Friday, January 31, 2014

Newtown Shooter Headed for the Memory Hole?

Stacy McCain thinks that just because Newtown Massacre shooter was a sexually confused, as well as autistic, he will disappear from history.

Mass Murderer Also Gay Pedophile?
This might give gay pedophiles a bad reputation:
The state’s attorney report on the horrific murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School by shooter Adam Lanza found no “conclusive motive” for his actions but did document unsettling facts about the 20-year-old killer, including computer files he kept on the rights of pedophiles, a movie about man/boy love, instant messages concerning “homosexual fantasies,” numerous mass murder documents, and a computer game entitled “School Shooting.”
Jammie Wearing Fools: “Well, this will probably be the last you ever hear about Adam Lanza from the mainstream media.” Indeed.
Nope, no such luck.  The fact that he got guns legally and used them illegally will be the point of any reference to him by the media for the foreseeable future. The fact that he was a homosexual pedophile will not be mentioned, as it will not fit the agenda.  Witness serial killer John Wayne Gacy, for whom the homosexual aspect of his motivations is thoroughly documented, but rarely emphasized, and certainly not used as a reason for suspicion of homosexuals.

In any event, crazy is it's own excuse; there's rarely an overt cause for it, and the symptoms occur in clusters, with several dysfunctions commonly occurring in the same victim  It's more important to detect, treat, and if necessary, control the insane than it is to similarly control the vast majority of sane.

I Take Back Everything Bad I Ever Said About Hollywood

Via Wombat-socho's Live at Five:1.31.13, the best movie news I've ever heard:

“Sharknado” Stars Ian Ziering, Tara Reid Returning For The Sequel

There is a god after all. Gratuitous Tara Reid below the fold:

Better Late Than Never Obamacare Schadenfreude

We had places to go and people to see this morning, so this morning's Obamacare Schadenfreud roundup was delayed.  However, we're back now, and there's no reason not to.  However, first, the now customary weather report.  Clear blue sky here (except for the road salt haze while driving) , and temperatures here crept above the freezing mark for most of the day.  Hoping for 40s and maybe even low 50s tomorrow and Sunday.  Wohoo!

A TV crew recorded the scene as workers at a small business were informed what changes Obamacare was going to make in their coverage.

"I don't know how President Obama thinks he's helping us."

Silly girl, he doesn't. He's all helping people without jobs, and the only way to do that is take the money from people with them.

Up in the great state of Washington, children with Obamacare insurance were denied coverage for some grave diseases thanks to Obamacare:
"Administrators at Seattle Children's today said they predicted this would happen, and it's even worse than they expected," says the local news anchor. "Patients being denied specialty treatment at the hospital by insurance providers on the Washington health benefits exchange. Children's filed request on behalf of 125 of their patients. Of those, they say they got only 20 responses, eight of which were denials. Dr. Sandy Melzer says all this comes after reassurances of certain unique specialty cases would still be covered."

Dr. Sandy Melzer says, "Well, some of the patients who were denied are ones who clearly would fall into that unique category. A two-year-old with new significant neck mass that was being evaluated for infection or malignancy, an older child with a chronic severe medical condition requiring multidisciplinary care here, a baby that had a skull abnormality."

The anchor explains, "Children's went ahead and treated those cases anyway, but Dr. Melzer said they can't afford to keep doing that it way."
About 20% of people who signed up for Obamacare on the exchanges have not yet paid for their insurance, and are thus not really enrolled yet:
Around one in five people who picked health insurance policies on the state and federal exchanges last year haven't paid their first month's premiums, according to insurers polled by CNNMoney. These folks will likely see their policy selection canceled and they'll be left uninsured.

Some 2.1 million people signed up for a plan in time for their coverage to start January 1, according to the Obama administration. But with the payment deadlines stretching until January 31 at the latest, anywhere between 12% and 30% of those folks still haven't paid up, insurers say.
My guess is that they're waiting for another round of Calvinball rule making; hoping that the Preznit will change it to something they don't have to pay for.

Currently only about about 50% of the uninsured say they intend to get insurance through the Obamacare exchanges, while about 40% say they will not.  My guess is that of the 50% who do, half will actually find a round tuit.

Hey, remember that silly video that Richard Simmons made for the California Obamacare exchanges? It only cost the State of Incoherence California $1,370,000 to make.
People in California can’t even reach someone on the phone to complain about the ObamaCare trainwreck and these morons spent over a million dollars to produce this horror show of a video? What the hell is wrong with these people?
A California senator is seeking to audit the state’s ObamaCare exchange after a storyrevealed that $1.37 million was spent on a campaign featuring an eight-hour web stream starring a gyrating Richard Simmons.

The Jan. 16 event — now immortalized on YouTube — showed celebrity fitness trainer Simmons writhing on the ground to an MC’s chant of “Get Covered, hashtag, uh-huh,” a reference to Covered California, the state exchange. At one point, he snuggles up to a contortionist following a dance-off.

Covered California faces a $78 million deficit during the next fiscal year due to cutbacks in federal funding.
At least I don't pay California taxes anymore, but most of our families do.  But then, the Maryland exchange may just be even more of a basket case.

Maybe It Just Wanted a Coke

The target, a surveyor, was returning to his car in the remote town of Barrow, Alaska, when he saw the great white beast.

With no time to unlock the door of his vehicle and climb inside, he tried to duck out of sight.

But the hungry bear was not giving up, and a terrifying chase began.

First, the beast stood up on its furry haunches and eyed its prey. Then it loped around the car, and even climbed over the bonnet to try to reach him.

After a few laps of the car the bear almost caught up, managing to land a few heavy swipes on his prey.

The man eventually managed to take refuge in a neighbouring truck which was unlocked.
His back and head were covered in more than 100 deep scratches where the massive claws had managed to rip through his thick winter clothes and padded coat.
Aw, but they're so cute...


Wombat-socho has the great collection for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: All Hail The Superb Owl!" up at The Other McCain.

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Banging on the Drums Like a Chimpanzee

An old 1970 TV (too young for me, too old for my kids.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Taylor Swift Attacked at Grammys!

They should have her checked for a concussion.

Wombat-socho has the great collection for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: All Hail The Superb Owl!" up at The Other McCain.

Tort Trial of the Decade

Stacy McCain on the suit Michael Mann is pursuing against Mark Steyn and National Review:

Mark Steyn vs. a Thin-Skinned Bully
Lawsuits don’t make for interesting journalism. No tort has ever earned “Trial of the Century” status. So it is that even a defamation case involving a famed writer like Mark Steyn and a notorious “scientist” like Michael Mann gets relatively little attention.

Steyn’s recent column about the case doesn’t capture what is so outrageous about Mann’s lawsuit
: A tenured academic whose particular hustle is the taxpayer-funded “climate change” racket ought to have the decency to pocket his ill-gotten cash and leave honest men alone, but Mann is evidently the shameless sort who thinks he deserves both government money and a good reputation.

Now a tedious douchebag says Steyn “specializes in whipping right-wing readers into a froth of know-nothing indignation”?

Absurd — that’s my job!
Well someone has to do it.

The suit is over a column the Steyn ran about climate science:
Climate scientist Michael Mann is suing National Review and Mark Steyn, one of its leading writers, for defamation. It’s a charge that’s notoriously hard to prove, which is no doubt why the magazine initially refused to apologize for an item on its blog in which Steyn accused Mann of fraud. Steyn also quoted a line by another conservative writer (Rand Simberg) that called Mann “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.” (Simberg and the free market think tank for which he works, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, are also named in the suit.)
Since there is pretty good evidence that Mann did indeed torture the tree ring data until it told him what he wanted to see, the discovery for this trial could be illuminating.

Chesapeake Bay Freezes Over

or, rather parts of it anyway: Maryland ice breakers clearing Chesapeake waterways

I posted this as a possibility a few days ago, and right on time, here it is:
This winter’s chilly weather has crews breaking up ice on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for the first time in years.

The Department of Natural Resources’ John Gallagher says this is likely the most ice Maryland has had in at least five years. Crews started breaking up ice Wednesday around Kent Narrows to keep the waterway accessible. The freezing weather has created ice about 6 inches thick.

The state has four boats available to break up ice. They are kept near Smith Island, Annapolis, Cambridge and Kent Narrows.
A friend of mine who crosses the Patuxent River at Solomons daily posted this picture online showing the Patuxent River frozen across:
Credit: Paxfish
The temperature is supposed to head into the 40s in the next few days; that should take care of it.

Cleaning Out the Obamacare Schadenfreude Freezer

We were in single digit temperatures again this morning when we wok up, but the sky is blue, and the forecasts are calling for a warm up.  I think we need to clean out the bread heels out of the freezer so we can get that caribou that wandered into our yard one morning off the back deck and safely frozen.

Similarly, we need to get a few juicy morsels of Obamacare Schadenfreude out of the "special folder" where the get stored until use:

Found at Wombat-socho's Live at 5: 1.29.14: President Ignores Obamacare Stumbles While Taunting GOP
from Theo's
But, he said, the overhaul here to stay and it is time to move on.
But Mr. Obama made no mention of the extensive glitches that marked the debut of the law’s federal portal,, which serves 36 states.

Rather than dwell on the law’s struggles, Mr. Obama rebuked House Republicans for holding dozens of votes to repeal all or part of his main domestic achievement.
Move on?  Isn't that phrase reserved for use in getting the people to overlook the affair you've lied under oath about, or the four men you let die in one of our foreign embassies?, the liberal leaning "independent" fact checking agency, fact checks the Preznit's SOTU Obamacare statements:
The president said that “because of the Affordable Care Act … more than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.” But that total includes Medicaid renewals, not just new recipients that gained Medicaid coverage because of the health care law.

The 9 million figure includes three groups: 2.1 million Americans who have chosen insurance plans on the federal or state marketplaces, 3.9 million who were determined eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and an estimated 3.1 million young adults under age 26 who joined their parents’ plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements. Obama specifically referenced that last number:
Obama: Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans. More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
But the Medicaid category includes more than just those signing up “because of the Affordable Care Act.”

As Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in announcing that 3.9 million “learned they’re eligible” for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program in October and November: “These numbers include new eligibility determinations and some Medicaid and CHIP renewals.” So not everyone was a new enrollee who gained Medicaid coverage because of the law. Some of the Medicaid numbers reported by the states included those renewing their already existing coverage.

Also, Obama didn’t claim that all of those signing up for coverage had been uninsured, and, in fact, we know that not all of them were. For instance, members of Congress and their staffs signed up for exchange plans, as required by the law, instead of continuing to get coverage through the program for federal employees.
Would you be shocked that Jeffrey Sing from National Review gave him harsher reviews:
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama repeated one of the biggest lies behind the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it wasn’t that you could keep your health-care plan or your current doctor. In fact, most people don’t even know it’s a lie. That became obvious when he received a standing ovation after saying it: “Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer.” The president and his supporters keep pretending that, before the ACA, an insurance company could drop individual policyholders, when in reality it could not.

Comes as a shock, doesn’t it? But the truth is that for decades there have been safeguards in our health-insurance system to protect people just like the physician’s assistant, Amanda Shelley, mentioned by the president.

Before 1996, if you purchased individual health insurance through a broker, you would have been offered a “guaranteed renewability” option. This would guarantee that your policy could not be canceled if you developed an expensive and chronic condition. The insurance company would also have to renew the policy on its anniversary date without charging a higher premium because of the chronic condition. This option was so popular that, by 1996, 75 percent of people buying individual health insurance also bought the guaranteed-renewability option.

Then, in 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Among HIPAA’s many mandates was the requirement that all individual insurance plans have guaranteed renewability. It also prohibited all group health-insurance plans sold to businesses from denying coverage to individuals because of preexisting conditions. And so, for the past 18 years, all insurance companies have been legally forbidden from dropping an individual policyholder who developed a chronic illness and have not been able to raise anyone’s rate because of it.
Sometimes what you say isn't so much the lie as the assumptions behind the statement.  But it's OK if you get to ruin the healthcare system as a consequence of your oversight.  You've got get everybody into your system, beating and dragging them the whole way.

Democratic  senators intervene in Hobby Lobby case, urge justices to deny ObamaCare exemption
Democratic senators intervened Tuesday in the Supreme Court fight over whether ObamaCare can force the company Hobby Lobby to provide contraceptive coverage to workers, arguing that "secular" businesses should not be exempt from the mandate.

The 19 senators planned to file a brief before the court, which is still weeks away from considering the closely watched case. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who planned to make her case on the Senate floor, adamantly defended the Obama administration's side.

"What's at stake in this case before the Supreme Court is whether a CEO's personal beliefs can trump a woman's right to access free or low-cost contraception under the Affordable Care Act," she said in prepared remarks.

But Republican senators returned fire, jumping to Hobby Lobby's defense in a brief of their own.

"The ability to practice the faith we choose is one of our great constitutional rights. The Obama administration's contraceptive mandate stomps on that right," Sen. David Vitter said in a statement. He joined Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Mike Lee, R-Utah in the brief.
Tom McGuire, at Just One Minute, demolishes Paul Krugmann's attack on the woman featured in the Republican response to the SOTU:
. . .Paul Krugman is deeply interested in this, presumably as long as we can show the Congresswoman to be lying or misinformed:
I’d be interested, by the way, to know the details about the constituent described in the official GOP response, who supposedly faced a $700 a month rise in premiums. What kind of plan did she have? Did that number include subsidies? The ACA is supposed to keep health costs to 8 percent of income, so the only way you could get numbers like that is if the individual (a) had a really bare-bones policy offering hardly any protection and (b) has an income well over $100,000.
As to "an income well over $100,000", I am surprised that such an authority would fail to grasp that for unmarried individuals the subsidies disappear at $46,000. That said, a Silver Plan in Washington for a single mom age 58 (per and no kids with no subsidy would be $6,226 per year, which at $519/month is less than the $700/month premium hike we are examining.
But Krugman has embedded a second major misunderstanding:
The ACA is supposed to keep health costs to 8 percent of income...
"Health costs"? Come again? The subsidies are meant to keeppremiums at (or near) 8 percent of income. Wait'll he gets a lod of the deductibles and co-pays!
The ObamaCareFacts site refers people to the Kaiser-Permanente subsidy calculator, so here we go: a family of four (non-smokers, national average, mom and dad are forty) earning $55,125 (taken from ObamaCareFacts site as 250% of Federal Poverty Line although Kaiser disputes that):
The premium, pre-subsidy: $9,700. Subsidies of $5,569 per year bring the premium cost down to $4,130 per year. That is 7.5% of $55,125. So far, so good.
However! The fine print, which I recall was initially obfuscated by the ObamaCare website, includes this, on deductibles and co-pays:
Your out-of-pocket maximum for a Silver plan (not including the premium) can be no more than $10,400. Whether you reach this maximum level will depend on the amount of health care services you use. Currently, about one in four people use no health care services in any given year.
If the family does spend $10,400 and hit the out-of-pocket cap I am pretty sure that will represent more than 8% of total income. Hey, insurance is complicated to buy.
While I believe in cheap insurance with high deductibles, what Obamacare got was expensive insurance with high deductibles, especially for the young.

One reassurance to gay couples that just got married and found high Obamacare costs,  they may be able divorce and save money.

How A Divorce Can Boost Health Insurance Subsidies
What happens with premium tax credits if a couple gets divorced? If the premium tax credit is based on the previous year's income when the couple filed taxes jointly, many wouldn't qualify. But once someone is divorced, one individual might have little income. What is the subsidy based on in that situation?

If a couple divorces, each person's eligibility for premium tax credits will generally be based on his or her own annual income. The former spouse's income won't be counted, even if the couple filed taxes jointly the previous year. Premium tax credits are available to people with incomes up to 400 percent of the 2013 federal poverty level ($45,960 for an individual).

During the application process, people are asked to project their income for the year. If someone estimates income that's more than 10 percent lower than the previous year's taxes or wage information or Social Security data would suggest, the system will flag it.  At tax time next year, the Internal Revenue Service will reconcile an individual or family's actual income against the amount that was projected. People who received too much in tax credits may have to repay some or all of it.

The situation may be different for couples that are separated but not yet divorced, however. If each files taxes as "married filing separately" neither will be eligible for premium tax credits on the exchange.
How Republican Plan Could Replace Obamacare
The combined effect of its changes, the plan’s authors say, would be revenue neutral and competitive with Obamacare in terms of coverage. No independent entity has scored the plan, however, and a reasonable assumption is that in the long run, the plan would leave more people uninsured than Obamacare.

By design, the plan is less ambitious than Obamacare. And it is less ambitious than a Republican plan that might have been proposed had Obamacare never passed: It leaves the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored coverage in place, capping it rather than ending it. And it does away with most of the health care payment and delivery system reform that Obamacare’s authors and supporters hoped would slowly reshape the system.

What the proposal’s authors are betting, however, is that at this point the public does not want grand ambition so much as attainable, practical improvement. And they are willing to bend, if necessary, to get there. The plan has not yet been turned into legislation, and at least some of its details remain subject to change and negotiation. It’s designed as a conversation starter rather than a final proposal, a starting point meant to build consensus rather than the final word.

Because the conversation is happening now, following years of blistering attacks on Obamacare, the plan works within the confines of the GOP’s criticism of that law: For political and practical reasons, it’s designed to minimize disruption to the health system rather than transform it, even where bigger disruptions might make for better policy. It’s a necessary and productive starting point, but it also reveals how much the Republican party has limited its options by waiting so long to start talking about its own ideas. The plan sheds some light on Republican ideas about health policy—but also serves as a reminder that those ideas remain in Obamacare’s shadow.
Well, that's all for today. Oh, George Will has a column out, and it's old but good. All clean, and ready for a new batch.

Breakfast With a Twist

It could be lunch or dinner too, I suppose:

Gun Control Costs Maryland 30 Jobs

Gun company Beretta bringing 300 jobs to Gallatin
Beretta, one of the world’s leading gun manufacturers, will be moving manufacturing operations to Gallatin, bringing more than 300 jobs to the region.

The company will invest upwards of $45 million to bring a manufacturing and research and development facility to Middle Tennessee, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Wednesday morning.
. . .
For much of the past year, Beretta has been scouting for locations for a manufacturing facility after the state of Maryland passed stricter gun legislation, company officials said. The family-owned, Italian company had expressed frustration about the new laws and said it might be looking for a new home for a factory currently located in Accokeek, Maryland.

Jeff Reh, general counsel for Beretta, said the company was looking a state that supported Second Amendment rights, and had other key attributes, including a competitive tax environment, good quality of life and was focused on corporate recruitment.
I know at least two people personally who have worked at the Beretta facility in Accoceek. 300 jobs isn't a a huge number in the Maryland economy, currently at 6.7% unemployment, which is doing about the same as the national average.  Still, that's 300 families who will either have to move, or lose their jobs.  Good job, O'Malley, legislature!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Things That Make You Go Hmmm!

Pennsylvania Fracking Gets Another Clean Bill of Health

No major water quality impacts from drilling
At least so far so good, as far as local natural gas drilling and local water quality are concerned - that's the conclusion of a local geologist and expert in water quality, and that's what he told the Clinton County Natural Gas Task Force Tuesday.

Dr. Md. Khalequzzaman, a professor at Lock Haven University outlined a data study based on collections of samples from a 60-mile stretch of the the Susquehanna River, from Keating to Williamsport, during an unusual five-day "weather event" last June.

In his view based upon the data collected, the Marcellus Shale impacts on that stretch of river were minimal, despite the upsurge in drilling activity.

Another story for another time, might be the former era of coal mining, with the accompanying contamination that created acid mine drainage (AMD), and the impact of the agricultural industry on the Susquehanna River Basin leading to Chesapeake Bay.
Tests focused on minerals and phosphates, contained in the high flow, along with testing for ph levels, temperature, salinity, flow and other factors - over 20,000 data points in all.

After examining the findings, he concluded "no signature elements associated with Marcellus Shale" were found in any significant or measurable amounts.
This was clearly a short term study, designed to find whether fracking fluids were being washed in to the Susquehanna system under high rain/run off conditions.  While it alone cannot completely clear fracking from the charge of wide spread water pollution, it's just another nail in the coffin.

Farmers to Appeal EPA "Bay Diet" Victory

Speaking of lawsuits, another one that's been simmering for some time now is the suit farmers lost against the EPA to prevent the EPA from determining how the various cut backs in pollution called the "Bay Diet" were to be divvied up.
The American Farm Bureau Federation this week asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reverse a Sept. 2013 federal court ruling that upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The court will decide whether EPA exceeded its Clean Water Act authority by mandating how nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff should be allocated among farms, construction and development activities, as well as homeowners and towns throughout the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“This case involves whether EPA can assume authority over land use and water quality policy decisions that Congress specifically reserved for state and local levels of government,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Last year the district court ruled that EPA can dictate how and when states and localities must restrict land uses, even to the point of banning development or demanding that specific areas be taken out of agricultural use.

“These are uniquely local decisions that should be made by local governments,” continued Stallman. “That is why this power is specifically withheld from EPA in the Clean Water Act.”
I'm not a lawyer, but I don't expect them to win this one, unless it goes all the way up to SCOTUS.

EPA to Appeal Chicken Shit Ruling

EPA appeals ruling in West Virginia farm case
The legal battle over how to define agricultural stormwater — and exactly when permits are required for animal-farm operators — is not over yet in West Virginia.

The EPA filed a notice this month that it will appeal an October 2013 ruling by a federal district court judge that the agency had no legal right to demand that chicken farmer Lois Alt obtain a permit for her Hardy County operation.

Supporting the EPA in its appeal are several environmental groups, including Food and Water Watch, the Potomac Riverkeeper and Earthjustice.

At issue is whether certain types of discharges from the animal-feeding operation of a farm are considered agricultural stormwater and thus exempt from the Clean Water Act, or whether they are “process wastewater” from industrial operations and therefore regulated. (See our in-depth story on the issue here.)
We've been following the story of the Alt Farm suit for quite a while now.  It's been an amazing journey, with EPA filing suit, then attempting to drop the suit when it looked like they were going to lose, with the Alts and their supporters forcing the decision.  Now EPA wants another bite of the apple.

One of the more interesting pieces of the story is how EPA fought the entry of farmers allies (the Farm Bureau) and went along with environmental NGO's doing the same on EPAs behalf.

Expect vigorous opposition from the agricultural community as the result of an EPA victory is essentially to bring agriculture under the same rules as a steel mill.

Note that this article comes from the Bay Journal, a nominally independent Chesapeake Bay news service, which just happens to be heavily funded by the EPA Bay Program.
Publication is made possible through grants from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, the Campbell Foundation for the Environment, the Town Creek Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Office, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and by donations from individuals. View expressed in theBay Journal do not necessarily reflect those of any governmental or grant-making organization.
Previous posts on the Alt Farm case:

Chicken Rancher Sues EPA
EPA to Farm Bureau: Butt Out!
EPA Drops Chicken Shit Law Suit

Obamacare Schadenfreude - The Post SOTU Whiteout Edition

We woke this morning to another 3-4 inches of crystalline global warming lying on the ground, and the sound of snow shovels scraping on pavement, courtesy of Tropical Winter Storm Leon.  When we looked out we discovered that the scraping sound had been one of our neighbors clearing the snow from our driveway!  Do I look that old? But anyway, thanks, whoever you were.

Yesterday's Obamacare Schadenfreude was overshadowed by the lead up to the State of the Union Address last night, which sucked up most of the coverage.  Did I watch? No, my bullshit detector is far too sensitive to subject it to such a concentrated dose.  However, if you would like to hear someone else's take on it, may I suggest Ann Althouse ( "Are you going to have sex with me or do I have to rape you?"), the Vodka Pundit Stephen Green (Nobody’s listening. Nobody cares. So in my best John Cleese voice I’ll just add, “This is a lame duck!”), or even Kevin Williamson, a man after my own heart who wrote even before the event:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

It’s worse than the Oscars.
Irina Shayk at 2012 Oscars
At least the Oscars has lots of good looking models and actresses in low cut gowns and side boob. At the SOTU you get Babs Mikulski.

Now, onto some minimal Obamacare Scahdenfreude:

That whole “keeping your doctor” thing not quite working out for Tennesseans so far less populated regions than California, the effects of these smaller networks is likely to be even more acute. ObamaCare coverage has been up-and-running for almost a month now, and several Tennesseans have been experiencing the new reality firsthand, via the Free Beacon:
WSMV’s Nancy Amons reported two cases of Obamacare enrollees who have been notified that they will no longer be able to see doctors they were able to visit when they were on their previous plan.
Shawnna Simpson’s fifteen year old daughter was hurt last week in a cheerleading accident. Simpson called her family doctor and learned that they do not accept her current health insurance plan, BlueCross Network E.
“We have health insurance at this point that is worthless,” Simpson said of the plan that she pays $600 a month for. … We can’t use it in the county that we live” she said.
BlueCross Network E is a micro network – a very small network with limited doctors and hospitals. Neither Vanderbilt nor TriStar are in the network.

Even a US Senator has found out that Obamacare won't cover his chosen oncologist:

Tom Coburn: My new ObamaCare coverage won’t cover treatment from my cancer specialist
Coburn didn’t reveal who his doctor is, but needless to say, losing your doctor is not an uncommon experience in the new golden age of “universal” health care, even for cancer patients.
The Oklahoma Republican’s spokesman confirmed to POLITICO that since the senator enrolled in his health insurance plan under Obamacare, his coverage has been reduced and he lost coverage for his cancer specialist. Coburn will continue to pay out of his own pocket and see the oncologist, his office said…
“We hope the White House will work with us to make sure Americans who can’t afford to pay out of pocket don’t lose access to life-saving care,” spokesman John Hart said. “As Dr. Coburn’s experience shows, the American people are about to learn they’re going to lose access to not only their doctors and plans, but their specialists and treatments.”
Have provider networks shrunk that much even among “gold” and “platinum” plans on the exchanges? That’s what Coburn, who’s already survived previous bouts with cancer, would have purchased, I assume. It’s no secret that “bronze” and “silver” plans help pay for their lower premiums by keeping provider networks comparatively small; I assumed one of the benefits for shelling out for a cadillac plan would be a robust network. Not robust enough, apparently.
You might remember that Republicans added the amendment that required Congress people and their more senior staff to take Obamacare, as a bit of a bitter pill (not quite poison, but unpleasant) to the legislation, so you might say that Coburn has been hoist on his own petard.  Or you could say that he's putting his money where is mouth is, since he is paying to keep his doctor.

And finally, this from, again, the VodkaPundit: Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

Wombat-socho has the great collection for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: All Hail The Superb Owl!" up at The Other McCain.

A "Bottle Bill" for Maryland?

Remember to save that can!
Proposed Md. bill calls for 5-cent bottle deposit
A "bottle bill," to be introduced in the General Assembly this week, could mean 5-cents back in consumers' pockets for each can or bottle they recycle in Maryland.  The Maryland Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, delivered 7,500 signed petitions to Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk Monday in support of the bill.  "With the bottle bill, Maryland has the opportunity to get to an achievable goal of 80 percent container recycling by 2020," says Joanna Guy with PIRG.

Gov. O'Malley included increasing container recycling in his Climate Change Plan released in the summer of 2014. Proponents say if implemented, it will triple what the state is recycling now.
Almost $1.00 worth!
"Proponents" tend to exaggerate in support of their programs.  I find this hard to believe.
Under the proposed program, consumers would bring their bottles and cans to deposit spots, likely at grocery stores, and redeem their money there. The locations of the deposit spots are still unknown.
Right now, we have "free" recycling at county waste sites.  All cans, bottles and miscellaneous plastic and metal can be dumped in a common bin, and sorted later.  We make that minor effort routinely.  Like most of our semirural neighbors, we take our own trash to a central site rather than having a trash service pick it up, but even if we did use one of the several private trash haulers, they would accept and sort the recyclable material.

Under the new system, we will pay extra up front for the bottles and cans, have to keep those separate, (just what the garage needs, another trash recycling bin), and return them to the grocery store to get a few cents back.
"It's good for the state for many reasons. We recycle 22 percent of cans and bottles a year. That's four billion pieces of trash, three billion of which end up in the Bay in rivers and streams. It's a huge waste of money and a problem for the environment, says state Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County.
Huh?  You really think that if 4 billion cans and bottles are created, and only 1 billion recycled, 100% (or near enough) of the remainder end up in the Bay and streams?

I have to say, although cans and bottle do wash up on the beach after a big storm, they do not form a majority, or even a significant fraction of the trash.
Frosh is introducing the bill whose only opponents are the beverage companies. He says that's because it's a win-win for the state, and its counties in particular.

"The counties will not only get the value of the raw materials recycled, but will get the redemption fee," he says.  That means that consumers who choose to recycle bottles and cans at the curb will relinquish their five cents per bottle to their respective county. "Any unredeemed deposits would go to recycling programs and expanding those recycling programs," Guy says.
So there's the real agenda.  It's a hidden tax, that you only pay if you're lazy.

I've lived in other states with and without a "bottle bill."  Oregon was not particularly cleaner as a result of having a bottle bill, back when a nickel was worth a lot more than it is now.

One good thing about it though, is there's no excuse for poverty; any poor person should be able to make a living pouring through trash, or even picking up streets after careless teenagers.  For that, I might even stop recycling my bottles and cans and throw them out on the street for them to glean.

Wombat-socho has the great collection for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: All Hail The Superb Owl!" up at The Other McCain.

Science, Solving the Great Mysteries One at a Time

For a long time, it has been known that the Three-Toed Sloth, (NSFW link, believe it or not) a slow moving vegetarian of the South and Central American jungle tree tops, makes a visit to the jungle floor, risking its life to predators, just to take a shit.  Seeing as how gravity should take care of the problem if the the sloth suffered incontinence, and seeing as how that's the way it's relative the Two Toed Sloth takes care of the problem, the mystery is why they bother.

Now, a team of scientists from Wisconsin has concocted proposed a story to account for the for the Three-Toed version's potty preferences.  This might be a good week for researchers from Wisconsin to be visiting Amazonia.

Writing last week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the Wisconsin researchers assembled all these pieces in a different way. They started by trying to understand what would compel the sloth to brave the dangers of a weekly visit to ground zero.

Its distant evolutionary cousin, the two-toed sloth, stays safely in the canopy, out of the jaguar’s view. The visit to the ground, the researchers concluded, could not be for the tree’s benefit, because the sloth’s dung would not make much difference to its nutrition. Rather, they assumed, it was to favor a critical component of the sloth’s ecosystem, the pyralid moth. The descent to the sloth’s midden affords the pregnant moths in its fleece a chance to lay eggs.
Or, you know, they could just fall out, and fall down where the poop is.  It's not like the sloths are moving that fast.
The moths’ caterpillars are coprophagous or, to put it more bluntly, consumers of excrement. They grow to maturity in the sloth’s dung pellets and, on hatching, flutter up to the trees to find a sloth host. Burrowing into its fur, they mostly shed their wings and live there happily for the rest of their days, mating and dying in a safe, protected environment. After they die, their bodies are decomposed by the host of fungi and bacteria in the sloth’s fur. The metabolic products of this decay, especially nitrogen, are the feedstock for the specialist algae that grow in the sloth’s hair shafts. The researchers guessed that the sloths might be eating the algae from their own fur, and that this could be the purpose of the whole system.
We'll leave that one until the end.

Leaves are poor sources of nutrition, and animals that depend on them, like gorillas, often require large guts to hold them all. The sloth, having to climb along thin branches, can’t afford a big gut. It moves slowly because every calorie counts, and it pays to slow down its metabolism. But the invention of giving over its fleece to algae farming would go a long way to solving its problem of limited nutrition.

Dr. Pauli and his colleagues guessed that the sloth might be overcoming the poverty of its leaf diet by eating the algae on its fleece, and that the moths were essential fertilizer for the algae. In their paper they report much evidence in support of their hypothesis. The greater the infestation of moths, the more nitrogen a three-toed sloth carries in its fleece and the greater the amount of algae. An analysis of stomach contents showed the sloths were indeed eating the algae.
I'm not sure I'm entirely clear on this (I should probably read the paper).  Do the moths eat the algae ridden hair, obtain their nitrogen from the hair, which the sloth produced (hair, being a protein is chock full of nitrogen, but hair isn't digestible by most mammals)?  Does this make this a way to recycle the nitrogen and carbon from sloth hair, via the algae and moths?

It's all a nicely spun story, but as in all thing evolutionary there is no exact answer.  There is no "purpose" that a particular adaption exists, as if someone thought about it. The real answer is "because it works, for now."

The next important question is how a moth eaten, algae covered beast gets close to so many great chests.

Wombat-socho has the great collection for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: All Hail The Superb Owl!" up at The Other McCain.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Unbearable Stupidity of Andrea Mitchell

Point #1: Iran was more or less an ally until Bush included them in the "Axis of Evil" speech.

Point #2: Breaks in on Congresswoman discussing NSA for Justin Beiber news.

In Which I Agree With Alex Baldwin

Shouldn't happen often:

Alec Baldwin: TSA ‘A Disgrace’ For Patting Down My Infant Daughter
Actor Alec Baldwin was furious yesterday after the Transportation Security Administration singled his 5-month-old daughter out as a potential terrorist.

The 30 Rock star was apparently traveling back to the United States from the Bahamas when his infant daughter was “randomly selected” for an enhanced screening.

The TSA must go.

Flood Insurance Drowning in Debt

Federal flood program $24B in debt
As the federal flood insurance program drowns in billions of dollars worth of debt, Congress‘ top watchdog is proposing a novel solution: Have the private property owners — not taxpayers — foot the insurance bill.
Listen to the cute chick explain it.

The National Flood Insurance Program “has accrued $24 billion in debt, highlighting structural weaknesses in the program and increasing concerns about its burden on taxpayers,” the Government Accountability Office said in a report released this week.

As a result, some analysts reached by the congressional watchdog agency called for greater involvement from the private sector and eliminating government subsidies “so individual property owners — not taxpayers — would pay for their risk of flood loss.”

But Congress has been unable to act, drafting legislation that would put reforms on hold but doing little to stop the growing debt, now saddling the flood insurance program with a $24 billion deficit. In the meantime, leading lawmakers blame the Federal Emergency Management Agency for not providing accurate information on the effects of the cost increases.

“What Congress is trying to do right now is to undo some of the reforms, to actually delay the reforms that were adopted in July of 2012, which will actually accelerate insolvency of the program,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
If the government weren't willing to insure flooding knowing it would be losing money, insurance companies would be willing to write policies that wouldn't. Yes, they'd be more expensive than current policies, but they would reflect the true costs of building in flood zones.

Cow Burps Blow Roof Off Barn

German cows cause methane blast in Rasdorf

Methane gas released by dairy cows has caused an explosion in a cow shed in Germany, police said.

The roof was damaged and one of the cows was injured in the blast in the central German town of Rasdorf.

Thanks to the belches and flatulence of the 90 dairy cows in the shed, high levels of the gas had built up.

Then "a static electric charge caused the gas to explode with flashes of flames" the force said in a statement quoted by Reuters news agency.

Emergency services attended the farm and took gas readings to test for the risk of further blasts, said local media.

Cows are believed to emit up to 500 litres of methane - a potent greenhouse gas - each per day.
Color me skeptical.  The lower explosive limit of methane in air is about 5%.   It's hard for me to imagine that a barn is poorly enough ventilated to accumulate 5% of methane in the air without the cows using up a majority of the oxygen and succumbing to oxygen starvation.

I'm more inclined to think that natural gas or propane heating went wrong and blew the roof, but that cow burps were a sexier story.

Obamacare Schadenfreude, Back In the Deep Freeze

The second "polar vortex" of the year arrived as forecast yesterday afternoon, after our brief flirtation with above freezing temperatures (most, but not all of our snow is gone), and this morning the temperature was back to 12 F.

Similarly, after a couple of days of light output Obamacare Schadenfreude has ramped back up to a fever pitch in anticipation of the SOTU.

America's Worst Congressman Says Obamacare unraveling because the young aren't as stupid as he expected:
Perhaps it takes retirement for Democrats to be honest about the status of ObamaCare, and about its unsustainable structure. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), who recently announced his retirement from the House, told American University Radio last week that the dearth of enrollments from young, healthy Americans in ObamaCare would “unravel” the whole system — and that furthermore, they’d be right to avoid it:

From the "Yeah, like that's gonna happen department", Ted Cruz thinks the Preznit should use the SOTU address to apologize for the lie of the year:
“For the State of the Union, one of the things President Obama really oughta do is look in the TV camera and say to the over 5 million Americans all across this country who've had their health insurance canceled because of ObamaCare, to look in the camera and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Cruz said on CBS’s "Face the Nation."
. . .
Cruz said that, in addition to apologizing, Obama should offer fixes for the law.

“But then, Bob, here's the real kicker. If you're really sorry, you don't just say you're sorry. You actually do something to fix the problem,” he added.
Speaking of the lie of the year, the numbers suggest that only about 1/3 of Californians kicked off their health insurance by Obamacare have succeeded in getting new policies:
The latest version of such inflation is Covered California's jubilant announcement last week that "500,108 Californians enrolled for health insurance and selected plans through the end of 2013."
By the end of October, the executive director of California's Obamacare exchange confirmed that up to 900,000 people in the state would lose their current health insurance by the end of 2013--not including those who may lose it through their workplaces in 2014. Many of those are among the 500,000 or so who signed up for Obamacare through Covered California by the end of 2013--about 330,000, according to McCormack. That also means that only about 200,000 previously uninsured people signed up for Obamacare.

As for the other 600,000 or so, no one know what happened to them--they are just uninsured. The state refused to participate in President Barack Obama's proposed "fix" for those who had their policies canceled.
Success! If by success you mean standing triumphant on the smoking ruins of the healthcare system.

Another "unintended" consequence of Obamacare is that many people who are able to get health insurance through the exchanges are unable to similarly insure their children, who are forced into Medicaid, making them medical wards of the state.
Children who qualify for Medicaid, the safety-net program for the poor and disabled, can’t be included on subsidized family plans purchased through the federal marketplace, a fact that is taking many parents by surprise and leaving some kids stuck without coverage.

And in New Hampshire, some parents who’ve enrolled in private plans for themselves alone are finding out later that their children aren’t eligible for Medicaid after all, leaving their kids with no options.
. . .
“The children are getting stuck in this spot where we’ve enrolled the parent, but we can’t bring the children back on the family plan,” Maria Proulx, senior legal counsel for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, told a state advisory board panel this month.
Walmart and Walgren's pharmacies report that they are unable to provide free prescriptions to people who have lost their primary care physicians as a consequence of Obamacare.
Walgreens' and Walmart's pharmacies announced this month that they will help with the botched Obamacare rollout by providing free prescriptions to customers whose insurance coverage is pending. The move, while well-intentioned, only helps those possessing a prescription, leaving anyone still seeking a doctor’s assistance stranded.

The policies of both corporations this month were simple: those who can prove they signed up for Obamacare through and have a prescription can file it for free, even as they are not yet covered because of the system's inefficiency. The problem is that to have a prescription, patients must go to a doctor, and their pending insurance applications mean they will have to either handle the full cost of a visit themselves. If they wait until their application is no longer pending, they are not eligible to receive the benefits from the pharmacies’ programs.
But this one, no doubt, will receive lots of attention in the MSM.  North Carolina Blue Cross cuts benefits for gay couples:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina recently cancelled insurance polices which were previously purchased by gay and lesbian couples who opted to purchase a family insurance policy from the company.

The health insurance company opted to cancel the policies after stating that the language in the respective policies was geared more towards married couples and not gay couples. Terms such as “spouse” and “opposite sex” were used in the health insurance contracts, making them invalid.

Gay couples who purchased family coverage from Blue Cross have the option to instead purchase individual health care coverage.
I anticipate a couple of pairs of cute lipstick lesbians and gay males on TV tearfully explaining how their feelings are being hurt by having to by separate Obamacare policies.

But gay couples can take consolation in the fact that Obamacare manages to fund abortions through the back door: Surprise! Secret Abortion Fees Buried in ObamaCare Premiums
Insurance companies working under the Obamacare umbrella have secretly added a surcharge to cover the cost of abortions, an apparent violation of federal law that forbids the practice, congressional leaders charge.

Consumers signing up for insurance in an Obamacare exchange won’t find a single sentence telling them that they will pay at least $1 a month to fund abortions.
“The president promised when the health care bill passed that it would not cover abortion. We knew that was an empty promise as the bill stipulated a $1 a month surcharge for plans that covered abortions,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., who chairs the House’s Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health. “On top of that … it’s near impossible to decipher which plans include abortion and at what cost!”

To fix this, a House bill will be introduced this week to demand full disclosure and a separate itemized premium. It also will prohibit federal subsidies for Obamacare insurance plans that cover abortion. That bill, HR-7, or the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” will be introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
What?  Product labeling?  No way the democrats will support that.

Michelle Obama would like you to send $10 for her next well earned vacation to save Obamacare from those awful Republicans:
Friend —

Earlier this month, because of what you did, it became illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against the up to 129 million Americans living with pre-existing conditions. Young Americans are able to stay on their parents' health care plans as they get on their feet, and we can now know that our insurance companies won't put lifetime caps on our coverage.

You should be so proud of that. That happened because you organized, you talked to your friends and neighbors, and you chipped in what you could, when you could, to elect Barack and a Congress who supported his agenda.

Today, I'm asking you to do it again.

So before Barack gives his State of the Union address tomorrow, chip in $10 or more and help protect Obamacare:
GOP rolls out it's healthcare plan
Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would repeal Obamacare as part of the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act. But in crafting a replacement, the lawmakers were cognizant of both the popular and unpopular aspects of Obamacare.
. . .
Under the replacement proposal, as is the case with Obamacare, insurers would be barred from imposing lifetime limits on medical claims and required to allow individuals to remain on their parents’ policies until the age of 26.

Under the rules of Obamacare, insurers can only charge three times as much to older Americans as they charge younger Americans, one of the factors that has driven up the price of insurance for the young. The Coburn-Burr-Hatch proposal would create a federal benchmark allowing insurers to charge older Americans five times as much. However, states would be permitted to set their own ratio below that amount, or opt out of the requirement altogether.
This is a pretty big one, as the age differential is one of the big factors in making O-care policies have either outrageous prices or deductibles for the young.  I would have gone further, but that would be unpopular with older people, a significant block for the the Republican.
To address those with pre-existing conditions, who have been among the major targeted beneficiaries of Obamacare, the GOP proposal would require insurers to offer coverage to anybody who has applied as long as they have maintained continuous coverage, regardless of whether they are switching health plans or shifting from employer-based health care to the individual market. The theory is that this would offer some protection to those with pre-existing conditions without having the same effect on premiums as Obamacare’s full ban on the practice. At the same time, the idea is that this would create an incentive for everybody to maintain their insurance coverage, thus negating the need for the individual mandate.
Pre-existing conditions is a tough one.  People are generally against the "pre-existing conditions" clauses on insurance, but most don't understand how they help keep costs down for the rest of us. People need to be made to understand that to cover "pre-existing conditions" rates have to go up on everyone, effectively making it a charity situation.
For years, most free market health care proposals began with the idea of ending the discrimination in the tax code that gives an unfair advantage to those who obtain health insurance through their employers. But in consideration of the backlash against the way that Obamacare has disrupted people’s insurance coverage, the new GOP proposal would maintain the employer health insurance bias. Instead of scrapping the employer health insurance tax exclusion, the proposal would merely cap it at 65 percent of the average plan’s costs.
Agreed.  Another, better way to do it, in my opinion, would be to give individuals the same tax break for buying insurance that companies get.  Too much tax cut?  Too bad.  Make it up by taxing NGOs.
The savings generated by capping the exclusion would be used to help finance tax credits to be offered to individuals earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (or annual earnings of about $35,000 for an individual). A new division of the U.S. Department of Treasury known as the Office of Health Financing would administer the credits. Obamacare’s subsidies are more generous and go up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
I would prefer low taxes in general to an exclusion that gives tax breaks to the 3 X poverty level.  I want a leveler field, not one with a steep slope to get out out of "3 X poverty".
In cases where individuals qualify for a tax credit high enough to cover the cost of a plan but never sign up for insurance, states have the option of automatically enrolling them in a default policy, though the individuals would also have the ability to opt out.

The proposal would also expand the use of tax free health savings accounts, for instance, by allowing funds to be withdrawn to pay premiums for long-term care insurance and COBRA.
Tax free is better.  A good provision, but one which will not be popular with democrats, as they prefer to take the money in taxes, and dole it back out in favors that buy votes.
Instead of expanding Medicaid, as Obamacare does, the Coburn-Burr-Hatch proposal would reform it to give more flexibility to states and allow Medicaid beneficiaries the option of using their tax credit to purchase private coverage.
What, federalism?  Heaven forfend that New York and Mississippi both get to run Medicaid the way they want.
In addition, the proposal encourages states to adopt medical malpractice reforms and requires hospitals and insurers to improve price transparency.
Yeah, the doctors support would be nice, but the insurance companies and hospitals are where the big money is.  Count on insurance companies to oppose this.  I would also have preferred to see an explicit rejection of the "insurance company bailouts" in Obamacare, but the fact they are not mentioned gives me some hope.
 . . .Ultimately, the new Coburn-Burr-Hatch plan would not usher in a free market for health insurance in the United States, which would require fully ending the distortion of the tax code and removing far more regulations. What it does do is offer individuals more freedom than now exists under Obamacare.
As was noted yesterday, this approach has some political risks.  Instead of a solid opposition to Obamacare as a unifying factor, now the Republicans have a plan that can be snipped at and torn apart piecemeal.  But is that an improvement over the unfounded, but generally accepted as true charge that the Republicans have no plans for improving healthcare?