Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fast Money Crew vs Peter Schiff (No, This Is Not 2007)

I posted this video on my other blog more specifically about trading, but I'm posting here, too. It seems like the once-popular game of ridiculing and scoffing at Peter Schiff, which has never gone away, is back on again.

The last time the financial media played this game and thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the expense of Peter Schiff, who remained calm throughout, was right at the stock market top in October 2007 and the start of the recession/depression we're currently in (officially December 2007):

Maybe, just maybe, the market is fast approaching another top, only to crash, just like the last time they laughed at Schiff.

This time around, they may be attacking Schiff for another reason: Schiff may be running for Senate against Chris Dodd (chairman of Senate Banking Committee), as libertarian candidate.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cash For Clunkers Interest Fades

A fine example of how a government program works (or doesn't work).

Interest Fizzles in Cash for Clunkers (8/14/09 Newsweek)

"What started with a bang could end with a whimper. The government's cash-for-clunkers program was a smash out of the gate. People stampeded showrooms after its late-July launch to trade in an old car or truck for a check of $3,500 or $4,500 to put toward buying a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. But since the early days of the program, interest is fading."

Well, that was quick. Inquiring minds want to know why (if only to be polite).

"Carmakers would be happy to build more compact cars and family sedans, if that's the only thing slowing the success of the program...

"But, which tracks vehicle pricing and buying data, says there's something else at play. When the public thought the program would cease after the first $1 billion was spent, it rushed to dealerships. Now that there is more money, there's no urgency to get there. In fact, car shopping on the Web that is tied to the clunker program is down 15% from its peak. By Aug. 20, we could be back to pre-clunker sales levels, says."

A local radio show host gave another possible reason this morning. He was talking about the cash for clunkers program and how cumbersome the program was for the car dealers. According to this radio show host who talked to enough number of dealers in the area, the participating dealers have had their cash for clunkers applications (40-page long) returned, because of some minor error here and there. Instead of correcting only those errors and re-submitting the applications, the dealers have to restart the application process from the scratch.

It seems that the government computers are still mainframe computers from 1970s.

Maybe it is a matter of time before the dealers say "@#$% it, it's not worth anyone's time."

The interesting part of the article for me is the next to last paragraph [emphasis is mine, my comment in italic]:

"J.D. Power & Associates (which, like BusinessWeek, is owned by The McGraw-Hill Companies (MHP)) thinks that most of the cars purchased through the program were simply sales that would have happened this year but were pulled ahead a few months. [yeah who could have known?] The company believes as few as 20% of the cars bought in the program are really new sales to the market. That means as many as 80% of the cars would have been sold this year anyway, says Gary Dilts, president of J.D. Power's auto industry group. That means that there will likely be payback with some slower sales months after the program expires."

So, this $3 billion (taxpayer-funded) cash for clunkers money provides for 750,000 new cars and trucks and SUVs, and only 20% of these are new sales to the market. That means the government is pouring $3 billion to generate new sales of 150,000 cars/trucks/SUVs.

That's $20,000 per new sales.

I don't know the average price of cars/trucks/SUVs purchased, but let's see, according to US News and World Report Rankings & Reviews,

  • Ford Escape average price paid: $18,197 - $24,678
  • Ford Focus: $13,561 - $15,891
  • Jeep Patriot: $16,346 - $22,204
  • Dodge Caliber: $15,517 - $23,224
  • Ford F-150: $19,055 - $38,709
  • Honda Civic: $13,761 - $21,568
  • Chevrolet Silvarado: $17,826 - $36,815
  • Chevrolet Cobalt: $14,179 - $21,547
  • Toyota Corolla: $14,316 - $18.101
  • Ford Fusion: $17,495 - $25,031

The government could have simply purchased 150,000 brand-new small cars (they can be had for much less than $20,000) and spared the dealers the headache and paperwork, saved at least part of consumers who bought from going deeper into debt.

Better yet, they could have turned around and sold them to the public at a later date at a small discount, and recouped most of the money spent.

Consumer Sentiment Sinks Stock Market

Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Survey was out this morning, and the stock market quickly headed south at the survey result.

This is a preliminary reading for the month of August, and likely to be revised. Still, the index of confidence fell to 63.2, lowest since March and lower than 66 in July. The economists were predicting the rise, ranging from 64 to 75 (according to Bloomberg; median was 68.5, according to Reuters article below).

(What were they thinking?)

INSTANT VIEW: Consumer sentiment at lowest level since March (8/14/09 Reuters) [emphasis is mine]

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence fell in early August as a growing number of Americans fretted about their finances even though they expected the broader economy to improve, a survey showed on Friday.

"KEY POINTS: * The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary reading of the index of confidence for August fell to 63.2 from 66.0 in July. This was below economists' median expectation of a reading of 68.5, according to a Reuters poll. * The index of consumer expectations fell to 62.1 in early August, its lowest reading since March and down from 63.2 in July. * "Consumers reported much less favorable assessments of their personal finances even as they were more likely to expect improved conditions in the national economy," the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said in a statement. * The fewest consumers in the survey's sixty-year history reported improved finances, with many citing job losses, shorter working hours and smaller wage gains, said the survey."

The article continues with comments from the economists and analysts. This is one of them:

"TOM SOWANICK, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, CLEARBROOK PARTNERS, PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY: It was a much weaker than expected report. I think economists put too much weight on the equity rally to forecast this number. My sense is that it will be revised higher, in part due to the cash for clunker program."

That's my sense, too. The economists thought rising stock markets will make consumer happy. Hmmmm. They are economists, aren't they, and not stock market analysts or traders?

The cash for clunkers program being the sentiment lifter, I don't know about that. The program put more people into more debt.

More than anything, however, the main culprit that soured the consumer confidence and future expectations may be the administration's health care "reform" plan as it is being played out across the country in town hall meetings. When people perceive a huge bureaucracy on top of already huge bureaucracy that would be created with this "reform" which has to be supported by taxpayers, additional tax burden on individuals and businesses in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and clear lack of decency (e.g. Pelosi's "un-American", Reid's "evil-mongers") and leadership, what else would you expect from the consumers other than lower readings on the survey, both now and future? And this health care "reform" bill is just one of many more costly projects by the administration.

The second page of the Reuter's article features more positive comments from the economists, that the pullback in consumer confidence was expected, that nothing goes up in straight line (just like the stock market). My sense is that the stock market will pretty much ignore what's going on on the Main Street. No matter how lousy the consumers continue to feel, the market will continue to be disconnected from that sentiment and the market participants will continue to call the survey like this "a lagging indicator". In that, I agree with the last comment on the Reuter's article:

The data is weighing on the market, but the effect won't last long. There's usually a knee-jerk reaction whenever confidence data comes in weaker than expected, but then the market moves on because the data is transitory. The data doesn't relate all that much to consumer spending, which we've seen shape up pretty well over the back to school season. My bet is the market will soon ignore this. I'm not really concerned about the number. Markets climb a wall of worry, and it looks like we still have a little more wall to climb."

And the disconnect continues.

For today so far (I wouldn't rule out a reversal), Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 138 points (1.48%) to 9259, Nasdaq is down 35 points (1.77%) to 1973, S&P 500 is down 14 points (1.47%) to 997, as of 12:55 PM EST.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reid's Town Hall "Evil-Mongers" and a Little Kitty Laughs

Not to be outdone by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "protesters are un-American", the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling town hall protesters "evil-mongers".

Reid: Protesters are 'evil-mongers' (8/13/09 The Hill's Blog Briefing Room)

"Town hall protesters are "evil-mongers," says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

"Reid coined the term in a speech to an energy conference in Las Vegas this week and repeated it in an interview with Politics Daily.

"Such "evil-mongers" are using "lies, innuendo and rumor," to drown out rational debate, Reid said.

""It was an original with me," Reid said of the term. "I maybe could have been less descriptive," he said, adding that "I doubt you'll hear it from me again."

"Nevertheless, Reid worked in the word one more time during the interview.

""I feel I haven't done anything to embarrass [my children]," Reid joked. "Except maybe call somebody an evil-monger.""

I was looking for an article that would make me laugh so that I could use this cute little gif animation, and now I've found the above. Good. And here's a kitty I found at Market Ticker.

What else can you do at this point, other than to laugh?

I simply do not understand the psychology of a person who calls his fellow Americans "evil-mongers", and is seemingly proud of the term he created.

And at the local town hall meeting in my area, people who were shouting down and drowning the legitimate concerns and opinions were, guess who? The supporters of the health care "reform" as proposed by Mr. Reid's Party. So much so that the Congressman who was conducting the town hall meeting mistook, at least initially, them as "opponents". After a particularly loud applause and shouting in support of what he just said, the Congressman thought the noise came from the opposition and admonished the audience for "not allowing the rational discussion". (He is not quite known as the sharpest guy in town, for sure.)

Opposition Is Not Allowed, Secret Service Will Come Get You

"Death to Obama" Sign Holder Detained by Secret Service
(8/13/2009 NBC Washington)

"There were signs comparing President Barack Obama to a Nazi and showing him with an Adolf Hitler-style mustache, but federal officials believe another sign referencing the president and his family went too far.

"A man who was holding a sign reading "Death to Obama" Wednesday outside a town hall meeting on health care reform in Hagerstown, Md., has been turned over to the Secret Service.

"Lazich said U.S. Secret Service agents took the unidentified 51-year-old man into custody Wednesday afternoon after deputies detained him near the entrance to Hagerstown Community College.

"Obama was not at the meeting held Wednesday by Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.
"Barbara Golden, special agent in charge of the agency's Baltimore field office, said Thursday that an investigation is ongoing but declined further comment. A spokesman at the agency's Washington headquarters also declined to discuss the investigation."

President Obama was not even at this particular town hall meeting. What was the Secret Service doing there? They declined comment.

Read the comments in the link. One comment says this guy works for ACORN, that this is a typical Alinsky technique. Agent Provocateur.

(By the way, Saul Alinsky's book that I linked above is a very interesting read. Actually a must-read to understand what's been going on. President Obama must know those techniques well.)

The NBC article has this picture. I've seen this poster depicting Obama with Hitler-like mustache at a town hall meeting in my area. The poster was carried by a young black woman. (Hmmmm. Agent provocateur, eh?)

And what will happen to this guy? Will he be sent to an unknown location to be detained indefinitely as a "terrorist"?

It's been quite a change since February.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camille Paglia on Health Care "Reform"

Let's hear also from an Obama supporter and a Democrat, albeit an unorthodox one.

Here's Camille Paglia's article on Salon.

Obama's healthcare horror: Heads should roll -- beginning with Nancy Pelosi's! (8/12/09 [emphasis is mine]

She starts by affirming her support for President Obama (I don't know why she feels it necessary to do so, but...):

"Aug. 12, 2009 Buyer's remorse? Not me. At the North American summit in Guadalajara this week, President Obama resumed the role he is best at -- representing the U.S. with dignity and authority abroad. This is why I, for one, voted for Obama and continue to support him. The damage done to U.S. prestige by the feckless, buffoonish George W. Bush will take years to repair. Obama has barely begun the crucial mission that he was elected to do."

And then,

"Having said that, I must confess my dismay bordering on horror at the amateurism of the White House apparatus for domestic policy. When will heads start to roll? I was glad to see the White House counsel booted, as well as Michelle Obama's chief of staff, and hope it's a harbinger of things to come. Except for that wily fox, David Axelrod, who could charm gold threads out of moonbeams, Obama seems to be surrounded by juvenile tinhorns, bumbling mediocrities and crass bully boys."

Here we go (but does she ever reflect that "juvenile tinhorns, bumbling mediocrities and crass bully boys" are there because their boss perhaps wants them to be there?), now she's talkin'.

"Case in point: the administration's grotesque mishandling of healthcare reform, one of the most vital issues facing the nation. Ever since Hillary Clinton's megalomaniacal annihilation of our last best chance at reform in 1993 (all of which was suppressed by the mainstream media when she was running for president), Democrats have been longing for that happy day when this issue would once again be front and center.

"But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises -- or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down."

So far, however, her criticism is targeted toward the handling of the bill by the Dems, not the bill itself. But hang on...

"... The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.

"You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you're happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.

"I just don't get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? The U.S. is gigantic; many of our states are bigger than whole European nations. The bureaucracy required to institute and manage a nationalized health system here would be Byzantine beyond belief and would vampirically absorb whatever savings Obama thinks could be made. And the transition period would be a nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups, which we can ill afford with a faltering economy.

"As with the massive boondoggle of the stimulus package, which Obama foolishly let Congress turn into a pork rut, too much has been attempted all at once; focused, targeted initiatives would, instead, have won wide public support. How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again? Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves.

"What does either party stand for these days? Republican politicians, with their endless scandals, are hardly exemplars of traditional moral values. Nor have they generated new ideas for healthcare, except for medical savings accounts, which would be pathetically inadequate in a major crisis for anyone earning at or below a median income.

"And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the "mob" -- a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech.

"But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. [Please read my post (first link) on the subject.] If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it."

Phew. Ms. Paglia should have voted for Ron Paul instead of BO.

The page 2 of this Salon article talks about Sarah Palin's "death panel" remarks, which I thought interesting:

"As a libertarian and refugee from the authoritarian Roman Catholic church of my youth, I simply do not understand the drift of my party toward a soulless collectivism. This is in fact what Sarah Palin hit on in her shocking image of a "death panel" under Obamacare that would make irrevocable decisions about the disabled and elderly. When I first saw that phrase, headlined on the Drudge Report, I burst out laughing. It seemed so over the top! But on reflection, I realized that Palin's shrewdly timed metaphor spoke directly to the electorate's unease with the prospect of shadowy, unelected government figures controlling our lives. A death panel not only has the power of life and death but is itself a symptom of a Kafkaesque brave new world where authority has become remote, arbitrary and spectral. And as in the Spanish Inquisition, dissidence is heresy, persecuted and punished."


"What was needed for reform was an in-depth analysis, buttressed by documentary evidence, of waste, fraud and profiteering in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Instead what we've gotten is a series of facile, vulgar innuendos about how doctors conduct their practice, as if their primary motive is money. Quite frankly, the president gives little sense of direct knowledge of medical protocols; it's as if his views are a tissue of hearsay and scattershot worst-case scenarios."

She sure packs quite a punch.

Obama's Death Panels

(Be sure to read other posts on H.R. 3200 health care "reform" by clicking here.)

A perspective on attacks on "death panels" comments, from Lew Rockwell, from's LRC Blog:

"On Morning Joe today, all the Republicans employed by the Obama regime via MSNBC were united with the Dems in chastizing Sarah Palin for her coment that Obamacare would lead to death panels promoting euthanasia and infanticide of the “unfit.” How could the mobs possibly think this? After all, Obama supports federal funding for killing the unborn, and his plan will massively expand this program. He sends his predator drones to kill those unfit for life, according to his calculus, in Afghanistan. He supports a war in Iraq that has taken a million lives. He has ethnically cleansed millions in Pakistan. He is the product of an ideological movement that is pro-euthanasia. Of course, Obamacare will eventuate in killing people. As to Sarah, her smart and courageous comment simply builds her support."

I'm not sure about his last sentence. I am not for or against her, but I think she's better off keeping quiet for a while. There are a lot of people who are against the bill or sections of the bill, who are not ardent Republican or neoconservative supporters, but she is conveniently used by the supporters of the bill to paint the opposition as "right-wing".

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More on Section 1233 of H.R. 3200 from Washington Post

(Be sure to read other posts on H.R. 3200 health care "reform" by clicking here.)

With contentious town hall meetings going on around the country on health care "reform" (not in my neck of the woods), one of the aims of the supporters of the bill H.R. 3200 seems to be to attack people who question Section 1233 Advanced Care Planning Consultation.

Not only they paint the "naysayers" as Republican and right-wing (or worse), they insist that it is just an option to help out seniors. Well, is it? Nowhere in the section says this is an option, for a start.

And here's the take from Charles Lane at the Washington Post.

"Undue Influence" (8/8/09 The Washington Post):
[emphasis is mine; my comment in italic]

"About a third of Americans have living wills or advance-care directives expressing their wishes for end-of-life treatment. When seniors who don't have them arrive in a hospital terminally ill and incapacitated, families and medical workers wrestle with uncertainty -- while life-prolonging machinery runs, often at Medicare's expense. This has consequences for families and for the federal budget.

"Enter Section 1233 of the health-care bill drafted in the Democratic-led House, which would pay doctors to give Medicare patients end-of-life counseling every five years -- or sooner if the patient gets a terminal diagnosis.

"On the far right, this is being portrayed as a plan to force everyone over 65 to sign his or her own death warrant. That's rubbish. Federal law already bars Medicare from paying for services "the purpose of which is to cause, or assist in causing," suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing. Nothing in Section 1233 would change that.

"Still, I was not reassured to read in an Aug. 1 Post article that "Democratic strategists" are "hesitant to give extra attention to the issue by refuting the inaccuracies, but they worry that it will further agitate already-skeptical seniors."

"If Section 1233 is innocuous, why would "strategists" want to tip-toe around the subject?

"Perhaps because, at least as I read it, Section 1233 is not totally innocuous.

"Until now, federal law has encouraged end-of-life planning -- gently. In 1990, Congress required health-care institutions (not individual doctors) to give new patients written notice of their rights to make living wills, advance directives and the like -- but also required them to treat patients regardless of whether they have such documents.

"The 1997 ban on assisted-suicide support specifically allowed doctors to honor advance directives. And last year, Congress told doctors to offer a brief chat on end-of-life documents to consenting patients during their initial "Welcome to Medicare" physical exam. That mandate took effect this year.

"Section 1233, however, addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones. Supporters protest that they're just trying to facilitate choice -- even if patients opt for expensive life-prolonging care. I think they protest too much [I agree]: If it's all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what's it doing in a measure to "bend the curve" on health-care costs?

"Though not mandatory [nowhere in the Section says it is optional], as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren't quite "purely voluntary," as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) asserts. To me, "purely voluntary" means "not unless the patient requests one." Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive -- money -- to do so. Indeed, that's an incentive to insist.

"Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority. Once they're in the meeting, the bill does permit "formulation" of a plug-pulling order right then and there. So when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) denies that Section 1233 would "place senior citizens in situations where they feel pressured to sign end-of-life directives that they would not otherwise sign," I don't think he's being realistic.

"What's more, Section 1233 dictates, at some length, the content of the consultation. The doctor "shall" discuss "advanced care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to"; "an explanation of . . . living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses" (even though these are legal, not medical, instruments) [are medical doctors allowed to dispense legal advice??]; and "a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families." The doctor "shall" explain that Medicare pays for hospice care (hint, hint).

"Ideally, the delicate decisions about how to manage life's end would be made in a setting that is neutral in both appearance and fact. Yes, it's good to have a doctor's perspective. But Section 1233 goes beyond facilitating doctor input to preferring it. Indeed, the measure would have an interested party -- the government -- recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations. You don't have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach.

"As it happens, I have a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. I'm glad I do. I drew them up based on publicly available medical information, in consultation with my family and a lawyer. No authority figure got paid by federal bean-counters to influence me. I have a hunch I'm not the only one who would rather do it that way. "

It is indeed none of the federal government's business. How you want to be treated at the end of your life is a PERSONAL decision that you want make PRIVATELY, without the government interference.

Another reason I feel this section is "not innocuous" is the existence behind the scene of two doctors advising the administration. They, both medical doctors, seem to believe more in cost cutting than saving lives, with doctors deciding who gets what treatment on the basis of cost and (more disturbingly) whether they are productive citizens or not.

Yes, Economy May Have Bottomed!

Good one I found posted on Zero Hedge.

Local Town Hall Meeting on Health Care "Reform"

Since the place was overflowed with people trying to get in, I gave up, went home, and am listening to the live radio coverage.

The Democratic Congressman and his handlers clearly stuffed the place with supporters (this town doesn't have big enough businesses that have big unions, but it has a large university campus) who yell and cheer and applaud at every full stop.

The Congressman is following the script given by the Democratic Party but doesn't sound very confident. Actually, he's giving out wrong information about the bill. He's cutting off questioners if the questioners are against the bill, and calling every critical comment as "false", with no clarification (like citing the actual sentences in the bill, for example, Congressman?).

(BTW, the Congressman sounds like "George" in "Seinfeld"...)

But no matter. Ever since the university came to town, this town has been transformed into one of the most "progressive" town in the United States. And the audience applaud at the idea that private insurance companies may go bankrupt if this bill gets enacted.

If I were to ask questions to the Congressman:

  • If this bill is so good, as you depict, why then are the member of Congress exempt?
  • Medicare and Medicaid are bust. Why should the government take on more, when it can't manage these existing programs?
  • If the health care is a right, why are we paying for the right? Shouldn't a right be free?

Oh, and one more:

  • Do you agree or disagree with Ms. Pelosi that the health care "reform" protesters are "un-American"?

Section 3131 of H.R. 3200 Health Care "Reform" Bill - Preventive Care

Looking at various sections of the health care "reform" bill H.R. 3200, you can't help noticing some militaristic terms. You have "National Health Service Corps" (Section 2201) and "Public Health Workforce Corps" (Section 340L). You also have lots of "force" - workforce, task force. And "community organizing" is not forgotten, and there are lots of sections to promote "community"-based health care (whatever it means). Section 2214 Training of medical residents in community-based settings, Section 3132 Task force on community preventive services, Section 3142 Community prevention and wellness research grants, etc., etc.

(By the way, do we, the general public, even know what the government mean by "Community"? The President may know very well personally, as he, as an attorney, represented one such "community organization" (ACORN), but do we know? I haven't find anywhere where the word "community" is defined.)

That aside, here's another "force" in Section 3131 TASK FORCE ON CLINICAL PREVENTIVE SERVICES. Ardent supporters of the bill have said the "reform" will provide easy and low/no cost access to preventive health care. Let's see if that's the case.

`(a) In General- The Secretary, acting through the Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, shall establish a permanent task force to be known as the Task Force on Clinical Preventive Services (in this section referred to as the `Task Force').

`(b) Responsibilities- The Task Force shall--
`(1) identify clinical preventive services for review;
`(2) review the scientific evidence related to the benefits, effectiveness, appropriateness, and costs of clinical preventive services identified under paragraph (1) for the purpose of developing, updating, publishing, and disseminating evidence-based recommendations on the use of such services;
`(3) as appropriate, take into account health disparities in developing, updating, publishing, and disseminating evidence-based recommendations on the use of such services;
`(4) identify gaps in clinical preventive services research and evaluation and recommend priority areas for such research and evaluation;
`(5) as appropriate, consult with the clinical prevention stakeholders board in accordance with subsection (f);
`(6) as appropriate, consult with the Task Force on Community Preventive Services established under section 3132; and
`(7) as appropriate, in carrying out this section, consider the national strategy under section 3121.

What an all-knowing Task Force it should be! And who will be the member of this Task Force?

`(d) Membership-
`(1) NUMBER; APPOINTMENT- The Task Force shall be composed of 30 members, appointed by the Secretary.

`(2) TERMS-
`(A) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall appoint members of the Task Force for a term of 6 years and may reappoint such members, but the Secretary may not appoint any member to serve more than a total of 12 years.

`(B) STAGGERED TERMS- Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), of the members first appointed to serve on the Task Force after the enactment of this title--
`(i) 10 shall be appointed for a term of 2 years;
`(ii) 10 shall be appointed for a term of 4 years; and
`(iii) 10 shall be appointed for a term of 6 years.

`(3) QUALIFICATIONS- Members of the Task Force shall be appointed from among individuals who possess expertise in at least one of the following areas:
`(A) Health promotion and disease prevention.
`(B) Evaluation of research and systematic evidence reviews.
`(C) Application of systematic evidence reviews to clinical decisionmaking or health policy.
`(D) Clinical primary care in child and adolescent health.
`(E) Clinical primary care in adult health, including women's health.
`(F) Clinical primary care in geriatrics.
`(G) Clinical counseling and behavioral services for primary care patients.

`(4) REPRESENTATION- In appointing members of the Task Force, the Secretary shall ensure that--
`(A) all areas of expertise described in paragraph (3) are represented; and
`(B) the members of the Task Force include practitioners who, collectively, have significant experience treating racially and ethnically diverse populations.

In addition to these appointed 30-member Task Force, you get to have "Clinical Prevention Stakeholders Board", comprised of undetermined number of "stakeholders":

`(1) IN GENERAL- The Task Force shall convene a clinical prevention stakeholders board composed of representatives of appropriate public and private entities with an interest in clinical preventive services to advise the Task Force on developing, updating, publishing, and disseminating evidence-based recommendations on the use of clinical preventive services.

`(2) MEMBERSHIP- The members of the clinical prevention stakeholders board shall include representatives of the following:
`(A) Health care consumers and patient groups.
`(B) Providers of clinical preventive services, including community-based providers.
`(C) Federal departments and agencies, including--
`(i) appropriate health agencies and offices in the Department, including the Office of the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, the Office of Minority Health, and the Office on Women's Health; and
`(ii) as appropriate, other Federal departments and agencies whose programs have a significant impact upon health (as determined by the Secretary).
`(D) Private health care payors.

`(3) RESPONSIBILITIES- In accordance with subsection (b)(5), the clinical prevention stakeholders board shall--
`(A) recommend clinical preventive services for review by the Task Force;
`(B) suggest scientific evidence for consideration by the Task Force related to reviews undertaken by the Task Force;
`(C) provide feedback regarding draft recommendations by the Task Force; and
`(D) assist with efforts regarding dissemination of recommendations by the Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Now, do you feel secure that you have a easy, timely access to preventive care? I don't. Appointed (=unaccountable) people deciding on the level of preventive care. All I see is bureaucracy heaped on top of bureaucracy. I don't see how this could be low-cost either, because we have to pay for these people. Members of theTask Force will be considered "special Government employees". Members of the Stakeholders Board won't be, but they (and Task Force members) will receive travel expenses and per diem. (Federal per diem rate in District of Columbia is between $229 and $297 max, depending on the time of the year.)

And remember, we don't have money. Just today alone, the U.S. Treasury Department auctioned $72 billion worth of Treasury debts. By the end of this week, the Treasury will have auctioned $210 billion Treasury debts. In one week. Why are we being goaded into this "reform" when we have no money? With government health care (Medicare, Medicaid) already broke, why should we trust the government with the rest of health care? So that the rest of health care can go broke as well? If the argument is that the private health care is broke, why should the government be trusted to fix it, given the sub-steller track record in Medicare and Medicaid?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pelosi: Townhall Meeting Protesters Are Un-American

In an Op-Ed piece in USA Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the protesters at townhall meetings across the country against the government's health care "reform" bill "un-American".

'Un-American' attacks can't derail health care debate
(Nancy Pelosi/Steny Hoyer, 8/10/09 USA Today)

After paying their lip service to a great American tradition of debate and dissent, the authors say:

"However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted "Just say no!" drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.

"These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades." [emphasis is mine]

Hahaha. Good one, Madam Speaker. Who has been drowning out opposing views? Who's drowning out the facts? I think more people outside Congress have read the actual monstrocity of the bill H.R. 3200 than members of Congress have. A local radio network in my area has been reading the bill page by page for the past few weeks, every single morning.

"The first fact is that health insurance reform will mean more patient choice. It will allow every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it. And it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies."

Well, I wouldn't call those "the facts". H.R. 3200 will allow Americans who like their current plans to keep them. The hitch is that they are stuck with them and cannot change them if they want to, according to Section 102 of H.R. 3200. Doctors and patients are NOT free to make heath decisions, because Section 141 of H.R. 3200 says the Health Choices Commissioner, a Presidential appointee, will decide benefits.

"Now — with Americans strongly supporting health insurance reform, with Congress reaching consensus on a plan, and with a president who ran and won on this specific promise of change — America is closer than ever to this century-deferred goal.

"This fall, at long last, we must reach it. "

To reach the un-reachable... star... Good luck with that, Madam Speaker, after calling your fellow Americans "un-American" for daring to disagree with you. Your Nixonian rhetoric was ill-chosen and very ironic.

(I don't know which one to grade lower, Pelosi's "un-American", or Barbara Boxer's "they are too well dressed to be sincere".)

Geithner Asks Congress for Higher Debt Limit

Of course. We have to buy those Gulfstream jets for Congress.

Geithner asks Congress for higher US debt limit (8/7/09 Reuters)

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner formally requested that Congress raise the $12.1 trillion statutory debt limit on Friday, saying that it could be breached as early as mid-October.

""It is critically important that Congress act before the limit is reached so that citizens and investors here and around the world can remain confident that the United States will always meet its obligations," Geithner said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that was obtained by Reuters."

Hmmm... So, raising the debt limit to borrow more is supposed to somehow impart confidence in the investors around the world that the U.S. will always meet its obligations. By issuing more debt. That must be comforting. It's called "Borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul", or "ponzi scheme". Japanese call it 自転車操業 - a bicycle operation (if you stop pedaling, you and the bicycle will fall down). It could also be called "musical chairs" - you don't want to be the last one standing, holding the bag.

The debt limit has already been twice raised this fiscal year. The first was October 3, 2008, and the debt limit was raised to $11,315 billion. The second was February this year, after the stimulus bill passed Congress and was signed into law; the debt limit was raised to the current $12,104 billion.

Here're the recent debt limit numbers from Congressional Research Service "The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases" (April 7, 2009):

The debt limit increased 78% in 10 years from 1998 to 2008. The U.S. GDP grew 29% (from $10,508 billion in Oct 1998 to $13,142 billion in Oct 2008, in 2005 dollars; data: St. Louis Fed) during the period, and the U.S. population grew 10% (data: St. Louis Fed).

We are not going to pay this back, are we?

Congressional Summer Vacation a.k.a. Fact-Finding Mission

Despite the (feigned) outrage over the jet purchase, Congress seems set for some exotic summer vacations - no, fact-finding missions.

Opposition Emerges to House's Jet Spree (8/10/09 Wall Street Journal)

"WASHINGTON -- Bipartisan opposition is emerging in the Senate to a plan by House lawmakers to spend $550 million for additional passenger jets for senior government officials.

"The resistance to buying eight Gulfstream and Boeing planes comes as members of both chambers of Congress embark on the busiest month of the year for official overseas travel. The plan to upgrade the fleet of government jets, which was included in a broader defense-funding bill, has also sparked criticism from the Pentagon, which has said it doesn't need half of the new jets.

""The whole thing kind of makes me sick to my stomach," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) in an interview Sunday. "It is evidence that some of the cynicism about Washington is well placed -- that people get out of touch and they spend money like it's Monopoly money.""

"Some", Ms. McCaskill?

"The tension over the jets is erupting just as lawmakers embark on the high season for government travel. Traditionally, August is the busiest travel period of the year, since Congress usually recesses for a month... "

So where are they going this year? According to the article,

  • A delegation led by Mr. Boehner, House Republican leader, is going to Germany, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China, and rest in Vancouver, Canada, before flying back to Washington D.C.
  • A delegation led by Senator McCain is going to Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iceland
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Sen. Judd Gregg (R., N.H.) and others are going to London

The last one looks boring, but the other two look good to me. Some exotic locations like Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Libya, Yemen, Iceland. Summer in Bavarian Alps is nice, too (if that's where they are going). Fact-finding missions to the Galapagos islands can wait until the warm season there (December - May).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fact-Finding Mission by Congress Looks Real Good

Lawmakers' Global-Warming Trip Hit Tourist Hot Spots (8/8/09 Wall Street Journal)

"WASHINGTON -- When 10 members of Congress wanted to study climate change, they did more than just dip their toes into the subject: They went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. They also rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest, visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole.

"The 11-day trip -- with six spouses traveling along as well -- took place over New Year's 2008. Details are only now coming to light as part of a Wall Street Journal analysis piecing together the specifics of the excursion.

"The South Pole trip, led by Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.), ranks among the priciest. The lawmakers reported a cost to taxpayers of $103,000.

"That figure, however, doesn't include the actual flying, because the trip used the Air Force planes, not commercial carriers. Flight costs would lift the total tab to more than $500,000, based on Defense Department figures for aircraft per-hour operating costs."

Here's what the itinerary for the trip included, according to Wall Street Journal:

  • Touchdown in Christchurch, New Zealand, a few hours before the sunset on New Year's Eve. Enjoy the firework.
  • Prepare for the trip to South Pole. Free clothing provided for extreme cold weather.
  • Tour the Antarctica. Meet penguins. Sorry no spouses.
  • Australia. Diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Layover in Hawaii, relax at Royal Hawaiian Hotel before flying back home.

I hate to think what kind of rigorous fact-finding missions there are for the health care "reform". (Touring France in early fall sounds very rigorous to me.)

But hey, this is nothing. Only half a million for 10 members of Congress for 11 days. Less than $5000 a day per member. The prez himself may have blown a quarter million on a night out (a few hours) with his wife, while General Motors was preparing for bankruptcy.

The U.S. voters have only themselves to blame for electing them.

OT: Strange Humor of Google AdSense

Take a look at this screen shot. It was taken past midnight, so it was technically Saturday August 8. My blog proudly hosted a Trojan condom ad. I thought that was hilarious.

Google's AdSense is supposed to feed context-based ads, right? Either my article on cash for clunkers descrepancy was too hot, or it was Bob Marley' song that was X-rated...