Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

NHS continues to give us a reason to reject government run health care … if we’re smart

The VA system has given us a hint of what we can expect from a government run health care system in the US.  But the UK has been doing it since 1948.  And, it appears, most of those who want a single payer, government system purposely turn a blind eye to the UK’s experience:

Death rates in NHS hospitals are among the highest in the western world, shock figures revealed yesterday.

British patients were found to be almost 50 per cent more likely to die from poor care than those in America.

They have five times the chance of dying from pneumonia and twice the chance of being killed by blood poisoning.

Experts say that, despite recent improvements, NHS death rates still outstrip those in many other European countries.

Note the second sentence.  That’s as of today.  To date, our government hasn’t the level of intrusion or time to turn the health care system in the US into an NHS.

If you think its bad now, just imagine the entire country run like the VA.  Or NHS.

~McQ

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Hash Tag Game

Tonight there was a hashtag game on Twitter called “Explain a Film Plot Badly”. I thought I would play the game for a while, but I think I got a bit carried away. Here are my entries to the game. How many of these movies do you recognize?

Hollywood SignAn ex-Marine officer returns home and takes over the family business started by his Italian immigrant father.

A private eye is confused by an attractive woman and her sister/daughter.

A young farm boy learns about religion, kisses his sister, joins an insurgent group, and blows up a military base.

A bar owner in Morocco befriends a local policeman.

A Kansas firm girl dreams about a magical land after being injured in inclement weather.

A rich media mogul remembers his favorite sled.

A stranded alien becomes addicted to candy.

A prize fighter suspects his brother may have slept with his wife.

A British and Turkish officer have a brief sexual encounter in WWI.

An inmate has fun causing hijinks at an asylum.

A former Nazi scientist figures out a plan to legalize polygamy.

Astronauts find a black box left by aliens long ago. Hilarity ensues.

An ex-nun sings about everything.

Military doctors drink and perform surgery in tents.

A big fish ruins everyone’s summer.

A UCLA archaeologist ignores international treaties about antiquities.

A murderous lunatic enjoys cannibalism and legumes.

A black Philadelphia police detective solves crime and racism in Mississippi.

Wyatt and Billy sell cocaine, ride motorcycles, and irritate rednecks.

A poor Irishman meets a nice girl, but dies in a boating accident.

Bruce Willis dies, then counsels a troubled youth.

An NYPD detective learns that Frenchmen have the best smack.

A bible-quoting gangster retrieves an important briefcase, then interrupts a robbery in a diner.

A concentration camp prisoner discovers which child she loves the best.

A Jewish chariot racer takes baths with hunky Roman men.

Private Ryan is sent home after a family tragedy.

A murderer practices accountancy in prison.

A rich vigilante dresses up like an animal and drives a cool car.

Twelve disgruntled jurors talk things out.

A man and his imaginary friend form a club they never talk about.

Little people travel with a piece of jewelry, have adventures.

A man goes into people’s dreams and learns stuff, and thinks about his hot ex-wife. Or maybe it’s just a dream.

A half-Irish, half-Italian man becomes involved with organized crime, then tells cops how fun it was.

A police detective looks into a box and makes an unfortunate find.

A man wishes he had never been born. His wish is granted, and his little town becomes way more fun.

Lunatic hotelier has unhealthily fond memories of his mother.

A federal agent investigates a baseball-loving bootlegger.

A magical black man heals a wounded rodent, but is electrocuted.

A starship crew encounters an alien who kills all the unattractive crew members.

A milk-loving British thug receives therapy.

The English make a Scottish rebel pay for his violent hijinks.

A mentally disabled man befriends the daughter of an idealistic, widowed, southern lawyer.

Con men rob a gangster and then get shot. But not really.

A Cuban immigrant snorts cocaine then introduces rivals to his small acquaintance.

Adolf Hitler yells and dies in German.

A British officer is held prisoner by the Japanese, and builds the best bridge ever.

A LA policeman kills robots, then has sex with one.

A hippie bowler has sex with a rich woman, meets a pornographer, and has his carpet soiled by nihilists.

Ratty-looking Formula 1 driver has a bad crash, but races again.

An African hotelier in Kigali, Rwanda, is disturbed by local events.

A math professor becomes paranoid, but gains an imaginary friend.

Antarctic researchers find an alien with a talent for mimicry.

Unattractive Persians kill hunky Spartans in a disturbingly homoerotic war.

A man is reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart, while his Hispanic friend investigates his father’s murder.

Unscrupulous petroleum magnate drinks other people’s milkshakes.

An Irish hit man travels to Belgium, is unimpressed by Bruges.

Jason Bourne loses his memory, then falls for a quirky German girl.

A girl learns how to box, then dies.

An Indian leader preaches pacifism, but, ironically, is shot.

A young man volunteers to serve in Vietnam, which is more unpleasant than he expected.

A hotel caretaker spends the winter writing an extremely repetitious book, and using cutlery.

Undercover cop gets shot while participating in a robbery. He’s told he’s “gonna be okay” but isn’t.

A mob-connected gambler runs a casino in Vegas, while hosting a bad TV show, then has serious car trouble.


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Image Credit: The Hollywood sign image was originally posted to Flickr by Sörn at http://flickr.com/photos/34065722@N00/1151601662, licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0. Post originally posted at DaleFranks.Com.

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Vacuousness coupled with incompetence equals Obama’s “strategy” to deal with ISIS

I’ve watched in horrified wonder these last few weeks as a man way over his head tries to act like he knows what he’s doing.  But he’s not fooling anyone.  Not even his most rabid supporters.  The great, shrinking American President – Barack Obama.

Here are a couple of quotes he’s made which typify his vacuousness – something at which he is quite adept:

We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem.

A manageable problem.  Yeah, that’s kind of open to any definition you want to hang on it, isn’t it?  It’s business school talk. What defines a “manageable problem” when talking about religious fanatics killing American citizens (as well as middle easterners by the thousands) to taunt the US president?  Are we there if they only behead one American journalist next year?  If they only crucify half the number they did this year, are we “managing” the “problem”? Oh, and by the way, what ever happened to R2P?  Only applicable to Libya?  And boy, did we “manage” that “problem” well.  Our embassy is now a jihadi swim club.

[W]hat we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.

Organize the Middle East?  I’d laugh out loud if what was going on wasn’t so dangerous.  This guy couldn’t organize a one man parade. He couldn’t lead a horse to water after a 10 mile run in the desert.  And coherence, as in a coherent policy?  Forget about that.  Ed Morrissey nails it:

The failure demonstrated by Obama and his administration over the last several weeks and months as the ISIS threat grew and metastasized is, at its core, a leadership crisis. Forget being the leader of the free world; this President can’t even lead his own team within one coherent message and strategy. As ABC’s State Department reporter Ali Weinberg remarked yesterday, this was the message just from one single day: “We’re going to destroy ISIS. Or manage them. Or shrink their sphere of influence. Or follow them to the gates of hell.”

With that failure to generate a united and coherent approach to ISIS among his own team, how could anyone expect the President to lead the world against this new terrorist army and the threat it poses to the region and the world?

They can’t, and he won’t.  Oh the “world” may do something, but it won’t be because of any leadership from Obama, et. al.  It will be because they’re awake to the threat that is ISIS and finally develop the intestinal fortitude to act.  And the US?  Like Libya, we’ll “lead from behind”.

What in the world could possibly go wrong with that?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 5 Sep 14

Today’s only economic release is a big one, and it’s disappointing.

The Employment Situation report shows only 142,000 net new jobs were created in July, well below expectations. The Unemployment rate fell -0.1% to 6.1%, though sadly, this is mainly because the civilian labor force fell by 64,000 this month, while the number of persons not in the labor force rose by 268,000. This brought the labor force participation rate down to 62.8%, matching the lowest participation rate since 1978. Essentially, the number of people leaving the labor force was twice the number of new jobs created. In addition, the Household Survey indicates an additional  80,000 workers became unemployed in the last month. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2%, while average weekly hours were unchanged at 34.5 hours.


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Economic Statistics for 4 Sep 14

The US trade deficit in July shrank $0.3 billion to $-40.5 billion. Exports rose 0.9%, while imports rose 0.7%.

Nonfarm productivity growth for the 2nd Quarter of 2014  rose at a 2.3% annualized rate, as unit labor costs fell -0.1%.

The ISM’s Non-Manufacturing Index rose 0.9 points in August, to 59.6.

The JP Morgan Global Composite PMI fell -0.4 points to 55.1 in August, while the Global Services PMI fell -0.5 points to 55.5.

Chain stores are reporting mostly rising rates of year-on-year sales growth in August compared to July, due to solid back-to-school sales.

Challenger’s Job Cut Report layoff count for August totals 40,010, vice 46,887 in July and 50,462 a year ago.

ADP estimates that private payroll growth in August was 204,000 jobs.

Gallup’s U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate fell -0.2% to 44.9%.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 4,000 to 302,000. The 4-week average rose 3,000 to 302,750. Continuing claims fell 64,000 to a new recovery low of 2.464 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.4 points to 37.7 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.416 trillion. Total reserve bank credit fell by $-2.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $14.5 billion in the latest week.


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What if the UN gave a climate summit and no one came?

In July we have this announcement:
President Barack Obama will attend a United Nations summit on climate change in September.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited heads of state and other leaders to the Sept. 23 summit in New York. The U.N. says the goal is to spur governments, industry and civil groups to make new commitments to addressing climate change.
The summit comes one year before world leaders will gather in Paris for global climate talks aimed at securing a deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Obama has set a goal to cut U.S. emissions 17 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels.
Then it was announced a week or so ago:

The Obama administration will seek a non-binding international accord – rather than a treaty – at a United Nations climate summit in Paris next year on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

It was a widely anticipated move, as President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he would act alone, bypassing Congress, if lawmakers declined to support his proposal.

So one would assume that the UN meeting would lay the groundwork for the Paris talks, no?  Since it all under the auspices of the UN?  And this apparently is very important to our president, no?  He’s going to attend, he’s got a plan (one of the few plans his administration has ever managed to push out there) to make a commitment for the US while bypassing Congress.  What could go wrong with this issue that is so important to Obama?  And he’s certainly consulted with other world leaders to ensure their cooperation and backing, right?

Uh, no:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas-emitting nation, won’t join his U.S. and Chinese counterparts at a United Nations climate summit next month in New York. Modi’s absence is a bit of a blow to the summit.

Chinese counterparts?  The Chinese are blowing it off too:

Chinese president Xi Jinping has decided to skip a meeting of world leaders on climate change in New York, according to climate insiders, casting doubt on the summit’s potential to make progress ahead of next year’s major UN climate summit in Paris. 

You think?  But, as the commercial says, “that’s not all”:

German daily TAZ reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel isn’t going to bother attending the Ban Ki-Moon initiated climate conference in New York this coming September. The TAZ adds this has been “confirmed by a government spokesman“. Merkel’s decision to snub the event is likely another sign that efforts to forge a climate agreement are already dead in water. The TAZ writes: “Ultimately only Europe and very few other countries remain on board. Canada for example has opted out. Japan and Russia are also no longer taking part.”

Always the last to know.  Kind of like his foreign policy, isn’t it?  No India.  No China.  No Russia.  No Canada, Germany or Japan.

So, if all of these major players in the world don’t see a reason to show up for Obama and Moon’s little show, how are those two going to sell this to world as an emergency situation that needs drastic action?

I know — call in John Kerry!

And the clown car continues to careen down the path to nowhere.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Sep 14

August motor vehicle sales rose a solid 6.4% to a 17.5 million annual rate.

Factory orders jumped 10.5% in July—all on aircraft sales. Ex-transportation orders actually fell -0.8%.

The Fed’s newest Beige Book, released today, still rates US economic growth as modest to moderate.

ICSC-Goldman says weekly retail sales were unchanged in the latest week, but up 4.8% over last year. Redbook’s retail sales reading shows 4.9% year-over-year sales growth.

The MBA reports mortgage applications rose 0.2% last week, with purchases down -2.0% but refis up 1.0%.

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index was unchanged in August at 28, holding at a 6-year high.


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Loss of Will, Continued

In the comments to my previous post, “The Shark” writes:

What is civilization? Sanitation, clean water, viable infrastructure, decent standard of living? England has all that yet I don’t think it qualifies as civilization anymore. Watch it burn? No need, it’s decaying not-so-slowly.

The thing is that “sanitation, clean water, viable infrastructure, decent standard of living” and other amenities are not the characteristics of civilization. They are merely the products of it. They are what results from civilization, i.e., a standard of law, culture, science, and domestic peace that allows “sanitation, clean water, viable infrastructure, decent standard of living” and other amenities to be built.

Once a civilization has built these amenities, they have a physical capacity that everyone can use long after the civilization itself collapses. The men of the Middle Ages couldn’t build the Roman roads–in fact, they literally had no idea how the Romans had built them–but they still used them. So the question is not whether you still have the infrastructure amenities built by your predecessors, but whether your civilization is still improving on them and building new ones.

For instance, forty years ago, the United States sent 2 men to the surface of the moon every eight months or so from 1969 to 1972. In the space of a single decade, we went from having no manned space capability at all, to having multiple manned lunar landings. Forty years later, we don’t have a vehicle capable of sending a single American into earth orbit. We have the same manned space capability now that we had in 1960, 54 years ago.

Think about that for a minute, and what implications for our civilization we can draw from that decline.


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Loss of Will

Via Instapundit, I saw this story which irked me. It’s an AP story, so I won’t quote it directly. You can go read it if you want. The upshot is that UN forces were besieged by Syrian Rebels in the Golan heights.The commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, who supervises the UN peacekeeping forces in Golan, ordered the peacekeepers to surrender to the rebels.

Last week, the detachment from Fiji were surrounded by the Rebels and surrendered, and are still prisoners of the rebels. The rebels then besieged the Philippine detachment of UNDOF. As part of the negotiations to secure the release of the Fijian peacekeepers, the UNDOF commander told the the Philippine detachment to surrender as well. The Philippine detachment, conversely, told the UNDOF commander to go screw, and…extricated themselves from the siege, during which time they were…ahem…forced to fire on the rebels in self defense.

So, first off, kudos to the Philippine troops, and their big boss, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, who said that Philippine soldiers do not surrender their firearms.

Second, how useless is the UN and its “Peacekeeping Forces”? Rebel attacks have been on the rise, causing several UNDOF member nations to withdraw their troops. These withdrawals, have, surprisingly, not kept the peace, and rebel attacks have been on the rise.

The UN is supposed to provide peacekeeping troops to, if necessary, enforce the rules of decent civilization on barbarians. Clearly, they are a failure at that. One can’t help but remember that in other, happier days, the defenders of civilization, when attacked by barbarians, would keep the peace by hunting down and killing the barbarians to the last man, killing him, then killing his pet goat, as Ralph Peters has put it. Not any more, apparently. The job of UN peacekeeping has seemingly been reduced to molesting underage girls and surrendering to barbarians.

The thing is, there are men who only want to see the world burn. To surrender to them does not gain peace, but gives them the world.

We spoke about piracy at sea on the podcast this week, and how, after obliterating it in the 19th century, we have allowed it to flourish in the 21st. We are squandering–indeed have mostly squandered–the legacy of of civilization, and with it the notion that civilization must be defended. There is never a shortage of barbarians, but there is an increasing shortage of nations willing to defend against them with the only thing barbarians understand: naked, brutal, death-dealing violence.

I do not see a bright future for civilization if this continues. Future generations may very well regard us as men of the Middle Ages did the Romans, wondering how they built all those roads and aqueducts.

Civilization may not be perfect, but as the example of ISIS/ISIL in Iraq is instructing us, it is generally better than the alternative.


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