Thursday, December 26, 2013

"In some Cases non-pecuniary values are important"

If economists wrote Christmas cards

Could you design an entire set of Christmas cards from these famous economists' actual quotes to the University of Chicago? Might it make the perfect new line of season's greetings from Hallmark? Why yes, it really could.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Khan Academy Figured out the Minimum Wage.

It's really not that difficult. Even a Constitutional Law Professor could figure it out. Algebra is 8th grade level. Shouldn't be that challenging.

Why Not Medicare for All?

The answer is not that difficult: Because it is fiscally unsustainable.

From The Urban Institute:

So again I ask my friends on the left: What is your plan? Obamacare is a mess and the more honest among you realize the issues are much deeper than an website. At least in some of your talking points you proclaim Obamacare wasn't your idea, it was the Republican's idea. So what is YOUR idea? Medicare for all? How will you pay for it?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quote of the Day


"Under our system of justice the grand jury must have probable cause to believe all the elements of a criminal offense are present. It is simply not sufficient that a person’s behavior was reprehensible, disgusting, meanspirited or just plain stupid.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, explaining the indictments handed down today in the Stuebenville Rape Case



Take The Wind


There was the inevitable media back-and-forth about over Bill Belichick's decision to give the ball to Peyton Manning in overtime in favor of having the wind at the Patriots' back, thus taking the risk that the greatest quarterback of his era (except when he plays the Patriots), would beat him before the quarterback with the all-time highest won lost percentage) ever had a chance to take the ball. The consensus among the gurus was that while events vindicated Belichick's choice, the outcome might well have gone the other way.

What the smart guys with the pens and the microphones are missing, I believe, is that at some level, Belichick doesn't care about the outcome. Now that might sound like a silly thing to say about one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. Of course, he wants to win, desperately. Winning is the only measure of success that matters to him. But in that pursuit, he understands with ruthless clarity the difference between what he can control and what he can't. He can't control injuries to individual players, so he refuses to invest extravagantly in any one of them, and concentrates on maintaining as even a quality as possible throughout the roster. Thus, in a season where he has lost his 2 best defenders, the Patriots defense is still performing at a relatively high level in the only category that counts. He can't control the officiating, so he has no interest in reacting to the egregious non call that went against the Patriots in last week's lost to Carolina. And he can't control the elements, so given the choice he had, he made the risk benefit calculation that Manning would fail to move the ball against the wind once more, as he had failed all night long.

Most critically, he doesn't care what you or I or the talking heads, or the fans or even his players think. He believes in himself.

What sort of training, you might wonder, help provide Belicheck with such such decision making skills? You'll be happy to recall that as a member of the Wesleyan class of 1975, he majored in economics...


It's Not The Rollout That Counts


It's the finish

New England 34 Denver 31

If only the Obama team could make adjustments the way the Patriots can.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Denver 24, New England 0

New England looks so bad, it's as if they are channeling the roll-out of Obamacare.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy

Paul Krugman Collides With The Truth ( Edition)

By, Chris Rossini

As an update to a previous post, I'm proud to announce that Truth and Paul Krugman have crashed into one another. It's in regards to, but hey, when worlds collide, it's only right to recognize it.

So let's look at the timeline (my emphasis):

Oct. 1 - "The glitches will get fixed."

Oct. 14th - "Obviously they messed up the programming big time, which is kind of a shock. But this will get fixed..."

Nov. 6 - "If the bugs in get fixed..."
AND NOW .... Drumroll please!
Nov. 20 - "But the future of the reform depends not on policy per se but on whether the IT issues can be fixed well enough soon enough, a subject on which I have zero expertise."
There we go...Krugman has no clue. He had no business saying that anything would work. It took almost 2 months, but he got there.

Now that we have out of the way, let's build on this admission of ignorance. Let's move on to Economics....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

If the ACA will raise healthcare costs


How come we are seeing the opposite since its passage?


If the ACA Fails


If the ACA, which surely is in a heap of trouble right now, ultimately fails, it will not be because it limits choices (it does so for very few), or increases costs (that question is yet to be decided), or because it's too complicated. It will fail because it redistributes wealth from those who have it to those who don't. From Thomas Edsall's outstanding (and depressing, for your faithful correspondent) analysis in today's Times

This is what Roosevelt understood so well. If the government is going to provide a benefit, it had better provide it for everyone. Otherwise the knives and pitchforks will come out.


Et Tu AHA?


This week the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology issued new guidelines for determination of just who should be taking cholesterol lowering drugs commonly referred to "statins." The guidelines abandon a value based approached that begins with a patient's level of "bad" cholesterol, and rely soley upon online risk calculator's estimate of having a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years. If the risk is >7.5%, treatment with statins is recommended. Mercifully, and perhaps sensing that something was not quite right form the beginning, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the nation's cardiovascular disease research arm, declined to participate in the effort.

The new approach has been subject to immediate, scholarly and in this cardiologist's opinion, highly valid criticism that it substantially overestimates risk, and therefore, subjects millions of people to unnecessary drug therapy. As Dr Steven Nissen points out, the new approach virtually insures that every African American man above the age of 65  will be subject to treatment. In response to these alternative views, the poobahs have met in Dallas at this weeks AHA annual meeting. Ernest conversation no doubt has taken place. The result, predictably, is that he new guidelines will go forward as written. Too many reputations on the line no doubt.

So yet another American institution, this one deeply honored, diminished itself.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Prices and the Affordable Care Act.

The biggest problem with the Affordable Care Act, and Medicare and any single payer system is consumers are shielded from price. When prices are too low, people over-consume. The Obama administration realizes this. From the Washington Post on

The problem there was politics, not code. In the first version of, there was no way to window shop. You needed to register an account in order to see the plans. The rationale was sensible enough: The White House wanted to ensure people saw the real price they'd be paying. That meant verifying their identity, their income, their age, their citizenship, and everything else that goes into calculating subsidies.
This proved a technological nightmare. Imagine if before browsing a book in Barnes & Noble you had to find a clerk and have them take down and verify your credit card, your phone number, and the address you want the book sent to once you've bought it. The staff would quickly be overloaded. No one would ever get into the store. And it would be a massive waste of time because many of the people clogging the line were just there to browse anyway.
 When the Post says the White House wanted people to see the real price they would be paying, it is saying the White House didn't want people to see the real cost of their health insurance. It didn't want old and sick to see how much it really costs to insure them, because they may choose not to buy. Where they less concerned the young and healthy people wouldn't notice they were being forced to overpay to subsidize the old and sick, or did they succumb to their own hype and believe somehow exchanges would result in lower prices for the young and healthy as well? Or was it a numbers game: many more getting subsidies, than paying for over-priced insurance and the politicians were willing to make that trade-off?

It is ironic the ACA is in deep trouble due to it's willful desire to shield consumers from price and that desire resulted in a technological, are we still calling it Glitch?

The idea consumers should be shielded from price is the biggest objection many, including myself, have had to this legislation from the very beginning. The ACA relied on insurance as a financing mechanism for health care, the original sin, removing the consumer from seeing the price of his consumption, and doubled down by removing the consumer from seeing the price of his insurance. It took a bad system, and made it worse.

Single payer won't make it better. It will make it even worse. "Free" healthcare will result in more over consumption. The only way the government will be able to ration healthcare is by bureaucratic mechanisms which includes deciding what treatments people can and can not have and when they can have it. It will be health care for the loudest. Scream you need your neighbor to pay for your birth control and birth control becomes free. Scream you need your neighbor to pay for your ED and ED becomes free. This has already happened with Medicare and ACA, there's no reason to think this trend would moderate with single payer.


Monday, November 11, 2013

NY Times: You WILL lose your Plan. You WILL pay more. You WILL stop complaining about it.

The NY Times editorial page this morning laid out some of the basic tenets of the Affordable Care Act: People will lose their plans, and they will pay more. An adjacent oped has an interesting view on those who complain about this.

Up to seven million people may be able to get health policies without paying any premium at all. Some four million people may have to pay more for new (and better) policies, not all of whom will necessarily be upset at getting better coverage at a competitive rate.
(At least) 4 million will not be able to keep their plan and "may have to pay more." This is just the individual market. The employer based market is much bigger and the disruptions to the employer market will be much larger as well. For instance, my small employer will be switching plans to avoid the Cadillac tax. The Cadillac Tax is a tax on high-price, high-benefit plans. The reason our old plan was a Cadillac plan is because we are a small company operating in NY. We have high premiums, but certainly not extravagant, not even generous, benefits. But such is the "logic" of the law that I must change to a plan with FEWER benefits for the purpose of..... If anyone can tell me I'd love to hear the answer.  The Affordable Care Act's response to their assertion American's pay too much for health care is to incentivice me from buying health care. Ok, but why? What if I want to buy health care? What's wrong with that? I like Apple products. An increasing portion of my budget over the years has gone to Apple products. But that's not a national crisis. I digress.

What was equally interesting to me was an op-ed by Lori Gottlieb remarking on the unsympathetic responses her friends had to her complaint about losing her plan and having to pay more for it.

“Obamacare or Kafkacare?” I posted on Facebook as soon as I hung up with Anthem. I vented about the call and wrote that the president should be protecting the middle class, not making our lives substantially harder. For extra sympathy, I may have thrown in the fact that I’m a single mom. (O.K., I did.)
 She wanted sympathy and instead was told to suck it up.

I understand the whole point of the law is to do this. The point of the law is to make some pay more and get less so others can pay less and get more. This whole Rube Goldberg contraption has that guiding principle. I do get that. But what the supporters of the law are finding out is that people get kind of cheesed when the foundational promises made when passing this law: keep your plan, keep your doctor, lower premiums, fewer uninsured, were deliberate deceptions, at worst, or made from ignorance of the law's consequences, at best.


Oh, and those heartless, evil, racist, stupid, insane, extreme neanderthals have been pointing out the law's promises were untrue for years. But tell me. If someone is a heartless, evil, racist, stupid, insane, extreme neanderthal for pointing out the truth, what is the person who has been deliberately deceiving or the person who didn't understand the untruths being promised?

Job Growth! Compliance is a Growth Industry

Daughter Knabe interviewed for a job in a compliance department. I encouraged her to drop this line on her prospective employers, "Compliance is a growth industry." What do you mean she asked?

This, from

A growing thicket of federal regulations under the Obama administration has contributed to an employment spike in at least one corner of the job market: the increasingly vital compliance industry.

ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank Act and other large federal undertakings have led to an outpouring of new agency rules derided by business groups and defended by advocates.

But the regulations have also been a boon for professional compliance officers paid to help companies understand and adapt to the new requirements. 

“Staff to track compliance issues is on the rise, and it has been for the last several years,” said Richard Riese, senior vice president for regulatory compliance at the American Bankers Association. “And, at the moment, there’s no prospect it will decrease anytime soon.”

Data kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows an 18-percent increase in the number of compliance officers in the United States between 2009 and 2012, according to an analysis conducted by the conservative American Action Forum (AAF).

Of course,  laws and regulations aren't necessarily bad. And of course many laws and regulations are necessary. But as we ask ourselves why is it that job growth remains anemic (except during periods when the government shuts down) maybe the answer can at least partly be found in increased regulatory burdens. 


Friday, November 8, 2013

The Affordable Care Act and Marriage

Turns out the Affordable Care Act has a fairly substantial incentive to avoid marriage. From The Atlantic

Any married couple that earns more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level—that is $62,040—for a family of two earns too much for subsidies under Obamacare. "If you're over 400 percent of poverty, you're never eligible for premium" support, explains Gary Claxton, director of the Health Care Marketplace Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But if that same couple lived together unmarried, they could earn up to $45,960 each—$91,920 total—and still be eligible for subsidies through the exchanges in New York state, where insurance is comparatively expensive and the state exchange was set up in such a way as to not provide lower rates for younger people.
Personally, I don't care if people marry, who they marry, how many they marry, how often they marry, what species they marry. Personally, I don't think the government should care either.

I'm guessing this marriage penalty was not contemplated by the authors of the ACA. Designing "a system" sounds so alluring to those in power, and pretty much impossible to do in practice. We are seeing that proven (again) with the ACA.

Let's add this incentive to the long list of perverse incentives (employer incentive to reduce work hours, employer incentive to keep business from hiring, employee incentive to not work, consumer incentive to cost shift to Medicaid, insurance incentive to drop plans and of course insurance incentive to undo the risk pools so painstakingly created by the ACA). It is an edifice doomed to collapse. We've known this from the beginning.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Losing your Plan is a Feature, not a bug, of the Affordable Care Act

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) respond to the "You can keep your plan" broken pledge by saying 1) those were junk plans that are being lost and 2) it only applies to small segment of the individual health care market. Both claims are wrong.

It is curious supporters would make a blanket claim about the quality of plans being dropped, a claim without subtlety and nuance, when it is exactly that lack of specificity that has put the broken pledge of "read my lips you can keep your plan" in such focus. The idea that ALL plans impacting 26 million people are junk is absurd on its face and there is no evidence presented ALL, or the majority, or even some, of those plans are junk.

The claim that losing your plan only applies to a small segment of the population is more troubling. There is plenty of evidence from HHS and CBO that many in the employer-based market will lose there plan. For instance, here is the CBO in May of 2013 estimating 7 million will lose employer based coverage by 2018 and 5 million total in the non-group market by 2017. That's a  lot of junk plans.

Casey Mulligan thinks the estimates are too low. He thinks the number can be 20+ million, driven by the incentives written into the law. Employers have an incentive to drop coverage and employees will have an incentive to allow their coverage to be dropped. He concludes:

Moreover, this is not an issue of the adequacy of the group coverage that's lost, it simply that the ACA induces market participants to tolerate coverage loses in order to, at taxpayer expense, reduce the monetary loses they experience as a consequence of the law.

Losing your health insurance is a feature of the ACA. The ACA was designed to kick people off their plans. This is not a surprise to many who have opposed this plan from the start.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Did Diane Feinstein Really Say "You can keep you plan" only applied until ACA was passed?

The answer Senator Feinstein gave to Bob Schieffer's question, on Sunday's Face the Nation,  about keeping your plan was that it applied only until the ACA was passed. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt that she was really answering some other question. But what question was she answering?

More and more people are discovering that losing your health plan is a FEATURE of the ACA, not a bug.

SCHIEFFER: The president said in the beginning that one thing was that if you like the health care program you had you could keep it. We now know there was debate within the administration before he said that as to whether that was actually a promise that could be kept. Should the president not have made that statement?
FEINSTEIN: Well, as I understand it you can keep it up to the time -- and I hope this is correct, but this is what I've been told -- up to the time the bill was enacted, then after that it's a different story. I think that part of it, if true, was never made clear. It is really very unclear right now exactly what the situation is. And, yes, that's a problem. But I think it has to be said, this is a very large major priority. And if it can get up and running, it can be, I think, a very positive thing. The big problem here is there are so many destroyers -- in the House, in the public, in the private health care sector that just want to destroy. That's not helpful.


Friday, November 1, 2013

When Are the Democrats Going to Suggest a Health Plan of Their Own?

1- Dems are upset Republicans didn't support the Affordable Care Act even though the ACA was a Republican idea, thought up by the Heritage Foundation and implemented in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. Got it? The Affordable Care Act is a Republican idea.
2-Dems are upset the Republicans won't suggest a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Got it? The Republicans have no ideas for health care.

But if #1 is true, number #2 is false, since the ACA IS a Republican idea.

So the real question is, When are the Democrats going to suggest a health plan of their own? And if the answer is Medicare for All, the question is, Why didn't they pass that in 2008 instead of passing the opposition party's plan?


Don't Spit on My Boots and Tell Me It's Rain. ObamaCare Edition

From CBS News:

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - For 31 days now, the Obama administration has been telling us that Americans by the millions are visiting the new health insurance website, despite all its problems. 

But no one in the administration has been willing to tell us how many policies have been purchased, and this may be the reason: CBS News has learned enrollments got off to an incredibly slow start.
Early enrollment figures are contained in notes from twice-a-day "war room" meetings convened within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after the website failed on Oct. 1. They were turned over in response to a document request from the House Oversight Committee.
 The number that signed up the first day? 6. As in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Not six hundred, or six thousand. VI.

Now I know it's the tendency of most humans to hide bad news, and put the shiniest happiest face on things.

But as they say in Texas, Don't spit on my boots and tell me it's rain.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Over/Under on When Latest NSA Statement Proven Wrong?

From Politico:

...a report in The Washington Post — based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden — that the NSA secretly mined the connection between Google’s and Yahoo’s data hubs. The project, code named MUSCULAR and targeting data centers located around the world, granted the NSA access to hundreds of millions of accounts, including those owned by Americans, the Post indicated.

The NSA, of course, denies even knowing of such a thing.

The leader of the National Security Agency on Wednesday aired skepticism about a new report that the U.S. government had infiltrated the links between Google’s and Yahoo’s data centers.
“I don’t know what the report is,” said Gen. Keith Alexander when asked at a cybersecurity summit, adding the NSA is “not authorized” to access companies’ data centers and instead must “go through a court process” to obtain such content. “Not to my knowledge,” the general said when asked whether the NSA tapped the data centers
 It seems like all NSA denials are ultimately retracted, ("Least untruthful answer" ring a bell?) the only question is when.  I'll put the over/under as Tuesday November 5th, Noon.


PS. Thank God the President and Diane Feinstein think Angela Merkel's phone shouldn't be tapped. If only they would extend the same courtesy to me.

If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor?

It is already patently obvious the promise of keeping your insurance plan if you like your insurance plan is untrue for millions of Americans. One of the other foundational promises of the Affordable Care Act is, "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." Critics have contended for years that isn't true either. In response supporters of the law have branded the critics  extremists, racists, deniers, lunatics, and heartless neanderthals whose only goal in life was keeping poor people from receiving medical care. Oy.

From the NY Post.
New York doctors are treating ObamaCare like the plague, a new survey reveals.
A poll conducted by the New York State Medical Society finds that 44 percent of MDs said they are not participating in the nation’s new health-care plan.
Another 33 percent say they’re still not sure whether to become ObamaCare providers.
Only 23 percent of the 409 physicians queried said they’re taking patients who signed up through health exchanges.
Apologists of the "If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance" broken promise claim the policies being cancelled are inadequate. Will they make the same claims about doctors?


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So Why Didn't the Dems Go with Single Payer When They Had the Chance?

Why didn't the Dems push single payer in 2009? They had the House, Senate and Presidency. The Republicans were not going to have any part of the Affordable Care Act. So why not go for it all?

Robert Reich, who I think is one of the sillier commentators for the Left, had this to say about it:
Had Democrats stuck to the original Democratic vision and built comprehensive health insurance on Social Security and Medicare, it would have been cheaper, simpler, and more widely accepted by the public.
So again, why didn't they? Don't blame the Republicans. The Democrats had 60 in the Senate and an overwhelming majority in the House.

The hypothesis put forward most often, as best I can tell, is the Democrats decided instead to propose a Republican version of universal health insurance courtesy of Mitt Romney. But why do that? The Republicans in Congress were opposed. Why spend so much time and effort on a plan the Democrats really didn't like and the Republicans wouldn't vote for, no matter if they used to like it or not?

I don't have an answer, only a couple of guesses. My first guess is Democrats weren't united on single payer. Makes sense. If your party controls the Legislative and Executive branches a reason you wouldn't do something is because your party is divided.

Another guess, which I think there is some evidence to support. The voters didn't want single payer. The shellacking the Democrats took in 2010 is (in my opinion) strong evidence voters didn't want single payer. The result of Blue Dogs voting for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was the extinction of the Blue Dogs and the lurch left of the Democrats and lurch right for the Republicans. Oops.

I think there is another reason some Democrats wouldn't support single payer and why other Democrats supported the ACA: Going to a single payer system would result in sharply higher taxes and/or sharply higher deficits. If the Federal Government is going to be the single payer the money has to come from somewhere, and the thought of going to voters and saying, "Guess what, Taxes are going up a lot...." would result in voters taking up pitchforks. With ACA it was a step towards single payer without the pain of sharply higher taxes.

I also think the Blue Dogs wouldn't go for single payer because Medicare and Medicaid have massive unfunded liabilities already. Adding ALL of America to a system that was already in need of significant tax increases to maintain long-term financial viability was not going to happen.

But there is not such thing as a free lunch. Messing with market prices has consequences and we are starting to see the consequences of that interference. When health insurance (or any commodity) is under-priced, too much is demanded. When health insurance (or any commodity) is over-priced, too little is demanded. The ACA over-prices insurance by mandating minimum coverage levels. It over-prices insurance for the young and healthy. It under-prices insurance for the old, the sick and the poor. In its (laudable) goal of helping the poor and sick it has created a system that will likely hurt everyone. The young and healthy will try their best to not consume a product they find unattractive. Taxes will go up as the government scrambles to meet the promises it has made. It will try to lower payments to doctors, drug companies and hospitals to keep the budget from careening out of control. That under-pricing will result in withdrawal by those providers and on it goes. None of this is a surprise. All of this was foreseen.

To misquote Herb Stein, When a trend is unsustainable, it stops. This will stop. I don't know when, nor how. I doubt the remedy is single payer, but who knows, maybe it is. I doubt it's a Libertarian free market solution; we are too pregnant with government interference in the health insurance market for that to happen. I don't know enough about web sites to know if it can be "fixed" by the end of November. I doubt it. But I didn't think there would be massive incompetence in rolling out v1.0 either. Doesn't matter if it works or doesn't by November. The real issues are rearing their heads.


Friday, October 25, 2013

It Breaks Your Heart, this Game of Baseball


Doug Glanville the marvelous occasional baseball commentator for the Times writes;

"In our young minds, baseball has a permanence. We embrace it as a near certainty, one that rises in spring and sets in the fall as our lives revolve around it. Yet each larger-than-life player from our baseball childhood who walks out the clubhouse door for the last time forces us kicking and screaming into an uncomfortable maturity. We wonder where our childhood has gone. We are shocked into understanding that our favorite players are aging, and that we must be aging, too".

Carl Yastremski, who threw the ball out Wednesday Night to inaugurate this year's World Series, sports a full head of snow white hair. The greatest living Red Sox is 74 years old. He's had bypass surgery. He's lost a son not much younger than me.

It can't be. The 12 year old (1967) can still see him paroling left field at Fenway like a cop on his beat, daring baserunners to try and advance.  The 21 year old college kid raises his arms in triumph as Yaz singlehandedly demolishes Oakland in the playoffs ('75). Alone on South Racine in front of an old black and white TV, my 24 year old medical student self still fights back tears as Captain Carl pops out to Nettles (1978), in what, please G-d, will always remain my most heartbreaking baseball memory.

But Glanville, who played, and loved this game like those before and those to follow, elegantly reminds us that yes, it must be so.

"But when the final game is played, when the winners celebrate and the ticker tape falls, again there is silence. And in the quiet corners of baseball’s historic order, some players are taking off their uniforms for the last time. And inevitably, some of those now-former players defined post-season baseball, and made us love the game because of how they stood in the batter’s box, or the music that played each time they danced to the mound."


Monday, October 21, 2013

Single Payer Health Insurance


We have single payer health insurance in the US. It's called Medicare, among the the most successful and popular government programs ever established.  As with the ACA, conservatives, including, famously, Ronald Reagan, decried it as socialism, and predicted it would destroy the country. Like the ACA, it had an awful roll out. Finally like the ACA, it's a program in which the young and healthy subsidize the old and sick Along with Social Security, it dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly. It is far more efficient than private insurance.

Now, you're welcome to criticize Medicare on conservative or libertarian or philosophical grounds. You're even more welcome to agree with me that Medicare is unsustainable in its present form and as such in deep need of reform. But I would caution you about the politics of being against Medicare. As even the most "conservative" (or is it actually hypocritical?) Republican legislators understand, Medicare is as sacrosanct to Tea Party members as it is to liberal Democrats.

Maybe that's why the Right so loathes Obamacare. It just might Medicare.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Obamacare to Putin: Please Help!

It is ironic the GOP decided to have a fight over Obamacare the same day the Obamacare exchanges opened. After all, how could they possibly know there would be significant issues? Gosh, I don't know:

Major insurers, state health-care officials and Democratic allies repeatedly warned the Obama administration in recent months that the new federal health-insurance exchange had significant problems, according to people familiar with the conversations.
then there was this from Henry Chao, at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services
The time for debating about the size of text on the screen or the color or is it a world-class user experience, that’s what we used to talk about two years ago,” Henry Chao, an official at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services who is overseeing the technology of the exchanges said at a recent conference. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.

Well when the administration was in a tight spot with Syria a few weeks ago, the Secretary of State made some offhand comment, and before you know it Putin takes it seriously, and rides to the rescue. That's what the Obamacare needs now, a Hail Mary pass to Vladimir Putin.

The notion the exchanges problem was the overwhelming traffic was suspicious from the start. When a person can't save his security questions, that's not a traffic issue, that's a coding issue. There are many examples of web site behavior that suggest some deeper flaw other than overwhelming demand. And coding issues can be, don't have to be, but can be, tough. Time will tell if  "putting on a brave face" or "whistling past the graveyard" is the more appropriate metaphor to describe the supporters defense of the law these opening weeks.

Software and web sites can be fixed but there are much deeper issues starting to become evident. The system needs young people to sign up for insurance. The young subsidize the old in Obamacare. Without young people the insurance market could enter a death spiral. That is, insurers raise rates to make up for the losses incurred by having too many old, sick people in the pool. That results in even more of the young, healthy dropping out, losses increase and so it goes. All systems that rely on community rating face this risk, so this is a risk that will remain for as long as the program relies on this feature. The big problem for Obamacare is this: Many young people don't get insurance because it's not typically a good deal. Even the supporters of Obamacare admit this. The challenge will be to convince young people they should buy insurance they have demonstrated they don't really want. Plus, since children can stay on their parent's health care plans until they are 26, it reduces the number of young healthy there are to subsidize the old.

Parenthetically, the wife and I have been trying to watch Aaron Sorkin's "Newsroom." We both find it, most of all, boring. It masquerades as impartial and moderate in its political leanings. The amount of misinformation is distressing and it's really a liberal's fantasy of what a conservative should look like. But mostly, it's boring. Anyway the show loves to bash the Tea Party and in a throw-away line criticizes Tea Partiers as voting against their interest. It's a remark I've heard often, and is said without any apparent self-awareness that a key aspect of Obamacare assumes young people will buy something against their interest. Oh well.

The rates on the exchange are also causing some distress for those who bought insurance on the individual market. The problem is, Obamacare mandates certain levels of insurance that in some cases exceeds what consumers want to buy. Rate shock is the result. The administration admits this obliquely by crowing that rates on the exchange are lower than what was estimated or that rates in NY are lower. Well, the rates overall are still higher, and sometimes much higher than what consumers were paying. Supporters will point out the higher prices reflect better insurance. That may be the case. But it's probably small consolation to consumers no longer able to buy a policy they wanted because someone decided consumers really shouldn't be given the opportunity to buy what they want. 

There are also perverse work incentives. Casey Mulligan has articulated these in great detail and I recommend his articles in the New York Times, his blog and his book, The Redistribution Recession. He can be challenging to follow but it's worth the effort.Mr. Mulligan points out the Obamacare subsidies can be analyzed as marginal tax rates. Huh? Consumers may receive a subsidy to purchase insurance. The subsidy depends on income. The lower the income, the higher the subsidy. The more you earn the lower the subsidy. So your after-tax income increases at a slower pace than your gross income. One of the more interesting examples looks at a family of five in California. At at income of $110,280, there is no taxpayer subsidy. However, at an income of $110,279, a family could receive a subsidy of $8,100. So a family that earns an extra (marginal) dollar of income, sees its after tax income decline by $8,099. I suppose supporters of the law will say normal people don't think that way, or it doesn't affect that many people. I disagree. This is from SFGate.

People whose 2014 income will be a little too high to get subsidized health insurance from Covered California next year should start thinking now about ways to lower it to increase their odds of getting the valuable tax subsidy.
"If they can adjust (their income), they should," says Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation. "It's not cheating, it's allowed."
Mulligan estimates Obamacare adds almost 5% to marginal tax rates overall.

There are also incentives on the employer side to reduce employment. Part time workers do not need to be covered, so companies are moving to lower hours. Small companies avoid the mandate, and I suspect we will see companies near the cliff separating companies required to offer insurance, try to figure out how to grow carefully around that limit. 

It's almost as if the supporters of a single payer system came up with an evil plan: "Let's create a really awful idea. Then when it fails, as it must, we can push for a single payer system." Of course what they'll have to explain is why they are going to be better at devising a single payer system any more competently than Obamacare has been designed. I'm sure they'll come up with something.


You Can Tell a Yale Man, But You Can't Tell Him Much

Dan Kahan at Yale Law School discovers, much to his surprise:

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub. 
Did this change Dan's views? Thankfully no.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

Phew, that's a relief. And where does Dan get his understanding of what the Tea Party movement is? Here's the one I really liked:

I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv -- & I don't watch Fox News very often -- and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico). 


Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Extremist Gets to Vote Also

To whom it may concern on the Left:

By the definition of the Left, I may be an extremist, or an economic terrorist, or an extortionist, or a kidnapper, or willing to watch the US go down in flames. By their lights I guess I am in the pocket of the Koch Brothers, or Big Oil, or Big Finance. It seems, in their view, I'm stupid, insane, nuts, a neanderthal (that's my favorite. Thanks Mr. Vice-President) and given the smirks, and shrugs I see when they are on TV, I'm beyond condescension. And, let's not forget, because I disagree with the President on policy issues, I am almost certainly racist in their eyes.

And yes, I do recognize the Right is guilty of this as well. But those I read on the right, or listen to, don't talk that way. Simply because when they do talk that way, I stop listening. But sure, I'm certain there are those on the right just as guilty of this lack of civility.

I just have two points to make regarding this rhetoric.

First, it is highly unlikely you'll will convince me of anything if first you call me stupid, or evil. If you accuse me of all sorts of malevolent behavior, berate me and try to discredit me and my views, and then demand I agree with you, the chances of you achieving your objective, are low.

Second, and this is the more important one. I vote, and my vote counts just as much as yours. Evil though I may be, my vote counts just as much as yours. Calling me a neanderthal, an extortionist, a terrorist, a tea bagger, a hostage taker, and stupid may make you feel better, but it won't result in me changing my vote or withholding my vote. Rather, it makes it more likely I work to persuade others (not berate others) into seeing what I see.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Obamacare Implementation: It Would Be Funny If It Weren't So Serious

But this one is really funny:

If you want to browse the Connect for Health Colorado insurance marketplace, you have to create an account to find out what’s in it. Having trouble setting up an account? Just download a not-so-handy PDF complaint form and upload it using your (nonexistent) C4HCO account!

Back in the 80's Sprint had a huge problem with its billing system. The problem? They didn't send out bills. When it did, customers were getting bills for hundreds of dollars for services rendered over the past few months. It took years to fix.

All technology issues can be fixed. But it will take time, maybe a lot of time. With elections coming in about a year, the supporters of Obamacare may not have the time they need.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Market for Medicine Can Not Work. Righhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhht. (corrected)

One of the big myths about health care is the market can't/won't work.  
MCMINNVILLE, Ore. – Next item on the auction block: A brand new colonoscopy.

Doctors across the country are using bid-for-care websites like to attract business and save customers money.

"A lot of procedures are a lot more affordable than big insurance companies want us to think they are,” Medibid CEO Ralph Weber told KATU. “If someone chooses to be uninsured next year, the individual penalty is $95 or up to 1% of your income. I think some people will choose to remain uninsured and shop for care as they go."

The penalty Weber is talking about comes from Obamacare’s individual mandate to buy health insurance by the end of 2013.

But people like George Law say insurance just isn’t affordable.

"I do not have health insurance. I'm one of the many who don't. It's not because I don't want it, I just can't afford it,” Law said.

Law, from Chicago, requested a colonoscopy on Medibid, and doctors around the country “bid” to perform it.

The winner: Dr. Scott Gibson, practicing half a country away here in Oregon.

Gibson charges cash customers about $800 for a colonoscopy, a bargain compared to the $3,500 price tags Law was finding around Chicago.

"You might say come on, you can actually travel from Chicago to Oregon, rent a car, stay in a hotel and pay for your medical services? Not only did I come out ahead, it was less than half the price [of having the procedure done in Chicago]," Law said.

Why the huge difference in price?

“I think it has to do with where it’s done,” Gibson said. “Hospitals have high overheads, so they tend to charge more.

Medibid claims it saves the average customer 50 percent

Free Health Care

My favorite line from this San Jose Mercury News story "Obamacare's winners and loser in the Bay area," is from Cindy Vinson,"of San Jose," who "will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy,"
"Of course, I want people to have health care," Vinson said. "I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally."

To quote Steve Mariucci, "Bummer." Or to quote Milton Friedman, "There is no such thing as a free lunch."


Saturday, October 5, 2013

National Park Service Tries to Close Mt. Vernon Parking Lots

Only one problem,

The Federal government may be shut down, but Washington’s home remains open. Mount Vernon has remained a private non-profit for more than 150 years.

So why was the National Park Service trying to close parking lots? No one has said. And why would the government need to close an unmanned parking lot anyway? No one has said.

There are lots of reports of the National Park Service engaging in mean-spirited, nasty behavior, I suppose to make a point. I don't know what point they are trying to make, but the point I get is they are rectal orifices.

Full story on Mt. Vernon here.

And don't miss this one.

And some people wonder why respect for Government is low.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Assassinations, Targeted Killings and the NSA

When I tell friends and family the purpose of the NSA spying is to kill people, most indulge me or roll their eyes. Don't.

Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency, defended the government's use of targeted killings on Thursday.

"Yes, we do targeted killings, and I certainly hope they make full use of the capacities of the National Security Agency when we do that," Hayden said at a Washington Post panel discussion on cybersecurity.
Hayden later joked:
"I must admit in my darker moment over the past several months, I'd also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list," Hayden said.
The Government has already killed US citizens with drones. The Obama administration defends its "right" to do so. Given the lies that come out of the NSA and its defenders every day, I'm not convinced putting Snowden on the kill list is a joke.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Would Someone in the Democratic Party Please Primary Diane Feinstein?

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he will push legislation to end the NSA's controversial program to collect records on all U.S. phone calls. He argued that the program invades Americans' privacy rights while doing little to thwart terrorist attacks.

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued that the phone data program is critical for protecting national security.


Today Senator Feinstein stated that the NSA phone metadata program that collects records on the telephone calls of American citizens includes location information.

Previously, head of the NSA, General Keith B. Alexander, stated that the NSA was not currently collecting call location data under the authority of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. It was left open that other authorization could allow for, and be currently used to, collect location data. It was revealed today that in the past a program at least tried to collect this data.
They should really coordinate their lies, because right now they are just looking dumb. And dangerous.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Broncos v Eagles

At some point you just start feeling sorry for whoever is playing the Broncos. Unless, of course they are playing Oakland. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Climate Change.

 May 7, 2013

Don't get me wrong. I believe there is a greenhouse effect. I believe climate changes due to that and I believe man has an impact. But leaping from those beliefs to the prescription we need a hydrocarbon starvation diet is a bit much.

July 5, 2012
I do believe man impacts climate. How can man not impact climate? The only way we can eliminate man's impact on climate is eliminate man. I'm not willing to accept that step.

February 10, 2012
But you can admit the climate is changing and not agree to the Al Gore/Jim Hansen/Joe Romm solution. Or you can agree the climate is changing, but the predictions of the feedback loops are highly speculative.

May 22, 2013
What I find curious about these jeremiads is they (willfully?) ignore the progress that has been made in carbon emissions in the US since 2007. You can't get this from the Times or the Green blogs, but carbon emissions in the US is down, since 2007 by 12%. Lots of reasons. More natural gas, more wind, less consumption. But it's just odd to me the climate crisis mongers never seem to recognize this.

In fact, the entire history of the world is one of moving to fuels that are less carbon intensive. Dung, wood, coal, oil, natural gas are successively less carbon intensive. So why wouldn't a reasonable person applaud the extensive deposits of natural gas in the US, and the substitution it encourages for oil and coal. I think it's partly a zealotry that ignores the benefits of fossil fuels, like keeping us warm in the winter, cool in the summer, providing light at night and mobility to all, you know the small stuff of life, and partly an arrogance that believes the hoi polloi exist for the elites to manage.

Still A Man Hears What he Wants To Hear And Disregards The Rest


If I follow the implications of your recent global warming post and the thread of your arguments generally, it's this. Those who argue that climate change is the result of human fossil fuel use are misguided at best and devious at worst. They're just wrong and we can/should ignore them. And even if they turn out to be right there isn't a damn thing we're should do about about it. Bad for the economy after all. So drill baby drill-the planet will do just fine.

As I've said before, I hope you're right, since that is surely what we as a species will do. We're not really constructed, evolutionarily speaking, to do anything else. The idea that a group of highly educated, ethically motivated, wise men and women should have anything useful to say about such a question is not going to be accepted by those of us who find their Cassandra like tidings inconvenient for the lives we lead. So don't even bother to engage them in a rational debate about the merits of their findings and the risk of inaction.  Discredit them. Attack their honesty  Threaten their professional careers and their well being.


ObamaCare: A Free Toaster with Every Appendectomy

In the 80's when interest rates were regulated (Regulation Q among others) banks would compete for deposits by offering things like free toasters. As a matter of fact, when wages were regulated during WWII, businesses offered health insurance as a way to compete for workers.

The NY Times pointed out hospitals engage in the same behavior today. The Times doesn't connect the dots, but John Goodman does here, and here. If prices are set, businesses compete on a non-price aspect. For hospitals, the non-price aspect includes amenities, which is the subject of the Times piece.

Expect more of this under Obamacare. When prices are distorted, businesses still compete, just on other non-price items. A free toaster with every appendectomy.


EPA Policies Increase Carbon Emissions

Burning coal produces more carbon than burning natural gas. When the EPA moves to limit coal in the US, it reduces demand in the US and coal prices. See EIA link below. US coal producers then seek markets elsewhere, Europe for instance, where natural gas prices are much higher. More coal is burned in Europe.

Thanks EPA.

Multiple factors push Western Europe to use less natural gas and more coal



It's That Time Of Year


My beloved Red Sox reenter the post season for the 1st time in three years with the best record in the American League. Hope springs eternal.

Here's a snippet from Pedro Martinez' interview with Globe on the occasion of his decision to accept a post as a post game commentator. Martinez, the best Red Sox pitcher of his and many other generations, and a deeply religious man, has an equanimity that can only be envied. Would that you and I have the same peace of mind at the end of our careers.

Martinez: "Yes, yes. Baseball was beautiful, the best job ever. But everything has to end. My end came right on time. I feel great, I don't feel like I miss much. I miss competing, and I miss being with my teammates. And the use of time -- it's something that drove me nuts right after I retired, all that free time. But now I've found refuge in fishing, I'm going to start picking up golf, working with the Red Sox in what they ask me to do. And broadcasting is a part of it. This is part of it. Having the opportunity to stay watching baseball and talking about baseball, that is what I love. I'm very lucky."

But you can admit it, right? If John Farrell needed you to come in in the seventh to get a tough righty out as the bridge to Koji Uehara over these next couple of weeks, you've got a couple of bullets left and the guile to still do it, right?

Martinez: [Laughs] "No, no, John has plenty of much younger guys out there who can come in and do it, you'll see. Plenty of good arms, exciting arms. I'm the old man to them. This is their time now."

The United States Does Not Negotiate With Terrorists


That makes the President's response to the Suicide Caucus simple.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Federalist: Are Robots Killing the Middle Class

The answer, of course, is no. See the whole post here.

My favorite question posed in the article is:

Question: Which one of these things is more likely to undermine economic activity:
a) Twitter
b) over 12,000 new pages of regulations added by this administration


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Could Never Happen Here

I saw this headline and thought, "What is wrong with them?"

"Terrorism: Senate Back Move to Give NSA, SSS, Police Powers to Intercept Communications." Turns out, the story is from Nigeria.
According to the sponsor of the bill, Senator Galaudu, the bill will assist, simplify and facilitate the role of national security agencies in tracking terrorism or crime against national security or human dignity, using communication or telecommunication services 
According to the sponsor of the bill, Senator Galaudu, the bill will assist, simplify and facilitate the role of national security agencies in tracking terrorism or crime against national security or human dignity, using communication or telecommunication services - See more at:
Terrorism: Senate Back Move To Give NSA, SSS, Police Powers To Intercept Communication - See more at: Senate Back Move To Give NSA, SSS, Police Powers To Intercept Communication - See more at:
 Protecting against crimes against human dignity. Sounds noble. The Act
empowers the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Security Adviser or the Inspector General of Police to acquire information relating to terrorist groups and terrorist acts and conduct investigations or search with or without warrant to prevent or establish a crime of terrorism in Nigeria.
With or without a warrant. Why get a warrant when human dignity is involved? Oddly enough, someone thought there might be a danger in the bill:
Expressing fears about the abuse of the bill, Senator Atai Aidoki Ali said, "This will be an opportunity for government to witch-hunt the opposition without court order and the bill portends some sort of danger."
 But that could never happen here.
Terrorism: Senate Back Move To Give NSA, SSS, Police Powers To Intercept Communication - See more at:
Terrorism: Senate Back Move To Give NSA, SSS, Police Powers To Intercept Communication - See more at:
Terrorism: Senate Back Move To Give NSA, SSS, Police Powers To Intercept Communication - See more at:

Monday, September 16, 2013

America: Still Land of Opportunity

I know I'm supposed to believe inequality is bad and (somehow) responsible for all sorts of (undefined) evils. For some reason inequality in sports isn't questioned. Superstars make a lot more money than journeymen, and somehow the quality of the sports product has increased dramatically. But if inequality were (somehow) responsible for all sorts of (undefined) evils why does this not seem to be the case in sports? Sports is "different" I suspect will be the (attempted) answer.

I know I'm supposed to believe America is no longer the land of opportunity. We are stuck. If our parents are poor. We will be poor. If our parents are rich we will be rich. This contradicts my own experience and I haven't seen convincing evidence of this assertion.

Forbes recently published its 32nd list of the 400 richest people in America. I glanced at the list and was not very surprised to see 32 of the top 50 (I got bored) were self made and 18 inherited. Even the 18 is probably over-stated, but I'll give inherited wealth a leg up.

The Self-made of the Top 50 are worth $631 billion and the inherited worth $365 billion. No Rockefellers, Kennedy's, Morgan's, Carnegies anywhere.

I know, I'm supposed to believe America is the land of inequality and the common self-made person is a thing of the past. But I don't.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Policy and Inequality

This is from the Washington Post which is taking it from a paper found here:

I think it's fair to say Clinton was the most free market of the three (Clinton, Bush, Obama), Bush the second most free market and Obama the least. So if you believe policies have consequences, and I count myself in that crowd, then free market policies may be an explanation for different higher income growth of the bottom 99% during the three recoveries. That's how I look at the table.

If you disagree, how do you explain the horrible income growth of the 99% under Obama?

PS. I think it's interesting Clinton gets a recovery named after him. So does Bush. But who was President from 2009-2012?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More Infuriating and Scary NSA News

This from

National Security Agency personnel regularly searched call tracking data using thousands of numbers that had not been vetted in accordance with court-ordered procedures, according to previously secret legal filings and court opinions released by the Obama administration Tuesday.

The agency also falsely certified to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that analysts and technicians were complying with the court’s insistence that searches only be done with numbers that had a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of terrorism, according to a senior intelligence official who briefed reporters prior to release of the documents .

The unauthorized searches went on for about three years until they were discovered in March 2009.
Don't worry we were told by the President, the Vice-President, John McCain, Peter King, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Jim Clapper, Keith Alexander et al. The NSA is protecting you. It is your friend. It keeps you safe at night. No one is doing anything illegal nor invading your privacy.

Lies. All lies.


The Sky is Falling: Sequester Edition

The whole post is good, but this is the money section.

And the Grand Finale: The Macroeconomic Advisers Analysis That Krugman Endorsed Was Totally Wrong
I’ve saved the best for last. All of the above could understandably be construed as quibbling by a Krugman fan. Ah, but what if we click Krugman’s link and actually look at the analysis that generated the “700,000 jobs” figure? Then we’ll see the exact context of that prediction, and realize that it has been repudiated by observations–at least in the same way that the Romer/Bernstein report was totally repudiated. 

The Macroeconomic Advisers report first constructs a baseline projection of GDP growth without the sequester, than overlays it with their projections of how GDP growth will be reduced if the sequester happens. This forms the basis of their projections of slower job growth: lower government spending ==> lower output growth ==> fewer workers needed to create that output.

So, if you flip to the tables at the end of the report, you’ll see that its baseline forecast of GDP growth in the second quarter of 2013 was 2.4 percent. But, if the sequester kicks in, in this “Alternative Scenario” they were projecting GDP growth in 2q2013 of only 1.1 percent. Okay, you can see that the sequester was modeled to have a humongous impact on the economy then, in the second quarter of 2013–a reduction of growth of 1.3 percentage points, almost cutting the baseline growth forecast in half.
Now, leaving the world of the Macroeconomic Advisers Keynesian model, what actually happened in the real world? Well, according to the BEA, the best estimate right now of 2q2013 GDP growth is 2.5 percent.
Does everyone see the absolute deliciousness of this? The actual GDP growth in 2q2013 was higher with the sequester than the Macroeconomic Adviser report said it would be without sequester. It is thus the mirror image of the Romer/Bernstein projection of the stimulus package’s impact on unemployment.
 The first part of the post deals in part with how evidence won't change anyone's mind.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Syria Meets The Domino Theory

From Politico

>Retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, former CIA director under President Barack Obama, called strongly Saturday for Congress to back the White House on Syria, declaring that military action against the regime is "necessary" to deter "Iran, North Korea and other would-be aggressors."

>"Failure of Congress to approve the president's request would have serious ramifications not just in the Mideast but around the world," Petraeus said in a four-sentence statement provided to POLITICO.

Now the threat isn't Syria and crossing a "red line." The threat is the Axis of Evil 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our Absurd Syrian Debate.

The decision to bomb or not bomb Syria is often characterized as important or meaningful. Is that even close to the case?

This campaign is intended to be limited in duration and intensity. It is not intended to oust Assad. It is not intended to eliminate chemical weapons. It is meant as a message, and only a message that there will be limited consequences of low intensity and short duration that falls short of regime change and elimination of the ability to use chemical weapons if a red line is crossed. 

The volume of the debate in Washington and how this matter is characterized by the peripatetic press (Look! There's a squirrel!)  is absurd. This is not a decision of great import. Bombing will have no lasting impact. I would guess that why opinion polls show overwhelming opposition. 


Avoiding a vote of "No confidence" in Obama is not a good enough reason to bomb Syria.

Walter Russell Mead almost convinced me the US should take action against Syria, almost.

Now the President is twisting lonesomely in the wind, and the question is whether Congress will ride to the rescue. If it doesn’t, it will be the closest thing the American system has to a parliamentary vote of “no confidence”, where Congress explicitly declares to the world that the President of the United States does not speak for the country.
But giving the go-ahead to bomb Syria gives a blank check to the Presidency (not just Obama) and I don't want that to happen either. Imagine if the President (not just Obama) could paint red lines whenever and wherever he/she wanted knowing the US would back him/her up simply to avoid a vote of no confidence.

What bother me most about this entire episode is there doesn't seem to be a clear reason, by anyone, not  just the President, to bomb Syria. Most admit our vital interests aren't at stake. All admit we have not been attacked. All admit this is a humanitarian disaster but can not explain why we are taking notice of this one and not the dozen that occurred over the past few years nor the next dozen that will occur in the next two years.

The best reason, and it's not a very good one, is posted by Mead. But unless we get safeguards on the President's (not just this one) future behavior, that seems fraught with negative consequences as well.


Can Congress Vote on Syria So we Can Re-fous on the NSA and IRS crimes?

Why does the US Government think I'm a terrorist? Why is it vacuuming up metadata on my phone calls and via the Prism program gaining access to data I save in the cloud, which by the way, includes the IP addresses of anyone looking at this or any other blog? I hope Congress votes soon on Syria so it can re-focus on the invasion of privacy perpetrated by the NSA.

And I still haven't forgotten about the IRS and its jihad against Tea Party groups.

From "Blog and Mablog," channeling Obama

I want Congress to authorize something I don’t believe they need to authorize, and which I reserve the right to do anyway whether or not they authorize it, in order that I might defend the credibility of a red line I didn’t actually draw, so that I may take decisive action that will not in any way affect the momentum of the Syrian civil war or, if it accidentally does, al-Qaeda will the stronger for it, in order that I might have a chance to do what I have spent a decade yelling about other people doing.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You Know Obama is in trouble when a knee-jerk supporter claims his incompetence is brilliant.

From the Washington Post:
Boxed in by red-line rhetoric and the Sunday show warriors, the Obama administration needed to somehow mobilize the opposition to war in Syria. It did that by “fumbling” the roll-out terribly.
Oh wait, they were being ironic:

The Obama administration’s strategy to cool the country on this war without expressly backing away from the president’s red lines has been brilliant, Hill aides say (just look at the polls showing overwhelming opposition!). If they are going to go to war, their efforts to goad Congress into writing a punitively narrow authorization of force that sharply limits any potential for escalation have worked beautifully. 
Believing anything else — like this is how the administration is actually leading the United States into conflict — is too unsettling.
That's even worse. Door number 1-incompetent. Door number 2-feckless.

The only "compelling" reason to bomb Syria is to keep Obama from losing face, since he said there would be consequences of crossing his imaginary red line. At least from my seat, if that's the most compelling argument, doing nothing is better.

Where is the partisan hackery when you need it? Obama will probably cobble together a coalition of the hawkish Republicans and Democrats and slavish lap dogs eg. Pelosi and as many of her caucus she can whip into shape.

This bipartisanship will be forgotten by the peripatetic media (Look! there's a squirrel!) next week when issues Congress can't agree on are due to be discussed.


Hiding in NYC

One of the things I love about NYC is seeing something for the first time, even though it has been there for 100 years.

Like this building, The Cunard Line Building at 25 Broadway. Imagine that, a shipping company so substantial it had its own building in NYC.  The Cunard Line owned the Lusitania, which was sunk by the Germans and one of the catalysts for the US entering WWI.

I came across this building while walking through Little Italy. It is the former headquarters of the NYC police, from 19090 to 1973. Beautiful structure.

Today I was in City Hall Park. A few of the tables have a checkerboard patterns painted on the surface. There were multiple chess games taking place, with observers. Of course. Who can resist stopping and watching a live chess game?