Tuesday, December 31, 2013

MLK's Example

Something I did not know about Goldwater and about MLK:
The ‘Racism’ Wrecking Ball | National Review Online: "Kevin D. Williamson points out in the latest issue of National Review, the Reverend Martin Luther King was always careful with accusations of racism. “He often pointed out that Barry Goldwater was not himself a racist,” even though he voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Williamson notes. King had been told that Goldwater had worked hard to desegregate the Air National Guard in Arizona and had donated his own money for a lawsuit to desegregate a Phoenix high school. “Another reason that MLK did not call Senator Goldwater a racist is that he did not wish to look like a fool,” Williamson writes."
Now there seems to be no disincentive to making accusations of racism.

Instead of this constant whinging about being owed an apology for this or that off-hand comment, let the penalty for making false or unsupportable accusations of racism of prejudice being made to look like a fool. But of course, that would require some more Republicans and conservatives with the courage to risk being called racists themselves.

Earlier in the article Fund mentions the Duck Dynasty patriarch's comments about never personally observing any mistreatment of blacks growing up in Louisiana. Why is that absurd? A system of oppression, if it is really effective, doesn't have to be rude or openly cruel on a day to day basis. Indeed, that may be the real horror of the Jim Crow South, the acceptance of it as natural by both the oppressors and the oppressed.

'via Blog this'

Insurance made unaffordable BY AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

White House Exempts Millions from Individual Mandate Because of 'Hardship' of Obamacare: So it has come to this. The Obama administration has declared itself a hardship. For those people whose insurance is been made unaffordable by the affordable care act a waiver will be granted from the requirement to buy health insurance. Not only will fewer people have insurance after the limitation of the law's purpose was to solve the problem of the uninsured, now the very administration that wrote the law officially announces that being subject to the law is a hardship.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Politics an't bean bag, but under Obama, unfortunately, border control is

Fast & Furious Bombshell: FBI Implicated in Death of Border Patrol Agent Brian TerryThe Fast and Furious scandal continues to yield new details and depths of depravity. This article details the charges of a former Border Control agent that the actual engagement that killed Border Patrol agent Briant Terry was actual instigated and supervised by FBI assets, members of the criminal world that are acting as informants for the FBI.

But the real scandal to me is what was the intentional policy of the Obama administration to arm our guys with bean bags.
Fast & Furious Bombshell: FBI Implicated in Death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry | Independent Journal Review: "Border Patrol Agent Briant Terry was killed in an ambush on December 14th, 2010 during a patrol 11 miles from the Mexican border at Peck Canyon, in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. While Terry and his crew fired non-lethal beanbags at the assailants, the drug cartel members fired back with real bullets – killing the 40-year old agent."

Moral Panics; They are not just for Reactionaries anymore

Data shows dramatically less, not more, extreme weather in 2013 | WashingtonExaminer.com: Moral Panic has been a concept applied by social scientists to conservative causes and movements to enact policies that are based on non-existent problems. The 'White Slavery' moral panic of the 1920s is often cited as a canonical example. Now we have global warming coming apart.

Opinion Writing under the guise of fact-checking

Pants On Fire: PolitiFact Tries To Hide That It Rated 'True' in 2008 Obamacare's 'Keep Your Health Plan' Promise - Forbes: Avik Roy documents how the statement "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it. Period," went from being rated 100% true by Politifact in the 2008 election to being this year's "Lie of the Year," by the same Pulitzer prize winning organization.

Remember this the next time a Liberal sententiously announces that some politically charged statement has received the ire or imprimatur of a 'politically neutral' fact checker.

How not to fight a war

We are worried that the many who did this to an American may have gotten a fat lip?

How political correctness took down Navy SEALs | New York Post: These Navy Seals had their lives turned into a raging sea for the better part of a decade and their careers ruined because they allegedly failed to apprehend a terrorist and murderer of Americans with all the punctilious respect for rights that one expects of a suburban cop making a traffic stop. This is a great illustration of the absurdity of fighting a war as if we were at peace and treating enemy spies and terrorists as if they behind on child support payments.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

High Modernism and Social Science

A strong source of attraction of high modernism is the illusion it offers of making moral dilemmas disappear.
Malcolm Gladwells David and Goliath Fairy Tales | New Republic: "Gladwell is only one among a great many writers at the present time who promote this exaggerated or misplaced faith in science. From those who assure us that the world is becoming ever more peaceful to those who look to grand theories of psychology for solutions to Washington gridlock, the idea that scientific method can be a guide to the perplexed is one of the delusions of the age. More than any tendency to over-simplification, it is Gladwell’s enthusiastic embrace of this delusion that makes his style of writing so tendentious. Scientism has many sources, but central among them is a refusal to accept that intractable difficulty is normal in human affairs. Many human conflicts, even ones that are properly understood, do not fall into the category of soluble problems. No new discoveries in sociology or psychology can enable such conflicts to be wholly overcome; deeply rooted in history, they can only be coped with more or less resolutely and intelligently. Acknowledging this humbling truth is the beginning of wisdom, and of the long haul to something like peace."
A prime example of this avoidance of hard truths is Gandhi, who at least recognized the nature of the choice when he recommended that the Jews commit mass suicide to alert the world to the brutality of Nazism. I admired Gandhi for at least facing up to the choice. But Grey brings in another part of the story, the subsequent correspondence between Gandhi and Buber.

Reading Gladwell’s blithe assurances about happy endings for the vulnerable, one is reminded of Martin Buber’s rejoinder to Gandhi, who had urged Jews in Germany to practice non-violence against the Third Reich of the sort he was using against the British in India. “A diabolic universal steam-roller,” Buber explained, “cannot thus be withstood.” Earlier in the letter, Buber asked Gandhi: “Do you know or do you not know, Mahatma, what a concentration camp is like and what goes on there? Do you know of the torments of the concentration camp, of its methods of slow and quick slaughter?” The Mahatma did not want to know. It seems that many of Gladwell’s readers, in their less extreme circumstances, adopt a similar attitude toward the world. Unwilling to confront the raw facts of power, they prefer to inhabit a fantasy world in which it can be cleverly conjured away.
I don't think that Grey is being entirely fair to Gandhi, who seemed to recognize the futility of non-violent resistance in those circumstances, though the correspondence referred to above seems to have taken place before the end of the war and the full extent of the Nazi methods were known.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Does support mean signing up?

From Maggie Mahar's piece arguing that the media are being unduly critical of Obamacare:
The Media’s One-Sided Coverage of Obamacare | Health Beat by Maggie Mahar: "It is worth noting that the law draws the greatest support from people 18-34 (38 %) and 51-64 (41%.)  Somehow most in the media are ignoring the fact that so many young Americans favor the law—perhaps because that would contradict assertions  that 20-somethings and 30-somethings won’t be signing up for insurance."
I am not sure that supporting the law means that young people will sign up for it. Maybe they support it because they have not signed up for it yet. Maybe they don't realize that they have to sign up for it and that it is going to cost them something, probably more than they expect.

Populist Libertarianism's Founding Rant?

A Great Christmas Season Rant Against the Unfairness of the State

Combining the anti-statism of the right on the issues of

Green Energy Subsidies
Union Cronyism
Eminent Domain for Economic Development
Public Employee Unions

And the anti-statism of the left on issues like:

Wall-Street impunity
Corporate subsidies
Low-level drug users and dealers
Subsidized Sports Facilities

Populist Libertarianism's Founding Rant?

A Great Christmas Season Rant Against the Unfairness of the State

Combining the anti-statism of the right on the issues of

Green Energy Subsidies
Union Cronyism
Eminent Domain for Economic Development
Public Employee Unions

And the anti-statism of the left on issues like:

Wall-Street impunity
Corporate subsidies
Low-level drug users and dealers
Subsidized Sports Facilities

Why the Common Law Matters

This why the common law matters. The young man has a consensual encounter with a woman followed by friendly email exchanges and then, a year later, is brought before a kangaroo court where the normal procedures that protect the accused are waived to protect the 'victim.'
Guilty Until Proven Innocent - Reason.com: "Last February, one year after the encounter, the other shoe dropped: Yu was informed that Walker had filed charges of "nonconsensual sexual contact" against him through the college disciplinary system. Two and a half weeks later, a hearing was held before a panel of three faculty members. Yu was not allowed an attorney; his request to call his roommate and Walker's roommate as witnesses was denied after the campus "gender equity compliance investigator" said that the roommates had emailed him but had "nothing useful" to offer. While the records from the hearing are sealed, Yu claims his attempts to cross-examine his accuser were repeatedly stymied. Many of his questions (including ones about Walker's friendly messages, which she had earlier told the investigator she sent out of "fear") were barred as "irrelevant"; he says that when he was allowed to question Walker, she would start crying and give evasive or nonresponsive answers. Yu was found guilty and summarily expelled from Vassar."
You see women, women are weak and cannot be expected to have to face the people they accuse. On the other hand, they are just fine in combat. Seriously, how does this make sense?

Victims of Gandhi: peaceful provocations!

Female protester pictured kissing policeman accused of sexual assault - Telegraph:

The story goes on to note that the woman's intentions were to provoke an incident by violating the man's dignity, though I am not sure that sexual assault is the most accurate way to describe it:
"No peace message," she wrote on Facebook. "I would hang all these disgusting pigs upside down."
Oh well, another "emblematic image of peace," bites the dust.

Of course, I blame Gandhi. He it was who wrote the modern grammar of protest, which allows the "peaceful" side to win political victory by provoking a tactical loss.

Double Standards

Althouse: The Marines Corps quietly puts off the requirement that female Marines perform 3 pullups: Can anyone argue this makes the nation safer? Why does militant feminism seem so intent on getting women into combat? Is there a great swelling demand from women to be in combat? And how does this militant denial of the facts of women's relative weakness square with the demand that charges in domestic violence cases be brought whether the woman wishes to press them or not? Women are the equal of men on the battlefield but must be protected from them, going so far as to take from them the right to make their own decisions about whether to charge their husbands with a crime, when they are in the home? How does modern feminism maintain these two contradictory conceptions of women--as warrior and wilting flower--in mind and at the heart of simultaneously pursued policies?

Government by Anecdote: Welfare Queen Edition

Linda Taylor, welfare queen: Ronald Reagan made her a notorious American villain. Linda Taylor’s other sins were far worse.:

Josh Levin's story documents the real story of the woman Reagan cited in his celebrated and reviled "welfare queen" remark.
He argues that the real story--which was much worse than the facts that Reagan cited at the time--debunks Reagan's use of the anecdote since the woman was not representative or typical of the welfare using population:
With her story, Reagan marked millions of America’s poorest people as potential scoundrels and fostered the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be stamped out. This image of grand and rampant welfare fraud allowed Reagan to sell voters on his cuts to public assistance spending. The “welfare queen” became a convenient villain, a woman everyone could hate. She was a lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn. 
On the other hand you could argue that an example doesn't have to be typical to be informative. As Mickey Kaus argues, the whole story gives the impression that the system of dispensing benefits was ripe for manipulation and that Taylor was merely the best at a game many were playing. If a right-wing, tea-party supporter were to shot up a Democratic campaign headquarters it would surely be used to discredit the movement and pointed to as revealing something about the nature of the larger group without anyone claiming that all or even most tea-party are about to start shooting people.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Winning Ugly

Here is a good example of the advantage dictatorships have in war from this account of the Finns offset the Soviet's three-to-one advantage in numbers in their Winter 1939 invasion of Finland in WWII.
How a Small Force of Finnish Ski Troops Fought Off a Massive Soviet Army: "But the Finnish ski troopers, again utilizing their knowledge of the white and wooded landscape, expertly positioned automatic weapons that mowed down wave upon wave of advancing Soviet soldiers. 
After days of slaughter, enough dead riflemen had piled up in the snowbanks that the oncoming lines of Soviets were able to take cover behind the frozen bodies. The sub-zero temperatures hardened the corpses enough to stop the Finnish machine gun rounds."
Not exactly the way you would want to win but apparently effective. The Soviets eventually forced territorial concessions out of Finland in exchange for an armistice. But imagine a democracy having to fight on as their soldiers were forced to hid behind the frozen bodies of their fallen comrades? Also, how useful is it to have frozen bodies to hide behind for an invading army? To invade you have to go forward. Having to wait for enough guys to get killed in front of you to advance would be a very slow process to say the least.

The Soviet advantage in tanks was offset by the Finns' use of gasoline filled bottles dropped into the exhausts of the Russian tanks by swift moving ski mounted soldiers, devices which were popularly called, "Molotov cocktails," after Stalin's duplicitous foreign minister who negotiated the notorious Hitler-Stalin pact that, among other things, apportioned Finland to the Soviet Union. Of course, the Soviets were never able to close the 'reindeer gap.'

I knew Africa was big, but....

The-True-Size-of-Africa.jpg shows the true size of Africa.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Senator Reid Makes a Sound Proposal

Senate Democrats launch new push on student loan debt, college accountability | Inside Higher Ed: The idea is that colleges will be charged a penalty in proportion to the default rate of students who attend their college. It would give colleges an incentive to discourage students from taking out loans that they can't pay back, or as Reid says, give them "skin in the game." It is a good idea and I am surprised that Reid supports it given that the higher education is a major Democratic constituency. I suspect that the larger and more prestigious institutions see it as a way of putting greater burdens on their competitors, particularly for profit institutions.

Friday, December 20, 2013

You can't make this up

Looking for ways to exempt people from the individual mandate the Obama administration has stumbled upon the idea of using the hardship exemption. What is the hardship? The passage of Obamacare!
The individual mandate no longer applies to people whose plans were canceled: "3. Today, the administration agreed with a group of senators, led by Mark Warner of Virginia, who argued that having your insurance plan canceled counted as "an unexpected natural or human-caused event." For these people, in other words, Obamacare itself is the hardship. You can read HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' full letter here. HHS's formal guidance is here."
You don't have to buy insurance because the law saying that you have to buy insurance cancelled you insurance policy, leaving you without an insurance policy.

Of course, the rub is the word "unexpected." The law was passed almost four years ago. Surely that was enough time to make provisions for the insurance plans that would be cancelled? Ah, but these people believed President Obama when he said that if you liked your insurance policy you could keep it. Period.

So the real hardship is that you were lied to by the President and now the President is trying to help you. I believe the parallels to Otter's "You fucked up, you trusted us," defense is now added Otter's next sentence. "But don't worry, were going to try to help."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Silence! You have hurt my feelings!

Bryan Preston has some interesting things to say on the Duck Dynasty controversy.

The PJ Tatler » 4 Reasons Why the Duck Dynasty Brouhaha Matters:

Here is what strikes me: You never hear about conservatives trying to silence the other side. When did the normal reaction to something you disagree with become to demand that the person holding that opinion be banished from the public square?

I suppose this may just be a function of the relative strength of social liberalism. If social conservatives were as strong now as social liberals are now perhaps they would be making the same sorts of demands. Still, I think it is something specific to liberalism that it views the fact that one's feelings are hurt by the fact that someone disapproves of you as reasonable grounds for demanding that the person who hurts your feelings go away or be silenced.

The Suspensive Power: 21st Century Edition

In the 17th century it was called "the suspensive power", referring to Kings declining to enforce laws passed by Parliament, and it cost King Charles his head. Now our President is applauded for getting around a do-nothing Congress--at least when the President does things that please the chattering class--but there are reasons for concern:

Why Presidents Resort to Policy-Based Non-Enforcement, and Why It’s Concerning | The Volokh ConspiracyThe Volokh Conspiracy: "Yet for all the reasons that non-enforcement may be attractive to the executive branch as a policy tool — its circumvention of Congress, the limited political constraints on its use, and the unlikelihood of judicial reversal — it may also be insidious. An unbounded authority to decline enforcement could amount to a sort of second veto, an authority to read statutory provisions out of the code, at least for the duration of a particular presidency."

'via Blog this'

Government's most profitable scam? Reform!

If you were worried that the dearth of legislation being passed by this Congress was hurting the business of Washington's K-Street Lobbyists, you can relax. The surge in regulation has proven to be more profitable than making new laws ever was.
K Street mints money from regs surge | TheHill: "A regulatory lawyer can earn anywhere from $350 to $1,000 per hour when working for a client, depending on the firm and the attorney’s level of experience, according to several accounts. 
And one of the most important but little-known steps in the regulatory process, the filing of a comment letter on a proposed rule, could cost a company up to $100,000, one source said. 
“A regulatory project can far exceed a yearly retainer of a typical lobbying representation,” said the regulatory lobbyist. “For all we think about the mone1y that goes into lobbying, it’s chump change.” 
The increased focus on regulation coincides with a general rise in the regulatory state under both Democratic and Republican presidents."
Hooray for bipartisanship!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How politics stole Hollywood, Grinch edition

So I am watching the Jim Carey version of 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' with Karen's niece and seeing it for the first time. I find this particular Carey performance rather tedious, filled with a lot of frenetic and unnecessary movement that is not funny. There is a lot of athletic special effect enhanced slapstick for kids and double-meaning jokes for the adults (for instance, when he forces his dog to act the part of a reindeer he gives the dog method actor-like speech about his motivation). But what is really appalling is the back story and embellishments that they have added to make the story congruent with the political ideology and worldview of the film-makers.

Since the worldview that characterizes the thinking of our elites holds that there are no evil people in the world, only the victims of oppression by the rich and powerful, we must have an explanation of how the Grinch became the misanthropic who-hating anti-Christmas activist that the original book presented to us without explanation.

It turns out that the Grinch was ridiculed by as a child by the man who is the current Mayor of Whoville. The Mayor is a rich man whom we see mistreating the man who shines his shoes and so must be the real villain. The boy who would become the Mayor torments the Grinch and ridicules him for having hair on his face while still in grade-school. The Grinch tries to shave himself and ends up cutting himself for which he is ridiculed even more. This happens during the Christmas season and so the Grinch combines his hatred of Whos with a hatred of Christmas.

During the main action of the story the little girl proposes the Grinch for the prize and quotes the who-rule book against the Mayor that Whos must 'treat everyone the same, no matter how different or strange' (quoting from memory), making the issue prejudice against those who are different, of course. The little girl's plans to bring the Grinch back into the fold of Whoville by making him Cheer-miester for Christmas is foiled by the Mayor who manages to insinuate reminders of the Grinch's childhood humiliations into the award ceremony,  triggering the Grinch's rampage which ends with an explosion destroying the Christmas festivities. Amidst the rubble in the aftermath of the Grinch's rampage the Mayor declares that they must get back to "Christmas as it should be--Grinchless!"

In the end the Grinch decides to give Christmas back pretty much as in the book.

So instead of a story about a curmudgeon whose heart is changed by the Christmas spirit we get a morality tale about the the evils of rich and powerful and the harm of prejudice against people who look different from us. 

When are political views relevant in a mass shooting?

The Denver Post has a story about the Arapahoe High School shooter that reveals what appear pretty clearly to be left-of-center political beliefs:
Arapahoe High gunman held strong political beliefs, classmates said - The Denver Post: "In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as "Keynesian." 
"I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn't the market correcting itself?" he wrote. "If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn't it be able to overpower regulations?" 
Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing "you republicans are so cute" and posting an image that reads: "The Republican Party: Health Care: Let 'em Die, Climate Change: Let 'em Die, Gun Violence: Let 'em Die, Women's Rights: Let 'em Die, More War: Let 'em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?""
But other news stories do not mention his political beliefs (and here) or refer to them only vaguely, as in this NBC story:

Abbey Skoda, a junior, told The Denver Post: "He had very strong beliefs about gun laws and stuff. I also heard he was bullied a lot."
Of course, these stories all mention the altercation that he apparently had with the debate coach or a school librarian and that may well have been the main motive. But if he had been a rabid Republican can we really believe that his radical and combatively held views would not have been the subject of more discussion?

Writing Opinion Pieces and Calling it Fact-Checking

PolitiFact's 2013 Lie of the Year Was Half True in 2012 - Hit & Run : Reason.com: As Suderman points out, Politifact went from rating the statement as true in 2008, to half true in 2009 and 2012, to now, not only a lie, but the lie of the year. The statement didn't change, but Politifact's evaluation of whether it was a lie or not did change.

There is a case to be made for cutting Politifact some slack in 2008 when Obama was merely describing the bill he planned to write and pass--though even then it seems unfair to rule out as simply not true the argument of Republicans that the plan as Obama described it would necessitate the ending of many plans--but it is hard to explain their 'half-trues' after the bill was written and then passed as anything other than politically biased defense of the Obama administration.

From Gateway Pundit

FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY… Al Gore Predicted the North Pole Will Be Ice Free in 5 Years : except he referred to it as the 'North polarized cap'--good thing for him he isn't Sarah Palin. In a nice touch, Gateway Pundit points out, Egypt just had its first snowfall in 100 years.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Would Legalized Prostitution solve the problem of police corruption?

The problem with replacing prohibition of prostitution with a partially legalized and 'regulated' prostitution is that the industry would be liable to the same same kind of regulatory extortion as other regulated industries are.
Treating Sex Work as Work | Cato Unbound: "even in looser legalization regimes, laws create perverse incentives and provide weapons the police inevitably use to harass sex workers; in the United Kingdom women who share a working flat for safety are often prosecuted for “brothel-keeping” and, in a bizarrely cruel touch, for “pimping” each other (because they each contribute a substantial portion of the other’s rent).  In India, the adult children of sex workers are sometimes charged with “living on the avails,” thus making it dangerous for them to be supported by their mothers while attending university.  And in Queensland, police actually run sting operations to arrest sex workers travelling together for safety or company, or even visiting a client together, under the excuse of “protecting” them from each other. 
Such shenanigans were the primary reason New South Wales decriminalized sex work in 1995; police corruption had become so terrible (as it so often does when the police are allowed to “supervise” an industry) that the government could no longer ignore it."
The way to legalize something is to make it legal. Period.

Help your friends, harm your enemies: East-Asia edition

Commentary: Biden and Hagel Appease China at Allies' Expense:

It is as if they are determined to offer proof of the classical maxim by doing the opposite and allowing the world to observe the calamitous results.

Pragmatic Revolutionary

How Mandela Shifted Views on Freedom of Markets - NYTimes.com: Though he came out of prison and entered the South African presidency fully intending to socialize the economy, meeting leaders of socialist countries around the world that were privatizing gave Mandela reason to rethink his views. It is rare for a man to reverse convictions at so late an age and is one more reason to admire and be thankful for his contributions to life of his country and the world's.

News from outside the state controlled media

Some of the best reporting on the US comes from outside the US. In Britain the journalists don't have emotional investment in Obama and so papers like the Daily Mail are apparently more willing to give us the bad news.

This one is amazing: Obamacare mandates are set to shutter THOUSANDS of volunteer fire departments. Obamacare rules, in their proxy-socialist wisdom, require organizations to provide healthcare for their members, even if their members are volunteers. This is idiocy from the point of view of most Americans, but perhaps not if you are a proxy-socialist. If you want to rationalize life getting rid of volunteer organizations is a good move. They are too hard to control and make people too independent of the state.

News from outside the state controlled media

Some of the best reporting on the US comes from outside the US. In Britain the journalists don't have emotional investment in Obama and so papers like the Daily Mail are apparently more willing to give us the bad news.

This one is amazing: Obamacare mandates are set to shutter THOUSANDS of volunteer fire departments. Obamacare rules, in their proxy-socialist wisdom, require organizations to provide healthcare for their members, even if their members are volunteers. This is idiocy from the point of view of most Americans, but perhaps not if you are a proxy-socialist. If you want to rationalize life getting rid of volunteer organizations is a good move. They are too hard to control and make people too independent of the state.

Punctuation Matters!

Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage' - Washington Times:

'via Blog this'

Irony of Obamacare

White House in Obamacare Panic Mode?

So it seems that after years of being lectured on what an unfeeling person I am for not supporting Obamacare because, "Having health insurance is a basic human right," Obamacare is going to result in fewer people net having health insurance? Really amazing!

In the War on Boys, Common Sense is Collateral Damage

Dr. Hellen Smith remarks on the case of a six year old boy accused of sexual harassment:

Tell Hunter Yelton It’s a Man’s World | National Review Online: "The Yelton case should serve as a warning to parents and those who care about boys to fight for their sons’ freedom and rights in the same way that they would fight for their daughters, maybe even more so in today’s society where anyone’s son can become the next Hunter, or worse, one of the falsely accused as in the Duke rape case. Men deserve justice as much as women in our PC culture. It is only by bringing to light the cases like Hunter’s that we as a society will start down a path to change. We must accept that it is no longer a man’s world — and maybe it never was — and that little boys like Hunter are the ones most likely to suffer when society allows PC dogma, rather than reason, to dominate our political and educational systems."
One more reason to demand school choice.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Word of the day: malum prohibitum

Malum Prohibitum as opposed to Malum per se is my new word of the day. It is a latin legal phrase referring to things that are wrong because they are illegal in contrast to things that are illegal because they are wrong. So much of our troubles in government come from the expansion of the former and the waning of the later.

We should always ask of a law if it asks us to make illegal things that are not immediately wrong in and of themselves. In the past most law prohibited things that are wrong in and of themselves, things that one should be expected to know are wrong without their being illegal, things that you would expect anyone to know are wrong where ever they came from.

For instance, the laws against insider trading make things that are not only not wrong in and of themselves illegal but are actually reasonable and prudent illegal. If you hear someone at a party talk about how their company is going to have a bad quarter or that the people inside the company hate their new boss the reasonable and prudent thing to do would be to sell some of your shares. But in doing so you would run afoul of the insider trading laws which prohibit acting on information that is not public knowledge.

This causes problems. People break the law without realizing it. People end up being vulnerable to prosecution and afraid to talk to the police about other matters. The whole sense of the law as being something reasonable and something we can trust is diminished. This causes a loss of confidence in the law as people come to think of it as a game with rules too complicated to ever know. They get the feeling that the game is rigged. When someone is convicted of breaking the law there is less shame and sometimes even a sense of sympathy because they cannot be assumed to have done anything that is self-evidently immoral but may have merely made an enemy in the wrong place.

Glenn Renolds argues that a free society will have less malum prohibitum because the state would get out of the business of using the criminal law to regulate consensual relations between citizens and rely more on tort law and contract law to make victims whole through restitution rather than making the state richer (through fines) or poorer (through imprisonment).

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Don't bring lawyers to a knife-fight

The legalism of the West is going to end up leading to a great victory for the forces of lawlessness: Letting the Ukraine slip into the Russian orbit and out of the West:

The Great Ukrainian Knife Fight - The American Interest: "The EU on the other hand, infected by the usual mix of arrogance, legalism and internal wrangling that fairly consistently undermines its influence on the world stage, assumed that the attractions of its offer were so overwhelming that relatively little needed to be done beyond restating the terms of the deal. Worse, it demanded that President Yanukovych swallow a large toad before signing up; he had to release his archrival and predecessor Yulia Tymoshenko from jail. 
Not a good idea; the toad swallowing thing ensured that Yanukovych would bargain hard before accepting the EU bid and made him more open to Kremlin seduction than he would otherwise be. It also reminded the entire Ukrainian economic establishment that a deal with the European Union would threaten the freewheeling nature of oligarchical life. It reminded all the power brokers in Ukraine of just how convenient the more flexible Russian approach to matters of political democracy and economic regulation can be."
The West as a whole is hobbled by institutions that care more about conforming their behavior to legal principles rather than achieving results. When confronted by an opponent with a knife the thing to do is not to check whether your hands are clean but whether they have a knife in them as well. Putin is winning in spite of a weak hand because he helps his friends and harms his enemies. All our friends get is a hygiene lecture. 

Mississippi wins!

PJ Lifestyle » Which State Is The Most %@$* Foul-Mouthed?: No surprise here. Mississippi comes in inside the top five most polite states in an analysis of cell phone calls. Surprisingly it is among the top five in the number of profanities in cell phone calls as well. That is quite a surprise to me. On the other hand, coming in at the wrong end of both lists among the least polite and most foul mouthed, my home state: Ohio!

Of course, the really disturbing thing about the report is that some guy can get this information about the content of cell phone calls. And he doesn't even work for the NSA!

The 'Axis of Weevils'

In my American politics class we read a piece that argued the US faces no real enemies and that therefore we should sharply decrease defense spending. The students in my class were not persuaded; I was struck by how much support there was for increased defense spending given our difficult economy and the difficulties many of their own families are facing. But they had trouble articulating the precise source of the danger we were facing. Do we have an actual enemy? Is that enemy the kind that we would fight with tanks and aircraft carriers? Are China and Russia really opposed to us? Are they someone we are going to have a war with? The article on the opposing side of the dispute did not help the case for increased defense spending much. The author brought up Russia's actions in Ossetia. Until they had read the word on the page I am confident that they had never known of its existence, much less attached sufficient importance to it to be willing to fight for it, where ever it is!

Now comes a blog post by Walter Russell Mead that puts the nature of the danger and the challenge that we face in a way that makes sense to me. In The End of History Ends - The American Interest, he characterizes our present predicament in foreign policy as a confrontation with a triumvirate of dissatisfied powers that are continually on the look out for ways to diminish US power and influence.

Russian, China and Iran may not have a lot in common but they all strongly dislike the international system as it is set up now and, as it is the US that set up and guarantees this system, are opposed to the US and most things that help the US project and maintain its power. They are not strong enough nor necessarily inclined to oppose it in a direct military confrontation, but they are working constantly and opportunistically to chip away at the foundations of the US backed world order.

Think of the Central Powers as an ‘axis of weevils’. At this stage they are looking to hollow out the imposing edifice of American and maritime power rather than knock it over. This is not the most formidable alliance the United States has ever faced. Not everything the Central Powers want is bad; like all revisionist powers, they have legitimate grievances against the status quo. They don’t always agree, and in the long run their differences with one another are profound. But for now, they have not only agreed that they have a common interest in weakening the United States in Eurasia and disrupting its alliances; increasingly, with the United States government still largely blind to the challenge, they are pushing ahead.
The Obama administration sees the grievances and focuses primarily on removing the causes of those grievances and building trust through diplomacy. It is not an ignoble impulse. But they fail to recognize that some conflicts cannot be solved to everyone's satisfaction and that sometimes there just has to be a winner and a loser. In its determination to turn enemies and adversaries into friends it often turns its back on our friends and emboldens our enemies. Through wishful thinking and, it must be admitted, a certain degree of ineptitude, it has handed the axis a series of tactical victories that are starting to make the US look like a bad bet, an inconstant friend and a timid enemy.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Manchurian Incompetent

Iranian Deal’s Revealing First Week « Commentary Magazine: The deal with Iran has already started to unravel, or at least, if you thought that the goal was to keep Iran from getting a bomb. If you thought that the goal was to prevent Israel from stopping Iran and getting on the good side of Hezbollah and the radical Islamists then it is pretty good.

Indeed, if you were a foreign power that had installed Obama as your agent you could hardly have asked for more from the man.

Al Qaeda spread throughout the Middle-East? Check!

American's allies put on notice that we will not stand behind them when things get rough? Check!

America less popular than we were during the Bush presidency? Check!

Russia back in the Middle-East after being elbowed out by Nixon and Kissinger 40 years ago? Check!

American economy hobbled with employment as a percentage of the working age population back to 1970s levels? Check!

Spying on Allies and worse, getting caught? Check!

The legacy of the Obama administration foreign policy will be a resurgent Islamist movement, a nuclear armed terrorist state and a Russia resurgent. It is a pity that he is not working for our foreign enemies. He would certainly be able to argue that he had earned his pay.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Chinese belligerence backfiring?

37% Believe U.S. Doesn’t Spend Enough on Military, National Security: Rasmussen finds that their tracking of Americans who believe we are spending too little on the military versus those who believe we are spending too much has flipped with those saying we spend too little besting their opposite number by 8 percentage points. Thanks, China!

Rent seeking prudes strike again!

Topless Barber Charged With Unlicensed Cosmetology - NYTimes.com: The incumbents in the hair cutting industry are striking out against their topless competitors to the detriment of consumers everywhere. Good think for Hooters that waitresses haven't been able to get licensing requirements enacted!

Real Progress

How NASA might build its very first warp drive: Details how a faster than light warp drive might be practical. Personally I had not even realized it was theoretically possible, but that just shows you what I know. Turns out that geometry is the key to the advance in this case. I always feel that geometry is the key to understanding anything really. You can follow algebraic proofs all you want but for me, I don't really understand something until I can picture it.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Che or Hitler?

Great libertarian website asks you to choose between Hitler and various left wing heroes. This one comes from the "Che-Hitler" series, though I think it could be included in a future "Obama-Che" series...
“Youth should learn to think and act as a mass. It is
criminal to think as individuals!”

'via Blog this'

Words of Wisdom

Frank Zappa in 10 Great Quotes | The Libertarian: "10) Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex."

Decadent Politics: automotive edition

RealClearPolicy - Driving Toward Failure: "Stand on any street corner in Northern Virginia and watch the stream of cars with foreign nameplates go by. The D.C. metro area is lousy with Toyotas and Hondas, and it boasts far more than its fair share of BMWs, Volvos, and Mercedes. Only in Washington would policymakers be ready to buy American car companies when they won't buy American cars."
The defining feature of political decadence is the rulers living under different laws from the ruled. Of all the great policy intellectuals that advocated and defended the Detroit bailouts at tax payer expense how many actually drive an American car?

Why you need someone with Clout, not credentials

There will be case studies written for decades on why the roll out of Healthcare.gov went so badly, but one lesson should be apparent already, and it is not one that we often hear about: get somebody with political clout, i.e., connections with the political people at the top of the administration, to run the thing.

Tension and Flaws Before Health Website Crash - NYTimes.com: "over the past three years five different lower-level managers held posts overseeing the development of HealthCare.gov, none of whom had the kind of authority to reach across the administration to ensure the project stayed on schedule.
As a result, the president’s signature initiative was effectively left under the day-to-day management of Henry Chao, a 19-year veteran of the Medicare agency with little clout and little formal background in computer science.
Mr. Chao had to consult with senior department officials and the White House, and was unable to make many decisions on his own. “Nothing was decided without a conversation there,” said one agency official involved in the project, referring to the constant White House demands for oversight. On behalf of Mr. Chao, the Medicare agency declined to comment."
'via Blog this'
When you a government program goes badly there is usually a call to get someone in there who has area specific expertise, someone that knows the particular subject matter at hand, to do the job and make decisions on a rational, non-political, basis.

But that is often the exact wrong advice. Many of the decisions that had to be made and were not made in the website roll out were not strictly speaking technical in nature but political. There was no purely technical answer to the decisions that held up the process so long, such as whether or not users should be required to give their social security number or whether they should be able to see prices without having created an account and thereby getting their potential subsidies figured in before hand.  These are questions that involve value trade-offs and political calculations.

Moreover, they involve political risks. That is why none of them could be answered before consulting with political people higher up in the administration, a process which inevitably takes a long time and which made it impossible to take many other purely technical decisions in s a timely manner. What the Obama administration needed was not more people with computer expertise but more people with political clout empowered to make decisions on the design of the website.

And that is one of the things that is troubling about Obama's hands off management style. He says that he doesn't write code and goes off to do another fund-raiser. But the problem wasn't writing code, it was making political decisions on which coding decisions were dependent, decisions that only he or someone politically connected to him can make.

Actually, I'm kind of in favor of this....

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit 'Radicalizers': All of the people targeted in this pilot program were Jihadists based outside the US which seems like exactly the kind of people we expect the NSA to target.

Requiring ID for Healthcare--good; requiring ID for voting--racism!

ID Verification Lagging on Health Care Website - NYTimes.com: First of all, they require you to open an account and give them all of your identifying information before you can even shop around and get prices, now they require you to verify your identity before shopping. Not buying, mind you, shopping. Now, they have screwed up the ID verification and thousands are waiting "in limbo," unable to even look at replacements for the healthcare plans Obamacare has cancelled while the government conducts its "ID Proofing." And it was just yesterday that we were lectured that states requiring ID before voting was a racist plot. At least those states would let you cast a provisional ballot.

Requiring ID for Healthcare--good; requiring ID for voting--racism!

ID Verification Lagging on Health Care Website - NYTimes.com: First of all, they require you to open an account and give them all of your identifying information before you can even shop around and get prices, now they require you to verify your identity before shopping. Not buying, mind you, shopping. Now, they have screwed up the ID verification and thousands are waiting "in limbo," unable to even look at replacements for the healthcare plans Obamacare has cancelled while the government conducts its "ID Proofing." And it was just yesterday that we were lectured that states requiring ID before voting was a racist plot. At least those states would let you cast a provisional ballot.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Facile Churchill Analogy of the Week

The headline for commentary on the weekend deal with Iran pretty much writes itself:
Peace for Our Time | National Review Online: "Collate reset, lead from behind, “redlines,” “game-changers,” ”deadlines,” the Arab Spring confusion, the skedaddle from Iraq, Benghazi, the Eastern European missile pullback, and the atmosphere is comparable to the 1979–80 Carter landscape, in which after three years of observation, the opportunists at last decided to act while the acting was good, from Afghanistan to Central America to Tehran. 
There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements."
Of course, the analogy with Munich has its problems. First off, people can always ignore the analogy on the grounds that Hitler analogies are by definition illegitimate--a rhetorical dodge that costs us a lot of good insights, not just about our enemies, but about our own rulers.

In particular, Neville Chamberlain is a good figure to whom to compare Obama in many ways. Both are very well educated and convinced that they are the smartest person in the room. Both are willing and sometimes eager to ignore advice from their opponents. Neither are particularly graceful in taking criticism.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney was not exactly Winston Churchill.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A program built on lies

Remember the story Obama always telling about his Mother being cut off by her insurance company when she was diagnosed with breast cancer? It was a lie.
Remembering Stanley Ann Dunham Obama | RealClearPolitics: "There would be, if it had been true. But when New York Times reporter Janny Scott researched the issue for her biography of the president's mother, she discovered letters proving beyond doubt that Cigna never denied Stanley Ann Dunham coverage for her disease. The dispute was over a disability plan that would have paid some of her other expenses.
The White House did not deny Scott's account, but shrugged it off as something that had happened long ago. Not so long that it couldn't be milked one last time though, for a 2012 campaign film. In "The Road We've Traveled," the message remained unchanged -- a greedy insurance company had cut off Obama's mother at her moment of maximum vulnerability, and it cost Dunham her life."
Read the whole thing, as she goes on to chronicle the other lies that were told to get Obamacare passed.

Friday, November 22, 2013

If you like your doorknobs you can keep them

Vancouver Banned Doorknobs. Good. | Popular Science: Click on the link if you want to read the scientific reasons behind the decision.

What is interesting to me is that this is the sort of issue that you never hear conservatives complain about. It is something that is done at the state or the city level and so constitutionally there is no problem, they have the power to make such rules.

Imagine, though, if you tried to do this at the national level. There would not only be the problem of where in the Sam Hill the US government gets the power to mandate the use of levers instead of doorknobs, there would be objections on substance. There are a lot of places where banning doorknobs might be a good idea but a lot of places where it is not. A lot of places where they like the idea and a lot of places where they don't. What might be a minor issue at the local level would become a major pain if it were made into a decision made at the national level.

This is the beauty of Federalism. Just let states make the laws they are constitutionally entitled to make and the federal government stick to the powers delegated to it by the Constitution and so many of the vexing arguments and conflicts over political issues of our day just melt away.

Conservatives are fine with local communities making laws that they do not personally agree with. It is only when national elites try to impose their preferences on the rest of us through mis-interpretations of the Federal Constitution that we complain.

From Housing Bubble to....

Respected Economist Says Higher Ed Bubble Starting To Burst: "Loosely defined, the higher education bubble refers to the unsustainable combination of several factors all coalescing at once: the rising cost of tuition; the growing irrelevancy of a liberal arts degree; ballooning student loan debt; and skyrocketing unemployment for college grads.
Vedder said the bubble is already starting to burst, as evidenced by the fact that school admissions are down precipitously from last year, pressuring an already bloated system."
The amazing thing about inflation in higher education is that what college professors do has not changed. While doctors can cure diseases that were untreatable just a generation ago, professors have not increase in quality or value they can use to justify their increase in prices even though higher education has increased in cost even faster than has medicine.

The New Court Packing Scandal

Mickey Kaus shares the real reason that Harry Reid has chosen the nuclear option, to be able to pack the D.C. Circuit Court:
Why Nuke Now? | The Daily Caller: "The D.C. Circuit, more than other circuits, is the central institution of America’s regulatory state, which is the basis for the booming economy of the entire National Capital area. Should this court become hostile to regulations, or capable of reviewing fewer of them, there might be correspondingly fewer reasons for corporations and other interests to hire connected D.C. lawyers to lobby government agencies to get the regulations they want, and to then defend those regulations when they’re challenged in court. And there’d be fewer reasons for young men and women to come to the capital to work in its agencies for a few years before moving into the private sector and becoming one of those lawyers corporations hire to manipulate the agencies they worked for."
The press has been chin pulling about the way that Republicans have held up the President's judicial nominees and whether it was really worse than the way that the Democrats held up Bush's nominees, but that is all a distraction. The give away is that nuke was detonated to add more judges to the D.C. Circuit, something which goes beyond the mere selection of judges that share your outlook to fill vacancies as they come up and actually allows the incumbent party to change the current composition of a court without waiting for judges to die off or retire.

Roosevelt's attempt to do this with the Supreme Court was one of the greatest mistakes of his presidency and one that cost him the most politically. The same ought to happen to Obama, but the press's fixation on the incidental details while ignoring the main story suggests that the One may get away without paying a price this time.

Long term unemployment's long term effects

Being unemployed for a long time costs you more than just money. Did the Recession Make You Stupid? - Bloomberg:

Those effects seem to be long-lasting. Income setbacks during a recession can stay with you throughout your career -- for example, studies of people who graduate into a recession show that even decades later, they’re not earning as much as people who graduated into sunnier environments. But a new study from Europe seems to show that even cognitive declines are persistent
This makes the case against what I call 'proxi-socialism' all the more stronger. The government has instituted policies that redistribute wealth not by taxing it and handing it out but by changing the rules of the market place to force individual consumers and employers to redistribute it. Consumers of health care are forced to subsidize the healthcare consumption of people that use the mandated benefits that insurers must include in any package of benefits they offer and businesses must provide a minimum level of benefits and wages to anyone whom they choose to hire. These things drive up the cost of labor and, consequently, result in less labor being purchased or, as it is usually put, more unemployment.  

The Next Obamacare Debacle

Insurers restricting choice of doctors and hospitals to keep costs down - The Washington Post: "In New Hampshire, consumers who purchase insurance through the exchange have only one choice of carrier — Anthem BlueCross BlueShield— because no other insurer applied to join the exchange. The company’s network includes access to only 16 of the state’s 26 acute-care hospitals. 
That’s forcing people such as Michael Justice, 63, a Web developer from Peterborough, N.H., to leave doctors they like. Justice has been treated by primary-care doctors, cardiologists, orthopedists and eye doctors affiliated with Monadnock Community Hospital in his town for 15 years, and his wife for 30 years. But starting in 2014, that medical center will no longer be in network for the Anthem plans sold in his state, whether he buys the insurance through the health exchange or on his own."

People are going to start finding out that they not only can't keep their plan but that the new plan does not include their doctor. That may be a much more devastating blow politically than the rate shock that people on the individual market have been experiencing. More importantly, unlike the rate shock which is only directed felt by people who buy their health insurance on the individual market, the 'doc-shock' will affect people that get their medical insurance through their employers.

Ann Coulter tells us about the other Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin vs. Liberal Bullies: She mentions a lot of interesting facts that I did not know about these cases where Baldwin is taken to task by liberals and conservatives for boorish behavior. I was surprised, but in a way not at all surprised, by the way that Baldwin was a perfect gentleman to Sarah Palin when she was on Saturday Night Live while Tina Fey refused to share the stage with her--no way to treat someone who was making your career.

The striking thing is that all of these facts are documented but almost completely unknown because the press decides on a narrative that supports their preferred causes and all facts that conflict with it are edited out of the public record by a conspiracy of politically correct silence.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

James Taranto's Invaluable Column

Best of the Web Today: Snake Eyes - WSJ.com: Taranto makes the case that the Obamacare roll out has been more than just a hit on President Obama's reputation for competence but has turned Americans sour on the beliefs and principles that motivated the ACA's passage in the first place" 

Gallup has been asking the question since 2000. "Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare," the firm reports. The proportion answering "yes" peaked in 2006 at 69%--27 points higher than today's number. Then it began declining, to 64% in 2007 and 54% in 2008.
The current 42% is the lowest figure ever recorded, but the percentage answering in the affirmative hasn't risen above 50% since 2009. Remember what happened in 2009?
Not surprisingly, the answers vary by party. The 56% of Americans who say universal health care is not the government's responsibility include 86% of Republicans, 55% of independent and 30% of Democrats.
This reflects a more abrupt change among Democrats (up five points since 2012) than among Republicans (down two points) or independents (up one point).
Perhaps the most dramatic finding: The proportion of Democrats who say it isn't the federal government's responsibility in 2013 (30%) is higher than the proportion of all voters who said the same thing in 2006 (28%).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Doris Lessing on Political Correctness

Questions You Should Never Ask a Writer - New York Times: She died today and I must say that I have found some of the essays that have been republished on the occasion of her death compelling. I really feel I short-changed myself.

Obama care's resilience

The Three Burials of Obamacare - NYTimes.com: Douthat analyzes the reason that Obamacare is designed in such a complicated way that keeps leading to break downs: the need to appease all the constituencies that the welfare state has created. But the very thing that made it necessary to create such a complicated system may sustain the system despite its defects and setbacks--the constituencies that it creates. That is why conservatives can't just sit back and laugh at the current difficulties the ACA is in. If conservatives don't come up with an alternative that they can sell to public and use to actively replace Obamacare the system will survive in spite of it unpopularity.

Friday, November 15, 2013

And they have that cheese....

They'll Pay You to Live in Switzerland! - Bloomberg: Megan McArdle examines the implications of the upcoming referendum in Switzerland to "pay" (her word, I think that "give" would be more correct in this case) every adult citizen $2,800 a month or $33,600 per year. The Swiss are richer than us so the annual payment would still be less than half the per capita income of $80,000 per year. She reckons in terms of bringing people up to the same level in terms of the proportion of per capita income the equivalent policy in the US would be mailing checks of about $2,000 a month.

The interesting thing about this proposal is that it has proponents on the right and the left.

The right would approve of the non-distorting effects of the payment. Since you don't have to do anything to qualify for the payment there would be no disincentive effects (technically no moral hazard) and thus no destruction of wealth caused by the payment itself (deadweight loss).

It would be expensive. In the US it would be $24,000 a year times the number of adult citizens (assuming we do not make the payments to non-citizens) which is about 230 million. It comes out to just under 6 trillion dollars. Since our entire GDP is about 16 trillion and our entire federal budget is about 3.7 trillion that would be a lot. On the other hand, if it were only a thousand, it might be doable and would by definition lift everyone out of poverty.

If it were to replace all other income supports and social income insurance programs it would not actually be that much more expensive than the current system.

Anti-Science from the Left

Green Gits Give Malthus a Helping Hand | Via Meadia: Walter Russell Mead describes how anti-genetically modified crop activists are forcing African countries to ban life-saving innovations. Even though they have been used safely in this country for over a decade and have been shown to be safe in scientific studies the anti-science zealots of the left continue to put their obsessions before the lives of Africans.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Death Spiral? Recent developments on Obama Care

The big question facing the new health care law is whether enough young and healthy people are going to sign up. The two best policy bloggers (in my opinion) have recently taken on the issue.

Pro-Obamacare: Ezra Kline of the Washington Post, whose wonkbook blog is the first place to go for center-left policy analysis on almost any issue. Here he answers the charge that Obamacare is in a death spiral (though in this blog post from today he is a bit more pessimistic).

Anti-Obamacare: Megan McArdle's Asymmetrical Information blog, now at Bloomberg. In addition to Healthcare she is better at explaining economic theory as it applies to important policy questions than anyone else I read.

Some other things worth reading:

Sarah Kliff argues that the real crunch time for the ACA is months away and that the problems faced in these early months are not going to matter much in the long run.

Matthew Yglesia, one of the smartest policy analysts on the left, argues that the Republican alternative to Obama Care would make people lose their insurance as well.

This take-down of a Sean Hannity story on people that have supposedly lost their insurance through Obamacare. With Friends like these, conservatives don't need enemies.

Here is Avik Roy's analysis of the ACA's effect on insurance premiums for individual. He makes the case that the law transfers wealth from young and healthy people to, well, people like me. Thanks, kids.

Here is an article about a study of cosmetic surgery which, since it is not covered by insurance, is exposed to market forces and consequently has not only gone up in price more slowly than other types of medical care that are covered by insurance, has actually been getting cheaper in real terms.

Why can't you see the price before you make an account with all your personal information?

Most of the problems with the website so far seem to be due to the decison to make people create an account--with all their personal information--before they can see the prices of the various insurance pakages available. So why do that? Yuval Levin:

Assessing the Exchanges | National Review Online

Some journalists and analysts have speculated that this decision was made in order to prevent people from seeing premium costs before they could also see any subsidies they might be eligible for, so that the shock of higher prices could be contained and so that simply curious observers and journalists couldn’t get a picture of premium costs in the various states.

This is certainly a plausible explanation and is in line with the fundamental dishonesty of the Administration, but it is a lot less disturbing than the explanation I had formed in my own mind, that they wanted to have all your information in order to track you down and force you into buying insurance.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Animal House-Cheering up Flounder - YouTube

Animal House-Cheering up Flounder - YouTube: Which is better apology? Otters, "You fucked up, you trusted us!" or Obama's
"We weren't as clear as we needed to be, in terms of the changes that were taking place," Obama said in an interview with NBC News.
"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," he said."
They are both similar from the point of view of their underlying meaning. You believed what I told you and now you are suffering for it. The reasons that you are suffering for it is because what I told you was not true. But Obama's statement that "We weren't as clear as we needed to be," is misleading. He was perfectly clear. "If you like your insurance you can keep it, period," is very clear, it is just that it is not true. And the President knew it was untrue at the time. Saying something that you know to be untrue is called lying.

In any case, Otter's apology is certainly more fun.

The same may be said of the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto who, after admitting to and apologizing for smoking crack, now has a higher approval rating than Obama. If you can't be sincere at least be fun.

Thank God for Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys

No Deal on the Iranian Nuclear Program. Let’s Examine Why. « Pejman Yousefzadeh: My old classmate analyzes why the French decided to torpedo the deal Kerry negotiated with the Iranians on their nuclear weapons program. He says it was all due to the influence of the Israel lobby. He does this without a trace of irony, so much so that I fear some readers won't recognize that he is mocking the point of view that he ostensibly takes.

So many in the public sphere are wedded to the idea that the only thing standing between us and harmonious relations with the Islamic world is the insidious influence of the Jewish/Israeli lobby in the US that it will come as a shock that France--a country that is as pro-Palestinian as any country in Europe and cannot be accused of having an Israeli lobby at all--is the country that put a stop to the deal. It seems there are other reasons besides the secret power of the Jews to not want the largest state sponsor of terrorism (according to the US State Department's assessment) to have a nuclear weapon.

And it is also another instance of a pattern that has become more pronounced in recent years, that of the French taking a harder line and firmer action than the US. From Mali to Libya and more recently in Syria and now Iran, France has been the Western state that has taken the hardest line against Islamist terrorism in all its forms. They deserve our thanks and respect.