Monday, March 31, 2014

The kids are getting wise

Forbes: "How Much Does Obamacare Rip Off Young Adults? We Ran The Numbers. Here Are The Results."
The final number of young enrollees is well below the required cohort. Premiums will rise next year as a result of the adverse selection of older, and probably less healthy consumers. Why are young adults staying away? In one word, economics.
Obamacare is asking young adults to effectively subsidize the healthcare costs of older Americans. So far, Millennials are resisting this age-based transfer of wealth. Many are clearly opting instead to remain uninsured, or else they are buying cheaper health plans that don’t conform to Obamacare’s regulatory dictates.
C'mon kids: multi-millionaire Lebron James says paying a lot more for healthcare is cool.  YOLO and such.

Enough already

It's March 31st here in Western Massachusetts and there's a thin coat of white on the ground after yet another snow/sleet mix.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

White House mum

As we near the end (not really) of open enrollment for Obamacare, did you see all the White House officials on the Sunday morning shows extolling the Greatest Domestic Legislation ever?  Yeah, neither did I.

And we know why: they're cooking the books.  The 6 million "signups" number is trotted out but it's unknown how many of those are just policies selected, how many have paid for their first month of coverage, how many are the "young invincibles", and how many are actually people who were kicked off their old policies and were just getting insurance again.

Meanwhile, "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau - who once was bipartisan in his political critiques - took to his Sunday panel to accuse Republicans of using their own facts on the minimum wage debate.  If Trudeau has produced a single strip critical of this Administration, I've yet to see it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lame is Rob

This is so great:

Peer effects at the Air Force Academy

I heard this story the other day on NPR and thought it was absolutely fascinating.  Officials at the U.S. Air Force Academy wanted to see if there was a way to improve the academic performance among lagging students, so they were paired with the best performing students to see if peer effects would boost grades.

Alas, their grades got worse.  It turns out that, even though they were supposed to work together, the two classes of students split off and the poor students suffered.  It seems that the average-performing students act as a sort of "glue" when working together as a team.

But in a further twist, when the middle students were isolated from the effects of the high and low-performing students, they improved academically:
Well, the middle group started to do better, Linda. When they didn't have the influence of either the better students or the worst students, the middle students by themselves, their test scores went up. And for the policymaker, this presents a dilemma, because it suggests that in regular squadrons where everyone is mixed together, the performance of the middle students is actually adversely affected. You pull them out, they start to do better. But when you pull out, the weakest students start to do worse.
So it's difficult to find the right balance, it appears.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Emotion aside, the legal case for Hobby Lobby

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Prof. Michael McConnell of Stanford explains the legal reasoning behind the plaintiff's arguments in Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius.

It's hard to nutshell but one point is that the government must show a compelling justification to shift health care expenses from an employee to employer without violating First Amendment rights of a corporation, established under various precedents (see the article).

And then there's this - For contrast: "Jeffrey Toobin's embarrassingly bad write up of the Hobby Lobby oral argument."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Now you know

I've always wondered the distinctions between manslaughter vs. murder and all the variants.  This Reddit thread explains.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The "whatevs" law

Remember when Kathleen Sebelius proclaimed the Obamacare deadline would not be extended?  Oh, man, that was hilarious.

Washington Post: "Obama administration will allow more time to enroll in health care on federal marketplace".
Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.
Hey, it's the law!

Extra - Patterico: "Another Obama red lined ignored."

More - Powerline: "Obamacare's hard enrollment deadline melts."

And this - Hot Air: "We all knew this one was coming, right?"  Yup.

Don't listen to that pollster

Pollsters - what do pollsters know?

Let's listen to the sage council of Robert Shrum: "Democrats must run on Obamacare in November."  Yes, that's good advice.

This political ad got my ATTENTION!

It's memorable, for sure:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Freedom, baby, freedom

Volokh Conspiracy: "What Americans choose when they vote with their feet."
More systematic evidence from both the United States and Europe also shows that people tend to migrate towards jurisdictions with greater economic freedom, lower taxes, and cheaper housing. Moreover, this pattern is not primarily driven by the wealthy, but by middle class and working class movers.
Speaking of Europe, Vodkapundit notes that some French entrepreneurs are saying "Adieu" to the stultifying business atmosphere under Socialist rule.

Godot doesn't show up either

The Hill: "Four years later, Democrats wait for Obamacare popularity bounce."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Detroit pathology

Here's Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe: "Public pensions are eating taxpayers alive."  "Around the country governments are facing a tidal wave of pension obligations that they haven’t figured out how to pay for. By some estimates, the states’ long-term unfunded pension liabilities add up to more than $4 trillion. There is no way to meet such a staggering financial burden without sacrificing more and more of the basic services — public safety, education, roads, and infrastructure — that governments are formed to provide."

Dang, I had my money on "deregulation"

Ace of Spades: "Anyone Who Said The Left Would Blame the Flight 370 Disappearance on Global Warming on Day 13, Please Go to the Cashier to Collect Your Winnings."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Swing swing

Fat Tony says thanks

Hit and Run: "The United States of cigarette smuggling."  "Some 56.9 percent of the cigarettes consumed in New York state are smuggled in from another state. That’s a bigger percentage than any other state, according to a ranked map put together by analysts at the Tax Foundation."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today's Obamacare update on Obamacare

"I know health care is controversial, so there’s only going to be so much support we get on that on a bipartisan basis — until it’s working really well, and then they’re going to stop calling it Obamacare. (Laughter and applause.) They’re going to call it something else." - some dude who spent the past week picking his March Madness bracket

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cue the risk corridors/taxpayer bailout then the death spiral

Megan McArdle: "Young invincibles are killing Obamacare."  By not signing up: "What this does tell us, however, is that it is now probably impossible to achieve the demographic mix that the government has been forecasting. And keeping it from happening may well prove very expensive for the federal government."

No I said that's a no and no

Bookworm Room: "The best rejection letter ever in the whole history of rejection letters."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

When is a deadline not a deadline?

When it's Obamacare.

Here's the declaration on Wednesday: the mandate shall not be moved!
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Wednesday that the Obama administration would not extend the deadline for people to sign up for health insurance or delay the requirement for most Americans to have coverage.
Well we almost made it a week:
The Obama administration is planning a workaround to the health care law that would extend the March 31 enrollment deadline for health care coverage for some users if technical glitches prevent them from signing up on, The Wall Street Journal reported.
There is no law.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Deliberate action

The inevitable theory on MH370 is that it was hijacked or there was some other deliberate action by the crew.  And, by way of context, I want to copy a paragraph from William Langewiesche's excellent article about the crash of Egypt Air 990 and the stability of a modern plane at cruising height:
I don't fly the 767, or any other airliner. In fact, I no longer fly for a living. But I know through long experience with flight that such machines are usually docile, and that steering them does not require the steady nerves and quick reflexes that passengers may imagine. Indeed, as we saw on September 11, steering them may not even require much in the way of training—the merest student-pilot level is probably enough. It's not hard to understand why. Airplanes at their core are very simple devices—winged things that belong in the air. They are designed to be flyable, and they are. Specifically, the 767 has ordinary mechanical and hydraulic flight controls that provide the pilot with smooth and conventional responses; it is normally operated on autopilot, but can easily be flown by hand; if you remove your hands from the controls entirely, the airplane sails on as before, until it perhaps wanders a bit, dips a wing, and starts into a gentle descent; if you pull the nose up or push it down (within reason) and then fold your arms, the airplane returns unassisted to steady flight; if you idle the engines, or shut them off entirely, the airplane becomes a rather well behaved glider. It has excellent forward visibility, through big windshields. It has a minimalist cockpit that may look complicated to the untrained eye but is a masterpiece of clean design. It can easily be managed by the standard two-person crew, or even by one pilot alone. The biggest problem in flying the airplane on a routine basis is boredom. Settled into the deep sky at 33,000 feet, above the weather and far from any obstacle, the 767 simply makes very few demands.
And that's what happened to MH370: it was at cruising speed, all systems go....then what?  Baffling.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Millennial suckers

Here's Jonah Goldberg with "The most cynical generation."
But, as Mario Cuomo once said, politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. And the prose of the Obama years has been an incoherent and disillusioning run-on sentence. His signature achievement, Obamacare, was designed from the outset to screw young people, overcharging them for products they don’t need in order to subsidize older Americans. Young people loved it when Obama called George W. Bush’s deficits “unpatriotic” because they saddled Millennials with debt. That was $7 trillion borrowed dollars ago.
The Millennial voters voted overwhelmingly for their Hope and Change guy on the promise of sticking the bill on someone else.  Only now they're figuring out who that is.

Update - Here's non-Goldberg guy Dana Milbank: "Why millennials have abandoned Obama."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SPECTRE rising

Have there been any demands from Ernst Blofeld?  In this day and age, it's absolutely amazing that nobody can find any trace of that Malaysia Airlines plane.  I'm starting to believe that, all other options eliminated, this must be the most probable explanation:

Paging James Bond.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

But good intentions

The Federalist: "What was the point of Obamacare?"
So if ObamaCare doesn’t offer affordable insurance, doesn’t insure the uninsured, doesn’t allow us to keep our existing plans, and doesn’t even ensure high-quality care—then what are its defenders counting on?
I wonder if they even care anymore.  It's not much of a law and as Megan Mcardle notes, there's good reason to believe its core mandate will never be enforced:
One more result: If the McKinsey numbers turn out to be correct, I think we should expect that the individual mandate will simply not be enforced. Otherwise, we would be "helping" the uninsured by raising the cost of the insurance available to them, and then fining them hundreds or thousands of dollars for not buying it. I believe the technical term for this is "political suicide."
With very few uninsured Americans actually getting insured and Obama resorting to Internet skits to get the young invincibles to sign up, it looks like Obamacare is going down in a heap.  Eventually the insurance companies will get wise to the trap they're in.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I've lost count how many dozen times over the years I've warned that the rise in entitlement spending will transform the federal government into a money-transfer waystation.  Tax revenues will come in and just turn around and go to entitlements and interest on the debt, leaving little behind for what we call "government."

And here it comes...."70% Of U.S. Spending Is Writing Checks To Individuals"
Buried deep in a section of President Obama's budget, released this week, is an eye-opening fact: This year, 70% of all the money the federal government spends will be in the form of direct payments to individuals, an all-time high.
In effect, the government has become primarily a massive money-transfer machine, taking $2.6 trillion from some and handing it back out to others. These government transfers now account for 15% of GDP, another all-time high. In 1991, direct payments accounted for less than half the budget and 10% of GDP.
These budget battles are fighting over the scraps on the table and the squeeze will only get worse as Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare swallow the budget whole.

Have you heard of this game called Candy Crush?

So I got a new cellphone this weekend - one that can play Candy Crush - and I've been playing Candy Crush.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

This is not good

According to this CNN story, whomever were using the two stolen passports on that Malaysia Airlines flight purchased their tickets together.  To recap, one passport was Austrian and the other was Italian.

Men at rest

Zero Hedge: "The demise of the American dream in two charts."  Maybe they're artists free to create, so we got that.

The perfect 18

This video is surprisingly suspenseful and emotional:

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The IRS stall

George Will: "The IRS's behavior taxes credulity"
What’s been said of confession — that it is good for one’s soul but bad for one’s reputation — can also be true of testifying to Congress, so Lois Lerner has chosen to stay silent. Hers, however, is an eloquent silence.
Comment seen online: "There's not a smidgen of corruption here but better take the Fifth just to be sure."

Extra - Powerline: "Obama's IRS: Political arm of the Democrats."

Friday, March 07, 2014

It's the law...unless there are political consequences

The Minuteman abridges the NY Times editorial defending the Obamacare delays: "The Times editors admit that the delay in banning junk, skimpy, sub-standard plans is purely political but back it anyway because Obama, Evil Republicans, duh."  Yep.

The Obamacare death spiral

This was a no-good, rotten week for Obamacare and Megan McArdle believes the worst is yet to come.  By continuously delaying provisions of the so-called law, Obama is putting the whole structure of the insurance industry out of whack:
The hacksaw makes the insurance market less viable, reduces coverage and forces the government to spend more money trying to keep insurers from exiting the market.
This administration seems to believe the insurance companies will take one more for the team - over and over - by setting new requirements without finding a way to pay for them.  This makes it all the more certain that the risk corridors will be tapped out on the taxpayer's dime.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Nailed it

On Sunday morning, NPR has the weekly puzzle courtesy of Will Shortz.  Here's this week's:
Take the first name of a nominee for Best Actor or Best Actress at Sunday's Oscars. You can rearrange these letters into a two-word phrase that describes his or her character in the film for which he or she is nominated. Who is this star, and what is the phrase?
Of course the actor is Christian Bale and in "American Hustle" he was not a chair.  "Isn't chair."  Boom.

Update - The "correct" answer is Sandra Bullock for "Gravity" in which she played a NASA DR.  Needless to say, NASA is an acronym and DR. is an abbreviation and neither are words. Boo.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Speaking of Detroit

What happens to guaranteed public pensions when there's no more money?  Trick question: they're not guaranteed.  Hit and Run: "Government Officials Fiddle While Public Pensions Burn - Elected officials have arrived at a formula that suits them well: Never do today what you can do tomorrow. And don't do it then, either."

The inevitable budget squeeze

I know that this is the millionth installment of "I told you so" or maybe "You'll see!" but the Washington Post notes that the budget battle is squabbling over the scraps because so much of the budget is already allocated to autopilot spending on entitlements:
The point is that a nation must be able to adapt its spending priorities, sometimes swiftly, in response to unforeseen contingencies. That’s harder to do when so many resources are pre-committed to a handful of worthy but expensive entitlements. In a federal budget of nearly $4 trillion, the president and Congress will argue over about $1 trillion, divided roughly evenly between defense needs and every other federal function. Under these circumstances, even the most modest policy prescription becomes a recipe for political trench warfare.
This structural problem requires credible structural reform — to both entitlements and taxes. In that respect, Mr. Obama’s budget is just the latest in a long line of plans, from Democrats and Republicans, that fails to deliver what the country most needs. Sooner or later, change must come, and preferably before a crisis forces it on us.
You know, Detroit-style.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

It's review time

Yesterday, I finished the Jose Saramago book "Blindness" which a gritty novel about a city where the populace goes blind.  The book has a unique style with page-long paragraphs where dialogue is separated by commas - it's a relief to come to a period sometimes.  There's some really graphic stuff here as society breaks down, but moments of redemption also.  A good read.

Then I watched the Superman reboot "Man of Steel."  There's one scene where Amy Adams is wearing a nice, gray sweater that shows off her figure.  Otherwise it was awful.

And now, Oscar Predictions:

Picture: "American Hustle"
Actor: Matthew McConaughey
Actress: Cate Blanchett
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o
Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Update - Five for six - not bad.  I thought "12 Years a Slave" was too much of an arthouse movie to gain a wide audience.  But when Ellen said in her monologue (paraphrasing) that either "12 Years" wins or "we're all racists", I knew it would get Best Picture.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Our relationship with Russia is most certainly "overcharged" now

In case you're wondering, I'm referring to this gaffe.  And, this morning, we have this development: "Putin asks Russian parliament for approval to use military force in Ukraine."

To quote Charles Krauthammer: can anybody name a single achievement Hillary Clinton has chalked up as Secretary of State?

Extra - It's a mystery why Putin doesn't take Obama's warnings seriously: "Russian troops enter Ukraine, President Obama and Democrats declare ‘happy hour’"  It's called gravitas, people.

The OOOOOPSI model

The Federalist: "Dumb, Uneducated, And Eager To Deceive: Media Coverage Of Religious Liberty In A Nutshell."  "In the aftermath of the abominable media coverage of Arizona’s religious liberty bill, an editor shared his hypothesis that journalists care about freedom of speech and of the press because they practice them. And journalists don’t care about freedom of religion because they don’t."

What about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?  Don't ask the media.