Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Unemployment benefits and jobs

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

The Pelosi Congress extended unemployment benefits in 2009 to a maximum of 53 weeks. This has been renewed until the new Republican Congress after 2010, unable to get Obama to negotiate, allowed the extra benefits to lapse.

Federal unemployment benefits that continue for 26 weeks after a person uses up the 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits ended Saturday, so now some 1.3 million people won’t be getting their $1,166 (on average) monthly check. By June, another 1.9 million will be cut off.

Many in the federal government are talking about the need to extend benefits. President Obama labelled it an “urgent economic priority” and called a couple of senators to pressure them to bring the matter up when the Senate reconvenes next week, and is urging Congress to extend the benefits for another three months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote no later than January 7 for the three month extension. Gene Sperling, the head of Obama’s National Economic Council, lamented the end of the federal aid…

Disaster was predicted.

Amazingly, the disaster did not happen. In fact, job growth went up.

Just looking at the economy’s overall size, you wouldn’t think that the last year was much different from any of the others since the recession. The U.S. economy grew at about the same rate in 2014 as it did in the previous four years — less than 2.4 percent, according to the Federal Reserve’s most recent projection. Yet last year was different. People started going back to work. The percentage of Americans working, more or less stuck in a ditch since 2009, increased from 58.6 percent in December 2013 to 59.2 percent last month. Employers added an average of 246,000 positions a month, about 3 million jobs overall.

What happened ?

Economists will debate what happened, but one of the more controversial theories is that Congress’s decision not to extend federal unemployment benefits at the end of 2013 encouraged those out of work to settle for more poorly paid jobs, giving firms a better reason to expand and hire new workers. That’s the conclusion of a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The authors, Marcus Hagedorn of the University of Oslo, Iourii Manovskii of the University of Pennsylvania and Stockholm University’s Kurt Mitman concluded that the reduction in benefits created 1.8 million jobs last year — more than half of the total.

That article is from the Washington Post so, of course, they provide rebuttals.

This is an interesting result which contradicts much prior research indicating that shortening benefit duration had little impact on employment growth (e.g. here, here, here, and here). It is worth testing this result with an alternative data series. HMM use the Current Population Survey for the state level data and the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) for the county level data. These series are both problematic for this sort of analysis.

Oh yes, other interpretations can be found. The leader of this new (1999) Democrat think tank is a leftist economist with a reliable view for the Washington Post to cite. His credits include: “He writes a weekly column for the Guardian Unlimited (UK), the Huffington Post, TruthOut, and his blog, Beat the Press, features commentary on economic reporting. His analyses have appeared in many major publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the London Financial Times, and the New York Daily News. He received his Ph.D in economics from the University of Michigan.”

The Wall Street Journal also weighs in on the report.

Assuming that the pre-2014 trends would have continued among the two groups, the authors find that “the cut in unemployment benefit duration led to a 2% increase in aggregate employment, accounting for nearly all of the remarkable employment growth in the U.S. in 2014.” They then confirm these results with a second experiment that compares adjacent counties in different states whose economies are otherwise equal except for their unemployment benefits.

Notably, job growth improved most in states and counties that offered the most generous benefits before Congress took away the punch bowl. This suggests that the extra jobless benefits reduced the incentives for businesses to create jobs and for jobless workers to fill the vacancies.

Of course, Obama is now bragging about the new job growth.

Mr. Obama is now taking credit for 2014’s job gains that his policies inhibited, much as he is for the boom in oil and gas drilling that his Administration resisted. Thus comes the opportunity for a late-term “Seinfeld” economic epiphany. Imagine the possibilities if the President realized that everything he thought about economics is wrong.

Unlikely.

Chewing Gum

Monday, January 26th, 2015

gum

UPDATE: We now have a report that the former commander of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) has accused the administration of ignoring and even falsifying the Islamist threat.

“You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists,” he said.

The administration, he continued, wants “us to think that our challenge is dealing with an undefined set of violent extremists or merely lone-wolf actors with no ideology or network. But that’s just not the straight truth.”

Flynn left government last summer, a year before scheduled. He did not provide a reason for his early departure, but sources close to Flynn told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that he was forced out after years of making arguments the Obama administration did not want to hear.

Flynn, and many of the analysts who worked for him, consistently reported on the global nature of the jihadist threat and the interconnectedness of the groups driving it. They mapped overlapping networks of al Qaeda and its offshoots and rejected arguments, pushed primarily by the White House and the CIA, that killing leaders of “core al Qaeda” inevitably meant a diminishing threat.

The Obama people do not want to hear what DIA says.

Sources familiar with the documents tell TWS that they include troubling information about al Qaeda’s plans to empower its franchises, new details about the many relationships with Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service and, significantly, support that the group has received over the years from senior figures in the Iranian regime.

In classified analyses based heavily on the documents, the DIA directly challenged the Obama administration’s claims that the threat from al Qaeda was diminished or fading. Flynn hinted at this in an interview he gave to James Kitfield of Breaking Defense shortly after he left government. “When asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no.’ When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat-out lying,” Flynn said.

I have never been a fan of Obama. I didn’t like his ideas on foreign policy before he was elected.

I don’t know how the elections will turn out but I do believe that a victory by Obama in the fall election will be seen as an American retreat from the world. Some people see that as positive, especially those people in Berkeley who rank Marine recruiting stations with adult bookstores. They are big Obama supporters.

I didn’t like his rise to power in Illinois, one of the most corrupt states in the union.

Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio ­program.

I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:

“He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.’”

“Oh, you are? Who might that be?”

“Barack Obama.”

Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.

“I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen,” State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. “Barack didn’t have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.

I don’t blame him but they all got on the bandwagon.

I didn’t like his economic policies or “ideas.”

Tough new regulations forced lenders into high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make the loans that sound business practices had previously guarded against making. It was either that or face stiff government penalties.

The untold story in this whole national crisis is that President Clinton put on steroids the Community Redevelopment Act, a well-intended Carter-era law designed to encourage minority homeownership. And in so doing, he helped create the market for the risky subprime loans that he and Democrats now decry as not only greedy but “predatory.”

Yes, the market was fueled by greed and overleveraging in the secondary market for subprimes, vis-a-vis mortgaged-backed securities traded on Wall Street. But the seed was planted in the ’90s by Clinton and his social engineers. They were the political catalyst behind this slow-motion financial train wreck.

Of course, that was Clinton.

(more…)

Western Civilization.

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

When I was a college freshman, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth in 1956, we had a class called “Man and Civilization.” That class is no longer taught, of course, just as “World History” is no longer taught in high school.

There is a good post on Ace of Spades today.

The first leg of the three legged stool that supports Western civilization came from the Jews, and it’s monotheism. The idea of one God as opposed to many different gods begats the concept of absolute right and wrong, which is necessary in order to have the concept of morality. Morality is what takes humans away from a world where might makes right.

The second leg came from the Greeks and Romans, and that’s the idea that the world has certain natural laws, that these laws are universal, and that they can be studied and understood and even manipulated. From this comes science, of course, but a better term for this would be reason.

Finally, from the Anglo-Saxons we got the concept of rule of law. Just as there are universal natural laws that govern nature, so too must man’s laws for governing man must be universal. Nobody is above the law, thus everyone is treated equally. Equality is the third leg.

I agree with this and a corollary from Robert Heinlein, the science fiction writer. In fact, it is #1 on my list of favorite quotes.

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein

Another bit from the Ace post.

Western culture is the only place that all three have gained equal ascendancy, and that brings us back to where we started, because leftist political ideology is dedicated to destroying all three of the legs upon which our society rests.

Morality? To a leftist, there is no such thing, there is only expediency. Reason? If it advances the cause, great, if not, ignore it (Question the science behind global warming and you’re a “denier”, point out the correlation between concealed carry and low crime rates and you’re a “nut”). Rule of Law? In Obama’s America? Don’t make me laugh (just think of the difference between how the government treats Cliven Bundy, who owes millions in grazing fees, and Al Sharpton, who owes millions in taxes), and the entire point of the social justice movement is to make sure people are not treated equally.

One more item on the list of false data in the AGW debate.

From this argument comes the issue of morality and social standards. Gay marriage has become the cause de jure. Some warned that this would lead to the destruction of marriage as an institution. This is of course was dismissed by all right thinking people.

I do not listen to Rush Limbaugh often but he got one right this week.

Here we go !

What it’s like to date your dad (and have sex with him)

We chitchatted online for a few days and found out we were similar. We shared the same favorite TV shows — The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory — and we both love to draw. He came to see me about a week later. You wouldn’t have believed we hadn’t been around each other for 12 years. The idea of “getting to know him” seemed strange because we are so much alike. He came and hung out all day and then I asked to come spend a week with him — he lived in a small town about 30 minutes away. I think my mom knew I was going to move out and it really was getting to the point where I needed to escape, she was so controlling.

Next comes the inevitable.

There’s a reason I lost my virginity to him — because I’d never felt comfortable with any other man. It was insanely sensual. It lasted for about an hour and there was a lot of foreplay. We both had orgasms. We are so similar, so it’s so easy to sexually please each other. For example, we both love neck-biting. I’ve never been in a more passionate, loving, fulfilling situation.

Next will be the multiple person marriages.

The French have a term for it. Naturally The Guardian is all for it.

A good old-fashioned monogamous marriage works beautifully for some. But even the most successful marriages are special and unique and incredibly weird. For much as we have a sweet collective imagining of what a happy union entails, the reality is that they all deviate from the fantasy norm, pretty much from the time that the certificate is signed, the chicken is noshed and the bouquet is chucked. The government can dictate that two people should be in a marriage, but it can’t legislate what will make them feel happy or stable or emotionally complete together.

I can’t say much as I have been divorced twice but something seems really odd about what is going on.

Oh well, civilization won’t collapse…. I hope.

Nature and Nurture.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

I have long been a fan of Steven Pinker’s books.

I have read many of them, beginning probably with his books on speech as he is a linguist first. This was probably the first as I was intrigued by his theories about irregular verbs and how children learn language.

He points out, for example, how normal construction in archaic forms such as “Wend, went and wended” have become “Go, went, gone.”
The child makes an error he or she may not understand that “Goed” is not a used form for past tense, whereas “Wend” is an archaic form whose past tense has been substituted. The child is using language rules but they don’t account for irregular verbs. He continues with this thought in The Language Instinct, which came later. Here he makes explicit that this is how the mind works. One review on Amazon makes the point:

For the educated layperson, this book is the most fascinating and engaging introduction to linguistics I have come across. I know some college students who had received xeroxed handouts of one chapter from this book, and these were students who were just bored of reading handouts week after week… but after reading just a few paragraphs from The Language Instinct, they were hooked, fascinated, and really wanted to read the whole book (and did). I wish I had come across such a book years ago…

Now, this is interesting but Pinker has gotten into politics inadvertently by emphasizing the role of genetics in language and behavior. I read The Blank Slate when it came out ten years ago and loved it.

(more…)

The threat of radical Islam

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Some commentators talk about the threat of “terrorism” but it is coming from one source; radical Islam or “takfiri Islam” if you prefer.

However, a growing number of splinter Wahhabist/Salafist groups, labeled by some scholars as Salafi-Takfiris, have split from the orthodox method of establishing takfir through the processes of the Sharia law, and have reserved the right to declare apostasy themselves against any Muslim in addition to non-Muslims.

These people are the threat although the fact that most Muslims are unwilling to speak out against this group is worrisome. Today, the new Chairman of the Homeland Security said he expects more attacks like that in Paris last week.

“I believe… larger scale, 9/11-style [attacks] are more difficult to pull off – a bigger cell we can detect, a small cell like this one, very difficult to detect, deter and disrupt which is really our goal. I think we’ll see more and more of these taking place, whether it be foreign fighters going to the warfare in return or whether it be someone getting on the internet as John Miller talked about, very sophisticated social media program then radicalizing over the internet,” McCaul said.

Some of these are “lone wolf attacks” like the the 2002 LAX attack by a limousine driver from Irvine, near my home.

The assailant was identified as Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a 41-year-old Egyptian national who immigrated to the United States in 1992. Hadayet arrived in the United States from Egypt as a tourist.[citation needed]

Hadayet had a green card which allowed him to work as a limousine driver. He was married, and had at least one child. At the time of the shooting, Hadayet was living in Irvine, California.

A more devastating “personal jihad” attack was the Egyptair Flight 990 attack in 1999.

(more…)

More Biology

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

I have been posting some long comments at at Chicagoboyz, and decided to do them as post here. The topic is the future of technology.

I am pessimistic on molecular medicine for several reasons. I have gotten into two nasty debates on evolution at conservative web sites. One was at Ricochet and was nasty enough that I quit going there. There were something like 250 comments, of which about four were friendly. At Althouse, it was a bit better but still very negative, about 4 to 1. I let my membership at Ricochet expire and so can’t find the thread.

Found it with Google.

A sample of comments is here.

No disrespect Mike but I think you are suffering from the same problem that a lot of people suffer from. The inability to factor faith into the intellectual equation. It is possible to understand and embrace the science of evolution and apply the knowledge gleaned from it even if you aren’t 100% sure we have the story right.

I 100% believe the story of creation in the Bible, but I have no problem understand the evolution of the sickle cell trait. In the same way I have no problem believing Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead or healed the server of a Roman centurion from miles away even though these things seen completely at odds with medical science.

That doesn’t even take into account the anti-GMO lefties who seem to be more accepting of human modification than with plants.

In both cases, I got into it by commenting that I would not write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to medical school who did not believe in evolution. I tried to make the point that I am not the king of medical school admissions but it was no help.

(more…)

Cuba

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Obama has announced that he will not only end the trade embargo with Cuba but establish full diplomatic relations.

President Obama, as he has shown all year, isn’t about to go quietly into the lame-duck night, even with Republicans ready to take full power down the street. With the stunning announcement Wednesday that the United States is set to normalize relations with Cuba, the president is closing his self-termed “Year of Action” with a thunderclap.

In doing so, Obama is serving notice to new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that a sitting president trumps a Congress divided both along party lines and within them. The shift comes about a month after the last time the president thrust his stick into the GOP’s eye, when Obama announced he was unilaterally providing widespread deportation relief to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.

I have no objection to ending the embargo, which has been mostly symbolic for years.

Diplomatic relations is another matter.

Even the Argentine Pope is involved apparently. Certainly, there is no reason why the Pope should recognize real democracy and freedom after a lifetime in Argentina.

Whether any of this will influence the station of the Cuban people is doubtful.

(more…)

Gruber’s lies.

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

The left does not do economics. They do politics and elections and lying to get past the “stupid voters” but, when pressed, nothing they do qualifies as numerically or mathematically sound. Social Security worked until everyone found the queue and until Congress raided the trust fund in the 90s.

Obama and the Democrat leaders knew that Hillary made enemies of the insurance companies in 1992. The insurance companies funded devastating TV ads with “Harry and Louise” that cost the Democrats Congress in 1994. Therefore, they had to do what was necessary to get the insurance companies “inside the tent pissing out and not outside the tent pissing in” in Lyndon Johnson’s immortal words.

Insurance companies have considered health insurance a loser for 25 years now. What they prefer is becoming “Administrative Service Organizations” which administer self funded health plans by employers.

Corporate benefits include- organizing/ negotiating health insurance, group dental, STD, LTD, life, etc.

The plan the Democrats came up with, with Gruber’s help, was to make the government the funding entity and pay the insurance companies to run the program. That way everybody is happy, except, of course, the taxpayer. The taxpayer does not like tax increases which would be needed to pay the bills. Therefore the taxpayer has to be fooled.

The excise tax on high-cost health plans was among the many fees and taxes proposed as offsets to help slow the rate of growth of health costs, particularly premium growth, and finance the nationwide expansion of health coverage. When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, its coverage provisions were estimated to cost more than $900 billion over the next decade, from 2010 to 2019, and were to be paid for by fees and taxes on both individuals and businesses. At the time the health reform bill passed, the excise tax on high-cost plans was estimated to raise roughly $32 billion in revenue over the next decade, or by 2019.

Without the taxes to pay the bills, the whole plan collapses. At its base, Obamacare is Medicaid for everyone. The employer mandate has been, contrary to the text of the law, postponed as the flaws in implementation appear. If it were to be enforced, there would be a revolution. The funding from employee plans is called “The Cadillac Tax which is an excise tax on employer plans that exceed the benefits of Medicaid.

As health coverage expands to tens of millions of Americans–through Medicaid expansion in states and the new state health insurance exchanges that will soon begin selling individual health coverage–some Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage are seeing their benefits decrease.

One of the most significant, and controversial, provisions of the Affordable Care Act is the new excise tax on high-cost health plans proposed to both slow the rate of growth of health costs and finance the expansion of health coverage. The provision is often called the “Cadillac” tax because it targets so-called Cadillac health plans that provide workers the most generous level of health benefits. These high-end health plans’ premiums are paid for mostly by employers. They also have low, if any, deductibles and little cost sharing for employees.

If this is ever implemented, the Medicaid-for-all nature of Obamacare will become obvious. That’s why it will not happen. The fundamental premise behind Obamacare is not viable. That is why it will fail and the numbers do not add up.

Gruber can’t say this. All he can do is obfuscate.

The disgrace of the IRS

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

The IRS scandal has forever discredited the Internal Revenue Service. The scandal is going on two years in length. It began with the notorious Lois Lerner, who headed a division called “The Exempt Organizations Unit.” This was supposed to evaluate applications for tax exemption.

Lerner served for a time on Federal Election Commission, which suggested her interest in electoral politics.

Lerner began her IRS service in 2001 as Director Rulings and Agreements in the Exempt Organizations function of TEGE. [2] In January 2006, she was selected as Director Exempt Organizations. In this capacity, Lerner led an organization of 900 employees responsible for a broad range of compliance activities, including examining the operational and financial activities of exempt organizations, processing applications for tax exemption, providing direction through private letter rulings and technical guidance and providing customer education and outreach to the exempt community.

Here it is apparent that she was promoted by the Bush Administration and was not a political appointee of the Obama people. Why was she involved in this scandal ? The Treasury Department is run by a career Civil Service bureaucracy. Career federal agents and employees are prevented from political partisan activity by The Hatch Act of 1939. Does this work ?

No.

(more…)

Obama’s “Amnesty.”

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

I am not happy about Obama making his speech about amnesty and defying the GOP newly elected Congress to do anything about it. However, there is less here than it seems.

First: And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

king obama

I don’t believe him but the GOP could do worse than assume this is true. The next steps would be to take actions assuming he was not lying.

Obama clearly wanted to make himself look like the compassionate actor in this debate, and Republicans the heartless, cruel nativists. Instead of trying to fight that battle, make Obama own it and bypass it for the real battle the GOP wants to win on border security. Make Democrats vote against a border security bill, and make Obama veto one while his own amnesty remains in place.

Not everybody is willing to accept this as a phony gesture which I think it is.

When President Obama announces that he will be suspending laws to bless the illegal presence of millions of foreigners in the United States, he will have adopted the most basic philosophy of John C. Calhoun: some laws can be tossed aside because his ends justify the lawlessness.

I don’t trust Obama’s intent but I think he is a fool and did not plan this correctly, or else chickened out. There is more interesting comment at Powerline today.

Procedurally what happens is an undocumented person applies for ‘deferred action’ and then after receiving this ‘quasi-status’ – he/she is eligible for work authorization.

See the last paragraph on page 4 of this key memo: “Applicants must file the requisite applications for deferred action pursuant to the new criteria described above. Applicants must also submit biometrics for USCIS to conduct background checks similar to the background check that is required for DACA applicants. Each person who applies for deferred action pursuant to the criteria above shall also be eligible to apply for work authorization for the period of deferred action, pursuant to my authority to grant such authorization reflected in section 274A(h)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

I still think the Republicans can trump this with real reform. Then they can send a bipartisan bill to Obama and see if he vetoes it. That Powerline post also emphasizes that Silicone Valley is pushing this and that explains their support of Obama.

How many Senate Democrats would be willing to sustain that veto before the 2016 election? I’m betting not too many. But Republicans have a perfect opportunity to turn the debate in that direction now and force Obama and his shrinking number of allies on Capitol Hill to go on the record.

(more…)