Waste

32% more honey in Smokey Bear’s fire fighting budget

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Utterly unnecessary comments from Trump when he threatened to slash the Forestry Service budget due to supposed Forestry Management incompetence being behind the devastating fires in California. The budget of the US Department of Agriculture Forestry Service does prove that he has a point in that monies directed at “preparedness” and “suppression” will have risen 32% since he took office. No fire is alike and there have been plenty of deaths and property destruction from the terrible conditions. What is to be gained by knocking the leadership of the Forestry Service when the brave fire fighters and volunteers still put their lives on the line to prevent the spread of fires? Hardly motivational. While there maybe grounds to improve operational efficiency, the timing couldn’t have been more inappropriate.

CalPERS unfunded pension deficit approaches $1 trillion. Who is counting?

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California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) lost around 2% of its funds in 2015/16. The fund assumed an aggressive 7.5% return. Dr. Joe Nation of Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research thinks unfunded liabilities have surged to $150bn from $93bn in the last two years. He suggested the use of a more realistic 4% rate of return last year. At that rate, CalPERS had a market based unfunded liability of $412bn (or the equivalent of 2 years’ worth of California state revenue). At present Nation now thinks the number is just shy of $1 trillion using a 3.25% discount rate. He expects that the 2017 data for CalPERS will be out in a week or so which should give some interesting perspective as to how much deeper the pension hole is for Californian public servants.

N.B. California collects $232bn in state taxes annually in a $2.3 trillion economy (around the size of Italy).

 

Does the data show Donald in the dumpster?

Midterm

This is a simple schematic of first term presidents and the results at the ballot box of their first mid term. Since 1910, the incumbent parties have invariably lost ground. More interestingly, Democrats had control of either/both House of Reps and Senate during Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr – all Republicans. Republican Presidents Taft, Harding, Hoover, Eisenhower and Trump lost the House at the midterms. Truman, Clinton and Obama suffered the same fate for the Democrats.

Trump achieved the highest number of Senate seats taken by a first term Republican president for over 100 years. George W Bush achieved rising numbers for HoR/Senate  post 9/11 but only Democrats have achieved the feat – Woodrow Wilson, FDR and JFK. Perhaps the irrelevance of the outcomes in the mid-terms is that despite the floggings Wilson, Truman, Ike, Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr and Obama all were comfortably reelected for a second term.

Given the headwinds Trump was facing from the mainstream media, his unorthodox outbursts, twitter tirades and so forth, the electorate didn’t grant the Democrats a huge gift  they were expecting. Even worse they gave Trump a bigger authority to appoint SC justices should an opportunity arise by bumping his numbers in the Senate. Not surprising given the shocking gutter level political theatre over Justice Kavanaugh, vindicated by  victims confessing they had lied.

The Democrats should still be concerned that the $70mn spent on Beto O’Rourke came to nothing.  Beyonce also endorsed Beto. Oprah endorsed Abrams in Georgia – who is likely to lose. Taylor Swift endorsed Bredesen – who also lost. All four candidates openly supported by Obama lost. So much for celebrity power swaying electorates. It probably had a counter effect.

Even worse, in Nevada a brothel owner and reality TV star won his race despite dying last month. It is hard to work out what is the bigger tragedy. Voting for someone dead or being the competing Democrat to lose to a dead person. A Republican is to be appointed to the seat by county officials.

We shouldn’t forget that the Republicans had the highest number of sitting member retirements at a first midterm in the House of Representatives for 88 years. 25 seats had a new face. Republicans won re-election as governors in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maryland – three of them deep blue states. Where was the mainstream media on that?

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Turnout was good (for a mid term). 48.1% voted in 2018. In the last 100 years the average has been 41%. Only in 1966, did the first midterm of LBJ exceed this level at 48.7%. So much for either party causing a red or blue wave. Less than half of eligible voters showed up on November 6th 2018. More cared, but not enough.

Felons make for an interesting outlier subset. While it is hard to know their exact voting intentions, for the Gubernatorial in Georgia, would 219,431 felons have made a difference for Abrams? She trails Kemp by just under 100,000 votes. So if 55% of felons (the Georgia midterm turnout ratio) voted, 120,687 votes were up for grabs. Were it legal for Georgian state felons to vote, she would have been wise to campaign there.

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Now that the Democrats have the lower house, one wonders why they have put Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House? This is possibly to be contested. Up to fifty Democrat congressmen might oppose her for Speaker. Trump couldn’t wish for a better adversary as her litany of gaffes will undoubtedly embarrass her party. Pelosi represents pretty much everything Americans have come to despise about the Democrats.

More worryingly, Maxine Waters is being put in charge of the Financial Services Committee. At a point in the cycle where financial acumen is probably most required, this is an embarrassment, made worse by her open calls for payback.

The Democrats need fresh faces. Ones that will look for bipartisan support. If the Democrats embark upon a cocktail of revenge politics and look to push for investigation after investigation in order to impeach Trump but end up with nothing they will be seen for what they are – a party completely self-absorbed with petty vendettas. The toxic Senate debacle should have given them warning enough that voters won’t tolerate more political roadkill like that going forward.  Yet Pelosi will likely use her subpoena powers to drag everything through the gutter instead of working to improve things for Americans. Failure here will only lead the electorate to conclude they wasted two years and gift wrap 2020 for Trump.

This mid-term election was anything but a slam dunk. Put aside personal hatred of Trump, look at the data and see that Americans did not write him off as many pundits predicted. It should be more scary to realise that he is probably more Teflon-Don than he was in 2016. Second biggest mid-term turnout in history, highest net gain of seats in the Senate in 100 years for a first term GOP president, record dollars thrown at Democrat candidates backed by Trump-hating billionaires. At the end of the day folks, this is just the data talking.

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How well do Americans know their Defense budget?

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The US spends more than the next 9 countries combined when it comes to defence. What is probably lost on many Americans is the spiraling cost of funding the veterans who served. The US is forecast in 2020 to spend almost as much on the Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) as China does on military spending. The direct cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has driven the indirect costs of treating those who served almost 5-fold since the war began. US politicians have passed increase after increase.  Have these increases been thought of in context of the trend? Or do annual increases just get signed off as a reflex action?

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If we put the VA budget next to the defence budget, the former has grown from 14.8% of the latter to around 29% between 2000 and 2020. The number of veterans receiving disability compensation has grown 2 million in 2000 to 4.3 million in 2016. A total of 7.2 million veterans are actively seeking services or payments from the VA, up from 5.5 million in 2000.

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Spending per veteran by priority group also reveals sharply higher costs. This is not an exhaustive list of priorities, but the main 7.

Priority 1

• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 50% or more disabling
• Veterans determined by VA to be unemployable due to service-connected conditions.

Priority 2

• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 30% or 40% disabling

Priority 3

• Veterans who are Former Prisoners of War (POWs)
• Veterans awarded a Purple Heart medal
• Veterans whose discharge was for a disability that was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 10% or 20% disabling
• Veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C., § 1151, “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation
• Veterans awarded the Medal Of Honor (MOH)

Priority 4

• Veterans who are receiving aid and attendance or housebound benefits from VA
• Veterans who have been determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled

Priority 5

• Non service-connected Veterans and non-compensable service-connected Veterans rated 0% disabled by VA with annual income below the VA’s and geographically (based on your resident zip code) adjusted income limits
• Veterans receiving VA pension benefits
• Veterans eligible for Medicaid programs

Priority 6

• Compensable 0% service-connected Veterans.
• Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
• Project 112/SHAD participants.
• Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
• Veterans of the Persian Gulf War who served between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998.
• Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
• Currently enrolled Veterans and new enrollees who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 and those who were discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, are eligible for the enhanced benefits for five years post discharge.

Priority 7

• Veterans with gross household income below the geographically-adjusted income limits for their resident location and who agree to pay copays.

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Countries have an obligation to look after the troops that sustain injury, physical, mental or otherwise. The question is whether politicians are cottoning on to the mounting relative increase in healing the veteran community to the spending on weapons of war?

There are 19.6 million veterans in the US. By 2045 this is expected to dip below 12 million. With 2.1 million serving active duty military personnel and reserves, the overall costs of healing may not come down anytime soon.

What it does say is that there is a massive need to work out how to reduce the costs to the VA without impeding improving healthcare and benefits for veterans.

Why didn’t GE use the $45bn in buybacks to take care of the $31bn negative equity?

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After GE’s monster $22bn goodwill impairment charge, the company remains in negative equity to the tune of $31.3bn. $79.2bn in goodwill remains on the balance sheet with $31.5bn in shareholders equity and $16.4bn in non-controlling interests. To think GE spent $45bn on buy backs over 2015 & 2016. Imagine if the company had used those funds to shore up the balance sheet and go back to positive equity?

While the kitchen sinking of GE Power should be deemed a positive (although somewhat expected) it is interesting to see the reaction to the shares (-9%) which flirted with April 2009 lows. Cutting the 1 cent dividend from 12 cents in the grand scheme of things was optics.

Although the goodwill charge is a non cash item on the balance sheet, she is clearly not in a position to deal with the rest of the goodwill just yet.

The brand new CEO has done the right thing to restructure the former largest company in the world but he has drawn attention to the most gangrenous wound that needs to be cauterized.

It is still a rough ride from here for an industrial stock at the top of the megacycle to have such a dreadful balance sheet.

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Umbrellagate – operating the mainstream media’s button flawlessly instead

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The mainstream media just doesn’t get it. Despite record low trust in the media, this umbrella incident just proves their derangement syndrome is beyond chronic. Is this really an issue?

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote a puff piece this morning reporting how worried Republicans were becoming as they were being outspent by the Democrats heading into the midterms.

They needn’t worry at all. All that paid for Dem ad dollar undone by the mainstream media who will dedicate Trump 24-hr global free airtime over his inability to find the button to close an umbrella! He certainly found the media’s button to lose their senses. One wonders if it is deliberate just to gather free media coverage?

Is it any surprise the early voting stats according to NBC look like this so far?

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As written last week, with all of the upsets in global politics, why would anyone put value in the decades of consensus thinking that midterms tend to fall to the opposition party? CM still thinks Trump wins both houses.

The #IAmSoldierX mutiny

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In the last two weeks the #IAMSOLDIERX campaign against terrorism has caught on like a firestorm in the UK. Numerous squaddies have been placed under investigation by the MoD for taking a selfie with Tommy Robinson who just happened to be in the same highway service area. One has been discharged.

Now serving soldiers and veterans are posting 1,000s of their own pictures with the above hashtag to protest the MoD’s bending to political correctness. Around 200,000 have signed a petition on http://www.StandWithOurLads.com to show the MoD they are against limp wristed folding to complaints made by minority groups who just happen to abhor Robinson.

Putting any personal bias against Robinson to one side, we should ask ourselves why he has two best selling books (which point to a two tier police state) on Amazon UK? He is no saint and admits as much. Yet he questions the double standards. They are pretty blatant.

Ask why a bunch of squaddies wanted a selfie with him? Do we presume that the couple of dozen 17yos in the picture who joined the army to defend their country are alt-right by wanting a picture with a celebrity with a bad boy image? We’d be hard pressed to find any 17yo turn down an opportunity to get a selfie with the famous. A selfie with a David Beckham? He was red carded in a World Cup. Bad role model.

What if it was Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols? Would that infer squaddies were anarchists? Would they discharge troops for taking a selfie with Katie Price (aka Jordan) because a bunch of feminists complained that wanting a snap with a buxom former Page 3 girl was irrefutable grounds of inappropriate exploitation of women? Where do they draw a line?

How many times did we see UK armed forces appear on Top Gear? Jeremy Clarkson has said some pretty outrageous politically incorrect things in his time, even one which poked fun at terrorists. No repercussions…or is it Top Gear’s audience reach makes for such a great recruiting tool? The soldiers he promoted on the show loved the way he pushed their service.

Could it be the armed forces respect Robinson’s bravery (prison terms, death threats in/outside jail and kangaroo court trials) to call out gross injustices (e.g. grooming gangs) and government cover ups which turned a blind eye to 11-12yo girls being raped because they feared being thought of as racist?

CM read the entire 200 page Rotherham investigation. You can read the summarized  horror here. Robinson is not wrong in his fight over grooming gangs even if one questions his methods or dislikes his brutal delivery.

The BBC recently took up the exact same story which Robinson had spoken of for over a decade. He was pilloried for all that time as a far right wing racist for pointing out this black mark on the judiciary and constabulary. Only now does the mainstream media declare it safe ground after the event to report on it.

What of the 1000s of girls who have been permanently psychologically damaged because of political correctness? Are these girls a worthy sacrifice in defence of diversity? Labour MP Naz Shah tweeted that “these abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere should shut their mouths. For the good of diversity.”

The Rotherham Inquiry showed evidence that the police deemed many of these underage girls unworthy of protection. The councils had known about it for decades yet chose silence for the sake of inclusion. It is all documented. It should make your blood boil. Arresting fathers for trespassing while trying to rescue their daughters from rape dens. It is absurd.

The majority of the grooming gangs in the UK have been Pakistani Muslim men. It is a fact.

Does it mean all Pakistani Muslims should be held under suspicion of being associated? Not at all. One could argue that the very political correctness which tries to protect them from being tied to such abhorrent behaviour makes it worse. The authorities would be far better placed to work with the affected communities to publicly out the perpetrators and show a united front that such behaviour won’t be tolerated under any circumstances.

Winning hearts and minds comes from collective purpose, not smoke and mirrors. Otherwise it becomes easy (rightly or wrongly) for people to jump to conclusions that sweeping it under the carpet is less hassle for law makers. Which is what is happening.

Others grooming gangs have been of Eastern European extraction. There have been white child sex traffickers too. It doesn’t matter who have perpetrated these acts – they should equally be dealt with under the law of the land. These squaddies would likely hold all of them with the same contempt. It is more than likely Robinson’s beliefs resonate against the soft approach to dealing with serious widespread problems. Failure to do so will lead to vigilantism which we saw with the Guardian Angels in New York in the 1980s.

There is a vigilante group in the UK operating since 2016 called Guardians of The North which lures online sexual predators and films them when making their scheduled encounter to engage in underage sex. 205 captured. 101 convictions. The videos are compelling. The excuses and denials are telling. We should applaud their dedication.

Why do they feel the need to operate? They claim the police are under budget and stretched so see a need to fill the void.

CM is not a vet and never served but the clear message from every person met that is or has been ‘behind the wire’ are all about the defence of freedom, be it speech, culture, religion or anything else. As long as laws are dispensed equally without fear or favour they’re content. If they see gross double standards or rigged application of justice they feel it betrays every reason they joined.

To have some young cadets face possible discharge for being in a photo is hardly a crime. Did the MoD teach these kids who they could and couldn’t take selfies with? There are rules and regulations over what is acceptable behaviour in the military. The photo doesn’t display them making Nazi salutes, holding offensive banners or anything remotely pushing hatred against any minority. .

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Does the MoD truly understand the morale of troops and veterans alike? There were 8 UK veteran suicides last week alone. There have been 42 this year alone in the UK. These Soldiers have also been posting pictures of the squalid conditions they live in, ones which prisoners would get immediate rectification were it discovered their basic amenities were in such disrepair. Many soldiers say morale in the UK forces is next to mix existent. This won’t help.

The whole saga is so sad. Who would have thought a bunch of squaddies would be slaughtered by selfie? Is this the way we treat our brave military souls? They deserve much better. The victims of sexual slavery deserve to have their story told to point out why diversity isn’t always as wonderful as the activists/apparatchiks would have us believe.

This movement seems to have momentum. How will the state react when so many that serve their country have had enough!?