Friday, April 30, 2010

Great ape - I'm forced to link to this AoSHQ post on one of my all-time favorite documentaries: "The King of Kong, a Fistful of Quarters." Caught it on Netflix and now it's on continuous rotation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You say "regulation," I say "tax." Let's call the whole thing off.

Georgetown Constitutional law professor Randy Barnett discusses the new health care individual mandate: "The insurance mandate in peril."

In this way, the statute speciously tries to convert inactivity into the "activity" of making a "decision." By this reasoning, your "decision" not to take a job, not to sell your house, or not to buy a Chevrolet is an "activity that is commercial and economic in nature" that can be mandated by Congress.

It is true that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause broadly enough to reach wholly intrastate economic "activity" that substantially affects interstate commerce. But the Court has never upheld a requirement that individuals who are doing nothing must engage in economic activity by entering into a contractual relationship with a private company. Such a claim of power is literally unprecedented.
It seems to me that the "activity" of not making a decision was first posited by legal scholar Geddy Lee:

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
Ironically, from "Freewill." Rock on.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blog wars - Legal Insurrection: "Right-wing bloggers are rugged individualists; left-wing bloggers need hand-holding." Kumbaya.
Let a mighty wind blow - I think this is great news: "Interior secretary approves Cape Wind, nation's first offshore wind farm." Opposition to the wind farm among the residents of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, who would normally support green energy, was based on the nebulous "aesthetic impact" of the turbines. If we can't accept some sacrifice for energy (like the usual fossil-fuel burning) then there's no real clean energy debate to be had.

Extra - From Popular Science.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Take some blame, Washington - Senator Carl Levin grilled some Goldman Sachs bigwigs today but Bethany McLean notes that our federal government deserves some condemnation for lax oversight. It's worth noting that McLean is the author of the definitive book on the Enron crisis (which I eventually finished).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Skynet was unavailable for comment

Seen in the vicinity of Zurich
We're gonna need more doctors - An obscure federal panel recommends that primary care physicians should get a 40% income increase to attract new doctors to general care. Business Week: "General practitioners need to make more money."
Good news and bad news on the economy

It's making a comeback! USA Today:
The recovery is shaping up to be stronger than expected and there is little risk the economy will slip back into a recession, according to USA TODAY's quarterly survey of 46 leading economists.
The bad news? It looks like we spent a boatload of money for nothing. Money/CNN: "The stimulus didn't help"
The recovery is picking up steam as employers boost payrolls, but economists think the government's stimulus package and jobs bill had little to do with the rebound, according to a survey released Monday.
And now that we've added to this debt and failed to address entitlement spending, there's little chance of ever growing out of our long-term liabilities:
"We're not going to say we're going to grow our way out of this," said former Republican Senator Alan Simpson. "Hell, we could have double (-digit) growth for 30 years and never grow our way out of this."
The deficit was $1.4 trillion in 2009, nearly 10 percent of the overall economy, and it is expected to be that much again this year. Longer term, the retiring baby boom generation will strain the Social Security retirement and Medicare health program for the elderly, putting even more pressure on government spending.
And make no mistake, the national debt is a problem that will not go away without political will from Washington. In other words: we're doomed.

Extra - From Gateway Pundit.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Screening the mail - I noticed in my junk e-mail file that MSN had screened out this message with only a "medium" junk mail status: "Congratulations, you've won 850,000 Euro!" from Swiss Lotto Netherlands. Only a medium, MSN? Tsk, tsk.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Play well - Mashable: "Top 10 LEGO movie tributes on YouTube." I love the "Princess Bride" scene in any format.
Speaking of New Jersey - I suppose the word "Torricelli" can now be used as a verb. RCP Blog: "Giannoulias family bank fails, putting Obama seat in jeopardy." In the post, it's noted that "the state party can 'Torricelli' him as late as October." For you political junkies.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Jersey gives us glue

Medical costs going UP, not down

Obamacare was sold to this nation after tricking the CBO with pinky-swear wink-wink promises that we'll cut a trillion dollars out of Medicare. Then the Obama Administration cited those estimates of "savings" as proof that the new health care legislation would reduce costs in the long run. Alas, the economists at Health and Human Services appear to live in the real world:
But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1% over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, since Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, the report warned.
That "could" qualifier is classic. NRO has a list of the Democrats who based their votes on the sheer self-delusion - in defiance of history - that a huge new government entitlement would not, in the words of Charlie Wilson (D-OH) "add a dime to the deficit."

Extra - Flashback: "Paul Ryan v. the President."

More - Legal Insurrection: "The numbers were a lie all along."

And this - Pundit and Pundette notes that Congress didn't want to wait for the Medicare Actuary report. Now we know why.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

CD uh-oh - Right before my trip I finished Michael Lewis's "The Big Short" about the collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that nearly wrecked the U.S. economy. (AIG, anyone?) In his acknowledgements, Lewis cites a Harvard undergraduate who wrote her economics thesis on this topic.
I'm so vain, I think this George Will article is about me

Mr. Will applauds the new governor of New Jersey for trying to reverse runaway taxes and statism. This section seems extremely familiar:
There is, he says, a connection between the state being #1 in total tax burden and being #1 in the proportion of college students who, after graduating, leave the state.
Hey, that's me! But I moved to Massachusetts, so, well...
Catching up - Well, it was spring break so I was away on vacation, blissfully segregated from the Internet or any news sources. So I need to review my favorite sites to see what's going on. But rest assured: the blogging will continue until morale improves.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We did what now? - I guess Nancy Pelosi wasn't lying when she said "we have to pass the health care bill to know what's in it." Weekly Standard: "Oops...Congress won't even be able to keep the plans they have under Obamacare." Remember how Obama ridiculed Eric Cantor for displaying the 2,500 page bill (nobody read) at the health care summit? Good times.

Monday, April 12, 2010

America's pension problem - George Will: "Only a brave few acknowledge an entitlement crisis."
MassCare follow-up

It's kind-of a bad news/neutral news story: the judge refused to allow the insurance companies to raise rates because they had not exhausted appeals to the state insurance commission:

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Neel today denied a request by six health insurers to allow them to implement double-digit premium rate increases for tens of thousands of small businesses and individuals.

Neel's decision not to grant an injunction sought by the insurers means the state Division of Insurance's rejection of 235 proposed rate hikes stands for now.

In making his much anticipated ruling, Neel accepted the argument of state government that the insurers should appeal the decision of Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy within the insurance division before they turn to the courts.
Meh. This is just delaying the showdown.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Obit headlines - Gee, I don't mean to appear insensitive to the tragic death of Poland's president, but this has to be one of the all-time obituary headlines: "Munchkin coroner from Oz, dead at 94."

Friday, April 09, 2010

On the cover of the "Rolling Stone" - On my flight back from Orlando, I couldn't help but notice that the former must-read for rock n' roll featured the cast of "Glee" on the cover (with a somewhat lascivious picture of Lea Michele.) If you scroll down and read the comments, this appears to have been the last straw for a lot of RS readers.
Call Manpower! - Via Fark, here's "6 movie plots made possible by ridiculous understaffing." It's funny because every time I watch "Lord of the Rings" I ask myself: "Why didn't Sauron put a couple guards around the only place in Middle Earth where the ring can be destroyed?"
Wave election - The conservative-leaning Election Projection currently forecasts the GOP pickup in the 2010 House election at 19 seats. But Nate Silver uses a regression model based on polling and predicts a 51 seat pickup for the Republicans with a potential high of 79 seats. Buh-bye Nancy.
A proxy battle on Obamacare - Massachusetts health care providers sued the Bay State government for denying rate increases and argued before a judge that they will "go out of business" without the hikes. The attorney representing the Bay State countered that Beacon Hill has the power to control insurance rates and, further, the court had no jurisdiction in the case. In the meantime, all but a couple of insurance companies have refused to accept new customers. The judge is expected to make a decision Monday.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Bay State standoff

Massachusetts health insurers: "We're going broke because of MassCare, so we're not going to insure anybody anymore"
The standoff between Massachusetts regulators and health insurance companies intensified yesterday, as most insurers stopped offering new coverage to small businesses and individuals, and state officials demanded the insurers post updated rates online and resume offering policies by Friday.
Useful young'uns - Contentions: "Obama to young people: Drop dead."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Slippery slope - Ski resorts will be will be hit hard by the new health care law.
Everybody loves Apple - Fast Company: "Today's most innovative companies by popular demand."
South by Southwest - Yep, I'm traveling again but thank heavens for free airport WiFi. See you in Florida!
Look into the crystal ball, America

We're showing you the future of Obamacare, right here in Massachusetts. Boston Globe: "Health insurers sue to raise rates."

A half-dozen health insurers yesterday filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to reverse last week’s decision by the insurance commissioner to block double-digit premium increases - a ruling they say could leave them with hundreds of millions in losses this year.
Oh those greedy, greedy insurance companies:

Three of the largest state health insurers - Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Boston, Tufts Health Plan of Watertown, and Fallon Community Health Plan of Worcester - posted operating losses for 2009.
My magic 8-ball says: "For 2010 also." And this was the "Trojan Horse" that we all warned you about, the "camel nose under the tent." The vilified private insurance companies will not be able to make a profit with restrictive regulations that undermine their ability to assess risk and the inability to adjust premiums to their costs. What will fill the void when all the insurance companies close up shop? A government-run program.

Extra - From Hot Air.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Do something so we can regulate it - Here's an aspect of the individual mandate that I hadn't considered: can you regulate an activity if people refuse to engage in it? Reason: "The power to regulate commerce across state lines is also the power to regulate non-commerce within a state." In other words: whatever.
Kids! - My younger son came downstairs past 10pm to say "good night" although we thought he had already gone to bed. When we started to object, he simply deadpanned: "Mom, we're all upset that we couldn't find 'the beef.'" We were so disarmed, there was nothing to do but laugh and let him scamper off.
Proof that psychokinesis does not exist - Because if people could really will the physical behavior of objects through mindpower, that last shot by the Butler Bulldogs would have gone in.

Dang it. Good game, though.
Now the Globe is just pullin' my chain

Another day, another story from the Boston Globe about the pending problems with Obamacare. File this under "stuff we shoulda known two weeks ago": "Health tax may wallop towns"

Massachusetts municipalities that offer employees, retirees, and elected officials the most generous and costly health insurance plans will feel the squeeze of the new national health care law’s tax on "Cadillac" insurance plans.

A family health plan that costs more than $27,500 would be subject to a 40 percent tax on every dollar spent above that threshold. The tax, set to take effect in 2018, would be levied on insurers, who would probably pass it on to municipalities and other employers. A few cities and towns already have family plans that exceed $27,500, and many others are on track to surpass that level before the tax kicks in.

That means taxpayers in many communities could be facing thousands of dollars in additional costs for every employee, retired worker, and elected leader they cover, unless those communities move soon to scale back coverage, a change the law is designed to encourage.
Lucky for me, Obama promised he wouldn't raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000. I'm in the clear, baby!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Everybody act surprised

The Boston Globe is reporting today that some people in Massachusetts are taking advantage of the state's health care regulations to sign up for insurance and then immediately run up huge medical bills. The subtitle of the article is delicious: "Short-term customers boosting health costs Lesson for US overhaul in gaming of Mass. system." Too late now, Boston Globe!

Thousands of consumers are gaming Massachusetts’ 2006 health insurance law by buying insurance when they need to cover pricey medical care, such as fertility treatments and knee surgery, and then swiftly dropping coverage, a practice that insurance executives say is driving up costs for other people and small businesses.

In 2009 alone, 936 people signed up for coverage with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts for three months or less and ran up claims of more than $1,000 per month while in the plan. Their medical spending while insured was more than four times the average for consumers who buy coverage on their own and retain it in a normal fashion, according to data the state’s largest private insurer provided the Globe.

The typical monthly premium for these short-term members was $400, but their average claims exceeded $2,200 per month. The previous year, the company’s data show it had even more high-spending, short-term members. Over those two years, the figures suggest the price tag ran into the millions.
And, in case you missed it, Governor Deval Patrick just refused the insurance companies' request to raise rates even though:

Even as businesses and individuals feel the pinch of surging health costs, three of the four largest state health insurers last week posted financial reports showing operating losses for 2009.
So, to recap: your costs are soaring because people are gaming the system without fear of consequence and the government says you can't raise rates even though your business is currently operating in the red.

Once more, with feeling: this is a great plan.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Don't ask Obama a tough question - He'll bury you with words: "Obama gives 17 minute answer to health care query in N.C." Maybe the teleprompter was skipping.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fool if you think it's over - Opinion Journal "Obamacare and the Constitution": "If Congress can force you to buy insurance, Article I limits on federal power are a dead letter."

I have to ask from somebody who actually went to law school: in what way does stare decisis inform or guide this question of the individual mandate and the Commerce Clause? That is, for 200+ years, everybody seemed to agree that the Constitution can't be used to force you to enter into a transaction with a private entity. Does that mean we "do not alter that which has been established?" Just wondering.

Extra - Dave Kopel doesn't think the debate is over, either.
Moody's reconsiders AAA for the USA - Politico: "Debt disaster dead ahead." The national debt is growing because we're getting the "teaser" rate, a low 3.3%. But once we're hooked on debt and the credit market loses faith, the cost of servicing that debt goes sky high.
"A house of cards built over a pool of gasoline" - I'm currently reading the book "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" but there's a documentary on CNBC tonight with the same title. Should I watch the movie? Maybe I should only watch it up to where I am in the book.

I'm only halfway through the book but, so far, it's an incredible tale of American hubris. Enron started as a real energy company but found they could make much more with energy trading. Soon making energy deals was Enron's only real business and the pressure to keep the machine running eventually led to a dizzying array of accounting tricks. It couldn't go on and it didn't.
Cool stuff - Popular Science: "MIT students' DIY "Minority Report" glove mouse."