Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Pat Robertson, Meet Danny Glover

Fools to the right of us, fools to the left of us, fools continue to volley and thunder.

Tell me again that AGW isn’t becoming a religion. Danny Glover opines on why the devastation in Haiti occurred:

GLOVER: When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m sayin’?

Oh I know what you’re “sayin'”. And you’re as big a fool as Robertson for saying it. But I wonder if we’ll see this denounced by the White House as quickly as it denounced Robertson’s foolishness.

~McQ

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By George The Stimulus Worked! We Say So!

Don’t you just love non-falsifiable government claims?

Why here’s one now:

The Obama administration, in its latest progress report on the $787 billion stimulus program, said both the overall economy and employment continued to be in better shape at the end of 2009 than they would have been without the government’s help.

Better shape, hmmm? Wasn’t this the same stimulus which promised it would keep unemployment below 8% if passed? Yet here we are at 10% with no real relief in sight. Wasn’t this the stimulus which was promised to create or save millions of jobs? Even the administration has finally given up making such claims, instead quietly changing the way it makes such determinations and including pay raises and anything even remotely job related on which the money was spent. So when further claims, such as this, are made, they should be taken with a large and skeptical grain of salt:

Though unemployment reached 10 percent at year’s end—two percentage points higher than the peak that the council forecast when the administration proposed the stimulus package to Congress nearly a year ago—the number of jobs was between 1.5 million to 2 million greater in the fourth quarter than it would have been without the recovery plan, the council said.

This is the same council that made the 8% claim and changed the rules for counting “saved and created” jobs. If anything, their claims should be completely disregarded.

This is the stimulus which was claimed to be so necessary to the recovery, yet of the $787 billion signed into law, only $263 billion has been spent. How is that a stimulus? The theory is the government pumps money into the economy as quickly as possible to “stimulate” growth and hiring. Yet this particular bill is structured so that less than half the funds are spent within what most would consider the critical first year? That alone tells you two things about this particular bill:

  1. It had little to do with stimulus and a lot to do with pork. In fact, it appears to be a 100% pork bill despite the President’s claims to the contrary. Just because individual earmarks weren’t in the bill doesn’t mean this bill isn’t a compilation of wasteful spending and pet projects. They were simply written up differently than they normally are. There was never any intention of spending this money to jump start the economy as witnessed by the amount spent in the first year and its lack of effect. It can be credibly claimed, in contravention of the administration’s claim, that it hasn’t done anything to stimulate economic growth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of the spending that has been done or its continuation, but any objective analysis would make the point that $263 billion in a contracting 14 trillion dollar economy is likely to have little effect if any at all. So far the numbers seem to verify that.
  2. Any claims made about the bill’s effect should be viewed very skeptically. In reality, this bill was a spending bill, not a stimulus bill. It was the bill which allowed Democratic legislators (and a good number of Republicans) to spend money on things they’d been unable to get through the body in the past. Again, its structure and the items upon which the money were spent make the argument pretty handily. Its failure to “stimulate” as advertised is precisely why there is talk of a second stimulus. There never was a first.

Whatever recovery has gone on in the economy has been largely a result of factors other than this bill. That includes the positive 3rd quarter GDP numbers they try to trot out as “proof” of the stimulus’s efficacy. Those numbers were driven by the cash for clunkers program, a program outside the stimulus bill, and were largely illusory. They were illusory because it was “growth” driven strictly by government spending, it was temporary growth because it was simply stealing from future sales, and when all the dust settled, that was quite apparent to those who analyzed the results.

What this present claim is all about is message preparation. These claims, which really don’t stand up to scrutiny at all, are being made now for a reason. The president has a State of the Union address coming up soon and needs some “good news” very badly. That’s why these non-falsifiable claims are being tossed out there now. Establishing these claims and repeating them often enough is done in the hope of having them become “conventional wisdom” by the time the SOTU address rolls around. Then when the President makes these claims, an uncritical press will parrot them, establishing them as “fact” for the administration and a part of the narrative that will be repeated in 2012.

That is how the game is played, folks.

~McQ

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Devil-gate

I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself. We put “-gate” with everything else.    And the only reason that I’m spending anymore time on what Pat Robertson said about Haiti is because of the asinine press release put out by his organization today.  It reads, in part:

On today’s The 700 Club, during a segment about the devastation, suffering and humanitarian effort that is needed in Haiti, Dr. Robertson also spoke about Haiti’s history. His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed. Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath

Key words emphasized by me.

History isn’t “alleged”. And “scholars” don’t base their conclusions on rumor or allegations. As for “God’s wrath”, sophisticated listeners are quite able to understand when something is implied. While Robertson may not have stated this was a result of God’s wrath, he did state that the pact with the devil was a “true story”.

And speaking of God’s wrath:

RLTW!

~McQ

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Laughing With Liberals

Because, like kids, they say the damnedest things. Take Alec Baldwin who would like to be our Energy Czar (or something):

Energy policy is the lynch pin of nearly all of our other economic problems. And our dependence on oil is the tragic path that we are are still on, two wars in the Middle East in twenty years later, in order to deliver oil. Oil that costs so much more than what you read at the pump. You factor in both of those wars, the deaths of our brave soldiers, and the looming bill that our society will have to pay for our lack of maturity, foresight and courage on this front, the costs are incalculable.

Putting a major oil company out of business. That’s a war worth fighting.

The formulaic nod to the military, while holding on to the liberal canard of wars for oil (and thereby implicitly dissing the military). The shot at the lack of “maturity, foresight and courage” the rest of the “society” displays by using a readily available, cheap and efficient means of producing energy that isn’t to his liking. And finally, his rather incredible and short-sighted wish that a major oil company would somehow fail and go out of business. Of course he’s talking about private oil companies. Obviously he has no clue as to how little private companies control in terms of reserves in this world, and just as obviously doesn’t care to learn. You can bet he doesn’t care one whit about the jobs that would be lost or the ripple effect in other areas of employment it would have. It is a politically incorrect industry.  His job is to demonize it.

The good news is Baldwin may get his wish – a major oil “company” may go out of business soon. The bad news for him and his Hollywood cronies is it is most likely to be the nationalized Venezuelan oil company, PVDSA taken over by his buddy Hugo Chavez. And that would mean Citgo would go right down the toilet.  That would be a fitting irony, wouldn’t it?

Then there’s our old buddy Ezra Klein. Reporting on the House and Senate negotiators considering new Medicare tax, he cites a report by Martin Vaughan and Laura Merckler that lay it out. He then adds his own commentary:

Currently, the Medicare tax applies only to wages, without any limits. The 2.9% tax is divided in half, with workers and employers each paying 1.45%. The health bill passed by the Senate would raise the worker contribution to 2.35% for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000 a year.

Under the proposal now being considered, people making more than those amounts would also pay the Medicare tax on dividends and other income from investments, the people familiar with the talks said. Income from pensions and retirement accounts, including 401(k) accounts, would be exempt.

A version of this that was previously introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow raised more than $100 billion over the first 10 years, so there’s significant money to be found here. Why Democrats prefer a new Medicare tax to, say, capping the itemized deductions rate at 28% for taxpayers making more than $250,000 is, however, beyond me. And if you did that, you’d have more than $300 billion in new money to play with.

Being a member of the juice-box mafia and having little or no experience outside of college and writing opinions based on, well, opinion, waving away the hard earned money of others as “$300 billion in new money to play with” isn’t difficult at all. And it points to a mindset that essentially says the it’s the government’s money to begin with so taking as much back as necessary to do what the “smart kids”, aka the elite, want to do is just hunky dory with the Klein’s of the world.  It’s also why he thinks the VA system is great without ever having experienced it, and that just about anything that can be put under the umbrella of government sounds good to him as well.  But he’d also tell you he’s all for “freedom and liberty” I’d bet.

Life with liberals – just full of yuks, isn’t it?

~McQ

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Massachusetts: The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Democrats

It would appear that long-shot Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown has a fighting chance of winning the “Ted Kennedy Seat” in Massachusetts. Brown reminded the moderator that the seat was, in fact, “the people’s seat”, not Ted Kennedy’s during a recent debate. And, according to the latest Rasmussen poll, Brown is within 2 points of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley.

Much of that has to do with the hard work Brown has put in campaigning for the seat. Much of it also has to do with an early entitlement mentality by Coakley (it’s a Democratic seat in Massachusetts and that entitles Democrat Coakley to the seat) and then probably one of the most inept and clueless “campaigns” imaginable after she finally discovered that the cake-walk had been canceled.

Will Brown pull it off? Well that obviously remains to be seen. It’s certainly not unprecedented to see a Republican elected in Massachusetts, but they’ve been few and far between. But you have to ask, in such a reliably Democratic state as Massachusetts (a state I’m able to spell, but apparently isn’t so easy for the Coakley campaign) why a Republican is even this close?

Well, several things come to mind. One is the direction of the country. As many polls tell us, the vast majority of us – up into the 70% area in some polls – don’t like the direction of the country. The left was sure the election of Obama, and the retirement of that nasty old George Bush, not to mention the banishment of the Republicans, would reverse that trend. But if anything, it has deepened it. So there’s a natural constituency for “change” but not as the Obamanauts think of it.

An indication of the dissatisfaction with Democrats in general has been the abandonment of the party by independents. In droves. Independents – i.e. people with no specific party affiliation – are the “third party” which creates the coalition that pushes one of the two major parties (who don’t have enough members to do it solely by themselves) over the electoral line in elections. One of the obvious reasons Brown is doing as well as he is has to do with the numbers of independents on his bandwagon.

Last – Coakely is just an unattractive candidate. She’s simply not the best choice for this election. Why she is “the one” remains a mystery to me, but since Brown has closed the gap, she’s what the Democrats are stuck with and are now, it appears, trying to find a way to drag her over the finish line with a win. She’s seemingly doing very little to help in that effort. However the DNC and the unions are beginning to pump people and cash into the state.

But they face something, I think, they had on their side as recently as November of 2008 – an enthusiasm gap. The GOP in the state, such that it is, is enthusiastic about their candidate and their chances. And they want the seat – badly. It appears the independents that support Brown are also enthusiastic about the choice and their chances. But that enthusiasm doesn’t seem to exist on the Coakley side of things.

And on election day, that may make the difference. Why? Because this is a “special election” meaning it’s the only thing being decided that day. There’s no national election to pull Democrats to the polls. No important local or state referendum to excite them into voting.

Nope – it’s only about Brown or Coakley, and the enthusiasm seems to be working most for the GOP candidate vs. the Democratic one.

Democrats are now in a bit of a panic. What will they do if Brown actually wins? Brown has already promised to vote against the health care reform bill (which would ironically scuttle the bill Democrats have attempted to sell as Ted Kennedy’s legacy). So they’ve come up with a contingency plan. Should Brown pull it off, the Democratically controlled state government will simply delay certification of the election by any means necessary until the interim appointed “Senator” now warming the seat is able to cast the 60th vote for the bill.

Sweet. Manipulation of the process for political reasons is certainly nothing new in Massachusetts. This would simply be the cherry on top.

~McQ

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Obligatory Haiti Post

I’m not being dismissive when I use that title, it’s just that QandO isn’t a “breaking news” blog, nor are disasters – and that’s what has happened in Haiti – our normal cup of tea.

That said, the tragedy is heartbreaking and, if your moved to do so, please contribute to the relief effort. A word of advice – give only to those organizations you recognize as reputable. As with any disaster, the unscrupulous and despicable will attempt to cash in on the generosity of those who genuinely want to help.

As for some of the side-show going on – was it really necessary for Pat Robertson to claim that Haiti’s problems stem from a “pact with the devil” and tout it as a “true story” when it is, at best, an unproven rumor? And even if it was true, it happened 200 plus years ago – who cares? There is a much more rational explanation to be had – like upwards of 70 different dictators exploiting the people of that nation over those 200 years. That may sound like the result of a pact with the devil, but it is, instead, an unfortunate result of colonialism and slavery creating the conditions in which such authoritarian exploitation was possible.

Haiti is and has been a basket case for quite some time. However, that’s not the immediate concern. Thousands have been killed and millions are suffering. It was an earthquake, not God or the devil’s revenge. Help if you can, it is the humane thing to do.

~McQ

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Yesterday, I had two dogs…

…Today, I have twelve.  Click on the pics below for hi-res versions.

Contessa and her 10 puppies

Contessa and her 10 puppies

Contessa gave birth to 10 little Cane Corsos today.  8 Male, 2 female.

They’re adorable.

We call this one "Light Green"

We call this one "Light Green"

We “named” them based on the color of bands we put around their necks.

One of the runts, "Dark Blue"

One of the runts, "Dark Blue"

Most of the puppies weighed in at between 450-480 grams, but we have two runts: Dark Blue male is 413 grams and Pink female is 400 grams.  Pink didn’t seem to want to suckle either at Contessa or at a bottle for the first couple of hours, but at about 2 o;clock, she found a nipple and went to town.  We were afraid we might lose her at first.

One of the male puppies, Lavender, weighed in at 550 grams.  I like him a lot.  He may be the one we keep, depending on how he does on temperament testing.

It was a long day, but at the moment, mother and puppies are sound alseep.

Contessa was a real trooper.  She handled all ten puppies as they were born, and needed no real assistance from us for any of them.  Considering that this was her first litter, and a very large one, she handled it like a pro, though she’s completely exhausted right now.

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Health Care Reform:When Is A “Cadillac Plan” Not A “Cadillac Plan”?

Why when you’re a part of a favored special interest group of course:

Unions tentatively struck a deal Tuesday to exempt collectively bargained healthcare plans from a tax on high-cost plans expected to be used to help raise revenue for the healthcare overhaul.

The left constantly clamors for “fairness” but quickly throws such concerns under the bus when it is possible that one of their favored special interest groups may be negatively effected.

As Philip Klein notes:

If this policy is adopted, it would mean that there could be two Americans receiving the exact same benefits, but one American may be taxed and one wouldn’t, and the only difference would be one of them being a member of a union. This is unseemly and unfair, even by the standards of Obamacare. It has nothing to do with policy-making. It’s simply an outright bribe to a constituency that has contributed handily to Democratic campaigns.

Legislative favoritisim? How “progressive”.

It doesn’t get anymore blatant than this, folks.

~McQ

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Naive? Dumb? Or Just Doesn’t Understand How Taxes Work?

Jake Tapper, today, asking Presidential spokesperson Robert Gibbs about the bank tax:

TAPPER: On the fee for banks, without asking for any details, how can you guarantee that this, that this fee, tax, levy, whatever it ends up being, is not passed on to consumers and they take another hit when it comes to Wall Street?

GIBBS: Yeah, well, look, obviously, Jake we’ll have a chance to go through the structure of this. The economic team has worked for quite some time on a structure that will ensure that what taxpayers gave to banks to ensure their safety and security, in a time of crisis, is paid back in full. And I can assure you that is one of the things the economic team has taken into account in the structure.

Unless the “structure” plans to ensure bank fees aren’t raised in any other area to capture the money this “fee, tax, levy, whatever” from the banks, then of course banks are going to pass it on. If the “structure” is going to prevent such a raise in fees anywhere within the bank, then this isn’t a new tax, it’s a government takeover of the banks.

~McQ

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