Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Delusion – see it in action

David Gergen provides us with a perfect example:

Obama’s second term is a total aberration. Resisted by obstructionists among Republicans and plagued by his own mistakes, the first 12 months after re-election were a bust. Why he and his team didn’t take more care in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act website will remain one of the great mysteries for historians.

But it has now become equally puzzling why he has not become more sure-footed in foreign affairs. He is one of the brightest men ever to occupy the office, and yet his learning curve has been among the flattest. Talking to players on the world stage — most of whom still want him to succeed — one finds them genuinely rattled, worried about a lack of national will and operational competence.

I have to tell you I laughed my rear end off reading the highlighted sentence.  Did he not reread what he said there?

Now maybe its just me, but I would suggest that a sign of intelligence – being “bright” – is that  you learn.  You learn from history.  You learn from your own mistakes.  You learn from others. I.e. you don’t have a flat learning curve if you’re actually bright. Especially when you’ve had almost 6 years to figure it out.  And make no mistake, Obama hasn’t figured it out yet. He’s not even close. And currently he’s on a global whine-a-thon, lamenting his fate, calling himself a “singles hitter”, blah, blah, blah.

Yet despite all of this Gergen and other Obama supporters can’t see past this incredible contradiction (which says a lot about how “bright” they are).  They have deluded themselves into thinking that this fellow is just so bright that it must be the fault of others that he can’t seem to learn (those damned “obstructionists” for one).   They cannot yet face the fact that Obama is a bust.  He’s been a bust from day 1.  Yet here we are, almost 6 years later, with supposed “bright” people making statements like Gergens’.

Why can’t they own up to the fact they were wrong – wrong about Obama’s capabilities, wrong about his competence, and, apparently wrong about his level of intelligence.  After so many millions of gushing words about the man, that’s embarrassing. And it is a reflection on their intelligence as well.  So instead they delude themselves and write sentences like Gergens’.

But even they, at least some of them, are beginning to understand the depth of the mistake they made, whether they’ll ever admit it or not:

America needs a strong, effective president year in, year out, to help propel us forward. Our success as a people has depended on our capacity to solve the problems of today so we can move on to tomorrow. The endless evasions and diversions are tying us in knots and draining our spirits.

The world needs strong, effective American leadership as well; for all our mistakes like Iraq, the U.S. is the one nation that still has the power to keep world order. But in the twinkle of an eye, we have gone from being indispensable to indisposed.

You have to chuckle about the need to include “Iraq” as a mistake.  No mention of the legion of foreign policy mistakes and disasters of this administration.  But Gergen, other than that, is quite correct.  The problem now is the utter depths to which our foreign policy has plunged are so obvious even they must acknowledge it.

And it burns to have to do so, as you can tell.  But the delusion that it really isn’t the man or his ideas that are at fault persists.  It’s everyone else’s fault.  Just ask them.

~McQ

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New White House priority? Climate change!

Apparently tomorrow, President Obama will “showcase” his climate change agenda.  According to the Washington Post:

After years of putting other policy priorities first — and dismaying many liberal allies in the process — Obama is now getting into the weeds on climate change and considers it one of the key components of his legacy, according to aides and advisers. He is regularly briefed on scientific reports on the issue, including a national climate assessment that he will help showcase Tuesday. He is using his executive authority to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and is moving ahead with stricter fuel-efficiency standards for the heaviest trucks. And while he routinely brings up climate change in closed-door meetings with world leaders, according to his aides, he also discusses it in his private life, talking about global warming’s implications with his teenage daughters.

As usual, he intends to proceed by using executive power, whether or not the people or their representatives agree.  And also without any consideration of the cost to the consumer.  All in the face of mounting evidence that the supposed crisis of CO2 is a non-crisis. According to the WaPo, this intention to address “climate change” was spurred by Obama viewing satellite pictures of the California mountain snow pack:

The satellite images viewed by President Obama before a meeting with eight Western governors were stark, showing how snowpack in California’s mountains had shrunk by 86 percent in a single year.

Of course, most of us know that’s likely a local weather phenomenon, not a result of “global warming” or we’d be unlikely to be seeing things like this:

Antarctic sea ice continues to set new records, with extent in April at the highest since measurements began in 1979.

Remember, Antarctic and Arctic sea ice melts were to be the harbingers of doom.  In fact, the Arctic was supposed to be ice free last year according to the perpetually wrong alarmists.  Instead we saw record sea ice there as well.  Factor in the fact that there has been no global warming for over 17 years and one has to ask why this, in the face of a badly performing economy and over 92 million Americans being out of work, is suddenly to become a priority for the White House?  As one editorialist puts it:

The problem is, it’s just so hard to be an alarmist these days. Temperatures aren’t rising, U.S. CO2 emissions are down, and now it turns out that peak oil won’t peak. What’s a scare-monger to do?

The answer is keep on trying to gin up the alarm to satisfy the true-believers who are an important political constituency of the Democrats.  And it is becoming clearer every day that the Democrats are going to need all of their constituencies to even have a ghost of a chance in the November mid-terms.  To this point, the left environmental movement hasn’t been to happy with the Obama administration and it certainly wants more drastic action to be taken to curb the use of fossil fuel. So its time to shore up their support:

Environmentalists such as Democratic donor and billionaire Tom Steyer want him to veto the Keystone pipeline and wean the nation from natural gas. Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke said of the administration: “We have to increasingly get them to acknowledge that there has to be a major transformation away from fossil fuels.”

That desire the Natural Resources Defense Council voices has resulted in such things as the “war on coal” and the reduction in production of oil on federal lands and off our coasts.   It has also meant slow walking the permit process as well as holding the Keystone Pipeline hostage to presidential politics. So why now? Why is this the time to do this?  Because he can:

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plans are not final, said Obama has made it clear that he considers climate change a priority and is less politically constrained now that he no longer faces reelection.

Meanwhile the public views the issue as a low priority if a priority at all, given jobs and economic problems.  Yet Obama persists.  Elections are in the offing.  And if there is one thing he has at least a semblance of competence in, it’s getting elected (or helping others do so).  So all the high flying rhetoric aside, this is about votes, this is about elections and this is about trying to preserve at least one Democratic house in Congress for the last two years of his presidency.  It is one of many such moves he’ll be attempting in the coming months.  But make no mistake – this isn’t about the environment or his legacy, it’s about politics. ~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 04 May 14

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about Ukraine, the Bundy case in Nevada, and the increasing arbitrariness of the Federal government.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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It is not possible to get leftists to feel embarrassment or shame

Various members of the White House staff, mostly fresh-faced twenty or thirty-something leftists, have been out there lately demonstrating that they have no capability to admit error or feel the slightest bit of shame in mistakes made by this administration.

They quite literally act as if they just don’t see the problem. “Dude, this was like two years ago.” Four people were killed, and around here, we all believed at the time that incompetence was covered up for political purposes. Every piece of information that comes out confirms it.

But leftists are now in permanent “deny, deny, deny” mode. Bill Clinton taught them well. If you never admit mistakes or problems, you effectively reduce your opponents to sputtering frustration. If you never show shame or embarrassment no matter how silly you look, it’s never necessary to admit that your opponents have any valid points whatsoever. 

The only thing you need is the willing cooperation of the legacy media so that you get first shot at persuading the legions of rationally ignorant people who don’t much like politics. If the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN all refuse to call you on it, or do so way after the fact so that editors can just say “old news, move on”, then you’ll get away with it.

I’ve long thought that people such as this ass Veitor literally don’t see the mistakes. Their post-modern training allows them to believe that whatever they convince the media and the people to believe is the truth. It doesn’t matter what facts contradict it. It doesn’t matter what the negative long-term effects are. It doesn’t even matter if it dissolves the bonds that hold civil society together. By post-modern axioms, the consensus narrative is the truth. It must be advanced.

Post-modernists don’t feel shame because they don’t think they’re lying. You could probably hook up Veitor to a lie detector and get no indication whatever that he thinks he’s lying. He believes it’s impossible to lie in support of leftist policies and practitioners. Leftism is right by axiomatic certainty, so anything that supports it must be true and right.

No doubt such people would, if pressed hard enough, admit that there are other viewpoints and details that support them. But they would simply say that the human mind can be irrational, blah, blah, blah, and none of it matters. The idea that they might be irrational in support of collectivism never, ever enters their mind.

They are very much like fundamentalists who see the will of God in everything that happens. No religious fundamentalist is capable of feeling shame about believing in God, or shame in the outcomes of what they claim are God’s works. It’s just all part of a grand plan that we can’t see.

Similarly, leftists see the validation of leftism is everything. They are cognitively incapable of seeing the facts and realities that dispute leftism. They are incapable of believing that anyone who denies leftism is interacting in good faith.

They can only see the narrative that upholds leftism. Only that can be true. It doesn’t matter how preposterous it is to someone connected to reality. For them, leftism is reality.

But, as kennycan said in a comment over at Daily Pundit concerning the Ukraine spokesbint, some realities are more real than others. Ezra Klein’s “reality” that the federal government cannot run out of dollars is just a comfortable fantasy in support of leftism. It doesn’t even pass basic logical analysis. For example if that were true, there would never be any reason to collect taxes! If the government can’t run out of dollars, those taxes are not needed.

That’s obviously preposterous. Even more preposterous is the idea that an exponential curve can continue its natural shape indefinitely. As Herb Stein said, what can’t go on forever will stop.

But, if leftists can use their post-modern approach to deny that Obamacare is a disaster and that Benghazi was a horrible, botched mistake that was covered up, or that the IRS is engaging in politically targeted harassment, then why should we believe they will be any different when the debt mountain collapses? They will come up with some narrative that blames Republicans for talking bad about the debt and spooking the financial markets, or whatever.

Using the “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality, they’ll demand that the rich have to just give up everything they own for the sake of society – why do you think they’re pounding so hard right now on the income inequality thing? They’re setting the stage to have options to advance leftism, no matter what happens.

This explains why arguing with them is fruitless. Remember the conversational dictum that you don’t discuss religion in polite company? That is what you are doing when you discuss collectivism with a leftist. (Though their concept of politeness is pretty far degraded from mine.)

Make your case to the muddled middle if you must, but trying to convince a leftist that he has to give up his post-modern, collectivist religion is no more likely to succeed than trying to convince a fundamentalist that his wife’s death in a car accident is evidence of either a cruel God or that God had nothing to do with it. They both have constructed elaborate mental models of how the world satisfies their religion, and there is no talking them out of it.

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White House says only 28% of 18-34 demographic has signed up for ObamaCare

The demographic that was key to holding down health care costs apparently came in well below the level necessary to ensure that:

Just more than a quarter of the eight million people who signed up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act are in the prized demographic of 18 to 34 years old, falling short of the figure considered ideal to keep down policy prices.

The data, released Thursday by the Obama administration, painted a more complete picture of enrollment in the plans. They show that about 28% of people picking plans on the state and federal insurance exchanges by April 19—after most states’ enrollment deadlines passed—were 18 to 34 years old, a generally healthy group. The proportion is higher than previous counts. But it is significantly below the 40% level that some analysts consider important for holding down rates by balancing the greater medical spending generated by older enrollees.

Insurers right now are setting rates for 2015, and the age data will be a key factor in their decisions. Some insurers say that despite seeing a late surge in younger enrollees, their sign-ups still skewed older overall than they had expected.

Because the “healthy” demographic sign-up fell well below expectations, the rates for 2015 are expected to be at a higher rate.  And, of course, there’s the further problem that “enrollment” doesn’t necessarily mean that the enrollee has paid for coverage.  As noted in earlier:

Data provided to the committee by every insurance provider in the health care law’s Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) shows that, as of April 15, 2014, only 67 percent of individuals and families that had selected a health plan in the federally facilitated marketplace had paid their first month’s premium and therefore completed the enrollment process. Nationwide, only 25 percent of paid enrollees are ages 18 to 34

And finally, the assumption is that the 18 to 34 demographic will be a “healthy demographic” relatively speaking and will carry the cost for the more sickly among us.  That too may be an erroneous assumption:

While the 18-34-year-old cohort has been dubbed the “young and healthy,” a more accurate moniker might be “young and somewhat healthy.”  68 percent of 18-34-year-olds on the federal exchanges chose a silver plan.  As I’ve written previously:

Why does this matter for the death spiral?  Because so many enrollees choosing silver plans suggests that the risk pool may be sicker than is optimal. For enrollees at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, silver plans tend to offer the most coverage for the lowest price.  For persons under 250 percent FPL, ObamaCare offers help with copays and deductibles, but only if the consumer chooses a silver plan. The actuarial value for a silver plan is 70 percent (that is, a silver plan must, on average, cover 70 percent of a policyholder’s medical claims), but when the subsidies for cost-sharing are included, the actuarial value rises to between 73 and 94 percent. As one writer notes, “Why would someone opt for a silver-level plan over a cheaper bronze or catastrophic-level plan? The most plausible explanation is that the enrollee anticipates incurring significant medical expenses over the coming year, which is to say that he’s not healthy.”

Since income tends to be lower the younger one is, a lot of those 18-34-year-olds are probably in that <250 percent FPL range.  The inordinate number of 18-34-year-olds choosing silver plans suggests that the exchanges have attracted young and healthy people that are not that healthy.

Not only may they not be young and healthy, but they’ll most likely be receiving high subsidies which again sort of defeats the whole purpose of signing up that demographic, doesn’t it?  And it certainly calls into further question whether or not even the 28% that signed up will have any significant effect in helping to lower costs.

Bottom line? Well, to quote a well-known conservative talk show host, we’ve again been treated to a heaping helping of “bovine scatology”.   Not that anyone at all familiar with this president and his administration should at all be surprised.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 1 May 14

April auto sales cooled slightly, to an annual pace of 16.0 million vice March’s 16.4 million.

Challenger’s layoff count rose to 40,298 in April from 34,399 in March, led by layoffs in the retail sector.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 16,000 to 344,000. The 4-week average rose 3,250 to 320,000. Continuing claims rose 97,000 to 2.771 million.

Personal income rose 0.5% in March, while personal spending increased by 0.9% The PCE price index rose 0.2% at both the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, personal income rose 3.4% while spending rose 4.0%. The PCE price index rose 1.1%, and 1.2% ex-food and -energy.

Markit’s final PMI Manufacturing Index for April fell 0.1 points to 55.4.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index plummeted from -25.4 to -37.9 in the latest week.

The ISM manufacturing composite index rose 1.4 points to 54.9 in April.

Construction spending in March rose a less-than-expected 0.2%, an increase of 8.4% from March 2013.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-0.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.296 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $4.6 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-25.8 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 30 Apr 14

Real economic growth slowed to an annualized 0.1% in the 1st Quarter of 2014, well short of expectations. The GDP Price Index rose an annualized 1.3%. The ongoing sub-par economic growth we predicted in 2009 continues into its fifth year. As of yet, we have experienced no real recovery from the economic crash that began in October, 2008.

The Employment Cost Index hit a record low increase of 0.3% for 1Q 2014, a level only seen twice before in the 32 years of this index. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 1.8%.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index made a big jump in April to 63.0 from 55.9 in March.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications plummeted -5.9% last week. Purchases fell -4.0% and re-fis -7.0%.

The Federal Open Markets Committee left interest rates unchanged today, with a Federal Funds Rate Target Level of 0% to 0.25%.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth in April is for 220,000 net new jobs.


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ObamaCare slapped by reality … again

And that reality is the American people aren’t buying the propaganda being pushed by the administration.  After its celebration of the dubious enrollment of 8 million and unilateral declaration that ObamaCare was a “success”, new poll numbers show no difference among the public’s opinion of the law than before their declaration:

What’s perhaps more telling is that, despite the rare good news of the past few weeks, their perceptions of the law remain basically as-is — that is, pretty dim. To wit:

  • Americans say 50-41 that the implementation of the law has been worse than they expected rather than better.
  • They say 44-24 that the health-care system is getting worse rather than getting better as a result of Obamacare.
  • They say 29-14 that the quality of care is getting worse rather than better.
  • They say 47-8 that their health-care costs are increasing due to the law rather than decreasing.
  • They say 58-11 that the overall cost of health care in the United States is increasing rather than decreasing.

Almost all of these numbers are basically unchanged from in recent months.

What is it politicians like to tell us about politics?  Ah, yes, perception is reality.  And as I pointed out when you mess with people’s health care, the reality becomes very personal.  It isn’t something that you view from afar and doesn’t effect you.  It is something everyone is interested in in some form or fashion.

The numbers above are their perception of that awful law’s impact on their lives.   The propaganda simply isn’t going to change that.   “8 million enrolled” is something the people really don’t care about.  Higher premiums, more red tape and fewer options for health care, not to mention having to give up their doctor and the health insurance they liked is something they care about.  That is the result of the law and it is the reason for the numbers.

As we’ve mentioned previously, the numbers you see above are numbers that exist before the most onerous regulations and requirements (now delayed until after the election) are finally put into effect.  If you think these numbers are bad, wait till after November.

The bottom line is ObamaCare sucks and the people know it and no administration sponsored dog and pony show is going to change that perception.  We see a lot of Democrats now trying to claim that ObamaCare really won’t hurt them in the mid-terms.

I invite them to look at the above numbers, understand that it is they who are going to get “credit” for the law, and rethink their claim prior to their coming unemployment.

That way it won’t come as such a surprise when they’re defeated.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 29 Apr 14

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell -4 points to 119 in April.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales jumped 1.6% for the week, and were up 3.1% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports an 3.8% increase in retail sales over last year.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.8% in February.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence index was unchanged at 82.3 for April.


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