Monthly Archives: June 2009

Quote Of The Day

On John Edwards’ sex tape, the understatement of the day:

While he was unpacking, Young discovered a videocassette, according to the book pitch. Hunter had been hired by the Edwards campaign to videotape the candidate’s movements, but this one is said to have shown him taking positions that weren’t on his official platform.

I don’t suppose any of the positions, then, were of him bending the taxpayers over for a reaming — because that pretty much was his entire official platform.

H/T: Doug

Public Schools and the Public Option

Imagine a private school where students sat in a math class for weeks misbehaving and learning nothing. Imagine that school gets on TV news because the administrators suspended the young lady who blew the whistle by taking a cell phone video and giving it to her mom who confronted them. Do you think that school would have enough students to start the next school year?

Well, this happened at a public high school in the SF Bay Area:

A freshman at Clayton Valley High School in Concord, California says that’s just what she had to endure in algebra as her classmates went wild.

“People smoking marijuana in the classroom. They smoke cigarettes.” Arielle said. “There was one kid who peed in a bottle and threw it across the room.”

Clayton Valley High School is a public high school, and I have no doubt that it will open with just as many students next year as it did this year. When parents pay for an education, they absolutely will not tolerate a school run like Clayton Valley HS. When the state provides an education for free, a vast majority of parents will generally take what they can get and call it good enough. They might picket and protest for improvement, but they won’t take their kids out of the school.

What does this have to do with health care? The public option being created as part of “ObamaCare” is rather similar to public schools, in that it is designed to undercut private health insurance on the basis of price:

The Lewin Group crunched the numbers through their health care model and found that premiums for the public option plan would be 30 to 40 percent lower than private plans.

A price difference of that magnitude would lead employers to throw their employees into the ObamaCare option:

Overall, the Lewin Group estimates that if Medicare reimbursement rates are imposed, the number of Americans with private health insurance would decline by almost 120 million, leaving only 50 million Americans in the private insurance market.

That would leave approximately 15% of the population in non-government health care, just slightly more than the percentage of students that go to private school. At that point, ObamaCare will have similar monopoly power to the public schools. I expect abuses and incompetence similar to that captured by Arielle Moore at Clayton Valley High when the public option achieves its monopoly power. The scary difference is that instead of not learning algebra, the people who have to suffer that abuse and incompetence will be missing out on life-saving medical treatments.

A human life is too important to waste on government health care.

Update: John Calfee compares ObamaCare to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the WSJ. Yet another sterling example of how we don’t want our health care managed.

Petty Meddlers Face Jackboot

Homeowners’ Associations are one of life’s little sour tastes of government. Petty meddling nannies who tell you that you can’t do X, or that you must do Y, in order to keep the neighborhood “uniform” or somesuch. Sadly, it’s also a microcosm for most peoples’ reactions to government. When it’s a neighbor doing something they don’t like, they scour the by-laws for a way to run off to the HOA board of directors to get a nice little note sent to the neighbor. But when it’s their own behavior scrutinized, they think the HOA board of directors is an intolerable PITA.

So you can imagine I’m not a big fan of HOA’s, and there’s a little bit of schadenfreude in watching them get their hands slapped… But I still can’t support this (via Ezra Klein — hence calling this “good” — on Waxman-Markey):

Lots of small tweaks were added in the past day or two. And some of them were good! Rep. Dennis Cardoza, for instance, added a smart amendment to discourage neighborhood associations from prohibiting solar panels of aesthetic grounds.

So, they can tell you not to paint your door green, but they can’t stop you from filling your roof with a solar array the size of a tennis court.

I have a coworker facing this issue right now. He lives in Newport Beach, CA, and his HOA has some waterfront homes. One of his neighbors with oceanfront (cliff, not sand) is planning to put solar panels down the face of the cliff to electrically heat his pool. This, of course, is California. There are environmental laws, and the HOA doesn’t want to see this happen either. But being California, they ALREADY have laws that stop the HOA or anyone else (including the Greens) from interfering, because solar energy takes precedence. Now it sounds like this will extend nationwide.

This is one of those issues that gets thorny for libertarians. It comes down to property rights, but the question of what legitimate hindrances can be placed on the owners by HOA’s. After all, an HOA is a contract that a buyer of a house willingly enters into. But it doesn’t seem to me like an issue in which Congress has any right to intervene.

As a renter who is waiting for the complete collapse of the market before I buy a home, I know that I may be faced with a tough decision regarding my purchase based upon whether or not I’ll choose a neighborhood with an HOA, and whether the existence of an HOA is enough to dissuade me from the house we otherwise find desirable. But I know what I don’t want, and that is for Congress to be the one telling my HOA what it can or cannot do.

I have to give the man some credit

I happen to live in Arizonas 5th congressional district; and am currently represented in the house by Harry Mitchell.

Congressman Mitchell and I disagree about a lot of things. Abortion, social security and government health care, school choice and education policy, many economic issues, government intervention and regulations in general, and the overall wisdom of his party leadership and the DNC…

However, I have to give the man some credit. He has generally been good on energy policy, and on guns since he came to congress (as a local politician his record on guns was mixed). He was also against the auto industry bailout, against TARP, and especially against the unconstitutional TARP bonus tax. He’s even reasonable on national security issues, and veterans affairs.

I believe he has ably represented the interests of his district within the congress; and bucked the leadership when he thought it was best for the district (if perhaps not bucking them enough outside of issues of direct interest to the district).

Today, he voted against his leadership; choosing to vote for the greater good of Arizona, and of the nation; against the Waxman cap and trade bill.

Unfortunately, we all lost in that vote; but senate leaders are already saying it’s dead on their floor… so we’ll see.

Last week, and again this morning, I urged congressman Mitchell by telephone to both his offices, and by email, to vote against the bill; as it was against the interest of both the district, and the nation. This evening, having found out how he voted, and reading his statement on the issue, I called to thank him.

We may disagree with our elected representatives, we may have voted for the other guy, we may think they are the wrong person to be in that chair; but once they are there, they are OUR representatives. The peoples representatives.

Letting them know how you feel about something, how important it is to you, what benefit or harm it will do you personally; it works. It may not seem so much of the time, but most congressmen really do care about what the people of their districts think; if for no other reason that it improves their chances for reelection.

So participate. Let them know. After all, it can’t hurt; and it just might make a difference.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Where Is This Rally Headed?

As I’ve mentioned before, I sometimes question my allegiance to the belief that we’re in the midst of a bear market rally. Part of this is due to the constant media affinity for “green shoots”, and the fact that in many ways, the “second derivative” is actually improving…

But I don’t think the fundamentals are really there, given the financial debt/credit fueled nature of the boom that led to this.

So, it brings a question. Is there historical basis for a rally extending this long after a major shock? And I’d say yes:

chartoftheday20090626

At least one data point on that chart is up and to the right of the current rally. “But that’s only one point!” Yes, it is. It also bears one similarity to the current point — it was the first rally after the initial crash.

I think there’s more to come. And with every new day government encroachment on the market, I become more and more sure of that fact.

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