Monthly Archives: June 2012

RON PAUL! – Because Blogger’s Formatting Sucks

Yesterday, Ron Paul reacted to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act passed constitutional muster. I doubt I’m giving anything away by saying that he disagreed with the court. He kept it brief, a mere three paragraphs, but he managed to be very “Ron Paul-like” in that span. I’m not going to go through it line-by-line (after yesterday’s formatting fiasco, I’m going to hold off on that for a while), but there were some choice nuggets that I can’t resist reacting to:


“Today we should remember that virtually everything government does is a ‘mandate.’ …The issue is that this compulsion implies the use of government force against those who refuse.  The fundamental hallmark of  a free society should be the rejection of force. “

I love this in the same way I loved making John Bolton the ambassador to the United Nations after he said that he did not believe that the U.N. was a real thing. Dr. Paul, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said:

1) Everything government does is a mandate.
2) A mandate implies the use of force.
3) Free societies reject force.
4) We want to be a free society (implied).
Ergo:
5) We shouldn’t have government.

I’m not going to comment on whether or not this is a good idea, but it is novel coming from a member of the government. This one, on the other hand, I will giddily label a Really Bad Idea:

“Only free market medicine can restore the critical independence of doctors, reduce costs through real competition and price sensitivity, and eliminate enormous paperwork burdens.”

No. Just no. This is not how it works. The market (and, having seen Robot Jox, I cannot write “the market” without giggling) is an effective way to determine value/pricing any many, many cases, but it utterly fails as a means for paying for health care. That’s an important distinction, by the way. This is about how health care is paid for, not how it’s provided. 

As with car care, there are essentially two aspects of health care: preventative and emergency (because my neologism “postventative” never caught on). In this case, I use “emergency” as shorthand for “any care you receive when you’re already sick or hurt.” The more access you have to the former, the less you will need the latter, and preventative care is both less expensive and more predictable than emergency care.

It is not, however, free. The more income you have, the more likely you are to have access to and take advantage of preventative care. Likewise, the more income you have, the more likely you are to be able to afford emergency care when it is needed. The upshot of this is that the people who can least afford emergency care are going to be the ones most likely to need it.

Of course, there is some emergency care that is so expensive that almost no one would be able to afford it out of pocket. Cancer treatment would be almost unthinkably expensive, as would, say, the surgery, hospital stay, and rehab from a serious head injury. Health care usage is extremely spiky. One may have almost no need for health care services for years and then suddenly get hit with something  that is financially crippling.

This is, of course, why we have insurance. Insurance is a reasonably good stop-gap to help smooth out the spikes in health care costs. It’s true that a even a person who takes good care of themselves and has access to preventative care will sometimes be unlucky and have a catastrophic health care emergency.  The odds don’t tell you much about what will happen to an individual. But, the odds do work really well for large populations. If the odds are one in a million that a person will get, say, hit by a meteor, then an insurance company insuring a million people against meteor strikes can be very, very sure that they’ll only be paying one claim.  This scales with size: The larger the risk pool, the more certain one can be of the odds.

Another wrinkle that makes the system less than perfect is that, when you buy insurance, you have to guess at what kind of coverage you’ll need. You can play the odds, sure, but there’s no way to know of or plan for what life may throw at you. The insurance companies have a big advantage here: They know the odds and, by pooling the risk, they can spread the risk across a large number of premium-paying customers. You, on the other hand, are stuck.

Now, insurance companies are for-profit entities and so they would like to do everything they can to maximize their profits and minimize their risks. There’s nothing evil about this. That’s exactly how a for-profit company should behave if they wish to remain for-profit. Unfortunately, this profit incentive does nothing to improve how health care is paid for and increases the overall cost of health care. The larger a risk pool is, the more efficient it is. However, it is more profitable to divide up the pool. You can target low-risk people and offer them lower rates and still make money. Then, in turn, you can charge more to the people who are more likely to consume health care and then fight tooth-and-nail when they expect you to make a payment. Again, I’m not saying that this is sinister behavior-this is how a for-profit entity is expected to behave.

Ok, maybe I’m lying about the “sinister” bit. Since we’re talking about “for-profit” here, the company paying for your health care has a very strong incentive to find a reason to deny payment. Obviously, this is even more the case when the annual claims are very high. If you have over $35,000 in annual claims, there is a 50/50 chance that your insurance provider will claim that you never actually had insurance in the first place. This makes sense for the insurance company, but it’s kind of a drag if you’re the one making the catastrophic claims.

Why all of this matters is that emergency health care coverage is frequently not optional. If you’re really sick, you go to whichever doctor will take you. If you get in a wreck, you are taken to the nearest emergency room. If you get cancer, you don’t really have the option to just stay home and live with it. For markets to function properly, the consumer has to be able to make choices. 

Now, I understand that Ron Paul and his supporters don’t see it this way. If you lose a finger and you don’t have lost finger insurance, that’s just tough. If you can’t afford the care that will save your life, then you should just quietly pass away and stop bothering people. I think that’s a monstrous way of looking at human life, but at least they’re consistent about it.

Fortunately, most people do not share Dr. Paul’s view. As a backstop, we, as a society, will usually wind up picking up the tab when someone shows up in an emergency room, bleeding profusely, and without insurance or visible means of payment. I’m glad we do it, but it’s probably the worst way to go about providing health care. This system ensure that:

1) People who are at risk of needing emergency health care will be pooled with other high risk people and have to pay more for insurance (assuming they can find it).

2) People who cannot afford to pay for health care will get the least preventative care (cheap) and, conversely, need the most emergency care (expensive).

3) People who cannot afford to pay for health care will be required to actually fall ill or become injured and require emergency care before they will be assisted.

This system ensure the maximum suffering and the highest cost for health care. Essentially, it rewards the profits associated with low-risk individuals to private companies while it puts the costs associated with catastrophic illness on the public dime.

A “market” system doesn’t solve any of this. A person’s health isn’t subject to market forces. The single most efficient way to pay for health care is a single-payer system. This maximizes the risk pool, removes the incentive to deny payment to the catastrophic ill, and makes preventative health care available to those who can least afford to pay for catastrophic illness. Due to the absurdly high costs of emergency care, providing this preventative care for would lower the health care costs to the public right now, even if we weren’t to go to a single-payer system.

But we really should. The vast majority of large health care expenses are non-discretionary. The most efficient way to deal with this is for everyone to pay for everyone’s health care. I’m all for personal responsibility, but I’d prefer to restrict it to things one can personally control, you know?




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My Favorite Right-Wing Liar

Given the title, you’d probably think this is going to be about Rush Limbaugh, but it isn’t. It’s a good guess, though. Rush has an amazing way of just making up facts on the fly to support whatever idea he’s pushing or outrage he’s asking us to share with him. You combine that with his shameless hypocrisy, his inability to exist in any meaningful way outside his bubble, and his unmatched hubris and…man, it’s a hell of a package.


But what Rush is missing is that he doesn’t even try to pretend to be rational. He doesn’t need to see evidence because he just knows*. That’s great and all, but it’s just not very satisfying to deconstruct. For a right-wing liar to be really special, they need to try to form a logical argument. There’s a “meta” element to this in that, not only are the facts they cite a lie, but the logical elements are invalid as well. That’s waaaaay more fun.


So, without further ado…Ann Coulter, come on down!


Ann’s famous for writing a book and not including footnotes because her facts were…iffy. When called on it, she included footnotes in her next book, but let than 20% of them had anything to do with what they purported to support. She’s just. that. awesome. Her latest missive is tame by her standards, but it’s still a great example of how really impressive she is at misinforming her audience.


So impressive, in fact, that I’m going to go through the whole thing, paragraph by paragraph. Here’s the original just so you can see that I’m not adding or removing anything from it: The Biggest Scandal In U.S. History.


Let’s get started!


Forget executive privilege, contempt of Congress, “fast and furious,” how many documents the government has produced and who said what to whom on which date. 


Wow! This is going to be good. If it’s bigger than “Fast and Furious”, then I’m going to go make popcorn.


The Obama administration has almost certainly engaged in the most shockingly vile corruption scandal in the history of the country, not counting the results of Season Eight on “American Idol.” 


I don’t know anything about Season Eight of “American Idol”, but the most shockingly vile corruption scandal? More shocking than The Gulf of Tonkin? More shocking than the made-up Iraqi WMD? Even on a personal level, more shocking than the murder of Pat Tillman, the cover up, and then the attempts to use him as a recruiting tool? 


Administration officials intentionally put guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, so that when the guns taken from Mexican crime scenes turned out to be American guns, Democrats would have a reason to crack down on gun sellers in the United States. 


Wait, what? This is the thing you told us to forget about at the beginning. Or, at least, the first phrase appears to reference “Fast and Furious.” I haven’t seen any evidence that the reasons for the program that Ann cites, which makes her plea for us to forget about the facts of the case make sense. 


Democrats will never stop trying to take our guns away. They see something more lethal than a salad shooter and wet themselves. 


According to Chad Ramsey of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence: “The administration has said almost nothing about the gun issue since Obama took office.” This is what we in the business refer to as a “straw man.”  There are, of course, liberals who support stronger gun control legislation, but Ms. Coulter is making it sound much worse than the facts support.


But since their party was thrown out of Congress for the first time in nearly half a century as a result of passing the 1994 “assault weapons ban,” even liberals know they were going to need a really good argument to pass any limitation on guns ever again. 


The idea that people who consider owning assault weapons a good idea were ever going to vote Democratic is amusing. Ann’s re-writing history here.


So it’s curious that Democrats all started telling the same lie about guns as soon as Obama became president. In March 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced to reporters on a trip to Mexico: “Since we know that the vast majority, 90 percent of that weaponry (used by Mexican drug cartels), comes from our country, we are going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place.” 


The ATF was the source of this statistic. It is apparently too high. Referring to it as a “lie” is probably a bit strong, but ok, we’ll give her that one. Anyone who cites an inaccurate number is lying. Got it. 


As she sentimentally elaborated on Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren show: “The guns sold in the United States, which are illegal in Mexico, get smuggled and shipped across our border and arm these terrible drug-dealing criminals so that they can outgun these poor police officers along the border and elsewhere in Mexico.” 


I don’t think anyone denies the truth of this statement, but did you notice the adverb in the first part of it? “Sentimentally”? That’s class, Ann.


Suddenly that 90 percent statistic was everywhere. It was like the statistic on women beaten by their husbands on Super Bowl Sunday.


When an official source releases a number, it tends to get cited a lot at least until it’s debunked. 


CBS’ Bob Schieffer asked Obama on “Face the Nation”: “It’s my understanding that 90 percent of the guns that they’re getting down in Mexico are coming from the United States. We don’t seem to be doing a very good job of cutting off the gun flow. Do you need any kind of legislative help on that front? Have you, for example, thought about asking Congress to reinstate the ban on assault weapons?


I’ll digress to point out that Schieffer is really lobbing a softball here. I don’t like it when Fox doesn’t, and I don’t like it when CBS does it. Still, yes, many people are citing that same source (the ATF).


At a Senate hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said: “It is unacceptable to have 90 percent of the guns that are picked up in Mexico and used to shoot judges, police officers and mayors … come from the United States.” 


Yep, that number is unacceptable.


And then, thanks to Fox News — the first network to report it — we found out the 90 percent figure was complete bunkum. It was a fabrication told by William Hoover, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), and then spread like wildfire by Democrats and the media. 


He made it up? Holy smokes! I want to know more about that!


Mexican law enforcement authorities send only a fraction of the guns they recover from criminals back to the U.S. for tracing. Which guns do they send? The guns that have U.S. serial numbers on them. It would be like asking a library to produce all their Mark Twain books and then concluding that 90 percent of the books in that library are by Mark Twain. 


No, it would be concluding that 100%. I hate to be pedantic, but if every gun they send back has a U.S. serial number, than all the guns would be from the U.S., right? That fact that this doesn’t appear to be the case suggests that there’s a serious crack in the argument. Are we suggesting that 10% of the guns that have U.S. serial numbers aren’t from the U.S.?


You begin to see why the left hates Fox News so much. 


Ann, this one doesn’t even crack the top 100. But this one is good because Fox News totally made up their number as well. As we know, citing an inaccurate number is lying, so anyone citing Fox News in this case must be lying, right?


Obama backed away from the preposterous 90 percent claim. His National Security Council spokesman explained to Fox News that by “recovered,” they meant “guns traceable to the United States.” So, in other words, Democrats were frantically citing the amazing fact that almost all the guns traceable to the U.S. were … traceable to the U.S. 


I have the same objection to this one: If they’re all traceable to the U.S., then they’re all traceable to the U.S. Not 90%. Frankly, nobody is certain of the correct total numbers, but when called on the mistake, he did back off of it. That’s horrible. Again, check the adverb she uses: “frantically.” Grrr…


Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that even if the percentage is inaccurate, the “vast majority” of guns seized in crimes in Mexico come from the United States. (And he should know, because it turns out he was sending them there!) 


Now this is interesting. Because, you see, Ann is about to claim that Fast and Furious started as a reaction to the 90% statistic being revealed as inaccurate. So, that means that the guns were recovered were the ones we sent in an operation that was started as a reaction to the guns that recovered being the ones we sent in an operation that was started as a rea…


I admire recursive loops as much as the next guy, but c’mon…


This was absurd. Most of the guns used by drug cartels are automatic weapons — not to mention shoulder-fired rockets — that can’t be sold to most Americans. They are acquired from places like Russia, China and Guatemala. 


Ok, this is where the wheels really start to come off. I have no idea where she’s getting the stat that most of the guns are automatic weapons ans shoulder-fired rockets. There’s no question that these weapons cannot be legally sold to most Americans. They can, however, come through America. Surely, you figure that the M4s and AR-15s probably came from America at some point. You can get an SKS at a gun show, and there are plenty of black market channels that go through the U.S. for these weapons. Weapons undoubtedly  do cross the Guatemalan border, and there are weapons in Mexico that were manufactured in China and Russia, but that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the guns passed through the U.S. at some point. By every account I can find, most of them did.


Right about the time the 90 percent lie was unraveling, the Obama administration decided to directly hand thousands of American guns over to Mexican criminals. Apart from the fact that tracking thousands of guns into Mexico is not feasible or rational, the dumped guns didn’t have GPS tracing devices on them, anyway. There is no conceivable law enforcement objective to such a program. 


Ooooh-I see what you did there. I bet I know what comes next!


But, let’s put that on hold for a second. I’d like to point out that I agree that Fast and Furious was an unbelievably poorly thought-out and executed program. However, the idea that there is “no conceivable law enforcement objective” is patently silly. The fact that Ms. Coulter can’t imagine it says more about her than Fast and Furious. Now, back to Ann:


This is what we know: 

(1) Liberals thought it would be a great argument for gun control if American guns were ending up in the hands of Mexican criminals; 

(2) They wanted that to be true so badly, Democrats lied about it; 

(3) After they were busted on their lie, the Obama administration began dumping thousands of guns in the hands of Mexican criminals. 



See? She’s trying to draw a line between “busted on their lie” and “giving guns to druglords.” We don’t actually “know” anything that she’s claiming we know because:


(1) We know that liberals think that American guns in the hands of foreign criminals is a Bad Thing.


(2) This one’s weird, because it is true that American guns wind up in the hands of Mexican criminals and no one denies that. In fact, Coulter even said as much when she was talking about the guns returned to the U.S. The statistic cited was overblown, but citing an inaccurate number does not mean that there are zero American guns in the hands of Mexican criminals. This is such a massive distortion that it makes my head hurt to think about it.


(3) There’s no evidence whatsoever that there is any relationship between the two and the timelines don’t match up as neatly as she’s suggesting. The first Fast and Furious meetings started six months after Fox’s debunking (and re-bunking) the number of American guns.


We also know that hundreds of people were murdered with these U.S.-government-supplied guns, including at least one American, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. 


This is a curiously pro-gun control argument from Ms. Coulter, is it not? I mean, we all know that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” right?


But let’s look on the bright side. The BATF was originally going to ship warheads to Iran until realizing the explosions might disable the tracking devices. 


I’m guessing this is a joke. Kind of hard to tell, right?


(Contrary to more Democrat lies, there was no program to dump thousands of guns in Mexico under George W. Bush. The Bush administration did have a program that put GPS trackers on about 100 guns in order to actually trace them. That operation was ended almost as soon as it began because of the lack of cooperation from Mexican officials. You may as well say Holder’s program was “started” by the first cop who ever put tracer dye on contraband.) 


This is a massive, massive whopper. One dealer sold 450 guns under this program, there were never any GPS trackers on the guns, just some RFID chips on a few cars. “not a single weapon that was outfitted with any kind of tracking instrument.” She’s just lying here. Pure and simple. Interestingly, the program was shuttered by William Hoover of the ATF-the same guy who was the source for the 90% stat. 


No one has explained what putting 2,500 untraceable guns in the hands of Mexican drug dealers was supposed to accomplish. 


The snarky answer would be “the same thing that Operation Wide Receiver was trying accomplish.” Seriously, they’re both crappy programs and were run by largely the same people within ATF. Heads should roll for these programs. 


But you know what that might have accomplished? It would make the Democrats’ lie retroactively true — allowing them to push for the same gun restrictions they were planning when they first concocted it. A majority of guns recovered from Mexican criminals would, at last, be American guns, because Eric Holder had put them there. 


Yeah, no. The number of guns in this program would be a mere drop in the bucket. 2,500 sounds like a big number, but it’s nowhere near enough to fudge the statistics. Of course, in one way, I suppose she’s technically telling the truth-since there’s zero evidence that there were any “gun restrictions” in the works when this plan started, the relatively small number of guns involved wouldn’t have any real impact and those same non-gun restrictions wouldn’t get passed. Yeah, that’s pretty tortuous logic, but that’s Ann for ya.


Unfortunately for the Democrats, some brave whistleblower inside the government leaked details of this monstrous scheme. As soon as Congress and the public demanded answers, Holder clammed up. He just says “oops” — and accuses Republicans of racism. 


It was a really bad program and there should be a reckoning and Obama is not doing himself any favors by claiming executive privilege. All of that’s true.


But man, if you didn’t get too lost in the details, this was an impressive work of illogic, wasn’t it? Make up a bunch of facts, make some wild assumptions and just presume that they’re true, link things together that don’t actually fit, and paint a damning picture with the result. Rush can’t do stuff like this. He doesn’t have the attention span to string together faux-facts like this. He’s pure id. Coulter, though…she works at it and I love her for it.


The fact that she is taken seriously is disturbing. An educated, informed society wouldn’t give her the time of day except to point and laugh and use her as a cautionary tale to scare children who tell lies. Ridicule is a lost art, but I can’t think of any other way to react to her. Sweet, loving ridicule.










*  Seriously. He said this:


If there ever is scientific proof — and see, I don’t need scientific proof because to me the people who are promoting manmade global warming are a bunch of frauds. They are liberals, they lie. It’s not a generalization. It is an undeniable truth of life.”

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

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Chasing Amnesty

I’ve heard from several news outlets that President Obama’s executive order concerning illegal aliens is unconstitutional.  Granted, these sources are folks like Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, and Marco Rubio, but still, they seemed to have a case. They’ve been citing Article 1, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution which grants Congress the authority to “…establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Open and shut case, right?

Yeah, not so much.

Obama’s executive order calls for a moratorium on the deportation of young illegals who fit certain qualifications: No major criminal offenses, have been in the U.S. for at least five contiguous years, graduated from a U.S. high school, or served in the military. In other words, the folks that have been here for a while and been good non-citizens can get a work permit and stay while we figure out what we’re going to do.

What it is not is amnesty. It’s not citizenship. It’s not even a path to citizenship. It is, to put it bluntly, not “naturalization.” It is vastly less generous to illegals than the amnesty program signed into law by Ronald Reagan or proposed by George W. Bush. Those bills went through Congress, as is proper, because they were genuine acts of naturalization. Obama’s executive order is not.

In the end, I’m not at all certain that Obama’s order is a good one. The stated reason is that we have limited resources to handle deportation and they would be better spent deporting people who are causing problems rather than focusing on people who are contributing. I suspect that there’s more political calculation in there than is being spoken aloud, but then, that’s a pretty safe bet with anything a politician says.

So why the big stink? Why the willful lies about Obama “shredding the Constitution?” I can’t answer that; I’m not a mind reader. I will say this, though: It doesn’t really matter what President Obama says or does; there is a certain group of people that will accuse him of villainy not because of what he does but because of who he is. And, oddly enough, I’m not using that as a code for “racism.” I think that, in today’s twisted environment, the fact that he has the scarlet “D” next to his party affiliation is much more damning in the eyes of these monumentally dishonest pundits.

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@sweden

Typ Sir eller fru, 

Ursäkta min klumpiga användning av ditt språk. Jag talar inte svenska så det är mycket svårt för mig. Jag vet inte ens vad jag ska kalla några av bokstäverna. Det är mycket pinsamt för mig. 
Liksom de flesta amerikaner, jag är mycket okunnig om den svenska kulturen. Jag talar inte språket, vet jag inte dina filmer. Jag känner den stora racerförare Stefan Johansson och, naturligtvis, fotbollsspelare Henrik Larsson. Utöver detta? Jag vet mycket lite. 
Det är därför jag tycker att Stephen Colbert bör betraktas som en curator för @Sweden Twitter-konto. Mr Colbert har en mycket stor efter i USA och han skulle kunna utbilda oss om Sverige på ett sätt som ingen annan kunde. 
Mitt land behöver höra om Sverige! Vi har fruktansvärt vård och många amerikaner har beslutat att vara själviska är något dygdiga. Det är galet, jag vet, men det är också sant. Undervisning amerikanerna om hur Sverige fungerar och hur du har uppnått ditt utmärkta levnadsstandard kan bidra förnuft till mitt land. 
Jag förstår att det kanske inte är praktiskt att låta Mr Colbert åtkomst till ditt Twitter-konto. I så fall kan du överväga ett annat sätt att använda sitt inflytande till din fördel. Redan har han fört en hel del uppmärksamhet till ditt land. Kanske om du skulle nämna ett sjukhus eller en öl i hans ära, skulle det vara bra? Gör inte namnge en björn för honom. 
Han gillar inte björnar,
W.T.F. Pancakes
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.

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