Saturday, January 22, 2005

Good Points

EG (who we still wish would do a political blog in MD) and Corndog have good points:

I don't consider nuclear weapons treaties to be an issue these days. Not with the ability to make dirty bombs, a weapon agreement isn't necessary and will be ignored by terrorists. The scare in Boston (and who says the 'informant' got the right city? Could it really be Boise or Baltimore or Birmingham?) with a potential dirty bomb shows how our enemies can use home-made bombs and destroy our way of life. If the right 'informant' said there are dirty bombs in fifty U.S. cities at this moment, the country would go into utter hysteria.

I really must strongly disagree with this. It is true that a dirty bomb will induce hysteria, because the American people have absolutely no tolerance for inconvenience. If they had to live one day in Baghdad the Iraq problem would be solved in an instant. But the reality is that dirty bombs will kill very few people. So, they are not a very good terrorist ploy. I'm pissed off at Kerry for a lot of reasons, but his concept that we can eventually come to live with terrorism contained is, to me, a valid one. It is a little like someone who lives with cancer by getting chemotherapy.

The biggest threat is nuclear weapons. The comparison of a dirty bomb to a nuclear bomb is like a pea shooter to, well, a nuclear bomb. Detonation of a nuclear bomb anywhere will mean the end of civilization as we know it. You can't live with nuclear weapons going off. They are just too terrible.

At the present time, force as in the US Army will never, under any circumstances, rid the world of nuclear weapons. Iraq is, in spite of its horror, an excellent example of the limits of overwhelming force. The US Military could wipe Iraq off the face of the earth several times over (and some people want to do this), but it can't subdue an indigenous rebellion. And, I can guarantee you, this rebellion will very soon have nuclear weapons. And they will use them.

The only course, in my mind, is the one that was agonizingly successful for so long during the Cold War. Diplomacy. The above ground test ban treaty in 1963 was the hallmark of postwar (WWII) diplomacy. The ABM treaty was another (and jerkhead abrogated it). If we could fully implement the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) we could move to eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. As it is, they will soon be available to terrorists. I am as sure of this as I am that the sun will rise and set.

Corndog says:
Can you answer one question? Whenever free-market conservatives discuss why we can't go to a single-payer system, they claim that such a system would be less efficient financially than the current hodge-podge. Given the executive salaries you've given an example of, can this possibly be true? Aren't the administrative costs of Medicare and Medicaid a tiny fraction of those like United HealthCare or MAMSI? Am I missing something? Or are they? Like honesty.

Good point. Let me talk about MAMSI. Back in the dark ages (1995-1996) MAMSI was on the dock. They were up for certification by the organization that does HMO's. They flunked. Immediately before this was announced (and their stocks took a dive) many on the Board of Directors sold off large amounts of stocks. This was about as clear a case of insider trading as you could want. Although some other stockholders took them to court, the big boys got off with a mild hand tap.

At that time, one could find out a lot about MAMSI on the InterNet. They were required to post their 10K's and a lot of information about their financials. It turned out that much of the stock was owned by about 40 guys (and gals), most of who were on the BOD. At that time, they set up a "Stockholders Compensation Fund." Interestingly enough, this was in New York, not Maryland. The last time I heard (1997) they had $300,000,000 in the fund. After about this time, they suddenly became very reluctant to post information on the web and only gave the minimal numbers to satisfy the SEC requirements. I gave up following it. Suffice it to say that "fund" grew, and grew. Remember, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland had an $800,000,000 fund amassed to "capitalize" a transition to for-profit. They still have it after getting slapped down by the Maryland Insurance Commissioner when they tried to pull a fast one (see my previous posts on this).

One has to assume that the "fund" disappeared into the pockets of the stockholders of MAMSI when it was bought by United HealthCare. I can guarantee you it didn't come to doctors and it certainly didn't go to those poor suckers that buy UHC insurance. What is important here is the magnitude of the numbers. $300,000,000 would completely solve all the problems of health insurance in the state of Maryland. Instead, it went into the pockets of a few jerks who, in addition, got massive tax breaks in the last four years.

You are certainly correct. In spite of the fact that Medicaid and Medicare are government programs and fraught with bureaucracy, they have traditionally had a low overhead. One of the best run government programs of all time was the Tennessee Valley Authority back when it was started in the 30's. I know because my father worked for it then. Now, of course, it has gotten into deep water (see the frequent posts on South Knox Bubba for this).

Thus, what we are seeing is what happens to any ideological and economic system in the long run. Because of human nature, i.e. Greed, humans will drive any system to its limits. This happened to Roman Imperialism, Feudalism, British Imperialism (particularly in India; read the Raj Quartet), Communism and now Capitalism. It is a fact of life.

The question, of course, is "What do we do now?"

1 comment:

EG said...

It is true that a dirty bomb will induce hysteria, because the American people have absolutely no tolerance for inconvenience. If they had to live one day in Baghdad the Iraq problem would be solved in an instant. But the reality is that dirty bombs will kill very few people. So, they are not a very good terrorist ploy.You are correct about the higher level of death from a nuclear bomb. BUT, if a terrorist wants to have financial impact (not necessarily carnal), the dirty bomb is a perfect tool. A dirty bomb requires little work and its size is ideal for quick and cheap transport.

The economic impact of a dirty bomb on a large city could probably collapse the county's economy. All transportation lines would cease to travel to the city. The medical costs of treating the victims would be tremendous. Thousands of jobs would be affected and the financial institutions in the area would fail because of a run on the deposits.

Nuclear bombs that could enter the U.S. could come from the erstwhile USSR and China. With the current state of technology, a nuclear bomb from Iran to the U.S. is most possible. Terrorists who wish to get a full nuclear bomb need money and trained personnel. Nuclear bombs cost lots of money to maintain (leakage problems, etc.) and an un-trained person working on it can cause the bomb to go off (but not fire), exposing the local population.

Here is some facts I found digging through the web:

Total number of U.S. nuclear warheads and bombs built between 1945 and 1990:More than 70,000 of 65 types

Number remaining in U.S. stockpile as of 1997:12,500 (8,750 active, 2,500 contingency stockpile, 1,250 awaiting disassembly)

Number of nuclear warheads requested by the U.S. Army in 1956 and 1957:151,000

And I'll leave you with one more tidbit and you'll find interesting:

Number of U.S. nuclear bombs lost in accidents and never recovered:11