December 31, 2013

I seem long...

I pre-ordered Glenn Reynolds's new book in Hardcover, because it was available sooner than Kindle.

MY NEW BOOK, The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, is now available for pre-order on Kindle.

The hardcover version is already shipping, though the official publication date is January 7.

Not sure what happened but I received two copies today -- holler if you want one! Free to good home.


SIDE NOTE: It is not true that all the bad presidents are known by their initials. It is only true that all Presidents known by their initials are bad. It is a common error in logic.

Roger Simon has an interesting piece today: "The Principal Enemy." About -- whom else -- Secretary Hillary Clinton.

I don't know that I am comfortable referring to political opponents as "enemies" but Simon's call is to reject internecine squabbles to focus on the horror of Ms. Clinton's winning in 2016. One segment of it truly struck me:

Hillary is the one who can consolidate and solidify the "gains" of the Obama era in a way Obama himself never could because she is much more politically savvy -- Obama was only savvy about getting elected, not governing -- and has the backing of her even more politically savvy husband. Hillary is the one who can fully remake the United States into some version of Western Europe or, yet more frighteningly, China, a permanently stratified state capitalism governed by quasi-totalitarian bureaucrats.

Let's put Hillary == China in the same box as "Principal Enemy," but the legislative point is brilliant and worthy of attention. President Kennedy was also good at getting elected, even bringing in a rival who could steal the votes of electoral-rich Texas. But Kennedy was not a skilled legislator and his agenda stalled despite his personal popularity.

When LBJ ascended, he considered it his duty to pursue the JFK* agenda. Robert Caro describes how he used his mastery to pass almost the entire agenda intact. Simon is dead right that a Clinton term would solidify the progressive steps which President Obama cannot. She would "fix" ObamaCare into a more popular, defensible, and permanent entitlement.

*JFK is the least bad of the "initials" Presidents but I am comfortable keeping him on the list.

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 11:50 AM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

Equating the LBJ agenda with the JFK agenda does not comport with my worldview, but I am open to re-education.

It's not just HRC who threatens to solidify the "gains" of the BHO administration. We must also be wary of Republicans who will attempt to "fix" Obamacare. The day I most fear is the one when President Obama extracts head from rectum and agrees to "compromise" with Republicans on legislative changes. At that point America's health care disaster will no longer be attributable, politically, to Obama and the democrats. Washington will return to business as usual and the forces of liberty will have lost a powerful electoral weapon against Leviathan.

Posted by: johngalt at January 1, 2014 1:00 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

Jk, you plan to sign up as a Democrat and vote in the primaries to avert a Clinton nomination? ^_~

I think I'll wait before I decide who public enemy no. 1 is. Don't know who her competition is yet. Clinton is not the only half way competent person on that side of the party.

The JFK-BHO analogy is a good one though.

Posted by: T. Greer at January 2, 2014 8:26 AM
But jk thinks:

Actually, tg, I am on record as choosing then-Sen. Clinton over then-Sen. Obama in 2008. Many of my Republican friends suggested registering D to nominate the "lightweight" "easily-beatable" Barack Obama. Five years in, folks, may I respectfully ask "How's that Hopey-Changey stuff working out for you?"

I said at the time and will likely say again in '16 that she is the least worst of those likely to run. Plus -- and I know your suggestion was made lightly -- I would never do that and look down on those who do. A party gets to choose its nominee.

@jg I would not presume to educate you on anything, but take my 243rd recommendation to read Robert A Caro. Passage to Power (Vol. 4) documents the final culmination of LBJ's ambition, but the circumstances and continued presence of Kennedy staffers leave him a delicate path.

Somewhere between pragmatism and what may have been the slightest glimmer of actual human decency, his first task was to use his unprecedented-and-never-superseded legislative chops to push through the Kennedy agenda. No doubt much of the full term was his, but very little of JFK's would have survived Russell and the old Senate Bulls had Kennedy completed his term.

Posted by: jk at January 2, 2014 11:07 AM

December 30, 2013


The Times story, particularly the graphic, suggests that the implicit marginal tax rate some people face under the Affordable Care Act subsidies can sometimes exceed 100 percent. It is hard to believe that the law is so badly written as to have this feature, but that seems to be the implication. -- Prof. Mankiw
Wait. Let me put on my shocked face.
But johngalt thinks:

It is hard for, who exactly, to believe?

Posted by: johngalt at December 30, 2013 7:14 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm gonna go wit' "The Harvard Faculty Lounge."

Governor George W Bush campaigned in 2000 on "tollbooths to the middle class." I believe Mankiw was an advisor on how all these means-tested subsidies pervert incentives and -- added together -- made indomitable marginal rates.

Yet another tragedy of 9/11 is that we never had that conversation.

Posted by: jk at December 30, 2013 7:36 PM

The Great Game of Government

December 2009 were heady days for those intent on reining in the "abuses" of "big business." Just ten days prior to the midnight passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a straight party line vote of Democrat US Senators, Springfield, MO CEO Jack Stack started a blog page with a topic of 'Open the Books.'

Why would business owners want to open the books to their employees?

Because doing so has the power to change the way the company operates and to change the way employees think about their work. Let me quote former Representative Richard Gephardt, whom I introduced to open-book management and who has dedicated much of his time since leaving office to spreading the word: Open-book management, Mr. Gephardt wrote in his book, "An Even Better Place," represents "an overall approach to corporate governance that treats the employees like co-owners of the business who have to make sacrifices and take on the burdens that any owner assumes."

The idea is to get employees to start approaching their jobs as if they owned the place, which in fact they might.

This may or may not be a great idea for corporations, which must compete with other corporations in a marginally free market. But it sounds to me like a fantastic idea for government.

It's also a great idea according to Chicago's Adam Andrzejewski, who has invested considerable time and money on a project called Open the Books...

which allows users to see spending figures in their areas across multiple levels of government, going back 12 years in some cases. Shining light on such data is the means, but the primary goal of the site and app is to put pressure on governments to reduce wasteful spending, and it's already been downloaded more than 5,000 times in the Google Play store. It's also available in the Apple app store.

"There are no easy conversations in America anymore about spending and debt," Andrzejewski told me, "So everyday people have to start holding local officials accountable."

It is here that I learned that over three thousand Illinois government employees have higher salaries than the state's governor. And on the page where I ran a search to discover how many federal employees earn over $300,000 per year (and that those at the top of the list all work for the VA or VHA.) In another search I found the names and addresses of Colorado farmers receiving multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in "supplemental farm income" from the federal government!

Our goal was to teach our employees to think and act like owners. We started by trying to improve their financial literacy by turning topics like accounting into a game. We played this game with real money, however, and the game’s pieces were each and every employee’s quality of life. We called it The Great Game of Business.

Visit Run some searches. Make a donation. Share results on Facebook. Let's help Adam spread The Great Game of Government, and turn as many as possible of the current winners into the losers they really are.

HT: Last evening's John Stossel show.

UPDATE: [jk here, don't blame jg of I booger this up] Here is a widget (works for me in Chrome but not IE, your mileage may vary...):

But johngalt thinks:

Nice job on the widget! Here's a fun test for everyone: Under Federal click "checkbook" then "zip code" and "farm subsidies" then pick a modest radius and enter your zip code. Find out how many of your neighbors are pulling down 20, 50, $60k per year or more in "Supplemental Assistance Program" or "Biomass Crop Assistance" or "Emergency Assistance Livestock; Honeybee; Fish."

Posted by: johngalt at January 1, 2014 12:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"Direct Payments" is another fun category. The major recipient in my area seems to be housing projects and, Pell Grants. Notably $3.7M from the Education Department in 2010 for Park College in zip code 80229, 2nd Congressional District, a "profit organization", which was paid from, hmmm, the "Appalachian Regional Commission" Program Source? Way to go Representative Polis!! Bacon, bacon, bacon!

This reminds me of the Pell Grants to an Illinois cosmetology college with annual tuition of $20k.

Posted by: johngalt at January 1, 2014 12:48 PM

President Canute Update



UPDATE: On The Other Hand, looks like that ObamaCare thing that everybody was hyperventilating over is fixed:



Posted by John Kranz at 2:43 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

What? Couldn't he have just included "stop time" with "make lunch free" in the PPACA bill?

Posted by: johngalt at December 30, 2013 3:05 PM
But AndyN thinks:

I feel bad for the guy. I'm just glad my kids and I share a lot of common interests so we can bond during our leisure time, but I know that isn't true for a lot of parents. It's a shame Sasha and Malia never developed an interest in golf.

Posted by: AndyN at December 31, 2013 12:08 AM
But jk thinks:

Drone strikes are a great family activity, an, you should give it a try.

Posted by: jk at December 31, 2013 10:47 AM

I'm ready to be 45 again

Dang, didn't see this in time to ask Santa for one. Maybe next year.

Posted by JohnGalt at 12:39 PM | What do you think? [0]

Those Were the Days

An interview with Barack Obama, wherein he expresses great concern for Executive Power and deference to the Constitution. From 2007.

Hat-tip: @slone

UPDATE: The Internet Segue Machine™ suggests a delicate pairing of this interview with Ilya Somin's "President Obama's Top 10 Constitutional Violations Of 2013."

Unfortunately, the president fomented this upswing in civic interest not by talking up the constitutional aspects of his policy agenda, but by blatantly violating the strictures of our founding document. And he's been most frustrated with the separation of powers, which doesn't allow him to "fundamentally transform" the country without congressional acquiescence.

But that hasn't stopped him. In its first term, the Administration launched a "We Can't Wait" initiative, with senior aide Dan Pfeiffer explaining that "when Congress won't act, this president will." And earlier this year, President Obama said in announcing his new economic plans that "I will not allow gridlock, or inaction, or willful indifference to get in our way."

Executive Power Posted by John Kranz at 11:17 AM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the day

No, not her either. Although it is rather striking that Sebelius has outlasted Mike Shanahan. Amanda Carpenter: "Seems like the only accountability in D.C. is in sports." -- Jim Geraghty
But johngalt thinks:

Do a poor job in the private sector and "You're fired." But in the public sector it seems there is no such thing as a poor job. Consider Illinois, for example, where the governor is not the highest paid state employee. In 2010, 3,062 public employees were paid more than the Illinois governor, totalling nearly $1Bn.

Perhaps I'm being unfair. Maybe those three thousand bureaucrats are doing an awesome job of running the state in a profitable manner, and are worth every penny of taxpayer money they stuff into pillow sheets! [cough, cough]

Posted by: johngalt at December 30, 2013 11:49 AM
But jk thinks:

To tie it up: if my lefty Facebook friends' posts are to be believed [cough, cough but this one has verisimilitude...] the college football coach is the highest paid public employee in most states. And actually has some accountability.

Posted by: jk at December 30, 2013 12:14 PM

December 29, 2013

Duranty Lives!

Famine in the Ukraine? Nyet!

Terrorism and prevarication in Bengazi? The NYTimes has concluded its extensive 15-month investigation and -- great news -- Sec State Clinton is blameless!

Still no word on gambling at Rick's... (It's homage, Keith, not plagiarism.)

Review Corner

All the issues are simply the battles of the day in a much larger struggle. What is ultimately at stake is the same question that precipitated the American Revolution: whether the American people are the sovereigns in their own country or whether they should be ruled from above, for their own good, according to the supposedly benevolent commands of the elitist rulers of a top-down, European-style society.
Searching the magical Kindle Store for last week's selection, I saw that David Kopel had a Broadsides book out: The Truth About Gun Control.

Around these parts, he has been associated with Health Care because of his Constitutional opposition to ObamaCare. He spoke at LOTR--Flatirons on NFIB v. Sebelius and played important roles as documented last week. But Kopel is best known for his scholarship on guns and gun rights.

And "Truth" is the principled and well reasoned stance one would expect from Kopel. He ties gun rights to both history and philosophy, always drawing a bigger and more vivid picture than the shorter-sighted confiscators.

The right and duty of self-defense applied to a householder protecting her children and to militiamen protecting their communities from foreign enemies or from tyranny. Self-defense was a seamless web; the difference between self-defense against a criminal invader in the home, against a gang of highway robbers, or against a criminal tyrant with his standing army was only one of scale. The tyrant's gang was just bigger than the other ones.
Second Amendment guarantees that all persons can possess arms, no person in the United States, therefore, can be a slave. "The right of a man 'to keep and bear arms,' is a right palpably inconsistent with the idea of his being a slave," [Lysander] Spooner wrote.

Kopel is a regular panelist on "Colorado Inside Out" Friday night on PBS Channel 12 right before Independence Institute colleague's Jon Caldera's "Devil's Advocate." The panelists -- respectful but never on the same page as Kopel -- bow to his superior knowledge of history. Last week Eric Soderman said "I'd expect David to know the Louisiana Governor 100 years ago," when Kopel alone on the panel came up with Kathleen Blanco as the governor during Katrina.

The ties to history are the magic of this work. There is a bit on stats and crime. But the historical use of guns against British occupation, genocide, and Jim Crow is well documented --as are the historical roots of the NRA

National alcohol prohibition, enacted in 1920, spurred national violence, which resulted in the conservative Eastern business establishment -- along with some religious pacifists -- demanding handgun prohibition. In their view, the solution to the failure of alcohol prohibition was more prohibition.

The handgun-prohibition campaign of the 1920s drew the National Rifle Association into the political arena, where it has remained ever since.The NRA had been founded by Union Army officers in 1871 to promote citizen marksmanship and civic virtue. Among its early presidents were Ulysses S. Grant (former president of the United States) and (“ the hero of Gettysburg” and the 1880 Democratic presidential nominee).

In the 1920s, as today, the NRA’s main political strength was its ability to mobilize its ever growing membership to contact government officials and express opposition to constricting the rights of law-abiding citizens.

[If you read nothing else today, follow that link and read about Winfield Scott Hancock.]

Kopel slices the gun rights crowd from their opposition more precisely than most. It is not so cleanly left-right:

The great Democratic Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey embodied liberalism's optimistic faith in the federal government and the federal Constitution. He believed that "one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. ... The right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible."

You can rightly say that HHH was an "old liberal" or "old Democrat" and that that species is extinct. But I'm always troubled by my eastern-elitist peeps like Larry Kudlow or the WSJ Ed Page staff, NR, Weekly Standard, &c. who don't really get it. They should read Kopel:
While some nations consider law to be the vehicle of the state, the American tradition views the law as the servant of the people. As a federal district court put it, "the people, not the government, possess the sovereignty" (Mandel v. Mitchell, 1971).

Four stars -- five if it were longer...

December 28, 2013

The World IS ThreeSources, Vol. CLIX

Charles Hoskinson at WaXaminer channels blog brother jg as he details the winners and losers of l'Affaire Dynastie Canard:

And while we're on that subject, the other big loser is GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, which showed how far it had strayed off the path of encouraging tolerance into the dark woods where conformity is enforced by witch hunts and demands for blood sacrifices. GLAAD's intolerance sparked what its leaders called the worst backlash they'd ever seen -- a backlash that included prominent members of the gay community such as Andrew Sullivan and Camille Paglia.

That's right: Two groups of smug, urban sophisticates got outsmarted by a backwoodsman who shoots ducks for a living.

Heckuva job, folks.

You saw it here!

UPDATE: Or, a little less delicately . . . RS McCain exclaims "Oh the GLAAD Butt Hurt!"

December 27, 2013

You Laughed at South Park!

Mexicans may have to build a fence to keep us out!

On the serious side, we get a little despondent around here, but I'll enter the new year content that our neighbors to the North pulled back from überprogressivist Trudeauism without millenarian bloodshed. (well, a couple clerks in Ottawa got paper cuts but they were treated without cost).

Now comes remarkable word (holler if you want me to mail out of Rupert's paywall) that freedom and prosperity are breaking out down south. Bold reforms of privatizing energy and telecommunications, plus locking up the head of the Teachers' Union [ed: Viva!] have pushed the Mexican economy beyond the BRIC darling to her Southeast:

Not only is Mexico's per capita GDP back above Brazil's, according to International Monetary Fund data, but over the past five years investors in the Mexican stock market have enjoyed nearly three times the returns of those who put their money into much-hyped Brazilian equities. Jobs are being created so fast in Mexico--more than two million since early 2010--that the problem of illegal immigration to the United States may soon be history.

And all it takes is bold leadership -- oh wait, we're screwed!
The democratic world today is so lacking in Mr. Peña Nieto's kind of strategic leadership that the visitor is rather taken aback to encounter it.

Good policy, freedom, leadership, growth. It worked in Canada and Mexico; what are the odds we could try it here?

Over/under at least?

UPDATE: Sorry, I've got excerpting fever! More cowbell!

Modern technology will take time to install. But thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement--the fierce critics of which have gone silent--cheap U.S. natural gas will soon be flowing down north-to-south pipelines. This will make Mexican industry, which is already beating China on labor costs, even more competitive. That will in turn support a growing Mexican middle class.

The government has not lost sight of income inequality and low productivity. But Mr. Peña Nieto's key insight is that attacking the mere symptoms of economic underdevelopment is not the answer. It is rare indeed to witness a president talking about "raising family incomes for all Mexican families through elevating and democratizing productivity," as Mr. Peña Nieto said during his state of the union in September. If social ills like drug violence stem from a lack of opportunities, then successful economic reforms should reduce them. Almost all measures of violence have fallen during Mr. Peña Nieto's first year of government.

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 2:24 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

"... attacking the mere symptoms of economic underdevelopment is not the answer." Oh, like extending unemployment benefits to ninety-nine weeks?

Any word on tax cuts? Is President Pena Nieto more concerned with the "fairness" of tax policy than its efficacy, as is his counterpart to the north?

Posted by: johngalt at December 28, 2013 9:50 AM
But jk thinks:

Alas, the news on that front seems no so bueño. Tax reforms have not been what Señor Laffer has proffered.

But I'm not sure marginal tax rates is the problem. Looking at the Economic Freedom Index (Mexico ranks 50) confirms my hunch that taxes, property rights, and limited government look good. Corruption and regulation (but I repeat myself...) hold them back. I think some wealthy Americans would dream of their top rates.

The wake of Spanish colonialism contains catholic-populist-socialism while the remnants of British Overlordship is rule of law. Too bad you cannot choose whom to be conquered by.

But even with the mixed tax reforms, the point holds that the new not-so-communist PRI is pulling a nation out of a deeper hole than we're in. It can be done.

Posted by: jk at December 28, 2013 11:54 AM

Quote of the Day

Heh. One from Insty. He gives and gives to this blog.


December 26, 2013

Semi-open Thread

Happy Boxing Day!

Blog friend sc sends a link to an interesting post.

God, Hayek and the Conceit of Reason

Friedrich Hayek: In later life he worked on his moral philosophy

A quarter of a century ago, Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, published his final contribution to his considerable corpus, an eloquent exposition of his enduring concerns. But The Fatal Conceit (1988) sought not to recapitulate the intricacies of his economic thought (despite its subtitle, "The Errors of Socialism"), or to revisit his postulated and widely celebrated connection of economic collectivism and political tyranny. Rather, he was now, four years from his death, occupied in this short and forgotten volume with one of the most fundamental questions of humankind: the basis and preservation of our civilisation.

Anybody want to play? I will post my response in the comments.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 1:30 PM | What do you think? [3]
But jk thinks:

I'll give a little more thought to it, but if you'll permit a reflexive response, I don't know anybody who considers Hayek a paragon of Atheism like Christopher Hitchens or Penn Jillette. The greatest anti-religion line I ever heard was rather from (our blog sister dagny) that religion requires giving power to another human. On about every spiritual path, there is some priest/bishop/shaman/monk whatever gets to tell you what to do.

The Fatal Conceit admonishes us to distribute and not centralize power. I share with ol' Friedrich August a deep appreciation for the contributions of the faithful to an orderly and free society from Calvinism through Rick Warren. But that Pope of yours... :)

So, Neumann's piece is well said, but he cannot claim the mantle of Hayek and tell people to follow Pope Francis and call for more socialism. A Spontaneous Order of competing and distributed religions can contribute to liberty as competing and distributed corporations.

Is that a denouncement of Reason? I think it is the conceit of reason that I can reason up a new healthcare plan for you. But I am not sure it contradicts Reason qua Reason.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: jk at December 26, 2013 1:35 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I believe I've left sufficient time for others to have their say before I start bellowing on this thread.

[1]The fatal conceit itself, he explained, is excessive faith in reason, based on an erroneous and dangerous notion that we can construct what in fact we must inherit or learn. [2] This conceit is fatal because it results in the collapse of society and the return to savage instinct. [3] Rather, morality lies between instinct and reason, and "learning how to behave is more the source than the result of insight, reason, and understanding".

Huh? We have a few problems here with the premise.

[1] Reason is how we integrate what we inherit and what we learn, not a fabrication from whole cloth, as is implied.

[2] It is non sequitur that integrating what we inherit and what we learn leads to a return to "savage" instinct.

[3] Moral behavior is not de facto a balance between instinctive or rational behavior. This is merely a back door into the guilt centers of men who act on reason. (You "know" that behavior is not moral, or at least you "should" know, if you are a moral man.) But the only part of this that appears to be quoting Hayek, and a fragment at that, is "learning how to behave is more the source than the result of insight, reason, and understanding." Translation: Rather than behaving with a consistent application of insight, reason and understanding, do what you are told to do.

Sounds an awful lot like what dagny said.

Posted by: johngalt at December 30, 2013 4:00 PM
But jk thinks:

You were forcing a polite latency. I thought you had been abducted, sedated, or were stuck beneath your tractor; I was about ready to phone the Weld County Sheriff.

[2] puts me in mind of Jonathan Haidt or Arnold Kling [Review Corner]: "The second dominant heuristic is one I associate with conservatives (henceforth Cs). Cs, who are likely to respond Y to the basic question, are most comfortable with language that frames political issues in terms of civilization and barbarism."

The tension twixt Conservatives and Libertarians is similar to -- if not the basis of the secular libertarian - religious split.

Posted by: jk at December 30, 2013 4:48 PM

December 24, 2013

David Boaz asks whether this is the same Cracked we grew up with. Whoever they are, they field a very good list of 5 Amazing Pieces of Good News Nobody Is Reporting. [SPOILER ALERT]:

#1. Worldwide, Poverty Is Dropping at a Shocking Rate

And these aren't just statistical tricks here -- when they calculate this, they're not just counting income, they account for total living conditions -- infrastructure, schools, access to clean water, everything. A billion people have that stuff for the first time. And what's really encouraging is that this all happened three years ahead of the official estimates, which pegged 2015 as the soonest such a lofty goal could be achieved.

So how did this happen? International aid helped, but the big jump has been in the increased participation of previously isolated countries in international trade. You know how people are always complaining about how "they're shipping our jobs overseas!" Well, this is where they went -- to people who previously had no jobs at all. And that boom that swept across China and India is expected to continue in places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Rwanda -- all of the places you previously only heard about in the context of heart-breaking ads begging for donations. If things continue at this pace, countries like Nepal and Bangladesh would likely see extreme poverty shrink to near-nonexistent levels.

On the down side, still loads so many scripts and banners and pop up attempts that it will take you three minutes to load each page. But it's Christmas; be nice.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 5:12 PM | What do you think? [0]

Facebook of the Day

Brother Keith, reacting to the news that did not recognize the President:

Couldn't verify his identity? So did a better job of vetting this guy and checking his references than the entire mainstream media?

Does this mean that is a Birther?

Mondo, Merry Christmas, Heh!

But Keith Arnold thinks:

Never before in my life have I been so struck by the enormous irony of the line: "these jokes just write themselves, don't they?"

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 24, 2013 2:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Does this mean we now have to call it "Who-is-he-care?"

Posted by: johngalt at December 24, 2013 7:10 PM

Tweet of the Day

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 10:51 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

I see you got the Spinal Tap version of this device - you can turn your holiday spirit up to eleven!

May you and your loved ones all share a joyous Christmas Day, turned up to eleven!

(Does this only come in an analog version, or has the digital device been released yet?)

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 24, 2013 2:15 PM
But jk thinks:

I tried the digital one, it just seemed to lack warmth...

Best to you and yours, Brah!

Posted by: jk at December 24, 2013 2:22 PM

December 23, 2013

Uncle Sam's Allowance

Last month blog friend T Greer suggested "a lump-sum 'demogrant' or Milton Friedman's negative taxes" as a funding alternative for private health insurance, which would replace Obamacare. His premise was that the needy could be provided for with minimal distortions to the free market. I found the idea meritorious and proposed extending it to every area of government assistance, replacing every single solitary government aid program with an unrestricted cash income for every adult. I pitched it as "Uncle Sam's Allowance" to be used in an otherwise purely capitalistic unregulated free-market."

I was hoping for robust discussion but even TG was mute. Re-reading my proposal today I see I was very short on details of the principle, but a segment on last week's MSNBC Krystal Ball show brings the idea into mainstream conversation. Prompted by a publicity stunt in Switzerland she asked why not "eliminate poverty" by giving everyone a minimum income or "mincome" from the government?

"Every non-incarcerated adult citizen gets a monthly check from the government. Other safety net programs are jettisoned to help pay for the mincare, and poverty is eliminated."

First off, I might never have taken such an idea seriously had I not read Friedman propose a negative income tax or R.A. Heinlein describe a birthright paycheck from a fabulously productive and prosperous civil society. But I and Reason's Matthew Feeney am willing to entertain this proposal by Ball, although my conditions may be non-starters for her. Nonetheless, I would like a discussion here on the subject because I agree with Feeney's conclusion:

"Rather than make the principled argument against the redistribution of wealth, libertarians would do better if they were to argue for a welfare system that promotes personal responsibility, reduces the humiliations associated with the current system, and reduces administrative waste in government."

Very well, here are my Terms:

1) ALL other safety net programs must be jettisoned. Permanently.

2) Executive branch agencies created to carry out safety net programs must be jettisoned. Permanently.

3) Mincome payments must not be means tested. Everyone qualifies and is due the same monthly (or weekly) amount, regardless of income or wealth.

4) Anyone who does not voluntarily decline his mincome is ineligible to vote.

I won't go into all of the advantages of this system since most of you are already preparing to pounce on it's failings. Let me address one of them preemptively - immigration.

Expand the system beyond national borders. Make it internationally universal. I haven't run any numbers but my starting point for negotiating the monthly mincome is to divide the cumulative sum of every national tax in the world by the number of adult humans in the world, and negotiate downward from there. Instead of funding waste and corruption we could be giving cash to folks to "feed their families." What could be more swell?

I still have my doubts. Give some people a dollar and they will demand two, then three. But at least such a plan would make the nature and extent of redistribution fully transparent, rip out government waste fraud and abuse root and limb, and make it possible to cease the practice where the takers are permitted to vote the amount of their share from the makers.

But johngalt thinks:

In further support of condition #4, I see it as a valuable self-selection incentive to strip off 75% of potential recipients.

Posted by: johngalt at December 25, 2013 8:42 PM
But johngalt thinks:

An important omission from condition 3 is that all persons receive equal treatment under law including, not least of all, an equal rate of taxation. This would result in 20-25% of allowance disbursements coming back into the treasury. The net result is more recipents or, heaven forfend, a reduction in expenditures.

Posted by: johngalt at December 25, 2013 9:17 PM
But johngalt thinks:

So the most important novelty of my plan seems to be the replacement of means testing and phase outs with every individual having a choice between voting in any elections whatsoever or receiving a government allowance.

My over-under for the allowance choosers is in the range of 25% but that is strictly conjectural. Here's a poll question for you:

If government offered to pay you $225 per week, taxed as income, in return for NOT voting in any government elections, would you accept or decline?
Posted by: johngalt at December 25, 2013 9:37 PM
But jk thinks:

Very Heinleinian.

But I think it rubs against a respect (bordering on adulation) for the franchise. Since the Constitution was adopted it has been amended four times to expand the franchise. Speaking of, does your plan run afoul of emanations and penumbras the 24th?

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

I understand and sympathize with your reasons. But the blog pragmatist sees a big sell in trading all welfare for the mincome, thereby testing tg's belief in the fundamental fiscal chops of the disadvantaged. I don't share his sanguinity but agree that private charity can bridge any gaps.

But to sell that with a diminution of the franchise seems a double stuff of difficult positioning.

Posted by: jk at December 26, 2013 10:42 AM
But johngalt thinks:

It's always a challenge to limit the scope of these pie in the sky plans, whether in practice or mere postulation. I take your point about complicating the tradeoff but tell me how it can possibly succeed, long-term, without severing the "vote for more stuff" linkage?

I see a reshaping of the democratic process as a necessary precondition for consenting to "just a little" redistribution. Keep things the way they are and the esteemed producer's only resort is to Go Galt.

Is trading one's franchise for a state allowance Constitutional? Why not, if it is a matter of reversable (on no shorter than an annual basis) choice? Besides, that Amendment is closer to FDR than to Jefferson and Madison. And it also has an "out" - "2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Posted by: johngalt at December 26, 2013 12:07 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

It strikes me as politically unfeasible. I am not sure how necessary it will be either - in his discussion of a demogrant Charles Murray made a sharp observation: every time anyone tries to change the amount paid it will become the biggest political issue in the arena, for their won't be any other social issues in the arena. Every adjustment will be battled over ferociously. It won't be easy for it to be changed often and it will be hard for the payment's size to "creep" larger.

I think if we simply made it a requirement that a supermajority must approve changes in the payment size then most of the potential problems would go away.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 28, 2013 12:25 PM

December 22, 2013

jk enters the Cuture Wars

Comparing Duck Hunter Phil Robertson to Pajama boy Ethan Krupp is a good exercise, because any excuse to ridicule a man-child in a onesie is worthwhile. But I've just installed a new flux capacitor in the Internet Segue Machine™ and need to test it out.

It seems Yusuf Islam (The artist formerly known as "Cat Stevens") is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "Class of 2014." As it happens, I liked Stevens's music. One of my first songs I played on the guitar was a touching rendition of his morose ballad "Sad Lisa." I was about six or seven -- I wish there was video.

Anyhow, though I liked Stevens, it seems he required some affirmative action to launch him over Yes and Deep Purple. I like Steve Howe and Ritchie Blackmore, too.

KISS led the popular vote, while Stevens brought up the rear.

However, the Hall has a sort of "electoral college" that gets to override the people's choices.

This leads to a frankly bizarre situation, in which bands like Yes (10.88% of the popular vote) and Deep Purple (11.93%) beat out Stevens (5.37%) but don't get inducted.


So. Robertson makes some generally respectful -- if I think misguided -- comments about homosexuality that are completely in line with his professed beliefs. And is fired, suspended, sternly denounced. Stevens agrees with the fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie. Also I suppose in line with his stated beliefs. And gets 15 bonus points into the R&RHoF, Because:

Who can measure the courage it took him in the late '70s, after seven years of multi-platinum success in the U.S. (and over a decade in the UK) to convert to Islam, amidst the wave of turmoil and confusion that was engulfing the world?

I wonder what Mister Islam thinks about homosexuality? I wonder who will ask him?

Posted by John Kranz at 11:32 AM | What do you think? [0]

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been...

Reliving -- and relitigating -- the PPACAo2010 could be tedious and disappointing. Spoiler Alert: it passes and Chief Justice Roberts applies "a saving construction" to uphold its constitutionality under the taxing power.

Despite the disappointing ending (you might wait for the Disney movie to rewrite it), the intellectual voyage of the constitutional challenges, seen through the keen minds of Volkh Conspiracy (VC) bloggers is a fascinating read. The conspirators have assembled it into a very good book: A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case by Randy Barnett, Jonathan Adler, Jonathan H.; David Bernstein, Orin Kerr, David Kopel, and Ilya Somin.

It is targeted at a "guy like me." I am very interested in Constitutional law, theory, and philosophy but have no special training or deep knowledge. I suspect most ThreeSourcers, be they guys or not, fall into or near that camp. The book is detailed and substantive, you don't feel you're getting a watered down version. But any bright and interested person can get it (for a couple of weekend afternoons, I could click the Kindle on and pretend to be much smarter than I really am).

In addition to theory, you also come away with some inside information about how these challenges progress, a rough feel for timelines, and insiders' perspectives on what is important and what is not. This goes beyond the civics-book explanation of judicial review as Robert Caro's Master of the Senate goes beyond the stock description of Article I.

Supreme Court advocates know what academics sometimes seem to forget: you simply cannot "mandate" a justice go where he or she does not want to go with a clever argument. All you can do is present your strongest case in the most compelling way. Mike, Greg, and Paul did that during oral argument in which the pressure could not have been more intense. I was supremely grateful it was them and not me who had to bear up under the strain of oral argument. Along with Karen Harned, director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, win or lose, I believe we fielded the "A Team" on behalf of the majority of the American people who objected to the Affordable Care Act and believed it to be unconstitutional.

Perhaps the best part of the book -- from a blog lover's perspective -- is VC's contributions to the debate. As bloggers once busted Dan Rather and reached above the monopoly of three-network journalism, bloggers [asterisk] reached above the Ivy League Professoriate, all of whom thought that only right wing goofballs would see any Constitutional problems with Obamacare.
Twenty years ago, the virtual consensus among law professors at elite schools very well may have been the end of serious debate in the academic world. The venues for law professors getting their ideas out on controversial issues of the day were few and dominated by law professors at the top schools: the mainstream media, either through op-eds or interviews with reporters, both heavily skewed toward famous professors at places like Harvard and Yale; publications at the top law reviews, which are not reviewed blindly and therefore heavily favor the already renowned; and presentations at elite law schools, to which the overwhelming majority of invitees are professors at peer institutions.

[Asterisk] These folks are not bloggers in the "pajamas" sense. These are law professors who have argued before the Supreme Court (Barnett was the attorney for Angel Raich) and file amicus briefs for big league think tanks. But there is a telling section in David Bernstien's summation.
In 2011, a law professor at Yale, defending Obamacare from constitutional challenge, claimed that only one "constitutional scholar that I know at a top 20 law school" thinks that Obamacare is "constitutionally problematic." A year later, just before oral argument in NFIB, the same professor stated that only one law professor at a top ten law school agreed that the Obamacare was unconstitutional.

The professor's math was almost certainly somewhat off, but he was right that the overwhelming majority of constitutional law scholars at elite law schools thought that the constitutional challenge to Obamacare was not just wrong, but obviously so. But there is a reason for this. The faculties at elite law schools have been able to define what was "mainstream" in constitutional law simply by who they hired to join them. And Yale, to take just one example, has not hired a conservative or libertarian professor to teach constitutional law in my lifetime.

So these poor professors, laboring away at top 14-17 law schools, yet believing in Constitutional limits to government power, were able to present, refine, share, and disseminate their ideas at blog speed. And many of these ideas start showing up in SCOTUS oral arguments and opinions.
Perhaps one contribution of our brief, and the case, to constitutional law is renewed attention to the full opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland rather than the expurgated versions in many law school textbooks. In Randy Barnett's Constitutional Law text, students can see John Marshall working his way through doctrine of principals and incidents, as he elucidates that Necessary and Proper Clause is for inferior, less "worthy" powers-- and not for a "great, substantive and independent power." Roberts's application of this long-standing rule took some of the pro-mandate professoriate by surprise, and the professors who were not surprised were dismayed.

The power of ideas and the power of new media take the challenge from then-Speaker Pelosi's "are you serious?" through a sweeping midterm election, to a nail-biting decision that, while it didn't give ThreeSourcers everything they wanted . . .
While our failure to prevent the egregious Affordable Care Act from taking effect remains a bitter pill, this should not be allowed to detract from what we accomplished legally. We prevailed in preserving and even strengthening the enumerated powers scheme of Article I, Section 8 as a protection of individual liberty. From a constitutional perspective, this is what we were fighting so hard to achieve.

But, but, but taxing power!
For those who may still not see the difference between the legal theories we defeated and that which was adopted by Chief Justice John Roberts, imagine that all the federal drug laws were enforced by the nonpunitive tax he allowed rather than as Commerce Clause regulations, which is how the prohibitions of the Controlled Substances Act are now justified. Under Chief Justice Roberts's tax power theory, the government would have to open the jails and release tens of thousands of prisoners. And any of you reading this could legally smoke marijuana under federal law, provided you were willing to pay a small noncoercive federal tax on this activity. Such is the difference between the Commerce Clause power Congress claimed justified the Affordable Care Act, and the new limited tax power the chief justice allowed it to exercise. That is a big difference.

Losing 5-4 on the mandate -- even with the de-fanging -- has also caused us to lose sight of the 7-2 win against coerced Medicaid expansion. These and the fear, uncertainty and doubt placed in thinking citizens' minds make this exercise heroic and successful.

The Colorado Avalanche lost a hockey game in LA yesterday. The Kings were up 2-0 late in the second period. The Kings are a great team; they are tough at home; they are a defensive powerhouse who rarely give up two goals in a game. They were the Harvard professors of hockey yesterday afternoon. The Avs came back, tied (gives them one point in the standings) and took the game through overtime to a shootout. Sadly for me they lost, but the announcers at the end all agreed this was a win. I agree.

Five stars. Duh.

December 21, 2013

Tweet of the Day

What is the World Coming To?

First the Canadian Supreme Court legalizes prostitution. (Technically the act was already legal, but other acts to facilitate it were prohibited.)

Now Utah may no longer criminalize unlicensed consensual polygamy.

At this rate Americans may soon win the freedom to keep the proceeds of their labors, safe from seizure by the state!

Tax Dollars Bought Encryption Back-Door

Does anyone remember the days when we could trust our government and measures like the following would be seen as helpful, not harmful, to American civil liberties? Perhaps we were just naïve then, but I sure don't feel I can trust it today. Reuters exclusive:

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract.

December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

But johngalt thinks:


In fairness to the Bernank, reasons and causes aside, the fact that a reduction was enacted without causing market panic, or even decline, is praiseworthy. And it even came with the name "taper" suggesting it will continue. Maybe IBD Ed is right after all.

Posted by: johngalt at December 20, 2013 4:58 PM


Now we're starting to get somewhere.

"I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility," Paglia said. "This is not the mark of a true intellectual life. This is why there is no cultural life now in the U.S. Why nothing is of interest coming from the major media in terms of cultural criticism. Why the graduates of the Ivy League with their A, A, A+ grades are complete cultural illiterates, etc. is because they are not being educated in any way to give respect to opposing view points."

Yes, Camile Paglia. As stipulated in the Daily Caller article from which this was taken, she is gay and was open about it before it was so fashionable. And "while she is an atheist she respects religion and has been frustrated by the intolerance of gay activists."

I see in this the apogee of the growing partisan and cultural divisions in our country that have only accelerated under the feckless leadership of President Obama. A new tolerance and cooperation is near its dawn. I am proud of my country.

But johngalt thinks:

While dagny shares the sentiment tweeted by jk to @pourmecoffee, I see this as more than just the latest contretemps in the culture wars. This is a watershed moment, IMO. Paglia's brave disapprobation is exhibit A.

Posted by: johngalt at December 20, 2013 12:14 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

This is not a sea change for Camille Paglia, who has long been an outspoken critic of both the left and the right (whatever those labels may or may not mean) - witness this gem, from 1991:

People like her and the ineffable Tammy Bruce confound inhabitants of both sides - perhaps one of the reasons they are worthy of a certain respect.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 20, 2013 2:20 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Okay, I read KA's entire linked piece - not. I read the first couple of screens and the closing paragraph. So I'll conclude that Paglia's disapprobation isn't as brave as first thought because she's made a career of it. And DC probably doesn't enjoy wide circulation amongst LGBT advocates, fascist or otherwise. So perhaps the dawn is still metaphorical hours away, but I do feel it coming.

Posted by: johngalt at December 20, 2013 3:27 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Au contraire, mon frere - my point is that Camille Paglia has been career-level brave.

Backlash often comes not in moments, but in extended time. The Boston Tea Party was in 1773; it took three years for our predecessors to accumulate enough stored backlash to declare independence. The Nullification Crisis was in 1832, nearly three full decades before Fort Sumter.

Legend has it that the Etruscans cheered for Horatius as he pulled himself out of the Tiber and onto the shore. He had earned their respect. I won't claim to agree with everything Camille Paglia says, but I will gladly salute her sustained consistency and integrity.

This is still a watershed in the culture wars. It may take a long time yet, but to quote another small-government spokeman: "I'm thinking we'll rise again."

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 20, 2013 3:56 PM
But jk thinks:

@pourmecoffee not only has a great twitter handle and avi, she is also the rarest of birds: a lefty with a good sense of humor. I disagree frequently, but her posts are just as frequently ell-oh-ell funny.

That said, I was wrong to let that be my only contribution to the contretemps. I do share dagny's and pourmecoffee's wish it did not happen or would go away soon. But it is worthy of discourse.

My frustration was well expressed by my pal, Jiom Geraghty:

I could live in a world where anything goes; we're all First Amendment absolutists, and the only proper recourse to awful speech is more speech. I could also happily live in an American culture that was politer, calmer, more respectful and less incendiary. But right now we've got a world where the Right is expected to play by the Oxford Debating Society rules while the Left uses Thunderdome rules.

My acquiescence and reticence to push back, of course, contributes to that. I really do not want to join my Facebook friends who will settle for nothing less than canonization, knighthood, and free Starbucks for life for the Bearded Duck Dude.

And yet everything I read showed him to be pretty thoughtful and respectful. The Thought Police have taken his show away. Though nobody but Larry Kudlow has an inalienable right to TV show, that is a raw deal.

I don't know if he has musical gifts. Perhaps he could join ZZ Top?

Posted by: jk at December 20, 2013 4:30 PM

December 19, 2013

Explaining the Taper Rally II

Yesterday I offered my explanation for the market spike on the Taper announcement. Today the IBD Ed page offers theirs:

Yet stock and bond markets rallied sharply Wednesday after the taper was announced. Why? Here's one possibility: Along with gridlock in Congress, maybe the Fed's taper suggests that Washington's grip is finally being pried from the economy's throat.

If so, we hope Obama, Congress and the Fed all get the markets' message: The grand Keynesian experiment in economic meddling is over. Give the American people their economy back, and get out of the way.

The optimist in me hopes they are righter than I.

ACA Consequence - Geriatric Shotgun Weddings

Who remembers the "lifelong hard-working dairy farmer" in Washington State who jk introduced us to last month? She was the first Obama-aid [a more accurate branding than Obamacare] apply-shop-buyer who was signed up for Medicaid without consent.

Today, after reading this article I have some urgent advice - Marry someone, quick!

Medicaid, on the other hand, is a state-based and federally-subsidized welfare program, one that employs means-testing -- which includes ownership of assets as well as income levels. Medicaid programs include conditions that put recipients' assets remaining after death at risk for seizure to reimburse taxpayers who footed the bill for the recipient's health care during his/her lifetime.

Schadenfreude, shadenfreude, every morning you greet me...

The original and still the best here.

Hat tip: dagny

But johngalt thinks:

I also wondered if this revelation might impact blog PPACA Facilitator's recommendation that a friend enroll in Medicaid. Were you trained on that little feature of the new law?

Posted by: johngalt at December 20, 2013 11:52 AM
But dagny thinks:

It seems based on the article that the, "feature," of collecting assets after a person dies to pay for the medical care they already received varies by state. Anyone know if Colorado law allows said confiscation?

Posted by: dagny at December 20, 2013 12:30 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The short answer appears to be YES.

Only Alaska, Georgia, Michigan and Texas collected $0 in 2004.

Colorado's collections that year were about $6M, offsetting nearly $424M in Medicaid nursing home expenditures. (1.5% if you do the math.)

The same report states that states are required to recover costs for some expenditures but for others it is optional. Not sure how that squares with the 4 enumerated states.

Posted by: johngalt at December 20, 2013 5:08 PM

A Visage of Red and Blue America

If one is known by the company he keeps then let me just say, "I don't wear pajamas."


"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying?"

Does anybody get to have an opinion under the First Amendment to the Constitution, or just those who don't say things that make other people uncomfortable? I don't see any theater here, or any flames. Phil Robertson is free to express his opinion. The rest of us are free to express whether or not we agree with it. That is called Liberty.

But johngalt thinks:

Michael D. "heck of a job Brownie" Brown points out "This is not a First Amendment issue because there is no government involvement." Fair cop. I hereby revise my close to "Stop apologizing for expressing your opinion. And stop stiffling your laughter when other people express theirs."

Posted by: johngalt at December 19, 2013 5:43 PM
But jk thinks:

Looking at the WaXaminer's Meet Ethan Krupp (H/T Insty) I am rethinking my support for the First Amendment.

Posted by: jk at December 19, 2013 6:15 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

I imagine that living down his new nickname is going to be a lifelong problem for young Ethan "Beta Male" Krupp.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 20, 2013 2:10 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I don't really think so, KA. While it's difficult for us to understand or relate, metrosexuals seem to take pride in the suppression of their masculinity. The cultural messages with which they are bombarded tell them that chicks dig "sensitive" guys. But like healthy, virile young men who choose to dose Viagra, they don't know when they've crossed the line between self-improvement and self-destruction.

Posted by: johngalt at December 20, 2013 3:33 PM

December 18, 2013

When is $10Bn Mere Pocket Change?

When it is the amount of new money the Federal Reserve decides to stop printing every month, effective at some future date.

The news report I heard said that markets rallied over 100 points on the news that QE would "taper" beginning in January. Hmmm. Why the positive response to less liquidity? Because they'll still be printing $75Bn per month ad infinitem. Oh, and
"strengthened its commitment to record-low short-term rates." "It said it plans to hold its key short-term rate near zero 'well past' the time when unemployment falls below 6.5 per cent."

But jk thinks:

Blog Fed Defender here -- riding to the rescue! It's okay, Ben, I got this one!

Please accept my apologies on behalf of the FOMC that you're not getting the deflationary shock and liquidity freeze you seek. Yes, Gold at $35/oz. was good enough for Eisenhower...

The markets have gyrated wildly in recent weeks on whispers, rumors, emanations and penumbras of "taper." So I would say a lot of any move was baked in and awaiting confirmation. Perhaps a little bit of buying the rumor and selling the news in reverse.

Besides being naturally argumentative, I actually like this move. Start to rein in QEx but telegraph a commitment to low rates.

I will concede that I trust Chair Bernanke more than Chair Yellen to begin the difficult step of applying the brake. But a little less on the accelerator in the wake of modest good news seems about right.

Posted by: jk at December 18, 2013 4:13 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I intended no editorial message. I merely interpreted how the market saw the "reduction" i.e. "whew, they could have cut it by $20Bn." Or 30, or 40, or [skipping ahead so as not to bore the reader] or eighty five billion dollars per month.

But hey, I'm not worried about Stealthflation, even though it is "one factor of concern for some members." The Committee seems to anticipate that "inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee's 2% [using the Committee's preferred index] longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored."

As for the editorial on the taper strategy I'll defer to former St. Louis Fed President William Poole: His complaint seems to be of a more philosophical nature, however.

Posted by: johngalt at December 18, 2013 4:38 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Gentlemen, no argument between friends is needed here! The issue is moot.

How is the issue moot, you ask? Easy - you fail to take note of the disclaimer. "... 'well past' the time when unemployment falls below 6.5 per cent." The way things are going, we're not going to see the low side of 6.5% any any point during the remainder of out natural lifespans. They might just as well have said "... 'well past' the time when they're selling lift tickets in Hell."

There's no point in arguing this issue until the conditional clause is met; otherwise, there's no way to test the plan.

The fine print taketh away.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 19, 2013 1:10 AM
But jk thinks:

Sadly, the condition of exit cements the Phillips Curve in the national monetary psyche. I do not accept that inflation is inversely proportional to inflation. I lived through the 70s and have the battle scars and leisure suit photos to prove it.

We can all agree on Bill Poole's superb Editorial.

Monetary policy has gone as far as it can in creating conditions that partially offset these impediments to higher economic growth.

The FED has done all it could to offset abysmal fiscal policy. Perhaps too much. Let us reel it in for certain.

I have a cadre of Austrian friends on Facebook. If I grouse at brother jg it is because he is a good proxy and I know him to be good-hearted enough to take it. But I think protecting us from the full brunt of Obamalosireed-onomics was angel's work. That bell you hear is Chairman Ben trading in his helicopter for wings.

Posted by: jk at December 19, 2013 10:22 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Eschew exhuberant sanguinity brother Keith. Fair Chairman speaketh not of actual unemployment, rather the unemployment index which counts getting a job and giving up looking for a job with equal merit. How else could they now claim even 7 percent? Consider the discouraged and the underemployed and the "real" (versus "official") unemployment rate is 13.2 percent of able bodied persons.

Posted by: johngalt at December 19, 2013 11:54 AM

Belt Only - Suspenders Not Required.

In the present formulation I equate "suspenders" with laws restricting gun ownership in an "all of the above" school safety and security program.

Colorado's contentious new gun restriction laws were promoted as necessary to prevent tragedies like the Newtown school shooting. Gun rights advocates said the laws would be worthless for that purpose, and that the best way to stop school shooters was to put an armed officer in the school.

What stopped the terrifying incident from turning into a full-blown massacre was the rapid response of law enforcement, particularly the sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school, said Hickenlooper.

That's John Hickenlooper. Governor. Colorado. Democrat. Standing corrected.


Okay. If this is the Wall Street Journal's idea of a "snag..."


I guess is plagued by "glitches."

Set my people free!

Yaay, Colorado!

Reps. Dan Nordberg of Colorado Springs and Jared Wright of Grand Junction announced that they will introduce a bill to give a tax credit to anyone who gets fined for not buying health insurance -- at an amount equal to the federal penalty under the Affordable Care Act for not purchasing insurance.

The pair of conservatives are calling it the "Healthcare Liberty Act."

December 17, 2013

US Navy Vet

Posted by John Kranz at 3:00 PM | What do you think? [0]

Et tu Motor City Madman?

Might be a loooooong year...


CO Governor Posted by John Kranz at 12:57 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

Reminds me of Chuck Norris' endorsement of Mike Huckabee.

'Spose Scott Gessler could finagle a celebrity endorsement from Clint Eastwood? I'll message him the suggestion.

Posted by: johngalt at December 18, 2013 3:21 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Heh. For my trouble I received a return email stating, "We've shown the endorsements (40 or so mostly unknown Republican office holders) now we need to show our fundraising power!" Including a solicitation for donation, of course.

Posted by: johngalt at December 20, 2013 12:17 PM

December 16, 2013

You Can't Hug a Child with Wireless Arms

I have to post this here so I can laugh! It is posted on Facebook from some believers and I am not going there. But:

9th Grade Science Project Finds Plants Don't Grow Near Wi-Fi


Technology Posted by John Kranz at 4:53 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

If I had courage, I'd comment:

"But surely we can make some GMO seeds that are WiFi resistant!"

Posted by: jk at December 16, 2013 5:07 PM

Colorado School Shooting Silent Treatment

You, as have I, may be wondering why you haven't seen more news and opinion about the Colorado school shooting at Arapahoe High School last week. Maybe it's because only the shooter was killed? Unlikely. More likely it's because, as John Hayward at Human Events blog writes, "There is absolutely nothing in the Arapahoe High School shooting for gun control zealots to work with."

On the contrary, the incident demolishes some of their cherished beliefs, most obviously their talismanic faith in the power of regulations to suppress this type of violence. Given his political activism, it seems likely that Karl Pierson was well aware of the local gun laws, but those laws did not dissuade him from going on a rampage. According to CNN, what ended his rampage in just 80 seconds, preventing him from dealing far more injury and death, was one of the measures strongly endorsed by the National Rifle Association: an armed adult on school grounds.

Many more interesting tidbits in the linked article, like the killer's political beliefs, desire to attend the Air Force Academy, opinions about Republicans, etc.

If I Drove a $100,000 Car, I'd wear Armani

Like some others on this blog, I am torn. The Tesla is a cool car and an engineering marvel. But this freedom lover is pretty tired of seeing it hailed as a "success story" of government involvement. If they sold a couple hundred to some rich Hollywood guys and had hopes of expansion I'd be a big booster. But the company exists only because of subsidies, and I have seen many a weasely exec or supporter dance around any such question.

Ergo, I have to withdraw support -- and giggle uncontrollably at the difficulties facing folks whose six-digit playthings do not have sufficient range in cold weather.

For now, drivers are looking for creative ways to cope with less heat, especially on long trips. On the Tesla forum, one Model S owner recommends buying heated jackets and gloves designed for wearing on motorcycles. Dahn says the solution is "snowmobile suits."

Hat-tip: Insty, who also has a link about global cooling. Better get a Thinsulate™ Snowmobile suit, Teslans! The link contains this embed; Weld County is Home Sweet Home to a few ThreeSourcers.

But johngalt thinks:

May I respectfully suggest, a higher energy heater?

Posted by: johngalt at December 16, 2013 4:50 PM
But jk thinks:

Oh yeah! Musk should build one of those into the dash. My buddy had a Corvair with a catalytic heater. You could cook a roast on the front seat and not wait one second for anything to "heat up."

Posted by: jk at December 16, 2013 5:05 PM

He's Going to be our Nominee, Is he not?

I'm probably going to have to move. Odds are too good that my buddy, Rep. Tom Tancredo (Wahoo -- CO), will get the GOP gubernatorial nod in 2014. I'll have a more difficult time voting for Gov. Hickenlooper than last time. I did in 2010 in response to a Tancredo third-party run. But that was abstract.

It seems more consequential now that he has signed the terrible gun bills -- really signed on to every piece of nonsense the Democratic legislature put on his desk. In fairness, our geologist guv is good on fracking and our brewmaster guv has helped the craft brewing industry. But that is about it.

Mister serious and statesmanlike Tancredo has this banner ad up on Insty:


I've seen this on Facebook as well. Is he crazy? Don't answer that. We have had three contentious and serious recall efforts that removed three very deserving Democratic legislators. "Probably not a bad idea?" to recall a sitting governor the year he is up for election? Obviously, Crazy-man Tommy does not think so: just some red meat to throw at his populist supporters.

One can argue about his credentials, policies, and efficacy. But I thought that once you run against the nominee, you are pretty much out of the party. How naive I was, he is being welcomed back by a huge part of the Centennial State's GOP.

I'm thinking Tennessee's a nice place...

CO Governor Posted by John Kranz at 2:35 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at December 16, 2013 4:00 PM
But jk thinks:

Hope you're right -- I am a HUGE Honey Badger fan!

Yet I am sadly overwhelmed at the surfeit of the following line of thought:

1) Oh man, Hick is really bad!
2) Ergo, we need a big name to beat him.

Posted by: jk at December 16, 2013 4:11 PM

That Pope Sure Knows His Economics!

As expected. My Facebook friends -- who would have to stay up late into the evening to imagine a morsel of Catholic Orthodoxy with which they'd agree -- have all become virtual novitiates and deacons posting Pope Francis's encyclical against "trickle-down economics."

I have enjoyed more serious debate from Larry Kudlow and Deirdre McCloskey and James Pethokoukis. And I have waited, more or less patiently, for Michael Novak to chime in. The author of "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism" is my go to guy for the rational theology-economic interface.

The wait is over, Novak has published Agreeing with Pope Francis on NRO. His "agreement" gives the new pope a pass because of his background in corrupt Argentinian capitalism. Being less theological, I am less forgiving. The pontiff's message will be heard around the world -- even by my hedonistic Facebook friends -- and as much as it can be leveraged to restrict freedom and innovation, it will be used to perpetuate poverty.

Novak quickly gets off the subject and presents an economic comparison to JPII. The comparison is not kind to FI:

The Polish pope, John Paul II, recognized this huge social change in Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year, 1991), of which paragraph 32 opens: "In our time, in particular, there exists another form of ownership which is no less important than land: the possession of know-how, knowledge, and skill. The wealth of the industrialized nations is based much more on this kind of ownership than on natural resources." The rest of this paragraph is concise in its penetration of the causes of wealth and the role of human persons and associations in the virtue of worldwide solidarity, of which globalization is the outward expression.

Pope John Paul II quickly recognized that today "the decisive factor [in production] is increasingly man himself, that is, his knowledge, especially his scientific knowledge, his capacity for interrelated and compact organization, as well as his ability to perceive the needs of others and to satisfy them."

Then in paragraph 42, John Paul II defined his ideal capitalism, succinctly, as that economic system springing from creativity, under the rule of law, and "the core of which is ethical and religious." In his first social encyclical ten years earlier, Laborem Exercens (On Human Work, 1981), directly rejecting orthodox Marxist language about labor, the pope had already begun to project "creation theology" as a replacement for "liberation theology." A bit later, he reached the concept of "human capital." Step by step, he thought his way to his own vision of the economy best suited to the human person -- not perfectly so, in this vale of tears, but better than any rival, Communist or traditional. John Paul II set it forth as "the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress."

Now that's some pretty good popin'...

UPDATE: James Pethokoukis pipes in on the papacy:

Is this "trickle-down" economics? Nope, it's innovative, Schumpeterian capitalism that can be summed up in Deirdre McCloskey's Bourgeois Deal: "If you let me innovate and make profits, in the long run I'll make us all rich." And that's a kind of capitalism the pope would probably approve of.

But johngalt thinks:

Giants have walked the earth. (And I don't mean Francis.)

Posted by: johngalt at December 16, 2013 4:03 PM

The Youngsterz Will Sign Up in Drovz, now!

This is meant to help:

The latest video push comes from Get Covered, a firm backer of Obamacare. Enroll America, a nonprofit group, runs Get Covered. Enroll is staffed with top Democratic operatives, as revealed by Florida Watchdog's Will Patrick earlier this year.

Newsflash: ObamaCare Spox is Total Dickhead!

Man, you go your whole life never having heard of somebody, and all at once... It seems The Sexiest Man Alive and new ObamaCare spokesman Adam Levine took to Twitter to share 140 characters of his wisdom:

"Dear Fox News, don't play our music on your evil fucking channel ever again. Thank you," he wrote. When reached by Rolling Stone, Levine's representative declined to comment.

A musician buddy posted this on Facebook (with approbation, of course). I could not find the tweet or the bitmap to share. It actually startled me -- not a lefty musician,I had heard that they exist -- but the force of the message.

Guess he don't need Rupert's Residuals.

UPDATE: Jonah apologizes for the confusion. No he's not endorsing the PPACAo2010.

December 15, 2013

Review Corner

I've enjoyed the TV show "Sleepy Hollow" and recommend it without hesitation. I could not recall whether I had the classic by Washington Irving. Perhaps I read it in my youth or, just as likely, I merely absorbed a few details.

Ninety-nine cents, however, scores the Kindle book plus a couple of interesting criticisms: George Woodberry's in 1903 and Leon Vincent's in 1906. According to those august scholars, Irving was not only the first American man of letters, but the cornerstone of American fiction as entertainment. Let the Old World have their Sartres, Tolstoys and Hugos -- the road to Pirates of the Caribbean movies seems to start at Irving. Here's Woodberry:

BUT a broad difference is marked by the contrast of "The Scarlet Letter" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"; the absence of the moral element is felt in the latter; and a grosser habit of life, creature comfort, a harmless but unspiritual superstition, a human warmth, a social comradery, are prominent in Irving's lucubrations, and these are traits of the community ripened and sweetened in him.

Ah, yes, Hawthorne. That was pretty serious. "Sleepy Hollow" is a (very) short bit of PG-13 fun. The language is clear with just enough archaic terms to provide flavor.
From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight, the peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel. In this enterprise, however, he had more real difficulties than generally fell to the lot of a knight-errant of yore, who seldom had any thing but giants, enchanters, fiery dragons, and such like easily-conquered adversaries, to contend with; and had to make his way merely through gates of iron and brass, and walls of adamant, to the castle keep, where the lady of his heart was confined; all which he achieved as easily as a man would carve his way to the centre of a Christmas pie; and then the lady gave him her hand as a matter of course. Ichabod, on the contrary, had to win his way to the heart of a country coquette, beset with a labyrinth of whims and caprices, which were forever presenting new difficulties and impediments; and he had to encounter a host of fearful adversaries of real flesh and blood, the numerous rustic admirers, who beset every portal to her heart; keeping a watchful and angry eye upon each other, but ready to fly out in the common

Watchers of the FOX series will find some tasty homages to the book; the peerless daughter of Van Tassel is named Katrina. There are witches and Hessians and of course a headless horsemen. Beyond this there is no relation to the show -- except the establishment of an American literary tradition of casual entertainment and expansive storytelling.
He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette, is indeed a hero.

Four stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 11:15 AM | What do you think? [0]

December 13, 2013

Right to Contract

Submitted for your approval: THE WORST OBAMACARE HORROR STORY OF ALL!

Phillip Klein at the Washington Examiner investigates the HHS "Guidance" to insurance companies. Spoiler alert: the gub'mint that will control every dime your company sees until eternity "requests" that you ignore policy, procedure, and contract and simply give everybody everything they want so they don't go on Fox News and complain about ObamaCare®. But perhaps I misread:

Among the guidance the HHS announced:

-- It is requiring insurers to accept payments until Dec. 31 for coverage starting on Jan. 1. It is also "urging" insurers to give individuals more time beyond that to pay for coverage. In other words, if somebody pays for coverage in the middle of January, HHS is asking insurers to retroactively make that person's coverage effective as of Jan. 1. HHS is also asking insurers to cover individuals who offer a "down payment," even if that payment only covers part of the first month's premiums.

-- In a press release, HHS said it was also "strongly encouraging insurers to treat out-of-network providers as in-network to ensure continuity of care for acute episodes or if the provider was listed in their plan's provider directory as of the date of an enrollee's enrollment."

-- HHS is also "strongly encouraging insurers to refill prescriptions covered under previous plans during January."

On a conference call, an HHS spokeswoman emphasized: "We are just proposing it as an option and we're encouraging issuers. There is no requirement."

Banana republic much? Hat-tp: Jim Geraghty

But johngalt thinks:

No, this is far more serious than the behavior of a banana republic. This is something more ominous - an Ominous Parallel to an earlier era.

_____ distrusted capitalism for being unreliable due to its egotism, and he preferred a state-directed economy that is subordinated to the interests of the [people.] ______ said in 1927, "We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions."


______ believed that private ownership was useful in that it encouraged creative competition and technical innovation, but insisted that it had to conform to national interests...
Posted by: johngalt at December 13, 2013 1:43 PM

December 12, 2013

Like a million satirists cried out at once and were suddenly silenced...

Who needs doctors and web developers? They're bringing out the big guns now!

Pop singer Adam Levine, who was crowned People's "Sexiest Man Alive" this year, will take part in launching a social media campaign to promote Obamacare in California today.

Levine, the lead vocalist for Maroon 5 and judge on "The Voice," came under fire earlier this year for saying, "I hate this country" on an open mic during his show. Now, he brings his star power to help Obamacare overcome its troubled start.

Totes McGoats! He's like a hottie times infinity plus another infinity!!!

But johngalt thinks:


I asked dagny this morning, what I thought to be a serious question: "Now that gender identity and preference ambiguity is so mainstream, don't they need to separate 'sexiest -fill in the blank- alive' into separate categories for "same gender" and "opposite gender?"

She said I was ridiculous.

I say, look at the "Sexiest Man Alive." TM

Posted by: johngalt at December 12, 2013 7:02 PM
But jk thinks:

I did not know Mr. Levine until I posted this and I am notoriously bad at discerning attractiveness in men. I have to ask the lovely bride "is X good looking?" And I bat a little below .500.

I did get one right. If This Guy starts hawking ObamaCare, we're in for a Democratic wave in 2014...

Posted by: jk at December 13, 2013 10:57 AM

Our President? Mislead?

Bush-toady, Professor N. Gregory Mankiw, thinks "The CEA Fact Checkers Missed one:"

"[...] But there's no solid evidence that a higher minimum wage costs jobs."

From my perspective, the last sentence is just incorrect. There is a lot of work by reputable economists that finds adverse employment effects of a higher minimum wage. In a poll of top economists, as many say they believe that the adverse employment effect is noticeable as those that say the opposite.

The president could have said there is no completely decisive evidence. Or, more accurately, he could have said there is mixed evidence. But saying there is no solid evidence is misleading.

Also, don't miss his Two Random Things That Made Me Smile.

But Keith Arnold thinks:

You see, you all are so much nicer than I am. "... just incorrect..." "... say the opposite..." "... misleading..." about the SCOAMF.

Me, I just go straight to "lying sonova-"

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 13, 2013 1:15 AM
But jk thinks:

I posit that it is akin to grade inflation. Prof. Mankiw works for Harvard University. His accusing the President of misleading -- I daresay -- equals your LSOBSCOAMF.

Posted by: jk at December 13, 2013 11:01 AM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Thank you for filling me in. I hadn't stopped to factor in the Harvard angle, and that this was the political equivalent of the "Gentleman's B" (enjoy the reference:

By all means, do carry on...

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 13, 2013 11:43 AM
But T. Greer thinks:

This is a kind of funny.

Economists say a lot of things that turn out to be wrong or flawed.

The idea that raising the minimum wage above the market equilibrium will cause a surplus in labor supplied and a shortage in positions available is not one them.

Heck, if there is anything economists can claim as a success story, anything they can say "look this is something we found that is theoretically true and empirically verified!" this is it.

I probably have more sympathy with those who want to raise minimum wage than most of the folks here. But those who claim the wage should be raised need to be honest with the facts.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 14, 2013 3:41 PM
But jk thinks:

Agreed. I'd say there's an preponderance of evidence and overwhelming majority of economists in opposition to minimum wage laws. Even my überprogressive niece admitted that she learned (at Berkeley or Columbia -- one of those right wing bastions) that it was a bad idea.

An expanded EITC would be a lot more efficient and transparent. In my "the world is not ThreeSources" moments, I accept that that might be the best plan: an ultimate wage floor for adult workers in lieu of the alphabet soup of programs we have now.

Posted by: jk at December 15, 2013 11:08 AM

Mon Dieu!

One hates to take the side of the hackers. I mean, I am a law-and-order guy. But . . . . . . .

When the victims are EU Bureaucrats and the delivery mechanism is Carla Bruni, one must doff the chapeau:

NUDE pictures of former French first lady Carla Bruni were used to break in to the computer systems of dozens of diplomats, it emerged today.

The shocking security breach was first discovered at the G20 summit in Paris in February 2011 and may be ongoing.

"To see naked pictures of Carla Bruni click here" said a message sent to those attending, who included finance ministers and central bank representatives.

Via the (Australian) Telegraph. All pictures at the link are -- sadly -- SFW.

UPDATE: To see naked pictures of Carla Bruni click here.

But johngalt thinks:

Great, go ahead and drive up the bird killer clickthroughs why dontcha.

As for the Bruni pics, how long until they hack one of them into President Obama's selfie?

Posted by: johngalt at December 12, 2013 6:57 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm shocked that you clicked.

Posted by: jk at December 13, 2013 11:02 AM

Save the Eagles!

Blog Brother jg is on a campaign to protect our majestic national bird. He may have an ally in the do-nothing 113th Congress, if they can only dig deep and live up to the sobriquet:

The media are saying that the 113th Congress is on track to be "the least productive" on record--as if that's bad for the country. Let's hope gridlock lasts long enough to kill the crony capitalist special known as the wind production tax credit.

This subsidy that was supposed to be temporary is now 20 years old, providing a taxpayer gift to wind companies of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour. The handout would cost $18 billion over the next five years. The good news is that it is due to expire on December 31 unless Congress acts to extend it, so House Republicans can accomplish something for taxpayers by doing nothing.

The subsidy covers much of the cost of production, allowing the bird murderers to pay utilities to put their blood-soaked product on the grid. It's time we spoke up and did nothing!

Refrain from clicking Like to show your support!


Oil and Energy Posted by John Kranz at 12:28 PM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the Day

In the creative category, one of the strangest campaigns ever waged was the one by George Smathers against Claude Papper for the U.S. Senate in Florida in 1950. In his campaign speeches, Smathers began by referring to Pepper as "a known extrovert." He spat out the words with such disdain, many in his audiences assumed the worst of Pepper. While Pepper was trying to figure out how to respond, Smathers revealed that his opponent's sister was "a thespian." He then accused Pepper's brother of being "a practicing homo sapiens." He charged that while attending college, Pepper "matriculated on campus," and that he "engaged in celibacy" before he was married. Smathers won the election. -- Thomas Ayres

From the book "That's Not in My American History Book: A Compilation of Little Known Events" Hat-tip: my biological brother via email

But Keith Arnold thinks:

As if we needed any evidence beyond the current placeholder at 1600 Pennsylvania that few candidates have ever lost an election due to underestimating the intelligence of the average American voter.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 12, 2013 11:52 AM
But dagny thinks:

Hey Look, it's a vocabulary lesson for my children. Thanks JK!

This makes me think of articles I have seen explaining the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide.

Posted by: dagny at December 12, 2013 12:30 PM
But jk thinks:

Ilya Somin, call your office!

Posted by: jk at December 12, 2013 12:47 PM

December 11, 2013


A better word would be subsidy.

To summarize the CBS Denver 4 report:

Electric company establishes surcharge to customers to subsidize boutique power.
Initial kickback set at about 50 percent of installation cost.
Chinese "predatory pricing" and old fashioned competition drive costs down.
Electric company reduces surcharge.
Non-competitive boutique power installers whine that they "can't afford to pay employees."

Rilly? You were able to pay them when you paid half the cost to start with. What gives?

Oh, it's harder to sell your product to customers. I see.

Every morning you greet me.

T-Shirt Meme of the Day




End the insanity - ban wind power!

But Keith Arnold thinks:

It's telling that my first reaction was "They're playing the 3-9-1 Vikings this week, and Petersen is doubtful. How much more saving do they need?"

I wonder whether eagle paté tastes like chicken.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 11, 2013 4:09 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:


The eagle failed to make its saving throw versus Wind Farm.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 11, 2013 4:15 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I haven't read the O-admin's jackass rule yet but it is entirely possible that they've made it legal, under federal law, to kill eagles but not to possess their feathers. Although if they did have enough forsight to exempt employees, the only persons in North America legally authorized to possess eagle feathers would be Native Americans and wind farm workers.

Posted by: johngalt at December 11, 2013 6:05 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

I stand corrected on my initial comment - the Vikings are now 4-9-1. The Eagles failed to make their saving throw versus Minnesota.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 16, 2013 1:22 AM
But dagny thinks:

The Eagles made their saving throw, it just came in an odd form called the Green Bay Packers. Just as the Broncos saving throw came from some guys in orange and blue with Dolphins on their shirts. :-)

Posted by: dagny at December 16, 2013 12:19 PM
But jk thinks:

Yaaaaay Dolphins!!!

Posted by: jk at December 16, 2013 1:26 PM

Right on top of things!

Wow! Nothing gets past Madame Secretary -- she sees a problem, she fixes it! WSJ:

WASHINGTON--Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, responding to the botched launch of the health-insurance website, said Wednesday she has called for a review of contracting practices and a new official to oversee risk.

Thankful Thursday

Is that a meme? It oughtta be. This Thursday, I am thankful for the misguided focus of my intellectual adversaries' energy:


Click "Like" to demand an increase in the speed of light! "Like" the King Canute page to keep the tides away!

Gun Rights Posted by John Kranz at 12:55 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Click "like" to ban wind power forever!

Posted by: johngalt at December 11, 2013 3:52 PM

Book Title of the Day


On the web Posted by John Kranz at 12:41 PM | What do you think? [3]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Insty is on fire today:

"COMING NEXT, CLAUDE RAINS ORDERS AN INVESTIGATION INTO GAMBLING AT MONSIEUR RICK'S: Hilarious: Clueless Sebelius Demands Investigation Into Screwed-Up ObamaCare Website."

-- AND --


Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 11, 2013 3:59 PM
But jk thinks:

Ah, yes. I stole oxford comma for Facebook.

Posted by: jk at December 11, 2013 4:31 PM
But jk thinks:

... but missed Claude Rains. I saw that on WSJ though, sadly, several hours after his Instantness.

Posted by: jk at December 11, 2013 4:35 PM

December 10, 2013

All Hail Taranto

An underappreciated quality of ObamaCare is just how politically perverse its design is. It is disrupting the lives of, and imposing huge costs on, people who actually cared enough to get insurance before, in order to provide "benefits" to people who didn't care enough. Sure, there are some whose pre-existing conditions made them uninsurable and who may actually both be better off and appreciate it. But in their crazed drive for "comprehensive" "reform," the Democrats don't seem to have thought through the distribution of costs and benefits. -- James Taranto
But johngalt thinks:

... and votes.

The Centennial State rates a mention in the Taranto piece. And why not, since "no state has made a more agressive - or more idiotic - effort to recruit young policyholders than Colorado." And yet, as Taranto notes, only 11% of those who've signed up in our misguided state are in the targeted 18-34 age bracket.

Fear not brave O-care warriors. They just haven't seen this hottie singing her catchy (and hypnotically suggestive) tune yet.

Mmmm mmm mmmmm!

Posted by: johngalt at December 10, 2013 7:25 PM
But jk thinks:

Yes, Dr. Emmanuel, the upcoming PR Campaign will surely fix everything!

No secret I am a Taranto fan, but he was especially good today. And I thought, reading the Colorado bits, about my friend who was pushed from private insurance to Medicaid -- she counts as one the success stories!

Posted by: jk at December 10, 2013 8:20 PM

Quote of the Day

Can anyone think of a more boring, banal, irrelevant, or stale speech than the one [President Obama] gave this Thursday in Washington D.C.? The speech was allegedly on the economy, but more likely it was to divert attention from the Obamacare catastrophe. Whatever the motive, his idea that the defining challenge of our time is to reduce income inequality is completely wrong. In truth, the defining challenge is to restore more rapid economic growth, create substantially more jobs, and significantly reduce unemployment. -- Larry Kudlow
UPDATE: On the Other hand, Richard Epstein loved it!
No one, not even the United States, can be that good. In fact, our present national status will only become worse if we do not understand that the American position has eroded from its glory days, in part because of the very policies that the President champions as the solution to our issues. But where to begin? The President manages to pack so many economic and historical falsehoods into his speech that it is nearly impossible to take them all on at the same time.

In one of his illustrative sentences, he says: "The truth is we'll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who's best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages, who's best at busting unions, who's best at letting companies pollute as much as they want." For the President, each of these goals represents the ugly end of an economic "race to the bottom" that the U.S. should do its best to avoid. Unfortunately, his statement is wrong on every point.

But johngalt thinks:

The United States once enjoyed a period of prosperity that some might refer to as "glory days?" Huh. I thought that was just some cruel Republican myth.

Posted by: johngalt at December 10, 2013 3:11 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, yeah, after FDR rescued us from the Great Depression! Did you never read of the "New Deal?" It was in all the papers...

Posted by: jk at December 10, 2013 4:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Oh, look... you're right!

Posted by: johngalt at December 10, 2013 5:07 PM

December 9, 2013

Ruh Roh!


Congress itself is now having so much trouble signing up for the Obamacare exchanges that late Friday the top administrator in the House of Representatives laid out a backup plan in case lawmakers and staff can't get through the process by the time their enrollment ends Monday.

Hat-tip: Jim Geraghty

But Keith Arnold thinks:

Is the House of Representatives the only organization in America that forgot to get their waiver from Ehrbermakehr? Ermagerd!

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 9, 2013 12:21 PM
But johngalt thinks:

No, and they also aren't the only organization in America that will just pay the fine instead.

Posted by: johngalt at December 9, 2013 3:44 PM

Christmas Coffeehousin'

No "War on Christmas" at Live at the Coffeehouse dot com!


Blue Christmas

Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson ©1948 -- Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


December 8, 2013


Then, about fifteen years into my law practice, I noticed a shift in the federal courts. More and more of my clients (physicians, bankers, academics, scientists, investors, newspaper reporters, accountants, artists, and photographers) were being investigated and prosecuted for conduct that neither they nor I instinctively viewed as criminal. As I prepared to defend against the charges, I could not rid myself of the unsettling notion that the federal criminal laws were becoming vaguer and harder to understand with the passage of time.

Silverglate, Harvey (2011-06-07). Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (Kindle Locations 539-543). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

This book caused a bit of a stir when it came out a couple of years ago. I was interested but distracted and did not get around to buying it until a few weeks ago.

I thought from the title that it was about abstruse regulations like the poor guy John Stossel featured who went to jail -- in the US -- for importing lobster in plastic packages (as he had done for years and as Honduran law permits). Such stories are sad and anger me, but one hopes that they are as rare as ObamaCare success stories and can be similarly discounted.

Three Felonies a Day is darker and more serious. Silverglate documents prosecutorial overreach. Endemic overreach. Federal prosecutors can, Alice in Wonderland style, pick a person and put them away. Some of the cases documented have been discussed around here: Martha Stewart gets exonerated though the author will not join me in rehabilitating Sam Waxsal. Michael Milken, I think we all (we ThreeSourcers, kimosabe) accept got a raw deal.

Silverglate also goes to bat for the Enron folks. We as a nation had to have heads on a platter after that debacle -- and a host of bad, pointless legislation. But contra the 5th and 14th, people's liberty was taken without due process.

I posted a very entertaining video of Silverglate last week. As I mentioned, almost all of the villains in the book are Republicans. Hizzoner Rudy Giuliani -- whom I have praised at length on these pages -- established himself as a tough on crime, mob-busting, prosecutor. But like most, he relied some tools that are not conducive to the idea of free people. Patriot Act and terrorism prosecutions in the Bush Administration are put in harsh light.

We just saw the shakedown of Jamie Dimon and Chase. It is now in a corporation's best interest to just shovel money at the DOJ whenever they ask. The Feds have this great tool of "you're not going to win" and they can destroy (cf. Arthur Andersen) a company any time they'd like. So the corporations capitulate because it is in their best interest. But this leaves individuals with the implication of guilt and often without the corporation's resources to mount a vigorous defense. Those who fight and win tend to end up ruined.

The emptiness of the prosecutors' dramatic allegations was later hinted at when a judge dismissed the murder charges and lowered bail after a 21-day preliminary hearing. Four more years passed before the remaining felony charges were dismissed, and it was not until May 2004 that a jury acquitted Dr. Fisher of the remaining misdemeanor charges. By then, the damage had been done. Besides spending five months in jail, the financial burden of fighting for his reputation drained the 50-year-old Harvard alum's assets. After the acquittal, he had no choice but to live with his elderly parents. Not only are doctors vulnerable to the threat of such prosecutions, but, just as important, chronic pain sufferers cannot obtain relief.

I avoid the fever swamps of conspiracy theories and over-the-top accusations of impending fascism in favor of the self-interest of misguided people and bad ideas. But it is hard to stay upbeat after reading "Three Felonies a Day." The maw of government is there and it is invincible. I don't think it likely that they'll come after a humble blogger/software developer [Wait a miute, there's a knock at the door...]

No, seriously, this continues because it is something most can avoid. But I naively hold to the idea of a nation of laws. When you do not trust the current administration, it is frightful to imagine that they have these tools at their disposal. It can be directed at political enemies, eeevil bankers and anybody else not in the public's top ten this week, physicians (the section on pain medication is heartbreaking), pharmaceutical companies, &c.

Dark reading and I dare anybody to contradict it. I traded some email with a blog friend in the middle and he reminded me of Gibson guitar's Fish & Game SWAT team raid. Land of the free, huh?

The book is great, I am sorry I waited two years -- five stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 11:02 AM | What do you think? [4]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

"... But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security..."

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 9, 2013 12:16 PM
But jk thinks:

I hear you, Brother. I'm quite the fan of marginal fixes and working within the system, but this is a complete abdication of rule of law replaced by rule of men. That's harder to fix.

A new Congress might tinker with the Cap-Gains tax, but how do you fix this? I suppose a sea change on the Supreme Court might rein these lads in, but as Clark Neily III points out in Terms of Engagement, they are "on the government's side" as well. Perhaps President Rand Paul appoints Ted Cruz as AG and these practices are extirpated? Fairy Dust? Unicorn DAs?

Posted by: jk at December 9, 2013 12:36 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

In the 18th Century BC, Hammurabi had a pretty good idea: all laws should be on public display, and written simply enough that the town drunk could understand them and know what was required of him. Good times, good times. We've drifted a little bit from that notion, it seems.

I guess those were days when you didn't have to pass a law to find out what was in it. If someone runs for office and says he'll go back to that, he'll get my vote.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 9, 2013 1:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:


Perverted Law Causes Conflict

As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose — that it may violate property instead of protecting it — then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious. To know this, it is hardly necessary to examine what transpires in the French and English legislatures; merely to understand the issue is to know the answer.

Is there any need to offer proof that this odious perversion of the law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord; that it tends to destroy society itself? If such proof is needed, look at the United States [in 1850]. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation. But even in the United States, there are two issues — and only two — that have always endangered the public peace.

Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder

What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.

Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.

It is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime — a sorrowful inheritance from the Old World — should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States — where the proper purpose of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery and tariffs — what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?

Posted by: johngalt at December 10, 2013 2:44 AM

December 7, 2013


At least the president never promised, "If you like your local volunteer fire department, you can keep your local volunteer fire department."

That's Jim Geraghty's [subscribe] take on this nettlesome tale. I know, you're thinking that the architects of the PPACA of 2010 thought ahead and planned for every exigency. But what of volunteer fire departments? It seems this corner case slipped through:

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has asked the Internal Revenue Service, which has partial oversight of the law, to clarify if current IRS treatment of volunteer firefighters as employees means their hose companies or towns must offer health insurance coverage or pay a penalty if they don't.

The organization representing the fire chiefs has been working on the issue with the IRS and White House for months.

"It could be a huge deal," said U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, who is seeking clarification from the IRS. "In Pennsylvania, 97 percent of fire departments are fully or mostly volunteer firefighters. It's the fourth highest amount in the country."

So far, the IRS hasn't decided what to do.

Schadenfreude, Schadenfreude, every morning you greet me...

But AndyN thinks:

As a transplant to PA, one of the local conventions that amused me when I first moved here was the firehouse wedding. For anyone else who's unaware of the concept, volunteer fire companies here frequently have a big conference room type space built onto their firehouse which they rent out as a way to raise funds. People hire a caterers and band or DJ, and rent the fire hall for wedding receptions. Maybe it's a bit rednecky, but having grown up in Texas I have to admit that it's far from the most rednecky thing I've ever seen.

Now I can't help but wonder, if volunteer fire companies are forced to start buying health insurance, are we going to start seeing a marketing war between them and professional banquet halls? If banquet halls, like other food service companies, start cutting staff hours to get out from under their own PPACA requirements, will their decrease in service quality make a firehouse wedding even more attractive?

As for this: "A local congressman wants answers on whether volunteer firefighting companies could be unintentionally swept into the national health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama." I hate to sound paranoid, but if volunteer fire companies begin to fail because of the financial burden, the alternative will be higher taxes and professional fire fighters. Which political party will benefit from more unionized government employees? I'm no longer willing to buy the idea that any adverse effects of legislation are completely unintentional, particularly where they help accrue more power to the government.

Posted by: AndyN at December 7, 2013 5:06 PM
But jk thinks:

I'll see your paranoia and raise you. I don't think there are any unintended victims of ObamaCare outside of congressional staffers.

Volunteer Fire Departments reek of Tocquevillian associations and Burkean Platoons. I think those could all be replaced by The State.

And just wait until the Universal Wedding Hall Initiative is announced...

Posted by: jk at December 7, 2013 6:38 PM
But AndyN thinks:

Or wait until those of the disparate impact lawsuit mentality discover that it's unlikely a gay couple has ever held a wedding reception in a fire hall.

Posted by: AndyN at December 7, 2013 7:38 PM

December 6, 2013

Review Corner Fodder

Hey, what should I read?

I never appreciated the line "I'm so behind on my reading." Show me somebody who is caught up and I'll show you a guy with nothin' to read. I just got David Mamet's "3 War Stories" and a gooberload of books for work about a new platform on which I'll be developing. But the standard fare is missing.


UPDATE: Okay: A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case as seen on Jon Caldera's Devil's Advocate.

Posted by John Kranz at 5:48 PM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the Day

Burke, of course is right. The challenge for each new generation is figuring out what's worth keeping and what worth tinkering with. The progressive attitude is that everything is eligible not just for tinkering, but wholesale replacement. The people who lived yesterday were idiots, but we are geniuses! The conservative attitude is to assume that our parents and grandparents weren't fools and that they did some things for good reasons. But -- and here is the Hayekian part -- it's also possible that some things our forebears bequeathed us are good for no "reason" at all. Friedrich Hayek argued that many of our institutions and customs emerged from "spontaneous order" -- that is they weren't designed on a piece of paper, they emerged, authorless, to fulfill human needs through lived experience, just as our genetic "wisdom" is acquired through trial and error. Paths in the forest aren't necessarily carved out on purpose. Rather they emerge over years of foot traffic. -- Jonah Goldberg

The Ultimate ACA Horror Story

Millions of Americans are having their insurance and their doctors canceled all across the country, which the administration defends on the basis that all of them can get replacement policies and that the new policies are way more cool than the fuddy duddy policies they outlawed with their fancy health insurance reform law. Their fancy reforms are also making health care much less expensive - just ask them - but even so, most of the documented replacement policies have cost more, as much as 2 to 3 times more, than the policies they replaced. But this replacement policy story takes the cake. The top Democrat in the US Senate, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, saw his monthly premium spike by $4500! (annually, I presume) Outrageous! Someone do something! Sign a petition! Call your congressman!

"And I will also note that there are 150,000 million different families that get their health care through their employees," Reid said. "So should all federal employees, although under Obamacare, my insurance costs me about $4,500 more that it did before. Yes, because it is age-related and it wasn’t like that before."

Oh, is that all it was. Insurance companies never charged old folks more because they were more likely to get sick. I see.

I'm not even gonna try to figure out "150 thousand million" or "get their health care through their employees." My head hurts enough already. (HHEA Party?)

But Keith Arnold thinks:

Harry Reid. His own petard.

Some assembly required.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 6, 2013 7:23 PM

December 5, 2013


Not a parody! (I will apologize if it is shown to be, and drink a cup of cold Folgers coffee in recompense.)

The winner of the ObamaCare Video Contest:

UPDATE: Legit: "Erin McDonald was named the Grand Prize winner with her video 'Forget about the Price Tag' in a Google+ Hangout featuring Kal Penn and White House Health Care policy expert Christen Linke Young on December 2. Watch Erin's video below."

Never watching House or Harold & Kumar again, that's fer damn sure...

But johngalt thinks:

"Take advantage of this opportunity."
"Can't put a price on life."
"We just wanna make it more fair."

Unfortunately, it's easier to find rhyming words for fair than it is to define the term.

Posted by: johngalt at December 6, 2013 4:57 PM
But jk thinks:

It's not about the reason-reason-reason,
it's not about thought-thought-thought.
It's about whether you're rhyming-rhyming-rhymin'
Or whether you're not.

Posted by: jk at December 6, 2013 5:34 PM

Merry Christmas!

Here' s an early gift -- or perhaps, for Haaahvy, an on -time Hanukah gift.

I just finished his "Three Felonies a Day" and a glowing Review Corner is on the way. The review will point out that all the villains happen to be Repblicans. But I agree with every word.

While you wait -- eagerly I hope -- for Review Corner, just enjoy Haaahvy and the broad he married:

Education Posted by John Kranz at 3:09 PM | What do you think? [0]

Meanwhile, in Buffy News...

Five Reasons to keep watching SHIELD.

The show started out with a bang, but a good number of people have dropped off along the way. "SHIELD's" meandering pace this season likely is part of the reason, but as the series heads towards its midseason, our vote is that people should keep watching.

Mmmmkay, but most of them could be applied to ObamaCare®...

Television Posted by John Kranz at 12:13 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

There is, however, one truly compelling reason: Terri likes it.

Posted by: jk at December 5, 2013 12:26 PM
But Terri thinks:

And that my dears is Extremely compelling! LOL

And ObamaCare doesn't have Joss moving the characters around.

Posted by: Terri at December 6, 2013 11:25 AM

Income Inequality Quote of the Day

Mr. Obama returned to his favorite theme of rising income inequality on Wednesday, which he called "the defining challenge of our time." He ought to know since few Presidents have done more to increase inequality than he has. Median household income has fallen since the economic recovery began, while the rich who own capital assets have done very well thanks to the Federal Reserve's focus on reflating stock and home prices. Mr. Obama is the Chief Economist of Nottingham posing as Robin Hood. -- WSJ Ed Page
But johngalt thinks:

Fool millenials twice, shame on them. If they will believe that employers will hire just as many of them at a 50% higher cost, why not just promise them they can get paid for not showing up? A law mandating that might really "lift liberal voter turnout in 2014." Kinda like the law that mandated free insurance for the uninsured while not affecting the insurance anyone already had. "Hey, kid, I got a really sweet deal on a beach front condo for ya."

Posted by: johngalt at December 5, 2013 12:09 PM

December 4, 2013

"Substandard" (adj.)

When applied to insurance by government, none of the standard definitions are adequate. A new definition is required:

3. c. indicates coverage of cancer treatments but not maternity or birth control treatments.

"Now with ObamaCare, the man that I've got looked into it, they are not going to pay for pharmaceuticals or medical devices. MRI that I had last month before I got canceled was $3,000. Now, if I have to have another one, it costs me out of my pocket $3,000," Elliott told Kelly on Nov. 7.

"I've thought about this long and hard," Elliott said. "When my insurance comes out, just for me, it will be $1,500 a month with a $13,500 deductible. I'm not going to pay that. If I make it that long, I will pay the $95 fine and let nature take its course."

Elliott told Kelly he actually voted for Obama over Mitt Romney last year specifically because he liked what Obama had promised about being able to keep your doctors and your insurance plans.

The election being over, the Obama administration said his plan was "substandard" and this is a better plan and deal for his family.

The government definition of "better" is left as an exercise for the reader.

But jk thinks:

Ingrate! That birth control is absolutely free! No copays, no out of pocket!

Posted by: jk at December 4, 2013 4:58 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yessir, you got it brother... "free." Remain calm, dagny.

Posted by: johngalt at December 4, 2013 5:42 PM

Pendulum Swings Right in Partisan Divide


From the IBD Editorial Dems Are The Out-of-Touch Extremists

The only reason Obama and his fellow Democrats aren't constantly tagged as extreme is because the press is so far left that it treats them as reasonable centrists. Meanwhile, by skewing the polls, the increasingly radicalized Democratic Party manages to make the country appear more liberal than it really is.

I would say "more socialist" instead of more liberal. I still believe Americans are quite liberal in the classical sense, i.e. individual liberty.


I thought "maybe I should turn pro," reading that I had left $58 on the table helping a friend navigate.

Blog friend Attila set me straight:

AEI Wheat of the Day

Retired Buffalo Police Captain Peter Christ speaks out against the "War on Drugs:"

When you institute a prohibition like we have with drugs in this country, what you are doing is not protecting people from other people, you are attempting to use law enforcement to protect people from themselves. Protecting you from yourself is a function of family, church, education, and the health care system. It never is, and never should have been intended to be, a law enforcement function. We are out there enforcing morality when we enforce drug laws, and that is not our job. We were not trained to do it, we are not capable of doing it, and if anything else you see the failure of it.

[Heh: the headline refers to a kind comment by blog friend tg, complementing my separating "the wheat from the chaff" on AEI. I'm a pretty big AEI fan and am torn between voraciously defending a friend of liberty and graciously accepting kind words...]

War on Drugs Posted by John Kranz at 12:00 PM | What do you think? [1]
But T. Greer thinks:


It is a good quote though, I agree.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 9, 2013 11:36 PM

Tweet of the Day

Posted by John Kranz at 11:24 AM | What do you think? [0]

GOP War on Workers

I've been silent because I have agreed with many of their policies, but this is a bridge too damn far: Republicans force staffers to use ObamaCare! It's a War on Women! It's a War on Men! It's a War on The Transgendered!

CNN Buries the lede, and makes it about Leader Reid:

Washington (CNN) --- Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of Obamacare's architects and staunchest supporters, is also the only top congressional leader to exempt some of his staff from having to buy insurance through the law's new exchanges.

Reid is the exception among the other top congressional leaders. GOP House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have all directed their staffs to join the exchange, their aides said.

December 3, 2013

All Hail Taranto!


Best of the Web

Otequay of the Ayday

I like to call myself "blog optimist" and I'll dub John Tamney "IBD Ed Page Optimist" for this piece.

"Republicans should be thankful for Obama precisely because his comical rollout of ObamaCare has Americans once again skeptical of politicians promising the world."

And a bonus quote that paraphrases my dear dagny:

There are no "free goods" in any society. Someone is always paying, and as ObamaCare promised something for nothing, logic dictated that it would fail even without advance knowledge of a "website malfunction."

Living Blues

Blog friend SugarChuck is a prolific and in-demand sideman who excels at escaping the "entangling alliances" inherent in band membership. An exception was made to create a CD with Annie Mack. I've talked it up 'round these parts a little.

The work has grabbed some great reviews, but the important one in this space would be Living Blues Magazine. Spoiler Alert: They Loved it! (Scroll down a bit, they don't like <a> tags over there -- not authentic enough HTML for the blues purist.)

Vocalist Annie Mack is the best kind of "roots" artist--dedicated to the heritage she's embraced, but resolute in her refusal to be pigeonholed. The title tune on this, her debut CD, is full of shout-outs to blues tradition, but it's propelled by a boogity-shoe funk backing. The disc’s most straightforward gospel number, Call On Jesus, owes as much to classic-era, Latin-tinged R&B as it does to the gospel tradition; the wronged lover's lament Fool to Believe grafts a Love Light-like groove onto a proto-funk, New Orleans-tinged rhythmic pattern. Elsewhere, Mack delves into roadhouse rock, neo-Kimbrough trance boogie, country-tinged deep-soul balladry, and blues/rock/pop mélange in the contemporary mix-and-match mode. Her alto delivery is strong, and she seems to gain flexibility as she immerses herself more deeply in her material--any hint of rookie self-consciousness is erased when the spirit hits. Her band, meanwhile, summons high energy without succumbing to overkill, and they always remember to play ideas, not just notes, even at their most exuberant and hard-charging.

A special word about Mack's lyrics: Her storylines portray everything from the struggles of a woman with "calloused hands [and] broken dreams" who finds solace in "a little taste of whiskey [and] them old blues songs" (Hey, Hey Mama) through the triumph of a street urchin, traumatized by "bullets . . . flying through her world," who eventually faces down the Devil in human form ("A two legged snake") and resolutely keeps "moving on the road of life" (Little Girl Blues), to the determination of a woman "tired of whiskey-laced love" who vows to find "a way to make myself truly mine" (Walking Dead). Along the way, she reaffirms her faith (Call On Jesus, Revolution), faces down despair (Seems Like Sorrow), cries out again for love (G-Groove), and opens her heart to a beloved child (the folkish Saving Grace). In a blues world overrun with bad-mama posturing on one hand and hoochie-mama silliness on the other, it's refreshing to hear a lyricist with deeper ideas on her mind. That alone makes Annie Mack worth checking out; the vocal and musical quality of this set only adds to the pleasure.

—David Whiteis

Perfect Stocking Stuffer...

Music Posted by John Kranz at 11:35 AM | What do you think? [0]

Compared to all your other failures, this is really bad

Attention, White House staffers: This is not Syria, some far-off land that people will eventually forget about. This isn't Benghazi; the country won't eventually move on and forget about your lies. This is not "Fast and Furious;" most Americans can't just shrug that it doesn't affect them. This is not the IRS abuse scandal, which you can blame on some low-level employees in a Cincinnati office, or GSA employees spending taxpayer dollars on luxury hotels in Las Vegas. This isn't Solyndra. This isn't wiretapping AP telephone lines or preparing a conspiracy charge against Fox News's James Rosen. This isn't even the NSA domestic-surveillance scandal, a revelation that really aggravates people but that fades from the headlines over time.

No, this is the health care of millions of people that you're botching, after years and years of assuring the public that you can handle this and that they'll love the results of your efforts, hammered through Congress on party-line votes. -- Jim Geraghty

But johngalt thinks:

"...and that will only affect the uninsured because everyone who already has a doctor and insurance that he likes, or at least likes better than what you're offering, can keep things the way they are. Or perhaps could have, until you #ucked it up."

President Obama has managed, more or less, to sidestep responsibility for the economic malaise that grips the country, and has done so for more than five years. Now, he and the Democrats own not just the health insurance problems that O-care the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has created, but everything that anyone doesn't like about doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. Way to step in front of a bus, Dems!

Posted by: johngalt at December 3, 2013 12:15 PM

December 2, 2013

Rapacious Piano Teachers

Had a little fun with this on Facebook (actually, somebody else started it). But it is Kim Strassel, and it cannot pass without post:

In March of this year, a small nonprofit in Cincinnati--the Music Teachers National Association--received a letter from the FTC. The agency was investigating whether the association was engaged in, uh, anticompetitive practices.

This was bizarre, given that the MTNA has existed since 1876 solely to advance the cause of music study and support music teachers. The 501(c)(3) has about 22,000 members, nearly 90% of them piano teachers, including many women who earn a modest living giving lessons in their homes. The group promotes music study and competitions and helps train teachers. Not exactly U.S. Steel.

The association;s sin, according to the feds, rested in its code of ethics. The code lays out ideals for members to follow--a commitment to students, colleagues, society. Tucked into this worthy document was a provision calling on teachers to respect their colleagues' studios, and not actively recruit students from other teachers.

That's a common enough provision among professional organizations (doctors, lawyers), yet the FTC avers that the suggestion that Miss Sally not poach students from Miss Lucy was an attempt to raise prices for piano lessons. Given that the average lesson runs around $30 an hour, and that some devoted teachers still give lessons for $5 a pop, this is patently absurd.

Anti-competitive price fixers!

The Commercialization of Cyber Monday Continues...

I love Professor McCloskey's books (I may have mentioned that once or twice...) but I had never seen her until, oh, two minutes and 55 seconds ago. Pretty good:

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 4:39 PM | What do you think? [0]

Pontiff - Professorial Pugalistics

N. Gregory Mankiw responds to Pope Francis. My Tweeps called it "a smackdown." I don't want to perpetuate discord, but I can't resist a pedantic and alliterative headline.

First, throughout history, free-market capitalism has been a great driver of economic growth, and as my colleague Ben Friedman has written, economic growth has been a great driver of a more moral society.

Second, "trickle-down" is not a theory but a pejorative used by those on the left to describe a viewpoint they oppose. It is equivalent to those on the right referring to the "soak-the-rich" theories of the left. It is sad to see the pope using a pejorative, rather than encouraging an open-minded discussion of opposing perspectives.

Third, as far as I know, the pope did not address the tax-exempt status of the church. I would be eager to hear his views on that issue. Maybe he thinks the tax benefits the church receives do some good when they trickle down.

Iiiiiiiiiin this corner, representing the Chair of St. Peter: His hooooooliness pooooope Francis! Iiiiiin this corner, representing Haaaahvaaaahd Yaaaaahd, The Crimson, and "In Vino Veritas," theeee professssor himself, Greg Mankiw.... I want a fair fight, no Latinate below the belt, Shake hands and come out swingin'...

Quote of the Day

Isn't It Awful the Way Cyber Monday Has Gotten So Commercialized? -- Jim Geraghty

December 1, 2013

Review Corner

Hmm. Now that I have possibly facilitated the enrollment of a human being in Medicare, what better time to review Avik Roy's How Medicaid Fails the Poor?

We should make one thing clear: while Medicaid costs too much, its principal problem is that it doesn't make Medicaid patients healthier. It's not wrong to spend a large sum of money on health care for the poor. It is wrong to waste large sums of money on health care for the poor. There are so many market-based alternatives to Medicaid, alternatives that would offer uninsured, low-income Americans the opportunity to see the doctor of their choice and gain access to high-quality, private-sector health care.
That's the dirty secret of Medicaid. You might have heard the rumor that uninsured people are clogging emergency rooms because the law allows them to get free care there. But the unreported story is that it is Medicaid patients who clog the emergency rooms because they can't persuade regular doctors to see them.

Roy (people in Montreal and Denver struggle to pronounce it like Mr. Rogers's first name and not Evelyn Waugh's last -- to compound it, the author's first name is pronounced OH-vick) highlights studies that show Medicaid patients' outcomes statistically below those of the uninsured. While it would be easy to think that anomalistic, Roy details several good reasons why this could be.

The book opens with the heartbreaking story of Deamonte Driver, a seventh grader in Maryland who died of a toothache. His indigent mother was unable to find a dentist to accepted a new Medicaid patient, and over time -- government programs excel at eating time -- the infection spread to his brain. Much as I rail against government, I hesitate to pin this single tragedy on them. But we are -- courtesy of ObamaCare and my facilitatorship -- adding to the Medicaid rolls without addressing the physician shortage on the other side.

Medicaid was a statistically significant predictor of death three years after transplantation, even after controlling for other clinical factors. Overall, Medicaid patients faced a 29 percent greater risk of death. You'd think that Medicaid’s poor health outcomes would be a scandal on the left. You'd be wrong. After all, Obamacare puts 17 million more Americans into the Medicaid program.

The difference between insurance and care matters not to the left. The difference between a card and a doctor seem to elude them as well. An Oregon program to expand membership held a lottery where the lucky winners could enroll under relaxed qualifications.
Finally, on May 1, 2013 -- 10 months late -- the New England Journal of Medicine published the second-year findings. Did Medicaid save lives? No. It "generated no significant improvement in measured physical health outcomes," including death, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. What's almost as striking as this nonresult is how few Oregonians felt the need to sign up for this allegedly lifesaving program. The authors report that of the 35,169 individuals who "won" the lottery to enroll in Medicaid, only 60 percent actually bothered to fill out the application. In the end, only half of those who applied ended up enrolling.

But, what about the security of coverage?
Nonetheless, Medicaid's cheerleaders seized on this qualified bit of good news. "This is an astounding finding ... a huge improvement in mental health," said economist Gruber. To which conservative blogger Ben Domenech responded, "I wonder whether we'd be better off replacing the [Medicaid] expansion with a program that hands out $ 500 in cold hard cash and a free puppy."

Roy suggests a replacement, not with the puppy, but with a catastrophic plan and a voucher for concierge medicine. We could provide the poor with coverage chosen by many well-off Americans (well, until ObamaCare makes it illegal) for the same amount, and get more predictable and controlled spending rates as well.

This is a "Broadside" (very short book by Encounter Books). Five bucks on your Kindle and an hour before Kickoff. Five stars.

But T. Greer thinks:

I like his plan.

I would think it is a good model for getting rid of most all ss type benefits.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 2, 2013 6:11 PM

Your Certified PPACA Facilitator

Not sure I could pass the rigorous background check required to go pro, but I did a little navigatin' and facilitatin' yesterday. I helped a slightly nervous friend out. She had a private, individual policy which she liked but she was unable to keep it. It seems I had heard something about that somewhere, but her insurer sent a notice of cancellation and the suggestion to enroll in a more expensive and higher deductible policy or to shop at the exchange.

I thought it likely that this person would qualify for subsidies, so I suggested the exchange. And volunteered my not insignificant browsing, pointing, and clicking skillset.

It was not a third-world experience. I think Colorado is a little ahead of the game, and while I would not describe the web application or workflow as slick, it was serviceable and completed all requested tasks without crashing. Here's how it works:

  • You create an account at ConnectForHealthColorado.

  • You can browse plans without giving information. Zip code. tobacco consumption, and birth month gets you a list of plans. In the East Metro area, there were six or seven. All were at least 33% more than the plan they were replacing, but two were less than the replacement suggested by Kaiser Permanente (even one Kaiser plan).

  • I was wary of the Washington State woman who was enrolled in Medicaid without consent, but the only way to see if you qualify for subsidies is to be turned down by Medicaid; you have to provide a case ID from your rejection to inquire about subsidies.

  • So, you are redirected to where you create another account and apply for Medicaid in a one-stop shopping for several state aid programs. A long but not particularly grueling form gets you a real-time online answer, though verification and enrollment is done by mail.

My client -- like the Evergreen Stater -- did not want to enroll in Medicaid. To Colorado's credit she was not automatically enrolled. And to Colorado's credit, I quickly reached a helpful person on the telephone to clarify. If you are eligible for Medicaid you can decline. But you cannot get any subsidies for a private plan if you qualify for Medicaid.

So that is where this lugubrious tale ends. My client, who has been only able to secure part-time work (no way that is related to ObamaCare in any way shape or form), can now choose between a more expensive plan with higher copays and deductibles, or the public dole. Not my choice but I counseled -- Bastiat aside -- Medicaid. One more moves from the ranks of the self sufficient.

But johngalt thinks:

You recommended Medicaid? Even though people with no insurance at all are better off?

(You were waiting for this one, weren't you.)

Posted by: johngalt at December 2, 2013 12:21 PM
But jk thinks:

I was waiting for burning crosses on the golf course outside le condo d'Amour... To be fair, government created quite a bit of this person's difficulty.

I think the outcome failure is statistical. I expect that a responsible person would exercise good judgment about when to see a physician and do okay on Medicaid. Roy is correct to oppose it as a panacea but I am not incorrect in advising an individual's selection.

The decision has yet to made as far as I know. But $400 versus nothing is a compelling choice to a part-time worker.

Typing this, I just had the genius insight to save the entire country (uh-oh): Medicaid + Concierge medicine. Take the gub'mint card, but pay in $80/month directly to a physician. You now have a place for colds, routine exams, &c. If a more serious problem occurs you have to go into the Medicaid network but you retain your physician as advocate and primary counsel.

This is not a philosophical fix for ThreeSourcers; taxpayers are still on the hook for large swaths of the population. But it is a pragmatic fix to ameliorate the physician shortage in Medicaid. The purchaser gets an immediate fix, the others now compete with one fewer patient for the available pool.

Ultimately, we are headed toward the Irish model and I am resigned to it. Government provides bad care to everybody. Responsible people buy private insurance to gain greater access. Because the socialized model is backstopping catastrophic care, the private plans are not that expensive.

Would I prefer freedom, yup. But I don't think that is on the menu whatever happens in '14 or '16. This is a non-legislative fix.

Posted by: jk at December 2, 2013 12:49 PM

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