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    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy. How verbal imagery affects decision-making.

    Not a Single One. Not a single Democratic senator managed to demonstrate enough judgment and courage to go against his Party herd and vote “Nay” on the Hagel confirmation. Also, interesting comments from a political science on the increasing tribalization of the electorate…strongly related to what I call the outsourcing of judgment and conscience.

    Coming Soon, to Places Near You? How French bureaucracy in the 1920s offers a preview of  rampant American bureaucracy in our present era.

    The Reductio ad Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism. Swedish police were unable to suppress the riots, but they were able to issue parking tickets to burned-out cars…reminding me of an old SF story by Walter Miller.

    More on Bureaucracy. Peter Drucker explains why every government must be a “government of paper forms” if it is not to degenerate into a mutual looting society.

    Durbin, Tocqueville, and Freedom of the Press.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Israel, Leftism, Management, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics | 4 Comments »

    The Hillary Campaign, step two.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The New Yorker has an interesting short piece about al Qeada, this week by Lawrence Wright. It concerns the recent court rulings about NSA metadata collection.

    Judge Pauley invoked the example of Khalid al-Mihdhar, a Saudi jihadist who worked for Al Qaeda. On 9/11, he was one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. In early 2000, Mihdhar made seven calls from San Diego to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen. According to Pauley, the N.S.A. intercepted the calls, but couldn’t identify where Mihdhar was calling from. Relying on testimony by Robert Mueller, the former director of the F.B.I., Pauley concluded that metadata collection could have allowed the bureau to discover that the calls were being made from the U.S., in which case the bureau could have stopped 9/11.

    Fair enough but Wright has another point.

    But the Mihdhar calls tell a different story about why the bureau failed to prevent the catastrophe. The C.I.A. withheld crucial intelligence from the F.B.I., which has the ultimate authority to investigate terrorism in the U.S. and attacks on Americans abroad.

    In August, 1998, truck bombs destroyed two American Embassies, in Kenya and Tanzania, killing two hundred and twenty-four people. Three days later, F.B.I. investigators captured a young Saudi named Mohammad al-‘Owhali at a hotel outside Nairobi. He had fresh stitches in his forehead and bloody bandages on his hands. In his pocket were eight brand-new hundred-dollar bills. Two skilled interrogators, Steve Gaudin and John Anticev, persuaded ‘Owhali to write down the number he called after the bombing. It belonged to Khalid al-Mihdhar’s father-in-law, Ahmed al-Hada, and was one of the most important pieces of information ever obtained in the effort to prevent terrorist acts in the U.S. It became known as the Al Qaeda switchboard.

    The title of Wright’s piece is “The al Qeada Switchboard.”

    The N.S.A.’s tracking of calls to and from the Hada household allowed the F.B.I. to map the global network of Al Qaeda. But not all the information was shared. In 1999, Mihdhar’s name surfaced in one of the recorded calls, linking him to Al Qaeda. “Something nefarious might be afoot,” an N.S.A. analyst wrote, but Mihdhar’s name was not passed on to the F.B.I.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Islam, Law Enforcement, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | 2 Comments »

    My health care posts from 2013

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd January 2014 (All posts by )

    David has a good idea. I often read the archives of my personal blog to see how I did in forecasting the future or understanding the present. A major concern of mine is, of course, health care and what is happening. When I retired from surgery after my own back surgery, I spent a year at Dartmouth Medical School’s center for study of health care. My purpose was to indulge an old hobby. How do we measure quality in health care ? I had served for years on the board of a company called California Medical Review, Inc. It was the official Medicare review organization for California. For a while I was the chair of the Data Committee. It seems to have gone downhill since I was there. First, it changed its name in an attempt to get more business from private sources. Then it lost the Medicare contract.

    Lumetra, which lost a huge Medicare contract last November, is changing its name and its business model as it seeks to replace more than $20 million in lost revenue.
    The San Francisco-based nonprofit’s revenue will shrink this year from $28 million last fiscal year, ending in March 2009, to a projected $4.5 million, CEO Linda Sawyer told the Business Times early this week.
    That’s in large part because it’s no longer a Medicare quality improvement contractor, formerly its main line of work. And in fact, the 25-year-old company’s revenue has been plummeting since fiscal 2007, when it hit $47 million.

    I see no sign that it is involved with Obamacare which is being run from Washington with a state organization that seems no better run than the parent organization.

    Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the Affordable Care Act no longer will provide federal grants to fund state health exchanges. In addition, California law prohibits using the state’s general fund to pay for the exchange.

    Anyway, for what it is worth, here are the links to the 2013 health posts.

    The Lost Boys

    Alternatives to Obamacare.

    Why the Obamacare Site Isn’t Working.

    Where Healthcare May be Going.

    Conservatives Invented the Mandate; say the Democrats.

    A Critical Insight.

    A Rolling Catastrophe.

    Why Health Care is in Trouble.

    Where Do We Go Now ?

    Building the Airplane During Takeoff.

    Posted in Blogging, Current Events, Health Care, Medicine, Obama, Politics, Systems Analysis | 17 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd January 2014 (All posts by )

    I’m reviewing my posts over the last year, and will be linking some of them here, in some cases with additional commentary. Here’s the first batch…

    The bitter wastes of politicized America, on the toxic social effects of ever-increasing government power.

    Also relevant to the subject of this post are some of Sebastian Haffner’s observations on inter-war Germany. He notes that during the Stresemann chancellorship, when a certain level of stability and normality was achieved, “there was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness”…BUT a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddenly ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    I’m afraid that in America today, we also have a fair number of people who expect to have “the content of their lives delivered by the public sphere,” and this is another factor in the growing politicization of absolutely everything.

    The Dream(liner) and the Nightmare (of Social Toxicity). How reactions to the problems with the Boeing 787′s battery system exemplify the declining levels of trust in American society.

    Excusing Failure by Pleading Incompetence.  Hillary Clinton’s testimony on the Benghazi debacle clearly demonstrated her inability and/or unwillingness to understand the nature of executive responsibility. It is truly appalling that anyone could seriously consider this woman for the job of United States President.

    Respect her Authoritah. Nancy Cartman-Pelosi thinks it would be disrespectful to cut congressional salaries because it would reduce the dignity of lawmakers’ jobs.

    Connecting the World. Undersea cables, and their social & psychological impact.

    Posted in Aviation, Civil Society, Germany, Leftism, Management, Politics, Tech, Transportation | 1 Comment »

    “A GOP Civil War: Who Benefits?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th December 2013 (All posts by )

    A long and thoughtful article in Commentary by Michael Medved & John Podhoretz.

    The conclusion:

    Republicans will win meaningful victories only when they lose their appetite for martyrdom and fratricide and concentrate on forcing the other side to pay a political price for its own incompetent performance and dysfunctional ideology. Most Republicans, as the history of the last 40 years demonstrates, want precisely that. The question now is whether this real majority will be overrun. If that happens, the truest beneficiary of the intra-Republican civil war will be the Democratic Party, and those who divided the right will deserve some share of the blame for the advancement of the very policies and principles they claim to abhor.

    The authors make what may be the best case possible for the politicians Tea Partiers think of as the GOP leadership. The gist of the argument is that 1) primary challenges have substantial long-term costs in Republican political effectiveness, and 2) the national political environment has changed in ways that make political quarrelling personally rewarding for unscrupulous operators who do not have the good of the Party at heart. Also, the authors assume that continued Republican forbearance on important issues such as Obamacare would have yielded better results than the confrontational tactics used by Senator Ted Cruz and other Tea Party favorites.

    The main problem with the article is that it ignores significant reasons for conservatives’ dissatisfaction with the Republican leadership: it loses winnable elections, concedes important principles by refusing to engage Democrats on ideas, pulls punches in publicly criticising President Obama and his subordinates and has treated conservative constituents with contempt. The point about needing to “concentrate on forcing the other side to pay a political price for its own incompetent performance and dysfunctional ideology” applies at least as strongly to Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Boehner as to Ted Cruz.

    The authors are correct about the rise of mercenary political consultants and solo-operator pols whose interests do not always align with those of the voters, but so what? These trends, driven by mass-media and now the Internet, have existed for at least forty years and affect both political parties. The Democrats appear to be coping well on the whole, and President Obama owes much of his political success to his ability to exploit this new environment.*

    The bottom line is that if the Republicans were winning more elections no one would care about the other issues. To argue as the authors do that Republicans used to win elections by appealing to the moderate middle of the electorate misses the point. The political environment has changed and Democrats have so far been more skilled than Republicans in adapting. The Tea Party’s favorite politicians may be using suboptimal tactics but at least they understand that new approaches are needed. Sometimes an organization needs driven, self-centered people who will try new things when more conventionally responsible leaders won’t. If your leaders keep failing you eventually replace them even if they argue plausibly that they will soon turn things around. Accountability for failure is a prerequisite for success.

    The Republican “civil war” isn’t really a war. It’s more like a struggle for control of the board of directors of a public company that has been losing money for years and has a large group of unhappy shareholders. Such a struggle can be healthy if it gets the company to replace management and implement reforms, even though insiders who benefit from the status quo may lose out in the process.

    —-

    * It may be that the Democrats will crash and burn electorally because of Obamacare or their various scandals and foreign-policy debacles, but these are own-goals that Republicans had little to do with. Similarly, the Republicans would have done better if several Tea Party favored Congressional candidates in 2010 and 2012 had not turned out to be seriously flawed. But if those candidates had won President Obama most likely would still have been reelected and would still have done great harm to the country. even if he didn’t get Obamacare passed.

    Posted in Politics, Tea Party | 27 Comments »

    Calling For A Million Mutineers (With Some Backstory, A Plug for America 3.0 And A Really Cool Map)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Robert Lucas

    I recently ran across this quote:

    For income growth to occur in a society, a large fraction of people must experience changes in the possible lives they imagine for themselves and their children, and these new visions of possible futures must have enough force to lead them to change the way they behave … and the hopes they invest in these children: the way they allocate their time. In the words of [V.S. Naipaul] economic development requires “a million mutinies.”

    A Million Mutinies: The key to economic development, An excerpt from “Lectures on Economic Growth” by Robert E. Lucas, Jr. Professor Lucas is a Nobel laureate in Economics from the University of Chicago, so one of our homies.

    Lucas is right. Major change, political as well as economic, requires a change in peoples’ vision of the future, and requires that “a million mutinies” break out against the status quo.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, India, Politics, Tea Party | 3 Comments »

    Less Than a Year

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th December 2013 (All posts by )

    I saw this today:

    It is a pretty good ad. Zerocare has been a debacle, as we all expected it to be. It isn’t just a “broken website”. It is a classical 20th century big government scheme, completely unprepared and unable to deal with a 21st century economy – this is one of the main thrusts of America 3.0.

    Every Republican (and the groups cheering for them) should just shut up about pretty much everything but this one issue. Make the Democrats own it. It is theirs. It passed by a straight party vote. Make them eat it in 2014.

    Posted in America 3.0, Politics, Video | 8 Comments »

    LTC Robert Bateman ignores the law

    Posted by TM Lutas on 9th December 2013 (All posts by )

    It is alarming when a serving military man publicly ignores the law. It is doubly so when he is not only a Lieutenant Colonel but also a professor who has taught at the military academy at West Point. LTC Robert Bateman’s recent Esquire blog misstates the law and misunderstands the role guns play in US society.

    LTC Bateman asserts “As of 1903, the “militia” has been known as the National Guard” and links to an analysis of the act. The reality is quite different if you actually read the first paragraph of the act.

    That the militia shall consist of every able-bodied male citizen of the respective States, Territories, and the District of Columbia, and every able-bodied male of foreign birth who has declared his intention to become a citizen, who is more than eighteen and less than forty-five years of age, and shall be divided into two classes—the organized militia, to be known as the National Guard of the State, Territory, or District of Columbia, or by such other designations as may be given them by the laws of the respective States or Territories, and the remainder to be known as the Reserve Militia.

    In other words, the heart of his argument that the militia is not the whole of the people rests at the very beginning on a lie. In the case of an ignorant youth, this might be excused but not a high ranking military professional who has had the responsibility of teaching our future military leaders. It is inexcusable. Given further legislative developments since 1903 regarding discrimination based on sex, I doubt that even this definition of militia is supportable at present because it is too narrow but even this outdated definition is an ocean compared to the teacup that LTC Bateman wants to leave for 2nd amendment rights.

    Since it’s established that LTC Bateman doesn’t necessarily respect the truth, it’s important to check on the rest of his assertions. One of them is that “Weapons are there for the ‘well regulated militia.’ Their use, therefore, must be in defense of the nation.” The police are not in the national guard, does their use of arms defend the nation? Are they a well regulated militia? Is he calling for the disarmament of the police? Perhaps he does, perhaps he doesn’t. By the terms of his argument, they shouldn’t be armed but perhaps he did not want to completely embarrass himself. The alternative is that he is arguing that the police are a militia. This militarization of the police is an entirely different kind of problem, no less disconnected from the American tradition or problematic for our liberties but different than the question of their armament.

    LTC Bateman repeatedly says in this article “hunting is valid”. Then again he also says that weapons “must be in defense of the nation”. So why is hunting valid? I’m guessing because it polls well enough that gun controllers would earn permanent minority status if they were to be perceived as anti-hunting and he personally knows a few hunters who he’d like to continue to see socially.

    Another assertion is that “No 7-11 in history has ever been held up with” a black powder musket. That might be true though black powder firearms robbery is not exactly unheard of, though rare.

    A little investigation yields the possibility that the whole thing is part of a joke of a presidential run which includes such gems as the forced deportation of gun owners (unclear whether they can come back afterwards) and bringing back the draft. So one viable theory might be that he’s just kidding here.

    I’m inclined to a different one, that we should feel sorry for LTC Bateman and his recent stroke that has apparently affected his mental capacity. Our ire should be saved for Esquire magazine and its editorial staff that has encouraged this man to nationally embarrass himself.

    cross posted: Flit-TM

    Posted in Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, RKBA | 35 Comments »

    Dangers of “a Plague on All Their Houses”

    Posted by David Foster on 8th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Many former Obama supporters…especially the younger crowd…have lost considerable faith in Obama and the Democratic Party.  Neo-Neocon notes that the political disillusionment encompasses both parties, and cautions that the “throw the bums out” mentality, however understandable, can be dangerous. She quotes from a book by Milton Mayer called They Thought They Were Free, which is an exploration of German attitudes from the 1920s through World War II. Interviews were conducted with 10 “typical” Germans, who Mayer refers to as “friends,” a couple of years after the war’s end. Excerpt:

    National Socialism was a repulsion of my friends against parliamentary politics, parliamentary debate, parliamentary government—against all the higgling and the haggling of the parties and the splinter parties, their coalitions, their confusions, and their conniving. It was the final fruit of the common man’s repudiation of “the rascals.” Its motif was “throw them all out.” My friends, in the 1920′s, were like spectators at a wrestling match who suspect that beneath all the grunts and groans, the struggle and the sweat, the match is “fixed,” that the performers are only pretending to put on a fight. The scandals that rocked the country, as one party or cabal “exposed” another, dismayed and then disgusted my friends…

    and

    My friends wanted Germany purified. They wanted it purified of the politicians, of all the politicians. They wanted a representative leader in place of unrepresentative representatives. And Hitler, the pure man, the antipolitician, was the man, untainted by “politics,” which was only a cloak for corruption…Against “the whole pack,” “the whole kaboodle,” “the whole business,” against all the parliamentary parties, my friends evoked Hitlerism, and Hitlerism overthrew them all…

    Indeed, revulsion against the dysfunctionalities of a parliamentary democracy can lead to something much, much worse. Weimar government and Weimar society had their problems, but they were infinitely preferable to what replaced them.

    Also, most Germans in the 1920s and 1930s—like people in other European countries—keenly remembered the spirit of self-sacrificing idealism that had prevailed in 1914, and a considerable proportion of them believed that this idealism had, in one way or another, been exploited and betrayed. Idealism betrayed leads to cynicism, and cynicism can lead to new and twisted forms of idealism.

    On May 5, 2013, Barack Obama warned Ohio State students about the dangers of political cynicsm. As it happened, this speech came only a few days before the public revelations about the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to target political opponents…which is, of course, only one of this administration’s many failures and violations of trust.

    Erich Maria Remarque’s novel The Road Back is largely about the loss of idealism and social trust in the years following World War One…although it is set in Germany, the same factors were operative, if to a lesser degree, in the other European belligerent countries. One of the characters in the story is Ludwig Breyer–a serious aspiring intellectual as a student, a dedicated and responsible officer in wartime. A few years after the war’s end, he is shattered by the feeling that it was all for nothing:

    They told us it was for the Fatherland, and they meant the schemes of annexation of a greedy industry.–They told us it was for honour, and meant the quarrels and the will to power of a handful of ambitious diplomats and princes..They stuffed the word Patriotism with all the twaddle of their fine phrases, with their desire for glory, their will to power, their false romanticism…And we thought they were sounding a bugle summoning us to a new, a more strenuous, a larger life. Can’t you see, man? But we were making war against ourselves without knowing it!…The youth of the world rose up in every land believing that it was fighting for freedom! And in every land they were duped and misused; in every land they have been shot down, they have exterminated each other.

    One could do a present-day riff on this speech: “They told us it was for the environment, and they meant the handouts of taxpayer money to crony capitalists. They told us it was about improving education for the poor, and they meant protecting the privileges of incompetent administrators and teachers’ union…etc”

    In the book, Ludwig Breyer’s despair drives him to suicide…and there were doubtless many real-life veterans who came to similar ends. Others, though…among veterans but also among those who had been too young or too old to fight..attempted to recapture the 1914 sense of idealism and unity through involvement in extremist politics of one band or another…and we know how that ended.

    Good discussion thread at the Neo-Neocon post.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Obama, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Interesting Post

    Posted by David Foster on 5th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Bruce Webster writes about the parallels (and differences) between the design of legislation and the design of software systems.

    (via a thread at Bookworm)

    Posted in Health Care, Law, Political Philosophy, Politics, Systems Analysis, Tech | 3 Comments »

    Could Someone Remind Me What Year This Is?

    Posted by David Foster on 30th November 2013 (All posts by )

    …because it increasingly seems that the first three digits must be One, Nine, and Three.

    Kanye West says Obama’s problems with getting things done are because “Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people”…(also, “Black people don’t have the same connection as oil people.”)

    New York Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio praises Al Sharpton, who was one of the primary instigators of the Crown Heights Pogrom.

    Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) recently asserted that “President Obama should drop the charade of democracy and rule directly through executive orders.”

    Obama-supporting protestors demand that Obama make even more use of government by executive order than he has already done.

    Obama’s frontmen at Organizing for America told their members to propagandize for Obamacare at family Thanksgiving dinners. As Byron York notes, politicization of all aspects of life is a standard feature of totalitarian societies.

    MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is one example of those “progressives” who think patriotism is all about obeisance to the government and the Leader, rather than being about love of country.

    A third-grade textbook, said to be compliant with the new Common Core standards, portrays Obama with the kind of messianic iconography commonly used by totalitarian governments in praising their rulers.

     

     

    Posted in Judaism, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 22 Comments »

    Book Review – “Unintimidated – A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge” by Governor Scott Walker

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge by Scott Walker

    —-

    I just received Scott Walker’s new book and went to it right away. It is an interesting look at the time in and around the Wisconsin “protests” (I use quotation marks around the word ‘protest’ intentionally).

    I expected more of an autobiography of Walker, and that is really the story that I wanted. It is always interesting to me to see how the formative years of people affect how they make decisions and treat others later in life. That is not what this book is about.

    What this book is about is still an interesting topic. Walker goes in depth to explain just how bad former Governor Jim Doyle had left the State of Wisconsin’s finances due to accounting tricks and other gimmicks.

    More importantly, Walker takes a deep dive to explain the scam that the unions were running with their automatic withdrawals of dues, monopolistic health insurance practices, overtime abuse, and other things – and how he was going to fix it.

    Walker then goes in depth to explain what it was like during the “protests” and what was going on behind the scenes. He used the term “theater of the absurd” and that really hit home. Most (all?) of the “protests” were absolutely absurd.

    As I was reading the book, I had to admit that I wasn’t really learning much of anything as far as the nuts and bolts of the legislation, “protests”, senators fleeing, and all the rest were concerned. I was actually at the capitol for much of the protests and have been following all of these things daily and I knew about all of the litigation and all the rest. But what was of interest to me were the personal stories of abuse that Walker and the Republican legislators were subjected to, including their families. Also of interest was Walker’s strength that he found in God and that he never wanted to go back or apologize to anyone for anything. He was doing what he thought was right, and decided to do his best and let the chips fall.

    Walker also explains in detail the campaign during his recall and that this ad turned the tide:

    Walker also takes a jab at Obama for not showing up to support Barrett in the recall election.

    Toward the end, Walker seems genuinely angry at the Romney campaign for bungling, well, everything and goes into detail about what he did wrong, and how these things can be corrected moving forward.

    I recommend the book so you can get an inside view of what the “protests” were like here in Wisconsin a few years ago, and to understand how Walker implemented his reforms to swing the state from an enormous deficit to a surplus today. His faith is featured throughout the book and he makes no apologies for what he has done.

    It is an easy to read book that won’t take you long to plow through, especially if you find the subject matter interesting as I do. I hope to see a full autobiography on him in the future. Hopefully when he is sitting in the White House.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Here comes 1933

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd November 2013 (All posts by )

    images

    The Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.

    James Taranto has a good take and quotes a couple of lefty commentators. Like Ezra Klein.

    There’s a lot of upside for Republicans in how this went down. It came at a time when Republicans control the House and are likely to do so for the duration of President Obama’s second term, so the weakening of the filibuster will have no effect on the legislation Democrats can pass. The electoral map, the demographics of midterm elections, and the political problems bedeviling Democrats make it very likely that Mitch McConnell will be majority leader come 2015 and then he will be able to take advantage of a weakened filibuster. And, finally, if and when Republicans recapture the White House and decide to do away with the filibuster altogether, Democrats won’t have much of an argument when they try to stop them.

    As Taranto puts it:

    “”The political problems bedeviling Democrats” is a marvelous bit of understatement. The abject failure of ObamaCare has made the prospect of a Republican Senate in 2015 and a Republican president in 2017 much likelier. Thus even from a purely partisan standpoint, rational Democrats would have been more cautious about invoking the nuclear option when they did than at just about any other time in the past five years.”

    The filibuster maneuver by Reid is not a demonstration of strength. It is an admission of weakness. The idiots at HuffPo and the LA Times are beating their chests in joy at the prospect of eternal Democrat majorities that can ignore those pesky Republicans.

    In fact, what Reid is acknowledging is that the Democrat majority in the Senate is going away and now is the time to pack the courts and regulatory agencies with ideologues and get all the anti-business regulations in place while they can. The hard left, which believes in magic and Cargo Cults, is cheering them on.

    Bloomberg sees what happened, too.

    “Under any administration, federal agencies seek to implement the president’s policies by developing regulations,” Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Washington who has represented coal-heavy utilities, said. “But in most cases, the judges on the D.C. Circuit are the people who decide whether those regulations comply with federal law.”

    I fully expect to see anti-fracking regulations roll out soon, once the Obama appointments get confirmed by the rump Senate. However, what goes around, comes around.

    It is our understanding that the Supreme Court exception was included to satisfy pro-abortion extremists, the most active and basest part of the activist base. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reported yesterday that the two biggest such groups, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America, both declined comment on the nuclear move, “leaving it unclear whether they are concerned about their ability to block future objectionable”–i.e., Republican–”nominees.”

    The abortion lobby sees the future better than giddy leftists who think government creates wealth and jobs.

    Posted in History, Politics | 26 Comments »

    The Democratic Party and the Drive for Unlimited Government Power

    Posted by David Foster on 21st November 2013 (All posts by )

    Majority Leader Harry Reid has succeeded in getting the Senate to change the rules such that most of Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.

    This action is simply one more manifestation of the Democrats’ hostility toward any limitations on government power…at least, any limitations of government power as long as they are in control (which they clearly intend to be for a long, long time.)

    While the Obama administration is clearly more hostile toward the institutions of American democracy than even most previous Democratic presidents have been, still, the desire of Democrats to remove constraints on government power goes back a long ways. As I noted in a comment to this post, Woodrow Wilson believed that separation of powers was obsolete…he argued for this viewpoint based on extremely simplistic reasoning about the “organic” nature of government and the assertion that an organism could not have “organs offset against each other as checks, and live.” (As I also noted in the same comment thread, one would think that anyone who had run any kind of organization would understand the need for “organs offset against each other as checks.” even at the simple level of an auditing department and the separation of payment authorization from payment execution…and, of course, the concepts of feedback control and homeostasis clearly demonstrate the need for those “organs offset against each other” in any complex system.)

    Also in the same thread, Vader cited someone who had said that Wilson’s belief in his own moral righteousness was so great as to approach mental illness. This is clearly also true of Obama, probably to an even greater degree than it was true of Wilson. And people with this level of arrogance, of course, tend to be especially impatient of any restraints on their power.

    But it goes far beyond Obama himself. The growth of educational credentialism has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people who believe that their college degrees…entirely irrespective of any actual accomplishments that they have made or actual knowledge that they possess…have given them preternatural wisdom and hence they right and duty to control the lives of their less-enlightened countrymen.

    American democracy is in grave danger. The 2014 elections will probably be the last chance to keep this country..and the world…from going down a very dark path. I’m reminded of a speech Winston Churchill gave during the years of appeasement, specifically in March 1938, in which he spoke of Britain and its allies:

    descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.

    See also my related post When law yields to absolute power.

    Posted in Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 21 Comments »

    Building the airplane during takeoff.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Henry-Chao

    UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal on how to fix the Obamacare crisis.

    What can be done is Congress creating a new option in the form of a national health insurance charter under which insurers could design new low-cost policies free of mandated benefits imposed by ObamaCare and the 50 states that many of those losing their individual policies today surely would find attractive.

    What’s the first thing the new nationally chartered insurers would do? Rush out cheap, high-deductible policies, allaying some of the resentment that the ObamaCare mandate provokes among the young, healthy and footloose affluent.

    These folks could buy the minimalist coverage that (for various reasons) makes sense for them. They wouldn’t be forced to buy excessive coverage they don’t need to subsidize the old and sick.

    Who knows ? Maybe Jenkins reads this blog. It’s so obvious that the solution should be apparent even to Democrats.

    We are now learning that a large share of the Obamacare structure is still unbuilt. This is not the website but the guts of the system.

    The revelation came out of questioning of Mr. Chao by Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.). Gardner was trying to figure out how much of the IT infrastructure around the federal insurance exchange had been completed. “Well, how much do we have to build today, still? What do we need to build? 50 percent? 40 percent? 30 percent?” Chao replied, “I think it’s just an approximation—we’re probably sitting between 60 and 70 percent because we still have to build…”

    Gardner replied, incredulously, “Wait, 60 or 70 percent that needs to be built, still?” Chao did not contradict Gardner, adding, “because we still have to build the payment systems to make payments to insurers in January.”

    This is the guy who is the chief IT guy for CMS.

    If the ability to pay the insurance companies is not yet written, how can anybody sign up ?

    Gardner, a fourth time: “But the entire system is 60 to 70 percent away from being complete.” Chao: “There’s the back office systems, the accounting systems, the payment systems…they still need to be done.”

    Gardner asked a fifth time: “Of those 60 to 70 percent of systems that are still being built, how are they going to be tested?”

    The answer was the same way the rest was tested.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Health Care, Medicine, Obama, Politics, Systems Analysis | 8 Comments »

    Boehner should not honor Obama’s lawlessness

    Posted by TM Lutas on 17th November 2013 (All posts by )

    President Obama’s veto threat of the Upton bill to legally do what he is trying to do by illegal means, delay the individual mandate, has firmly established a sad fact. The United States has a lawless president. Impeachment would be a three ring circus and unlikely to be worth the effort. President Obama has indeed not let a crisis go to waste and is trying to legitimize presidential lawlessness by picking a test case where the he is doing lawlessly what the Congress wishes to do lawfully. It’s a threat of precedent, not a present threat to the lives and health of anyone today.

    A more appropriate response than impeachment would be to wake up America that there is an important and symbolic issue at stake. Speaker Boehner can do this simply by denying the President an honor. He can deny President Obama the use of the House chamber for the State of the Union address. A currently substanceless threat to our legal tradition is responded to by a substanceless slap of rebuke. Let the President write his address and let it be read from the well by a clerk.

    The idea that the President has so dishonored his office that he no longer can enter the House is a powerful image that alerts the people to a problem but does not stop us from carrying on with the serious task of government. Impeachment should not be our first resort. Who wants President Biden? This measure also has the advantage that it plays to Boehner’s strengths and requires no approval from anyone else. He can take this decision unilaterally. He should.

    Cross posted: Flit-TM

    Posted in Politics, USA | 21 Comments »

    Apparently Illinois Vote Rigging Doesn’t Count… and a Glimmer of Hope From California

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Recently I wrote about how the district I live in is perhaps the most gerrymandered district in the entire country.  Great pains have been taken by the Democrats that run Illinois to ensure that my vote can’t count and the legislator that runs our state district doesn’t even have to bother courting voters like me.  Even among Illinois legislators (not exactly the highest quality bunch) my guy is famous for not even voting to impeach Blago.  Literally we have the worst of the worst representing us, but he is effectively immortal since all he has to do is win the Democratic party primary and he’s in, due to basic mathematics and party-line voting.

    While I know writing posts like this is just like shouting into a toilet Rolling Stone recently came out with an article about Red State gerrymandering.  While my district in the article above was in the state legislature, our Illinois US House of Representatives balance has been similarly adjusted to ensure that a 50/50 or so state leans completely blue.  Of course the entire article acts as if this is a Republican phenomenon, when in fact both parties are equal opportunists at this sad game.

    There is a shred of hopefulness in all of this in some electoral advancements coming out of California, of all places.  They have a system where the two top vote getters in the primary battle it out on election day, even if they are from the same party.  In this sort of system, the Democrat or Republican that reaches out to the constituents in the middle from the other party has a shot at beating a stone ideologue that will generally cruise through the party primary (like my state representative).  This solution was “California Proposition 14“.  In parallel, they also have a citizen’s commission to draw districts so that they make more sense rather than be amazing gerrymander constructions.  It is too soon to tell if California’s results will help that much but it seems like a step in the right direction.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 10 Comments »

    The Rot Comes from the Top

    Posted by Margaret on 15th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Remember last year’s scandal about the Secret Service goings-on in Cartagena? The trouble started when one of them stiffed a prostitute.

    Insurance companies have been in bed with Obama/Obamacare from the beginning. Yesterday he tried to stiff them by royal decree.

    Good role model for his underlings, no?

    Posted in Management, Obama, Politics | 7 Comments »

    Where do we go now ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th November 2013 (All posts by )

    I don’t want to wear out my welcome with posts but this is a topic that has interested me for many years. When I retired from practice, I spent a year at Dartmouth trying to learn how we can improve health care delivery and reduce cost without reducing quality.

    The Obamacare web site now has lost its happy photo of the Obamacare girl. The fact that she is a non-citizen seems appropriate. The web site is supposed to be fixed by November 30. Will that happen ? Well, maybe not.

    On Friday, the man tasked with the digital fixes said the site “remains a long way from where it needs to be” as more and more problems emerge.

    “As we put new fixes in, volume is increasing, exposing new storage capacity and software application issues,” Jeff Zients told reporters on a conference call.

    And at Tuesday’s White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney again said there was “more work to be done” on repairing HealthCare.gov.

    Carney, along with Zients and other administration officials, have repeatedly said the November 30 deadline is to get the health care website working for a “vast majority” of Americans looking to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.

    So, what happens December 2, the Monday after the “glitches” are fixed ? First, they won’t be fixed. The contractor that designed the program, not just the web site, has a terrible record.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Big Government, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Leftism, Medicine, Obama, Politics | 11 Comments »

    Why health care is in trouble.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Our health care system has been built up over the years in a jury-rigged, ramshackle fashion. Before World War II, there was very little health insurance and what there was often was the product of labor union contracts. The early years were concerned with accident insurance and workers compensation laws.

    The American life insurance system was established in the mid-1700s. The earliest forms of health insurance, how­ever, did not emerge until 1850, when the Franklin Health Assurance Com­pany of Massachusetts began providing accident insurance, to cover injuries re­lated to railroad and steamboat travel. From this, sickness insurance covering all kinds of illnesses and injuries soon evolved, but the first modern health insurance plans were not formed until 1930.

    The Baylor program for school teachers was the first in 1929.

    Medical insurance took stride in 1929 when Dr. Justin Ford Kimball, an administrator at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas, Texas, realized that many schoolteachers were not paying their medical bills. In response to this problem, he developed the Baylor Plan – teachers were to pay 50 cents per month in exchange for the guarantee that they could receive medical services for up to 21 days of any one year.

    In those days, the concern was lost wages more than hospital care.

    In 1939, the American Hospital Association (AHA) first used the name Blue Cross to des­ignate health care plans that met their standards. These plans merged to form Blue Cross under the AHA in 1960. Considered nonprofit organizations, the Blue Cross plans were exempted from paying taxes, enabling them to maintain low premiums. Pre-paid plans covering physician and surgeon services, includ­ing the California Physicians’ Service in 1939, also emerged around this time. These physician-sponsored plans com­bined into Blue Shield in 1946 and Blue Cross and Blue Shield merged into one company in 1971.

    The modern insurance plans were very recent in origin. I was there for much of it. The commercial insurers fought the status of Blue Cross, which was not required to have reserves. Blue Cross asserted that it promised hospital care, not payment, so reserves were not necessary.

    The 1940s and 1950s also saw the proliferation of employee benefit plans, and the included health insurance pack­ages became more and more compre­hensive as strong unions negotiated for additional benefits. During the Second World War, companies competing for labor had limited ability to use wages to attract employees due to wartime wage controls, so they began to compete through health insurance packages. The companies’ healthcare expenses were exempted from income tax, and the resulting trend is largely responsible for the workplace’s present role as the main supplier of health insurance.

    The war produced much of this as wage limitations were in force but fringe benefits, like health insurance, were permitted. A lot of this history is contained in Paul Starr’s book The Social Transformation of American Medicine.

    From the first, commercial insurers focused on employer plans while Blue Cross and Blue Shield (which was founded by the California Medical Association to pay doctor bills) were individual plans.

    In 1954, Social Security coverage included disability benefits for the first time, and in 1965, Medicare and Medicaid pro­grams were introduced, in part because of the Democratic majority in Congress. In the 1970s and 1980s, more expen­sive medical technology and flaws in the health care system led to higher costs for health insurance companies. Responding to higher costs, employee benefit plans changed into managed care plans, and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) emerged. Man­aged care plans are unique in that they involve a particular network of health­care providers that have been verified for healthcare quality and that have agreements with the insurer about price and related issues. HMOs were originally primarily nonprofit, but they were quickly replaced by commercial interests, and managed care only suc­ceeded in temporarily slowing the growth of healthcare costs.

    Two major changes came in the 1970s. In 1978, the federal government established what were called Professional Standards Review Organizations or PSRO. All doctors had to receive training in how to do these reviews and it was immediately apparent that cost was the only consideration, not quality of care.

    I decided to educate myself and took a course from an organization called “The American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians. I took the exam and passed, then attended the annual meeting. This was about 1986. People I met at that meeting informed me that the exams were graded by throwing them up in the air. Any that landed balancing on one edge were flunked. Nonetheless, the experience was valuable because I could see what was coming.

    I was president of the Orange County Medical Association that year and had served for eight years on the Commission on Legislation of the CMA, now called The Council on Legislation. This gave me an opportunity to meet many legislators, many state level and some federal. The impression they made on me was that few knew anything about medicine and most were not very intelligent.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Current Events, France, Germany, Health Care, Medicine, Politics | 19 Comments »

    A rolling catastrophe

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Obamacare debuted on October 1. It is now November 4 and the mess is worse. I have been posting about it, here, and here, and here, and even here.

    The political left is trying very hard as can be seen here.

    keep-your-plan-flowchart

    It’s kind of complicated so I will summarize. You are screwed !

    There are accusations that insurance companies are using this to drop high risk subscribers. Maybe that is true but it is the consequence of ignorant people designing Obamacare. Did these guys ever set up a new business ? As Casey Stengel once said to the Mets , “”Can’t anybody here play this game?”

    I guess not.

    The New York Times has done what it can.

    We are also told that “in all the furor, people forget how terrible many of the soon-to-be-abandoned policies were. Some had deductibles as high as $10,000 or $25,000 and required large co-pays after that, and some didn’t cover hospital care.” Never mind that we have seen cancellations of insurance policies with deductibles much lower, and customers forced to purchase replacement policies with higher deductibles, and with premium increases of 100%, if not higher.

    Then there is this argument.

    Why can’t people opt out of mental health coverage if there is not a reasonable chance that they will need that coverage? Why can’t they get mental health coverage when it is needed? After all, pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied, so in the event that mental health coverage is needed down the line, it can be obtained and the insurance companies cannot deny people who already have pre-existing mental health conditions. The Times assures us that over-coverage–and the high premiums that come with it–is “one price of moving toward universal coverage with comprehensive benefits.” They don’t explain why having unnecessary coverage is a step towards social justice, but as we saw from the beginning of this intelligence-insulting, repulsively dishonest op-ed, the New York Times is less about explaining, and more about covering up a disastrous rollout with disastrous policy consequences for the country.

    Peggy Noonan, who has frustrated me with her obtuseness at times, gets it now.

    Politically where are we right now, at this moment?

    We have a huge piece of U.S. economic and social change that debuted a month ago as a program. The program dealt with something personal, even intimate: your health, the care of your body, the medicines you choose to take or procedures you get. It was hugely controversial from day one. It took all the political oxygen from the room. It failed to garner even one vote from the opposition when it was passed. It gave rise to a significant opposition movement, the town hall uprisings, which later produced the tea party. It caused unrest. In fact, it seemed not to answer a problem but cause it. I called ObamaCare, at the time of its passage, a catastrophic victory—one won at too great cost, with too much political bloodshed, and at the end what would you get? Barren terrain. A thing not worth fighting for.

    So the program debuts and it’s a resounding, famous, fantastical flop. The first weeks of the news coverage are about how the websites don’t work, can you believe we paid for this, do you believe they had more than three years and produced this public joke of a program, this embarrassment?

    She assumed that it wasn’t worth it if it worked !

    The problem now is not the delivery system of the program, it’s the program itself. Not the computer screen but what’s inside the program. This is something you can’t get the IT guy in to fix.

    They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information.

    This is the worst that could be imagined.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, Civil Society, Current Events, Health Care, Leftism, Medicine, Politics | 20 Comments »

    Illinois and the Perfect Democrat

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 3rd November 2013 (All posts by )

    I live in the River North district of Chicago, a vibrant area full of professionals, high rise buildings, and a large service economy.  We are adjacent to the Loop (and many of the people who live here chose this area so that they could walk to work) which employs many of these residents in an internationally competitive group of companies, both public and privately held.

    In my interactions with these residents, few are political, and I would say that most Illinois citizens I’ve met over the year could be considered middle-of-the-road. However, due to factors unique to the state of Illinois, the state is dominated by Democrats who control most of the levers of power at the state, city, county and local levels. As such, a state of mostly moderate individuals is set up, governed, and managed as if it was the most left-leaning state in the country.

    Ken Dunkin is our Illinois State representative for the 5th District, and he helpfully sent me this brochure that outlines his goals and accomplishments as a state legislator. This update provides a great window into the mindset of an Illinois Democrat.

    Ken Dunkin is famous for being the only Illinois legislator to skip Gov Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment hearing, and thus being a de-facto loyalist to the bitter end. It is really hard to add anything more to that sort of fact; even his fellow Democrats finally came to the conclusion that Blago had to go, but not Ken.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 14 Comments »

    How to be an Executive Who Learns/Does Not Learn

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd November 2013 (All posts by )

    Here’s David Cote, CEO of Honeywell Inc:

    Your job as a leader is to be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting.

    And here’s Barack Obama, President of the United States:

    I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.

    Is it likely that a person with the latter worldview will come out of a meeting knowing/understanding more than he did when he went into it?

    Posted in Management, Obama, Politics | 8 Comments »

    A Critical Insight.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st November 2013 (All posts by )

    Today, Belmont club has a post, with a link to another blog post, that I think explain a lot of the Obamacare fiasco.

    Fernandez begins with a discussion of Obama’s technique with favored columnists.

    get him in an off-the-record setting with a small group of opinion columnists — the David Brooks and E.J. Dionne types — and he’ll talk for hours. …

    “It’s not an accident who he invites: He reads the people that he thinks matter, and he really likes engaging those people,” said one reporter with knowledge of the meetings. “He reads people carefully — he has a columnist mentality — and he wants to win columnists over,” said another. …

    These people are, like him, unsophisticated in technology. They are lawyers or journalists and the numbers of math and science courses represented in the room are few.

    The other blog post is titled “Government is magic.”

    Our technocracy is detached from competence. It’s not the technocracy of engineers, but of “thinkers” who read Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman and watch TED talks and savor the flavor of competence, without ever imbibing its substance.

    These are the people who love Freakonomics, who enjoy all sorts of mental puzzles, who like to see an idea turned on its head, but who couldn’t fix a toaster.

    This strikes me as a huge insight into why this administration doesn’t understand the trouble it is in.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Education, Health Care, Human Behavior, Management, Politics, The Press | 14 Comments »

    Say Hi to the Whig Party, Boys

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th October 2013 (All posts by )

    So, the main-line establishment GOP – apparently seeing the writing on the wall and determined to make themselves even more irrelevant – is now going to go all-out against Tea Party sympathetic candidates in the next elections. They have seen the enemy and they is us … that is, us small-government, strictly-Constitutionalist, fiscally-responsible, and free-market advocates, who were the means of ensuring certain outcomes in hotly contested races, and that Mitt Romney even had a ghost of a chance in the last round. Nope, obviously those partisans who feel that our government should be guided by strict adherence to the Constitution, not spend more than it takes in, and not be rick-rolled by crony capitalists and the lobbyists who do their bidding, are – to put it frankly – dangerous radicals who must be excised from the GOP organization.

    Because, you know, it is so much better to be a meek and polite little opposition party occasionally allowed to dip a snout into the trough. Insisting on a degree of fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and truly free markets is apparently just too dogmatic, too radical, and un-collegial within the rarified inside-the-beltway establishment GOP.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Politics, Tea Party | 29 Comments »