Saturday, April 19, 2014
Medicare is as useful as Linus's security blanket.
It turns out that the latest study of the effectiveness of Medicare on patient health is non-existent. Here's the summary from the New England Journal of Medicine:
This randomized, controlled study showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first 2 years, but it did increase use of health care services, raise rates of diabetes detection and management, lower rates of depression, and reduce financial strain.
Like a child's security blanket, it made people who had it feel better for having it.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Obama's Greatest Achievement - Re-Establishing the Soviet Union
People who see the world through the lens of domestic politics label ObamaCare as Barack Obama’s signature achievement. They are wrong. Obama has had a much greater, and more ominous achievement in the geopolitical arena. What did Obama really have in mind when he told Medvedev that after his re-election he would have greater flexibility?
As he assumed office, the world was uni-polar and the US was the sole superpower. Five years into his Presidency, Iraq is reverting to sectarian warfare and becoming an Iranian client state. Afghanistan is slipping away as fast as American troops are leaving. Egypt was taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood and is now a military dictatorship making eyes at Moscow. Libya is a movie set in which it’s dictator is overthrown, Americans are murdered, armed al Qaida bands rule the streets and there is no a functioning government. Iran is developing nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Al Qaida has a mass meeting in Yemen and has to release a video to let the CIA know. Israel, having decided that American guarantees under Obama are worse than worthless, has decided to go its own way, exhibiting a healthy example of clear-sightedness.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is as busy as a boy with Legos, reassembling the Soviet Union to the cheers of his fellow countrymen who felt humiliated by the dissolution of the Evil Empire under Reagan and Bush.
From the Financial Times:
But Moscow’s annexation of Crimea has set off rapid and drastic changes that threaten to submerge such outposts of dissent. In a speech marking the consummation of Russia’s union with the Black Sea peninsula on March 18, Mr Putin lashed out against a “fifth column” of “national traitors” enlisted by the west to subvert Russia. He vowed to respond forcefully.His warning – especially his choice of phrases widely used by nationalist dictatorships as well as Russia’s own former Communist regime – has resonated strongly with Russians. They have been taken as a rallying cry among those aggrieved by Russia’s diminished power to build a prouder, stronger and more authoritarian state. For Mr Putin’s liberal critics, it is a worrying sign that the rest of the country’s imperfect democratic institutions are under severe threat.In a column that set the tone for both commentaries and blogposts, the conservative journalist Ulyana Skoibeda raved two weeks ago that after the return of Crimea “I no longer live in a conquered country”. In a long lament that reflects the feelings frequently expressed by ordinary Russians, she described the past 23 years as humiliating. Ms Skoibeda said her life had been dominated by western norms, and she had had to suffer through the chaos and deprivation unleashed by the democratic and economic experiments of the 1990s.Standing proudly against the entire world had revived the essence of the Soviet Union, she wrote. “It is not Crimea that has returned. We have returned. Home. To the USSR.”Since the Crimea annexation, there have been frequent moves that symbolise a Soviet revival.
The American health care system can be fixed and improved as soon as the ideologues who demand that the government run everything are removed from office. The real problem, one that may have mass death and war as one of its possible outcomes, is the deliberate destruction of the Pax Americana that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Whether that is by accident or design is uncertain, but the fact is indisputable.
That is Obama’s real legacy.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Now we are in the almost unimaginable position of looking back at Jimmy Carter as an example of comparatively sure, savvy leadership. The Russians invaded Afghanistan and Carter armed the rebels. The Russians invaded Crimea and Barack Obama went on Ellen to hear the hostess gush about how much America loves Obamacare.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Rarely on the world stage have we suffered through two such extremes as an erstwhile community organizer theorizing against a former KGB agent. If only Putin were a run-of-the-mill college president, then Obama might order a takeover of the faculty lounge. Or if Putin were a local bank president, Obama, the SEIU, and Acorn might yell on his lawn about lending more money to the inner city. Alas, even Chicago is not Russia.
Things were going so good until reality intruded. Somehow Alinski tactics are not working on Putin, and they are the only tactics that Obama knows.
It's time to change the subject and the American media are only too glad to help. They don't have to lie, they just have to look the other way. LOOK FOR THE MISSING PLANE! No time for Ukraine.
Why should Putin stop when he is already the most popular Russian strongman since Stalin, with a good decade to cement his reputation among his flock as the restorer of Greater Russia, with the clout of the Soviet Union, but now energized by oil-fed capitalism? And why should Obama do anything about those dreams when the Final Four is far more important than are either far away Crimeans or Georgians. Ellen is cooler than worrying about Kiev, and joshing with Ryan Seacrest about tight jeans beats talking to some heavily accented Ukrainian. Surely Putin’s next melodramatic theft can at least wait until the Sweet Sixteen.The final irony? A united Western world very easily could embargo, squeeze, and make things very difficult for Putin with only a modicum of sacrifice. But then, we might not be so postmodern, so hip, so cool. In other words, for Obama, stopping the bully Putin would be a sort of a drag, boring, or a downer in a way Ellen, Ryan, and LeBron are not.
John Derbyshire @ Taki's magazine
There is a term of art in economics that I like: “revealed preference.” The root idea is: Never mind what people say they prefer, or what some pure-reason formula proves they should prefer, but what their behavior shows they actually prefer.The revealed preference of hatewatchers is to live among white people. The aforementioned Tim Wise allegedly lives in census tract 134 west of Nashville, Tennessee: 97% white, 0% black. I can’t discover the census tract of Morris Dees, proprietor of the $PLC, but to judge from the interior of his home somewhere around Montgomery, Alabama, I’m betting it’s not tract 12 (0% white, 98% black).... If you put it to them that population A has homicide rate x while population B has homicide rate ten times x and ask them which group they’d choose to live among, they ask: “What about Trayvon Martin?”Concerning which group they actually do choose to live among, see previous item.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Sunny on Obama
Investors Business Daily:
President Obama gave a speech recently in which he, as he almost always does, patted himself on the back for what he described as a solid record on the economy."We've now seen over four years of economic growth," he said. "We've seen 8.5 million new jobs created. We've seen the housing market bounce back. We've seen an auto industry that has come roaring back. We've seen manufacturing return for the first time since the 1990s."Obamaphiles in the press typically repeat these claims, arguing that, given the mess he inherited, no one could have done any better.But is that true? And how do you fairly measure Obama's record?Perhaps the best metric is Obama's own promises about what his economic plan would produce. Those are contained in his first budget, which was issued in early 2009.Above are charts comparing that budget's forecasts for key economic indicators with what actually happened.The results are startling. The economy did far worse than Obama thought it would on every important measure.But, his backers say, the recession was deeper than Obama expected at that point. Except that nominal gross domestic product in 2010 turned out to be exactly where Obama said it would be. It was only after then that growth fell short.Others will say that Obama just did in his first budget what every president does: Paint a rosy picture of future economic growth. This doesn't hold water either, since Obama's projections were in line with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other economic forecasters, all of whom expected a normal recovery.Then again, the economy might have suffered from what Obama likes to call "self-inflicted wounds" imposed by Republicans — the threat of default, the sequestration, the turn to "austerity" policies, etc.The problem here is that federal spending from 2010 to 2013 was almost exactly where Obama pegged it in his first budget, and it's much higher as a share of GDP. Deficits were also far higher than Obama expected.From a standard Keynesian perspective, these should have provided additional stimulus to the economy — above what Obama initially forecast.So the GOP's efforts to rein in spending can't be blamed for Obama's failure to meet his economic targets.What can? Perhaps it's the combined effect of the massive Dodd-Frank financial regulations, ObamaCare, the hugely expensive new EPA regulations and two enormous tax hikes on investment income.None of these policies are pro-growth.They do help explain the abject failure of Obama's economy to perform anywhere near as well as he promised.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Who is Tom Steyer?
We need to find out because Tom Steyer has announced that he is going to spend $100 million dollars to promote green energy. How is he going to do this? By supporting Democrats. He is often simply identified by his supporters as a billionaire and a hedge fund manager. Is that all? What's under the blanket?
It seems that he's not acting from altruistic motives.
“Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager with major investments in renewable energy, is promoting a $1.1 billion tax on out of state businesses with operations in California to fund renewable energy projects.
It is Obama bundler, hedge fund manager, and Center for American Progress board member Tom Steyer’s Farallon Capital Management that is selling LightSquared’s debt to investors such as Carl Icahn. So I suppose one cannot say that LightSquared has been a total waste for Obama’s pals.
Steyer, "Is reportedly one of the backers of Greener Capital, which invests in alternative fuel companies that benefit from the anti-oil policies of the Obama administration. Steyer is also the founder and senior managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, which stands to profit from government policies that increase consumption of natural gas."The Beacon goes on to give more interesting tidbits about Steyer being a Goldman Sachs protegé of Robert Rubin, but what caught my attention is that while Mr. Styers' alternative energy investments are quite impressive, he also "owns millions of dollars worth of shares in Big Oil companies such as BP."
In January of this year Steyer coauthored a Wall Street Journal op-ed with John Podesta, “We Don’t Need More Foreign Oil and Gas,” that supported Obama’s decision not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and argued for extending “clean-energy programs like the Production Tax Credit” and reviving “the Manufacturing Tax Credit, which helps factories retool for the clean-tech sector.” The authors failed to disclose that Steyer helps pay Podesta’s salary and that his investments would net millions if the federal government shaped public policy to his liking—millions of dollars that then would be funneled back into institutions like CAP and Democratic campaigns like Obama’s.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire investor who has raised at least $50,000 for Obama’s reelection campaign, will speak about energy policy as it relates to the president’s vision of “an economy built to last,” which includes his plan to “double down” on taxpayer-backed green energy investments.Such a doubling down would benefit Steyer, who is reportedly one of the backers of Greener Capital, which invests in alternative fuel companies that benefit from the anti-oil policies of the Obama administration.Steyer is also the founder and senior managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, a $20 billion hedge fund that ranks as one of the largest of its kind in the world.Farallon stands to profit from government policies that increase consumption of natural gas. Farallon owns nearly $14 million worth of shares of Westport Innovations, the self-described ”global leader in natural gas engines.” The Westport Carbon Project (WCP), according to its website, ”was established to monetize the carbon emission reductions associated with the Westport HD engine, the Cummins Westport ISL G and other natural gas engines developed with our OEM partners. The WCP enables customers to earn annual carbon rebate cheques for the natural gas vehicles in their fleet as of January 1, 2010.”Farallon also owns more than $8 million worth of shares of Fuel Systems Solutions, which according to its website ”designs, manufactures and supplies proven, cost-effective alternative fuel components and systems for transportation and industrial applications. Its gaseous fuel technology for propane (LPG) and natural gas (CNG) generates savings, reduces emissions, and promotes energy independence.”
[After listing the financial interest Steyer has in making traditional energy more expensive]Steyer calling traditional energy companies “self-interested” is like the presumed morally superior pot calling the proven economically superior kettle black. Perhaps he really is a “true believer.” If so, he should remove himself from any form of financial gain he can reap from his political activism and donations.
His 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed making the case for natural gas was coauthored with Tom Steyer, the hedge-fund billionaire who is quickly becoming one of the most powerful men in the Democratic Party. Steyer is known mainly for his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline, and for his recent pledge to raise and spend $100 million on behalf of Democrats in this year’s elections. According to Reid Wilson, liberal donors such as Steyer “aren’t going to realize a profit if their chosen candidates win.” This is not true.Steyer pledged to remove himself from the operations of his hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management, in the waning days of 2012, when he was being considered as a possible secretary of Energy in the second Obama administration. But he remains an “outside limited partner” with the firm, and the “bulk” of his billion-dollar fortune is parked there. As of 2012, when Steyer was supporting Democrats, donating millions to Podesta’s Center for American Progress, and otherwise championing natural gas over other forms of energy, Farallon held more than $7 million in shares of gas technology company Fuel Systems Solutions. He was making plenty of money from the Obama administration’s championing of natural gas.As of the end of 2013, Farallon also held close to $40 million in Kinder Morgan, which is building a competitor to the Keystone Pipeline. When Farallon’s position in Kinder Morgan was exposed last summer—after the Keystone debate had been raging for years—Steyer pledged to sell his share of the stock and donate the profits to charity. Last September, it was revealed that Steyer had backed a UT study on hydraulic fracturing, which showed that the process does not result in dangerous methane emissions. As far as I can determine, Steyer remains an adviser to and backer of EFW Partners, a “global investor in the basic resources critical for economic growth: energy, food, and water.” I wonder whether EFW is short or long on LNG.
In September 2012, the Washington Free Beacon documented that Steyer "is reportedly one of the backers of Greener Capital, which invests in alternative fuel companies that benefit from the anti-oil policies of the Obama administration." What's key to this Green Corruption file is that "Steyer has donated at least $1.4 million to the Center for American Progress (CAP) since 2009 through his TomKat Charitable Trust. As of 2010, he was listed as a director of the left-wing think tank."In December 2013, The Beacon, in their piece "Keystone to the Kingdom," we find a stunning look at the relationship between Mr. Steyer and John Podesta: "Steyer is on the board of the Center for American Progress, and in the early months of 2012 he and Podesta cosigned a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “We Don’t Need More Foreign Oil and Gas,” arguing against Keystone and for tax loopholes such as the Production Tax Credit, increasing the value of the green energy companies in which Steyer invested and on whose boards Podesta sat."Moreover, while a slew of Democrats who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, stand to benefit from its rejection, Farallon Capital Management "has extensive holdings in fossil fuel companies — including investments that could benefit from the blocking of the Keystone pipeline," reported The Daily Caller in May 2013. One in particular stands out: "Farallon also still holds stock in BP" –– the oil giant that according to POLITICO in 2010, Obama was the biggest recipient of BP donations over the past twenty years."
Steyer is an "environmentalist" the same way Warren Buffett is a candy maker. Steyer is investing million sin Democrat politicians who will help his "green" energy firms make billions from government contracts, from government subsidies and from the government squeezing traditional energy sources. The end result of this Crony Capitalism - or to put it more simply: corruption - is that the people get poorer while the well connected get rich at your expense. Meanwhile the press, who would scream bloody murder if it were a conservative pulling off this crime, are covering up for Steyer, calling him an "environmentalist" rather than a rent-seeking crook.
You will not, for instance find this information in the NY Times or Washington Post who are writing laudatory articles about this benevolent billionaire. What they won't tell you either is that they are literally sleeping with Steyer supporters.
So we have a contrast that couldn’t be clearer: the Washington Post published a false story about support for Keystone because it fit the Democratic Party’s agenda. It covered up a similar, but true story about opposition to the pipeline (and about “green” politics in general) because that, too, fit the Democratic Party’s agenda. I don’t think we need to look any further to connect the dots.And yet, a still deeper level of corruption is on display here. Juliet Eilperin is a reporter for the Washington Post who covers, among other things, environmental politics. As I wrote in my prior post, she is married to Andrew Light. Light writes on climate policy for the Center for American Progress, a far-left organization that has carried on a years-long vendetta against Charles and David Koch on its web site, Think Progress. Light is also a member of the Obama administration, as Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy on Climate Change in the Department of State. The Center for American Progress is headed by John Podesta, who chaired Barack Obama’s transition team and is now listed as a “special advisor” to the Obama administration. Note that Ms. Eilperin quoted Podesta, her husband’s boss, in her puff piece on Tom Steyer.Oh, yes–one more thing. Guess who sits on the board of the Center for American Progress? Yup. Tom Steyer.This kind of incest is common in Washington. You can’t separate the reporters from the activists from the Obama administration officials from the billionaire cronies. Often, as in this instance, the same people wear two or more of those hats simultaneously. However bad you think the corruption and cronyism in Washington are, they are worse than you imagine. And if you think the Washington Post is part of a free and independent press, think again.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Who’s the enigma?
Churchill famously said of Russia "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
History has unwrapped the riddle.
Fast forward to today.
Putin and Obama.
Putin believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a catastrophe. And he’s in charge of Russia. He believes in Russian greatness and has been telling his people that their problems, economic and geopolitical are the fault of the United States. He invades and annexes Crimea and threatens Ukraine (and other other parts of Europe that were once part of the USSR.) Putin is an open book.
The second part of this face-off is Obama. He doesn’t believe in American greatness – certainly not in American exceptionalism. He has some fundamental problems with America since he wants to fundamentally transform it. His appointees are not American cheerleaders. His Secretary of State famously accused the American military of acting like Genghis Khan.
We know what Putin wants to do in the world: recreate the Soviet Union. The real question that foreign chancelleries are asking themselves today is what Obama wants America’s role in the world to be.
As an American, that's a very uncomfortable position and not one that should be asked by people living in a democratic Republic.