouse gases a form of “eco-imperialism” and a direct violation of World Trade Organization rules[1]. Why are the Germans being so obstructionist … so … Republican? The same reason they haven’t (and won’t) sign on to any of President Obama’s “let’s share the pain” infusions of cash into banks[2], the IMF or Eastern Europe[3] – Germany stands to gain by exporting into recovering economies whose needs arise before they can replace their own jobs (like ours), and they aren’t about to get bound up in some scheme to “level the playing field” (leaving those who do [like us] at a disadvantage). Win-win.

It’s called an economically sound business plan.

This also points to a dirty little secret about carbon taxing, or as our administration calls it, cap-and-trade. Rather than a plan to manage change, carbon taxing is a utopian scheme to force it. Like all forced change, it assumes that the perpetrator understands the problem and knows the proper response; and like all utopian schemes, it must force all players to go along – utopian schemes can’t stand the competition of ideas.

Modern civilization runs on energy, and right now that energy is largely produced using hydrocarbons. While most agree that that must eventually change, nobody knows what will replace it, and until that question is answered it’s just insane to price ourselves out of hydrocarbons anyway. This is where politicians’ lust for taking credit gets in the way of actual problem-solving. The private sector is working on alternative energy sources, and as soon as a marketable solution presents itself, we will have it.

One thing we might want to consider before we hand over healthcare and energy to this gang is whether they have guessed right yet. Jury is still out on their if-we-don’t-do-this-unemployment-will-reach-8% economic “stimulus”. Jury is till out their union/government takeover of Chrysler and GM. Let’s wait and see how their first trillion-dollars worth of experiments on our daily lives goes before they unleash another two trillion dollars worth of “help”.

[1] See Mia Shanley and Ilona Wissenbach, Germany calls carbon tariffs eco-imperialism, Reuters, July 26 2009.

[2] Recall that about $12 billion went into German banks through AIG at the beginning of all this. They’ve already had their bailout, and we gave it to them.

[3] Germany has already absorbed the cost s of reuniting with East Germany.

Rapting the Raptor

Largely obscured by the ObamaCare food fight, SecDef Robert Gates has made the closing of the Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor line at 187 planes (out of the contracted run of 381) as one of his major objectives in the FY2010 defense budget[1]. Reasons given range from cost ($350 million each) to availability (50%) to deployment (never used in Iraq or Afghanistan) to mission (against what enemy). Secretary Gates’ main theme has been that F-22 funds are diverting assets from our troops in combat, and that any airframe dollars would be better spent on the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

COST: Raptor opponents are fond of saying “My God man, these things cost $350 million a copy!”, which would be the approximate cost of a Cadillac Escalade if you only made one of them. The point is that unit cost is a function of the production run. Actual production cost of the F-22 is on the order of $133 million a plane[2], the rest of the $350 million being amortized R&D and tooling costs. Double the production run, halve the amortized costs. If the Raptor were allowed its contract production run, unit cost would be around $200 million a plane, and while high, is in-line with the iconic capabilities presented by the F-22.

AVAILABILITY: The 50% availability rate, meaning that at any given point, only half the deployed fleet is green-lined for flight, is high, but neither static nor out of line for an airframe of the Raptor’s uniqueness. The F-22 contains a host of systems new to Air Force practices – totally integrated avionics, 2-D vectored exhaust, supercruise technology (the ability to attain and sustain supersonic flight without afterburning), decoupled control surfaces, on and on. The point being that routine maintenance requires a rather longer learning curve than normal. Availability rates will increase as ground crews learn best practices in maintaining a truly unique machine.

NEVER BEEN USED IN IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN: Neither have fast attack submarines, but we shouldn’t stop making them. It’s apples and oranges – the F-22, as an air superiority fighter, is a strategic weapon system, our combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are engaged in tactical operations. The two have nothing to do with each other.

MISSION: “It’s a weapon without an enemy” is a favorite of opponents, but again, that argues against our entire strategic inventory … hardly rational. The fact is that the performance envelopes of the MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker are approaching that of the F-15 Eagle, the air superiority fighter being replaced by the F-22. A tribute to the Raptor’s capabilities is that the production run of 381 was considered adequate to replace the 1,050 Eagles currently deployed by US forces worldwide in the strategic air superiority role. That’s called cost-effectiveness. We currently have only two near-peer competitors – PRC and Russia – and to concede the air superiority advantage to either (both of whom are accelerating their R&D on such weapon systems) would be derelict.

What is going unsaid in the debate is that, while President Obama’s government is joyously engaged in an orgy of spending on long-held Liberal wishes, only DoD was asked to cut its budget. Secretary Gates was told to trim 10% (~$80 billion) from the FY2010 defense budget. Secretary Gates doesn’t as much favor stopping production of the Raptor as not being the SecDef that lost Iraq or the one that loses Afghanistan.

It’s the F-35 program that’s in trouble. The Pentagon’s Joint Estimate Team (JET), which was established to independently evaluate the F-35 program, is at odds with the Joint Program Office, which runs the F-35 program. The oversight panel’s calculations determined that the fighter won’t be able to move out of the development phase and into full production until 2016, rather than 2014, as the program office has said (which was itself moved from the contract date of 2010)[3]. That’s assuming there are no further problems with the program, which has already faced cost overruns and schedule delays. The GAO said this delay could cost as much as $7.4 billion. This is further complicated by the fact that our eight international partners on the F-35 program are beginning to have second thoughts about the $4.375 billion they have agreed to contribute toward the development costs[4].

The entire Raptor program could be paid for by eliminating one year’s waste, fraud and abuse from Medicare.

Just sayin’ …

[1] See Rowan Scarborough, F-22 Fight Not Over, in Human Events, July 23 2009.

[2] See Sonja Barisic, Air Force’s F-22A Raptor Ready for Combat, in Washington Post, December 16 2005.

[3] See Josh Rogin, F-35 Work Falls Behind Two More Years, in Congressional Quarterly, July 23 2009.

[4] The United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark.

the Mysterious Section 102

The other day, a reporter asked President Obama if Section 102 of the House bill, as written, outlawed private insurance after its passage. The president said he was unfamiliar with the language, and thus was unable to answer the question, but went on to assure the reporter that whatever coverage he currently had would be protected.

Posted below is Section 102 in its entirety … you tell me.

HR 3200 America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009

July 14 2009



Subtitle A – General Standards


(a) Grandfathered Health Insurance Coverage Defined – Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term ‘grandfathered health insurance coverage’ means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Year-1 if the following conditions are met:


(A) IN GENERAL – Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Year-1.

(B) DEPENDENT COVERAGE PERMITTED – Subparagraph A shall not affect the subsequent enrollment of a dependent of an individual who is covered as of such first day.

(2) LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS – Subject to paragraph 3 and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Year-1.

(3) RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES – The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.

(b) Grace Period for Current Employment-based Health Plans


(A) IN GENERAL – The Commissioner shall establish a grace period whereby, for plan years beginning after the end of the 5-year period beginning with Year-1, an employment-based health plan in operation as of the day before the first day of Year-1 must meet the same requirements as apply to a qualified health benefits plan under §101, including the essential benefit package requirement under §121.

(B) EXCEPTION FOR LIMITED BENEFITS PLANS – Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the following:

(i) Any coverage described in §3001(a)(1)(B)(ii)(IV) of division B of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PL 111-5) [1].

(ii) Excepted benefits (as defined in §733(c) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), including coverage under a specified disease or illness policy described in paragraph (3)(A) of such section.

(iii) Such other limited benefits as the Commissioner may specify.

In no case shall an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the coverage or benefits described in clauses (i) through (iii) be treated as acceptable coverage under this


(2) TRANSITIONAL TREATMENT AS ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE – During the grace period specified in paragraph (1)(A), an employment-based health plan that is described in such paragraph shall be treated as acceptable coverage under this division.

(c) Limitation on Individual Health Insurance Coverage

(1) IN GENERAL – Individual health insurance coverage that is not grandfathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Year-1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan.

(2) SEPARATE, EXCEPTED COVERAGE PERMITTED – Excepted benefits (as defined in §2791(c) of the Public Health Service Act) are not included within the definition of health insurance coverage. Nothing in paragraph (1) shall prevent the offering, other than through the Health Insurance Exchange, of excepted benefits so long as it is offered and priced separately from health insurance coverage.

Got that? Good.

[1] As an example of how to interpret legal references, this clause would be cited as section 102 (§102), sub-section b (§§b), paragraph 1 (¶1), sub-paragraph B (¶¶B), clause-i (i) of TITLE I of HR 3200, written as HR 3200, TITLE I, §102(b)(1)(B)(i).

Those Pesky Non-Partisans

Of all the groups that claim to have put Obama in office – unions, Hispanics, Blacks etc – he’s losing the one that can take him out – Independents. With both Democrats and Republicans registering Americans in the 30s (percentage of the electorate), it’s obvious that either needs to dominate the rest (Independents) in order to win a national election.

A June Washington Post/ABC poll reported that Americans favor smaller government with fewer services to larger government with more services by a 54% to 41% margin, up since 2004. That is being driven by Independents, 61% of whom favor small government, a rise from 52% just since the 2008 election. The June NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that, even amid recession, 58% of Americans worry more about keeping the budget deficit down versus 35% worried more about boosting the economy. A similar question in the June CBS/New York Times poll showed a 52% to 41% split. Again, Independents leading the way. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 56% of Americans are unwilling to pay more in taxes or utility rates to generate cleaner energy and fight global warming. It’s interesting that on these issues and many others Independents are responding more like Republicans than Democrats.

This apparent recoil against big-government policies has not gone unnoticed by Americans. Gallup reported earlier this week that 39% of Americans say their views on political issues have grown more conservative, while only 18% say they have grown more liberal. Moderates agreed by a 33% to 18% margin[1].

Two recent events shed some light on this phenomenon. A Republican Senator circulated a letter last Friday, asking fellow Congressmen to sign a pledge to read legislation before voting – 42 Republicans and 0 Democrats signed. On Monday, an amendment to the healthcare bill was offered stating that nothing in this bill would permit any government employee to tell doctors how to practice medicine – again, all Republicans and no Democrats voted for it.

Yadda-yadda-yadda, I hear you say … just Washington politics these days. Maybe, but it’s taking a toll on Independents (who don’t have a vested interest in party politics and their various proposals), and they are taking it out, understandably, on incumbents. On those in power.

A significant effect of the Obama administration’s attempts to nationalize most healthcare and to begin to control Americans’ energy sector through cap-and-trade is a shifting view Independents have of the Left. These attempts are enabling more and more of them to see the thinking of the Left, and they are seeing it as ranging from irrational to dangerous.

Independents see a deep-rooted indifference (if not open hostility) to wealth creation. Virtually everything the Left proposes promotes wealth redistribution at the expense of wealth creation. They do not seem to see naked poverty as the original condition of people (how we come into the world), and that prosperity is an active verb – they ask the rather uninspired question “why is there poverty?” rather then the far more interesting one “why is there wealth?” The Left seem to honestly not know how or where wealth comes from … they treat it as a given, rather than as the product of human activity upon raw materials. Independents don’t understand this.

Independents reject the Left’s preoccupation with enforced equality at the expense of a chance for excellence. Rather than concentrate on providing opportunities for the less fortunate, the Left prefers to drag the fortunate down to their level. You never hear the Left speak of the wealthy as an engine of prosperity; instead they use the terms “wealthy” and “success” as you or I would use “pedophile”. Independents don’t understand this.

The Left isn’t content with just practicing their amoral situational values, they want them codified into law. They want us all to be molded into their “superior” worldview of feel-good trendy values. Notice that the Left is adamant about replacing God-based religion with the religion of atheism (a “knowledge” of God’s non-existence is every bit the act of faith as the “knowledge” of God’s existence). While they have no holidays, they also are free of those pesky morals and ethics. Right and wrong are relative. Independents find this a repugnant philosophy.

In order to implement these admittedly minority views, the Left insists on a large, all-powerful government. Taking income from those who earned it, equalizing social outcomes and de-legitimizing Judeo-Christian principles require enforcement rather than persuasion. Their “superiority” gives them the right, indeed the duty, to impose their values on the rest of us – what light bulbs we use, what cars we drive, what we may ask a prospective employee, how we may discipline our children, and, of course, how much of our earnings we deserve. Independents find this arrogance rather distasteful in someone who works for them, and somewhat dangerous at the controls of a country

Independents abandoned Republicans because Republicans went off the reservation – losing all discipline on spending, unable to articulate a central philosophy or worldview – they seemed rudderless. Independents are abandoning Democrats because they have intensified their liberal tendencies into a European Leftist dogma with which Independents aren’t comfortable.

[1] See Michael Barone, Getting Cold Feet Over Democratic Proposals, in Rasmussen Reports, July 9 2009.

Circular Firing Squad

Am I the only one who finds it somewhat amusing that the DNC is paying for ads taking Democrats to task for not supporting the Democratic healthcare program? Maybe there’s hope yet!

The White House may not admit to being worried yet, but professional Democrats are. They realize that the rush to get all these far-left programs through Congress (if possible, without anyone actually reading them), because as time goes on, the American people are catching on.

The Stimulus Package had absolutely nothing to do with economic stimulus – hell, only ~5% of it has actually reached (mostly government) workers! The recession will work itself out before any of these programs even get off the ground. This whole package was just a collection of stuff Liberals have been sitting on for years because they couldn’t pass in the light of day.

The takeover of the automotive industry will be the death knell of the American automotive industry. Anyone who thinks unions and government can run a business, please explain why they never have been able to. Every American industry that has been union-dominated is now extinct – textiles, steel, shoes, on and on. Government currently runs Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs hospitals and the Post Office, none of which exhibit a natural tendency to increase quality or a natural tendency to reduce costs, both fundamental forces of business in the real world.

Under what possible circumstances should we believe that, all the sudden, government can productively run automobile companies, healthcare and the energy sector? The people are catching on that this is a naked takeover of the American economy, and they don’t want it. This all must be rushed through because when Congressmen get to their districts over August recess, they are going to get an earful from their constituents, and ends Obama’s “remaking” of America.

He’s right … if it doesn’t get done now, it won’t.

Obama’s Nixon-to-China Moment

As ironic as virulently anti-communist Richard Nixon opening China to the West is America’s first Black President telling the truth to Africa. And, if followed up, could prove as profound for regional progress. “For many years we’ve made excuses about corruption or poor governance, [insisting] this was somehow the consequence of neocolonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racism,” President Obama told All Africa. “I’m not a believer in excuses[1].” The developed world has poured more money into Africa than any other region of Earth, with little or nothing to show for it. Much of sub-Saharan Africa exhibits living standards unchanged for millennia, although the ruling classes have prospered mightily. The crux of African poverty is corruption and poor governance. While not exactly a state secret, it will carry far more weight on the world stage being delivered by a Black man.

I consider this to be the most important moment of President Obama’s foreign travels to date.

History has repeatedly shown a direct correlation between generalized prosperity and market republicanism. Given economic and political freedom, individuals, in the aggregate of their free actions, are far better stewards than governments of the general welfare of people. A thriving meritocracy is also far better at producing a strong and agile state, as there is always a richer pallet of solutions bubbling up from an innovative entrepreneurial public than is ever possible from a list of politically chosen research projects conjured up by a political elite.

There is an equally strong correlation between centralized economic and political power and despotism and generalized poverty. Only Africa can save Africa, and that must be done from the bottom-up, as government cannot cause prosperity … it can only allow it to happen.

The sad thing, of course, is that nothing will come of it. In his headlong rush to remake America in his image, he simply won’t have time to forward what could be a truly great accomplishment – helping to bring Africa out of the Neolithic existence it has enjoyed since it graduated from its Paleolithic existence. This will turn out to be just another example of speechifying.

[1] Mark S Smith, Obama::“Africa not separate from world affairs”, in Associated Press, July 11 2009.

Мать Россия

Barack Obama has finished his first trip to Мать Россия (Mother Russia) and came away without headlines or “breakthroughs”. This is a success. Trust me, any surprises (e.g., headlines, breakthroughs) coming out of Putin’s Russia wouldn’t have been favorable to us.

An agreement on what a further nuclear arms reduction agreement would look like was signed, and a preliminary agreement to allow American assistance (to include lethal assets) to cross Russian air-space en route to Afghanistan was confirmed. The rest was atmospherics, but first summits should be mostly atmospherics. There are three overriding issues of far-reaching import that stand between Washington and Moscow: Poland, Iran and NATO.

If Russian re-assertion of power into Europe is to be contained, Poland will be the lynchpin. While the ballistic missile defense system to be hosted by Poland (and the Czech Republic) doesn’t directly affect this proposition, it is symbolic of it. It represents the American use of Polish territory for strategic purposes, and it is something the Russians oppose not so much for the system’s direct or specific threat – which is minimal – but for what it symbolizes about the Americans’ status in Poland. The Russians hoped to get Obama to follow the policy at the summit that he alluded to during his campaign for the presidency: namely, removing the BMD program from Poland to reduce tensions with Russia. Toward that end, Medvedev/Putin continue to try and link our Eastern European BMD system to Russian help with containing Iranian nuclear ambitions. President Obama has so far declined to link the two diplomatically (famously saying that if Iran can be frustrated in their effort to nuclearize their missile inventory, no BMD system would necessary in Eastern Europe).

Moscow has begun to float a proposal by which they could co-opt an outcome of an American BMD system based in Eastern Europe. Mr Putin has mentioned that resistance would lessen if we would scrap all the work done thus far on ballistic missile defense, and co-develop a system with the Russians. This speaks directly to the fact that, after twenty-five years of trying, Russia cannot master the intricacies of missile acquisition/locking/intercept, and would salivate at the opportunity to be made privy to our R&D. This is perhaps the most dangerous approach to use against the Obama administration, as they may see it as an acceptable compromise between looking tough (not backing down on BMD) and appeasement (cooperating with the Russians). The net result, of course, would to be to unilaterally forego an extremely complex region of American superiority.

Mr Obama missed a perfect opportunity to solidify and symbolize our determination not to forfeit Eastern Europe to Moscow yet again by not stopping in Kiev [Ukraine] for breakfast and Tbilisi [Georgia] for dinner on the way to Rome.

On the question of Iran, a strategic matter for us, we badly need to be able to isolate Iran effectively, something impossible without Russian cooperation. Moscow has refused to join Washington on this issue precisely because it is so important to the United States, and given that importance, the Russians see Iran as a lever with which they can try to control US actions elsewhere. A rabidly Islamist and nuclear armed Iran is not in Russia’s best interest, so Moscow is playing off our present discomfort against their future worry (which is ameliorated by knowing that America will be only too willing to cooperate with Russia – and anyone else – once Tehran goes nuclear).

The Americans do not want to see Russian support, and particularly arms sales, to Iran, which is why Moscow won’t close off that possibility. The US wanted to see some Russian commitments on Iran at the summit, which we didn’t get.

As for American relations with former Soviet satellites, and the expressed US desire to see NATO expand to include Ukraine and Georgia, the Russians insist that any such expansion threatens Russian national security and understandings with previous US administrations. We insist that no such understandings exist, that NATO expansion doesn’t threaten Russia, and that the expansion will continue. The Russians were hoping the Americans would back off on this issue at the summit.

This is an issue of quasi-paranoid importance to Moscow as they view their “Near Abroad” – the former Soviet buffer states of Eastern Europe (and the ‘Stans) – as a legitimately Russian sphere of influence (hence the revulsion at a southern-looking – and therefore not threatening to Russia – radar and interceptor system). They often compare it, not without merit, to American feelings about the Caribbean. This is the most important matter to the Russians, and we should treat it as they are treating Iran – don’t give up the leverage this issue gives us. And if a mutuality of interests between an Eastern European state and NATO should reach the level of membership consideration, it should not be discounted out of hand just because Russia wouldn’t like it.

Considering what was accomplished at the summit, the signing of an agreement on what an agreement on nuclear arms reduction might look like is not of strategic significance. The number of strategic warheads and platforms is a Cold War issue that concerned the security of each side’s nuclear deterrent, and not that removing a thousand or so nuclear weapons is unimportant, but neither is directly deterring the other these days, and the risk of accidental launch is as large or as small whether there are 500 or 5,000 of them. Either way, nuclear arms’ strategic significance remains unchanged, and today’s divisions on fundamental geopolitical issues don’t intersect with it.

The question of US arms shipments to Afghanistan became important last winter when Taliban attacks on US supply routes through the Hindu Kush intensified, putting the viability of those routes in question. In recent months the Russians have accepted the transit of non-lethal materiel through Russia, and just before the summit, broadened that understanding to give the US the right to transit military assets via Russian airspace. This was a significant policy change designed to demonstrate Russia’s flexibility (remembering that it is easily revoked). While we might well use the route, it is always subject to Russian pressure, and we should not allow a strategic dependence to develop.

While we would like to bring Russia into the Western mainstream, and would (and should) offer assistance to Moscow on local problems, we should never lose sight of the fact that Russia is not, nor does it desire to be, an ally of the United States. Particularly under Vladimir Putin (and make no mistake, Putin is still pulling the strings in Moscow), America is viewed as a strategic threat, not to Russian existence but to Russian geopolitical potency.

Memo to SecNav – You Missed a Golden Opportunity

Just as a Lockheed engineering pilot first flew the F-22 Raptor to exercise its systems and put it through its paces before turning it over to the Air Force for their evaluation, Northrop Grumman sailed the amphibious assault ship LPD 21 from its building yard at Avondale [LA], up the Mississippi River to do the same. LPD 21 will be christened in October of this year as the USS New York, as it contains 24 tons of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center in its 311-ton nose section[1].

My complaint against the Department of the Navy is that this four-day trial got underway, totally unheralded, on June 27! The announcement crossed my desk on July 3. With all the dissatisfaction around the country, with the coming Independence Day celebrations, with parts of the country forgetting why we are fighting in Southwest Asia, I can’t believe it didn’t dawn on someone at DoD that this would be a natural photo op for all things American and an uplifting moment during, what is for many, hard times.

The “this ship is classified” (which it is) excuse won’t wash because it could have been shot from far enough away so as not to compromise any of the classified systems … some of the construction video (which I know was shot for the christening ceremony) could have been shown, shipbuilders could have been interviewed, on and on.

Does this administration so hate the military that it limits itself only to formal ceremonies, or is it just tone deaf?

[1] See Program Executive Office Ships (PEO Ships) Public Affairs, USS New York Sets Sail for the First Time, in Navy NewsStand, July 3 2009.

“I’m From the Government, and I’m Here to Help You”

This is almost as feared a phrase out in the hinterlands of the real world as “Will the Defendant Please Rise” is in the halls of power. And they’re not unrelated – “will the defendant please rise” generally follows some episode of “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.” What is about to happen to us in healthcare – has already happened to our banking and automotive sectors – makes Mafiosi look like pikers. Why steal thousands, or even millions, at the point of a gun when you can steal trillions at the point of a government?

Speaker Pelosi (and other Democrats honest enough to speak the obvious[1]) are pushing nationalized healthcare, while President Obama (and other Democrats dishonest enough to continue trying to fool the public) are opting for a “public option”, by which they mean a government healthcare plan that will compete in the market with private healthcare insurers. There is no competition possible nor intended and they know it.

Insurance is a business, which the government doesn’t do. The government plan is a health “assurance” program, whereby they will undersell insurers and treat all comers at a loss, something no business can afford to do. Private insurance will die on the vine as the “public option” racks up ever-growing deficits – to which an unbroken government history of grandiose promises and under-estimated costs, followed by underperformance and skyrocketing costs will attest[2]. But the objective will have been achieved – government control over yet another aspect of American daily life.

Harsh? Perhaps. But look at the evidence. From Rahm Emanuel’s “Never waste a crisis” (for which there are no benign interpretations) to last Friday’s mugging of a vote[3] for House passage of cap-and-trade, the Obama administration has been an orgy of leeching power from the private sector (i.e., you and me). Despite a promise to post all pending legislation online, no major piece of legislation has even been allowed to be read by the voting Members. In a tactic right out of Saul Alinsky’s Radical’s Handbook, Congress is being overwhelmed with thousand-page bills which are rammed through the House and dumped on the Senate with instructions from the White House to pass before Congress’s summer recess. President Obama has appointed an unprecedented 20 “Czars”, moving power from vetted and confirmed Cabinet members to unvetted, unconfirmed (and mostly unknown) bureaucrats answering only to the West Wing. With the UAW owning Chrysler and the White House naming 11 of 13 General Motors’ board members, who thinks Ford is on a level playing field? There have been bumps. The administration has had to fire two inconvenient inspectors general and silence (and transfer) an EPA scientist, all of whom were about to become embarrassing to some or other administration program being rushed through the House.

If it looks like a duck …

Do I really think this is some Machiavellian attempt to gain governmental control over the American economy? Yes I do, but with a twist. I see Machiavelli (Emanual/Axelrod) as helping Pollyanna (Omaba) to dismantle the free enterprise system with the assistance of useful fools (Congress and the press), each for their own reasons. Machiavelli just wants power … all the power that can be accumulated; Pollyanna has the hubris of professional Liberals, honestly believing that by controlling the “important” things, the unwashed masses can be saved from themselves; and the useful fools are just ideologues who hate all things non-Liberal.

Government, even under the most generous interpretation of motives and actions, is simply no good at this sort of thing. Never has been. Programs always do less, cost more and destroy that which they purport to “save”. By their nature, offices of public trust are prone to corruption, meaning that if the public (largely through the press) isn’t tirelessly vigilant, public officials, left to their own devices, will become corrupt. Guess what has happened while we weren’t watching. As evidence of our sloth of duty, I offer the “best” Democrat in the House (Nancy Pelosi) and the “best” Democrat in the Senate (Harry Reid). The Republicans are no better.

We are on the verge of losing our country to a ruling class that our complacency has made possible. “We have given you a republic,” Mr Franklin told us, “if you can keep it.”

[1] Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), for one, proudly says that private insurers “have every reason to be frightened” by a government plan, because it is a “strategy for getting [to a single-payer system], and I believe we will.”

[2] For example, when Medicare was set up in 1965, the politicians projected its cost in 1990 to be $3 billion – which is equivalent to $12 billion when adjusted for inflation to 1990 dollars. The actual cost in 1990 was $98 billion – eight times as much. Harry Browne, Why Government Doesn’t Work, Macmillan, 1991, p. 143.

[3] One Democrat House Member was dragged back from rehab for the vote.