Is Chevy’s Volt A Non-Starter?

The WSJ asks today.  The answer is yes.  The Volt is a plug-in electric car that costs $41,000, has the fit and finish of a $15,000 entry-level compact car.  Even with a $7,500 taxpayer incentive, no one is going to buy this thing.

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

As It Should Be

The One bows to the King of New Jersey.

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Did Haphazard Firefighting Sink Deepwater Horizon And Cause The Gulf Oil Spill?

A new report by the Center for Public Integrity, states that “[t]he Coast Guard has gathered evidence it failed to follow its own firefighting policy during the Deepwater Horizon disaster and is investigating whether the chaotic spraying of tons of salt water by private boats contributed to sinking the ill-fated oil rig, according to interviews and documents.” 

A Coast Guard manual updated seven months before the accident provides that the Coast Guard should avoid being actively involved in fighting maritime fires.  Instead, it requires “Coast Guard responders to set up an ‘Incident Command System’ and assign an expert, such as a fire marshal, to lead the efforts to extinguish the blaze.”  However, the Coast Guard Command Center in New Orleans never attempted to designate a fire marshal to take charge of fighting the fire. 

Instead, after the blowout, several private vessels arrived on the scene and tried to suppress the fire by spraying thousands of gallons of saltwater on it in an uncoordinated manner.  Floating oil rigs use saltwater ballast to keep stable.  The concern is that this flood “overran the ballast system” and unbalanced the rig, ultimately causing it to sink.

Apparently, after the blowout the rig was on fire but the well’s riser pipe remained more or less intact.  When the platform turned turtle and sank, the riser pipe was damaged, which may have been what caused the majority of the leak.

I am fairly hesitant to assign blame for mistakes made by first-responders.  The Coast Guard, like the rest of the military, is called into action under difficult and dangerous situations.  The entire Deepwater Horizon event was chaotic, but not because of the response.  It was chaotic because there were multiple explosions and massive fires aboard a small floating platform 50 miles from shore.  I hope all concerned learn from the accident itself and the apparently flawed response that may or may not have exacerbated the situation, but it would take a bigger mistake than failing to sufficiently coordinate first-responders spraying water on a massive blaze for me to assign blame to anyone on the scene. 

But it is important to note, as the Washington Examiner’s Rob Bluey did this morning, that “President Obama’s carefully scripted scheme to deflect blame for the Gulf oil spill is starting to crumble.”  If the federal government contributed to — or even caused most of — the oil to leak, we have a right to know. 

I will also take some pleasure in seeing the Obama Administration squirm.  The Obama Administration has never hesitated to point the finger at anyone it thinks it can assign blame to for any problem it confronts, from former President GW Bush to BP.  Our ungracious and un-presidential President deserves to squirm

This also raises the question of whether budget cuts at the Coast Guard in any way contributed to its inability to take charge of the situation.  A memo by Coast Guard Adm. R. J. Papp (linked here)  last year noted that the Coast Guard was being “forced to make asset reduction decisions without full appreciation of the impact of those reductions to operational performance” due to President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget request.  As to the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to maritime pollution incidents, Adm. Papp stated in part as follows:

The Coast Guard was once recognized as the sole expert for maritime hazardous materials and spill response; however, this is no longer the case. Today, that expertise (and the associated response equipment) resides in the commercial sector, throughout the maritime industry, and within the ranks of many of our state and local partners. . . . I believe it is time to re-evaluate the role of our Strike Teams and right-size them to function more as a Center of Excellence to augment Sector Commanders in response to major maritime pollution incidents.

Under the Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request, the Coast Guard is budgeted to lose nearly 1,000 sailors and five cutters, along with several helicopters and other aircraft.  The question presented is whether, and to what extent, those budgetary constraints may have contributed to the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to the Gulf Oil spill.

Via Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, and Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Public Sector v. Private Sector

Writing in the WSJ, Daniel Henninger says “One or the other. It’s time to choose.”  I agree.  The Democrats’ agenda is clear after 18 months in power.  They want to manage the economy by legislation and regulation.  That takes money.  The Democrats have no credible plan to cut spending because they have no desire to cut spending. 

That is why Obama impaneled a commission to study the deficit issue and report back later.  He is looking for political cover for a plan that will inevitably promise to cut spending while actually increasing taxes.  The promised spending cuts will never come, but the tax increases will.

 The deficit and public debt are a problem.  They are a big problem.  But taxation levels did not cause them.  According to the Heritage Foundation, “[s]ince World War II, tax receipts have averaged around 18 percent of GDP.”  The taxation level has dipped below this average due to the recession, but will soon be moving into unprecedented territory — easily 20% or more of GDP — if the Democrats have their way.

 Meanwhile, federal spending is going through the roof — from $11,337 per household in 1965 to over $30,000 per household today (in inflation-adjusted constant dollars).  Let me say that again — federal spending on a per-household basis has tripled during my lifetime.   Federal spending has in fact increased at an average rate over double the rate of inflation for the past  20 years. 

 We are not taxing too little.  We are spending too much. 

 It is time to choose.  Do we want more power and money given to taken by public employees?  Or do we want less government, less spending, and a vibrant private sector.  The key, as Mr. Henninger says, is taxes.

 Higher taxes would simply be spent on increasing the size and power of government, not used to reduce the deficit or pay down the national debt.  Meanwhile, increased tax burdens on private employers would negatively impact employment and growth.

The GOP must stand firmly against raising taxes, even in the name of deficit reduction.  

 Via Real Clear Politics.

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sounds Like A Solid Platform For True Hope’n’Change

Jennifer Rubin sums up the policy positions of Governors Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Bob McDonnell (R-VA) thusly: “cut spending, resist calls to hike taxes, and stand up to public-employee unions.”  Add in secure the borders and maintain a strong national defense and you have pretty much all the necessary ingredients for a winning national platform.

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Denver International Airport’s $650 Million Terminal Expansion Design Is Fugly

For the record, I like the DIA tents.  They are odd, but lots of natural light shines through and they are certainly distinctive.  On a clear day, I can see them from my office window, and they look pretty cool sitting on the horizon.  Other than being located halfway to Kansas and having an inefficient security set-up, DIA, in my view, is largely a success.

This proposed hotel expansion, however, is really ugly:

I think we can do better for our $650 million. 

Moreover, do we really need to hire a Spanish architect?  Why not someone local?  As a proponent of free trade, I generally don’t think in such parochial terms.  But why not highlight a local architect on such a visible public works project?

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gov. Ritter’s Dubious Healthcare Achievement

“Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday marked a health care milestone, announcing that more than 100,000 children have been added to state health coverage rolls since he took office.”  That includes both Medicaid, the state- and federally funded health insurance program for the poor, and Child Health Plan Plus (“CHP+”), an “optional program that covers kids from families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.” 

Basically, CHP+ covers the children of persons with a household income under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level — about $55,000/year for a family of four, or $36,400/year for a single parent (after subtracting such things as child care costs, medical expenses, child support payments, and alimony payments).  According to the CHP+ website, “[f]or most families CHP+ is free. Depending on your monthly income, you may have to pay a small enrollment fee and small co-payments when you receive services and prescriptions.”  By free, they mean paid for by Colorado taxpayers.  

For those who have to pay for CHP+ coverage, the fees are quite modest:

Annual enrollment fee:

  • $25 to enroll one child
  • $35 to enroll two or more children
  • Native Americans and Alaskan Natives do not have to pay a fee
  • And co-payments:

  • $2 to $5 per visit for medical care and prescriptions
  • $3 to $15 per visit for emergency services
  • $5 per visit for most dental services
  • Native Americans and Alaskan Natives do not have to pay co-payments
  • A couple of thoughts.  First, and this is kind of random.  Why are Native Americans and Alaskan Natives automatically exempt from any fees?  It does not seem that an Italian guy who makes 150% of the federal poverty level is somehow better-off than a Native American who also makes 150% of the federal poverty level.  My guess is that it has something to do with conditions for federal funding (otherwise including special breaks for Alaskan Natives in a Colorado program is simply bizarre), but why?

    More importantly, why are taxpayers essentially paying the healthcare costs of the children of anyone making up to $55,000/year (for a family of four), or $36,400/year (for a single parent)?  In 2008, the median household income in Colorado was $57,184.  I accept that $55,000 and $36,400 are modest incomes, but they are by no means destitution-level.  As a general matter, government support should be (i) temporary, and (ii) only for those who absolutely need it.

    Colorado is already facing a $1 billion shortfall for its 2011 budget.  Digging that hole deeper seems to be a dubious achievement.

    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Betsy Markey Is “Angry” That The House’s Weld County Job-Killing Energy Make-Over Is Going To Die

    Representative Betsy Markey is quoted in today’s Denver Post as being “angry” that Senate Democrats have more or less given up on passing comprehensive climate legislation this session.

    Note the Orwellian doublespeak about the Democrats’ plan in this quote from Lew Hay of FPL Group in Business Week:

    FPL would create “thousands and thousands of jobs” if Kerry and Lieberman’s legislation became law and put “renewables on a level playing field with other sources of energy that emit carbon,” Hay said.

    Wow, all it is going to do is “level the playing field”?  Not so much. 

    What the bill would do is tilt the playing field with a cap-and-trade program in which companies would have to buy and sell carbon emission rights.  In other words, it will impose a carbon tax.  This gives a competitive advantage to companies that pollute through generating nuclear waste (a technology I am very much in favor of using more) and wind or solar farms that occupy massive tracts of land. 

    FPL, of course, owns NextEra Energy Resources, which operates eight nuclear power plants and “is the largest generator in North America of renewable energy from the wind and sun.” 

    More Orwell:

    Oil refineries in the U.S. wouldn’t be required to buy pollution allowances in the carbon market. Instead, they would “purchase allowances at a fixed price” from the government.

    Calling it a purchased “pollution allowance” is not even trying very hard to hide the fact that the bill would simply impose a carbon tax on oil. 

    To sum up: “’Whatever its intentions, this bill is little more than a job-killing national energy tax,’ [Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky] said.”  True.

    According to the Greeley Tribune, Weld County, Colorado, which is within Rep. Markey’s Congressional District, is on the verge of an oil boom.  Maybe Rep. Markey’s constituents should be angry at her for supporting the Democrats’ attempt to hamstring the entire industry.

    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Politico’s Roger Simon — Demonstrating Media Bias While Declaring His Fidelity To Fairness

    In addressing the Journolist fiasco, Roger Simon writes at Politico:

    [W]hen I became a reporter, it was almost a holy calling.

    We really believed we were doing good. We informed the public and helped make democracy work. We exposed wrongdoing wherever we found it. We reported without fear or favor. As a columnist, I tried to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

    The sentence that I emphasized betrays the rest of the paragraph, and indeed the whole column. 

    When a journalist tries to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” the journalist is, by definition, favoring one side.  Honestly calling balls and strikes means that you call them like you see them without regard to whether you believe one side is afflicted or comfortable.

    To continue the baseball analogy, take MLB Umpire Jim Joyce and pitcher Armando Galarraga.  Last month, Joyce made a call at first base with two outs in the ninth inning that cost Galarraga a perfect game.  Although Joyce blew the call, he was doing his job in admirable fashion.  The temptation to let a close call go to the pitcher at that late stage of a near perfect game must have been overwhelming.  Yet Joyce didn’t choose sides.  He called it like he saw it — wrong, as it turns out, but fair.

    That is what journalists are supposed to do — to the extent possible, report without favor.  Bias, however, intrudes in several ways. 

    One of them is when journalists intentionally try to frame issues in the light most favorable to the left and most unfavorable to the right. That is what the Journolist archives reveal in stark detail.

    But another example of press bias is when journalists decide who they want the winner to be, and then comfort that side and afflict the other to use Simon’s phrasing.  It is as if Joyce said to himself, “Gee, Galarraga is such a great guy, and he is only one out from perfect-game immortality, so I’ll help out here just a little bit.”  

    Let’s look at that kind of bias in action, in Simon’s own column declaring his fidelity to fairness and accuracy:

    Recently, however, the conservative website The Daily Caller, run by Tucker Carlson, got hold of many Journolist e-mails and printed the most provocative, which to some gave every appearance of a left-wing conspiracy to slant news coverage in favor of Barack Obama. Journolist posts by Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel, who was helping cover the conservative movement, that were critical of conservative icons, including Matt Drudge, prompted Weigel to resign.

    You see, Carlson “printed the most provocative” emails, which “to some” gave the “appearance” of a “left-wing conspiracy” to slant news coverage in favor of Obama.  Simon then reduces the whole affair to a “hubbub . . . now virtually over.”  From this phrasing, you can be certain that Simon believes the Daily Caller is the one slanting the news about the Journolist archives through selective publication that gives a false impression regarding the ludicrous notion of a “left-wing conspiracy.”  Simon provides no evidence, however, that the emails Carlson published are an inaccurate or misleading sample.

    On the other hand, Ezra Klein, the creator of Journalist and its membership gate-keeper — no one right of center need apply — “appears to be a very honorable guy,” who simply “created a Frankenstein monster without meaning to do so.”  The problem isn’t Klein or the journalists revealing their biases and coordinating their message in favor of Obama (i.e. Dr. Frankenstien), it is the listserve Journolist (i.e. Frankenstien’s monster) that is the problem.   Sorry, Roger, the monster didn’t create itself.  Journolist didn’t cause misbehavior; Journolist revealed it.

    Ironically, in the modern world of journalism, liberals such as Klein are the comfortable majority and conservatives such as Carlson are the often afflicted minority voice.  Funny that Simon chooses to comfort the former.

    Via Peter Wehner at Commentary Contentions.

    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

    “It’s almost as if the Earth and it’s various ecosystems are large and complex things we don’t fully understand.”

    The Gulf oil is missing.  Seriously, much of the surface oil has disappeared.  Very good news, but also puzzling, since we don’t know why.

    As Drew says, “[o]ne might think that would lead scientists and policy makers to exercise a degree of humility when it comes to sweeping pronouncements and economy killing edicts of various kinds.”  One might think that.  But no one would expect that from the guys who are currently in charge.

    Never let a crisis go to waste.  Especially if you have no idea what is actually happening.

    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  

    I Will Believe We Need More Taxes When Bureaucrats Stop Spending Tax Money Like This

    Behold, a $7.4 million playground in Lower Manhattan built with your federal tax dollars.   Don’t get me wrong.  It sounds like a lovely playground.  But why are federal tax dollars funding a playground in NYC?  I bet all of you Colorado taxpayers are so proud that your tax dollars funded such a vital project.

    And I love this part — at the playground, “[p]lay is proctored and interaction fostered by a staff of city workers trained as ‘play associates’”?   Ironically, the architect who designed the playground (for free, good for him) designed it to be “a more engaging play space, one that encouraged unstructured and independent play.”  Only in Blue America would “unstructured and independent play” require a staff of city workers trained as play associates.  The kids would probably be better off if the adults stay out of their business, and taxpayers would certainly be better off if these city workers found something productive to do in the private sector.

    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

    Paul Ryan — An Emerging GOP Star

    I just watched the video of Rep. Paul Ryan on the Chris Matthews show posted at HotAir.  I have to disagree with Allah.  The interview did not go as expected.

    Sure, Matthews was an insufferable prick trying to play gotcha with the GOP’s fiscal wunderkind rather than engage him in debate.  Duh.  Matthews is always an insufferable prick reduced to spouting Democrat talking points these days.  He is not even an interesting insufferable prick any more.

    But what surprised me was how well Ryan carried himself, and how well he defended himself and the GOP agenda without resorting to mere talking points.  The contrast between Ryan and both Matthews and his forgettable (D) counterpart on the show was striking. 

    Ryan showed that he has the stones to venture into enemy territory and the brains to more than hold his own.  Keep an eye on this guy.

    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 9:22 am  Leave a Comment  

    Re: WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan Disclosures Are A Dud

    Apparently, not entirely — for the Taliban

    As I said, reporters cannot possibly understand the potential impact of such disclosures on people on the ground.  To my own discredit, I was focused on the direct impact on our soldiers and U.S. war policy, and I neglected to think about the impact on Afghans who have been helping them.  So did WikiLeaks.  When Afghan informants start to die, and it appears that they will, their blood is on the hands of Julian Assange and his associates.

    Somehow, I doubt that will stop them from patting themselves on the back for “bravely” “speaking truth to power” from the safety of their offices.  And I have no doubt that the left will continue to honor WikiLeaks for revealing not much at the expense of many locals.  Funny how they only care about those who oppose us.

    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

    Colorado Should Adopt The “Secure Communities” Program To identify Illegal Immigrants And Their Criminal Histories

    The AP reports that Colorado is the latest jurisdiction to debate a program to identify illegal immigrants and their criminal histories using fingerprints from arrests, called Secure Communities.  “[I]mmigrant groups have begun to speak up, telling the governor in a letter last week that the initiative will make crime victims reluctant to cooperate with police ‘due to fear of being drawn into the immigration regime.'” 

    What is this draconian program?  “[T]he fingerprints of everyone who is booked into jail for any crime are run against FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records to determine who is in the country illegally and whether they’ve been arrested previously.”  It sounds like the E-Verify system for employers, but expanded to include searching criminal history arrests to enable immigration officials to prioritize pursuing deportation.

    The AP’s appointed critic of the program, attorney Sunita Patel, argues that “because illegal immigrants could be referred to ICE at the point of arrest, even before a conviction, the program can create an incentive for profiling and create a pipeline to deport more people.”  Exactly how checking fingerprints after an arrest “create[s] an incentive for profiling,” Mr. Patel does not say.  That is because it does not; the arrestee is in custody already.  I suspect that Mr. Patel knows this.  He also knows that the concept of profiling (which is often misunderstood) gets lots of people worked up and that invoking it will get attention.

    I suspect that Mr. Patel is mostly concerned that checking fingerprints will “create a pipeline to deport more people.”  That is the point of the program, so one would hope so.  And it seems to be a success:

    Supporters of the program argue it is helping identify dangerous criminals that would otherwise go undetected. Since Oct. 27, 2008 through the end of May, almost 2.6 million people have been screened with Secure Communities. Of those, almost 35,000 were identified as illegal immigrants previously arrested or convicted for the most serious crimes, including murder and rape, ICE said Thursday. More than 205,000 who were identified as illegal immigrants had arrest records for less serious crimes.

    Remember, the 240,000 identified as illegal immigrants who had arrest records were under arrest again at the time of identification.  Taking a closer look at illegal immigrants who have multiple arrests is not profiling; it is a good use of immigration enforcement resources. 

    Indeed, one of the complaints against E-Verify is that it often fails to catch people who are not authorized to work in the U.S. because of identify theft.  Checking the fingerprints of people who have been arrested against prior criminal and immigration records seems to be a nice step forward on the enforcement front.

    Here in Colorado, Governor Ritter may find it difficult to oppose the Secure Communities program regardless of his personal inclinations.  The program was recommended by task-force assembled to review the case of Francis M. Hernandez.  Mr. Hernandez is an illegal immigrant with a long criminal record who crashed his SUV into a truck , which in turn crashed into a Denver ice-cream shop in 2008.  He was convicted of killing two women in the truck and a 3-year-old child inside the store.  Hernandez had previously been arrested a dozen times in Colorado, but used 12 aliases and two dates of birth to avoid deportation.

    According to the AP, Ritter’s spokesperson “recognizes that other states have had issues with the program and he wants to take time to consider the concerns raised by immigrant rights groups before deciding ‘how or if to move forward.'”  This does not even seem to be a close call.  The program allows states to refer illegal immigrants who are arrested for other offenses to the appropriate immigration authorities, and it apparently works as intended.  Governor Ritter’s office can be reached at (303) 866-2471 if anyone wants to weigh in.

    Someone needs to ask Hickenlooper, McInnis, and Maes what they think of “Secure Communities.”  No one needs to bother asking Tancredo; I think we can guess his views.

    Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Does Denver Really Need A Full-Time City Council?

    Guest commentator John Bennett writes in today’s Denver Post about the Denver City Council’s delaying an increase in members’ annual salaries from 2011 until 2013.  This is the part that caught my attention:

    As part of its belt- tightening, council members delayed a 7 percent increase in their annual salaries, which are already at $78,173, from July 2011 until 2013.

    But the council did not go far enough. Other than Denver, which has a population of 600,000, there are only two large cities in the state. Colorado Springs, with a population of 400,000, pays its council members $6,250 per year, which is less than what Denver council members make in a month. Aurora, with a population of 325,000, pays $12,752 per year.

    Why is being on the City Council a full-time job worth $78,173 per year?  Being in the Colorado General Assembly is not even a full-time job, and members are paid only $30,000 per year.  I see no reason why Denver’s population of 600,000 needs so much more time and attention from its City Council, and so much more money for it.

    As the City looks to cut costs, cutting the City Council back to part-time status would be an excellent place to start.  If the City Council met and were paid for about six weeks throughout the year at the current rate of approximately $1,500/week, the City would save nearly $900,000 on City Council members’ salaries alone.  Presumably, benefits and staff could be reduced as well. 

    Most importantly, making the City Council a part-time job would allow City Council members to have real full-time jobs, ensuring that  the City Council is comprised of citizen-legislators instead of professional politicians.  As things stand now, one would have to abandon his or her non-governmental career to serve on the City Council, substantially reducing the depth of the field of potential council members.

    The City Charter (sec. 3.3.2) provides “[t]he Council shall meet in the Council chambers each Monday in regular session except as otherwise may be provided by ordinance,” and the Denver Municipal Code (sec. 13.1) provides that except for certain holidays, the “council shall meet in the council chambers each Monday of the year in regular session.”  A City Council that cannot answer the Mayor’s call for an 8% reduction in its budget is not likely to reduce itself to part-time status.

    The alternative would be raising the issue by petition and electoral vote.  To get a charter amendment on the ballot would require signatures of qualified electors amounting to at least “five per cent of the next preceding gubernatorial vote” in the City and County of Denver.  (Colorado Const. art. XX, sec. 5).  Just under 158,000 Denver voters voted in the 2006 gubernatorial election, so about 8,000 signatures would be needed. 

    Not too bad, actually.  I think a part-time City Council would improve governance and save money.  Something to think about.

    Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 11:28 am  Leave a Comment