Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Is Venezuela collapsing ?

Friday, February 14th, 2014

UPDATE: More on the role Cuba is playing in Venezuela now.

Belmont Club has a good post today on the collapse of Venezuela. The car manufacturers have announced they are closing their plants.

Toyota Motor Co. said it would shut down its assembly operations in Venezuela due to the government’s foreign exchange controls that have crippled imports and made it impossible to bring in parts needed to build its vehicles.

The country’s other car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, haven’t even started operations this year, while waiting for needed parts to arrive.

The oil field workers left years ago when the Chavez government cut oil workers’ pay.

Workers’ protests continue at Venezuela’s Puerto La Cruz refinery, in the northeastern state of Anzoátegui. The oil workers are requesting the payment of their contractual benefits. Workers gathered and had some meetings in the refinery and handed out fliers. These actions will continue until the authorities of state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) meet each of their requests. Oil workers complained that the oil industry has violated 80% of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Army officers had no such limit on pay raises.

[They] got a 40 % raise last year. So let’s see, they get a 40 % raise in 2010, and a 50 % raise in 2011, and meanwhile oil field workers, the ones who create the wealth the government uses to give these obscene pay raises to the military, are protesting low pay and lack of legal payments they are supposed to get.

The oil workers who could, all left for Canada. That was about the time that the Alberta oil sands fields were coming on line. Those workers, and especially the engineers, are not going back to Venezuela any time soon.

Welcome to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, a country with the fifth largest oil reserves in the world and absolutely broke. It’s a remarkable achievement for Chavismo. A just-wow moment. Socialism is useless at everything except for smashing things in record time. There it excels. It’s hard to imagine that as late as the 1980s Venezuela had the highest standard of living in Latin America. But then in 1960 Detroit was the richest city in the world in per capita income. Now it’s well … Detroit.

Cuba is helping the post-Chavez government to cope.

The violence against unarmed citizens is reminiscent of the April 11, 2002, bloodletting, when 17 individuals who were part of a peaceful opposition march in the streets of Caracas were similarly gunned down by snipers. That was the day the head of the military told Hugo Chávez that he would not move against the crowd and that he was removing Chávez from office. Chávez prevailed, in part due to U.S. dogma against “a coup” and in part because the opposition bungled what ought to have been a transition to democracy.

Obama is a friend of Venezuela and will oppose any attempt to overturn the tyranny. He showed his true colors in El Salvador by rewarding the bad behavior of the current government.

What we see today in El Salvador is a government heading in the opposite direction from those core principles. In 2000, El Salvador was ranked as the 11th-freest economy in the world, according to the annual Index of Economic Freedom co-published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Today, it is 53rd and has registered declining scores in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including investment freedom, the management of public spending, labor freedom, and freedom from corruption. El Salvador’s performance in other world economic indices has also plummeted.

Obama’s friends seem to have dodgy records on civil liberties.

The deterioration in central and south America continues apace . There is an interesting pattern.

‘There are two Latin Americas right now. The first is a bloc of countries—including Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela—that faces the Atlantic Ocean, mistrusts globalization and gives the state a large role in the economy. The second—made up of countries that face the Pacific such as Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia—embraces free trade and free markets.’

The results are becoming clear.

Stifling bureaucracy, protectionist trade barriers, widespread corruption, lack of investment in infrastructure and the limited scope of economic reforms have been piling up like wood on a bonfire for a number of years. Inflation and weak government finances have provided the starter fluid and it maybe that lower demand for commodities will be the spark.

The divide has been developing for years. As Luhnow reports, ‘ A key moment in creating the two Latin Americas came in 2005, when Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela (then led by Mr. Chávez) lined up to kill the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas—a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Patagonia and promoted by President George W. Bush. Troubled by the FTAA’s demise, the Pacific Alliance set out to create its own free-trade area, eliminating tariffs on 90% of goods and setting a timetable to eliminate the rest.’

Obama seems more interested in the Atlantic states.

The genius of the Left — Chavez’s for example — is that it destroys things from the inside out. They pervert religion, collapse the mores, abolish the family, shred the constitution and gradually expropriate the property. The differences from one day to the next are apparently imperceptible, but it is harder and harder to go back until finally there is no reversal of ‘progressive gains’ possible at all. The public is finally faced with the stark choice between chaos or authoritarianism. And most people will chose the Boss over the Mob.

Does any of that sound familiar ?

Most people are spurred into resistance by a crisis. But they remain lulled into complacency while the crisis remains imperceptible. Progressive tyranny benefits from image management, and takes great pains to keep crisis from view. The most insidious thing about a secret police is its very secrecy, because the mayhem it wreaks is upon the intangibles, among things we call legitimacy. So it goes until only a facade is left. Until the day of death the victim is largely asymptomatic, except for a gradual weakening. When the onset comes he discovers that his immune system is completely gone and the end is sudden.

And Iran is allying itself with Venezuela.

Another Obamacare corruption story.

Monday, January 20th, 2014

My previous post noted the rather abrupt change of prime contractors and now we see another connection. The chief designer has a history with Obama, as with most of this administration

The Chicago-based consulting firm Accenture received a $90 million noncompetitive contract to become the Obamacare website’s new primary contractor. The no-bid deal puts the company that employed the man who developed the Obama campaign’s personality-tracking programs in charge of a website that possesses massive amounts of personal information despite severe security risks.

Rayid Ghani, chief scientist of the Obama for America data analytics team, came to the Obama campaign in 2011 after a long stint directing the analytics research group at Accenture Technology Labs, where he engineered new ways for companies to track consumers’ personal preferences.

Now he can track Obama’s friends and enemies. It worked before. Why not again ? Like this fall or in 2016.

But might a presidential campaign have another use for tens of thousands of mini-memoirs?

That’s the central thrust of a project under way in Chicago known by the code name Dreamcatcher and led by Rayid Ghani, the man who has been named Obama’s “chief scientist.” Veterans of the 2008 campaign snicker at the new set of job titles, like Ghani’s, which have been conjured to describe roles on the re-election staff, suggesting that they sound better suited to corporate life than a political operation priding itself on a grassroots sensibility.

And now he is the architect of Obamacare. What could go wrong ?

Merry Christmas from the Country Class.

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Angelo Codevilla focused my attention on the political phenomenon that gave us Obamacare and may yet give us amnesty for illegal immigration. I have previously posted the link and, after the source deleted it, the essay itself.

He has expanded his description of the phenomenon in another essay in Forbes.

Those who attribute the polarization of American politics to the partisan drawing of congressional districts at the state level have a point: The Supreme Court’s decision in Baker v. Carr (1962) inadvertedly legalized gerrymandering by setting “one man one vote” as the sole basis of legitimacy for drawing legislative districts. Subsequent judicial interpretations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act demanded that districts be drawn to produce Congressmen with specific features. No surprise then that Democratic and Republican legislatures and governors, thus empowered, have drawn the vast majority of America’s Congressional districts to be safe for Democrats or Republicans respectively. Such districts naturally produce Congressmen who represent their own party more than the general population. This helped the parties themselves to grow in importance. But the U.S. Senate and state governments also have polarized because public opinion in general has.

This explanation is of critical importance in understanding what happened.

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Obamacare progression to Medicaid.

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

UPDATE: A new wrinkle appeared today. Obama now says anyone who was canceled can buy a “catastrophic plan” and keep it for a year. Of course, the “catastrophic plans offered are larded with Obamacare mandates. It is looking like surrender is getting near. The lefties look like fools but what did we expect when this thing began?

All of this, along with previous time extensions for sign-ups, suggests Obamacare is heading for a spectacularly awful January. The president is so obsessed with ameliorating the political problem that he is dismantling his own plan, bit by bit, both undermining its economic viability and aggravating voters and political allies. Is this the handiwork of the triage maven John Podesta? If so, they’ll need a clean-up man to clean up from Podesta.

The comments after this post should be hilarious. Let’s look…

Obamacare is a done deal. Obama has three more years to patiently work this through. Even if GOP takes the senate in 2014 they will not have a veto proof majority. GOP has absolutely no alternatives (except selling across state lines, which is another way of saying huh..).

Heritage foundation worked this out carefully in pre-Obama days; Romney was not stupid when he did this in Mass.; they knew that individual mandate is the only way to cover preexisting conditions (you may want to think this through if you are a bit slow….or ask anyone who works in insurance)

There is the old lefty lie about Heritage and the mandate plan from 20 years ago. This one is even funnier…

Not sure why there’s so much concern from Jen on whether Dems will stick with the President in 2014. ACA website glitches will be a thing of the past; people will find out that taxpayers are quite generous with subsidies.

The nature of Obamacare is becoming more and more clear as the months go by. A hearing before Darryl Issa’s committee brought out a few facts which have been thin on the ground lately.

Dr. Patricia McLaughlin, an ophthalmologist based in New York City, said insurers are introducing limited networks and announcing new plans that will offer only in-network benefits, excluding all out-of-network doctors.

She noted the problem of limited networks is that many health plans have substantially reduced or eliminated previous coverage options that allowed patients to see the doctor of their choice.

This is necessary as the insurers try to limit their losses as the risk pools evaporate. I haven’t yet learned if out-of-network doctors can charge cash prices. As employer sponsored plans dry up, there will be fewer contracts to be violated by offering services at lower prices. At present, a doctor who offers a cash price substantially below the contract price risks cancellation of the contract. Medicare is even more ferocious in protecting its “discounts” by threatening prosecution of a Medicare provider who offers more or cheaper services than those “allowed” by Medicare, even though payment is a fraction of the “allowed” charges.

Dr. Jeffrey English, a neurologist at the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Atlanta, said the law punishes doctors like him because he recommends too many costly procedures, such as MRIs and brain-image scans, compared to his peers.

“In reward for my passions to prevent real people from becoming disabled, CMS and insurance companies like United Healthcare are going to post negative grades in my name,” he said. “They will financially penalize me or the institution I work for, as I am trying to practice quality care to some of our most vulnerable patients.”

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The curtain is briefly drawn aside.

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

I try not to be too pessimistic but, these days, it hard to be too pessimistic. Recently, we had a preview in Cyprus. Cyprus banks had served as money laundering devices for Russian and other oligarchs.

Cyprus and its international lenders have agreed to convert 47.5 percent of deposits exceeding 100,000 euros in Bank of Cyprus to equity to recapitalize it, banking sources said on Sunday.

Under a programme agreed between Cyprus and lenders in March, large depositors in Bank of Cyprus were earmarked to pay for the recapitalisation of the bank. Authorities initially converted 37.5 percent of deposits exceeding 100,000 euros into equity, and held an additional 22.5 percent as a buffer in the event of further needs.

This means that, if you had a large deposit in a Cyprus bank, you were assumed to be a money launderer. Of course, if you are a small depositor, your bank account is not safe.

Shannon Bruner of Indianola logged on to her checking account Monday morning, and found she was almost 800 dollars in the negative.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘I got screwed,’” she said.

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Iran wins. We lose

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

The announced “six month” agreement between the European nations negotiating with Iran, with the US included, and the Mullahs of Iran is an complete surrender to the Mullahs. I say the Mullahs since it appears that the people of Iran are no more part of the government than were the people of the Soviet Union.

I am not an expert on Iran so I will quote one:

This interim agreement is badly skewed from America’s perspective. Iran retains its full capacity to enrich uranium, thus abandoning a decade of Western insistence and Security Council resolutions that Iran stop all uranium-enrichment activities. Allowing Iran to continue enriching, and despite modest (indeed, utterly inadequate) measures to prevent it from increasing its enriched-uranium stockpiles and its overall nuclear infrastructure, lays the predicate for Iran fully enjoying its “right” to enrichment in any “final” agreement. Indeed, the interim agreement itself acknowledges that a “comprehensive solution” will “involve a mutually defined enrichment program.”

There’s more:

Tehran correctly assessed that a mere six-months’ easing of sanctions will make it extraordinarily hard for the West to reverse direction, even faced with systematic violations of Iran’s nuclear pledges. Major oil-importing countries (China, India, South Korea, and others) were already chafing under U.S. sanctions, sensing President Obama had no stomach either to impose sanctions on them, or pay the domestic political price of granting further waivers.

We are now in a position where we must trust the rationality of the Iranian Mullahs who have previously declared their willingness to die if they can eliminate the state of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu is not impressed.

“What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it’s a historic mistake,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters. “It’s not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.”

“For years the international community has demanded that Iran cease all uranium enrichment. Now, for the first time, the international community has formally consented that Iran continue its enrichment of uranium.”

What will happen now ?

We should be eager to see fracking decrease our reliance on middle east oil. The Democrat repudiation of the filibuster will allow anti-fracking regulations to be enacted by extreme Obama appointees who have been held up by the threat of filibuster. One example is this EPA official.

Confirming what many in the industry long suspected, a video surfaced Wednesday in which Al Armendariz, an official at the Environmental Protection Agency, promotes the idea of crucifying oil companies. Armendariz heads up the EPA’s region 6 office, which is based in Dallas and responsible for oversight of Texas and surrounding states. The former professor at Southern Methodist University was appointed by President Obama in November 2009.

He will be joined by others.

On Thursday, after five years of Republican filibusters holding back progress on environmental regulation, Senate Democrats began the process of restoring democratic accountability to their broken institution and eliminated the filibuster on presidential appointments (excluding the Supreme Court). The final straw for the Democrats, who’d been reluctant to invoke the so-called nuclear option: Republicans had refused to allow votes on three qualified, ideologically mainstream nominees to vacancies on the D.C. District Court of Appeals.

The “ideologically mainstream” nominees are closer to the above example than to mainstream as the rest of us understand it. The truth is better explained as:

“Many of us believe the D.C. Circuit is the most important court in the country for environmental health and safety protections,” says John D. Walke, director of the Climate & Clean Air Program at NRDC. “In 90 to 95 percent of Clean Air Act regulatory challenges, they are the only court to rule.”

We can only hope that an Iran-Iraeli war would find us with adequate energy sources in spite of Obama.

Here comes 1933.

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

images

The 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.

James Taranto has a good take and quotes a couple of lefty commentators. Like Ezra Klein.

There’s a lot of upside for Republicans in how this went down. It came at a time when Republicans control the House and are likely to do so for the duration of President Obama’s second term, so the weakening of the filibuster will have no effect on the legislation Democrats can pass. The electoral map, the demographics of midterm elections, and the political problems bedeviling Democrats make it very likely that Mitch McConnell will be majority leader come 2015 and then he will be able to take advantage of a weakened filibuster. And, finally, if and when Republicans recapture the White House and decide to do away with the filibuster altogether, Democrats won’t have much of an argument when they try to stop them.

As Taranto puts it:

“”The political problems bedeviling Democrats” is a marvelous bit of understatement. The abject failure of ObamaCare has made the prospect of a Republican Senate in 2015 and a Republican president in 2017 much likelier. Thus even from a purely partisan standpoint, rational Democrats would have been more cautious about invoking the nuclear option when they did than at just about any other time in the past five years.”

The filibuster maneuver by Reid is not a demonstration of strength. It is an admission of weakness. The idiots at HuffPo and the LA Times are beating their chests in joy at the prospect of eternal Democrat majorities that can ignore those pesky Republicans.

In fact, what Reid is acknowledging is that the Democrat majority in the Senate is going away and now is the time to pack the courts and regulatory agencies with ideologues and get all the anti-business regulations in place while they can. The hard left, which believes in magic and Cargo Cults, is cheering them on.

Bloomberg sees what happened, too.

“Under any administration, federal agencies seek to implement the president’s policies by developing regulations,” Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Washington who has represented coal-heavy utilities, said. “But in most cases, the judges on the D.C. Circuit are the people who decide whether those regulations comply with federal law.”

I fully expect to see anti-fracking regulations roll out soon, once the Obama appointments get confirmed by the rump Senate. However, what goes around, comes around.

It is our understanding that the Supreme Court exception was included to satisfy pro-abortion extremists, the most active and basest part of the activist base. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reported yesterday that the two biggest such groups, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America, both declined comment on the nuclear move, “leaving it unclear whether they are concerned about their ability to block future objectionable”–i.e., Republican–”nominees.”

The abortion lobby sees the future better than giddy leftists who think government creates wealth and jobs.

Building the airplane during takeoff.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Henry-Chao

We are now learning that a large share of the Obamacare structure is still unbuilt. This is not the website but the guts of the system.

The revelation came out of questioning of Mr. Chao by Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.). Gardner was trying to figure out how much of the IT infrastructure around the federal insurance exchange had been completed. “Well, how much do we have to build today, still? What do we need to build? 50 percent? 40 percent? 30 percent?” Chao replied, “I think it’s just an approximation—we’re probably sitting between 60 and 70 percent because we still have to build…”

Gardner replied, incredulously, “Wait, 60 or 70 percent that needs to be built, still?” Chao did not contradict Gardner, adding, “because we still have to build the payment systems to make payments to insurers in January.”

This is the guy who is the chief IT guy for CMS.

If the ability to pay the insurance companies is not yet written, how can anybody sign up ?

Gardner, a fourth time: “But the entire system is 60 to 70 percent away from being complete.” Chao: “There’s the back office systems, the accounting systems, the payment systems…they still need to be done.”

Gardner asked a fifth time: “Of those 60 to 70 percent of systems that are still being built, how are they going to be tested?”

The answer was the same way the rest was tested.

We are halfway down the runway and the engineers are still bolting on the engines.

Of course, the unions will resist any payment for “risk corridors”

Risk Corridors are plans to bail out insurance companies that are put at risk by Obama’s “fix” by stopping the mandate penalties.

If they decide to un-cancel some plans and end up taking a beating financially from the adverse selection that results, Uncle Sam will be there to make everything right. I must have read three dozen blog posts yesterday wondering how O would be able to keep insurers on his side, working together with the White House to implement Healthcare.gov and the rest of the law, now that he’s gone and made them scapegoats for the cancellation mess. Turns out the answer’s simple. He’s going to buy them off.

Part of this is the “reinsurance” plan. The unions want nothing to do with this.

A provision in Obamacare would collect a fee from health insurance companies and third-party administrators (TPAs) of administrative services only (ASO a.k.a. self-insured) group health plans, to fund a reinsurance program to help “stabilize” premiums available through the exchanges. A significant number of unions are self-insured. Unions were pissed they had to pay this fee of between $60 and $80 per insured (now said to start at $63 and reduce in following years), and as recently as last week were demanding President Obama change the law. Obama caved.

The unions are not stupid. They want no taxes on their plans.

The tax, known as the reinsurance fee, requires self-insured organizations, such as unions and some large companies, to pay $63 for each covered member and an additional $63 for each additional family member on a health plan.

Curiouser and curiouser. Some of these guys have read the small print.

Now, it’s gotten even worse. Obama is trapped !

Posting the truth on HuffPo

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

“iridium53

2,889 Fans · Semper Fi
I seem to recall they screwed over Dan Rather when he had actual, truthful evidence.

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This comment has been deleted.”

The comment about Dan Rather referred to the Bush AWOL story. Kevin Drum when he was the blogger on Washington Monthly, investigated that story in 2004 and concluded there was no story. Rather later went with the story on the basis of Mary Mapes and was shown to be a fool when the “memo” proved to have been written on a word processor, not in existence in 1972.

For those a little hazy on the original September 8, 2004 story, Rather and his news producers presented documents they claimed “proved” that George W. Bush went AWOL from the Guard back in the 1970s. It wasn’t long before the veracity of the documents became an issue as typography experts began to realize that the lettering used on the documents would not have been used on documents in the 1970s.

I added a reply on HuffPo that contradicted the previous comment.

It was deleted by Huff Po. They have been “moderating” my comments for a while. Now, I have apparently been banished to conservative-land.

HuffPo is no better than Talking Points Memo.

The rolling catastrophe

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Obamacare debuted on October 1. It is now November 4 and the mess is worse. I have been posting about it, here, and here, and here, and even here.

The political left is trying very hard as can be seen here.

keep-your-plan-flowchart

It’s kind of complicated so I will summarize. You are screwed !

There are accusations that insurance companies are using this to drop high risk subscribers. Maybe that is true but it is the consequence of ignorant people designing Obamacare. Did these guys ever set up a new business ? As Casey Stengel once said to the Mets , “”Can’t anybody here play this game?”

I guess not.

The New York Times has done what it can.

We are also told that “in all the furor, people forget how terrible many of the soon-to-be-abandoned policies were. Some had deductibles as high as $10,000 or $25,000 and required large co-pays after that, and some didn’t cover hospital care.” Never mind that we have seen cancellations of insurance policies with deductibles much lower, and customers forced to purchase replacement policies with higher deductibles, and with premium increases of 100%, if not higher.

Then there is this argument.

Why can’t people opt out of mental health coverage if there is not a reasonable chance that they will need that coverage? Why can’t they get mental health coverage when it is needed? After all, pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied, so in the event that mental health coverage is needed down the line, it can be obtained and the insurance companies cannot deny people who already have pre-existing mental health conditions. The Times assures us that over-coverage–and the high premiums that come with it–is “one price of moving toward universal coverage with comprehensive benefits.” They don’t explain why having unnecessary coverage is a step towards social justice, but as we saw from the beginning of this intelligence-insulting, repulsively dishonest op-ed, the New York Times is less about explaining, and more about covering up a disastrous rollout with disastrous policy consequences for the country.

Weak attempts at best.

Peggy Noonan, who has frustrated me with her obtuseness at times, gets it now.

Politically where are we right now, at this moment?

We have a huge piece of U.S. economic and social change that debuted a month ago as a program. The program dealt with something personal, even intimate: your health, the care of your body, the medicines you choose to take or procedures you get. It was hugely controversial from day one. It took all the political oxygen from the room. It failed to garner even one vote from the opposition when it was passed. It gave rise to a significant opposition movement, the town hall uprisings, which later produced the tea party. It caused unrest. In fact, it seemed not to answer a problem but cause it. I called ObamaCare, at the time of its passage, a catastrophic victory—one won at too great cost, with too much political bloodshed, and at the end what would you get? Barren terrain. A thing not worth fighting for.

So the program debuts and it’s a resounding, famous, fantastical flop. The first weeks of the news coverage are about how the websites don’t work, can you believe we paid for this, do you believe they had more than three years and produced this public joke of a program, this embarrassment?

She assumed that it wasn’t worth it if it worked !

The problem now is not the delivery system of the program, it’s the program itself. Not the computer screen but what’s inside the program. This is something you can’t get the IT guy in to fix.

They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information.

This is the worst that could be imagined. The New York Times is trying.

We are also told that “in all the furor, people forget how terrible many of the soon-to-be-abandoned policies were. Some had deductibles as high as $10,000 or $25,000 and required large co-pays after that, and some didn’t cover hospital care.” Never mind that we have seen cancellations of insurance policies with deductibles much lower, and customers forced to purchase replacement policies with higher deductibles, and with premium increases of 100%, if not higher. Really ?

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