Signs, Portents…and Squirrels: Our Times: At Once, Dire and Inane

portentsAs I write the date is 27 February, 2015.

If one needed any proof that the United States, and a good deal of the rest of the world has simply abandoned any pretense of being serious, the top stories of today and a few days prior are convincing proof.

JohnLast night, the story broke that “Jihadi” John, the masked killer of at least five in Iraq and or Syria had been identified. Along with this came a presser by CAGE, a “human rights” organization in the UK, which attempted to blame the nation’s security services for “radicalizing” Mohammed Emwazi, who

Cage

Cage directer Asim Qureshi in a diptych with the “beautiful young man” who went on to practice halal butchery on humans. Qureshi’s zabiba(prayer bump) should be a dead giveaway that he’s just another of the lying Islamic shills to whom Westerners give so much credence. The Qureshi were the tribe of the “Prophet” Muhammad, and half the swinging dicks in Muhammad land claim to be descended from them.  Liars all.

turned out to be a degreed computer programmer raised in comfortable circumstances. A week before, the Obama administration had re-floated the idea that “violent extremists” are fueled by poverty and exclusion, a moronic, Marxist inspired, and easily debunked trope that has been around since Dubya.

 

Since I was a child, I've loved antiquity.  However, I remember many of my classmates hating those museum field trips.  This, though, is a bit much

Since I was a child, I’ve loved antiquity. However, I remember many of my classmates hating those museum field trips. This, though, is a bit much

ISIS took a break from releasing snuff films to putting out a video of the lads having a blast smashing statues from Ancient Assyria.

blogger

Nothing to do with Islam, of course. Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger Avijit Roy’s wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, who survived, but lost a finger.

In Dhaka, a Bangladeshi atheist blogger, who also held American citizenship, was hacked to death on the street, with his wife also attacked but surviving. While the White house had nothing to say, a reporter did manage to coax a statement out of Jen Psaki, who was careful to note that at this point the attackers’ motive is unknown.

U.S. State Department spokesbimbo, Jen Psaki.  While lacking empirical evidence, I'd say she's a genuine ginger, and I bet those hooters are real as well, unlike anything that comes out of her mouth.

U.S. State Department spokes-bimbo, Jen Psaki. While lacking empirical evidence, I’d say she’s a genuine ginger, and I bet those hooters are real as well, unlike anything that comes out of her mouth.

The United States government, with zombie FDR nodding approval, decided to regulate the internet under a statute written in 1933. All data packets are equal. Down the road, some will be more equal than others. On the BBC, of all places, a commenter shook his head and said the US government has decided it wants the internet or free. Someone on state owned British media gets economics better than Mr. Obama.

In the same category of unaccountable Federal agencies we have the BATF talking about banning ammunition for the AR-15, a big scary looking rifle that anti-gun legislators have been unable to touch. It’s basically a .22, well .223.

A gang of Uzbeks from Brooklyn are

indicted on terrorism charges. What would Adam Yauch say?

In the United States Congress, the Republican majority, in its strongest position since the 1920s decides that funding DHS, the security super agency that has yet to catch a terrorist, is more important than keeping its promise to the electorate to fight and defund the President’s unilateral amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The president and functionaries of the regime, I’m sorry, government, natter on about “Climate Change,” (Nee Global Warming; isn’t it nice to see her all grown up?) as a foot of snow falls in Alabama. Winter Storm

In other times, people looked to the heavens for signs and portents of evil days to come.

My necromancer didn’t return my texts.

 

We have the United Sates, guarantor of the peace for some seven decades, in a constitutional crisis, a centuries old civilization conflict bathing vast areas in blood, the ancient nations of Europe suborned by Islamic fifth columns, and much more than I need go into here.

What is to come?

I have no idea, the best minds of our time are trying to determine the color of THE DRESS.

What color is this dress? Beats me.  It's  an internet thing.

What color is this dress? Beats me. It’s an internet thing.

What color is it?

Ask the llamas.

A Mexican guy driving by uses a lariat to lasso a llama.  All these words are Spanish. What the hell, I like Mexicans, and I'll sure take them over Muslims.

A Mexican guy driving by uses a lariat to lasso a llama. All these words are Spanish. What the hell, I like Mexicans, and I’ll sure take them over Muslims.

The US Economy 2012: All Hail the Farmers and Workers Soviets

Farmers! Workers! The Party( Which one?  Doesn’t matter.) Fight for You!

 

Earlier in the week, the President reached into his stash and produced $170 million to “help” livestock producers by directing the federal government to step up meat purchases.

The caption for this photo in Businessweek was”Pigs at the Lehmann Brothers Farms LLC in Strawn, Illinois. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.” But actually, it’s Lehman Brothers with one “N” and it’s not the Wall Street guys. Too bad, I could really have riffed on that.

As a result of the this  year’s drought –and the permanent mandate that 40% of the U.S. corn crop be turned into ethanol – feed prices are rising so that producers are selling animals for slaughter early, thus leading to a glut, and lower costs to consumers.

Can’t have that.

From Bloomberg:

Obama said he also directed the Defense Department to speed up purchases and hold the meat for later use. The buying will help farmers, and the government will get a better price on products than if they were bought later, he said.

So, the government – which uses our money, and the money it borrows on our behalf -, will get a better price, while we pay more.

Nowadays, you aren’t allowed to call stuff like this cheese. “Processed cheese food” is the correct nomenclature. Lasts forever, and rates and roaches won’t touch it.

What rally floored me about this was that the government is still buying food commodities  directly.  I thought the era of government cheese was long since over.   I know people who remember receiving a Velveeta like substance in waxed cardboard boxes( and thus the origin of the urban vernacular term “cheese,’ meaning money, but I had assumed that USG these days put its food requirements out to tender on the open market for ready to use products.

Wrong.

The President went on to say:

“We’ll freeze it for later — but we’ve got a lot of freezers,” Obama told supporters in Council Bluffs as he kicked off a three-day visit to Iowa, a swing state that is also the country’s leading producer of pork, soybeans, corn and ethanol. “That will help ranchers, you know, who are going through tough times right now.”

 

So somewhere, the Government has a whole heap of foodstuffs frozen for whenever or whatever.

Have you heard of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service(AMS)?  I hadn’t.

AMS Commodity Procurement Division purchases a variety of food products in support of the National School Lunch Program and other food assistance programs. These purchases also help to stabilize prices in agricultural commodity markets by balancing supply and demand.

I thought supply and demand balanced themselves.  One requirement for government jobs must be that one not have taken Econ 101, and this applies apparently, not only to the permanent bureaucracy but to the executive and legislative branches as well..  The hoary grail of “price stability” dates back to the New Deal, if not the Wilson war time administration.  Price stability, one could note was a characteristic of the old Soviet Union, where prices remained the same for decades, for phantom goods stocked on empty shelves.

Coming from California, I well remember periodic uproars over the high price of lettuce( we do love our salads) during seasonal price spikes that were entirely predictable. After a lot of hot air in Sacramento, during which debates I found something else for the salad bowl, $1.59 head lettuce sooner or later when down to $.59, two for a buck on coupon days.

FDR’s Agricultural Adjustment Act was not popular. Nor did it make sense: a depression is characterized by a severe drop in output. Mandating an additional reduction leads to…more depression. Nor was destroying food food popular when so many went hungry. In the previous decade, the Bolsheviks had taken a different approach, simply stealing all the food and leaving the farmers to starve. So, I guess we’ve made some progress.

I suppose this is better than buying food and destroying it, as was done in New Deal Days, although the ethanol program comes close, taking food off the market to produce a fuel with less BTU yield than the fossil fuel used to produce it.

This kind of nonsense crosses administrations, party lines and decades.  The best agricultural policy would be none at all.  Ask yourself this: have you ever gone down to the store and found that there wasn’t any food?  Yet governments remain convinced that they can get it right so that in Europe,  once known for mountains of surplus dairy products, Norway can also experience as it did not long ago, a butter shortage.

Old timers in Indonesia where I was raised, and now live, fondly recall when government employees and workers in large firms were paid in a mix of commodities and cash. A barely developed consumer economy, largely lacking infrastructure, and periodic hyper inflation made this a valuable perk.

This former “third world” country(Now classified as lower middle income by the U.N.)has largely abandoned such practices, while we seem to be a heading for a future in which a large part of the population lines up for government cheese.

It gets worse:  When I saw a link on Drudge to a story on Labor Department subsidies  for payrolls in the states, I assumed it meant state and local governments, the destination of a good deal of stimulus funds, but to my amazement when I went back and had a look, I found this:

US Labor Department announces nearly $100 million in grants available for states to implement, improve short-time compensation or ‘work sharing’

In other words, funds will be provided  so that private employers can avoid layoffs. Now, in the US economy, 100 million isn’t a whole lot, and when apportioned among the states the amounts are laughably small, as the Labor Department  graphic shows, indeed so small that one wonders if the administrative cost will exceed the benefit, as is the case for the entire US government anti poverty effort, which if simply divided by the number of poor people, and then disbursed to them, would lift all of them over the poverty line, with a bit  of a surplus to boot.

What isn’t laughable here is the principle:  In a small part, the government is going to be paying the wages of some private sector employees.  Keep going, and, one day, you have state socialism.

So, this is manifest evidence of the Obama administration’s commitment to government management of the economy, right?  Well,  it isn’t.  You will find this odd program as subtitle D in HR3630, best known for its extension of the payroll tax cut, but which contains all kinds of other little goodies like this one.

I don’t know whose idea this was.  Rep Pelosi didn’t care for the bill at all, but she doesn’t mention this part, so perhaps it was a Democrat effort. It really doesn’t matter  It’s a proudly owned GOP bill..  Republicans have quite rightly decried Federal subsidies to state and local government payrolls.  Do similar – albeit, at this stage, far smaller – subsidies to private payrolls have virtues that those advocated by democrats do not?

The only virtue the mainstream Republican party has is that it is not the Democratic party, and that, rather than being a virtue, is just smaller scale vice, and smaller only due to lack of opportunity rather than any overriding principle.

Both parties claim to work for the benefit of the middle class, want to help struggling farmers and workers, but

The old German DDR symbol has grain for agriculture and the traditional hammer of industry, but also a calipers signifying technology. This might be closer to the mark for today’s emerging collective. Perhaps an iPad substituted for the calipers.

reach for power by favoring one group over another as it suits them. Those attracted by these blandishments should remember that that icon of oppression, the hammer and sickle, was first thought to represent the tools of honest labor, but in the end were used to crush  all into a dependent class, and to cut down any who dared to rise.

Impenetrable Care: Parsing the 2446 Pages of “Obamacare.”

Speaker Pelosi signing bill she hasn't read. She wasn't the only one, and not the first, or the last, to do so.

As have many ,I’ve railed against Congress for passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act without reading it. The bill famously had to be passed to find out what was in it, as Speaker Pelosi explained.

Since, like many, perhaps millions of Americans, I’m convinced I’m as smart as at least half the folks in Washington, It occurred to me that the time had come to walk the walk.  I’m going to read the whole damn thing – 2464 ages with the reconciliation – with the aim of finishing before the Supremes rule.

What do I bring to the job?  First, time. I’m retired.   This sucker is long!  A

The Emperor Justinian's Corpus Iuris is quite succinct by modern standards.

cursory search indicates that, so far, the Act runs to about 1.1 million words.  The Revised Standard Version(King James ) Bible is something  in excess of 700,000 words.  Justinian’s 7th Century code of Roman law is estimated at between two and three bibles.


I have no legal training, but rigorous high school English, four years of Latin and five of French – for that latinate legal vocabulary – and a master’s in English should help. And I spent many years in a job requiring me to read complex commercial contract language.  I am, I think, better equipped than many citizens for this task. Let’s  see if I’m up to it

 So we begin

“In the Senate of the United States,

December 24, 2009.

Resolved, That the bill from the House of Representatives (H.R. 3590) entitled ‘‘An Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the first-time homebuyers credit in the case of members of the Armed Forces and certain

other Federal employees, and for other purposes.’’, do pass with the following…”

 Huh? Homebuyer’s credit?

“AMENDMENTS:

Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert:

1 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

2 (a) SHORT TITLE.—This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’’.

Oh,here we are. Congress does work in mysterious ways.

A fifteen page table of contents follows. Then after striking this, that, and the other thing we get to this:

“TITLE I—QUALITY, AFFORDABLE  HEALTH CARE FOR ALL AMERICANS

 Subtitle A—Immediate Improvements in Health Care Coverage  for All Americans”

Section 2711 states that there shall be no benefit limit, either per annum or lifetime. Coverage, which may not be revoked except for fraud.   However, those benefits not considered essential under section 1302 b can be limited. Maybe. I guess we’ll see when we get to 1302(b) . Also referenced are some IRS codes. I’ll never finish this if I go and look them up as I go along.

Providers must cover

evidence-based items or services that have in

effect a rating of ‘A’ or ‘B’ in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force.”(page 21)

Huh? Who are they?

…an independent panel of non-Federal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine and is composed of primary care providers (such as internists, pediatricians, family physicians, gynecologists/obstetricians, nurses, and health behavior specialists who work under the auspices of the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research.”

Never heard of them either? Me too. They hang out at HHS. Another to add to the collection of alphabet agencies such as BATF, ICE, and so on. I wonder if they have a SWAT tram.

‘‘(2) immunizations that have in effect a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to the individual involved;”

 So again, a reference to standards to beset by a government agency. At least I’ve heard of these guys, as we all have.

Here is also a philosophical question: what is the meaning of insurance, if we insure ourselves for foreseeable needs, such as childhood immunizations, or Ms. Fluke’s birth control pills? I really don’t remember, but I thin I got my shots at the doctor’s office, and my parent’s paid. In the 50s there was the polio epidemic and I remember getting the vaccine at school.

20 ‘‘(3) with respect to infants, children, and adolescents, evidence-informed preventive care and screenings provided for in the comprehensive guide lines supported by the Health Resources and Services evidence -informed preventive care.”

 

I understand every word and semiotic unit in this phrase, yet have no idea what they are talking about.

The process of distilling and disseminating the best available evidence from research, practice and experience and using that evidence to inform and improve public health policy and practice. “

Now I get it. Somebody, or, rather, a whole lot of somebodies, will decide what’s best for younger people, and that’s what they will get. Interesting that the first reference I found was in Canada.

‘‘(4) with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1) as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration for purposes of this paragraph.”(page 21)

Wait a minute. Health Resources and Services Administration? Another bunch?  I scrolled back and checked; Yup, first reference. So who are these folks?

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable. ‘ And..”Comprising six bureaus and ten offices .

Fabulous!

‘‘(c) VALUE-BASED INSURANCE DESIGN.—The Secretary may develop guidelines to permit a group health 7 plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage to utilize value-based insurance designs.”(page 22)

Value based?

“…the idea that consumers’ out-of-pocket medical costs should be based on the value of a service to their health rather than its price.”( From the Washington Post.)

So is that clear? I thought so.

“REGULATIONS.—The Secretary shall promulgate regulations to define the dependents to which coverage shall be made available under subsection (a).”(page 22)


The Slackercare clause


Well, well, well, no wonder insurance companies wanted in on this. This next section smacks of the industrial codes of the New Deals National Reconstruction Act.

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 12 months after the date of enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Secretary shall develop standards for use by a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage, in compiling and providing to enrollees a summary of benefits and coverage explanation that accurately describes the benefits and coverage under the applicable plan or coverage. In developing such standards, the Secretary shall consult with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (referred to in this section as the ‘NAIC’), a working group composed of representatives of health insurance-related consumer advocacy organizations, health insurance issuers, health care professionals, patient advocates including those representing individuals with limited English proficiency, and other qualified individuals.”


"Your plan for coordination of industry follows precisely our lines of cooperation." Benito Mussolini, speaking in open letter to FDR, 1933.

Pure corporatism, which is a polite way of saying classically fascist: industry, advocates and qualified individuals, all working together to tell us what w e need and what we’ll get. Given current practice, those “advocates” will likely be funded in part by the government, just as the EPA funds NGOs that then sue it.

At least, that’s the way I see it.  I suspect the people who out this together view it as a collaborative effort of the “healthcare community.”

And yet another group involved, without even a name yet, but they will no doubt get plenty of office space and a snazzy web page, funding and per diems.

Pages 25-27 describe benefits summary standards. This seems harmless though rather prescriptive, but it is noteworthy that the sections preempts any state regulation.Is it really harmless? A government controlled consortium of “interestd” parties will define the language in which we describe insurance terms and medical procedures. Will they think out of the box, or box us in?

Also, there is the philosophical question: would not insurance companies that gave out fraudulent or impenetrable benefit summaries suffer in the marketplace? In making such market based objections one is in the position of howling after a train that is disappearing down the track or more accurately left before the passenger arrived,or should this legislation stand, the metaphor would be that the station is closed, and grass has overgrown the rusting rails.

I have barely reached page 30, but have already learned that the Federal government is even  more vast than I knew and is set to be even more so, beyond  imagination as that is.  This act, with its multi-aency involvement, working groups and standard setting, is set to loose great torrents of administrative law that will in time seep into every aspect of our lives  It is classically fascist in that it aims  to shepherd disparate social and economic groups to an ostensibly mutually beneficial agreement under the eye and ultimately enforcement, of the state.

The emperor Diocletian used coercion, micromanagement and a debased currency in trying to halt economic decline. Sound familiar?

The urge to control economic activity is an old one, and the record of failure for such efforts is equally ancient.

  (More to come)