Monday, April 5, 2010

Political Digest April 5, 2010

I post articles because I believe they will be of interest, not because I agree with every—or even any—opinion in them.

I'm Tired
Is now on, which may be driving the new comments flooding in on this post from 14 months ago. The Internet—eternal life!

CBO: ObamaCare Within 5% of Nationalizing Insurance Companies
As I’ve been saying, the plan is to put the insurance companies out of business. They already operate at a 2% to 3.5% profit margin, depending on which survey you accept. Now Obama can do two popular things. Deny rate increases while forcing the companies to extend coverage. More money going out, no more coming in equals bankruptcy, leaving no choice but a public option. Paid for by those rich taxpayers who will soon be drained dry. The collapse is coming. Excerpt: ObamaCare’s regulation of medical loss ratios is crafted to come within a hair-width of the CBO considering the health insurance industry as formally nationalized. Actually, it is nationalized, at huge costs, hidden by the false cuts to providers, to the states' bearing mandated budget costs, and by those covered paying significantly higher premiums, all while the government dictates who and what is covered, how, and by whom.

10 Illegal Aliens Steal $13M – Tax Refunds
Ten people illegally in the United States pleaded guilty for their involvement in a four-year, $13 million fraud against the Internal Revenue Service, acting U.S. Attorney Kevin F. McDonald said Thursday. Nine defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and for entering the United States without authorization, Assistant U.S. Attorney David C. Stephens told The Greenville News . The 10th defendant pleaded guilty to mail fraud and illegal entry, Stephens said. Senior U.S. District Judge G. Ross Anderson Jr. accepted the pleas and will sentence the defendants later. “This is the largest tax fraud case that I’m aware of ever occurring in the district of South Carolina,” Stephens said. “This is an extraordinarily serious, large case.

Climategate: the whitewash continues
Excerpt: The Royal Society (Motto: Nullius in Verba Unless It’s About Global Warming In Which Case We’re Happy To Believe Whatever Unsubstantiated Drivel We’re Fed By Michael Mann, Phil Jones, et al) has announced who’ll be chairing its “independent” inquiry into the science behind the Climategate scandal. And guess what? The man could scarcely be more parti pris if they’d given the job to Al Gore. His name is Lord Oxburgh and, as Bishop Hill reports, he is: President of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association; Chairman of wind energy firm Falck Renewables; A member of the Green Fiscal Commission. So the chairman of this “independent panel” has a direct financial interest in the outcome.

Despite "Stimulus", Some States Hit Highest Jobless Rate On Record
With help like this… Excerpt: In February 2009, the White House predicted that the so-called "stimulus" would create thousands of jobs in every state in 2010. Unfortunately, 49 out of 50 states have yet to see any positive job growth this year. In February 2010, the jobless rate rose in 27 states. The chart below shows the White House's predicted change of jobs through December 2010 compared to the actual change in jobs through February 2010.

Note to Doctors: Now I'm "Entitled" To Your Services
Excerpt: It sounds compassionate for a politician to say “everyone is entitled to adequate medical health care,” but stop and consider the implications of this statement. Vice President Biden – along with President Obama and the majority of the members of the U.S. Congress – have confirmed in the minds of at least some portion of the American public that they are “entitled” to the services of another human being. Those “other” human beings are, of course, Medical Doctors, people who invest huge chunks of their time and energy and often delay gratification of their personal lives for a decade or more and frequently incur enormous personal debt just earning the right to practice their craft. And now the U.S. federal government says that “the rest of us” are entitled to a piece of these individuals. In previous generations, the idea of being entitled to the services of another person was called “slavery.” Can we really call this “fairness” today?

How Texas escaped the real estate crisis
Excerpt: It's one of the great mysteries of the mortgage crisis: Why did Texas -- Texas, of all places! -- escape the real estate bust? Only a dozen states have lower mortgage foreclosure and default rates, and all of them are rural places such as Montana and South Dakota, where they couldn't have a real estate boom if they tried. Texas's 3.1 million mortgage borrowers are a breed of their own among big states with big cities. Fewer than 6 percent of them are in or near foreclosure, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association; the national average is nearly 10 percent. The land in Texas might look an awful lot like its Sun Belt sisters Arizona (with 13 percent of its borrowers in foreclosure) or Nevada (19 percent) -- flat and generous in letting real estate developers sprawl where they will. Texas was even the home base of two of the nation's biggest bubble-era homebuilders, Centex and D.R. Horton. Texan subprime borrowers do especially well compared with their counterparts elsewhere. The foreclosure rate among subprime borrowers in Texas, at less than 19 percent, is the lowest of any state except Alaska. Part of the reason is that Texas didn't experience the stratospheric run-ups in home prices that other states did. On average, the home-resale prices of the 20 metro areas in the Case-Shiller Home Price Index peaked in 2006 after more than doubling since 2000. In Dallas, one of the 20 areas, they rose just 25 percent, gradually, and have barely declined. But there is a broader secret to Texas's success, and Washington reformers ought to be paying very close attention. If there's one thing that Congress can do to help protect borrowers from the worst lending excesses that fueled the mortgage and financial crises, it's to follow the Lone Star State's lead and put the brakes on "cash-out" refinancing and home-equity lending.

The takers weigh down the makers
Excerpt: Here's a question of vastly more than theoretical importance to current and coming generations of Americans: How much longer can the U.S. economy continue to produce enough wealth to sustain a growing class of people who depend on government for some or all of their daily necessities? To pose the question another way: Are we nearing a point when there are no longer enough taxpayers to support all of the tax consumers in America? Such questions become increasingly important as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal civil service retirement, and legions of state and local pension funds approach their days of reckoning as millions of retiring baby boomers demand far more benefits than those programs have been prepared to pay out. And don't forget the growing share of personal income that is derived from government transfer payments such as unemployment, veterans benefits, and the like. If these ruminations sound ominous, they should. Consider this analysis by former Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall, which appeared recently in the Atlantic: "According to the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, the share of total personal income in the United States that comes from government transfer programs -- Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, unemployment compensation, etc. -- has grown rapidly over the past six decades, from 5.9 cents of every dollar in 1950 ... to 17.3 cents in 2009. In addition, according to BEA, another 9.8 cents of every dollar went, in 2009, to salaries for state, local and federal government employees, a figure that does not include costs of fringe benefits. In other words, more than a quarter of all personal income in the United States is paid for with tax dollars." (My answer, as regular readers know, is twenty years, tops. Every dollar taken from the makers is a dollar they can’t spend on goods and services, that would have gone to factor workers, waiters, mechanics, etc.)

Progressives can't get past the Knowledge Problem
Excerpt: Economist Friedrich Hayek explained in 1945 why centrally controlled "command economies" were doomed to waste, inefficiency, and collapse: Insufficient knowledge. He won a Nobel Prize. But it turns out he was righter than he knew. In his "The Use of Knowledge In Society," Hayek explained that information about supply and demand, scarcity and abundance, wants and needs exists in no single place in any economy. The economy is simply too large and complicated for such information to be gathered together. Any economic planner who attempts to do so will wind up hopelessly uninformed and behind the times, reacting to economic changes in a clumsy, too-late fashion and then being forced to react again to fix the problems that the previous mistakes created, leading to new problems, and so on. Market mechanisms, like pricing, do a better job than planners because they incorporate what everyone knows indirectly through signals like price, without central planning. Thus, no matter how deceptively simple and appealing command economy programs are, they are sure to trip up their operators, because the operators can't possibly be smart enough to make them work. Hayek's insight into economics and regulation is often called "The Knowledge Problem," and it is a very powerful notion. But recent events suggest that it's not just the economy that regulators don't understand well enough -- it's also their own regulations. (Progressives think all other centrally-planned economies failed because no one as wise and compassionate as themselves was put in charge to coerce the boobs—you and me—into doing the right thing. Or else, Comrade!)

Short-term customers boosting health costs
Surprise, surprise, surprise. Excerpt: Thousands of consumers are gaming Massachusetts’ 2006 health insurance law by buying insurance when they need to cover pricey medical care, such as fertility treatments and knee surgery, and then swiftly dropping coverage, a practice that insurance executives say is driving up costs for other people and small businesses. In 2009 alone, 936 people signed up for coverage with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts for three months or less and ran up claims of more than $1,000 per month while in the plan. Their medical spending while insured was more than four times the average for consumers who buy coverage on their own and retain it in a normal fashion, according to data the state’s largest private insurer provided the Globe. The typical monthly premium for these short-term members was $400, but their average claims exceeded $2,200 per month. The previous year, the company’s data show it had even more high-spending, short-term members. Over those two years, the figures suggest the price tag ran into the millions.

New adversary in U.S. drug war: Contract killers for Mexican cartels
Putting them in prison doesn’t work. Putting them in the ground has a zero recidivism rate. Excerpt: A cross-border drug gang born in the prison cells of Texas has evolved into a sophisticated paramilitary killing machine that U.S. and Mexican officials suspect is responsible for thousands of assassinations here, including the recent ambush and slaying of three people linked to the U.S. consulate. The heavily tattooed Barrio Azteca gang members have long operated across the border in El Paso, dealing drugs and stealing cars. But in Ciudad Juarez, the organization now specializes in contract killing for the Juarez drug cartel. According to U.S. law enforcement officers, it may have been involved in as many as half of the 2,660 killings in the city in the past year. Officials on both sides of the border have watched as the Aztecas honed their ability to locate targets, stalk them and finally strike in brazen ambushes involving multiple chase cars, coded radio communications, coordinated blocking maneuvers and disciplined firepower by masked gunmen in body armor. Afterward, the assassins vanish, back to safe houses in the Juarez barrios or across the bridge to El Paso. "Within their business of killing, they have surveillance people, intel people and shooters. They have a degree of specialization," said David Cuthbertson, special agent in charge of the FBI's El Paso division. "They work day in and day out, with a list of people to kill, and they get proficient at it."

Is Arizona's border a gateway for nukes?
Excerpt: Nuclear proliferation in far-off places like Iran and Pakistan threaten peace and prosperity in Arizona. The math is simple. Iran and Pakistan are cozy with extremist groups that are intent on using nuclear material against their enemies. Arizona may not be the enemy of extremist groups like Hezbollah, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and al-Qaida, but America is, and Arizona happens to have the ideal porous border for nefarious activity. What's more, there is a growing relationship between extremist groups and drug traffickers. The latter are well entrenched at our southern border.

Obama ends three-month-old program requiring extra screening of air passengers from 13 Muslim countries
If a plane load of folks have to die to be PC, it’s a small price for President Wobbly to pay. Excerpt: The fourteen countries were Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen -- and Cuba. In January I wrote this about this program: "Watch for the howls from groups that pretend to be interested in American security but are in reality only interested in furthering the Islamic jihad." And now in the story below there is this: "Islamic groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council assailed the policy as profiling because most of the countries, such as Algeria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, are predominantly Muslim."

3 killed, 9 injured when Muslim insurgents fire at teashop in Narathiwat
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: Three civilians were killed and nine other injured when two Muslim insurgents opened fire at a teashop in this southern border province Thursday night.

Canada Muslims: "We love jihad. We love killing you....You f*ckers need another Holocaust"
Didn’t get the memo.

FGM: 'traditional practice' in 32 countries, of which 29 are OIC States -- 3 million girls mutilated worldwide each year, 95% of Egyptians
Excerpt: We decided to speak out again on a "traditional practice", whose religious links are vociferously denied, despite irrefutable UNICEF facts and figures. FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is spreading in Europe with some migrant populations that practise it traditionally. There are now over 1,500 cases in Geneva and nearly 10,000 in Switzerland, with hundreds of thousands in European Union countries. This won't cease until it is strongly penalized, backed by an unambiguous fatwa from the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar (Cairo) stating, unambiguously, that this 'cultural relativism' is forbidden by all legal traditions in Islam - unfortunately, this is unlikely. The subject is still considered taboo at the UN and an explicit mention of Sharia justification usually leads to an angry denial and rude denigrations, as we have learned from personal experience since 1993. (Not all Muslims practice FGM, and not all FGM is by Muslims. But the majority is.)

This time, Israel will not walk into the ovens
President Wobbly is more worried about Jews building houses than Muslims building A-bombs. Tells you all you need to know. Excerpt: A Jewish author, Primo Levi, was once asked what he had learned from the Holocaust. He replied, “When a man with a gun says he’s going to kill you - believe him.” At this moment, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man who, in the same breath, both denies the Holocaust ever occurred, and then threatens to make it happen again, is arrogantly holding a gun with which he vows to wipe the state of Israel off the map. But where is the Obama Administration? Israel remains the truest friend America has in this world, and our two nations need each other now as much as we ever have; because a nuclear Iran represents a threat to the paradigm of freedom for the entire world. It also represents a truly fundamental, existential threat to the state of Israel. Yet, in recent days, Israel has received more open rebuke from the Obama administration for plans to build houses in Jerusalem than Iran has received for building a secret uranium enrichment facility to build nuclear weapons that would threaten the entire world.


  1. Deny rate increases while forcing the companies to extend coverage? This is news to me. I thought one of the major criticisms of the bill is that it does absolutely nothing to contain rate increases. But if what you are saying it true, good. I want those insurance companies to go out of business. In fact, I was very much in favor of a public option because it would very likely make a lot of insurance companies go out of business.

    “Putting them in prison doesn’t work. Putting them in the ground has a zero recidivism rate.” … Again, the legalization of marijuana cannot come fast enough.

    “President Wobbly is more worried about Jews building houses than Muslims building A-bombs.” … We do enough for Israel. Obama just signed over $3 billion to Israel, so if he wants to blow off Netanyahu for dinner, that’s his prerogative. Besides, I think the White House “indignation” over the East Jerusalem settlements is exaggerated and only expressed to make the U.S. look like it’s being fair to Arab countries. Israel can pretty much do whatever the hell it wants and does. They figured out a long time ago that the U.S. rarely calls them on things and when we do, it’s only spineless, verbal outrage anyway.

    I have a post about the recent leaked footage taken in 2007 of presumably innocent people, including two Reuters journalists, being shot down from 2 American helicopters in Iraq. I’d be interested to hearing your input.

  2. I agree with everything tartanmarine says except for the druggies. However you have to have a loved one in that spot to understand. Keep up the good word.