Archive for December, 2009

Coping with terrorist Brainiacs

Another would-be terrorist, this time  a young man from Nigeria, joins with a number of others who, since 911, have been apprehended either planning or carrying out actions they apparently hoped would result in deaths of innocent Americans.  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to start a fire or ignite explosive chemicals sewn into his underpants while in a coach seat on a Delta Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam to Detroit.  All he succeeded in burning was his leg, his trousers, a blanket he was using to cover up his bush league attempt at terrorism, and some other nearby flammable materials.

This most recent member of the Terrorist Brainiac Hall of Fame joins earlier inductee Richard Reid, who tried to ignite a “shoe bomb” with a pack of matches on a flight to the United States back in late 2001.  Other infamous members of this growing fraternity of would-be terrorists, none of whom can claim membership in MENSA, include Iyman Faris, the idiot who planned to take …

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Health Care pork to cause fiscal indigestion

During my eight years in the House of Representatives, I saw plenty of deals being negotiated, renegotiated, confirmed, reconfirmed, removed, undone, re-done, and finally cast in stone.  But, I have never seen deals like those secured by a handful of senatorial holdouts as the price for them to vote for the health care legislation being sought by the Obama Administration and which passed the Senate just before Christmas.  The few Senators who held out til the last minute ought to be inducted into the “Let’s Make a Deal” hall of fame. 

The list of pork the “Health Care Dealers” were able to wrest from the unsmiling grip of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was most impressive: 

  • The western cabal of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, benefitted from a lucrative provision that increased Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors in those states.
  • $100 million will go to an unnamed health care facility in a state which has only one “public academic medical and …

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New cybersecurity Czar faces huge hurdles

President Barack Obama has reached into the private sector and named Howard A. Schmidt as the new coordinator for cybersecurity in the administration – a new “Cybersecurity Czar,” if you will.  Mr. Schmidt has his work cut out for him; balancing the many and often divergent – even parochial – interests of the many federal agencies concerned with the security of their computer systems and information.  Schmidt also will have to consider the security of the government’s cyber systems as they relate to the business sector and to other governments – state, local and foreign.

The approach Schmidt takes, and the perspective he decides to bring to his new job will in large part determine whether this administration will succeed in protecting vital national security and economic data from domestic and foreign threats.   

Often, the federal government trains its attention on the “big picture” – in this case, global cybersecurity – and in so doing concludes it has addressed the problem …

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The Census three-ring circus

The actual language in the Constitution of the United States regarding the census is short and sweet.  It’s located in Article I Section 2 of that magnificent document – an “actual enumeration shall be made .  .  .  every .  .  .  term of ten years.”  Every decade, the federal government is tasked with counting the number of people in the country.  Seems pretty simple; and especially considering the number of technological tools and the array of data bases available to government and businesses alike as we prepare for the 2010 “enumeration,” it would seem a fairly easy task to complete.

Not so.  The census has become big business.  In fact, it’s become a multi-billion dollar circus that gets more complex and expensive every time we undertake the task.  Problem is, every interest group out there, and every state, city, county, parish and other unit of government at every level, wants to skew the numbers in its favor in order to justify or qualify for more federal dollars.  This …

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Other Nobel recipients far more deserving

Willard S. Boyle, George E. Smith, Thomas A. Steitz, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, Jack W. Szostak, and Barack Obama.  Recognize any of these names?  All seven are Americans but, aside from the last name listed, few people other than relatives, friends and colleagues would recognize the names of the six other men and women. 

Boyle and Smith shared in the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics; Steitz received one-third of the Chemistry award; and Blackburn, Greider and Szostak split this year’s prestigious award in Medicine.  Still, the only person likely to be recognized by the average American as a 2009 Nobel laureate is President Obama. This, despite the fact that the research and professional accomplishments by the other six awardees will positively affect the lives of virtually every American citizen, far more than will the actions taken by Obama that secured for him the Nobel honor.

Headlines encircled the globe in October heralding Obama’s selection as the 2009 Peace …

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Welcome to Health-care Bizarro World

If anyone needed proof that this Administration, like its predecessor, operates in a Bizarro-like world in which reality is subverted, just consider President Obama’s recent statements to Charles Gibson of ABC News, in which he defended his health care proposal.  The president told Gibson that if his health care “reform” legislation is not passed quickly by the Congress, “the government will go bankrupt.”  Well, guess what, Mr. President – our country already is over $12 trillion in debt, and the estimated cost of your health care legislation far exceeds another trillion dollars! 

Issuing repeated dire warnings that the “sky will fall” if desired action is not taken, looses its impact when the dire consequences one predicts will happen, have already happened.

By the way, the president also predicted that health insurance “premiums will go up” if the legislation he and his Democtratic Party colleagues are pushing in the Conress isn’t passed.  Is that supposed to be breaking …

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TSA continues rudderless; and leader-less

The last thing air travelers need during the bustling, holiday season, is compromised security on their journeys.  Unfortunately, there’s a slight problem — TSA.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), guardian of air travel safety, has breached its own security and is riddled with problems.   Just last week, for example, news agencies discovered that TSA agents had effectively and publicly posted their agency’s classified blue-prints to airport security screenings, because they didn’t know how PDF documents work.   No joke.  Due to their ignorance, things such as a VIP list of flyers who would not be screened, items that would make their way through the airport unexamined, details indicating what size electrical wire can go undetected by airport screening machines (and more) — all high-value information for potential terrorists and bomb makers – is now public knowledge. 

Another reason for the problems plaguing TSA may be the fact that, nearly a full year into the …

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Google — Master of the universe

Eric Schmidt just may be the world’s most powerful CEO.  He is not the highest-paid CEO and the company he heads is not the largest in size.  Schmidt’s vast power stems from the fact that he controls the largest collection of personal data ever amassed.  Eric Schmidt is CEO of Google, and the universe of information over which he holds sway is chock-full of deeply personal data on untold millions of individuals, companies, and even government agencies.

In addition to being the world’s largest Internet search engine, Google provides email and instant-chat services.  It manages business documents and personal voice mails.  Subscribers can use “Google Health” to store and share their most intimate medical records.

Even a user of basic Google services who has established a profile with the company (either by an email or YouTube account, or through Google Checkout), can log in to their “Dashboard” and view their latest searches, purchases, videos they have viewed, or chats in which …

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Swine flu cover up?

Throughout this year, the end of which is fast approaching, dire warnings about the magnitude and severity of the swine flu/H1N1 virus swept repeatedly across the United States and much of the world.  The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology last summer  raised the specter that the H1N1 flu strain could infect nearly one half the population of the entire United States. 

In typical knee-jerk fashion, Congress rushed to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to combat the looming catastrophe — appropriating close to $8 billion to fight the H1N1 flu virus this season.  The federal government already has spent nearly $6.5 billion purchasing and distributing doses of swine flu/H1N1 vaccine.  Tens of millions of doses of the vaccine that was specially developed and rushed through production to meet the perceived threat, were shipped to facilities in all parts of the country — where many millions now sit unused and unwanted.  One news network reported recently that …

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“Top Ten” GOP purity test

In 1867, Otto von Bismark penned the now-famous maxim, “politics is the art of the possible.”  Almost exactly one century later, economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted that politics had degenerated from the art of the possible, and become nothing more than the practice of  “choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”  Now, in early 21st Century America, our two major political parties appear bent on proving Galbraith right.

The Democratic Party, under the leadership of an incumbent president, a colorless and humorless Senate leader, and a well-dressed but clueless Speaker of the House, is pursuing federal spending policies that make former, big-spending Republican President George W. Bush appear to have been a penny-pincher.  Under the misnomers of  “stimulating” the economy and “health care reform,” the current majority party is doing everything it can to ruin the country’s economic system and to degrade its health care system to one reflecting the lowest common …

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