Thursday, March 28, 2013

Modern Medicine

The last time I saw my neurologist he commented that practicing medicine was becoming more and more of a burden, and that doctors were more commonly urging their children not to enter the medical field. He said that since the passage of “health care reform” he not only had to answer to insurance companies for his decisions in treating patients, but that now he was having to answer in a similar manner to the government as well.

“I am,” he told me, “spending more time justifying my treatment decisions to oversight agencies than I am in actually treating patients.” He was not angry, he just looked discouraged.

This week I received a letter from him informing his patients that he was leaving the practice and that another neurologist would be taking over our care. He said that he was leaving the hospital as well, and that his future plans were undecided. The website for the neurological office says that he has “retired.” (He is in his mid forties.)

That is a real loss, because he is a very fine doctor and enjoyed a reputation as one of the finest practitioners of the treatment of movement disorders in the western United States. I will miss him, as will all of his patients.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

No Little Minds Here

If, as Emerson once said, consistency is “the hobgoblin of little minds” then Barack Obama certainly cannot be said to have a little mind, because he is constantly producing masterpieces of inconsistency.

He came up with another such treasure last week when he was in Israel, while addressing the issue of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territory on the West Bank. When confronted with the obstacle that they pose to peace talks, he was critical of the Palestinians for allowing those settlements to interfere, saying that it was bad form to be “constantly negotiating about what's required to get into talks in the first place,” and that talks should proceed without preconditions.

That’s similar to the position he held in his first election campaign, criticizing Bush for the position he held over negotiations with Iran, and saying that if elected he would meet with Iran without any preconditions. That changed within minutes of his election, of course, and he now says he will not meet with Iran unless they first agree to halt their nuclear weapons program, which certainly sounds like a precondition to me.

The Palestinian precondition actually sounds rather reasonable to me, sort of like, “I’m not going to negotiate a lump sum price for a warehouse full of goods with you while you’re in the process of emptying the warehouse,” but Obama thinks they should just lump it and negotiate for a diminishing warehouse, right up to the point that it’s empty.

Obama’s precondition for Iran is somewhat harder to justify. Iran can’t really halt its nuclear weapons program, since it says that it doesn’t have one and no international inspection has ever confirmed accusations made by us and by Israel that it does have one. We are doing the classic “have you stopped beating your wife” thing, where there is no response which is not self destructive. What we gain by that has never been really clear to me, but perhaps I’m just a dimwit.

Not to mention that halting the putative nuclear weapons program is the purpose of the negotiations, so he wants to make the negotiations moot before they start by making the subject of the negotiations the precondition to the negotiations. Sort of, "I'm not going to negotiate a price on your warehouse until we first agree on a price for your warehouse. Then we can meet to discuss the price on your warehouse." How wierd is that?

Monday, March 25, 2013

March Madness

I've finally calmed down enough to comment, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to throw any flowers and kisses at the Aztecs.

The Jayhawks shot 25% from the field in the first half, but defense kept them in the game until they could regain their composure and start sinking shots. They may not have the best offense in the realm, but they have character. And they have Jeff Withey. Michigan, however, is going to test them big time.

The Aztecs, for the second game in a row, allowed themselves to be intimidated and bullied by a team that is far to small to do anything of the sort. Unwilling to even attempt to penetrate, they stood outside and took bad shots from bad angles. Trailing by a mere two points, they lost their poise altogether and decided that if they couldn't play offense then they might as well not play defense either, allowing FGCU to score on something like 26 consecutive posessions and to make a 17-0 run. That was a pathetic effort.

Axis Of What?

Jennifer Rubin makes a statement today in the Washington Post that is perhaps the silliest and most asinine thing that I have ever seen printed in any medium. A comic book would balk at printing this, even as satire.

There is no better example of the trouble wrought by President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s policy of retreat and retrenchment than the sight of Secretary of State John Kerry pleading with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop arming the Iranian axis.

First, she’s going to have to tell me what the hell the “Iranian axis” is. Is it something along the lines of George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” perhaps? If so, one can assume that Syria is a member, but two countries don’t constitute an “axis,” so who else belongs to it? And do we really need a renewal of Bush rhetoric at this point?

The “policy of retreat and retrenchment” presumably refers to “bugging out,” as the headline puts it, from Iraq, but she casually overlooks that the agreement that resulted in that move was made between al-Maliki and George Bush, not by Obama. Of course Obama and his administration rather muddy that issue by making statements that imply that it was Obama who “ended the war in Iraq,” so she’s not making that one up out of whole cloth, but that doesn’t mean that she’s making any sense.

As if she had not displayed enough ignorance already by claiming that it was Obama who could not “figure out how to leave a stabilizing force in Iraq” after Bush accepted al-Maliki’s dictate that we would not be allowed to do so, she then claims that failing to do so “frittered away the gains made by the surge” and wasted some imaginary negotiations made by Crocker that supposedly negated the agreement between Bush and al-Maliki.

Then, adding insanity to ignorance, she compares our presence in Iraq to our postwar occupation of Germany, which is much like comparing strawberry farming to concrete street paving.

I actually had noted Kerry making demands that Iraq not only deny airspace to Iran, but that they also conduct their elections in a manner befitting American principles. I had intended to comment on the fecklessness of America making such demands of a country which had just thrown us out after ten years of hostile military occupation, but it is certain that I make that criticism from a different viewpoint than does Jennifer Rubin.

Rubin still doesn’t realize that we are living with the results of the disastrous blunder of invading Iraq in the first place. Obama doesn’t realize just what that blunder cost us; acts as if it didn't cost us anything.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Madness, Madness

Bye, bye Georgetown and Silo Tech (KSU). Well, they fared better than Kentucky, which wasn't here at all.

My two teams, Kansas and San Diego State, advanced but both had better pick up the level of their play if they don't want to go home. The Aztecs totally conceded the area under the basket on offense to a team that is not big enough to deny them the paint; stood outside and took long two-point shots from bad angles. Clank, clank, clank. Pathetic. Kansas just looked bewildered and Bill Self was doing the screaming from the sideline that Steve Fisher should have been doing and wasn't.

Kansas meets North Carolina on Sunday, so Roy Williams meets Bill Self early this year. NC is normally seeded higher, so this matchup happens later in the affray, if at all, and we get an early treat. Based on what I've seen so far, this game should be entertaining.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Medical Costs (updated)

The last prescription I had filled by UnitedHealthCare for a medication which I take regularly was for a 90-day supply and it indicated that the insurance company paid $66.06 for that shipment and that my copay was $10.06, for a total cost of $25.27 per month. It was a generic, not name brand.

Today I had a prescription for the same medication filled at my local pharmacy not using my insurance, for reasons which are too complicated to go into here and don't really matter, and the cost to me was $8.99 for a one-month supply. That is not a copay, it is the total cost, since nothing was submitted to the insurance company. This too was generic.

Why do I suspect UnitedHealthCare didn't really pay $66.06 as claimed? And why do I think that my copay is much higher than the 10-15% that they claim I am paying?

Update, Saturday morning: In response to a comment. Well yes. My week in the hospital for pnuemonia "cost" $58,335. Insurance paid $12,167 and there was a "discount" of $44,816, leaving me to pay $1351. Minus whatever Medicare pays. So about 77% of the bill was "discounted" for the insurance company.

Yes It Has, No It Hasn't

For about a year now, scientists have been announcing that Voyager I has left the house Solar System, then contradicting themselves and saying that it hasn't. About the only high point in this comedy is that the contradictions are getting closer together. They are now only about three hours apart.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Self Inflicted Wounds

Paul Krugman is always wanting to have the government spend money to “stimulate the economy” and always claiming that it works, but every once in a while he slips up and shoots himself in the foot by admitting that it doesn’t work. That’s the problem with people who are paid to talk, they almost always talk too much and drop verbal clankers.

In a blog post today, Krugman is talking about the conflict between the public’s desire to balance the budget and its desire to have the government spend money to create jobs; a conflict caused by having Republicans and Obama screaming at them in one ear and Paul Krugman screaming at them in the other ear, although Krugman doesn’t say that. He seems to think that those two incompatible desires arise in the bosom of the public through, I don’t know, osmosis or something.

So he talks about how in the 1930’s the public was freaked out about New Deal spending and cites polls illustrating that people in that era wanted FDR to knock it off and balance the federal budget, which he did. The result was not World War Two, as most people seem to think, but another recession which preceded that war.

“The key point,” Krugman says, “is that when FDR tried to give voters what they thought they wanted, he plunged the economy back into recession.”

So even Paul Krugman sometimes admits that the government spending to “stimulate the economy” doesn’t have any lasting effect, and that as soon as the government stops spending money like a drunken sailor the economy promptly falls on its ass again. The claim that government spending will only be needed until the economy somehow recovers to the point that the government spending is no longer needed is debunked by Paul Krugman’s own words. Cool.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Delusions Abound (updated)

Our leadership is celebrating a “slow but steady recovery” while working men and women still despair of finding jobs and the food stamp rolls continue to grow daily. The 236,000 new jobs supposedly created last month sounds wonderful, if true, but it hardly represents progress when compared to the 271,000 jobs created in February of last year or the 311,000 jobs created in January of 2012. It doesn’t sound quite as good when one points out that unemployment worsened in 25 states last month and improved in only 7 states.

So everyone will go out and buy new cars and houses, paid for with debt of course, because no one has any cash to spend. It’s not like we don’t have enough debt in this country already, but no one talks aboutit and it is not admitted to be debt which is either unsecured or secured with “assets” the value of which is entirely bogus. By the magic of “mark to market” it is valued at what the holder would like it to be worth instead of what it actually is worth, otherwise the holders of that debt would be bankrupt and shut down by federal regulators.

Instead of admitting the depth of the nation’s “leverage,” a word which we use to avoid admitting a level of debt that reaches our national eyeballs, we rejoice over record numbers in a stock market glutted with phony money which the Fed is creating out of thin air at the rate of $85 billion per month.

The government continues to operate on borrowed money, which Paul Krugman assures us is just fine because governments never need to repay debt, they just allow that debt to shrink to infinity in the ambience of an ever growing economy. He calls that “Keynesian theory,” but John Maynard Keynes certainly never advocated anything of the sort. He said that government should incur debt in bad times and repay that debt in economic good times.

Krugman’s “vanishing debt” theory requires that there be no limit to economic growth which is absurd on the face of it. Of course there is an ultimate limit to growth, and there are increasing indications that a planet with a population of 7 billion people has already reached that limit.

Not to mention that Krugman’s assurances consists of telling us that we are fine as long as government debt grows more slowly that the economy; an assurance which rather pales considering that government debt is presently growing at a rate some five times faster than the economy.

There is no area in which we cannot bury our collective head in the sand clear up to our collective shoulder blades. We blissfully assume that notwithstanding the global climate crisis we can continue to build an unlimited number of new automobiles, and all we need to do is tinker around with the gas mileage that those automobiles get. It never occurs to anyone that for the sake of our planet maybe we out to set a limit on the number of cars we produce, let alone that maybe that limit should be zero, and that perhaps we should be working on finding some other, better way of moving around in our communities.

We are idiots, led by morons, discussing delusions.

Update: Wed, 3/20/13, 9:20am

Mish's Global Economics points out today that the total amount of monay existing in today's American economy amounts to $15.7 trillion, while the amount of debt and credit issued amounts to $56.3 trillion. We laughingly call that a "balance sheet" in financial terms, despite the fact that it clearly illustrates debt that cannot possibly be paid back. More delusion.

Department of What?

Based of the amount of angst being expessed over cuts in the Defense Department due to job losses and the effect on the economy, the department should be renamed the "Department of Civilian Employment."

And the outrage over the ten-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq would be more impressive if we were still engaged in Iraq. We are still engaged in Afghanistan, but the ten year anniversary of that war, now being managed by Barack Obama, was barely noticed by anyone. Neither was the eleventh anniversary. That is all for now, maybe more later.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"It's What I Believe"

John Boehner says that legalizing marriage between two people of the same gender is never going to be on his horizon. “Listen,” he says, “I believe marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It’s what I grew up with, it’s what believe, it’s what my church teaches me and I can’t imagine that position would ever change.” (emphasis mine)

Well, good for him, but what the hell does what his church teaches him have to do with what should be the law of this land? What part of the constitution does he not understand? Well, okay, bad question; there are obviously large chunks of the constitution that he does not understand.

Admittedly, the constitution’s first amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” which can be interpreted several ways but does not clearly say that religious principles cannot be applied as legal principles. It does, however, then go on to say that Congress shall make no laws “prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” which does clearly say that.

If Boehner uses the fact that his church teaches him that marriage is defined a certain way as a reason to make the law define it the same way, then he is restricting the ability of other churches to define marriage in their own way. He is passing a law that “prohibits the free exercise” of religion, because he has imposed his religious definition of marriage into law. If some other church wants to define marriage as including same sex couples, the law is interfering with their freedom to do so. No, it is not prohibiting them from performing that religious ceremony, but it is refusing to recognize that action and in so doing is discriminating.

So the reason that John Boehner gives to justify his stance on marriage, “it’s what my church teaches me,” is actually the best argument against his stance on the form that marriage should be.

And before you argue that a law allowing same sex marriage imposes upon religious bodies something which they oppose, think again. Current law allows divorced persons to remarry, but the Roman Catholic church refuses to countenance that practice and does not marry anyone who has previously been married unless that marriage has been annulled. So, while the law allows divorced persons to remarry, it does not force the Roman Catholic church to do so. In the same manner, a law would permit same sex marriage, but would allow churches to continue to define marriage in any manner they wish.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A New Pope

So, the Roman Catholic Church has elected a new Pope, unlike the Anglo Catholic Church which doesn’t have a pope. A reporter on CBS Evening News kept properly calling the church by its proper name, Roman Catholic, while Scott Pelley kept referring to them rather idiotically as “Catholics.” There is no “Catholic Church,” actually.

The Anglo Catholic Church, in which I grew up, is headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but they don’t make much fuss over him. In fact, they pretty much ignore him and pay little or no attention to any instructions he may issue, which he seldom does. I’m not sure what that says about either church, and don’t really care.

Pope Francis, who CBS News is idiotically calling Pope Francis the First because they don’t know that you don’t add numeric suffixes until they are needed, is a former Jesuit, which is probably going to be good for the Roman Catholic Church.

I’ve had a couple of courses taught by Jesuits, and I liked them both. The order is steeped in a culture of humility and poverty, and if Francis brings that to reforming the internal structure of the church it will be a very good thing indeed, but Jesuits are also very conservative as to dogma, so I would not be looking for changes in approach to gay marriage, the role of women, the marital status of priests and similar matters.

He called yesterday for the church to “find new ways to bring evangelization to the ends of the Earth,” which seems like a rather odd thing to do at this point. Seems to me that before seeking to expand one’s house one ought to first seek to get one’s house in order.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cloudy Days

MollyMolly went in for her annual checkup the other day and was found to be in early stages of kidney dysfunction. Rather distressing since she is only ten years old. She will be going back next week for x-rays and ultrasound to see if she has kidney stones, which would be the least bad outcome. There's not much that can be done if she does, other than to monitor and prevent further kidney damage. She is such a sweet and loving cat; she doesn't deserve this kind of trouble.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reality On Employment

Much excitement about the unemployment numbers last week, and a jump in the stock market as a result of them. Forget the stock market; it is completely detached from reality. The Fed is creating $85 billion per month, and the only place for that money to go is the stock market.

As usual, when the media says that, “236,000 new jobs were created and unemployment fell to 7.7%” they are conflating two entirely different reports; reports which use completely different data. The former is from the “Household Survey” made by the BLS which interviews individuals, and the latter is from the “Establishment Data Report” which surveys businesses.

There are several reasons not to combine data from the two reports. When one person is working two jobs, for instance, the Household Survey reports that as one person employed, while the Establishment Data Report reports two persons employed. Another example would be when a person moves from one company to another; Household data will not report that as a new job, but the Establishment will do so.

The unemployment rate is based on the Household Survey, and according to that data the economy added 170,000 jobs. However, the number of part time jobs increased by 446,000, so the reality is that the economy lost 276,000 full-time jobs. That is most decidedly not good news.

If you want to get an idea of just how badly economic recovery is failing to happen, take a look at what Mike Shedlock has to say about it at Mish’s Global Economics.

While the labor force has risen in the last five years by almost 1 million, the number of people employed has fallen by 5.3 million. People “not in the labor force” has risen by almost 10 million, and people on food stamps has gone from 26 million to 46 million, an increase of 77% in five years.

But the stock market has hit record highs, so we must be recovering.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Proper Perspective

Paul Krugman is back yesterday on the topic of the magically disappearing government debt; shrunk to nonexistence by the growth to infinity of the GDP. In introducing the topic he says that “Anyone who is serious knows that it’s highly misleading just to focus on the raw deficit numbers.” We can’t therefor just say that the deficit is $1 trillion dollars, we must always point out that the deficit is 2% of GDP.

The obvious reason for that is that the former scares the shit out of people and the latter gives them a nice warm fuzzy feeling and allows the government to keep on operating on borrowed money, but that is not either of the two reasons Paul Krugman gives. His first reason is something about business cycles and “automatic stabilizers” that sounds like it came from the floor of a horse stable, and the second is his regular mantra that “all we need is to ensure that debt grows more slowly than GDP.”

His theory is obviously working, since the $16.7 trillion we already owe is such a small fraction of the current $15.09 trillion national GDP. Wait... That doesn't look right. The national debt doesn’t seem to be disappearing.

So be aware that anyone who tells you that the deficit is $1 trillion is not a serious person and should be ignored. It actually is $1 trillion, of course, but no serious person should ever point that out because doing so does not put that number in it’s “proper perspective.”

It is, however, proper and serious to say the Exxon made $250 billion in profit without providing any sort of “proper perspective” for that number. News reporters and “serious” pundits do that all the time. A “proper perspective” for that figure might consist of pointing out, perhaps, that it represents a mere 4.7% profit margin on sales.

Quoting raw numbers without context is “serious” depending on why you are doing it. If you are doing it in a manner which makes policies look bad which Paul Krugman favors, then you are not serious and should be ignored. If you are doing it in a manner which makes policies look bad which Paul Krugman opposes, then you are a serious person to whom attention should be paid.

In parting, Krugman’s argument about debt growing more slowly than GDP is absurd on it’s face in any case. The growth of GDP is forecast at something like 2%, with even the most optimistic hoping for a 4% annual increase, but a $1 trillion annual defect with today’s debt represents a 6.25% increase in the national debt. So our debt is clearly growing significantly more rapidly than is our GDP while he is babbling that everything is okay. Even by his own fallacious theory, it clearly is not.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Profit Over Patient Care

CBS Evening News did a piece last night on the meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated steroids shipped nationwide. They interviewed a salesman who represented the “compounding company” who produced the product, and I noticed something which has not really been mentioned before on this issue.

“The necessary prescriptions,” the salesman said, “were often fraudulent. Clinics provided pages of names -- any names.” These were the names for whom the compounding company was supposedly combining certain medications on individual prescriptions. He said they were names such as Homer Simpson and John Doe.

"They -- most of them knew.” The salesman continued, “I mean, some of them wouldn't do business with us. The ones that we didn't have as clients are the ones that knew, 'Hey, you guys can't be doing this. You're not doing it right.' And we'd run into that a lot, but we'd move on to the next one. There's more big fish out there."

These clinics were buying a drug, not a compounded prescription that this company is licensed to provide, but a mass produced drug, for half the cost of the drug provided by legitimate producers, and were providing to that company a fake list of names to facilitate that illegitimate production. Before last night the role of the buying clinics is not even mentioned in this issue, and even when it finally does arise, CBS presents it as something as a minor side issue.

Why is there no national outrage that hundreds of medical clinics were knowingly buying substandard medications in order to save money? Why is there no “story” about how the cost cutting by medical clinics was the proximate cause of the suffering of their patients? These people came to them for treatment, and were betrayed for the sake of extra profit. Who cares about that?

Why is there no national outrage that hundreds of members of the medical profession were injecting into their patients medications which they knew to be substandard? Why is there no “story” about the fact that doctors who swore an oath to “First do no harm” put profit ahead to the welfare of their patients and, in so doing, caused them to become deathly ill?

NECC is the tip of the iceberg. It is the smaller part of the story. Our health care system has been so corrupted by greed and lust for money that patient care is no longer even on the horizon; it’s about money. And that has become so pervasive that we no longer even bother to comment on it.

Friday, March 08, 2013

This Is Disaster?

Yes, the "sequester" has really proven to be an economic disaster, hasn't it? The Dow hitting record highs, unemployment dropping to the lowest level in four years, record number of new jobs created... Maybe we need another disasterous spending cut.

And another Bin Laden is brought to justice. No, wait, "brought to justice" means dead. This one is merely captured and charged with "conspiring to kill Americans." Am I the only one who thinks that that charge sounds really wierd?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

TSA Public Service Fail

One of the “dire consequences” of the “sequester,” we are being told by no lesser a person than DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, is that air travel will become an even bigger nightmare as agents at TSA are laid off and overtime hours are cut. We can expect long lines at airports “on holidays and during peak summer travel times.” When was the last time a member of the President’s Cabinet held a press conference to talk to the public about overtime hours?

Not to mention that anyone who has traveled “on holidays and during peak summer travel times” can tell you that long lines are already the norm. They don’t really need to lay off TSA “agents” in order to create them, so what she’s actually saying is that air travel will be pretty much business as usual. The administration’s fear mongering is degrading into comedy.

The TSA at San Diego’s Lindbergh Airport provided us with a little stage play on March 2nd, the day after the “sequester” was imposed. They invited the media to come out to the airport at a certain time to see what the lines at the security checkpoints looked like with the new budget guidelines. Sure enough the media found lines stretching “down this hallway to another hallway, and down that hallway almost to a third hallway.” Horrendous. People were missing flights in droves.

The media also filmed groups of five and six uniformed TSA security agents strolling around the airport casually conversing and doing nothing, with irate passengers asking why they were not on duty at security checkpoints and getting no answers. The agents pretended that they did not see the media filming them

The television crew interviewed a supervisor who told them that “This is what happens when overtime hours are cut. No overtime,” she said, bitterly, “not one hour.”

Interestingly, Janet Napolitano announced that same evening that cutting overtime had not yet been implemented and would not be for several weeks, and the same television crew returned to the airport several hours later and found that there were no agents strolling aimlessly around the airport and no lines whatever at the security checkpoints.

I would say this is a new level of ineptitude, even for the well named Department of Homeland Stupidity.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Pox On All Their Houses

Look, I don’t care whether we reduce the deficit or not. I am with neither the Republicans or the Democrats on this “sequester” nonsense, and I don’t care whether or not it is implemented because I fail to see how a 2% cut in federal spending is going to significantly affect us one way or the other.

What I do object to is the utter dishonesty with which both sides approach the issue and at this point, unusually enough, the Democrats are being the more dishonest of the two. What I do object to is the insatiable demand of the American public for being provided with endless government programs and benefits and being totally unwilling to pay for them.

The Democrats are wrong on this issue. Usually I am critical with the way Democrats are going about an issue, have issues with their tactics in dealing with it, but accept that they are on the right side of the issue. On this one they are just plain wrong.

Arguing over whether the sequester should be tax increases or spending cuts at this point is an exercise in demagoguery, because the sequester is a done deal for spending cuts, signed sealed and delivered; passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. You don’t change legislation after it has become law.

There is a provision in the law that other spending cuts could be substituted for the ones spelled out in the sequester, but there is no provision that it could consist of anything other than spending cuts. There were other provisions in the law that Democrats sought, including but not limited to an increase in the federal debt ceiling, and the sequester was a concession to the Republican demand for spending cuts in return for that debt ceiling increase and other things that Democrats wanted.

The Democrats got what they wanted and now they don’t want to honor their part of the agreement and deliver that which they agreed to provide to meet Republican demands.

Further, they got Republicans to agree to a $150 billion annual tax increase only one month ago and are now claiming that Republicans are “inflexible on taxes” and that the sequester cannot be resolved because the Republicans “refuse to budge on taxes,” even though the sequester is not about taxes.

And the American public buys these lies because they have a knee-jerk reflex to being given benefits by the government and being totally unwilling to pay for them. When 2% of the slop in their feeding trough is threatened they rise up in outrage and demand that the spending cuts be replaced with “taxes on the rich” so that they can continue their feeding frenzy with someone else paying the cost.

Ten-year-old children expect that everything will be given to them at no cost. Adults usually accept that they have to open their wallets when they want something; that there is no free lunch. The voters of this nation are contemptible in their insatiable childish demands for government spending and “tax the rich.”

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Alternate Reality

Ezra Klein explains in his blog at the Washington Post why there has been and will be no deal on the “sequester” and of course, it’s all the fault of the Republicans. “It’s what Hill Republicans have told me,” he says, “it’s what the White House has told me, it what Hill Democrats have told me.” It never occurs to him, apparently, that any of them are lying in order to grind their own political axes. It never occurs to him that he could observe what’s going on and arrive at his own conclusions instead of parroting “sources.”

“The bottom line on American budgetary politics right now” Klein says, “is that Republicans won’t agree to further tax increases and so there’s no deal to be had.” And this is today’s great lie of American politics. This is the current administration’s equivalent of “We don’t want the confirmation to come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

In January of this year the Obama administration got the Republicans to go along with $150 billion annual tax increase based on “Let’s get this tax issue dealt with now and we’ll deal with spending cuts later,” and less than one month later they are saying that Republicans are refusing to compromise on tax increases in dealing with the sequester.

Obama’s pitch in January was that the spending cuts were too complex, and that the tax issue was urgent because we could not permit taxes to be increased on “hard working middle class Americans.” He then signed a tax bill that allowed the “payroll tax holiday” to expire and that increased taxes for every working middle class person in this nation.

The dishonesty that this president successfully promotes simply staggers the imagination. He campaigns against raising taxes on the middle class, immediately raises taxes on the middle class, and the media and his supporters simply pretend that it never happened. He raises taxes and immediately flagellates the Republicans for refusing to accept tax increases and the media and his supporters join the chorus.

Logic and reality mean nothing to Obama and his supporters. Like the administration which preceded his, they create their own reality, and alter and distort processes to suit the argument of the day.

“Technically,” Klein says, “Obama did move first on spending. Over the course of 2011, Obama signed into law a set of bills that cut about $1.8 trillion from discretionary spending, and that included no tax increases at all.” Klein apparently does not understand the American democratic process. Since those were revenue bills they originated in the Republican House, Obama did not “move first; the Republican House did. The Democratic Senate was next and Obama acted third.

He also presents these bills as if there was nothing in them that benefited Obama; that the President was signing these bills for the sole purpose of building good will with Republicans and creating an obligation which the Republicans were supposed to return at some future date. The concept is nothing short of idiotic. Those bills contained, among other things, an increase in the debt ceiling and were an even trade all the way. Otherwise Obama would not have signed them.

As with his normalization of the loss of civil liberties, making it a bipartisan form of government, Obama has normalized the “we create our own reality” form of government.

Friday, March 01, 2013


The aid that the US has promised to the Syrian rebels will strictly be of the "non-lethal" variety, we are being told, but it has dissolved into farce when one State Department official said the aid would include “anything from radios for local police to schoolbooks that you’re trying to buy for kids.”

Seriously? Aid for rebels engaged in a fight to the death for two years against a dictatorship is to consist of school books for kids?

Can You Spell Hyperbole?

The hyperventilation about the spending cuts is really getting out of hand. You should hear the wailing in San Diego, which has shipyards and lots of other defense contractors in addition to the world’s largest US Navy base. Now we’ll never get a new stadium for the Chargers. Hell, we may not even be able to operate the old one.

There’s a guy over at Mish’s Global Economics who, as you might expect from the title, has a little larger viewpoint that the American one of “how does this affect my own personal job?”

He points out that in 2006 government spending was $2.6 trillion. In 2008 it had gone up to $2.9 trillion, an increase of "only" 12.2% in two years. He points out that this is not caused by inflation, because the Fed is bragging about how they have successfully held inflation to 2% for the past several decades. That’s pretty hilarious in itself, but is a separate subject.

Then the financial crisis hit and we had a “one-time” boost in spending that raised government spending to $3.5 trillion, an 18% increase over 2008, but no less than 36% over just three years earlier in 2006. The stock market loved it, of course, but it really hasn’t done much for the middle class in terms of wages or number of jobs.

He then points out that government spending has then stayed at $3.5 trillion or more ever since. The “one-time stimulus” continued into 2010, 2011, 2012, and now into 2013. Nobody actually voted for a budget to spend that much, it just continued that way because nobody voted to stop it. It has continued because of a series of “continuing resolutions” passed by a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, and signed into execution by a Democratic President.

How many times did I name the Democratic Party there? Right.

So now we hit a point where we are having to cut $85 billion of that spending, and all hell is breaking loose. We are, all sides are claiming, destroying the economy with this $85 billion cut in spending. That $85 billion represents 2.5% of total government spending, and 6.5% of the increase since 2008.

Think about it; 2.5% leads us to financial Armageddon. Madness.