Friday, July 31, 2009

Obama, Health Care and Blue Dogs

Well folks, it's almost all over but the shouting.

The Great Legislative Sausage Factory is about ready to roll out its latest product, "Health Care Reform" ..... coming soon to a workplace near you, provided you have a job.

Here's what it'll feature:

No Public Health Care Option.

Remember when we were promised you would actually get a choice
of health care options, which would include a public plan individuals and
small businesses could actually afford - through something called a
Health Care Exchange? Forget about it - it's off the table.

The Health Insurance Industry - I mean the rent-seekers - have determined they can't afford it.

Which means if you're a self-employed individual or a small business
(under 50 employees), your health care costs just went up from "unaffordable"
to "forget about it".

End result - at least a 50% increase in the number of folks without health coverage.

No reform of Medicare. Which means that eventually it'll bankrupt the whole system.

Not because Medicare is a bad idea - it's been one of the few successes
of the entire medical system - but some managerial control needs to be exercised.

When you consider that two-thirds of all health care dollars spent in this country are spent on or by people over the age of 65, even small changes - such as a transition away from fee-for-service and toward an HMO or managed-provider system can have big cost savings.

But again - there was too much pressure for the politicians to handle.
The rent-seekers got Grandma scared that all of a sudden, she would
lose access to the doctor she's had for the last thirty years.

So, Medicare Reform is off the table.

But Big Pharma came out best of all. Among the concessions they scored:
-No cost-cutting efforts in manufacturing;
-No importation of drugs from Canada;
-No negotiations between the government and the pharmaceutical industry
for lowest-possible prices;
- An increase in the number of years they may hold an exclusive patent until
it can go generic;

All in exchange for a vague promise of 80 billion dollars in "soft-cost" savings
over the next ten years - which will be quickly forgotten once
Health Care Reform is dead and buried.

Now how did the rent seekers score all this?

Simple. Money.

The three most important truths about Washington are:

1) It's "Pay to Play";
2) If you don't have Money to offer Washington, Washington has
nothing to offer you;
3) The Congress does not exist to protect voters from Special Interests -
It exists to protect Special Interests from voters.

Which is why all the Players - the Health Insurance Industry, Big Pharma,
The AMA, and the American Hospital Association - spent 82 million dollars
on lobbying Congress just in the last three months.

And 60 million of this went to a select group of Senators and Representatives-
a small ideological minority - The Blue Dog Democrats.

Of all the breeds of curs, mutts and mongrels that inhabit Congress, these dogs
are the most dangerous.

Elected from isolated, rural states and districts, they combine with the
Republicans to have enough votes to block meaningful reform of
the current system.

And boy, did those dogs hunt.

They've managed to so chew up The President's proposals that it would
surprise me not at all if he vetoes the final result, assuming it even passes.

And that's just fine with the Blue Dogs.

I don't know - maybe their constituents inhabit some Alternative Universe
where the private, for-profit Health Care system delivers excellent care
at a reasonable price.

Maybe in this Alternative Universe there's no such thing as denial for
pre-existing conditions; or denial of a previously approved claim -
or rescission of an employer's entire plan because one employee contracts
an expensive illness or suffers a traumatic accident.

Maybe, but I doubt it. You see, I'm from a Blue Dog state - Nebraska -
and the last time I looked , Nebraska ranked low in income, education,
and most importantly, the percentage of inhabitants covered by any kind
of health care plan at all.

Ben Nelson, are you listening?

And I live in another one - Nevada - where with the exception of Harry Reed,
the entire delegation is on record as opposed to Health Care Reform -
including Blue Dog Rep. Dina Titus.

Dina, you campaigned as a progressive - and I even voted for you because
your opponent just made no sense at all on any issue affecting the district.
On this issue, I thought we could count on you.

But the lobbyists got to you. Just answer two questions - when, and for how much?

But they tossed you your bone - so , Good Girl, run along now and chew on it.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama , Health Care, and Reality

Today, we learned that the House and Senate will not complete their work on the
Administration's Health Care proposals before the summer recess.

Commentators and other are suggesting that perhaps now is the time to pull back and "regroup" and rethink what to do next.

Mr. President, that's good advice. You need to remember that this is only the end of the first round, not the end of the fight.

But in the drive for "universal coverage" , let's understand why we're doing this - to REDUCE COSTS.

Mr. President, I think we can all agree that the current system is totally out of control. Health Care now constitutes one-sixth of the economy - up from one eighth of the economy just ten years ago.

To put this in perspective, this is a bigger share of the economy than either the auto companies or the banks you've just bailed out. And, if things are left unattended, we can see both the Health Insurers and Big Pharma lining up for a bailout as well.

What's worse is the fact that the BIGGEST driver of these increased costs is the complete breakdown of the cost controls on Medicare. While health care costs overall have increased six times faster than wages and eight times faster than the Consumer Price Index, Medicare costs have increased even faster. This isn't just out of control - it's the Mother of all Train Wrecks waiting to happen.

You are right - something has to be done. But what must not be done is more "business as usual".

The cosmetic tinkering at the margins that is likely to emerge from Congress is not going to get the job done.

Here, at a minimum, is what you have to do:

1) Get everyone into the pool. Everyone is familiar with the plight of the uninsured. But the uninsured aren't just low-wage workers or the unemployed - most are, in fact, young, healthy, employed workers
who "opt out" of employer-provided health plans to raise their take-home pay.

This has to stop. What you can do right away is make enrollment in employer-provided plans mandatory, or pay a Health Care Tax equal to the employee contribution. This will help get everyone in - and paying.

When folks literally have "skin in the game ", they are more likely to pay attention to the issue.

2) A Public Option. Your "Health Insurance Exchange" is a good idea -
but without a publicly-provided health care option, there will be no rational basis for comparison.

To abandon the field to the for-profit Health Insurers is to let the rent-seekers have complete control of the market.

In some states - Nevada, for example - only one or two of these rent-seekers have virtual total control of the health insurance market. A choice between two collusive for-profit providers is no choice at all.

A "public option" on the table keeps these folks honest. And why do I call the Health Insurers rent-seekers? Because that's what they are.

When you are under pressure from Wall Street for ever-increasing earnings, there's only one way to do this if you are a Health Insurer. And that is to raise prices and deny coverage at the same time.

That's what the economists call "rent-seeking". That means abandoning your role as a payer of benefits and becoming a path-blocking middleman focused on keeping as much of the premium dollar as you can legally get away with. And that's exactly what has happened.

Don't believe me? Just ask anyone you know who has suffered a catastrophic
illness or injury how THEIR experience with their insurance company was.
End of story.

3) Reform Medicare. Medicare now resembles nothing so much as an attempt to provide Cadillac care at Chevrolet prices. And as we now know, that can't be sustained for very long - if ever.

Medicare right now is based on an old-fashioned "fee-for-service" model.

And because the reimbursement rates are so low, there's every incentive for
providers to load up the tab with every possible test and procedure.
Even Part A and Part B supplements (hospitalization and drugs) paid for by the
enrollee don't help much.

Three things need to happen with Medicare to control costs - Capitation, Controlled Access, and Compensation for Outcome . What this means over time is transitioning to an HMO model.

Politically, it's going to be a tough sell. Seniors are organized. They vote.
And Grandma is used to seeing the same doctor she's seen for the last thirty years.

But then, we didn't elect you to do the easy things.
We elected you to do the tough things we couldn't do for ourselves.
And admittedly, this is one of the toughest.

But the good news is, there's a way to do it. You counterbalance the influence
of the retired elderly by adding some additional players to the pool.
You should immediately drop the eligibility age for Medicare from 62 to 55,
and then each year over the next five
drop the age limit one year until
eligibility is age 50.

This will add a cohort of working middle-age people to the Medicare pool
who are, for the most part, used to HMO/PPO plans and are relatively healthy.
You can no doubt come up with
financial and tax incentives to get them to
switch. It won't work for everyone - but for working empty-nesters, it
might be just the thing.

With a large enough pool of people in the system, you would finally have
a constituency for real change.

Finally you've got to grasp two big thorn bushes - not mere nettles - to
really make change happen. You've got to take on Big Pharma and
Big Tort Law.

One of the first things Congress did in reworking your proposal was to
deny Medicare the right to bargain directly with Big Pharma for the
lowest possible prices for name-brand drugs. This was nothing more
than a corrupt bargain between dollar-laden lobbyists and cash-hungry

Big Pharma knows what happened when Canada and all the other
industrialized nations negotiated for "lowest possible prices".
Their profit margins went down in those markets from the exorbitant
to the merely reasonable.

That's why gouging the American market is a matter of
financial necessity - Wall Street will not keep the investor dollars
rolling in and the stock prices up otherwise.

Eighty billion dollars in "soft-dollar" concessions over the next ten
years is not enough,. And you have the whip hand on this.

If you were Franklin Delano Obama, you'd get price concessions
right now - or you'd immediately revoke their patents and hand them
over to others willing to manufacture on government contract.
After all, it's what the Canadians did - and if you look at their prices and
formularies, they're much like ours - only cheaper.

Big Pharma - like any "Big" entity, listens to persuasion - but responds to threats.

And remember, what a government gives (patents, etc.), it can also take away.

Last, you've got to take on the Malpractice Lawyers. They are among the
biggest financial contributors to Democratic members of Congress.

And, you're a lawyer yourself. You know that the whole Tort and Malpractice
area needs drastic and immediate reform.

The way to do this is to take Medical Malpractice out of the court system and make it like Workmen's Compensation. Workmen's comp made it possible for employers not to be sued for workplace injuries. A Federal Malpractice Compensation Board might do the same for doctors, who, through no fault of their own, are obliged to either practice costly defensive medicine, get out of certain specialties, or avoid serving certain geographical areas.

Get where we're going with all this? To achieve reform, everyone's going to
have to give up something. Certain people's taxes may have to go up -
some types of care may have to be rationed - and the fattest for-profit
players may have to be brought into line.

But advanced societies are starting to regard health care as a public good -
like schools, roads, police and fire protection.

And public goods are things that a for-profit Capitalist system isn't
necessarily very good at delivering.

If matters are left unchecked, what we're heading towards is a society where
the Rich, the Connected, and subsidized Elderly have care - and the rest of
us are sick, uninsured, uncared for and nonetheless getting stuck with the bill.

That's not a recipe for National unity and cohesion.

- The Thinking Nationalist

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Obama, Health Care, Congress and Bill Clinton

Today we heard from President Obama that his health care plan "needs work" and may not quite be ready for prime time. Upon hearing this, reporters breathed a sigh of relief, the Republican opposition took a break, and the "Blue Dog" Democrats (upon whom passage of this bill will ultimately depend), began negotiating with themselves as to how best they can distance themselves from this issue by giving it the "death of a thousand cuts".

Mr. President, The Thinking Nationalist is going to make two predictions: First, ObamaCare will never happen. Congress will never allow it. And second, even if a health care bill does make it out of that great legislative Sausage Factory by your self-imposed deadline, it will be distinguished by the following:

- It will bear only a faint resemblance to anything you've proposed;
- It will vastly swell the deficit ($238 billion is only the conservative CBO estimate);
- It will not reduce the number of uninsured to any measurable degree;
- It will reduce the options available to the insured in the name of "reducing costs";
- It will not feature a "public option";
- It will "shift costs" from insurers and employers to doctors and patients ;
- It will be a huge, federally-financed bonanza for the rent-seekers of the
for-profit Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industries.

And you, Mr. President, will stay the veto pen and sign it.

How did it come to this? Mr. President, here's how:

It begins with Leadership.

First of all, when you stake out the high ground as you have done, when you make this the defining issue of your Presidency, it's too important to "manage from the rear" - it has to be led from the front.

This is exactly NOT the sort of issue you can just hand off to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and just wait to bless the result. If you have a clear idea of what you want ,you should have known better than to hand off the project to these two. And bi -partisanship? Forget it. The Republicans have shrunk to a white,Southern, rural, permanent minority. They are not the opposition - they are irrelevant. You should know this.

However, you are in danger of being undone on the whole Health Care issue by your erstwhile friends on the Hill. And with friends like Max Baucus, Byron Dorgan and Ben Nelson, you don't need enemies.

Mr. President, the House and Senate are busy transforming your proposals from Pork Loin into Pork Sausage - laden with fat, and filled out with those bits and scraps thrown into the mix by their lobbyist buddies.

Mr. President, it's time to go back to campaign mode - full time. And to win this ball game, I think Manager #44 needs to make the call to the bullpen for Relief Pitcher # 42.

As you know, Bill Clinton was the last President to make a huge push for national Health Care reform.

But his proposal, developed entirely in the White House by Hillary, made the mistake of seeking absolutely no input from anyone outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Hillary insisted on that to prevent the same kind of Congressional sausage-making we are now witnessing.

It was a complete package - down to the last detail - and presented to Congress and the people as a "take it or leave it" proposal. And, predictably, it got left.

You've learned from the Clinton's mistakes. HillaryCare was far more radical and extreme than anything you've proposed. But you've gone too far in the other direction. You've made the seeking of "consensus" and "input" an end in itself. What that means is that what you'll wind up with will have no resemblance to what you've proposed. Why? Because you've handed the initiative over to the opposition - which is now concentrated in the leadership of YOUR party.

Mr. President, how do we reset matters and get things off the dime?

First of all, bringing back #42, Bill Clinton, to spearhead the effort as your new
Health Care Czar isn't an admission of weakness on your part.

It's bringing in a game-changing player when the game needs changing;

Second, nothing else you could do will so demonstrate your seriousness on the issue as this will. Bringing back a well-liked Former President as a Player on your team just might push this over the top.

Third, when it comes to "Going Campaign Mode"on an issue, there's no one like Bill. When you consider that the opposition is concentrated in the "Blue Dog" states and districts, he's just the guy for the job.

Remember, he's one of them - a down-home good ol' boy. When you also consider that he's a more experienced and knowledgeable "policy wonk" than many of your current players, you've got the best of both worlds;

If you bring him on, don't be surprised to see his whole kennel of attack dogs - the John Podestas, Paul Begalas and Jim Carvilles - helping out with the media and the talk shows. Right now, they're either on the sidelines or working for the opposition;

Finally, Bill's looking for a role right now. His activities are limited because of Hillary. He can't speak out on foreign policy issues.

But he'd jump at this chance to return to the action and add to his legacy. You should take
advantage of this.

Besides, as a true CEO - you should care less about credit than results. And one of the key qualities of the Great Leaders in any field is the ability to recruit Marquee-Level talent to the team.

This could be the greatest Political Coup of all time. And if Bill helps you get Health Care passed, you'll get all the credit.

In my next post, I'll give you fellows a few ideas to help you get started.

- The Thinking Nationalist

Friday, July 17, 2009

"The Most Trusted Man in America"

We interrupt our activities at The Thinking Nationalist to bring you the following:

Walter Cronkite, for two decades the face and voice of American television news, died today at the age of 92, of chronic cerebrovascular disease. He was preceded in death in 2005 by his wife of 65 years, Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Cronkite, and is survived by his three children.

A retrospective of his life and work will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, July 19 2009, at 7pm EST.

An American Giant has passed.

A quintessential Midwesterner, Walter Leland Cronkite was born November 4, 1916 in St. Joseph Mo., moving with his family to Houston at the age of ten. He got his start in journalism as a campus reporter and stringer for the Houston Post at the University of Texas, leaving college after his junior year to pursue journalism full time. Moving back to the Kansas City area as a reporter for radio station KCMO, he later joined United Press International in 1937.

Covering World War II from London beginning in 1939 alongside his future mentor and colleague Edward R. Murrow, Cronkite covered the Battle of the Atlantic from the deck of a destroyer, rode a bomber on a mission over Germany, and went ashore with American troops in Normandy on D-Day.
After V-E Day, he was chief UPI correspondent at the Nuremberg Trials, and later moved to Moscow as UPI Bureau Chief.

Returning to the United Sates in 1950, Cronkite was recruited to CBS by Murrow to join what was then an infant CBS-TV news organization. He took on a variety of assignments for both CBS TV and radio, notably covering the McCarthy Hearings and anchoring coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 1952, 1956, and 1960.

He ascended to the role for which he was best known in August 1962, replacing Douglas Edwards as anchor of the CBS Evening News - a post he was to hold until 1981.

While he is remembered for many of his assignments, he is probably remembered best for his coverage of three stories in the 1960's ... the assassination of President Kennedy, the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, and the Apollo 11 moon landing some 40 years ago this week.

On the Kennedy assassination, few will forget the image of Cronkite,
sleeves rolled up in a crowded newsroom, reading the bulletins as they were handed to him at his desk . And then, finally ..."we now have confirmation that President Kennedy died of his wounds this afternoon at 2:18 pm Eastern time.."

Walter Cronkite didn't just report the news, he helped shape it.

After the January 1968 Tet offensive, he was sent on special assignment to assess the situation.

However, when he returned, few expected him to lead off with the following:

"We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds" he said, and concluded with: "We are mired in stalemate . This war can no longer be won. It is time to seek a negotiated peace."

Upon hearing that, President Lyndon Johnson is said to have remarked; "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

But it was his launch-to-splashdown coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing that made Americans once again take pride in their country and its accomplishments. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon, Cronkite took off his glasses, wiped his brow, and grinning from ear to ear, said:
"He's actually on the Moon !! Can you believe it?"

He continued to both report and shape the news into the 1970's. His coverage of the Watergate scandal helped lead to the eventual resignation of Nixon in 1974. A pair of exclusive interviews with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin led to Sadat's historic trip to Jerusalem in 1977. And his withering coverage of the ineptitude and weakness of the Carter Administration during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis helped ensure the landslide election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

But in March 1981, all changed. A new CBS News executive team, eager to advance the young and aggressive "60 Minutes" star Dan Rather, abruptly kicked him upstairs to retirement at 64.

Assured of a continuing role as a consultant to the organization, he nonetheless faded into broadcast history. However, through interviews and occasional Public Television specials, he continued to be heard - most recently after the events of 9/11 and later, on the Bush Administration's conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To his credit, he never publicly complained about his shabby treatment by the news network he helped make famous. The winner of countless Emmys, and more awards for broadcast journalism excellence from all corners of the globe than any man in history, he set the bar for journalistic excellence so high
that the news industry eventually quit trying to match him.

Right to the end, he maintained that combination of pragmatic realism and common touch that made him "The Most Trusted Man in America."

"And that's the way it was".........

-The Thinking Nationalist

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded Sonia Sotomayor's testimony on her nomination to be an Associate Justice of The Supreme Court.

Despite the many issues facing the country, right now, these hearings have concentrated the attention of both the Mainstream Media and the Blogosphere as nothing else in recent memory.

So important is this issue that The Thinking Nationalist even set up a 2nd TV in his "office" to follow the hearings live on C-SPAN (The other TV rotates between CNN, Fox News and CNBC).
I have also put other timely and important projects on "hold" to address this important issue.

Why are these hearings important? Because long after President Obama and most of the Senators are gone from the political stage, Ms. Sotomayor will be legislating policy for the Nation from our highest Judicial forum.

Herewith, then, my conclusions:

First, independent of considerations of Ideology and Philosophy, is she qualified?

My answer: Yes. She has more Federal judicial experience than any nominee in recent memory.

Moreover, she was appointed to the Federal Bench in the first place by that conservative Republican President, George H.W. Bush, and elevated to the Appellate bench by that conservative Centrist Democrat, Bill Clinton. On pure experience alone, she's qualified.

Second: Assuming she's qualified, what was the rationale for her appointment?

For President Obama, she's a dream Supreme Court Candidate.

She's not just a "Two-Fer"(Female and Minority), she's a "Three-Fer" (LIBERAL, Female, and Minority). He could not have gone to Central Casting and gotten a better candidate - politically reliable, a down-the-line supporter of the liberal agenda and racial indentity politics, yet non-confrontational enough to be confirmed without divisiveness.

Even though her political and ideological beliefs are the the polar opposite of those of The Thinking Nationalist, I was favorably impressed with her businesslike demeanor and adult seriousness. More than anything else, what this country and its institutions need is some Adult Supervision. I think she'll bring that to the Court.

Another point in her favor is that of "balance" on the Supreme Court. Despite all of the ravings of my fellow bloggists to the contrary, at the end of the day she's merely replacing another doctrinaire liberal. And unlike some of my fellows, I feel that the Court does need to reflect some difference of ideology. This country is often described ideologically as "Pragmatic Center-Right". Which to me means that a 5-4 division, either conservative or liberal, is what we ought to have and about as good as we're going to get.

A Supreme Court composed of nine "Militant Moderates" would probably be ideal, but it would be unconfirmable.

Finally, as a matter of practical politics, it's a done deal.

The Republicans do not have the votes to either defeat her nomination or prolong debate on it.

That's what happens when you lose Presidential and Senatorial elections. A lackluster 2008 Republican presidential campaign was matched by equally feckless Senatorial contests. Result- they have the votes - the Republicans don't.

I'm not going to discourse here on Ms. Sotomayor's "Quota Queen" background or beliefs.

She's a poster child for Affirmative Action, Set-Asides, special consideration for Minorities, and all of the divisive baggage that that represents. In her past public comments (but NOT before the committee), she has continually upheld her belief that racial minorities need and deserve special favors and consideration from the rest of society.

But there's one big difference - "quotas" got her "in" to Princeton and to Law School, but she doggedly made the most of her opportunities.

Top grades, top-flight professionalism, and a world-class work ethic have put her a Senate vote away from the pinnacle of the U.S. legal profession.

I applaud that.

I wish I could say the same for some of her critics.

- The Thinking Nationalist

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On Bastille Day - Vive La France !

Today. July 14th, is the 220th anniversary of the founding of Modern France.

On this day, a suffering, downtrodden, poverty-stricken people finally said "Enough !" and marched, torches and pitchforks in hand, to a glorious liberty on July 14, 1789.

Drawing inspiration from the American Revolution just a few years before, this brave and undaunted people inscribed the phrase "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood) alongside
"E Pluribus Unum" as guideposts for all men seeking to live in liberty, peace, justice and freedom.

However, the way forward for La Belle France was not easy. After the Revolution, France suffered from two dictatorships, ruinous wars with England and Prussia, two short-lived attempts to restore the Monarchy, a series of weak and ineffectual parliamentary governments, and no fewer than four
total revisions of its Constitution. Occupation by Germany in two world wars didn't help either.

It is, then, that we look as Nationalists to the re-birth of Modern Republican France some fifty-one years ago for inspiration. Facing the total meltdown of the French economy, the aftermath of two unsuccessful overseas wars in Vietnam and Algeria, and the possibility of an Army coup, Rene Coty, the last President of the Fourth French Republic, appealed to "The most illustrious of Living Frenchmen", General Charles de Gaulle, to come out of retirement and once again save his beloved France.

After a carefully staged, tense period of deliberation, De Gaulle agreed - provided he was given a free hand in writing a new Constitution, and the absolute power to rule by decree for no longer than six months.

The entire world was shocked - London and Moscow were apopleptic.
The Eisenhower Administration was outraged, as this directly threatened the entire American-designed structure of postwar European security.

But the canny De Gaulle was not to be outfoxed. Having quietly secured the support of German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, he then leaned on Ike, his wartime colleague, and carefully but firmly explained his plans.

Outmaneuvered, Eisenhower grudgingly decided to go along.

At the end of six months, De Gaulle submitted his Constution for the Fifth Republic to the Interim Assembly and the French people for approval. In an unprecedented referendum, 80% of the French electorate supported him. All the political parties (with the exception of the Socialists), quickly fell into line. And in January 1959, Charles De Gaulle was inaugurated as the first President of the Fifth French Republic, with presidential powers unprecedented for those times.

That's all well and good, you might say- what does that have to do with us today?

Consider the enormous legacy of De Gaulle:

Nuclear power. Concerned that France could be held hostage by a strike-prone coal sector, DeGaulle pushed the civilian nuclear industry with all the urgency of America's contemporary Apollo program. Today - France relies on electricity for 90% of its energy needs, and 90% of this is supplied by nuclear power - produced by clean, French-designed reactors, which produce twice the power and 1/5th the waste per kilogram of nuclear fuel compared to present American designs;

When you compare France to oil-dependent Europe and America, De Gaulle wasn't just visionary -he was prophetic;

Aviation. Long a producer of top-flight military aircraft, De Gaulle was outraged that Air France, the national carrier, had to rely on Les Americains for mere passenger aircraft. Convinced that France could do better, he forcibly merged the French civilian aircraft industry into one and commanded them
to be the Standard of the World - with the full support of the state;

The first product - the magnificent Concorde, set new standards in luxury and technology as it outraced the sun across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound. Britain immediately signed up to buy half the Concorde fleet. And Pan American (the then de facto national carrier), would have too- but for the intervention of Congress. The successor to the Concorde joint venture - Airbus Industrie - today rivals Boeing for the patronage of the world's airlines and supplies America's most innovative carriers;

Infrastructure. France transmits its electrical power on million-volt transmission lines - eight times as efficient as ours - and, is a Net Energy Exporter to the rest of Europe. High speed trains - TGV (Train a la Grande Vitesse) link all of Metropolitan France and by 2020, all of Europe, with airliner speed and comfort.

France has freeways rivaling the famed Autobahn - and in the current downturn, they are busy with new projects - while we debate how to implement our "stimulus";

Health Care, Education, and Social Safety: Universal, state-paid health care - instituted by De Gaulle - covers every Frenchman. Education through University is free - including the Sorbonne and La Ecole Polytechnique (France's unique West Point for civil sevants). Generous unemployment benefits and subsidies for the unemployed. An honest, hardworking Frenchman will not starve or lose his home if the economy makes him a victim. And for the working - access to personal training and development (paid for by the State), maternity and family leave, and four weeks of Holiday (vacation) paid for by a combination of employer and government subsidies;

And as for Culture, Fashion, Art, Cuisine, Food and Wine - show me a country that knows better how to LIVE than France.

All this having been said, France is not without issues. It has a tremendous illegal immigration problem - not just from Africa and the Middle East, but from poorer parts of Europe as well. It has been slow to transition its young people from school to the labor force, as its benefits are skewed toward the older working middle class.

As America discriminates against its unemployed middle-aged, so does France discriminate against its unemployed but educated young.

But, France today isn't standing still -they are moving ahead. Even better, they are doing it with a flair and insouciance that is at once both endearing and maddening to the rest of us .

Why? One might ask.

Because without flair, and a dash of La Gloire, as De Gaulle said:
"Without Glory, we might be, say, Belgium. But we would not be France".

With that said, the Significant Other is now preparing the carefully hoarded
Camembert and Brie, on elegant crackers, accompanied by a fine Puligny-Montrachet.

A lingering bistro dinner, at the classic hour, in the best Gallic tradition, will follow later in the evening....

Vive La France !!

-The Thinking Nationalist

Monday, July 13, 2009

More On Sarah Palin


No sooner do I comment on Sarah Palin than the Nationalists's mailbox floweth over! Only one comment, but enough in the mailbox to know that Sarah Palin is still a hot topic to a number of people.

Herewith some final observations, then, and then it's time to move on

First, she's not clueless. The entire substance and timing of her announcement
indicates methodical planning. She ensured she would dominate the news cycle over a holiday weekend when things are normally at a low ebb. Also the place and manner was planned too ... instead of a conference room or auditorium, this took place outdoors...on HER turf, not someone else's.

Second, the publicity and comments, both supportive and critical - have accomplished a vital task - they've kept her in the news, and on terms that put her in control and on the offensive. There will be no more reacting to leaks about "ethics" or defending her children from the gibes of comedians such as David Letterman. Staying on as Governor would have kept her on the defensive side of the ball - and as a former high school and college athlete, she knows that's not where political or athletic contests are won.

Now she is free to take the field, mobilize her base (which is considerable), and make her and her supporters the predominant force in Republican politics. Right now, no one else even comes close.

Even if she does not wind up as a future Presidential nominee - she might well become the "kingmaker" who decides who does.

To address one last issue - when she was nominated, did I view her as the best qualified Vice Presidential nominee? No, I did not. But, I also looked over her resume and saw more executive and managerial experience than anyone else running on either ticket. Moreover, I saw she had potential - that with the right handlers, tutelage and message - delivered consistently - she could have routed her critics and made a bigger difference in the campaign. I also felt that while she would not have been my first choice, she was certainly better than some who have actually held the office (Quick - does anyone remember Dan Quayle?).

That Sarah didn't get the coaching and advice she needed is something I blame McCain's handlers for - having nothing invested in her selection, they decided not to help. But, she's having the last laugh on them. Long after both McCain and his advisers are gone from the scene, she'll be a factor in the Republican party.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sarah Palin - Crazy Like A Fox

Last week, Sarah Palin - everybody's favorite huntin' and fishin' Governor gal, stunned the Punditocracy of both Left and Right by announcing her resignation as Governor of Alaska.

In a rambling yet trenchant press conference on the lawn of her lakeside home, Sarah explained that the aftermath of the 2008 campaign and the never-ending flurry of ad hominem attacks on her and her family was preventing her from doing the job Alaskans had elected her to do. Therefore, she was resigning effective July 26 and handing over the Governor's chair to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, a stolid, reliable, like-minded conservative.

The Punditocracy was floored."A death of a thousand cuts"said John Fund of the Wall Street Journal .
In a lengthy analysis, Toby Harnden of the London Daily Telegraph stated "The Empress has No Clothes", suggesting that her vapidity and lack of hard-headed political smarts had finally caught up with her, and that she at last realized it. Most other pundits of both left and right figured the Sarah Palin Soap Opera was finally, mercifully, over and they were ready to move on.

Reading my News feeds, The Thinking Nationalist was at first inclined to agree. Despite being a fresh and welcome face on the national political scene, the missteps and blown opportunities of the fall campaign had taken their toll. Despite her yeoman labors in an otherwise dreary and content-free
McCain campaign, her reward was ridicule, ethics accusations, and a $500,000 personal debt in lawyer and PR fees defending herself and her family. The David Letterman episode involving her daughter might have been the last straw.

But the way in which the announcement came left me thinking - there's more to this than meets the eye. This gal is Crazy - Like a Fox. Here's why:

First, she has nothing left to gain or prove by remaining in the Governor's chair. Eighteen more months as Governor isn't going to improve matters - it's just going to be more of the same. If matters can't improve, you do what smart leaders anywhere do - cut your losses and change course.

Second, unlike many of her upper-class detractors, she has a family to consider. She's tough enough to take it - but also smart enough to know that keeping her children in the public eye for the next two years isn't helping them. With Sarah, it's never been "all about me" - which it is for many of her detractors.

Third, she's still young - only 45 - and she has a choice to make. Does she stay in Juneau - away from the action - or does she spend the next few years doing what serious political comers do - work the rubber-chicken circuit, make the contacts and generate the IOU's and financial support
necessary for a credible run for national office. She knows only too well that if she does want to make a move, time is on her side - in 2016, she'll be only 52 and none of the current front-runners will be on the national stage.

She also knows that at her age Ronald Reagan was still a Democrat and uninvolved in politics.

Finally, she may well decide to chuck office altogether and capitalize on her fame while she has it.

A book is in the works, lucrative speaking offers are coming in, and there is talk of a political TV talk show for "megabucks". If she were to wait until her term is over, those offers, which could make a huge financial difference to her family, might not be there.

She's also well aware she really has no friends among Those Who Matter - the national media will remain both patronizing and hostile, but she can handle that. But it is the snarky condescension of the upper-class conservative Country-Club Republicans - the Meghan McCain crowd - that really smarts.
As a no-nonsense blue collar gal, she no doubt resented having her and her family treated like the Alaska Hillbillies both during and after the campaign. But, she's way too shrewd to let on.

In short, I see nothing but upside for America's favorite huntin' and fishin' gal. I was very impressed to see her, the Sitting Governor of Alaska, in hip waders helping husband Todd net in the Salmon while talking to a reporter last week . Love her or hate her, she's Original. And Authentic. Which is more than you can say for some of her critics.

When you consider that the closest her critics will get to a Wild Salmon is grilled in a reduction sauce with arugula on the side, it's no contest. We'll see more of Sarah ... and we might all be pleasantly surprised.

- The Thinking Nationalist


John Fund:

Toby Harnden:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nationalist Principle #1 - English Only (first of a series)

The first principle of a Nationalist who would propose a set of values that make a Nation or culture is to examine what determines a nation or culture in the first place.

For most nations on earth, those binding ties can be reduced to three - ethnicity, religion, and most importantly, language.

For the United States, which is a nation based on a set of ideas which don't necessarily include ethnicity or religion, the search for "unifying principles" which are more than mere abstractions can be uniquely problematic. But, ONE strong unifying principle - probably the most important of all - stands out -

To The Thinking Nationalist, that unifying language is English.

Why English? one might ask. Aren't we a mosaic of distinct cultures? Aren't other languages the cultural equivalent of English? Doesn't this go against our national multicultural ethic?

The one word answer: NO. Here's why:
  • English is the language of our Founding Fathers, all of our historically significant documents, and all of our laws;
  • English has been adopted as "the official language" of 45 of the fifty states;
  • English is spoken by over 95% of all of the residents of this country (immigrant and non-immigrant), and is the ONLY language of 80% of the population;
  • The SINGLE most important factor in determining whether or not immigrants assimilate is command of the English language;
  • Lack of fluency in ENGLISH is the single biggest reason for immigrant failure to progess up the American ladder of opportunity.
Want more reasons? Here are some:
  • Of the 177 nations on Earth that have an Official Language, English is AN official language or THE official language in 112 of them;
  • The mandatory international language of civil aviation and shipping - English;
  • The predominant international language of commerce and contracts - English;
  • The predominant international language of diplomacy - English.
It should stand to reason then, that if you want to get ahead in an increasingly interconnected world, fluency in English is mandatory.

Now, we should be careful here - "English Only"
does not mean a ban on speaking a foreign language at home. Nor does it mean that a business cannot advertise in a foreign language, or that one cannot speak or write publicly in a foreign tongue. But it does mean that for all official transactions, in education, voting, and the legal system, there should be only one language - English. Any exceptions should be carefully limited and geared towards assisting the Non-English speaker toward eventual fluency.

In the next post in this series, we will examine why official languages unify nations, and why if that official language is English, why it unifies best of all.

- The Thinking Nationalist.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thoughts on the 4th of July

I had originally intended to post on a different topic before leaving for a friend's annual Fourth Of July Barbecue.

However, the 4th of July party was so remarkable that I have decided to share thoughts on it instead.

As we parked on the street near our friend's house, the air was fragrant with the aroma of charcoal and mesquite coming from not one but TWO immense grills manned by our host and his next-door neighbor, who celebrated the occasion with a huge red-white-and-blue "Grand Master of Barbecue" apron wrapped around his ample midsection.

After greeting our hosts, we then sought out a place for our contributions to the feast among three large tables already groaning with BBQ Ribs, Chicken, three varieties of smoked links,as well as Macaroni and Cheese, buckets of Cole Slaw, more potato and macaroni salad and other goodies too numerous to mention.

But it was the non-traditional contributions of the foreign-born guests that really stood out. Carnitas , lamb and chicken kebabs, Shrimp Pad Thai, and tandoori chicken were also to be had in great abundance. Which just goes to show that everybody embraces that great American tradition, the 4th of July party, no matter your ethnic background.

The liquid refreshments showed this too... besides the usual Bud, Millers and Coors, there was Corona, Heineken, Molson's (from Canada), Caguama (from El Salvador), Brahma (from Brazil), and even some Guinness Stout to round out the refreshment lineup. The non-alcoholic lineup showed a similar variety as well, with soft drinks from Mexico and the Phillipines sharing space with good ol' USA Coke, Pepsi and 7-up.

Even better than the food and drink was the interaction with the other guests. It seemed that no matter what your background, status or occupation, we all had the same concerns: the economy, two perpetual wars, and the virtual collapse of effective politics and government here in Nevada.

Food for Thought as well as Food for Eating .... could it get any better?

After the sun set, it was time to clear away the remainder of the feast (most of us came prepared with Tupperware to take home leftovers), and pull out the lawn chairs and blankets to watch the fireworks. Our friends happen to be blessed with a hillside view ... so we could easily see the fireworks coming from the Las Vegas Strip some ten miles away.

In sum .. Great Time, Great Food, Great Party - and important food for thought.

I hope your Fourth was equally blessed.

- Mike The Thinker

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Welcome to The Thinking Nationalist

Greetings - and welcome to The Thinking Nationalist.

This is an online journal of Political, Economic, and Public Policy thought with a Nationalist perspective - that is, we focus on policy concepts and prescriptions that have a unique application to the American experience and future, as opposed to a more general or universalist perspective.

Implicit in this approach is the idea that the United States is a unique nation .... a nation bound together more by ties of shared ideals, shared culture, and shared traditions than more traditional "Nationalist" ties of shared ethnicity, shared language, or shared religion. As such, certain of the ideas and concepts we explore here will have a different applicability or relevance in a more traditionally Nationalist milieu.

Nationalism is, in our opinion, one of the key drivers of trends in the 21st century.

century will be marked by increasing national competition not only for scarce markets and resources but also for scarce living space for populations with both growing needs and growing expectations. Accordingly, then, nations that use political, economic, and public policy tools to develop and enhance national unity, ideology, and cohesiveness will have a distinct and decided competitive advantage over those nations that do not.

One caveat here ...this call for "A New Nationalism" is NOT a call for a racial or ethnically based vision of the American future and purpose.

Not only are such concepts morally repugnant to many, but they have also traditionally done very poorly in the American competition of ideas. In our opinion, appeals to racial or ethnic pride as a basis for a cohesive American sense of national purpose are likely to have the opposite effect - that is, they will retard the national competitive effort rather than enhance it.

And, in the American experience, citizens from other nations and ethnicities who have wholly embraced the American purpose and ideology while forsaking their former cultural and political loyalties have done very well, not only for themselves but for the American nation as well. The experiences of Govs. Arnold Schwartzenegger of California and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana come to mind. And, there are many other examples in all walks of American life.

In conclusion, then, welcome to The Thinking Nationalist ... and watch this space for future developments.

- Mike The Thinker