Thursday, June 22, 2017

Senate reveals its "kinder, gentler" Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017

Senate Republicans are about to unveil their “kinder, gentler” health care bill today, which seems (like a grand jury investigation) to have been carried out in secret, Washington Post story (“Power Post”) story by Sean Sullivan, Juleit Eilperin, and Paige Winfiled Cunningham, here.

It's called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  Here is Business Insider’s story. The text of the bill (HR 1628) is embedded in this article.

The main feature of the bill seems to be the indexing of subsidies according to income (inversely) rather than age.  It does sound like it will handle the biggest concerns about pre-existing conditions and low to moderate income people, and that will stabilize markets for a while.  But it will weaken Medicaid over time.  It may undermine not only abortion but family planning services.  It could undermine HIV prevention (like PrEP).

Actually, some people say the bill still allows states to waive out of paying for pre-existing conditions (the "states rights" idea, or simple federalism), and Sen. Rand Paul talks about the "death spiral" of Obamacare.

Ironically, McConnell says it strengthens Medicaid and does allow adult kids to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.  Nursing home care under Medicaid will be weaker and could cause more imposition of filial responsibility laws.

Democrats say the bill won’t guarantee coverages that many Americans actually need. Democrats also say they have only ten hours to debate the bill. No open committee hearings.

I tweeted POTUS recently, that the bill needs subsidies, not Just tax breaks, and some way has to be found to pay for it.  So much for letting the rich off the hook.

"VoxCare" weighs in here.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

New alarm reported over Yellowstone caldera and possibility of a massive eruption even in the next decade

A site called Zero Hedge has put out alarming reports the past two days about an increase in earthquake activity in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, which apparently has been followed by a quieting again.  This event is seen as a possible symptom of a massive eruption of the Yellowstone caldera.  The story (with links) was shared on Facebook today by a member of the “doomsday prepper” community.

Some reports claim that there is a 10% chance of a major Yellowstone eruption by the year 2100.  Some claim it could be imminent.   There is one massive eruption every 650,000 years and we are about due.  Each eruption occurs farther east than the previous one.

There are also reports that the US is quietly contacting other nations for possible catastrophe “refugees”.  But it might be possible to house people in private homes in the eastern part of the US, following the “radical hospitality” idea proposed in the past for political refugees and asylum seekers.

There have sometimes been stories that a change of water levels in some lakes in the area could predict an eruption.

A major volcanic eruption would cause an ash cloud that would block the sun’s rays in many parts of the world for some years, reversing climate change.  “The year without a summer” in 1815 resulted from a massive Indonesian eruption.

Of course, when Mt. St. Helens vomited in May 1980, there was a lot of disruption, but that would be dwarfed by Yellowstone. There are some reports that the magma chamber under Yellowstone is much larger and deeper than previously thought, one of the deepest on the planet.

Recently, a young man was severely burned after falling into a hot spring in Yellowstone.  I have visited the area only once, in May 1981, when it was still cold.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. diagram of the Yellowstone caldera.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Emergency room doctor: What military bullets do to bodies

Leana Wen, an emergency room surgeon in Baltimore, has an op-ed in the New York Times Saturday making the strongest case for an assault weapons ban, “What Bullets do to bodies.”
But these are the expanding or tumbling bullets in battlefield weapons.  I think those started with the M16, as I remember from my own Army service.   There was no drill and ceremony manual for the M16, as we learned on the M14.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Some in GOP stand by self-defense rights after Alexandria; will Congress tone down the partisanship when debt ceiling comes up?

Some of “those Republicans” want looser gun laws, still, and think they would have been safer if carrying their own weapons on the Alexandria, VA baseball field recently. New York Times story.
No, they should have had better security in the first place.

The internal organ damage done by a high velocity weapon is getting coverage in the news today.

 Yes, we learned about that in the Army, although I never had to fire an M16.

It’s a little bit reassuring to hear politicians in Congress today saying they need to tone down their partisan bickering and work together. Will they do so soon on something like the debt ceiling?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Shocking security hazard for members of Congress on a baseball practice field for a charity event

The shootings of GOP congressional staff and aides early this morning at a baseball practice field in Alexandria VA indeed shocking.  From the known facts, it seems to have been “Left-wing terrorism”, more like what could have happened in the 60s and 70s.  There was an incident in 1954 where 5 congressmen were shot.

Also shocking is the partisan question of  the attacker at a congressperson leaving early unaware of the attention, then shooting at people fielding ground balls.

Still, it’s surprising that only two Capitol Police officers were in the area to provide security. Both wounded, they acted heroically; without them, there might have been over 20 people in Congress assassinated.

The Washington Post has the latest details here.
Normally there is more perimeter security when a significant number of members of Congress, the Cabinet, judiciary, and the like are gathered together in one place.

We know what some people will ask about self-defense.

The shooter had claimed he was a Sanders supporter and had been strident on social media. There will be questions about the violent nature of the Facebook group he belonged to.

Monday, June 12, 2017

One-third of the world's population is overweight, and US leads the way

CNN reports that one third of the world’s population is overweight (BMI over 25; over 30 is obese) with the US leading the way.

13% of the world’s children are overweight.

It certainly appears that better educated people in the US have fewer weight problems., Young adult cis gay males are less likely to be overweight than usual (just notice Pride this past weekend).

People in native populations exposed to process foods are more likely to become overweight (and diabetes) than European or African peoples, because they evolved in a culture with less over-prepared food available.  Just like wild animals (mammals) would become diabetic if fed human foods; they stay healthy on what they can catch or forage.
Yet, I’ve always seen the weigh-loss business as rather pimpy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

NSA analyst charged for leak of election-computer-related hack by Russia

Reality Winner has been charged with illegally removing and transmitting classified information from her job at the NSA, regarding apparent Russian attempts to hack American election terminals in sites that did not have paper backups.  (I have worked on the XP stations myself back around 2007 one election-judge one-day gigs, but we always had paper copies.)

The New York Times has a detailed story on how she got caught, here. This will cause concerns among other journalists.

The Post story on her charging is here. She could face 10 years in prison.  Her attorney and parents have appeared on CNN.

I’ve had only one job (1971-1972 for Navy Department) where I needed a formal clearance.  Handling classified material can be a pain and a risk, unless you want a career in intelligence analysis.  Had I grow up in a more tolerant world, I might have had one.

Vox discusses how this will affect the Comey hearings.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Trump proposes privatizing air traffic control system, splitting off from FAA

President Donald Trump just announced plans to privatize the the air traffic control system today, separating it legally from the FAA and making it a separate corporation.

ABC News has some analysis, indicating a concern that it will leave a few large airlines in control of what airports have service, eliminating smaller cities, and even higher fares with less federal funding. Trump argues that the taxes on tickets will be lower.

There is some concern over the dichotomy of the idea that TSA took over private screeners after 9/11.  (I even applied for a screener job twice.)

There is also a memory of Reagan’s firing air traffic controllers for striking in 1982.  I remember that well, living in Dallas and using Love Field and Southwest Airlines a lot at the time.

CNN’s story is here.

The FAA has been way behind the private tech industry in upgrading its hardware and software systems, using military-based systems from the past when I was growing up.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Trump likely to pull out of Paris, but might want another agreement; Weather Channel vs. Breitbart

The Weather Channel has asked the conservative Breitbart site to stop using its video on climate change out of context to falsely buttress a claim of climate denial as here.

I think the bigger problem is that a lot of old people won’t see the effects of climate change personally, but their kids, or certainly grandchildren will.  What about the childless?  Climate change poses basic questions about self-interest in relation to the group and posterity.

There are numerous reports that Trump will pull out of the Paris accords.  Probably most US companies would still continue green practices as they are able.  The real effect would be the effect on developing countries.  On the other hand, some (Ted Cruz) have said that the accords don’t demand enough of other countries.

The Washington Post has an analysis here.

The New York Times has detailed coverage by Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport,  with a link to an interactive graphic on what other nations might do.

Update: June 2

Here is a video of the text of Trump's speech pulling out.

Monday, May 29, 2017

In TN, 91-year-old vet makes a second career of substitute teaching for three decades: DC school system hit by mid-year resignations.

Two stories about substitute teachers in the news Memorial Day.

One is from ABC News, about 91-year-old veteran Frank Michanowicz, who has substitute-taught for 30 years in Nashville, public schools, NBC News link here.  He has received an award as the Volunteer State’s longest continuously serving substitute teacher, and he seems to handle the elementary grades.

The Washington Post has front page story by Alejandra Matos about mid-year resignations in the District of Columbia public schools, leaving many classes filled by long-term subs.  The problem has been especially bad with mathematics teachers, which I might have become.  The subs are not always proficient in math, and do not always have the skills to keep classroom discipline.

Maybe the schools need a visit from the AOPS math problem solvers, like UCLA’s Deven Ware.
I’m not sure if the District or Tennessee require certification of subs, but many states (like Virginia) do not.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Debt ceiling crisis for US could come as soon as August, as tax revenues are below projections under Trump

On p. A19 of the Washington Post on Saturday, May 27, 2017, Catherine Rampbell has a disturbing column titled “Rooting for the one-percenters”.  Online the title is scarier, “America is about to face a major hostage situation”.

Tax revenues are coming a bit slower than had been expected, partly because of some arcane incentives, so the extraordinary measures that Treasury Secretary Munchen to get around the debt ceiling could run out sooner than had been expected, perhaps by the end of August.

Rampbell points out that Trump made reckless states about the debt ceiling during the campaign, claiming he could negotiated business “deals” with creditors.  It’s unclear if Trump’s views have moderated.  Perhaps, because Munchen wants to resolve this issue.  But OMB director Milke Mulvaney has been unsteady (to say the least) about the country’s credit worthiness, partly because of his connection to the House Freedom Caucus.  Democrats might have a political incentive to let the Republicans crash the economy in view of the 2018 elections.

For someone in my shoes (in retirement), nothing is more important than stability and predictability. Otherwise I become as pitiful a parasite as the people I try to avoid.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

We could really fix AHCA but drop the ball on everything else

The Washington Post summarizes the findings of the CBO report on the House AHCA bill, noting that in about one sixth of the country states are likely to behave in a manner as to effectively leave about 23 million sicker non-elderly people uninsured.   Complicating this is less federal support for Medicaid.
One obvious “fix” would be that the federal government would have to make up all the differences with real subsidies (to assigned risks), not “just” tax cuts.  But that would eat into Trump’s deficit reduction plans.

Which brings us to all the other stuff.  Trump will cut a lot of other programs, like food stamps assistance.  So we can imagine going to the effort to get everyone covered somehow under the AHCA and letting everything else drop.

There’s even the hackneyed debate that working young people make the sacrifices, and nothing is asked of seniors (who have more political clout). But on Social Security seniors have a point. Whatever the legalities of Flemming v. Nestor, most seniors feel they paid for their benefits with FICA taxes over their lives.  You could, of course, bring back the debate on Cost of Living increases and bumping up retirement ages, and increasing floors on FICA.  All of this could set up an ugly confrontation on the debt ceiling later this year.

The GOP is certainly playing the libertarian ‘personal responsibility” card on this one.  States will be able to impose work requirements (at minimum or tip wages) on some benefit recipients. Particularly on food issues, organizations (in the DC area) like Food and Friends and Arlington Food Assistance Center will campaign even harder for funds.  And efforts like these don’t work well without recruiting more dedicated volunteers, who don’t prejudge whether their indirect clients are “worthy” of this kind of personal priority.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

California may experiment with single-payer

Dylan Scott on Vox has an article on California’s proposed Single Payer health care system, which some progressive interests propose to replace Obamacare before Trump gets a chance to trash it with AHCA. The article and discussion of the surveys is here.

Proponents say it would require a 15% payroll tax to pay for the program.  Would this come out of wages?  People would no longer need to pay for health insurance or doctor bills.  (It’s unclear if any dental is covered.)  The healthy people would be sacrificing the most. But in Europe this sort of plan seems to work – although in countries like Germany and Switzerland there is a bigger private component than most people realize, but it is well managed.

Vermont had tried such an idea but it failed.  Minnesota heavily regulates health insurance to make it available, and many health insurance plans in the state are non-profit.

Monday, May 22, 2017

SCOTUS: North Carolina used race excessively in gerrymandering

The Supreme Court has eradicated GOP-drawn gerrymandered voting districts in North Carolina.  The court ruled that race by itself cannot be the driving factor in setting up voting districts.  The USA Today story is here.

The GOP tried to group African Americans together so that they could not threaten GOP majorities in critical contested areas of the state.  But the court ruled that excessive use of race effectively disenfranchised black voters even if partisan advantage alone would not make districting unconstitutional.

Justice Kagan wrote the majority opinion.  (Cooper v. Harris)

Ever notice how litigation against legislation names individuals as representing their office with their own persona (like the Kim Davis Problem).

There was another decision today, Water Splash v. Menon, holding that it is acceptable to service process by mail to a defendant out of the country.  This could be important in the future in Internet-related litigation.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Passenger arrest in Honolulu could complicate deliberations about the in-cabin electronics ban even on domestic flights

A man originally from Turkey was arrested in Honolulu today after, under fighter escort, his American Airlines flight from Los Angeles landed.

On the flight, the man had hovered near a bathroom near the cockpit, and then tried to enter the cockpit with laptop in hand.

Heavy has a story with pictures here.

A Hawaii news site has more details here.

Authorities will certainly look at the laptop, given all the attention recently to intelligence suggesting explosives could be hidden in the battery component. A theoretical (at least) concern is that someone could send a laptop from the Middle East in checked luggage and then use it on a US domestic flight, unless US normal security would definitely have caught it.

That could be relevant to discussions of the electronics inflight ban coming up on flights from Europe. Could it even extend to domestic?

The passenger had behaved erratically in other aspects and been arrested once already.  He could have been kept off the flight for other reasons.

Update: May 29

The TSA might ban laptops in cabins from all outgoing and incoming international flights, story.

Note that in the past, the TSA has recommended that passengers not put laptops in checked baggage because they would be damaged.  Duh....

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trump does flirt with obstruction of justice, possible justification for impeachment, with Comey Memo

There is not original to add to the DOJ’s appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate RussiaGate, Putin’s possible connections to the Trump campaign.  And Trump, like a baby, now is crying witchhunt. You can look at “When the World Is Led by a Child” by David Brooks. (Trump's hair in the picture makes him look like a doll.)  It seems as though we don't have a president.  You wonder what it would be like to have a journalist (Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo) as president, someone not used to asking for money from voters (although Cuomo comes from a political family -- maybe the best of both worlds).

Peter Stevenson has a perspective that is as reasonable as any on whether Trump will be impeached/    It’s not that easy.

But off hand, it certainly sounds as though the “Comey Memo” could be very damaging to the president, if the president indeed improperly encouraged Comey to back off investigating Flynn (“he’s a good guy”).  Jeffrey Toobin agrees, but Alan Dershowitz would not.

The president’s sharing of the intelligence that led to the partial electronics ban on incoming flights with Russia could actually be appropriate.  The media is focused on the idea that the intelligence came from Israel and the president has compromised the future willingness to share information that could get passed on to an adversary. True, but some of the information could be quite limited and specific.  Russia has real problems with terrorists of its own (Chechnya).  The threats to flights to Moscow would be similar.  And Russia has been hit much harder than the US by some other acts, like the recent cyberwar incident with ransomware.

Update: May 19

McKay Coppins asks on The Atlantic, "How will the Trump presidency end?"  Trump is not yet in a King and Pawn ending, but he won't know how to keep "The Opposition". 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Private citizen demands on court lead to charges of Amtrak train engineer for 2015 crash

The family of someone killed in the May 2015 Amtrak derailment sought a private criminal complaint against the engineer, causing a judge to order Brandon Bostian charge,d in Pennsylvania criminal court,  after local prosecutors had decided there wasn’t enough evidence to prove some sort of criminal negligence beyond a reasonable doubt.  ABC News has a detailed story here.

For the train engineer, this is an excruciating case.
This sounds highly unusual, perhaps vengeful, for private citizen to overrule a charging decision by a prosecutor (or grand jury).  What if such criminal procedire was possible in the Ferguson MO case?

Positive train control would have prevented the accident, on an Amtrak route I have ridden many times personally. But when people drive trucks or trains for a living, there is always this personal criminal liability risk.

Friday, May 12, 2017

TSA mulls extending laptop ban on flights from Europe and UK soon, but the consequences are so unclear

There are plenty of rumors to the effect that DHS-TSA will implement rules requiring all laptops and large electronics to checked from all flights from the UK and Europe.  Could this spread to domestic flights? 

The most complete story is on CNN, which relates that Delta leaked the rumor to customers in Cincinnati already.

Engineers are questioning whether placing a lot of objects with lithium-ion batteries close together makes sense.  Checking them earlier at the airport might spread them out more. 

Would laptops would be damaged in checked luggage? 

There are also questions whether there is a kind of Brexit-related business subterfuge going on. 

Some experts say that there is technology to make sure that laptops are OK, but they would have to be running when checked.  

Again, there is no “laptop rental” (with appropriate security) industry comparable to a car rental industry, but it sounds like we need one.  People could keep data in the cloud. 

It is possible to buy a keyboard at a destination and work with a smart phone only. 

Hotel business centers are usually woefully inadequate for high volume use by travelers. 

Update: May 15

The Washington Post reports that President Trump discussed classified material with the Russian foreign minister on intelligence related to the enlarging electronics ban. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Comey, Comier, Comiest

Was Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey “justified” (like something Justin Timberlake would sing)?

No.  It does throw too much suspicion (despite Trump’s denial) of a coverup of his connections to Putin  

Oh, yes, there is the stuff about nausea, like Roman Polanski's film "Carnage".
Comey’s release of a letter to Congress on Oct. 28 was unfortunate, but it might be justifiable if that’s where the investigation was going. Smerconish on CNN has said as much.  One observation is that the fact that some of Hillary Clinton’s emails wound up associated with Weiner and a possible sex-offender prosecution is indeed bizarre and unprecedented.  And no, that had nothing to do with Comet Ping Pong.

In fact, the whole panoply of Clinton’s email scandals and connection to Weiner forms a curious parallel to a couple of incidents in my own career, one having to do with a fumbled production elevation in 1991, and another about the whole “scandal” over my fictitious screenplay when I was substitute teaching (back in 2005 at West Potomac High School near Alexandria VA, if anyone remembers the incident). I always thought I hadn’t heard the least of that incident, but indeed something similar could throw a presidential election. Big problem.

OAN White House correspondent Trey Yingst today grilled deputy White House Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the exact timing of Trump’s actions, back to Monday night.

Here’s Trump’s blunt letter “You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately”.  “You’re fired!”

The Deputy AG’s letter is here.  Comey is accused of going outside of DOJ chain of command last summer.

Comey was certainly humiliated in front of his own subordinates in Los Angeles.

Is this Trump’s Watergate moment?

Is this Tuesday afternoon massacre the same as Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre?

Monday, May 08, 2017

Outbreak of measles in Somali immigrants in Minnesota attributed to vaccine denial

Julia Belluz reports on Vox about the measles epidemic among (legal) Somali immigrants in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, here.  The article “blames” the vaccine deniers and says Andrew Wakefield facilitated the epidemic.

And there is an anti-intellectual, anti-elite attitude where parents put their own kids first in the narrowest since, rejecting herd immunity.  “Prove to me that vaccines don’t cause autism”.

I remember the Somali community (women often in bright burqas and dresses in downtown Minneapolis) and the Hmong (Vietnamese) when I lived in Minneapolis 1997-2003.

Then look at this weeks Time Magazine article (May 15) on pandemics and the need to escalate vaccine research to prevent a catastrophe some day with avian influenza. The article is by Bryan Walsh, "The world is not ready for the next pandemic".

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Could Trump's tax plan (doubling standard deduction) indirectly threaten home values?

President Trump has proposed a tax code overhaul that might double or greatly increase the standard deduction and remove many itemized deductions, especially local and state deductions, probably including real estate (and school district) taxes.

It’s quite unclear right now how this will go, as its effect would be complicated by the uncertainty over how Obamacare will be “replaced” (generating a lot of anger right now).

The Wall Street Journal has a strong editorial this weekend, “Houses of Lobbyists”.  The WSJ believes that the real estate industry is whining about its own prediction of the loss of home values because people won’t have the same tax incentive to buy rather than rent.

Loss of real estate values would also harm people with big mortgages (reminders of the subprime crisis a decade ago, contributing to the 2008 financial crisis), and the coffers of local governments.  It might cause some planned deals to fail, and some building projects to be canceled.

NAHB has a statement here, as does Palm Beach Post, and Illinois Realtors, to name a few.

The Wall Street Journal expresses a moral objection to the dependence on tax cuts to stimulate ownership over renting, and maintains that in other western countries it doesn’t work this way.  As a real estate businessman, you would think Trump himself could wonder these things (as would his two sons running his empire).

It is possible that I will consider “downsizing” this summer, a move that could help me focus on selling my “work” and make me more morally credible in some circles because I live in an “inherited” house.  But anything I say right now would be very speculative.

Update: May 9, 2017

Vox, in a piece by Alexa Fernandez Campbell, argues that Trunp's tax plan could invite abusive use of home based businesses as tax shelters, even sole proprietorships, even mine.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

House passes "TrumpCare" and it seems to handle pre-existing conditions, if the red states behave

The Wall Street Journal offered an excellent editorial on May 1, “Pre-existing confusion” on the whole “Trump Care” bill that just passed a little while ago in the House, apparently by 217-213, along partisan lines.  And the biggest point is still whether to go back to separating out higher risk consumers, so that most consumers don’t have to pay higher premiums to purchase care they will not use. It seems more acceptable to many of us to pay for unusual illnesses acquired mostly by misfortune publicly, through normal taxation and perhaps reinsurance.

The WSJ points out that guaranteed issue continues, and that states can only waiver out of community rating by doing something instead, like setting up high-risk pools. Yes, we’ve had them before and “liberals” say they weren’t enough. But there should be a mix of federal and state premium supports for sicker people who can’t afford them.  In fact, for someone with inherited Type 1 Diabetes, unless he or she is rich and really can pay for the self (which the GOP understandably wants), he or she will need the premium support.

Critics are properly skeptical of “trusting” the states, given the history of the South.

I would add that reinsurance of excessive claims ought to be part of health care reform.  Even people without pre-existing conditions could have catastrophic injuries, maybe caused by someone else’s negligence, resulting in very high claims.  As Donald Trump has himself been am major employer (as are his two sons now), he ought to know this and want to include it.

And as Spicer insisted in meetings yesterday, premiums don’t rise for people who keep continuous coverage.

There can be some issues, like how to pay for HIV protease inhibitor therapy (which is usually effective but lifelong), or PrEP.
As for Medicaid reform, I remember working in New York State MMIS for Bradford National back in 1977-1978 when I was living in NYC well.

Monday, May 01, 2017

People's Climate March; May Day turns violent

Although I got to the March for Science, I didn’t get to the Climate Protest 2017 Saturday or to the May Day demonstrations today because I was busy with immigration (a Saturday event in Maryland, covered on Wordpress, here  ).

Here is WJLA’s coverage of May Day in Washington DC, link. It also focused on Trump’s immigration policies, which keep more than one reporter busy.

There are reports of serious violence at a May Day protest in Portland OR now, on CNN.  Police canceled the march after anarchists reported stormed the event, in a manner reminiscent of the violence in Berkeley over the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos. KGW in Portland reports here.

The National LGBTQ Task Force reports on May Day here.

People's Climate covers its own event Saturday here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Washington Post shoots down "my" reinsurance proposal for health care

The Washington Post writes that “Repeal and Replace Just Got Worse” in an editorial Friday morning, here.

It’s notable to me that the Post seems to reject the idea of reinsurance for excessive claims associated with pre-existing conditions.  Such a program could be left to the states, and some states would not be as generous as others.  Some states might refuse to allow reinsurance to work for “behavior-related” conditions, for example.  That might be bad for a lot of people with HIV, and it wouldn’t cover PrEP – but you don’t have the “right” to make others pay for it.

The Post speculates that federal contributions to such a fund would be inadequate.  Maybe so if most of it is left to states.  But it gives no detail.

This still comes back to “moral hazard”.

But if you value all human life, you have to decide how you will pay for it.  Taxes, or single payer?  The simplest, and most removed (and it comes with rationing and wait lists).  Making everybody pay much higher premiums?  Or goading people with GoFundMe campaigns.  But you have to pick an outcome.  It’s a multiple choice exam.

Politico has suggested a reinsurance system recently, at least according to my Starbucks reading.

Many Republicans favor letting states use their higher risk pools, with premium subsidies for low income policyholders. This way those could afford it would pay for their higher use of medical services.  But imagine the argument extended to Medicare.  You could make people who can afford it pay for more of their share of, say, coronary bypass surgeries.  People do pay for their own custodial care, though.

On the tax code reform – it’s too early to say, but raising the standard deduction could encourage more renting and less home buying, and less charitable contributions.  But it would make taxes take less time, for some of us.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Trump wants to break up the Ninth Circuit

President Trump supports a GOP plan to break up the Ninth Circuit, which has been hostile to some of his policies, especially his travel bans, the Washington Examiner reports here.

Apparently Congress would create another circuit, that would include the state of Washington, which is generally more conservative than California (as well as Alaska, but Hawaii might be more liberal).
Trump still insists he was right on the travel bans and on opposing funding to sanctuary cities.  A federal judge stayed that plan earlier this week on 10th Amendment arguments, claiming the federal government perhaps cannot micromanage how states manage their own law enforcement priorities.

Along these lines, Wikipedia has useful article on unitary vs. federal sovereign countries.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

US-born children of undocumented immigrants left stranded by Trump deportations

As more undocumented immigrants are deported, a disturbing question will be, what happens to their children, especially those born in the U.S. and therefore citizens by birthright.

The Phoenix New Times has a detailed story by Antonia Noori Farzan and Sean Holstege.

Sometimes older siblings or other relatives (who might be undocumented) have to raise them.  Sometimes they are put into foster care.

The Migration Policy Institute has a 2016 profile of children with undocumented parents here. Nearly 80% were born in the United States.

An Arizona group called LUCHA (“fught”) does organize fundraisers for affected families.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Yes, under Obamacare single individuals have to pay for coverages they could never use

One of the biggest controversies with Obamacare has been that even in the individual market, people have to pay for coverages that they have zero chance of needing personally.

The Christian Science Monitor had an explanation back in 2013 that still bears reading.  It’s about ending “discrimination” and enlarging the risk pool in the individual market.

When I was working for a long term employer (through the end of 2001), I had group coverage only for myself.  My premiums were about one-fourth of a family plan.  But I think they technically could have covered “pregnancy”.  It was not viewed as likely to increase claims substantially among workers.

One could ask, isn’t thus paying for “sin” – childbirth out of wedlock?  But you could turn it around and say, as a gay male, aren’t others paying for my presumably higher risk of HIV?  (In fact, I am HIV-).  In fact, now, as Obamacare comes under fire, paying for protease inhibitors or, particularly, PrEP could become controversial.

Obamacare’s own site lists the required coverages here.

There is also literature that says that for small employers, individual plans will be cheaper than group plans, because the individual plans are open to larger pools.

Obamacare allows insurers to set premiums higher for certain risks.  The most “important” is probably family coverage – spouse and dependents, which can keep adult children until age 26 (for most needs).  But it appears that individuals even without children must cover pediatric services.  States have some discretion, but some states (like New York) have required that pediatric dental coverage be embedded in all policies, and New York claims this is generally cheaper for everyone.

Much of the anger of Obamcare was that some policyholders seemed to be forced to pay a lot for services they didn’t need, after their older policies were canceled as substandard.  It’s not clear why some premiums rose so much. With health insurance, it is much more difficult to address the issue of "moral hazard" if, indeed, all lives matter.

My own case at ING was that I had inexpensive coverage that provided immediate first rate surgery when I had an accidental hip fracture in a convenience store.  The claim was subrogated against the liability policy for the company, but I wound up with fill salary and no deductibles in the end (after a brief fight over one issue).   But, again, I was “cherry picked” as a professional worker unlikely to cause claims.  Even so, ING was able to cover some disabled workers (or families with dependents with pre-existing conditions) fully without significant premium increases for everyone.  This seems much easier for large employers with professional work forces than for anyone else.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Conservative group in Minnesota provides complete analysis of healthcare problems in the state, and how Obamacare messed it up

When I lived in Minneapolis  (1997-2003) I sometimes went to forums held by the Center of the American Experiment, particularly those forums with a more libertarian focus.  The Cato Institute visited once, as did ABC libertarian-leaning journalist John Stossel.

Peter Nelson has a detailed article in the print version of “Thinking Minnesota” for Spring 2017, p. 44, “Anatomy of a Death Spiral: The loss of healthy enrollment leads to such an expensive risk pool that no one can afford to buy coverage, thus killing the market”.

I could not find the specific article online, but the writer has a huge page on the org’s website, with a video about getting away from employer-sponsored health insurance.

The article makes a case for state-sponsored higher risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions.  It also makes the case for older people paying more relative to younger people.  Indeed it makes the point that Obamacare tries to force younger and healthier people cover other people’s know pre-existing conditions with their own mandatory premiums, rather than rely on separating out the risk, which is what happens with other kinds of insurance (although one could wonder about the actuarial Anwisdom of the way some umbrella property and auto policies are set up).

Another article, on p. 34, “Disinherited”, by Diana Furchtgott-Roth, “explains how liberal policies betray America’s young”, criticizes Obamacare for forcing young adults to purchase coverage they don’t personally need, such as single men paying for maternity care or child care.  But this point as a moral backside, as I have often covered before.

Note the Rand video above, and “moral hazard”.

Note also Ezra Klein's article for Vox today, about the "real debate" among conservatives.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Amateur journalism, pickets, and "the right to Life"

As I left the Lincoln Memorial area today after the Easter Sunrise service, I did encounter a small anti-abortion demonstration.

I guess I’m a watcher.

As I took pictures, a man approached me and asked, “Sir, am I right or wrong?”

I said, “I’m just a journalist.  I record what I see.”

Are journalists above "takings sides"?

Do I have a right to pretend to be “above” carrying pickets? 

Friday, April 07, 2017

Senate passes bill requiring women to register for Selective Service

A bill requiring women to register for Selective Service has passed the Senate, as reported here in “Military”.  When it would start is not yet clear,

Libertarian-leading Rand Paul had tried to introduce a bill abolishing Selective Service and was rebuffed.

Donald Trump has wanted to eliminate unneeded federal entities.  How does he feel about the Selective Service System?  Does he feel we could need a draft again?  He’s not even close to having served himself, for all his talk about strengthening the Armed Forces and helping veterans.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

GOP goes nuclear on SCOTUS confirmations, stacking the court; the hypothermic truck driver case

The Senate exercised its “nuclear option” on a stormy day in Washington (with a possible tornado 30 miles away) after the Democrats threatened a filibuster on the nomination of  Neil Gorsuch (New York Times account ).  That means that from now on, a simple majority will confirm Supreme Court appointments.  If Republicans (counting Trump) stay in power for the next year, it will be pretty easy for them to stack the court. 

I’m reasonably confident that the new nominees would regard marriage equality as settled law.  But they won’t bend over backwards to protect LGBTQ people fired from jobs (even with some federal funding) over “religious freedom”, even if such incidents are uncommon and extreme.  They probably will side with the 11th Circuit (rather than the 7th) on how Federal Civil Rights law is read with respect to some gender issues. They won’t help transgender people in states that don’t want to allow birth certificate changes.  And so on. 

Yet, I don’t join resistance movements over hopeless fights over appointments. 

Ezra Klein has a video on Vox supporting Democrats’ protesting one last time, and thinks the filibuster should disappear anyway.  I couldn’t find the right URL, so it’s on my Facebook book page right now, here

I agree, the Senate should only confirm moderate judges who represent the people, regardless of whose party is in control.  But, as Klein himself says, we have weak parties and strong partisanship. 
I personally that that “original meaning” of anything has to be interpreted in light of science or technology that has developed since (and this particularly true of the Internet).  
Elie Mystal has an article summarizing the case Trans Am Trucking v. Department of Labor, where Gorsuch dissented with a decision in favor of a truck driver who drove an unhitched cab instead of waiting for assistance in extreme cold, and was fired because company policy didn’t allow him to do that.  Gorsuch interpreted the law very literally, even given unusual life and death circumstances.     Franken grilled him on the confirmation hearings, and Democrats wanted to hang the disapproval on this case.  

The ”nuclear option” had been used in 2013 for lower court judge confirmations.  

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Trump. after threatening to work with Dems on health care, returns to demands of conservatives on health care

While Trump has “threatened” to work with Democrats on health care and attacked the Freedom Caucus in his “own” party, now the White House seems to be supporting a revised “TrumpCare” bill that seems more conservative than the RyanCare bill that was defeated ten days ago.

The new bill might allow insurers more leeway in charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions while not allowing them to be denied coverage altogether; and it might allow states to opt out of coverage requirements for some items, like drug addiction, mental illness or reproduction-related services.

Bloomberg has a story here.

NBC News has a recent detailed story with two videos, here.

Yet Trump, according to the New York Post, had credited himself for tripping up the GOP on the Ryan bill, story.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

CNN covers crowdfunding for families seeking to adopt children

CNN Saturday morning ran an interesting quick report on crowdfunding for personal adoptions.
A family explained that the cost of the actual adoption process, especially for overseas adoptions, constrains many families.

There are many sites that enable families to get to crowdfunded sources.  There are many articles about them.  Here is a typical article.  Here is another one.

Again, I’m rather miffed, as an older person, by the openness (I could call it brazenness) of appeals for money for personal projects, even if they are socially important.  I feel a little differently (and more supportive) about artistic projects to which I feel some personal connection because of my own history.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Politico fixes Obamacare / Ryancare / Trumpcare: Reinsure the insurers

Politico Magazine seems to have taken me up on one of my ideas for reforming Obamacare (or RyanCare or TrumpCare, if some other replacement bill someday does pass).  That is, offer resinsurance to insurers, mostly dealing with pre-existing or perhaps lifestyle conditions.  That’s Point 2 of the “4 things” in the article by Michael Grunwald, March 27, here.

The Chicago Tribune has an article by Steve Chapman, “Why health care can’t be fixed”.   Except that the article really says that Obamacare is more or less working for most people, and that the steep premium rises are the exception, not the rule.

The  Republican governor Brownback of Kansas today denied Medicare expansion, which the hospitals want, for no good reason other than ideology (that is, providing tax dollars to Planned Parenthood).  .

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump ready to issue EO to "obliterate" Obama's progress on climate change; will the free market really work? (natural gas can be clean)

The Washington Post reports that President Donald Trump will “obliterate” Barack Obama’s progress on climate change and environmental cleanup, with a new Executive Order today, in a detailed and illustrated (with photos) story by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, link.

Energy self-sufficiency (“autarky”, or “economic nationalism” indeed) may be admirable enough (remember the rhetoric during Jimmy Carter’s years and the post-Arab Embargo gas shortages of the 70s).  Free market incentives will lead the power industry to favor natural gas over coal anyway. It looks like the pipelines will get built as part of Bannon's infrastructure.

 Natural gas is cleaner and safer in most circumstances.  It can be made very clean.  And we have both the “Pickens Plan” of a few years ago, and the Taylor Wilson Plan (supported by Peter Thiel) which Trump ought to be paying attention to (just invite Thiel and Wilson to the White House).

Increased coal mining probably means more mountaintop removal, especially in the southern West Virginia area within 80 miles of Beckley, and over into eastern Kentucky and far SW Virginia, toward Cumberland Gap.  It probably doesn’t save many miners’ jobs.

But walking away from international climate change debate sounds, well, immoral. One precept of conservatism is that future generations matter.  Who is responsible for the refugees from low-lying poor countries thirty years from now?  Who is responsible for the super storms that may occur?  How about sudden methane release from northern permafrost?

I may be gone when a lot of this happens, but I may know about it anyway.  Maybe, like Celebrity Apprentice’s Schwarzenegger. “I’ll be back” after all.  The very idea that reincarnation may happen (there’s more evidence about this than we realize) changes the self-interest.


The EO has been issued.  Here is Vox's detailed rundown by Bard Plummer. Note the link to the interview with Harvard's Jody Freeman.

Here is the text of the Executive Order at the White House site.

Monday, March 27, 2017

How effective are AP courses?

I found a curious story in the Atlantic in October 2012, by John Tierney, “AP Classes are a Scam”,

I did get AP classes when I worked as a sub, and they were a pleasure to teach.  I took only one in my own high school, Enriched Chemistry in twelfth grade.

I wonder how science fair winner Jack Andraka would react to this article today (he won his prize for his pancreatic cancer test in 2013, and says that the idea for using carbon nanotubes the way he does in the test occurred to him in a class.

I have seen AP math classes that went as far as differential equations.  I remember giving a calculus test where the first part was without graphing calculators, and had to be turned in before the student could work the second part.

But I wonder how the calculators do today in the era of smart phones.  I found the TI device that bought kept losing power quickly.

You could make math and physics test problems about how high a batted baseball that barely clears the Green Monster in Fenway Park in Boston will reach before starting to descend, and how far it would travel beyond the wall to reach the ground.  A lot farther than 305 feet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More about what "unmasking" means -- it could have happened to me, even

There is some more clarification of what “unmasking” by the NSA means.  If an American tried to contact Vladimir Putin or high Russian officials, the NSA would pick it up.  In the effort to identify foreign officials, a FISA court might allow the identification of American citizens.  This can be quite common.  It could be someone ordinary, even like me, or the citizen could be Donald Trump, or an official in the previous Obama administration.

When private citizens get classified tips sent to them, and authorities find out (as would happen in the four or five foreign tips I have shared sent to me over the years – one might have concerned a possible attack in Indonesia), something similar to “unmasking” happens.  It normally will not result in adverse action against the citizen.  (I have TSA pre-cleared flight status.)

All of this means that most of Trump’s complaints about Obama are pretty meaningless, but not without some remote foundation.

But it is possible that crimes might have been committed in the apparent connections between Putin and Trump’s campaigns, Vox,  Zack Beauchamp – but the “grand jury” is still some time away. .