Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Review

I just finished reading Karl Rove's autobiographical "Courage and Consequence" which I highly recommend. It provides a detailed insight into the truly herculean organizational effort involved in running a major political campaign. It also was extremely supportive of George W. In particular he cites many examples of Dubya's decency, determination and yes even his intelligence.

As I have stated earlier in this space, I firmly believe that history will be very kind to the 43rd president just has it has been to Harry Truman who - like Bush - left office a the nadir of his popularity due in large measure to discontent with the Korean War. Sound familiar? Rove also provides an inside the White House view of the four major events that defined the Bush presidency - namely 9/11, the Iraq war, Katrina and the financial crisis.

9/11 not only fundamentally changed America it also radically altered the priorities of the Bush agenda - which until then had been mostly focused on domestic issues. It also presaged the rationale and the political and public support for the removal of the Iraqi regime and what became known as the "Bush Doctrine" of attacking not just the terrorist groups themselves but also those governments that provide safe haven and support. It is noteworthy that at least in this area the Obama administration has continued the "Bush Doctrine" without any change.

On the Iraq war Rove rightly credits Bush with the wisdom and courage to pursue the "surge" strategy in spite of cries from the left that the war was already lost (to quote Harry Reid among others) and even some skeptics within his own administration. It is now clear that the current progress - both on the political and security fronts - would not have occurred without this action. He also points out repeatedly the hypocrisy and dissembling of the Dems who were on the record as fully supportive of the Iraqi operation in the beginning but later became its most fervent critics. Among these scoundrels were the usual suspects of Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, John Kerry and even Nancy Pelosi.

Bush took a lot of criticism - even to the point of being labeled a racist - over the Katrina response. What got lost in all the uproar were a number of key facts. First the real reason for the woeful response in New Orleans was not an ineffective federal agency but the lack of an emergency plan and delays and dithering both pre and post hurricane by the mayor - Ray Nagin - and governor - Kathleen Blanco. The feds had pushed for an evacuation 72 hours prior to landfall but the Nagin didn't act until 24 hours before the event. Regarding the post hurricane response given that disaster response is always a city and state responsibility, the only way the federal government can help is either through a request from the state governor or to declare the area in a "state of insurrection." Despite repeated attempts to get the governor to act, she failed to do so and as result the people of N.O. suffered unnecessarily. Just to prove this point just contrast what happen in Mississippi and Alabama. These states were affected just as badly by the storm but in these cases the states had a plan and were quick to request federal assistance. Unfortunately the critics of the Bush administration jumped on the Katrina event to unfairly paint Bush as uncaring and incompetent rather than directing their ire at the real local culprits. What I find unbelievable is that even after his abominable and largely absentee performance New Orleans re-elected Nagin.

The proximate cause of the financial collapse and consequent bank bailouts and recession was the bursting of the housing bubble. Now what does not get talked about enough is that the housing bubble was the result of years of progressive democratic pressure to make home ownership more affordable for the masses - including those who did not have the financial wherewith all to take on a mortgage. The key players in this debacle were Freddie and Fannie Mae and folks like Rep. Barny Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd. In fact it was the democrats - including then Senator Obama - who blocked the Bush administration efforts to reign in these two GSE's years before the bubble went pop. So when I hear the liberals complain that Obama inherited a financial crisis I want to scream since it can be clearly proven that it was caused by Obama and his democratic cronies in the first place. Granted the whole crisis was exacerbated by a few too clever for their own good Wall Street types who invented the credit default swap and the unregulated nature of this instrument, but let's not forget who the real villains were that created the conditions for the wildfire to begin.

Next up on my reading list is "Decision Points" by George W. himself. Unfortunately there is a waiting list of 145 people in the queue for one of the 45 copies of this book in the Houston library system so it may take a while to get my hands on it.

Comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Energy Policy - Even the President doesn't get it

Like many of us I decided to watch at least some of BHO's press conference today regarding the Republican tsunami that just washed into Foggy Bottom. It was all pretty predictable. What got me leaping out my chair, however, was his response to a question on whether or not the cap and trade concept was dead in the water.

Now one would think that the Prez would be well briefed on energy issues since he makes such a big deal out of the need for "green" technologies and "green" jobs. I am a big supporter of new nuclear power projects in the US so was pleased to see him give a nod in support of new nuclear plant development. It was at that point that he went off the rails. He said we need more nuclear power to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil!!

I have said it before in this space and I will say it again since this seems to be a myth that won't die. With the exception of emergency back-up diesel and gasoline powered generators, the US does not - repeat does not - use any significant amount of oil for the production of electricity. So let's be clear - new nuclear power generation will not reduce our dependence on foreign oil one iota. (Nor for that matter will new wind farms or solar power plants - sorry T. Boone Pickens.)

What it will do is replace coal and natural gas as the major alternative sources of fuel for this purpose. If the Prez had said we need to promote nuclear power as a way to help reduce the generation of CO2 then he would have been correct, but to use foreign oil reduction as the strawman benefit shows either a complete lack of understanding of the nation's energy infrastructure or a cynical throw away line to avoid upsetting the natural gas and coal lobbies and their union constituencies.

So the only conclusion one can reach is that BHO is either ignorant when it comes to energy issues or is deliberately mis-representing (dare I say lying about) the facts to promote his own political and policy objectives. Guess which one I would choose.

As readers of this space are aware I am a man-made global warming skeptic. Note that I am not saying that the globe is not warming, but I reject the notion that it is largely man-made. Just look at what is currently happening in Indonesia. The Mt Merapi volcano has been spewing gas and ash into the atmosphere for over a week and this is not the first such major eruption this year. While I have no hard data my guess is that one volcano like Merapi dumps as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere in a week as the human population does in a year.

It is a conceit of the human condition that makes us believe we are such an important and significant influence on the global climatic system. Doesn't the power of a hurricane like Andrew or Katrina or a volcano like Merapi give us pause and make us awed by the absolute futility of man in the face of the globe's natural phenomenon. I am willing to accept the notion that the global climate may indeed be in a warming cycle, but I reject, and there is no credible evidence to support, the hypothesis that this warming is solely the result of human activity.

So Mr. President, while I applaud your support for new nuclear power plant development, let's get our facts straight on what the benefits will be. The best way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to move to an all-electric ground transportation system. If you are worried about CO2 emissions then nuclear power is the most logical choice to power that new fleet of electric vehicles.

Comments are always welcome.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thinking about Traffic Lights

As I sit here in the Singapore Airlines' Business Class lounge on my way back to Houston from Jakarta, I recall a John Stossel show from a month or so ago questioning the need for traffic lights. The reason this came to mind is that I just spent two weeks in Indonesia where traffic lights are the exception and not the rule.

Now as Mr. Stossel says its seems self evident that traffic lights are needed to keep us from all running into each other and help control the flow of traffic at intersections. But I just spent two weeks in an environment of very heavy traffic with millions of motorcycles careening around among cars, trucks and buses all without traffic lights at most intersections. So you might ask how does this all work without an accident every two minutes.

In an amazing demonstration of the free market and people rising to fill a needed niche, the reason it works is that at every intersection where there is significant traffic interaction volunteer civilians - i.e. local people - become self appointed traffic control officers. They stand in the middle of the intersections with their whistles at the ready and ensure that traffic moves and that everyone has a fair shot at making it through. Now these are unpaid positions but the drivers give them tips as they roll through so helping with traffic control is a paying profession.

At intersections where there is not enough traffic (and consequent tips) to justify a volunteer TCO, drivers simply slow down and make sure it is safe to proceed and often yield to others so that collisions are avoided. So incredible as it may seem John S's proposition that traffic lights are unnecessary turns out to perfectly valid.

It just makes you think about all the other things that government does for our own good that are unnecessary and/or counter-productive.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Seriously Now!

Is it even remotely possible to take the Obama administration and its left wing lackies in congress seriously any more? The so called Hope and Change message has been proven a false god. On top of that the cynical and condesending dismissal of a tidal wave of disapproval among the electorate is stunning in its arrogance. In support of my contention I would offer up a few examples of recent events.

On top of the list has to be the way the health care bill was bulldozed through congress in spite of well documented disapproval from the public and in willful disregard of both the unintended consequences (e.g. higher not lower health care costs, higher taxes on small business and middle class individuals, inevitable rationing, higher unemployment) and the incalcuable legacy of debt that will burden generations to come. In spite of the claims of the administration and the Pelosi/Reid cabal, every thinking citizen knows that this bill will increase and not reduce the deficit.

Number two. The whole country knows that illegal immigration and the border violence that comes with it are not being addressed effectively by the federal government. So rather than applaud and welcome the attempt by Arizona to assist the feds in enforcing the federal government rules (yes the federal government not Arizona requires that resident immigrants carry their "papers") what does the Obama administration do but demonize and sue the state of Arizona to block it from doing what an overwhelming majority of Americans think makes common sense.

Third the offshore oil drilling ban as a response to the BP oil disaster is not even supported by the folks impacted the most - namely the gulf coast residents. These folks know how important the high skill/high paying oil drilling jobs are to the local economy. So in the midst of a recession what do the bright lights on the BHO team do but make every effort to inflict further economic pain on the folks most affected already by the spill. Even when blocked by two federal courts the BHO administration continues on its self-defeating course. None of this makes any sense.

Finally there is the so called financial reform bill that the Prez and company are touting as the bill to end all financial crises. What rubbish. Neither Obama or the dems in congress that wrote this monstrosity know what it will and will not do. Chris Dodd even admitted as much. But most glaringly it does not address one of the fundamental causes of the recent housing bubble -namely out of control GSE's Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. These two instruments of liberal policy were left untouched. No one can take the financial reform bill seriously given this egregious exception.

There are many other examples that I could pick from the daily news as this administration and the democrats in congress run hell bent on ramming their ideology driven agenda down our throats in face of growing fear and public opposition. No wonder the Tea Party is growing in strength.

Now I ask you. Can anyone take anything coming out of Foggy Bottom seriously? Seriously!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Was the VA Duped?

As I was watching TV yesterday an ad sponsored by a VA organization came on the screen. It had a Iraq war veteran narrating a video showing an IED blowing up a Humvee. He said this is how he was wounded and then elaborated on the deadly nature of these devices and how they were being made in Iran and supplied to AQI. He then said that every $1 increase in the price of oil provides $1billion to Iran to keep making these weapons. I don't know if this was a true statement but as an exporter Iran clearly benefits from higher crude oil prices.

Up to this point I'm thinking OK where is this headed? Then the background picture shifts to a wind farm and the narrator says we need to shift to renewable energy to reduce our demand for oil so that Iran's IED piggy bank is short changed. I about flew out of my chair. As posited in earlier posts on this blog, with the exception of emergency back-up diesel or gasoline power generators, the US does NOT consume oil in the production of electricity!! Thus the juxtaposition of a wind farm with an appeal to reduce our consumption of oil was and is a non sequitur. As also previously stated in this blog the only way that wind energy can be used to reduce our dependence on oil is to put sails on cars and trucks.

I am not sure what angers me most. That this VA organization allowed itself to be used for a blatantly emotional and false appeal that shifting to alternative energy for electricity production will help protect out troops, or that the sponsors cynically ran this ad with the expectation that the average person doesn't understand that all these wind turbines do absolutely nothing to stem the US use of oil for transportation.

The ignorance, cynicism, demagoguery and just plain stupidity that surrounds the US energy infrastructure and policy making process is simply stunning.

Just to be clear I am in favor of wind, nuclear, solar and hydro as relatively carbon free technologies for the production of electricity. What I object to is the implication that these sources of electric power will affect the demand for oil in this country. This includes the T Boone Pikens ads that ran a year or so ago making the same false claim about the virtues of wind energy. (BTW T Boone has since gone very quiet on this subject.) My solution to reducing our dependence on foreign oil is more domestic drilling and a national commitment to more nuclear power plants in parallel with the rapid development of an all electric ground transportation system. It is the only solution that makes sense.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yes Virginia - Elections do have consequences

The past year as been an object lesson in political science and the unmistakable fact that elections have consequences. Just over one year ago the Obama administration was sworn in and coronated by the MSM as the saviour of the republic and America's standing in the world. Chris Matthews at MSNBC had to change his underwear every time he talked about Obama the messiah.

But reality intruded and while the economy was imploding - due in large part to democrats who beginning in the mid-90's pressured Fannie/Freddie and the large banks to extend and guarantee mortgages to folks clearly unqualified (see earlier posts) - Obama fiddled with the health care debacle, extended olive branches to Muslims and granted civil liberties to terrorists while the unemployment rate soared. Day by day the BHO administration moved further away from the heartbeat of America.

But this was the logical outcome of the 2008 presidential election that swept an untested, lifetime civil servant, someone with no business experience and unsavory lifetime associations, and an unabashed socialist into the White House. Well the American electorate got what it deserved. It voted for change and got it in spades. See elections do have consequences.

But whoa Nelly! A political earthquake in form of a simple Senate race in Massachusetts has set the world (at least the American political world) back on its axis. Now all the dems in congress are running scared - and they should be. Health care - at least in the current package - is dead, bi-partisan moves are underway to force the trial of KSM and his cronies back to where it belongs before a military tribunal in Gitmo and everyone in DC is starting to talk about how to help small businesses that are the engine of employment growth. Wow! Once again elections have consequences.

The joke of the first stimulus was that it did nothing to encourage or increase private employment. The bulk of the so call "saved jobs" were in the public sector - school teachers, police, firefighters, social workers, etc. Not that these are not important jobs but the notion that simply plumping up public worker enrollments is a job growth initiative is ludicrous, and in the end counter productive to real job growth as it simply creates additional unfunded liabilities for cites, counties and states already facing financial and budgetary Armageddon.

During the years of the GWB administration his detractors often repeated the inaccurate folk myth that, "Bush lied and people died," with reference to the stated reason for the Iraq war. Bush didn't lie about WMD. All the western nations' intelligence services were of the opinion that Hussein either had or was developing WMD. Turns out they were wrong, but that does not mean Bush lied.

On the other hand the blatant lies coming out the mouth of BHO and his toadies over the past year regarding the health care bill, transparency, bi-partisanship, etc. are legion. Why doesn't anyone in the MSM take Barak and company to task on this issue. Things that make you want to go hmmmm.....

I can't wait for the Nov 2010 elections. As was the case in 1994 I think these will have even more consequential consequences.

Comments are always welcome.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How's that Hope and Change Thing Working for You

Let's see now. There was the promise of transparency - particularly with regard to the health care debate (C-Span anyone?), no pork in the defence appropriations bill, a bi-partisan approach to governing and a new image of America on the world stage. You betcha'.

There was a fascinating and spot on article by Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins in the Jan 5, 2010 edition of Investor's Business Daily to the effect that thus far BHO is winning the race to the bottom of the heap as the worst President since Jimmy Carter. Not the least of BHO's shortcomings is his flagrant disingenuousness (dare I say lying) during the campaign. He was the quintessential snake oil salesman with his H&C rhetoric, and the American public (at least the critical middle/independent block) swallowed the elixir with grand anticipation of a new world/American order.

No honest and unbiased observer could possibly deny that the health care debate and legislative crafting process has been anything but open. It has been all back room negotiations, bribes, payoffs and promises and the Republicans have been shut out of the debate entirely. The absolute worst display of the political process at work for all to see. And why the rush and shady deal making. The truth is that the democratic leadership in congress is well aware of two things - the current proposal for health care reform is unpopular with a majority of Americans and with the Dems unpopularity on the rise there is no chance of anything like the current bill passing after the 2010 elections. So they are taking cynical advantage of a momentary position of total congressional and executive control to jam it down our throats whether we want it or need it.

Let's be clear. Americans generally support health care reform. They just don't like the Democratic proposal. Please see my previous post for the four reforms that will deal with the most pressing concerns related to health care - and these do not require a 2000 page bill.

So much for transparency and bi-partisanship and the Defence appropriations bill was so pork laden it oinked. Another promise down the tubes.

As far as the new world order and respect for America is concerned the facts speak for themselves. Iran has blown BHO off like a feather. North Korea the same. China and India walked out of the Copenhagen climate talks without so much as a howdy do. Russia got the eastern European missile shield project cancelled without blinking an eye and Muslim fanatics are on the attack from even more venues than before. Yeah BHO's apology tours, Muslim outreach programs, Gitmo and terrorist trial decisions, and spineless response to terror attacks has certainly improve America's standing in the world.

I have said before that despite the hatred and vitriol spilled at GWB at the end of his administration, I believe that like Truman, Dubya will be seen in a much more favorable light in future years than he was on the eve of his exit from office. Likewise I believe BHO will be seen as an abject failure in public and foreign policy - much like Jimmy Carter - and like Jimmy I hope that he is only a one term president.

Not sure about you but the H&C thing is not working for me.

Comments and feedback are always appreciated.