Free Markets, Free People

Government

How centralized bureaucracies work

In another indicator of how low a priority veterans have with this administration, a whistleblower in Atlanta has revealed that VA employees were switched from processing VA applications to those of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Scott Davis told the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“We don’t discuss veterans. We do not work for veterans. That is something that I learned after working there. Our customer is the VA central office, the White House and the Congress. The veterans are not our priority. So whatever the initiatives are or the big ticket items, that is what we focus on.”

He later appeared on the Neil Cavuto show and claimed that 17,000 applications for VA Healthcare were destroyed.  He also said  they’re “also looking into a backlog of over 600,000 pending applications for VA Healthcare.” Davis said the applications were purged as a way to deal with pressure from Washington D.C.

Davis: What I think happened, Neil, is that there was pressure by people in Washington for us to hit our numbers. You’ve heard a lot about the 14-day turn around time for the hospitals. But what most people don’t know is that there’s a five-day turn around time for health applications. And if we don’t hit that five-day turn around time, it affects performance goals for people in senior leadership positions.

Cavuto: So if you don’t have that, and you’re not paying that out, it looks like you’re meeting your numbers and then some, right?

Davis: Absolutely. But what also happens, Neil, is that we’re currently neglecting not only the right thing to do, which is to process applications, not delete them. We have a huge system integrity issue at VA. For example, the VA right now can’t even tell the investigators what happened to those applications, because they can’t verify where they are, what happened to them, if they were deleted, why were they deleted, and why there was no paperwork showing the justifications for those deletions.

Cavuto: We’ve asked for a statement out of the VA on this and we have yet to get one, Scott. I’m trying then to give them the benefit of the doubt here. It seems like a crazy situation. Did you or any of your co-workers ever get so overwhelmed — not you specifically — but they just say the heck with it, more files, more applications, just dump them in the trash, we’re overwhelmed. Do you think that has gone on?

Davis: I know that there was rumors that suspect those activities before I started work thing in 2011. What I can tell you is that there’s so much pressure on the employees to get stuff done so management can meet goals, it’s easy to make mistakes, it’s easy to have mishaps. What happens is, instead of the VA focusing on doing what’s right for our nation’s veterans — meaning taking time, processing each application diligently and appropriately — pressure is placed on front line employees to overwork themselves, rush through the application process, to hit goals for members of management.

Cavuto: When you say to hit goals, is the goal a dollar goal or is it get the applications complete? Sometimes keep on top of this so there are no delays, or is it keep on top of it and get rid of something that could hurt our numbers?

Davis: Well, for what I’ve witnessed, it’s based on a performance goal.

Cavuto: How is that performance measured?

Davis: That performance is measured based on our ability to turn around an application from beginning to end within a five-day turn around. There’s an acceptable percentage that we have to have, which is in excess of 80% for all applications that comes into that office. What you find is that there’s extensive pressure on the staff to process applications, to focus our attention to applications based on specific campaigns. For example, I shared with your producer that we actually put incoming applications aside so we could focus on the ACA related applications that came in over last summer. That’s wrong. We should treat each veteran equally and focus on applications, as they come in, not because of special campaigns coming out of D.C.

His statement is precisely how veteran’s applications should be treated.  But they weren’t because of partisan politics and the heavy hand of the administration.   Naturally the VA  bureaucracy cooperated.  When your “customer” is Washington DC and not the veteran then that’s unsurprising.

This is outrageous, but my guess is, as they dig deeper into the VA, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

This is the face of government run health care.  It is fair warning.  Just as Soviet bureaucracies fudged whatever numbers necessary to “meet” the government’s “5 year plans”, the government bureaucracies here are not above doing the same.  The bonus system along with identification of Washington as their “customer” was all the incentive the bureaucrats needed to let veterans down … again.

~McQ

Big lies, small lies and lies in truth

This administration excels at ‘The Big Lie”.     Probably most hereabouts are familiar with that idea – tell any lie long enough and people just accept it as true.  Biggest lie I can think of – that Barack Obama was ever qualified to be President of the United States.   But there he is, sitting in the Oval Office, golfing at Andrews, picking out the spot for his legacy of lies “Liebrary”.   Red lines that the world drew, recoveries that aren’t, a recession that never went away,  actually a depression but who’s counting, unemployment that gets better by getting worse, pivots to the economy, which is where he pivots in some other way to destroy it through executive signings or approved executive branch regulations.

Birthed in lies, raised in lies, campaigned in lies, elected in lies and serving daily in lines.   Non-stop lying.  About the only thing he doesn’t lie about is that he likes to golf.

Benghazi, IRS, Fast and Furious, Affordable Health Care, closing Guantanamo, gay marriage, jihad is workplace violence.  It’s not always ‘himself’ lying, sometimes it’s his executive organizations, his spokesmen, his fawning press.   But it’s HIS administration, these therefore become his lies.

Lies to enemies, lies to allies, lies to ‘friends’, lies to detractors, lies to supporters.

Small lies, well, every day.  A small lie gets them through this press conference, this question or that question, this news cycle.   Sometimes we’ll have to visit it again, let’s see, oh, right, the GDP was down to a 1 percent growth, oh, and we had Obamacare’s increased spending on those who hadn’t been previously insured to thank for that.     Until yesterday when that lie had to be revised, and the lie about Obamacare’s increased spending turned into a lie that Obamacare actually caused a decrease in healthcare spending.   Yeah, small lies, we’ll see them again, contorted, changed, history ignored and altered.  Things they said before ‘forgotten’ by them, by the media, by us as they trot out the new lie.  They’ll become big lies if we keep worrying at them.   Quit asking.

The lies evolve, sometimes they just drop them and come up with a completely new lie – it was riot in Benghazi caused by a video that grew to an attack on the embassy, we never said it wasn’t terrorism, we caught the mastermind!  It was two rogue agents in Cincinnati that were trying to be more efficient, the dog ate our emails at the IRS, oh, and now the dog wandered over to the neighboring offices at the EPA and had a late night snack.

The original lies generally suck, they do however seem to pass muster for the low info voters, for people who might read the first paragraph of the headlines.  They do the job they’re supposed to do, provide a little cover till they can refine the lies.  But they only need to refine the lies if someone asks for clarification of course.  Any lying 5 year old understands you don’t elaborate on the lie if you aren’t pushed with further questions.

Like lies presented in truths so we can move past a lie that’s really important to the problem they’re willing to cop to for the moment.  The art of distracting us from a lie by handing us lies wrapped in truth.

Emails: IRS official sought audit of GOP senator

Oh, that’s bad….but it appears to be the truth.  That’s good, truth is good, good we found this out, not much there, ask the NY Times, this is just another Republican attempt to pump up a scandal I’m sure.

“Congressional investigators say they uncovered emails Wednesday showing that a former Internal Revenue Service official at the heart of the tea party investigation sought an audit involving a Republican senator in 2012.

The emails show former IRS official Lois Lerner mistakenly received an invitation to an event that was meant to go to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.”

And there, in the first two paragraphs, presented as ‘truth’, is your bold faced lie (made bold and italic by yours truly).

She mistakenly received an invitation for Senator Grassley?

Why?  How?   because the sender had Lerner’s address and Grassley’s address on a dropdown and moused to the wrong one?

Because Grassley ‘sounds’ like Lerner and the autoaddress feature used Lerner instead of Grassley?

Uh, because someone interrupted the writer and he accidentally typed LOIS.LERNER@IRS.GOV instead of SEN.CHARLES.GRASSLEY@USSENATE.GOV and hit SEND?

Wow.  Look ma, the dog ate our emails, and the organizer for a Republican campaign event’s dog accidentally sent Lois Lerner at IRS an invitation intended for US Senator Charles Grassley that Lois might review to consider launching an investigation over.

Phew, good thing that guy Matthew Giuliano waved her off from doing anything with that ‘mistakenly received’ email.

“This kind of thing fuels the deep concerns many people have about political targeting by the IRS and by officials at the highest levels,” Grassley said. “It’s very troubling that a simple clerical mix-up could get a taxpayer immediately referred for an IRS exam without any due diligence from agency officials.”

This kind of thing?   ‘Simple clerical mixup’   Words fail me.   Et tu Chuck?   Seriously?

You mean how an email went mysteriously to LOIS.LERNER@RECTALEXAMSAREUS.GOV,  her email address,  for her review,  ‘by mistake’?

No, you mean the IRS rectal exam that might have been started as a result of her completely innocent receipt of an email intended for a US Senator.

But there wasn’t any exam, so yeah! NO HARM DONE!!!!  No harm, no foul.   Prove the harm!  None!  Matthew Giuliano at the IRS did his job, the IRS did it’s job!  Now go away you scandal mongering racist conservatives!

So don’t ask how she got that invitation, but rest assured, there was no mistake involved.  Remain confident if you ask, they’ll refine this blatant lie.

Lies hidden in truths, lies in your face.   Every week, every year, the most transparently lying to us administration in our history.

Obama’s administration lies again.   Hi-ho Silver.

UPDATE

In case you’re wondering why the lie might matter and why ‘mistaken receipt’  of the email for which Lois Lerner considered the possibility of investigation is important.  Because, you see, if Lois Lerner had Senator Grassley’s email invitation through some method other than ‘accidental receipt’, she, and the person who sent it to her, may have broken Federal laws.

Since the  Constitution didn’t foresee email, there is no guarantee of it’s privacy.   So in 1986 Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy act, which established provisions for privacy rights of people using electronic devices.  The way I read it, under the act it is a crime for someone to read or disclose  the contents of email communications (let alone decide to launch an IRS tax audit) if it’s not addressed to them.

“General Statement of the Law

The law regards each of these situations as distinct.

  1. Interception of e-mail during transmission is prohibited by federal wiretap statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2510-2521 and also some state wiretap statutes. The federal statutes were amended in 1986 by Title I of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to include e-mail.
  2. Reading e-mail during storage on a computer system is prohibited by federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2701-2711, Title II of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), provided that the system is “providing an electronic communication service to the public.” This means, among other things, that your e-mail messages are confidential when stored on a computer owned by an ISP that offers to any member of the public the ability to send e-mail and you pay for the account yourself. But there is no protection in 18 U.S.C. § 2702 for e-mail stored on a computer system operated by a corporation primarily for its own business communications. So, if you send e-mail to a company (e.g., jdoe@ibm.com) and the e-mail is stored on that company’s computer, you have no privacy rights under this statute.
  3. The recipient of e-mail is generally free to share the information in the e-mail with anyone, subject to legal obligations that are mentioned later in this paper.

Reading e-mail that is stored on a computer is not an “interception” under 18 U.S.C. § 2510, et seq., because an interception must be contemporaneous with the transmission of the message between different locations. Steve Jackson Games v. U.S. Secret Service, 816 F.Supp. 432, 442 (W.D.Tex. 1993), aff’d, 36 F.3d 457, 460 (5thCir. 1994). This holding has been accepted in several subsequent cases, including Wesley College v. Pitts, 974 F.Supp. 375, 384-390 (D.Del. 1997); U.S. v. Moriarty, 962 F.Supp. 217, 221 (D.Mass. 1997); Bohach v. City of Reno, 932 F.Supp. 1232, 1235-36 (D.Nev. 1996).”

See below – it’s a fine line if some ‘unknown’ person made a copy and passed it on to Lerner.  The person who passes it on originally may have broken the law since passing on such an email seems like it could constitute ‘disclosure’.  Unless of course it pertains to evidence of a criminal activity….

“One court noted that there is a loophole in Title II of the ECPA, where an unknown person can make a copy of e-mail and give it away, then other people who do not provide an electronic communication service can lawfully make a further distribution of copies of that private e-mail. Wesley College v. Pitts, 974 F.Supp. 375, 389 (D.Del. 1997).

In the special case of e-mail that contains evidence of criminal activity, there is no protection for the confidentiality of the message when the recipient discloses the contents of a communication to law enforcement agents or to a criminal trial. U.S. v. White, 401 U.S. 745 (1971)(no violation of Fourth Amendment when defendant spoke to informant who had concealed microphone and transmitter); Hoffa v. U.S., 385 U.S. 293 (1966)(statements made by Hoffa to undercover informant not protected by Fourth Amendment). Furthermore, there is no protection under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for production of documents at a criminal trial, U.S. v. Doe, 465 U.S. 605 (1984). In summary, the author of an e-mail message generally can not prevent disclosure of the message by the recipient.”

I’ll let the legal experts, some here assembled, discuss the possibilities.   The idea that she mistakenly received it however, smells of pure fabrication.

UPDATE (the second)

It appears that the actual invitation WAS through snail mail, making Grassley’s acceptance that some clerical error genuinely occurred valid.

AllahPundit on HOTAIR covers it.

Not a lie then if there’s real paper on this – and not Lerner’s fault if she opened a letter addressed to her with contents intended for someone else.

What she did with it afterwards, well……..

I’m assuming that we’re not talking .PDF files here, attached to mails, and that we’re really talking a hand delivered stamped envelope carried by the United States Postal service which was addressed to Lois Lerner, with contents for Charles Grassley….

Certainly the flow of e-mails in this link indicates the second go round, the correction of recipients, was done via .PDF.

If you read it, you’ll see the clarification and embarrassment from the sender.

One odd thing….can anyone fathom the end of the PS comment at the end of the correct sending exchange between ‘Dawn’ and Matthew?

Should we get the sense they don’t know each other, or didn’t prior to a phone call he made to clarify and correct?

“Still, it will be an easy commute?

Bald faced lies are okay if you’re from the government

The arrogant jerk that is the commissioner of the IRS typifies the type person who hasn’t and never will understand the term ‘public servant’.  He’s a bureaucrat, through and through, and he runs an agency which would never accept the asinine answer to the lost emails that he’s proffered to Congress. But he expects you to accept it without question because, well, because he said so.

Anyone with the IQ of a tea cup knows that emails don’t just reside on “hard drives”. They know that servers are involved. And competent companies and bureaucracies use systems that are redundant and back each other up (like RAID). No company OR agency of any size or worth would be without such a system.

But the arrogant prick that is the director of the IRS sits smugly before Congress and takes offense at being called a liar when he puts the excuse forward that he has. John Hideraker over at PowerLine points out something that you might not have known:

It has emerged over the last few days that at the time of Lois Lerner’s hard drive crash, the IRS had a contract with a company called Sonasoft (“Email archiving done right.”) Sonasoft promoted its relationship with the IRS in 2009: “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your servers?”

So why doesn’t that solve the problem of the missing IRS emails? Because the IRS canceled its contract with Sonasoft in September 2011, a couple of months after Lerner’s hard drive crash. Everyone seems to assume that Sonasoft would have deleted whatever information it had gotten from the IRS at that time. That is certainly a logical assumption; in fact, it would make sense to require Sonasoft to get rid of any customer’s data once the business relationship ends. But it wouldn’t hurt for a House committee to lay a subpoena on Sonasoft to learn more about the IRS’s dealings with that company and make certain that it doesn’t still have any IRS records.

Two observations about the Sonasoft story: first, the IRS’s cancellation of the Sonasoft contract occurred in the context of a $1.8 billion annual budget for information services, plus $330 million annually for “business systems modernization.” All of that, and the IRS couldn’t afford an email archiving service? Not only that, it had to recycle its backup tapes to save money? Ridiculous.

Sure is convenient though, isn’t it?

An analogy as to how outrageous and unbelievable this all is comes from Kyle Smith:

To understand the latest outrage in the IRS scandal, mull over what might happen if regulators found significant evidence to implicate Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in an insider trading scheme.

Let’s say Blankfein asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions. Say Goldman was subpoenaed to provide all of Blankfein’s e-mails. Goldman replied that, instead of complying with the subpoena, it was itself reviewing the e-mails in question and was considering which ones to release.

Now imagine that, nearly a year later, Goldman admitted that it had not, in fact, reviewed the e-mails in question, because they had been lost in a computer crash two months before it claimed to be reviewing them. Imagine Goldman also said copies of the e-mails were lost, because while under subpoena it had destroyed the “backup tapes” (whatever those are) that held them and that it had also thrown away Blankfein’s actual hard drive.

The thing about dogs eating homework is, it could actually happen. This can’t. . . . Lerner wouldn’t have pleaded the Fifth unless she had reason to believe that there was potential illegality and it could be tied to her.

This is in-your-face corruption. This is a bureaucracy saying “screw you” and smugly looking on as you voice your outrage knowing full well nothing will happen to them. Unaccountable and unrepentant … the true face of big government.

~McQ

As the polls go …

The polls continue to show an erosion of public support for President Obama.  Here are 4 interesting paragraphs describing the latest:

Foreign crises and domestic economic unease have eroded President Barack Obama‘s public standing, sapping his ability to respond to overseas conflicts and weighing on fellow Democrats heading into the midterm elections.

As clouds gather abroad, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Mr. Obama’s job approval rating at 41%, matching a previous low. Approval of his handling of foreign policy hit a new low of 37%. Both numbers are driven in part by conflicts largely outside the president’s control, including a new wave of sectarian violence in Iraq.

This latest dip in Mr. Obama’s approval runs contrary to signs Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment. (Interactive: Poll Results)

The latest Journal poll of 1,000 adults, conducted between Wednesday and Sunday, highlights what appears to be a lasting slide in the president’s public image. Respondents split in half on whether the Obama administration is competent, lower marks than Americans gave former PresidentGeorge W. Bush‘s administration in 2006, after the war in Iraq and the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina derailed his presidency.

Now you remember that time don’t you?  The time of Katrina and Iraq?  The time when Democrats lined up to get in front of the cameras and declare George Bush “incompetent”?  Yeah, me too.  And now the guy who was all too happy to participate in that labeling, has managed to do worse.

What does that make him?

Note too the attempt to put lipstick on this pig – “…Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment.”

There’s only one problem with this list of issues of “agreement” – they are all low priority issues for the public.  Jobs.  Economy.  War.  Spending.  Those are what top the list.  And then there’s the matter of bungled health care, scandals and of course, the collapse of any semblance of a foreign policy that this administration might have had.  Frankly, I’m being kind with the last one.  If there’s been a real foreign policy at work for these past 6 years, it’s been as well hidden as Lois Lerner’s emails.

I’d love to say, “I told you so”, I’d love to talk about irony and shadenfreude.  But this is too pitiful a performance to be flip about. And the consequences are real. I see articles about how this guy is now “tired” of being president. He’s “bored” with the job. How could he be either bored or tired – he hasn’t done the job at all.

Got to say, in all my years – and I lived through the Carter era – I’ve never seen this country in such pitiful shape. Never. Mr. Obama has done enough damage, in the foreign relations arena, that it will take decades to undo. The only silver lining, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that one of his goals was to prove big government could be competent and beneficial. He has proven precisely the opposite to be true.

Perhaps the Democrats aren’t calling him “incompetent” for a reason.

Incompetent doesn’t begin to cover how bad this President and his administration are.

~McQ

Cantor, cheese and other stuff

So Eric Cantor went down in flames in the Virginia Republican primary I see.  I can’t say I’m the least bit chagrined.  Cantor is the quintessential establishment Republican.  And like most of that ilk, he was more worried about what the press thought of him than doing what was right by his principles.  I notice the media spin doctors are immediately claiming that he really didn’t lose because of his stand on immigration (i.e. a hard lean toward “amnesty” for illegals although he tried to deny it).  After all if they admit that immigration reform was a reason for his defeat, then they have to admit that its dead for this year (as, given this lesson, no Republican running for reelection in the House  - that would be all of them – is going to touch it with a 10 foot pole).  The spin doctors also know that if it is dead for this year, it may be dead, at least in its present form, for good, if Republicans win the Senate.  One also assumes that Republicans are aware of the polls out there that place immigration reform as a low priority issue for voters right now (yeah, surprise, they’re much more interested in jobs and economic growth than illegal aliens).

I think another reason for Cantor’s loss is a deep dissatisfaction with Republican House leadership – such that it is.  Add his lack of popularity within his own district and an acceptable alternative candidate and you have the prefect electoral storm. Finally, Tea Party candidate Dave Brat’s win signaled, much to the annoyance of the left, that the Tea Party is hardly “dead”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the establishment Republicans react to this upset.

On another subject, yesterday we saw where the FDA had unilaterally decided that it might be necessary to ban the centuries old tradition of aging cheese on wooden shelves.  Because, you know, there’s been such an epidemic of sickness from such practices here lately and over the ages. What?  There hasn’t?  There hasn’t been any real problem at all?  However:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.

Now that was yesterday.  Today, yeah, its cave in time.  There has been such an outcry from cheese makers, the public and just about anyone else that could find a forum that the FDA is hastily backing down.  Overlawyered brings us up to date:

Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.

In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).

McNeal:

This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…

Yes, true.  But … there’s always a ‘but’, Overlawyered points out something that is true and often overlooked.  You have to be willing to fight for it all, not just the popular stuff.  You have to be willing the challenge all the nonsense bureaucrats put out there:

There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry againstCPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youthmotorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.

Absolutely true.  I think of those who want to drink raw milk for instance.  Where does the government get off saying you can’t drink something you choose to drink if you’re willing to take the risk and suffer any consequences?  Something that, until pasteurization, everyone drank?  But since those who prefer raw milk don’t have a large lobby, they’re subjected to government bullying and laws prohibiting them from making that choice.

Choice is freedom.  Limiting of choice is limiting freedom and government is in the freedom limiting business.  The premise is you’re not able to make good choices yourself, so government must keep you from doing so.  Question?  If aging cheese on wood was dangerous to our health and it had been the reason from many deaths over the centuries, how do you suppose the market for such cheeses might have been effected by now?  Right.  It certainly wouldn’t have come down to some government bureaucrat making a unilateral decision in 2014, that’s for sure.

In Iraq, Mosul has fallen to terrorists.  Nightwatch brings us up to date:

ISIL has been trying to take Mosul since earlier in June, but only lately assembled enough forces to rout the security forces and overrun the city.

ISIL now controls two major cities in the Sunni region of Iraq: Fallujah and Mosul. Its fighters tried to overrun several other cities, but failed. Its aim is to create an Islamic emirate that joins Iraq and Syria.

The group had been affiliated with al Qaida for many years, since the time of Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. In February al Qaida disavowed all links with ISIL because its actions were more extreme than al Qaida and it would not follow orders to stop fighting the al Nusrah Front in Syria, which al-Qaida supports.

On Sunday in Syria, ISIL fighters clashed with the al-Qaida-affiliated al Nusrah Front in eastern Syria, while its Iraq wing fought to capture Mosul in Iraq. This is a formidable group. Only the Syrian Kurds stand in the way of ISIL consolidating large areas in Iraq and Syria under its control.

Mosul’s capture reinforces the judgment that Iraq has re-entered civil war. ISIL is more than an insurgency because it has an effective organization and is conquering territory. By force of arms, it has created a power-sharing arrangement with the government in Baghdad and fragmented the country. A statement by the Muslim scholars association today encouraged ISIL to hold Mosul and to set up an administration. It urged the youth of the city to defend it against the Baghdad government.

ISIL’s control in Syria seems tenuous and contested by other opposition groups. In Iraq, it is the dominant anti-government force and it has broken Iraq, for now.

My position?  If Iraqi’s want a free Iraq, they’d better fight for it.  They’ve been given the time, the equipment and the training.  Now, it’s up to them.

Finally, yesterday I literally had to laugh out loud when I read something Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor, had written on his Facebook page.  It simply demonstrates how effing silly – and dangerous to your freedoms – these people are:

President Obama announced steps yesterday he said will make student loans more affordable. It’s probably all he can manage with a grid-locked Congress, but it’s still tinkering with a system of college financing that’s spinning out of control. What’s really needed is to make college free of charge and require all graduates to pay 10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years of full-time work into a fund that pays the costs (additional years of graduate school means added years of payments). That way, nobody graduates with debts; young people from lower-income families can afford to attend; graduates who go into high-wage occupations in effect subsidize those who go into lower-wage work; and we move toward a system of genuinely equal opportunity. What do you think?

Right … free college for all.  Graduate with no debt!

Question: How in the world does this dolt think that making all graduates pay “10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years” to fund “free college” doesn’t equal being in debt?  Oh, and who would keep track of all this?  Why the IRS of course – another in a long line of ideas to further centralize control of all aspects of your life at the federal level and add to the federal bureaucracy’s reach and power.

Then add the scam value of this.  Ride the gravy train for 3 or 4 years of free college and then walk away as a non-graduate.  Nothing to pay, right?  I mean the stipulation is that “graduates” pay, so why not hang out in a college dorm, eat in the chow hall, do your own thing while also doing barely enough to stay in school.  That way you can let these other dopes subsidize those years for you.  Then, move, apply to a new school and repeat.  Trust me, there are enough “professional students” in this world that I can promise that would be done.

Oh … and read the comments to the Reich post.  They’ll make you weep.

~McQ

A few things to note

I don’t mind at all saying “I told you so” when it comes to the alarmists and “climate change”.  You’ll remember a few weeks ago when the alarmists began screeching about the collapse of an ice shelf in Antarctica and how that was going to raise sea levels by feet, not inches and that there was nothing we could do about it?  Oh, and it was because of man-made global warming?

We found out subsequently, that the “rise in sea levels” might occur with this melting of the ice shelf, but that it would likely take a 1,000 years.  And, at that time, I put forward an article I’d written for QandO in 2009 where I noted that volcanic activity (aka geothermal activity) was responsible for an ice melt then.  I further posited that it was entirely possible it was responsible for the most recent ice shelf melt (since it is very close to the shelf itself) and had nothing to do with man.

Vindication:

Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it’s being melted from below by geothermal heat, researchers at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin (UTIG) report in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings significantly change the understanding of conditions beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where accurate information has previously been unobtainable.

The Thwaites Glacier has been the focus of considerable attention in recent weeks as other groups of researchers found the glacier is on the way to collapse, but more data and computer modeling are needed to determine when the collapse will begin in earnest and at what rate the sea level will increase as it proceeds. The new observations by UTIG will greatly inform these ice sheet modeling efforts.

Using radar techniques to map how water flows under ice sheets, UTIG researchers were able to estimate ice melting rates and thus identify significant sources of geothermal heat under Thwaites Glacier. They found these sources are distributed over a wider area and are much hotter than previously assumed.

The geothermal heat contributed significantly to melting of the underside of the glacier, and it might be a key factor in allowing the ice sheet to slide, affecting the ice sheet’s stability and its contribution to future sea level rise.

Oh my.  Who knew?  Uh, we did. Or at least we were able to apply facts and logic to the event and give a credible hypothesis as to why what was happening was happening.  Nice.

On another subject, the Bergdahl fiasco, it appears that Mr. Obama, who was perfectly fine about taking all the credit for his release when it appeared it would be to his political advantage (thus the Rose Garden announcement with the family), has now found someone he can throw under the bus since it has all gone wrong.  It’s Hagel’s fault:

FInal approval for the prisoner exchange that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was made by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, members of Congress learned on Monday from administration officials.

‘They indicated (it was) Secretary Hagel (who made the final call),’ Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) said after a classified briefing, ABC points out.

‘It was the president of the United States that came out (in the Rose Garden) with the Bergdahls and took all the credit and now that there’s been a little pushback he’s moving away from it and it’s Secretary Hagel?’

Yup … I’ve lost count of all those who’ve found themselves looking at the underside of the Obama bus.  And for those who don’t think that this was an attempt to divert attention from the VA scandal, check this little tidbit out:

The final agreement was brokered in a week by Qatar and dovetailed with Obama’s announcement of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2017. Engulfed in a scandal over hospital care for veterans, it also provided him an opportunity to demonstrate he was helping those who had served.

So it was Hagel’s final call?  Yeah, right. Again, the administration insults our intelligence.

Meanwhile we find more and more neglect and corruption in the VA, an agency that Mr. Obama criticized when his predecessor was in charge and vowed to clean up:

The agency said more than 57,000 new patients have waited at least 90 days for their first appointments and that about 13 percent of VA schedulers indicated they were told to falsify appointment-request dates to give the impression that wait times were shorter than they really were.

Remember, this is pure government run health care aimed at a very small population, relatively speaking.  And it is a disaster.

The agency also found evidence that in the past 10 years, nearly 64,000 veterans who sought VA care were simply never seen by a doctor.

“Simply”.  Not simply at all. This is mind numbing incompetence and corruption.  This was Ezra Klein’s ideal example for touting the benefits of government run (single payer) health care back when he was shilling so hard for the ACA.  Obama has done nothing to change the situation.  Congress, as usual has simply thrown money at it assuming that would fix it.  But its not just Obama’s problem.  This is a decades old institutional problem driven by a corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy that has given short shrift to the care of our veteran population.  This is the face of “government run healthcare”.

~McQ

Wait … didn’t they say if we didn’t pass ObamaCare this would get worse?!

Why yes, yes they did.  And they also told us it was because of the expense of this sort of medical care that the benevolent and non-intrusive federal government saw a reason to attempt to manage this through its new and wonderful law.

Surprise!

Nationally, nearly half of ER doctors responding to a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians said they’ve seen more visits since Jan. 1, and nearly nine in 10 expect those visits to rise in the next three years. Mike Rust, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, said members statewide describe the same trend.

Experts cite many reasons: A long-standing shortage of primary-care doctors leaves too few to handle all the newly insured patients. Some doctors won’t accept Medicaid. And poor people often can’t take time from work when most primary care offices are open, while ERs operate round-the-clock and by law must at least stabilize patients.

Plus, some patients who have been uninsured for years don’t have regular doctors and are accustomed to using ERs, even though it is much more expensive.

“It’s a perfect storm here,” said Dr. Ryan Stanton of Lexington, president of the Kentucky chapter of the ER physician group.”We’ve given people an ATM card in a town with no ATMs.”

I love the doc’s line about ATMs.  He’s nailed it on the head.

Now I won’t bore you with the fact that we foresaw this and wrote about it.  I mean we talked about doctor shortages, that an increase in those having insurance didn’t mean they’d be able to see a doctor and how doctors were dumping Medicare because of all the hassles and low payments.

But our ever faithful zealots on the left kept telling us that a) we didn’t know what we were talking about, b) human nature isn’t really human nature and c) now that everyone would have insurance all would be sunshine and roses and costs would magically come down (because, you know, the Democrats said they would).

Instead it is all mostly compost.  ERs are seeing a surge in patient visits and expect it to get worse.   Of course, that sort of care is much more costly than regular doctor office visits (according to the article, about $580 per visit more) but what they hey, they have subsidized insurance now … so you get to continue paying for it.

Another in a long line (and getting even longer) of predictions about the effect of a program that this administration has gotten completely bass ackwards.

Competence?

It just doesn’t exist in Washington DC and especially with this administration.

~McQ

Redefining incompetence

I remember well the liberal Democrat echo chamber calling G W Bush “incompetent”.  It was their mantra.  Their rehearsed talking point.  And the went on the weekend shows and in front of every camera they could find to repeat it.  Over and over and over.

If Bush was incompetent, what in the world does that make Obama?  This inept and incompetent White House just outed their own CIA station chief in Afghanistan in a picture of the Obama trip there over the Memorial Day weekend.  A trip clearly designed to distract from the growing VA scandal goes south in a heartbeat because of  … gross incompetence.

Anyone remember Valerie Plame?  That pales in comparison to this idiocy. Pales? It doesn’t even get on the radar screen in comparision.

And don’t get me started about the VA.

But speaking of VA, it does indeed again make the point that the government  - and especially under this particular administration – can’t run health care … period.  And no, I’m not saying a more competent administration could.  The VA has been plagued by problems for decades.  The fact that they’ve gotten worse under this President doesn’t at all surprise me.  But what may surprise you is this:

Since 9/11, the VA budget has increased by 235%, from FY2001′s $45 billion annual budget to FY2014′s $150.7 billion. On a percentage basis, the only Cabinet agencies that had larger budget increases over that arc have been State (271%) and Homeland Security (245%), the latter of which barely existed at the start of that period. In the Bush era, comparing the final budget with his signature (FY08) to the final Clinton budget (FY01), VA spending rose 88.3% to $84.7 billion. Defense spending rose 104% in the same period.

Barack Obama ran in 2007-8 on failures at the VA, promising more resources and better management. In comparison to that final Bush budget — don’t forget that Obama signed the FY2009 budget in March 2009 with the omnibus spending bill after a Democrat-controlled Congress refused to deal with Bush — VA spending has risen dramatically as well. The annual budget rose 78% in six budget cycles, with double-digit increases in four of the six years — while Defense spending was flat. No other Cabinet agency had a larger budget increase by percentage during Obama’s tenure. The closest was Agriculture (64%), followed by State (59%, which tends to discredit the canard about the Benghazi failure being caused by a lack of resources). Only HHS had a larger annual budget increase in terms of dollars spent, but it amounts to a 37% increase in spending from the FY2008 baseline. The amount of increase in the VA’s budget in the Obama era, $65.9 billion, exceeds the entire VA budget in the FY2004 budget.

So it wasn’t money.  As usual it was leadership.  How many freakin’ times do we have to hear this incompetent who is President say he learned about the latest scandal from television news?  For 6 years it has been all his and he has no idea what is going on in his own executive departments.  For that matter, neither do his secretaries.  The Health and Human Services absolutely blew the launch of the health care website.  Something that is done successfully everyday in the commercial world.  And where did Mr. Obama learn about it?  TV.  He certainly had no idea that it was a bust before then.

Why?  Because he didn’t bother to check.  Didn’t bother to ask hard questions or require a demonstration.  He didn’t lead.  He had already waved his magic hand and told them to get it done.  Words equal action in his world.

Same with the VA.  After lambasting the former administration for its failures in reference to the VA, he, in 6 years and billions of dollars, hasn’t improved it on iota.  And more grating than anything is he didn’t care enough to check.  He didn’t KNOW!  His secretary didn’t know!   An pattern of failure repeated in this administration since the beginning.  Instead the usual liberal panacea was applied: throw money at it and the problems will go away.  Just check out public education to see how well that’s worked – or the “War on Poverty”, etc.

Nope, this was a culture problem and a leadship problem.  The culture still survives and thrives and the leaders are nowhere to be found.  Oh the guys who are supposed to be in charge are still kicking, but they’re sitting in front of their television sets to see if there have been any new developments.  Meanwhile, this is going on and has been going on:

The VA department has been directly providing health care to millions of veterans for decades and evidence is growing that relying on the system can literally be a fatal decision. The Washington Examiner’s Mark Flatten reported May 12 that a Texas VA clinic implemented a cost-cutting measure in 2010 that required a patient to undergo three positive bloody stool screens before the government would approve a colonoscopy. Dr. Paul Krugman, who protested the policy while serving in the VA facility, told Flatten that “by the time that you do the colonoscopies on these patients, you went from a stage 1 to a stage 4 [colorectal cancer], which is basically inoperable.”

As many as 15,000 vets were subjected to this treatment. There is no way of knowing how many died because they spent their final days at home or in a private facility. Suffering and dying in obscurity due to a cost-cutting measure by a government-run health care system is the ultimate SNAFU, and nobody can guarantee it won’t be an commonplace under Obamacare.

Hell of a way to treat our veterans, isn’t it – but then when its all about bureaucrats and budgets, the focus isn’t on patients is it?  That’s government run health care in a nutshell.

Silver lining?  The VA, with a population of 9 million to serve, can’t get the job done competently and has, for the most part never been able to do so. THAT is the story of government run health care.  And all you need to cement that fact firmly in your head is to read the open letter one of our veteran triple-amputees penned this past week:

I remember candidate Obama promising to overhaul the VA and reduce the backlog.  You claimed that America’s support for its veterans is obvious by the way we treat our vets. You really nailed that one didn’t you?

Just like you were going to fix Detroit or fix foreign policy.  Your high school like approach to solving complex issues can’t be fixed by tweeting hashtags with propaganda to people who want to kill us. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see you’re unfit to lead our nation, let alone act as our Commander In Chief.  What our country needs now, more than ever is real leadership, someone who doesn’t wait for a crisis, but is able to foresee an issue and deal with it before it happens. Unfortunately for America, you’ve been too busy campaigning and don’t have time to deal with the health care crisis of our veterans. The only thing you seem to care about is your own radical agenda, and now our vets are paying for your negligence with their lives.

As I sit here typing this out I’m dealing with my own VA nightmare which involves the Phoenix VA.  I have given 3 limbs for this country, but apparently that is not enough.  A “clerical error” made by a VA employee has resulted in nearly a year of abuse and mismanagement of my case. In other words, the VA is stealing over $7000 from my disability compensation that I earned when I lost 3 of my limbs for our country.

On this Memorial Day, as I battle your incompetent bureaucrats my family would like to thank you for once again failing our veterans. We can’t help but wonder about the disastrous socialized medicine program that we will surely be dealing with if Obamacare is allowed to be fully implemented. If our incompetent VA cannot handle government healthcare for a fraction of our population, who would be foolish enough to believe a massive health care system designed to provide health care for all American’s would be any different?  You can’t even find someone to build a competent website to work for your socialized medicine program when you had your name attached to it, so why would you care about our veterans when you could so easily push the blame off on someone else?

And the irony of it all?

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will let more veterans obtain health care at private hospitals, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced Saturday.

That’s right … just like Canada used US private hospitals to bail its government run system out when it came to wait times, the VA is planning the same thing.  To anyone with an IQ above a donkey, that ought to tell you something.

~McQ

Scientists rebut Obama Administration’s “National Climate Assessment”

Yes, that’s right … scientists.  Here’s their opening.  As you’ll see, they don’t mince words nor do they show much respect for the nonsense spouted in the NCA or those who produced it.  And I don’t blame them:

The National Climate Assessment – 2014 (NCA) is a masterpiece of marketing that shows for the first time the full capabilities of the Obama Administration to spin a scientific topic as they see fit, without regard to the underlying facts. With hundreds of pages written by hundreds of captive scientists and marketing specialists, the administration presents their case for extreme climate alarm.

As independent scientists, we know that apparent evidence of “Climate Change,”however scary, is not proof of anything. Science derives its objectivity from robust logic and honest evidence repeatedly tested by all knowledgeable scientists, not just those paid to support the administration’s version of “Global Warming,” “Climate Change,” “Climate Disruption,” or whatever their marketing specialists call it today.

We are asked to believe that humans are drastically changing the earth’s climate by burning fossil fuels. The problem with their theory is very simple:

It is NOT true.

Here we address the administration’s basic thesis and the essential evidence that they claim support extreme concern.  The theory of ‘Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (CAGW) is based on a string of inferences that begins with the assumptions that carbon dioxide is a ‘greenhouse gas’ and that we are slowly driving up the atmospheric concentration by burning fossil fuels. It is therefore claimed as self-evident that the Global Average Surface Temperature (GAST) has already risen significantly and will continue to do so.

Higher GAST is then presumed to lead to all sorts of negative consequences, especially Extreme Weather. They promote their ‘Climate Models’ as a reliable way to predict the future climate. But these models dramatically fail basic verification tests. Nowhere do they admit to these well-known failures. Instead, we are led to believe that their climate models are close to perfection.

This document is structured around a “fact-check,” where we quote a number of the government’s key claims in the NCA and show each to be invalid. The first three claims involve their three crucial scientific arguments (Three Lines of Evidence or 3 LoE), which, if valid, would satisfy a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for making their case. But each is easily shown to be false; and because each is crucial, their entire theory collapses. That means that all of the overblown “Climate Disruption” evidence that they mention, whether true or not, cannot be tied back to man’s burning of fossil fuels. Hence, efforts to reduce or eliminate Extreme Weather by reducing the burning of fossil fuels are completely nonsensical.

They then present a point by point rebuttal of the “3 LoE”, pointing to evidence that shows them to be demonstrably false.  And, as they point out, since those 3 LoE are the foundation of the CAGW theory, the theory collapses.

You can read it here.

~McQ

Learning the laws of economics the hard way

Tis the season of minimum wage hike demands and fast food protests again. Frankly I don’t have a problem with wage hikes … if they’re voluntary. I do have a problem with coerced wage hikes, however. And that’s precisely what any rise in the federal minimum wage amounts too. It is feel good legislation that uses the force of government to coerce businesses into paying employees more for jobs the businesses don’t deem worth the cost imposed. It is feel good legislation that religiously and studiously avoids the laws of economics.

For instance, what is one of the effects of raising the minimum wage? Job loss. How so? Well, here’s a real world example:

President Obama recently signed an executive order that will increase the minimum wage for employees of companies with new federal contracts beginning Jan. 1. At that time, the minimum wage for all federal contract workers — not just those working for fast food concessions — will increase to $10.10 from the current $7.25. It is not yet known how far-reaching the effects will be for contracts on military installations.

[...]

…new Labor Department rules issued last fall for fast food workers on federal contracts under the Service Contract Act require an increase in the minimum wage for such employees, varying by region. The rules also require payment of new, additional “health and welfare” fringe benefits at a rate of $3.81 per hour to those employees.

Result?

Four restaurants, including three McDonald’s outlets, will close within the next three weeks on Navy installations, according to Navy Exchange Service Command officials.

And two other contractors — a name-brand sandwich eatery and a name-brand pizza parlor — have asked to be released from their Army and Air Force Exchange Service contracts to operate fast food restaurants at two other installations, according to AAFES officials.

A source with knowledge of military on-base resale operations said the issue likely has to do with two new government regulations — one implemented, one pending — that will affect wages for contract workers in such on-base concessions.

Action/reaction. Who loses? Well what’s zero times the new minimum wage? That’s what the former workers of those restaurants can look forward too in the near future. Will other fast food outlets take their place? Possibly – but then as another law of economics points out, businesses do what they do for profit, consequently costs incurred are usually passed on to the consumer in the form of price increases for the product. So who will get screwed then. In this case sailors making about 23K a year. Probable result – business will be down because fewer of their customers will be able to afford their prices with the frequency they once did.

As usual Obama has done this by executive fiat. And, it appears the minimum wage hike may or may not have any life in Congress (even with dopy old Mitt Romney coming out for it). But the debate and the protests roll on. For instance we have today’s fast food protests which are alleged to be happening world wide (backed by about $15 million SEIU dollars here in the US).

Here’s an example of what they’re saying:

Naquasia LeGrand, 22, of Brooklyn, says this was her sixth protest since 2012. She has worked for three years as a cashier at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Park Slope, an affluent neighborhood in Brooklyn. She says makes $8 an hour and pays $1,300 a month for her apartment. “We live in New York City — a multibillion dollar city,” she says. “These corporations … are making all this money. It’s only right that we (workers) come together.”

The sense of entitlement is overwhelming.

So let’s break down what she does for her $8 an hour.  She says “may I help you” to a customer, a customer gives her their order which she enters via a touchpad computer.  The computer computes and totals the order.  She enters the amount of cash tendered and it tells he how much change to give back. Or she swipes a credit card, waits for the receipt to print and hands both back to the customer.  At some point after that, she hands the customer a tray with food on it or a bag containing it.

Guess what else can do most of that?

And what can the employer know will never happen with this?  Well, it won’t be out in 6 protests in 3 years and won’t have an attitude every day it cranks up and goes to work.  And other than initial cost and maintenance costs, it will likely be more accurate than a human, faster than a human and cost less than a human in the long run.  The technology is already here and as it proliferates it will get cheaper and cheaper.  And it is proliferating.  Guess who just bought 7,000 of them?

The point of course is when costs go up businesses have to consider their options, especially if they’re in a very competitive industry – like fast food. They know that they can only pass on a certain percentage of higher costs to their customers. So they have to look for alternatives to doing that. One of the fastest and easiest ways to increase the bottom line is to reduce headcount. Another is to automate low skill jobs. What Ms. LeGrand is doing is inviting her employer to consider one of those options if higher wages are forced on them. And there are few jobs requiring less skill at a fast food joint than cashier/order taker. See picture above for confirmation.

Every time the minimum wage goes up, it prices some jobs out of the marketplace. Anyone – who usually fills those jobs that get eliminated? Low skill workers. The one’s who need jobs, any job, the worst. Instead of letting the market have the ability to set the worth of work, the government imposes a wage floor and essentially outlaws any wage below that floor.

Of course that doesn’t change the worth of the work to the potential employer. A $6 an hour job is still worth $6. Only a fool is going to pay $10.10 or $15 or whatever above that an hour. So the work goes undone and a person willing to do the work for that price goes unhired. Instead, other options and substitutes are considered, like automation or contracting it out overseas where labor costs are cheaper. Why do you think so much is “made in China?”

The do-gooders are our own worst enemies when it comes to this. Its all about them feeling good about helping the “little people”. They never look beyond that to the real consequences of their do-goodism. There are a couple of reasons they don’t: A) it is apparently beyond their understanding and B) it’s all about them feeling good about themselves, not what happens afterward.

The “market” is stuck with the consequences.  And when it all goes tango uniform and what people like me predicted comes true, we’re treated to claims that the cause was “market failure” (btw, read this great rant on “market failure”).  That’s about the time you see people like Ms. LeGrand, the SEIU, Harry Reid and the usual suspects start talking about hiking the minimum wage again.

And the cycle repeats.

~McQ