Saturday, February 27, 2010

Praise for the U.S. State Department

I am frequently critical of U.S. Department of State and the federal government in general, but in this instance, praise is due to the Passport Services Directorate in the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs.

On February 4, I mailed my passport renewal application to the processing center in Philadelphia. Much to my surprise, yesterday, February 26, I received my new biometric passport in the mail. The application had recommended allowing up to three months for normal processing of a renewal application (I didn't pay for expedited processing).

In this instance, government efficiency was definitely not an oxymoron. In fact, the turn-around time of three weeks, including one federal holiday, is impressive given the two major snow storms that hit the East Coast during that period. The federal government in Washington, DC, was officially closed for four days (and barely functional on several others). Presumably government offices in Philadelphia were also closed much of that week.

So in this case, the government workers deserve a round of applause.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Friday, February 26, 2010

ObamaCare by the (Real) Numbers

I made a point of ignoring the health care summit yesterday, but this slipped through my defenses.

In this clip, Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) does a masterful job of dissecting and exposing the phony math behind the Senate's health care bill, which serves as a useful proxy for the President's proposal, except that the President's proposal would be even more expensive and destructive. This is arguably the clearest and most concise explanation that I've seen of the numbers in the health care debate.

The President was not amused.

Note: In "fairness" to the President and the Senators who voted for the Senate's bill, phony math is normal operating procedure on the Hill. Such gimmicks are not unique to the health care debate. It's just that massive amounts (trillions of dollars) in play in health care reform magnify the effects of these accounting gimmicks.

Hat tip: Power Line

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Giant Step Forward in Missile Defense: Successful Test of Airborne Laser

On February 11, the Missile Defense Agency announced the successful test of its airborne laser (ABL) against two missiles launched an hour apart. But its matter-of-fact press release does not even allude to the earthshaking implications of deploying such a weapon, which should worry such perennial troublemakers as North Korea, Iran, and Russia.

At present, the U.S. has deployed only a rudimentary missile defenses against ballistic missiles, which can destroy them in the midcourse and descent stages. Even those defenses have massive holes in them, some of which would have been plugged by the "third site" in Poland and the Czech Republic. Regrettably, President Obama unceremoniously canceled the third site in return for a bowl of cabbage soup from Russia. (See my previous rant: Is Putin Even Playing in Our League?)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Obama Free: More Change and Hope in Union Station

An update to my post "Change and Hope in Union Station" on August 18, 2009.

By the end of December, all of the Obama merchandise had disappeared from the kiosks, along with several of the kiosks. As of two or three months ago, the kiosk that had prompted the original blog post was no longer selling any Obama merchandise--pro, anti, or neutral. In January, the final bastion of Obamania in Union Station fell when the Obama shrine (See top picture), a.k.a. My Obama Shop, closed for good.  I don't know whether the lease had just expired or it had gone out of business. Both seem likely. It was open for about one year, but I rarely ever saw anyone in the shop, including the alleged attendants. Unless it received stimulus money, the owner certainly didn't turn a profit.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Washington Buried Under Two Feet of Global Warming

At present Washington, DC, is buried under two feet of snow, and it is still snowing. Even in Idaho, this would qualify as a major snow storm. In Washington, where the sight of a few snowflakes can bring the capital to a screeching halt, this almost qualifies as a natural disaster, with some people tagging it "Snowmaggedon" or "Snowpocalypse." Adding to the silliness, lawyers in downtown DC organized a snowball fight using Facebook and Twitter, with the invitations predictably accompanied by a liability disclaimer.

Well, one bit of silliness deserves another, to wit, the title of this blog, which (falsely) implies that the current snowstorm disproves the theory of anthropogenic (man-caused) global warming (AGW). At most, the current snowstorm constitutes one data point, which by itself can prove little more than Washington has a lot of snow at the moment. (AGW appears to be self-destructing quite nicely, without the current snowstorm's help.)

However, the title does illustrate the weakness of many the "arguments" used to buttress AGW. These arguments frequently try to use individual weather events to "prove" climate change (the current politically correct, albeit possibly more accurate name for AGW). "Warmists" seem driven to seize upon every major storm, hurricane, or tornado as further "proof" of AGW. Such arguments are at best . . . fatally flawed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

China Rising

And now a bit of shameless self-promotion . . .

But first, a disclaimer to protect my employer (and me): The views expressed in this post and on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Heritage Foundation. 

It's nice getting published.

On Tuesday, the Heritage Foundation published a paper written by me and Mackenzie Eaglen, Research Fellow for National Security at Heritage: "Submarine Arms Race in the Pacific: The Chinese Challenge to U.S. Undersea Supremacy."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Treasury's $5.5 Trillion Lump of Coal for the Taxpayers

On December 24, the same day that the Senate passed its obscenity of a "health care" reform bill, the elves at the U.S. Department of the Treasury quietly made the taxpayers liable for an estimated 5.5. trillion in home loans, or about one-half of all home mortgages.

The Treasury worked this bit of magic by simply adjusting the formula it uses to determine how much financial support the Treasury is allowed to provide. This required no action by Congress, although Congress could intervene if it wanted to. Support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had previously been capped at $200 billion each, but the new "flexible formula" effectively removed those caps until 2012.

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