Friday, August 21, 2009

Can't run Cash for Clunkers? Here, take health care.

Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak is upset because the government's much talked about Cash for Clunkers program has failed the pay the auto dealers the cash it promised for the clunkers. It seems that the geniuses down in Washington (Sestak included) passed the Cash for Clunkers scheme without having the slightest idea of how to run it efficiently.

Among other things they grossly underestimated the speed with which people and auto dealers would grab onto the cash; and they failed to think through the effect on auto dealer finances; and they set up a bureaucracy that has proven to be a total clunker at administering the program.

You can find Congressman Sestak's letter complaining to President Obama about the program here:

It's kind of rich that Congressman Sestak is complaining about the inefficiency of a program that he himself voted for. But I guess that's the kind of things you do when you're a congressman; you vote for unworkable and inefficient programs and then you blame someone else for then.

I have a question for Congressman Sestak. If this president and this congress and the rest of the federal government can't efficiently set up and manage a very simple little $3 Billion program like Cash for Clunkers, what possible logic can there be in thinking that they can run a very, very complex $2.5 Trillion industry like health care?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

President Obama supports offshore drilling!

President Obama supports offshore drilling; but not in the U.S. of course. Instead he's loaning a couple of billion dollars of your tax money to Petrobras to drill off the coast of Brazil. At the same time he supports so called environmentalists who use all manner of legal maneuvering to make it impossible for oil and gas companies to drill off the coast of this country.

This makes not one lick of sense in any dimension.

Since our government is running a deficit it must borrow money by selling bonds in order to loan this money out. So our government is borrowing money from China and others in order to lend the money to an oil company owned and run by the Brazilian government.

And, on another level, Petrobras must be the only oil company in the world that can't make enough money to do its own drilling. Which says something about just how inefficient government run businesses can be.

The Wall Street Journal has the whole story at the link below. I've quoted some of it below.

Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling
The Wall Street Journal - 8/18/09

You read that headline correctly. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is financing oil exploration off Brazil.

The U.S. is going to lend billions of dollars to Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, to finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil's Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's planning minister confirmed that White House National Security Adviser James Jones met this month with Brazilian officials to talk about the loan.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank tells us it has issued a "preliminary commitment" letter to Petrobras in the amount of $2 billion and has discussed with Brazil the possibility of increasing that amount. Ex-Im Bank says it has not decided whether the money will come in the form of a direct loan or loan guarantees. Either way, this corporate foreign aid may strike some readers as odd, given that the U.S. Treasury seems desperate for cash and Petrobras is one of the largest corporations in the Americas.

But look on the bright side. If President Obama has embraced offshore drilling in Brazil, why not in the old U.S.A.? The land of the sorta free and the home of the heavily indebted has enormous offshore oil deposits, and last year ahead of the November elections, with gasoline at $4 a gallon, Congress let a ban on offshore drilling expire.

The Bush Administration's five-year plan (2007-2012) to open the outer continental shelf to oil exploration included new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. But in 2007 environmentalists went to court to block drilling in Alaska and in April a federal court ruled in their favor. In May, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his department was unsure whether that ruling applied only to Alaska or all offshore drilling. So it asked an appeals court for clarification. Late last month the court said the earlier decision applied only to Alaska, opening the way for the sale of leases in the Gulf. Mr. Salazar now says the sales will go forward on August 19.

This is progress, however slow. But it still doesn't allow the U.S. to explore in Alaska or along the East and West Coasts, which could be our equivalent of the Tupi oil fields, which are set to make Brazil a leading oil exporter. Americans are right to wonder why Mr. Obama is underwriting in Brazil what he won't allow at home.

National Public Radio's lying host

Yesterday afternoon at about 1:30 or so I happened to catch a brief part of a talk show on National Public Radio. During the segment I heard the host, a woman, make a clearly false statement about health care.

She said words to the effect that health care reform is needed because insurance companies cancel the policies of people with pre-existing conditions, and her guest made no effort to correct her lie.

The true state of affairs is that insurance companies must continue to cover the medical expenses of people who develop new medical problems. There is no way they can cancel someone's insurance once they have agreed to provide it.

The NPR commentator was trying to blur the fact that the current health care reform legislation requires insurance companies to write new policies for people with pre-existing conditions at the same price as for people without pre-existing conditions. This is complete madness. Writing a new health care insurance policy for someone who needs an operation tomorrow, or who is already known to have an expensive to treat condition, is welfare, not insurance, and it would quickly result in driving all of the insurance companies out of the health care market.

It's exactly the same thing as requiring a fire insurance company to write a new policy on a house that's already on fire, or requiring a flood insurance company to write new policies on houses downstream of a dam that just broke.

The day after the government passes a requirement that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions the smart people in the country will cut back their health insurance to the bare minimum. While they stay healthy they will save money. When they get sick or need an operation they will apply for a full coverage policy as soon as they learn that health care is going to cost them a lot of money. Insurance companies, if they want to stay in business, will have to hugely raise their rates to cover the new consumer behavior, and that will make even more healthy people cancel their policies. It will result in a spiral that will quickly kill off private health care insurance.

This sounds like a complex matter; but it's actually very simple. Would you pay for flood insurance on a beach house every year if you knew that you could always call and get a new flood insurance policy whenever a hurricane is forecast? Would you pay for auto insurance every year if you knew you could call from the scene of an accident and get a new insurance policy to cover the damage you've already done to your car? Would you pay for life insurance all your life if you knew that you could call from your deathbed in a hospital and apply for a new life insurance policy? Would you pay all your life for health insurance coverage if you knew that you could wait and apply for a new insurance policy after your doctor tells you some bad news?

Medicaid, which is a welfare program, already exists to provide health care for people who can't afford to pay for it. The attempt by President Obama and the democrats in congress to ban pre-existing condition clauses in new insurance policies is nothing but a naked play to destroy the health care insurance industry and thus force the country to a single payer government system.

And. . . a single payer health care system will put your health care in the hands of people who are not ashamed to baldly lie to get what they want, like the National Public Radio host I heard yesterday.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't like the cost of new drugs? Use generics!

Many years ago Aunt Mary A angrily told me that her eye operation had cost $3,000 and only took a couple of hours. I shocked her a bit, and made her laugh, by telling her that the next time she needed a similar operation I would read up on it and then do the operation for her for a lot less money.

Another time I was talking with Frank A at a reunion and he mentioned indignantly that a friend's mother was taking a heart medicine that cost (I think) $300 a month. What really burned him, he said, was that the same company sells the same medicine for dogs for only a few dollars a month.

Always willing to fuel a good argument, I pointed out to Frank that his friend had an easy solution. If the dog medicine was truly the exact same thing as the human medicine he could save a lot of money by buying the dog medicine and giving that to his mother instead of the human medicine.

In both cases I was being facetious; but there is a great truth in these incidents that relates to the current debate about health care. One of the things the health care "reform" boosters are arguing, and have argued for a long time, is that pharmaceutical companies often make minor changes to existing drugs and then charge a lot more for the new formulations, which are often only slightly better than the old drugs. This is viewed as somehow exploitative, even though everyone agrees that pharmaceutical companies spend huge amounts of money on research and development precisely in order to refine old drugs and develop new ones.

If it's true that a new drug is only a little bit better than an older drug that is now a generic and available for much less cost, why shouldn't people who can't afford to or don't want to pay the price asked for the new drug simply be satisfied with the older drug?

In every other area of life that's the way things are. I would very much like to drive a nice new Cadillac or Lexus every year; but I drive a Ford until it pretty much craps out because I don't want to pay for a Cadillac or a Lexus, and it would certainly cramp my budget to buy a new car every year. I would like to eat nothing but tenderloin and lobster prepared by great chefs in fine restaurants; but I eat chicken and tilapia prepared at home because I don't want to pay restaurant prices for tenderloin and lobster.

Someone who relies soley on much cheaper generic drugs is, at worst, trusting his life to the very best drugs that existed in the world as of about seven or eight years ago. It's true that doing that means taking a slight but significant risk with your life; but then most people take much more substantial risks with their lives by driving cheaper cars that don't have the super sophisticated safety systems that are installed in the most expensive cars.

Why is health care viewed so much differently than the other necessities of life? Why do people beat up on pharmaceutical companies when it's the pharmaceutical companies that have provided both the generic drugs and the slightly better newer drugs?

Here's an article by Tevi Troy that appeared in the June issue of Commentary Magazine that goes into other aspects of the health care, and specifically the pharmaceutical cost, debate:

Here are some quotes from it for those too lazy to click the link:

"Americans have, at best, a love-hate relationship with the life-sciences industry—the term for the sector of the economy that produces pharmaceuticals, biologics (like vaccines), and medical devices. These days, the mere mention of a pharmaceutical manufacturer seems to elicit gut-level hostility. Journalists, operating from a bias against industry that goes as far back as the work of Upton Sinclair in the early years of the 20th century, treat companies from AstraZeneca to Wyeth as rapacious factories billowing forth nothing but profit. At the same time, Americans are adamant about the need for access to the newest cures and therapies and expect new cures and therapies to emerge for their every ailment—all of which result from work done primarily by these very same companies whose profits make possible the research that allows for such breakthroughs."

"Liberals and conservatives appear to agree on the need to unleash the possibilities in medical discovery for the benefit of all. But it cannot be ordered up at will. It takes approximately ten years and $1 billion to get a new product approved for use in the United States. Furthermore, only one in every 10,000 newly discovered molecules will lead to a medication that will be viewed favorably by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Only three out of every ten new medications earn back their research-and-development costs. The approval success rates are low, and may even be getting lower—30.2 percent for biotech drugs and 21.5 percent for small-molecule pharmaceuticals."

"It is the very nature of scientific discovery that makes this process so cumbersome. New developments do not appear as straight-line extrapolations. A dollar in research does not lead inexorably to a return of $1.50. Researchers will spend years in a specific area to no avail, while other areas will benefit from a happy concatenation of discoveries in a short period. It is impossible to tell which area will be fruitless; so many factors figure into the equation, including dumb luck. Alexander Fleming did not mean to leave his lab in such disarray that he would discover that an extract from moldy bread killed bacteria, yet that is how it happened. Conversely, if effort and resources were all it took, then we would have an HIV/AIDS vaccine by now; as it stands, the solution to that problem continues to elude the grasp of some of the most talented and heavily funded researchers."

"Scientific discoveries are neither inevitable nor predictable. What is more, they are affected, especially in our time, by forces outside the laboratory—in particular, the actions of politicians and government bureaucracies. The past quarter-century has offered several meaningful object lessons in this regard. For example, in the 1980s, the Reagan administration undertook a number of actions, both general and specific, that had a positive effect on the pace of discovery. On the general front, low taxes and a preference for free trade helped generate a positive economic climate for private investment, including in the rapidly growing health-care sector. More specifically, the Reagan administration engaged in new technology transfer policies to promote joint ventures, encouraged and passed the Orphan Drug Act to encourage work on products with relatively small markets, and accelerated approval and use of certain data from clinical trials in order to hasten the approval of new products. All of these initiatives helped foster discovery."

"That which the government gives, it can also take away. As the 1990s began, a set of ideas began to gain traction about health care and its affordability (it seems hard to believe, but the first election in which health care was a major issue was a Pennsylvania Senate race only eighteen years ago, in 1991). Americans began to fear that their health-care benefits were at risk; policymakers and intellectuals on both sides of the ideological divide began to fear that the health-care system was either too expensive or not comprehensive enough; and the conduct of private businesses in a field that now ate up nearly 14 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product came under intense public scrutiny."

"A leading critic of Big Pharma, Greg Critser, wrote in his 2007 Generation Rx that President Clinton picked up on a public discomfort with drug prices and “began hinting at price controls” during his first term in office. These hints had a real impact. As former FDA official Scott Gottlieb has written, “Shortly after President Bill Clinton unveiled his proposal for nationalizing the health-insurance market in the 1990s (with similar limits on access to medical care as in the [current] Obama plan), biotech venture capital fell by more than a third in a single year, and the value of biotech stocks fell 40 percent. It took three years for the ‘Biocentury’ stock index to recover. Not surprisingly, many companies went out of business.”"

"The conduct of the businesses that had been responsible for almost every medical innovation from which Americans and the world had benefited for decades became intensely controversial in the 1990s. An odd inversion came into play. Since the work they did was life-saving or life-enhancing, it was not deemed by a certain liberal mindset to be of special value, worth the expense. Rather, medical treatment came to be considered a human right to which universal access was required without regard to cost. Because people needed these goods so much, it was unscrupulous or greedy to involve the profit principle in them. What mattered most was equity. Consumers of health care should not have to be subject to market forces."

"And not only that. Since pharmaceuticals and biologics are powerful things that can do great harm if they are misused or misapplied, the companies that made them found themselves under assault for injuries they might have caused. It was little considered that the drugs had been approved for use by a federal agency that imposed the world’s most rigorous standards, and was often criticized for holding up promising treatments (especially for AIDS). Juries were convinced that companies had behaved with reckless disregard for the health of consumers, and hit them with enormous punitive damages claims."

"The late 1990s also coincided with an unpredictable slowdown in the pace of medical discovery, following a fertile period in which new antihistamines, antidepressants, and gastric-acid reducers all came to market and improved the quality of life of millions in inestimable ways. A lull in innovation then set in, and that in turn gave opponents of the pharmaceutical industry a new target of opportunity. An oft-cited 1999 study by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) claimed that the newest and costliest products were only offering “modest improvements on earlier therapies at considerably greater expense.”"

"The NIHCM study opened fresh lines of attack. The first came from the managed-care industry, which used it as a means of arguing that drugs had simply grown too expensive. Managed care is extremely price-sensitive, and its business model is built on cutting costs; executives of the industry were well represented on the board of the institute that put out the report. They were, in effect, fighting with the pharmaceutical companies over who should get more of the consumer’s health-care dollars."

"The second came in response to the approval by the FDA in 1997 of direct consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. The marketing explosion that followed it gave people the sense that these companies were not doing life-saving work but were rather engaged in the sale of relative trivialities, like Viagra and Rogaine, on which they had advertising dollars to burn that would be better spent on lowering the cost of drugs. And the third element of this mix was the rise of the Internet, which gave Americans a level of price transparency that they had not had before regarding cost differentials between drugs sold in the U.S. versus Canada and other Western countries."

"These three factors precipitated a full-bore campaign by public interest groups that bore remarkable fruit over the next several years. By February 2004, Time magazine was publishing a cover story on pharmaceutical pricing, noting that “the clamor for cheap Canadian imports is becoming a big issue.” Marcia Angell, a fierce critic of the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA, wrote in the New York Review of Books in 2004 that, “In the past two years, we have started to see, for the first time, the beginnings of public resistance to rapacious pricing and other dubious practices of the pharmaceutical industry.”"

"Harvard’s Robert Blendon released a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in 2005 in which 70 percent of Americans reported feeling that “drug companies put profits ahead of people” and 59 percent saying that “prescription drugs increase overall medical costs because they are so expensive.” Overall, noted the foundation’s president, Drew Altman, “Rightly or wrongly, drug companies are now the number one villain in the public’s eye when it comes to rising health-care costs.” "

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fortunately he was polite and they were slow to go to the nightsticks

This story, if true, proves just how old you are if you're over 50.

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.
"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.
"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.
"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

You're Bob Dylan? NJ police want to see some ID
Aug 14, 11:57 PM (ET)By WAYNE PARRY

Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated like a complete unknown by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.
Dylan was in Long Branch, about a two-hour drive south of New York City, on July 23 as part of a tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp that was to play at a baseball stadium in nearby Lakewood.

A 24-year-old police officer apparently was unaware of who Dylan is and asked him for identification, Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley said Friday.
"I don't think she was familiar with his entire body of work," Woolley said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.
The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name.

According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:
"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.
"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.
"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.
"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

"He couldn't have been any nicer to them," Woolley added.

How did it feel? A Dylan publicist did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Friday. "

The story is from My Way News -

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dentist's face ruin due to Obama policies

The Wall Street Journal reported alarming news today:

"Some of America's biggest food companies say the U.S. could "virtually run out of sugar" if the Obama administration doesn't ease import restrictions amid soaring prices for the key commodity.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, the big brands -- including Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. -- bluntly raised the prospect of a severe shortage of sugar used in chocolate bars, breakfast cereal, cookies, chewing gum and thousands of other products.

The companies threatened to jack up consumer prices and lay off workers if the Agriculture Department doesn't allow them to import ..."

Oh, the humanity!!! Crazed chocoholics running wild in the streets because they can't get their fix. Dentists selling apples on the streets because of lack of teeth to drill and fill.

Actually I have to apologize here. The sugar import quotas are not just President Obama's fault. They're the fault of every president and every congress since the 1930's. Sugar farmers here in the U.S. have effectively been on welfare since then. Sugar import quotas are a nifty little hidden tax on everybody who eats or drinks junk food and beverages. The rich sugar growers live high on the hog as a result of that hidden tax, and they naturally share some of their wealth with the politicians who make sure the trough stays full. In this case Uncle Sam really is Uncle Sugar.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A neat new technology, especially for Star Trek fans

This two and half minute video illustrates how a Japanese researcher has made it possible to "touch" and "feel" and otherwise interact with a hologram. He's still a bit of a ways from building the equivalent of a Star Trek holodeck; but he's demonstrated one way in which doing such a thing is theoretically possible. Very neat! The video doesn't seem to have sound, so it is safe to open at work.

Scroll down once after going to the link below to find the video:

Hat tip to Jonah Goldberg of National Review, who posted this on The Corner where he periodically presents a list of weird and interesting links.


Democratic Congressman Eugene Green wants to be very sure that only residents of his congressional district attend his town hall meetings. So he has decided to require attendees to present photo ID in order to get in.

That's kind of funny, although not in a ha ha way, because Congressman Green has been a staunch opponent of requiring people to show ID when they go to their polling place to vote.

Apparently Congressman Green is perfectly okay with election fraud; but he's absolutely terrified that someone from outside his district may ask him a question at a town hall meeting.

Somebody ought to whack Congressman Green upside the head with a not too fresh mackerel.

"This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer." Will Rogers

Monday, August 10, 2009

When she's right, she's right

Here's a fifteen second long video of a proud American forcefully asserting her right to free speech. This woman refuses to be silenced despite Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama saying that it's unamerican to question the decisions of our rulers down in Washington.

And here's a one minute long video of a very well spoken fellow who says that President Obama's Cap and Trade plan for energy will cause your electricity rates to skyrocket.

Here's a 29 second video of another guy, an old guy whose mother should have taught him not to slouch so much, who says that Cap and Trade is a tax.

I've reported all of these radicals to the special snitch line at the White House. If you want to report something fishy or unamerican to President Obama you should email your suspicions to

Nothing is too small to report. If you kids out there hear your parents or anybody saying things that are fishy or disrespectful about President Obama, or about any of his plans to make the seas recede and the world become like totally perfect for you, he wants to know so he can send some people to straighten out their thinking.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Meet the Mob

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Obama are very concerned about the far right wing loons who have been intimidating innocent Democratic Party congresscritters by going to the town hall meetings and complaining. Some of these evil protesters are even carrying signs protesting the government takeover of healthcare that the Democrats are trying to do.

This blogger has done a patriotic job of labelling the sorts of wicked right wingers who have been protesting:

I know it's very annoying when the filthy peasants appear outside the door of the manor house whining about things; but as a helpful reminder to Speaker Pelosi I've quoted the First Amendment to the Constitution below:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Now the nanny state is getting personal

A Tulare, CA policeman shut down this little girl's lemonade stand because she didn't have a business license.

I'm remembering that I sold lemonade to the golfers at Eagleville Country club one summer before I was old enough to go to work at Harry's Potato Market. I forget the number of the hole I set up on, but there was a bench convenient to Trooper Road that was next to a hill on the course. Pop would drop me off on his way to Norristown in mid morning and then pick me up on his way home in mid afternoon.

The golfers were good customers; but if I had tried to charge them $2 a cup for lemonade they would have laughed me off the course. The dollar isn't what it used to be. The next year I started work at Harry's for less than a dollar an hour. For the first couple of summers Harry paid me one dollar less than the number of hours I worked in a day - for instance $9 for a 10 hour day. Of course I also got all the fruit I could eat, and occasionally a basket of spotted peaches or apples to take home to Mom. That was a pretty good deal for Harry because the next day Mom would send me back with a pie or a cobbler for him.

I could write a thousand words and not do justice to Mom's peach and apple pies. . . Suffice it to say that a scoop of ice cream would have defiled those pies.

Because I had better get back to the golfers. Besides lemonade I also sold them golf balls that I retrieved from the rough and the water hazards on the course. I think I charged ten cents apiece for the balls. Occasionally one of them would give me a quarter for an especially good ball and if one of Pop's buddies showed up I might get a half a dollar or even a dollar tip.

And, occasionally one of them who had lost a ball he had just hit up over the hill would inspect my collection of balls pretty carefully; but it wasn't me who had a habit of running across that hill stealing golf balls. It was (redacted) who did that. I didn't rat on (redacted) to the golf course manager back then when he questioned me about the tendency of balls to go missing on that hole, so I'm not going to do so now.

(Redacted) used to try to sell me the balls; but I never bought them. because that would have been foolish. First off, I knew for a fact that Pop knew the golf club manager, just as he seemingly knew everybody else within twenty miles who ever saw me do something of note then and later. Secondly, even then I knew that golfers keep track of what make and number of ball they're playing.

Good times. Lazy summer days, sitting in the shade on my bench with my cooler of lemonade that mom made and which thus cost me nothing, reading science fiction, and raking in a few bucks - with occasionally the excitement of wondering if (redacted) would get caught when he appeared to chat for a while, have a cup of lemonade, and then suddenly light off across the top of the hill to collect the balls the golfers had just hit. Some people are just not suited for honest labor, at least when they're young.

I don't know what became of (redacted); but I'm pretty sure he didn't become a priest even though he later dropped to his knees as though poleaxed when a disrespectful and inquisitive altar boy opened the gold plated door of the sanctuary in the altar on the stage at the Visitation gym on a dare to see what was in there and the door surprised us all by clanking open forcefully after the key was turned.

I pointed out to (redacted) that the sanctuary lamp was not lit and hence the altar was not live, so to speak; but even after that he stayed agitated and on his knees until I got the sanctuary door closed again. The spring on that door was pretty strong. I can still remember how it sprang open as though alive, probably because it took a little while for my heartbeat to settle down.

Fortunately no one was out in the gym beyond the closed drapes of the stage because they would surely have heard that clank and (redacted)'s alarmed and quite loud start of the act of contrition. (Redacted)'s surprisingly intense piety did not prevent him from trying a sip of the altar wine we liberated another time from the cabinet that Father L had surprisingly left unlocked. Father left the key in the lock of the sanctuary door as a matter of course; but he never left the key in the lock of the cabinet that held the vestments, wine, incense and self starting charcoal briquets for the censor.

Terrible stuff that altar wine. Even boosted and savored with friends it didn't taste good. All in all we drank very little, and we carefully refilled the bottle with water before putting it back, so no harm was done. It was probably just as well that Father L took very little water with his wine when he said mass.

The story about the little girl who got stopped by the Tulare police from selling lemonade is here:

Hopefully the cop who shut her down will not be smart enough to avoid buying lemonade from her when she gets set up again. Such a cop deserves a bit of extra flavoring in his lemonade.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Making a desert and calling it a stimulus

Congress and President Obama are all excited about putting a couple of billion more dollars into their "Cash for Clunkers" program because the auto industry is all excited about it. And, truth to tell, the "Cash for Clunkers" program is probably less destructive and wasteful than most of the stuff congress and the president have done for us this year, which is really saying something.

"Cash for Clunkers" gives people $4,500 of your tax dollars if they trade in an old American made car that gets poor gas mileage and buy a new (usually) Japanese or Korean made car that gets better mileage. It's a requirement of the program that the dealer where they trade in the old American car has to destroy that car. He can't re-sell the car, and he can't even break it up for parts. He has to destroy it so thoroughly that the only thing that can be done with it is to melt it down for scrap.

So what the government is really doing is paying people to destroy cars that still run and could still be useful to someone who doesn't have a lot of money to pay for a car but still wants to be able to get around.

Which is a pretty profoundly stupid thing to do when you think about it.

But it's not as though President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and Arlen Specter are the first imbeciles to think that destroying useful assets is a good idea. It's absolutely certain that back before a fellow named Frederic Bastiat wrote about "broken windows" in 1850 a lot of stupid people were thinking in the same obtuse way President Obama and his ilk think.

Stupid people have probably always thought the same way. For instance, a whole lot of people, all through history, have thought that war stimulates economies because governments spend their time destroying things, and spend a lot of money having people build things that are only useful for destroying other things. The twisted logic behind thinking that war is a good way to "stimulate" the economy is exactly the same twisted logic that lays behind the "Cash for Clunkers" program.

By that logic the Mohammedan fanatics did us a big favor when they crashed planes into the World Trade Center. And the Japanese did us a favor when they attacked Pearl Harbor and destroyed the U.S. Pacific Fleet. And the Germans did us a favor by using submarines to sink thousands of our merchant ships in the Atlantic. And, in our turn, we did the Japanese people a couple of spectacular favors when we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, just as we did the German people a favor when we fire bombed Dresden.

And, so it goes. By the logic of "cash for clunkers" Napoleon did the Russian people a favor when he ravaged half their country and burned Moscow in 1812. Similarly, those old timey Romans were actually doing a favor for the Gauls and the Germans when the "made a desert and called it peace" as Tacitus wrote way back in 90 or so A.D.

Heck, by the logic of destroying assets to stimulate the economy President Obama doesn't even need congress to stimulate the hell out of the world economy. He could do that all by himself just by calling in the guy with the briefcase and ordering the launch of a few dozen or a few hundred nuclear missiles. The Chinese and the Russians and the others won't mind if he just calls them first to explain that he's doing it to stimulate their economies. And during the call he could ask them to please launch some nuclear missiles at our cities to stimulate our economy.

You're thinking, of course that doing that would be very dumb; but it would be no dumber than paying people to destroy cars. Destroying drivable cars to stimulate the economy is just plain dumb, so dumb that only a college professor with his head way up his backside or a politician with his backside way up in the air and his feet practically levitating off the ground could possibly think it's smart.

You can read about Bastiat and his answer to the broken windows idea of economic stimulation here:

As for me, I'm going out now to break some windows to stimulate the economy.

Update: It just struck me that the "Cash for Clunkers" program has a major flaw which President Obama and congress should fix. The dealers are being allowed to sell those wrecked cars for scrap. That is causing the economy to fail to get the full benefit of destroying the cars in the first place. Those cars should be thrown into the ocean so that the steel and aluminum and copper in them can never be used again. That way the primary metal producers and the miners would also get a big stimulus since new steel, aluminum and copper would have to be made from scratch.

I have to remember to get rid of my recycling bin. From now on I put the bottles and cans in the regular trash so they can never be used again. Everyone has to do their bit to stimulate the economy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

He's 25 years late; but here comes big brother

Orwell titled his novel 1984; so we were relieved to live through that year without Big Brother watching us and talking to us through the TV in our home.

But it turns out that Orwell only missed on the year. Here it is 25 years after 1984 and Great Britain is installing closed circuit cameras to monitor 20,000 families in their homes around the clock. The British government says it's doing this "for the children."

Besides learning that the government of a supposedly free country has taken upon itself the right to conduct 24 hour surveillance in the homes of people who haven't been convicted of a crime, I also learned that the British government has a "Children's Secretary."

Presumably they needed a Childrens Secretary because none of the fully adult secretaries could figure out how to handle complex childhood matters like enforcing truancy laws without spying on people 24 hours a day in their homes.

Hat tip to Mark Steyn, who pointed at this in a post on National Review's blog The Corner.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Health care and government health care

The democrats in congress are falling all over themselves to change our health care system so it will be more like the systems of Canada and Great Britain. They say that doing that would make our health care system "better."

Well. . . there's something funny about that. Every so often you read about Canadians and Europeans coming over here to the U.S. to pay with their own money for health care treatments. Canadians and Europeans do that even though health care in Canada and Europe is supposedly provided "free" by the governments there.

Why would Canadians and Europeans come to the U.S. for health care when they can get it "free" in their own countries under systems set up by government bureaucrats just like President Obama and the Democrats in congress want to set up here?

It turns out The Hoover Institution has been doing some looking into health care "outcomes" in Canada and Europe. And it has found that Canadians and Europeans get a whole lot less of a whole lot of treatments and procedures that have been proven to save and extend lives here in the U.S. And it's not just rich people who get the short end of the stick in Canada and Europe. Middle class and poor people in Canada and Europe don't get health care that matches up to the health care that middle class and poor people get here in the U.S.

For instance, "Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the United Kingdom and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher."

So why do President Obama and the Democratic congress want to destroy our current health care system and replace it with a "single payer" system like they have in Canada and Europe? They're certainly not going to improve anyone's health care by doing that.

You can read the whole list of things at which the U.S. health care system does better than that in Canada and Europe by going to this link. It's a one page article and it's very straightforward.

I think it's worth your time, unless you don't care whether some government bureaucrat "improves" your health care and makes you twice as likely to die of breast cancer, or six times as likely to die of prostate cancer, or more than four times as likely to die of colorectal cancer.

Hat tip to Jonah Goldberg of National Review whose post on The Corner led me to this Hoover Institution article.