Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2009

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Vietnam was a bad war because we lost.  Pity, because the tragedy is that there was nothing there to win.

It is a distinction that I fear has been lost among our political leadership on both sides of the aisle.  It’s easy to imagine war as capture the flag – two grand armies fighting to seize the other’s capital city.  Onwards for glory, to Mexico City or Richmond or Berlin.  But the world can be maddeningly more complicated.

During the campaign John McCain insisted on what I would call the Martingale strategy of combat: just keep throwing troops at the problem.  It reflects all the frustrations of Gulliver among the Lilliputians; how is it that this band of people who cannot block our advance in any cardinal direction can so stymie our will?  Why won’t they give in?  Surely you don’t expect us to give in to them?  They cannot make us yield.

But is it yielding to have the confidence in our strength to follow our interests?  The heavyweight champion does not need to fight every barroom goon.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Details

There is something about a large federal program that makes it impossible for every stakeholder to resist trying to bury a clause or two for his own enrichment.  Probably the money.

I realize this isn’t new.  Railroad construction was a scam of epic proportions in a growing nation, not because of the profitability of the rail operations – most went broke from low demand and the looting of management, setting the stage for Amtrak – but for the land and mineral rights the government provided.  Herman Brown and a young Lyndon Johnson schemed to have World War II pilot training moved to Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, not out of any military logic but simply so Brown & Root could build the base.  Pat Leahy had Lake Champlain deemed a Great Lake – quite a surprise, no doubt, for the other five – so Vermont could grab some more Federal dollars.  Just last month Barney Frank had the Taunton River deemed a wild and scenic waterway to prevent a liquified natural gas facility from being built there.  Why would someone want to put an LNG terminal on a scenic river?  Because this is the scenery, and the terminal would replace the five oil storage tanks sitting there in white on the right side of the picture:

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Waterloo

Jim DeMint believes health care will be the President’s Waterloo:

He may be right…but I’m not sure Waterloo is the metaphor he thinks it is.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

The House hearings on rescission – the retroactive cancellation of individual health insurance policies – were over a month ago, but after its initial run through Daily Kos it seems to have waited a bit before popping up on Baseline and Slate.  James Kwak at Baseline described the practice as rare, affecting only 0.5% of the population.  The faint light bulb above my head began to flicker: could that be true…that’s not rare – that is amazingly common.

It is.  In fact, from Don Hamm’s (CEO of Assurant) prepared testimony, with the company logo nicely on the front of it in the original:

Rescission is rare. It affects less than one-half of one percent of people we cover. Yet, it is one of many protections supporting the affordability and viability of individual health insurance in the United States under our current system.

What tangled webs we weave…

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Food

This weekend the Remote Area Medical Group – a variant of Medecins Sans Frontieres – had its annual field event at the Wise County Fair Ground.  In Virginia, not Zimbabwe.

It is disgraceful that in the United States, which our politicians insist on telling us is the best at everything, people need to drive hundreds of miles to line up in the middle of the night for battlefield medicine.  Here is a 60 Minutes clip from last year’s version; this year had just under twice the turnout:

I have tried to outline a few ideas about the health care system, and there is no shortage of academic interest in the area.  But I can’t help but notice something else in the coverage: we have a food problem. (more…)

Read Full Post »

James Kwak takes on Will Wilkinson, who has a critique of Paul Krugman‘s articles about income inequality.  I’m not sure I agree with any of them.

The third grade version of the debate so far:

Paul says that when he grew up in the 1950s, everything was perfect.  We lived in cookie-cutter suburbs, drove one of three similar cars, worked in similar jobs, and had 2.4 kids.  Unions were strong, single-earner families were the norm, and everyone gathered for backyard barbeques on the weekend.  Unless you were black, in which case you lived in a dog-run shack in the South and weren’t a part of our story, or a single/divorced/fallen woman, in which case you could expect something between benign neglect and borderline assault from society and also weren’t a part of our story.  Now, of course, a few financial engineers on Wall Street and a handful of other tycoons in the intellectual property industries (and big box retail) make an absurd amount of money and lord it over everyone else by reestablishing Gilded Age society – combining land parcels, building gated communities that do not host neighborhood barbeques, flying around in private jets while the rest of us take off our shoes at security.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Goldman Sachs reached agreement with the Treasury to buy back Treasury’s TARP warrants.  As the press release makes clear:

In June, Goldman Sachs repaid the U.S. Treasury’s investment of $10 billion, and during the eight months of the investment, the firm paid $318 million in preferred dividends. We are pleased that the payment of the dividends and the redemption of the warrants, which total $1.418 billion, represent an annualized return of 23 percent for US taxpayers.

As Goldman’s PR agency well knew, all sorts of commentators have taken to calling the 23% return a good investment.  It is not.  It is and was an awful investment, and the reaction to its liquidation is showing how few people in DC who are in charge of taxpayer money have even the most basic understanding of investing.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.