Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Taxes and the economy

Some comments on Sunday's post, Health care notes, were interesting to me and resulted in this post. Here are the comments:
Janet Brown said...

This is just one more reminder that the only real way to keep our economy strong is not by raising taxes, but by keeping taxes low, fair and simple.

We need to take action and contact our legislators and sign petitions like the ones the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs (here).
1:08 PM EDT


Life Insurance Broker said...

@Janet Brown

Explain to me how keeping taxes low will help anything? With no tax money there will be no money in the government thus no money for the economy.

Take care, Lorne
12:00 PM EDT


Paladin said...

@Lorne

By "money in the economy" let's presume you mean the value created in the economy. Almost all of this value is created by private productive individuals and organizations. The allocation of that value is properly vested in free markets. The government's legitimate role is to take a very small portion of that value and use it to provide its legitimate services. High taxes reduce "money in the economy". Low taxes increase it.

Thomas Sowell has written an excellent overview titled "Basic Economics". Henry Hazlitt's "Economics is One Lesson" is good too, but maybe not quite as accessible.
12:55 PM EDT

Lorne,

There are so many very basic, common, and erroneous assumptions packed into your short comment that I am not sure if you are serious. I will respond as if you are, however, because you would be far from alone in such thinking, and I hope addressing these ideas may be useful to others as well.

You seem to be confused about how wealth is created. We may call it money, but that is just a proxy. I think Paladin well addressed this issue, but there are other questionable memes he left unanswered.

One of your problematic assumptions is that without “the government” there wouldn’t be an “economy.” This begs the question of what "the economy" is, and we don’t have time for that here. Suffice it to say that, historically, good government has assisted economic activity by providing a stable and trusted medium of exchange, i.e., money, in a stable environment. This is not to say government must do this, it has just been convenient. It is also not to say that government can be trusted to be a good steward. Recent events prove this.

As to what is “money,” it has ranged from Cowry shells to tulip bulbs to tobacco to limestone wheels 12 feet in diameter. All of these things were a medium of exchange (could be traded for something else), a unit of account (could be traded at a standard value), and a store of value (could be put aside and used later at a similar exchange rate). Whenever they lost any one of those characteristics, they ceased to be money.

Government, then, has hardly been the sole source of money. At one time banks issued their own currency. Gold and silver have themselves served as money without any government’s imprimatur. Not so long ago, our national paper currency was backed by those precious metals. Paper was simply easier to transport.

So, it is not necessary to have government to have either money or an “economy.”

Money, today, in the US, is not backed by any commodity with intrinsic value. What used to be silver certificates, redeemable for the actual metal “payable to the bearer on demand”, are now Federal Reserve notes backed by the “full faith and credit of the United States government.” The intrinsic value is zero, or at best equal to the value of a good counterfeit. The value of a Federal Reserve note is psychological.

As to money supply, to over-simplify, good government should provide a psychologically acceptable currency in sufficient volume so as to allow for the orderly exchange of goods and services. The volume of money in circulation should keep pace with the value of productivity: It should grow at the same rate as productivity. Too much growth in the money supply begets inflation, too little means deflation.

Inflation is itself a tax, and therefore a conflict of interest for your government, because when that government issues (prints) money in excess of the requirement, the money you got paid yesterday suddenly buys less. It becomes diluted, and the real value of your savings shrinks. The Weimar Republic and modern Zimbabwe are extreme examples. As a thought experiment, imagine what would happen if the government decided to wipe out its deficit by the simple expedient of printing money equal to the amount of the deficit. Don't laugh, in a similar vein Zimbabwe declared inflation to be illegal while printing new money at a ratio of a million to one to the old. Zimbabwean inflation in July 2008 was 40-50 million percent.

Lorne, you seem to think that government may actually create wealth. It does not. Not even when it owns General Motors. If General Motors could produce cars people wanted to buy at a profit, what role does government have? If General Motors cannot produce such cars at a profit, how can government fix that? Certainly not by simply taking your money and giving it to General Motors. That does not create wealth, it destroys it by robbing you.

Government, at least in Western democracies, has typically reasonably well performed one function beneficial to the economy. It provides a mechanism for the enforcement of contracts – the rule of law. Not that this could not be done privately, but we have generally ceded the responsibility to government because we trust the process (even so, special entities exist for arbitrating disputes). If we were to cease to trust the government process it would be a serious problem.

So, what does this say about a government, like the Obama administration, willing to quadruple the deficit and to abrogate legal contracts? Quite simply, it erodes the faith and confidence necessary to assign value to the money that government produces. The Chinese have noticed.

Further, it damages the economy by misdirecting resources for political purposes. Resources taken from you. Higher taxes is the government taking more of those resources. From you.

So, when that same government raises taxes what is it doing? Illustrating another misconception in your comment. Taxes do not create jobs or products or the economy. The jobs that money could have created, and the investment in productivity and innovation that could have been made, are stopped in favor of tattoo removal among Los Angeles gangstas, or propping up a failed auto workers union.

Without economic freedom you cannot have political freedom. All of this economic discussion should be framed with that reference. Specifically, the loss of political freedom represented by government intervention in the form of excessive direct taxation, or in indirect taxation through regulation and inflation. You are not free to choose.

On that note, I will add three other books to the ones Paladin mentioned in his comment (Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics and Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson) that could also help you understand this better. I assume you would like to.
  1. Eat the Rich, P.J. O’Rourke. A really fun read. Pay special attention to the chapter on Hong Kong under John Cowperthwaite.
  2. Free to Choose and Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Freidman. Classics, easily understood, but take them in that order.
  3. The Road to Serfdom, Freidrich Hayek. Heavier going and appropriate for more advanced study.
Thanks for stopping by and inspiring this post.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Health care notes

B.C. health minister shows sound instincts on healthcare
On Wednesday, Mr. [Kevin] Falcon [British Columbia's Minister of Health] made a remark to the effect that he was in favour of allowing Canadians to use their own money to leave the public queue and buy expedited access to health treatments in the private sector.

...Mr. Falcon later called back to "clarify" his remarks; unfortunately, it was not possible for Ms. Fayerman to capture details of the undoubtedly entertaining dressing-down that the Minister received in the meantime from his senior staff. ( "You said what?")

Mr. Falcon explained that of course he had only been referring to medically non-necessary services, and that "we don't have the right" to allow people to seek private, voluntary alternatives when it comes to services considered "necessary" under the Canada Health Act.
Health care isn't being rationed in Canada. It's just illegal for people pay for the "medically necessary" part of it out of their own pocket. If health care were free, would who paid matter? In any event, Canadians have access to a private plan called the United States.

OTOH, Government Health Plans Always Ration Care

...a bill released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The bill calls for a "Medical Advisory Council" to determine what medical products and services are "essential benefits" and those that shouldn't be covered by a public insurance plan.

The Senate Finance Committee turns to a "Federal Health Board" to compare similar medical treatments in order to steer reimbursement to lower-cost options. ...[and] a "sustainability commission" charged with finding automatic cuts to Medicare spending that would then pass Congress by a simple up or down vote.

...a draft health-care reform proposal introduced last week in the House of Representatives by the three committees with jurisdiction over health policy set up an independent "advisory committee" that will "recommend a benefit package based on standards set in the law." It also proposes a new "commission" that may, among other things, help develop treatment protocols based on government-directed research.

... such bodies are typically advisory, and their advice is free to be rejected or modified by the president. Under the HELP committee's plan, the health board's recommendations would be binding unless Congress acts within a brief period to pass a "joint resolution disapproving such report in its entirety."

... Like Medicare's recent decisions to curtail the use of virtual colonoscopies, certain wound-healing devices, and even a branded asthma drug, the board's decisions will be one-size-fits-all restrictions. Such restrictions don't respect variation in preferences and disease, which make costly products suitable for some even if they are wasteful when prescribed to everyone.
Which might explain why our President refuses to be bound by the public health plan he assures us will guarantee everyone the same choices they always had. He wants to keep his own options open for some reason.

EXCLUSIVE: President Obama Defends Right to Choose Best Care

President Obama struggled to explain today whether his health care reform proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people -- like the president himself -- wouldn't face.

...Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist and researcher at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said that elites often propose health care solutions that limit options for the general public, secure in the knowledge that if they or their loves ones get sick, they will be able to afford the best care available, even if it's not provided by insurance.

Devinsky asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn't seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he's proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get.

The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if "it's my family member, if it's my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.
The headline is a tad misleading. He's only defending his own right to choose, not yours. Later in that White House infomercial Charlie
... Gibson asked the president if it doesn't make sense to decide what the limitations will be on options in any health care reform proposal before voting on it.

"That's what people are afraid of," Gibson said.

The president said he understood the American people "know they're living with the devil, but the devil they know instead of the devil they don't."
By "devil they don't" our President seems to mean that same vague plan he is not willing to commit his family to at this time. In other words, some bill our Representatives will not have read, deliberated or understood when they vote on it.

If Obama is not entirely ready to commit his family's health to this boondoggle, it should not surprise us that large Unions want their members to get a pass on being taxed to pay for it. Nor should anyone should be shocked that Ted Kennedy wants to ensure that Congressmen and Senators are not inconvenienced by any health care legislation they might pass. Beware Obamacare's Fine Print

In a desperate scramble to pay for the soaring costs of President Obama's health care plan, the Senate Finance Committee is contemplating taxing for the first time the health insurance benefits workers get from their employers. One approach would tax the benefits only of workers earning over $100,000. An alternate proposal would tax the value of health care benefits that exceed a cap.

But the taxes wouldn't be applied equally. Union members serving under collective bargaining agreements would be exempt, even though they often have the richest and most extensive packages of benefits. Union officials have told Democratic leaders of Congress that because collective bargaining agreements can last several years, they should be exempt from any tax because contracts can't be changed quickly enough to avoid it.

...There's a reason the Obama health care plan is being rushed through Congress this summer -- because the American people would likely never support it if given time to absorb and understand such fine print. If the union carve-out isn't sufficient to excite public anger, wait till you hear about the version of the Obama plan prepared by Senator Edward Kennedy, which would specifically exempt Members of Congress from many of its provisions.
And that brings us, full circle, to rationing: Obama discusses deathbed measures
President Obama suggested at a town hall event Wednesday night that one way to shave medical costs is to stop expensive and ultimately futile procedures performed on people who are about to die and don't stand to gain from the extra care.

In a nationally televised event at the White House, Obama said families need better information so they don't unthinkingly approve "additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care."
Maybe, but I don't want those questions decided by some bureaucrat based on information parsed through a political committee established by Congress to protect Congress from accountability for life and death decisions, especially if the committee powers are established based on a 1200 page law no one in Congress ever read before they passed it, and didn't need to because they would be exempt from its provisions anyway.

Feeling represented? See you at a Tea Party.

Friday, June 26, 2009

BATFE camouflage

Yesterday, I received a response to a letter I wrote in April to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Obama administration (Himself, Holder and Hillary included) and various Mexican authorities had then been actively lying about the number of firearms used by drug criminals in Mexico which could be traced to the United States.

They repeatedly claimed the number was north of 90% of all guns seized. In fact, that percent relates only to the guns given by the Mexicans to BATFE for tracing. In other words, guns the Mexicans already were pretty sure came from the US turn out to be 90% from the US. The rest they don't send to BATFE.

There is much uncertainty about how many guns, in total, the Mexican authorities confiscate in raids and in the aftermath of gun battles with drug dealers, because the Mexican authorities do not provide any data. The letter I received from BATFE said BATFE had no idea about the total number, and confirmed that the +90% only applied to the weapons the Mexicans submitted for tracing. This I already knew.

You can find my April letter here, but I think the context and central content are obvious in the letter I mailed to BATFE today, as is the deficiency of BATFE's response:

25-June-2009

[name]
Assistant Director
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Office of Public and Governmental Affairs
99 New York Ave. NE
Mail Stop 5S144
Washington, DC 20226


Mr. [name],

I am in receipt of your letter dated 22-June-2009, a response to my inquiry of 20-April-2009. The information was not helpful and I do need further assistance. [He asked me to let him know.]

In my April 20th letter, I asked for specific information about the sources of US firearms submitted to BATFE for tracing. You indicate that you have no information about "the total number of firearms seized by government authorities in Mexico." Thank you for letting me know that cannot answer that question, but I did not ask it.

What I did ask, and what has not been answered, regards information you certainly have.

What are the various sources in the United States of those firearms submitted by Mexican authorities to the BATFE for tracing? That is, of the submitted firearms you have, or have had, in your possession - where in the US did they come from?

I specifically inquired about the following: "Which of these weapons can be traced to official aid provided by the United States to Mexico? That is, which, if any, of these firearms were legally imported by Mexico from United States law enforcement or military sources, or other government departments or programs?

I assume that such transfers from law enforcement or military sources in the United States will have been precisely documented.

In addition, can you provide a breakdown by type of weapon? Handguns vs long guns and the number of semi-automatic, automatic and other types would be extremely helpful."

I think it is obvious to both of us that you have this information, since you have had the firearms in question in your possession for the purposes of tracing them.

Thank you in advance,
etc.
I did say in April that I would keep you posted. If anyone out there has tips on effective FOIA filing, I would be interested. I suspect I may need it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Canada: health care wait times

You would not think a country where timely access to health care was routine would spawn an organization named Wait Time Alliance for Timely Access to Health Care. Canada has such an group, however, and here's their latest report:


An example:
Five years ago the governments of Canada resolved to improve wait times for health care by committing nearly $6 billion to the cause. Although there are signs of improvement, the lack of uniform and timely information on wait times is just one symptom of the ‘unfinished business’ relating to wait times in Canada. What’s going on?

With an ever-expanding roster of wait-time benchmarks and data, the 4th Wait Time Alliance (WTA) report card gives Canadians a more accurate picture of the real wait times to access a broader range of medical care.
You wouldn't think a country that does not have a wait time problem would have governments that do think it necessary to resolve "to improve wait times for health care by committing nearly $6 billion," either.

If these governments did do so, you might expect significant improvement. You would be disappointed, as The Fraser Institute demonstrates in:


An example:
Source: The Fraser Institute’s national waiting list survey, 2008; and Ramsay and Walker, 1997.
Despite a one week fall from the high reached in 2007, the total wait time remains high, both historically and internationally. Compared to 1993, waiting time in 2008 is 86 percent longer. Moreover, academic studies of waiting time have found that Canadians wait longer than Americans, Germans, and Swedes (sometimes) for cardiac care, although not as long as New Zealanders or the British.

Medical research has shown that longer waits can lead to adverse consequences for cardiac patients. Furthermore, economists attempting to quantify the cost of this waiting time have estimated it to amount to $1,100 to $5,600 annually per patient (Cullis and Jones, 1986; Propper, 1990).

The extent of Canada’s health system dysfunction was documented in a 2000 Fraser Institute study that examined the impact of increases in government health spending. The study’s analysis revealed that provinces spending more on health care per person had neither shorter (nor longer) total waiting times than those spending less. In addition, those provinces spending more had no higher rates of surgical specialist services (consultations plus procedures) and had lower rates of procedures and major surgeries (Zelder, 2000b). A follow-up study in 2003 found that increased spending was actually correlated with increases in waiting times unless those increases in spending were targeted to physicians or pharmaceuticals (Esmail, 2003).

Finally, the promise of the Canadian health care system is not being realized. On the contrary, a profusion of research reveals that cardiovascular surgery queues are routinely jumped by the famous and politically-connected, that suburban and rural residents confront barriers to access not encountered by their urban counterparts, and that low-income Canadians have less access to specialists, particularly cardiovascular ones, are less likely to utilize diagnostic imaging, and have lower cardiovascular and cancer survival rates than their higher-income neighbours.

This grim portrait is the legacy of a medical system offering low expectations cloaked in lofty rhetoric. Indeed, under the current regime—first-dollar coverage with use limited by waiting, and crucial medical resources priced and allocated by governments— prospects for improvement are dim. Only substantial reform of that regime is likely to alleviate the medical system’s most curable disease—waiting times that are consistently and significantly longer than physicians feel is clinically reasonable.
I stand by the contentions of Canadians that there is a rationing problem with their health care system. I lived with it in Ontario for 22 years.

ACORN gets COI

ACORN is changing their name to Community Organizations International.

ACORN drops tarnished name and moves to silence critics

Sort of like changing "Global Warming" to "Climate Change." Or "Liberal" to "Progressive." Or "Terrorism" to "Man Caused Disaster." Or "Extraordinary Rendition" to "Friends Helping Friends Executive Order."

New brand. Get rid of the baggage.

I think they missed a bet with BHOGUS, myself. The GUS could be Gutting the United States, for example. A little work might improve that.

If they had to have COI, though, they could have picked from several better expansions -
  • Conflict Of Interest
  • Confluence Of Idiotarians
  • Congress Of Indigents
  • Chicago Oligarchy Imperative
or my personal favorite:
  • Comrade Obama Internationale
And if they'd asked me I could have saved them some money on redoing the signs. Community Organizations Respecting Nothing only requires selling a vowel. It stays in the vegetable kingdom too, instead of rhyming with pampered fish.

Well, here's to publicizing the fact that ACORN is becoming COI. A nut by any other name...

Update 24-Jun, 7:54PM
Nice related graphic here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Canada: health care rationing review

Les incontinents en attente.

In English, according to Google's translation of Le Journal de Montreal's article, that's The incontinence waiting.

People have to wait 3 years in Quebec for an 30 minute operation to correct a condition that dramatically affects their quality of life. These people suffer from severe incontinence. Some must urinate every 15 minutes. There are currently 60 people on the waiting list.

Meanwhile, the Windsor Star reports that Ontarians are being sent to Buffalo, New York, for treatment of a deadly and fulminating type of cancer. Mark Hunt, of Windsor, was first was diagnosed with, and treated for, melanoma in 2005. By April, 2009 it had metastasized. He has been waiting since then for treatment. He has a tumor the size of his heart in his chest.
Between April 2007 and April of this year, 55 Ontario patients have been referred to [the] Roswell Park [Cancer Institute] for IL-2 treatments, compared to four patients sent to the Harper University Hospital and the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, Morrison said.

The average cost of sending a patient to Roswell Park was $113,000, compared to $125,000 at the Harper hospital and $148,000 at the Karmanos facility, he added.

To ensure that the process is fair and competitive, the ministry will review the status of Roswell Park next April, Morrison said.
Competitive? Mark Hunt has to travel 8 hours (round trip) for treatment instead of 45 minutes. His health care isn't quite as "free" as that of an resident of Fort Erie.

The treatment, with an drug named Interleukin-2, consists of 15-minute IV's every 8 hours for 5 days. Each treatment consists of two 5-day cycles interrupted by a 9-day rest period. Multiple courses are typical. Hour many 8 hour round trips, or hotel bills, does OHIP cover for Mark's wife and child?

Finally, on a more general note, the Fraser Institute notes:
In 2007, waiting lists for access to health care in Canada reached a new all-time high of 18.3 weeks from general practitioner referral to treatment by a specialist. Despite substantial increases in both health spending and federal cash transfers to the provinces for health care over the last decade or so, this wait time is 54% longer than the overall median wait time of 11.9 weeks back in 1997.

Canada’s waiting lists are also, according to available evidence, among the longest in the developed world.
H/T Carpe Diem

See also, Lessons from Canada??? and don't miss the comments.

Neda Agha Soltan

WARNING, very graphic and disturbing.

Her name was Neda Agha Soltan.


There are credible reports (including a video) that Neda was watching a demonstration from some distance. She was a target of opportunity for a Basij thug, old enemies of America.

It becomes more difficult to remain merely "very concerned," because as President Obama said, "the world is watching." And it is not just Iran being watched.

"Martyr" is a word casually tossed around by Iran's Supreme Leader. May he live to regret having created a true martyr. This woman deserves to be remembered. And avenged.

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is afraid. There is a rumor that a memorial service planned for today was canceled by Iranian authorities.

If the Iranian Tyranny is overthrown this young woman's death will have played a major role.

Update 10:17AM Some reports have her last name as Soltani.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Helping Iran

Dr. Michael Ledeen at Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: How Should We Help Iran? Read the whole thing. Here are abbreviated points:
1. The single most important thing is to get accurate information to the Iranian people about what is going on inside Iran.

2. We should be able to get some working satellite phones into the country, so that people can call out with up-to-date information, which we could then turn around and broadcast back to the Iranians.

3. Internet continues to work, despite regime filtering. A lot of Iranians are beating the censors by using a website that was set up to beat the Chinese filters...
...Help those people.

4. Build a strike fund for Iranian workers. And get them food for their kids. Jimmy Hoffa, you listening?

5. Call, courage and clarity from our leaders. Above all, from Obama and Hillary. Constant denunciation of the oppression and slaughter of innocent people in Iran, constant appeals to the "universal values" for which we all stand.
Mr. President, are you listening? Please?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"crowd control issues" in Dearbornistan?

Michigan: Christians banned from delivering tracts on sidewalk
Today, [June 18] a federal judge denied our request for a TRO (temporary restraining order), which would have allowed Arabic Christian Perspective to continue to distribute their literature along the public sidewalks adjacent to a street occupied by the annual Arab International Festival.

The court reasoned that restrictions imposed by the City of Dearborn only on ACP were reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. We naturally disagree, inasmuch as no other citizen is ordered to restrict what he or she can say or hand to another person. This is content-based discrimination against a Christian group, whose mission is to peaceably bring the good news of salvation to people attending the Festival.
I am not a religious person, so I don't care about the proselytizing one way or the other. However, free exercise of religion is obviously the proximate, unstated reason for this speech restriction. It isn't about ninety people out of thousands attending causing a crowd control meltdown. The "crowd control" excuse is code for "we don't want trouble." If Dearborn had been more honest, I'd have more sympathy.

Think of it this way, if someone wants to pass out cartoons depicting Mohammed in sexual congress with his sub-teen "bride," or as a dog sodomizing a praying Muslim - though the latter's been done already by Danish Imams - I'd say that's OK too. I would listen to an objection regarding a threat to public order in such a case, though.

IAC, I cannot see how that would apply in advance to any religious debate that might arise in the actual case. Admittedly, that would be embarrassing for Dearborn officials because they allowed a festival where they retrospectively believe they cannot maintain order because of the religious intolerance of the festival organizers/attendees. That is not the fault of the ACP.

Where are the defenders of the Bill of Rights? For example, the last positive thing I can recall having come out of the ACLU was their defense of the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois in 1981. They won then, where are they this time?

The fierce complacency of amoral pragmatism

Recommended reading on Our President's reaction to the protests in Iran.

Mark Steyn: Iran neutrality no option for Obama

For the Obama administration, this presents a particular challenge – because the president's preferred rhetorical tic is to stake out the two sides and present himself as a dispassionate, disinterested soul of moderation: "There are those who would argue…" on the one hand, whereas "there are those who insist…" on the other, whereas he is beyond such petty dogmatic positions.
Charles Krauthammer: Obama Clueless on Iran
All hangs in the balance. The Khamenei regime is deciding whether to do a Tiananmen. And what side is the Obama administration taking? None. Except for the desire that this "vigorous debate" (press secretary Robert Gibbs' disgraceful euphemism) over election "irregularities" not stand in the way of U.S.-Iranian engagement on nuclear weapons.
Obama's coolth depends on appearing to float above controversy, and that legend is more important to him than any other consideration whatsoever.

Friday, June 19, 2009

They call the wind Messiah

This is what Governor Granholm and President Obama are promoting as the manufacturing industry of the future.
Honeywell Has Windy Illusions - Claims Consumer Wind Turbine Pays For Itself, But Fails The Math Test

Considering windmills as corporate welfare, as in ethanol, Jennifer and Barack are probably right about creating more jobs. Government jobs.

Considering windmills as analogous to ethanol, there are probably numerous windmill manufacturer bankruptcies in the works. This is known as a government "bail-in."

20-Jun, 12:24PM Bad link fixed.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Low level terrorist protest

Apparently, that title is considered redundant at the Pentagon. I guess one person's Low-Level Terrorism is another person's Man Caused Highest Form of Patriotism.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grass Mud Horses in Iran

The Grass Mud Horse is a Chinese dissident construct representing those who resist authoritarian censorship, particularly censorship of the Internet. The horses are visiting Iran. You can help them.

Twitter is a major communication resource for Iranian protesters. Twitter has delayed a major software patch to their service so as not to interrupt this communication. Because Twitter is an aid to the protests and in getting information out of Iran, the Iranian intelligence services are attempting to use it to entrap dissidents. You can do a little thing that might help. From Wired:
Help cover the [Iranian] bloggers: change your twitter settings so that your location is TEHRAN and your time zone is GMT +3.30. Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location and timezone searches. If we all become ‘Iranians’ it becomes much harder to find them.
Also, change your location if you filled it in. Pass this on - via email, not Twitter - to other twits you know.

An amusing bit here about the cyber battle in Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary Photoshop Guards still can't get it right.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mea Culpa Americana Contest

We have an answer to yesterday's question about Dhimmi Carter's whereabouts - he's been meeting with Hamas - and another reason to despise them both: Carter to Obama: Remove Hamas From Terror List
...two Palestinian sources told FOX News that the group [Hamas] had discovered two roadside bombs planted near a crossing between Israel and Gaza on a path Carter's convoy took to meet with the group's leaders...
They (Hamas, not FOX News) do seem to be able to prevent violence given sufficient motivation:
"Nobody in Gaza will touch this man, [Carter]" Hamas adviser Ahmed Yousef said. "He is on a noble mission. Everyone here respects him."
So does everyone at the UN and the Nobel Prize Committee.

As to weapons used in defense rather than for murder, Carter is noted as saying:
...he feels personally responsible that American weapons were used to fight in Gaza Strip last year, when Israeli Defense Forces entered the strip to stop the launch of rockets from there into Israel.
This is the same Gaza Strip Israel ceded to the "Palestinians," and from which it expelled thousands of Israelis. It was designed to give the "Palestinians" a chance to demonstrate that they were capable of self-governance. We know how that has worked out.

Dhimmi did not acknowledge any personal angst about Iranian rockets supplied to Hamas, an axis of cutthroats he's done more to encourage than he did for any American. He did not go so far as to say he wished he'd had a second term in which to dismantle America's military so that he could now feel less "personally responsible" for assisting an allied democracy against fascist aggression.

It is to difficult understand why he takes this personally. It is impossible to tell if he would have felt better if Kalashnikovs, MiGs and Hinds had been substituted. Perhaps he is objecting, in principle, to the idea that Israel should defend itself. If so, the source of the weapons used against his beloved terrorists is only important in that it allows a Cartersneer™ at the country he used to lead, and is a form of one-upmanship in his undeclared Mea Culpa Americana contest with Obama.

Whatever his intent, Carter has at least helped Obama by staking out some territory farther to the anti-semitic left than Obama has yet assayed.

The only surprising aspect of this story is that it didn't include Carter's in absentia certification of the Iranian election.

On that topic, there are good links to more coverage of happenings in Iran here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obambi's open hand slapped

Hungary 1956. Prague 1968. Tiananmen Square 1989. The only thing missing in Tehran are the Communist tanks.

Our President broke 3 days of silence on the Iranian election fraud today. Maybe it was pictures of people being murdered by the Quds Force and their ilk that bestirred him.

Barack Obama is "deeply troubled" by violence in Iran. He urged the Iranian theocracy to "respect free speech and the democratic process." He promised to continue pursuing "tough dialogue" with Iran.

Where's Jimmy Carter when you need him?

Some good coverage here and here.

Daniel Pipes

Assessing Binyamin Netanyahu's Speech at Bar-Ilan University

Sunday, June 14, 2009

...our flag was still there

On the Defence of Fort McHenry.

Jules Crittenden with the comprehensive Flag Day post. Recommended.

History of the flag that inspired the anthem here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Miranjihad rights

The Department of Justice has decided that the first words spoken to a suspected Taliban terrorist, say one captured in Afghanistan in the aftermath of a beheading with a bloody scimitar in his hand, should be these:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.
TOC first suggested this prospect here in June, 2006. Then, I was imagining how Ramsey Clark would present the case for Abu al-Zarqawi had he been captured rather than immolated.

In January, 2009 I said this:

We all do hope President Obama is successful in his resolution of the problems represented by terrorists captured on the battlefield; problems compounded by his rush to accomodate those suffering residual Bush Derangement Syndrome. [Re: Gitmo] We also hope he is resolute in preventing any remaining Al-Shihri's from being freed because they weren't read their Miranda rights.
I wish I had been wrong, but we can now at least put one face on Janet Napolitano's euphemism "man-caused disaster" - that of AG Eric H. Holder.

Related: TOC commented on SCOTUS' Boumediene decision, in June 2008 - here and here.

Edited 5:28PM 13-Jun

Monday, June 08, 2009

Obama saves

You've almost certainly already seen this graph already, but it is useful for reference. The blue lines represent the Obama Administration's unemployment projections with and without the stimulus bill. The maroon dots represent what has actually occurred.

The White House claims to have already "saved" 150,000 jobs. This appears to be short around 750,000 from the "without recovery plan" line. Maybe they reversed the labels. Maybe they got the policy backwards.

In other news, the White House is unable to predict how much of the stimulus money will be spent in the next 100 days, but Our President assured us that spending it will "save" or create 600,000 jobs in that time.

What could go wrong?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The boys of Pointe du Hoc

Ronald Reagan's 1984 speech at the site of the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, France:
We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers -- the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life . . . and left the vivid air signed with your honor.''

I think I know what you may be thinking right now--thinking, "We were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.'' Well, everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him--Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry I'm a few minutes late,'' as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold, and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a rollcall of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore: the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet'' and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge--and pray God we have not lost it--that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They thought--or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-Day: their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do. Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together.

There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance--a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost 40 years after the war. Because of this, Allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose--to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.

But we try always to be prepared for peace; prepared to deter aggression; prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms; and, yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II: 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the Earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that some day that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We are bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
I am off to my first grandchild's first birthday party today. He lives in freedom because of the boys of Pointe du Hoc and all those others who stormed beaches, parachuted behind enemy lines and risked riding rickety gliders into the enemy's guns. God bless them every one.

This site is worth a visit to see some nice images of D-Day beaches and Pointe du Hoc.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama's corporate tax increase on foreign operations of American companies gets results

I am generally not a fan of Microsoft, or Steve Ballmer, but to this I say: GO STEVE!

Ballmer Says Tax Would Move Microsoft Jobs Offshore


High paying jobs, but easily moved. Perhaps our President will realize he is proposing to make it happen.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lessons from Canada???

This is not what I've meant when I've said we can learn from Canada. Just the opposite, in fact. Canadian leader stumps for Obamacare

Listen to Shona Holmes, not Jack Layton. That's Jack below, on the right (the paler one in the foreground, with some hair).


The New Democratic Party, or NDP, or "Dippers," as they are known in Canada are a party stuck in the 19th century. They are captives of labor unions and idealize the sort of crony capitalism with which our President has had so much success of late. Layton only wishes he could do 10 percent as well at nationalizing major industries beyond, of course, health care.

Unfortunately, he and his party are well aligned with the philosophy of the Democats, so the Dems are probably actually paying attention to this third rate Marxist.

In his speech today, set appropriately at D.C.'s Woodrow Wilson Center, he spoke of the history of socialized medicine in Canada as well as his own recent experience:

In 1961 when Tommy [Douglas] and my party launched Canada’s first public health care program in Saskatchewan, those vested interests responded with fury – doctors even went on strike! In attempt to block change, those doctors left sick women, men and children without care. Leaving communities in desperate and dire need. But the hard-working women and men of Saskatchewan knew what was right. After just three weeks, under sustained public pressure, the doctors strike collapsed.

...This Easter I had both knees operated on. I saw a doctor of my choice, quickly got an MRI and just a few short weeks later – it was elective surgery – I had the operation and was on the mend. My credit card stayed in my wallet – I just had to show my Canadian Medicare card.
Well, I certainly believe that his Canadian "Medicare" card was required, but I suspect his credentials as NDP Leader had something to do with getting rapid service in a country where there are about 60% as many MRI machines and CT scanners per citizen as the average OECD nation, and where the median national wait time (2007) was over 10 weeks. Ontarians then had the shortest wait for an MRI (7.8 weeks). Newfoundland residents had the longest (20 weeks).

As of January, 2009, however, it doesn't seem to have improved in Ontario:

Even as the average provincial wait for the diagnostic scan continues to drop to below 100 days, Eastern Ontario wait times have shot up since April 2007, from 160 to 294 days, making it the worst-performing region in the province.

...the hospital is also launching a pilot project that would see some patients awaiting MRIs diverted to other types of diagnostic scans, which produce slightly less detailed though medically acceptable images and which tend to have shorter waiting lists.

"Knowing that our wait time is up to a year for an MRI, they might be better off having a CT (scan) or an ultrasound," said Dr. Schweitzer.
Things are at least as bad in Manitoba, where the Province is run by the very NDP Mr. Layton extols as having invented Canadian health care.
...the NDP has been misleading people about how great our MRI wait times are, compared to other provinces, knowing all along that this was only because they (Manitoba NDP) restricted who could order an MRI.
Rationing and lying.

In British Columbia, where the NDP does not preside, the NDP just complain about MRI wait times resulting from the system they invented.

In other words, Mr. Layton's experience cannot be called typical. But, he assures us, it's also better for the economy. He goes on to say to those assembled at the Wilson Center:

Spending on health care is good for the economy – it’s a win-win. Right now, the Canadian health care system gives businesses a competitive advantage. In the United States, health care is so costly that companies are being forced to choose between shareholder returns and care for their employees.

General Motors USA spends $10,000 every minute on health care. That’s $5 billion a year. It costs General Motors Canada $8 less per hour per employee to do business simply because Canada has a public health care system. Health care costs in the United States have contributed to the crippling of the auto sector, and reducing health care costs through the economy will boost the American economy overall.
First, Mr. Layton, are you sure you want to go there? Can you say "softwood lumber," or "stumpage subsidies?" Canada is, after all, already suffering from the stupidity of the "buy American" provision of our recent porkulus spending bill. Do you want us boycotting cars made in Canada because of an "unfair playing field?"

Second, you are: 1) ignoring taxation on GM, its workers and everyone else with income which goes to pay for health care and, 2) presenting the same kind of false dichotomy of which our fearless leader is so enamored. There are other choices.

One is to turn health care decisions over to the individual and get rid of the benighted idea that employers are the only choice if government does not intervene. Mr. Layton, you are as ignorant of economics as is our President.

I do not suggest that American health care does not need reform, I do insist that if the only options presented involve controlling costs via one third party bureaucracy or another, results are worse than they would be otherwise. In no national experiment thus assayed has such control not resulted in rationing.

It's little wonder that US businesses and our insurance industry are lobbying in favor of government control of health care - they'd rather taxpayers in general shoulder the burden of GM's ill-advised health care contracts. This is the health-care/big government axis, and we should fear it.

Mr. Layton goes on to note that:
We need more doctors and nurses, because 5 million Canadians still don’t have a family doctor.
Those could be the people who would have become doctors, but never did after seeing how the 1961 Saskatchewan doctor's strike turned out. That wasn't so much a victory as Tommy Douglas is given credit for. Some might even use the word "Phyrric."

Finally, Mr. Layton, if the public system is as good as you say, why did you have your hernia operation at a private clinic?
Canada's top doctor singled out New Democrat leader Jack Layton yesterday for "hypocrisy" for undergoing hernia treatment at a private Toronto medical clinic.

But Brian Day, president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, was quick to note Layton is in good company.

Former prime ministers Paul Martin, Jean Chretien and Joe Clark also have been treated at private medical clinics, Day told the annual meeting of the Canadian Science Writers' Association.

And he said union leader Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Autoworkers, proved a master at "queue jumping" when he got in for an MRI within 24 hours of injuring his leg.

"Even I couldn't do that," said Day, the outspoken and media savvy orthopedic surgeon who takes over in August as president of the CMA, which represents 62,000 physicians across Canada.

...Many of the customers at his Vancouver clinic - where people can get hips, knees and other operations - are health-care workers sent by the Workman's Compensation Board that pays for the more timely treatment offered at the clinic because it wants to get people back to work.

"I believe the public system needs the support of the private sector," Day said. He argues health-care needs to be more efficient, effective and responsible, three principles Ottawa left out when it borrowed liberally from the eight tenets set out in Tommy Douglas's Saskatchewan Medical Insurance Act.

As evidence of the inefficiency, he says his Vancouver clinic sent one person to negotiate a recent service contract.

The public system, he said, sent 21 people and not one of them had the power to make the decision.

There has been an explosion, he says, in the growth of middle management in the public system in the last decade.

"Not in doctors, not in nurses, but middle management," he says.
Did Jack Layton got better treatment than the average Canadian for his knee replacements? He seems to think he did not.

I have written quite a bit about Canada's health care system, and I experienced it from 1971 to 1994. I think that post is worth a read as are these others - since Jack Layton has come to our shores to advocate socialism.

Saturday, December 23, 2006
Lessons from Canada

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
...every other advanced country

Thursday, March 15, 2007
Waiting for Trudot

Thursday, August 09, 2007
SCHIP of Fools

Sunday, August 19, 2007
Human gestation period surprises Canadian health adminstrators

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Support the system. Game the system. It's all OK, eh?

Monday, January 21, 2008
Andragogy Canada

Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Obama; Needs time in Canadian Instructional League?

Sunday, June 29, 2008
Canada is telling us something

Sunday, August 10, 2008
Health care lotteries, a Canadian growth industry

Monday, August 25, 2008
Universal health care

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Safety valve endangered

Finally, if you get a chance, rent the Canadian movie The Barbarian Invasions, a 2003 Academy Award winner you've probably never heard of. It's about Canada's health care system. Much more intelligent than anything Michael Moore has done. Cato review here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Markets in everything

Stealing a topic title from Carpe Diem, I found this...

Investing in Lawsuits, for a Share of the Awards

...alarming at first blush, but after considering it, I think it's an idea with possibilities.

On the negative side, it encourages tort actions, but it 1) can reduce the power of money and delay to block an appropriate suit (there's an example at the link), and 2) could also convince people that tort reform is a good idea. Market pricing is information. I'd actually like it, therefore, if the results were public. That information does not appear to be available, though.