Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mark Halperin: Obamacare Contains "Death Panels" | Video | RealClearPolitics

Link: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/11/25/mark_halperin_obamacare_contains_death_panels.html#.UpPVCOdeqp4.twitter

NEWSMAX: The Affordable Care Act contains provisions for "death panels," which decide which critically-ill patients receive care and which won't, according to Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time magazine.

"It's built into the plan. It's not like a guess or like a judgment. That's going to be part of how costs are controlled," Halperin told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

MALZBERG, HOST: A lot of people said you weren't going to be able to keep your health care, but also they focused on the death panels, which will be coming, call them what you will, rationing, is part of it...

HALPERIN: No, I agree, and that's going to be a huge issue, and that's something else on which the president was not fully forthcoming and straightforward.

MALZBERG: So, you believe there will be rationing, a.k.a. death panels?

HALPERIN: It's built into the plan. It's not like a guess or like a judgment. That's going to be part of how costs are controlled.

Lenski's experiment: 25 years and 58,000 generations - The Panda's Thumb

Link: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2013/11/lenskis-experim.html

25 years ago, according to a recent article in Science magazine, Richard Lenski put samples of E. coli bacteria into a dozen flasks filled with a solution of glucose and other nutrients, incubated them, stirred them, and every day removed 1 % and repeated the process, day after day, for 25 years (except for a brief interruption when he moved from one university to another). The author of the article, Elizabeth Pennisi, notes that Lenski's bacteria

are proving as critical to understanding the workings of evolution as classic paleontology studies such as Stephen Jay Gould's research on the pace of change in mollusks. Lenski's humble E. coli have shown, among other things, how multiple small mutations can prepare the ground for a major change; how new species can arise and diverge; and that Gould was mistaken when he claimed that, given a second chance, evolution would likely take a completely different course. Most recently, the colonies have demonstrated that, contrary to what many biologists thought, evolution never comes to a stop, even in an unchanging environment.

You may read Pennisi's article for yourself, but what I (a nonbiologist) found most interesting was that evolution keeps going, even in a stable environment; there are no fitness peaks (at least among E. coli in bottles). Equally, the fact that several different lines learned to metabolize citrate by means of different series of mutations suggests (as in the Pennisi quotation above) that the course of evolution might be more predictable than we had thought.

Fortunately there is some decent non-paywalled coverage of this experiment. Ars Technica has a write-up that describes the basic experiment and the findings in this newest paper, with a link to coverage the earlier result about the evolution of a citrate metabolism among some of the populations.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Politicians Don't Say About the Military's Sexual Assault 'Epidemic'

Link: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/11/24/The-Military-s-Sexual-Assault-Epidemic-in-Context (via shareaholic.com)

When I joined the U.S. military in January 2011, a family member asked me: "Aren't you worried about being raped?" And she wasn't the only one. Many people cautioned me that I would be entering an institution synonymous with machismo, authoritarianism, and violence.
What I found instead was very different: professionalism, respect, and a strong presence of women in the highest ranks. I also found the most transparent, aggressive, and in-your-face Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program I had ever witnessed.

Under the UCMJ, any military service member or even retiree can be punished for offenses (UCMJ Article 77), including accessories (78) and anyone who conspires in the punishable activity (87). People who attempt to commit an offense and fail to succeed may also be court-martialed (80). And offenders may be punished for any lesser included offenses (79).
So even if the preponderance of evidence fails to support a conviction for rape or sexual assault, an accused soldier may still be discharged from the military and punished for a related offense like failure to obey an order (92), cruelty toward and maltreatment of a subordinate (93), unbecoming conduct (133), fraternization (134), or providing alcohol to a minor (134).
If service members fail to obtain justice through the regular process, which is largely at the discretion of their Commanding Officers (COs), there already is a way for them to circumvent the CO and file a complaint of wrongs against the CO under UCMJ Article 138.
That is why I have been surprised to hear U.S. Senators imply that service members currently have no recourse outside their CO and that a new, parallel organizational structure is needed.

Compare all this to the model for sexual assault prevention and response at the institution I belonged to before the military—Harvard College. There, complaints of sexual assault are filed with the Administrative Board, or "Ad Board," comprised of deans and faculty members. The written policies regarding sexual assault are far less favorable to victims, requiring non-consent to be expressed "verbally or physically" and requiring the Ad Board members to be "sufficiently persuaded" that an assault occurred.
In stark contrast to the stories I've heard about military perpetrators landing up in Leavenworth Prison, Harvard's history of dealing with sexual assault cases might easily give more encouragement to perpetrators than victims.
During my time at Harvard College, between 2005 and 2009, I had one friend who was sexually assaulted by a fellow student, another who was beaten by her boyfriend (a fellow student), and another who was involved in a highly improper and abusive relationship with a professor. Not one of these incidents was ever reported.
In the five years from 2005 to 2010, according to the Harvard Crimson, eight cases of sexual misconduct were brought before Harvard's Ad Board. Only three perpetrators were required to withdraw from Harvard College for at least six months, and none received a permanent expulsion.

Krauthammer On Filibuster Change: "Democrats Will Absolutely Rue The Day" | Video | RealClearPolitics

Just how many Americans will really have their health insurance affected by Obamacare? | AEIdeas

Link: http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/11/just-how-many-americans-will-really-have-their-health-insurance-affected-by-obamacare/

So what do the numbers look like? Based on the administration's own estimates from 2010, Veuger projects that tens of millions of people with employer-based insurance policies will be 'affected' by Obamacare, their plans either modified or cancelled. A far cry from Professor's Gruber's claim that only 9 million Americans, "three per cent of the population, will have to buy a new product that complies with the A.C.A.'s more stringent requirements for individual plans."

Current employer-sponsored insurance plans under Obamacare

Friday, November 22, 2013

Massachusetts: An Apples to Oranges Comparison | National Review Online

The Minimum-Wage Myths | National Review Online

How the Minimum Wage Hurts Poor People | National Review Online

Link: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/364671/how-minimum-wage-hurts-poor-people-mario-loyola

It's important to see how the supposed benefits fail in the case of the minimum wage, and Kevin Williamson does a typically great job debunking those arguments in his recent piece on the homepage. But the minimum wage also creates unconscionable social losses, particularly for the poorest of the poor.

The minimum wage is not a "protection," as progressives often style it. It doesn't confer a "right" to be paid any amount of money, because nobody has an obligation to hire you. The minimum wage only says that it's illegal to work for less than x, no matter how badly you need that job. To the extent the minimum wage is set above where the market clears on a given wage category, businesses will typically respond with some combination of raising wages, cutting hours, and laying people off.

George Zimmerman girlfriend | Samantha Scheibe | Set Up

Link: http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/11/developing-zimmerman-defense-narrative-girlfriend-set-him-up/ (via shareaholic.com)

Almost as soon as George Zimmerman was arrested, a report surfaced that girlfriend Samantha Scheibe, who made the dramatic phone call to 911, had been shopping her story to national media for several weeks – but no one would pay her what she wanted.
The Orlando Sentinel confirmed that at least one national media outlet (unnamed) had such communications:
WKMG's report that the women were seeking money for interviews with national news organizations was confirmed to the Sentinel by one such organization.
Not unexpectedly, the Zimmerman defense team is letting it be known that this was a set-up

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Marc Thiessen: Obama’s 16 words - The Washington Post

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/marc-thiessen-obamas-16-words/2013/10/31/17b955ae-4227-11e3-a624-41d661b0bb78_story.html?tid=pm_pop

Well, now it seems President Obama has his own 16 words to answer for: "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan." (Actually, it was a little more than 16 words if you include what the president said next: "Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.")
Obama attempted to move the goal posts in his speech in Boston's Faneuil Hall Wednesday, declaring that if you like your current health plan, "For the vast majority . . . you can keep it." Sorry, he didn't say "the vast majority" back in 2009. He said you can keep your plan. Period. No matter what.
Indeed, Obama repeated this promise on at least 24 separate occasions — before and after the law went into effect. It was critical to his case. Without his 16-word pledge that no one would lose his or her health plans, Obamacare might never have become law.
But Obama's 16 words were untrue. Across the country, Americans are now seeing their health plans discontinued — and experts say the cancellations could eventually reach 16 million. As one woman in California who got a cancellation letter from her insurer told the Los Angeles Times, "All we've been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it . . . I'm infuriated because I was lied to."
Indeed, there is good reason to believe that the administration not only knew but fully intended for all these people to lose their existing plans. The Health and Human Services Department specifically wrote regulations to ensure that they would — narrowing a provision in the law "grandfathering" in existing plans so that "40 to 67 percent" of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their policies. That's because moving millions of customers out of the individual and small group markets and into the exchanges is critical to making the scheme financially viable. Indeed, the survival of Obamacare depends on it.

It was Obama's objective from the start to destroy the market in order to fund Obamacare. He wants these people to lose coverage so they have no choice but to sign up for the exchanges. Obama all but admitted this in his Boston speech. "If you're getting one of these [cancellation] letters, just shop around in the new marketplace," he declared. In other words, don't worry if the plan you're happy with is being cancelled, just join Obamacare! That was the plan all along.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Economics of the Corn Dog : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

"Greed" is an easy explanation for high prices. 
In fact, it's too easy.  Any time it's cited, we should be suspicious that it's a mere cop-out.

Next I thought: Maybe it's just greed? Perhaps they jacked up the price just because they could. There was clearly competition from other vendors, but their corn dogs were all similarly priced. If I'd stopped thinking here I might have assumed there's a corn dog cartel that schemes in a smoky room and agrees to their inflated prices beforehand.
That seemed unlikely, so I took a step forward in the line.
Then I wondered about the cost of paying the City of Galveston for a vendor's license for the weekend. While I don't know the exact price, it's a safe assumption that it's not cheap. A quick glance at the vendor application page shows that vendors also need to pay a fire tent fee, a health permit fee, and a state sales tax registration fee. All these sunk costs are certainly factors in the production cost and subsequent price, but also come with the effect of limiting competition, to where a local guy on a bike cannot choose to meet the sudden demand by selling cheaper corn dogs from a bicycle stand. Maybe this guy set up in a dark alley selling black-market corn dogs—but if so, I didn't see him.
I suspected most of those vendors were from out of town, maybe out of state. So the cost of transporting all their equipment, in large, fuel-guzzling trucks, must also be a factor. And these people had to sleep somewhere for the weekend, so there's another cost that has to be considered.
OK, maybe they're not so evil after all. I took another step up in line.
And then there's the cost of compensating the employees. To work in those conditions, at that pace, for that amount of time, the compensation must be worth the effort. Sure, many of these stands are probably family-owned and -staffed, but still: The profits must be greater than what this amount time and energy could be worth in other lines of employment. In other words, all this must be worth more than they could make simply flipping burgers or whatever. And how many opportunities do they get to sell to this kind of crowd? There's not a rally every day.
This line of thought stirs feelings of empathy; these people work hard, and despite their seemingly high prices, probably don't make all that much when all things are considered. Maybe they're the ones being exploited.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

No Such Thing As Free Health Benefits - Reason.com

Link: http://reason.com/archives/2013/11/13/no-such-thing-as-free-health-benefits

Here's an idea: If you don't want people to feel that you've betrayed them, don't betray them. Don't promise, dozens of times without qualification, that they will be able to keep their health plans if they like them when you know that is not true.

Here's another suggestion: When you are apologizing for misleading people, don't seek to minimize the significance of your deception. "We're talking about 5 percent of the population," Obama told NBC's Chuck Todd. "It only affects a small amount of the population."

Obama was referring to the 14 million Americans who obtain health insurance through individually purchased policies, which is hardly a small number. According to studies by the Manhattan Institute and the Heritage Foundation, the policies these people find in Obamacare's insurance exchanges typically will cost more than what they have now.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Obamacare is junk insurance | WashingtonExaminer.com

Link: http://washingtonexaminer.com/obamacare-is-junk-insurance/article/2538366 (via shareaholic.com)

When Obama claims your old plan was "junk," he's not leveling with you. Your health plan wasn't canceled out of some kind of concern that you are insufficiently insured. Rather, you simply must pay more – and get less – to make Obamacare's finances work.


In the average state, Obamacare will increase underlying premiums by 41 percent. As we have long expected, the steepest hikes will be imposed on the healthy, the young, and the male. And Obamacare's taxpayer-funded subsidies will primarily benefit those nearing retirement—people who, unlike the young, have had their whole lives to save for their health-care needs.


Over the last day or two, the major breaking story has really been a throwback: in 2010, the Obama administration promulgated rules governing what plans that pre-existed Obamacare would be "grandfathered" under that statute, and allowed to continue. In the context of announcing its rules, the administration predicted that because of their restrictiveness, many millions of Americans would lose their existing insurance coverage, whether they liked it or not.

Obama Isn’t the Only One Who Lied | Power Line

Link: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/11/obama-isnt-the-only-one-who-lied.php

The Obama administration has run aground on the president's promise that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it: Scott Rasmussen finds that 55% of voters rate Obama's performance on health care as "poor." But, as Byron York notes, at least 27 Democratic senators made the same false promise to their constituents:

The list includes the entire Democratic leadership in the Senate as well as Democrats facing tough re-election races in 2014, like Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, and Kay Hagan.

To pass health plan, Obama and Dems kept mum about its downsides | WashingtonExaminer.com

Link: http://washingtonexaminer.com/to-pass-health-plan-obama-and-dems-kept-mum-about-its-downsides/article/2539185 (via shareaholic.com)

Cohn is right that there was no serious conversation about those tradeoffs back when Congress was considering the law's passage in 2009 and 2010. But why was that? It was because President Obama and his Democratic allies could not speak seriously — and honestly — about those tradeoffs and still pass their bill.

So instead, Obama assured Americans they could keep health care policies they liked. And it wasn't just Obama. "One of our core principles is that if you like the health care you have, you can keep it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in August 2009. "If you like what you have, you can keep it," said then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in October of the same year.

Many, many Democrats promised the same thing. They had to. If they had declared openly that millions of Americans would lose their current coverage and face higher premiums and deductibles — if Obama and Democratic leaders had said that, they would not have been able to maintain party unity in support of the bill, and the Affordable Care Act would never have passed Congress.

It would not have mattered that Republicans opposed the bill unanimously. A frank public discussion of Obamacare would have divided Democratic support, with the result being no new law at all.

Obamacare, Deconstructed - YouTube

Friday, November 15, 2013

Advice to a Libertarian Physicist on the Climate Policy Debate | Somewhat Reasonable


Here at The Heartland Institute, we have frequently debated the wisdom (or lack of wisdom) of taking the science seriously. Most free-market think tanks don't. But failing to do so rendered them irrelevant in what is arguably the biggest public policy debate of our lifetimes. We decided not to debate "what should be done about global warming." We looked under the hood at the science touted by the other side and found it to be utterly unpersuasive.
So we set out to persuade the public and their elected representatives that global warming is not a crisis, it needs neither a government solution nor a private property solution. Opinion polls and political outcomes in recent years show we were remarkably successful.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Effectively Irrational : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

Link: http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/effectively-irrational#axzz2kLtf4hmx

30 common fallacies used against libertarians

We've decided to offer you a fun list of them, which you can use as a handy guide in the process of engaging in well-mannered, reasoned discourse online.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Escape from Book Boredom -- RobertRinger.com

Link: http://robertringer.com/escape-from-book-boredom/ (via shareaholic.com)

And if you're a writer (or aspire to be one), I believe you'll find my words to be of value to you when it comes to honing your craft.  I say this because the very reasons that make me give up on a book early include some of the most important factors that every author should focus on when he writes — at least if he wants to sell his book to me.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Myth of Americans' Poor Life Expectancy - Forbes

Link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2011/11/23/the-myth-of-americans-poor-life-expectancy/ (via shareaholic.com)

Life expectancy is an appealingly simplistic, but deeply flawed, way to think about the quality of a country's health-care system. After all, shouldn't good health care make you live longer? Well, yes, but. The problem, of course, is that there are many factors that affect life expectancy.
One is wealth. It's gross domestic product per capita, and not health-care policy, that correlates most strongly to life expectancy. Gapminder has produced many colorful charts that show the strong correlation between wealth and health. Here's one from Lane Kenworthy of the University of Arizona:
If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you're diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?

A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.

Finally, U.S. life-expectancy statistics are skewed by the fact that the U.S. doesn't have one health-care system, but three: Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance. (A fourth, the Obamacare exchanges, is supposed to go into effect in 2014.) As I have noted in the past, health outcomes for those on government-sponsored insurance are worse than for those on private insurance.

For further reading on the topic of life expectancy, here are some recommendations. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw discusses some of the confounding factors with life expectancy statistics, citing this NBER study by June and Dave O'Neill comparing the U.S. and Canada. (Mankiw calls the misuse of U.S. life expectancy stats "schlocky.") Chicago economist Gary Becker makes note of the CONCORD study in this blog post. In 2009, Sam Preston and Jessica Ho of the University of Pennsylvania published a lengthy analysis of life expectancy statistics, concluding that "the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system."

Lies of Obamacare, documented

From PowerLine

Given the lies with which Obamacare was promoted–"If you like your health care plan, you can keep it"–this is of course a blockbuster story. So I spent some time today tracking down the original sources to verify it.

The Obama administration projected low-end, mid-range and high-end estimates for how many plans would be terminated, in total and broken down between large and smaller employers. The bottom line is that the administration expected 51% of all employer plans to be terminated as a result of Obamacare. That is the mid-range estimate; the high-end estimate was 69%. So as of 2010, the Obama administration planned that most Americans with employer-sponsored health care plans would lose them, whether they liked those plans or not.

In the Federal Register, the administration candidly acknowledged:

The collective decisions of plan sponsors and issuers over time can be viewed as a one-way sorting process in which these parties decide whether, and when, to relinquish status as a grandfathered health plan.

The administration was prepared to be patient as the "one-way sorting process" ran its course, and all Americans lost the plans they had, whether they liked them or not.

The Wheel of the Year: Now available on Amazon Kindle

The Official Manual for Spice Cadets: Now available on Amazon Kindle