UNEXPECTEDLY! Under Health Care Act, Many Tax Filers Are Discovering Costly Complications. “This filing season, for the first time, millions of Americans are facing tax implications — and new forms that even seasoned preparers are finding confusing — related to their health insurance status. The changes are not only complicating things for tax filers, but also costing many of them money.”
IN LIGHT OF OBAMA’S NUCLEAR POLICIES, I think it’s time to rerun my “Duck and Cover” piece again.
UNEXPECTEDLY! “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week and nonfarm productivity contracted more sharply than previously thought in the fourth quarter.”
ROGER SIMON: Bibi’s Speech: The Real Fallout.
Related: Obama Has The Problem, Not Netanyahu. “The administration would desperately like to talk about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech. . . . It is bizarre for the administration to concede the point that the concessions described are dangerous and in fact being offered. It is even more bizarre to suggest after saying sanctions worked to bring them to the table and then say sanctions would chase Iran away and that we have no option other than war. Bizarre but not unexpected. Either by design or ineptitude, the president has put himself and the world in a tight spot.”
WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: 3-D Printing Prosthetic Hands That Are Anything but Ordinary. “The Rivermans, of Forest Grove, Ore., could not afford a high-tech prosthetic hand for their son, and in any event they are rarely made for children. Then help arrived in the guise of a stranger with a three-dimensional printer. . . . The proliferation of 3-D printers has had an unexpected benefit: The devices, it turns out, are perfect for creating cheap prosthetics. Surprising numbers of children need them: One in 1,000 infants is born with missing fingers, and others lose fingers and hands to injury. Each year, about 9,000 children receive amputations as a result of lawn mower accidents alone. State-of-the-art prosthetic replacements are complicated medical devices, powered by batteries and electronic motors, and they can cost thousands of dollars. Even if children are able to manage the equipment, they grow too quickly to make the investment practical. So most do without, fighting to do with one hand what most of us do with two.”
UNEXPECTEDLY! NYT: Insured, But Not Covered.
HEATHER WILHELM: The Rise of the Weak-Kneed Feminists.
I’m sorry, everyone. I’m all for empathy and understanding, and I’m all for the realization that many rape victims react to and cope with their assaults in strange and unexpected ways. But when modern feminism has spiraled into an impassioned defense of making your rapist breakfast, I think we’re starting to get the definition of “empowered” wrong.
You know what? As a woman, I don’t want to celebrate “pure radical vulnerability,” the supposed virtue symbolized by Sulkowicz’s mattress. I don’t want women to make breakfast for their rapists. More importantly, I don’t want modern feminists, constantly hiding under the guise of “empathy” and “understanding,” to celebrate and normalize self-destructive “I’ll be nice to him”/”I’ll text him”/”I’ll stay with him” behaviors that prevent assault victims from seeking actual justice.
You know what would be really empowering? Putting rapists—real rapists, not the victims of regrettable sex—in jail. But somehow, like a nightmarish conference call that never ends, modern feminists would rather just keep talking, twisting logic, making excuses, embracing victimhood, and ignoring common-sense paths to justice for women who are actually aggrieved.
We may never know what happened in the Columbia mattress rape case. What we do know—or at least what we are told—is that Sulkowicz, despite her seemingly boundless energy and her 50-pound mattress, is a fragile creature, crushed by any questioning of her narrative, no matter how incongruous it may be. To truly pursue justice, you see, would be “draining.” It would take a great deal of courage and strength. That, apparently, is not what feminism stands for any more.
Feminism stands for what pays. And right now, that’s victimhood.
UNEXPECTEDLY! Minimum Wage Hike Closes San Francisco Bookstore.
Plus, today only at Amazon: Up to 70% Off Select SanDisk Memory. You can never have too much memory, unless you’re the IRS.
And, also today only: Load Your Library with Kindle Books, $2.99 or Less.
IN THE MAIL: From L. Jagi Lamplighter, The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin (Unexpected Enlightenment Series Book 1).
SPACE: New Earth-Crossing Asteroid Discovered. “Even though experts say the giant object, known as 2014 UR116, poses no immediate threat of collision, its unexpected discovery underscores how little is still known about asteroids and their unpredictable orbits.”
THE REAL FERGUSON PROBLEM: Grand Juries Don’t Work That Way All The Time.
THE HILL: Dark Days Ahead For ObamaCare.
The Obama administration is facing a slew of healthcare challenges as the winter holidays approach.
While this fall has been a far cry from last year, when HealthCare.gov was melting down, 2014 has brought wholly unexpected problems to the fore for federal health officials and the White House.
Take the conflict surrounding Jonathan Gruber, the ObamaCare consultant whose suggestion that a “lack of transparency” and voters’ “stupidity” helped the law pass, went viral.
Though Democrats have sought to distance themselves from Gruber, his remarks have become a new flashpoint in debate over healthcare reform, invigorating GOP critics as the party prepares to take control of the Senate.
Gruber has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Dec. 9, in a final hearing for outgoing chairman and relentless administration antagonist Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
The gathering, also set to include Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, is sure to prove a distraction for the White House as officials try once again to keep a lid on opposition to the law.
Here are four additional challenges that the administration faces on healthcare this winter.
Read the whole thing.
HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): “Adults under age 35—the so-called millennial generation—currently have a savings rate of negative 2%, meaning they are burning through their assets or going into debt, according to Moody’s Analytics.” “The turnabout in savings tendencies shows how the personal finances of millennials have become increasingly precarious despite five years of economic growth and sustained job creation. A lack of savings increases the vulnerability of young workers in the postrecession economy, leaving many without a financial cushion for unexpected expenses, raising the difficulty of job transitions and leaving them further away from goals like eventual homeownership—let alone retirement.”
Maybe the “five years of economic growth” hasn’t been as significant as advertised.
INSTAVISION: Adam Smith: The Greatest Self-Help Author You Have Never Read. I talk with Russ Roberts about his new book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness. (Bumped).
EVERYTHING HE TOUCHES: Michael Barone: Obama Will Leave The Dems In Shambles.
Before the election results are in, and keeping in mind that there may be some unpleasant surprises for one party or the other — or both — it’s possible to assess how the Democratic Party has fared under the leadership of President Obama. To summarize the verdict: not so well.
By one metric it has done very badly indeed. When Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, there were 257 Democrats in the House of Representatives. Going into this election there are 201 (including two vacant Democratic seats). . . .
Why has the Democratic Party fared so poorly under Obama’s leadership? I can see two reasons: one ideological, one demographic.
Start with demographics. The Obama coalition, even more than Bill Clinton’s, is based on overwhelming support from constituencies with some conflicting interests. It’s a top and bottom coalition: he carried the very lowest and highest income and education groups, while his support sagged among those in the middle.
His strongest groups are blacks and gentry liberals — the same two groups he gathered together when he got to design his own state Senate district in 2002. Majorities of both groups still support him, but perhaps with diminished enthusiasm. Black crowds unexpectedly started walking out before he finished talking at recent events in Prince George’s County, Md., and Milwaukee.
Moreover, the geographic clustering of blacks and gentry liberals in central cities, sympathetic suburbs and university towns puts the Obama Democrats at a disadvantage in equal-population districts where Republican voters are spread more evenly around.
Meanwhile, the thrill is clearly gone among two groups that backed him heavily in 2008 and 2012, and which will inevitably be larger parts of the electorate in the future: Hispanics and Millennials.
Well, they haven’t exactly prospered under Obama.
Well, in retrospect Romney’s foreign-policy chops from 2012 are looking spot-on, while Obama’s are looking kinda . . . chickenshit.
Meanwhile, reader T.J. Linzy writes:
Remember all those gleeful reports of the military missing its recruiting targets, because no one wanted to go to Iraq or Afghanistan?
I have a terrible feeling the Ebola deployments really are going to cause a drop in recruitment.
As a volunteer veteran, the people I know were / are glad to go fight for the nation, but to be sent to fight an infectious disease when my government won’t even take the basic steps to stop the disease from entering the country? And being supported by an obviously distracted agency like the CDC?
Watch for an “unexpected” drop in military recruitment.
Hmm. Well, on the upside, the civilian economy isn’t hiring, so we’ve got that going for us.
IN THE MAIL: From Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness.
Plus, today only at Amazon: Up to 69% Off Select Rubbermaid Commercial Products.
And, also today only: 40% Off Merrell Casual Shoes for Men and Women.
UNEXPECTEDLY! Flow Of Money From South Texas Oil Startles Economists.
The economists had predicted just last year that they expected the total economic impact to South Texas to be $89 billion in 2022. Instead, they now estimate that the impact has already reached almost that amount: $87 billion.
What’s making the difference?
Primarily all the jobs from drilling and running pipelines.
“But also because of lots of new manufacturing activity. And a lot of that is being driven by the low cost of natural gas,” said Tunstall.
I mean, who could have seen this coming? Well, maybe Rick Perry.
THERE’S THAT WORD AGAIN. I THINK IT DEFINES OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY: “Jobless claims unexpectedly rise 11,000 to 315,000 last week.”
BRING BACK DDT: Mosquito-Borne Viruses Hit Japan and the U.S.
Mosquito-borne viruses are showing up unexpectedly in affluent countries where they have been largely unknown.
Yoyogi Park, a popular oasis in downtown Tokyo, was closed last week after authorities realized it was the center of Japan’s first outbreak of dengue in 70 years.
Dengue is also called breakbone fever for the severe joint pain it causes. Repeat infections can cause dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can be lethal. Since Japanese authorities detected the first case Aug. 27, 65 more have been found, most of them associated with Yoyogi Park. The victims included two models covering the outbreak for a local television station.
Fear of the virus is spreading. In Yokohama, officials closed a large beach park after one local woman infected in Tokyo said she was later bitten by a mosquito there.
In the United States, more than 750 cases of another painful disease, chikungunya, have been reported this year. Almost all have been in tourists returning from the Caribbean, where the disease is rampant, particularly in the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique and Puerto Rico. Nine million Americans visit the Caribbean each year.
But Florida residents who had not traveled were infected this summer, and the virus was found in a Texas mosquito, meaning that it is becoming established in the United States.
Chikungunya was unknown in the Western Hemisphere until late last year.
Victims can often be seen walking stooped over with pain; the name means “bent up” in Makonde, an East African language.
There used to be malaria in East Tennessee where I live — and Yellow Fever epidemics in Philadelphia.
MEGAN MCARDLE: More Bad News For ObamaCare.
Last Monday, Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily reported that insurers say Affordable Care Act enrollment is shrinking, and it is expected to shrink further. Some of those who signed up for insurance on the exchanges never paid; others paid, then stopped paying. Insurers are undoubtedly picking up some new customers who lost jobs or had another “qualifying life event” since open enrollment closed. But on net, they expect enrollment to shrink from their March numbers by a substantial amount — as much as 30 percent at Aetna Inc., for example.
How much does this matter? As Charles Gaba notes, this was not unexpected: Back in January, industry expert Bob Laszewski predicted an attrition rate of 10 to 20 percent, which seems roughly in line with what IBD is reporting. However, Gaba seems to imply that this makes the IBD report old news, barely worth talking about, and I think that’s wrong, for multiple reasons.
The first is simply that we didn’t know what the attrition rate would be until we actually saw the final numbers, and it could have been lower — or higher — than Laszewski suggested. It’s always valuable to have actual data rather than guesstimates (and we should remember that we’re still getting data; we won’t know the final attrition rate until December).
The second is that while attrition was predicted, not everyone was necessarily expecting it. People are still citing enrollment figures from March as the number of people covered by Obamacare policies, even though that number didn’t tell us how many would ultimately pay. In fairness, the Barack Obama administration conveniently stopped issuing enrollment reports after that March peak, so there isn’t a better hard number to use.
It seems like wherever there’s a book, it’s being cooked.
YOU KNOW, THEY DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE ANY LEGAL AUTHORITY TO DO THAT: Golfers frisked as Obama arrives at Martha’s Vineyard club. How come nobody ever tells them to buzz off, and that if the President wants to play golf he can damn well respect the rights of others? The response to the ominous “So, you’re not cooperating?” should be “No, are you assaulting me?”
If the President wants to go out in public, fine. If he can’t do it without assaulting the rights of citizens, then he should stay home. But hey, most of these folks probably voted for him. So: Enjoy!
UPDATE: From the comments:
Think of it this way…
There are probably two Republicans on MV and they are incognito.
Obama is pissing off all the right people.
Well, that part is fun.
UNEXPECTEDLY! ObamaCare Enrollment Is Shrinking, Top Insurers Say.
K.C. JOHNSON: A Depressing Year For Campus Due Process. “The 2013-4 academic year featured a steady assault on campus due process, resulting from a loose alliance between the Obama administration (especially its Office for Civil Rights) and self-appointed ‘activists,’ their faculty supporters, and a handful of higher-ed journalists. The year concluded with some pushback from an unexpected source—the federal courts—likely previewing major controversy between the academy and civil society for coming years.”
I’m so old, I can remember when the academy was part of civil society.
The most relentlessly cited statistic was that women make up only 16% of the tech workforce. At first glance, this looks pretty lame. But once you catch your breath, you realize that most of these jobs require a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Women only earn 18% of such degrees awarded to United States residents. Not such a bad effort, then, by Google and company. Still, that didn’t stop the public shaming. Earnest apologies were issued, and calls were made for reform.
Who deserves the brunt of our collective outrage over these lopsided ratios? More importantly, who should be charged with fixing them?
One highly controversial theory — the one that got Larry Summers in deep trouble — argues that there are male advantages in math-related cognitive ability, especially at the so-called “right tail” end of the bell curve. But it’s not necessary to hit that third rail, because even the most capable women shy away from engineering and computer science.
To my knowledge — I’m biased — no school enrolls more fiercely intelligent women than Yale. Yet even there, women are only 18% of computer science majors. The figures are similar at other high-flying schools that admit the best and the brightest women. Not unexpectedly, the prevailing narrative at Yale is that these numbers reflect some kind of glaring injustice. But what exactly is Yale doing wrong? . . . In fact, despite the mainstream media’s insistence that sexism is rife, there exists very little evidence of pervasive bias. Studies occasionally pop up that point to overt or subtle bias in academic hiring or funding, but they are debunked as often as they are trumpeted. And the discrimination that social scientists claim to demonstrate is rarely strong enough to explain observed disparities.
One explanation I’ve seen is that most women don’t want to date science-and-engineering guys. Thus, they avoid those majors. . . . But read the whole thing.
You just can’t keep a good boom down. Oil production from North Dakota’s Bakken formation has quintupled over the past five years as drillers employ the dual technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling to tap previously inaccessible hydrocarbons trapped in shale. This summer, it looks as if Gaia will cooperate, offering mild weather to spur what one official is predicting will be a “big surge” in output. . . .
The shale boom has been so sudden, and so unexpected, that we still lack the transportation infrastructure to deliver shale-sourced crude to refineries. Without pipelines to link North Dakota’s Bakken formation to Gulf Coast refineries, that crude is riding our nation’s rails and being transported by truck—more expensive and more dangerous options. Building new pipelines will cut down on bottlenecks, save money, and potentially save lives. This is a challenge, but it’s the kind we’d like to see more of: one of abundance, not scarcity.
And one that makes the barbarous nations of the Middle East — and Putin’s Russia, too — less powerful and less important.
A NICE GESTURE, from the folks at Red Lobster.
HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Final US GDP contracts 2.9% vs -1.7% estimate; May Durables drop 1.0%. Unexpectedly!
UNEXPECTEDLY! Consumer prices rise sharply in May. “Consumer prices last month posted their sharpest increase in 15 months as inflation continued a recent acceleration from unusually low levels. The consumer price index jumped 0.4% after rising 0.3% in April, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Economists had expected a 0.2% increase.”
ROGER KIMBALL: Eric Cantor and the Conventional Wisdom.
From where I sit, the response of “responsible leaders,” i.e., representatives of the convention wisdom, has been mostly confined to what they used to call in the wild West a circling of the wagons. Demonize the bastards. Ostracize ’em. Talk incessantly about “fringe candidates” and “extremists” who cannot win (except they just did), who will upset the status quo, which by an extraordinary coincidence just happens to benefit those registering their “shock,” their having been “stunned,” “staggered,” not to say “utterly dismayed.”
Both parties have been assiduous in demonizing the Tea Party. And they’ve been quite effective in convincing themselves that it was yesterday’s news, that the upsets of 2010 were an anomaly, that business-as-usual (represented by us mature politicians who are already in office) had once again achieved the upper hand. Order, in short, had been restored.
Except that unexpected things like David Brat’s victory, like UKIP’s victory in the European election, keep happening. . . .
Which brings me to the other aspect of the Cantor Conundrum, the Brat Braining: the contention that, in addition to being “staggering,” “stunning,” etc., it is also of vast importance. Is it? In the sense that it (like the European elections of a fortnight ago) bespeaks a profound unease among the electorate with politics (and, nota bene pollsters: politicians) as usual, I’d say, yes, it is important. We’ve been told that the “tea party” is a spent force. The trouble is, the millions of ordinary people who are disgusted with Washington, who fear and loath the the rise of the imperial state with its vast armory of regulation and surveillance, not to mention its untouchable self-enriching nomenklatura — those millions haven’t gotten the memo. They don’t know that their interests and desires are de trop, even though their masters in Washington have done everything possible to reinforce that idea.
Yeah, how’s that working out?
UNEXPECTEDLY! More patients flocking to ERs under Obamacare.
RICHARD FERNANDEZ: The Day Obama’s Presidency Died.
The curious thing about September 11, 2012 — the day of the Benghazhi attack — is that for some reason it marks the decline of the Obama presidency as clearly as a milepost. We are told by the papers that nothing much happened on that day. A riot in a far-away country. A few people killed. And yet … it may be coincidental, but from that day the administration’s foreign policy seemed inexplicably hexed. The Arab Spring ground to a halt. The Secretary of State ‘resigned’. The CIA Director was cast out in disgrace. Not long after, Obama had to withdraw his Red Line in Syria. Al-Qaeda, whose eulogy he had pronounced appeared with disturbing force throughout Africa, South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Almost as if on cue, Russia made an unexpected return to the world stage, first in Syria, then in the Iranian nuclear negotiations.
Worse was to follow. America’s premier intelligence organization, the National Security Agency, was taken apart in public and the man who took its secrets, Edward Snowden, decamped to Moscow with a laptop full of secrets. But it was all just a curtain raiser to the dismemberment of Ukraine and the disaster in Eastern Europe. . . . And still there’s no acknowledgement of anything being fundamentally wrong.
Read the whole thing. Including this: “The lie is much more dangerous than the truth. America can live with an Obama mistake. But it can’t live with an Obama who cannot acknowledge his mistakes.”
UNEXPECTEDLY: This Simple Graph Compares Reagan’s and Obama’s ‘Recoveries’. All the people I know who are in business for themselves already know this in their guts (and in their bottom line.)
UNEXPECTEDLY: Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day.
CHANGE: Aging Baby Boomers Becoming the Roommate Generation, at ABC. Note the unexpectedly “funemployment”-style slant of the article.
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Student debt holds back many would-be home buyers. “Of the many factors holding back young home buyers — rising prices, tougher lending standards, a still-shaky job market — none looms larger than the recent explosion of college debt.”
HEADLINES FOR THE ERA OF HOPE AND CHANGE: Marc Ambinder: If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
But isn’t it funny that this is happening under a President who recently mocked Mitt Romney for a 1980s approach?
21ST CENTURY BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS: When The Restaurant You Googled Googles You Back. “It’s not the thought that counts; unexpected in-person customization feels icky.”
THE CULTURE OF UNEXPECTEDLY! Wrong Again: The economists’ confession.
VIRAL KISSING VIDEO ACTUALLY A CLOTHES AD: “The video peddles the fantasy that beauty can spring from an unexpected connection between two random people, but what it’s really showing us is the beauty of models making out. It’s like the hipster Bachelor. I doubt that millions of viewers would be so quick to celebrate a video of randos kissing if they were all less thin, hip, stylish, charming, and well-manicured.”
TRAIN WRECK UPDATE: ObamaCare enrollments dip. Unexpectedly!
ER, OKAY, BUT MIGHT THIS HAVE LESS DESIRABLE EFFECTS ON WEATHER, TOO? Massive offshore wind farms’ unexpected benefit: Hurricane protection; Wind speed, storm surge slashed when there are 10,000 turbines in storms’ path.
CHANGE: Republicans catch another break in the 2014 Senate elections. “‘Senate Republicans have scored an unexpected recruiting coup, with Rep. Cory Gardner (R) opting to challenge Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) this year, according to a person with knowledge of his plans. Gardner, who is considered the state’s top GOP rising star, previously said he would not run for Senate and would instead seek reelection in November.’ As important, failed Senate candidate Ken Buck has opted for the House race, avoiding a bitter primary and winning the gratitude of his party. This is a huge improvement for the GOP and puts yet another Senate seat in play.”
YOU MAY NOW KIDNAP AND STRIP THE BRIDE: 15 Unexpectedly Barbaric Origins Of Modern Wedding Traditions.
PROTECT YOUR CREDIT by freezing it.
UPDATE: Reader G.L. Carlson emails:
A report from the field: We did this 10 years ago, and it is cheap, easy, and convenient. Free, in some states (Tn is one). The unexpected benefit is that one gets no (or almost no) offers of new credit cards (no ability to prequalify you, no offers). In most states, there is a minor fee ($10 or so) to set up, and a minor fee to remove, which can be done on a one-time or limited time basis. Today, it only takes a phone call. The only problem is that one must plan when one needs credit (that is, remove the freeze). When we refinanced, our bank moved a little too fast…and got denied access. They were surprised; we were delighted.
Of course, this does nothing for data breaches on existing accounts. But if you’re concerned that someone might try to establish a new account, unbeknownst to you, this is an effective, low cost countermeasure.
Good to know.
NEWS YOU CAN USE: why you should run away from a nuclear blast.
I’m not sure I agree with this advice. The last thing you want to be is stuck in traffic when the fallout starts to come down. I might be willing to go a short distance — say to a nearby building — to find better shelter, but that’s about it. Here’s a piece I wrote for The Atlantic a while back on this topic. Also, this video.
SO OBAMA RAN ON KEEPING YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE, NET SPENDING CUTS, AND FIXING IRAQ. HOW’S THAT GOING? How Al Qaeda Terrorized Its Way Back in Iraq: As the country edges closer to civil war, much of the blame goes to Prime Minister Maliki—and the White House.
The climactic battles of the American War in Iraq were fought in Anbar Province, with U.S. forces at great cost retaking the city of Fallujah at the end of 2004 and Ramadi, the provincial capital, in 2006-07. The latter success was sparked by an unlikely alliance with tribal fighters that turned around what had been a losing war effort and made possible the success of what became known as “the surge.” By 2009, violence had fallen more than 90%, creating an unexpected opportunity to build a stable, democratic and prosperous country in the heart of the Middle East.
It is now obvious that this opportunity has been squandered, with tragic consequences for the entire region. In recent days the Iraqi army appears to have been pushed, at least temporarily, out of Fallujah and Ramadi by al Qaeda in Iraq militants. A battle is raging for control of Anbar Province with some tribal fighters supporting the government and others AQI. Mosul, the major city of northern Iraq and a longtime hotbed of AQI activity, could be next to fall. If it does, AQI would gain effective control of the Sunni Triangle, an area north and west of Baghdad the size of New England.
AQI’s control would stretch beyond the Sunni Triangle because its offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, dominates a significant portion of Syrian territory across the border. This creates the potential for a new nightmare: an al Qaeda state incorporating northern Syria and western Iraq.
How’s that Smart DiplomacyTM working out?
MICKEY KAUS: GM Loses Market Share, Again?
The press won’t make it easy for you to discover–gets in the way of the pre-packaged “Detroit is back!” narrative–but it looks like General Motors lost market share again in 2013. According to Ward’s Auto, GM sales grew 7.3%–but the market as a whole grew 7.5%. … GM sales for December unexpectedly cratered, despite “high inventory levels … unseen since before the Great Recession.” … If this is a good year for GM, I wonder what a bad year will look like.
I dunno, but I’ll bet it’ll happen unexpectedly.
WHAT TO DO WHEN OBAMACARE UNRAVELS:
The unraveling of the Affordable Care Act presents a historic opportunity for change. Its proponents call it “settled law,” but as Prohibition taught us, not even a constitutional amendment is settled law—if it is dysfunctional enough, and if Americans can see a clear alternative.
This fall’s website fiasco and policy cancellations are only the beginning. Next spring the individual mandate is likely to unravel when we see how sick the people are who signed up on exchanges, and if our government really is going to penalize voters for not buying health insurance. The employer mandate and “accountable care organizations” will take their turns in the news. There will be scandals. There will be fraud. This will go on for years. . . .
There is an alternative. A much freer market in health care and health insurance can work, can deliver high quality, technically innovative care at much lower cost, and solve the pathologies of the pre-existing system.
The U.S. health-care market is dysfunctional. Obscure prices and $500 Band-Aids are legendary. The reason is simple: Health care and health insurance are strongly protected from competition. There are explicit barriers to entry, for example the laws in many states that require a “certificate of need” before one can build a new hospital. Regulatory compliance costs, approvals, nonprofit status, restrictions on foreign doctors and nurses, limits on medical residencies, and many more barriers keep prices up and competitors out. Hospitals whose main clients are uncompetitive insurers and the government cannot innovate and provide efficient cash service.
We need to permit the Southwest Airlines, LUV -0.26% Wal-Mart, WMT +0.40% Amazon.com AMZN -0.06% and Apples of the world to bring to health care the same dramatic improvements in price, quality, variety, technology and efficiency that they brought to air travel, retail and electronics. We’ll know we are there when prices are on hospital websites, cash customers get discounts, and new hospitals and insurers swamp your inbox with attractive offers and great service. . . .
Health insurance should be individual, portable across jobs, states and providers; lifelong and guaranteed-renewable, meaning you have the right to continue with no unexpected increase in premiums if you get sick. Insurance should protect wealth against large, unforeseen, necessary expenses, rather than be a wildly inefficient payment plan for routine expenses.
People want to buy this insurance, and companies want to sell it.
Unlike ObamaCare, which is the reverse.
THERE’S THAT WORD AGAIN: Jobless claims unexpectedly jump to highest level since March.
SARAH HOYT: Woe Is Obama: Is the president depressed as his “accomplishments” come home to roost? “Unexpectedly! Everything going wrong for the most brilliant man in the nation!”
UPDATE: The National Enquirer was already on this. Hey, as John Edwards can attest, they’re not always wrong.
I BLAME GLOBAL WARMING. AND GEORGE W. BUSH! As More People Live Longer Why Are Rates of Dementia Falling? “A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.”
UNEXPECTEDLY! Obamacare Exchanges Won’t Hit Enrollment Targets.
I PREFER MY “PEELING AN ONION OF FAIL” METAPHOR, BUT “FAIL FRACTAL” HAS A NICE RING TO IT, TOO: ACA Fail Fractal: The Deeper You Get, The More Dysfunction You See.
Higher deductibles can, in certain contexts, be useful for introducing some price sensitivity into the system. But that depends on how people go about dealing with them. There are two deep-rooted problems with what remains in many ways an excellent health care system overall: it is too expensive, and not enough people have enough access to it. The cheaper health care becomes, the easier it is to expand access. In a cheaper system, fewer people need subsidies and the subsidies they do need are smaller. Without fixing costs, on the other hand, more and more people, not to mention the government, struggle to pay for our system, and the resources for expanding access shrink as the cost of do so grows.
Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act puts most of its effort on the wrong end of the problem: access rather than price. That’s one reason the rollout has been going so poorly and in some respects will get worse. Because not much effort was put into cost control, many insurers have taken the one easy step available to them to limit rate shock: restricting provider networks. As a result, people are unexpectedly losing access to doctors they have seen for years.
WHY OBAMACARE IS LIKE THREE MILE ISLAND. “The administration clearly understood this — right up to the point where a major component failed. Now it’s apparently planning to keep the reactor running with as many pieces as possible in the hopes that none of it will unexpectedly blow up. This is not sound policy thinking, or even sound political thinking, and I think that all of us who care about keeping insurance available for ordinary Americans should try to talk them out of it — for their good, as well as our own.”
Alternative analogy: The Iraq War.
MICHAEL BARONE: Washington Is Partisan: Get Used To It. “America’s Midcentury Moment was just that—and American politics has returned to its combative, partisan, divisive default mode. In the 1790s, Americans were divided over a world-wide war between commercial Britain and revolutionary France. Political strife was bitter. In the antebellum years, Americans were deeply split over issues from the Bank of the United States to slavery in the territories. For three generations after the Civil War, Americans North and South lived almost entirely apart from each other. The Midcentury Moment emerged as the result of three unexpected developments, two of them unwelcome—depression, war, postwar prosperity—and was communicated through the language of an unusually vivid and unusually universal popular culture. Absent these things—and it’s hard to see how they could return—our politicians aren’t likely to all get along.”
SALENA ZITO: No Evidence Dems Can Take Back House.
It is a possibility pushed by paid pundits as reality, but the facts do not support it.
That does not mean a wave election isn’t brewing out on Main Street. In fact, early polling indicates the 2014 midterm might produce another electoral shift, but not one that shoves Republicans out of power.
First of all, the playing field of vulnerable GOP seats is too narrow for Republicans to lose their majority, baring a massive wave. (Think 1894, when 107 Democrats were swept out of the House.)
Second, major waves historically have not happened concurrent with the “six-year itch” – the election held in the sixth year of a president’s tenure, in which the party holding the White House typically loses a substantial number of House and Senate seats.
And remember that, in the 1996 midterm election of the Clinton era, Republicans lost 18 incumbents but kicked the Democrats’ butts in the open-seat races. The Republicans’ losses were mostly “wave seats” that they unexpectedly won two years earlier, during their first sweep back into power after 40 years in the political wilderness.
Coincidentally, all of that occurred in the year of another government shutdown – that one over the funding of Medicare, which is a heck of a lot more popular with voters than Obamacare.
Today, every member of Congress, along with the White House and President Obama, are getting battered in the polls over how they’ve handled the shutdown, with Republicans taking a slim lead on the voter-anger index.
Kyle Kondik, a House analyst for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, says that if (and he stresses a big “if”) Republicans eventually suffer because of the shutdown, it will not be Tea Partiers who are hurt.
“While the Republican brand is poor, the president isn’t particularly popular – his approval is only in the low to mid 40s, according to polling averages,” said Kondik. “There would have to be an incredible amount of revulsion with the Republicans to deliver the House to the Democrats.”
Plus, historically, there’s basically no precedent for the president’s party to capture control of the House in a midterm year. Many presidents have held the House in a midterm, but they haven’t taken control of it in a midterm.
Mostly this is Dem pundits playing on GOP fears. It’s working, too.
President Obama’s chief technology adviser, Todd Park, blames the unexpectedly large numbers of people who flocked to Healthcare.gov and state websites. “Take away the volume and it works,” he told USA TODAY’s Tim Mullaney.
That’s like saying that except for the torrential rain, it’s a really nice day. Was Park not listening to the administration’s daily weather report predicting Obamacare’s popularity?
Park said the administration expected 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users. It got 250,000. Compare that with the similarly rocky debut seven years ago of exchanges to obtain Medicare drug coverage. The Bush administration projected 20,000 simultaneous users and built capacity for 150,000.
That’s the difference between competence and incompetence.
INADVERTENTLY, BUT EFFECTIVELY: Surprise! The Koch Brothers Are Boosting Obama. “While President Obama continues to tilt for windmills, rising oil and gas production has showered his administration with unexpected benefits. Those producers inadvertently include his arch enemies—the Koch Brothers. How deliciously ironic it is that the oil industry – consistently scorned by this president – has been one of the most potent economic drivers of this recovery, the biggest contributor to an improving balance of payments picture and has provided Obama significant leverage in digging out of his difficulties in the Middle East.”
On the other hand, there’s this from Liz Peek: Obama Snookers GOP into Government Shutdown.
UNEXPECTEDLY! August Housing Starts Weaker Than Anticipated.
NOT EXACTLY LEADING WITH HIS STRENGTHS: Obama’s week ahead: All about the economy.
President Obama will launch a week of economic events on Monday, highlighting the five-year anniversary of the crashing of the financial market to argue that Republican policy prescriptions to looming fiscal battles would undo recent gains.
Looking back to the economic collapse of 2008, which helped propel him to the White House, Obama will argue the country has since been on a steady climb back to prosperity. The White House is hoping to use the week as leverage before an October deadline to keep the government funded and ahead of the nation reaching its borrowing capacity just weeks later.
It’s all fun and games until someone says the magic words: Labor Force Participation Rate.
UPDATE: Industrial Production Misses Fifth Month In A Row. Unexpectedly!
POLITICIZING IS WHAT HE DOES. IT’S ALL HE KNOWS: Obama’s Politicizing National Security.
UPDATE: Related: What The Hell Is Going On? “So far as we know, most everyone in the government was expecting the bombing would start on Saturday afternoon, Washington DC time. Government officials, above all those with expertise in military operations, were told to cancel their Labor Day vacations and show up for overtime work. No golf for them! Then President Obama–in the face of most all the advice from his ‘national security team’ (I even heard a national radio network broadcaster call it ‘the war cabinet’)–changed his mind. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Surprisingly. How? Why? . . . We don’t have an answer, which suggests to me that we’re missing some key element in the story.”
SEEN ON FACEBOOK: “If there was one advice I could give to fresh out of college professionals: Don’t ever underestimate the handwritten THANK YOU notes. You would not believe the business you can close and the jobs you can land with that simple and unexpected long forgotten touch.” This is very true — and, if anything, it’s truer in this electronic age.
UPDATE: And here’s a different example: Some years ago I wrote a job recommendation for a student who had been on the Frederick Douglass Moot Court team I coached, back when I was BLSA adviser. I gave him a really strong recommendation, because he was a really good student. About a year later, I got a letter from a named partner at the firm I’d recommended him to, telling me what a great hire he’d been and thanking me for recommending him. I still remember that.
AN UNEXPECTED ANTHEM for Obama’s second term.
JOURNALISM: Newspaper columnist goes topless in interview with Kelowna mayor. “A B.C. newspaper columnist and radio host was chatting with the mayor of Kelowna when she did something unexpected. Halfway through her interview, she undid the strap on her dress and bared her chest — then continued the interview.” Note the hypocrisy, though, as the photos are blurred out.
I’M SURE SHE’LL MAKE THEM AS EFFICIENT AND WELL-LOVED AS HER PREVIOUS EMPLOYER: U. of California Gets an Unexpected Leader in Janet Napolitano. Plus this: “She’s a symptom that universities have been taken over by an administrative class.”
SHOCKER: Old And Sick Swamp ObamaCare Rolls.
One result of the Obamacare employer mandate delay is increased pressure on the exchanges: if employers drop coverage of their employees, or even simply don’t offer coverage to currently uninsured employees, more people will have to migrate to the exchanges to fulfill the individual mandate. But the delay isn’t the only unexpected new influx into the Obamacare exchanges. Both Detroit and Chicago are hoping to save money and reduce pension obligations by moving retirees off city health care plans and onto the exchanges. . . .
It’s not clear yet what the outcome of this will be, or whether other states or cities will adopt this tactic. But one thing is true: Obamacare’s success depends in large part on enough healthy young Americans signing up for insurance to balance a risk pool that will now include the previously uninsured sick. If, in addition to them, tons of currently insured older Americans are going to lose their insurance and be kicked onto the exchanges, the number of younger people signing up for coverage has to be that much higher to counteract those new people entertaining the exchanges.
The ACA, to put it gently, is already on shaky ground.
Kill it off before it kills us.
UNEXPECTEDLY! GDP Growth Revised Downward. A Wall Street reader emails:
The “unexpected” downward revision to first quarter GDP confirms what everyone expected going into this year: The tax increases would hurt consumers. Funny how that “reality” didn’t show through the government data until as long after the fact as possible.
An undiscussed consequence of this suspicious pattern is that markets will decreasingly trust government data, potentially increasing volatility and decreasing stability. Note I believe these are undiscussed, not necessarily unintended, consequences.
It’s sad to see this degree of irresponsibility.
THE UPSIDE OF GLOBAL WARMING.
The Arctic boom reminds us that global warming, like most every macro phenomenon, has good and bad effects. The pace of warming has slowed down in recent years and it’s uncertain what the long term effects of climate change will be. But even if we grant that some of the greens’ fears will be realized, there are still countervailing benefits to consider. It looks to us as if the affects of climate change are much more complex and harder to predict than green publicists claim; the earth’s climate system has surprised us before and is likely to surprise us again as the interactions and interrelations of different factors lead to unexpected changes in the world around us.
Given that climate change is a mixture of curses and blessings, any policy addressing it is going to involve trade-offs. Slowing it down, for example, would hurt some, help others. It’s not clear why a cold, Arctic-reliant country like Russia whose economy is linked to the oil and gas trade would find a benefit in cooperating with efforts to stop climate change. It also appears that human activities like farming are better able to adjust to temperature variations than some pessimists would have us believe. Crops like soya, corn and wheat can be bred (or genetically modified) to grow in warmer and dryer conditions at a modest cost.
Greens, many impelled by emotional overreactions or a deep inner belief that unfettered capitalism is a terrible thing, have tried to simplify the discussion about the earth’s changing climate into a morality play.
GEORGE FAKEI? Takei Says That’s Not Always Him on Facebook. “In a week dominated by news that the National Security Agency was intercepting Americans’ emails and phone records en masse, some of George Takei’s 4 million devoted Facebook followers had more important things to worry about: unexpected evidence that the former Star Trek star hires ghost-posters.”
THERE’S THAT WORD AGAIN: Manufacturing Drops Unexpectedly.
LIKE A TIME CAPSULE: Wisconsin family discovers fully-stocked fallout shelter in their back yard 50 years after it was installed at the height of the Cold War. “Everything remained remarkably well-preserved, thanks to the airtight containers the supplies were kept in.”
Plus this bit of post-Cold War journalistic ignorance: “The idea of a fallout shelter was not to protect from a nuclear blast, but rather from the radiation that would likely contaminate the surrounding area. It’s unknown what fallout the late Dr Pansch was expecting in Neenah. The small Wisconsin city is 100 miles from Milwaukee and nearly 200 from Chicago – the population centers that might have been targeted by the Soviets.” Had those targets been hit — or missile fields farther west — there would have been plenty of fallout.
UPDATE: Reader Gerald Hanner emails:
I spent seven years serving in the SAC Airborne Command Post System, aka the Post Attack Command Control System. Even now my recollections of that time are clear.
Somebody in Neenah Wisconsin definitely wouldn’t have been worried about the blast effects of a nuclear weapon. The town is on the northern end of Lake Winnebago, and there is a regional airport northwest of the town, near Appleton, that might once have been a base for air defense interceptors. I doubt the Soviets would have gone to the trouble to take out a runway as small as Outagamie Regional Airport. However, based on what we knew of their political thinking, we expected them to hit every state capital because in the minds of the Soviet planners that is where all the command and control would be. As far as missile fields further west, yes, there were some. Grand Forks and Minot, both in North Dakota, had 150 Minuteman missiles each, as did Ellsworth near the Black Hills of South Dakota. F. E. Warren, near Cheyenne, had 150 Minuteman missiles, and Malmstrom, near Great Falls Montana had 200 Minuteman missiles. Everybody expected some or all of the launch control centers to be hit. It was even deemed possible that the Soviets might be inclined to hit the silos themselves. Fortunately we never got to find out.
As insurance against the Soviets successfully attacking the Minuteman launch control centers, there was a backup system known as the Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS). We in the SAC ABNCP System had the capability of commanding Minuteman missile launches from our ABNCP aircraft. I served as a deputy missile launch officer for part of my time the SAC ABNCP. The ALCS remains operational.
UPDATE: Reader Matt Kreutzmann writes:
Regarding the fallout shelter in Neenah, WI, there was plenty of risk of fallout. As you and other readers have noted, the major cities WI and the missile silos in the Dakotas could have brought fallout to Neenah.
Much closer, there were ELF stations in the Chequamagon National Forest and the Escanaba River State Forest that were used to communicate with submerged submarines. They were likely pretty soft targets, but still strategic. It’s an energy intensive and SLOW way to communicate, but it worked. They were decomissioned in 2004, I believe. The Cold War was much more pervasive than people tend to recall.
That would have been the old Sanguine system, I believe. Or, rather, its successors.
NEWS YOU CAN USE: 27 Unexpected Ways Coffee Can Improve Your Life.
THERE’S THAT WORD AGAIN: “Previously owned U.S. home sales unexpectedly dropped in March.”
THE WAGES OF FRACKING: Rise in U.S. Gas Production Fuels Unexpected Plunge in Emissions.
WELL, THEY HAVE TO RELY ON THIS BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE ARGUMENTS: Victor Davis Hanson: The Dangers of Politically Inspired Moral Outrage—From Sandy Hook to What Next?
It is a bad idea to demonize your opponents with epithets such “shameful” and “lying,” given that the case was not made that proposed gun-control legislation would have prevented a Sandy Hook. To prevent these school-shooting horrors might require either armed guards in schools, or Draconian new laws about gratuitous screen and video-game violence, or more frequently incarcerating the mentally unstable, or, on the theory of reducing rapid rates of fire, confiscating millions of previously sold semi-automatic handguns and rifles. All those measures would have offended millions across the political spectrum in ways that demonizing the NRA apparently does not. In the end, it was not the “lying” “gun lobby” that persuaded enough senators to defeat the bill, but the president’s inability to make the argument that his proposals would help stop another Sandy Hook or Columbine.
Moreover, the current sophistry of using catastrophic current events to rush legislative agendas or build political capital is as natural as it is also dangerous — and can rebound in unexpected ways.
Indeed. Related: Former Justice of the Peace Shot Texas Prosecutors, Not Aryan Brotherhood as Chris Matthews Supposed. “The wife of a former justice of the peace revealed to authorities this week that she and her husband are responsible for the deaths of two Texas prosecutors, ending a months-long mystery that aroused speculation, especially by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, that members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas were responsible. On his show, Matthews routinely tied the Aryan Brotherhood to gun-rights supporters.”
TOM MAGUIRE: What Does Obama’s Common Sense Tell Him? “It was a bit of a plot twist to see the leading man booing the audience. Not entirely unexpected, considering the leading man, but still.”
NICK GILLESPIE AND TODD KRAININ: 5 Unacknowledged, Unexpected, and Unavoidable Facts about Govt Spending and the Economy.
RECOVERY SUMMER! Retail Sales Fall . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . Unexpectedly! “Retail sales in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in March by the most in nine months as employment slowed, showing households ended the first quarter on softer footing.”