Saturday, December 19, 2009

Laughing Through the Apocalypse

On the lighter side of a serious issue, I think this duo from Minnesota are a lot funny than Al Franken! I first came across there work at the start of Climategate with the now famous "Hide the Decline" video. It seems they have been busy for some time now creating these parodies. In addition to being humorous they certainly have some insights into the climate change issue and the personalities linked to it. Check out Minnesotans for Global Warming.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Time to Investigate Climate Science

The recent release of information from the Handley Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK has raised profound doubts about the reliability of the science behind claims of anthropogenic global warming. The emails strongly suggest that a small group within the climate science community with an agenda has conspired to gain control of climate science and skew it toward their preconceived viewpoints.

Given that this work as been the primary basis for a series of reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And, the findings of this group are the scientific bases for the current push to reorient the global economy in such a way as to emphasis reducing carbon dioxide emissions; we need a full investigation of climate science to determine its credibility. To proceed with the Cap and Trade Bill or any other carbon mitigation efforts until such an investigation has been completed would be unwise.

One must properly view the Handley revelations in the context of over two decades of controversy in the climate science field. The emails seem to show scientists altering data in order to push their agenda. For example they clearly show the scientists unwillingness to share data with critics in the famous (or infamous) hockey stick chart that was central to the third IPCC report. Statistician Ross McKitrick’s efforts to conduct an independent review of this controversial chart were met of considerable obfuscation. McKitrick’s analysis ultimately showed that the creators of the hockey stick chart had used selective and biased data to produce the result supporting a 20th century surge in warming. In response the closed group of scientists focused on attacking the credentials of their critics rather then the substance of their arguments.

What emerges from the Handley emails is that the key scientists behind the IPCC, many of whom are funded with taxpayer dollars, have endeavored to be the sole arbiters with considerable success of who has the standing to address climate issues. They have had editors of journals removed who have published papers not to their liking. They attack fully credentialed researchers for not publishing in the journals that they control. In this way the have set up a “Catch 22” situation in which to be worthy of having a paper published a scientist must agree with them. They then proceed to claim that all recognized scientists, i.e. published in the journals that control, have a consensus. This is pure sophistry.

There should be a full investigation of the activities of the climate science community. They have received a considerable amount of government research grants. Certain scientists have denied any wrong doing and should of course be given a chance to explain themselves. However, it is possible that crimes have been committed if knowing false statements were made in proposals to acquire government funding for their work. Most importantly we need to have true review of the state of our knowledge on the global warming issue before any consideration be given to passing the Cap and Trade Bill.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some Thoughts About NY 23

I don’t think the big problem is that the Republican Party and associated stalwarts are now supporting the “too liberal” candidate, Dede Scozzafava, in the New York 23rd Congressional District's special election. Rather it is how did the New York Republican Party make such a controversial choice? My main concern here is in fixing the Party rather then defeating an aberrant candidate. If Dede Scozzafava wins, it matters little except that if we can win all three (VA, NJ governors and NY 23) then it will pressure the Blue Dogs to oppose the public option in the health care bill. If we win only one of the three or worse none of them, it’s going to be full speed ahead for Obama’s socialist policies. Conservatives by going with a third party are almost guaranteeing a Democrat win. Don’t forget that the most important vote any legislator casts is the one to organize the body!

On the other hand many leading conservatives seem to be saying, “Let’s defeat the Republican Party to send a message.” There can be a case for this in special situations. For example, I’m very happy to be rid of Arlen Specter. By not have a strong conservative as the lead Republican on the Judiciary Committee, we were continually at a disadvantage on the all important judicial confirmation process. So there are times when taking a tactical loss can be a strategic win. I don’t think the NY 23 race is a good example of this.

My real fear going forward is that Conservatives and Moderates will be at cross purposes in the upcoming elections leaving Obama and Pelosi in power. RINOs, moderates, and even Bill Clinton are/were better than the Obama/Pelosi Team and all of the czars. I do support the general idea of fighting the moderate leadership in the Republican Party but we must avoid third parties at all costs. Remember what Perot did to the Republicans in 1992 or even feeble Ralph Nader did to the Democrats in 2000? Third parties almost always lose. They almost always elect the candidate of the two major parties that is most unlike them, i.e. conservative third parties elect liberal Democrats!

At the same time, I want to warn the leadership of the Republican Party that their treatment of Sarah Palin has been reprehensible. More over it is dangerous. The one person that I could see who could reelect President Obama is a truly rogue Sarah Palin. A conservative-oriented third party movement would pull enough votes from the Republican candidate to allow Obama to have a minority win, e.g. Clinton’s. But, third party movements always need a charismatic personality to lead them. Palin is the only possibility that I see at the moment that could do this. This is why all Republican establishment types had best be very nice to Sarah. The fact that they haven’t been scares me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Democrat's Health Care Conundrum

Health care “reform” is becoming a quite the conundrum for the Democrats as they struggle to get it passed in Congress. The bottom line is that there is no way to “solve” this problem that doesn’t harm one or more politically powerful segments of the public. For the moment the Obama administration and its allies in Congress have chosen the elderly as the principal loser. This is a very risky choice as the elderly are notoriously defensive about their benefits and vote disproportionately to the rest of the population.

As I have mentioned in my prior post, the Medicare/Medicaid programs are receiving massive de facto subsidies from the private health programs via the price controls contained in the government programs. The idea that we can reduce Medicare costs by 400 to 500 billion dollars by eliminating waste and fraud doesn’t receive much support even from the pro-administration talking heads and none from anyone else. With increasing numbers of doctors refusing to take Medicare patients, additional pressure truly will undermine the program. And, don’t forget this was already a crisis given the pending wave of baby boomers that are now entering the program.

On the other side of the issue, we have the uninsured that basically breakdown into various subgroups each with distinct problems. The most aggrieved are those with pre-existing conditions who can’t get or can’t afford coverage. Then we have those in jobs, usually low paying, that don’t offer health plans. These two groups clearly merit some help. One can pass regulations that prohibit insurers from dropping clients who have developed a serious health condition while covered and develop a system to attack pre-existing condition lockout. However, these reforms will increase the cost of insurance even more on the private insurance sector. Now we have aggravated the mainstream working middle class and their employers. The solution for the working poor most clearly will require massive government support which means taxes.

Then we have the largest group of uninsured those who are temporarily out of work. In a major recession this group is certain to grow. In one sense we have mostly solved this issue with the COBRA bill of the 1970s but the kicker is that in most cases buying your former employers health plan is too expensive for the unemployed. One could create an unemployment health insurance plan that would pay these costs but who would pay for it? The worker with yet an additional payroll tax, the employer, or some split between them?

Two additional groups to consider are those who don’t have employer insurance and can afford to by private coverage but don’t buy it for some reason. Most likely because they don’t believe they will get sick and they would rather spend the money on other things. And, then we have the illegal aliens who crowd the emergency rooms in some states. Bringing the former group into the system would clearly be helpful to reducing costs (probably the only uninsured group for which that was true) but given their choices, mandating coverage would hardly incline them to vote for those making that decision. The public will generally oppose insuring the illegals under a government program and they can’t vote. So providing for them is just a loser politically.

So even with the best of motivations finding an acceptable solution is problematic. But, given our Congress that is driven by diverse special interests, writing five forms of the bill to be hammered out in secret and voted on before it can be understood, one can hardly expect the best motivations. It remains to be seen if the Democrats can patch together a bill that will until all of them in order get it passed in the Senate. It also is unclear whether a success in the fact of public opposition would ultimately rebound to their benefit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dissent Is Patriotic...Except When You Dissent Against Us

In the last few days we have been treated on one of the greatest absurdities in politics. For decades liberals have used the protest as one of their primary political tools. A few years ago then Senator Hillary Clinton championed the patriotism of dissent when it was dissent against President Bush’s policies. Now we are treated to Speaker of the House Pelosi’s claim that those protesting the Democrats health care bill working its way through the House as un-American. At one point in a video taped segment she accuses her opponents of bringing swastikas to the meetings. Others have referred to them as mobs.

It seems our community organizer president and his liberal allies don’t like to be on the receiving end of some of their own tactics. Furthermore, they are now charging that the opposition to government health care is some organized effort by the insurance companies. Of course it is very hard for any reasonable person to see how the insurance companies could illicit such passion in a rent-a-mob. A far more reasonable interpretation of what we are seeing is a reaction of people, we a large proportion of senior citizens, to a clear threat to the high quality health care they now have.

No doubt there is some coordination behind the turnout but as the saying goes: “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” If there weren’t real grass roots commitment you wouldn’t get that response no matter what level of organization was involved. More specifically you would get it from the senior demographic. Democratic spokesman can spin it however they like but the elected officials know they are facing some serious opposition. The plan to slash $500 billion from Medicare over the next ten years coupled with fears of rationing threatens to turn the seniors against the bill.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Dangers of a Government Health Care Option

Before we pass Obamacare it would be useful to explore the impact of government health care programs. The two issues that are raised by the advocates of so-called health care “reform” are: the fact that health care cost have been growing significantly faster than the consumer price index and that there are some 45 to 50 million people in the U.S. without health coverage. Obviously these two issues are linked in that rapidly growing costs have priced insurance out other reach of poor people and small businesses. The advocates see a massive government program with a government run option similar to Medicare as the solution. The government plan is claimed by President Obama to “keep the private insurers honest.” My own observations call this into question.

Several years ago, before my mother passed away, I had the opportunity to see how Medicare operated compared with my employer provided plan. Let’s as an example consider an office visit with a few basic lab tests. This results in a charge of $400 for example. In the case of my private insurance, since I was going to a preferred provider, the plan paid $120 to settle the claim. On the other hand Medicare paid only about $60 for my mother’s visit. If you think that it was the quality of doctors - it wasn’t. My mother was going to a specialist while I was going to a primary care provider. So what is the answer to this mystery?

In the early 1980s the cost of Medicare was growing fast and considered out of control. The government came up with a simple solution. It made a rule that it would set the prices that Medicare would pay for various services. Providers are given the choice of taking this “assignment” for all Medicare patients or not treating any of them. So given that expenses need to be paid the providers simple responded by increasing there rates for everyone else. As the government held down the assignment rates for Medicare, the rates for everyone else soared. So the driving engine of the first problem, rapidly growing costs, is largely the government’s Medicare program.

So when you see the cost of your insurance increase, understand that much of that money is going to cover the costs that are induced by government healthcare programs. Of course there are also the cost due to those don’t have coverage and can’t pay being treated pro bono, increasing malpractice insurance costs generated by our out of control tort system, and the costs of new advanced medical tests and treatments.

Now let’s consider what will happen if we implement the proposed government option for the general population. There basically two possibilities that most be considered. Either we follow the Medicare model and establish an assignment system or let it compete in the market. If the latter case is followed it is most unlikely that government bureaucrats can compete with private insurance companies an even competition. Either they will use the assignment approach from the outset or they will be forced to it eventually in order to save the plan. So ultimately the government will set prices that will undercut and drive the private plans out business.

As I mentioned before, a significant amount of the “fair market” costs of Medicare are already being paid by the inflated costs of the private plans. So if the government plan does the same thing there soon won’t be enough private plan money to support the system. Putting it another way, he government costs for both plans will skyrocket above even the most pessimistic initial estimates. The result will be both massive tax increases, increased premiums for the government plans, and rationing of care, or all of the above.

What we should take away from this analysis is that previous government policies to tamper with the health care price structure are major cause of medical price growth. Any attempt to extend these approaches to the rest of the health care system will only compound the problem greatly.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama Reverses Position on Detainee Photos

Today’s announcement by President Obama that he will have the Justice Department appeal a court ruling which would release photographs showing claimed mistreatment of terrorists by U.S. troops is one decision I do support. By this act President Obama has reluctantly shown real leadership. He could have easily followed calls by the radical left-wing of his party and ignored the additional damage that would be done by the release of the photographs.

In fact whatever damage to our reputation and incitement of radical Islamic forces that has already occurred has been due to a multiyear campaign by these same liberal activists. It was the single-minded obsession of the left to dig out and give great publicity to a rather small number of evens that occurred mainly for the purpose of damaging the Bush administration. They have been totally mindless of the potential consequences to our troops and to the degree it would damage cooperation with other countries in these efforts.

President Obama himself been a part of this previously when he declassified the interrogation techniques that the CIA used against just a few key terrorist leaders. By spelling out just how limited the measures were, he showed the entire world our fundamental weakness. Now potential future terrorists can be reasonably sure that as long as they are in the hands of Americans there is little we can do to make them talk. In fact if the same restrictions were in place and we had the common sense not to talk about them, the fear of what we might do could prove effective without actually resulting to harsh measures.

So today’s decision seems a little out of character. One can only hope that this shows some growth in office. However, I’m not too optimistic but let’s give the man his due for now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gates' Plan Fails To Meet Our Defense Requirements

After reviewing the statement of Secretary Gates, I have concluded that the Obama Administration is putting forward a plan that it flawed and unbalanced. Two decisions in particular stand out. First, in the aftermath of the test launch of a North Korean missile, the Administration moves to slash the ballistic missile defense program. What sense can be made of that? Certainly the threat from rogue nation’s ballistic missiles has not been diminished. Second, the agenda seems unduly biased against the Air Force. Not only is Gates stopping production of the F-22 fighter, he is also canceling the C-17, the CSAR helicopter, the Airborne Laser, and the new strategic bomber. When viewed in context of last years’ purge of the Air Force leadership one has to ask, are these well founded actions or do they spring in part from some animus toward the Air Force?

It is clear that there is a major disconnect between Secretary Gates’ stated rationale and the decisions that he presented. Secretary Gates says that he wants to avoid over-insuring “against remote or diminishing threats” but then he slashes ballistic missile defense the day after the North Korean missile test. That is hardly a remote or diminishing threat. The combination of the North Korean missile program and the Iranian nuclear weapons program pose a clear challenge in the years ahead.

Similarly, his plan to cancel F-22 production makes little sense in that it would leave the Air Force with seven incomplete squadrons and too few aircraft to maintain these units over a reasonable life-cycle. How does he propose to maintain air superiority with so few aircraft? While his support for the F-35 is laudable, it is an aircraft optimized for ground attack not air superiority. It was always planned that the larger force of F-35s, which will ultimately replace the F-16 in the Air Force inventory, would be supported by a true air dominance fighter, i.e. the F-22. It is a mistake to see these aircraft as alternatives but rather as complementary components of a balanced force. Apparently, we have a Secretary of Defense who fails to understand this.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Obama's Misguided View of Nuclear Weapons

President Barack Obama has eclipsed his bad ideas on the economy with an even worse one on national and international security. I’m addressing his recent call for the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons specifically. This idea will be as impractical to implement as its will would be ultimately destabilizing if it went forward.

It ignores the reality that we have emerging and covert nuclear powers. So even if the declared nuclear states were to agree to this proposal, we would have to address these other countries. Does any truly believe that if the established powers were to disarm counties like Iran and North Korea would be dissuaded from pursuing their programs? Furthermore, we have had covert nuclear powers that we know of such as Israel and the former South African Apartheid government. Pakistan and India were in the same category before their wave of nuclear testing in the late 1990s. The recent attack on a by Israel on a purported nuclear North Korean built nuclear reactor in Syria indicates that they to were in the process of creating a nuclear weapons program.

If the established powers were to completely eliminate their nuclear capability and one the radical states were to still possess nuclear weapons we would truly be at their mercy. And mercy isn’t one of their strong points. Furthermore, we might not know with confidence the state of nuclear weapons in a given country. The South African, Pakistani, and Indian cases certainly highlight this situation. While there were a lot of suspicions before the South African unilateral disarmament and the Pakistani and Indian test, the full nature of their weapons capacity wasn’t generally known or at least accepted.

It is also far from clear that the great powers can be trusted on this. The United States with or without nuclear weapons would still in many ways be the worlds only superpower if a somewhat diminished one. However, consider the situations Russia would face. Stripped of nuclear weapons, it would be country with a population of about that of Germany and France combined with a much smaller GDP. It would be vulnerable to attack in the east from the vastly more numerous Chinese. Russia without nuclear weapons would go way down on the international pecking order. While France would have no clearly defined security threats like Russia, it is unlikely that they maintain their status in international affairs as a post-nuclear state. Let’s not forget they have been very defiant historically over just this issue. China is more of a mystery as there could be pros and cons for them. However, the reciprocal fears of cheating by both Russia and China make unilateral disarmament very untenable.

Finally, I maintain that nuclear weapons free world ultimately be a more unstable world. Let’s not forget that there has not been a full-scale war between the great powers during the nuclear era. The reason for this is that the costs of unlimited conflict are near total destruction. Does anyone seriously doubt that if nuclear weapons didn’t exist that the Cold War would have exploded into a real war at some point? Note that since Israel has been recognized to be a nuclear power there hasn’t been another major Arab-Israeli war. A shooting war between Russia and China is practically unthinkable now with Russia holding the nuclear advantage and China the manpower advantage. If a major war breaks out any disarmament regime can be expected to breakdown rapidly. In turn this could lead to the very disaster that disarmament advocates seek to avoid.

The leaders of all of the great powers and their advisors understand all of this but it seems our current President doesn’t. This does not give us much confidence in our foreign policy for the next few years. No wonder North Korea now feels free to test their intercontinental ballistic missile at this time. Joe Biden’s words from the campaign last year are about to come true.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thoughts About Rush and the Republicans

Liberals have been going on a lot in recent weeks about Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans. The suggestion is that Republicans can’t disagree with Rush or even more absurdly that Rush is the leader of the Republican Party. This is of course wrong.

What has lead to some awkward moments for prominent Republican figures are occasions when these individual go along with the media’s insinuations that there is something inherently unacceptable about Limbaugh. And, by implication that one must distance one’s self from his viewpoints in order to be acceptable in mainstream politics. This is what led to negative feedback for the base of the party to these leaders. It reflects the weakness of will that characterized the last year’s McCain candidacy.

There is no problem in disagreeing with Rush on issues. I’m sure that I do that from time to time myself. What is unacceptable is to run away from positions Rush takes simply to appease the liberal media. To do so is to offend a significant voting block that is crucial to any Republican victory.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama Shows Lack of Knowledge of Economics

Obama really messed up on the question about the deduction for charities. Does he understand Economics 101? Or, does he think that the “evil rich” give without any thought of the tax consequences? A lot of Democrats aren’t going to like this one too!

Also, notice that he completely missed the point of the questioner about what would be the impact on the needy. He was just obsessed with taxing the rich. Does he think it’s fair when the amount of help that goes to the poor get is reduced? I’m reminded of his answer to a question during the campaign about the capital gains tax where he didn’t care about the effect it has on economic growth. He was only concerned that the rich pay higher rates out of his sense of what is fair.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Big Paradox of Obamanomics

With the AIG bonus “scandal” as an opening, Obama and the Democrats are now moving to place restriction on the amount of compensation executives can receive. The first step is to target the large TARP recipients. Now Obama is floating the idea of extending it to all financial corporations and even perhaps to all of the publicly traded corporations. The details are sketchy at the moment but the idea is to reduce the compensation of these executives one way or another.
This exposes one of the major contradictions in the Obama/Democrat ideology. One the one hand they propose tax increases on family incomes over $250,000 per year in order to finance their universal healthcare program and other massive increases in government spending. On the other they want to reduce the taxable compensation earned by those over the $250,000 level. The leaves us in a quandary as to how they propose to finance this increased government spending.
Put another way, one can understand a politicians plan to raise revenue by taxing the “rich” but with trillion dollar increases in spending you need a lot of rich to tax. This goes against the whole principle that led to the Clinton surpluses. The rich made a lot of money during the internet/software bubble which was then taxed. If you reduce the salaries and bonuses of the executive class, you are reducing the tax base from which to raise revenue.
So as the Democrat candidate for senate from Minnesota once put it in his former role as SNL comedian, “What does this mean to me “Al Franken?” What means is that the don’t tax the middle class promise is soon to go by the wayside. There will need to be significant taxes on the middle class (as defined by Obama, i.e. those below $250,000) to pay for all this or the government will join the big banks in bankruptcy. Many of these taxes will be hidden in the form of the “Cap and Trade” program to reduce CO2 emissions. You will see them as your utility bills increase as well as in the cost of manufactured products and gasoline.
So be happy with your $500 per year tax cut. You will pay dearly for it in so many ways!