Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Guess what unexpectedly rose again?

If you said jobless claims, you’d be right:

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 471,000 in the week ended May 15, the highest level since the week ended April 10, the Labor Department said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 440,000 from the previously reported 444,000, which was revised marginally up to 446,000 in Thursday’s report.

The four-week moving average of new claims, which is considered a better measure of underlying labor market trends, rose 3,000 to 453,500.

To give you an idea of what the nation is facing in unemployment, a little chart to make the point:

Remember, President Obama continues to claim that without his pork laden “stimulus” package (something the “party of ‘no'” voted against as a bloc), things would have been much, much worse. Really?

And also remember that when he touted that “stimulus” he promised it would halt the unemployment slide at 8%.  I assume the GOP sees his strategy, given the numbers and the promised results as an effective counter to his claim the “stimulus” worked.

On a non-political note, this week’s claims simply point out that we still have a long way to go before we begin to see a steady improvement in the unemployment rate.  And, with the European crisis festering, we may see it get worse again, before it gets better.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-05-19

Oakland city council becomes the first government organization in CA to support the pot legalization initiative. http://bit.ly/bBgXJ4 #

Somalis are upset we're trying a pirate. Solution: Simply shoot them out of hand when caught in the act of piracy. http://bit.ly/9rSDvR #

Why CA is bankrupt: CalPers bennies were assumed to be self-financing…as long as the Dow was at 25,000 by 2009. http://bit.ly/aWgi1k #

Somalis are upset we're trying one of their guys for piracy. Solution: Shoot them when they're caught in the act. http://bit.ly/9rSDvR #

Germany bans naked short-selling. Asian markets tumble. "Germany just switched off the financial lights in Europe." http://bit.ly/9y4wHK #

You'd think that receiving the power to protect the island would require something more dramatic than sipping a delicious beverage. #Lost #

Of COURSE Jack volunteers immediately. Now, he can spend the next 1k years thinking what a wonderful, self-sacrificing guy he is. Ass. #Lost #

Is it just me, or does Jacob make things more difficult than they actually need to be? #Lost #

The thing about Ben is, that he keeps a grudge 'til it's dead. Then he has it stuffed and mounted. #Lost #

Well, we won't be subjected to Zoe's bad acting any more. #Lost #

Delenn is back! #Lost #

Apparently, John didn't actually WANT to talk to Richard. #Lost #

Jack keeps Kate's dirty t-shirt on while he sews her up. He's a really good doctor. #Lost #

Watching Sun and Jin die in the #Lost Recap: You have a child, ass. You're SUPPOSED to leave her. Sure, make your kid an orphan. #

The euro has plummeted against the US dollar, falling below $1.22 for the first time since April 2006. http://bit.ly/caizA6 #

Arlen Specter can now be the mean old man who lives on the corner. Every neighborhood needs one. #

Critz still looks like a winner in #PA12 though. #

AP calls #PASen for Sestak. #

In #PA12 Critz is still holding at 57% with 22% of precincts reporting. #

Sestak is now at 51%. You want to hear a "bitter clinger" from Pennsylvania? Watch Arlen Specter's concession speech. #

Current PA-12 Results: Critz (D) – 59.2%, Burns (R) 38.6%. So far…not good. #

Well, I've got to stop twittering for a bit. I've got to take a dog for a walk. And, no, that's not a figure of speech. #

Maybe it's too early to call either race in PA. #

PA House 12: 82 votes counted, Critz (D) leads 86%-0%. Is a disaster looming for Burns!? #

Very first election returns from PA: With 114 votes counted, Sestak leads Specter, 56%-44%. #

I wonder how the election in PA will be affected by the bad weather, and resulting low turnout. #

Everyone seems happy about the #Randslide in KY. Maybe you should curb the triumphalism until you see results from PA, AR, etc. #

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Are you feeling safe from terrorism, Bunky?

If you believe that what was wrong with our intel community prior to 9/11 was fixed by Congress afterward, you’re dwelling in a false sense of security.

The Obama administration tried to sell the public that the Christmas day bomber’s attempt was nothing like 9/11 because it was a failure “to understand intelligence” not a failure to “collect and understand it”.

Wrongo, says the Senate Intelligence committee.  The National Counterterrorism Center, which was created by Congress and tasked with being the primary agency for the analysis of terrorism intelligence failed to do that job:

“NCTC personnel had the responsibility and the capability to connect the key reporting with the other relevant reporting,” the congressional summary said. “The NCTC was not adequately organized and did not have resources appropriately allocated to fulfill its missions.”

The NCTC is the government’s clearinghouse for terrorism information and is the only government agency that can access all intelligence and law enforcement information.

Lawmakers found that the NCTC was not organized to be the sole agency in charge or piecing together terrorism threats.

“Some of the systemic errors this review identified also were cited as failures prior to 9/11,” Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Saxby Chambliss wrote in an addendum to the report.

What do you do with a government that doesn’t follow its own recommendations for 8 years?  Where was the oversight?  Where was the leadership?  And this isn’t just the Obama administration’s failure either.

One thing you have to keep in mind when thinking about the Christmas day bomber and the Times Square bomber.

Neither plot was “foiled” by good intelligence work.

Both, instead, FAILED.

~McQ

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Old myths about Vietnam resurface

In the wake of the Richard Blumenthal nonsense, Larry Pressler, former Republican senator from SD and a Vietnam vet writes a pretty good indictment of the deferment generation Blumenthal represents and how their thinking about war in general evolved from the time they’d have had to participate to the time when others would have to do so.  Unsurprisingly they’re more for the latter than they were for the former.

But there was a line in his article that again perpetuates a myth about the Vietnam war:

The problem is that for every person who won a deferment or a spot in a special National Guard unit, someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve.

Let me say this very clearly: NOT TRUE.

Goodness knows there have been a number of studies that address this canard.  And their findings do not support the contention.  Here are the raw numbers:

Of all the men and women who served in Vietnam, 275,000, or 10.6%, were black. The remaining 88.4% were Caucasian. At the time of the Vietnam War, Blacks represented approximately 12.5% of the total U.S. population.

There is a persistent myth that Blacks were used as “cannon fodder”, being assigned to infantry units where they were forced to “walk point”. This is not supported by the casualty data which indicates that 86.8% of those killed in action were Caucasian, while 12.1%, or 5,711, were Black. Again, this number is approximately the same as the percentage of Blacks in the general population during the war.

Another study produced the same result:

Sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler, in their recently published book “All That We Can Be,” said they analyzed the claim that blacks were used like cannon fodder during Vietnam “and can report definitely that this charge is untrue. Black fatalities amounted to 12 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia – a figure proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population at the time and slightly lower than the proportion of blacks in the Army at the close of the war.”

So put that one to bed if you hear it repeated.  It’s simply not true.  Nor is the “poor and less educated”.  Perhaps in in the context that Pressler uses it (he’s talking about the “elite” in Ivy League schools at the time) it has some legs, but in the context of the force as a whole it doesn’t hold up:

Servicemen who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or infantry officers.

Vietnam Veterans were the best educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better.

Certainly the military was strained then and those of us who served at that time remember the Cat IVs (if I’m not mistaken 100,000 were admitted and didn’t last long – they simply weren’t equipped to handle the military), but in general, it was, as General Barry McCaffrey notes above, the best educated force we’d ever fielded at the time.

There are a few other myths I’d like to see go away and now seems the perfect time address them with some statistics:

91% of Vietnam Veterans say they are glad they served.

74% said they would serve again even knowing the outcome.

There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non veterans of the same age group (from a Veterans Administration study).

Vietnam Veterans are less likely to be in prison than the general population – only 1/2 of one percent of Vietnam Veterans have been jailed for crimes.

97% were discharged under honorable conditions; the same percentage of honorable discharges as ten years prior to Vietnam.

85% of Vietnam Veterans made a successful transition to civilian life.

Vietnam veterans’ personal income exceeds that of our non-veteran age group by more than 18 percent.

Vietnam veterans have a lower unemployment rate than our non-vet age group.

87% of the American people hold Vietnam Vets in high esteem.

Here’s one of my favorite myths – most Vietnam veterans were drafted:

2/3 of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers. 2/3 of the men who served in World War II were drafted.   Many men volunteered for the draft so even some of the draftees were actually volunteers.

Approximately 70% of those killed were volunteers.

And, of course, you’ve heard the one about the average age of the infantryman in Vietnam being 19?  It wasn’t.  It was 22.55 years old.

While I certainly agree with Pressler’s greater point about those like Blumenthal, he doesn’t need to use myths in place of facts to do so. The attitude toward Vietnam vets has changed significantly and for the better over the years. However, these myths, perpetuated by the anti-war crowd and the media have persisted and cast a shadow on their service.  Time to put them to rest once and for all.

~McQ

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Tuesday more of a message for GOP than Democrats

Oh, certainly there was something in there for the Democrats – perhaps a bit of false hope – but Rand Paul defeated the establishment GOP pick handily (hello, Bob Bennett?  Charlie Crist?) in Kentucky sending the real message of the night.

Arlen Specter’s defeat was neither a surprise or a disappointment.  Who wants a turncoat Republican under a Democratic flag of convenience, there only because it was clear he couldn’t win a Republican primary (see above and join him with Bennett, Crist and Trey Grayson)?  Joe Sestak, a former admiral and Democratic congressman, was a much more attractive Democratic candidate.

Blanche Lincoln, the incumbent Arkansas Democratic Senator, was also the establishment Democratic pick and supported by both President Obama and Bill Clinton.  She only managed a run-off with Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

The seat held by John Murtha went to one of his aides.  I’m not at all surprised by that.  I’d have loved the irony of a Republican win, but it wasn’t likely according to the polls.  Murtha was a king of pork.  No one will argue he didn’t lard it on his district.  And, in times of economic hardship, voters may have chosen in the hope his former aide will continue that, rather than taking a chance with a Republican.  Some analysts see the election as a bellwether for the fall.  I’m not seeing that at all, and there’s always the danger for the Donks of giving it more importance than it deserves.

So, what if any messages were sent?  For the GOP, the Tea Party effect is real.  The message is clear – smaller, less costly and less intrusive government (lower taxes, much less spending). There are enough establishment candidates languishing by the wayside at the moment for even the slowest among the party to begin to understand that. There is certainly an element of anti-incumbency evident there.

For the Democrats, I’d say the message is mixed.  It’s hard to say with Lincoln hanging on, a Republican turncoat turned out by a Congressional Democrat and holding on to a Congressional open seat means anti-incumbent fever is sweeping the ranks of the Democratic base.  I believe there is an anti-incumbent fever, but it resides mostly among the right and independents.

We’ll know more as we see how the vote breaks down in the key races. I’m very interested to see what independents did.  But for right now, the establishment GOP better be responding to their wakeup call and tweaking their message – and perhaps their candidates – for this fall.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-05-18

Cass Sunstein, Obama’s regulatory czar, thinks that bloggers should be forced to link to opposing viewpoints. | http://bit.ly/d1sUKz #

First results in KY Senate race: Rand Paul 49%, Trey Grayson 43%. http://bit.ly/969QD0 #

Bristol Palin has signed on with Single Source Speakers to give lectures at $15kto $30k. She must be very wise. | http://bit.ly/dqMjum #

Amazon says Kindle reader for Android devices is coming soon. That will be nice for my HTC Incredible. | http://bit.ly/aSzTw5 #

With 20/20 hindsight, Shell will pre-position a concrete coffer dam in the arctic for containing any oil leaks. | http://bit.ly/bdL6ks #

Alabama math teacher tries to teach geometry by by explaining shooting angles for assassinating Obama. | http://bit.ly/9E92EP #

Dow drops another 115 points on worries about the €. Is the European Currency on its last legs? | http://bit.ly/d5BU6w #

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    So let’s talk politics on this semi-Super Primary Tuesday

    We’ll start with Sean Trende at RCP who wonders if 2010 is Anti-incumbent, anti-liberal or anti-Democrat. Trende treats us to a very long and analytical argument which can be summed up with “yes, to all three questions”. Trende is of the opinion that Democrats could lose up to 60 plus seats. Newt Gingrich says 70 plus. I’m sticking with at least enough to make Nancy Pelosi something other than 3 heart-beats away from the Presidency. And I’ll be honest – I’m sort of hoping the Dems retain the majority in the Senate. Anyway, read Trende’s article, see if you agree.

    Next up is Howard Fineman who is pretty sure that Obama’s strategy for the midterms is to run against the GOP. He sort of fired that first shot today when he said, in a speech, that if the GOP had had its way and his stimulus had not passed unemployment would be a lot worse than it is today. I’m sure someone will remind him soon of his claim that if the stimulus was passed, unemployment wouldn’t go past 8%. He also apparently challenged the GOP, in a speech in Youngstown today, to tell the workers in a steel plant he was touring “why doing nothing would be better for America”.

    Here’s a wild stab – we wouldn’t be up to our asses in trillions of dollars of new debt we can’t afford and looking down a budgetary road that promises trillions more of debt we can’t afford.

    But hey, that’s just me. Meanwhile, back to Fineman:

    Two years later the president is tentatively unveiling the strategy he and fellow Democrats will pursue in this fall’s election season, and it has a heavy dose of … looking backward. It’s going to be as much about history as hope, and more about attacking Republicans than promoting his own vision. The goal is to give pause to independent voters eager to punish Obama for their economic insecurity by voting for GOP candidates. The message: we can’t return power to the very people who gave us the catastrophic Great Recession to begin with.

    Does he honestly think that will sell? Seriously now … does anyone think that trying to blame the other party two years into your presidency and 4 years into a Democratic Congress is going to fool anyone but those who want to be fooled? If I were a member of the GOP I’d pray he did this – it would effectively kill the hope and change meme and squarely plant him in the “old style” politician he said he wasn’t. It’s also a strategy that says he can’t run on his record.

    Peter Wallsten has a WSJ piece in which he claims Democrats face a threat from their own base. I heard a Pennsylvania Democrat say today he was voting for Arlen Specter because Pat Toomey, the Republican Senatorial nominee, polled much better against Specter than he does against Sestak. Wallsten claims the rebellion is brewing “among white, working-class voters” – the “bitter clingers” of the past campaign. They’re fed up with the Democrats and Obama.

    Lloyd Briggs said he is “fed up” with Washington over the Wall Street bailouts. Peggy Cendarski frets that the Democrats’ “unfair” health-care overhaul will punish those who already have good insurance coverage.

    These and other Democratic voters in this blue-collar town said they are ready for a change in Washington. Some are open to backing Democratic challengers to lawmakers the party has supported for many years, and some said they may leave the party entirely come November.

    There isn’t any apparent passion for Democrats in PA, although there are some very interesting races. But it is clear that what Democrats have done in the past year – with bailouts and huge spending sprees – has not resonated among the base.

    More than a third of Democrats, for example, feel their own party members in Congress are “more concerned about the interests of large corporations” than those of average Americans, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released last week.

    Not good news for Democratic incumbents, and I might add, not good news for a strategy that plans to call out the GOP for not voting to bail out Wall Street.

    So watch the races carefully that are being voted today. They will provide an indicator of the mood of the country (as if VA, NJ and MA haven’t already given us an inkling). I’m particularly interested in the PA race (both senatorial and Murtha’s old district), KY (Rand Paul) and AR (Lincoln). We’ll talk about them tomorrow – but in the meantime, mull all of this over and remember it as we watch the year unfold toward the mid-terms.

    ~McQ

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    Dale’s Tweets for 2010-05-18

    • YouTube now gets 2 billion viewers a day, a larger audience than all three networks' prime-time viewership…combined. http://bit.ly/9PaB2V #
    • US Treasury says it took a $1.6 bil loss on Chrysler loan. Total losses from automaker loans expected to be $34 bil. http://bit.ly/9MZay3 #
    • Iran reached a deal to swap low-enriched for high-enriched uranium with Turkey. Iranian press calls it "epic victory". http://bit.ly/b9BoU7 #
    • …and that's when Neil exited the LM, to join me on the lunar surface. #BlumenthalSpeeches #
    • So, right after Omaha Beach, my CO asked me to take a squad and find this Ryan fellow, whose brothers had all died. #BlumenthalSpeeches #
    • "Mojo In The Morning" show has been contacted by Miss Universe officials about her part in a "Stripper 101" contest. http://bit.ly/aO2VCh #
    • Miss USA, Rima Fakih, the first Arab American to wear the crown, is a pretty good stripper, too. | http://twitpic.com/1os9nr #
    • California pot growers face a new and serious threat: falling prices. A man can't even make a decent illegal living.¦ http://bit.ly/dh6IRl #

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    Quote of the day – Jeremiah Wright, chickens and busses edition

    You remember this quote from then Senator Obama:

    “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

    You also remember that Obama later denounced his “old uncle” as “divisive and destructive” and severed ties with him? Apparently the Rev. has revealed how far under the bus he was thrown after a 20 year relationship with the Obama family. In a letter to a group raising money for Africa relief he makes the case that his attempt to get frozen money released for use in Haiti would most likely be ignored by the administration:

    “No one in the Obama administration will respond to me, listen to me, talk to me or read anything that I write to them. I am ‘toxic’ in terms of the Obama administration,” Wright wrote the president of Africa 6000 International earlier this year.

    “I am ‘radioactive,’ Sir. When Obama threw me under the bus, he threw me under the bus literally!” he wrote. “Any advice that I offer is going to be taken as something to be avoided. Please understand that!”

    Chickens coming home to roost. And a lesson to anyone who thinks Obama would ever go to the mat for them if they happen to be perceived as “controversial”. There is absolutely nothing “new” about that particular politician or the politics he practices.

    ~McQ

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    ObamaCare and the law of unintended consequences

    Today seems to be a “government and the law of unintended consequences” day.  Below you saw the consequences of draconian diet rules.  Here we’ll see the effect of poorly written law and government intrusion into the most effective health care system in the world.  Dr. Scott Gottlieb explains:

    President Obama guaranteed Americans that after health reform became law they could keep their insurance plans and their doctors. It’s clear that this promise cannot be kept. Insurers and physicians are already reshaping their businesses as a result of Mr. Obama’s plan.

    Gottlieb goes on to explain why the caps on how much an insurer can spend on expenses and take for profits is going to result in huge changes in the way medicine is delivered.  One thing that is rapidly happening now is doctors, seeing the handwriting on the wall, are opting to sell their practices and services to insurance companies and hospitals.  As Gottlieb points out:

    Consolidated practices and salaried doctors will leave fewer options for patients and longer waiting times for routine appointments. Like the insurers, physicians are responding to the economic burdens of the president’s plan in one of the few ways they’re permitted to.

    That means they’ll work under the rules dictated by either the insurance company or a hospital – in both cases an entity which comes between you and your doctor. It means less choice, less access, fewer doctors available to see depending on your insurance plan.  And the obvious possibility that the doctor you’re now happy with may not be on your plan when all of this falls out.  Gottlieb summarizes:

    The bottom line: Defensive business arrangements designed to blunt ObamaCare’s economic impacts will mean less patient choice.

    There are other unintended consequences as well that point to less choice.  Texas provides the example:

    Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare at alarming rates, frustrated by reimbursement cuts they say make participation in government-funded care of seniors unaffordable.

    Two years after a survey found nearly half of Texas doctors weren’t taking some new Medicare patients, new data shows 100 to 200 a year are now ending all involvement with the program. Before 2007, the number of doctors opting out averaged less than a handful a year.

    “This new data shows the Medicare system is beginning to implode,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association. “If Congress doesn’t fix Medicare soon, there’ll be more and more doctors dropping out and Congress’ promise to provide medical care to seniors will be broken.”

    Remember this is the same government that is now messing with the rest of the system. How will Congress “fix” Medicare?  As is obvious, doctors are dropping out because they can’t afford to stay in that system.  As Dr. Guy Culpepper said:

    “You do Medicare for God and country because you lose money on it,” said Culpepper, a graduate of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “The only way to provide cost-effective care is outside the Medicare system, a system without constant paperwork and headaches and inadequate reimbursement.”

    And fewer and fewer doctors are finding they can afford to do Medicare for “God and country” and stay in business.

    So you have this new realignment taking place among doctors, hospitals and insurers and a growing trend of doctors opting out of the Medicare system and yet the promise of increased and better care as a result of government meddling is still being parroted by our political betters.

    “If you like your doctor and you like your insurance company … blah, blah, blah.” You just have to wonder when we’ll ever learn.

    ~McQ

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