Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Wee Dram of Obamacare Schadenfreude

A lovely day here, bright and sunny, pushing 70 F.

Washington Post Fact Checker awards White House Obama NGO tweet 2 Pinocchios
. . .Let’s look at these one by one.

The 4x number is misleading, in that, in question 53, just 41 percent who enrolled are either very happy (20 percent) or somewhat happy (21 percent) with their coverage. The 4x statistic is derived by combining somewhat unhappy (7 percent) and very unhappy (4 percent) and then comparing 11 percent against 41 percent.

But 16 percent are neither happy nor unhappy and a whopping 31 percent say it is “too soon to tell.” So how did enrollees simply get labeled as happy?

“As we note in the survey report, it’s true that 31 percent said it was too soon to tell whether or not they were happy with their coverage; that means the numbers may change over time, but the data we have is easily robust enough to indicate how people currently feel about their coverage,” said Justin Nisly, Enroll America’s spokesman. “We couldn’t include every bit of data in the infographic, but what we did include is entirely accurate, and the full context is readily available.”

The statistic that 7 out of 10 are confident they can make their payment appears okay. In question 45, 74 percent said they were very confident or somewhat confident they could make their payments. But one of four were not confident.

The phrasing of the next element, “relieved,” also veers into misleading. Calling it “the word that came to mind the most” implies respondents were asked to come up with their own word. Instead, “relieved” was one among a choice of four words in question 54, including “confused,” financially stressed,” “in control,” and “it doesn’t really affect me.”

In other words, “relieved” was one of four words that people could choose from, but it was not “the word that came to mind the most.” In fact, relieved was chosen by 47 percent, so it was not even the majority choice.

“When offered a range of positive, negative, and neutral phrases to describe their feelings about having health insurance, 47 percent chose ‘relieved’ – the next most chosen phrase had just 17 percent, so I think it is entirely accurate to say that the word that best described the way consumers feel about their coverage is ‘relieved,’” Nisley said. “I guess you could quibble with using ‘came to mind’ to describe a question that offered various options, but I don’t think that changes the basic point that a majority of respondents chose positive words to describe ‘what it feels like to have health insurance.’”

Finally, question 49 did ask enrollees whether their plan had enough doctors, and 56 percent said yes. But the very next question asks whether a person had tried to see a doctor yet, and 61 percent said no. And 63 percent said they had not tried to get prescriptions yet. And nearly half—49 percent—said they had not yet tried to use their insurance yet.

In other words, it seems a bit early in the game to start declaring that people are “happy, relieved, and confident.”
We realize an infographic has to condense information, but there is a high burden to meet for one designed to be tweeted. In this case, Enroll America grabbed the statistics that cast the Affordable Care Act in the best possible light, even though a huge percentage of the respondents had barely a chance to experience the system and form opinions about it. We highly doubt many people actually read the report before they retweeted the graphic.
What does two Pinocchios imply?
Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people.
As Quaestor a commenter at Alhouse notes:
Just two? Obama, benefiting as always from the Pinocchio discount.
William And Kate Enjoy Wee Dram

Rule 5 Saturday - Willa Ford - She Wanna Be Bad

This week's entry in the Rule 5 sweepstakes is Willa Ford:
Amanda Lee Modano (née Williford; born January 22, 1981) known by her stage names Willa Ford and often as Mandy Modano, is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, model, television personality and film actress. She released her debut album, Willa Was Here, in 2001. Ford also has appeared in movies such as Friday the 13th (2009), hosted several reality television shows, posed for Playboy and competed on ABC's Dancing with the Stars.
A busy girl.

Cat People vs. Dog People

Who's smarter?  Science says...

"Dog people" and "cat people" really do have different personalities, according to a new study.

People who said they were dog lovers in the study tended to be more lively — meaning they were more energetic and outgoing — and also tended to follow rules closely. Cat lovers, on the other hand, were more introverted, more open-minded and more sensitive than dog lovers. Cat people also tended to be non-conformists, preferring to be expedient rather than follow the rules.

So cat people are more likely to be sociopaths?
And in a finding that's sure to spark rivalries among pet owners, cat lovers scored higher on intelligence than dog lovers.
But what about those of us who like both cats and dogs? Does that make us smarter than everybody?
Part of the reason for the personality differences may be related to the types of environments cat or dog people prefer, said study researcher Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, who presented the findings here at the annual Association for Psychological Science meeting.
"It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they're going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog," Guastello said. "Whereas, if you're more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you're more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn't need to go outside for a walk."
Dogs are certainly a bigger commitment in time and exercise. We've had both. Dogs are definitely more work, but more reward.
The researchers surveyed 600 college students, asking whether they would identify themselves as dog lovers or cat lovers, and what qualities they found most attractive in their pets. Participants also answered a slew of questions to assess their personality.
You know, if you were to do an intelligence tests on a bunch of people and compared races to intelligence you might conclude. . . Oh, it's just Wisconsin college students? Never mind.

Linked at Pirates's Cove in the weekly "Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup."  Wombat-socho has the grand
Rule 5 Sunday: Pre-Vegas Review Of Pulchritude linkfest up at The Other McCain.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Watermen Lose Menhaden Suit

A judge in Dorchester County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the state in a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources that concluded on Wednesday.

While Judge David B. Mitchell said the evidence the plaintiffs produced in the trial “clearly addresses the economic impact” and establishes their dissatisfaction with 2013 menhaden regulations, he said, “Their responsibility is to show, as we mentioned earlier, that the state exceeded its legislative mandate and it’s a violation of the Constitution and that the process of the state adopting these regulations is flawed.”

“Their case is still lacking the ability to sustain their burden placed upon them by the law,” Mitchell said about the plaintiffs just before ruling in favor of DNR.
. . .
Lewis argued outside of trial that menhaden, which DNR calls a migratory fish, shouldn’t be treated as a coastwide species in Maryland, which was deduced through his and other watermen’s observations while working on the water.

Lewis said the Chesapeake Bay has its own spawning stock of menhaden, meaning, for the plaintiffs in the case, the ASMFC passed down regulations that are arbitrary for Maryland.

“They’re regulating it coastwide, and we’re saying that we have a local stock that don’t migrate out into the ocean,” Lewis said. “We’re saying we have a local population here that spawns, lives year-round right here, which would make it a unique situation on the coast, and they’re trying to adopt coastwide regulations and adapt them to an inland fishery.”
That's certainly a novel approach. It's pretty well established that the majority of Menhaden present in the Bay in summer migrate to the warmer waters of the coast in winter. From
Found inshore in summer, but at least some moving into deeper water in winter. Adults are found in near surface waters, usually in shallow areas overlying continental shelf, in greatest abundance immediately adjacent to major estuaries. Juveniles are also generally pelagic, with smallest size groups farthest up river. Form large and very compact schools, both of juveniles and adults. Migrate north - south; also in and out of bays and inlets. Feed by filtering phytoplankton (diatoms) and zooplankton (small crustaceans, annelid worms and detritus). High water temperatures apparently limit breeding. Spawn probably all year; nursery areas in estuaries. Larvae are pelagic, probably spend about a month in waters over continental shelf, entering estuarine waters at about 10 mm and larger. 
But even if true, I would argue that the need for protection for a local, Chesapeake Bay population would be even greater than for a pan-coastal population, as it would be more impacted by local over-fishing.

Beach Report 5/30/14

After a morning of cool rain, the sun came out, and Georgia and I took the opportunity to go the beach.  However, I'm cheating a little, as the the first two pictures here were still in the camera from earlier this week.  Here the adults gawk at the Navy radar blimp, while the kids play in the water.  The water temperature is almost tolerable at nearly 70 F.  Hopefully another month before the Sea Nettles make it too painful.
I forget his name, but he wagged his stump in greeting.
An American Painted Lady in the sand dunes.
Georgia stopped to thank a young woman who was spontaneously and voluntarily picking up trash on the beach
 A nice day after the rain, but still a little choppy.
We also had a bunch of Clouded Sulfurs on the Milkweeds that are now blossoming in the dunes. This is the light phase, which makes it female. Females come in both yellow and white, while the males are all yellow.
So this one could either be male or female, as far as I could see (pros may be able to distinguish).

Carney Out

Lifetime supply of excuses, diversions and non-responsive answers used up
President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance Friday to announce that his chief spokesman Jay Carney is leaving his post behind the podium.

Obama called Carney one of his closest advisers and friends at the White House in remarks to the press in the White House briefing room.

"In April, Jay came to me in the Oval Office and said that he was thinking of moving on, and I was not thrilled, to say the least," he said. "But Jay has had to wrestle with this decision for quite some time."

Shinseki Out

I was watching C-Span when it happened, but here's the Washington Post article:
Eric K. Shinseki resigned Friday as secretary of veterans affairs, taking responsibility for a scandal in the VA health-care system over excessive waiting times and coverups of what he called “systemic” problems.

President Obama announced that he accepted Shinseki’s resignation after agreeing with his embattled VA secretary that he had become a “distraction” as the department struggles to deal with a huge increase of veterans in need of care after more than a decade of war overseas.

Obama made the announcement shortly after Shinseki apologized publicly Friday for what he called an “indefensible” lack of integrity among some senior leaders of the VA health-care system and announced several remedial steps, including a process to remove top officials at the troubled VA medical center in Phoenix.

Speaking after a meeting with Shinseki at the White House, Obama said Shinseki had offered him his resignation.

“With considerable regret, I accepted,” Obama said. “We don’t have time for distractions,” he added. “We need to fix the problem.”

He said Sloan D. Gibson, the deputy secretary of veterans affairs, is taking over as acting secretary.
The next question is how deep the blood bath will become.

How Well Do You Know Your Military History?

Better than these college students, I hope. Some post-Memorial Day amusement by way of Jesse Waters at Fox News. Humiliating college students with history questions is an easy job, but somebody has to do it.

Way to go, Maryland! Thanks to Capt. Ed, the best-selling author of "Leap of Faith: Quit Your job and Live on a Boat" and "Poop, Booze and Bikinis."  Wombat-socho has the grand "Rule 5 Sunday: Pre-Vegas Review Of Pulchritude" linkfest up at The Other McCain.

Beware the Sarcastic Fringehead!

Channel Islands, huh? I figured they hung out on internet message boards, Daily Kos, and the Democratic Underground.  Found here, by way of Ace's.  Incidentally, I knew of more than half of the "Strangest Animals You Never Heard Of."

Dutiful Obamacare Schadenfreude

Another cool, rainy morning here. I hope the rain stops before the grass in the front yard becomes bamboo.

Obamacare continues to be as popular as ever; not very:
Gallup: “Although the Obama administration is boasting higher-than-expected enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, Americans’ attitudes toward the healthcare law have changed only marginally since the open enrollment period ended for 2014.”
Via Wombat-sochos "Live at 5: 05.30.14", Oregon prepares to get serious about their completely non-functional website: Oregon's governor seeks to sue contractor over state's failed ObamaCare exchange
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said Thursday he is seeking to file a lawsuit against the contractor who built the state’s failed ObamaCare exchange, but the company says it isn’t to blame.

The Democratic governor asked the state’s attorney general to sue Oracle Corp., the main technology contractor for Cover Oregon, for embarrassing the state and wasting money.

"This is a very serious decision taking on a very large corporation — the second-largest software corporation in the world — but I do not believe they've delivered for the state of Oregon," Kitzhaber told The Associated Press.

Oregon paid Oracle $134 million in federal funds to build what turned out to be a glitch-filled Cover Oregon website, which the state scrapped last month in favor of the federal exchange.

Oregon is the only state that still doesn't have an online portal where the general public can sign up for health insurance in one sitting through a marketplace required under ObamaCare.

Dude's, lay off the 'shrooms while writing code.

Paltrow Trolls the Nerds

By way of Wombat-socho's "Live at 5: 05.29.14" Gweneth Paltrow gave the nerds a little thrill when she came to the Code Conference, an event for the tech industry held in Palos Verdes: Gwyneth Paltrow: Goopers Do “Not Give a F*** if the Facebook Guys Think We’re Hot or Not.”
Paltrow, who wore a sheer navy top and stilettos, was hanging out next to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who wore gray Croc sandals and showed her something new on his phone. On her other side was her friend, Kleiner Perkins partner Juliet de Baubigny, who had suggested that Paltrow come to this whole tech conference in the first place. All she could really talk about onstage was anonymous apps and celebrity and stuff, but would people really care about that?
So what deep thoughts does dear Gwen have to offer to the nerds?
Her topic — which she had talked about with Re/code earlier, as well — was the “objectification and dehumanization” of anonymous Internet comments. Or, she said, how it feels to be “a person in the culture that people want to harm.”

“We can momentarily anesthetize ourselves by focusing on someone else’s life, get a nice hot shot of schadenfreude and keep going, but how does this serve us?”
Thank goodness for the transparent sheer blouse. .
"Facebook actually started as a place to judge women on their pulchritude or lack of it. I think it’s kind of fascinating that a company that’s so huge and that would come to define much of the modern Internet was founded on this objectification of human beings.”
But then, you came from, and earned your money in an business that has made a huge industry out of "objectification" of women.  In fact, it "objectifies" people in general. That's sort of the object of the whole thing.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.
“Celebrities, we’ve always gotten stones thrown at us and, you know, for good reason: We’re annoying. Some of us look okay, we look like we have money, our lives seem great. That may or may not be the case … Nevertheless, we get it. Or, at the very least, we expect that it’s part and parcel to what we do. Anyone in any field who has their head rise above a poppy in the field, they get their heads chopped off. It’s our human nature to feel that way, and to do it. … Everybody takes shit, it’s just the way it is.”
The poor dears.

“Perhaps the Internet has been brought to us as a test in our emotional evolution. What is growth? What is maturity? It’s being able to experience an external event and creating the space within to contain that experience, to see it through the filter of who you really are, to not be reactive. To see someone in a dress you don’t like, and instead of writing from a username like shitebomber207: ‘Who does this fat bitch think she is,’ or whatever, even though you might feel that way, just stopping and saying to yourself, ‘I wonder what this image represents to me that I feel such a surge of anger?’ To love the Internet for what it provides, but to know it’s not real, and it’s sometimes dangerous for our development.”
Have you ever wondered about the effect of weightlessness on weightlessness?  Maybe she should have ridden the "Vomit Comet" instead of Kate Upton.

UPDATE (also courtesy of Wombat-socho's "Live at 5" 05.30.14"): In fresh evidence of Paltrow's exquisite sense of drama, before the conference she claimed that getting trashed on the internet was almost equivalent to being shot at in a war zone:
Gwyneth Paltrow is comparing meaningless Internet insults to the ravages of war -- real war -- claiming she's been dehumanized by widespread Internet trash-talking ... the same way a real-life soldier is dehumanized by blood, guts, bullets, night terrors, watching his friends die, and PTSD.

Shortly before her appearance at the Code tech conference this week, Paltrow said, "You come across [comments] about yourself and about your friends, and it’s a very dehumanizing thing. It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it."
Linked at Proof Positive in the weekly "Best of the Web Linkaround."  Wombat-socho has the grand "Rule 5 Sunday: Pre-Vegas Review Of Pulchritude" linkfest up at The Other McCain. GOODSTUFF incorporated it into his 142d Blogging Magazine issue.

Look What's In the Garden?

Some Cambodian women discover the elusive Pitcher Plant.

At least I think it's a Pitcher Plant and not a Catcher Plant.  Wombat-socho has the grand "Rule 5 Sunday: Pre-Vegas Review Of Pulchritude" linkfest up at The Other McCain.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Color Me Shocked . . .

Baltimore waterways get 'F' in latest report card
Baltimore area waterways got a failing grade in the latest report card from the Healthy Harbor Initiative. More sites were tested this year than ever before, and area streams were tested for water quality for the first time, officials said.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a beautiful sight until visitors stumble upon trash and other pollution. But trash in the harbor and in other waterways like the Jones Falls isn't the only factor leading to the "F" grade in the 2013 report card that was released Wednesday. "I would say that none of the streams in Baltimore City or the harbor were safe for human contact or recreation throughout," said Adam Lindquist of the Health Harbor Initiative.

Officials said the report, which was backed by Blue Water Baltimore and The Waterfront Partnership, is the most comprehensive to date. Covering streams for the first time, it includes testing sites from 360 square miles of area streams, the harbor and tidal Patapsco River, all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. "All of those water bodies have received a failing grade this year for water quality," Lindquist said.
Yep, Baltimore Harbor water quality and those of the associated streams is simply awful. We really didn't need another report from another NGO to tell us that.  They would serve better by giving the money they raise to do the "research" and write the paper to Baltimore City to use to upgrade it's sewage and storm water system.  But what's the fun in that?

None Dare Call It Treason . . .

. . . this time.  Byron York takes on the revelation that the Obama White House "inadvertently" revealed the identity of the current CIA Chief of Station in Afghanistan, effectively making him and his family permanent target of Islamic terrorists and destroyed his career. Ooops! Sorry!

When Bushies blew a CIA cover, it was 'treason'; now, it's a mistake
. . .The White House quickly explained that a mistake had been made, but did not offer any details. Top officials announced that White House counsel Neil Eggleston, a veteran of many Washington investigations, will "look into" the matter. "It shouldn't have happened," deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN on Tuesday. "We're trying to understand why it happened. In fact, the chief of staff, Denis McDonough, asked the White House counsel to look into it, to figure out what happened and to make sure it won't happen again."

Many observers seem satisfied with the White House's explanation that the incident was just a regrettable error. And that is indeed what it appears to be. But such assessments represent a remarkable change in tone from the discussion several years ago, when the George W. Bush administration leaked Valerie Plame's identity as part of a bitter fight over the origin and direction of the Iraq war. Back then, it was quite common to hear the words "traitor" and "treason" used to describe top Bush officials involved in the controversy.

There's no doubt the Bush officials deliberately revealed Plame's CIA connection, if not her name, to the press. But the Plame leak could be characterized as inadvertent in one sense: the leakers, both in the State Department and the White House, did not know that Plame's status at the CIA was classified when they mentioned her to reporters. That is why no one was ever charged with leaking her identity; they did not knowingly and deliberately reveal classified information. So in that sense it was all a mistake. Yes, it was inadvertent, colossally stupid, an embarrassment -- but it was a mistake.
But as he goes on to point out, that did not prevent accusations of treason:
The accusation that Rove, or Libby, or others in the Bush White House -- including the president himself -- were "traitors" or had committed "treason" got its start in late September 2003, when Democrats dug up an old quote from George H. W. Bush, who was not only a former president and George W. Bush's father, but a former CIA chief. In 1999, when the senior Bush attended a ceremony in which CIA headquarters was named for him, he said in his speech: "Even though I am a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are in my view the most insidious of traitors."

The Washington Post published the quote in a story on September 29, 2003. By that night, it was repeated on cable TV, and the accusations of treason started flying. They would continue for years.

Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, led the attack. "Scooter Libby is a traitor," Wilson said on CNN in July 2007. But others went there, too — even high-ranking government officials. For example, when the Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg appeared on the now-defunct liberal talk radio network Air America — a hotbed of traitor talk — he was asked, "Karl Rove is guilty of treason, isn't he?" Lautenberg's answer was, "Yes, I think so."

In October 2004, Terry McAuliffe, who was at the time chairman of the Democratic National Committee, demanded that Rove reveal his testimony before the grand jury so the public could learn "who in the White House committed treason by outing a CIA operative."

No one will be surprised that Rachel Maddow, now an MSNBC host but back then on Air America, took part, too. "Is Karl Rove a traitor?" Maddow was asked on MSNBC in July, 2005. "I believe it," she said.

Al Franken, now a Democratic senator from Minnesota but then also with Air America, made the treason accusation in a characteristic non-joking joking manner. "They wanted to smear the guy who came back with the report, and so they out his wife and said she sent him there," Franken explained on "Late Night With David Letterman" in October 2005. "This is essentially -- you know, George H.W. Bush, the president's father, was the head of the CIA and he has said that outing a CIA agent is treason."

"It is treason, yes," said Letterman.

"And so basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed," Franken said. When the crowd began to laugh, Franken added, "Yeah. And I don't know how I feel about it because I'm basically against the death penalty …"
Of course, as is well known by now, the actual leak came from Richard Armitage, one of Colin Powell's aids at the State Department, both of them being stout opponents of the war policy.  Neither was indicted.

If it is true that consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind, none may accuse democrats of having foolish little hobgoblins.

That Mess at the VA

There are buckets of digits being spilled on the VA scandal, so I felt I should contribute or be left behind.

First, the crime.  Problems at the VA with service have long been known, and predate the current administration. I'm sure they even predate me.  The specific allegations being aired now are primarily that, at a large number of VA hospitals, wait times for medical treatment were extremely long, as much as 115 day, and, even worse, VA administrators were keeping double sets of books on the wait times, keeping veterans off the "official" computerized wait lists on double secret pencil and paper wait lists, to minimize the reporting of wait times so that they would remain eligible for performance bonuses.  At the very minimum, this constitutes some kind of fraud. Or if it doesn't, it should.

Among the other things that Preznit Obama campaigned on was a promise to reform the VA and improve the treatment of veterans. It appears his means of doing this was to appoint General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of the VA and lose interest, assuming his part was done.  Shinseki had made himself popular with liberals by opposing some aspects of Rumsfeld plans for the Iraq war, claiming that it would require several hundred thousand troops remaining in Iraq to keep the peace in post-war Iraq; a proposition which may still be valid by virtue of having never been tested in practice.

In that spirit, I present my prescriptions from the top on down.

Gen. Shinseki should do the honorable thing and commit hari-kiri resign. I don't particularly blame him for the crisis, but I do think that as the commander over this particular failure, he should accept the responsibility and leave on his own, or be removed from the command if necessary. He should be familiar with the concept.  I doubt that a military man was a good choice to manage a huge unwieldy civilian agency. Unlike a military hierarchy, it is much more difficult to control a largely unionized civilian work force, whose careers are almost entirely safe from anything short of videotaped acts of gross malfeasance. They appear to have taken this to heart and acted accordingly.

Now, I assume that like all other Federal agencies, the upper administration of the VA is largely populated with SES (Senior Executive Service) people, which according to Wikipedia, are the civilian equivalents of generals and admirals.  Unless these people can show that they were actively opposing, and working to reveal the problems in the agency, they should go too. Ignorance is no excuse. Any found to be complicit, or even aware of the wait list problem without making any attempt to fix it should be prosecuted to the greatest extent possible. Since the usual practice of Federal prosecutors is to overcharge, to force a favorable settlement, that should also be encouraged.  Possibly on grounds of treason (giving comfort to our enemies by denying aid to our veterans). I would allow any who wish to resign ahead of the investigation, but once the investigation has begun, no Get Out of Jail free cards allowed.

Now that giant bureaucracy at the VA itself. Anyone who assembled, touched, coached someone else to create or even knew about and overlooked should also be fired from government service, and forbidden any further government employment as proven dishonest and unreliable.

The whole pyramid of the VA hierarchy should be shortened and widened, with a decrease in the administrative overhead.  For every SES or GS-15 gone, they should be able to afford a new doctor at a VA hospital.

We should consider a program to privatize the VA hospitals, selling or even giving them, if necessary, along with their staff, to private health care providers.  Then veterans would be given vouchers for care.  We have this new shiny health care system.  Instead of the VA hospitals, permit each veteran currently eligible for VA medical benefits to buy a "gold" health care plan of his or her choice on the Obamacare exchange, paid for by the VA, including deductibles.  The hospitals and staffs of the former VA hospitals would still be available to treat these vets, under new private management.

As I said, I advance these proposals in the almost certain knowledge that they will not be followed. Already, my own Congressmen (over every vote I've had the opportunity to cast)  "Tax and Spend" Steny Hoyer has rushed to the defense of the VA bureaucracy:

Steny Hoyer: We Must Protect The Most Important Clients of the VA-- Democrat-Voting Government Bureaucrats
He says that the GOP is "politicizing" the VA scandal, apparently by refusing to go along with the standard operating Democrat procedure of stonewall, cover-up, distraction, and then saying "That was two years ago dude."
The House's No. 2 Democrat accused Republicans of exploiting the scandal that has enveloped the Veterans Affairs Department for political gain and said he is worried that civil servants could be swept up unfairly in a witch hunt.
Is there anyone in America apart from a union-serving progressive office-holder who sees the main problem with the VA scandal as exposing civil servants to unfair disciplinary measures?

It is incredible. We're only a few weeks of genuine coverage of this scandal and the Democrats are already hitting the Phony Scandal button.

Usually they'd wait for a nothing-to-see-here cook-the-books cover-up report for that.
I don't think there's any doubt about it... that is essentially the tactic that Republicans are trying to employ," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters Wednesday.
"In some cases there are huge fishing expeditions which are going on for millions of documents that goes beyond the realm of oversight and politicizes the issue very greatly."
Previous cover-ups have ended with IG's claiming they didn't have any "substantiation" for wrongdoing that was plainly going on.

The only way to get such substantiation is by getting the emails, as the Daily Beast did.

But of course Steny Hoyer doesn't want that -- he wants to protect his real constituents, government workers.
And, dammit, he's partly right.  We do blame the entrenched bureaucracy for this. They don't do it because they hate veterans or anything like that. They do it because the first job of any governmental authority is to preserve its own existence, and it's second is to expand its size and power and sense of entitlement. The actual nominal function of the agency is way down the priority list and  left to the bottom rung employees, and/or contractors. And they all vote almost entirely for the democrats because democrats are the party of the unbridled government.

The VA system is the purest form of single-payer health care as practiced here in the United States. Take a good long look at what Nancy Pelosi intends for the rest of us.

A Touch of Obamacare Schadenfreude

Another series of small storms moved through last night, no with no thunder that we heard (although is was apparently severe farther north), leaving us with a few mm of rain, much cooler temperatures (55 F of so) and cloudy skies.

Obamacare Schadenfreude?  Just more evidence that it's going to drive up prices: Here come the higher healthcare premiums for employer-provided plans
That is to say, higher healthcare premiums and major changes in the attempt to control costs have already arrived and will keep on arriving, as we knew they would — but here are some quantifiers, via USA Today:
More employees are getting hit with higher health insurance premiums and co-payments, and many don’t have the money to cover unexpected medical expenses, a new report finds.
More than half of companies (56%) increased employees’ share of health care premiums or co-payments for doctors’ visits in 2013, and 59% of employers say they intend to do the same in 2014, according to the annual Aflac WorkForces Report. It’s based on a survey of 1,856 employers and 5,209 employees at small, medium and large-size companies.
In 2013, 19% of companies implemented a major medical plan with a high deductible (more than $1,000) and Health Savings Accounts as an alternative to a traditional medical plan, the study finds. …
The need to control costs is driving many companies’ decisions on benefits, Owenby says. The report shows that almost half of employers (49%) agree that controlling costs is the primary objective…
Remember how it was supposed to lower "costs" by $2500 per family?

Gibson Guitar Grab Update

Lumber Union Protectionists Incited SWAT Raid On My Factory, Says Gibson Guitar CEO

. . .While 30 men in SWAT attire dispatched from Homeland Security and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cart away about half a million dollars of wood and guitars, seven armed agents interrogate an employee without benefit of a lawyer. The next day Juszkiewicz receives a letter warning that he cannot touch any guitar left in the plant, under threat of being charged with a separate federal offense for each “violation,” punishable by a jail term.

Up until that point Gibson had not received so much as a postcard telling the company it might be doing something wrong. Thus began a five-year saga, extensively covered by the press, with reputation-destroying leaks and shady allegations that Gibson was illegally importing wood from endangered tree species. In the end, formal charges were never filed, but the disruption to Gibson’s business and the mounting legal fees and threat of imprisonment induced Juszkiewicz to settle for $250,000—with an additional $50,000 “donation” piled on to pay off an environmental activist group.

What really happened at the Nashville plant?

Two months before the raid, lobbyists slipped some arcane supply-chain reporting provisions into an extension of the Lacey Act of 1900 that changed the technical definition of “fingerboard blanks,” which are legal to import.

With no clear legal standards, a sealed warrant the company has not been allowed to see too this day, no formal charges filed, and the threat of a prison term hanging over any executive who does not take “due care” to abide by this absurdly vague law, Gibson settled. “You’re fighting a very well organized political machine in the unions,” Juszkiewicz concluded. “And the conservation guys have sort of gone along.” Hey, what’s not to like about $50,000?
Pretty scary, just make up the the laws as you go along, then threaten to jail people if they don't admit to breaking the law and paying a stiff fine, which you then share with your buddies in the NGOs.

And this isn’t an isolated incident. Just ask Harvey Silverglate, Boston lawyer, activist, civil liberties advocate, and author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. As he explains, the Feds routinely take advantage of the vagueness of many of our laws by starting from the target and working backwards, selectively prosecuting people they want to go after by charging them with crimes they often don’t even know exist.

“We are in terrible trouble as a nation under law,” he says. “When you have a system predicated on jurisdictional interests rather than on specific, identifiable, understandable, definable violations of law, there is a great opportunity for tyranny.”

As a result, just about any businessperson, especially in highly regulated industries, can be construed by a prosecutor to have committed three or four arguable felonies a day. “If for some reason the authorities are eyeing you and they look closely enough at your daily activities, they can find something. That makes us all very vulnerable.”
And it's quite a coincidence that Gibson's CEO has a history of supporting Republicans, while one of Gibson's main competitors, Martin Guitars, supports Democrats.


Feds Raid Gibson Guitars
Update on Gibson Guitar Grab
The Rally for Gibson
Gibson Gives In
Tennessee Lawmakers Propose "Gibson Owners Protection"
Feds Promise Not to Persecute Guitar Owners
Own the Guitar the Government Didn't Want You to Have
Still No Charges in Gibson Guitar Grab

And now, a word from Gibson:

Wombat-socho has the grand "Rule 5 Sunday: Pre-Vegas Review Of Pulchritude" linkfest up at The Other McCain.

The Seven Steps of Scandal

Step 1: “We’re just finding out about this ourselves and are as appalled as anyone over these allegations. We vow to get to the bottom of this and, if true, right this wrong swiftly and thoroughly. Nothing less than the honor of our nation and our people is at stake, and that will not come to harm on my watch.”

Step 2: “We are investigating ourselves right now to make sure we get to the bottom of this. It’s important that we get all the facts from ourselves, and in the meantime it would be inappropriate for ourselves to answer questions about the investigation we’re conducting on ourselves.”

Step 3: “Didn’t I just tell you we started an investigation of ourselves? Also, we noted our outrage. I cannot possibly make any statements about the very obvious wrongdoing that occurred on our watch until the investigation we’re conducting of ourselves is completed, printed on paper and in my hands. Anything else would jeopardize the integrity of our investigation of ourselves. Is that what you want?”

Step 4: “Only crazy wingers even ask questions about stuff like this. Are you a crazy winger? Do you think it’s a grand conspiracy in which the President of the United States conspired to personally hurt veterans? Do you think that’s an appropriate question to ask?”

Step 5: Wait six months, refer to formerly outrageous scandal as phony.

Step 6: Slow walk investigation and especially the release of requested and possibly incriminating documents for a year or more.

Step 7: “Oh, that ‘scandal’? Dude, that was a year ago. Who’s still talking about that?”
It does have a certain familiar cadence to it.

We're all acquainted with the "12 Steps" of Alcoholics Anonymous and similar groups, but did you know the "13 Question Method)? It's the one to use...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Can Farmers Save the Chesapeake Bay?

When I read the title of the advertisement for this in the Chesapeake Bay news feed, I was moderately hopeful.  A billion dollars to help solve the problem of farm nutrients getting into the Bay?  Even allowing for the usual trickle down through a sponge BS, that's a lot of money and might make a difference.  Now that I read the article, I'm not all that impressed.

New federal farm program will help fight Chesapeake Bay pollution
Federal officials launched a new program Tuesday that enlists nonprofit groups and others in efforts to clean troubled natural wonders like the Chesapeake Bay.

Called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the initiative will provide $1.2 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for conservation grants over the next five years.

Nonprofit groups, local governments, private companies and others will propose conservation projects – say, efforts to prevent manure from running off farmland, or to protect wetlands. They will apply for the federal money and put up matching amounts, creating $2.4 billion for improvements.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the program a “new approach to conservation.”

“By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the federal government could accomplish on its own,” Vilsack said in a statement.

The program features three money pools. Thirty-five percent will go to eight “critical conservation areas” such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and prairie grasslands.

In addition, 40 percent of the money will go to regional or multi-state projects, and 25 percent will go to state-level projects. . .
So in fact, Chesapeake Bay is just one of the regions, so divide that $1.2 billion (with a "b") by eight or so to find how much will be targeted at the Bay.   We're already down to something like $150 million (with an "m".)

Forget about the "matching funds."  Speaking as an old hand at the soft money game, "matching funds" is usually accounting bullshit, covering things that the grantee is paying for anyway, but it sure is nice to get credit for it.

So of the $150 million or so, 40% will be designated for "regional" projects and 25% to state projects. I frankly don't see regional or state level projects doing any more than supporting some of the current environmental bureaucracies, with the net result of lots of serious sounding white papers that farmers won't read, and very little nutrient reduction.

So we're down to something like $50 million being dumped on the NGOS to tell the farmers to be nicer, a few consulting companies (I could name if I had to) doing some computer modeling and possibly a pittance or two going to some farmers who agree to participate in some trials.
The new program combines four previous conservation programs, including one that provided funding specifically for Chesapeake Bay projects.

Under that previous program, the bay region got about $188 million over five years to fight pollution, officials said. Under the new system, conservation groups and others will bid for money competitively.

Asked if the bay region could end up with less money this time around, about the same, or more, the USDA’s Robert Bonnie did not answer directly. But he said the bay region has a long history of groups and agencies working together.

“The Chesapeake Bay is going to do very well under this program,” said Bonnie, the under secretary for natural resources and environment.
So it's not really new money; it's old money under a new name. And we know that the Chesapeake Bay is not showing much signs of progress.

Obamacare Schadenfreude 5/28/14

We had a long thunderstorm here last night, which left us with a half inch of rain, and clouds this morning.  Like the weather, everybody talks about Obamacare, but nobody fixes it.

Pelosi admits, Single Payer is the goal, Obamacare is the intermediate stop.
Please don’t misunderstand. She is most assuredly not suggesting that Obamacare isn’t working fabulously as is. Like the president, the House Minority Leader believes the new law is working “the way it’s supposed to,” a sentiment shared by a minuscule fraction of the public. To drive home this point, she beams that the law is “beautiful,” and that is finally “well” — even as crucial elements that impact consumers have yet to be built. Come to think of it, Pelosi tells Ezra Klein, the Obamacare rollout (!) is pretty compelling evidence of Democrats’ strong record on governance.

This line of thinking is roughly akin to that guy who recently cited…Benghazi as Hillary Clinton’s biggest accomplishment. Points for sheer, shameless balls, if nothing else. Democrats find themselves torn between two O-Care narratives, which exist in tension with one another. Safe liberals like Pelosi can cheerfully indulge the delusion of Obamacare’s glittering success, while more vulnerable members and candidates seek refuge in the “fix it, don’t nix it” camp. In a nod to reality, Pelosi acknowledges there may be some elements to “improve upon,” prompting Klein to ask for an example or two:

Hospitals hiking cost on the poor due to … ObamaCare
There are multiple levels of irony in this New York Times report on the impact of ObamaCare on poor patients in the nation’s hospitals. Congress demanded the power to revamp the health-insurance industry and expand Medicaid in order to help the poor get better medical care for less money. In reality, the opposite appears to be happening, as hospitals attempt to force the poor into ObamaCare:
Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower- and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.
The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common.
Why did this unintended consequence occur? In part, because ObamaCare penalizes hospitals for extending charitable assistance . . .
As I said before, there's nothing in charity for politicians.

Unions are still waking up to the notion that Democrats weren't exactly thinking of them when they wrote Obamacare. WSJ: ObamaCare implementation turning into a pretty big headache for Big Labor
Now that unions are getting into the hard work of renegotiating labor contracts with employers, the WSJ notes that potentially major disputes over which party has to pay for the onerous new costs associated with ObamaCare are popping up all over the country:
Unions and employers are tussling over who will pick up the tab for new mandates, such as coverage for dependent children to age 26, as well as future costs, such as a tax on premium health plans starting in 2018. The question is poised to become a significant point of tension as tens of thousands of labor contracts covering millions of workers expire in the next several years, with ACA-related cost increases ranging from 5% to 12.5% in current talks.
In Philadelphia, disagreement over how much workers should contribute to such health-plan cost increases has stalled talks between the region’s transit system and its main union representing 5,000 workers as they try to renegotiate a contract that expired in March. …
Labor experts on both sides say the law doesn’t take into account that health benefits have been negotiated by employers and unions over decades, and that rewriting plans to meet new requirements can affect wages and other labor terms.
“It’s been a challenge for even some of the stronger unions to maintain the quality health plans that they have offered over the years,” said Daniel Murphy, an attorney in New York who represents employers in labor talks.
Neither employers nor unions struggling with declining national membership are likely to fall any deeper in love with the law after these negotiations are over, especially since the excellent healthcare offerings have traditionally been one of the prime attractors in joining a union in the first place.
Elections have consequences.

Eating the Great Outdoors with Heather

Our favorite redneck, with tips on catching and preparing panfish for dinner . . .

And how to catch and prepare crawfish.


I prefer to catch fish big enough to filet, or even steak.

My Dad taught me the old "piece of hotdog on a string" trick at Tapia Park in the Santa Monica Mountains back in the 1950s. We even caught a few.

We have plenty of crayfish around here; you can find their burrows anywhere it's persistently damp, but nobody I know, including the local versions of Heather, actually spend any effort to catch them.

Wombat-socho has the grand "Rule 5 Sunday: Pre-Vegas Review Of Pulchritude" linkfest up at The Other McCain.

Giant Carbon Sink Discovered in Africa

Colossal peat bog discovered in Congo
A vast peatland has been discovered in a remote part of Congo-Brazzaville. The bog covers an area the size of England and is thought to contain billions of tonnes of peat.

Scientists say investigating the carbon-rich material could shed light on 10,000 years of environmental change in this little-studied region.

Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, said: "It's remarkable that there are parts of the planet that are still uncharted territory."

He added: "Few people venture into these swamps as they are quite difficult places to move around in and work in."

Satellite images initially hinted at the presence of the enormous tropical peatland, but an expedition, starting from Itanga village in April, confirmed it was there.

"We were inside the swamp for three weeks, and the only time we had dry feet was when we were asleep in our tents. To place the tent, you have to build a platform because the ground is permanently water-logged."

The team estimates that the bog covers between 100,000 and 200,000 square kilometres (40,000 to 80,000 sq miles), with the peat-layer reaching up to 7m (23) beneath the ground.

The researchers believe it holds billions of tonnes of partially decayed vegetation. "Peatlands are formed because the plant matter going into the soil is not fully decomposed," Dr Lewis explained.

"It requires slow conditions for the decomposition, so you naturally find most peatlands are in the cold zones. It's rare to find them in the wet and warm tropics, so that makes this an unusual discovery."
Peatlands are one of the great sinks for atmospheric carbon. Plants take the CO2 out of the air to grow with, and normally that is recycled to the atmosphere when the the plant dies and rots.  But when the plants fall into water and are preserved as peat, carbon is more or less permanently removed from the system.  In some places, however, peat is mined, and dried as a fuel (in addition to be mixed onto gardens as a soil amendment).  Coal is essentially fossilized peat from the Carboniferous Era.

I don't see any report of the rate at which carbon is being sequestered by this giant peat bog, but it may be a major part of closing the gap between the emissions of CO2 and the amount that's appearing in the atmosphere currently.

Wombat-socho has the grand "Rule 5 Sunday: Pre-Vegas Review Of Pulchritude" linkfest up at The Other McCain.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bay Progress Minimal This Year

But they're going to put their best spin on it anyway: Overall Bay health steady in 2013
Even though the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay didn’t change much, according to the annual health report card by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Eastern Shore rivers mostly showed a degradation in health.

Overall, the Chesapeake Bay scored a 45 percent, a C, which is nearly the score from 2012 despite a 2013 with above average rainfall and record heat.

“Nutrient and sediment pollution carried by stormwater are important factors in Chesapeake Bay health,” said Bill Dennison, vice president for science applications at UMCES. “Based on patterns in rainfall and report card grades for several reporting regions, we conclude that it is not the rain that affects the report card scores; it is what the rain carries.”

According to the report card, Eastern Shore waterways bordered by agricultural lands continue to degrade.

The Choptank River scored a C-, while Upper Eastern Shore tributaries like the Elk, Sassafras, Chester and Miles rivers, scored Ds.
As usual, when the report doesn't give them the improvement they promised us for the money we're spending (estimate, $25 billion with a "b" by 2025), they blame it on the weather:
According to the report card, rivers on the Shore had poor grades in 2013 due in part to more than 50 inches of rainfall on the Delmarva peninsula last year. Excess rainfall resulted in more runoff from fertilizer and chicken manure applied to fields, which contributed to the score, the report states.
I'm no great fan of the various report cards that different groups put out (between NOAA/EPA, UMCEES, CBF, and the various waterkeepers the Bay gets more report cards than a schizophrenic first grader). But if they're going to do it, they should find some way to make it less weather dependent.

Canada Denies Imperialistic Aims

Canada to Caribbean Island: Sorry, We Won't Annex You
Canadians who want to get away from brutal winters are still going to have to leave the country. After a meeting that Turks and Caicos Premier Rufus Ewing described as a "courtship," a Canadian government spokesman quashed talk that Canada would annex the nation as an 11th province, CTV reports. "We're not in the business of annexing islands in the Caribbean to be part of Canada," the country's foreign minister said. "So that’s not something that we’re exploring."

But Ewing refused to rule out the possibility of the nation someday joining Canada, reports the Globe and Mail, which notes that the idea first surfaced almost a century ago. "I'm not closing the door completely. It is not of my mandate to close the door," Ewing said. "What I'll say is on the radar is some kind of relationship. I can't say what kind of relationship it will be." Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, meanwhile, says he'd be happy to welcome the island group to his landlocked province to create "Saskatchewarm."
A word of warning to the boys from the Caribbean:

We Have the Beach to Ourselves Again

Memorial Day is nice and all, and it's good to see the beach being used, but, well, I like it better when we all but have to ourselves like today. Only a few of the regular visitors were there. It's warm and just a bit humid today; a taste of summer to come.
However, we still have the Swallowtails puddling on the beach . . .
And flying around seemingly aimlessly.  I'm sure they have a plan, but I don't see it.
We saw one of the eagles for the first time in months. The Ospreys were out too, of course, but all my pictures came out blurry.
There's a free hat available up the beach aways. I'm sure it blew off a boat somewhere offshore and washed in.
A pretty good day for fossils, 37 sharks teeth, mostly small, and this small, but nearly perfect Bonnet Ray mouth plate. They're much softer and weaker than shark's teeth, and it's rare to find one as perfect as this

White House Outs CIA Spy - Washington Post Blames Bush . . .

. . . for outing Valerie Plame

White House mistakenly identifies CIA chief in Afghanistan
The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops.

The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country.
So in a moment of typical carelessness, someone in Jay Carney's office put the CIA Pakistan Station Chief's name on a public document. Or was it "carelessness"? Could it have been a deliberate outing to allow the administration to replace the chief with someone more compliant?

Anyway the Post goes out of the way to point the finger at the Bush administration for outing Valerie Plame:
The disclosure marked a rare instance in which a CIA officer working overseas had his cover — the secrecy meant to protect his actual identity — pierced by his own government. The only other recent case came under significantly different circumstances, when former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed as officials of the George W. Bush administration sought to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq.
As you may or may not recall, the "outing" of Valerie Plame, an ex-CIA operative (she had CIA parking tags on the car she drove around the DC area) prompted a two year witch hunt resulting in the conviction of Scooter Libby, one of Vice President Dick Chaney's advisors, of lying to the Special Prosecutor's investigators after many interviews.

Of course, it turned out, the actual leaker was Richard Armitage, an aide to State Dept. Secretary Colin Powell, both opponents of the President's war policies.  Richard Armitage was not charged with anything, since he apparently admitted to the charge early in the investigation, which kept going nonetheless. "Outing" Valerie Plame was not, apparently, actually an indictable offense after all.

I'm awaiting the leftest outrage over this outing, and the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate whether this incident was, as is being reported, a dirty deed or a mere case of incompetence.

Obamacare Schadenfreude Catch Up

A couple schadenfreudes trickled in over Memorial Day

Hospitals Look to Health Law, Cutting Charity
Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower- and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.

The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common.

Driving the new policies is the cost of charity care, which is partly covered by government but remains a burden for many hospitals. The new law also reduces federal aid to hospitals that treat large numbers of poor and uninsured people, creating an additional pressure on some to restrict charity care.
Charity doesn't make people more dependent on government and encourage them to vote for democrats. Can't have that.

I.R.S. Bars Employers From Dumping Workers Into Health Exchanges
Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day — or $36,500 a year — for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace.

The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges.

Under a central provision of the health care law, larger employers are required to offer health coverage to full-time workers, or else the employers may be subject to penalties.

Many employers — some that now offer coverage and some that do not — had concluded that it would be cheaper to provide each employee with a lump sum of money to buy insurance on an exchange, instead of providing coverage directly.
This is interesting, because one of the possible benefits of the Obamacare law was a weaning of the United States away from an employee based system. I think the switch to a mandated system was worse, but now we're seeing that benefit eroded.
Christopher E. Condeluci, a former tax and benefits counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, said the ruling was significant because it made clear that “an employee cannot use tax-free contributions from an employer to purchase an insurance policy sold in the individual health insurance market, inside or outside an exchange.”

If an employer wants to help employees buy insurance on their own, Mr. Condeluci said, it can give them higher pay, in the form of taxable wages. But in such cases, he said, the employer and the employee would owe payroll taxes on those wages, and the change could be viewed by workers as reducing a valuable benefit.

Andrew R. Biebl, a tax partner at CliftonLarsonAllen, a large accounting firm based in Minneapolis, said the ruling could disrupt arrangements used in many industries. “For decades,” Mr. Biebl said, “employers have been assisting employees by reimbursing them for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The new federal ruling eliminates many of those arrangements by imposing an unusually punitive penalty.”
Pretty much typical of this "my way or no way" administration.

In more news buried in this article, states will no longer be allowed to regulate the felonious and ex-ACORN Obamacare pushers Navigators:
In a separate rule, the administration prohibits states from imposing onerous restrictions on insurance counselors, who educate consumers and help them enroll in health plans. Under the rule, states cannot establish standards that impair the counselors’ ability to help consumers or to perform other tasks required by federal law.

In January, a federal district judge in Missouri found that the state was illegally obstructing the activities of insurance counselors, including those known as navigators. The state has appealed the decision.