Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, everyone - I'm going to have some herring (Swedish tradition) and open a red wine. Have a safe night, all.
Another year-end list - Politico has the top 10 weirdest moments of 2009.
Miami espionage - Yesssss! "Burn Notice" marathon on USA today.
The ghost of health care reform future

Via Heritage, here's what Americans can expect with the new health care legislation. Sounds expensive for everybody.

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010
2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.
2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.
2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)
2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.
2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.
2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.
2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.
Keep in mind that nobody but nobody believes that Congress will reduce reimbursement rates to Medicare doctors by 21%. The political pressure to counteract these cuts will be intense meaning that Washington will depend on even more deficit spending. And suddenly I'm a big fan of "the trigger option." Why not wait until next year to see if Washington holds firm to their own legislation? If Congress can't find the fortitude to cut Medicare payments by one-fifth, let's call the whole thing off.
Let freedom read - Atlas Network: "Top 10 pro-liberty books of the decade."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bad ads - Slate: "Readers sound off on the year's worst commercials." The anti-depression drug commercials are always...depressing.
I need a Congressional scholar

After all the speeches, the new Rasmussen poll out today shows a new high for Americans opposing the health care bill moving through Congress. A full 58% oppose the bill with 46% of them strongly opposing; only 39% approve with 19% strongly in favor. The state governors are waking up to the massive new unfunded liabilities in Medicaid expansion. And the green eyeshades at the CBO have discovered that Congress is double-counting Medicare "savings" from cuts that will never occur. And those are just the aspects of the legislation in plain sight: a big chunk of the cost is hidden in adjusted insurance rates and taxes on medical supply companies.

So I need somebody answer this question because I can't quite figure it out from online sources: what is the procedure to merge the two (House and Senate) bills? Do they go to committee and then face a whole new vote in both houses? If so, is there another chance to filibuster in the Senate or has that ship sailed? Does the CBO need to score the merged bill? Finally, is there any possibility that some legal authority (the Rules committee or the Justice department) could declare that parts of the bill are unconstitutional?

Extra - Critical Condition: "It's not inevitable." Good to know!

Update - Two kind commenters (commentators?) have good explanations in the, um, comments. Also, there's this story from Fox News: "Republican attorney generals threaten lawsuit over health care." I thought the correct term was "attorneys general." Eh.
The country gets serious on airline security - The country called Holland.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Money well spent because it's somebody else's

President Obama: "We can't continue to spend as if deficits don't have consequences, as if waste doesn't matter, as if the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like monopoly money."

This just in: "Treasury plans to inject another $3.5 billion into GMAC." Maybe another round of Cash for Clunkers, why not? Send the bill to the kids.

Related - Opinion Journal: "The deficit commission trap"
Cornhusker kickback kicks back - It looks like the voters of Nebraska are not appreciative of Ben Nelson's Medicare deal in the health care reform bill: "Health care bill may be bad news for Nelson in 2012." Only 17% approve of his vote while 53% strongly disapprove; 55% now have an unfavorable view of Nelson. Welcome to Chris Dodd territory, Senator.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Radio, radio

In my travels (so far) this week, I don't think I've heard a single radio station identified by their call letters. Instead, there were "The River," "The Peak," "The Point," "Fresh," and "Wink."

I remember when radio stations were brand names to themselves: WNEW (Where Rock Lives!) WPLJ, WCBS, WNBC. Even Z-100 bothered to tell you the radio frequency. Whatever...they all play the same adult contemporary music now anyway.
Quote of the day - Here's Christopher Hitchens on Slate: "The demand to satisfy that sad illusion [of air travel security] can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens' toothpaste."
But seriously now

I think Ann Althouse makes a good point here about how we're looking at the Christmas Pants bomber:
But no one - other than the bomber - was seriously hurt, so we can discount it or play with it and be flippant or political in ways that we would avoid if there were specific and numerous victims.
I don't have my copy of "The Looming Tower" at hand (I'm traveling for the holidays) but I'm suddenly reminded of an aspect of the 1993 truck bombing at the World Trade Center: at the time, some government and security officials failed to appreciate the building threat of Islamic terrorists because they became fixated on the fact that one of the truck bombers went back to the Ryder truck company to get his deposit. What a dope! Now I'm getting an unsettling deja vu that we'll be seeing "hot pants" gags on Leno. Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano doesn't help the situation when she claims "the system worked," sending the blogosphere into a feeding frenzy.

By all accounts, the passengers of Flight 253 were a failed detonator away from the Great Hereafter. If that guy had detonated his device from the lavatory, there would have been nobody diving over seats to stop him. That's how close it was.

Yet today and tomorrow we'll be patting down little old ladies from the Midwest and dumping out baby formula and confiscating my nail clippers (that happened.) Meanwhile, the terrorists will be studying this attempt, probing for weaknesses, and planning their next assault. But we'll be serious then, after it's too late.

Extra - Jeffrey Goldberg: "The TSA's security burlesque"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Healthcare now and forever - Mark Steyn points out that the magnitude and complexity of taking over one-sixth of the U.S. economy will entangle the federal goverment for, well, forever: "Cross the river, burn the bridge."
The world's greatest deliberative body - Opinion Journal on the Senate postmortem: "A law so sweeping and complex that nobody can understand it but that will affect the lives of all Americans was thus rushed to passage without any real debate, and less reflection."

Also, there's that sticky issue of Constitutionality: "Connecticut might sue if Nebraska gets Medicaid money." Oh, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments, are you against it too? Tsk tsk.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Security theater - In light of the recent terrorist attempt, it's worth checking out this November 2008 Atlantic article on "The things he carried." Bottom line: all that shoe-removal and laptop-separation and air-spray are about as useful as a bogus scribble on your boarding pass.

Extra - Mark Steyn has more.

More (12/28) - Megan has the quote of the day: "The TSA's obsession with fighting the last war is so strong that I expect any day to see them building wooden forts at our nation's airports in order to keep the redcoats at bay."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The reason for the season

The staff here at Viking Pundit wishes everybody a happy and healthy Christmas season.
So that's that - Fox News: "Senate passes health insurance overhaul."

Let's recap: In a time of record deficits and exploding debt, Congress is going to pass the mother of all entitlement programs to pile upon the trillions of unfunded liabilities already in place from Social Security and Medicare. The funding for the bill is risible: Medicare cuts that will never happen are counted twice, doctor reimbursement rate cuts that nobody believes will occur, new taxes on "Cadillac" plans that will surely disappear, and an added burden on businesses as the country struggles to climb out of double-digit unemployment.

It is not universal coverage, it does nothing to bend the cost curve, and it imposes a possibly unconstitutional mandate on Americans to purchase something or be fined, which is laughably defined as "not a tax" by our President. It puts new burden on the insurance companies, forcing them to set prices against their very nature, driving up expenses that will surely be passed on to businesses and policy holders. There is no tort reform, no insurance portability, the tapped states will have to pick up the cost for expanded Medicaid.

Finally, Americans oppose this legislation by wide margins, but the Democrats know better. Congratulations on your big "win" guys.

Extra - Karl Rove "The real price of the Senate health bill." It's $2.4 trillion.

More - Right Wing Nuthouse: "The worst piece of legislation in my lifetime."

And this - Doctor Zero: "What democracy is not."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beyond the law - Since we know that Obama will sign anything with the words "health care" on it, we may have to depend on the courts to restore sanity. Here's Richard Epstein with "Why the Reid bill is unconstitutional."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So that's a thumbs down - Good News Film Reviews on "Avatar": "This is the worst movie I have ever seen." Spoilers galore.
EBITDA: Estimates before I tricked the dumb accountants

The mad rush to pass health care reform before anybody has read the legislation is all about getting the foot in the door or the camel's nose under the tent, whichever you choose. From Paul Krugman to the Boston Globe, there's this admission that it's a stinker of a bill but we can fix it later.

Except that, if history is any guide, the political pressure on new programs is always towards expansion and never cost containment. Which is why the Senate had to resort to all kinds of trickery to make a laughably "deficit neutral" reform package. Here's Charles Krauthammer explaining the chicanery:

Number one, the only reason it ends up with a surplus is because it strips out - well, it assumes that there will be cuts in reimbursements for doctors of 21 percent next year with no increase over a decade. They're 100 percent certain that is not going to happen, but it's in the bill because [there will be] will be a separate provision that will strip it out. So once you calculate that in, you're already in the red.

Secondly, and this is the most important, it supposedly costs $850 billion over ten years. But 98 percent of the costs of the bill are in the last six years. So it's a trick. If you actually look at real charges, you start in 2014 when the benefits kick in and you go out ten years, then the cost is not slightly under $1 trillion. It is $1.8 trillion or $2.5 trillion, which means it will blow an enormous hole in the deficit.
In other words, once the four years of tax hikes to fool the CBO have passed and the program needs to stand on its own, the "deficit neutral" health care reform will be anything but. So far, Americans have been more difficult to dupe:

By 73-18 percent, voters don't believe President Obama will be able to keep his promise to overhaul health care without increasing the federal deficit and by 56 - 37 percent they don't want the overhaul if it will increase the deficit.
This debt explosion will be piled on top of this.

Extra - Now they tell us. The CBO says it's going to be really hard to make those Medicare cuts: "It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate can be achieved."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take it away, girls!

I'm really burnt out on the health care reform debate. So let's enjoy the theme song from "Laverne and Shirley"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Health care monstrosity - Pundit & Pundette has a good roundup on Ben Nelson, the CBO, and more.

And this - Big Government "SOLD: Senator Nelson's bribe": "We'll be blunt. The health care reform legislation under consideration in the Senate is the most corrupt piece of legislation in our nation's history." Read about how Nelson secured a Medicaid exemption for Nebraska that is unavailable in 49 other states.

More - Yuval Levin on the Corner: "There is no conceivable policy argument for the way the new bill treats Nebraska, it's simply a case of a senator's vote being purchased with taxpayer dollars."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

All is calm - No snow yet at 11pm. The snowblower is gassed up.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maybe Franken should have let him finish - On the cusp of a series of Senate votes, Joe Lieberman has packed up and gone home to Connecticut. This makes Timothy Noah's article in Slate all the more interesting: "Can Democrats count on Lieberman?"
Obama gives Copenhagen agreement a B+ - Fox News: "Obama: U.S. reaches meaningful breakthrough on climate change." Illusory metrics, gaping loopholes, and nothing is legally binding. Otherwise: "meaningful" yes.

"This means something"
Close your eyes and vote

It's hard to believe that the Senate is cramming through legislation that will affect one-sixth of the whole U.S. economy and nobody knows what's in the bill:

With the clock ticking down on health care reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has until Saturday to strike a 60-vote compromise if Democrats hope to meet a Christmas Eve deadline - but the obstacles kept piling up Thursday.

Reid still had no legislative text and no cost analysis to release.
That seems like a rather large obstacle (no CBO score either). Which begs the question: what's the big rush? Why must this legislation get passed in December instead of January or February, especially when most of the provisions of the proposed bill don't go into affect until 2014? As Jennifer Rubin notes, every day that ticks by reveals a new low in popular support:

Time, of course, is the kryptonite of health-care reform, the one phenomenon that disrupts the hype and pressure on lawmakers to vote on something, anything, and do it right now. It forces lawmakers to reflect and to worry (Sixty percent of the voters in my state oppose this?), and it reveals that the only thing ReidCare has going for it is an illusion of urgency.
I strongly suspect that the rank-and-file Democrats don't want to pass this awful legislation on a party-line vote. There's now strong incentive for at least a couple of Democrats to say: "hey, let's slow down, and do this right."

Extra - Everybody hates it.

And now this - Politico: "MoveOn opposes Senate bill." Uh-oh.
Stop, look, listen - Long post over on RCP blog: "The health care bill is political suicide."

Extra - Now the unions are going wobbly: "Unions decline to endorse Senate bill."

More - What's Jim Webb up to? He's been very quiet.

And this - Bill Kristol urges Ben Nelson to announce he won't vote for cloture so that everybody in Washington can 1.) avoid a big snowstorm and 2.) read the bill. Reading the actual legislation? What a concept.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twelve days of Christmas

I heard this on the radio this morning and laughed my butt off:

Monopoly money

Former Senator Phil Gramm used to have what he called the "Dickie Flatt" test: he would ask himself if a certain government expenditure was worth taking a dollar from his friend's wallet. I don't think anybody in the Obama White House has any clue or compunction about where the money comes from: "U.S. ready to join $100 billion climate aid fund."

Sure, why not? Throw it on the pile.

Extra - Deep impact.
And a commenter will lead them

In a display of populist pique, the Boston Globe decided that – gosh darn it – we should take those bonuses away from the bankers: "Go ahead, tax these bonuses."

So a tax on bonuses at US banks would simply give back to taxpayers some of the money they have donated to the banks. That crack of the whip might also caution the banks against another speculative spree, encouraging the pursuit of long-term stability in place of short-term bonanzas. A bonus tax is not a cure-all for the banks’ vices, but it will do no harm and may do some good.
It took exactly one comment for somebody to school the Globe on that thing we call "the Law"

Well, Globe, there is just one problem with your suggestion. It's called the Constitution of the United States which prohibits bills of attainder.
Nice try.
Two out of two doctors agree – They're the original odd couple: Drs. Howard Dean and Tom Coburn both write that the health care reform bill should be scrapped.

Related - MSNBC's First Read: "Public sours on health reform"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whatever, Ezra Klein (a continuing series) - Without a trace of introspection or irony, the WashPost blogger defends the following about health care reform: "An insurer will have to offer insurance at the same price to a diabetic and a triathlete." What a great deal...for the diabetic. The young and the healthy - it's time to pony up.
Fisking is alive and well - Matt Hoy takes apart Thomas Frank.
Five health care reform whoppers

Straight from Cato:

1. Health care reform will reduce your insurance premiums
2. Middle-class taxes won't be raised
3. You can keep your current insurance
4. It will only cost $484 billion
5. It will reduce the budget deficit

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quotes from 2006 - Guess who said this: "Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Al Gore takes Copenhagen - Just makin' stuff up now in a free-form green exploration in front of a festival crowd.

I've heard that song before

Here's Mark Steyn on Obama's speechwriters:

They seem to be the last guys on the planet in love with the sound of his voice and their one interminable tinny tune with its catchpenny hooks. The usual trick is to position their man as the uniquely insightful leader, pitching his tent between two extremes no sane person has ever believed: "There are those who say there is no evil in the world. There are others who argue that pink fluffy bunnies are the spawn of Satan and conspiring to overthrow civilization. Let me be clear: I believe people of goodwill on all sides can find common ground between the absurdly implausible caricatures I attribute to them on a daily basis. We must begin by finding the courage to acknowledge the hard truth that I am living testimony to the power of nuance to triumph over hard truth and come to the end of the sentence on a note of sonorous, polysyllabic if somewhat hollow uplift. Pause for applause."

It didn't come but once at Oslo last week, where Obama got bad press for blowing off the King of Norway's luncheon. In Obama's honor. Can you believe this line made it into the speech?

"I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war."

Well, there's a surprise. When you consider all the White House eyeballs that approve a presidential speech, it's truly remarkable that there's no one to scribble on the first draft: "Scrub this, Fred. It makes POTUS sound like a self-aggrandizing buffoon."
This begs the question: does Obama read his own speeches or did he add that line in himself? (H/T Maggie's Farm)

Whatever, Ezra Klein - Somebody's knee-deep in the big muddy of moral vanity today. The WashPost blatherer all-but-called Senator Joe Lieberman a murderer for standing in the way of health care reform, specifically the expansion of Medicare. Klein's earned some criticism but it looks like he's really not apologetic because, gosh darn it, people are dying.

Well, like all moral imperatives, there's no cost Klein is unwilling to (let others) bear to pay for universal health care. But why stop there? The lack of health insurance is a piker when it comes to the #1 killer of Americans: automobile accidents. Surely, we must lower the speed limit to 30 miles per hour. No, 15. And what's with all the people "murdered" by heart disease? Can we really stand by as - in the words of Klein - hundreds of thousands of Americans die from cheeseburgers and shakes?

And so on.
There is no cost control - Opinion Journal: "The cost control bill of goods"

By the way, last night on "60 Minutes" President Obama insisted that he's holding to his guideline that any health care legislation be "deficit neutral." I really wish Steve Kroft had pressed him on this issue since nobody outside the administration believes it. Obama has summoned Senate Democrats to the White House tomorrow for yet another pep talk about "history" - which is what some Senators are going to be if they vote for this monstrosity.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's all about feeding the ego

Boston Globe: "Don't buy green"

Two articles this week suggest that buying "green" products like fluorescent bulbs and recycled plastic toys can be counterproductive. In Slate, Ideas contributing writer Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow discusses social-science research that has explored the effects of such small actions on our psyches. Studies have found that the warm glow of self-satisfaction they produce leads us to relax our ethical standards in other areas of our lives.

In The Washington Post’s Outlook section, meanwhile, Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, makes the more familiar case that small-scale individual acts are no substitute for large-scale public policy.
The NY Times stripped bare the feel-good eco-movement a couple years ago with "Eco-socialites make cleaning green a priority"

These days Ms. Barnett, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan whom Women's Wear Daily once profiled under the headline "Sloan Ranger," is today a consumer reporter for KNTV, the NBC television affiliate in San Jose, Calif. She recycles and has tossed away her children's plastic sippy cups. Concerned with carbon emissions, she is about to replace the Barnetts' two family cars with hybrids. "I turn the water off when I’m brushing my teeth," she said. "I'm always learning, I'm always trying to improve."

Still, she has no plans to reduce the family’s significant carbon footprint by, say, selling the Manhattan second home. "I'm not a perfect person," she said. "I'm not the greenest woman in America." And there was scant indication that other guests, most of whom, presumably, knew their way up the steps of a private jet, were contemplating major lifestyle cutbacks. Glancing about the room, Ms. Barnett said, "We aren't all going to move to one-bedroom apartments."
Heavens, no! How about some CFL bulbs?

She plans to practice conservation, to a point. Energy-saving light bulbs are fine - for the utility closet, perhaps. In other rooms, "they don’t give a very pretty light," she said.
Classic stuff.

Extra – Don't forget about this oldie: "Gore defends mansion's power consumption."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A different strategy - Economics professor Greg Mankiw notes in the NY Times: "Tax cuts might accomplish what spending hasn't." Do you know who was a big fan of this concept before she joined the Obama White House? Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors Christina Romer. Maybe she could share her research with her boss.
Ungovernable - Instapundit called it.
Does not reduce costs, does not contain costs. Guess what? – WSJ "Senate health bill will raise costs": "The report, compiled by the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, estimated that total health costs in the U.S. would be $234 billion higher than if the bill weren't passed. President Barack Obama has said Democrats' health plan would reduce the growth of health-care costs." Yeah, that's what they said.
Engorge the beast

The United States is fast approaching a debt burden equal to GDP which has not been seen since the days of the Great Depression and World War II.

Not that the press corps cares anymore, but the omnibus also continues the earmark explosion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to end when she was trying to oust Republicans in 2006. The Heritage Foundation counts 5,224 earmarks, bringing the total for the year to about 10,000, or about 23 for every Congressional district. There is money for bike paths, skate board parks, museums, water-taxis to resort towns, and other absolute necessities.
Not exactly Hoover Dam and the USS New Jersey.

Senator Kent Conrad, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, is a walking example of the split Democratic spending personality. He frets that U.S. debt will soon be 114% of GDP, a level he says is "absolutely unsustainable" and a "threat to the economic security of America." Yet he keeps voting for every spending bill and will vote for the multitrillion health bill too.
After so much double talk, we've concluded this is all part of a conscious political strategy. Spend so much and run up the deficit to unprecedented levels, then turn around and claim that there's a fiscal crisis that can only be solved with higher taxes. They spend, you pay.
Emphasis on "you" because, no matter how much the Democrats swear the tax burden will only fall on the "rich," there's simply not enough in Bill Gates' bank account to cover all this spending. Washington is playing with the monopoly money of China's easy credit but, just like my post-Christmas credit card bill, we gotta pay in the end.

Kinda releated - Megan Mcardle: "A new breed of deadbeats"

Friday, December 11, 2009

We are the CITs so pity us

"Meatballs" was on Comedy Central this afternoon. Ah, memories.

Did anybody in this movie, besides Bill Murray, go on to any kind of movie career? Maybe that Chris Makepeace kid.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No controlling legal authority - I'll borrow one of Al Gore's favorite phrases to introduce this Heritage Foundation legal review: "Why the personal mandate to buy health insurance is unprecedented and unconstitutional."
Treeless in Seattle - Somebody cut down a rare conifer at a Seattle arboretum yesterday, possibly because he/she was looking for cheap Christmas tree. Police are stumped.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Al Gore sticks his fingers in his ears, yells "Lalala!" - Watts Up With That notes that Al Gore can't tell time. What I think is more telling is that Prince Albert doesn't deign to "read all the emails" which is code for reading any of them. This is part of a pattern for Gore who refuses to debate anybody on global warming, dismisses all skeptics, and has renegade journalists removed and blackballed.
No respect - Gallup: Members of Congress are seen as less ethical than used car salesmen. Engineers (ahem) are rated as highly ethical.
Good ole W – While Obama keeps blaming Bush, a lot of Americans have decided: "Ah, he wasn't so bad."
It's magic!

The Senate Democrats have hammered out a health care compromise without a government-run public option but with an expansion of government-run Medicare:

Senior Senate Democrats reached tentative agreement Tuesday night to abandon the government-run insurance plan in their health-overhaul bill and to expand Medicare coverage to some people ages 55 to 64, clearing the most significant hurdle so far in getting a bill that can pass Congress.
Wait...what? Wasn't the new health care program going to be funded by a half-trillion dollar cut in Medicare?

Shut up, they explained, everybody's going to be totally stoked about the new plan. Well, everybody except the doctors and hospitals:

The American Medical Association said it opposes expanding Medicare because doctors face steep pay cuts under the program and many Medicare patients are struggling to find a doctor. Hospitals also said expanding Medicare and Medicaid is a bad idea.
So doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, state governments, and the American people all think this health care reform is a dog. But Congress is going to cram it down our throats and Obama is going to sign any piece of paper with the words "health care" on it. But it's all gonna work out: you have to believe!

Wow, check out those shorts.

Forcing you to buy something - The Heritage Foundation has a forum today titled: "Is the personal mandate to buy health insurance unconstitutional?" I can't believe it is. Washington certainly has the power to tax and spend money (which it does all-too well) but I'm baffled by the argument that the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to compel purchase of anything. Senator Orrin Hatch and Prof. Volokh will attend.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Clever, but it had to come down - Maggie's Farm has a picture of one man's Christmas decorations, which the police told him he had to take down because it was distracting passersby. Funny stuff, though.

Monday, December 07, 2009

All you need to know about the Copenhagen nonsense

President Obama had originally planned to combine his trip to Copenhagen and Oslo to minimize the considerable carbon footprint of Air Force One. However, he decided to push back his presence until later in the conference, and so:

The move means the president will make two separate flights to Scandinavia this month, one to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo and another to the Copenhagen conference. Originally, he had planned to combine the trips.
Clearly, Gaia can take another hit for "the One."

Extra – Daily Mail: "Copenhagen climate change summit to produce as much CO2 as an African country" Greater good, everybody.
Whatever, Ezra Klein

I'm thinking of starting a new series here on my blog called "Whatever, Ezra Klein." The WashPost journalist commentator tireless cheerleader has never seen a health care reform development that isn't just totally awesome:

Sources who have been briefed on the negotiations say that Medicare buy-in is attracting the most interest. Expanding Medicaid is running into more problems, though there's some appeal because, unlike increasing subsidies, expanding Medicaid actually saves you money. There's also ongoing discussion about tightening regulations on insurers, but I don't know the precise menu of options being considered.
Medicare expansion? Would that be the same Medicare that will be cut by a half-trillion dollars to pay for health care reform? Which includes Medicare expansion. This is truly a Mobius strip of fiscal logic.

Then there's the expansion of Medicaid that "saves you money." How exactly does this magic happen? Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government and in part by the states and, in fact, governors have been lining up against expansion of Medicaid because it puts an unfunded burden on the states (according to this Washington Post article – have you seen it Ezra?)

Progress, always progress, declares Ezra. Paradise awaits.
America says "no thank you" to Obamacare - Jay Cost has a great analysis over at Real Clear Politics about the health care bill winding through Congress: "Why does the public oppose Obamacare?" In a nutshell, he details how we don't really understand the 2000+ page legislation but we're all pretty tuned into the idea that it's going to cost a pile of money, much more than can ever be raised by chimerical Medicare cuts and tax hikes. Check it out.

Extra - Megan explains risk aversion as opposed to loss aversion.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Can't get it out of my head - The Boston Globe has an article titled: "Let us now praise jingles." Cos-tan-za!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Fear of a Daily Planet

An old trivia buddy sent this one along, from the WashPost:

A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.
That would be "911 (is a joke)" from 1990, suckah!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Congressional innumeracy – Weekly Standard "Obamacare's ugly math." At least there's this glimmer of sanity in tonight's news: "Senate's progress over health care bill grinds to a halt"

Fact: working women comprise 86% of cosmetic surgery patients. Get ready for 'Botax'

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Congress stands for Medicare cuts it will never enact

AP: "Senate votes to keep Medicare cuts in health bill" Of course they had to because otherwise there would be no funding for this "anything goes" health care bill. Just like Kirstie Alley during the holidays: she swears she'll go on a diet after the New Year.

The record in Congress on actual Medicare cuts is less than stellar:

It's that time of year again: Washington is talking about cuts to Medicare. President Obama's health-care reforms depend on them - up to $400 billion worth over 10 years. As a psychiatrist, I'll break the bad news gently: Medicare cuts are like Santa Claus and his flying reindeers - often talked about, never actually seen.

The federal government has long fought to control Medicare spending. Today's Medicare program costs taxpayers twice what it did 10 years ago. But whenever lawmakers from either party agree to savings, Congress reverses course, fearing cuts will anger voters on Election Day.

Congress reversed planned cuts in 1999. And 2005. And 2004. And 2006. In fact, since 1997, when members of both parties agreed to automatic cuts if spending rose faster than population and economic growth, the program has been cut just once, in 2002.

At one point, Congress voted to postpone a 10% cut in Medicare doctors' fees fromDecember 2007 until mid-summer 2008. Just weeks later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attacked the rescheduled savings as "exactly the wrong medicine."

So come July 2008, despite massive deficit projections, Congress voted to abandon the planned savings altogether. President George Bush vetoed that decision - only to have Congress, both parties, override him.
These Medicare cuts will never materialize and the health care reform bill will explode the deficit. Simple as that.

Extra - Ace: You can't "keep your insurance" if it's Medicare Advantage.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Massachusetts model, yet again - Boston Globe "Six hospitals to sue state over payment shortfalls": "The suit charges that Massachusetts violated a law requiring adequate reimbursement to hospitals for patients insured by the government. The hospitals contend the state set repayment rates so low they do not cover the cost of such medical care." Fear not, all these issues will be ironed out in the federal plan. Paul Krugman told me so.
An adage about absolute power comes to mind - Noted Constitutional scholar Nancy Pelosi has decided that Congress can do whatever the heck it wants when it comes to health care reform. On the treadmill, tubby, or it's jail for you!
A respectful distance - I'm a big fan of former presidents and vice-presidents keeping their yaps shut once a new administration takes office. Except for the quadrennial political conventions, I would prefer if they just played some golf and worked on their memoirs. So I'm with James Fallows with "In praise of George W. Bush." And, yeah, I'm also looking at you Jimmy Carter.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The industry of green - Via Don Surber: "Climategate prof raked in $22.6 million in grants" Powerful incentive to find the "right" conclusions, I'd say. (H/T Maggie's Farm).

Extra - Opinion Journal: "Climategate - follow the money"
Debt forever with government-run healthcare

Gallup: "Americans still leaning against healthcare legislation"

Americans currently tilt against Congress' passing healthcare legislation, with 49% saying they would advise their member to vote against a bill (or they lean that way) and 44% saying they would advocate a vote in favor of the bill (or lean toward advising a yes vote).

Despite the considerable efforts of Congress and the president to pass health insurance reform, the public remains reluctant to endorse that goal. Over the past month, Gallup has found more Americans opposed to than in favor of healthcare legislation, though at least one in five say they have not made up their minds. Proportionately more independents (27%) and Democrats (24%) than Republicans (14%) are undecided, which at least improves the odds that legislation could wind up getting majority public backing. But the recent trend has been in the opposite direction, with opposition growing.
John Gordon Steele explains why Americans have soured on healthcare reform:

The public is aware of the situation and in poll after poll puts deficit reduction as its No. 1 priority. So what will the greatest deliberative body in the world - as the U.S. Senate loves to call itself - spend the month of December deliberating about? The greatest expansion of the federal government’s responsibilities since Lyndon Johnson left the White House 40 years ago.
And add to the deficit it will since there's zero chance of Congress cutting Medicare by a half-trillion dollars and cost containment efforts in the original bills are already being thrown overboard:

In merging bills drafted in committee, meanwhile, Reid significantly watered down two of the most important cost-containment provisions: a tax on high-cost health insurance policies that was opposed by labor unions and an independent commission that had been designed to automatically and methodically restrain Medicare spending. Senior White House officials have called those provisions critical, but House leaders are adamantly opposed to both.
By a wide majority, Americans know that the current bills moving through Congress will explode the deficit. Why does Congress pretend otherwise?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Officers gunned down in Washington State - Four officers ambushed and murdered in cold blood. What can you say about a senseless tragedy like this? Police are combing the area for a suspect and they have not ruled out a possible accomplice.

Update - Person of interest: Maurice Clemmons

More - Unbelievable: a lifetime of crime and second chances including a commutation by then-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. The key should have been thrown away a long time ago.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The write stuff - Opinion Journal: "Five best books: historical fiction"

The first book that came to mind (before seeing the list) was Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" about the Mercury astronauts although Wolfe's style is considered "new journalism" instead of historical fiction. Maybe a more apt choice would be Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. I learned so much about the Glorious Revolution, monetary policy, and the Royal Society (among many other topics) after reading this series. Bring on the Trial of the Pyx!
Something to be thankful for - CNN: "Godfather of spam going to prison"
Who's closest to the actual retail price without going over? - If you believe Obama, then health care reform will be deficit-neutral. But Michael Cannon at Cato estimates that once you strip away all the budget gimmicks, Obamacare will cost $6 trillion. Somebody is closer to the truth.

Friday, November 27, 2009

When we get around to it, maybe

I just found this gem of unintentional humor from the White House blog responding to Krauthammer’s article, insisting that tort reform is on the table when it comes to health care reform:

President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of HHS to move forward with an initiative to give states and health systems the opportunity to apply for medical liability demonstration projects.
Are there enough qualifiers in there? Are any of these demonstration projects in the pipeline or does the HHS need to approve the applications so we can review and formulate a task force to process the information, forthwith? Short answer: there is no tort reform.
Worst legislation ever - Charles Krauthammer (Harvard Medical School 1975) declares the health care legislation working through Congress “irredeemable” and urges “Kill the bills and do health reform right.”
Nancy Pelosi, laugh riot

Who’s writing her material nowadays?
Despite the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February, unemployment climbed to 10.2 percent in October. While critics cite the jobless rate as a sign that the stimulus has failed, Pelosi argues that the federal government is just not trying hard enough.

"We have to shed any weakness that anybody may have about not wanting to be confrontational on this subject for fear that we'd be labeled not sensitive to the deficit," Pelosi said, in a recording posted by Think Progress.

"The American people have an anger about the growth of the deficit because they're not getting anything for it. ... If somebody has the idea that the percentage of GDP of what our national debt is will go up a bit, but they will now -- and their neighbors and their children -- will have jobs, I think they could absorb that, and then we ride it out and bring money in," she said.
On the one hand, the House Democrats are proposing new legislation (that is, deficit spending) to create jobs while pushing through a massive health care bill that will undoubtably destroy jobs by putting expensive new mandates on business. Is Nancy Pelosi insane or is this a bit she’s doing?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone

Stream of consciousness on a slow news day

There doesn't seem to be much going on today as everybody winds down for Thanksgiving. The top story on Fox News right now is "Are Vampires real?" I hear there's a vampire movie out, so there may be a tie-in.

My weekend started out great because my normal commute was...a normal commute. I took an alternate route home and missed almost all the holiday traffic. Sweet.

I know that when unemployment is topping 10%, it may not be the ideal time for a lavish state dinner at the White House. But, gosh darn it, I love it when our country plays the host, especially to a (future?) ally like India. They're going to be bigger than China one day; might as well play nice. The President makes less money than most baseball players, so why not let him entertain some friends?

On the other hand, I just heard that Obama will be flying to Copenhagen for some climate conference. Does this guy ever stay in the country for more than a couple days?

Detroit will be playing their annual football game against Green Bay tomorrow. Followed by Oakland-Dallas. Snooze. There's an outside chance the NY Giants-Denver matchup will be decent.

Did I mention that Jimmie Johnson won his fourth (in-a-row) NASCAR championship? Snooze redux.

I'm about three weeks away from finishing my coursework for my master's degree. When I graduated from college in 1991, I never thought I'd be heading back to school. But just like "60 is the new 45" I suppose that a masters is the new bachelors.

I haven't written about the race for Ted Kennedy's old seat in the Senate. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will win the seat and, at this point, it looks like Bay State AG Martha Coakley. She'll be a "yes" vote on the health care bill to bankrupt the nation.

Well, if I don't write anything further tonight, let me close with "Happy Thanksgiving."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kentucky. Fox News. You know what I'm getting' at.

Two months ago, Andrew Sullivan knew there was a lynching in Kentucky and engaged in a little casual stereotyping, possibly while listening to "YMCA"

But the most worrying possibility - that this is Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts - remains real. We'll see.
Situation "seen": we now know that Bill Sparkman committed suicide and staged the scene so his family could collect on life insurance. William Jacobson, of a long memory, has a list of bloggers in "Calling for Sparkman apologies."

Update - Sullivan responds: "Hey, man, I said 'we'll see'!" The Other McCain retorts.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If only we had some warning!

Stuff like this drives me nuts. From the NY Times: "Wave of debt payments facing U.S. government"

The problem, many analysts say, is that record government deficits have arrived just as the long-feared explosion begins in spending on benefits under Medicare and Social Security. The nation’s oldest baby boomers are approaching 65, setting off what experts have warned for years will be a fiscal nightmare for the government.
In what context is the word "feared" used here? In "feared" there's the implication that the mathematical certainty of Medicare's and Social Security's insolvency would not come to pass. In what way was this not foreseen by Washington and bloggers alike? The Social Security and Medicare trustees put out a report every year explaining that benefit levels cannot continue much beyond the next couple decades.

The Left and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) play up the certitude of global warming despite the prevailing evidence. But bring up the fiscal vacuity of America's entitlement programs and you're just trying to destroy FDR's legacy. Well, good luck with your Medicare cuts, boys.

Extra – Robert Samuelson tries again with "The assault on the young": "Working Americans -- the young and middle-aged -- already pay a huge part of the health costs of the elderly through Medicare and Medicaid. These will grow with an aging population and surging health spending. Either taxes will rise or other public services will fall."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Some "funny" stuff I found in my latest issue of Wired - The "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks.
You can't fool all the people - David Broder discusses health care reform in "A budget-buster in the making." He notes that less than one-fifth of Americans believe Obama's promise that the plan will not add to the federal deficit. That's change you can't believe in.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Deep in the red - Here's former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eikin with "The coming deficit disaster."
Bah, humbug on taxes - Business Week: "Best e-commerce sites for the holidays." Take a guess how much spending I'll be doing in Massachusetts and the state's new 6.25% sales tax.
Bold new blog. Hooray. Now I can bore u from my phone.
Testing 123. Mobile blog post.

Update - Wow, that's cool. Now I have to figure out formatting.
Like a boring straw, there is no bend - Megan McArdle has a detailed review of the likely funding (and underfunding) scenarios for the health care bill in "Preliminary thoughts on the CBO report." "I think it's pretty clear at this point that no bill from our Congress is going to meaningfully 'bend the cost curve'." Here's some additional commentary from Krauthammer.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Smoke and mirrors on steroids

The Senate's health care reform bill is deficit neutral only if you believe Congress will cut payments to doctors for reimbursements, raise taxes to unprecedented levels, and slash a half-trillion dollars from Medicare. James Capretta details the "$4.9 trillion spending increase"
For starters, the Reid plan assumes that Medicare physician fees will get cut by about 20 percent beginning in 2011 and then remain very restrained indefinitely. Virtually no one in Congress believes that will happen, nor do they want it to.

In the first ten years, CBO says it would total nearly $500 billion, which is bad enough. But in the second decade, the tax increase would balloon to about $1.7 trillion, in large part because of the hidden tax hikes associated with bracket creep. Over 20 years, Senate Democrats are thus planning to raise taxes on the American people by about $2.2 trillion.

Finally, there are the Medicare cuts. Despite all of the talk of “delivery system reform,” the Senate Democratic plan would not transform American medicine to make it more efficient. No, they would simply cut payment rates for providers of services. On paper, the cuts are massive. CBO says they would total nearly $450 billion in Medicare over the first ten years, but then grow to about $1.9 trillion in the next decade. Just like physician fees, virtually no one believes Congress will sustain arbitrary payment rate cuts of this magnitude.
Here's the wrap-up:
On paper, the Reid plan plus the “doc fix” would increase total federal spending by about $4.9 trillion over 20 years. Senate Democrats would resort to bracket creep and other tax hikes to raise $2.2 trillion over the same period. The balance would be made up with spending reductions, mainly in Medicare, that no one believes can be sustained, and in any event do not constitute “health reform.” In other words, it’s a tax-and-spend bill of the highest order. And only the spending is certain to happen.
At the very moment in history when the Baby Boomers are poised to tip entitlement spending into the stratosphere, Obamacare will dwarf those programs and bankrupt this country. Nobody can explain away this math. Oh, yeah, and the whole deal may be unconstitutional to boot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Government intervention: is there anything it can't fix make worse?

If you liked the stimulus bill that brought us double-digit unemployment, "Cash for Clunkers" that cost $24,000 a vehicle and the AIG bailout, then you'll love Kiribati's plan to save the fish. NPR: "Reef Conservation Strategy Backfires"

Kiribati (pronounced KIR-a-bahs) has a simple economy. People either catch fish, or they pick coconuts from their trees and produce coconut oil. Sheila Walsh, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University, says most people do a bit of each.

The Kiribati government was concerned about overfishing. So it came up with a plan: It would subsidize the coconut oil industry.

"The thought was that by paying people more to do coconut agriculture, they would do less fishing," says Walsh. "And this would fulfill two goals: One, they would reduce overfishing; and two, people would be better off. They would have higher incomes."

Walsh wanted to know whether this plan was working, and the government invited her to study the issue. So, as part of her graduate work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, she flew to Kiribati to interview fishermen.

"And it turned out that, actually, the result of paying people more to do coconut agriculture was to increase fishing," she says. In fact, fishing increased by a startling 33 percent. The reef fish population dropped by an estimated 17 percent, putting the whole ecosystem at risk.

"It was a bit of a surprise, and we were wondering: What's going on here?"

The answer was simplicity itself. Walsh's study concludes that people earned more money making coconut oil, which meant they could work less to support themselves. And they spent their new leisure time fishing.

"It hit us like a bumper sticker saying - a bad day fishing is better than a good day working. And that's sort of the story here," Walsh says.
Here's Chief Brody advising Quint on how to spend his coconut profits:

And now, your moment of Zen

A parable for your consideration:

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around the bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in her arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don’t go near females," he told Tanzan, "Especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"
Meditate, and then compare and contrast to the bizarre obsession of Andrew Sullivan for Sarah Palin.

Extra – Megan McArdle: "Palinoia" strikes deep.
Gettin' right to the point

Wasting no time, here's Jeffrey Flier in his opening sentences:
As the dean of Harvard Medical School I am frequently asked to comment on the health-care reform debate. I'd give it a failing grade.
Just like the Massachusetts plan, Dr. Flier writes that the health care bill moving through Congress will "markedly accelerate health-care spending rather than restrain it." I think that's a given at this juncture.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Like I've been saying - Opinion Journal: "Where are the doctors to implement Obamacare? - A University of California chancellor warns that America could soon look like Massachusetts." Aaaahh!
Anybody laughing yet? - General Motors is bankrupt, just posted another loss, but they swear they're going to pay back the American taxpayers. This is a joke right? The Truth About Cars writes: "GM's first post-bankruptcy financial data has arrived, underscoring in red ink the folly of the government 'investment' in the shambling zombie once known as General Motors."
Ken Ober checks out - NY Times: "Ken Ober, "Remote Control" host, is dead." Geez, he was only 52; cause of death "not immediately known."

"Remote Control" was MTV's first foray away from videos and into TV shows. It was a super-cheap game show where Ober would ask trivia questions, sometimes mixed with little skits. A little-known actor named Adam Sandler got his start there as "Stud Boy." My all-time favorite bit starred Denis Leary as "Colin's Bruddah." Leary would come out as co-host Colin Quinn's belligerent brother, ask a question, and inevitably get into a fight with his Irish sibling. Ober would then break up the fight with some stereotype like: "Hey guys, there's a new Pogues album out!"

Also funny: "Dead or Canadian." Oops, sorry Ken (not Canadian.)
Not cutting costs, part 2 - Robert Samuelson looks at health care reform and declares that costs will skyrocket: "Their sweeping overhaul of the health care system - which Congress is halfway towards enacting - would almost certainly make matters worse." He echoes one of my points in that the program could never be deficit-neutral because Congress will not carve $400 billion out of Medicare. Ain't gonna happen.

Extra - From Contentions.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MassCare eats away at the economy in the Bay State

There were two articles in the Boston Globe of special interest for those who want to see how the Massachusetts health care reform will play out when extended nationwide. First, small businesses are getting socked with double-digit increases in insurance rates: "Small businesses bridle at health insurance hikes"

At a time when both the state and the nation are struggling to rein in health care costs, many small businesses in Massachusetts say they’re receiving the largest premium increases in years for their Jan. 1 renewals. Insurers in September said they expect to raise premiums an average of 10 percent next year, but some employers are facing increases that are double or triple that - or even higher.
What does this mean? Surprise surprise, small businesses are not going to hire more workers and/or they're passing the increased cost on to current employees:

According to Blue Cross, the majority of its customers have been redesigning their plans through "buydowns," which use higher deductibles and other features to shift more of the cost to employees.
And here it comes:

"The main driver in insurance premiums is the cost of health care," Maltz said. Another factor, he said, is the state universal health care law, which has compelled insurers to merge newly insured individuals - a high-cost group - into small-business insurance plans.
When Americans are compelled to purchase health insurance to comply with a federal plan, the insurance companies will face the same problem on a national scale. Somebody will have to pay and it's going to be you, in the forms of higher insurance rates, taxes, and borrowing.

If we now flip over to the business section of today's Globe, we find this troubling news: "Downturn isn't over yet for Bay State Latest numbers change predictions for Massachusetts"

As a result, it now appears the state will lag behind the national rebound by three or four months, according to a recent forecast by the New England Economic Partnership, a nonprofit research group.
Cause and effect.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Not cutting costs - The Hill: "House health bill will hike costs $289B" That's what the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says.

Plus, there's this from the WashPost: "Nonpartisan agency says House bill will reduce senior care." No wonder Nancy Pelosi pushed through that quick Saturday vote.
The amateur-in-chief

Forgetting that he's the President of the United States of America, Obama committed a breach of protocol and bowed deeply to Japan's emperor Akihito. The LA Times asked "How low will he go?" and Powerline queried "Why is this man bowing?" I think the answer can be found in this quote from "The Remains of the Day":
Lewis: "You are, all of you, amateurs. And international affairs should never be run by gentlemen amateurs. Do you have any idea of what sort of place the world is becoming all around you? The days when you could just act out of your noble instincts, are over. Europe has become the arena of realpolitik, the politics of reality. If you like: real politics. What you need is not gentlemen politicians, but real ones. You need professionals to run your affairs, or you're headed for disaster!"
The answer may be more prosaic: Obama's the "change" guy so, whatever might have been the norm for 200+ years, he's going to do the opposite. The exception is creating deficits - there he's going to blow away all previous administrations.

Flashback - Hot Air: "NY Times blasts Clinton for almost bowing."

More - Memeorandum roundup.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Americans aren't buyin' it - Megan McArdle reveals that "the more we talk about health care reform, the less popular it gets."
Everything's bigger in Texas - Including the job market. According to Business Week, Texas is home to four out the the top five cities in America for job creation. The fifth is in Utah.
Wanna get into Princeton? Move out of New Jersey - As you know, this move came too late for me, but colleges across the nation are giving special consideration to out-of-state students because they normally need to pay a higher tuition, which then subsidizes the in-state students.
Freestyle - Just got back from my son's swim meet where he shaved three seconds off his 50m freestyle time, and a first place finish to boot. Nice.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Constitution schmonstitution - Congress plans to mandate that Americans purchase health insurance and jail 'em if they don't. Any basis in law? Well there's that "general welfare" part of the Constitution which implies that the government can force you to eat spinach too.
Holi-day wi-fi - PC World: "Thanks Google, but airport wi-fi should always be free." It should, since it's so critical to business, but airports can't resist sources of revenue.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

I miss my dog. When I picked her up from the kennel, she would cry and slobber all over my car on the ride home. And that was after only a week or so.
Obama chooses not to decide - Fox News "Obama won't take any current war options": "President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday."

I'm sure the boys in Oslo are so proud.

Flashback – Here's Jennifer Rubin, earlier today: "After delaying and equivocating, the president must, soon we are promised yet again, announce the policy, quiet the critics, regain the confidence of our allies and the Afghanistan government, and impress on the enemy that we really do mean business."

Extra – Hot Air: "Obama votes 'present'"

More – AFP reports that the U.S. ambassador in Kabul is essentially overriding the opinion of General McChrystal on Afghanistan.

And this - AoSHQ: "Smartest guy in the room."
Millions for Botox, but not one cent for flu shots - Real Clear Markets: "Health reform's moral hazard"
Best news today - CNN: "Police officer who shot Fort Hood suspect says she's 'doing well'" I had heard Officer Munley had lost a lot of blood after the shootout but now it looks like she's on the mend.
Just makin' stuff up, Boston-style - Remember that stimulus package that was supposed to "create or save" jobs? Not so much. Boston Globe "Stimulus job boost in state exaggerated, review finds": "While Massachusetts recipients of federal stimulus money collectively report 12,374 jobs saved or created, a Globe review shows that number is wildly exaggerated."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The conspiracy to keep you poor and dependent - Government-run health care is an opportunity to make Americans more dependent on the government...and that helps the statist Democrats. At least one guy let the cat out of the bag: "Confessions of an ObamaCare backer."

More - From Q&O.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Twenty years ago - BBC News asks: "Where were you when the Berlin Wall came down?" Golly, since I was just starting my senior year at Rutgers, I was probably at the Ale & Wich with my roommates, sharing a $4 pitcher of Budweiser. If my usual jukebox selections were coming on then "I'll be Doggone" by Marvin Gaye would be playing.

Somewhere, deep in my archives, I have a New York Times wrapped in plastic showing people celebrating freedom. Great times.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Once the foot is in the door, expansion forever

I’m back kinda late from New York, so I'll just borrow this thought from Mark Steyn on the passage of the health care bill:

If "health care" were about health care, the devil would be in the details. But it's not about health or costs or coverage; it's about getting over the river and burning the bridge. It doesn't matter what form of governmentalized health care gets passed as long as it passes. Once it’s in place, it will be "reformed", endlessly, but it will never be undone.
The history of Social Security and Medicare and damn near every government program follows the same pattern: start small and expand later. When Social Security was started in the mid-1930's, the program collected 1% from your income along with 1% from your employer; these contributions went to fund a program to prevent poverty in old age. Now Social Security collects 6.2% of your income (12.4% for the self-employed) to fund a much healthier and wealthier senior population compared to their Depression-era counterparts.

The health care bill that just passed in the House is estimated to cost $1.2 trillion, well above President Obama's insistence that the legislation fall under the $900 billion limit. No matter: it's now blindingly obvious that Obama will sign any legislation at all to get that foot in the door. The price setting, rationed care, doctor shortage, and the exploding deficit? Those are details to work out later, after the big "win."

Extra – Opinion Journal: "The Lords of Entitlement Every medical insurance decision will be subject to rationing by politics."

More - Minuteman: "Health care that's always a scare."

Get ready for the mass conversion - From the KC Star: "Would I have to have insurance? Yes, or pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of your income. Hardship and religious waivers would be available, and some very low-wage earners would be exempt. The requirement would begin in 2013." Whoa...what religion gets a free pass?

I think it's Ned Flanderism:
Maude Flanders: "Neddy doesn't believe in insurance. He considers it a form of gambling."
Hi-dilly ho, government intervention!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Stuff you didn't know - Slate has some background in a Fort Hood FAQ.
$3.8 billion in sales, $5 at a time - Business Week has a great article about the genius of Subway's Five-dollar Footlong, both from a product and a marketing viewpoint. C'mon, admit it, you love that jingle.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fort Hood tragedy - Fox News: "Suspected gunman in custody after deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood." The news conference from Texas was delayed almost three hours before the shocking news, contradicting previous reports, that the shooter was alive and in custody. The female police officer who cut him down is also alive, thank heaven.

Big roundup at Memorandum.

Update - Profile in cowardice: Hasan joined the army right out of high school and the United States paid for college and medical school. But then they ordered him deployed to active duty.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Yeah...we know - Real Clear Markets: "Why middle class tax hikes are coming"
I'm saved!

Take it away, Elvis:

Welcome back, old chap - I was going to write about last night's results but by the time I get home from work it's old news. So let's just welcome Atlantic Crossings to the blogroll, the rejuvenated site that used to be called Expat Yank.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Chris Christie gets the checkmark - New Jersey's largest newspaper, the Star-Ledger, declares a Republican win in the Garden State. Wow, and it wasn't even close: with 81% of the vote in, Christie still holds onto a 5% lead. Everybody thought this was going until morning.
Watching New Jersey - With almost half the vote counted (48% at 9:30pm EST) Christie is up 49-44% over Corzine.

Update - 53% of the vote in, Christie up by 4%. Tight, tight, tight.

More - Here's a good NJ map from the NY Times. With 58% in, it's a 6% lead for Christie. But something's wrong with Sussex County - no way that county went for Corzine.

Told ya so - RCP blog: "A typo? In 2005, Corzine lost [Sussex] 60-35."

Update 2 - They fixed Sussex county. With 64% of the vote in, Christie has a stubborn 6% lead, 50%-44% and he's approaching a 100,000 vote lead.

Another update - 68% of the vote in and Christie still leads by 6%. Corzine's Intrade rating is down to single digits (probability of winning, that is.) Looking at the map, it's unclear where Corzine can pick up more votes.