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Belmont Club

Mohammed Versus the Mountain

February 3rd, 2014 - 3:00 pm

The first quarter of 2014 is shaping up like this: the Obama administration is going entirely on the defensive. It’s domestic goal will be to stave off the emerging counterproposals to Obamacare, which is clearly in trouble. Internationally the administration will try to save its Iran nuclear nonproliferation deal, together with its linked handmaiden, the Syria policy.

The threat to Obamacare is on two fronts. The first are moves to prohibit “bailouts” to insurance companies. These bailouts will come in two forms: the “risk corridors” through which the government will reimburse losses to companies incurred in the course of participation and the reinsurance through which the administration picks up policies which go bad.

The second challenge to Obamacare are emerging alternatives such as the Coburn-Burr-Hatch plan, also known as the CARE act. It would replace Obamacare with a system of health vouchers to invididuals and block grants to the states to handle Medicaid. Individuals who receive these means tested vouchers can either buy insurance with it or receive a default-selected policy of equivalent worth. The block-grant aspect of CARE is interesting because it opens the possibility that together with the vouchers, individual states can design their own programs ranging from single payer systems to much more free market systems. This fits in nicely with the Health Care Compact framework proposed by Leo Linbeck, which has now been enacted in several states and envisions precisely that kind of freedom of choice.

Obamacare is failing. Health insurance companies say that up to 20% of Obamacare premiums remain unpaid, despite as many as 10 attempts to collect them. It has adversely selected the old and infirm into its ranks. Some insurance companies have already estimated their reinsurance claims in preparation for filing them.  The entire billing and payments system remains a shambles. The Washington Post reports that tens of thousands of mistakenly filled applications are sitting in a computer with no way to correct them.  ”For now, the appeals are sitting, untouched, inside a government computer. And an unknown number of consumers who are trying to get help through less formal means — by calling the health-care marketplace directly — are told that HealthCare.gov’s computer system is not yet allowing federal workers to go into enrollment records and change them, according to individuals inside and outside the government who are familiar with the situation.”

Obamacare’s advocates are now resorting to arguing that taxpayer payouts to insurance companies are not bailouts. Yual Levin at the National Review, for examples, refutes through Washington Post’s assertion by Sarah Kliff that there is technical difference between something called a bailout and an equivalent payment that is not called a bailout.

And when it fails there will be a outcry for a fix.  The Coburn-Burr-Hatch plan’s best bet is to watch the edifice collapse and step forward with a replacement. Perhaps the most indicative talking point is the one floated by Taegan Goddard of Roll Call inoculating the public against this very possibility. He quotes sources who say that while Obamacare is a real stinker it’s too late to go back now.

“All consumers would take a huge financial hit, because health care costs would continue to rise, and insurers would probably recoup their losses by charging higher premiums.”

“The insurers have invested a lot in the law, and if they lose money through repeal, it could cause everyone else’s premiums to go up, Alan Cohen, chief strategy officer for Liazon, said. …

Kaiser Health News: “Some influential conservatives [and groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,] are now saying the health care law is too entrenched to repeal.”

There’s no alternative but to ride ‘er down to Davy Jones because it’s too late now. Too late for everything. Basically the argument is that Obamacare is the Hotel California. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

On the international front the administration will try and deal with the dual collapse of the Iranian and Syrian situations. The Daily Beast quotes two senators quoting John Kerry’s off the record admission that his Syria policy is failing.

Kerry also said he believes the regime of Bashar al Assad is failing to uphold its promise to give up its chemical weapons according to schedule; that the Russians are not being helpful in solving the Syrian civil war; and that the Geneva 2 peace talks that he helped organize are not succeeding. But according to the senators, Kerry now wants to arm Syria’s rebels—in part, to block the local al Qaeda affiliates who have designs on attacking the U.S. (Kerry’s spokesperson denied that he raised the issue of supplying weapons, but did not dispute the overall tenor of the conversation.)

“[Kerry] acknowledged that the chemical weapons [plan] is being slow rolled, the Russians continue to supply arms, we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, who attended Kerry’s briefing with lawmakers on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. “He openly talked about supporting arming the rebels. He openly talked about forming a coalition against al Qaeda because it’s a direct threat.”

The much-ballyhooed Syria peace conference collapsed in a heap of ruins. Lakhdar Brahimi of the UN admitted that absolutely no progress took place. “We thought that if we first addressed some of the humanitarian issues perhaps we could achieve something there, but we didn’t,” he said.

And as for Iran, Obama is about to be stampeded by his NATO partners, hungry for business and eager to do deals with Tehran. The French foreign minister said Paris would have “significant commercial opportunities” in Iran if sanctions are lifted, according to Reuters. The Germans were even more forthright. Foreign Policy says “sanctions relief has corporations in Berlin salivating at the chance to make money in the Islamic Republic.”

Rather pathetically Secretaries Kerry and Hagel held a press conference in Munich to plead for a “transatlantic rennaissance”.

MUNICH — In an unusual joint appearance overseas, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told European allies Saturday that Washington would depend more heavily on them to tackle a litany of political and security crises, even as the two pushed back against concerns that the Obama administration was abdicating leadership on the same issues. …

The Americans encountered some concern, however, that the Obama administration was retreating from Washington’s traditional leadership role in security matters, citing its unwillingness to become directly involved in the civil war in Syria or the popular uprising in Ukraine.

If Obama thinks he can restart the sanctions when the Iranians cheat on him he has got another thing coming. The administration is finally coming to the realization that the glory days of “fundamentally transforming America”, of rolling victoriously across the steppe runnng down Republicans in its path are over.  The consequences of its errors are now hemming it in on every side. The goal is now to survive.

It has now been announced that President Obama is going to Saudi Arabia to mend fences with the Kingdom. The Washington Post says “the White House announced Monday that President Obama will travel next month to Saudi Arabia, where he will hear from an ally anxious about developments that have transformed the Middle East and strained the kingdom’s relations with the United States. … The relationship has since deteriorated further over the issue of Syria’s civil war, in which Saudi Arabia is arming rebel groups seeking President Bashar al-Assad’s overthrow, and over Iran’s nuclear program.”

The administration is playing defense both domestically and internationally. The best Obama can now hope for is that no serious catastrophes — other than those already foreseen — occur in 2014. It is quite a comedown from 2008, when he talked about a time when the seas would begin to fall from the power of his climate change policies.

The Saudi trip recalls Francis Bacon’s bon mot: “Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers, for the observers of his law. The people assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still, he was never a whit abashed, but said, If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.”


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Top Rated Comments   
The notion that it's "too late" to repeal Obamacare is absurd. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and repealing it is the only logical option. Yes, it may cost more money than if nothing had been done in the first place, but that is water over the dam, and it's certainly cheaper than limping along with a healthcare system that doesn't work.

Chalk it up to the cost of education. The lesson being learned is that central control of any financial system is risky, and usually doesn't work.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
buddy larsen,
Thinking of "The Ransom of Red Chief."

On this occasion I disagree with our host. The administration is not playing defense. They are being deliberately offensive to create "Facts on the Ground." Judge their intentions from their results.

The results domestically are an isolated and weakened America and a culture less reliant on individual choice and the rule of law. The losers domestically are those groups who did not enthusiastically support Obama, and a few useful idiots like Jews who did support him but who are treated as enemies anyway.

The results internationally are an empowered Iran, China and Russia in that order. The losers internationally, besides America, are Israel, the Anglosphere (the UK, India, and over time Oz, Canada, and the Settler Remnant in South Africa).

The argument that Obama's loyalties are more with the Sunni than the Shi'a rests on thin ice. Besides his bow to the King of KSA and his exposure to the Sunni affiliated Black Muslims of Chicago, headquartered near his house in Hyde Park-Kenwood, there is little reason to assume where his sympathies lie before observing his actions.

In college he traveled to Pakistan with his drug dealing roommate. What do we know of that individual and what Obama's religious as well as political and foreign connections were? Nothing good to be sure. It has been my assumption that the easy stories about the birth certificate were planted as land mines to obscure the real issues.

If Obama's conduct is most easily explained by considering him as an agent of Iranian influence, in concert with Chinese and Russian interests then what predictive power do we gain from that model? Can we postulate what may happen next? Is the theory falsifiable by using it to predict events?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fantasy dream --the Sauds arrest the whole bunch for Crimes Against Veracity --and hold 'em for reverse ransom. "Pay up or we'll release him!"

I know I'd kick in --i'd hock the farm!
11 weeks ago
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All Comments   (66)
All Comments   (66)
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Obamacare's failures are not viewed as a bug by it's developers - they are features, designed to force a single-payer nationwide government-run health insurance AND healthcare system.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, isn't this special? Looks like part of the problem with the O-care website is the result of outsourcing software work to programmers in Belarus: "U.S. intelligence agencies last week urged the Obama administration to check its new healthcare network for malicious software after learning that developers linked to the Belarus government helped produce the website, raising fresh concerns that private data posted by millions of Americans will be compromised. . . . Specifically, officials warned that programmers in Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, were suspected of inserting malicious code that could be used for cyber attacks, according to U.S. officials familiar with the concerns. . . . 'The U.S. Affordable Care Act software was written in part in Belarus by software developers under state control, and that makes the software a potential target for cyber attacks,' one official said."

http://freebeacon.com/the-belarusian-connection/
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
At about the same time that the Federales admitted to Congress that they had not yet written 65% of the website, including the "back end" that gets money and information to the actual insurers; they admitted that it included the security aspects of the whole site and the many connections. Signing up for Obamacare is the equivalent of putting all your personal and financial data on Facebook. The fines are much cheaper, especially since with the Obamacare plans it is like not having any insurance and paying for top line insurance.

Subotai Bahadur
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
11 weeks ago
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Wretchard said "If Obama thinks he can restart the sanctions when the Iranians cheat on him he has got another thing coming." The original, somewhat old-fashioned colloquialism is "If you think that (something obviously incorrect), you've got another "THINK" coming. I remember my Dad using this phrase 50 years ago.
11 weeks ago
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Typo, error, or not, 'thing' sho nuff fits the context better than 'think'.
11 weeks ago
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Buddy,
It's kinda like "Think again!"
11 weeks ago
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yeh --i got that, but i was picturing, what is coming is not that second thought, but http://therealmcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/the-thing-poster.jpg
11 weeks ago
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And then there is the Ukraine. NATO/EU cheerleading has egged on the demonstrators and is making a negotiated settlement very difficult if not impossible. The likelihood of major violence and even a Russian invasion is increasing because of this meddling.

A war in central Europe. Where have we seen that before. That would really reset our relationship with Russia.

There's supposed be something happening in East Asia, too.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
http://www.rferl.org/content/No_End_Of_Frozen_Conflict_In_Moldovas_Transdniester_/1802579.html

...is a succint account of the contending forces over this prize:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dniester

Ukraine wholly surrounds the separatist, Stalin-salted, Russian-passported, Russian army garrisoned, 400,000 pro-Moscow citizened, Transdniester.

http://the8thcircle.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/un-moldova-public-domain1.png

IOW, an exact political copy of the situation in Georgia, prior to the Russian invasion during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Trouble will start if/when Putin blows the dog whistle. Russia will have to 'rescue the Transdniestrians' (like the 'rescue of the South Ossetians and Abkhazis') through Ukrainian territory --there's no other route.

11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Damn, you blew the dog whistle on that one. Between that and quoting Nyquist, how long before our old friend appears to get the jump on reputation management? ;)
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
J.RRRrrrr Nyquil's buddy Cliff Kincaid already had his go at the NSA whistleblower Russ Tice. In mid-January Kincaid first tried to insist Tice's testimony was bogus (to which Tice responded by pointing out he'd be in prison or exiled had he obtained the files he witnessed on then State Senator Barack Obama). He then sought to justify it while ignoring that NSA would definitely need a warrant (at least within 72 hours of initial tap) to spy on a known U.S. person:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irgFbYe7AAA&list=UUukW9fbX4m5MpOmQ2M5isVg&feature=c4-overview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N42K2k49X2c&list=UUukW9fbX4m5MpOmQ2M5isVg

"But the guidelines under which the NSA operates, stipulate that investigating an American political figure for connections to foreign terrorists and regimes is permitted and justified" yes Clifford, when they actually go to the FISA Court and get a WARRANT! And domestic counterintelligence last I checked is still primarily the FBI's job.

Nyquill blogged early in January that regardless of whether the N Stasi A really is keeping J. Edgar Hoover style dossiers on politicians and judges as Tice alleges, it's all just to distract us from the Rooskies. So I guess Tice is in on the vast Commie conspiracy too. As he sarcastically replied to Kincaid at the National Press Club, there were hundreds of judges and Congressmen on the N Stasi A's lists that he (Tice) saw and they weren't all Communists or connected to Bill Ayers. So poor Kincaid who just isn't all that bright trolls and fails again.

http://www.aim.org/aim-column/what-does-the-nsa-know-about-obama/

And for those of you who still think 'Accuracy in Media' is a conservative, as opposed to Establishment Dead Elephants org, out of all the politicians that gave statements praising Mandela...they attack Ted Cruz. They also went after Matt Drudge at the same time Media Matters was attacking him. Apparently Drudge links too often to Brother Alex Jones, or something. Maybe J.R. Nyquill and his favorite sock puppet (for all I know he could be J.R. himself) @StopAgitprop aka @ReginaldQuill can show up here and start accusing Subotai of being part of the vast 'Kremlin right wing neo-Confederate insurrectionist agitprop campaign'.

Did I mention Cliff has a fetish for cops who like to beat dudes up for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial?
11 weeks ago
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Heh --i almost feel sorry for him --his task is tough --every time the bear squashes something, he has to come come tell us, ''It really wasn't THAT much of a squash, it was juuust a little squash, and anyway the squashee deserved it, and will probably recover some day anyway!"
11 weeks ago
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Well Uddy Barsen, all I can tell you is that the bear hasn't exactly been squashing much since 2008. How many wars have the U.S. government and NATO either fought or proxy initiated since that year? Libya, Syria, ring a bell?

Slava bogu, it looks like some sort of peaceful settlement and early elections are in the cards for Ukraine. However I should emphasize here that the Crimea and the eastern part aren't exactly going to respect a new government that was installed after snap elections brought about by street theater AND violence. If a right of revolt existed against Yanukovich's government, why shouldn't the folks in the Crimea tell a Klitschko government to buzz off and leave them the helll alone? Oh I forgot because they're backed by the eternal Evil Empire, so they if do the same damn thing the Maidanists did it's Putin making trouble not people spontaneously rising up to defend their rights...
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
''Oh I forgot because they're backed by the eternal Evil Empire, so they if do the same damn thing the Maidanists did it's Putin making trouble not people spontaneously rising up to defend their rights...''

Very well-said, Mr. X! I couldn't've said it better myself! Honestly --don't you feel better now?
11 weeks ago
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PS, the west bank of the river is high and hilly, the east bank is low and flat. The east bank is the end of the vast Eurasian steppe, and is the actual archaological birthplace of civilzation if the 'city' is the marker. Farming communities of up to 15,000 residents date back to plus 5,000 years BC --substantially pre-dating the usually-credited-as-'first' cities of Mesopotamia.

Transdniester, the political area strung along about 20% (my estimate) of the river's 850 mile length (from the Ukrainian Carpathians to the Black Sea, signifcantly debouching just southwest of the important Russian port city of Odessa), discourages (if not outlaws) the use of the Latin alphabet.
11 weeks ago
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Which leads to the concept of what new frontiers of appeasement and obfuscation that "Teh Won" will create if such a rescue takes place? Especially during the Olympics. And speculations?

Subotai Bahadur
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, the red army follows doctrine, and doctrine calls for a rising tide of incidents --fodder for the world red press to twist --leading to what will be by then an actual peace-restoration invasion and occupation. So Sochi-time is probably safe. Russian agitprop is having a hard time at the moment --seems the living standards of the Transdniestrians is slipping badly relative to the same-language Moldavians --the Ruble flow is not up to snuff for the nonce. So Kremlin is not prepping for a showdown at this time, and is doing a little cost-cutting. But red army ain't going anywhere, so no problem, i guess.
11 weeks ago
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I'd say the agitprop campaign desperately seeking to link anybody and everybody on the Right who doesn't like the NSA or who criticizes American foreign policy with Moscow is floundering, despite RFE/RL, Jamie Kirchick/FDD, the Daily Beast, and the Naval Twitter War College (under Hatch Act investigation by DOJ) all giving it their best shot Uddy Barsen. Did I mention Accuracy in Media is now trolling Ted Cruz? That should tell you a lot about where their bread is buttered. Even Cruz wanting more sanctions on Iran apparently isn't enough for the Beltway bandits behind AIM and the Fake Right...
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent work, Mr X. A slide-show of the American indefensibles, intercut with the barely-defensibles and the questionables. I could return serve, say, mention the Molotov/Von Ribbentrop Pact as the source of the angst along the Dniester, esp since that was the topic, or at least it was before you changed it to the beltway bandits, who execrable personages tho they largely may verily be, probably had nothing to do with the M/VR Pact.

America --under near one-party rule with that party all but doctrinally openly anti-Constitutional --is lately hard to defend en arguendo vs anyone speaking for any place under control of whomever it appears to actually be under the control of.

If it was a prize fight, Uncle Sam vs the Bear, Uncle Sam has for a century or so had one hand tied behind his back. Now that Obama's bunch is that one hand, it has wrenched the entire arm out of its socket and fed it to the Bear. So yes it is a parlous time, but the old feller is still on his feet --and getting wiser by the minute.
11 weeks ago
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"Some influential conservatives are now saying the health care law is too entrenched to repeal.”

In this we agree. We need revolution and the terror, not repeal.
11 weeks ago
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Be careful what you wish for.
11 weeks ago
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For sure. There was far more than just the Terror --the Vendee Genocide killed maybe ten times the number of the Terror.

http://tiny.cc/x8tsax
11 weeks ago
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Obama's domestic woes does not stop at Obamacare only.

The real possibility of a massive market correction, the diminished return of QE, and other financial disaster(s) are all there.

There is only so much that Krugman can say 'rightwing delusion of Obamacare failure', or David Gregory 'Obama doesn't get credits for the economy recovery', or anything other media spin. Or use distractions like gay marriage / marijuana legalization to fill the airwaves.

If anything the clip of the employees in a western PA small business found out about their new healthcare plan cost is any indication, I hope those LIVs will start questioning their premises more than just Obama's promised 'free' healthcare.
11 weeks ago
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And the Senators running for election worry, because on their shoulders "you've got me" just took on a whole new meaning.

Two factors mitigate against what ought to be an avalanche against Democrats.

1) The Propaganda Machine which will cover up everything it can, assault Republicans virulently and do puff pieces and openly promote Democrats.

2) The Republican's unfettered ability to garble the message and failure to articulate a coherent description of the abysmal performance of leftist tyranny in action.

3) The Republican "surrender monkey" approach, the mascot that has killed the rally monkey and is breeding it out of existence.
11 weeks ago
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Ann Coulter: "My friend died because of Obamacare"
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/02/03/ann_coulter_my_friend_died_because_of_obamacare.html

Really, had the big O-bomb hit just four months earlier, I'd have been in about the same boat. I lost my insurance just as a heart issue arose last May, and had to wait about two months to resolve the insurance issue (a hyper-expensive "last resort" policy which Obama and Jerry Brown summarily cancelled last December for an even more expensive and less value policy, which I declined). I gambled rather than risk losing my house, and the good Lord kept me in body and soul. However, with what turned out to be a 97% blocked artery, I could have lost that gamble at any time. I'm gambling now that the blood thinners and other medication will help me avoid any critical issues in the next 60 to 90 days, when I hope to be able to afford insurance (or perhaps gain VA coverage).

There will be many folks literally dying due to Obamacare in the coming months, no joking and no exaggeration.
11 weeks ago
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I lucked out so to say in August 2010 when I was diagnosed with a nearly 100% blocked LAD. I was racing dirt bikes and the problem was accelerated and thus uncovered. Told my GP that if she did not get me some diagnostic analysis immediately should could forgo the dietary advise and write me off because I would be dead by the end of the year. This set the ball rolling.

I went in Thursday for a stent (total insurance about 60k) and went into work Friday where I was handed my pink slip. Nice touch that.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
My mom had a 98% blocked artery and they operated on her successfully 12 months ago. She was out in 3 days and I watched over her for a couple of weeks at home until she was back to normal.

The problem with blocked arteries is that little bits of blockage can scab off and hammer you with a stroke. There was some risk going in because of her age, but not to do it would be risky. So we went for it and it turned out fine.

There was no waiting period for that surgery. She went from the ultrasound test result to pre-operation prep after the doctor talked to us.
11 weeks ago
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Hell, in your case, from Obama's point-of-view, if you had taken flight to the great beyond due to Obamacare, he'd've been telling OReilly the truth when he said 'the ACA is working just fine' --!
11 weeks ago
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God can take me when He pleases, and I'll be both quite ready and satisfied. However, Lord willing, I'll remain alive for another 30 years as a well armed, "bitter clinger" Christian patriot, just to spite the progressives!
11 weeks ago
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God willing, I'll be hanging in there too!
11 weeks ago
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--me three, tho i might wish you'd use a different gerund
11 weeks ago
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All those problems are real, but like an army that has outrun its supply lines just trying to hold your ground can lead to disaster when the inevitable counter attack comes. Obama and his progressive friends have myriad enemies including the most heartless of all reality. The market has dived 6% in the last 30 days and a lot of the money in there is leveraged. An optimist would say we are seeing profit taking in the recent drop but the realist tells me the sell off is going to intensify as the margin calls come in. This could turn into a major route. It might have been triggered by Fed wind down or problems in Argentina, or over exuberance in the run up or a bad ISM report but I think now it might take on a life of its own. and if the employment numbers due out Friday are weak the bears might be as devouring as the Seattle Seahawks secondary.
11 weeks ago
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