Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain


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


The Narcissistic Administration

America used to be famous for its men and women of action.  Now?  Now we’re governed (ruled?) by a group of narcissists who think that selfies and hashtags equal action:

In the 21st century, we have regressed to the Freudian phallic stage of development, reaching in, back in short pants with our hands all the way down them, which gives one a rather limited impression of the elephant in the room.

Slavery in Nigeria, the occupation of Ukraine, whatever: It ain’t about you, Sunshine.

The “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, directed at the fanatical Islamist slavers in Nigeria, has inspired selfies from U.S. senators and the wife of the president of these United States, while State Department spokesman Jen Psaki, the Pippi Longstocking of the diplomatic world, took to Twitter to photograph herself with a “United for Ukraine” placard. To confront the heinous crimes of Boko Haram, a U.S. senator has many options — for example, introducing an authorization to use military force against said terrorist franchise. The U.S. State Department has many tools at its disposal for confronting the expansionist tendencies of Vladimir Putin.

The selfie is not among those tools.

But it seems to be the tool of choice with this bunch.  Well, that and deploying hashtags. How utterly useless and embarrassing is it to see our supposed leaders resorting to this sort of self-centered “action”?

Very.  Oh, it’s an action – it’s all about the PR for them.  It feeds their need to feel superior and show they “care”.  Actually do something to address the situation in question?  Yeah, that’s hard.

But that’s what we get for “leadership” from this crew:

Imagine, if you can, the abjectly juvenile state of mind necessary to contemplate the hundreds of Nigerian girls taken into slavery by a fanatical Muslim anti-education militia — whose characteristic activity beyond slave-taking is setting fire to children — and, in the face of all that horror, concluding: “You know what this situation really calls for? A cutesy picture of . . . me!” Bad enough when your cousin Caitlin at Bryn Mawr does that — but senators? State Department officials? These are men and (disproportionately, I think) women of power and influence, who have the ability to engage with the world and change it. But they are enchanted by the unique witchcraft of the age of social media, the totemic power of the digital expression of the self. It is not accidental that the only good selfie in the history of world leaders came well before the invention of Twitter from a man with an ego sufficiently robust not to require the constant reinforcement that is the psychic lifeblood of Millennials (and Washingtonians well old enough to know better), without which they find themselves paralyzed.

Can a leadership group take the reins from this group and do worse?  Oh you bet.  But with the bar set as low as the Obama administration has set it, it would take a real concerted effort to do worse.  Of course, there’s Hillary.  However the one positive thing the Obama administration has done in its seemingly endless tenure is rescue Jimmy Carter.  He is now only the 2nd worst president ever.  At least his administration was mostly peopled by adults.

~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


Freakin’ hilarious and so typical

What we all know about liberals is they’re big on “talking the talk”, but when it comes to “walking the walk”, yeah, not so much.

On April 10th, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the forms with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election to unionize 50 employees working for the George Soros-funded progressive media watchdog, Media Matters for America (MMFA). In response, Media Matters has hired a high priced law firm with experience combating unions to represent the company, indicating that the pro-union MMFA is fighting the action.

Oh, yeah, that’s right … union touting and supporting MMFA isn’t about to let the SEIU (who has donated to MMFA in the past) unionize their shop.  Nope.  Because, well, unions are bad?

If what the law firm they’ve hired has written about their services is any indication of MMFA’s stance on the subject, then yes, union’s are bad:

Whether directly negotiating collective bargaining agreements, developing strike contingency plans or defending unfair labor practice proceedings, Perkins Coie Labor & Employment attorneys provide employers with decades of experience managing traditional labor law issues.  We have been at the bargaining table for some of the largest union employers in the United States and regularly appear before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and in state and federal court on behalf of employers of all sizes.  Our depth of employment litigation experience contributes to cost-effective representation in arbitrations under collective bargaining agreements.

As the Obama NLRB continues to issue union-friendly decisions, we understand the attendant challenges that employers face in developing and maintaining productive employee relations and economic sustainability.

So, now that MMFA has “lawyered up” and is fighting tooth and nail against something it advocates and claims it supports elsewhere, what should we conclude about MMFA?

Yup, as with most of the left, they’re the epitome of hypocrisy.  The Dons of “do as I say, not as I do”.

Because you’re the “little people” and they’re our “betters”.  And  we should remember that the elite always know what’s best for the little people, even if they personally want no part of what they prescribe for us.

Truth Revolt lays out a nice little synopsis for us:

  • SEIU ​(a group of left-wing bullies) has donated to MMfA ​(a group of left-wing bullies) to utilize their bullying tactics against media outlets that challenge union interests
  • MMfA employees want SEIU representation to help them gain better pay and work conditions
  • MMfA is resisting the move and has forbidden open voting or “card check,” something they’ve advocated for in the past
  • SEIU is now trying to publicly shame MMfA (a tactic MMfA uses to silence their opponents) by using MoveOn.org (a group of left-wing bullies) to host a petition

You just can’t make this stuff up.

~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


Antarctic ice shelf “collapse” may have an effect on sea levels … in a 1,000 years

The cult of global warming, aka “alarmists”, have found a new drum on which to bang.  Scientists recently announced that the western ice shelf in Antarctica is “collapsing”.  Immediately the “Chicken Little” pronouncements of imminent doom were sounded by the usual suspects all implicitly tied to AGW.  The UK’s Guardian sounded the alarm in various headlines which read:

“Two separate studies confirm loss of ice sheet is inevitable, and will cause up to 4m of additional sea-level rise

‘Collapse will change the coastline of the whole world’

Reading on into the actual findings of the studies, however, one finds that the drama that is implicit in these headlines could have been tempered a bit with a very slight modification:

But the researchers said that even though such a rise could not be stopped, it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.

Oh.  So it isn’t a crisis that will impact the world today or anytime in the near future, correct?

This is not new stuff either. This story has been popping up since 2008. I wrote about it here and here. As noted in 2008, a fairly simple discovery, not mentioned in any of these articles, proffered an explanation of why the ocean water was warming and the ice shelf was melting.

“Scientists have just now discovered an active volcano under the Antarctic ice that “creates melt-water that lubricates the base of the ice sheet and increases the flow towards the sea”. That could include the Wilkins Ice Sheet as well (the article cited talks about the Larson A and B sheets.

But, say the alarmists, we’re not talking about Wilkins or the Larson sheets. We’re talking about the Thwaites glacier.

The study honed in on the Thwaites glacier – a broad glacier that is part of the Amundsen Sea. Scientists have known for years that the Thwaites glacier is the soft underbelly of the Antarctic ice sheet, and first found that it was unstable decades ago.

The University of Washington researchers said that the fast-moving Thwaites glacier could be lost in a matter of centuries. The loss of that glacier alone would raise global sea level by nearly 2ft.

Thwaites also acts as a dam that holds back the rest of the ice sheet. Once Thwaites goes, researchers said, the remaining ice in the sheet could cause another 10 to 13ft (3-4m) of global sea-level rise.

Ok. Well, let’s look at a couple of pictures then. The first is from the 2008 post I did on the volcano:

volcano

The second picture, from the Guardian article, shows the area of the study.  The red dot is the glacier in question:

glacier

Does anyone notice anything interesting?  Yes, that’s right, the glacier in question is in the vicinity of the volcano in question.  And I don’t think anyone would argue that a undersea volcano can’t heat up the sea in the vicinity to a little higher temperature than it would be normally (it was certainly successful with Wilkins).  Has it had an effect?  Who knows … it doesn’t seem to have been mentioned at all in the study.  But, if you go to the Guardian article you’ll see an embedded 17 second video that attempts to explain the effect of the warmer water on the glacier.  It shows less dense (and therefore lighter) warm water somehow flowing under much denser and therefore heavier cold water to destabilize the glacier.  The only reasonable explanation for such a flow would be if the heat source were somewhere near the bottom of the ocean, no?  Otherwise its hard to explain how that warm water got below the cold water and stayed there.

But if you question things like this, you’re an ignorant nincompoop.  A “denier”, which, by the way is akin to being a member of the KKK and a Holocaust denier all in one.  However, I’m certainly not denying that something is happening in Antarctica.  I am questioning the purported cause though.  It isn’t at all unimaginable that the side of Antarctica most exposed to warmer South Pacific sea currents and experiencing volcanic activity might see some melting due to causes unrelated to CO2 put in the atmosphere by man.

That, of course, won’t stop the cultist from declaring themselves to be the ones with science on their side and deniers to be the fact-challenged among us.  Here’s a perfect example from today’s NYT:

But the unfortunate fact about uncertainty is that the error bars always go in both directions. While it is possible that the problem could turn out to be less serious than the consensus forecast, it is equally likely to turn out to be more serious. In fact, it increasingly appears that, if there is any systemic bias in the climate models, it’s that they understate the gravity of the situation. In an interesting paper that appeared in the journal Global Environmental Change, a group of scholars, including Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard, and Michael Oppenheimer, a geoscientist at Princeton, note that so-called climate skeptics frequently accuse climate scientists of “alarmism” and “overreacting to evidence of human impacts on the climate system.” But, when you actually measure the predictions that climate scientists have made against observations of how the climate has already changed, you find the exact opposite: a pattern “of under- rather than over-prediction” emerges.

Really?  If that’s the case, that should be pretty easy to demonstrate, shouldn’t it? Since pictures are worth 1,000 words, here’s a little picture I picked up over at The Federalist that does exactly that – it demonstrates that the pattern of the climate models is exactly as the “deniers” have claimed they are:

Climate-Model-Comparison-1024x921

Somehow, the claimant from the NYT couldn’t be bothered to actually fact check.  Instead she swallowed whole the alarmist line and regurgitated it with the usual ignorant literary smirk found in most of their fact free writing.  Sean Davis sums up the argument for most “deniers” very well:

I have a simple rule when it comes to people who want me to invest obscene sums of money in their forecasts of discrete future events: just be accurate. If you come to me and tell me you can predict future stock market performance based on these five factors, then you had better predict future stock market performance based on those five factors. All you have to do is be correct, over and over again. But if your predictive model is wrong, I’m not going to give you any money, and I’m certainly not going to pretend that what you just did is science. Any idiot can make incorrect guesses about the future.

Science, properly practiced, is the search for truth. Science, properly practiced, rejects forecasting models that consistently produce inaccurate forecasts. There’s nothing scientific about shouting down anyone who has the audacity to point out that the only thing your model can accurately predict is what the temperature won’t be.

Indeed.

~McQ


The “teenage” administration

When Barack Obama was running for the presidency, there were a number of people who warned he wasn’t ready for prime time – that he’d never really “done anything or run anything”.  That he had never demonstrated any penchant for leadership at any time in his life, nor had he ever had any executive experience.  That most of his adult life had been political campaigns for the next highest office – moving directly from one to the next with few if any accomplishments in-between.

Those people were shouted down by their “betters” claiming Mr. Obama was hip, wicked smart, charming, “with it”, confident and a master of social media.  He would change the dynamic in Washington, charm the world into doing his bidding and calm the rising seas etc., etc., etc.

Eliot Cohen, in a Wall Street Journal op/ed, says instead, we’ve got a bunch of people in the administration that basically and unsurprisingly act like teenagers:

Often, members of the Obama administration speak and, worse, think and act, like a bunch of teenagers. When officials roll their eyes at Vladimir Putin‘s seizure of Crimea with the line that this is “19th-century behavior,” the tone is not that different from a disdainful remark about a hairstyle being “so 1980s.” When administration members find themselves judged not on utopian aspirations or the purity of their motives—from offering “hope and change” to stopping global warming—but on their actual accomplishments, they turn sulky. As teenagers will, they throw a few taunts (the president last month said the GOP was offering economic policies that amount to a “stinkburger” or a “meanwich”) and stomp off, refusing to exchange a civil word with those of opposing views.

In a searing memoir published in January, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes with disdain the trash talk about the Bush administration that characterized meetings in the Obama White House. Like self-obsessed teenagers, the staffers and their superiors seemed to forget that there were other people in the room who might take offense, or merely see the world differently. Teenagers expect to be judged by intentions and promise instead of by accomplishment, and their style can be encouraged by irresponsible adults (see: the Nobel Prize committee) who give awards for perkiness and promise rather than achievement.

If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults. They may be charming, bright and attractive; they may have the best of intentions; but they do not look serious. They act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria. They do not sound as if, when saying that some outrage is “unacceptable” or that a dictator “must go,” that they represent a government capable of doing something substantial—and, if necessary, violent—if its expectations are not met. And when reality, as it so often does, gets in the way—when, for example, the Syrian regime begins dousing its opponents with chlorine gas, as it has in recent weeks, despite solemn deals and red lines—the administration ignores it, hoping, as teenagers often do, that if they do not acknowledge a screw-up no one else will notice.

It is a pretty fair and devastating summary of an immature, selfie-taking, hashtag loving administration.  Intentions speak louder than action in their world.  They don’t take criticism well.  And they are about as petty as it comes when talking about their opposition. They demand respect for the man in office, but the man in office shows no respect to those whose views differ from him.

He is also given very little if any respect in the world because he’s really done nothing to earn it (and quite a bit to unearn any he had when he took office).  Hostile nations, knowing how thin skinned this administration is, openly taunt the President and his policies. They fear no reprisal from the US.  Iran recently declared victory over the US in Syria.  Russia – well Russia has simply decided the US isn’t a real threat as it plays out its expansionist intentions.   Even our allies have openly criticized the administration for their inept handling of foreign policy.

We live in a very dangerous world, one in which the predators are always looking for an opening (usually in the form of a power vacuum) of which they can take advantage.  This administration has provided no leadership whatsoever during its tenure and that power vacuum has developed during our unilateral withdrawal from our previously prominent position in the world.  And just like a bunch of teenagers, this administration is sure that it is the fault of everyone but themselves.

After all, their intentions were pure … or something.

~McQ


So how are those sanctions against Russia going?

Ask France:

France will press ahead with a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.66 billion) contract to sell helicopter carriers to Russia because cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow, French diplomatic sources said on Monday.

France has come under pressure from Washington and some European partners to reconsider its supply of high-tech military hardware to Moscow. It had said it would review the deal in October – but not before.

However, French diplomatic sources said on Monday the 2011 contract with Russia for two Mistral helicopter carriers, with an option for two more, would not be part of a third round of sanctions against Moscow.

“The Mistrals are not part of the third level of sanctions. They will be delivered. The contract has been paid and there would be financial penalties for not delivering it.

“It would be France that is penalized. It’s too easy to say France has to give up on the sale of the ships. We have done our part.”

And, we can’t have the sanctions hurt France, can we?

One of the attack helicopter carriers will be deployed in the Black Sea, where all the trouble began:

The first carrier, the Vladivostok, is due to be delivered by the last quarter of 2014. The second, named Sebastopol after the Crimean seaport, is supposed to be delivered by 2016.

How does France justify its intention to provide the ships?

“We are not delivering armed warships, but only the frame of the ship,” the source said.

That, of course, misses the entire point of sanctions. It is a punishment for wrong behavior. It is supposed to be a way one side teaches the other not to do what it has done. And the Western powers agreed that “strong sanctions” be imposed because of Russia’s unacceptable behavior. Now we see the exceptions being made – exceptions that Russia will, rightfully, view as weakness.

Additionally, that “frame” the French are dismissing as inconsequential will give Russia access to advanced technology. And these “frames” have quite a potent capability. The Mistral can carry up to 16 attack helicopters, such as Russia’s Kamov Ka-50/52; more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles; and up to 700 soldiers.

As for leadership from the US insisting that the French not provide the Russians with advanced weaponry?

A French government source said at no point had the U.S. officially expressed any concern over the sale …

Another example of why “strong sanctions” is, in reality, an oxymoron, especially when the Western powers are concerned.

~McQ


3/4 of ObamaCare enrollees? Previously insured …

Or so says a new McKinsey survey of the numbers:

One of the principal flaws in the coverage of Obamacare’s exchange enrollment numbers to date has been that the press has not made distinctions between those who have “signed up” for Obamacare-based plans, and those who have actually paid for those plans and thereby achieved enrollment in health insurance. A new survey from McKinsey indicates that a large majority of people signing up are now paying for their coverage. This is progress for the health law. But the survey still indicates that three-fourths of enrollees were previously insured.

Of course we’ve seen the propaganda push from the White House that has claimed the numbers (8 million enrolled) mean that the law is working.  As usual, the devil is in the details.  If the law was designed to provide coverage to those who were uninsured, 25% of the total enrolled fitting that description is hardly indicative of that claim’s efficacy.  And when you break down that 25% number, it’s even less indicative:

At most around 930,000 people have gained coverage from Obamacare’s under-26 “slacker mandate” (not 3 million, as is commonly suggested); another 3 million or so have gained coverage from the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Approximately 2.6 million previously uninsured individuals have obtained coverage through the ACA exchanges and the related off-exchange individual markets; however, the off-exchange purchases are mostly unsubsidized, and therefore can’t necessarily be credited to Obamacare.

Here’s a graphic that breaks the McKinsey survey’s results down into a more understandable form:

McK-enroll-Apr-2

In reality, what the law has essentially done rearranged the burden of payment among those enrolled while really not doing much at all in terms of reaching those for whom it was supposedly designed to help:

What the exchanges appear to be doing is mainly helping people who were previously insured. If you’re 62 years old, say, and your income is $30,000, and you were paying for your own coverage before, you’re now eligible for plans that are much cheaper for you, thanks to taxpayer-funded subsidies and higher premiums for young people.

Of course that means that other people are paying more. “My old plan was canceled under Obamacare,” an exasperated Californian told me last week. “The new Obamacare plan costs twice as much, and the deductibles are higher. And yet Obama is counting me as one of his 8 million people!” But hey—at least he has maternity coverage.

And I’m sure our Californian is eternally grateful for big brother deciding for him that maternity care was an absolute necessity for which he must pay.  But the point is the 8 million number remains very shaky (and that’s being kind) and it really doesn’t at all reflect what the White House would have you believe it reflects – that the law is working.

~McQ

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