Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Consumer based medicine

Good or bad? People, or Rules? - Megan McArdle - Business - The Atlantic

More figures, more weirdness.

How much in taxes do the rich pay? The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : Zombies Strike Back

Answer: lots.

Figures don't lie, but...

... if you torture data enough it will tell you anything.

The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : More Zombies

Paul Krugman writes: "...I see that John Taylor is peddling the zombie claim that there has been a huge expansion in the federal government under Obama."


Krugman is right that automatic stabilizers and Medicaid have been the biggest drivers of the increase in spending so far. But the story is a little different when you look at those same numbers in absolute terms instead of growth rates (CBO data, in 2010 dollars)


As you can see, "everything else" is a much bigger category in absolute terms than one might guess from looking at Krugman's graph.

But there's still a weird element to this graph: the x-axis categories, again. Krugman includes two full years of the Bush administration (2007-2008) as Obama years. He explains that he used those divisions because 2007 was the last pre-recession year, and the recession has changed the size and composition of government outlays. The recession led to an increase in automatic stabilizer spending under Bush, too. In order to get a more direct comparison of Bush vs. Obama, I generated a graph illustrating Bush's last two years vs. Obama's first two


By the growth of "everything else" in this graph, it looks like there has indeed been a "huge expansion" of the federal government under Obama, including both automatic stabilizers and everything else.


But the suggestion that Obama hasn't expanded the government at all, or the claim that "[t]he "Obama spending binge" was almost entirely mythical" (a claim Jonathan Chait makes based on Krugman's post), is likely to lead readers away from the truth.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Unpublished Challenge

The Unpublished Challenge: "

Late last month, Casey Luskin wrote an article advocating a positive case for ID creationism. Jack has already done a good job of refuting Casey’s wishful hand waving.

However, in the comments of the post, Casey and I had a little exchange in which I tried to get him to commit to developing a positive model of common design, and he just, well, assured me that his legal education prepared him to deal with the statistics that he was butchering left and right. Yeah, umm … anyways, my last comment was never published, and now enough time has passed that I feel I can share it with you and let you decide why it never showed up on the DI’s website.


The conceptual alchemy of ID, transmuting baseless assertions into scientific predictions: "

[Republished from Homologous Legs]

A well-accepted characteristic of a scientific hypothesis is that it must generate predictions about the world against which tests can be run - confirming or falsifying those predictions and thus supporting or not supporting the hypothesis in question. Understandably then, intelligent design proponents need to demonstrate that ID can produce predictions if it is to be taken seriously as a scientific hypothesis and alternative to evolutionary theory.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poverty is the norm


Since collectivists often trivialize private property rights, they are worth elaborating. When property rights are held privately the costs and benefits of decisions are concentrated in the individual decision maker; with collectively held property rights they are dispersed across society. For example, private property forces homeowners to take into account the effect of their current decisions on the future value of their homes, because that value depends, among other things, on how long the property will provide housing services. Thus privately owned property holds one's personal wealth hostage to doing the socially responsible thing—economizing scarce resources.

Contrast these incentives to those of collective ownership. When the government owns the house, the individual has less incentive to take care of it simply because he does not capture the full benefit of his efforts. It is dispersed across society instead. The costs of neglecting the house are similarly spread. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to predict that under these circumstances, less care will be taken.

Nor is nominal collective ownership the only force that weakens social responsibility. When government taxes property, it changes the ownership characteristics. If government were to impose a 75 percent tax on a person selling his house, it would reduce his incentive to use the house wisely.

This argument applies to all activities, including work and investment. Whatever lowers the return from or raises the cost of an investment reduces incentives to make that investment in the first place. This applies to investment in human as well as physical capital—that is, those activities that raise the productive capacity of individuals.

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The rich are getting poorer

The numbers generally cited in support of this argument do not actually tell us much about what has happened to the incomes of wealthy households over time. That's because the people who are in the top bracket today are not the people who were in the top bracket last year. There's a good deal of socioeconomic mobility in the United States — more than you'd think. Our dear, dear friends at the IRS keep track of actual households (boy, do they ever!), and sometimes the Treasury publishes data about what has happened to them. For instance, among those who in 1996 were in the very highest income group isolated for study — the top 0.01 percent — 75 percent were in a lower income group by 2005. The median real income of super-rich households went down, not up. The rich got poorer. Among actual households, income grew proportionally more for those who started off in the low-income groups than those that began in high-income groups.


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Monday, April 18, 2011

Opposing gay marriage doesn't mean I'm barking | The Australian

Barry Cohen, writing in The Australian: Opposing gay marriage doesn't mean I'm barking

My philosophy was simple. It is enshrined in a column I wrote in The Australian (January 25, 1995) when gays started to get serious about what most Australians thought was a huge joke.

I wrote: "It concerns me not at all what adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom or for that matter their kitchens, bathroom or laundry. Should they choose to stand on their heads, wave their legs in the air or swing from chandeliers, providing they do not do each other a serious mischief, it is, or should be entirely a matter for them."

Having held that publicly expressed view for as long as I can recall, it will not surprise readers that on those occasions when I was called upon to vote in the House of Representatives on such matters I voted against legislation that discriminated against homosexuals. I have since applauded any measure by any government or institution that has broken down the prejudice against those with a different sexual preference.

A lot has happened in the past 40 years that has been of benefit to the gay community. Some I agreed with, others went too far, but marriage between people of the same sex giving them equal status with heterosexual couples, in my view, goes way beyond the pale. They argue that the present law discriminates against them. It does. And it's the same reason why I can't marry Jamie or Hamish.

And how about the discrimination against pedophiles, prohibiting sexual relations with children? Why do we discriminate against 15-year-old girls and boys for what used to be called carnal knowledge? Why do we ban men from entering women's toilets or vice versa? I could go on but I'm sure you discern my drift. We discriminate because society believes it is the right and moral thing to do.

Marriage was considered, until recently, sacrosanct. Bigamy and polygamy are banned. Why should we discriminate against men who want more than one wife, or wives who want more than one husband?

With all its flaws, and few marriages are perfect, marriage is the bedrock on which our society is based. It won't be if these twerps have their way.

The time has come for us "neocons" to fight back and tell the gay community that we've gone from prohibition to tolerance to acceptance, but we won't accept that gay marriage and conventional marriage is the same thing.

They might have got some of what they wanted if they had asked for a gay marriage act, quite separate from conventional marriage but can you expect them to accept a gay marriage certificate proclaiming them to be a gay couple?

It is to be hoped that those who support conventional marriage as one of the building blocks on which our society is built will stand up and tell the gay community it's not going to happen. Not even if hell freezes over.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Death Trap Democrats

Death Trap Democrats
The Deadly Democrat Medicare Cuts

While the Democrats still do not understand what they have done with Obamacare, the government's actuaries and accountants do, and have been telling us in official government publications and documents. The 2010 Financial Statement of the United States Government, published by the Treasury Department in December, is the most clear. That report discloses repeatedly in several tables of data that the total of future cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals under Medicare as provided in current law due to Obamacare and President Obama's Medicare reimbursement policies is $15 trillion!
Ryan's Reforms Are Better for Seniors

Unlike Ryan's Medicare reforms, the draconian, unworkable, Obamacare cuts to Medicare apply to seniors already retired today. Ryan exempts from any change all seniors retired today and everyone over age 55.

For future, new retirees starting in 2022, seniors will enjoy the freedom to choose private health insurance coverage from among a menu of guaranteed, government approved and regulated plans. Exactly the contrary to Schultz's uninformed criticisms, Medicare would precisely be a guarantee of health insurance coverage. The problem that the socialist Schultz has is that this would be private health insurance coverage.
Do Not Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls

But it is not only the health care of seniors that will be savaged by Obamacare. What is emerging from the broad, vague language of the 2,700 plus pages of the Obamacare law is the termination of the ability of America's health care system to provide the best, most advanced, cutting edge health care in the world, up until now a major component of the highest standard of living in the world previously enjoyed by the American people.

That first clearly arose in December, when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued regulations claiming and providing authority for federal regulation of health insurance premiums, a power that Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration denied was in the law when they passed it. Based on what we see emerging from the more advanced Obamacare experiment in Massachusetts, what the New Left Democrats who have seized control of America's health care have in mind can now be more clearly recognized.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What pay disparity between sexes?

Today is "pay equality day". That means, women are supposed to have had to work this much more than a year to make what men made last year. This works out to women making 83% of what men make. You'd think, if women were really doing the same jobs for 17% less, greedy business owners would fire all their men, hire women only, and cut their labor costs by that 17%. This would give them a 17% edge over the competition – until other greedy business owners caught on and started doing likewise.

But alas, Carrie L. Lukas at the Independent Women's Forum writes to tell us There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap

Darn! Big cost saving idea down the tubes.

10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care | Publications | National Center for Policy Analysis | NCPA

Despite published rankings that put the US south of Cuba in terms of health care, the NCPA offers 10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care.

Fact No. 1: Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.

Fact No. 2: Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.

Fact No. 3: Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.

Fact No. 4: Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.[4]

Fact No. 5: Lower income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians. Twice as many American seniors with below-median incomes self-report "excellent" health compared to Canadian seniors (11.7 percent versus 5.8 percent). Conversely, white Canadian young adults with below-median incomes are 20 percent more likely than lower income Americans to describe their health as "fair or poor."

Fact No. 6: Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the U.K. Canadian and British patients wait about twice as long - sometimes more than a year - to see a specialist, to have elective surgery like hip replacements or to get radiation treatment for cancer.[6]

Fact No. 7: People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed.

Fact No. 8: Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians.

Fact No. 9: Americans have much better access to important new technologies like medical imaging than patients in Canada or the U.K.

Fact No. 10: Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations.

Conclusion. Despite serious challenges, such as escalating costs and the uninsured, the U.S. health care system compares favorably to those in other developed countries.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Terry Jones and the Koran

 However much deference we show, it'll never be enough.

So on March 20, Terry Jones, a pastor in Florida, burnt a Koran had a Koran burned after finding it guilty of being an evil book that promotes violence.  The burning of the Koran in condemnation for its alleged violence then prompted three days of rioting and several people killed since last Friday by people incapable of recognizing irony or the simple fact that they were making his point.  I thought that everyone would understand who was and was not responsible for that, but apparently not.

But everyone who says, "don't burn the Koran because those nutty Muslims might kill people" are getting it profoundly wrong...

The logic is very simple.  Everyone knew that if he did this thing that violence would erupt, therefore he is responsible for the violence, right?

Well, with surprising frequency, we can cite Abraham Lincoln as guidance as indeed he faced a very similar situation.  In 1860, long before he was the Republican nominee for President, he confronted fears that this union would break if the nation dared elect a Republican president, addressing his remarks to the South:

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is [clever]. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "[Give me your money], or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

To be sure, what the robber demanded of me – my money – was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.

(Old-timey slang replaced with modern language.)  The metaphor works perfectly.  What the robber demanded of Lincoln—his money—was his own and he had a clear right to keep it.  But it was no more his own than my God-given right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion is my own, and the threat of death to extort Lincoln's money, and the threat of death to strangers to extort my silence, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.

A more thoughtful response, meanwhile, comes from James Taranto of the Wall St. Journal.  He confronted this excellent argument by Mollie Hemmingway:

Basically, no matter how short the skirt the girl's wearing, she doesn't deserve to be raped. I always thought it was also wise to dress modestly but that wasn't the point. The point was that the rapist is responsible for the rape, not the victim or society.

Murdering people who have nothing to do with the Koran burning is another animal from rape entirely, but it is still surprising to me to see how the media suggests that the pastor who oversaw the Koran burning–Terry Jones–is responsible for murders he didn't commit. . . . Clearly the media is focused on the "short skirt" angle to this case.

And this is how he responded:

There are two big problems with this analogy. First, burning a Koran is an offense against Muslims, just as burning an American flag is an offense against Americans. It is not merely imprudent but morally objectionable. That does not justify a violent reaction, but it does make the provocation different in kind from that of a rape victim's wearing a short skirt. A better analogy might be to an adulterous wife who is murdered by her cuckolded husband. He is guilty of a serious crime, but it is also true that she wronged him.

I'll get to the second difference in a moment, but let's tear apart that first one.  James, in case you haven't been paying attention for the last…  thirty years, everything is an offense against radical Muslims.


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Big Green Myths debunked

via The American Spectator and AmSpecBlog by Paul Chesser on 3/31/11

Politico reported yesterday that "it's not easy being green anymore" and whined, "It's no secret environmentalists are outgunned when it comes to cash," as though they are hopelessly losing every political battle. I partially (I say "partially" because there is so much more that can and has been written) debunk that myth over at the National Legal & Policy Center blog today.

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Pass the Plutonium

Don't count nuclear power out.
People think that Fukushima will mean the end of nuclear power, but I'm convinced it's the opposite. We're going to lose our nuclear virginity over this accident and start seeing the world as adults. In fact it's already happening.

Exhibit A is George Monbiot, the left-wing British columnist and global warmingfanatic with the Guardian who explained to readers three days after the
earthquake, "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power." 

Monbiot's point is quite simple. For years we've lived with the impression that a nuclear meltdown is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off, killing thousands and leaving whole landscapes uninhabitable. Now we've had one and look what's happened. The fourth worst earthquake in history has failed to crack open the concrete containment and the difficulty arose only because the utility didn't have enough backup electricity on hand. Fukushima remains a horribly dangerous situation and the workers who are bringing the reactor under control ought to be given a parade down Broadway when it's finally over. But what has the toll been so far? One worker died in a steam explosion and others have been exposed to levels of radiation that may increase their chances of getting cancer somewhere down the line. But this is basically an industrial accident. As Monbiot points out, coal mining in China kills more people in a week than ever died as a result of Chernobyl.
One by one, the nuclear myths have fallen. In the immediate aftermath, reporters and commentators right up to Bill O'Reilly were anticipating a dreaded "meltdown" would be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. In fact, a meltdown simply means the fuel has melted to the bottom of the steel pressure vessel, which is inside the concrete containment structure. In days of yore environmentalists dreamed up "The China Syndrome," which had the fuel melting through the pressure vessel, then through the concrete containment and continuing on its way to China until it hit groundwater, at which point it would cause a steam explosion that would kill everybody in Los Angeles -- or at least that's what Jane Fonda was told. Three Mile Island proved this wouldn't happen. Fukushima has confirmed it.

Another hot button has been plutonium, an artificial element formed in a reactor. (Plutonium is forged in supernovas, along with all the other heavy elements, but it disappeared on earth long ago.) In the effort to portray nuclear power as the devil's handiwork, Ralph Nader once labeled plutonium "the most toxic substance ever known to mankind." In fact it is about as toxic as caffeine. Bernard Cohen, the tireless crusader for nuclear common sense, offered many times to eat as much plutonium as Nader would eat caffeine on "The Tonight Show" but Nader never took him up.

Failing to convince anyone of plutonium's toxicity, Nader next announced that "one pound of plutonium would be enough to kill everyone on earth." The scenario here was plutonium, if ground into fine dust and breathed in by everyone on earth, would eventually give everyone lung cancer. As the late Petr Beckmann responded, "So would tomorrow's production of hatpins kill everyone on earth if carefully placed in each individual heart."

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Tidal waves and conservatism

Here is a link to an article on a protective measure against tsunamis that didn't work.

Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.
"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants," the stone slab reads. "Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point."
It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan's northeastern shore.
I think those who are not conservative tend to forget the lessons learned by their forebears, often learned the hard way, with much pain and anguish.  They fail to realize that the quaint, old-fashioned, "outdated" customs they would overturn may be answers to very painful questions. 

In a number of instances, I would caution those who would throw away the quaint, old-fashioned customs to first be very sure what problem they were developed to solve, and then be very sure that particular solution is no longer needed.

Church And District

In the spirit of "Atlas Shrugged", groups that do charitable works may decide to shrug if conditions, intolerable to them, are in force.
via Wizbang by Jay Tea on 11/16/09

There's a bit of a hubbub going on in the District of Columbia of late. The City Council is weighing a sweeping gay rights move, bundling together gay marriage, gay adoption, partners' rights, and whatnot, and the Catholic Church -- as is to be expected -- is resistant.
Resistant to the point where they say they will simply pull the plug on their entire charitable works in the city should it pass.
Critics are denouncing the Church (as is their wont), saying that the Church must be bluffing, that the Church is overreacting, that the Church is being hypocritical because it hasn't made the same threats in other places where gay marriage has passed, and it's all a big to-do about nothing, because the law explicitly says the Church doesn't have to perform gay marriages if it doesn't want to.
They're right on that last point. They're wrong on every single other one.
First up, the Church doesn't bluff. There may be a surface resemblance between the Church's move and the typical move of politicians facing budget cuts -- make the cuts in the most visible, most popular, most needed areas first -- but that's where it ends. The Church does NOT use the poor as hostages for imposing its social agenda.
Next, the Church is not overreacting. While the gay marriage aspect is the most attention-grabbing aspect, it is the other elements that are most offensive to Catholic doctrine -- and most directly threatening to the Church. The Church does NOT sanction or assist in gay marriage, does NOT offer "same-sex benefits" to employees, and does NOT recognize same-sex relationships as equal to opposite-sex ones. Under the proposed law, they would have to yield on each of those points.
Then there's the "they haven't protested in other states" argument. Again, not true. In Massachusetts, the state forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation of adoptive parents -- so the Church said "OK, fine" and got out of the adoption business altogether. They are quite consistent on this point -- they will fight against the laws they oppose, but will accept them as long as they are not personally required to take action in support of them. And if the law would force them to act in a way they find morally repugnant, they will simply take their toys and go home.
Now, I happen to think the Church is wrong in its positions here. (I also happen to think that the Church is wrong in a lot of other places, too -- such as contraception, the ordination of women, and I still loathe their conduct in the whole "pedophile priest" scandal. There should have been a RICO investigation there, and quite a few high-ranking Churchmen -- like Cardinal Law -- should be behind bars. But I digress...)
But more importantly, I think they have the right to be wrong.
The Church has its beliefs. It has its tenets and its principles. It has decided which are the most important ones, and has rediscovered its spine. It has drawn the line in the sand -- society can go to Hell if it wishes, but the Church will not aid and abet in the process.
On this, they will not bend. If that means that they will no longer help in the adoption process in Massachusetts, so be it. If that means they have to completely shut down their charitable works in the District of Columbia, so be it.
And as they've said in the past, if hospitals end up required to perform abortions on demand, they will shut down every single Catholic hospital in the country.
Now that is a bluff we dare not call -- Catholic hospitals represent 12.7% of all hospitals in the United States and 15% of all hospital beds. And the Church clarifies that threat -- they simply won't sell them off, but shut them down and, if necessary, tear them down. They will be morally obliged to make certain those hospitals are never used to perform abortions.
The Church's position is arguable, but defensible. They will not, under any circumstances, cooperate with any law they find morally repugnant. Instead, they will find a way to not violate the law and still not comply with it. And the way they are talking about is to simply remove themselves from the law's reach.
The law can say that they cannot discriminate against gays in adoption. But the law can not compel them to continue assisting in adoptions.
The law can say that employers cannot discriminate against gay employees. But the law can not compel them to have employees.
The law can say that hospitals must perform adoptions abortions on demand. But the law can not compel the Church to keep its hospitals open should it decide to raze them.
The learned solons of the District of Columbia speak as if they don't really need the Church and its charities, that there is a long list of other organizations just itching to step up and fill the void should the Church choose to leave the city. This is entirely consistent with plans by the Obama administration to limit tax deductions for charitable contributions, moving such things under the aegis of government and out of the hands of independent organizations.
One doesn't have to be Catholic to see the value of the Church's charitable works. One doesn't have to subscribe to Church teachings to respect their right to abide by them as they see fit. And one doesn't even have to be a believer to see the threat to the common good being posed by this move by the DC City Council.
And that's coming from an agnostic gay marriage supporter who is still uncertain as to whether the Catholic Church has been a net boon or bane to modern civilization.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Israel Cleared Of War Crime Allegations By Judge Goldstone

Israel Cleared Of War Crime Allegations By Judge Goldstone

In September 2009, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone submitted its report (the Goldstone Report) to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Report suggested that war crimes had been committed by all parties in the Gaza Conflict, and has served as the basis for an extensive political and legal campaign against Israel in the international arena.

Now Judge Goldstone paints a very different picture from the original report and concludes that Israel has been truthful all along.

The Volokh Conspiracy » Richard Goldstone: Chief Kangaroo

The Volokh Conspiracy » Richard Goldstone: Chief Kangaroo

It seems the Goldstone report, pinning the blame for all nastiness on Israel, was all wrong.

I think, additionally, that Goldstone took Israel’s refusal to participate in this “game” as a personal affront, rather than causing him, as he should have, to question the whole enterprise.