Archive for the 'Big Government' Category
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st July 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Cash medical practice or, in the phrase favored by leftists critics, “Concierge Medicine,” seems to be growing.
Becker is shifting to a new style of practice, sometimes called concierge or retainer medicine. With the help of a company that has been helping physicians make such shifts for over 13 years, he will cease caring for a total of 2,500 patients and instead cut back to about 600. These patients will pay an annual fee of $1,650. In exchange, they will receive a two-hour annual visit with a complete physical exam, same-day appointments, 24-hour physician phone access, and personalized, web-based resources to promote wellness.
The article suggest that all these doctors choosing to drop insurance and Medicare are primary care. Many are but I know orthopedists and even general surgeons who are dropping all insurance.
The concierge model of practice is growing, and it is estimated that more than 4,000 U.S. physicians have adopted some variation of it. Most are general internists, with family practitioners second. It is attractive to physicians because they are relieved of much of the pressure to move patients through quickly, and they can devote more time to prevention and wellness.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, Crony Capitalism, Health Care, Medicine, Politics, Science | 16 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st July 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Adrift without a map, we are, in the sea of current events. Especially after this last week, which brought us a ground war in Gaza and the shoot-down of a passenger airliner over Ukraine; both situations a little out of the depth of the past experience of Chicago community organizer, even one who spent his grade school years in Indonesia. Quite a large number of the blogs and commenters that I follow have speculated over the last couple of months – at least since last year – and have predicted disaster. They know not the day nor the hour, but they have read the various augurs according to their inclinations, suspicions and particular expertise, and gloomily speculate on the odds of various events occurring. There is something bad coming, the air is thick and heavy with signs and portents, never mind the cheery cast that the current administration and its public affairs division attempts to put on it. It’s like a makeup artist, plying the art on a six-months-dead corpse; it’s just not working.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Americas, Big Government, Civil Society, Immigration, International Affairs, Latin America, Law, North America, Politics, Terrorism, The Press, USA | 10 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th July 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Never trust the American government about weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This a lesson learned about American government behavior with the late 1990′s ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ scandals which eventually turned up the suppressed bombing of a 1991 Saddam Hussein nerve gas depot that trace-poisoned thousands of Gulf War Vets. See CIA analyst Patrick G. Eddington’s 1997 book Gassed in the Gulf: The Inside Story of the Pentagon-CIA Cover-Up of Gulf War Syndrome.
Little did I know that this thought about official American government WMD narratives applied for decades longer than the first Gulf War. In a past column “History Friday: A Tale of Balloon Bombs, B-29s and Weather Reports” I said the following about the Japanese strategic balloon bombing campaign –
American authorities — through the Chinese intelligence reports and captured Japanese documents — knew of the Japanese biological weapons program and greatly feared that the Japanese would use these balloons to deliver disease to the American heartland.
It turns out that the American War Department, and particularly Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, was seriously interested in Japanese biological warfare experiments far earlier than the November 1944 through April 1945 Japanese strategic balloon bombing campaign. In fact, he had instituted a blood screening program of Japanese prisoners of war five months earlier to get an early warning of Japanese biological weapons (AKA bio-weapons).
See this 1 July 1945 follow War Department letter Ryan Crierie found recently in the US National Archives:
Secretary of War Stimpson message to Pacific Theater General MacArthur and China Theater General Albert Wedemeyer requesting blood samples be taken for tests once a month for the 15 most recently captured Japanese prisoners and air freighted to Washington DC for testing to screen for bioweapon exposures.
This letter was a follow up letter to a 19 July 1944 radio instruction that complained to both Generals MacArthur and Wedemeyer that they were not regularly following the 19 July 1944 War Department directive and directing them how to properly draw package and ship the desired blood samples to the Director of the US Army Medical School in Washington DC.
Given this recently uncovered background data, plus the dodgy behavior by American military prosecutors at MacArthur’s War Crimes tribunal in Manila to cover up the Japanese biological program from the American public for decades, it is easy to see why diplomatic historians like Gar Alperovitz started talking about great “Atomic Diplomacy” cover ups.
There _was_ a weapons of mass destruction cover up…just not one dealing with atomic bombs.
The first act of the Cold War wasn’t President Truman sending arms to stop a Communist takeover of Greece. It was his administration’s cover up of the Japanese biological weapons program. This, just by itself, is a good reason not to trust the American government on the subject of weapons of mass destruction. If they did it once, they will do it again…and have, as Patrick G. Eddington documented.
Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 17th July 2014 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
This billboard is in my River North neighborhood in Chicago. It is an advertisement for a mall and entertainment location in Rosemont, a small city near O’Hare airport.
Rosemont was profiled by the Chicago Tribune in this excellent article. A single family has run Rosemont for generations, and they benefit from a levy on taxi rides from O’Hare and spend this money on no-bid contracts for friends, family and politicians as well as large entertainment complexes underwritten by large amounts of debt.
The suburb is digging itself deeper into debt to subsidize a new bar district, professional softball stadium and outlet mall. With $370 million in taxpayer-backed loans outstanding, Rosemont has one of the top debt loads in the Chicago region.
Another Chicago suburb, Bridgeview, hosts a stadium for the Chicago Fire, a major-league soccer team. Their debacle is chronicled here, in a typically great Bloomberg article.
The mayor of Bridgeview, Illinois, said building a taxpayer-financed arena for the billionaire owner of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire would bring hotels and restaurants to his suburb. Instead, the town has more than doubled property taxes and may raise them again to pay more than $200 million in stadium debt.
One of the big problems in Illinois is that we have so many various overlapping public bodies, many with the ability to issue debt and all of whom have expensive board members, employees, and often public contracts doled out to associated cronies. This article, from the “Illinois Policy” web site, describes the myriad overlapping public entities in the State of Illinois and how we dwarf ALL states and especially neighboring (and much better managed) states like Indiana.
Illinoisans suffer from the second-highest property tax rates in the nation.
Their state is the third most corrupt in the nation.
And driving this expensive and corrupt reality on the local level is the fact that Illinois has more units of local government than any other state in the nation. With 6,963 units of local government, Illinois beats its nearest competitor by more than 1,800.
When Illinois finally hits the wall, and we won’t be able to issue new debt (and thus an immediate fiscal crisis will occur), we will have to have a reckoning with all of these various entities, each of whom has their own debt problems and the ability to create NEW problems by issuing MORE debt. On one hand, the market will constrain their ability to sell debt by the fact that these insolvent entities survive through the “implied” promise that they will be bailed out by some higher power, whether that is a county, state, or Federal government.
The act of unwinding all of the problems of the inter-related corrupt and insolvent entities will be a herculean task, made even more difficult by the fact that there will be little incentive for the politicians to solve the crisis if the end result is that they won’t have these same public entities for no-bid contracts, jobs for themselves, and their campaign workers and donors once the clean-up is complete.
The only thing for certain is that the lawyers in the state will feast at the trough of lawsuits from all parties. They just need to make sure that they find a way to get paid themselves on a timely basis…
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Chicagoania, Illinois Politics | 11 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th July 2014 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
A few years ago I went to Norway and had a great time. In this post I described how expensive everything was in Norway due to their highly valued currency (tied to oil riches) combined with the relentless decline of the US dollar (tied to ZIRP and other dubious economic moves). In the simplest terms, a fast food meal or a beer in Norway cost over $20 USD which is complete madness.
Business Insider discussed the Scandinavian economic experiment, where high taxes are applied to goods and services in order to fund a vast social safety net. From the article:
In Norway, a burger and fries at a fast food joint will set you back $23. A six-pack of warm grocery-store beer is nearly $30.
These hefty price tags are due, in part, to high wages for low-skilled service jobs. But high taxes play a role too.
Most products have a 25 percent value-added tax, which means that $5.50 of the cost of that burger goes to fund Norway’s generous social programs.
As a visitor, you get little for the added price. But, as a resident, your daily spending helps to fund an expansive package of benefits, including health care, child care, high-quality education, pensions, and unemployment insurance.
Some are now proposing this high-cost method, with large taxes embedded in everyday prices, as a solution to the inequity in incomes and wealth that is discussed widely in politics and economics today.
From the perspective of someone who is highly interested in economics and tax policy, my two rules of thumb are:
1) that the tax policy raise the money that it intends to raise
2) that the tax policy not significantly distort economic activity
Any society that implements high taxes such as Norway needs a comprehensive surveillance model in order to collect these taxes. It is difficult to avoid taxes that are broadly assessed on fast food, for instance, because each corporate location will set up cash registers and controls to remit these taxes onto the state. The same types of processes can be installed in liquor stores, formal bars and nightclubs, grocery stores, and restaurants.
In a less-homogeneous society such as the USA, we already have major problems with tax evasion on cigarettes and likely liquor, and these are in responses to our sales taxes. The problems would be compounded if we placed value added taxes on all goods at a higher level and on services such as restaurants, hair care, etc… Smuggling would become rampant and informal or barter methodologies would increase in size and scope. These sorts of costs would have to be applied across the USA or some areas would become uncompetitive and see an out-migration of economic activity, starting with incremental additions (no one has opened a new manufacturing plant in Illinois in years, for instance) and eventually leading to the lock, stock and barrel out migration of existing industries (such as the exodus of car manufacturing out of the Midwest and California to the American South).
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Public Finance, Taxes | 33 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th July 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
(NOTE — Update at the End of the Column)
One of the things that changes you, when you become a parent, is the body of knowledge you acquire to protect your spouse and children including things like knowledge of infectious diseases in public schools. In my case that meant looking at the NY Times saying the following: “…the administration has begun to send the expected 240,000 migrants and 52,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally in recent months in the Rio Grande Valley to cities around the county.” And at headlines for the open border crisis like this by Todd Starnes titled “Immigration crisis: Tuberculosis spreading at camps” which caused me to immediately free associate them with a pair of “Tuberculosis in Public School”, headlines, one local to North Texas in 2011 and the other very recently in California. See this 2011 Consumer Health Daily article from Denton Texas “TB Outbreaks in Texas Schools Show Disease Still a Threat – At least 100 people have tested positive for the respiratory ailment” and this 1 July 2014 article from the Sacramento Bee “Four more students test positive for tuberculosis at Grant High.”
As a Texas parent, this idea of TB positive illegal alien children released to illegal immigrant parents scares the heck out of me from the point of view of epidemiology. In the 1920s TB was the eighth leading cause of death for children 1-to-4 years old. Since then American public health has been so effective in preventing it that the USA no longer has any “herd immunity” to TB.
This “catch and release” illegal alien policy is horrible from the infectious disease point of view in that phlegm or aerosolized sputum that are contaminated with Mycobacterium tuberculosis are active biohazards that have long latent infection periods. This makes “exposure” very easy. The clinical definition of TB Exposure — which I found in a University of Vanderbilt student medical file PDF — is the following:
“A person is considered to be exposed if there is shared breathing space with someone with infectious pulmonary or laryngeal tuberculosis at a time when the infectious person is not wearing a mask and the other person is not wearing an N95 respirator. Usually a person has to be in close contact with someone with infectious tuberculosis for a long period of time to become infected; however, some people do become infected after short periods, especially if the contact is in a closed or poorly ventilated space.”
The Federal Government Hazmat protocol for dealing with suspected active TB cases is as follows:
1. Administrative controls
• “Develop policies and protocols to ensure the rapid identification, isolation, diagnostic evaluation and treatment of persons likely to have TB.”
2. Engineering controls
• Isolation and
• Negative pressure room ventilation
3.Personal protective equipment controls
• N95 personal respirator protection
Questions people and reporters need to be asking their local, state and federal elected officials regards the so-called “unattended child immigration crisis” include:
1. How many Border Patrol Agents, health workers or other support staff at these immigration processing centers have worn N95 respirators in treating symptomatic TB sufferers?
2. How many TB sufferers were also wearing masks?
3. Have those Border Patrol Agents, health workers or other support staff followed a rigorous TB decontamination protocol?
Whether people ask those questions or not, we are going to find out the answers soon, and not just in Texas. Testable anti-bodies to TB infection appear in two to 12 weeks for skin and blood tests and the incubation period for full blown active TB is six months to two(+) years.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in America 3.0, Americas, Big Government, Bioethics, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Health Care, National Security | 76 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th July 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
The inestimably acute and prolific blog-commenter Subotai Bahadur coined that acronym and has propagated it across the conservative-libertarian corner of the blogosphere ever since. It has achieved the status of an entry on Acronym Finder, for whatever that is worth. It is shorthand for “those who are no longer our countrymen” – itself an abbreviation for a slashing denunciation of those American colonists who were in sympathy with the wishes of Great Britain by Samuel Adams on American independence, delivered in a fiery stem-winder of a speech at the Philadelphia Statehouse in August of 1776 –
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Immigration, International Affairs, Leftism, Media, Tea Party | 19 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd July 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have been predicting this, especially since these polls.
Even the Washington Post has second thoughts.
Romney would hold a slight lead on President Obama if the 2012 election were replayed today, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The poll of registered voters shows Romney at 49 percent and Obama at 45 percent in the rematch, a mirror image of Romney’s four-point (51-47) popular-vote loss in 2012.
Now, we have this.
What can I say except I told you so.
Will Romney be different from these other failed nominees? Could he defy the odds and make a comeback presidential bid capturing the GOP nomination after all the doubt, second-guessing and blame that accompany such a loss? According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, many Americans seem to think so—45 percent of voters said the United States would be better off today with Romney as president.
I donated more to the Romney campaign than I have in any other election and I was a volunteer for McCain in 2000.
I told you so. I think there is a case that the 2012 election was stolen.
The knowledge that the 1960 election was probably stolen helped Nixon in 1968. That and the failure of the Johnson Administration in Vietnam. Anyway, I have been predicting this for a while at Althouse and I can’t remember if I have posted this opinion here. Obama, with the time he has left, will make this more and more attractive. I thought we were doomed after 2012. I still think so but maybe I was wrong. The Megyn Kelly interviews with Bill Ayers might even help although she never got into the Ayers-Obama relationship.
I just hope we avoid the worst of the blowback from inept foreign policy before 2016.
More. This is amazing.
All this is weird, unprecedented. The president shows no sign—none—of being overwhelmingly concerned and anxious at his predicaments or challenges. Every president before him would have been. They’d be questioning what they’re doing wrong, changing tack. They’d be ordering frantic aides to meet and come up with what to change, how to change it, how to find find common ground not only with Congress but with the electorate.
Instead he seems disinterested, disengaged almost to the point of disembodied. He is fatalistic, passive, minimalist. He talks about hitting “singles” and “doubles” in foreign policy.
“The world seems to disappoint him,” says The New Yorker’s liberal and sympathetic editor, David Remnick.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, Health Care, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Polls, Predictions | 25 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd July 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
[A]s some smart-aleck said, we must change or perish. And who should break our long postwar consensual slumber — not with a snog but with a short sharp smack around the head with a handbag and a cry of “Look smart!” — but the Iron Lady herself.
Mrs Thatcher meant, and still means, many things — some of which she is not yet aware of herself, as we are not. Only death brings proper perspective to the triumphs and failures of a political career; it is only with the blank look and full stop of death that that old truism “all political careers end in failure” stops being true. Only a terminally smug liberal would still write her off as an uptight bundle of Little Englandisms, seeking to preserve the old order, however hard she worked that look at first; voting for her was something akin to buying what one thought was a Vera Lynn record, getting it home and finding a Sex Pistols single inside.
She was just as much about revolution as reaction, and part of any revolution is destruction. Some of the things she destroyed seemed like a shame at the time, such as the old industries — though on balance, isn’t there anything good about the fact that thousands of young men who once simply because of who their fathers were would have been condemned to a life spent underground in the darkness, and an early death coughing up bits of lung, now won’t be?
Here is the original article. RTWT.
Let’s hear that one more time:
“She was just as much about revolution as reaction, and part of any revolution is destruction.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, History, Judaism, Middle East, Politics, Tea Party, USA | 4 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 14th June 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Lead and Gold links an article by Noemie Emery:
They had a dream. For almost a hundred years now, the famed academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex has dreamed of a government run by their kind of people (i.e., nature’s noblemen), whose intelligence, wit, and refined sensibilities would bring us a heaven on earth. Their keen intellects would cut through the clutter as mere mortals’ couldn’t. They would lift up the wretched, oppressed by cruel forces. Above all, they would counter the greed of the merchants, the limited views of the business community, and the ignorance of the conformist and dim middle class…Their stock in trade was their belief in themselves, and their contempt for the way the middle class thought, lived, and made and spent money: Commerce was crude, consumption was vulgar, and industry, which employed millions and improved the lives of many more people, too gross and/or grubby for words.
These attitudes, Emery notes, explain the passionate attraction that so many academics and journalists felt toward Barack Obama:
Best of all, he was the person whom the two branches of the liberal kingdom—the academics and journalists—wanted to be, a man who shared their sensibilities and their views of the good and the beautiful. This was the chance of a lifetime to shape the world to their measure. He and they were the ones they were waiting for, and with him, they longed for transcendent achievements. But in the event they were undone by the three things (Fred) Siegel had pegged as their signature weaknesses: They had too much belief in the brilliance of experts, they were completely dismissive of public opinion, and they had a contempt for the great middle class.
Much of the “expertise” asserted by people in the academic-artistic-and-punditry complex is entirely imaginary, as far as the organization and management of social institutions goes. L&G cites one of my old posts at Photon Courier:
In university humanities departments, theory is increasingly dominant–not theory in the traditional scholarly and scientific sense of a tentative conceptual model, always subject to revision, but theory in the sense of an almost religious doctrine, accepted on the basis of assertion and authority. To quote Professor “X” once again: “Graduate “education” in a humanities discipline like English seems to be primarily about indoctrination and self-replication.”…
Becoming an alcolyte of some all-encompassing theory can spare you from the effort of learning about anything else. For example: if everything is about (for example) power relationships–all literature, all history, all science, even all mathematics–you don’t need to actually learn much about medieval poetry, or about the Second Law of thermodynamics, or about isolationism in the 1930s. You can look smugly down on those poor drudges who do study such things, while enjoying “that intellectual sweep of comprehension known only to adolescents, psychopaths and college professors” (the phrase is from Andrew Klavan’s unusual novel True Crime.)
See also L&G’s post How We Live Now: The Rule of Inept Experts.
I believe that the overemphasis on educational credentials has played a major part in shifting the power balance between Line and Staff in organizations of all types…here, I am using “Line” to refer to people who have decision-making authority and responsibility, and corresponding accountability for outcomes, while “Staff” refers to people who analyze, study, and advise, but are not themselves decision-makers. It was once pretty well understood that one should not take a person whose entire experience is in Staff positions (however exalted) and put him in a high-level Line position, where the consequences of failure will be very serious, without first having him gain experience and prove his performance in lower-level Line positions where the consequences of failure will be less-devastating to the entire organization. This seems to be much less well-understood today, the ultimate example of course being the career path of Barack Obama.
Fred Siegel, mentioned in Noemie Emery’s article, is the author of the very interesting book The Revolt Against the Masses, which is on my (long) list of books that need reviewing.
Posted in Academia, Big Government, Book Notes, Business, Civil Society, Management, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 17 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 9th June 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
The very term Clerisy first appeared in 1830 in the work of Samuel Coleridge to described the bearers society’s highest ideals: the intellectuals, pastors, scientists charged with transmitting their privileged knowledge them to the less enlightened orders.
The rise of today’s Clerisy stems from the growing power and influence of its three main constituent parts: the creative elite of media and entertainment, the academic community, and the high-level government bureaucracy.
The Clerisy operates on very different principles than its rival power brokers, the oligarchs of finance, technology or energy. The power of the knowledge elite does not stem primarily from money, but in persuading, instructing and regulating the rest of society. Like the British Clerisy or the old church-centered French First Estate, the contemporary Clerisy increasingly promotes a single increasingly parochial ideology and, when necessary, has the power to marginalize, or excommunicate, miscreants from the public sphere.
Definitely read the whole thing.
Via Stuart Schneiderman
Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Society, History, Media, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 22nd May 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The activities of the Obama administration have progressed into Mafia territory the past five years. I never thought things could change this fast but it seems I was wrong. The latest example ?
Soon after the US Government sold the last of its stake in General Motors, the company began to announce a huge number of recalls. These safety defects were known for years but unreported until the federal government sold its interests, at a huge loss of course.
Taxpayers, drivers, and investors who assumed the government would never fail to disclose rampant safety problems in a company it owned can rest easy, though. Instead of investigating fatally flawed GM components while the U.S. government was the company’s largest single owner, the NHTSA was busy harassing Toyota — one of GM’s top competitors — for an alleged malfunction that led to “unintended acceleration” in Toyota vehicles. Toyota was fined and eventually bullied into recalling 8 million vehicles over the issue.
Toyota is probably the safest, highest quality auto maker in the world. I drive one and have bought Toyotas for my daughter.
And what was the final result of the NHTSA investigation?
Many drivers may have confused the gas and brake pedals a problem that may account for “the vast majority” of the unintended acceleration incidents the agency investigated, NHTSA deputy administrator Ron Medford said at Tuesday’s NHTSA press briefing.
“What mostly happened was pedal misapplication where the driver stepped on the gas instead of the brake or in addition to the brake,” Medford said.
The Toyota cases were always about driver error, not safety of the auto. Only the trial lawyers and a complacent government permitted this raid on a company to proceed.
Is that the only case ?
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Health Care, Morality and Philosphy, Obama, Politics | 87 Comments »
Posted by Kevin Villani on 26th April 2014 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
The political movement Occupy Wall Street has shaped the tax and spending proposals of the Obama administration’s budget and political debate on the premise that our capitalist economic system is rigged to favor the top-earning “one percenters.” But income inequality can result either from capitalism or politics, each for better or worse.
Historically, political elites focused on enriching themselves at the expense of the general public: In 1773 patriots threw the tea into Boston Harbor of the East India Tea Company, granted a “royal charter” in 1600. The U.S. system was founded not just on the principles of democracy but on limited government complementing private market capitalism that encouraged individuals to “pursue happiness” — accumulate wealth — on merit rather than political connections. Support for the less fortunate was provided by family members, religious and other charitable organizations.
Believing (wrongly) that class envy against the new economic elites — innovative entrepreneurs — would cause revolution, Karl Marx offered the socialist alternative “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” with politics supplanting merit. Despite totalitarian methods universally employed by governments seriously pursuing the socialist model leading to the murder of tens of millions, one historian recently concluded that communism reduced workers “to shiftless, work-shy alcoholics.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, History, Political Philosophy, Public Finance, Taxes | 15 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th April 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have been unhappy about our role in Afghanistan for several years. This goes back to at least 2009. Then there was this.
Watching the last two weeks or so in the White House, gives me the sense that the decision is going to be the wrong one. There are three possible choices that Obama has; one is to take his hand-picked general’s advice and send 40,000 more troops. It will stress our military and the logistical challenges are serious. Afghanistan is land-locked and the neighbors are not friendly. Russia will try to create problems, as they already have in Kyrgyzstan. They do not want us to succeed yet they may fear total failure. In the meantime, they are making serious trouble.
And then, this development.
it’s an open secret the Taliban are headquartered across the border in the city of Quetta, Pakistan, where they operate openly under the aegis of Pakistani intelligence — and the financial sponsorship of the Saudis.
Sending more troops to Afghanistan is a necessary, albeit unfortunate, rear-guard action against marauding Taliban fighters armed, trained, supplied and deployed from Quetta — and funded from Riyadh.
NATO and U.S. military command know this. They’ve complained about it over and over in military action reports. So have Treasury officials regarding Saudi funding of the Taliban.
“Saudi Arabia today remains the location where more money is going to terrorism — to Sunni terror groups and the Taliban — than any other place in the world,” testified Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary.
This is Viet Nam all over again. The enemy has a sanctuary and our allies are siding secretly with our enemies.
Well, today, there is another bit of information
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Big Government, Conservatism, Current Events, Education, Immigration, Middle East, Statistics | 44 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th April 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
This would appear to be the new theme song for the Fed-Gov’s Bureau of Land Management – that bane of ranchers like Cliven Bundy – as well as a whole lot of other ranchers, farmers, loggers, small landowners, and owners of tiny bits of property on the edge of or in areas of spectacular natural beauty, west of the Mississippi and between the Mexican and Canadian borders.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Americas, Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Law, North America | 11 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 11th April 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
(Originally posted in January 2010–now an April perennial)
Chevy Chase, MD, is an affluent suburb of Washington DC. Median household income is over $200K, and a significant percentage of households have incomes that are much, much higher. Stores located in Chevy Chase include Tiffany & Co, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Saks-Jandel.
PowerLine observed that during the 2008 election season, yards in Chevy Chase were thick with Obama signs–and wonders how these people are now feeling about the prospect of sharp tax increases for people in their income brackets.
The PowerLine guys are very astute, but I think they’re missing a key point on this one. There are substantial groups of people who stand to benefit financially from the policies of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate, and these benefits can greatly outweigh the costs of any additional taxes that these policies require them to pay. Many of the residents of Chevy Chase–a very high percentage of whom get their income directly or indirectly from government activities–fall into this category.
Consider, for starters, direct employment by the government. Most Americans still probably think of government work as low-paid, but this is much less true than it used to be. According to this, 19% of civil servants now make $100K or more. A significant number of federal employees are now making more than $170,000. And, of course, the more the role of government is expanded, the more such jobs will be created, and the better will be the prospects for further pay increases.
If one member of a couple is a federal employee making $100K and the other is making $150K, that would be sufficient to allow them to live in Chevy Chase and occasionally partake of the shopping and restaurants. But to make the serious money required to really enjoy the Chevy Chase lifestyle, it’s best to look beyond direct government employment and pursue careers which indirectly but closely benefit from government activity…which are part of the “extended government,” to coin a phrase.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Taxes | 2 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 9th March 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Via Bookworm, here is a truly appalling story from Minnesota. When the fire alarm went off at Como Park High School, a 14-year-old girl was rousted out of the swimming pool, and–dripping wet and wearing only a swimsuit–directed to go stand outside were the temperature was sub-zero and the wind chill made it much worse. Then, she was not allowed to take refuge in one of the many cars in the parking lot because of a school policy forbidding students from sitting in a faculty member’s car. As Bookworm notes:
Even the lowest intelligence can figure out that the rule’s purpose is to prevent teachers from engaging sexually with children. The likelihood of a covert sexual contact happening between Kayona and a teacherunder the actual circumstances is ludicrous. The faculty cars were in full view of the entire school. There was no chance of illicit sexual congress.
But the whole nature of bureaucratic rules, of course, is to forbid human judgment based on actual context.
Fortunately for Kayona, her fellow students hadn’t had human decency ground out of them by rules: “…fellow students, however, demonstrated a grasp of civilized behavior. Students huddled around her and some frigid classmates [sic], giving her a sweatshirt to put around her feet. A teacher coughed up a jacket.” As the children were keeping Kayona alive, the teachers were workingtheir way through the bureaucracy. After a freezing ten minutes, an administrator finally gave permission for the soaking wet, freezing Kayla to set in a car in full view of everybody.
As Bookworm notes, this sort of thing is becoming increasingly common. In England in 2009, for example, a man with a broken back lay in 6 inches of water, but paramedics refused to rescue him because they weren’t trained for water rescues. Dozens of similar examples could easily be dredged up.
The behavior of these bureaucrats is very similar to the behavior of a computer program confronted by a situation for which its designers did not explicitly provide. Sometimes the results will be useless, sometimes they will be humorous, often they will be harmful or outright disastrous.
Last year in Sweden, there was rampant rioting that included the torching of many cars. The government of Sweden didn’t do a very good job of protecting its citizens and their property from this outbreak of barbarism. Government agents did, however, fulfill their duty of issuing parking tickets…to burned-out cars. Link with picture. In my post The Reductio as Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism, I said…
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Management, Video | 10 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 1st March 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
-Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower? – A balanced, thoughtful look at recent developments from Arthur Herman. There is cause for optimism.
-Wildlife photographer pleads guilty to violating Endangered Species Act – The gist of the story is that some guy was photographing “endangered” birds from less than 500 feet away, which apparently is a violation of the Endangered Species Act, and was turned in to the feds by zealous environmentalists who saw him do this. Of course he copped a plea. If he had taken his chances in court he could have ended up in jail for years. As it is he may still do time and will end up with a felony conviction and probably a big fine to make an example of him. The birds he supposedly harassed aren’t even rare, merely locally rare in Florida, and he didn’t harm any of them. At most he should have been fined a few hundred bucks and warned to stay farther away from the wildlife. But nowadays everything is a federal crime with draconian penalties, and you can’t fart in a wetland without violating some rule. And the enforcement agencies have to justify their budgets. He should have left the birds alone, but his punishment is cruelly excessive. Some of the comments in response to the article are remarkably heartless. Not just the EPA but also the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Service deserve substantial defunding.
-Possibly my best blog post ever.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Humor, Israel, Law, Law Enforcement | 10 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th February 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
UPDATED to correct the author of the essay.
This essay by Mike Lofgren on Bill Moyers’ web site, is interesting. It has the usual leftist slant of Moyers on the topic but also includes many good observations. Lofgren is also a very interesting guy. He spent 28 years as a Republican staffer. From 1995 to 2004, he was budget analyst for national security on the majority staff of the House Budget Committee. From 2005 until his retirement in 2011, Lofgren was the chief analyst for military spending on the Senate Budget Committee. The Democrats took The House in 2006 and the Senate Majority from 2001 to 2003 and then since 2007. If he was on the Budget Committee of the Senate, he must have been a staffer for the Democrat majority, as well.
he was “appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.” He charged that both major American political parties are “rotten captives to corporate loot”, but that while Democrats are merely weak and out of touch, the Republican Party is “becoming more like an apocalyptic cult”. Lofgren and Moyers are both leftists but Lofgren has had an interesting odyssey.
There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power. 
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Leftism, National Security, Politics | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 19th February 2014 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
A while back I dissected the debt of Detroit, the classic America 2.0 case. By this, I mean a gigantic government presence, working with manufacturing and unions to push off obligations into the future with no clear plan of really what to do. In the end, of course, it all came crumbling down and yesterday we got a slight glimpse into just how bad it can get.
To review, here is the diagram I had to make after reading several sources on the subject, to help wrap my head around the calamity that was the city of Detroit’s books:
This looks crude, and it is, but it really helped me get my brain around the nightmare.
From everything I have been reading, Kevyn Orr is getting ready to propose that the general obligation and pensions get settled out at .25 on the dollar. That sounds a bit expensive to me, and as Lex Green said to me in an email certainly isn’t “fire sale” prices yet, but that is what the consensus seems to be saying.
In an odd bit of news, many private foundations have been trying to gather enough money to offset an auction of Detroit’s art collection, estimated by some to be worth up to a billion dollars. If I were Orr, that would have been the first thing I would have done is liquidate that stuff, but I am quite a bit less sensitive than I would need to be to ever consider a career being a politician.
All of this is subject to the whims of the BK judge, but if I were a retired Detroit fireman, I would certainly begin tightening the belt stat, if that wasn’t done already.
This may affect municipal investments, but honestly I imagine any fallout from it is already baked into the pie.
Is Chicago next? We shall soon see.
From a political standpoint, the Republilcans should make the Democrats own this just like they should own Zerocare ™ and the nightmare in Illinois/Chicago that is coming down the tracks. How easy can it get for a Republican? All they have to say is “look at that” and they should get easily elected in any of a number of districts in 2014.
(Disclosure – I have many different municipal investment vehicles in my portfolio).
Cross posted at LITGM.
Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Investment Journal | 6 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have believed for some time that we were entering another Depression. I have previously posted about it.
The Great Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.
I posted that statement earlier and it got a rather vigorous rebuttal. I still believe it, however. I think a depression is coming soon. What is more, I am not the only one. Or even only one of two.
The second article preceded the election of 2012 but is still valid.
When employment hit an air pocket in December, most analysts brushed off the dreadful jobs number as an anomaly, or a function of the weather. They chose to believe Ben Bernanke rather than their lying eyes. It’s hard to ignore a second signal that the U.S. economy is dead in the water, though: on Monday the Institute for Supply Management reported the steepest drop in manufacturing orders since December 1980:
In January, only 51% of manufacturers reported a rise in new orders, vs. 64% in December. Not only did the U.S. economy stop hiring in December, with just 74,000 workers added to payrolls; it stopped ordering new equipment. The drop in orders is something that only has occurred during recessions (denoted by the shaded blue portions of the chart). The Commerce Department earlier reported a sharp drop in December orders for durable goods. In current dollars, durable goods orders are unchanged from a year ago, which is to say they are lower after inflation.
So, the economy stopped hiring, even at the poor pace the past five years have seen, but business also stopped buying.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Britain, Business, Health Care, Obama, Politics, Taxes, Tea Party, Urban Issues | 33 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 28th January 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Kevin Williamson, writing at NRO, notes that political self-interest is no less selfish than economic self-interest. About Barack Obama, he has this to say:
What could it possibly mean to be lectured on selfishness by a man whose entire career has been dedicated to no cause other than the cause of himself? “Selfishness” has been conflated with materialism and greed, but the literal meaning of the word is excessive devotion to one’s self and one’s interests. To be unselfish is to be ready to give up that which one holds most dear; for some men, that is money, but what is money to a president of the United States, who knows that in retirement he can support himself in ducal style with one day’s work a month at Bill Clinton rates, in princely style with two days’ work, and in imperial style with three? Money is an abstraction to a retired president. But the thing that he really cares about — power — Barack Obama guards in a fashion more miserly than that of any mythical dragon watching his horde. (sic–I think he means “hoard”)
And political power, of course, is always and everywhere convertible into economic wealth. The conversion may be in the form of in-kind benefits…the dachas and special stores made available to the old Soviet elite, the extremely expensive government aircraft made available to Obama’s vacationing family (and even to his dog) as well as to himself…or it may involve the at-least-implicit conversion of influence into money. (Al Gore’s financial net worth in now somewhere around the $200 million level, the Clintons are at roughly the same level. Today’s WSJ mentioned that former Clinton counsel Lanny Davis has been hired by a Chinese company to defend them against charges of violating California law. Lanny Davis may be a good lawyer, but is anyone really so naive as to think that his selection for this job has nothing to do with influence?) And in the celebrity-obsessed culture of 2014 America, the public recognition that comes with political office and power increases still further the ability to turn power into economic wealth. Get the power, the wealth will come…although, of course, for many obsessive power-seekers, the psychic rewards of power itself are the primary motivators.
Obama once remarked “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Has he ever considered the possibility that maybe at a certain point he’s accumulated enough power? I doubt it. To a considerable extent, I think, the Democratic harping on inequalities of wealth and income acts as a smokescreen to avoid discussion of the high and increasing inequalities of power.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Human Behavior, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 15 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th January 2014 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
In San Francisco recently there has been a minor hubub about the buses that ferry technology workers from San Francisco (where they live) to Silicon Valley (where they work). “Activists” have been blocking the city bus lanes where the technology companies pick up workers, and the city of San Francisco recently voted to charge the buses $1 for each time they stop in the bus lanes to pick up passengers, per this article. However, the “real” challenge isn’t with the buses, but the impact of Google, Facebook and other technology companies in the valley that are contributing to a rapid gentrification of the entire city
But while logistical details of the pilot program were the reason for having the hearing, they also had nothing to do with it. For many residents, the high-ceilinged room at City Hall was a forum for airing much bigger grievances about inequality, for articulating angst against an industry attracting bands of well-paid workers to town while long-term residents are losing their homes. “These companies are filthy rich,” said a resident born in San Francisco. “We need to squeeze them for everything they’re worth.” Some speakers wanted the buses to be banned and for companies to take the money spent on shuttles and funnel it into the city’s transportation budget — advice the committee approving the proposal didn’t find too compelling.
A similar difference in approach played out at the protest that morning. While some activists made careful arguments about the tornado of wealth, growth and housing shortages that has thrown the city into an affordability crisis, others held a giant sign with a much less nuanced message: “F*** off Google.”
This thread crystalizes two key threads that I’ve noticed in my visits to California for work and for pleasure (Dan and I have been there a couple of times to run the Presidio 10) and I often travel to the valley to visit various companies as part of my job. The first item is that San Francisco has been completely remade, from top to bottom, and there are almost no “bad” neighborhoods left in the entire city. I’ve walked through most of the city or taken the streetcars, or driven, and since the 2008 bust the entire city has been part of an enormous revitalization as wealthy tech workers and related professionals have bought up property in the city. There still are a bunch of drunks in the Tenderloin, aggressive panhandlers everywhere, and some projects and worse neighborhoods in the corners of the city, but by and large it has been completely upgraded.
The second thread is that the workers in Silicon Valley are so completely opposite of these “activists” that it is difficult to know how to begin the comparison. At all of the companies I’ve visited the professionals are engaged in their work and have a very “capitalistic” view of being the best and beating the competition. While California is a completely “blue” state on the map, these technology professionals couldn’t be more “red” on the issues of free markets, access to capital, and the nature of the world-wide competition that they face (I don’t know about social issues because we’d never discuss that sort of thing). These firms leverage overseas workers without a second thought, and ruthlessly prune inefficient parts of their organization to focus on their core differentiators.
While the world was focused elsewhere San Francisco transformed into a post-industrial city full of aggressive technology workers and professionals. Due to some remaining elements of rent control there are still some of the characteristic “activists” milling around but the relentless and unstoppable force of high property values will find solutions and will eventually demolish and buy out their remaining haunts until it is just the ruthless face of the post industrial economy that can afford to live in the city.
The “activists” will end up packing their belongings and heading over to Oakland or somewhere else where the rents are affordable and they can pick up their protests there. Unfortunately for them San Francisco’s compact size, beauty, and absence of large scale government subsidized housing will drive them completely out of the city. The college students will likely pick up some of the protests but since they don’t really vote or build a substantial power base up the wealthy firms will soon control local government and then policy and reality will align.
If you really want to look at long term opportunities I’d recommend property in Oakland. Oakland has a great location, it just needs to be terraformed via gentrification and rising property taxes until every activist and poor person is driven out, just like it is occurring today in San Francisco. Maybe this is a 20-30 year vision, but it will happen.
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Tech, Transportation | 24 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 20th January 2014 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is in bad financial shape. The service is currently losing money and is unable to pay some required payments to the government for employee retirement benefits. While the USPS has retained its first class mail monopoly, it sends only a small percentage the ecommerce packages that are the backbone of the physical internet economy.
The real failure of the postal service, however, is encapsulated in the photo above. In our River North neighborhood, where the population density is high (local residents in high rise condominiums plus innumerable tourists) and the value of real estate is high, too, there is one institution that you can count on to not shovel their sidewalk or take care of their property. The US Postal Service.
The employees of the USPS are unionized and likely no one has the job of shoveling the sidewalk, or it isn’t in their job description. Thus it isn’t shoveled, and you need to trudge through it which becomes treacherous as the snow melts and re-freezes. Since many of the people who actually might want to use the postal service in this area are elderly, the dangerous sidewalks are even harder to defend.
They also used to have two mailboxes in the “drive up” section where you can pull your car up to the curb in front of the River North post office. Recently when I attempted to mail Christmas cards (we don’t like to leave them with the mailman in our condominium building because we’ve heard horror stories) at the post office, I couldn’t stuff them into the mailbox, because they reduced capacity down to a single mailbox. There were a few other potential customers milling around fuming as well, since the outdoor mailbox had apparently been jammed beyond capacity for some time.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Business, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 25 Comments »