Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Obamacare and the Pending Medicaid Crisis

Denninger posts on the weak GDP numbers

Market-Ticker commenter Zappafan makes an astute observation:

Karl I doubt there is a good way to prove it but I suspect a lot of that increased spending on social benefits is Medicaid spending. The blogger over at usdailydeficit dot com has noted Medicaid is running +14% YOY through the first 3 months of 2014.

This is undoubtedly due to Obamacare funneling a lot of folks into Medicaid. That's going to a**-ream the deficit moving forward.

Also, there is very little difference between the effects of shuttling more people onto Medicaid and subsidizing the premiums of people who sign up on the exchanges. 

My guess is that out of our 7 or 8 million sign-ups, many will be like an acquaintance of mine.  He is a forty-something farmer who has some health problems and runs a small herd of beef cows.  He has paid for his insurance for twenty-five years until his plan was cancelled last year.  He was forced into the exchanges.  When he enrolled, because of his low annual income, tax-wise, he found that his premium was fully subsidized -- not something he wanted or expected, but that's how it is.

With the high unemployment and under-employment rate of Americans under 35, the touted percentages of enrollments most likely means that fewer are actually paying than are being subsidized.  That money has to come from somewhere.  Every month.  Subsidized plans add to an already unsustainable deficit.  How exactly is this going to help "save" a collapsing Medicare program?  How is it supposed to reduce deficit spending? 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Wouldn't Exactly Call It "Breaking"

BREAKING: Leaked Benghazi Emails Lead to White House.

You can read it on the Conservative Tribune link.  CT links to a Fox News story.

I am so shocked to learn that Obama lied about knowing this was a terrorist attack.  

 Of course they knew it.  They were watching it all fall apart. 

The fact is that Obama and his staffers, especially that stupid, sleazy Susan Rice, and disgusting, arrogant Hillary Clinton are guilty of allowing a U.S. ambassador and three other men die because they didn't want to spoil their triumphant narrative in the Middle East.  The Obama foreign policy is increasingly exposed as an ongoing, accelerating disaster.  Obama is as incompetent and inadequate in terms of doing his actual job as Jimmy Carter was.  

And nothing is going to come of it.  Hillary will be somehow cleansed of her part in this disaster and the even more disturbing cover-up.  The media will continue to ignore this as being a "non-story" -- just like the IRS targeting of opposition groups.  

I watched Rough Riders with Tom Berenger as Teddy Roosevelt and Sam Elliot the other night.  Considering it is a made-for-TV movie, it's not a bad Milius effort, reflecting both the genuine courage of Roosevelt and his men as well as the questionable political maneuvering and moral uncertainty involved in instigating the conflict.  My grandparents were big fans of TR and voted for him.  He was more progressive than libertarian, certainly, but he was a good, if misguided, American.  

I wonder, too, if Americans, including men like Roosevelt and simple people like my grandparents, could not afford to be more trusting of our government in those days.  That trust was clearly misplaced, at times, but it was not nearly as dangerous as the misplaced trust some of us had in our government and military after 9/11.  The press has always been easily corrupted, as Milius points out via William Randolph Hearst's portrayal in Rough Riders.  Now they are not capitalists but propagandists for the left.  Our freedoms are greatly eroded.  We must guard them zealously and fervently challenge all attempts to wrest any more from us, even as we fight to restore some of what we have lost.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Listen to All Cliven Bundy Had To Say

I haven't said anything one way or the other about the Bundy deal in Nevada because I do not understand the issue of grazing rights, water rights, and all that stuff in the West.  I've never lived there, and it is all foreign jargon to me.

What I do understand is that agents of the BLM killed some of Bundy's stock.  I also understand Bundy made the mistake of speaking forthrightly in an interview that he did not need to grant.  The NY Times then deceptively edited that interview to make Bundy look like a racist.

Go here to Pat Dollard's site and listen to the whole thing.  Read what Dollard says about it:

And he’s not blaming blacks for the issues of abortions, and crime and broken families, he’s blaming the Feds. This is the exact opposite of a racist, this is an advocate for the welfare and best interests of blacks. 

Understand that Bundy is using language which his age group was taught as being polite and respectful.   Growing up, around my dad's hunting buddy, Mr. Davis, I was expected to use the term Colored, and that's how my friends, his sons, referred to themselves.  Some might cringe at the remark about picking cotton, but, while I never picked it, members of my family did.  It was honest work -- which is Bundy's point.  People who do not have honest work to do may have a hard time developing self-respect, and without self-respect, it's much harder advance oneself academically and economically. 

Look, I still don't know what the deal is as far as whether Bundy should have paid the fees or if the BLM is harassing ranchers to benefit Harry Reid, but I do know that if the Times attacks a person, he can't be all bad.

The government and their allies in the media will always emphasize something negative about the people they want to destroy.  David Koresh was a nutjob, but that did not justify what was done to him and his followers by the ATF and the FBI.  Randy and Vicki Weaver were not terribly wise people, but that does not justify the cold-blooded murder of a woman holding her infant child.  Whatever Cliven Bundy's faults, it is time the federal government is put on notice that we the people do not have to take their high-handed crap.  Might does not make right.  Federal judges who have no respect for law, natural rights or individual liberty do not deserve our respect or obedience.  Unelected bureaucrats with their ever-increasing regulation can be stopped.

They won't be if we are waiting for their next target to be Mother Theresa, and if it were Mother Theresa, the media would do a hit-piece to smear her.  We are going to have to back flawed people if we want to turn this thing around.

People draining mudholes to build their houses, ranchers trying to make a living, farmers selling raw milk to people who want raw milk and understand what raw milk is are not the ones that are out of control.  The government is out of control.  The government needs to be checked.  The government is destroying the economy, the financial system, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, the auto industry and everything else it touches.

You simply cannot believe the stuff that is spewed out by the mainstream media.  They have no more qualms about telling out-and-out lies than Obama does. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Double, Double, Government Bubble

Was Bernanke, and now Yellen, doing the weird sisters act with Quantitative Easing?  Was it really an "eye of newt" stab in the dark, a mumbled incantation to "create jobs"? 

One of the things I said back in late 2010 was that government bonds would be the next bubble, and the one that, when it burst, would be the big one.  At the time, it seemed unlikely to me that the bubble could be sustained for more than a few more months.

Via the Circle Bastiat on, Hunter Lewis talks about The Hidden Motive Behind Quantitative Easing:

The Fed  said that quantitative easing was meant to create U.S. jobs, but this never made much sense. Even a hard core proponent of QE, Fed official William Dudley ( formerly of Goldman Sachs), admitted that the Fed’s own economic models could not explain how creating money out of thin air and using it to buy U.S. bonds would increase employment. Some link to rising stock prices could be demonstrated, if only through the cheap financing of corporate stock buy-backs, but then rising stock prices could not be shown to create jobs either.

One inference from this was that chairman Ben Bernanke, and now new chairman Janet Yellen, were just taking wild stabs in the dark. A more reasonable inference is that they had another reason for QE, one which they did not want to acknowledge.

Viewed in this way, the 2008 bail-out should be viewed not as a bail-out of Wall Street, but rather  as a bail-out of Washington. The Federal Reserve feared that the market for government bonds was about to collapse, which would lead to soaring interest rates, and a complete collapse of our bubble financed government.

The Fed did not have the option of creating money and buying debt directly from the Treasury. That would be illegal. The Treasury must first sell its bonds to Wall Street, after which the Fed can then use its newly created money to buy them back. Hence, in order to rescue the Treasury, the Fed felt it had to rescue Wall Street.
(Emphasis added by me)
 Lewis explains, also, that former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has told us that Russia tried to get China to join them in dumping U.S. bonds back in 2008 in order to completely collapse our economy.  At that time, the Chinese were not willing to go along.  I think it might be more realistic to say that China was not yet ready to go along with a bond dump.  Their economic "miracle" has been very dependent on the extravagance of the U.S. consumer and the easy-money policy here.  They needed time to prepare their own situation.  They have had that time. 

After Crimea, Russia withdrew its U.S. bonds from the custody of the Federal Reserve.  It would not surprise me at all that Putin is selling or is about to sell off those bonds and that China might be more willing and able to go along with it this time. 

I would not put much faith in the promises of "tapering" from the Federal Reserve.  QE was done to benefit the federal government.  We are now much further in the hole that Obama promised to "dig us out of".  We have talked before about what will happen if bond rates rise dramatically.  We know that inflation is once again putting pressure on people, and more QE will only worsen the consumer's position. 

On one end of the spectrum, there are food riots and "tanks in the streets"; on the other end is hyperinflation, Zimbabwe and the Wiemar Republic.  In the middle, there is Japanese-style stagnation and "lost decades".  The right road is, as Galadriel told Frodo, the edge of a knife.  At best, if we can discipline ourselves, it is painful and slow.  Politically, the only real solution is simply unacceptable.  Those living within the Beltway Bubble will never willing give up their power. 

The Fed has, with the other central banks, held it together far longer than I expected.  Can they keep it going and somehow right the ship?  I don't see how, but I've been wrong betting against them so far. Though, even being wrong, I don't lay awake at night worrying about what is going to happen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Humansville (MO) Police Serve and Protect

Elbert Breshears is an elderly man living in the small town of Humansville, in Polk County, Missouri.  His wife suffers from dementia, and it seems that Breshears has been trying, until very recently, to care for her in their home.

It sounds as though Mrs. Breshears had some sort of episode in which she knocked out a window of their house and may have run into the street.  Mr. Breshears called for an ambulance and went out into their yard to try and restrain his wife until the paramedics arrived.  While they were waiting, the husband had his hands on his wife's arm.  She was waving, I think he said, her shirt and calling for help.

Police arrived before the ambulance.

When police got there,"police car drove up, he bailed out ran over and knocked me down. He told me to get up, I told him I couldn't," he explained.
That's when Breshears says police got aggressive. "First thing, I know they grab me, threw me out there on the gravel. One of them sat down on my back, the other sat down on my head. They were trying to get handcuffs on me. I told them I can't get my hands up. I have no objection to being handcuffed," says Breshears.
When the ambulance did arrive, both Breshears and his wife were taken to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries, which included removing gravel from his facial wounds and getting stitches.

The Humansville police chief declined to appear on camera but insisted that Breshears is guilty of "elder abuse", resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer.

It is hard to see how the police officers who battered Elbert Breshears could have perceived him as a threat, or why they refused to listen to his side of the story, or why they seemed to have ignored the fact that he had called for help for his wife.  The population of Humansville is only about 1000.  I would guess that the officers knew Breshears and thus knew of his wife's condition. 

There may be a little more to the story as the report mentions that, Breshears says he first started having problems with police at the beginning of the year.  It sounds like the old man may have been perceived by the police -- and possibly the community, as either a troublemaker or someone who was being abusive to his ailing spouse.  Still, overall, I think the picture below captures the essence of the incident:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Warm And Cold Might Be An Old Pattern

Warm US West, cold East:  A 4,000 year pattern:

It is not new for scientists to forecast that the current warming of Earth's climate due to carbon dioxide, methane and other "greenhouse" gases already has led to increased weather extremes and will continue to do so.

The new study shows the jet stream pattern that brings North American wintertime weather extremes is millennia old – "a longstanding and persistent pattern of climate variability," Bowen says. Yet it also suggests global warming may enhance the pattern so there will be more frequent or more severe winter weather extremes or both.

"This is one more reason why we may have more winter extremes in North America, as well as something of a model for what those extremes may look like," Bowen says. Human-caused climate change is reducing equator-to-pole temperature differences; the atmosphere is warming more at the poles than at the equator. Based on what happened in past millennia, that could make a curvy jet stream even more frequent and-or intense than it is now, he says.

Bowen and his co-authors analyzed previously published data on oxygen isotope ratios in lake sediment cores and cave deposits from sites in the eastern and western United States and Canada. Those isotopes were deposited in ancient rainfall and incorporated into calcium carbonate. They reveal jet stream directions during the past 8,000 years, a geological time known as middle and late stages of the Holocene Epoch.

Next, the researchers did computer modeling or simulations of jet stream patterns – both curvy and more direct west to east – to show how changes in those patterns can explain changes in the isotope ratios left by rainfall in the old lake and cave deposits.

They found that the jet stream pattern – known technically as the Pacific North American teleconnection – shifted to a generally more "positive phase" – meaning a curvy jet stream – over a 500-year period starting about 4,000 years ago. In addition to this millennial-scale change in jet stream patterns, they also noted a cycle in which increases in the sun's intensity every 200 years make the jet stream flatter.

So, essentially, the climate grant-seekers admit that all this stuff we are seeing is more or less normal.  That is what the actual evidence shows.  They speculate that carbon dioxide and methane and "other" gases -- which would be water vapor, trap more heat and exacerbate patterns.  But there is no evidence for that.  They plug some data into computer models which seem to corroborate what the grant-seekers what them to corroborate.

In fact the primary factor in "climate change" is the intensity of solar radiation.  More carbon dioxide and water vapor are a result of sun-driven warming rather than a cause.  The earth will regulate its own temperature.  Let's just hope we are not headed into a new ice age.  That would be a lot more catastrophic than a slight rise in sea levels.   

Weather patterns change in large and dramatic ways over time, and they always have.  Temperatures are always going to vary from the mean.  That's why they call it "average".  It has predictive value only in a range defined by the standard deviation.  Sometimes it's hotter; sometime colder.   We used to call it "weather".

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Few Good Men Review

I have mentioned Sarah Hoyt, writer of science fiction and other things, before when she wrote of building a "Galt's Network".  At that time I had read one of her free books called Draw One in the Dark, a fantasy novel of shape-shifting waiters and waitresses.  Yep. 

Anyway, Mrs. Hoyt is a high-quality writer, if not entirely appealing to my tastes, and I decided to give one of her "space opera" novels a shot.  I bought a copy of A Few Good Men recently and got a chance to finish it -- which doesn't always happen even with the best of books and intentions. 

I like good space opera -- H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy and Space Vikings, for example, are among my favorites.  Hoyt has created a "Darkship" universe set three or four hundred years in the future when Earth is ruled by genetically modified "Good Men", and there are renegade humans in space.  (It's called "space opera" because of the setting rather than the science.) 

A lot of people compare her work to Heinlein.  Two of Heinlein's works that are especially near to my heart are Glory Road and what I consider the old master's best -- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Hoyt has some of the same themes.  A Few Good Men reflects a libertarian world view.  It is well-written.  I liked it. 

Here's a kind of spoiler -- the main protagonists are queer as three-dollar bills.  The romance is a little different than we are used to.  I think Mrs. Hoyt handles it well -- perhaps even too well. 

Look, if we had a pair of adulterers as protagonists, we could accept that, but I think we would want to be careful about endorsing that aspect of their relationship.  We understand this happens.  We recognize that such things don't necessarily mean that people aren't good in other ways, but there is this part of their character that is flawed. 

Personally, I tend to lump homosexuality -- between consenting adults -- with other forms of fornication, like adultery and sex outside of marriage.  I reject the idea of homosexual marriage, though I do not have a problem with civil domestic partnership contracts, which I think should be available not just to homosexual couples but to anyone.  In any case, the libertarian part of my Christian Libertarian approach says that it a person's own business who or what they choose to sleep with -- so long as it doesn't involve children and no innocent people are deprived of their freedom.

So, as far as Hoyt making her hero an unrepentant homosexual, no big deal.  He's a character in a book, and this is who he is.  Cool.  However, I think anyone as clearly intelligent and self-aware as this character would probably have more qualms about his lifestyle.  This guy has been genetically modified, so, theoretically, that could have an impact on his preferences.  In our world of "natural" humans, most homosexuals are made through family dynamics, molestation, and other factors rather than born.  I don't believe in the "gay gene". 

That quibble aside -- and, despite the space I wasted on it here, it does not hurt the story overall, my other complaint has to do with the amount of time spent on eating.  It seemed to me like about sixty percent of the novel involves what goes on while these guys are having a meal.  And that, my friends, is the difference between a novel written by an honest, traditional man and a novel written an honest, traditional woman.  There's nothing wrong with it, I just ended up thinking that all these people really do is eat. I get the feeling that meal times are important at the Hoyt house.

This is a good, enjoyable, solidly written, philosophically appealing science fiction novel in the tradition of greats like Heinlein and Piper.  It is the first installment of the "Earth Revolution" series.  I may well read the subsequent installments, and I am seriously considering her Darkship Renegades and Darkship Thieves novels as well.   

Friday, April 11, 2014

God Bless President Obama

For the first time in his presidency, Barack Obama has done something for which he has my genuine gratitude.  Following a fund-raiser in Austin, TX, the wind picked up while the Obamas were boarding Air Force One.  The First Wookie's skirt threatened to rise, and Obama threw himself on a grenade:  he put his hands on the Wookie's carrier-deck derriere to protect all Americans -- heck, the entire wired world -- from a sight no one should have to see. 

President Obama, I know that I have called you a liar, a psychopath, a narcissist, an idiot, a coward, a manipulative little twit, a loser, a waste of oxygen -- well, the list is too long to repeat, and I meant every word of it.  But, honestly, man to man, you went the extra mile on that one, and I, for one, salute your courage in the face of a very ugly situation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Turning Off the Firefox compatMode in Pale Moon

Because the Pale Moon browser is based on Firefox, it reports itself to websites as Firefox.  You can turn that off.  From Vox Popoli:

Since Pale Moon is built upon a Firefox base, it still reports itself to be Firefox to web sites by default. Fortunately, it is trivially simple to turn this off and cause the browser to correctly report itself as PaleMoon.
  1. Create a new tab.
  2. Type "about:config" into the Address Bar as if it were an internet site (URL).
  3. Type "compatMode" into the Search box that will appear right below the Address Bar.
  4. On the line general.useragent.compatMode.firefox there are three settings: user set, boolean, true. Click on "true" and it will change to false.
  5. Close the tab.
That's it. Web sites will no longer incorrectly attribute your pageviews to Firefox. If as many people have switched to Pale Moon as have switched to Chrome, the decline in Firefox usage may actually be twice what I originally estimated.

A Variety of Pocket Knives

I will have some reviews of some "true" pocket knives I picked up during my absence.  One is the Buck stockman manufactured in the U.S., and another is a Victorinox Boy Scout Huntsman -- which is the same as the Fieldmaster -- as best I can tell -- except it has the Boy Scout emblem on it.  I'm kind of bummed with the Boy Scouts, but I bought the wrong one. 

I also picked up three of the Chinese Schrades -- now made by Taylor.  The Bruin lockback is a copy of a Utica-made Bruin I have had since before Schrade went toes-up here in the States.  It was interesting to me to see the differences.  The other two are interesting as well, for different reasons.  One is a small gunstock trapper with a single blade and brass linerlock.  It's actually a dandy little carry piece for the pocket of your dress pants or, in my case, pajamas or running shorts.  The other is a larger trapper called the Buzzsaw, which has a primary clip point blade and a secondary locking saw blade.  So now I have more knives and tools with saw blades than most sensible people have knives in their houses.

Anyway, I'll have to get out and do some testing with these, as yard work is starting to get underway, and begin reporting back on my findings.   

Monday, April 7, 2014

No More Mozilla

It's a shame that Mozilla is a bunch of fascists.  I have been running Firefox for most of this century -- which sounds odd to say.  I won't use Chrome, though it is a good browser.  I keep Opera around, but I just don't like the feel of it.

So, I downloaded Pale Moon and installed it on this W7 machine.  I had to run a little app, pmmig.exe to get all of my Firefox profile over, but once I did that, the only real difference between Pale Moon and Firefox is that Pale Moon seems faster.

Firefox is off my computer for the first time since v1.5 -- nearly a decade ago.  It's kind of sad, like when your horse breaks his leg and you have to put him out of his misery.

Updated to add Brendan's link to the perversion of Safari for Win-ders.

Friday, April 4, 2014

What's Important

Things have finally calmed down and returned to abnormal after the last couple of weeks.  All it takes is a somewhat bizarre and quite serious family health crisis to remind us of why we do what we do.  Disaster can come in many forms and from unexpected directions. 

Life is more or less back on track, though it may be a while before I am able to resume regular posting.  Right now, I'm just happy that we are all alive and better if not altogether well.