Thursday, December 17, 2009

A simple example of resonance

In the climate change debate there is a faction that claims that the global warming we have experienced since approximately 1900 is due to changes in the sun's irradiance. The conventional wisdom among climate scientists is that since the solar irradiance varies only by 0.1%, solar irradiance variations are not powerful enough to bring about the observed temperature increases. However, Scafetta, West, Grigolini and others claim to have identified a stochastic resonance phenomenon that allows small variations to grow over time. Scafetta et. al.'s papers and analyses are quite challenging to follow. I am not convinced the climate change community is taking into account the resonance phenomenon. To demonstrate the potential of resonance to build up a large response from a small input I have put together a simple example using Mathematica. The example consists of a spring-mass system excited by a sinusoidal force at the resonant frequency. A small amount of damping is employed to keep the solution from growing too fast.

The system dynamics are given by
x'' + 2.0*delta*omegan*x' + (omegan^2)*x =b*omegan^2 +a*(omegan^2)*Sin[omega*t]

where x'' is the second derivative of x with respect to tim, and x' is the first.

Two runs were made. For both runs
omega = omegan = 10.0
delta = 0.001
b = 1.0
x'[0] = 0
x[0] = 1.0

For the first run a = 0.0. Thus the excitation is just a constant 1.0.

Here is a plot of the results of the first run

Note that since the excitation is the constant value 1.0, the output is the constant value 1.0
For the next run I set a = 0.001 - 0.1 percent of 1.0. Here are the results of the second run:

The addition of a 0.1 percent variation of the excitation makes a huge difference in the output.
A few comments are in order:
  1. This is the simplest possible example. In no way do I intend to claim that this is what's going on in global warming. The point of the example is that a resonance in a system can lead to large swings of the system variables
  2. Obviously for the resonance to occur, energy storage is required (the spring in our simple example) In the earth/sun system the energy storage may be in the oceans, the atmosphere, or eaven the earth itself
  3. Scafetta suggests that one possible source of cycling of the earth' temperature is the wobble of the sun's position caused by the gravitational pull of the Jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn)

  1. Scafetta Talk at EPA:
  2. Various publications on Scafetta's web site:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Keep fighting

Well, we didn't stop Obamacare on this vote. But that doesn't mean it's sure to become law. There are many disagreements among Democrats on what the bill should contain, and a number of Red-state Democrats are anticipating tough reelection battles. Even if Obamacare passes, there are sure to be challenges over the constitutionality of a program that requires every person to purchase health insurance. So hang in there. The battle is still raging.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Medicare for everyone

Medicare for everyone is what Obamacare looks like to me. And that’s not good news. Several events in my life and the lives of those close to me will illustrate.

I turned 65 in September 2007 and my wife and I moved from Rochester, MI to Austin, TX in April 2008. Shortly after we moved I developed a swelling on the left side of my face. We must have called a dozen doctors trying to get an appointment. Each doctor, when he/she found out my primary insurance carrier was Medicare, wouldn’t see me. Finally we saw a physicians assistant at a clinic attached to hospital. He correctly determined that it was an allergic reaction to enalapril, a blood pressure medication I was taking. A few days later we were able to see an internist at the same clinic and he concurred with the PA’s opinion. He prescribed another blood pressure med and the problem hasn’t reoccurred. Our former physician in Rochester agreed with the diagnosis and new prescription and remarked that the reaction I had had could have been life-threatening. But doctors don’t like to take new patients who are on Medicare because of the poor reimbursements, the time required to get reimbursed, and the paperwork.

My mother has used a walker for several years, since she had a hip replacement. A few months ago I noticed a chunk missing from the tire of one of the wheels. The walker was made in China and wheels weren’t available for it. The nurse practitioner who looks after my mother told me that Medicare would pay for a new walker, but that seemed extravagant. I eventually found a wheel that fit perfectly at a local hardware store for $9.95. That’s where your tax money goes: $275 for a new walker instead of $9.95 for a wheel.

You would think that an organization like Medicare, with millions of subscribers, would use the clout of numbers to negotiate the best deal for its subscribers.
This may be true with health care practitioners, but not with vendors.
Billy Eberle’s column from GOPUSA (October 6, 2009) documents how Medicare overpays for equipment they pay for.
  • $7,215 to rent an oxygen concentrator, when the purchase price is $600.
  • $4,018 for a standard wheelchair, while the private sector pays $1,048.
  • $1,825 for a hospital bed, compared to an Internet price of $1,071.
  • $3,335 for a respiratory pump, versus an advertised price of $1,987.
  • $82 for a diabetic supply kit, instead of a $47 price on the Web
Under ObamaCare you will have government bureaucrats looking over your shoulder as you fill out your tax forms. It’s bad enough that they’re watching, but watch out when they draw the wrong conclusions. I retired in 2006 at age 63 and went immediately on Social Security. In the next few months my employer paid me $4000 in “Invention Awards” – awards for inventions I had submitted for patents prior to retirement. In September 2007 I got a letter from Social Security stating that since I had earned money following retirement, I was not entitled to the $12075 they had paid me. An envelope was enclosed in which to send my check for the $12075. Alternatively, if I chose not to reimburse them, they would stop Social Security payments until they had recovered $12075. I contacted my employer and they wrote a letter to Social Security explaining that the $4000 was for work I had done prior to retirement. However, they cautioned me not to get my hopes up. They had recently had a similar case and Social Security had required a form to be filled out that required signatures from officers of the company. And that would take considerable time. Apparently the letter worked. I say “apparently” because in January 2008 I got a letter from Social Security that said, in part

“We used $12075 of your benefits to recover all of your overpayment.
We have recovered all of the money you owed because of an overpayment.
In your next check we will pay you the difference between the money we have already paid you and the money you are now due.”

Huh? Perhaps they were thinking in terms of the fiction that everyone has a Social Security account with a fixed amount of money in it. In any case why was it necessary to “recover” their overpayment? They are the ones who made a mistake. They need to back out the claimed overpayment in their records, not “recover” it. We did receive a check for $368 from Social Security that month, in addition to the regular payment. Apparently it was for a cost of living increase they had withheld while my appeal was being decided. I complained to my Congressman that Social Security needed to train their letter writers to write more clearly, but I doubt that will do any good. Do you want to deal with letters like that on a regular basis? You will have to if Obamacare becomes law.

Several years ago my younger son was denied health insurance because he had a mild case of diabetes. I suspect that was due to government regulations limiting how much premiums could vary based on preexisting conditions.

The upshot of all this is that a government-run healthcare system will enormously complicate your life, with government bureaucrats looking over your shoulder as you fill out tax returns, frequently drawing the wrong conclusions, which you are then obligated to straighten out. In addition there will be no rhyme nor reason to how money is spent. Millions will be laid out to replace walkers that need only a new part, while you will be denied a medication or procedure because it costs $100.

Monday, October 26, 2009

We need a Constitutional Amendment

A scary event is about to take place in Copenhagen in December . Nearly 200 nations are meeting to approve a treaty to replace the Kyoto accord on climate change. The scary thing about this treaty is that, according to people who have read it, it will establish world government. If President Obama signs it and 2/3 of the Senate concur, it will become the “supreme law of the land” according to Article 6 of the United States Constitution. The President and 2/3 of the senate can supersede the Constitution.

This is obviously a dangerous provision. The framers probably put it in the Constitution to reassure nations we conduct relations with that the United States’ signature on a treaty is binding. But the power is too broad. We need a Constitutional Amendment that says something like

Any treaty signed by the President and approved by 2/3 of the Senate must be approved by ¾ of the state legislatures.

An alternative might be

Any treaty commitment signed by the President and approved by the Senate which is found to conflict with this Constitution as amended, shall be declared null and void

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getting on message

Good for the Republicans. More and more I hear Republicans saying that the best way to reduce medical costs is by tort reform. Tort reform makes it more difficult to bring a frivolous lawsuit against a doctor or a hospital, and this in turn reduces the cost of malpractice insurance. Texas has implemented a review panel that reviews lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. To go forward a lawsuit must have the review board's stamp of approval. This in turn has reduced the cost of malpractice insurance, and has attracted more doctors to Texas.

Will this gain traction in Congress? It's questionable because the trial lawyers are big givers to Democrats. So keep pressing your congressman and senators.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I smell a rat

After weeks of fighting to include a “public option” in the health care bill the Obama administration suddenly backs off, saying the public option “is not the heart of the health care bill”. This may be good news, but there is still much to dislike in the health care bill:

  • Funding the health care system in part by taking $500 billion from Medicare over 10 years. Many doctors already refuse to take new Medicare patients, as I found out when I moved from Michigan to Texas last year. Currently Medicare pays 80% of the amount Medicare has established for a procedure (not 80% of the price the doctor quotes). If this reimbursement goes down to 60% or lower, fewer doctors will be willing to take Medicare patients. Seniors beware if you are contemplating a move.
  • Not only does the bill cover the 48 million Americans who allegedly lack health insurance, it extends to illegal aliens – upwards of 20 million people. With the bill’s stringent limits on how much doctors can be paid for their services, the number of doctors in the U. S. is likely to decline, leading to rationing of health care.
  • The so-called “Insurance coops” proposed by the health care bill can serve the same purpose as the public option: Giving the government control over coverage and treatment, eventually squeezing private insurers out of the health insurance business.
  • The public option is still in the House version of the bill and could be reinserted in conference.
At the end of the day the health care bill is not about health care at all. It’s about the Federal government taking control of health care decisions that ought to be made by private individuals and their doctors

Friday, August 7, 2009

Town Hall Meetings

With the arrival of the August Congressional recess, lawmakers are back in their districts holding town hall meetings. This year many of the meetings are experiencing large turnouts of not always polite participants. Conservatives, especially, are deeply concerned about the program President Obama is pushing:
  1. Will it increase taxes?
  2. What will happen to Medicare, with partial funding of the program coming from Medicare?
  3. Will it result in long waits for treatment and rationing of treatment?
Unfortunately, feeling is running so high that meetings have degenerated into shouting matches. As a conservative, I sympathize with the protesters. But are they accomplishing anything? I wonder. And the liberals are beginning to react with counterprotests. This is a recipe for violence, which no one in his right mind ought to want. Vigorous debate in a democracy is desirable. Disruption of meetings which ought to be forums for vigorous debate is not, and is destructive to democracy.
A month remains until Congress reconvenes. That’s enough time for Congress to hire a polling organization to sample every legislative district to find out what the electorate thinks of President Obama’s healthcare proposal and what reforms they advocate in health care. Then Congress can proceed with good information about what the public supports and does not support.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dangerous lawmakers

Twice now in the past few months Congress has voted on bills that many members have not read. The Stimulus Bill was over a thousand pages and members were given barely 24 hours to read it. The "Cap and Trade" Bill was 1000 pages, and 300 pages were added at the last minute. Our President insists that these bills are so urgently needed that Congress must act quickly. But what happens to people who sign papers they haven't read? Answer: whatever the writer of the paper wrote would happen. If an individual signs a contract without reading it, he's stupid and deserves whatever he gets. But when a member of Congress votes yea on a bill he hasn't read, he's voting to bind the nation to whatever reckless provisions are written into the bill. This ought to be grounds for the voters who elected him to recall him, and possibly grounds for criminal prosecution.

To prevent mischief, the following ought to be added to Congress' rules for processing bills.
  1. For bills longer than a specified number of pages, x days must be allowed for every y pages to give members an opportunity to read the bill
  2. The bill shall have a table of contents and an index
  3. The bill shall address only a single subject
  4. The bill must be readable by a sixth grader of average intelligence
  5. Any member caught voting on a bill he has not read will be suspended

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A letter sent to the retirees of a large company ends with
[The company] reserves the right to change, amend, modify, suspend or terminate its employment practices, policies, employee benefit plans or programs at any time…

One can easily understand why this company includes such warnings in its employee communications. Over the years they have been sued many times.

But consider the message this sends to salaried employees: You can’t count on any future benefits from the company. Forget about all the enticements we offered you to join us. They aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. It’s no wonder people graduating from college today often go into business for themselves. There’s no point working for someone else for 30 or 40 years if he fails to keep his promises.

Eventually this trend will take its toll on large companies. People involved in design and engineering are salaried, so they don’t have the protection of a union contract. The absence of any guarantees that would entice such people to stay on board long term will lead them to job hop or work as independent consultants. But design, engineering, software development and other technical functions need continuity, and continuity is lost when the work force is constantly shifting.

One solution might be for these people to unionize, but professionals are generally too independent to work under the constricts of a union, and experience has shown that most unions are not good for the employer, either. Another solution is 401(k) programs that don’t require employees to invest in their employer, and medical savings plans. In both these programs the money contributed to date is under the employee’s control – within the strictures of the laws governing such programs.

It’s clear that some solution is needed if our large companies intend to remain competitive and in business.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why regulation fails

An article reported by AP June 17, 2009 says in part:

Obama's sweeping change of business regulation also embraces new powers for the Federal Reserve and new rules that would reach into currently unregulated regions of the financial markets. An 85-page draft details an effort to change a regime that Obama's economic team maintained had become too porous for the innovations and intricacies of the today's financial markets.

This of course is not the first attempt to close up loopholes in the regulatory structure. Sarbanes-Oxley was supposed to improve reporting on corporate governance and prevent disasters like Enron and MCC. Before that many other regulations were published to deal with other loopholes.

But people are resourceful. Whenever a strategy that makes money for its practitioners is prohibited by regulation, people put their lawyers to work to find workarounds, or entirely new strategies. Over time the regulatory structure begins to look like Swiss cheese, because it’s impossible to anticipate and evaluate every strategy an innovative investor or his lawyer will devise. Some of the strategies of course are perfectly reasonable and perhaps even benefit society. Legislators and regulators don’t always make that distinction.

So what’s the solution? I argue for minimal government regulation and lots of transparency in the conduct of business affairs. The transparency ought not to be achieved by government regulation however, or we will end up with another expensive nightmare like Sarbanes Oxley. Transparency can be best assured by the most basic of laws, trade associations, and customer due diligence. With less regulation customers will realize enough additional profit to more than make up for the occasional shyster that slips past law, trade association policies, the Better Business Bureau and customer due diligence.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Windows Vista x64 and other software don't mix

Last September our apartment was burglarized. Among the items stolen was my wife's Toshiba Satellite PC. Since we had been quite satisfied with the Toshiba (It was good -- for a PC. I'm a Mac user myself) we bought another Toshiba. But this one had a 64 bit processor and came preloaded with Windows Vista x64.

We have a Canon printer/scanner/fax that we love. So naturally it was one of the first devices I wanted to get working with the new computer. On Canon's web site I found a driver for the printer, but the scanner toolbox wasn't available for Vista x64. I contacted Canon and they had no idea when or if one would be available. After sending them a somewhat sharply worded email I got a promise to bounce my request up to a higher level, but so far nothing has come of this.

Other software that doesn't work with x64 includes Palm Desktop and the driver for Belkin's USB Bluetooth adapter. This is particularly annoying because Palm states on their website that Palm Desktop isn't available for Windows X64, "but some users may be able to synchronize using Bluetooth"

I wouldn't be so steamed about this if the Canon was old, but we bought it in 2007. If I wanted to play the blame game, I'm sure Microsoft, Toshiba and Canon/Palm/Belkin would all point the finger at one another. But my vote goes for Canon, Palm and Belkin. Vista x64 has been on the market for some time now. Canon, Palm and Belkin have had ample time to write drivers.

I have been a Macintosh user for 20 years, and never have I had problems like this with new architectures. I started out with the Motorola 68xxx version, moved to the PowerPC version and finally to the Intel version (which can run Windows, and seems to run Windows with fewer glitches than a PC) and never had these kinds of problems.

My advice: stick to 32 bit versions of Windows, or, better yet: Get a Mac.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review of Climate Change Papers by Nicola Scafetta, Bruce West et al


Climate scientists in general attribute global warming to the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere[IPCC]. Since the variation of the sun’s irradiance amounts to only about 0.1 percent[IPCC], this seems to be a reasonable conclusion.

However, Nicola Scafetta of Duke University, Bruce West of the Army Research Office and several colleagues have identified a stochastic resonance phenomenon between the sun and the earth that indicates a substantial part of global warming may be due to solar influence.

In part this result is not new. C. Nicolis studied the nearly periodic recurrence of ice ages using stochastic resonance theory [Anishschenko 2002, Scholarpedia Stochastic Resonance article] and concluded there is substantial solar influence on climate over the approximately 100,000 year period of the ice ages [Nicolis 1981]. What is new is that Scafetta et. al. find evidence that the 11 year Schwabe (sunspot) cycle and other short term cycles in solar output influence earth’s climate. This review provides a roadmap of several of Scafetta et. al.’s papers that lead to their results.

Their result doesn’t contradict the overall conclusion that global warming has been occurring since the early part of the twentieth century. However, if correct, their result indicates that limiting CO2 emissions may not have the desired effect. Indeed, their results indicate that we may be on the verge of a global cooling cycle, in which case limiting CO2 emissions is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Outline of Scafetta et. al.’s approach

Scafetta and colleagues demonstrate three points:
1. Solar flares can be characterized by a time series in which the probability density of the waiting time between solar flares is an inverse power law. The solar flare time series exhibits Levy scaling with an inverse power law scaling exponent between 2 and 3
2. Temperature changes in earth’s atmosphere exhibit a slight Levy component with inverse power law scaling exponent between 2 and 3
3. When two coupled processes, one, the source, delivering energy to the other, the sink, are characterized by Levy scaling with similar inverse power law exponents, the sink becomes synchronized to the source and energy transfer is maximized.

Frequency of solar flares

Scafetta et. al. present the results of a statistical analysis of several records of sunspot activity dating back to 1600, [Scafetta 2007] postulating that periods of high sunspot activity correspond to periods of high solar irradiance. They verify this assumption with 20th century data records, which include both sunspot activity and solar irradiance.

They analyze the solar irradiance data using wavelets, [Grigolini 2002] Diffusion Entropy Analysis (DEA) and Standard Deviation Analysis (SDA) to show that the solar irradiance exhibits Levy statistics.

Frequency of atmospheric temperature fluctuations

In [Scafetta 2004, Scafetta 2008] atmospheric temperature fluctuations are studied and a Levy component is identified. They show that the temperature time series is a nonpoisson renewal process with an inverse power law exponent close to that of the solar irradiance time series.

The Complexity Matching Effect

In [Allegrini] 2006] the Complexity Matching Effect (CME) is studied. Briefly the CME is a phenomenon in which two coupled systems whose time evolution is described by inverse power laws with similar exponents can become synchronized, achieving maximum energy transfer between the two. They demonstrate that when the inverse power law exponent of the perturbing system (the sun, which they denote by P) approaches the value of that of the driven system (the earth, designated by S), that energy transfer is maximized. I am less certain that they demonstrate that the earth’s temperature fluctuations can inherit the sun’s solar flare power law exponent. However, if the two power laws have similar exponents, energy transfer is maximized. They display a figure (their Figure 1, reproduced below)that looks very much like the resonance experienced when a second order system is driven near its resonant frequency.

FIG. 1: Inset: fitting of Eq. (9) (solid lines) to Monte Carlo
data (open circles) using TS = TP = 1, μS = 1.6 with μP =
1.35 (upper) and μP = 1.85 (lower). Dashed lines are the
asymptotic dominant term in Eq. (9). Our Monte Carlo used
107 system-perturbation pairs. Main figure: Amplitudes AP
(squares), AS (triangles), Eqs. (8) (solid line) and (7) (dashed
line) as a function of μP , with μS = 1.6.


Note that the papers for which Scafetta is author/coauthor are available from Scafetta's web site: Scafetta web site

[Allegrini] 2006] Paolo Allegrini, Mauro Bologna, Paolo Grigolini, and Bruce J. West, Response of Complex Systems to Complex Perturbations: the Complexity Matching Effect, Draft kindly furnished by Bruce J. West

[Anishschenko 2002] V. S. Anishschenko, V. V. Astakhov, A. B. Neiman, T. E. Vadivasova, and L. Schimansky-Geier, Nonlinear Dynamics of Chaotic and Stochastic Systems, Berlin, Springer 2002

[Grigolini 2002] Paolo Grigolini, Deborah Leddon, and Nicola Scafetta, Diffusion entropy and waiting time statistics of hard-x-ray solar flares, PHYSICAL REVIEW E, VOLUME 65, 046203

[IPCC] Various Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

[Nicolis 1981] Solar Variability and Stochastic Effects on Climate, Solar Physics 74 (1981) pp 473-478

[Scafetta 2007] N. Scafetta1 and B. J. West, Phenomenological reconstructions of the solar signature in the Northern Hemisphere surface temperature records since 1600, Journal of Geophysical Research 112 (2007) D24S03

[Scafetta 2004] Nicola Scafetta, Paolo Grigolini, Timothy Imholt, J.A. Roberts and Bruce J. West, Solar turbulence in earth's global and regional temperature anomalies, Phys. Rev. E 69, 026303 (2004)

[Scafetta 2008] N. Scafetta, T. Imholt, P. Grigolini, J. Roberts, Statistical analysis of air and sea temperature anomalies, (Preprint retrieved from Scafetta’s archives)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Reflections on the firing of Rick Wagoner

I worked for GM during most of Rick Wagoner’s tenure as President/CEO and chairman of GM.
On balance I believe Rick was a good chairman. He reputedly got GM’s management into the computer age by requiring managers to take courses in computer literacy, and he pushed for GM to develop its internal and external web presence.

He certainly had his share of mistakes. The abortive deal with Fiat comes to mind. GM purchased a 15 or 20 percent equity stake in Fiat, which was perhaps defensible. But the contract also required GM to buy the remainder of Fiat if the management of Fiat decided to sell out. They did and GM had to pay several billion dollars to get out of that obligation. Perhaps that infusion of cash has made Fiat healthy enough to be able to contemplate an alliance with Chrysler.

On another occasion, before he was chairman, Wagoner orchestrated one of GM’s many reorganizations. This reorganization had people all over the corporation not knowing who they should be talking to in order to get things done. In the midst of all the confusion Wagoner said, “If we didn’t get this one right, we’ll do another one tomorrow.” That of course was the exact opposite of what was needed. Like many GM managers Wagoner seemed to think that you could change how something functioned by renaming it.

But at least he didn’t get caught in any major snafus like Roger Smith’s BOC/CPC reorganization which did away with Fisher Body – the only organization in GM responsible for maintaining standards for making dies.

Whether or not Wagoner was an able chairman, it must be asked whether the Obama administration made a wise choice in asking him to step down. It seems incredible that a government task force, after few months of study, can make such a decision. Other corporations should look at this example carefully before accepting loans from the government

Why layoffs?

Corporations in financial straits lay off people “to protect the future of the corporation”. There are at least two fallacies inherent in this reasoning:
1) If the people laid off are developing future products, the ability of the corporation to bring these products to market will be impaired. You may think no corporation would ever lay off product developers, but based on 34 years working in technology-based companies, I can assure you they do.
2) If the number of corporations laying people off becomes too large, the impaired purchasing power of consumers may sink the economy.

Alternatively some companies have simply cut the salary and hours of staff members. The individual remains employed and therefore available to the corporation, albeit at a lower salary, but with more free time, which he can use as he sees fit.

Why isn’t this done more frequently? I suspect the main reason is the cost of keeping an employee on the payroll: Insurance, withholding, social security, paperwork, various government mandates … There is a minimum cost just for maintaining an individual on the payroll.

There are financial considerations for the employee. A company cannot pay an individual’s medical insurance if he works less than 30 hours per week. There is no such thing as partial unemployment. Either an individual is employed and ineligible for unemployment, or he’s not employed and can’t earn any money without endangering his unemployment.

One solution is simply for the employer to change the employee’s status to that of a contractor, so the company doesn’t have to withhold Social Security and income tax. This might require a change in the law, or a reinterpretation of existing laws defining what a contractor is, but it would allow the employer to reduce the cost of keeping the employee on the payroll.
Better yet would be looser laws about employment. Let employees opt out of social security, medicare and withholding . Let the employer decide what level of employment is necessary to extend healthcare benefits.

Thanks to Bob Kuhl for a discussion that gave some insights into the consequences of part-time employment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What should conservatives do now?

Conservatives have spent plenty of time and words lamenting the socialist bent of the Obama administration and the current Congress. While telling our friends and neighbors and, indeed, the nation, what is wrong with the administration’s and Congress’ policies, we need to be actively pursuing an agenda of our own.

One part of that agenda ought to be the formation of planning/study groups to formulate plans for undoing the damage the current administration and Congress do. I am tired of hearing talk show hosts say that if, for example, the current government institutes nationalized health care we will never be able to undo it. True, we won’t, if we don’t plan a strategy for undoing it. Such a strategy must address not only what laws and regulation need to be repealed, and how to protect innocent people who have come to rely on them, but also how to justify the plan to the voters.

Plans need to be made for dealing with the huge debt that government is likely to run up. Dare we simply declare a part of it null and void? I doubt it. Historically the US has been faithful about paying its debts. We will need to plan tax reductions to encourage business and innovation. It’s a historical fact that reducing taxes increases government revenue, and we will need increased revenue to pay down the debt. And we may need to plan how to approach creditors to obtain extended terms.

Should criminal or civil prosecution be brought against any of the members of the government? Probably not, except in cases of provable criminal or unethical activity, such as (possibly) the sweetheart mortgages obtained by Barney Frank and others. In any case lists of those culpable should be compiled and appropriate disciplinary measures decided on. A caution is that any disciplinary action should be for real crimes or actions not in the best interests of the nation—they should not be a vendetta.

Every action of the government needs to be studied and responded to – not with criticism, but with alternatives that involve market mechanisms and preserve freedom. Here it’s important to formulate responses in positive terms so that voters can see that we are offering solutions, not merely criticizing.

Candidates for Congress in 2010 and 2012 need to be vetted and evaluated on their positions, their records and their appeal. The same goes for Presidential candidates. Several talk show hosts have said that Republican candidates need to return to their conservative roots. True, but they also need to have appeal. While some of Ronald Reagan’s positions may no longer be relevant (I doubt this) two of his characteristics we must retain are his conservatism and his appeal. Reagan was difficult to dislike, even by those who disagreed emphatically with him. His humor and his “Aw shucks” attitude forced even his political enemies to like him. Conservatives need to be conservative and likable.

You may ask how conservatives should organize. Who do you call? A good place to start is Newt Gingrich’s organization American Solutions. ( American Solutions works by convening groups of people to think through potential solutions to the problems facing our country. Although the solutions proposed will generally please conservatives, they are presented in a common sense way that will convince independents and even a few liberals.