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Buick ties Lexus

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In the J.D. Power study of vehicle durability.

The Wall Street Journal story (subscription required, fair use excerpt below):

J.D. Power and Associates on Thursday released its annual Vehicle Dependability Study, which tracks quality over the first three years of ownership of a vehicle.

Lexus has been the perennial king of the survey. But domestic auto makers have scrambled to catch up in recent years, and their efforts continue to pay off as Detroit brands crowd the podium, leaving less of a gap between the U.S. and Japan than traditionally has been the case.

Three of the top five brands in the study were domestic players, with GM's Cadillac and Ford Motor Co.'s Mercury finishing behind Buick and Lexus. GM's Hummer brand was the most improved, but it still is a below-average performer.

Rant: health care

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I tweaked my back this morning while putting on socks, getting ready to go to the gym.  Snookums convinced me to go to a chiropractor, something I've never done before.  The experience was, shall I say, painless.  The four-page medical history questionnaire was the worst part of it.  I got a couple of x-rays, the chiropractor twisted me a bit, then hooked me to a machine that electrically massaged my back for a few minutes.  He sent me away saying he'd look at my x-rays and I should come back tomorrow.  Pretty ordinary.

But it got me thinking, as I sometimes do, about what is wrong with our health care system.  I think you can sum it up in two words:

Insurance companies.

(Including and especially Medicare).

Insurers are the ones who are driving almost every single patient-unfriendly "advance" in health care.  They're the ones who dictate which doctors you can see and which ones you can't.  They're the ones who determine whether or not treatment is "appropriate."  They're the ones who set the treatment prices so low that many general practitioners are barely scraping by.  Meanwhile, companies used to dealing in the free market (Wal-Mart) are lowering prescription prices for lots of drugs to $4.00.  Take a guess why insurance companies didn't do that first.

Health insurance isn't the solution.  It's the problem.  Instead of rushing like lemmings off of the cliff of "universal health insurance," we need to run as fast as we can away from that cliff.  I wholeheartedly believe that we need to completely scrap the current system of paying for health care.  We need to just blow it up, from its roots to the top of the insurance company skyscrapers.

But, you are no doubt saying, how will everyone afford the health care that they need?  The same way we afford the clothing and the food and the transportation we need.  You need health care, you pay for it.

Heartless.  Scandalous.  How could I possibly be so unfeeling as to suggest that customers actually pay for services?

Easy.  I've dealt with insurance companies.  Even the good ones are bad.  The bad ones are positively evil in their callous disregard for patients and caregivers.

I'm OK with the idea of some kind of health safety net to make sure that basic health care needs are always available.  But, we already have that.  If you show up at an emergency room, the hospital is required to treat you regardless of your ability to pay.

What the whole health care argument boils down to in the end is that the "universal health care" advocates want something for nothing.  Or, more accurately, they want to be able to get any  medical procedure they might possibly need AND they want someone else to pay for it.

Blow up the current medical insurance system.  Go back to fee-for-service.  Maybe take another run at mutual insurance societies, but never, ever let those foxes get control of the chicken coop.  And for God's sake, keep the government out of the business.

Discrediting the President

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From the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, a former high-ranking KGB official writes:
I spent decades scrutinizing the U.S. from Europe, and I learned that international respect for America is directly proportional to America's own respect for its president.
. . .
Sowing the seeds of anti-Americanism by discrediting the American president was one of the main tasks of the Soviet-bloc intelligence community during the years I worked at its top levels. This same strategy is at work today, but it is regarded as bad manners to point out the Soviet parallels. For communists, only the leader counted, no matter the country, friend or foe. At home, they deified their own ruler--as to a certain extent still holds true in Russia. Abroad, they asserted that a fish starts smelling from the head, and they did everything in their power to make the head of the Free World stink.
. . .
Now we are again at war. It is not the president's war. It is America's war, authorized by 296 House members and 76 senators. I do not intend to join the armchair experts on the Iraq war. I do not know how we should handle this war, and they don't know either. But I do know that if America's political leaders, Democrat and Republican, join together as they did during World War II, America will win. Otherwise, terrorism will win. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi predicted just before being killed: "We fight today in Iraq, tomorrow in the land of the Holy Places, and after there in the West."
We all need to tone it down, and start seriously discussing what's really, really important.  On both sides.

Like victory over barbarians, and how to achieve it.  You don't defeat barbarians by running away from them.  They have this nasty tendency to follow you home.

Set lasers to kill, Mr. Sulu . . .

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Military lasers to be ready by 2020, says this Wired blog article:
For a quarter of a century, energy weapon enthusiasts have fantasized about a ray gun that never runs out of shots -- and can be "tuned" to blast through the air, at just the right wavelength.   But, for most of that time, such a "free electron laser" weapon seemed like just a dream.   Now, DANGER ROOM has learned, the Navy is about to give the go-ahead to begin work on a building a battlefield-strength free electron laser.  It'll take around $200 million to pull off, and it won't be ready until 2020 or so.  But if it all works out as planned, military researchers may one day have  "the Holy Grail of lasers" in their hands.
Click through to the article to see this puppy burn through a metal plate.

Via Hot Air.

California decertifies electronic voting machines

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The California Secretary of State's "Top to Bottom Review":

Decertification/Recertification Decisions Issued August 3, 2007, by Secretary of State Debra Bowen

Diebold Election Systems, Inc.

Hart InterCivic

Sequoia Voting Systems

Elections Systems and Software, Inc.

  • Rescission and Withdrawal of Approval (.pdf, 303KB)

  • Probably not a bad idea.  Voting is too important to be left to the machines.

    Via Winds of Change.

    China blacklists over 400 exporters

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    Reacting to recent quality control problems, China is starting to crack down on it's companies which export products:

    China draws up export blacklist amid health scares:

    Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng stressed the government line that Chinese products were overwhelmingly safe and of high quality, and called on foreign media not to hype the problems of a small minority of goods or companies.

    But on the ministry Web site, he said 429 Chinese firms on the blacklist had been punished for violating export regulations. The Web site did not elaborate.

    "China will strengthen international cooperation on the safety of products," Gao was quoted as saying.

    Give the Iraqi national soccer team a New York tickertape parade

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    Why not?  They just did the incredible--win the Asian Cup soccer tournament.  Most of them came home, but didn't get the parade they earned.

    Iraq soccer team returns home without captain
    There were no cheering crowds or ticker tape parade Friday along the dangerous airport road to greet Iraq's Asian Cup soccer champs. And the team's captain, a Sunni who scored the winning goal, didn't even return because he feared for his life.
    . . .

    Tight security in the heart of the capital - and the team's late arrival - prevented many Baghdad residents from celebrating in the streets.

    "It is an incomplete joy, because all other people welcome their winning teams in the streets of their capitals and we in Iraq had to be the last ones to receive them," said 40-year-old Naeem Abdullah.


    What bigger gesture could the city that suffered the attack on September 11th make towards the country which has suffered so much since then?  What bigger gesture could the country which invaded another to overthrow a tyrant make towards that tyrant's victims than to honor their champions in the same manner we honor our own?

    Give the Iraqi National Soccer Team a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

    Somebody get Bloomberg on the phone . . .

    Congressional approval: 3%???

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    Yep, that's what Zogby says their poll shows:
    Just 24% give the president favorable ratings of his performance in handling the war in Iraq, but confidence in Congress is significantly worse – only 3% give Congress positive marks for how it has handled the war.


    Democrats on the street hate Congress because they (Congress) haven't had the guts to actually de-fund the war and force a defeat. Rank and file Republicans hate Congress because the leadership keeps acting (and, when their guard is down, coming out and saying) that progress in Iraq is bad for their partisan politics.  (Independents are, as always, somewhere between those two poles.)
    House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Monday that a strongly positive report on progress on Iraq by Army Gen. David Petraeus likely would split Democrats in the House and impede his party's efforts to press for a timetable to end the war.

    That's jaw-dropping stuff, there.  Here's the oath of office that Mr. Clyburn took when he assumed the duties of U.S. Representative:
    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

    I'm hard-pressed to understand how placing the domestic policy and organizational issues of a political party over defending "the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic"  conforms with the letter and the spirit of the Congressman's oath of office.

    Bathroom etiquette

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    Via Townhall.com's Mary Katherine Ham:
    Click image (or here) to view the YouTube video.

    My favorite, I'm afraid, is the cat.

    Orangs play charades?

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    One word, sounds like . . .
    Photo credit: University of St. Andrews

    Science Daily:

    When using gestures to get their points across, orangutans rely on the same basic strategy that humans follow when playing the popular game and intentionally modify or repeat hand (or other) signals based on the success or failure of their first attempt.

    Professor Richard Byrne of the (University of St. Andrews) School of Psychology said, "We were surprised that the orangutans' responses so clearly signaled their assessment of the audience's comprehension. Looking at the tapes of the animal's responses, you can easily work out whether the orangutan thinks it has been fully, partially, or not understood, without seeing what went before."

    "This means that, in effect, they are passing information back to the audience about how well they are doing in understanding them, hence our 'charades' analogy. In playing the game, you want primarily to convey your meaning non-verbally - as does the orangutan - but secondarily to help the team get your meaning by giving them hints as to how well they are doing."