Monday, June 19, 2017

The Moment I Switched Off Meet the Press.

Eli,

Chuck Todd was interviewing Sen Angus King on the various Russian allegations/investigations.

Senator King:

I believe it's one of the most serious attacks we've had on our country in recent years. And the president doesn't seem interested in it either. Mr. Comey testified he had nine interactions with him before he was fired. In none of those did the president say, "What did the Russians do? How did they do it? How do you know they did it? And what can we do about it?" This is serious stuff. And all of this Trump, Comey, and obstruction of justice is sort of obscuring the underlying, what I think is really the big story.

To which Chuck Todd replied:

Do you believe that lack of curiosity is circumstantial evidence in and of itself?

I turned to my daughter and asked if she cared about Russia and Trump. She said no. I asked her if her lack of curiosity is circumstantial evidence in and of itself of her being a tool of Putin? Probably, she said.

Maybe there is a there, there. But the media is doing its best to act idiotic and convince me other motives are driving the allegations.

I switched off Meet the Press. Continued binge watching "Silicon Valley," which I find more realistic.

Bill

Friday, June 16, 2017

New York Times vs The Truth

Eli,
Sean Davis at The Federalist sums it up nicely:

Much has been written about how The New York Times used its first editorial after a horrific mass assassination attempt on Republican lawmakers to absolve the shooter of agency over his own actions, and then to blame Republicans and “the gun lobby” for empowering the “deranged” progressive activist to murder them in the first place. Not content with peddling just one Big Lie, the esteemed NYT editorial board loaded its rhetorical shotgun with Big Lie buckshot and spread as many lies over as large an area as possible. Taking a cue from “Hamilton,” the paper of record didn’t want to throw away its shot.

It wasn’t enough for NYT to just recycle the lie — famously spread by the NYT six years ago, natch — that the shooter who tried to kill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in 2011, Jared Lee Loughner, was driven to act by Sarah Palin. It wasn’t enough for the editorial board to claim without evidence that the shooter in Alexandria was “deranged” in order to relieve him of responsibility for his own actions and avoid examining why he chose to walk into a public park and open fire on his declared enemies.

The whole thing is worth a read.

I mostly do the crossword at the Times, and little else. But even the crossword is getting infected with Trump insanity. On a recent crossword blog the creator of the puzzle apologized for using Trump in one of the clues. Sigh.

Bill

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thoughts from Mike Morrell

Eli,

Mike Morrell (former acting director of the CIA) was kind enough to articulate what I'm thinking about the daily allegations of Russia/Trump.

For the most part – and please stay with me here – what we, the public, know is what the media has reported, that unnamed former and current government officials have told them what the Russians said to each other about what happened in meetings with Trump associates. That is not a sourcing chain in which I would put a great deal of confidence.

The whole interview is worth a read, including these excerpts:

By the way, I do think that there are four broad areas that need to be investigated with regard to Trump and the Russians. I hope Bob Mueller, the new Special Counsel, is looking at all of these issues....
Second, did Russian organized crime launder money through the Trump Organization? If so, was anyone in the Trump Organization aware of that? If so, was Trump himself aware? And, if so, was the soft approach to Russian during the campaign and the transition a quid pro quo? If the money laundering occurred and the Trump Organization was not aware, should they have been? In other words, did the Trump Organization do the due diligence that is required of them by law to have an understanding of where foreign money is coming from?  

And this comment on the US media.
You know when Hugo Chavez was first elected President in Venezuela in 1998, there was no political opposition of which to speak. The opposition was in disarray. There was no opposition leader to stand up and provide an alternative vision to that being pursued by Chavez. In its place, the Venezuelan media became the political opposition. And, in so doing, the media lost its credibility with the Venezuelan people. It was a huge loss for Venezuela.

That is a risk right here in America, right now. I believe that objective, fact-based journalism has never been as important as it is today to the future of our democracy. But, in order to be effective, journalists cannot take sides or even appear to take sides.

 Bill

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SB-562 The Healthy California Act

Eli,

The bill was introduced in February:
This bill, the Healthy California Act, would create the Healthy California program to provide comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.
The bill analysis was published recently:

The projected costs and revenue needs for the proposed Program are as follows. For a discussion of the underlying assumptions, see Staff Comments below.
  • Total annual costs of about $400 billion per year, including all covered health care services and administrative costs, at full enrollment.
  • Existing federal, state, and local funding of about $200 billion could be available to offset a portion of the total program cost.
  • About $200 billion in additional tax revenues would be needed to pay for the remainder of the total program cost. Assuming that this cost was raised through a new payroll tax (with no cap on wages subject to the tax), the additional payroll tax rate would be about 15% of earned income.
It is important to note that the overall cost of those new tax revenues would be offset to a large degree by reduced spending on health care coverage by employers and employees. Although precise estimates of total spending for employer sponsored health insurance are not available, the best available information indicates that existing spending is between $100 and $150 billion per year. Therefore, total new spending required under the bill would be between $50 and $100 billion per year.

So $200 billion extra in CA government spending. The current California budget is $122 billion; $86 billion of the state's tax receipts come from personal income taxes.

The question I have for anyone proposing single payer, a question never answered, is, How are you going to pay for it?

Bill

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Confused in TrumpWorld

Eli,

Saw this headline in the Washington Post, "In defiant jab at Russia, Senate approves Montenegro’s NATO bid." and the first paragraph of the story:

With the support of the Trump administration, the Senate took a swipe at Russia on Tuesday by voting to let one of Europe’s smallest countries into NATO.
But wait. Isn't Trump a puppet for the Russians. Didn't the Russians hack the election and install Trump as President? What kind of puppet supports a policy that takes a "swipe" and "defiant jab" at its master?

I saw this headline a week ago: "FBI’s Russian-influence probe includes a look at Breitbart, InfoWars news sites."   Again very confusing. So Trump's DoJ is investigating Breitbart to prove Trump was a pawn of the Russians? Wait, what?

Maybe Trump and the Russians are playing seven level chess.

Bill

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bob Laszewski on GOPCare

Eli,

I've found Bob Laszewski to be one of the more reliable commenters on health care. He isn't supportive of the GOP health care plan introduced. I always appreciate essays that have a strong opinion, started immediately and clearly. Laszewski starts out with:

It won't work.
And he doesn't get nicer.

The House Republicans are also proposing an individual health insurance market scheme that may even be worse than Obamacare itself.
As bad as the Obamacare individual mandate was for consumers––and as ineffective as it was for insurers––it did cause those not buying health insurance some pain. The Republicans now want to create a scheme that doesn't require anyone to sign up. But when they get sick enough that they need insurance, they will be able to quickly do so by paying a paltry 12-month 30% premium surcharge.

For example, a person paying $5,000 for health insurance would pay a one-time total $1,500 penalty! A family paying $10,000 in annual premium would pay only a $3,000 penalty for any late enrollment!

Obamacare is so poorly constructed it is literally an anti-selection machine. The Republican proposal is worse.

He gets to the nub of the problem with both Obamacare and GOPcare:

What the market needs to be viable are not subsidies but a market that works efficiently in the first place.

The Democrats, for reasons I don't understand, hate the market and want to remove the market from health care entirely. Despite thousands of years of evidence that markets work across geographies, cultures, industries, they have somehow come to the conclusion the markets and health care can not intermarry. Oh well. Nothing I say will convince them otherwise.

 Laszewski concludes:

The Republicans are trying to create something they can sell to enough Republicans to pass it.

What they need to create is a program that they can sell to enough consumers to make it financially viable and that will meet the needs of a consensus of voters to make it politically viable.
The amazing thing to me about Obamacare, (and pretty much every other government mandate), is the refusal to acknowledge there is a group called consumers that will, mostly, rationally evaluate their health care choices, and since they refuse to acknowledge this they create a Rube Goldberg contraption that ultimately collapses and needs to be replaced. Unfortunately the politicians fixing the collapsed machinery build on the ruined remains of the last bad plan.

What will probably happen is Medicare for all. Medicare, of course, is a financial disaster in the making. Extending a financially unsustainable plan to the entire population strikes me as irresponsible to the extreme, but who cares. My children and grandchildren will pay the bills, not me.

Bill


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Democrats raise questions about Trump’s mental health

Eli,

The Hill reports,

A growing number of Democrats are openly questioning President Trump’s mental health.
Better yet,

Thirty-five psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers also signed a letter to The New York Times saying that “the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

Because, of course, they examined Mr. Trump and arrived  at the "medical" opinion that Mr. Trump suffered from instability, and grave enough to make him "incapable" of serving as President. There it is. If a social worker looks at CNN and determines someone isn't capable of serving in office, that is certainly good enough for me.

I HATE defending Trump. I don't like him and I disagree with many of his positions. But this ongoing campaign is what word should I use? How about INSANE. 1) Trump lost the popular vote therefore... 2) we should convince the electoral college to vote against their commitments, 3) but since that didn't work let's accuse the Russians of hacking the election, 4) but since that didn't work let's accuse the Russians of hacking the electoral college (sigh) but since that is more insipid than the previous tries 5) lets say Trump is controlled by the Russians but since that is unproven let's throw more spaghetti against the wall and claim 6) Trump is emotionally instable and incapable of holding office. We know this because some random social worker said so.

Here's another way you can go. Do the hard work of convincing the American electorate you are capable of governing.  What you've done so far is convince me you are puerile sore losers.

Bill


Friday, February 10, 2017

DeVos Storms the Ramparts

Eli,

The Hill reports:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she would “not be deterred” after protesters briefly blocked her from entering a Washington public school on Friday

 Twitter is great for snarky comments:

From Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey)

Unions last month: DeVos never set foot in a public school classroom!
Unions this month: How dare DeVos set foot in a pub-school classroom!

 Even better was the comment: (I'm too lazy to search for the author)
This wasn't the first time Democrats blocked access to schools.

Bill.

Who'da thunk it. Liz Warren and I agree

Eli,

The Wall St. Journal excerpts from  “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke” (2003) by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi.

Any policy that loosens the ironclad relationship between location-location-location and school-school-school would eliminate the need for parents to pay an inflated price for a home just because it happens to lie within the boundaries of a desirable school district...

Short of buying a new home, parents currently have only one way to escape a failing public school: Send the kids to private school. But there is another alternative, one that would keep much-needed tax dollars inside the public school system while still reaping the advantages offered by a voucher program. Local governments could enact meaningful reform by enabling parents to choose from among all the public schools in a locale, with no presumptive assignment based on neighborhood. Under a public school voucher program, parents, not bureaucrats, would have the power to pick schools for their children—and to choose which schools would get their children’s vouchers.
I'm with her!

The right frames this issue as 1) parents/kids deserve a choice and 2) unions, and their water-bearers prevent that choice.

I think Liz brings up a the more important issue: funding. Right now, schools are mostly funded by property taxes. In affluent communities like mine, our town budget is $100 million annually. $80 million is for the schools. We gladly agree to property tax increases to fund more school (teachers, programs, facilities) because we know a 2% increase in taxes will protect the value of our home investment. I don't know what the average price of a home is in my town, but lets say, just for grins, that it's $100,000. If property taxes are 1% (about what they are in my town), that's $1,000 a year. If the town comes to me and says, we want to offer Spanish classes to 3rd graders and it will cost you an additional $50 (a 5% increase) I'll probably say yes because it will protect my $100,000 investment. Easy decision. Even worse. The federal government and the state government subsidizes me! Because my property taxes are tax deductible. Let's say the marginal rates my average townsperson faces is 25% federal and 6% state, it means the feds and states pickup a third of my tab.

In order to really blow up this system and in order to really get choice you need to remove the tax deductibility of property taxes AND remove local government control of schools. The teacher's unions are child's play compared to that. Imagine middle class homeowners across the nation suddenly facing a higher tax bill and uncertainty on home values when the link between location and schools is severed.

All of this might happen without Liz, or her acolyte Betsy DeVos. There are already vibrant markets in education delivered via the Internet: Khan Academy, Coursera, Wyzant, Chegg and others. And more are coming. Many colleges video classes and make them available to existing students, some to alum, and some share with other universities.

Of course, I'm trying to figure out how to make money on this since I'm a greedy capitalist pig.

Bill

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Run, Liz, run

Eli,

I enjoyed this piece by David Harsanyi at the Federalist, which includes this:

As The Washington Post points out, however, McConnell probably gave Warren’s 2020 presidential aspirations a huge “in-kind contribution” by forcing her to follow rules of decorum. It’s possible, I suppose, that the GOP is playing the same 3D chess mastered by Donald Trump. Maybe shutting down Warren was a surreptitious means of making her the de facto voice of the Democratic Party and #TheResistance (formerly known as “unprecedented obstructionism”). Maybe it was just good luck.

Warren as the voice of the Left might be the best-case scenario for Republicans. For one thing, Warren is no Barack Obama on the charisma front. For another, Warren saves conservatives the trouble of going after socialist strawmen. They’ll have a real one.

He attaches this youtube video, which is now my favorite video, trumping this one.

Bill

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cory Booker on School choice

Eli,

Making the rounds on the interweb today, Cory Booker speaking to the American Federation of Children in 2012:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pHqWDqdkSM


The group he is speaking to is the American Federation of Children.  Betsy DeVos was the chairman until November of last year.

Bill


Friday, February 3, 2017

NYU Professor Joins Committee to Re-Elect Trump

Eli,

A self-proclaimed NYU professor publicly joins the The Committee to Re-Elect Trump.




Here's the story from Reason magazine.

and the story from the NY Post;

Maybe there were violent Tea Party protests against opponents trying to speak, but I dont' remember them. And maybe there were violent demonstrations on campus, like the one at Berkeley earlier this week protesting Obama or Obamacare, but I don't remember those either.

I didn't vote for Trump. But I am much more willing to vote for Trump than let these people anywhere close to power.

Bill

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Incompetence is Bipartisan

Eli,

I didn't pay much attention to Trump's Executive Order, nor the response by the outrage machine.

I did go back in time to October 2013, when this happened:

Many Americans got "please wait" messages Tuesday when they tried to start shopping for health coverage on the federal government's new health insurance website, healthcare.gov. A series of technological glitches, delays and crashes kept people from getting to several of the 16 state exchanges, too.
But I'm sure ideology had nothing to do with that incompetence. (nor the VA, nor the decimation of the Democratic Party over the past 8 years).

I'm not going to defend Trump. I'm not going to defend this Executive Order. And I'm not going to defend how it was implemented.  My only reaction after seeing pictures of the airports was relief I wasn't flying.

Bill.

Ps. National Review is at best my third favorite conservative publication. I much prefer Cato and The Federalist (thefederalist.com), not to be confused with The Federalist Society. 

Ideology Trumps Competance

Bill,

From your favorite conservative publication, the National Review, comes Yuval Levins' take on the weekend's events.

Passing off reckless ineptitude as strategic genius seems to be a coping mechanism for some people on all sides of our politics these days. I hope it’s helping them cope. But what we saw this weekend was rank incompetence creating dangerous chaos. We saw it here on a very small scale, and ultimately a manageable one. But the scale of the challenges confronting the American president isn’t always so manageable. Many of those problems aren’t self-created, like this one was, but instead rush at our government unpredictably and need to be swiftly and ably detected, assessed, and confronted. The last few days need to serve as a bright, blaring warning to the new administration that it is not yet prepared to do its job...

Just when, I wonder, will it be prepared? Or is it even interested in being prepared?

Eli

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Committee to Re-Elect Donald Trump

Eli,

The Committee to Re-Elect Donald Trump is led by the NY Times, but includes  CNN, MSNBC and a growing list of media outlets. Every time they are caught in sloppy reporting, or mis-information, or biased reporting or outright lies, they validate Trump's claim that the media is fundamentally dishonest and should not be believed. The media is so busy screaming the world is coming to an end it hasn't noticed it is be-clowning itself daily.

The latest:
"Trump To Attack LGBT Rights And Protections With New Executive Order."
"DONALD TRUMP LGBT EXECUTIVE ORDER: GAY RIGHTS GROUPS READY TO FIGHT AMID RUMORS OF ACTION TO ALLOW ANTI-GAY DISCRIMINATION, BAN GAY COUPLES FROM ADOPTING"
"Fasten your seatbelt, Peter Thiel, it’s going to be bumpy for Trump in Silicon Valley!"

Oops.

"White House says LGBT protections for federal workers will remain."

 Congratulations United Media Against Trump (aka The committee to re-elect Donald Trump), your diligence, thoughtfulness and commitment to the truth is having an impact.

Bill



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Stingray

Eli,

Cato has a very interesting article on Stingrays.

https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa-809.pdf
Across the United States, federal and state law enforcement agencies are sweeping up cell phone and location data from American  citizens  using  a  device  colloquially referred to as a “stingray.” Stingray surveillance devices  are  cellular  site  simulators—they  mimic  the  signal  of  a  cell phone  tower  in  order  to  force  cell  phones  in  the  area  to  connect.  Once a phone connects, the officer can download information from the phone or track its location.
Pretty cool technology. US Armed Forces have used it in hostile areas, but unfortunately law enforcement domestic typically gets their hands on military gear when wars wind down. MRAPs, for instance. 

But unless it's abused, it's not really used. And the federal government, Stingray's manufacturer, Harris Corp., and the beneficiaries of the technology transfer, the state and local governments, are eager to keep this secret.

U.S. Marshals literally raided the Sarasota Police Department and seized stingray documentation in order to prevent the department from complying with a state-level freedom of information request. The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had recently secured an order requiring the Sarasota police to turn over documents pertaining to stingray use. To prevent that information from being turned over to the ACLU and the public, the U.S. Marshals Service launched a pre-dawn raid on the police department to take possession of the information. The federal government has also urged local law enforcement agencies to deceive state judges, and continues to exert pressure in favor of secrecy rather than public disclosure and oversight.
Think of that: a police department is the target of a raid in order to stop the department from complying with a Court order.

I hope Trump puts a stop to this, but I doubt it. I think he's too interested the law and order theme. Maybe he'll pleasantly surprise me.

Bill

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bad News for Your Side, But I Think You Are Good Looking

Eli,

Science!!

Bill


Edging to Trump

Eli,

As you know, I don't like Trump and I think his major policies are wrong. But the behavior of the press and his political opponents since the election has sure made me much more sympathetic to him. So congratulations on their defiance, or opposition, or resistance or whatever else they are calling it: it is turning me into a supporter.

Bill

Why Does There Have to be a Replacement to ACA?

Eli,

I know the Republicans have stated they will "replace" the ACA, but I don't see why they should. When natural gas prices were deregulated, there wasn't a replacement. When airlines were deregulated there wasn't a replacement. When wage and price controls were eliminated after WWII, there wasn't a replacement. When wage and price controls were eliminated in 1975 there wasn't a replacement. I don't see why there has to be a replacement to the ACA either.

Bill

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

He Doesn't Care About The Hype

Bill,

I read your post with interest as the second round of the playoffs approaches. For us lucky Patriots fans (what an era to have enjoyed), the two people who won't be paying attention to the prognosticators are  Belichick and Brady. And they'll make sure the rest of the team doesn't either.

Eli

Pats vs Texans

Eli,

from BarStoolSports:

In a game like this I almost feel like it would be more fair to give Belichick a exact number he has to hit without going over. If you told Belichick he had to score exactly 30 points in this game to win I bet you he does it 4 times out of 5.

Bill

The Political Price for Repealing the ACA

Eli,

The political price for repealing the ACA may be very small. The 20 million with coverage from the ACA is vastly over-stated. 10M from Medicaid expansion, some from the growth in the economy, some from shifting from the individual market to the exchanges, some from the mandate. Plus, for some, it's a crappy product, hence the issues the exchanges are having.

According to Democratic orthodoxy Republicans only represent, due to gerrymandering, white evangelicals. If true maybe the political hit is small. And to suggest there will be no market for insurance once the ACA goes away is really just silly. Unless, of course, legislation bans new products from being offered.

There will be a hit; no one knows the magnitude. It would be ironic if the impact were as large as what the Democrats suffered for passing the law in the first place.

Bill


Monday, January 9, 2017

What Else Dies With Obama CAre?

Bill,

So we agree on the fate of Obamacare. I wonder though, just what else (some republican Congressional careers?), and  who else will die with it. Twenty million Americans stand to lose their healthcare. Hard to imagine such an event will be consequence free.

Eli


MarketCare

Eli,

I think most of the Republican replacement plans for the ACA are some version of health savings accounts. Lots of variations around that, and why, as you ask, are Republicans "proposing none of them prior to replacement?" I can't answer. I suppose its the same reason the Dems proposed a few versions of their plan (at least one in the Senate and at least another in the House)-because there is rarely unanimity of opinion and they come to a compromise through the legislative process.

I think the ACA was dying anyway, it looked like it was in a death spiral. So yes, it's going to die, either organically or with an assist.

And of course the Republicans will blame the Democrats. Politicians are masters of shifting blame. But hasn't the country already done this? Isn't that blame a major reason for the House, Senate, Presidency, governorships and state Houses going Republican?

Bill


The ACA Must Die

Bill,

If there so many alternative plans ready to go, why are the Republicans in Congress proposing none of them prior to replacement?

What do you think is going to happen when the ACA is repealed without a ready replacement?  Its going to die, and the idea of replacement is going to die with it. And that was always going to be the case. Then , of course the Republicans will blame the Democrats for what they've done.

 Eli

There are many alternative plans suggested for Obamacare, but the Left doesn't like them so they pretend they don't exist.

Eli,

There are many alternative plans suggested for Obamacare, but the Left doesn't like them so they pretend they don't exist.

http://thefederalist.com/2017/01/06/4-times-the-nyt-reported-on-gop-health-care-plans-nick-kristof-thinks-dont-exist/

Bill