Mittwoch, März 31, 2010

Put A Fork In It...

This was a surprise to read: the real story finally comes out, one that should have been obvious, but where MSM and everyday journalism (and journalists) failed.

The key quote is the very first sentence:

The 20-year effort by environmentalists to establish climate science as the primary basis for far-reaching action to decarbonize the global energy economy today lies in ruins.

Yep: it never was about the science: it was, from the very beginning, an attempt by environmentalists to take over and control the world's economy.

All the holier-than-thou arguments, all the appeals to science, were nothing but an attempt to take over literally everything. All those on that side of the argument were either in on the deal or were willing fools, either out of ignorance or out of support.

In case you're not entirely convinced, there is this as well:

Climate science, even at its most uncontroversial, could never motivate the remaking of the entire global energy economy. Efforts to use climate science to threaten an apocalyptic future should we fail to embrace green proposals, and to characterize present-day natural disasters as terrifying previews of an impending day of reckoning, have only served to undermine the credibility of both climate science and progressive energy policy.

To repeat: it was never about the science: it was always about getting control over the world economy. Period. End of story.

Who is saying this?

Ted Nordhaus, left, and Michael Shellenberger are the authors of Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility and a recent collection of energy and climate writings.

More importantly, this was posted at Environment360, hosted at Yale, and one of the more important environmentalist web sites.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger continue:

The habit of overstating the current state of climate science knowledge, and in particular our understanding of the relationship between global warming and present-day weather events, has been difficult for environmentalists to give up because, on one level, it has worked so well for them.

This says it all: it has worked so well for them because it was something they could use to further their goals, of controlling the world economy.

In other words, the worst fears of the critics has been shown to be true: the arguments to make such sweeping changes to the world economy were based not on science, not on empirical evidence and scientific method (let's leave peer review out of the story for the time being, given how tainted that has become), but in spin and deception, if not outright lies. Imagine what would have happened if the world had gone along with the environmentalists taking control of the world economy in the name of preventing something that wouldn't have happened the way that they said it was going to?

That would have been the greatest fraud in the history of the world, bar none.

For more than 20 years, advocates have simultaneously overestimated the certainty with which climate science could predict the future and underestimated the economic and technological challenges associated with rapidly decarbonizing the energy economy. The oft-heard mantra that "All we lack is political will" assumes that the solutions to global warming are close at hand and that the primary obstacle to implementing them is public ignorance fed by fossil-fuel-funded skeptics.

In other words, they overplayed their hand and their claims are worthless.

Put a fork into it, people, it's cooked.

Freitag, März 26, 2010

Economic Ignorance...

Let's see if I have this right.

People bought houses they couldn't afford, or took out second mortgages so that they could expand on what they had.

That was their decision, certainly made simpler by lax lending standards and by very low interest rates.

Now, as they are under water and their loans are turning delinquent, do the owners of the mortgage do what they are supposed to do? Which is to repossess after repayment efforts fail, sell the object and prosecute for the difference between sale price and balance due?

Why, goodness no: that'd be ... unfair.

Instead, we get this.

The Obama administration plans to overhaul how it is tackling the foreclosure crisis, in part by requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for many borrowers who are unemployed, senior officials said Thursday.

And this solves the problem ... how?

All this does is punish the lenders.

The administration's new push also seeks to more aggressively help borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, offering financial incentives for the first time to lenders to cut the loan balances of such distressed homeowners. Those who are still current on their mortgages could get the chance to refinance on better terms into loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration.

And this solves the problem ... how?

In other words, the government is now going to pay lenders not to foreclose. You heard that right: taxpayer money is going to bail out those who make really, really, really bad financial decisions.

That works out just great for the lender, the borrower, but not the taxpayer...

In addition to mortgage relief for unemployed borrowers, the program features four other key elements, including several steps to address the growing population of borrowers who owe significantly more than their home is worth, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not been made. Underwater borrowers now make up about a quarter of all homeowners, according to First American CoreLogic. Economists consider these homeowners at higher risk of default because they cannot sell or refinance their home when they run into financial troubles.

And this solves the problem ... how?

In other words, the government is going to spend billions so that homeowners won't lose out as long as prices are down. Ye gods.

The first key element is that the government will provide financial incentives to lenders that cut the balance of a borrower's mortgage. Banks and other lenders will be asked to reduce the principal owed on a loan if the amount is 15 percent more than their home is worth. The reduced amount would be set aside and forgiven by the lender over three years, as long as the homeowner remained current on the loan.

Until recently, administration officials had been reluctant to encourage lenders to cut the principal balance, worrying that this would encourage borrowers to become delinquent. But as federal regulators have struggled to make an impact on the foreclosure crisis, those qualms have weakened.

"We would prefer to see a required principal forgiveness program. But this is helpful," said David Berenbaum, chief program officer for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit housing group. "This is another tool that will help consumers weather the crisis."

And this solves the problem ... how?

First of all, the NCRC are complete and total economic idiots: a required principal forgiveness program is nothing less than having taxpayers give borrowers their houses for free.

The only government incentive that cuts the balance of a borrower's mortgage is one that makes up that difference to the bank, either in full (even the government isn't that stupid...well, let's assume that at least for now) or discounted. If prices are 15% less than the home is "worth" - this is gonna be real easy, since it's based on a house assessment, and the banks, if they can get their money, are gonna be happy to give that one - then the bank sucks it down over three years.

And the incentive to become delinquent just went up astronomically.

Second, the government will double the amount it pays to lenders that help modify second mortgages, such as piggyback loans, which enabled home buyers to put little or no money down, and home equity lines of credit.

These second mortgages are an added burden on struggling homeowners, especially when their total debt, as a result, is greater than their home value.

Federal officials have estimated that about half of all troubled homeowners have a second mortgage and last year launched a program to encourage lenders to restructure them. That effort has struggled to get off the ground.

And this solves the problem ... how?

If you took out a second mortgage, you got a chunk of money from the lender based on what your house was "worth". If you were so foolish as to then take that money and go out and buy stuff, then you are an financial idiot. Well, guess what: if you are, the government is here to help you. If you aren't, live within your means, then you get to pay for your idiot neighbor who took out a second mortgage, bought a new car, took a vacation, and pointedly talks about how great it is to watch Leno in HD on his huge TV while you drive your car into the ground, spend vacations at home, and are still watching electrons dance across phosphorous coatings in a vacuum tube.

Feels all nice, warm and fuzzy, doesn't it?

Third, the new effort also increases the incentives paid to those lenders that find a way to avoid foreclosing on delinquent borrowers even if they can't qualify for mortgage relief. For example, the administration is scheduled to launch a program next month encouraging lenders to have borrowers sell their homes for less than the mortgage balance in what is known as a short sale.

And this solves the problem ... how?

Instead of foreclosing, sell the sucker. Right: like that makes a difference?

Fourth, the administration is increasingly turning to the Federal Housing Administration to help underwater borrowers who are still keeping up their payments. The aim is to help these borrowers refinance into a more affordable loan. The FHA will offer incentives to lenders that reduce the amount borrowers owe on their primary mortgages by at least 10 percent.

For those borrowers who have more than one mortgage on their house, the FHA will allow refinancing of the first loan only. The new loan and any second mortgage could not exceed 15 percent of the home's value. This approach is meant to benefit not only borrowers but also lenders by allowing them to offload mortgages that might otherwise fail.

And this solves the problem ... how?

Sorry: none of these "solutions" deals with the original problem. That people bought too much house. It's not that people have the wrong kind of mortgage, that's something easily dealt with between borrower and lender.

Having too much house means that the borrower can never pay the damn thing back. Those who lose their jobs and can't pay their mortgages are unlucky: if there's going to be a federal bailout of being unlucky, then I want some serious cash for my love life in the 1970s and 1980s, folks, serious cash.

This is nothing less than economic ignorance.

If you want the problems solved, it's easy, but hard: fail to pay your mortgage, and you lose your house and any equity involved. The house belongs to the bank: it has always belonged to the bank until you pay off the last red cent you owe. The banks can become landlords and start charging your rent: it's a cash flow for them, and cash flow is everything for a bank.

Do we see that as a solution? Of course not: the banks don't want to become landlords with repairs and all the other fun stuff being a landlord represents. If the government were serious about this, they'd realize that there is no way in hell that any of these plans will make a difference to the fundamental problem.

To use the vernacular, letting a shit sandwich sit out in the sun for a nice, long period of time will not make it more palatable.

The government policies that led to the subprime crisis caused this. It's up to the government to find an actual solution to the problem. They are not: they are part of the problem, not the solution. Right now the only thing they are doing is postponing the inevitable.

And it is inevitable: see this. Actually, if the government were honest, they'd report that the situation is even worse, since the government guarantees over $6bn of SGE liabilities that aren't currently included in that debt figure of 90% of GDP: if they did include that - and anyone except economic idiots would - because it is an uninsured liability, then debt goes well north of 100% of GDP, and that, my friends and readers, means that the government has taken on so much debt that its debt will be downgraded by the rating agencies. This is economic ignorance of the very worst kind: of knowing it and doing it nonetheless because if you don't, you can't give everyone unicorns.

Bluntly put: this Administration is, in terms of economic and fiscal policies, easily the worst administration since the days of the Great Depression. They are actively driving the government deficit to the point where it will take, literally, generations to get out of the hole the Obama Administration is now digging.

This is economic ignorance. Get used to it.

You'll get it from the House for at least another seven months, from the Senate for longer, and with any luck President Obama will be a one-term President. The path that the Democrats have placed this country on is not sustainable.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

Because we most certainly are not getting it now.

Speaking A Most Uncomfortable Truth To Power...

The left just loves to think that they "speak truth to power".

The Urban Dictionary tells the real story:

A vacuous phrase used by some on the political Left, especially the denizens of the Democratic Underground website. Ostensibly, it means to verbally confront or challenge conservative politicians and conservative ideals using the overwhelmingly logical and moral arguments of liberalism. Doing so would, naturally of course, devastate the target individual, leaving them a stuttering, stammering bowl of defeated jelly. That or cause them to experience an epiphany that would have such a profound, worldview-changing effect that they would immediately go out and buy a Che t-shirt and start reading Noam Chomsky. Unfortunately, the individuals who would use this phrase have little or no understanding of either liberalism or conservatism, and the "truth" that they speak consists mainly of epithets and talking points, memorized by rote, which they learned from other, equally vapid liberals. As such "speak truth to power" joins other feel-good but ultimately meaningless gems from Leftist history such as "right on", "up against the wall". "question everything" and the ever-popular "fuck you, pig".

The phrase comes from the Quaker movement, which you can see here.

Here is an example of actually speaking truth to power: not of vacuous nonsense, but of speaking the truth in the face of power. For the English see this translated here.

The title of the article seems harsh: Não doe para o Haiti, or Do Not Donate To Haiti.

It is harsh, but not for the reasons one might think. Donate to Haiti, and you will perpetrate the continued subjugation of Haiti by ultra-liberal NGOs who waste the monies donated for their own pet projects against the best advice and explicit wishes of the Haitians themselves.

Go read the whole thing.

But the real uncomfortable truth for those in power - especially in this case, NGO Power - is the source of that article: a Brazilian newspaper.

The center of the world is shifting: whereas 30 years ago, you had the clear delineation between advanced economies with well-functioning governments (aka "The West") and pretty much everyone else, this is no longer quite so clear. Many advanced economies, pursuing some woolly-headed idea of "post-industrial" economics, have almost ruined their economies by driving industry off-shore and burdening what is left with parasitical entities that leave increasingly little left over for their troubles. Today we are one the cusp of an industrial shift that will be devastating to the West, one of their own making and one that few, if any, in the West are prepared for, let alone understand the importance and impact of what is happening.

Within 10 years, there will be more manufacturing outside of The West than inside; countries like Brazil, China, India, South Korea, even Malaysia and Indonesia, will be the manufacturing countries of the world, not the industrialized West.

The reasons for this shift are too numerous to go into detail here, but suffice to say: the losers will be those in the West whose jobs can be easily moved elsewhere and who fail to understand basic economics. It's not so much that jobs will move to the developing countries as much more that the centers of growth will shift as the developing countries pull themselves out of poverty and misery.

That is the uncomfortable truth: in 30 years there will be a shift from The West to the newly industrialized, countries with economies that are no longer dependent on commodities trade, cheap unskilled labor and tax breaks/bribery. With economic growth comes economic power, and with economic power comes political power. The uncomfortable truth is that the "advanced" economies of the industrialized West have saddled themselves, in the name of "social justice" and the welfare state, with so much debt, coupled with very large numbers of people who are either neither gainfully employed or, even worse, employed but failing to add real, actual value-added to the economy, that they will not be able to continue to dominate the world economy. The US may - may! - be an exception because of its exceptionalism, but the Obama Administration is doing its level best to destroy that exceptionalism and ensure a long, slow decline.

With this decline there will come a seismic shift in political power: the developing countries, for all their radical rhetoric, as they mature and advance, are learning from the mistakes of the West - the clever ones are, at least - and will increasingly listen to the Gods of the Copybook Headings.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man---
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:---
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

The uncomfortable truth being spoken to power here is that NGOs are not the answer to Haitian problems: they are part of the problem. They want social progress to be given to the Haitians.

Social progress can only be obtained by one way: hard work, saving, personal responsibility, prudence and humility.

Not because NGOs spend other people's monies to achieve things that make no sense - go read that article already! - and do nothing.  Of course, the NGO supporters aren't going to listen to me.

That's why it takes a Brazilian paper to speak truth to power. A most uncomfortable truth at that...

This Is What Happens...

...when you ignore economics.

First of all this:

The re-default rate of loans modified in the first quarter of 2009 was 51.5 percent by the end of the year, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision said in a joint report today. The figure, which measures payments at least 30 days late, climbed to 57.9 percent for changes made in the prior 12 months.

People who took out loans that they cannot repay because their payments are either more than they can afford and/or they owe significantly more on the house than the house is worth are, per definition, insolvent because the discounted cash value of their assets exceeds their ability to finance. Pretending that this is not the case by "modifying" the loans is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig, a dead and bloated one: those defaulting should never have received the loans in the first place.

But by ignoring the economics of the situation, the government decided on policies that have created a nightmare.

Then this:

Interest rates climbed in the bond market Thursday after a government debt auction drew tepid demand. Auctions Tuesday and Wednesday also saw lower demand.

The auction of $32 billion in seven-year notes saw demand fall from the past two months. That means the government could have to start offering higher interest rates to attract buyers.

Testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke affirmed the government's pledge to keep interest rates near zero for an extended period.

Duh: remember, credit default swaps on US government bonds have increased significantly as the market anticipates that the US will lose its excellent credit rating because of the size of the deficits and overall debt levels. As it should, given the circumstances.

Of course, the government cannot afford to have interest rates rise at all: if they do, and especially if they do substantially, then the debt servicing will strangle government finances until discretionary spending is gone. I don't mean limited, I don't mean constrained, I mean that if interest rates were to go to, say, 6% (instead of being basically as low as is technically feasible), then servicing the debt means that there will be no money for discretionary spending. Zilch, nada, you're screwed.

Of course Bernanke has to keep interest rates near zero for as long as humanly possible: if interest rates go up, the debt becomes unmanageable.

This is the logical consequence, speaking from an economics standpoint, of the significant amounts of debt that the US has acquired. Pretending that the markets aren't going to react to this is folly.

But then again, folly appears to be the norm for this Administration. Sheer economic stupidity, I assume from ignorance rather than malice.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

Because we most certainly are not getting it now.

Donnerstag, März 25, 2010

Quote from Grouchoisms

Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him.

--Groucho Marx

Mittwoch, März 24, 2010

...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...

That is, of course, from Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, and was used here to underscore a point.

The point is that ObamaCare, aka The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590), is just that: a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Consider this: no one has had the time to really go through HR 3590 with the necessary manpower, intelligence, wisdom and knowledge to understand what the act really implies: no one really understands the implications.

With perhaps, of course, this exception: this is nothing but a deal being cut by the Obama Administration with no one less than those who he has publicly vilified: President Obama has cut a deal with the insurance companies such that nothing will really happen to them.

Why do I say this? Because they aren't protesting the way that they would if their very existence were threatened. I've written exactly that here: private insurance cannot exist long under ObamaCare, as it removes the public paying for the risks.

Unless, of course, that the public is going to be paying for the whole thing from start to finish: that is what is going to happen.

Consider this (originally from a Q&A from the NYT, via the link above), my emphasis:

In 2014, once the state-run insurance exchanges are up and running, people who earn up to 400 percent of the poverty level (or $88,200 for a family of four) would not have to pay more than 9.5 percent of their income on premiums. People with low incomes could pay as little as 3 percent. The government would help subsidize the rest.

But ultimately, premiums will still reflect the medical care costs in your geographic area, according to Sara Collins, vice president for the Affordable Health Insurance Program at the Commonwealth Fund. That said, insurers would have to adhere to new rules.

For one, older people cannot be charged more than three times as much as younger people. The legislation also includes provisions that could help bring down premiums, but it's still too early to tell how well they would work.

For instance, large group plans that spend more than 15 percent of your premiums on items other than medical costs (or more than 20 percent, in the case of individual and small group plans) must provide a rebate to consumers beginning in 2011. Details are still fuzzy.

Moreover, the legislation would immediately create a process for review of increases in health care premiums and would require plans to justify those increases, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And once the state-run insurance exchanges are up and running, states would be required to report premium increases and recommend whether any plans should be excluded due to unjustified premium increases, according to Kaiser.

Read that and understand: the insurance companies are getting one hell of a deal from this. The government is fixing the premiums for everyone: there will be no further price competition. If individuals don't have the money, they'll be subsidized, based on their income in reference to a multiple of the poverty level.

But see the emphasis I've put in above: premiums will still reflect the medical care costs.

That means that for the insurance company, nothing changes. Older people cannot be charged more than three times? Then raise the premiums for the young until the premiums for older people reach the levels needed.

And it's not that premiums won't increase; they will. But the increases will be planned, and you can be sure that the plans will be always a bit more than is needed in order to drop it down a bit to make themselves look good.

The reason that insurance companies were largely completely and totally silent in this entire debate is because they helped write the legislation and they are in "on the deal".

Now, there are those who might see this as being cynical about the government: but can you honestly look at the corruption of the Chicago machinery and not become cynical?

To quote:

It's like a wet dream for lawyers / insurance companies / client advocates and all other manner of middlewo/men who can make their own livelihoods telling people what they are and are NOT eligible for under the new rules – which, of course, will be SO different than the way things are today.

Of course, it's a bit of crap shoot for people with some kind of chronic disease, like, say, cancer, or who suddenly have a heart attack in the "pre" period – but, hey, they've got to play the game like everybody else.

That said, don't think insurance companies are the ONLY big winners here – so are drug companies, aka Big Pharma, hospitals, and those practitioners of the Hypocritical Oath, the doctors, especially the 55% who DIDN'T support single-payer.

Now you understand why pharmaceutical companies and others lobbied for "reform," rather than protesting it: this is perhaps the most cynical, egregious grab for control of such a huge sector of the economy.

What's in it for those benefiting?

The elimination of competition, no price controls, no additional regulation by the Feds, collusion in markets and having 12 years of exclusive marketing rights for biologic drugs (made from living cells), at the cost of market transparency, effective regulation to control prices and the closing of special loopholes.

HR 3590 and the whole theater that the Democrats took it through to get it passed is just that: theater to hide the true nature of what has just been signed into law: the exact opposite of what was claimed.

If anything, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should be, if there was honesty in packaging here, more properly be renamed the Health Industry Profitability Act.

Because no patients are being protected; no care is being made affordable. Instead, the government is now going to ensure the profitability of the Health Industry (presumably in return for their permanent and undying loyalty in things political, coupled with carefully planned waste and corruption that will make the current incompetency of Medicare pale in comparison.

Instead, there is the cynical misuse of Democratic voter gullibility and the corruption wide-spread in the Democratic Party. 

It's the biggest swindle since ... well, probably Social Security. But given that Social Security is a multi-generational swindle, this one is worse: the swindle is permanent and ongoing.

And you won't be able to escape it.

But proclaiming something to be the radically opposite of what it actually is is nothing new: see this for an utter absurdity along these lines.

But hey, this is nothing new for this smoke-and-mirrors President: see this as well. Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors, folks, in the very best tradition of the corrupt Democratic Party Machine from Chicago. Put up a faked, irrelevant controversy to hide the wholesale thievery.

And President Obama is increasingly looking to be the greatest con man in the history of the American Presidency.

Dienstag, März 23, 2010

Liberalism, Responsibility and The Consequences...

Reading this reminded me of the real problems that health care reform completely and totally ignores. To quote:

At last, the U.S. has come around to universal coverage. Obamacare fixes the terrible injustice of people who can't get health insurance because they're already sick, and people who lose their coverage when they lose their jobs

The "terrible injustice" here isn't that people can't get insurance because they're already sick, or that people lose their coverage when they lose their jobs: the terrible injustice is that people have to bear the consequences of their own decisions, and when they make bad decisions, it's terrible. People who don't get insurance when they are healthy are gambling that they won't; people who have no savings and cannot afford private health insurance during times between jobs are living beyond their means: in either case, they have made a deliberate decision not to take insurance. When they lose their bet, it's a terrible tragedy.

But it has nothing to do with health insurance: they probably don't have life insurance, either. Terrible things happen to people who do not plan for them happening: insuring yourself costs money that they prefer to spend on other things, and is, fundamentally, no different than taking a weekly paycheck and gambling with it to see if you can meet the mortgage this month: if you lose it, then you will barely have enough to pay the bills and make that mortgage payment as well, but if it works, you've got plenty to consume with. While you can choose to live life this way - it's a free country for the time being - it's inherently risky and just plain foolish, since the likelihood that you will be living on a shoe string is so great that it makes no sense to behave this way.

What ObamaCare really means is that personal responsibility for insuring yourself against risks is gone: it has been replaced by the Government deciding what is good for you and what is not good for you. Hence opulent health care insurance for those who prefer such plans will be taxed - at the core, it's a sin tax - and the real problems are not addressed at all:

What you can bet on is that Obamacare will fail miserably at containing costs. Americans already spend 60 per cent more money on health care per capita than we do. Yet, this legislation will do nothing to check the power of trial lawyers, unions, Big Pharma or doctors. It does nothing to check consumer demand for more and better treatments. (And if it did, Americans really would revolt.) Instead of containing costs, the legislation adds even more open-ended entitlement programs.

The official estimate says Obamacare will cost $1-trillion over the next 10 years but will actually lower federal deficits. Don't believe it. A more likely result, reckons Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, is that it will add at least another $562-billion to the deficit, which is already projected to reach an impressive $1.2-trillion by 2020.

I'll repeat what I've said more than once: any health care reform that does not include tort reform to reduce the power of trial lawyers is doomed from the start. For the tort lawyers, ObamaCare is manna from heaven: instead of the deep pockets of the insurance industry (and ultimately their customers) to dig in, the risks are transferred to the US taxpayers, who will bear the costs (since the US government will, after the slow destruction of the insurance industry through this "reform", perforce be the one providing insurance via government-owned industries) at the end of the day.

Liberalism, in removing personal responsibility for any human action, will destroy the economy and government finances in the chimerical pursuit of fighting injustice.

Newsflash for liberals: the universe doesn't give a flying shit about justice. This is much, much worse than the English King ordering the tide to not flow in: this is the enthronement of irresponsibility as the highest good.

Which creates the greatest injustice of it all: you will be punished for obeying the Gods of the Copybook Headings.

That way lies madness. But madness, as we are increasingly seeing, is a function of willful ignorance that you cannot change the laws of economics to suit your own goals, just as you cannot change the laws of physics because they are inconvenient.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

We know we're not getting it now.

The Democrats are now officially The Party Not To Be Trusted With Sharp Objects. They cannot be trusted with anything that involves them counting beyond their appendages. They cannot be trusted with national security, they cannot be trusted to do anything but be such caring empaths.

Ye Gods of the Copybook Headings...

Montag, März 22, 2010


Well, that didn't turn out well.

While at least it didn't come to the "deemed passed" option that would have been toxic, the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill was passed in the House, and I can't imagine that President Obama will delay signing it into law.

At least 10 States have announced their intent to sue, as they see this bill as a tax on existence - requiring all to acquire health care just be existing - which is not permitted under the Constitution.

Now, we know that the Health Care Reform Act will generate new taxes:

High-income investors would pay higher Medicare taxes, tax breaks for out-of-pocket medical deductions would be curtailed, and it would cost insurance companies more to pay executives millions of dollars. Those levies will help fund expansion of Medicaid services for the poor and subsidize health insurance to cover millions who don't currently have benefits.

Raising taxes in the middle of a recession is always such a good idea.*

While I'm not saying (yet) that there is a causal relationship, consider this: the Bond market thinks it's less of a risk to lend to Warren Buffet than it is to lend to the United States Government.

You know what?

They're right.

While Treasuries backed by the full faith and credit of the government typically yield less than corporate debt, the relationship has flipped as Moody's Investors Service predicts the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K. America will use about 7 percent of taxes for debt payments in 2010 and almost 11 percent in 2013, moving "substantially" closer to losing its AAA rating, Moody's said last week.

The Obama Administration is doing absolutely nothing to change this. Nothing, zilch, nada. There's a reason why.

Now, I've stated this here time and time again: the Obama Administration is driven by Chicago politics, which is specialized in dividing an electorate, driving polities apart by race and ethnic origin, in order to control them better, via either elected or appointed (well, actually, in a Chicago election, there is little or no difference...) representatives. The mayor dangles money in front of these representatives and ethnic groups to get them to compete against each other, effectively preventing any uniting of opposition; it is patronage politics at its very worst. Corruption is, as a result, endemic and highly profitable.

To be fair to the citizens of Chicago, this isn't so much about Chicago, but rather of urbanization and a fairly apolitical electorate who simply wants to be left alone to realize their own dreams and who will support those politicians who make these dreams realizable: hence a highly corrupt government will be accepted as a necessary evil if that government also rezones land for inexpensive housing for blue-collar workers (and which supports gentrification for the benefit of the wealthy).

Above all, it is important to get these specific population groups dependent on public money, get them attached to the patronage system. Everything is paid for by the taxpayer, either explicitly in the form of a bloated, inefficient and yet highly paid bureaucracy, plus overpriced goods and services that form the basis for the patronage: hence a minority business will get a city contract that overpays significantly, and will keep that contract as long as there is no overt corruption (i.e. goods and services are actually delivered) and the political patronage system continues to work, i.e. the "right" politicians are supported and financed by the businesses involved.

The taxpayer pays: it is important, under such a system of corruption, that taxes are increased regularly and continuously (so people get used to them in small increments) until the government becomes the major employer and "too big to fail": it also becomes too entrenched to reform, as it employs too many whose jobs would otherwise be at risk and who can be counted on - and given the time off to do so - to be politically active for anyone who actively supports the system, to campaign against everyone and anyone who challenges the system.

Such a government is a parasite, living off the healthy body of the local economy, enabling it to get to a certain size and then choking it with a stranglehold, removing all but the minimum amount of nutrients. It relies on the relative immobility of a population heavily invested, both emotionally and financially, in the local environment. If people can readily and easily leave to suburbs, it suborns these; the number of people leaving because of too tight a stranglehold on their finances is easily outweighed by those searching for work and readily suborned to be part of the system.

Chicago is a successful example of this: Detroit is the failure. Here the parasite took too much from the economy and drove that proud city into ruin.

For this kind of corruption to succeed, moral outrage must be redirected towards other ethnic groups, divide and conquer. High taxes, high costs must be seen as a necessary evil, one that simply can't be avoided, and the first goal of such a party machine is the destruction of any "real" alternative or challenge to this power. You have to ensure that your government is too big to fail, cutting off any real opposition, cutting off any alternatives, cutting off anything but the aggregation of power to those who are running things (which may or may not be those elected...).

This is now what is happening on the national scene.

I am convinced that the Obama Administration is deliberately increasing spending and debt to get the US electorate into a debt trap that it cannot get out of: it is the only explanation for their behavior. The Obama Administration truly believes that the laws it passes will not be, cannot be, shall not be rescinded or turned back (that would violate their progressive belief in the inevitability of "progress").

Why are they doing this? Because, deeply and fundamentally, they believe that they are the elite that must necessarily run the country. See this:

America's intellectual class seems to adore President Barack Obama nearly as much as it reviled his predecessor. While George W. Bush was routinely derided for his purported lack of intelligence and learning, Obama has been embraced by the intellectuals as one of their own — to a degree unmatched by any president since perhaps Woodrow Wilson. Indeed, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof spoke for many when he argued after the 2008 election that "American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual." Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker even sought to make it official, calling Obama a "certified intellectual."

President Obama has found his base: one that is profoundly arrogant to the common man, one that has failed to understand that the country, despite their best attempts to change this, is simply not theirs to dominate, harness and control. They are the elitists of the nation: those opposing them are the populists, the Sarah Palins and George W. Bushes of the country who understand the nature of the American populace.

This schism between the elitists and the populists is nothing new and probably started with the Brain Trusts of President Franklin Roosevelt (President Theodore Roosevelt would have been profoundly amused by the idea that college professors would have something useful to say outside of their narrow fields of expertise...were that we still had politicians of his character!).

What has happened is that the elitists have, by the fact that they are not in charge, become increasingly radicalized and polarized over time, over the decades under populist rule (not only Republican presidents, including President Carter, one of the least elitists Democratic Presidents, and also as a result one of the weakest), and this can be easily seen in the attitude of the elitists looking at President George W. Bush.

To whit: Bush Derangement Syndrome, where one of the best educated Presidents (Yale and Harvard, folks, Yale and Harvard) was vilified by the elitists who were outraged by the mere existence of a President not beholden to their power:

As Damon Linker of the
New Republic put it in November 2009:

Everything about Bush — from his economically libertarian and socially conservative policies to his swaggering gait, mannered Southern drawl, and studied inarticulateness — was intended to convey the message that he was "one of us," an average American bringing his hard-won common sense to bear on the most challenging problems of our time, many if not all of which could be traced to the influence of the godless liberal elites who "really" run the country from their decadent enclaves in New York and Hollywood.

Bush may have successfully used his regular-guy appeal to win the presidency, but it could not have been a surprise — indeed, it must surely have been, in part, his intention — that this approach would draw the ire of liberal intellectuals. Linker's diatribe, and the broadly shared attitude it described, indicated the shrill partisanship of many on the intellectual left. But these objections were also reactions to cultural provocations. They represented a flare-up of the longstanding hostility between elitists and populists in American culture — a hostility that appears undiminished, even in the post-Bush era.

And, in that supremely ironic way that always marks American politics, President Obama is probably the least intellectual of recent US presidents:

Obama's style and approach to decision-making in office have also won him kudos from intellectual observers who appreciate "his deliberateness, his empiricism, and his suspicion of easy answers," as Paul Glastris wrote in
Washington Monthly late in 2008. This easy praise from academics and the literati — praise that often seems to be driven as much by distaste for George W. Bush as admiration for his successor — has largely spared Obama the task of cultivating relationships with the intellectuals. While there is no shortage of Ph.D.s in his administration — most prominently among Peter Orszag's staff at the Office of Management and Budget — Obama has no liaison to the intellectual world, formal or informal. He has closed down the Office of Strategic Initiatives, and has so far avoided explicit outreach to the academic world (aside from occasional meetings with historians — a longstanding White House tradition). When recently asked by a reporter about his reading habits, Obama replied: "I don't get a chance to read things other than briefing books very often these days." It is almost impossible to imagine that any of his recent predecessors would have given such an answer (or gotten away with it if he had); all made a point of showing off their reading lists to highlight their intellectual seriousness.

Of course President Obama doesn't need to highlight his intellectual seriousness: he already has the intellectuals in his pocket, and his lack of intellectual curiosity - he doesn't read anything other than what others give him - and apparent dogmatic beliefs in the efficacy of big government in face of the empirical evidence to the contrary insulate him from any doubts about his assigned task.

Which is to divide and conquer, just like he learned in Chicago.

How will this happen?

Simple: immigration reform. This is nothing new: it is how the Democrats hope to add, literally, millions of voters, voters who will be beholden to the President who gave them everything in exchange for their loyalty.

The rhetoric will be soft, gentle, reasonable, sensible, and completely and totally wrong. He will use it to play one ethnic group against others, just like LA politics. He will use it to ensure patronage - to empower minority politicians to shape up voting blocs - and to ensure that the Democratic Party will have an enhanced voter base heading into 2012.

So, let's contemplate the future: a government which has driven debt to such levels that it becomes too big to fail, relying on the reluctance of any politician to preside over bankruptcy, poverty and despair; the cynical use of the dirty secret of the American economy (illegal immigration that is wide-spread, toxic and criminal, but carefully ignored because it brings in too much money for those hiring illegals, who themselves can be easily exploited because of their illegality) to create a voting base that will dominate the body politic for at least three generations; a deliberate divide-and-conquer approach to ensure that no meaningful opposition develops; and finally, the enrichment and corruption of a government that truly believes that it has an inherent right to run the country as it sees fit, that will broke no challenge to their power, but will suborn and destroy any opposed.

This is the future of US politics, unless the mid-term elections are truly catastrophic for the Democrats (and a believable candidate can be found for the Republicans which can take back the country for its people) and unless the rule of law, the separation of powers and the inviolability of the US Supreme Court, in conjunction with States that defend their rights, is maintained and held as a bulwark against the "progressives" that believe in their own importance more than anything else.

This is the continuation of the Great American Experiment, of how to be a democratically elected Republic, to stand against the eternal destructive ability of man to corrupt and suborn.

As Benjamin Franklin put it, when asked as he left Independence Hall during the final day of deliberation at the closed of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, "Well, Doctor, what have we got - a Republic or a Monarchy":

A Republic, if you can keep it.

We must now ensure that we can keep it.

* For the humor impaired (aka Democrats), that is sarcasm.

Samstag, März 20, 2010

Quote from Grouchoisms

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

--Groucho Marx

Freitag, März 19, 2010

Quote from Fieldsisms

It was a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the courtesy to thank her for it.

--W. C. Fields

Donnerstag, März 18, 2010

Quote from Grouchoisms

Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him.

--Groucho Marx

To Deem Or Not To Deem...

That appears to be the question.

What *are* the Democrats smoking?

First of all, what does "deem" mean?

It comes from the Middle English demen, from Old English dēman; akin to Old High German tuomen to judge, Old English dōm doom, and dates before the 12th century.

As a transitive verb, it means to come to think or judge; as an intransitive verb, to have an opinion.

It connotates a deliberate decision, after weighing pros and cons, and is final: once something has been "deemed", it is so, but it is not a fact, but rather an opinion.

The Old English definition, to pronounce someones' doom, is eerily appropriate.

As usual, James Taranto in the WSJ has an interesting point or two here:

The promise of reconciliation isn't enough to persuade some representatives to set aside their objections to the Senate bill. The result is the delightfully named "Slaughter rule," under which the House, instead of approving the Senate bill, would approve a "rule" that would "deem" the Senate bill to have "passed."

In other words, they'd vote to say that the bill has been passed without actually voting on the bill: only in Washington, folks, only in Washington.

But it gets worse:

The Post reports that Democrats "suggested Republicans were trying to distract from the real discussion of what's actually in the reform bill. . . . 'If you don't want to talk about substance, [you] talk about process,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said." The Washington Times quotes Rep. Steny Hoyer, Pelosi's No. 2: " 'So what,' says [sic] the American people. What they're interested in is what resulted. 'What did you do for me and my family to make my life more secure and better and greater quality.' And that's what we're trying to do."

This is insanity: what the Democrats are actually saying, implicitly, is that the process of making law is subordinate to what is in the law. If what is in the law is important enough, then the process isn't important: the important thing is what is in the law.

This is insanity: they are saying that if what is in the law is important enough, then they don't need the legislative process to make it law.

Why then even have a Congress, except to perhaps keep Congressmen out of jail during their terms of office? This reduces the role of Congress to nothing. No need for advice and consent if the nominee is important enough. No need for taking the time and effort to work a law through Congress if it is important enough; no need for Congress at all except to give the President money.

And the Congressional Democrats are going along with this, bullied and brow-beaten? Not a backbone amongst them for the greatest outreach of Presidential power in the history of these United States?

Apparently not.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is pronouncing the doom of the Democratic Party. It will be richly, richly deserved if this goes through: this is becoming the most imperial of presidencies, far beyond Nixon. This is the active attempt to subvert the role of Congress, to turn it into a rubber-stamp body worthy of a third-rate dictatorship.

Ye compassionate and forgiving gods, take pity on this country.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

We simply need to demand a higher quality of government from our elected officials: ignoring process and procedure to "get the job done" is what drives dictatorships, from the viewpoint of the dictators.

At this point, 'tis apparent who was elected.

Dienstag, März 16, 2010

Poisoned By Lawyers...

And as a consequence of the new class, we have this.

Woops: here is the original source.

Law, after all, is a degree of last resort: a dumping ground for obnoxious, insecure also-rans who lacked the creativity for art and the brainpower for higher mathematics and science. Long an academic "lifeboat" for drowning liberal-arts losers, it's one today peppered with holes and sinking by the head. Harry's spot-on about the bar's total lack of math ability: most lawyers remove their underpants when required to count higher than twenty.... 

Any mouth-breather can drool on the LSAT, sleep through 3 years of Socratic time-wasting bullshit, and scribble some passable gibberish on the ole' barzam. It's essentially a standardless "profession." As the old saw goes, the MCAT determines if one goes to med school, while the LSAT merely determines where one goes to law school....

I know some lawyers, and that is not always true. But it is so for far more than is good for the soul.

The New Class...

One of the more important books that I read during the 1970s was Milovan Djilas' work "The New Class, An Analysis of the Communist System". I have the third printing from August, 1957.

His pedigree as a socialist was impeccable: he founded the Yugoslav partisans along with Tito, fought the fascists, met Stalin and the leadership of the Soviet Union during the war and was in the battle to liberate Belgrad from the Wehrmacht. He was Vice-President of the newly proclaimed Yugoslavia with Tito. He was also in charge of propaganda, a key post in any communist or socialist government and one that is always, invariably, filled with someone whose principles were above reproach and whose obedience to the commands of the Party complete.

He was being actively groomed to be Tito's successor, the number 2 man in the country, when he started writing about how a new ruling class was being formed in Yugoslavia, and given the fact that this ruling class was centered around Tito, his patronage and hence privileges, he did not last long: he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for saying, to the New York Times - now, isn't that ironic - that his country had become totalitarian, ruled by undemocratic forces and reactionary elements. For writing The New Class, Djilas was sentenced to another seven years in prison. Read his life story at the link above: he was a man that refused to compromise, regardless of what it cost.

Here are some key quotes (p37/38):

  The greatest illusion was that industrialization and collectivization in the USSR, and the destruction of capitalist ownership, would result in a classless society. In 1936, when the new Constitution was promulgated, Stalin announced that the "exploiting class" has ceased to exist. The capitalist and other classes of ancient origin had in fact been destroyed, but a new class, previously unknown to history, had been formed.
  It is understandable that this class, like those before it, should believe that the establishment of its power would result in happiness and freedom for all men. The only difference between this and other classes was that it treated the delay in the realization of its illusions more crudely. It this affirmed that its power was more complete that the power of any other class before in history, and its class illusions and prejudices were proportionally greater.
  This new class, the bureaucracy, or more accurately the political bureaucracy, has all the characteristics of earlier ones as well as some new characteristics of its own. ... It did not come to power to complete a new economic order but to establish its own and, in doing so, to establish its power over society.

The emphasis is in the original. While Lenin was the embodiment of the revolution, Stalin became the embodiment of dogmatism: under Stalin, this new class established firm and complete control; after Stalin, they gave up nothing.


  The heroic era of Communism is past. The epoch of its great leaders has ended. The epoch of practical men has set in. The new class has been created. It is at the height of its power and wealth, but it is without new ideas. It has nothing more to tell the people. The only thing that remains is for it to justify itself.


  To the extent that one class, party, or leader stifles criticism completely, or holds absolute power, it or he inevitably falls into an unrealistic, egotistical, and pretentious judgment of reality. ... They spend more time defending themselves from world reality and attacking it than they do in getting accustomed to it. Their adherence to obsolete dogma incites them to senseless actions, from which, on more mature thoughts, they constantly retreat, but with bloody heads. ... The power of reality and the power of life have always been stronger than any kind of brutal force and more real than any theory.

Now read this.

Key quote:

As the best and brightest claimed power in order to rule better and with greater radiance, their critics came to dub them a "new class" in order to draw attention to their sanctimonious aspirations to pursue their own interests by remaking society in their own image. Paradoxically, the conservative critique of the new class could make the "Marxist" move of pointing out how universalist claims masked particularist interests. What ensued was a decades-long conflict between, on the one hand, advocates of more enlightened and ever more expansive administration of society, and, on the other, proponents of reduced state oversight, defenders of society against the state, and the deregulated market against the long reach of political power. The political wrangling of our current moment still takes place within this framework. The complexity of the new class and its culture, however, is that while it sets out to administer society and establish bureaucracies to regulate social and economic life domestically, at the same time it attempts to ratchet down the political and military power that might be projected externally: a strong state toward its subjects, a weak state toward its enemies!

The new class transition to linguistic, cultural, and technocratic expertise unfolded during the profound shift toward a symbolic service economy—new class ascendancy took place during the era of the dramatic decline of manufacturing and the concomitant shift of unionized labor organization primarily into the public sector—and it privileges capacities of semiotic manipulation over material production or even military prowess. Its signature contribution to foreign policy is "smart power," a term that nobly implies that boots on the ground are dumb and that some—still elusive—strategic rhetorical eloquence will make enemies vanish without ever firing a gun, since language is its ultimate power. The corollary economic policy is negative, defined by discourses of environmentalism that imagine achieving greener national spaces by exporting dirty manufacturing and energy consumption to the developing world: not in our backyard. This is not to deny environmental concerns, but rather to recognize them as laden with implications for traditional economic sectors. Most importantly, the transition to the culture of the new class has, in complex ways, taken part in the revolution of the new technologies, with the new class at first benefiting from them, thanks to their advantaging the educated and wealthy—that social inequality known as the "digital divide." But the new technologies, especially the new networks of communication, have undermined the former concentrations of media power and opinion-making, allowing for the emergence of new populist forces, decidedly not new class in their character and programs. ...

It is the assertion of the primacy of logic against the complexity of living, and it runs the risk therefore of collapsing either into an irrelevant ineffectiveness, an idealism incapable of grasping the real, or a destructiveness, when it tries to refashion ways of life into its own invented programs.

I added the emphasis in that last paragraph. This is exactly what we are seeing with the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress: an idealism incapable of grasping the real and hence needing to refashion life into its own invented program.

What I find particularly intriguing is this:

The complexity of the new class and its culture, however, is that while it sets out to administer society and establish bureaucracies to regulate social and economic life domestically, at the same time it attempts to ratchet down the political and military power that might be projected externally: a strong state toward its subjects, a weak state toward its enemies! ... Its signature contribution to foreign policy is "smart power," a term that nobly implies that boots on the ground are dumb and that some—still elusive—strategic rhetorical eloquence will make enemies vanish without ever firing a gun, since language is its ultimate power.

This sums up the entire foreign policy side of the Democrats and the Obama Administration: the reason to ratchet down political and military power is that it fails to serve the interests of the new class. The interests of the new class is to administer society and regulate social and economic life domestically: external threats can only serve to distract from this, and hence the external threats are belittled, dismissed, and solved with elusive strategic rhetorical eloquence that makes enemies simply vanish.

Ye gods. That way lies madness, as we are now seeing.

Sonntag, März 14, 2010

Insurance, Risk and Health Care...

In re-reading Human Action by Ludwig von Mises, the following struck me (from page 107 of the 4th revised edition):

If a man promises to pay at the death of another man a definite sum and charges for this promise the amount adequate to the life expectancy as determined by the calculus of probability, he is not an insurer but a gambler. Insurance, whether conducted according to business principles or according to the principle of mutuality, requires the insurance of a whole class or what can be reasonably be considered as such. Its basic idea is pooling and distribution of risks, not the calculus of probability.

Let us consider what this really means: if everyone within a class is insured, then there is no risk involved anymore, as the pooling and distribution of risks removes the risk factor for the individual.

So far, so good: if anything, this supports the idea of universal health care.

But the approach of the Obama Administration, with the idea that an individual who deliberately chooses not to be insured can pay a penalty fee much smaller than their insurance costs, yet may, at will, choose to acquire insurance when they "need" it, i.e. when they become sick, contradicts this fundamentally.

Consider this (same source, pages 107-109):

Class probability means: We know or assume to know, with regard to the problem concerned, everything about the behavior of a whole class of events or phenomena; but about the actual singular events or phenomena we know nothing but that they are elements of this class. ...

It is a serious mistake to believe that the calculus of probability provides the gambler with any information which could remove or lessen the risk of gambling. ... It is the characteristic mark of gambling that it deals with the unknown, with pure chance. ...

Let us assume that ten tickets, each bearing the name of a different man, are put into a box. One ticket will be drawn, and the man whose name it bears will be liable to pay 100 dollars. Then an insurer can promise to the loser full indemnification if he is in a position to insure each of the ten for a premium of ten dollars. He will collect 100 dollars and will have to pay the same amount to of the ten. But if were to insure one only of them at a rate fixed by the calculus, he would embark not upon an insurance business, but upon gambling. He would substitute himself for the insured. He would collect ten dollars and would get the chance of either of keeping it or losing ten dollars and ninety dollars more.

Can it really be so obvious, or is there something somehow wrong here?

No: it is correct.

The individual member of the pool, the person not a member of the pool, becomes the gambler: someone who lacks health insurance is gambling that they will not need it. If the Obama Administration allows the uninsured to re-enter the pool at any time - specifically by disallowing denial of coverage due to prior conditions (i.e. sickness and disease, accidents that occur during the non-insured periods) and by providing for re-entry into the insurance pool by specifically requiring insurance companies to accept anyone who voluntarily enters into the insurance pool, then they are rewarding gambling in the name of insurance, when the business of insurance specifically excludes those who gamble.

In other words, the approach of the Obama Administration denies the insurance industry the ability to actually operate as an insurance industry, rather than as a gambling bank (which carries the risk inherent in gambling, as opposed to the probability inherent in insurance).

What the Obama Administration fails to understand is this (same source, p.112):

Life itself is exposed to many risks. At any moment it is endangered by disastrous accidents which cannot be controlled, or at least not sufficiently. Every man banks of good luck. He counts upon not being struck by lightening and not being bitten by a viper. There is an element of gambling in human life. Man can remove some of the chrematistic consequences of such disasters and accidents by taking out insurance products. In doing so he banks upon the opposite chances. On the part of the insured the insurance is gambling. His premiums were spent in vain if the disaster does not occur. With regard to non-controllable natural events man is always in the position of a gambler.

(Chrematistic is the study of money. Had to look that one up...)

Hence the idea of the Obama Administration and the others that fervently believe in reform of the health care system is severely flawed if they believe that they can make something inherently risky into something inherently insurable: we can only approach this if you can enforce things like diet, life-style choices, and effectively legislate fitness and a healthy life style.

That way lies madness: it is the attempt to control the uncontrollable. Might as well try to stop the movement of the earth.

Freitag, März 12, 2010

Watch and Weep...

The idiocy that passes for education in the United States can be seen, in devastating form, here.

One quote: The Government is guilty of child abuse.

Watch it.

Mr. Oliver's point is really that education in the US has failed miserably at educating kids to understand the most basic things and is directly responsible for what amounts to child abuse, force-feeding kids food that has been ruined by institutional food preparation runs by accountants and lawyers. He thinks - rather mistakenly, I am sorry to say - that the current Administration is even capable of changing this (via Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign), while in fact the lack of teaching about such extreme basics is a function of modern education in and of itself. Given the fact that the Obama Administration will do absolutely nothing to endanger teacher's unions, they are themselves part of the problem and not the solution.

Our daughters learned to cook at an early age and enjoy doing so. While prepackaged foods are convenient, cooking is really simply too much fun to let someone else do the job for you.

Think There Might Be A Connection?

Between this and this?

In the first link, two experienced pollsters point out how completely and totally disconnected Democratic politicians are from what the American people want, that they are, in fact, delusional in thinking that Americans want the kind of health care reforms that the Democrats are trying to make into law.

First, the battle for public opinion has been lost. Comprehensive health care has been lost. If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate's reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.

Nothing has been more disconcerting than to watch Democratic politicians and their media supporters deceive themselves into believing that the public favors the Democrats' current health-care plan....

...a solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan. Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly. Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data....

The notion that once enactment is forced, the public will suddenly embrace health-care reform could not be further from the truth -- and is likely to become a rallying cry for disaffected Republicans, independents and, yes, Democrats.

The "self-deluding misconstruction of survey data refers to the Obama Administration's delusion that their health-care plans are what the public wants.

Health care is no longer a debate about the merits of specific initiatives. Since the spectacle of Christmas dealmaking to ensure passage of the Senate bill, the issue, in voters' minds, has become less about health care than about the government and a political majority that will neither hear nor heed the will of the people.

Voters are hardly enthralled with the GOP, but the Democrats are pursuing policies that are out of step with the way ordinary Americans think and feel about politics and government....

Unless the Democrats fundamentally change their approach, they will produce not just a march of folly but also run the risk of unmitigated disaster in November.

Bingo. What these two pollsters haven't yet realized - they were pollsters to Carter and Clinton - is that the Democratic Party is proving that they are incapable of leadership, incapable of governing and incapable of understanding basic economics.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

The second link is tied in with the first, underscoring the fact that the Federal Government has lost much credibility: government workers, long under-paid, but with secure jobs, have now become the better-paid group of workers.

Private-industry employers spent an average of $27.42 per hour worked for total employee compensation in December, while total compensation costs for state and local government workers averaged $39.60 per hour.

That's a difference of no less than 44.4% higher wages. That's total compensation, including benefits:

The average government wage and salary per hour of $26.11 was 35 percent higher than the average wage and salary of $19.41 per hour in the private sector. But the percentage difference in benefits was much higher. Benefits for state and local workers averaged $13.49 per hour, nearly 70 percent higher than the $8 per hour in benefits paid by private businesses.

Hence government workers are earning 35% more cash in hand than the private sector, and 70% more for benefits.

Now, the AFSCME say this is because the low-level government jobs have been farmed out to private companies and that this reflects this change, as higher-qualified workers earn more.

But that is exactly the problem: a country where government jobs are better paid (along with that government job security!) means that the government will be considered an increasingly attractive alternative to private-sector jobs.  This might seem okay, even positive if it means that government workers will indeed become more competent, but with one small but critical caveat: per definition, government jobs do not add value to the economy.

Zilch, nada: government jobs are fundamentally administrative jobs, with the usual exceptions for research and design work done by government workers (and I am deliberately including the military: keeping the peace and implementing US foreign policy is, at the end of the day, an administrative task in the greater economic scheme of things).

Hence we are moving to a country where things are administered and implemented, rather than a country where things are built and where jobs get done.

Look at any large company and you can see a drag on the bottom line: administrative costs. In Germany, in a famous example of sheer insanity, the German Office of Work (Arbeitsamt) employs no less than 40% of its employees to administer...the other 60%. Not to administer the unemployed and try to find them a job, but 40% of the workers manage the other 60%, who do the actual work. The inefficiency and incompetence of this institution in Germany is legendary.

This is not the direction to go: if you want a thriving and profitable company, you have to keep the lawyers and accountants under firm and constant control. If you want a thriving economy, you have to keep the role of government in the economy as small as possible and as large as necessary.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

Donnerstag, März 11, 2010

Read And Weep...

First of all, a hat tip to the ever-resourceful TigerHawk. Worth reading in general, and especially here in specific. He links to a Deutsche Bank Research Survey on Health Care, which is in and itself interesting.

But it is the following which is devestating: this is the take of a survey of institutional investors, professional portfolio managers who invest money in health care stocks for mutual funds, pension funds, and hedge funds, looking at the health care reform legislation. Interesting overview from the folks who buy health care stocks.

But it is the following that is devastating:

QUESTION #8: What do you think of the current health care reform legislation? Write-in comments...[EDITOR'S NOTE: SOME OF OUR SELECTED FAVORITES!!!]

"I don't even care anymore. I just want it in the rear view mirror one way or the other."

"The worst piece of legislation in the last 50 years. This bill will do nothing to bend the cost curve and will increase premiums for the 85% of Americans who already have insurance and are happy with it, for the benefit of the 15% who are uninsured."

"It's Robin Hood Healthcare.....take from those that have to give that those that don't have. It does zero to address the actual issues of cost and over- utilization."

"Garbage. Does nothing to address costs and ignores the core problem of employer tax subsidies."

"Reckless. Embarrassing. It should be called the Healthcare Industrial Complex."


"I think it will lead to an upward cost spiral that will cripple the country and contribute to eventual double digit short term interest rates. It is bad legislation and does not address in any way the real problems with US health care which are the fee for service nature of payment in Medicare and the significant private market subsidization of the public system. The democrats are crazy to jam through this highly flawed bill, but the citizens were dumb enough to elect them and need to live with their mistakes."

"No public plan. 30mm more lives covered. Reform isn't that least until maybe 2018 when costs are out of control. Not the time to worry about that yet."

"It's a big cost shift that will create more problems down the road. It will also make U.S. labor markets and capital markets less attractive and less competitive."

"Stop gap. Terrible piece of legislation that will fail to tackle the problem. Hence, we will be back here again in 5-10 years."

"It's an improvement over our current system (sorry to disagree with you libertarians on the list)."

"Awful, just another example of over-reaching by Democrats. Income re-distribution from rich to the poor. Should look at Wyden's plan and fix HC in small steps."

"Mistake for the country. not that bad for stocks. Nobody seems to appreciate the Medicaid HMO expansion opp."

"Terrible policy. Simply put = grossly underfunded entitlement expansion."

If only the Democrats had at least one or two people on board who knew, intuitively, enough economics to understand how severely damaging this "reform" will be to the US economy. This isn't limitations on growth: it's a straight jacket, with leggings weighted with lead, and we're all being thrown in the deep end of the pool to learn how to swim.

Ye gods.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

We know we're not getting it now.

The Obama Tax Increases...

The WSJ has put a figure on the Obama Tax Increases.

$3 Trillion.

Tax increases.

Sure, it's over the next 10 years. But given 300mn US citizens, that works out to be ... $10 000 per person. In additional taxes over a ten year period. Say $1 000/year.

Doesn't sound like much put that way? Well the thing is, not all 300mn Americans work. There are, roughly speaking, 140mn who are employed: that changes the additional taxation to $21 000 per employee, $2 100 per year, roughly $180/month.

And consider this: of that $3 trillion, $1 trillion is to come from the 3.2mn folks who earn more than $250 000/year: that's additional taxes of $31 250/year or $2 600/month. When you consider their income, they can "afford" it, but you have to also understand the implications of increasing taxation here: we are increasingly heading into an economy and society where only the richest actually pay any taxes, and at some point the goose stops laying golden eggs when they realize that there isn't any incentive to do so.

The problem is, is that isn't the taxation: it's the additional taxation. It's what the government has decided that it needs more than you do.

What this Obama budget does is to increase the national debt more than it was increased in the history of the United States before President Obama was elected, and yes I do mean cumulatively. To repeat: the national debt under President Obama will increase more than it has under all previous Presidents, from Washington to the younger Bush.

This means - and it really is only a matter of time at this point - that the rating agencies will, perforce, downgrade the credit risk for the US government, because the US government - under President Obama - is behaving in a very, very risky manner.

To quote from the link:

Without real reforms, the federal government will undertake the greatest intergenerational transfer of debt in American history. Younger generations, not old enough to vote when most of these policies were enacted, will be relegated to staggering tax increases, deep government debt, and slower economic growth in order to pay for their parents' and grandparents' retirement benefits. The President's budget not only does nothing to prevent this fundamentally immoral situation--it makes it worse.

Of course the Obama Administration is doing this: it represents the most narcissistic, me-oriented generation in American history, one that wants, wants, wants without concern about how it can be done. The exact same principles that led to the sub-prime crisis and the insanity of health care reform - something for nothing, and who cares about the economics - is leading the Obama Administration to this as well.

I'll repeat this: I know I sound like a broken record, but we simply need to demand a higher quality of work from our government.

Instead, we have an increasingly irresponsible government that will do lasting damage - it's not permanent, but it will take decades to correct - to the US economy. The Democrats are proving what has been said of them for years: they can't be trusted with government because they are incompetent when it comes to money and economics.

Mittwoch, März 10, 2010

The Logical Thing To Do...

The Obama Administration decided to fine airlines that let people sit on planes when they are delayed, sometimes for hours on end, in an attempt to punish the airlines for somehow allowing this to happen. After all, it's a huge inconvenience and it's unfair to everyone in the plane.

So, what do the airlines do? Do they invest billions in new infrastructure and expand logistics, do they implement new ways of avoiding delays? Do they turn around and bill the airports for failing to invest to handle higher levels of traffic?


Instead, they will simply cancel the flights instead. After all, it's the logical thing to do.

Seriously: the Obama Administration hasn't got a clue. They really do appear to believe that because the airlines can't always handle breakdowns and logistics problems that lead to massive delays (and that they don't return to gates to discharge passengers is because they're not allowed to without everyone having to go back through security and return their baggage, plus gates are in use...), that the airlines should be punished, punished because the poor schmucks on the airplane are inconvenienced.

This is the logical thing to do for the airlines: it avoids the fines, makes it clear to the passenger that the airline can't fly as planned (regardless of the reason), and continues to inconvenience the passengers.

The real reason that flights are delayed and people sit around on them for hours on end? Because the flying passenger only wants to pay for fuel and depreciation on the plane and not for infrastructure: landing fees don't cover infrastructure costs, only handling costs.

If no one pays for the needed infrastructure - additional runways, additional logistics, more employees - then the infrastructure won't be built. Given the incredible and absurd delays for building additional runways - it's a safe venture that lawsuits and lobbying eat up more of the budget than the actual building of the runways - it's no wonder that airports are under-dimensioned for the traffic that they bear (the delays always happen at peak times...duh).

Dienstag, März 09, 2010

Obama At Bat...

Hat-tip: American Digest.

Well, Isn't That ... Special

The Obama presidency just keeps on getting weirder and weirder.

First of all, one of the reasons that President Obama won so handily against Sen. John McCain was that he would somehow make us more loved and respected abroad.

That hasn't worked out well. See this:

A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago and think President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security, a new poll finds.

The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin -- 51 percent to 41 percent -- Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama's presidency.

Hmmmm...isn't that ... special?

But this is the real eye-brow raiser: while vilifying the insurance companies, President Obama is also effectively writing them a check for $336bn. Huh?

You read it right: read this.

You see, if the Health Care bill goes through, President Obama's administration of the bill would give people $336bn to buy health insurance. Which means ... it ends up with the insurance companies.

This is where the rhetoric and reality have clearly parted ways.

And the rhetoric is just turning bizarre. Read this:

The president's pitch was part denunciation of insurance companies — "they continue to ration care on the basis of who's sick and who's healthy," he said — and part criticism of his Republican critics. "You had 10 years. What happened? What were you doing?" he taunted members of a party that held the White House for eight years and control of Congress for a dozen.

They continue to ration care on the basis of who's sick and who's healthy?

That is ... well, just plain bizarre. Of course insurance companies ration care on the basis of who is sick and who is healthy: the healthy don't need health care, the sick do.

And taunting the opposition, who never made health care the single-issue make-and-break-the-budget-and-economy obsession that it is with the Democrats?

The only answer to such a taunt - again, AP's words, not mine - is "We spent ten years pointing out that what you want to do can only bankrupt the country".

President Obama hasn't even started to govern: he is still in campaign mode, and he's behaved very much like he behaved in the Senate after being elected: he's a slacker. And yes, I am serious: he let Congress do the heavy lifting for health care, and is now all worried that it won't pass. If President Obama was truly as serious about health care as he says he is, then he would not have deferred to Congress for the mockeries of law-making that both the House and Senate versions of the bill are.

The joke here is not only the American voter, but on the entire insurance industry.

You see, President Obama simply doesn't comprehend what insurance is really all about: it's not about paying for your health care. Paying for your health care is a budget item amongst all other budget items in your own personal finances: you take out insurance so that this becomes a constant, rather than a variable, allowing you to plan more accurately and with less uncertainty. If health insurance didn't exist and everyone paid-as-you-go, then either you save up for contingencies, creating a reserve for unexpected illnesses and the like, or you go into debt to pay the bills.

What President Obama is doing is creating a health entitlement, the idea that it is the role of the government to take that burden off your back.

What he abysmally fails to state is that someone has to pay the bills. President Obama and the Democrats want to tax the rich to do this, but this is why the Democrats are fundamentally incapable of governing: given the strong price increases in health costs, the goal should be to cut costs, rather than take the money from others.

Without tort reform, there can be no meaningful reduction of health care costs. Remove the profit motive from suing doctors, more often due to the fact that health care isn't perfect and can't save everyone's lives, rather than because of actual malfeasance or incompetence, and health care costs will go down.

But instead, what does President Obama do?


The president's proposal would give the government the right to limit excessive premium increases — a provision included after one firm announced a 39 percent increase in the price of individual policies sold in California. ... It asks companies to "post on your Web sites the justification for any individual or small group rate increases you have implemented or proposed in 2010."

Post justification on your web site?

What is this, junior high school?

Sorry: this cannot be taken seriously. This is not what a leader does. This is what a slacker does. Don't tell me the hours and hours that he may have put it: sheer effort does not make a leader.

Ye Gods.

Freitag, März 05, 2010

Further Data Points For The Trend XVII

Bunch today.

First of all, this is wonderfully ironic: from the folks who vilified their opponents, calling them denialists, folks who should be prosecuted, as little better than Hitler, the complaint that their knights in white armor - the climate "scientists" - are being bullied because...well, because the shoe is on the other foot for once. Their story, of course, is that the "underlying science" hasn't changed: of course, the data that was used to do the analysis has been shown to be largely invented and a figment of imagination, but the science hasn't changed! Ye gods: the fact that the data is worthless makes the science worthless.

The fundamental problem that the climate "scientists" now face is this: peer review has been perverted:

It shouldn't be surprising that those involved in the corruption of peer review should also be happy to use anecdotes and speculation as the moral equivalent of hard scientific data. However, it is important to understand that these people fervently believe in their cause and are convinced that, far from deceiving the public, they are preserving and protecting a higher truth.

It isn't just climate "science" that has been so completely bitch-slapped: all advocacy "science" has been given far too much rope to hang itself with. We now see the results: scientists everywhere must do their homework better, and that means that it is going to be that much harder to actually have a career as a scientist.

The importance of this farce cannot be underestimated: this is, basically, as damaging to science as Lysenko was to Soviet science, where political concerns drove mass-scale falsification and set science back decades. Let us remember what happened:

Lysenkoism grew from four main roots:
  • a necessity to demonstrate the practical relevance of science to the needs of society;
  • the amassing of evidence to show the "correctness" of the concept as a substitute for causal proof;
  • noble cause corruption, whereby data are manipulated to support a cause which is seen as a higher truth; and
  • ideological zeal, such that dissidents are silenced as "enemies of the truth".
This fits the global warming theorists like a glove: the problem is that unless you have complete control of information within the scientific community, the truth will out, and the charlatans and the lysenkoists will be disclosed. But only after they have caused, literally, billions to have been wasted and have had major political influence. If anything, taking this approach rewards the most outrageous and absurd claims, as long as they can cloak themselves in the mantle of science.

In other words, we now see that science, so to speak, is too important to be left to the scientists, especially if the scientists themselves are politically motivated: the value of science is being severely diminished by the claims made and the attempts to prevent opponents from even being able to talk: the last link was to have been censored, but the truth will always out.

Finally, this is a piece that just drips with irony: one of the principle attack dogs of the climate "scientists" now warns that solar schemes in Britain aren't worth the money. Ye gods: imagine that!

The British government is making the same mistake the German government made 10 years ago, by believing that by subsidizing solar energy you can actually drive down the prices (instead, manufacturers make money hand over fist by being able to sell something for quite a bit of money something that ordinarily could barely be sold) and can turn energy production into wonderful, beautiful renewable energy, instead of that dark, dank, nasty stuff that comes out of the ground.

George Monbiot, the man reviled by so many as "Moon-Bot," appears to have woken up in the wake of the climate "science" crisis and is starting to discover that the emperor indeed has no clothes.

Got news for you, George: the emperor has never had clothes on in his life. But hey, welcome back (I hope) to the world of the sane.