Free Markets, Free People

Government

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ObamaCare – the numbers are in

“It’ll save the average family $2,500 a year!”  That was the promise.  Here’s the reality:

… It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.

… The numbers are daunting: It will take $1.993 trillion, a number that looks like $1,993,000,000,000, to provide insurance subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans, and to pay for a massive expansion of Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) costs.

Offsetting that massive outlay will be $643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees related to the Obamacare law. …

Enjoy!

~McQ

Check The Sky For Flying Pigs

Because this actually happened:

In response to Uber ride-sharing drivers now working in the city, the [Portsmouth, NH] Taxi Commission on Wednesday recommended the elimination of taxi medallions, regulation of taxi fares, city taxi inspections and the Taxi Commission itself.
The commission voted unanimously to send a memo to the City Council outlining its recommendations to lift many regulations currently imposed on drivers-for-hire. The council will be asked to instruct City Attorney Robert Sullivan to rewrite the city’s taxi ordinance to reflect the following changes:
* Recognize so-called ride-sharing services offered by platforms including Uber.
* Replace the current taxi medallion system with a registration process that would require all drivers to register with the city clerk’s office and provide proof of commercial insurance.
* Require the Police Department to conduct criminal background checks on all registered drivers, who would be charged a fee for the background checks.
* Require all drivers-for-hire to sign and adhere to a code of conduct.

That’s right. The Taxi Commission voted, unanimously, to end its own existence. I honestly don’t know if that has ever happened before. And if it has has, it was a very long time ago.

[Taxi Commissioner Larry] Cataldo said if drivers are smoking, or offering rides in unkempt vehicles, consumers will decide if they want to hire them. Under the proposal, police would continue to conduct background checks of registered drivers who would also have to provide proof that their passengers are insured for a minimum of $300,000 under a commercial policy.

Several commissioners compared the proposed deregulation of taxi fares to the fact that someone can buy a glass of beer for $4 at a downtown pub and pay $8 for a glass of the same beer at a nearby restaurant.

“I guess it’s going to come down to what consumers want to do,” said Lt. Chris Cummings, the Police Department’s liaison to the Taxi Commission.

Novel concept, huh?

Just to put this in perspective, local officials, who are often the source of particularly pernicious intrusions into our personal lives, have agreed to give up power in favor of consumer choice. Power that can be lucrative in the form of kickbacks, favoritism, and political brokering. Yet, this body of politicians decided that what was best for their constituents was to put in place simple rules and disband itself. That’s just … amazing.

Of course, don’t go hunkering down in your pig blind any time too soon. The ordinary state of affairs looks like this:

After being a promised a blizzard of historic and catastrophic proportions on Monday, New York City residents woke up today to rather meager snow totals and a lot of questions for their public officials.

[…]

The focus, in particular, seems to be about the decision to shut down New York City at 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night. All roads in the region (not just in the city, but in Connecticut and New Jersey, as well) were closed to non-emergency traffic, but Governor Andrew Cuomo also made the unprecedented decision to preemptively shut down the entire NYC subway system. That’s never happened in the 100-plus years of the subways due to snow.

Yet, by 11:00 p.m., it was already becoming clear that such a move was likely going to be unnecessary. That confusion quickly turned to outrage after a report by The Brooklyn Paper that the subway was actually still running. In order to keep the power on and the tracks clear, the MTA continued to shuttle empty trains all throughout the system and was planning to all along. It was apparently Cuomo’s decision to shut the system to passengers, a move that caught MTA off guard and appeared to be unnecessary.

Naturally, some people are upset about the overreaction. It’s one thing to clear the streets of cars, but the subway is the lifeline of the city, particularly for those people who work third-shift jobs or have family and friends in other boroughs. Cries of “nanny state”-ism, political posturing, or just plain cowardice are ringing out today.

Ace describes it this way:

So, now it’s accepted that government officials will essentially declare Martial Law on a whim. Martial Law has become mainstreamed, thanks to our viciously incompetent media.

[…]

These high-handed, alarmist, panicky, lawless actions are being defended on grounds of “safety.”

This is not an overblown statement: All forms of fascism and totalitarianism proceed under the guise of securing the public’s “safety and security.” I don’t think you can cite a single time where fascism did not ride upon twin horses named Public Safety and Public Security.

We seem to becoming jaded by frequent assertions of dictatorial power for this claimed emergency or that imagined crisis.

And let us be clear about things: Cuomo did not do this to “protect the public safety.” He did this to protect his own political safety.

Let us stop pretending to believe the most ridiculous lies of politicians. Let us start dealing forthrightly with one another.

Hearkening back to the Boston Bomber manhunt, he’s not that far off. The question, as always, is how much will the citizenry put up with, and at what point do they stop acting like sheep in the face of “do as we command; it’s for your own good!”

At least in Portsmouth, NH, they’re getting a chance to decide for themselves what’s in their own interests. Let’s hope that catches on.

(h/t: Instapundit)

~ MJW
Twitter: @mjwadeesq

The sad state of the union

Richard Epstein analyzes the performance of Barack Obama as President of the United States, and unsurprisingly, finds it wanting.

In working with matters overseas, the President must lead.  The most that one can expect of Congress is to authorize or ratify the actions that the President must implement. Presidential leadership, announced in a single and decisive voice, is essential, for no one can expect a deliberative body to take the lead in foreign statecraft. On domestic affairs, the opposite stance is appropriate. It is wise in general to look to the Congress to take some leadership in setting basic social and economic policies. But the President gets this division of labor exactly backwards. He is far too passive on foreign affairs and far too meddlesome on domestic ones, which is why his policies in both domains have failed.

A very succinct statement of Obama’s failure.  That leadership thing again … he isn’t one.  And he has no idea how to deal within the political reality of a 3 branch government … even though he was, allegedly, a legislator and Constitutional scholar.  He’s spineless when it comes to the part of the governmental pie that is his pretty exclusively (i.e. foreign policy) and a petulant child in matters concerning domestic affairs using his “pen and phone” to accomplish his goals (goals that are likely to be dismantled at the first opportunity a new president has) rather than working in the prescribed system.

Epstein goes on:

Starting on the foreign policy side, Obama’s policies are driven by the flawed proposition that “smarter” leadership lies in building coalitions that “combine military power with strong diplomacy.” This position, he said in his State of the Union, pays concrete dividends: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership—including our military power—is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.” 

It is all wishful thinking. Militarily, it is never enough to stop an advance if it allows the enemy to use the breathing space to entrench itself further in the places that are under occupation. Obama’s word choice of “ultimately” allows for endless equivocation and delay. The odds of putting together an effective coalition without demonstrable leadership are slim to none, for the President’s only firm commitment—not to use ground troops ever against ISIL—signals to our allies that they too can discharge their obligations by flying the occasional sortie against ISIL positions.

The President may think that it has been an accomplishment to reduce over the past six years the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from close to 180,000 to under 15,000. But to everyone else, the civil disorder attributable to American disengagement signals that America is not an ally to be trusted.

The President therefore grossly miscalculates when he concludes that “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Unfortunately, the facts on the ground show the opposite. Right now the President is bogged down in negotiations with the Iranians over their deployment of nuclear weapons. Little visible progress has been made to date.

And there’s very little incentive for the Iranians to actually cooperate.  It’s all about stalling and buying time.  Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have signed a military pact.  Any guess who has already lost to Iran and just doesn’t know it yet?  It appears at least Congress does and is trying to do something about it (and yes, it’s supposedly outside the scope of their charter, however, Mr. Pen and Phone has declared how he plans to operate … why not Congress.  As someone said, ‘it’s like there are no rules anymore’).

Originally, the President supported at most a six-month moratorium on sanctions in order to lead the Iranians to the bargaining table. Yet when faced with their stalling tactics, he has pleaded for additional time, thus backing away from his explicit promise to keep a firm deadline for making a deal and vowing to veto any legislation that tries to firm up the initial position. Congress may well intervene to keep him to his original word. Generally, this kind of interference is most unwise, but the bipartisan unhappiness on the Iran problem reveals a complete and bipartisan breakdown in trust between Congress and the President.

That’s probably as interesting as anything – even Democrats in Congress have had their fill of Obama’s foreign policy incompetence.  Bottom line?

The President, through his foreign policy, has lost the confidence of his allies across the globe and has emboldened the aggressive behavior of our enemies. Lacking confidence in the United States, our allies will have to fend for themselves, which helps explain the hopeless impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the recent coup in Yemen, to which a few drone attacks are no response. There is also the strong likelihood that Afghanistan will lapse into further violence. It boggles the mind that the President can gloss over such massive failures with empty platitudes.

Indeed. But then “empty platitudes” are one of his few “strengths”.  Naturally, he’s full of them.

Domestically:

The situation on the domestic front is different. On these issues, the President knows that none of his short-term proposals are likely to get through a Republican Congress that is set against further tax increases and government transfer payments. But he nonetheless charges forward in an effort to build a populist political base that will perhaps in time enact most of his program.

But politics aside, the President wholly fails to understand the importance of economic growth in his relentless attack on economic inequality. The difference between these two programs is striking. A growth-program seeks to expand the size of the overall pie, trusting that the able and hardworking people whom the President lauds will be able to garner their share of the pie. The key point here is that gains from growth are sustainable because no firm has any incentive to back away from employment contracts that work to its own advantage. The hands-off policy thus improves economic incentives and reduces administrative overhead at the same time.

None of this makes the slightest impression on the President, who has concluded that his own brand of “middle-class economics works.” At one level, he is surely correct to insist that everyone “gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But it hardly follows that the way to make “working class families feel more secure” is to ply them with a set of educational, housing, and health care subsidies, all of which have to be paid for by someone else, whose life is made less secure by the constant threat of ad hoc government intervention.

This is the cognitive dissonance we often note with leftists in power.  They may be quite bright intellectually, but economically, most are illiterate.  Nothing is “free” … someone pays for it.  And 90% of the time those paying for it are in the middle class.

Then there are the big lies they push in an effort to make themselves look better in the eyes of the public, even though fact don’t support their claims.  Not that it stops them from continuing to claim success.  For instance:

He speaks about the 11 million jobs created since the depths of the last recession. But his claim is full of holes. Right now, the total number of employed individuals in the United States is about what it was six years ago, notwithstanding a population gain of over 15 million people. Worse still, virtually all the gain in employment has come from part-time employment, which is encouraged in part by the Obamacare mandate that stipulates that employers must provide health care insurance for those who work 30-hours a week or more—a topic on which the President was mysteriously silent in his State of the Union address.

So what happens when you begin to believe your own lies?  You make stupid decisions or you back stupid policies:

Unfortunately, the President has already proposed an increase in the capital gains tax to 28 percent for people who earn more than $500,000 in order to fund a variety of educational programs, chiefly by offering a free ride to students who attend community colleges and maintain a 2.5 average, which he hopes would hone skills needed for middle class jobs, but which is more likely to lead to grade inflation. But the argument is wrong on both sides. Proprietary schools are more likely to train people for jobs than community colleges, because they face market responses when they don’t perform. The President’s program thus increases government subsidies without any promise or expectation of improved performance.

Yet the increase in the capital gains tax creates a double whammy. The first point is that the reduction in capital investment that this tax promises will make it more difficult for wages to rise. The simple proposition here is that capital and labor are complementary goods, so that higher wages depend on the better facilities and equipment that makes labor more productive. The second point is that the increase in capital gains rates is likely to translate into a reduction of taxable income. Unlike income from earnings, the capital gains tax is only triggered by a sale or other disposition of property. The high tax results in a reduction of the number of sales. That in turn not only decreases tax revenues, but also the efficiency of the capital markets, because it is more costly for people to switch their investments from inefficient to efficient firms.

And that’s why this man should be no where near the White House.

But we told you all that before he ever ran.

~McQ

So typical

Who is the “servant” here?

With an increase in electric and hybrid vehicles along with better fuel-efficient vehicles, changing Bay Area drivers habit are posing a serious problem for state coffers.

As motorists use less and less gas, gas tax revenues to pay for state highways, roads and bridges shrink. Meanwhile, as gas prices fall, so does the sales tax generated by fuel sales. In California, among the taxes collected on fuel is a 2.25% sales tax on gasoline and a 9.67 percent tax on diesel.

Some state lawmakers feel a mileage tax is the best solution.

Solution for what?

The serious problems posed for “state coffers”.

Hey here’s an idea … when state revenue goes down, how about cutting spending?

Note as well that no one is saying a thing about doing away with the fuel tax.

Nope … it’s all about the “state” and its needs.  And all that needs to be done to deprive Californians of even more of their hard earned dollars is a vote of the legislature and a signature of the governor.  Bingo, instant revenue (and likely a large new bureaucracy to “manage” it).

And the federal government is no different.

When a government is desperate for cash, it goes after the middle class, because that’s where the money is….

Though millions of Americans have been putting money into “tax free” 529 plans to save for their children’s increasingly expensive college educations, President Obama would change the law so that withdrawals from the plans to fund college would be taxed as ordinary income. So while you used to be able to get a nice tax benefit by saving for college, now you’ll be shelling out to Uncle Sam every time you withdraw to pay for Junior’s dorm fees.

This doesn’t hurt the very rich — who just pay for college out of pocket — or the poor, who get financial aid, but it’s pretty rough on the middle– and upper–middle class. In a double-whammy, those withdrawals will show up as income on parents’ income tax forms, which are used to calculate financial aid, making them look richer, and hence reducing grants.

Likewise, Obama proposes to tax the appreciation on inherited homes.

Because, you know, save the middle class … or something.

Pay up, suckers.

~McQ

Even more this and that

Not sure how you stick with one topic a day when so much is going on, thus the appeal of commenting on lots of topics.

For instance, we find out that President Obama is the reason gas prices are down … if his SOTU is to be believed (yeah, it’s not).  The fact that you happened to be hanging out in Washington DC and your title is “President of the United States” doesn’t mean you did anything to make that happen.   As I pointed out earlier, his EPA will soon take care of that anyway.

There were a lot of other bits of fun and fantasy as well – free community college.  Because, you know, its free.  And not to worry, it’s those greedy rich folks that will pay for it.  Mr. Obama wants $320 billion in new taxes.  Capital gains tax – up.  Death tax – up.  Bank tax – up.  And  your 529 savings plan for your kids college?  Yeah, no longer tax free.

That, dear friends, is how you get “free” college.  Isn’t free stuff wonderful?

 

Rob-Peter-NRD-600-w-logo

On to your retirement savings:

There would be a new cap in the amount one could accumulate in the aggregate in all IRA and 401(k) type accounts of $3.4 million. After that, you can’t save any more new dollars. The idea is that this is enough to secure a $210,000 annual distribution in retirement, which the government apparently deems “enough” for a retiree.

Because, of course, nanny knows best.

Finally, if  you’re an employer:

In addition, all employers with more than 10 workers and who do not have a 401(k) type plan would be mandated to set up payroll deduction Traditional IRAs for their employees. Also, part-time workers would have to be covered under retirement plans if they have been working someplace long enough. These two things are a new kind of employer mandate from Obama.

Nice plan, no?  No.  As usual, that means precisely what the cartoon shows.  Someone has to pay for all of this and it isn’t just going to be the employer.

Of course the concept that someone must actually “pay” for these things is always left out of the discussion.  It’s “free” after all.

For a completely different subject, and in case you were wondering, yes, liberals in Hollywood (almost redundant, isn’t it) are still wringing their hands about the all white Oscars.  Or at least doing a good imitation of it.  My favorite theory?  “Racial fatigue”.

The unknowable question is whether the same voters who supported “12 Years a Slave” had racial fatigue after supporting a black film last year.

Because, you know, there’s only so much support those white Hollywood liberals can dole out a year, or something. They gave their all last year.  And you black folks just need to understand that!  By the way, I believe “racial fatigue” does indeed play a part.   People are tired of everything being made to be about race.

Speaking of culture, I found article to be very entertaining.  Is there a civil war brewing on the “progressive” left (one dearly hopes so)?  Why the question?  Dilemmas such as this:

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens were once known as the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism. For a long while, there was nothing more amusing to a young liberal than watching one of them debate against a creationist, or someone who objected to abortion or gay marriage on religious grounds. Dawkins, for a while, was the darling of the British media.

Then things started to sour. Christopher Hitchens, in his full-throated defences of the second Iraq war, was the first to lose left-wing support. Notoriously, Feminist Frequency producer Jonathan McIntosh celebrated Hitchens’ death, saying he was a “despicable, warmongering, hateful human being. Good riddance.” (To put that in perspective, McIntosh had just a few months earlier refused to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden.)

Dawkins, who recently discovered the joys of deliberately offending people on Twitter, has become an even greater figure of hate for progressives. This is probably due to his indiscriminate rationalism: he is just as willing to poke holes in theories of post-modern feminism as he is to attack religion. And when he does attack religion, he insists that Islam is probably the worst one out there. He has become persona non grata in progressive circles as a result.

2014 saw atheists and progressives embroiled in what looked like an all-out war. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a female genital mutilation survivor and one of the fiercest critics of Islam in the atheist movement, was disinvited from a planned speaking engagement at Brandeis University for her criticism of Islam, and was stripped of her honorary degree. Salon.com immediately applauded the decision.

Students at UC Berkeley attempted to do the same to Bill Maher over his alleged islamophobia, but were stopped by the college administration. Sam Harris, another of the “four horsemen”, felt compelled to engage in a three-hour debate with progressive commentator Cenk Uygur after enduring a wave of hatchet-jobs from media progressives for his own comments on Islam.

Progressives may be overwhelmingly atheist, but there is only so much heresy they can stand. One of their core beliefs is that you do not “punch down”–that is, attack vulnerable or marginalised communities. Islam, despite being the dominant religion of dozens of nation-states, is said by progressives to fall into this category.

We’ve watched this sort of cognitive dissonance have its way with the left before.  That’s because they aren’t really about principles as much as they are about biases.  Oh, and limiting your freedom:

A YouGov poll taken just last fall found that equal amounts of Americans support and oppose “hate speech laws,” defined as laws that would “make it a crime for people to make comments that advocate genocide or hatred against an identifiable group based on such things as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.” Thirty-six percent said sure and 38 percent said no way. That’s disturbing enough on its own, but here’s something even more unsettling: Fully 51 percent of self-identified Democrats supported hate-speech laws.

Somehow I’m not at all surprised, given the examples above … are you?

~McQ

Elitism driving “free” college proposal by Obama?

The short answer is “yes”. Megan McArdle makes the point :

Higher education is becoming the ginseng of the policy world: a sort of all-purpose snake oil for solving any problem you’d care to name, as long as we consume enough of it. Education is a very good thing, but it is not the only good thing. An indiscriminate focus on pushing more people into the system is no cure for society’s ills–and indeed, often functions as a substitute for helping the people who are struggling in the current system.

In fact (beside the fact we can’t afford “ObamaCare for colleges”):

What if people in the policy elite stopped assuming that the ideal was to make everyone more like them, and started thinking about making society more hospitable to those who aren’t? My grandfather graduated into a world where a man with a high-school diploma could reasonably hope to own his own business, or become someone else’s highly valued employee, a successful pillar of a supportive community. His grandchildren graduated into a world where a college diploma was almost the bare necessity to get any kind of a decent job. Why aren’t we at least asking ourselves if there’s something we can do to create more opportunity for people without diplomas, instead of asking how many more years we can keep everyone in school? Why do all of our proposed solutions essentially ratify the structure that excludes so many people, instead of questioning it?

Indeed. For too long our policies have been driven by an elite. And for the most part, the elite have made an awful mess of things. Now they want to take on “community colleges”.

Anyone? How long before they start looking at 4 year colleges?

McArdle suggests the following probable effects of any program like Obama has proposed:

1. Offer a subsidy to middle-class kids who don’t really need the money?

2. Encourage middle-class families to transfer their kids to community college for the first two years of school, and thus help to moderate college costs?

3. Encourage financially constrained students who might not have gone to college to enter the system en route to a degree?

4. Encourage marginal students with a low chance of completing a career-enhancing degree to attend school, mostly wasting government money and their own time?

As she points out 2 and 3 are actually not bad policy goals in and of themselves.  However, the much more likely effect will be 1 and 4.  Another government sponsored and taxpayer funded boondoggle that will essentially give community colleges a subsidy (it’ll be all about headcount – no one will really care if the student’s succeed) and create bureaucratic jobs while doing little or nothing in terms of “education advancement”.

Oh, yeah, did I mention we can’t afford it?

I thought I did.

~McQ

Meanwhile in Congress

The new Senate is only a few days old and they’re at it already.  Of course, roles have been reversed:

Democrats launched the first filibuster of the new Congress on Thursday, objecting to the GOP’s effort to try to bring the Keystone XL pipeline bill to the floor early next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to schedule action early next week on the bill, and promised an open process, including allowing both sides to offer amendments to the bill — an attempt to break with the previous few years, when Democrats controlled the floor and kept a tight lid on amendments.

Now that was mostly the status quo of the last Senate with two exceptions.

-Democrats are in the minority and determined to obstruct the Repblican majority

-Democrats are filibustering just to filibuster.  Republicans filibustered because former Senate Majority Leader Reid refused to allow any amendments to bills he brought to the senate floor.  McConnell has said the GOP will welcome amendments, a process which allows open and bi-partisan participation.

Yet that’s not good enough for Democrats – which sort of foretells what this session of the Senatorial side of Congress will likely look like from here on.   It seems less likely that this is all about Keystone, since the pipeline has bi-partisan support.  Instead, this is just petty and spiteful Democrats refusing any sort of appeasement/olive branch from the GOP.

Which should tell the GOP something, if they’re smart enough to pay attention.

~McQ

This and that

As you’ve probably surmised, I’m taking a bit of a break the last two weeks of the year.  Decompress, catch up on other things and generally relax.  That said, I was happy to see that Erb and the anti-Erb have managed to provide the best in entertainment for the QandO faithful.

Looks like the anti-police riots and ambushes are reaching their natural end.  That’s what happens when you overreach.  I’m not at all implying that some protest isn’t necessary or warranted.  But when it goes beyond that to murder, well, then you’re likely to lose any sympathetic audience you might of had prior to that.  And that’s pretty much what has happened.

I’m also finding if pretty interesting to watch de Blassio sink in his own man-made rhetorical swamp.  Great choice, NYC.  Now live with it.

Of course we’re having to live with the choice of enough of America’s voters that we’re into year 6 of the 8 year nightmare presidency.  And what do we have on the horizon?  More of the same.  A Bush/Clinton run?  If so, we’re worse off than I think.  No more of either family … please!

As for Elizabeth Warren?  Yeah, let’s again go for a junior Senator who has never run anything or done anything except claim minority status to get a good paying gig in academia that certainly didn’t tax her “work ethic”.  Let’s again let some smooth talking “populist” promise us the moon and deliver Ecuador.  And, yes, I’m talking to the press.

The GOP?  Name someone with a chance for a nomination and you’ll likely name someone I wouldn’t want anywhere near the Oval Office.

Then there is the GOP Congress.  It appears Obama is saying he will have a new use for his pen these last two year – the veto pen.  I say that’s good news.  Here’s a chance for the GOP and Congress to use an opportunity to drop the onus for being obstructionist on the President.  If they have the plums to do that.  By the way the “obstructionists” in the past wasn’t the GOP but Harry Reid who wouldn’t bring passed House legislation to a vote in the Senate (not that the press ever caught on) – that problem, theoretically, no longer exists).  Do I have any faith the Congressional GOP will inundate the President with legislation he will have to sign or veto?  No.  None.  Recent history gives me no warm and fuzzy about that – especially while McCain and Graham are still in the Senate.  Look for McCain and his lapdog Graham to again resurrect the “Maverick” brand and spend as much time as Reid screwing up any plans the Senatorial GOP might have to push legislation to Obama’s desk.

Oh …. guess what the NY Times has discovered?  There may not be enough doctors to cover any expanded insurance rolls … especially Medicaid.  Why?  Well for one thing, there are a finite number of doctors that can see a finite number of patients and having insurance hasn’t changed that fact one bit.  But, what is a determiner in who may or may not get to see a doctor is how much that doctor gets reimbursed for his/her work.  And Medicaid is cutting that amount by about 43%.  That means doctors will likely opt out of seeing Medicaid patients (or at least new ones).  In essence then, not much changes in the real world despite the utopian plans of our betters.  While more may have insurance, emergency rooms will be the “primary care” unit for most and “preventive care”, a supposed goal of this abomination we call ObamaCare, is still a fantasy without realization.  Funny how ignoring immutable facts (number of doctors and how humans respond to incentive or lack thereof) always ends up with predictable results.

Bah … enough.  I’m supposed to be taking a break.

See you next year.  In the meantime, happy New Year!

~McQ

 

 

 

Politics at its worst (update)

First I’d like to say that my position on torture is well known and not what this post is about.  It’s about intent and timing.  The subject just happens to be torture, or enhanced interrogation techniques, if you prefer.

Secondly, I’d like to point out that we’ve been through this before – this is truly old news.  This has been investigated.  It’s been commented upon and debated.  It is something that anyone who follows the news and politics has been aware of for years.

So why, then, in a lame duck session after which Senate Democrats lose their majority, does an idiot like Sen. Diane Feinstein decide that this is something that must be released now.  What is the utility of this report?  What is the intent of releasing it now?  What positive does a biased report that only casts America in a bad light in the middle of a war bring to the table?

Biased, you say?  How do you know that?  Well here’s a clue:

The outgoing Democratic leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on C.I.A. rendition, detention and interrogation of terrorists in the years following the 9/11 attacks. But here’s a red flag: Not one person who managed or ran the interrogation program was interviewed.

Not one?  So what sort of “report” was it then?  What sort of “investigation” took place?  Again, regardless of your views on “torture” this is pure politics.  And bad politics at that.  It is a smear dressed up as something to take seriously.

Why does it matter? Because the way this “report” was generated colors the notional facts it professes to share. Many of the “revelations” of C.I.A. techniques and black sites are old hat to most. Some approve; others don’t. Fair enough, and in a democracy, such a debate is worthy. The larger challenge comes in determining the efficacy of these techniques. Opponents insist (fueled less by fact and more by their sense of righteousness) that enhanced interrogation doesn’t work. So claims the outgoing chairman, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein.

Here is the problem: Her claim is false. And taken in conjunction with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s unwillingness to interview the targets of their critique, one can only assume that much of the rest of the document is also tainted.

When you dig down to the very bottom of it, you realize its written to support a narrative.  It is the same sort of garbage we have seen in the Rolling Stone story about the rape at U Va.  As with this report, the “journalist” involved never interviewed anyone who might shed a different sort of light on the rape story. She never verified much of anything.  It was all about supporting a narrative.

Rape is bad.  Yes, it is.  We all accept and understand that.  But false and embellished accusations are bad too.  That’s what no one ever seems to say on the “rape is bad” narrative side of the house.  Additionally, there are two sides to every story – and if you want to report factually, you include both sides.  If you’re interested in pushing a narrative, then you don’t.

Hiawatha Bray sums up today’s journalism rather nicely and it applies to this biased piece of garbage Feinstein’s committee produced as well.

What’s wrong with journalism? Lots of stuff. But this is one of the worst features of our industry. All too many of us approach stories with preconceived “narratives.” What matters is not what’s actually going on; it’s whether a particular event gives us the chance to tell some story we already want to tell. If the story is that frat boys are incorrigible rapists, that’s how the story gets spun. What actually happened is of secondary importance. And that’s how we can get a student journalist–contra an earlier draft, I’m not sure she’s actually a journalism major–who can say without embarrassment that the facts of a story are not all that important. This is scary stuff. The only thing we have to offer as journalists–the only thing that’s worth a twopenny damn–is accurate, trustworthy information. If the facts in our stories can’t be relied upon, then those stories are worthless, regardless of what “noble cause” they’re designed to advance. To me it seems horrifying that it’s necessary to explain this.

It is the same story with this report that Feinstein, et. al, have decided must be published now.  Old news, repackaged, biased to come to a particular conclusion and intended, apparently, to embarrass the US.  Not to mention it is something which will further endanger our military in a time of war. And, of course, provide wonderful propaganda and recruiting material for our enemies (who, per some reports, are already using it).  And then there are the useful idiots who will revel in this diminishing of the country’s image.

How this helps the US is beyond my comprehension I guess.  It is something we’ve confronted and dealt with years ago.  The country is divided over the use of certain “techniques”.  And, we’ve seen a Democratic majority in government for 6 years who had the ability to ensure that whatever they believed about such use of these techniques was curtailed or eliminated.  What was the utility of this report except, as a friend of mine said, a willful “eff you” by the outgoing Senate majority?

Just when you think this sort of politics can’t get any worse … it does.

UPDATE:  Well, of course.  Feinstein’s “mission accomplished”:

A United Nations human rights official is calling for individuals who carried out, planned or authorized abusive practices against al-Qaeda detainees in the aftermath of 9/11 to be put on trial, saying the U.S. was obliged under international law to bring those responsible to justice.”

He also warned Tuesday that perpetrators could be prosecuted anywhere in the world, noting that “torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction.”

Meanwhile the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of a declassified portion of a report on CIA interrogation and detention programs was insufficient, calling for the full 6,000 page report to be released, and for “accountability” for those who overstepped the mark.

~McQ

For Senate Dems, ideological loyalty trumps collegiality

Desperate for something positive to put before Louisiana voters prior to her Senate run-off, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is looking for an apparently illusive 60th Senate vote – from her Democratic colleagues.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and other supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are stuck at 59 votes — one vote shy of the supermajority they need to move their bill forward on Tuesday.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Monday that they would vote against moving forward with the legislation, making it unclear whether supporters had a path to the magic number of 60.

Rockefeller had appeared to be one of the last possible converts Monday evening, and supporters were pressuring the retiring senator to join their side.

But he told reporters on Monday that he was firmly against the proposed pipeline: “I’ll be voting ‘no,’ ” he said.

Landrieu seems to think she has it, but the numbers don’t add up, at least at this point.  There may still be some hope for her, but it is slim:

Every Republican in the Senate is expected to back the measure, and 10 Democrats have signed on to legislation that Landrieu is sponsoring, along with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have also promised Landrieu that they will vote in favor of the pipeline, which would carry fuel from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast.

That gives Landrieu a firm 59 votes, but it’s not enough to move forward.

With Rockefeller a “no,” the best hope for Landrieu might be Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who told reporters on Monday that he is leaning against the measure.

Noting that he could be a pivotal vote, King also said of the roll call vote on Tuesday: “Wait till they get to the Ks.”

Sen. Chris Coons, who was previously considered a firm “no” on the Keystone vote has been talking to Landrieu about the bill.

“He cares for Senator Landrieu a lot, so he’s listening to what she has to say,” Coon’s spokesman Ian Koski said in an email Monday evening.

“But I have no reason to believe his position has changed,” Koski added.

And, of course, even if she does manage to convert one of those two, which seems unlikely, there’s Obama:

Even if the legislation is approved by the Senate, however, it is likely to be vetoed by Obama.

He said last week that lawmakers should not “short-circuit” the federal review of the pipeline that is already underway.

“I’ve been clear in the past. … My position hasn’t changed, that this is a process that is supposed to be followed,” Obama said at a press conference in Burma.

This is Obama thinking he’s playing “hard ball”.  In fact, it is Obama playing his favorite game, throwing someone under the bus.  So it’s likely “good bye Senator Landrieu”.  The fact that Keystone would create jobs in a down economy is moot.  Ideology trumps.  And it is much more important, after the drubbing the voters gave the green agenda early in the month, to keep the Tom Steyers of the world happy than it is to support one unimportant Senator in a mostly red state anyway.  Her reward for voting for and supporting ObamaCare in the Senate?  Stiffed in her hour of need by her party.  Irony.

Landrieu, naturally, will blame her pending loss on the “racism” and “sexism” of the South – after serving 18 years in the Senate.

~McQ

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