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Rear Window

November 13th, 2013 - 1:55 pm

“Using statistics,” my teacher used to say, “is like driving a car down a road with the windshield blacked out, guided only by your rear-view mirror.” The notion of the future as a probability is at the heart of the Washington Post‘s survey of natural disasters. Typhoon Haiyan was not unique. It was individually unpredictable, but it was statistically just what one would have expected: “33 of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones on record have occurred in southern or southeastern Asia – due to a confluence of meteorology, geography, population density, poverty and government.”

The deadliest tropical cyclone in recorded history is largely considered to be the Bhola Cyclone that struck Bangladesh on November 12, 1970, claiming between 300,000 and 500,000 lives. Six of the top ten deadliest tropical cyclones have occurred in Bangladesh, and the vast majority of the top 35 have occurred in the countries that lie along the Bay of Bengal.

The older readers might still remember the Bangladesh typhoon because the following year it spawned the Concert for Bangladesh, at which George Harrison performed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The other catastrophes you may have forgotten.


1. Great Bhola Cyclone, Bangladesh 1970 (Nov 12) Bay of Bengal 300,000 – 500,000
2. Hooghly River Cyclone, India and Bangladesh 1737 Bay of Bengal 300,000
3. Haiphong Typhoon, Vietnam 1881 West Pacific 300,000
4. Coringa, India 1839 Bay of Bengal 300,000
5. Backerganj Cyclone, Bangladesh 1584 Bay of Bengal 200,000
6. Great Backerganj Cyclone, Bangladesh 1876 Bay of Bengal 200,000
7. Chittagong, Bangladesh 1897 Bay of Bengal 175,000
8. Super Typhoon Nina, China 1975 (Aug 5) West Pacific 171,000
9. Cyclone 02B, Bangladesh 1991 (May 5) Bay of Bengal 138,866
10. Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar 2008 (May 3) Bay of Bengal 138,366

Wikipedia has a list of record-breaking typhoon statistics.  It may surprise some to learn that the biggest recorded storm surge in history was 1899′s Cyclone Mahina in Bathurst Bay, Queensland Australia, killing 400 people — a lot considering the sparse population of the area. “A storm surge, variously reported as either 13 meters or 48 feet high, swept across Princess Charlotte Bay then inland for about 5 kilometers, destroying anything that was left of the Bathurst Bay pearling fleet along with the settlement. Eyewitness Constable J. M. Kenny reported that a 48 ft (14.6 m) storm surge swept over their camp at Barrow Point atop a 40 ft (12 m) high ridge and reached 3 miles (5 km) inland, the largest storm surge ever recorded.”

The problem with statistics is there’s always an outlier.

The dates of the disasters are particularly revealing because some happened long before any “carbon economy” was in evidence or the term even invented. Recent calls to combat “climate change” assume that bureaucrats know how the weather works.  Considering how much of our received wisdom is contrary to the evidence in the rear-view mirror, we might conclude that we are still without a reliable predictive model; and without such a model, what tinkering we embark upon may make things worse, rather than better. You only operate on a patient when you can see and not before.

How do people prepare for an unknown future?

The classic response of a decision-maker facing irreducible uncertainty has been to form a reserve. Reserves also go by the name of “savings” or “stockpiles” or design margins. They are intentional surpluses prepared against an unpredictable future. We all know, or used to know, the Biblical advice on risk management. “Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.”

When are the seven years of lean due? Science cannot tell us, since it cannot foretell the future as yet, which is why we have politicians. Politicians know everything. Take Barack Obama. Rich Lowry cites Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, authors of Game Change and the sequel about 2012, Double Down, who describe Barack Obama’s struggle to conceal his own certitudes during the 2012 campaign.

In the fall of 2011, they recount, “All too often, Obama felt as if he were driving with his foot on the brake.”

In a strategy meeting with his political advisers, Obama brought up climate change as an example of his undue caution. According to Halperin and Heilemann, the president said: “Maybe I should just come out and say what I really feel about this. Maybe I should just go out and say what I think about everything.”…

At that session, he brought to the Roosevelt Room a stack of pages from a yellow legal pad on which he had scrawled his more heartfelt initiatives.

What were they? Climate change. “We’re never gonna outdrill the other guys,” he said. “We gotta take some risks on this issue.”

Immigration reform. His Latino allies were right that he had been too timid.

Poverty. He needed to do more.

Peace between “Israel and Palestine.” He had let politics get in the way of working toward a settlement.

Closing Gitmo. Again, he hadn’t tried hard enough. “No one is gonna persuade me that we should run a penal colony in perpetuity in America,” he said.

Gay marriage. He didn’t want to keep dissembling about his real position.

He wanted to take his foot off the brake; wanted to go all out. Because he knew with preternatural assurance what lay head. No need to fumble along with the rear-view mirror.

However his campaign advisers eventually persuaded him to … misspeak. The net result were the sudden surprises Obama has become famous for. It is the contrast between Barack Obama the mortal and Obama the visionary. He ran by misrepresenting his position on policies that a critical percentage of voters disagreed with because they would not go along. But once in power he switched to his inner certainties. Because he knew what was right and could now take his foot off the brake.

The most famous example was his pledge that “you can keep your health care. Period. You can keep your doctor. Period.” Neither of these was true. One could say that he lied. Period.

But that would be to miss the bigger point. Obama didn’t lie. He discarded his public uncertainty for his inner certitude. He threw away a great deal of information derived from the public’s fear of future risks because he knew they were unfounded. So great was his prescience that, rather than building up a reserve, as one does facing uncertainty, Obama instead built up a deficit. He bet the farm because he had a sure thing. The national debt jumped from $10 trillion to $17 trillion in the time since he took office. Someone more uncertain would have tried to build up a surplus instead.

That was, after all, Joseph’s advice:

Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.

Today we are fortunate enough to be led by a person who knows exactly when the seven fat cows are coming out of the river. Exactly how the weather works. There’s no need to save. No need to worry that we are making climate worse rather than better by a government program. We can spend the stash. The difficulty for the visionary is what to do when his gamble doesn’t come off. Yesterday Amy Goldstein, Juliet Eilperin and Lena H. Sun at the Washington Post concluded that “software problems with the federal online health insurance marketplace, especially in handling high volumes, are proving so stubborn that the system is unlikely to work fully by the end of the month as the White House has promised, according to an official with knowledge of the project.” Statistics released by the administration say that only 27,000 people enrolled through his $600 million website. In return, almost 40 times that number have lost their health coverage in California alone.

But hold on, ye of little faith. It will of course work in the end because it’s got to work. Those who ask “what is Plan B?” should realize there is no Plan B. There is no Plan B because Plan A is so sure-fire that the only option for the administration is to keep doubling down until Plan A works. That is the attitude of those able to see through the blacked-out windshield. As for the rest of us, there is only the trail of wreckage in the rear-view mirror.

But maybe it’s not good to be too certain, as history sometimes reminds us.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
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Top Rated Comments   
I've always maintained that had Hillary Clinton won instead of Obama, we'd have nearly the exact same result. Her actions on Benghazi tell us enough, but all of HER policies during Clinton I that were defeated would be rehashed and introduced during Clinton II. Remember, Hillary was the keeper of the "missing" FBI files on the top 500 appointees of the Bush I administration, including the one missing one found mysteriously in the room adjacent to the first lady's study. The Clinton's were infamous for treating the "paid help" poorly, from the White House kitchen staff to the Secret Service, to the unlucky man carrying the "football". The Clinton's and their entourage even raided the White House silver and China on their way out of office; they stole everything that wasn't nailed down.

Clinton mannered himself as a "good ol' boy", but he was as much a narcissistic opportunist as Obama, and Hillary was as hard left as Obama. With Obama, we get both Clinton's rolled into one package.

The Democrats are already moving beyond the lame duck Obama Presidency to push Hillary for the Obama II Presidency. And, since I personally believe that Obama won the election through various machinations of election fraud, I have no doubt that Hillary can win in 2016. It only takes a village ... voting 5x each ... to achieve a Democrat "mandate", that, plus some more FBI and IRS "law enforcement" against the opposition.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"You only operate on a patient when you can see and not before."

Vivisectionists would not think of a rabbit as callously as the Democrats think of humans. Muslim physicians in Africa treat a wife by discussing her symptoms with the husband, while the woman sits behind a screen.

Most of us have read historical battle accounts that contain a passage similar to the following.
His reserves having been committed General (or Emperor) X was unable to respond when Y's cavalry (or division etc.) appeared off his left flank (or right rear). In the ensuing rout it is estimated that Z were massacred.

My guess is that the officers and men of Taffy 4 felt rotten about being ordered not to assist Taffy 3 that day off Samar. My belief is that I would have disobeyed orders and joined the fight if given the chance. At least I hope that I'd have wanted to. The admiral may have been right.

Another way to describe the tendency to double down after a mistake is the "blown the tip" behavior of a waiter. If Obama knows that he can't restore his reputation with the moderate middle then he might as well shovel everything he can in free stuff to his loyal core and screw his enemies, real or self created, royal. How much soup can Obama pour into our laps?

Are the real villains the Emperors or the courtiers who know better and are afraid to go public? Dan Bongino, a former US Secret Service agent, has spoken out saying, "It is worse than people know." He is being stuffed down the memory hole.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The whole argument against propitiation can be summarized in Matthew. "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.".

We can't ward off typhoons by being Muslim or Christian; by being liberal or conservative; by becoming Scientologists or joining one of the atheist mega-churches, except insofar as it changes our behavior and thereby increases our ability to alter or respond to circumstances.

I was telling someone the other day that the whole argument over transubstantiation and the incarnation missed the point: which is that the "world is sanctified" and therefore a worthy field for our action. The hardest part of Christianity is to believe that life is worth living. Worth living because it is more consequential that we know. "It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered."

But this is where we are. And anyone who recommends tossing a few virgins into volcanoes or spending a couple of trillion on carbon trading certificates is probably mistaken.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (98)
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I'm not of the jaded variety though a sardonic and often times cynical realist.

The USA we young and older adults know, knew is gone. Sadly it isn't coming back.

For the majority of our nation's constituents and nearly ALL politicians from all parties overwhelmingly use emotive-led idiocy to 'right our wrongs'.

Allen West, JC Watts, DeMint, Krauthammer etc., insist the GOP, Conservatives alike should specifically seek out and have private discussions, grease the palms so to speak if this or that race. This sexual preference group and that. WTF.. What an insulting, devolving, divisive and idiotic endeavor.

Never mind most of our ancestors NEVER owned a slave of ANY kind. Nor the fact of the matter in the heyday of slavery ownership in our nation, ~ 1860 - > 1% of our then-low populated and much undiscovered country owned slaves is of no concern. As well as the FACT the Civil Rights Act has WORSENED the Black family in succeeding.

AA/EEO, as has been epitomized and sadly played out before our and the world's eyes - by Teleprompter Jesus is a devolving, dangerous, abject failure.

SSM advocates and the LGBT/ GLAAD hardly use(d) decorum, respect in 'duscussing' their pov.

What's been the result of the 'oh so important, SSM push? In the most Illiberal of cities/ neighborhoods that have legalized SSM, some nearly 10 years ago - > 10% of those recognized as being in the LGBT community actually marry/ married!

Heck the nation's 1st SSM have already divorced years ago.

The sad reality of these 'progressive' programs is not if they're successful, economically viable nor functional. Just as long as they're pleasing to the emotive-led troglodytes.

Though the Civil Rights Act and EEO/AA programs and infinitely more gubmint programs, like Uhdumbocare - won't go away. For knee-jerk reaction-ism is our majority's quid pro quo. And like were told when 4 years old we CAN'T reason with those types of kids.

Sadly those 'kids' are now undeserving, lazy, phony intellects whom are 51 year old girly-men still possessing the 'reasoning skills' of a 4 year old. Whereas they are and for the foreseeable future - rule the roost and are only growing in size. Why?

Because living, existing in an emotional state is far easier for many this day and age.

Gaining knowledge, possessing self-determination, discussing one's differences in the hopes of coming to a accord and striving for something PROVEN not 'possibly' greater is for suckers to many people.

Reasoning is gone altogether from the narrative. The sickeningly obvious fiction, distortion and smear campaigns in politics is so grossly apparent though needn't matter anymore is a true sign of devolving.

What's the point of 'rear view mirror' recollection/ hard learned experiences when the majority glaringly resort to selective memory, vitriol and skewed sense of 'progress'?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I reached my personal epiphany when I realized that "reason" isn't a "value" anymore.

“He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that no one would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it in some obscure way the continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage.”
― George Orwell, 1984
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the quote. I too have been reading more Orwell. As well as Hesse, Maugham at present time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Pretty chilling isn't it?

If Orwell used more contemporary lingo in his 1984 it would read as a history of today.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What Obama *really* needs is a serious attack (urban nuclear strike, bio-war attack, or something of similar damage) to occur on US soil so that he can lead a heroic response. Second best would be an attack that would sink a carrier group. This would take the ACA debacle off the front page.

Fortunately for the rest of us neither he nor the "transnational progressive" cabal (Valarie Jarrett and pals) that back him are actually competent enough to arrange such a situation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Without going into details, there are rumors and there have been for the last couple of months. While I doubt their competency too, I cannot put such beyond them. I do have grave doubt as to their loyalty to the country and its people, as should any rational observer. And even the most incompetent enemy can get lucky. If something should happen, consideration of the probability of a false flag event has to be the part of any evaluation.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Love the clip. What's scary is that Peter Ustinov and his Neropolis vision makes more sense than the Obamacare fix-it crew.
As a bonus they could play this clip at the next Detroit city council meeting. A perfect epitaph.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It looks as if we've arrived at the place we should have 5 years ago if the press had done their job. A man, (and I use that term loosely), utterly incompetent to be an adjunct law lecturer, who rode white guilt and a cliche-riddled convention speech into the Oval Office, is being exposed for the sociopathic fraud that he has always been. The "scapegoater-in chief" is about to become the scapegoat. Democratic politicians seeing their precious offices in jeopardy and media acolytes seeing the last shred of credibility vanishing are acting out of pure self-preservation, as will all desperate creatures. Obama and his mendacious crowd will be not only thrown under the bus but under the pavement, sacrificed for the life that remains of the liberal fantasy. We are not even 1/4 through this second reign of terror and dear leader's ratings are nose-diving. Remember the Repubs paying Richard Nixon the White House "visit?" That may be close at hand, the difference being that Obama will not vacate the premises voluntarily. It's going to get real ugly, real quick.

As always, I'll click on this site every 15 minutes awaiting our brilliant host's take on these events.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>>>....We are not even 1/4 through this second reign of terror ....Obama will not vacate the premises voluntarily. It's going to get real ugly, real quick.<<<

Yours is the optimistic case. Even Uber-Leftist Howard Dean is admitting on the air that Obama does not have legal authority for today's cluster-copulation of rule by decree. And the New York Times compared him unfavorably to Bush. That is the lowest insult they can deliver.

In point of fact, Obama has been ruling by decree for years. And very carefully the supposed "opposition" party has been keeping silent. Checks and balances are gone from the system, part of the vanished design margin. One reason for their silence may be the knowledge that if Obama is challenged, one party rule may become official and the continued existence of an "opposition" party may be superfluous.

It has been noted elsewhere that the current mess is such that either the rule by decree will be legitimized and accepted, or he deals with legislative "fixes" that would destroy Obamacare, coming from both parties. If either party gets a bill through, he has to choose to veto or not. To get the bill through, the Democrats will have had to break from him. He will not tolerate that. If he vetoes the bill, the blame for the Obamacare disaster falls completely on the Democrats before the 2014 election. If he [via Reid] stops the bills in the Senate, the blame falls on the Democrats. If the elections are anywhere near honest and take place, there will be a Democrat bloodbath. Which could mean not only loss of the Senate, but also opens the vague possibility of a return of checks and balances. Something he will not tolerate.

1) He already resorts to rule by decree, reflexively when challenged.
2) He does not brook any interference by mere law.
3) Real elections could prove suicide for his party and his agenda.
4) It is not outside the realm of possibility that either over the Obamacare fiasco, or a false flag, that rule by decree will be installed publicly and permanently. Elections in 2014 and 2016, at least elections that Maduro in Venezuela would not find acceptable, may be optional to the White House and the Democrats.

We have talked here of this becoming a banana republic. This morning's speech may have been the sound of Harry Belafonte warming up ... "Day-o, Day-o"

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
POTUS says that this allows him to say that it is not ACA preventing you from getting your old plan.

Absurd. He's arguing on the grammatical case? The ACA has always already prevented you from getting your old plan. This noise from the regime and its toadies is absurd, absurd, absurd. "If you had good genes you were paying too little." Right. And now Obambus (via Chuck Toad, er, Todd) trying to throw off his own responsibility, "It's those bastard insurance companies, I HAVE GIVEN PERMISSION for them to violate the law". Hey isn't it unconstitutional to pass a retroactive law? Obambus has given them permission to turn back time right now, but (did you HEAR his conference?) "the old system sucked and we don't want to go back to it!", so any current dispensation is temporary and doomed. But oh, it's not the ACA, right? My arse it ain't.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We are already starting to see pushback on this ridiculous squirrel launch, from a blue state insurance commissioner, no less.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Just hours after President Obama announced changes to his health care law to give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says those changes will not be allowed in our state.

Kreidler says Thursday he has "serious concerns" about how Obama's proposal would be implemented and its potential impact on the overall stability of the state's health insurance market.

"I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington," Kreidler said in a statement announcing his decision. "In the interest of keeping the consumer protections, we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course. We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let's watch to see if Obama tries to lead from behind and ignore his previous claim that MacArthur humiliated the Emperor of Japan on the deck of the USS Missouri, while we help the Philippines today.

"...Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found insofar as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years, It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh. We stand in Tokyo today reminiscent of our countryman, Commodore Perry, ninety-two years ago. His purpose was to bring to Japan an era of enlightenment and progress, by lifting the veil of isolation to the friendship, trade, and commerce of the world. But alas the knowledge thereby gained of western science was forged into an instrument of oppression and human enslavement. Freedom of expression, freedom of action, even freedom of thought were denied through appeal to superstition, and through the application of force. We are committed by the Potsdam Declaration of principles to see that the Japanese people are liberated from this condition of slavery. It is my purpose to implement this commitment just as rapidly as the armed forces are demobilized and other essential steps taken to neutralize the war potential. The energy of the Japanese race, if properly directed, will enable expansion vertically rather than horizontally. If the talents of the race are turned into constructive channels, the county can lift itself from its present deplorable state into a position of dignity.

To the Pacific basin has come the vista of a new emancipated world. Today, freedom is on the offensive, democracy is on the march. Today, in Asia as well as in Europe, unshackled peoples are tasting the full sweetness of liberty, the relief from fear. In the Philippines, America has evolved a model for this new free world of Asia. In the Philippines, America has demonstrated that peoples of the East and peoples of the West may walk side by side in mutual respect and with mutual benefit. The history of our sovereignty there has now the full confidence of the East. And so, my fellow countrymen, today I report to you that your sons and daughters have served you well and faithfully with the calm, deliberated determined fighting spirit of the American soldier, based upon a tradition of historical truth as against the fanaticism of an enemy supported only by mythological fiction. Their spiritual strength and power has brought us through to victory. They are homeward bound—take care of them.”

- See more at:
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Time to pivot to jobs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yep, the jobs of Democrat Congressfolks (since Teh Won likes the word "folks" so much).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And to validate my reply to RWE3 downstream:

Chuck Todd
POTUS says that this allows him to say that it is not ACA preventing you from getting your old plan.

Yeah, because that's what's really important, not the millions suffering from losing their health insurance.

Have fun with that target on your back, insurance companies. Hope it was worth it so you could get a piece of that sweet crony socialism pie.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The movie clip portraying Nero in his mad flight of egoism is perfect!

A promise of universal health insurance is a political issue subject to political resolution. However, the communist O'Bama has drifted into unreality by couching the issue as an implied promise of universal good health, which he tacitly maintains is dominated by the evil rich and denied to the poor.

The guarantee of good health is not fulfillable by any means in the real world. Only a god can deliver on that promise. And there he goes---off to play his harp while the insurance industry and the economy burn.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" to play his harp... " Oh, is that what they're calling it these days?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You meant golf, not harp, right?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The alternative to driving by looking at only the rear view mirror all too often is driving without a rear view mirror.

When we analyze space launch failures and draw statistical conclusions from that data we often are told by the launch companies, "That history no longer applies. We fixed those problems." But of course what does apply is the fact that a particular launch company is not perfect, and the ones who have been less perfect in the past tend to be less perfect in the future as well. You would not expect a Toyota Camry to come from the same team that designed the Chevy Chevette or the Ford Pinto.

Still other launch companies seem to decide that the past lessons do not apply to them because they are too smart to be so stupid as those other guys, and besides all that stuff is the reason things cost too much. So we have NASA repeating the attitude problems that lost the Shuttle Challenger and SpaceX repeating "famous failures of the 1950's."

As for Obamacare, the number of giant government takeovers of private industry that have succeeded is a very small number. The Space Shuttle program and the USN elimination of private development and production of torpedoes after WWI are two experiences that offer a cautionary tale at best and should inspire widespread decoration of lampposts in DC at worst.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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