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PolitiFact: Providing Cover Since 2009

March 31st, 2015 - 7:44 am

PunditPress ran the numbers behind PolitiFact’s so-called fact-checking, and they ain’t pretty:

PolitiFact’s Obameter has been ongoing for six years now. I remember looking at it in 2009 and thinking about how it would stand near the end of Obama’s term in office.

Today, looking at the chart, there are many more “promises kept” than there are “promises broken.” Yet anyone who has been paying attention over the last few years would surely see that Mr. Obama had broken a tremendous amount of promises.

So why does PolitiFact still have Mr. Obama’s promises kept at nearly twice those broken? I decided to take a look.

The first thing I did was see what promises were considered broken. It’s a fairly hefty list, but some of the very largest are completely missing. The biggest, and most famous, broken promise is that “if you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor.” That was proven irrefutably to be a lie.

According to PolitiFact, that wasn’t a broken promise. In fact, that promise doesn’t exist; it’s no where to be seen on their “promise broken” page.

Read the whole, devastating thing.

How’s That Workin’ Out for Ya?

March 31st, 2015 - 5:20 am

Obama has allowed Iran to run wild through the Middle East in hopes of making a deal with them regarding their “peaceful” nuclear program.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

March 17th, 2015 - 5:05 am

BN-HI554_deduct_G_20150310161354

If you’ll recall, it was just last week I speculated that the declines in consumer spending, for three months running and despite falling fuel prices, might have something to do with ♡bamaCare!!!’s tender mercies.

Well:

Deductibles are an element of any insurance product, but as deductibles have grown in recent years, a surprising percentage of people with private insurance, and especially those with lower and moderate incomes, simply do not have the resources to pay their deductibles and will either have to put off care or incur medical debt.

The chart above, based on a Kaiser Family Foundation study published Wednesday, shows that about a quarter of all non-elderly Americans with private insurance coverage do not have sufficient liquid assets to pay even a mid-range deductible, which at today’s rates would be $1,200 for single coverage and $2,400 for family coverage. We found that more than a third don’t have the resources to pay higher deductibles. Among low- and moderate-income households, even fewer are able to meet deductibles. It’s no wonder that collections for medical debt represent half of all bill collections. The estimates are conservative because they assume that people have all of their liquid assets available to pay their health-care bills. But most people must tap into their liquid assets to meet other obligations, such as their rent or mortgage, car repairs, or educational costs.

It’s difficult to spend more when you’ve got to pay more for basic medical services — and Lord help you if you get really sick. ♡bamaCare!!! plans basically provide catastrophic coverage at Cadillac prices.

The theory behind increased deductibles and copays is to force people to have more skin in the game, and to shop around more for better prices. The problem is, that just doesn’t work under a insurance-for-everything system.

There’s not much of an incentive to shop around when the savings go to the insurance companies rather than to the customers. And how exactly are we supposed to shop around when ♡bamaCare!!! creates narrower and narrower coverage networks from which to choose?

Imagine insurance covered grocery shopping — I’m sure there’s a liberal with some boneheaded scheme very close to that already. Anyway, the same plan will pay for choice meats at Whole Foods, or for the sad, wilted vegetables at Walmart. Any savings you get while shopping at Walmart go directly to your “food insurer,” and the deductible and the copays remain the same at either place. There are other grocery stores in town less expensive than Whole Foods and with a better selection than Walmart, but they’re outside of your grocery network.

Are you going to go for the grass-fed ribeye at Whole Foods, or those turnips at Walmart that look like they hit their sell-by date over a week ago?

That’s essentially the system ♡bamaCare!!! has set up. It’s expensive for you and for me, but Whole Foods and the organic beef producers just love it.

Sign “O” the Times

March 12th, 2015 - 12:05 pm

Chart of Doom

Consumer spending still sucks:

The Commerce department reported that in February, retail sales missed once again and missed big and across the board, the third big miss in a row, with the headline print coming at -0.6%, far below the 0.3% expected, and in line with the -0.8% drop last month. Putting the headline numbers in context: December -0.9%, January -0.8%, February -0.6%. Surely a great time for the Fed to hike.

Excluding the volatile autos and gas, sales dropped once again, sliding -0.2%, below the 0.3% expected – in fact below the lowest estimate – and worse even than last month’s downward revised -0.1% decline. And with that the worst run in retail sales since Lehman is now in the record books.[Emphasis in original]

Falling gas prices were supposed to spur more spending on other things — so what’s happening?

I have several guesses, none of them good, and a few of them involving ♡bamaCare!!!.

EDITION

That pretty little number up there is Apple’s most expensive Edition model, topping the charts at $17,000 per. Availability will be “limited” as will be outlets at which to buy it. You won’t be hitting the Apple Store at your local mall to try on one of those babies.

The Sport line starts at $349 as promised and tops out at $399. The only differentiation is the 38mm versus 42mm sizes — all colors and bands cost the same. The bands are so easy to switch out, I expect many buyers will be happy to spend another $49 each for extras in various colors to suit their moods. The buy-in might look steep, but this is easily the best smartwatch made right now, and I don’t expect it to obsolesce any time soon. It’s also a safe bet that, like iPhones and iPads, there will be a lot of kids getting some very nice hand-me-downs as their parents upgrade. Casa Verde has a perfectly-functional iPhone 1 and an iPhone 3GS floating around here somewhere, which might still be getting use if we hadn’t run out of people to use them.

That said, I don’t know if the Sport will be another “line up at the Apple Store weeks in advance” item at launch — but it’s easy and safe to predict that Apple will sell oodles of them.

The stainless steel Watch line is where the pricing gets really interesting, and also quite competitive.

LOOP

Pricing starts at $549 for the smaller model with a rubber Sport band, and tops out at $1099 for the larger model with the link bracelet. I fell in love at first sight with the Milanese Loop bracelet back in September, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s one of the less-expensive upgrades at $649-$699. (On all but Edition 18k gold models, the price difference is always $50 between the 38mm and 42mm sizes.) Since Watch is “the” Apple Watch, I’d expected a broader range of prices, starting at $649 or so and topping out around $1500 — and I suspect even those prices wouldn’t have scared off many prospective buyers.

Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Reader™ and watch collector Mr Lion commented, “The stainless pricing is spot on. A grand for a gadgety daily wear is perfect,” and I think he’s spot on with that comment. It’s not easy to find any stainless steel watch for $999 with a link bracelet as nice as the one Apple Watch has. Throw in all the smartwatch features and it becomes a no-brainer. I’d wager it’s going to be the upper-middle-class accessory item in the next 12-18 months.

About those Edition prices…

When you buy a gold Rolex, you aren’t just paying for the gold — you’re also paying for the intricate and hand-tooled mechanisms inside, which with proper care will last more than a lifetime. But an Apple Watch — whether Sport or Watch or Edition — is still just an Apple Watch with electronic guts which will be obsolete in five years or so. In other words, when you buy an Edition watch, you’re really just paying more for the gold. Some buyers will find that’s worth their money, but I don’t know if that will prove to be as many buyers as Apple expects. On the other hand, if the company really is moving into fashion, it might serve them well to have a very, very select clientele of Edition buyers.

We’ll know for sure if Edition flopped if prices come down, or if the line quietly disappears from Apple’s selection.

When Apple previewed their new watch last fall, I wrote:

Steve Jobs liked to say that Apple stood at the intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts. That’s a fine place to stand, but that corner might have seen as much development, if I may belabor the analogy, as it’s going to get for a while. You have a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone — we’re running out of places to put computers. Which is why everyone has expected “wearables” to be the Next Big Thing for a couple of years now, ever since the smartphone and tablet markets started closing in on their saturation points.

It’s time then for Apple, or for somebody, to set up shop at a new crossroads — the intersection of Technology and Style.

After seeing today’s demo and the prices, all I would add now is that Apple has set up a very big and profitable shop at those crossroads.

Sign “O” the Times

March 6th, 2015 - 9:29 am

Consumer spending is down, initial jobless claims are up, and Marc Cuban says we’re in a tech bubble “far worse” the the DotCom Bubble of 2000:

“If we thought it was stupid to invest in public Internet websites that had no chance of succeeding back then, it’s worse today,” he wrote in a blog post detailing the risks facing the current crop of angel investors and crowdfunders (more on that below).

He’s not alone in his fear-mongering. While retail investors are all-in, equity-wise, as are corporations, prophets of doom are counting the moments until the cards fall in the public markets, as well. The thing is, they’ve been counting them for years now. Check out the chart of the day for how long it’s been since we’ve felt a serious pullback. Spoiler alert: almost three years.

Doug Kass, president of Seabreeze Partners, has been anticipating some weakness for a while now, and he’s positioned himself to turn a profit when that day comes.

The difference between the last two bubbles and today is, we weren’t already sitting on $18,000,000,000,000 worth of debt, interest rates weren’t already at zero, labor participation was increasing not decreasing, and the Fed hadn’t already expanded its balance sheet by multiple trillions.

I really want to be wrong about this, but it’s difficult not to fear the worst.

The Future of War is Now

March 2nd, 2015 - 7:28 am

DEFCON

The infographic above does a gorgeous job of making plain Russia’s sometimes difficult-to-quantify hybrid warfare against Ukraine.

Over at Jane’s, Reuben F Johnson uses that chart and some cold analysis to determine that Russia’s newfangled operational art “is working” to keep Ukraine destabilized:

Overall, the Ukrainian military continues to be severely disadvantaged by not being equipped with a list of the items that are becoming well known to those watching the current situation in eastern Ukraine: secure communications systems; anti-tank guided weapons with tandem warheads; counter-battery radars; UAVs for both reconnaissance and strike missions; and the ability to stream multiple intelligence sources into centralised command centres to get inside the ‘decision loop’ of the Russian-backed forces.

As I’ve noted before, the beauty of Putin’s warmaking is that he can dial it up or down on the X or Y axis virtually at will, which serves to keep NATO divided and confused, while giving himself a working combination of political cover and military gain.

This is the Operational Art of War brought fully into the 21st Century, allowing a much weaker actor (Russia) to leverage its few strengths against a much stronger potential opponent (NATO) to get what he wants (Ukraine) without a full-scale war.

This is what President Look At Me Looking At Me derided with “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion.” But we know who is really living in the 21st Century and who is stuck in the past.

Friday Night Videos

February 27th, 2015 - 10:24 pm

It’s another “I Apologize for Nothing!” edition of FNV.

Ah, Gino Vannelli — Canadian master of cheesy light rock and body hair. He’s easy to make fun of, and even SCTV took a shot at him in a “Lee Iacocca’s Rock Concert” sketch with Eugene Levy playing Vannelli. Every time he turned around or the camera angle changed during his performance of “I Just Wanna Stop,” Levy was, werewolf transformation style, covered with more and more body and facial hair. It’s starts at about the 4:50 mark in this YouTube clip. Snark aside though, Vannelli sold a ton of records and cut a few single which haven’t aged too badly.

Tonight’s pick, “Wild Horses,” was Vannelli’s penultimate single to chart in the US, and for whatever reason it really caught my ear during senior year at Missouri Military Academy. I had this cheap boombox for playing tapes and picking up the local radio stations in Mexico, Missouri, and it was my policy when listening to the radio to have a scratch tape ready to go. “Record” and “Pause” were pressed at all times, so when I heard a new song I liked, I would just release the pause button and record it straight off the radio in crystal clear FM-radio-to-crap-cassette quality. This one was a minor hit, and I was lucky enough to have had a scratch tape ready to go the second — and final — I ever heard it on the air.

The tape got lost in the sands of time, but somehow this one popped up in my suggestions on the iTunes Store while I was searching for some other bit of high school-era pop-fluff — and you know what? It’s still all right. Oh, you can hear the producer throwing every single mid-’80s studio trick at it, trying to generate a big hit, but the lyric has some lovely imagery and the music somehow fits Vannelli’s Disco Shirt Chest Hair delivery.

This one’s a keeper.

Friday Night Videos

February 20th, 2015 - 10:11 pm

Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby” is easily one of the weirdest and creepiest songs ever to chart — and yet the music is perfectly cheesy ’70s soft rock.

Don’t believe me? I bet you haven’t heard this one in ages, so listen and, um, see.

Strange Bedfellows

January 28th, 2015 - 8:51 am

LE PEN

Huh:

A week before the attack on Charlie Hebdo, France’s leading gay magazine, Têtu, announced the winner of its annual beauty contest. His name was Matthieu Chartraire, and he was 22, doe-eyed and six-packed, with perfectly groomed hair, stubble and eyebrows. A pin-up in every way — until he started talking.

To the anger of many of the magazine’s readers, the Adonis of 2015 turns out to be an outspoken supporter of the Front National. Têtu’s editor-in-chief, Yannick Barbe, refused to play censor. ‘It’s within his rights to vote for the FN even if we don’t share his beliefs,’ he said. ‘This is a beauty pageant, and our readers’ vote was only based on a single criterion! He only stands for himself and not for the gay community.’

Barbe has a point (although from next year, it’s worth noting, entrants for Têtu’s beauty contest will have to sign a code of ethics that rejects discrimination). But his assertion that Chartraire does not stand for the gay community overlooks a trend that has been accelerating over the last decade: French gay votersare falling for the Front National’s leader, Marine Le Pen. A survey by the polling firm Ifop indicates a dramatic increase in support for the FN among homosexual and bisexual voters since the French presidential elections of April 2012.

The National Front is the party in France with the strongest anti-Muslim stance. Given the desire of a sizable fraction of France’s sizable Muslim minority for Sharia law…

…does the poll really seem all that strange?

Jobless Claims Up, Up, and… Away?

January 22nd, 2015 - 2:14 pm

JOBLESS CLAIMS

Tyler Durden reports that as oil prices are plunging, jobless claims are spiking — mostly in big energy-producing states like Texas, North Dakota, and Colorado:

Not “unambiguously good” as Shale states see initial jobless claims spiking. Overall initial jobless claims missed expectations for the 4th week in a row, holding above 300k for the 3d week in a row (for the first time since July). At 307k, this week’s print is below last week’s but well above the 300k expectation. However, across TX, CO, ND, PA, and WV, initial claims (1 week lagged) rose to over 75k (from 30k in October)… “crisis has passed”?

Losses like these are supposed to come out in the wash, as money that had been going to the shale oil fields gets redirected to consumer spending. But we’re in uncharted waters here, as energy jobs are some of the few high-paying blue collar jobs left in this country.

I get the feeling the money we save at the pump will be going to buy cheap Chinese crap directly, instead of first going through the hands of an oil worker in North Dakota, but we’ll see.

Straight Outta Chartres

January 15th, 2015 - 11:25 am

Today’s Trifecta features what might be Scott Ott’s best close ever, which is impossible to say lightly.

About That Jobs Report…

December 8th, 2014 - 10:52 am

Chart of Doom

In case, after six years of Obamanomics, you hadn’t yet learned to read below the headline numbers, maybe Jeff Cox help you with that:

Friday’s turbocharged jobs headline came thanks to seasonal adjustments and other wizardry at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported that U.S. job growth hit 321,000 even as the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent.

That big headline number translated into just 4,000 more working Americans. There were, at the same time, another 115,000 on the unemployment line. That disparity can be explained through an expanding labor force, which grew 119,000, though the participation rate among that group remained at 62.8 percent, which is just off the year’s worst level and around a 36-year low.

But wait, there’s more: The jobs that were created skewed heavily toward lower quality. Full-time jobs declined by 150,000, while part-time positions increased by 77,000.

Cox notes that analysts “mostly gushed over the report,” which should also teach you all you need to know about most analysts.

The Oil Bubble

December 5th, 2014 - 11:03 am

From Charles Hugh-Smith via Tyler Durden:

Since 2009, central state/bank authorities have backstopped the private banking sector and the sovereign debt market with everything they’ve got. The Federal Reserve alone threw something on the order of $23 trillion in guarantees, loans and backstops at the private banking sector, and the other central banks have thrown trillions of yuan, yen and euros to shore up the banking sector and sovereign debt.

They did this because they identified the banking sector and sovereign debt as the sources of systemic risk. Now that they’ve effectively shored up these two risk-laden sectors with the full weight of the central state and bank, they presume the systemic risk has been eradicated.

They could not be more wrong. As I often note, risk cannot be disappeared, it can only be masked or transferred. The systemic risk will not manifest in the heavily protected banking sector or the sovereign debt market–risk will break out of sectors that are considered ‘safe”–like oil.

Yesterday, I described how The Financialization of Oil has followed much the same path as the financialization of home mortgages in the 2000s: a “safe” sector has been piled high with highly profitable and highly risky debt and leverage.

We just had a conversation an hour or two ago about what declining oil prices might do to Vlad Putin’s Russia, but Russia isn’t the only country at risk of financial ruin. Before we get to that though, a brief word about the Saudis.

The Saudis don’t enjoy so much control over the price of oil just because they have so much of it, although that is a part of their control. The other part is that their oil is the highest quality (light, sweet), easy to get to (scratch the sand and the oil comes forth), and easy to market (the oil fields are right there on the coast). So the Saudis can sell oil at a profit at prices which drive higher-cost producers out of business.

The fracking revolution has done wonderful things for our economy, but fracking is far from a low-cost method of oil production. See this from an October Reuters report:

ROBERT W. BAIRD EQUITY RESEARCH (Oct. 14)
“We estimate $73 as the weighted average breakeven point for
U.S. supply.”

SHALE FIELD BREAKEVEN OIL
PRICE PER BARREL
Eagle Ford Liquids Rich $53
Wolfcamp North Midland $57
Bakken Core $61
Niobrara Extension $64
Eagle Ford Oil $65
Niobrara Core $68
Wolfcamp South Midland $75

Bakken Non Core $75
Texas Panhandle $81
Mississippi Lime $84
Barnett Combo $93

At the time of this writing, crude oil is trading at under $70.

Much of our present recovery, lame as it is, is due to the revolution in fracking. The jobs pay well, the work requires lots of expensive equipment, and those benefits plus the benefits of cheaper energy ripple through the rest of the economy. So it’s great to watch Putin squirm as the rug is pulled out from under his imperial ambitions, but if Hugh-Smith is right, the US economy could be looking at an oil bubble ready to pop — a bubble every bit as big as the real estate bubble of 2007-08. The ripple effects we’re enjoying now could easily become the giant sucking sound of trillions of dollars leaving the economy.

Can we afford for the Fed to inflate its balance sheet by several additional trillions? Can we afford another trillion-dollar stimulus? Can we afford seven trillion more in debt? Can we afford negative interest rates?

Which begs further questions still.

Where would the Fed’s newly-minted trillions go? Who would be the beneficiaries of Washington’s renewed largess? Who would buy our debt? What happens to an economy when banks become the Fed’s enlarged syphons of middle class savings?

I’m not sure there’s ever been First World economy as dependent on the production of extraction wealth as ours has become under Obamanomics. We’re in uncharted waters here, but its plain to see for anyone willing to look that they are treacherous.

Goin’ South

December 2nd, 2014 - 1:44 pm

SOCIAL INSECURITY

Social Security’s inevitable insolvency keeps getting pushed up:

Social Security’s trustees projected in 1983 that the recently enacted Social Security reforms would keep the program active for at least the next 75 years, through 2058. However, according to research by Rachel Greszler, a senior policy analyst, and James M. Roberts, research fellow for economic freedom and growth at The Heritage Foundation, that approach date has accelerated.

“If the trend since 1983 continues, the program will become insolvent in 2024—34 years earlier than originally projected,” Roberts writes.

The problem with the inevitable is that it always seems to happen. Sooner, in this case, than most people are willing to admit.

Friday Night Videos

November 7th, 2014 - 10:27 pm

I can (almost) promise you that I’ll never play Kool & The Gang again — but you can’t blame me this one time, can you?

Look, I understand they’re mostly cheesy. K&TG was to funk what Foreigner was to rock — chart-friendly & risk-free pop fluff.

But “Celebration” is perfect right now and this live performance from 1983 is 90% funk and only 10% cheese.

Japan’s Last Chance

October 30th, 2014 - 7:39 am

Chart of Doom

Stephen Roach takes a look at Japan’s most recent attempt to spend its way to prosperity:

Abenomics, with its potentially powerful combination of monetary and fiscal stimulus, coupled with a wide array of structural reforms, was supposed to end Japan’s “lost decades.” All three “arrows” of the strategy were to be aimed at freeing the economy from a 15-year deflationary quagmire.

Unfortunately, not all of the arrows have been soaring in flight. The Bank of Japan seems well on its way to delivering on the first one – embracing what it calls quantitative and qualitative easing (QQE). Relative to GDP, the BOJ’s monetary-policy gambit could actually far outstrip the efforts of America’s Federal Reserve.

But the flight of the other two arrows is shaky, at best. In recent days, Abe has raised serious questions about proceeding with the second phase of a previously legislated consumer-tax hike that has long been viewed as the linchpin of Japan’s debt-consolidation strategy. Abe has flinched because the economy remains weak, posing renewed risks of a deflationary relapse. Meanwhile, the third arrow of structural reforms – especially tax, education, and immigration reforms – is nowhere near its target.

Abenomics, one might conclude, is basically a Japanese version of the failed policy combination deployed in the United States and Europe: massive unconventional liquidity injections by central banks (with the European Central Bank apparently now poised to follow the Fed), but little in the way of fundamental fiscal and structural reforms. The political expedience of the short-term monetary fix has triumphed once again.

I think it’s safe to conclude that politicians — and this is universal, not unique to Japan — will never undertake serious political or economic reform, so long as they’re allowed to take the easy way out of printing money.

Printing money feels good, it’s easy to achieve, and it provides effortlessly the illusion of prosperity. Real reform means pushing even your friends off of the gravy train and forcing even the most entrenched business interests to compete. That makes for unhappy power brokers — the only real anathema to progressive political leaders.

So it’s free money for everybody forever. But as Heinlein wrote, anything free is worth what you pay for it — you just don’t find out until later.

Well, it’s later than they think.

Your Scary-Ass Chart of the Day

October 29th, 2014 - 6:12 am

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

October 28th, 2014 - 9:19 am

CONOVER

A new study from the well-respected and non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research (and published by Brookings Institution), overcomes the limitations of these prior studies by examining what happened to premiums in the entire non-group market. The bottom line? In 2014, premiums in the non-group market grew by 24.4% compared to what they would have been without Obamacare. Of equal importance, this careful state-by-state assessment showed that premiums rose in all but 6 states (including Washington DC).

Of course, Obamacare enthusiasts will argue that I’m ignoring all the subsidies provided to Exchange members. It’s certainly true that for those lucky enough to qualify for such subsidies, the typical size of a subsidy in any given state would have been sufficient to protect such individuals from the premium increases shown in the chart above. But that ignores the fact that out of an estimated 13.2 million people covered in the non-group market in second quarter 2014 (Kowalski’s estimate), only about 7 million qualified for subsidies.[2] Thus, there were 6.2 million in the non-group market who had to absorb these premium increases without the benefit of any help from Uncle Sam.

Moreover, the fact that federal taxpayers were handed the privilege of having to offset such premium increases using their hard-earned tax dollars should in no way obscure the reality that Obamacare caused premiums to rise in the first place.

The net result? Taxpayers are on the hook for a 24% increase in subsidy expenses due to ♡bamaCare!!!’s requirements and strictures.

But I’m sure we’ll make it up in volume.

The Numbers Game

October 20th, 2014 - 12:12 pm

usgs_line.php

As a longtime proponent of cutting government spending, and a reluctant-at-best GOP voter, I couldn’t wait to dig into the latest from Sally Kohn, detailing the GOP’s “anti-tax austerity” and “bash and slash” cuts to Washington DC.

I must admit I was a little hesitant, because I couldn’t remember any actual, you know, austerity under George W. Bush, what with those deficits of his that were so large they were unpatriotic even. And I was hard-pressed to think of any slashes to government spending, even with the GOP in charge of the House.

Nevertheless, I dug right in and was shocked to see the numbers Kohn had dug up.

[crickets chirping]

OK, so Kohn didn’t provide any numbers per se, just a collection of mean things various Republicans, including Ronald Reagan who hasn’t even been a president for a very long time, have said about Washington, DC.

The numbers I have here show that government spending rose under Bush, then found a new and even higher plateau under Obama.

But I’m sure the slashing and the austerity must be in there somewhere.

I’ll contact Kohn for an addendum to her piece.

[crickets chirping]

Friday Night Videos

October 17th, 2014 - 10:54 pm

Not sure what happened to last week’s FNV — other than it seems to have been eaten whole by the WordPress Gods (or *ahem* user error) and by the time someone alerted me to it, it was too late to repost. But I’m going to save that one for later because this week we need something different.

Going into the final midterm stretch requires something bouncy and brainless. Of course I have an iTunes playlist devoted to music which is nothing but. And you can probably guess that there’s a lot of chart-friendly disco on my B&B playlist, because popular music rarely gets more bouncy and brainless than disco, with the possible exception of Charo’s guest appearances on The Love Boat.

So let’s begin our disco roundup this week with Leo Sayer doing his best Frankie Valli in the unrelentingly bouncy and unmercifully catchy and mercifully short, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”

Leo and the pretty backup singers and the band are giving it all they got, but watch as the audience just stands there without feeling like dancing at all. I was too young to have watched The Midnight Special regularly, or to have remembered much of the few I did see. So I don’t know if just standing there is what the audience usually did, or if they really weren’t into the song.

Either way, I still get a kick out of it in the car, where I can’t dance at all.

ADDENDUM: Charo seems like a lovely person, who for all I know has an IQ in the Wile E. Coyote Supergeeeeeenius range. What I do know for sure is that I spent nearly half of my preteen years staring at her shorts.

First Ebola Nurse “Doing Really Well”

October 17th, 2014 - 12:00 pm

At last, good news:

Nina Pham, saying “I’m doing really well,” left Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in an ambulance for a chartered small jet waiting at the city’s Love Field. The plane departed at 7:09 p.m. CT and arrived at an airport at Frederick, Md., less than three hours later.

Pham walked off the plane with assistance while wearing a protective suit. She climbed into an ambulance for transport to the National Institutes of Health’s state-of-the-art facility in Bethesda, Md.

Fellow health-care workers lined her path out of the Dallas hospital, cheering and waving signs expressing love and support for their colleague.

Let’s hope this scare serves as a wakeup call, even if the current administration hits the snooze alarm for the next two years.

And the Second Runner Up Is…

October 13th, 2014 - 2:14 pm

SMARTPHONE SALES

It’s no surprise that just a couple weeks after they launched, Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus dominate sales at all four major US carriers. But what did surprise me is that the year-old iPhone 5S is the third bestselling smartphone, knocking Samsung’s Galaxy S5 (no relation) off the charts, even though it’s only been available since April.

I’m sure the hundred dollar price cut has something to do with that, but happy Galaxy buyers have been able to find the S5 for as little as $49 down.

So maybe cheap materials and deep discounts aren’t so good for longterm success.

Punching Above Their Weight

October 13th, 2014 - 8:38 am

PRIZES

You might have seen Business Insider’s chart of Nobel winners since 1910 (H/T Glenn), but I found it interesting for what BI left out. If you break Israeli winners out, that tiny country’s total is 12, just behind the Netherlands’ 17 and with a population of almost 17 million. Israel has about eight million people.

And despite being a fraction of one percent of the Earth’s population, Jews of all national origins have won about 20% of all Nobel prizes — and that ain’t chopped liver.

Required Reading

September 26th, 2014 - 7:41 am

Tom Dougherty on the Tea Party:

In reality, either the Tea Party is considerably less conservative than the narrative suggests, or their influence has been wildly exaggerated. Many on the far right have suggested it was the Tea Party uprising that carried the GOP to a wave victory in 2010, giving them their majority in the House. Others suggest that despite subsequent failures to win elections, the Tea Party inspired a more staunch conservatism in those elected in 2010, and forced the Republican conference to the right. While the first point might have merit, the latter is simply not supported by evidence, namely the voting records of the Senate and House Republicans.

Looking at the voting scorecards, in the first year of every Congress since 2001, from The American Conservative Union (ACU), the GOP has moderated considerably in both chambers since 2009. In fact, the current Senate Republicans tie the lowest average rating in the last 12 years; and the current House Republicans have the lowest average in the last seven Congresses. Notably the trend is the same in both chambers despite different majorities, and the House average has dropped more than the Senate.

You’ll definitely want to read the whole thing, which is data driven and filled with handy charts and graphs. The lesson here though might not be that the Tea Party has been ineffective, or that it has been maligned, or perhaps both. The lesson might be that such a loud and dedicated constituency is enough to tip the balance to the Democrats on election day if they feel Congress has ignored their concerns.

Read on a bit further:

When we look at the above analyses, we have to wonder: Is the Tea Party actually a more realistic, grounded group of voters, represented by more moderate legislators, than the media narrative would have us think? It certainly could be. Has the colloquial use of the label, “Tea Party,” been overused and corrupted by what is actually a smaller subset of unyielding ideologues? Quite possibly it has. Are there a handful of opportunists who have hijacked the moniker for their own selfish purposes, while doing very little to influence the legislative process? As I’ve written before, there most assuredly are. Is it possible that a diverse and decentralized group of local and regional organizations simply cannot be arbitrarily unified under a single brand called the “Tea Party?” I think so.

In the sense that it’s like herding cats, the Tea Party and the libertarians seem to have a lot in common.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 25th, 2014 - 6:23 am

Chart

I’m all out of “if you like your plan you can keep it” jokes, and anyway this isn’t funny:

Now here is what is really strange and it is explained superbly by Bob Graboyes, a health economist with the Mercatus Center, in this video. There are gaps between the corridors. And if your plan happens to fall within one of the gaps, it is no longer a valid plan.

Suppose you are in a Bronze plan with an actuarial value of 58%. Then, a year from now, because of price changes, technology changes, or some other kind of change, your plan suddenly covers 60% of expected expenses. That’s good for you, right? Wrong. Because your plan no longer fits into one of the metallic corridors, it’s no longer a valid plan – despite the fact that it has become a better plan!

Now let’s suppose you have a really good plan – a plan that pays 98% of expected health care costs. Given the large number of Democrat’s who believe that health insurance should pay almost every medical bill, you would think that the law passed by a Democratic Congress without a single Republican vote would strongly encourage such a plan. If you’re inclined to think that, you are mistaken, however.

Any plan that pays more than 92% of expected health care costs for the average enrollee is illegal under ♡bamaCare!!!.

The clusterfudge has only just begun.

Sign “O” the Times

September 24th, 2014 - 8:27 am

CHART

Here are the fruits of incentivizing massive college debts, keeping young adults on mom & dad’s health insurance, and inflating housing prices:

Last week, an annual Census Bureau survey showed that the U.S. added just 476,000 households in the year ended in March, compared with an average of 1.3 million in each of the prior two years.

The Census releases a separate quarterly survey that also provides household formation figures, though economists say the annual survey is a better gauge of household formation. The quarterly survey has also shown weak household formation—around 650,000 new households—for the same period measured by the annual survey that runs from March to March.

Either way, for the most recent year, both surveys “show disturbingly slow growth,” said Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist in Leesburg, Va.

And yet the GOP has pretty much given up on marketing to these poor kids who aren’t really kids anymore.

Sign “O” the Times

September 23rd, 2014 - 6:11 am

POOR HOUSE

Robert Samuelson warns that the next economic surprise is a longterm one:

[Economist Robert] Gordon, a respected Northwestern University scholar, contends that mainstream economic growth predictions are wildly optimistic. His own calculations are more restrained. By 2024, he reckons, the economy’s annual output (gross domestic product) will be nearly $2 trillion lower — almost 10 percent — than projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Government debt will be 87 percent of GDP in 2024 instead of the CBO’s estimate of 78 percent. Disappointing output will also pressure the Federal Reserve to move earlier against inflation by tightening credit, he says.

The gist of Gordon’s argument is that the nation’s productive capacity — what economists call “the supply side” — will expand only slowly. It won’t keep up with the stronger consumer demand embodied in other forecasts. As a result, inflationary pressures will be higher and GDP lower. The “economy is on a collision course between demand-side optimism and supply-side pessimism,” he writes in a study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Combine that projection of low growth with yesterday’s Scary-Ass Chart showing who has been benefitting from our economic growth, and together they detail the end of the American middle class.

At last, the Progressive dream made real.

Scary-Ass Chart of the Day

September 22nd, 2014 - 7:37 am

SCARY

That’s a NY Times chart, annotated for you by Tyler Durden. You’ll notice that the lines diverge not long after the Fed began its permanent policy of cheap money.

I realize correlation is not causation, but at some point we really ought to try something else.

Twenty-Two Trillion and Nothing On

September 16th, 2014 - 12:09 pm

rectorchart

Sigh:

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

That’s Heritage’s Robert Rector in The Daily Signal, detailing how much we’ve spent since LBJ launched the War on Poverty 50 years ago, and how little we have to show for it. For some of the explanation, let’s go back to Rector:

Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

The media frequently associate the idea of poverty with being homeless. But less than two percent of the poor are homeless. Only one in ten live in mobile homes. The typical house or apartment of the poor is in good repair and uncrowded; it is actually larger than the average dwelling of non-poor French, Germans or English.

The other part of the explanation lies in Rector’s chart, reprinted above.

You’ll notice that before 1964, the US economy was waging its own War on Poverty — and winning. Once the anti-market insanity of the New Deal ended with Roosevelt’s last breath, and the wartime economy had the chance to recover to peacetime conditions, poverty was rapidly decreasing.

Then Washington took over, and the decline turned into a flatline.

It’s almost as though LBJ’s War on Poverty was just a $22,000,000,000,000 vote-buying scheme and permanent paycheck racket for otherwise unemployable do-gooders.

Far from the “colossal flop” Rector calls it, the War has resulted in a stunning and ongoing victory.