Monday, July 28, 2008 - What Bush and Batman Have in Common

I haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment on how accurate this is - but I found it interesting anyway...
And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised -- then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.

Thursday, July 24, 2008 - The Opposite of Progress

Just 12% of voters think Congress has passed any legislation to improve life in this country over the past six months. . .Why is Congress so unpopular? Because it is often intent upon doing things that will make life in America much worse.

The most important example is continued blockage of access to America's energy resources. No new nuclear power plants have been permitted in decades; no new oil refineries; no additional drilling off the coast of Alaska, California, Florida or parts of the Gulf of Mexico where there are huge amounts of useable energy; and continuing opposition to building liquefied natural gas facilities. 

Then there is Congress's virulent protectionist thinking. As the North American Free Trade Agreement has shown, trade is good for America; it has increased jobs, incomes and available goods in our country. 

Next comes the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner climate bill [that] would have made life in America much worse, for it contained a huge expansion of regulation, permitting, and taxation that would have cost America 600,000 jobs a year, raised electricity prices by 44%... 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 - Let's Have Some Love for Nuclear Power

All over the world, nuclear power is making a comeback. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just commissioned eight new reactors, and says there's "no upper limit" to the number Britain will build in the future. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has challenged her country's program to phase out 17 nuclear reactors by 2020, saying it will be impossible to deal with climate change without them. China and India are building nuclear power plants; France and Russia, both of whom have embraced the technology, are fiercely competing to sell them the hardware.

If we are now going to choose nuclear power as a way to resolve both our concerns about global warming and our looming energy shortfalls, we are first going to have to engage in a national debate about whether or not we accept the technology.

Because the public first became aware of nuclear energy through warfare, reactors have always been thought of as "silent bombs." But nuclear plants cannot explode. The fissionable isotope of uranium must be enriched to 90% to create a weapon. In a reactor it is only 3%. You could not blow up a nuclear reactor if you tried.

If nuclear energy is to progress, it must stand on its own. That means Wall Street has to invest. And convincing Wall Street to invest means persuading the public that there is nothing unacceptably dangerous or diabolical about nuclear power.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - American Cancer Care Beats the Rest

The Concord study compares five-year cancer survival rates for several malignancies: breast cancer in women; prostate cancer; colon and rectal cancer in women and men. Combining the efforts of some 100 researchers, drawing data from almost two million cancer patients in 31 countries, the study, to be published in the August issue of The Lancet, is groundbreaking.

Who's on top?   ...the United States clearly leads other nations in overall survival.

Two cheers, then, for American health care and better cancer outcomes. Rising costs, however, threaten to undermine the economy. Not surprisingly, our debate is shifting to a discussion of getting better value from our health dollars.

Value [in health care] -- like in the other five-sixths of the economy -- will come from competition and choice, not a government committee. But the federal government can take a leadership role in promoting competition. How? By creating greater transparency of prices, releasing more Medicare information on complications and outcomes, encouraging hospitals and clinics to standardize their health records, and slashing regulations that discourage competition. Together, these efforts would make it easier for American patients to seek out excellence. And that seems as American as apple pie and good cancer care. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - Kyoto's Long Goodbye

The headline [of the Group of Eight summit in Japan] was that the nations pledged to cut global greenhouse emissions by half by 2050. Yet for the first time, the G-8 also agreed that any meaningful climate program would have to involve industrializing nations like China and India. For the first time, too, the G-8 agreed that real progress will depend on technological advancements. And it agreed that the putative benefits had to justify any brakes on economic growth.

In other words, the G-8 signed on to what has been the White House approach since 2002. The U.S. has relied on the arc of domestic energy programs now in place, like fuel-economy standards and efficiency regulations, along with billions in subsidies for low-carbon technology. Europe threw in with the central planning of the Kyoto Protocol -- and the contrast is instructive. Between 2000 and 2006, U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions fell 3%. Of the 17 largest world-wide emitters, only France reduced by more.

So despite environmentalist sanctimony about the urgent need for President Bush and the U.S. to "take the lead" on global warming, his program has done better than most everybody else's. That won't make the evening news.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008 - The U.N. and Comrade Bob

As with Darfur and Burma, the depredations of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe have become a target of the world's moral outrage. Also like those two countries, the chances of anyone doing something about Zimbabwe are falling into the diplomatic abyss that is the United Nations.

As in Darfur and Burma, the pattern is the same: The world's media report on a marauding regime terrorizing its neighbors or its own people. The world's foreign policy elite express their dismay, with liberal internationalists and European nations urging President Bush to "show some leadership" and "do something" through the U.N. The Bush Administration does precisely that. Yet in the event, China and Russia veto and nothing happens.

In essence, the U.N. has become a dictator protection racket.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 - Will Congress Continue a Medicare Scam?

This week Congress will demonstrate if it is serious or not about reining in entitlement spending. Right now the government is paying insane rental prices for medical equipment – prices far higher than it would cost to purchase the equipment outright.

An oxygen concentrator, for example, is a device that delivers oxygen through a tube to patients, and it costs about $600 on the open market. Medicare beneficiaries typically rent the machines. The rental period, set by statute, is up to 36 months. The monthly rental payment, also set by statute, is $198.40. So renting an oxygen concentrator for 36 months costs $7,142.

.... If Congress fails to uphold even this modest effort at entitlement reform, there is little reason to believe its members will muster the political courage for the unspeakably harder choices that await them.


Monday, July 7, 2008 - Bush's Third Term

We're beginning to understand why Barack Obama keeps protesting so vigorously against the prospect of "George Bush's third term." Maybe he's worried that someone will notice that he's the candidate who's running for it.

Most Presidential candidates adapt their message after they win their party nomination, but Mr. Obama isn't merely "running to the center." He's fleeing from many of his primary positions so markedly and so rapidly that he's embracing a sizable chunk of President Bush's policy. Who would have thought that a Democrat would rehabilitate the much-maligned Bush agenda? - Blame Taxes for Baltimore's Rot

Baltimore deserves the Third-World profile it has developed because it has expanses of crumbling, crime-riddled neighborhoods populated by low-income renters, an absent middle class, and just a few enclaves of high-income gentry near the Inner Harbor or in suburbs.
To the extent that city officials recognize the problem, they seem to confuse symptoms with the root cause of the economy's disease. For them, poverty, street crime or bad schools are the problem. Their solution is always more social spending and still-higher taxes...  
How did this happen?
The city has waged a war on capital for more than 50 years, raising property taxes an astonishing 21 times from 1950 to 1985....  Politicians, in short, reason that because physical capital cannot typically be picked up and moved, it is immutable. Wrong. It depreciates. Fail to replenish or improve it, and it decays to uselessness.