Monthly Archives: October 2009

Quote Of The Day

Kevin Drum on loud commercials:

This is an issue, like the Do Not Call registry, that transcends politics. I don’t really care whether volume regulations are liberal or conservative or trample the Bill of Rights or whatever. I just want the noise to stop. If it takes jackboots to stop it, then so be it.

Like Kevin, I am annoyed by loud commercials. Especially after the wife and the kids go to sleep and I’m trying to watch a TV program at just high enough of a volume that I can hear it, and thus need to keep the remote in my hand to turn the volume down during commercials. It can get a bit maddening, and if I’m too slow with the volume down button (or fast forward, since I have a DVR), I can end up with a very angry wife.

But here’s the difference. I can’t believe it transcends politics. Because despite what Kevin Drum says, even if we can agree that this is a nasty practice that serves nobody and it’s right for government to stop it, there’s one problem. Once the jackboots have stomped these nefarious advertisers, those who wear jackboots won’t just take them off and go back to their business. Give a politician a tool, he’ll find a use for it. You can never tell when they’ll turn on poker players, grandmothers, or pastors. The one thing you can be sure of is that they’ll never put the jackboots away.

Especially not when they get their rocks off with jackboots like these:

The

Quote Of The Day

Coyote, talking about how “consumer protections” are actually protecting incumbent industries:

Google voice is one of the more exciting communication products I have seen in years. I have a phone number for free, I can have that number ring multiple different numbers while retaining a single voice mail — with a free transcription service. Awesome.

So, of course, the FCC is probably going to kill it.

Won’t someone think of the children AT&T?!

Nobel Committee Insults America

Yesterday the Nobel Prize Committee insulted the Great Helmsman, President Barack Obama by awarding yet another prize to an unworthy second rater while ignoring the Great Helmsman’s dramatic contributions in every field.  Our dear leader wrote the two greatest books in modern civilization. These books are an inspiration to all of us who are his children. Yet the award was given to some woman who is practically unheard of, who touched no more than a few million people tangentially. How can our dear leader be ignored so?

The prize for Chemistry was awarded to some scientists who worked on questions regarding how ribosomes interact with DNA. Worthy work, yes, but was not the work of the American scientist not guided by our dear leader, his work funded by the Federal Government? How can they ignore the work on many fields that is being inspired by the magnificent all-encompassing vision of our dear leader as he directs the human race towards ever greater heights of prosperity and scientific achievements?

Similarly the prize in Physics honors people for a improving the use of semiconductors in fiber-optic design. Yet were not grants from the U.S. Federal Government used to fund this research? Did not the enlightened guiding hand of the father of the people not show them the way, not just in this area but in all the areas pf research into physics? Thousands of lifetimes’ worth of research is conducted by people following the guidance of the great Helmsman, yet he receives no credit? Do we award the plank of wood for the actions it carries out when directed by a man at the rudder?

The prize for medicine ignores the millions who will have their lives saved when our Great Helmsman reveals his plan to reform our medical industry to ensure maximum care for all with great justice.

How many millions more will owe their lives to our president than to the work of these few doctors?

Our leader deserves all the prizes; the economics prize for keeping unemployment below 8.4%; the mathematics prize for improving accounting theory to minimize budget deficits; the peace prize for his efforts to make the world a more peaceful place by increasing the vigor with which Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are pacified, and his offers to pacify Iran as well.

It is time that the Nobel Prize Committee recognized that our Dear Leader is guiding our great nation to produce numerous scientific, technical and social innovations that improve the lives of not just the happy people living in America but throughout the world.  Anything less is an insult to the tireless efforts of our leader that benefit humanity.

Update:  As this was going to press, the Nobel Prize Committee announced that the peace prize had been given to our dear leader.  While I praise them for finally coming to their senses on this one matter, I warn them that it is not sufficient.  Again, if one looks at all the fields covered by the various prizes,our leader’s contributions are far in advance of those made by anyone else.  Only the transfer of the other prizes to our dear leader from the people they mistakenly gave them to will appropriately and justly remediate the situation.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Liberty Rock Friday: “Peace Sells” Edition

In commemorating President Barack Obama’s (undeserved) Nobel Peace Prize, I thought the classic Megadeth song “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” would be appropriate. Considering some of the other individuals who have won the prize (Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore) Obama’s undeserved recognition shouldn’t be all that surprising.

peace_sells
What do you mean, “I don’t believe in God”?
I talk to him every day.
What do you mean, “I don’t support your system”?
I go to court when I have to.
What do you mean, “I can’t get to work on time”?
I got nothing better to do
And, what do you mean, “I don’t pay my bills”?
Why do you think I’m broke? Huh?

Chorus
If there’s a new way,
I’ll be the first in line.
But, it better work this time.

What do you mean, “I hurt your feelings”?
I didn’t know you had any feelings.
What do you mean, “I ain’t kind”?
I’m just not your kind.
What do you mean, “I couldn’t be president, of the United States of America”?
Tell me something, it’s still “We the people”, right?

Chorus

Can you put a price on peace?
Peace,
Peace sells…,
Peace,
Peace sells…,
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?

Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
no, no no no no

peace sells,
peace sells,
AHH

The One™

From the LA Times:

President Obama, who has pledged to place diplomacy ahead of confrontation and reached out to a skeptical world with offers of mutual understanding, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for what the committee called “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Obama is only the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Prize for Peace — President Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906, President Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

Obama was nominated for the prize after just weeks in office, with the award today after less than nine months into the president’s term a sign that the Nobel committee is recognizing aspirations for peace over achievements.

Yes, you heard that right. His nomination occurred just 11 days after his inauguration (the deadline for submissions was Feb 1). It shows that, like much of Obama’s career, he’s being judged by his campaign rhetoric rather than what he’s actually doing. Things like:

  • Delay on closing Guantanamo
  • Continuation of Bush terrorist detention policies
  • Failure to rein in medical marijuana raids as promised
  • Withdrawal from Iraq no faster than the plan Bush already had in place
  • Extension of wiretapping and other aspects of the PATRIOT ACT
  • Complete and utter silence on DADT
  • Accomplished so little of his agenda that SNL spoofed him as doing nothing.

I can only suppose this is the logical end of the American celebrity-worship culture. Obama gets a Nobel Peace Prize for who he is, not what he’s done.

Civil Unions In Illinois

My best friend of 29 of the 31 years I’ve been aboard this rock is a work-in-progress. I think he currently falls far too close to the “bleeding-heart-liberal” mindset, but he’s smart enough to eventually make the transition to “steely-eyed pragmatic libertarian”. He sent this along to me, and asked me to pass it along to like-minded folks in Illinois, where we both grew up.

Yo,

State Representative Greg Harris had indicated he will call the civil union bill for a vote during this October’s veto session. Contact your legislator again and urge them to support the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act.

Click here for a super-easy way to contact your state representative–> http://action.aclu.org/ilcivilunion

Thanks,
-Mark

I’m not sure the legislation goes far enough, as this is in the initial test:

Provides that 2 persons may form a civil union if they: are not related by adoption or blood in any manner that would bar a civil union; are not in another civil union or marriage with any other living person; and are not under 18 years of age.

I asked my friend whether it was just his DuPage County right-wing upbringing that wants to limit civil unions to only two participants, and I’m still waiting on the response to that one. Until the bleeding-hearts get behind polyamorous civil unions, I don’t consider them to be intellectually consistent.

But for those of you in my old home of Chicago, after you shovel a deep dish pizza into your face (oh, how I miss Pizzeria Uno!) and watch Jay Cutler implode like every Bears QB in the last 20 years, write to your representative and see if you can do a little good in your state. After all, you don’t want to fall behind Iowa, do you?

An HSA Isn’t Insurance

My old representative when I lived in Georgia, Tom Price, has offered competing health care legislation to the Democrats’ bills. I’m not a health-care wonk, so I’m not going to get into the meat of his proposal, but apparently one of the key points is limiting the employer-provided health insurance tax deduction and extending a tax deduction to individuals purchasing insurance. While painful, the only way to fix health insurance in this country is to break the link between employment and insurance (and not substitute “Gov’t” for “Employer”, of course).

What I am writing about, instead, is criticism of his position on health care, as offered by Ezra Klein:

In the interview, Price explained that he couldn’t abide by an individual mandate because it meant Congress would define what constituted insurance, and that would harm awesome products of the market like Health Savings Accounts and catastrophic policies. Defining insurance, Price said, is not a good role for Congress.

This is a weird argument given that Rep. Price voted for the legislation that created and defined HSAs.

HSAs are accounts that Congress has blessed with a special exemption from taxation. That means they were created by an act of Congress (the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, to be precise), and they are defined in legislation written by Congress. You can see the regulations here. Price is really saying that Congress shouldn’t define insurance in a way that harms other things that Congress has defined as insurance. But that makes for a rather worse soundbite. The argument here, however, is not a philosophical question about the reach of Congress. It’s an argument about what the minimum level of health-care insurance should look like.

There’s a problem with this criticism. Health Savings Accounts are not intended to be insurance. Health insurance premiums are amounts you spend every month to guard against having to pay huge amounts of money that you don’t expect to pay. Health Savings Accounts are tax-free accounts where you save money that you DO expect to pay. And fundamentally, the link Ezra provide explains this in a FAQ:

A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care. HSAs enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.

You must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) to be able to take advantage of HSAs. An HDHP generally costs less than what traditional health care coverage costs, so the money that you save on insurance can therefore be put into the Health Savings Account.

An HDHP is insurance. An HSA is a savings account. An HDHP is a true insurance product — risk-pooling amongst a large group of people with the expectation that only a portion of them will develop claims which require payment, and thus all pay only a small portion in premiums of what those claims might actually pay. An HSA is not an insurance product, it is simply a way to pay for day-to-day health care expenses tax-free. There is no risk-pooling, and there is no contract to cover any costs beyond what the individual has saved in his HSA.

Compare this situation to automobiles. In the auto world, there are two common types of insurance — actual collision/liability insurance, and warranties. Collision/liability insurance is similar to an HDHP, in that you are protecting yourself from the financial liability not only for your own vehicle, but for property damage and injury to yourself and others in excess of the cost of your vehicle. Warranties are similar to tradition American full-coverage health insurance, in that they are risk-pooled ways to ensure that mechanical defect of the car does not cost you, the owner, huge sums of money to fix. It is a true insurance product in that the cost of the warranty does not usually approach the full expected cost of a large repair (i.e. new engine, transmission, etc), and thus protects you from large expense. In many warranties, this also shields against cost of small repairs (failure of power window motor, radio malfunction, etc) which might not reach the sticker cost of the warranty, but are included in coverage to attract buyers.

Very few warranties, however, cover daily expenses. They don’t cover filling your car up with gas. They don’t cover oil changes. They don’t cover tires or other wear-and-tear items. They don’t cover getting the car detailed. They don’t cover smog inspection or registration fees. They don’t cover new stereo systems or body kits. This is where an HSA would fit into the mix. If Congress decided that automobiles were as important as health care, they could easily build a Car Savings Account plan that covers your expected car spending. It would give you as an owner a way to build a small tax-free account to cover planned automobile expenses, and likely include some things which might not be covered by traditional insurance (OTC medicines, LASIK, fertility treatments, etc). And if you had a Car Savings Account, people would probably look at you funny if you described it as insurance.

Price was fighting against an individual mandate not because Congress doesn’t know whether to call X or Y insurance, but because he realizes that the individual mandate will likely force people out of HDHP’s and into “qualified” insurance products, which will be host to a bunch of coverage requirements that an HDHP will not. For Ezra Klein, this is a feature, not a bug, because he wants to see individuals who are young and healthy and might choose the HDHP route forced into subsidizing care for everyone else by joining risk pools that will charge them a premium far in excess of their risk profile. Price understood that it’s not about Congress “defining” insurance. “Insurance” is a pretty well-known concept, which HDHPs fit and HSAs don’t. Price understands that a mandate, however, puts politicians in the position of what floor a plan must meet to be a qualified insurance plan, and that Congress will set that floor in such a way to effectively outlaw HDHPs and make HSAs pointless. He sees that a lot of individuals choose these types of plans, and he doesn’t want to take that choice away.

Klein’s last statement is correct: “It’s an argument about what the minimum level of health-care insurance should look like.” Tom Price wants you to have a choice to pick a low-premium, high-deductible plan that only covers you for catastrophic events, and gives you the ability to save and negotiate prices for day-to-day costs which you’ll pay out of pocket. Klein wants to take that choice away and force you into a much higher premium, full-service plan, which you’re unlikely to actually use. A Congressional mandate says that you MUST have care and that it MUST conform to what Congress defines as insurance — thus destroying some products (HDHPs) available in the market as insurance products today. Lack of a mandate ensures that the market provides insurance products that people want to buy, and the fact that Congress chose to also offer HSAs is a tax cut, not defining an insurance product.

Quote of the Day: Unlearned Lessons of Failed Experiments Edition

Peter Suderman writing for The Wall Street Journal has written an excellent article about the (apparent) unlearned lessons of government run healthcare. But unlike many others who use Canada and the UK as examples, Suderman insists that we only need to look at states like New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and Tennessee for their respective failed experiments with some of the very reforms being proposed by Obama and the Democrat controlled congress.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously envisioned the states serving as laboratories, trying “novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” And on health care, that’s just what they’ve done.

[…]

Despite these state-level failures, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing forward a slate of similar reforms. Unlike most high-school science fair participants, they seem unaware that the point of doing experiments is to identify what actually works. Instead, they’ve identified what doesn’t—and decided to do it again.

Of course if government did learn lessons of failed government policy…it wouldn’t be government.

Read the whole article to learn what future all Americans have in store should President Obama and the Democrats have their way.

The Original “War on Terror”

The first recorded mention of the term “War on Terror” in the New York Times did not occur after 9/11 as many would assume… In fact it was in 1934, and wasn’t even about the U.S.

You might be shocked as to exactly which nation it was about… or perhaps not…

War On Terror

(New York Times) December 4, 1934


Soviet Arrests 71 In War On ‘Terror’

Spurred by the assassination of Sergei M. Kiroff, the Soviet Government has struck its heaviest blow in years at those whom it regards as plotters of terroristic acts against Soviet officials.

With dramatic suddenness it was announced early this morning that seventy-one persons had been arrested and haled to trial before the military collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR. Thirty-two of these were seized in the Moscow region and thirty-nene in the Leningrad region. They are stigmatized as “White Guards” and accused of plotting terroristic activities.

* * * * *

By the terms of a decree adopted by the central government immediately after the Kremlin received the news of M. Kiroff’s death, terrorists and plotters are to be tried swiftly and to be executed immediately without opportunity for appeal.

Now I’m not one of those pseudo-intellectual mental midgets who would compare the U.S. efforts directly to Stalins reign of terror (however they couched it as a “war on terror”); but one should at the least be able to recognize the historical irony.

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

Babs Boxer Will Do Anything For Re-Election: Even Cosponsor S.604!

Back in July, I sent letters to Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein urging them to support or even cosponsor S.604, the Audit-The-Fed bill. I received the typical mealy-mouthed responses (posted below after the fold), and like a bad blogger I never actually mentioned the responses here. How mealy-mouthed was Boxer’s response? Well, THIS was the most substantive thing she said:

I believe that all citizens should become involved in the legislative process by letting their voices be heard, and I appreciate the time and effort that you took to share your thoughts with me. One of the most important aspects of my job is keeping informed about the views of my constituents, and I welcome your comments so that I may continue to represent California to the best of my ability. Should I have the opportunity to consider legislation on this or similar issues, I will keep your views in mind.

Great… You thank me for sharing my thoughts. I feel empowered!

What you don’t say is anything whatsoever regarding your opinion on the legislation (at least Feinstein gave me *something*). So how do I interpret your letter?

‘I’m gonna put my finger up in the air and see which way the wind blows, because I have a vulnerable seat in 2010 and I don’t want to piss anyone off. If I see any benefit to myself, I might at some point take a position on this legislation.’

So, today, when I was reading United Liberty, I was reminded of S.604, and decided to check to see if there were any surprises. And to my astonishment, there was! Barbara Boxer actually co-sponsored S.604!!

Do I think she’s really all that interested in an audit of the Federal Reserve? Not from the email response I received. But hey, she knows a populist wave when she sees one, and she’s gonna ride this one to Nov 2010.

There are a lot of forces assembling behind the Audit the Fed movement. Those forces are having traction. Enough traction, in fact, to get a California Democratic Senator to fall into line. It may be a political calculation, but if someone like Boxer has to make that calculation, it proves that there’s actually some real mojo here. Congratulations are due to Ron Paul, because without his tireless work in the House, we wouldn’t be this close to a serious review of what goes on at the Fed.
» Read more

Transparency No Longer* In Vogue in Democrat Controlled Congress

Gosh, it doesn’t seem like all that long ago the American public was promised hope, change, and a more open, transparent, ethical federal government if we only elected Obama the next President of the United States. Before that, in 2006 Pelosi and Co. made many of the same promises. Now the Democrats have the House, the Senate, and the White House. The “dark days” of the “most secretive administration in American history” (i.e. the Bush Administration) and the “culture of corruption” of the G.O.P. controlled congress are over…right?

As Congress lurches closer to a decision on an enormous overhaul of the American health care system, pressure is mounting on legislative leaders to make the final bill available online for citizens to read before a vote. […]

[…]

At town hall meetings across the country this past summer, the main topic was health care, but there was a strong undercurrent of anger over the way Congress rushed through passage of the stimulus, global warming and bank bailout bills without seeming to understand the consequences. The stimulus bill, for example, was 1,100 pages long and made available to Congress and the public just 13 hours before lawmakers voted on it. The bill has failed to provide the promised help to the job market, and there was outrage when it was discovered that the legislation included an amendment allowing American International Group, a bailout recipient, to give out millions in employee bonuses. […]

[…]

The [Sunlight Foundation] has begun an effort to get Congress to post bills online, for all to see, 72 hours before lawmakers vote on them.

“It would give the public a chance to really digest and understand what is in the bill,” Rosenberg said, “and communicate whether that is a good or a bad thing while there is still time to fix it.”

A similar effort is under way in Congress. Reps. Brian Baird, D-Wash., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., are circulating a petition among House lawmakers that would force a vote on the 72-hour rule.

Nearly every Republican has signed on, but the Democratic leadership is unwilling to cede control over when bills are brought to the floor for votes and are discouraging their rank and file from signing the petition. Senate Democrats voted down a similar measure last week for the health care bill.

Hope.

Change.

Transparency.

Damn…just…damn.

» Read more

Results Not Typical

The Federal Trade Commission has taken a solid step towards regulation of bloggers, first by declaring that any “in-kind” contribution for a product review must be considered an official endorsement and requires disclosure. Despite the fact that I — of my own volition — did so on the one occasion I was actually given something free to review, I think that’s a process I’m going to have to discontinue. So from this point forward, if I review something, you won’t know whether I’ve received any compensation for it. So take it for what its worth. (As a side note, if anyone wants to send me something free to review, I’ll gladly accept it!)

But their regulations changed in another way… It used to be that if you were advertising a product with customer testimonials that highlighted non-typical results — i.e. “I lost 243 lbs on BulimiaRX dietary supplement!” or “Cheatypants McSweatervest’s revolutionary system has me making $25K a month from home with only 10 minutes a day of work!” — would need to not only provide their current small-font “Results not typical” disclaimer, but would now have to clearly document typical results:

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

So I think I’ve got the solution:

Barack Obama, Sept 12, 2008
And I can make a firm pledge: under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase* – not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.

* Results not typical. Families making less than $250,000 can expect to see rises in cigarette taxes, increased energy costs through cap and trade and/or gasoline taxes, soda taxes, and mandates to buy costly insurance plans they can’t afford. They can expect to pay all the taxes levied on “corporations”, as well as the cost of new regulations, who will pass those on in the cost of goods. Families can expect taxation through the form of inflation, eating away at the buying power of their paychecks. Firm pledges have not taken Viagra and should not be expected to last more than 4 hours.

There. Thanks, FTC. You’ve cleared up a lot with these new regulations.

Downsizing Government

Our friends at the Cato Institute, the only think tank in DC dedicate to personal and economic liberty, have launched a new site, DownsizingGovernment.org, committed to cutting waste from the federal budget.

From the press release:

The research on the site also exposes that many public outlays—though vigorously defended by the politicians who created them and the constituencies they purport to help—are remarkably ineffective at achieving their core aims.

“Some people have lofty visions about how government spending can help society,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute and the project leader for DownsizingGovernment.org. “But the essays on this website put aside such bedtime stories about how government programs are supposed to work, and instead focus on how they actually work in the real world.”

DownsizingGovernment.org is an ongoing project that launches today with detailed information on five cabinet-level agencies: Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. Subsequent departments will be added as they are completed in the coming months.

The site offers detailed examples of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, redundancy and corruption inside federal government agencies. It provides charts showing federal spending by department, federal aid to states and the number of subsidy programs.

You can follow Downsizing Government on Twitter @DownsizeTheFeds and you can become a fan on Facebook.

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