Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Turning Sunlight Into Oil

There was an interesting article in POPSCI last month about a new technology to make fuel/oil from carbon dioxide and sunlight — effectively making fuel out of thin air.

• Making fuel/oil
• Using sunlight
• Consuming CO2
      This news is GREENER than GREEN.

This is HUGE, even as it stands. If it pans out at a larger scale, then it's HISTORIC.

UPDATE: A Technology Review article confirms the demonstration of a prototype device, the first step out of the laboratory and toward full-scale operation.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Warning Flags, Ignored

Let's see — Here are a few things we know (from the news reports) about the piece of sub-human garbage who tried to kill a large number of humans on Christmas:
    • He bought a one-way ticket
    • He paid cash
    • He apparently bought it pretty close to the last minute
    • He checked in with no checked baggage

All these are things we have been told ad infinitum would always produced detailed secondary screening. But it's pretty clear no secondary screening — detailed or otherwise — ever took place. If it had, that screening would probably have turned up the fact that
    • He had been reported as a dangerous extremist to US and foreign authorities by his father,
    • He had been denied a re-entry visa (to return to school) by the British,
    • He was associated with al Qaeda in Yemen, which has claimed the blame for this attack, and
    • He was on a warning list of dangerous, terror-connected individuals, even though
    • He hadn't (yet) been promoted to the no-fly list

These are just a few warning flags. I've no doubt there were more.

It looks to me like the bureaucrats of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) really don't know what they're doing. As a result, they are mainly just hassling ordinary passengers without doing what's needed to make us safer.

One more thing: After Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber", tried to blow up a plane over the Atlantic 8 years ago, we all had to start taking off our shoes for screening. Since this guy had his PETN explosive in his underwear, will we have to start taking ours off for TSA?

UPDATE: Another missed warning flag — on his way to a frigid city, he had no coat.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cash for Corruptocrats

This phase of the battle over the Democrat “health care” bill is over, and its finish was spectacular — and I mean that in the worst possible way. Harry Reid and his cronies demonstrated conclusively that they have no scruples whatever. Not only did Harry and his friends completely shut out the Republicans from having any input on the bill at all, but they also shut out most Democrats and even most of the Democrats’ leadership.

Even so, they only way Harry Reid could “win” was to buy off — bribe — a number of his colleagues. Actually it’s worse than ordinary, garden variety bribery. Harry Reid didn't bribe the other senators with his own money — he bribed them and purchased their votes with our money. Michelle Malkin calls Harry Reid’s vote buying program Cash for Corruptocrats.

I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if, like in the other Cash for Clunkers program, this meant they would first be disabled and then taken out to be dismantled.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas

Image thanks to ZIP

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Democrats' "Health Care" Bill

The Democrats in Congress say they want to reduce medical care costs, "bend the cost curve down", and cover those who don't have health insurance. They claim they will can do this in a way that will not increase the deficit, and will allow (!) those happy with their medical insurance to keep it.

To accomplish these noble goals, the Democrats have produced a "health care" bill. Their bill accomplishes none of these goals — and, in fact, makes every one of these problems worse.

Further, the Democrats pretend that those without health insurance cannot get health care. This is a lie, and they know it. They pretend that taking half a trillion dollars out of Medicare will improve it — another flagrant obvious lie. They pretend that dumping extra costs on the states is the same as reducing costs.

And that's before all the horse trading, diddling, extortion, and outright bribery conducted by Harry Reid (in back rooms excluding all Republicans and nearly all Democrats) to get the votes to pass this sack of (probably) unconstitutional crap. As a result, a small number of states will have their increased costs covered by the federal government. That means Harry Reid has arranged for the rest of us to pay all the increased costs for the states whose senators he needed to buy off as well as for our own. Among other things, that's a clear admission that the cost curve is about to be bent up, not down. And that they know it.

It also appears much of the bill is still in "conceptual language" rather than "legislative language". That means senators cannot actually determine what they are being asked to vote on. They're being asked to trust Dirty Harry Reid to fill that in later.

All of which says Daryl Cagle is right in his representation of the difference between the health plan and the health bill.
The whole thing is a fraud. And those pushing it know it is entirely fraudulent.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Democrats' Profligate Spending

The country is tightening its belt. There is 10% unemployment, and no inflation. Yet the Senate today joined the House — or perhaps I should say (more accurately) the Democrats in both bodies — in passing an omnibus spending bill that will cost us $1.1 trillion, and giving the agencies covered an average 10% budget increase.

The disconnect between the people of America and the leftist elites asserting their right to rule us is HUGE.

Harry Reid's Hate Speech

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made his statement on the floor of the Senate, so I suppose he has some degree of limited immunity. But if he says, or has said, similar things elsewhere, he should be arrested for hate speech.

What did he say? Reid Compares Opponents of Health Care Reform to Supporters of Slavery "Reid argued that Republicans are using the same stalling tactics employed in the pre-Civil War era." Reid is also quoted as saying "When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."

In other words, he condemned opponents of his bill as being like the kind of Democrats we should have left behind long ago — the kind of Democrats who maintained slavery, the Democrats who pushed secession in the face of the anti-slavery views of the first Republican president (the president who ended slavery), the Democrats who later thwarted desegregation efforts for decades, the Democrats who opposed anti-lynching laws, and the majority of Democrats who voted against the civil rights acts. The kind of Democrat like Harry Reid.

That really is offensive projection. Apparently Harry Reid thinks we should be as bigoted and ignorant as he is. And he is deploying his offensive rhetoric in support of a massive disaster of a bill (much of which he continues to hide, even from his second-in-command) that is opposed by more than 60% of the people Senators and Congressmen are supposed to represent.

I think the Democrats, and especially their current (mis-)leaders, would do better to accept the racist history of the party and learn from it — and clean up their own act — rather than continuing to lie about it and impugn others for the past actions of their own party.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Official Response to Climategate

No comment is needed.

... if you show me yours

Barack and Michelle Obama held their first state dinner — and had their first state dinner gatecrashers. The next day's coverage said "It was not clear Wednesday night how close the Salahis [Michaele and Tareq Salahi] got to Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, or to the guests of honor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, and his wife, Gursharan Kaur." But later the same day, pictures appeared (e.g., here & here) showing Michaele with Vice President Joe Biden. By Friday, the White House released a photo showing the couple with President Obama and Prime Minister Singh.

The White House released this photo of President Obama as he greets Michaele and Tareq Salahi in the Blue Room of the White House before the State Dinner with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, of India, on Tuesday.
By Samantha Appleton, AFP/Getty Images

All of which is really just to show my favorite version of that picture (below) isn't a photoshop invented out of nothing.
Only the conversation is invented. Maybe.

Monday, November 30, 2009

These People Are Not Scientists

I have never known a scientist to either throw away or destroy raw data. But these people did — they threw away the data on which their claims of man-made global warming are based.

To me, that means they may be politicians, but they are not scientists. And, as such, they do not belong in a scientific discussion.

UPDATE: More confirmation of what I said here -- Jonah Goldberg quotes a reader:

If I were caught bending the data to fit the model as the CRU was doing, I'm quite confident that I'd be unemployed and quite possibly facing time as a guest of the Feds.

Obama's Czars

President Obama has appointed a number of "czars" — a lot of "czars". In fact, Barack Obama has way more "czars" than Russia has had in its entire history!

But there's a problem: A czar, by definition, is a supreme ruler. There is nobody above a czar. But there is clearly someone — Barack Obama — over these people.

That leads to a clear conclusion: These people are not "czars". A more appropriate word for what they are is "commissars". And given the way they have been appointed and they way they operate, they are clearly political commissars.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Cheeseburger Mandate

The federal government is about to mandate that I must buy cheeseburgers. Indeed, it now plans to mandate not only how many cheeseburgers I must buy, but also what I may and must have on and with them. I will not be allowed to buy either more or fewer, or to change the accompaniments. I will be heavily fined if I don't buy enough cheeseburgers, and I will be heavily taxed if I buy too many.

All determinations about how many cheeseburgers I must buy, what they must look and taste like, and how much I must pay for them, will be made by unelected bureaucrats following regulations written by appointed politicians to implement mandates made by "progressives" acting "for my own good". Those "progressives" obviously know what's good for us so much better than we do ourselves. That's why they feel so free to ignore the American people's desires and wishes, and call the people thugs and terrorists for daring to express their views in opposition to the benevolent arrogance of their overlords.

I just wonder how the "progressives" think they have the right to order my commodity purchases, and where they think they get the authority to do so. If memory serves, the last time the aristocracy got this controlling, they produced a revolution.

Boss Pelosi Wins — America Loses

Crime boss Nancy Pelosi and her enforcers managed to get their way tonight. They managed to threaten, extort, and bribe enough Congressional "representatives" to get her massive Pelosicare bill passed. That bill started the week at 1990 pages, creating at least 111 new bureaucracies and spending massive amounts of money without accomplishing any of its claimed objectives. With the "manager's amendment", it grew to somewhere between 2042 and 2790 pages in length depending on whose page count you choose to use — we don't really know how big the "manager's amendment" is because it wasn't available to the House members, even during tonight's debate, in violation of House rules that require it. (Like her fellow Queen Bee on the Senate side of the Capitol, Pelosi will break any rule and any law, and will trash any promise to get what she wants. She is truly shameless.) Even so, the bottom line for tonight is that Pelosi's extortion and bribery worked enough to get her party to pass her bill by a 220-215 margin.

To his credit, Congressman Harry Teague, who was elected from my district in New Mexico, voted NO in spite of the pressure put on him. New Mexico's other two Congressmen, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, followed Pelosi's orders like the party hacks they have always been.

This is all particularly frustrating because the Pelosi "healthcare" bill is such a complete and utter fraud. It purports to provide universal coverage but, according to the Congressional Budget Office, leaves at least 12-15 million Americans uncovered out of the 30 million Barack Obama says are uncovered today. Its proponents claim it won't increase the deficit, but "reaches" that by such subterfuges as claiming "savings" that have already been spent seventeen times over — and by massively increasing taxes. They pretend it will reduce healthcare costs when it only reduces federal payments. They pretend it will reduce healthcare costs when it insures premiums will go up and directly increases medical device costs.

Actually, it's worse than that. The "savings" they claim are a theft of more than half a trillion dollars from Medicare. They claim they can save that much by getting rid of Medicare waste and fraud. They've used that multiple times. But there are no real savings — there are only reductions in what Medicare pays to doctors. And Medicare already doesn't pay the actual costs of the "coverage" it "provides" (at the cost of a huge amount of paperwork), which is why so many doctors limit the number of Medicare patients they will see or won't take Medicare patients at all. Taking that amount of additional money out of Medicare will insure that more doctors go bankrupt and/or leave the practice of medicine, and will make it much harder for seniors to find a doctor by making sure that fewer doctors will be willing to see Medicare patients.

Yes, Nancy Pelosi rushed her fraudulent bill through the House tonight. She had to — she had to get it through before all the Congressmen she lied to found out what was really in her bill. That's why she had to use bribery and extortion to get her way. And that's just one more reason we really need a class action lawsuit, to produce a ruling that no legislative vote can be legitimate if the legislators have had no chance to read the bill they're voting on.

Tonight Boss Pelosi has won, but the country has lost. Big time.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Time to Support General McChrystal

There's something here I don't understand:

The Obama Administration says it can't really respond to General Stanley McChrystal's request for more troops until it decides what its policy should be for the war in Afghanistan. I don't understand that, because that's what the Administration did early this year. It started right after the Inauguration, reviewing and reworking our national policy in this area, deciding what the strategy and tactics should be. President Obama then appointed Gen McChrystal to carry out the new policy and strategy, and promised him the resources he needed to do that. McChrystal identified the additional resources needed to do his assigned job. His request letter was held up by the Pentagon, reportedly at the request of the White House which didn't want to deal with the request at that time. (There have also been reports that he was directed to reduce his request from what he originally wanted.) And now the Administration "needs" to do a new Afghanistan policy review, its second in less than a year, before deciding whether to give Gen McChrystal the support he was promised.

Actually, it's worse than that. In an interview released in September, Gen McChrystal acknowledged that, since he had taken command in Afghanistan, he had only had one short telephone conversation with President Obama. Shortly after that, at a Pentagon-approved event in London, McChrystal was asked if he supported a shift to a strategy supported by Vice President Biden that relies more on drones and less on foot soldiers. "The short answer is: No." was his response. He said "Chaos-istan" would be the result of that strategy. That apparently shocked and angered presidential advisors. And so, as a result,

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid.
It would be better if there were more promises kept, and less dithering by the White House.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Time for a Lawsuit

It appears our lawmakers are now routinely derelict in their duties, and violating their oaths of office. Some of it is not their fault. They are not being given the chance to consider the provisions and consequences of bills they are being asked to vote on. Essentially, the Congressional leadership is putting them in an untenable position.

We need a class action lawsuit. It should assert, at a minimum, that any vote to report a bill out of a committee or to pass a bill from either the House or the Senate is invalid if the legislators have not had the opportunity to read and evaluate the actual legislative language of the bill at issue before voting on it.

“Conceptual languate” doesn't cut it. The actual legislative language often violates the conceptual language it supposedly implements. And the budgetary effect of actual legislative language is often radically different from that of its “conceptual language”.

Here's the bottom line: If the legislators have not had the opportunity to read and analyze the actual legislative language of the bill, no vote by the legislators can be legitimate.

Yes, I'd like to be able to push the idea that legislative bodies should be required to post the actual language of bills for public comment before a vote can be taken, but I don't think that can be done this way. That would require some actual legitimacy of the legislative leadership. Without that legitimacy, the most we can ask the courts to enforce is that our legislators have the opportunity to evaluate bills they are asked to vote on.

We may not be able to enforce their reading and evaluating bills' language, but we should be able to enforce their not being prevented from performing their Constitutional duties. No matter what, simply trusting the legislative leadership is not enough.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Polka Dotted Sky

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta opened yesterday, bringing hot air balloons to New Mexico from all over the world. The famed Albuquerque Box, which may be unique in the world, was in effect.

This picture from a past Balloon Fiesta shows what yesterday looked like.

The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972. But my favorite question about it is timeless:

Do you have to be Catholic to attend the Mass Ascension?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Axelrod Assertion

Presidential advisor David Axelrod was interviewed a few minutes after the conclusion of President Obama's health care speech last Wednesday. That interview has produced some coverage, mostly of his shot "I don't know what medical school Dick Morris went to." (My thought was, it was evidently a better one than Axelrod's.)

UPDATE: Dick Morris' response was better. He said something close to "That's not the issue. The issue is elementary school. It's really that simple." END UPDATE

I heard that interview when it occurred. And I heard David Axelrod make an incredibly important statement in that interview. But, even now, I have seen no coverage of that statement.

Axelrod was asked about Dick Morris' warning that Obama's plan would lead to rationing of health care by dumping millions more people into the system without doing anything to add to the numbers of doctors and nurses. Axelrod answered, saying that was a phony issue. He said those people are already getting care — they're just getting it now in emergency rooms instead of medical offices.

Stop and think about what Axelrod said there — two huge things in one single statement. (1) He said plainly that the lack of health insurance does not translate into a lack of health care. (2) He also said everyone is getting medical care now, so there is no "crisis" to be dealt with.

People will differ on whether Axelrod's assertion in this interview is accurate. But here's the thing: If it's not, the warning is right and rationing is a serious danger. If it is, it substantially undercuts the rationale for the current health care initiative.

Barack Obama's New Health Care Plan

I missed some of President Barack Obama's health care speech last Wednesday. (I didn't hear Congressman Joe Wilson's intra-speech response until later, on the news.) But I did see much of the speech, though, and some interviews and commentaries afterward.

One part of the speech really stood out to me. Obama said quite clearly that he is open to considering all serious proposals for inclusion in his health care program. He said, for example,

Now, this is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight -- Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.
That makes it sound like this speech was prepared for the introduction of a new issue — with or without an initial proposal. It's right for a time when the proposal outlines are being defined, not when the bill has already passed one House.

There's something else, too: A number of the statements Obama made about his proposal, even just in the part of the speech I heard, are at odds with what's in the one bill that's available to be read (HR3200). This strongly suggests the Obama White House is about to drop the current House bill and start over, or embrace a highly modified Senate bill, especially when coupled with Obama's stated openness to any "serious set of proposals". Otherwise he spent nearly an hour Wednesday evening being dishonest with us all.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 — Never Forget!

It started out as an ordinary day. It didn't stay that way for long. I had just finished my shower in the Mountain time zone, and was getting dressed, when I heard the news that an airplane had hit a building in New York. I thought it had to be an accident.

I was having a glass of milk before driving to work when news came of the second plane hitting the other tower of the World Trade Center. It was now obvious we were under attack.

The best thing I could do is go to my workplace. It's closer than my home to the base areas where I could assist if needed. So I went. I was still on my way when the Pentagon was hit. News of the collapse of the World Trade Center South Tower broke as I pulled into a workplace parking spot.

News of the collapse of the World Trade Center North Tower and of the crash in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, reached me at my workplace by radio and internet — the latter seeming terribly slow. By the time my employer told everyone to go home, it had become clear no part of the attack was in our area. Whether we were ever a part of the enemy's plans, or whether whether some part of their plan had been thwarted, was not clear.

I didn't try to leave immediately; I knew there would be a traffic problem. But after a while, I walked out. I came within sight of the parking lot, and saw a traffic jam that made me think of the one that occurred when a snowstorm closed the city as Operation Desert Storm began. I went back to my office to follow the news developments.

The traffic jam was gone by the time I came back out an hour and a half later. The drive home was spooky. My route took me through the roads closest to the city's airport. The activity there was normally a constant, but now there was nothing moving. At all. I drove by, got home, and spent the rest of the day following the news.

Even today, eight years later, the strong impressions of that day remain with me. I suspect they always will.

9-11 -- We Remember

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome Back, Congressman

The Congressmen (and Senators) have every reason to be in a black mood. First, they managed to mess things up pretty royally before leaving for their recess. Then they discovered that, in their policy pandering to their Dear Leader, they managed to incur the wrath of most of their constituents. (That's why so many tried to avoid meeting with consittuents.) No wonder they feel the way they do!

I doubt they learned anything, though. So they're just down and frustrated. And likely to remain so.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Economic Incompetence or Malice?

President Obama said we had to pass the "stimulus package" quickly — so much so we couldn't afford the time for the Senators and Congressmen to actually read the bill they were being asked to pass. We were assured this bill was necessary to get the economy moving again and keep our workers employed, and that it really would accomplish both those things.

Now the latest monthly unemployment numbers are out. Here they are, graphed with the Administration's analysis of what the results would be with and without their "recovery plan", a.k.a. the "stimulus package".

I find this performance extremely disturbing, no matter which way I look at it. I would like to think the Administration has/had enough economic competence (or access to enough economic competence) to be able to project the likely course of the recession and its primary features. But if that is so, then the "stimulus package" clearly wasn't a stimulus. Maybe that was because Obama "farmed out" its preparation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her friends, who loaded it up with pork and payoffs for their political cronies. Maybe it was at least partly because the Administration decided, despite their campaign claims, to take their economic advice from people like Van Jones and Barney Frank instead of from folks like Paul Volcker and Warren Buffett — and created, as a result, an anti-stimulus bill (with pork and payoffs) for their "stimulus package". Or just maybe, even if they could project the recession's unmodified course, they really had no clue what to do to change it.

On the other hand, it may be that the blue lines on the graph were just made up, too. That would suggest an Administration with great competence in running a political campaign, but with no economic knowledge or competence beyond the Keynesian knee-jerk response of "throw money at it."

Gee — it appears all the explanations for the comparison between projection and performance include one or both of economic incompetence and malice on the part of this Administration. It's very likely they never understood what this recession was doing, and why. But even putting the best possible face on it, at the very least, they have no one who knows what to do about our current condition.

Meanwhile, as reported on today's ABC radio news, the Obama Administration says the stimulus is clearly working. I suppose the veracity of that statement depends on what the "stimulus" is really intended to do.

FBI Foreign Intelligence Tasking

President Barack Obama has approved creation of a new, special terrorism-era interrogation unit to be supervised by the White House, a top aide said Monday [August 24], further distancing his administration from President George W. Bush's detainee policies.

. . .

The unit would be led by an FBI official, with a deputy director from somewhere in the government's vast intelligence apparatus, and members from across agencies. It will be directly supervised by the White House, but the senior administration officials insisted the unit's agency bosses will make operational decisions, not the White House. [emphasis added]

Obama spokesman announces interrogation unit, August 24, 2009

Three primary thoughts come to me about this:
  1. First, the statement that "the unit's agency bosses will make operational decisions, not the White House" is simply not believable. Or, more accurately, one could say it will be true as long as the unit's bosses make their decisions the way the White House people tell them to.
  2. Second, this effectively takes the CIA out of foreign intelligence collection, their primary charter since 1947. Charles Krauthammer is right:
    And lastly, and most importantly, the interrogation of high-level enemy terrorists has been removed from the CIA. It's now in the hands of the FBI and White House.

    Now, what's left? Signal intelligence is not CIA, it's NSA. Human intelligence — any important intelligence — is not CIA anymore. It's in the FBI and the White House.

    So it is Central Intelligence, but it doesn't gather intelligence. All that's left is analyzing intelligence. Well, you don't need $30 billion a year for analysis. You can hire the RAND corporation who will do it at 1/100th of the cost and save billions of dollars that you could waste on the Cash for Clunkers and purchase every secondhand car in America.

    This is a real institutional problem...The Obama administration has relegated the CIA to the role it had pre-9/11. And we know what that resulted in.

  3. Third, and to my mind most important, this move ignores (and probably violates) the law. Statutes give responsibility and authority for foreign intelligence operations to the CIA, and give responsibility and authority for domestic intelligence operations to the FBI. By law the CIA is allowed no domestic role, and the FBI is allowed no foreign role in intelligence.
Stepping back and taking a broader look, it appears to me that Barack Obama and his associates are permanently mired in the late-1960's radicalism they were raised in. They automatically and unthinkingly consider the CIA and all its operations to be inherently evil. That is why they are ignoring the prior investigation of CIA interrogations, and the determination of the Department of Justice that no laws were broken; they are determined to prosecute this "obvious evil", and thereby persecute those who saved hundreds - or, more probably, thousands - of American lives. Indeed, such are their ideological blinders that I will be very surprised if they don't go the rest of the way and do what they are convinced the Church Committee should have done — completely disband the CIA.

Meanwhile, consider President Obama's choice to run the CIA, Leon Panetta. He is consistently being countermanded, denigrated, ignored, and now cut out of the process by which the decisions affecting his agency are being made. Worse yet, in the view of Obama's inner circle, he has dared to stand up to them and defend his agency — including, reportedly, in an angry shouting match in the White House. And for that impertinence, apparently, he has had his primary mission involuntarily amputated.

To his credit, Panetta has not backed down. Instead, he finalized a decision on Thursday, August 27, that the CIA will pay the legal costs of employees caught up in the investigations announced August 24 by Attorney General Eric Holder. (One factor in that decision may be that Holder apparently intends a broader investigation than he has yet admitted. That same news article notes that "Unnamed Federal officials also said that they expect the inquiry, which will be conducted by veteran Federal prosecutor John H. Durham, to involve many more individuals than the small group of intelligence officers and contractors implicated in the CIA Inspector General report that prompted Holder to order the inquiry." [emphasis added])

To summarize: The transfer of foreign intelligence responsibility and authority to the FBI is improper and probably illegal. And the reasons behind this action appear to be unrelated to the excuse being used.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Smart Car

I like the Smart Car. It's cute. I liked seeing it in Europe a few years ago. I liked the fact that it's engineered by Daimler-Benz. I might have bought one if they'd been imported into the U.S. at the time I was needing to replace my old car (a Dodge Intrepid with 157,000+ miles on it).

Now I'm glad I didn't. No matter now well-engineered something is, it's going to lose when it goes up against the "big dogs".

Yes, it's hard to see. Look just in front of the red truck and the ambulance.

I Remember Pete Stark

I lived in Oakland, California, some years ago. Fortney "Pete" Stark was the Congressman from my district. He was an extreme left-wing liberal wacko then. He hasn't learned anything since.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Attorney General Holder Does Another Political Favor

Attorney General Eric Holder has done another big political favor for another Friend Of Barack. He, and his department, have killed the "pay for play" investigation of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and his associates. That investigation was responsible for Richardson's withdrawal from nomination to President Barack Obama's cabinet as Commerce Secretary.

The AP story says "The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials," and quotes "a person familiar with the investigation" as saying "It's over. There's nothing. It was killed in Washington." Other reports indicated the decision was made by the Attorney General himself.

These decisions are normally made by the U.S. Attorney in whose district the corresponding grand jury operates. This practice is intended to insure against most interference of Washington politics in prosecutorial decisions. The fact that this decision was made in Washington suggests knowledge that indictments were warranted, and were coming — otherwise no Washington interference would be needed. Its timing suggests either that the indictments were very close to being issued, or that the Obama Administration wants to appoint Richardson to some post soon and needed to make this investigation go away.

Most of the coverage of this news has been rather cursory, providing no more information than in the AP story cited above. The one exception I have seen has been the story in our local paper, the Albuquerque Journal (subscription required). Here's part of that report:

A letter to defense lawyers from U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt sent late Thursday said the United States "will not seek to bring charges against your clients" arising out of the New Mexico Finance Authority's award of financial work to California-based CDR Financial Products.

Fouratt went on to say, however, that the investigation revealed that CDR and its officers made substantial contributions to Richardson's political organizations while the company was seeking the work and that "pressure from the governor's office resulted in corruption of the procurement process so that CDR would be awarded such work."

The three-paragraph letter — obtained by the Journal from private attorneys in the case — said the notification "shall not preclude the United States or the grand jury from reinstituting such an investigation without notification if ... circumstances warrant ..."

. . .

The letter said, "It is not to be interpreted as an exoneration of any party's conduct."

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos responded late Thursday, saying, "The prosecutor's letter is wrong on the facts and appears to be nothing more than sour grapes."

My reaction when I read this story was two-fold:
  1. The statement by Richardson's spokesman was wrong — and self-serving. I read the letter excerpt as a clear statement that wrongdoing has been found, even if indictments have not been issued. It also strongly suggests the U.S. Attorney's disagreement with Washington's interference in this case.
  2. That the decision not to pursue indictments "is not to be interpreted as an exoneration of any party's conduct" and "shall not preclude the United States or the grand jury from reinstituting such an investigation without notification if ... circumstances warrant ..." seems to be warning the Richardson group not to get too cocky, that the investigation/indictments can easily be reactivated once there is an attorney general more interested in the rule of law than political favortism. In effect, it says "This isn't over." That aspect of the U.S. Attorney's letter may be the reason for the Richardson spokesman's "sour grapes" response.
    (There is another reason for thinking this issue is not finished. As has been noted elsewhere, for example here, the Securities and Exchange Commission is also probing pay-for-play cases in several states. It is not known whether these probes include one in New Mexico.)

All this still doesn't answer the questions about why this action was taken, and why now. But Bill Richardson is a former U.N. Ambassador who was reported last year as being under consideration for appointment as Secretary of State. And he has been in the news, for quite uncommon things, a couple of times lately. One was just weeks ago when a group of North Korean officials came to meet with him in Santa Fe. And at the time of this news from the Justice Department, he was leading a trade delegation in Cuba. Supposedly, neither action was taken on behalf of the White House, but Richardson is reporting to Obama next week on his Cuban trip.

It has also been suggested the investigation was killed because this scandal goes much deeper than we have known, potentially involving "significant portions of the Democrat Party." If that is so, expect more pressure to close the SEC (and other) pay-for-play investigations in the near future.

All of which is interesting, but provides no answers. And what we are left with is just another action by the politicized Obama/Holder Justice Department — Chicago politics being played out in Washington, DC, and across the country.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Holder Should Be Careful

Attorney General Eric Holder should be very careful. Yes, he needs to pander to Barack Obama's extreme leftist base. But if he establishes this precedent, he is likely to be among the targets when the opposition applies the same precedent to the politicized Holder Justice Department.

UPDATE: Let me repeat, with emphasis: he needs to pander to Barack Obama's extreme leftist base. That's why Barack Obama is letting his flunky Eric Holder pursue this "issue".

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Government Demonstrates Its Efficiency

To get the auto dealerships to front the money for the Cash for Clunkers program, the government guaranteed them they would have their reimbursements within ten days. But CBS television outlet KRKE in Albuquerque reports that, for the state of New Mexico,

Dealers across the state are owed more than $3.6 million, according to a dealers' group which says that so far Uncle Sam has only written three checks totaling about $14,000. (emphasis added)
The dealers in other states are in the same fix. That's why a lot of them dumped the Cash for Clunkers program early — they just couldn't afford to make more large interest-free loans to Uncle Sam. Because of government delays, it appears, some dealers are having cash flow problems big enough they're having trouble making their payroll.

There it is, yet another example of the kind of efficiency we have come to expect from the federal government. Everyone else in the country is expected to pay their obligations in a timely manner. Why not the government? I guess the government feels it's above the laws that apply to everyone else.

Instapundit comments:

They can't handle this, but they'll handle healthcare? . . .
They promised FedEx, but they're delivering the Post Office. . . .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Government Demonstrates Its Effectiveness

... and Trever hits a home run in showing the results

Trever's cartoons can be seen in the Albuquerque Journal

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

... And the Referees, Too

How would you feel if you took your team to a tournament and found that the tournament's referees belonged to one of the other teams? Not to their league, not to their area, but to the team itself. How would you feel about the likelihood of the games being refereed fairly? And how would you feel when you learned those referees had the power to change the rules of the game — and didn't have to apply those rules equally to your team and theirs?

I suspect you'd figure the other team wasn't competing fairly, that it would be getting improper assistance from the referees. And you would be right. That's why this kind of situation is not allowed in any legitimate competition.

But that's exactly the situation the Congress wants to create in healthcare insurance. They (the federal government) already have the referees (regulators), and they're working at creating a team (the "public option") to compete against the insurance companies. And they're doing it all in the name of "increasing competition" and "keeping the insurance companies honest". (As if someone dishonest can keep someone else honest.) That's why the so-called "public option" must be defeated.

The "health care co-ops" would probably be no better. It's theoretically possible for them to be set up like shopping centers, as places where the various companies have their stores and compete against each other, without the government owning or operating — or having anything to do with — the shopping center. But they're being sold under the banner of "managed competition" — an oxymoron which really means destroying it so there's no competition at all.

Remember, the government is incapable of competing fairly. (And it's not just me saying so: "The government is a predator, not a competitor.") That's why doing nothing may not be good, but it's better than any of the healthcare bills currently being considered by Congress.

The Wrong Target

"Obamacare Death Panels" have been in the news. A number of folks have talked about them, but it seems it was Sarah Palin (in a Facebook entry) who tagged them with that title. That entry caused a lot of discussion, some of it rather heated. Within a few days, Senators announced that the provisions for end of life counseling sessions were being removed from the Senate bill.

There's a problem with this: The counseling sessions aren't the problem (at least as long as there are protections so they don't become coercive). The problem is that the real death panels are the ones that will decide how health care will be rationed. They will decide what kind of patient will be allowed the medical care they need, and what kind of patient will be denied that care. They may not be deciding on individual patients, but they will be no less pernicious and immoral for that distinction. That small distinction will just let the panel members commit deliberate negligent homicide while convincing themselves they can pretend their hands are still clean.

These panels are still in the bills. And as Rich Lowry has noted,

the debate over the last two weeks has been unhelpful in one respect — it has focused attention on the end-of-life counseling when the deeper problem is the bill itself. The "death panels" may be dead, but the real threat remains.
What the Senate has identified as the "death panels" have been removed, but that's really just misdirection. The real death panels remain in the bills.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

About the "Public Option"

It's axiomatic throughout so many government departments — the government is not allowed to compete with private business. Why? Because the United States government is incapable of competing fairly.

It's a matter of structure, not of malice or intent. Think about it: Government organizations don't count salaries among their costs — those are funded under a separate line item. They also don't pay overhead or property taxes (among other things), and they don't have to follow state or local regulations. The differences in accounting standards, alone, are enough to insure against a level playing field; the rest just make the problem worse.

Here's the bottom line: A "public option" or "healthcare coop" will destroy competition and bankrupt health insurance companies unless it is very carefully crafted. And Congress has demonstrated it is incapable of carefully doing anything.

There are a huge number of companies in the United States offering healthcare insurance. If the Congress really wants to increase competition, all it has to do is allow them to compete nationally — just like they can in the Medicare Supplemental / Medicare Advantage arena.

Remove the barriers and they will compete. Implement government "competition" and they will die. In the former case, costs will come down. In the latter, costs will skyrocket.

Congressional actions will demonstrate what Congress really wants to do, as opposed to what they want to pretend they want to do. If Congress presses ahead with the "public option", it will demonstrate an intent to socialize medical care with a single payer scheme leading to a national healthcare program.

Doing nothing may not be good, but it's better than any of the bills currently being considered by Congress.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Preemptive Surrender at Yale

The Yale University Press has apparently decided to surrender to a threat that has not yet been made. It will publish a book about the controversy over the "Mohammed cartoons" without showing the cartoons that were (supposedly) the cause of the furor.

This kind of cowardice is incredible, and illogical. The people who have made such threats in the past, and may in the future, do not need reasons for their threats and violence. They have consistently shown they will invent whatever excuse/pretense they may feel the need for.

Therefore, to make life easier for the Yale University Press, and as a public service, I provide here a re-link to a post from February 2006 showing the cartoons and providing some context from the time period in which they were originally published. (The link is also provided among my favorites, on the right of this web page.) And I have checked — most of the links still work!

Can You Keep Your Health Insurance Under Obamacare?

President Barack Obama keeps repeating words very close to “If you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it.” His surrogates keep repeating this, too. Linda Douglass, for example, paraphrasing him on the White House blog, saying

For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.
It's one of the big selling points in his campaign to sell his healthcare reform plan.
[Yes, I know — Strictly speaking, none of the healthcare bills in the Congress are "Obama's healthcare plan". Obama hasn't provided any plan. But he has made it clear he supports HB3200, the healthcare bill that Pelosi brought out of the Waxman committee and got passed by the House of Representatives just before the August recess. One can argue about whether that support makes the bill Obama's plan, but I will use that shorthand here.

I also think it's funny to hear the Democrats piss & moan about calling this “Obama's plan” when even Democrat icon and former Senator Tom Daschle, Obama's original choice as Secretary of Health and Human Services, describes it that way.]

So it keeps getting repeated, but is it true? Strictly speaking, yes, it is true. It is also a complete fraud.

There is nothing in the current version of HB3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, that says you will be required to change your health insurance. That's why the repeated statement by President Obama and the other proponents of the bill is true, strictly speaking.

But, as is so often the case in Washington, that is not the whole story. Just look at Section 102 on page 16, entitled “Protecting the Choice to Keep Current Coverage”. In Section 102(a)(1)(A), a subsection of the “Limitation on New Enrollment” it says

“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 the year the legislation becomes law.
But the bill goes on. Section 102(a)(2) says your company can't change any of the benefits, and Section 102(b) says your plan must meet all of the bill's requirements within five years. So your company can't reduce your benefits, or increase them, without dumping you on the “public option”, yet it has to make all the changes demanded by the Congressional Democrats. How long do you think it will be before some bureaucrat decides those changes, as implemented, void your “grandfathered” plan and terminate your coverage?

But that's not the insidious part. That “Limitation on New Enrollment” in Section 102(a)(1)(A) says your company's new hires are legally prohibited from getting the healthcare plan you have. They will end up on the “public option”. In addition, anyone who retires or moves to another company leaves your healthcare plan, and no one is allowed to be added. How long can your healthcare insurance provider continue offering your plan under those conditions? Clearly not very long. Probably not as long as the five year “grace period” in Section 102(b). The result:

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won’t be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.
The government will not order us to change our health insurance — it will just make it impossible for us to keep it.

So President Obama's statement is true, strictly speaking, but is also a complete fraud. And we're all screwed if this bill passes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

They Know the Anger is Real

A columnist has hit the nail on the head. For all their claims and pretenses to the contrary, the White House and the Democrats in Congress know the opposition to their health care "reform" bill is not phony — they know it's a grassroots movement, and not astroturf.

All the proof we need that Obama and Democrats recognize the authenticity of this grass-roots protest is their hysterical reaction to it. They wouldn't be hyperventilating about it if they believed it to be fake, but would use their super-majorities to ram through this bill.
If they thought the opposition wasn't real, they would press ahead without a second thought. Their reactions demonstrate that they're lying. And that they're scared.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another Townhall, Another Plant

President Obama had a townhall meeting in New Hampshire to promote the Democrats' healthcare "reform" proposal. At the townhall, he took a few questions. The townhall must have been held in a greenhouse, because at least some (maybe all) of the questions and questioners were plants — just like in his campaign events last year.

Obama and his people seem to be constitutionally incapable of running an honest or legitimate event. You'd think they were crooked, dirty Chicago political machine operatives.

Oh, ... wait ....

UPDATE: It's not just President Obama's townhalls. The greehnouses include (at least) the townhall with Texas Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee, where the Congresswoman took an adulatory question from a local pediatrician — who wasn't really a doctor and was apparently there with an Obama organizer who was known for the Che Guevara flag on her Houston office wall. More lies. More deception. More plants.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Show the ID

This speaks for itself.

I think is also applies to someone who should show his original ID.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Examining Obamacare

Does anybody remember the primary justification for pushing the health care reform bill through so fast? It was that costs are too high and growing too fast, and we need reform to bring costs and cost growth down. The problem is that the Congressional Budget Office says the current bills will raise, not lower, health care costs — and that's before they get busy porking the bills up to buy enough votes for passage.

Kill this now, before it does us in!

Giving Ahmadinejad His Due

A protestor stands her ground.

Yes, I'm sure either (a) this image is from PhotoShop or (b) this woman has been raped and murdered by now — probably (a). But it's still a great image.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Honduras' Views

A protestor carries an absolutely classic sign.

The text of the poster reads

Honduras is an example for the world.
We have no oil or money,
but we have our manhood.
I wish President Obama had enough manhood to let the people of Honduras keep and follow their constitution, instead of insisting they reinstate a dictatorial Hugo Chavez wannabe.

Merely a Political Ideology

This is evidence, if not quite (here) up to proof, that Islam — or at least Islamism — is a political ideology masquerading as a religion. Masquerading. It's not actually a religion, it's merely a political ideology.

How can I be sure? Easy: No religion can support an atheist ideology. No religious teacher, believing in any sort of supreme being, can preach a godless and anti-god philosophy and belief structure. Yet, that's what's happening in mosques across the Middle East (and elsewhere). And then, of course, those preached at go out and demonstrate their support of the atheistic ideas they've been taught.

We shouldn't be surprised. Aside from its consistent drive for power, the defining characteristic of Islam is that it has always been socialist — and totalitarian — as demonstrated within the past hundred years by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem supporting the National Socialists in Germany and coaching them in their "final solution", and by the current close alliance between the Socialist Workers' Party and both the Muslim Brotherhood and its New Arab left.

Islamism and socialism — national or international — are merely political ideologies. They have always been close siblings, nearly twins. And both have been political ideologies since their beginnings. It's just that a political ideology in the seventh century automatically came with a veneer of religion. There was then no other way. But that was and is just a mask, a disguise of convenience, a masquerade. That mask enabled Mohammed and his successors to establish political dominance over broad areas in the ideology's earliest years. It was a mask the followers of Karl Marx, centuries later, didn't need.

Stimulus, Ineffective

Obama's stimulus bill was passed (without being read) in January, but it has had less than no effect on the US economy so far. Could it be the federal fire truck is parked on the stimulus fire hose?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day Tea Party

Like some 400 other cities across America, Albuquerque had a TEA Party. It was primarily scheduled to be from 4 to 6 this afternoon. I don't know how many people were there, but there were lots. (I'll add an update tomorrow with the official estimates of its attendance.)

A lot of people were near the stage, where there were speakers and musicians. (No, there were no politicians speaking.)

Most of the people attending were spread out along Alameda Boulevard and the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes.

Most people held home-made signs.

My own Congresscritter (whose district does not include Albuquerque) got specific mention.
The front and back of the sign say
        Teague taxes New Mexico
        and hands Al Gore billions

Some of the participants carried historic flags.

There were a couple of signs that I particularly liked. This was one.

Another was a specific message for the Secretary of Homeland Security (who grew up in Albuquerque and went to Sandia High School).

A good time with a LOT more great messages than I can pass on here.

Update: This morning (Sunday), the Albuquerque Journal cites Tea Party organizers as estimating the size of the Fourth of July Tea Party at about the same as the one in April -- about 7,000. The Journal says no police estimate was available. Since Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez has been openly hostile to the Tea Party process, that suggests the police estimate is at least not significantly lower than the organizers' estimate.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day

233 years ago

A long time ago, but important to remember. As John Adams wrote at the time (on July 3, 1776)

Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony "that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do." You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell'd Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man.
Adams continued, in a separately posted letter that same day
But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. -- I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. -- Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

Yes, Adams thought we would celebrate on the anniversary of the day the Declaration was passed rather than commemorating the day it was signed. But that doesn't really matter. Whatever date one chooses to use, this holiday is for the commemoration of American independence and the exceptional manner in which the Founding Fathers accomplished it. That is what I will be thinking about this holiday weekend, and I know many others will be, too.

Reflections on the News

Here's the best one-liner I've heard/read this week:

AL FRANKEN THOUGHT: Caligula sent a horse to the Senate. Minnesota is just sending part of the horse.

I'd been thinking of Kitty Genovese, as applied to foreign policy, even before seeing this cartoon:

(If you can't remember events from 1964, just search on her name.)

Michael Ramirez also brought a laugh, as he often does. It's just because his cartoons are so true.

UPDATE: Just read this comment (in the second item, " Heads Obama Wins, Tails You Lose") on the Honduran situation:

Zelaya's ouster is no "coup" but a lawful transition of power made necessary by his own defiance. As our colleague Mary O'Grady points out, the Honduran Supreme Court had ordered a halt to his unconstitutional efforts to extend his term, and the military arrested him for defying the court's order. It's as if the Angry Left's paranoid fantasy had come true and George W. Bush refused to leave office this January.

eBay Thinks It's Real

I don't know quite what to make of this, but one thing seems fairly clear — eBay thinks it's real. Otherwise, their (second) stated reason for taking down this auction is invalid on its face.

Actually, I don't believe the stated reason, that "birth certificates and other forms are government ID are prohibited on eBay", is their real reason. After all, eBay has had no qualms at all about allowing auctions of valid stolen Albuquerque Police Department ID, badges, and similar items — government ID as referenced in their stated reason — despite formal complaints by the City of Albuquerque and formal requests that those auctions be cancelled.

Now I'm just waiting to see what happens next.

UPDATE: It appears the U.S. Army also believes the eBay birth certificate could be real. At least that's one message the Pentagon is giving. The Pentagon has cancelled the orders of Army Reserve Major Stefan Cook. Cook had sued to get his orders cancelled on the grounds that Obama is not eligible to be president, and order such deployments, because he was not born in the United States. By cancelling Cook's orders, the Pentagon admits he might be right.