Saturday, July 04, 2015

Fight the urge

The Department of Health and Human Services has given you a homework assignment:
This Fourth of July, families across the nation will gather around hot dogs (or their favorite vegetarian alternative) and potato salad to spend some quality time together, watch fireworks and reflect on the holiday’s meaning. But as much as we love our families – and we do, seriously –we don’t always agree when it comes to current events, like last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding tax credits that help make insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more affordable for millions of people.

Misinformation about the ACA is everywhere, and there’s been a lot of money spent to spread that misinformation – as much as half a billion dollars in ads, according to one 2014 estimate. Not surprisingly, many Americans still don’t know how changes the law made to insurance and the health care system can help improve their lives.

You should be prepared when Aunt Janine says something like, “Obamacare hasn’t helped anyone!” So here are a few points to remember during this long holiday weekend:
In the interest of familial harmony, here are a few points I'd suggest instead:

  • Don't talk about Obamacare
  • Have a bratwurst and an icy cold beverage of your choice
  • Enjoy the fireworks
  • Go out and take a nice day trip somewhere if you'd like
  • Take some pictures of the family not talking about Obamacare
  • Don't talk about Obamacare
Happy 4th, everyone!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Generosity with other people's money

Story one:
Today, President Obama will visit La Crosse, Wis., to make the case that the federal government should require employers to pay overtime to all salaried workers who earn less than $50,000 per year.

The proposal is the latest salvo in the nation’s broader debate about economic fairness, which intensified during the slow recovery from the 2009 recession. Only in the past year has U.S. joblessness dropped below pre-recession levels. Wage growth, meanwhile, has stagnated.
Story two:
Gov. Mark Dayton gave big raises to his cabinet Wednesday, prompting a swift attack from Republicans as he boosted the salaries of some agency commissioners overnight by 30 percent or more.

The raises for top executives, which go as high as $155,000, are far above those that rank-and-file state workers will receive. Recent contract agreements with the state’s two largest public employee unions resulted in 2.5 percent increases this year and next.

Observations? A few:

  • A safe bet -- Dayton's lackeys will get their money. The people Obama claims to help? Probably not that much.
  • I have no idea why the Leader of the Free World needed to fire up Air Force One and travel halfway across the country to make his argument, but it's easy to spend other people's money when you are the Leader of the Free World. 
  • It's better, by far, to be a Dayton lackey than to work in a sandwich shop.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Worth every penny

So you are opening a women's hall of fame. You want to have a prominent woman to speak at your grand opening. It gets pricey, though:
When the University of Missouri at Kansas City was looking for a celebrity speaker to headline its gala luncheon marking the opening of a women’s hall of fame, one of the names that came to mind was Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But when the former secretary of state’s representatives quoted a fee of $275,000, officials at the public university balked. “Yikes!” one e-mailed another.
What to do? Well, if you can't get Sinatra to play your room, you can always get Frank Sinatra Jr.:
So the school booked the next best option: her daughter, Chelsea.

The university paid $65,000 for Chelsea Clinton’s brief appearance Feb. 24, 2014, a demonstration of the celebrity appeal and marketability that the former and possibly second-time first daughter employs on behalf of her mother’s presidential campaign and family’s global charitable empire.
What do you get for the money?
The schedule she negotiated called for her to speak for 10 minutes, participate in a 20-minute, moderated question-and-answer session and spend a half-hour posing for pictures with VIPs offstage.
The median household income in the United States for 2013 was $51,939. Chelsea got more than that for an hour's work. And do you know what? Gloria Steinem would have worked for a lot less:
The e-mails show that the university initially inquired about Chelsea Clinton but her speaking agency indicated she was unlikely to do the speech. At that point, a university vice chancellor urged organizers to “shoot for the moon” and pursue the former secretary of state, who proved too expensive.

So the university turned back to others, eventually choosing Chelsea Clinton when the agency indicated she was willing. Just shy of her 34th birthday, Clinton commanded a higher fee than other prominent women speakers who were considered, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem ($30,000) and journalists Cokie Roberts ($40,000), Tina Brown ($50,000) and Lesley Stahl ($50,000), the records show.
Do you remember, back in the late 90s, when the Clintons made life uncomfortable for Steinem? She and her associates in the women's movement had to pretend that Bill Clinton's dalliances with Monica Lewinsky were no big thing. Now they can't even get a sniff for a women's hall of fame luncheon and the Clintons get the money. I suppose it's good to know your value in the marketplace.

Just my impression

The reaction to the Obergfell decision seems to go this way, at least based on my observations:

  • Gays are genuinely happy, but don't seem particularly inclined to push the envelope any further
  • Left-wing straight people are the ones pushing to use the decision as a battering ram against churches who don't comply, and religious folks generally

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A good Scouter

Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough says he was abused by a scoutmaster in the 1960s and 1970s. I have no reason to doubt his account. It's important to remember that the adult leaders and volunteers who give their efforts to Scouting are, in the main, outstanding people.

As many of you know, the Benster is an Eagle Scout. He had a wonderful experience in Scouting and had the support of many fine people during his time in Scouting. One of the people he encountered along the way died yesterday. Cindie Teeling was the Vice Chair for Eagle Advancement for the Northwest District of the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America. That's a heck of a title, but as a practical matter what it means is that Cindie reviewed Eagle Scout applications for hundreds of young men who were pursuing the Eagle rank. If you were a scout in New Brighton, Roseville, Mounds View, Shoreview, Arden Hills, North Oaks or Little Canada -- essentially, the territory covered in the Mounds View and Roseville school districts, there was a good chance you would have met Cindie along the line.

Cindie was tough and had very high standards. She sent the Benster's application back a few times and while it was frustrating at the time, we all see the wisdom of why she did it. Ben's project was pretty ambitious and she got him to think through all of the details carefully. Ben's project turned out very well:

A welcoming field in Isanti

Cindie was battling cancer, but you would not have known that. All you knew is that she cared deeply about the Scouts in our area. I don't think there's any question that the world is a better place because Cindie Teeling was part of it. Her legacy will live on through Benster and the many other Eagle Scouts she counseled over the years. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Candidate Combover sez:
"If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court. Furthermore, they will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be."
Brian Williams is, without question, the gift that keeps on giving. As you might remember, Howard Cosell was fond of "telling it like it is" and Humble Howard wore a ridiculous toupee for most of his career. It must be a thing among those with tonsorial challenges..

Monday, June 29, 2015

Grexit, stage left

Here it comes:
Greece moved to check the growing strains on its crippled financial system on Sunday, closing its banks and imposing capital controls that brought the prospect of being forced out of the euro into plain sight.

After bailout talks between the leftwing government and foreign lenders broke down at the weekend, the European Central Bank froze vital funding support to Greece's banks, leaving Athens with little choice but to shut down the system to keep the banks from collapsing.

Banks are expected to be closed all next week, and there will be a daily 60 euro limit on cash withdrawals from cash machines, which will reopen on Tuesday. Capital controls are likely to last for many months at least.
Guess the Germans aren't willing to support the Greeks any more. Yeah, the world financial markets may be headed into a panic mode. But love wins, or something.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

il miglior fabbro

So you're not crazy about the Obamacare decision, and the gay marriage thing isn't floating your boat? Well, imagine a fusion:
Children raised without a mother or a father represent a major crisis in many American communities. Marriage is one of the essential ingredients for a health and independent society – it’s very difficult for people of modest means to avoid government dependency without getting married, especially if they have children.

We need a huge number of stable families raising more than one child for society to flourish. Some fear it will be difficult to properly encourage the traditional form of marriage now that the Supreme Court has imposed gay marriage across the land.

Fortunately, the other controversial Court decisions handed down this week give us powerful tools to reverse the damage from decades of liberal social engineering and keep the institution of marriage vibrant. Gay marriage won’t be a problem at all – in fact, same-sex couples will be invited to be part of the same grand program, achieving maximum social harmony. Heck, they won’t have a choice, any more than straight couples will. Compulsory unity from coast to coast!

What I propose is an ObamaCare-style individual mandate for marriage.
Click that link. Just do it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world

President Obama has mail:
The Iran nuclear deal is not done. Negotiations continue. The target deadline is June 30.  We know much about the emerging agreement. Most of us would have preferred a stronger agreement.

The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure. It will however reduce that infrastructure for the next 10 to 15 years. And it will impose a transparency, inspection, and consequences regime with the goal of deterring and dissuading Iran from actually building a nuclear weapon.

The agreement does not purport to be a comprehensive strategy towards Iran. It does not address Iran’s support for terrorist organizations (like Hezbollah and Hamas), its interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen (its “regional hegemony”), its ballistic missile arsenal, or its oppression of its own people. The U.S. administration has prioritized negotiations to deal with the nuclear threat, and hopes that an agreement will positively influence Iranian policy in these other areas.

Even granting this policy approach, we fear that the current negotiations, unless concluded along the lines outlined in this paper and buttressed by a resolute regional strategy, may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a “good” agreement.
So argue the signatories of an open letter, including a variety of officials who were once part of the Obama administration. It's worth reading in full.

The Grace of the Victors

At the outset, I will apologize to anyone who finds the language in this post offensive. Accuracy matters and so I am going to use the words needed to write this post.

You might have heard that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. It was pretty newsworthy. I wasn't particularly surprised by the ruling -- once the ruling in Lawrence came down in 2003, this day was inevitable. And since I live in a state that has had gay marriage enacted by statute, I've long since accepted the result.

What was striking was not the result, but rather the tone of the commentary I have seen today regarding the outcome. Out of the many posts I saw today on social media, I thought this one was of particular interest. From what I can tell it may have originated at the Daily Kos, but I saw it multiple times from multiple sources:

Very nice sentiment. I was instructed by at least one person who posted this, ahem, image of the following terms of receiving the image:
"It's funny people, so if you want to make snide political comments please go elsewhere. Laugh a little!"
This blog is elsewhere, so we are honoring this request. If you don't find it too snide, I'd like to propose a little thought experiment. Suppose Anthony Kennedy changed his mind and the vote was 5-4 the other way. For the sake of argument, imagine you are on social media and you encounter a meme saying this:

And the merry social media purveyor then instructs you as follows --
"It's funny people, so if you want to make snide political comments please go elsewhere. Laugh a little!"
Do you think people would be laughing? How would you react? Let's take a poll:

Hey, how do you like your meme? free polls

Friday, June 26, 2015

A rough barometer, but an accurate one

I have enough lefty friends on social media to get a sense of the general mood on the port side. One would have thought the favorable (for them) decision the Supreme Court handed down yesterday in King v. Burwell would have satisfied them. It didn't. Instead, I saw numerous denunciations of Antonin Scalia's dissent. I'd quote some, but most have so many expletives that I'd have to leave the caps lock on my keyboard for an extended period.

Why not be gracious instead? John Hayward knows why:
One of the most important passages of his dissent comes when he tackles the central contention of the majority head-on. Roberts and the concurring justices argue the words “established by the State” are utterly meaningless in the portion of the Affordable Care Act that deals with subsidies. They’re not even a redundant rhetorical flourish, like saying “cease and desist,” because ceasing involves a good deal of desisting. The majority says those words in the ACA simply do not exist, even though they’re right there on the paper.

“Who would ever have dreamt that ‘Exchange established by the State’ means ‘Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government?'” Scalia asks. “Little short of an express statutory definition could justify adopting this singular reading.”

This raises the question of whether King v. Burwell can now be cited as precedent for effectively nationalizing any state resource the federal government covets. Try running through any major piece of state legislation and ask yourself how much sense it makes if “established by the State” now means “established by the State or Federal Government,” or how much chaos we’re in for if Chief Justice Roberts’ highly subjective, political “context” flapdoodle determines what such phrases mean on a case-by-case basis.
It's impolite to point that out, I suppose, but the implications are enormous. I suspect a lot of people are okay with the federal government essentially changing rules on the fly, but it's gonna bite us all in the ass.

Another part of Scalia's dissent speaks to the question I asked yesterday -- if you can get all the goodies, especially the tax subsidies, from the federal exchange, why would the states have to set up their own exchanges?
Far from offering the overwhelming evidence of meaning needed to justify the Court’s interpretation, other contextual clues undermine it at every turn. To begin with, other parts of the Act sharply distinguish between the establishment of an Exchange by a State and the establishment of an Exchange by the Federal Government. The States’ authority to set up Exchanges comes from one provision, §18031(b); the Secretary’s authority comes from an entirely different provision, §18041(c). Funding for States to establish Exchanges comes from one part of the law, §18031(a); funding for the Secretary to establish Exchanges comes from an entirely different part of the law, §18121. States generally run state-created Exchanges; the Secretary generally runs federally created Exchanges. §18041(b)–(c). And the Secretary’s authority to set up an Exchange in a State depends upon the State’s “[f]ailure to establish [an] Exchange.” §18041(c) (emphasis added). Provisions such as these destroy any pretense that a federal Exchange is in some sense also established by a State.

Reading the rest of the Act also confirms that, as relevant here, there are only two ways to set up an Exchange in a State: establishment by a State and establishment by the Secretary. §§18031(b), 18041(c). So saying that an Exchange established by the Federal Government is “established by the State” goes beyond giving words bizarre meanings; it leaves the limiting phrase “by the State” with no operative effect at all. That is a stark violation of the elementary principle that requires an interpreter “to give effect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute.” Montclair v. Ramsdell , 107 U. S. 147, 152 (1883).

In weighing this argument, it is well to remember the difference between giving a term a meaning that duplicates another part of the law, and giving a term no meaning at all. Lawmakers sometimes repeat themselves—whether out of a desire to add emphasis, a sense of belt-and-suspenders caution, or a lawyerly penchant for doublets (aid and abet, cease and desist, null and void). Lawmakers do not, however, tend to use terms that “have no operation at all.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 174 (1803).

So while the rule against treating a term as a redundancy is far from categorical, the rule against treating it as a nullity is as close to absolute as interpretive principles get. The Court’s reading does not merely give “by the State” a duplicative effect; it causes the phrase to have no effect whatever.
Why is this important? Back to Hayward:
Another part of the ACA conditions financial assistance to states on whether they are “making progress” toward establishing an exchange. “Does a State that refuses to set up an Exchange still receive this funding, on the premise that Exchanges established by the Federal Government are really established by the States?” Scalia asks. He knows the answer, and he knows how the feckless ObamaCare-supporting majority gets there: by randomly, politically deciding that sometimes the words “exchange established by the State” have meaning, and sometimes they do not.

If not for this “interpretive jiggery-pokery,” as Scalia calls it, the Roberts decision could actually bring ObamaCare crashing down even more thoroughly than ruling the subsidies illegal would have. Among other things, there wouldn’t be any way for weak-kneed GOP leaders to apply a quick, painless-to-Democrats legislative patch to keep the S.S. ObamaCare afloat after dozens of holes were blown beneath her waterline.

Scalia also catches the majority in a rather breathtaking act of dishonesty when they pretend to be surprised and confused that the ACA would make a large number of people theoretically eligible for tax credits at first, then zero those credits out if their insurance was not purchased on an exchange “established by the State.” In fact, as Scalia notes, tax credit laws usually do work that way, for a variety of administrative reasons, including the way people often move between states in the middle of a fiscal year. I strongly suspect the majority only pretended not to be aware of what Scalia says in this passage.
It simply doesn't make sense to impose financial penalties through the statute for states that don't set up their own exchanges and then to say, oh, we weren't really serious about that anyway.

The good news? If my lefty friends are troubled by Scalia's dissent, it means they still have a few wisps of conscience about supporting the larger implications of this decision. Scalia's sin is reminding them of it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A not necessarily rhetorical question

So if you can get subsidies through the federal health care exchanges, what's the point of MNSure? Discuss.

Thanks for the Memory Hole

The Civil War wasn't really between North and South. I'm increasingly convinced that it involved Eastasia:
If the Confederate flag is finally going to be consigned to museums as an ugly symbol of racism, what about the beloved film offering the most iconic glimpse of that flag in American culture?

I’m talking, of course, about “Gone with the Wind,’’ which won a then-record eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1939, and still ranks as the all-time North American box-office champ with $1.6 billion worth of tickets sold here when adjusted for inflation.
That's the idea of Lou Lumenick, a film critic for the New York Post. So, are you up for that?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Us, too!

We don't fly a lot of Confederate battle flags in Minnesota, so it's tough to remove them from public property. But it's always important to keep up with the Joneses in the moral vanity game, so we're now seeing a renewed effort to get the name of Lake Calhoun changed, because it was named after John C. Calhoun, who was a slave owner and defender of the practice at a time when such beliefs were common. We gotta do something, after all.

Calhoun wasn't a very nice guy, so I suppose we could change the name, but if we're in the business of revoking honorifics for people who are on the outs with our contemporary sensibilities, we really ought to do something about Xerxes Avenue while we're at it.

Of course removing the offensive name is only half the fun. The real fun is to bestow the new name. Not surprisingly, most of the suggested new names for Lake Calhoun belong to politicians with the proper sensibilities -- Humphrey, Wellstone, like that. I'm guessing we can come up with something better, though. Here are a few choices, or add your own in the comments:

What should be the new name of Lake Calhoun? free polls


We're in the middle of airbrushing our history. It's an old practice. There's a pretty good chance you've seen this famous example. The first image shows Stalin with Nikolai Yezhov, who was one of the theoreticians behind the purges of the 1930s:

Yezhov fell out of favor with Stalin and was later executed. And then he was gone:

It turns out there was more to the story than you might realize; indeed, there was another reason that Yezhov had to be airbrushed out of history:

He was pretty prescient, that Yezhov.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

No sense of history

It's a lovely day for another mass extinction. It's coming, and boy howdy are you gonna be sorry:
Earth is entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity's existence, researchers have declared.  
A team of American scientists claim that their study shows 'without any significant doubt' that we are entering the sixth great mass extinction on Earth.
Without any significant doubt. And we have it from a great authority:
And such a catastrophic loss of animal species presents a real threat to human existence, the experts warn, as crucial ecosystem 'services' such as crop pollination by insects and water purification in wetlands is also put at risk. 
At the current rate of species loss, humans will lose many biodiversity benefits within three generations, according to Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, who led the research.

'We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on,' Prof Ehrlich said.
Do you remember Paul Ehrlich? He's been around a while. He's warned us before:
"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." 
He said that around 1970. He also said this:
"Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s." 
The starvation was so unbelievable that it never happened. So what happened? Norman Borlaug kicked his ass. So did Julian Simon.

If you're going to be wrong, you couldn't be more wrong than Paul Ehrlich has been over the course of his career. Ehrlich has managed to outlive his critics (Simon) and his betters (Borlaug). There will always be a market for Cassandras. But you have to know the history and you're not likely to get it from the MSM.

il miglior fabbro

I was going to write about Pete Rose, but Brad Carlson has it covered. Hit that link.