Friday, December 30, 2016

More research suggests that the source of our calories does matter: to much sugar leads to Type 2 diabetes even in normal-weight people


The Huffington Post has come out with a new position on diet and heart attacks in a column by Mark Hyman, “Eggs don’t cause heart attacks – sugar does”, link   Oops, I see this article goes back to February 2014.  But it’s gotten a lot of attention on Facebook recently, even (or especially) in the doomsday prepper community.
  
It’s a lot easier to believe that all calories are the same.  Yet some people seem to do well on the Atkins diet.  And there is a lot of literature around saying that not only refined sugar, but lots of additives in processed foods contribute to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and blood vessel inflammation leading to heart disease.  All of these things help create the coronary artery disease (starting with inflammation) that led to the cardiac arrest of Carrie Fisher and her mother’s stroke.  
You can also peruse this article from November 2016 in FEE by Annie Holmquist, “Why kids should learn to cook Thanksgiving Dinner”. 

Here’s a short film from Journeyman Pictures, “How Sugary Foods Are Making Us Fat”., from Australia, narrated by Mary Anne Demasi.  


A professor explains how fructose, in particular, encourages internal fat to build up and causes the body to need more insulin, gradually leading to type 2 diabetes (and insulin resistance).  Even slender people can be “skinny fat” and some nominally overweight people can have healthy metabolisms.  

The food industry, back in the 80s, promoted sugar as a food additive to make low fat diets taste better (when nutritionists say you use herbs and spices to do this healthfully).  The American Heart Association went along with the food industry for some years, unfortunately.

Now the CDC reports, as we know, that life expectancy in the US is decreasing slightly, and diet is one reason. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trump and Pence could go strong on school vouchers


The Washington Post has a long article by Emma Brown and Mandy McClaren on how Indiana’s school voucher program has fared (with Tom Pence), link here.   The article posits what may happen under Trump.

Even well-off parents get voucher subsidy support to send kids to private schools.  But an ethical question will be whether schools that discriminate against specific populations based on religious convictions should get federal subsidies, indirectly through parents.   Some parochial schools, for example, will fire openly gay teachers.




The article says that some students indeed do much better in private schools.  But in March 2016, the Cato Institute had held a forum which had shown mixed results in student performance, because of regulation, link to the forum video here.

Even the libertarian model encourages support of non-government instruments closely connected to families (parents) and faith models to impose their own standards of "belonging" on students.

FEE has some articles on the issue, such as "the failure of public schooling" here and the relationship between culture and poverty, here.

Some non-parochial private schools also do a very good job or producing outstanding students (for example, Potomac in northern Virginia), and a voucher program could extend the opportunity to low income families.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Trump can end ACA subsidies that help the poor on day one, but he'd be biting the voters that put him in office


The Washington Post points out this Christmas morning that Donald Trump can quickly cancel ACA subsidies that do help millions of Americans, including his own rural constituency, as explained in a story by Amy Goldstein here.
 
The somewhat Scrooge-spirited GOP had a court strike own the subsidies as illegal because Congress had not provided a specific appropriation (as required for all spending) from the House.  The Obama administration appealed, and the DC federal circuit put the suspension on hold until the next term. Trump could order dropping the appeal.



In time this could lead to even higher premiums and copays from people who cannot afford it, most of them the people who put Trump in office.  Will Trump make them “great” again?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Washington Post claims Sinclair Broadcasting, a major owner of TV stations, helped Trump; but Sinclair is strong on reporting on security, infrastructure, sustainability issues, including power grid


Paul Fahri, of the Washington Post style section, has an article tonight, “How the nation’s largest owner of TV stations helped Donald Trump’s campaign, link here.

He’s referring to Sinclair Broadcasting in Hunt Valley near Baltimore, MD.  A fair conservative media outlet in a Blue location. I wrote a comment to this article as follows:

“Sinclair has provided a few news stories on possible threats to the electric power grid, from solar storms, cyberterror and EMP. Sinclair affiliate WJLA has run one of them and mentioned a special town hall but did not run it on Aug 1 (It was broadcast from a Fox or Sinclair station in Green Bay, WI and I was able to watch it by streaming). This subject has generally been associated with the "Right", but only Ted Cruz mentioned (one time to Wolf Blitzer) among major presidential candidates. I carried links to the Sinclair stories on one of my own blogs and soon found Trump advertising on my site (Clinton never did). Peter Thiel, from Silicon Valley, and in Trump's court, has sponsored the work of young inventor Taylor Wilson in Nevada, which would mean decentralizing the grid with many more small stations. In fact, I think these ideas need to be taken seriously. The United States needs to make its infrastructure more secure (from both terror and natural threats) and this would logically mean manufacturing more components at home (like transformers) and depending less on imports for critical infrastructure parts. That would, of course, add many jobs, but not for the same people displaced by globalism. Make the grid more secure is also easier with renewable energy sources, or at least with lower cost and simpler sources (natural gas is easier than coal). So if Trump wants to "make America great again" and add domestic high paying jobs, this is definitely a place to look. But it doesn't help people displaced from old industry jobs (who voted for him). Again, power grid security sounds like a "right wing topic" of the doomsday preppers, but it needs to be brought into the mainstream and not be perceived as politicized. Sinclair deserves credit for running stories on this topic, but other major media sources (other than Fox) have tended to play it down. WJLA (the owner station) have soft-pedaled it.
 
(Continued) “By the way, Sinclair has also reported that some US utilities were infected with malware in 2012 that has not been removed. If Sinclair has been favorable to Trump, so be it -- but Trump ought to take what Sinclair has reported and seek out expert, professional science on this problem - and I fear some of his choices for appointments aren't very objective on problems like this.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lame duck Obama administration promulgates old rule on restoring surface mines to original contour; will Trump strike it down?


Daryl Fear reports (“Last minute rule to make coal industry cleaner met with praise, criticism”) on p. 4 of the Washington Post, Tuesday, December 20, 2016, that the Obama administration has promulgated an old rule that requires surface mine operators to restore land to its original contour after mining is finished.  This could prove challenging in mountainous areas, like in southern West Virginia or eastern Kentucky where “mountaintop removal” has been widely practiced.

I could not find the story on the Washington Post site, but there was an image copy on pressreader this morning, here.



Is this a regulation that Donald Trump will try to repeal on Day One?

Underground coal mine jobs (which are very dangerous to start with) have been phased out as surface mining requires fewer workers.  Furthermore, utilities, following normal free market incentives, are tending to switch to natural gas (the “Pickens Plan”) as cleaner and cheaper.  Trump has talked about bringing back “clean coal”.  Decentralization of the power grid (for national security reasons) is cheaper with renewable forms or possibly even with small underground fission reactors (Taylor Wilson) than with older fuels like coal.  Trump should wake up to this.

Picture: From new Rt 48 on eastern edge of coal country in W Va, W of Moorefield (mine, July), 2016).

Update: Dec, 21

But Obama can make his removal of offshore (Atlantic and Arctic) lands from future federal leases stick, CNBC story

Monday, December 19, 2016

Trump wins the Electoral Vote by a final score of 306-232; protests in every state over the Electoral College issue


I got too busy with movies to go to an electoral college demonstration today, but Trump reached the 270 needed.

Here’s a video of a demonstration in South Carolina.


The CNN story on the final electoral college count (306-232) is here.  Two GOP and four democratic electors refused to vote for their candidates.

There were demonstrations today in every state capital, including Richmond (which had gone for Clinton, but just barely).

WJLA showed the protest in Richmond and indoor footage from the Virginia state senate (when the electors met) tonight but has video from Phoenix on its website in its story here.

The Richmond Times Dispatch has video of the protests in Richmond.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 65,788,583 to 62,955,363 (Snopes) and California alone was able to explain her popular vote victory.

Republicans are still saying that Bill Clinton's accidental meeting on a plane with Loretta Lynn fed into Comey's decision to send a letter to Congress Oct. 28.  My own feeling is that the Democrats are overplaying the Comey and hacking issues, and that the rise in Obamacare premiums contributed heavily to her electoral loss.  But there is also resentment and rage from "ordinary people" who feel left out of globalization. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Climate scientists expect surges in personal threats from enemies under Trump


Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, has a front page story in the Washington Post Sunday morning, as he anticipates a surge in death threats since the election of Trump.

Mann is author of “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy,”  from Columbia University Press. 


He sees this as bullying from people who believe they are politically connected and who feel threatened by change, even though that change is necessary for the long term sustainability of our way or life. 
  
Clean energy and clean technology will probably create more jobs than it displaces, but the people whom it disrupts have some tribal political connection now and cannot easily get back up on their own feet on the short run.

Fareed Zakaria said this morning that the solar industry created twelve times as many jobs in 2016 as the fossil fuels industry -- but not for the same people.  
  
"Anti-science" is an anti-intellectual attitude associated with tribalism and the need to perceive social effectiveness through old-fashioned connections to others.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Federal government seems to stiff many insurers over sicker patients under Obamacare


Amy Goldstein has a startling story in the Washington Post, reporting that the federal government has reimbursed health insurance companies only about 2% of the additional expenses incurred for covering claims for people with pre-existing conditions.



It sounds as though companies are getting stiffed, almost as if this were a debt ceiling crisis.  That explains why some major insurers, like United Health Care, are leaving Obamacare exchanges.  It’s hard to see how this is even legal.

That’s one reason why I think Trumps should set up a formal reinsurance company to handle pre-existing conditions, although what counts as pre-existing (if related to “behavior” or “moral hazard”) would be highly politicized.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Life expectancy, Obamacare and the rural poor -- and Trump


Recently the CDC “came out” with a report showing American life expectancy was decreasing slightly again, primarily because of losses in poor rural (often largely white) communities where job loss and poverty become commensurate with obesity, diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse.  It sounds a bit like Putin’s rural Russia.  Here’s the Vox article by Julia Belluz and Sarah Frostenson, complete with map studies.

Brad Pinkerton and Sarah Kliff interview a women in eastern Kentucky and explain “Why one Obamacare enrollee voted for Trump: ‘I don’t see how they can call it affordable care’”.    It is particularly interesting how people with cancer diagnoses stop follow-up scans (like colonoscopies) or opt not to treat cancers.  Without the social and economic support systems, they feel they are better off if they don’t undergo treatment with side effects but simply live as long as possible without treatment (which with older people sometimes makes real sense).


 
And here’s an important piece in the American Conservative by Rod Dreher, “Why poor people don’t move”, link.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

In DC, people wait in line overnight just for an affordable housing appointment


Like the warehouse-arts-colony fire in Oakland, CA, and the recent apartment fire (August) in Silver Spring, MS, this story on WJLA demonstrates the problem with affordable housing in the Washington DC area.  People waited in line over 20 hours overnight just to have an opportunity to apply for appointments (maximum of 200) to apply for housing.



It does make me ponder something related, hosting and housing for asylum seekers, which doesn’t seem to be very well developed with any kind of system.  The morality of the issue is complicated by the fact that the persons, here legally after applying for asylum, often aren’t allowed to work or get benefits.  So the Trump crowd says, take care of your own first.  But it doesn’t look like we do that, either.  I’m not aware of any organized pressure to say people should  personally house the homeless, presumably because of the risks involved.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Paid family leave approved by Washington DC council, with some controversies


DC Council voted Tuesday December 6 on a bill to give all employees of District of Columbia companies six weeks paid family leave (which apparently covers maternity, paternity, adoption, and care of parents) and two weeks paid sick leave, a total potential of almost two months, for example, for maternity.  The front page Washington Post story by Peter Jamison and Michael Allison Chandler is here  Another story by Buck Nichols is here.

The measure is politically controversial because if will benefit commuters from Virginia and Maryland, who make up 64% of the potential “beneficiaries”.

The measure will be supported by an 0.62% payroll tax on employers.  This could be very hard on small businesses (who actually have to hire employees – I don’t, so there is a “fairness” or “skin in the game” argument already).

I had suggested that it be shared with employees, so that associates understand a “use it or lose it” idea – that the measure encourages having children (in marriage) or adoption.

The measure probably won’t start until 2019.

New Jersey and California require 69% coverage for six weeks for parental leave, and New York will require 67% of pay for 12 weeks (in 2018).

In Europe, some countries pay more for mothers than fathers. Switzerland offers 14 weeks paid maternity leave but no paternity leave France offers 26 weeks for mothers and 14 for fathers.

 Germany offers 52 weeks for mothers and 14 for fathers.  But in the US, to the extent that these laws are likely to pass at all, they may be gender neutral.



Trump wants to pay for family leave with unemployment insurance, but it would have to raise.  It’s unclear whether Trump would support gender neutrality.
 
Most large tech companies offer gender-neutral parental leave.  I don’t know what Trump’s own businesses do.  That may be up to his grown kids now.

Monday, December 05, 2016

New push to ban high school football (and that means all other tackle football)


I like to emphasize news stories that I witness.  Today, with the house water turned off for sewer maintenance, I went a McDonalds for lunch and overheard a curious conversation.  Someone said, “when you go to the hospital, if they find any tobacco in you, they’ll turn you away.”  I’ve never heard that one before.  Sort of blaming the victim.



There’s a big story on ABC News today about a push to end high school football because of the concussion risk, link here with video. That would pretty much destroy college football (which Malcolm Gladwell wants to ban – July 21, 2013) and the NFL.

True, fans “benefit” from the physical risk-taking of football players.  Look at the most brilliant young men around – whether in Silicon Valley, medicine, chess, or inventing new power systems – none of them have found it useful to play significant contact sports when younger.  (Many of them take up physical fitness and individual sports – just not contact.) Even so, many “politicians” and business leaders (the kind who manipulate people rather than create content and do research) did.  Medicine is somewhere in between – people play football and decide to go into sports medicine.  Coaches say the teamwork and sacrifice build character.  I guess it does.  And it is a certain kind of character that comes at a personal cost.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Is Trump inviting crony capitalism and corporate extortion with his Indiana Carrier plant deal?


Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in the Washington Post noting that Donald Trump’s “deal” with Carrier and United Technologies opens the door to other companies extorting tax credits from the government to agree not to take jobs out of the country. “Carrier just showed corporations how to beat Donald Trump:, link.

Guy Benson expresses a similar sentiment on TownHall, here.



Indiana wants Trump indeed.

But we should also remember, when we buy goods made with overseas "slave" wages, out own karma is hurt.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cannon Ball ND pipeline protests coming to a head


Authorities want protestors out of Cannon Ball, ND (on the southern border) by Monday, Dec. 5, and that isn't likely to happen.  People who try to supply the camp could face fines, according to the latest Reuters story.

However, aggression against the camp could amount to "war crime" since this is Native American sovereign territory.

And protestors are more dug in, as they start to build wooden structures to deal with the cold.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Cannon Ball under CCSA 2.0.


Update: Sunday, December 4

The US Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the pipeline on Native Lands, forcing it to be re-routed.  CNN has the story today.

From a moral viewpoint, the outcome certain speaks well for the effectiveness of individually self-sacrificial protests.

"Heavy" has a catalog of images of the massive protests and tent city in winter. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Damage to Gatlinburg like that of a California fire


It's rather shocking to see a major resort town in the Southeast burning (cont. post Nov. 15), as reported now in USA Today, .

I drove through Gatlinburg, TN in July 2013 at night, and on to Pigeon Forge, on the way to Oak Ridge.  I had come down off US 441.

Mass evacuations into shelters, including a hotel, and of over 100 homes apparently were necessary.  A good question will be what kind of insurance people have.  How will they be sheltered in the mean time?  Will they be able to stay in the area during rebuilding.

Thunderstorms on Nov. 30 may finally end most of the fires.

Update: Dec. 2

Gatlinburg was "built to burn".  Droughts in the Southeast, especially in the later fall or winter, happen every 15-20 years (even before climate change).  People who choose to live in an urban-rural interface with few roads need to become "doomsday preppers", link.  Do they have insurance?  Shold the rest of us bail out people who choose to live there?  Well, we want them there when we go on vacation, don't we?  Somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Could the Electoral College dump Trump? Yes, but.... (not too likely)


To start this article, note that Gannett has the latest numbers on the popular vote winner (Clinton) and electoral college winner (Trump) as of noon today.

There’s a small but growing talk from credible sources that some Republican electors could refuse to vote for Donald Trump on Dec. 19, denying him the 270 needed for the presidency.

Instead a new Republican Congress could choose a more establishment person, who could wind up being Mitt Romney (if he wants it) or even Paul Ryan himself, if he steps down.  Were this to happen, the GOP would try to distance itself from racism, alt-right ideology, and extremism with a more moderate choice.  Ted Cruz (whose statements later in the primary campaign tended more toward libertarianism, with some welcome concern over Internet freedom and cybersecurity) could be a more desirable choice than most moderates believe.   Or they could move toward Kasich or even Rubio.
 


Polico has a story here A well-regarded UK site regards the Electoral College as an escape hatch to keep an unsuitable person out of the presidency, link.

The conservative Washington Times claims some electors are being chased.

The Atlantic considers such an event possible but dangerous, here.    But a House election on Jan. 3 of a more “moderate” or “mainstream” GOP candidate should not be dangerous for the country.

Generally bigger sources pooh-pooh this idea, such as the Los Angeles Times.

I like the sign below just the way it is.
Update: Dec, 3, 2016

Note this Huffington Post argument by Paul Abrams, referring to Russian argument (although the referenced article is not all that convincing. Can the Electors violate state law and think about this on Dec. 19?  Well, cogitate, yes (or "yeth").



Update:  Dec. 15, 2016

Here is EJ Dionne's argument in the Washington Post on what the electors should do.

Vox has an explanatory article on the recount, Dec. 1.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Non-profits need a lot more transparency in how they manage the risks that volunteers may take


In a culture that is increasingly concerned about “giving back” as a component or moral and political egalitarianism (or about religious values), how should someone who volunteers to provide care to those in need, or particularly to drive (especially his own vehicle) for a non-profit charity approach the issue of personal risk?

This is a huge issue, with many ramifications that can’t all be covered in a short post.  But some of the biggest risks would include auto accident (with liability or injury to the volunteer or to other beneficiaries being transported), and crime, particularly in lower income areas where much volunteer work may be needed.  The very worst scenarios could include something carjacking and kidnapping when someone is transporting a client or doing meal delivery in an economically disadvantaged for possibly racially troubled area.


Another possibility is a “Good Samaritan” situation where someone has attempts to rescue or save someone else’s life after an accident, fire, crime, or otherwise dangerous situation and when emergency services cannot arrive quickly.



Generally, individuals’ own auto liability policies cover liability up to a point, but non-profits can be liable in various situations, differing among states.The Internet is scattered with occasional stories of volunteers being targeted by violent crime, as here, somewhat along the lines of Donald Trump's "nation in peril" notions.
 
There are many references online, with somewhat contradictory advice, but here are a few of the best: CTAA, Venable, and Volunteer Match.

One of the biggest issues for non-profits needing volunteers is transparency.  Organizations need to have a sense of what they are asking for, including the possibility of risk taking, and communicate this to potential volunteers.  Problems occur at times of the year where many volunteers are needed for one day (like to deliver Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, especially in troubled neighborhoods) where volunteers are less experienced and less familiar with locations, adding to risk.  Some non-profits with a narrower client focus may be fooled by their own sense of “identity politics” and blind themselves to seeing around some corners to recognize the risks involved for volunteers.

 Orientations and public information forums seem important. This may even be more serious in politically controversial projects, such as helping certain immigrants.

On the other hand, people new to volunteering will need to ponder the meaning behind “giving back” (or “shared sacrifice” or “right-sizing”)  In a world where people depend on others who take risk (ranging from firefighters, who may be volunteers, to military, to the “somebody’s gotta do it” crowd) one’s personal credibility (or karma) may be compromised if he or she seems cowardly.

As a grim closing, I’ll include a link on carjacking.  Note the advice never to allow kidnapping (as in the movie “Nocturnal Animals”), which becomes an existential life-ending threat.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Can Trump clamp down on "sanctuary cities" and "trust" states? In practice, probably not; listen to law enforcement


So-called “sanctuary cities”, who could lose federal funding from a Trump administration for not cooperating in rounding up adult children brought here as kids by undocumented workers, are standing firm, and these include Washington DC, as in this story by Antonio Olivo and Peter Jamisom, Metro section.

Most major coastal cities would be affected.  Police departments say that sanctuary is a valuable tool in investigations, in questioning people who may know something about real criminal or terror plots, and that an aggressive deportation policy would actually undermine national security.

California and Connecticut have narrow “sanctuary” or “trust” laws as explained in the video.  They won’t hold people longer for possible immigration violations. There is a question as to whether the federal government can compel states to spend their own money to enforce federal laws.



So, whatever Trump’s ideological promise to woo gullible crowds, it isn’t practical.
 
As far as housing asylum seekers, an asylee has the legal right to be here once he or she has the paperwork showing submission of an application for asylum.  So, as I understand it, a host is not providing “sanctuary” or abetting an immigration violation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Southeastern fires seem unprecedented in area covered


In July, I visited the “Brown Mountain” are of North Carolina, and now it appears that many areas I visited are affected by wildfires, as reported in this ABC News story.  People have been required to evacuate from at least five counties in North Carolina.  There is fire close to Atlanta, and air pollution from smoke in Atlanta.

The fires go from Alabama to southwestern Virginia and seem to be fueled by extreme autumn drought. That’s ironic because eastern North Carolina was flooded by Hurricane Matthew. However, there have been no large Gulf-originated tropical storms this fall to provide moisture to the Appalachian part of the Southeast.



The fires are described as “California-sized”.

An “aspiring weatherman” was arrested for arson motivated supposedly by the desire to get social media views, story here. This is not an incident we need with a new president who views some aspects of social media as a national security risk (as relative to ISIS).

But most fires may have natural causes.  There have been big fires in the pine forests of northern Florida and the coastal areas of the Carolinas in the past.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cushing OK earthquake highlights concern with fracking dangers


The Insurance Journal has reported concern about the connection between fracking and the epidemic of earthquakes in Oklahoma, the latest a rather significant one in Cushing, north of Oklahoma City.

The article notes that Cushing is near one of the nation's largest oil trading hubs and that the swarm of quakes is a potential national security issue for a Trump administration.

The other obvious question is covering the damage to homes, and especially to their resale values for people who have to move.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture by Bencochrane under CCSA 2.5. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Guaranteed basic income could help with infrastructure projects


The Business Section of the New York Times, p. 4, features an analysis by Robert H. Frank,”Handouts wit a Twist: Rebuilding America”, link here.



The subject is basic guaranteed income.  Frank notes that grants that are too big could lead people to settle into intentional communities and withdraw from the economy pretty much (although intentional communities do sell renewable products).  But he things a smaller grant could actually support major infrastructure projects.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump wants to cover pre-existing conditions, probably with a reinsurance concept well known in business


CNN has an interesting perspective by a medical doctor, Ford Vox, on Trump’s views of health care, here.. Ford describes Trump’s “alternative reality” and notes that conservatives expect not to pay anything for health care until something happens – that is, they object to paying for other people’s health care, on the ‘take care of your own” idea.

FEE ‘s Jeffrey Tucker notes that “the election became a referendum on Obamacare” but undoing it is anything but simple.

Here’s my take. You can go back to what we had before, but add portability across state lines, and coverage on parents’ policies until 26. For pre-existing conditions, you set up a reinsurance pool that is partially federally owned, and possibly supported by a small payroll tax.  That means that individual and group premiums don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions or pay for “anti-selection” – the public has to cover this in large part, Bernie Sanders style.

Of course, what counts as a legitimate pre-exisiting condition becomes a political football.  Inherited conditions like juvenile diabetes.  Behavior-related conditions -- whether connected to sex (including HIV), obesity, or cigarette smoking, gets testy and maybe nasty.



Remember, anyone, no matter how healthy, can get hit by a drunk driver or step on an unexploded land mine in Central Park.  Insurance needs to cover this, fully.



Update: Nov. 20

Vox has a rundown by Sarah Kliff of the leading Republican "a better way" plans (7 of them). which tend to help younger workers more than the old and sick.



Update: Nov. 25

The Washington Post offers the "Ultimate QA about Health Care under a Trump presidency" here.



Update: Dec. 6

FEE has an article explaining the rise in premiums on Obamacare on pre-existing conditions and people with bad behaviors.  Aaron Schanzenbach writes "You now pay for your neighbor's weight problem; thanks Obamacare/"   The pre-existing conditions that are clear cut enough like juvenile diabetes could be covered the way renal disease is now.  But what's behavior-based?  What's genetic?  Is HIV infection to be treated as behavior-based?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Trump's "race baiting" within media earshot of immature kids could lead to bullying


Jenee Desmond-Harris has an important analysis, “’All the Black and Brown People Have to Leave’: Trump’s scary impact on how kids think.”
 
She makes the point that when young kids overhear Trump’s comments in the media, they don’t understand the context (their brains aren’t developed enough to have the cognition to grasp what it means)   So they have a tendency to repeat the behaviors they see adults engaging in,



I can relate to this.  I was teased and bullied, but especially in a couple of troubling incidents in seventh and ninth grades, I could bully back.
 
When I was in kindergarten, in a private home in 1948-1949, the teacher divided the class into “brownies and elves”, as if the elves were superior and allowed to meet upstairs.  I was a “brownie” (I am white) and stayed downstairs.  That always stuck with me.  That would not be acceptable teaching now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Should electors be allowed to vote their consciences this year (whether or not Trump wins)?


Richard Sincere, formerly head of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty in the 1990s and active with the Libertarian Party of Virginia, has written recently about the possibility that electors could vote their consciences on Dec. 9.
 
This might become an issue if Donald Trump had an electoral majority, or if no one had one.

Sincere comments on his own Richmond Times Dispatch in an op-ed in Bearing Drift here. The original column is here.

State laws, including Virginia’s, often bind electors to the ballots, but a little known violation in 1972 by Virginia Roger MacBride relates to the early history of the Libertarian Party.



Above is a one-hour video by “Election Justice USA”. Let Michael Moore watch it.
 
Rick’s commentary also appears on Blogger here. (It works in https;  I tried it with SSL.)

Picture: Broad Street in Richmond after a September 2015 bicycle racing tournament.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Virginia considers placing "right to work" in its commonwealth constitution


The Richmond Times Dispatch has issued an editorial (Oct. 15) opposing amending the Virginia state constitution to guarantee the “right to work”.  The paper supports the law, saying it is appropriately neutral, but not placing it in a constitution.  (People said that about some of the “constitutional amendment” suggestions in Chapter 6 of my first book.)

The text of the proposed amendment, to be voted on Election Day, is here.
 
Libertarianism supports the idea that joining a union should not be a requirement of employment, and that non-membership could also be a requirement.


 
Opponents of right-to-work argue that non-members “freeload” on benefits won by members’ dues and sacrifices.  But it’s true that freeloading is a common problem in life everywhere.  It could be argued (as was the case often in information technology) that people without families to support are often willing to work for less, pulling down wages or making people with families more vulnerable to layoff by “lowballing”.  Indeed, even though “right to work” is generally favored by conservatives, it could be seen also as anti-fertility (again going against the normal goals of conservatism).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Over one quarter of all teachers in the US regularly miss class, requiring more subs


In the Washington Post, front page Thursday morning, Alejandra Matos reports that 27% of all teachers are chronically absent from class, missing two weeks or more of classes each academic year, increasing the need for subs.

Female teachers are more likely to be absent because of child care.
 
One problem is that inexperienced subs, often unlicensed, could be much more troubled by discipline and classroom management problems because original teachers may not have set up enough control and rapport with their own classes.  I certainly found that when I was subbing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Size of Obamacare price hike for 2017 seems to stun Clinton


HHS confirmed on Monday that individual insurance premiums under “Obamacare” would go up over 25% in 2017, as the open enrollment period approaches.  HHS also says that, with subsidies, most families will still pay less than $100 a month.  But even pro-Obama Vox doesn't think this is pretty (Vox explains).

Jonathan Chait, of New York Magazine, still says that Obamacare is a "policy success" and "political failure" in a piece here.

However this is bad news for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as suddenly Donald Trump has an easy legitimate issue to talk about in his rallies.  Trump promises that he will repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “great” but is vague on what that would be.

Most of the premium rises are associated with the withdrawal of some health insurance companies from some markets, and with the inability of plans to attract “healthy” young adults.


It’s disturbing to see “gofundme” drives for people who should have been properly insured before horrible accidents or criminal or terror events.   And rare cancers do strike the young, unpredictably, as do a few other things (like aneurysms).  

I remember when the baseball player Harry Agannis died from a bizarre blood clot in his lung back in 1955, at age 26. It can happen.  This story became a documentary movie.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Should you make a protest vote in the general election? Immigrants protected by DACA are asked to go door-to-door


I’ll start out by pointing out a recent guest post on Rick Sincere’s blog (from a former chair of the LPVa) by Will Hammer, to “vote against both evils” – and vote for Gary Johnson and the Libertarian ticket.  I think it would have been better to put Weld at the top.

And the GOP would probably have won with a reasonable candidate – John Kasich, maybe moderate Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland, had he wanted to run – as he has certainly learned the humility of needing health care the hard way.

But moderation is not what many voters want.  Indeed, they seek expropriation, or revolution, or return to a world that is meaningful for them, even if they have to blow up everything else.
 
But does voting for Johnson really make it more likely Trump wins?  Maybe.

This matters even today, as early voting is quite heavy already in Florida,



I noticed a story in the Washington Post Metro section today, by Antonio Olivo, “Immigrant activists canvass for Clinton.”   Online the title is more graphic “They crossed the border illegally and can’t vote. But they can knock on doors.”  Now, I won’t answer door-to-door activity of any kind anymore, because if a home invasion ever happened, my life and existence are over.  I can’t take the risk. So I become insular.  The article does discuss DACA, Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival’s Program.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferred_Action_for_Childhood_Arrivals  The article also discusses SCOTUS’s allowing an injunction against an expanded version of DACA go forward. But the article also quotes an activist (Luis Angel Aguillar) “All DACA recipients should take this on as an added responsibility to change the power structure. But if someone knocks in violation of a “no soliciting” sign the person is technically committing a trespassing violation, at least a misdemeanor.   I know, this sounds like Trumpland talk, and I go get where Trump is coming from on this matter.  Remember the “Russian roulette” scene from “The Deer Hunter”, the movie’s “middle section”?


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Donald Trump's First 100 Days could "get real" if he actually wins


Donald Trump may have more authority to implement some of his ideas during the first 100 days than a lot of people think, even though he doesn’t seem to respect the checks and balances of our system.

Here’s a WSJ article on the predictions.  The article does not mention suspending the small Syrian refugee program, but that could happen.  Evan Osnos did mention the idea to Fareed Zakaria on CNN (GPS program) today (as well as shutting down dome user generated content on the Internet, although he tweets at 3 AM himself) in a long article in the New Yorker.

Some of the items (like longer prison terms for those who return illegally) would not be controversial.



I take with a grain of salt his threat to sue women accusing him of sexual misconduct after the election, because the discovery process would be embarrassing for him, and the women would have tremendous pro bono support.

I could be concerned about the media speech issues, like the idea he could go after Section 230.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Per child grant proposals get traction among progressives


Eduardo Porter has a Business Day article in the New York Times, Wednesday, October 19, 2016, “Bold Strike Against Poverty: A Check for Every Child”, link.

He explores proposals to go beyond the per-child tax credit proposals, to simply giving a grant (maybe yearly) for every child.

This brings back ideas that we see in the debate about paid maternity leave (expanded to paid family leave):  you ask some people to pay for other people’s children – for other people’s marriages, for their sexual intercourse, to put it bluntly.  It confounds an individualist’s idea of personal “moral hazard”, which was holding away in libertarian debates in the 1990s.

But the idea can also be related to proposals concerning universal basic income, or even (for overseas) to “give direct” style charities.  Vox Media has especially promoted these proposals.

Monday, October 17, 2016

President Obama issues XO for national preparedness for extreme space weather events (Carrington-sized), after admitting 2012 near miss


The White House (President Barack Obama) has issued a rather verbose Executive Order to be prepared for extreme space weather events, link here.

I just found out about this from “The Survival Mom” on Facebook (check my main blog today for a story about litigation against the blog for a hyperlink).  The Survival Man correlated this to recent tensions with Russia and the possibility of cyberwar, exacerbated (especially on 10/13) by recent claims of Russia hacking the US election systems (sounds far-fetched because they are so decentralized). But a coronal mass ejection following a solar storm is a natural, not man-made, event.

There are about 72 hours from the time of a solar flare until the full coronal mass ejection arrives.  Would forecasts predict major power outages?  It's actually difficult to measure the CME's size until it reaches the "Lagrange point", which I believe is only a few hours before the event on Earth. Could the Storm Prediction Center of NOAA include these forecasts?
 
The Executive Order would seem to anticipate “Carrington Event”-sized coronal mass ejections.  The Earth may have barely missed one in July 2012.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Louisiana's take on marriage inequality -- for immigrants


Catherine Rampbell has an interesting take on marriage equality today in the Washington Post – for immigrants.  Louisiana won’t let immigrants marry without valid birth certificates, which makes marriage impossible for immigrants here legally, column here.
 
In some cases, they have gone to other states (like Alabama) to marry, and then returned, under Full Faith and Credit.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Zakaria on our "pay to play" politics: money as speech, and the tax code


Fareed Zakaria gave an interesting take on “pay to play” today on his CNN GPS broadcast.
  
The United States, he said, is the only major democracy that depends on private funding for political campaigns.  Zakaria coordinates this observation with the complexity of the tax code.

So when you buy a $5000 ticket for breakfast with a political candidate, you’re buying a break in the tax code.

And the Supreme Court, in 1976  (Buckley v. Valeo ) and more recently, said that money in political donations constitutes a form of speech.

So, Zakaria says, simplify the tax code – which is what libertarians want.

  

The “spoils” system, however, corrupts the idea of solidarity.  It tends to encourage partisan polarization (in conjunction with gerrymandering).  It mediates the idea of collective action and obedience to leadership with payoffs to specific special interests, and tends to encourage identity politics.

There's another way to look at the morality of speech, "play to pay".  No spectators! No gawkers!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Condo owners asked to house their neighbors after a structural failure on the property; radical hospitality?

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The recent evacuation of a sizable number of homeowners from a high rise condo building, one of the River Towers near Alexandria, VA, after “quake” revealing a structural problem involving the columns under part of the building, reminds us that no building absolutely perfect.  Modern or renovated high rises are usually safer than old homes, but many more people can be affected if something happens  WJLA has a story here.

The drove near the area today and saw a major creek nearby.  It appears that all of this probably has to do with repeated flood or water issues at low elevation.

The web page for the condo homeowner’s association actually asked, on Oct. 2, “please consider offering your neighbors a place to stay tonight.

In situations like this, I wonder, did the owners have typical homeowner’s and/or renter’s insurance with loss-of -use coverage?   If so, if they have credit cards, they could check into hotels (after gathering valuables and portable electronics) and file claims.

Again, I wonder what happens with mass evacuations of coastal areas, such as are starting on the Florida Atlantic Coast tomorrow, all the way to Wilmington NC.  Do people have flood insurance?  Are they covered for loss of use?  Could hotels be even found?

I do wonder, as a public policy matter, should there be more effort to have ordinary homeowners inland be ready to house them?  I don’t hear much about this.  There was some talk of it after Katrina (and some people were apparently sheltered by hosts in Texas).  You could ask the same question after a recent apartment explosion in Silver Spring MD, but most of the residents were low income (many were immigrants)

This may sound like “radical hospitality” and “scruffy hospitality.”  Even in a “free world” we should know what is expected and what is OK.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Liability for guest behavior may (or may not) be an issue in housing refugees, asylees


It appears that in Virginia, according to a legal link that I found, people are not liable for what their guests do when they are social hosts.  The most obvious example would be if someone drinks at a party and then has a DWI wreck driving home.  The link is here.   Actually, I think I recall a case in Charlottesville where there was liability.

Where this could matter “in a positive way” is if someone houses a refugee or asylum seeker, or even a domestic person in some dire straits (homeless, domestic violence victim).  Does that mean there is no secondary liability?   I would wonder about this even with an “emergency bnb” site that has been proposed. It seems like nobody is talking about this very cleanly.

In Maryland, things go the other way with “Noah’s Law”, requiring cars for DUI convicts to be equipped with breath tests and ignition locks  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Charlotte erupts in riots following police shooting, worse second night; protestors vandalize, loot upscale areas; also Tulsa shooting


Charlotte erupted last night, on live television, on CNN.  I saw looting, a man down with a gunshot wound, and at least one CNN reporter punched by a demonstrator who apparently believes in a a “no spectators” moral code.

Rioters completely destroyed some downtown (or “uptown”) retail stores, as well as damaging major hotels and even the Bank of America building.



According to the Charlotte Observer, curfews are being considered for tonight.  Police had great difficulty covering the scale of the rioting, as crowds kept coming back.  One civilian was shot, not by police, and may be in grave condition.

CNN’s coverage is here.

The rioters seemed oblivious to the idea that the policeman himself was black, and about the ambiguities surrounding the facts on the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

This seems to be the first major riot in recent terms where damage occurred in upscale areas away from black neighborhoods.  Much of the activity was near the Omni Hotel, and later on Tryon street, where I had stayed in a Hyatt in 2011 when working for Census.  I’ve visited Charlotte numerous times (including the club The Scorpio).  Some activity occurred near a light rail station.

OANN’s coverage is here  and Trey Yingst’s own footage is on Twitter here. Yingst has a photo of the shooting victim down, and it was first thought he had been injured by the flash bang.

Several reporters had minor injuries but Trey tweeted back this morning that he was safe (like Marathon Man).  In Baltimore, in 2015, he had tweeted that he was in a hazardous place for a while.
I think I recognized one other cameraman as someone I may know.  I am not aware of any injuries or other involvement among anyone I know, even though I have considerable contacts in North Carolina and this concerns me more than usual.



In Tulsa, a white female officer shot a black man Terrence Crutcher at a traffic stop; ABC coverage and officer’s account here..

By Okiefromokla - adapted from [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3871308

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

DC Paid family leave could be the most generous in the nation, would be paid for with a special tax, however


Support for mandatory paid family leave allowances on larger employers in Washington DC is gaining support in DC City Council and could possibly get passed by the end of 2016, according to a Washington Times story by Ryan McDermott

The measure would provide sixteen weeks of paid family leave and would apparently be inclusive for new fathers, adoptive parents, and adult children giving parents eldercare, as well as for maternity leave.  It would be paid for with a 1% tax on employers.  My own preference is for a sliding payroll deduction to make associates aware of the ethical issues involved in making their own life choices.

 The measure would make it one of the most generous in the nation.



There were vigorous demonstrations in Washington Tuesday for paid family leave, but demonstrators don’t worry about how to pay for it.

Washington DC’s advocacy group for the issue is “DC Paid Family Leave”. here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Oil pipeline rupture in Alabama could spread gas shortages suddenly to the East Coast, already in southeast


A retrospect of the 1970s gas lines could develop shortly, especially in some southeastern states, because a major pipeline in Shelby County AL has failed.   It cannot be repaired until next week.  The owner is Colonial Pipeline.

CNN has a story here. .  It’s a disturbing story, too, in view of the Midwestern pipeline protests and fracking problems.

It's domestic, however, and not caused by geopolitical or religious tensions like in the 70s with the Arab oil embargo of Oct. 1973, which I remember well. 
   
The leak occurred on Sept. 9, but it did not get reported by the media much until yesterday, Sept. 15.  Washington DC media stations (like News Channel 8) don’t seem to be noticing the problem much yet, but shortages could reach as far as New Jersey.  However, locations from Virginia farther north have more alternate supply routes.

But according to ABC News, some gasoline shortages have already occurred, rather suddenly, as far north as Virginia.



Prices are rising more sharply in Georgia and Alabama.  They haven’t increased that much in the DC area yet.

It would be disturbing to wonder if gasoline supply disruptions could affect ride-sharing services like Uber.

Update: 

Repairs were completed around Sept. 21 and the pipeline resumed operating.