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Friday, April 29, 2011

Best SecDef Ever

It seems to be getting lost in the huge amount of daily news, but it is worth taking a moment to reflect that Gates is the best SecDef in long, long time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trump: Getting away with it

He's paid no price for his sedition campaign on the "birther issue", has he? Andersen Cooper didn't nail him on how he can bring allegations (that he's been told that a 'long form' birth certificate doesn't exist) but no proof.

He's getting away with a slander campaign, now, too, on education background and achievements of Obama.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Elvis: O Happy Day

Friday, April 22, 2011


At Musharaf's prompting, the U.S. jumped hurdles to avoid the kind of tribal massacres in Afghanistan that appear - appear! - on the brink in Libya:

Tribes loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have said that if the army cannot drive rebels from the besieged port city of Misrata, they will, a senior official says.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said the army had tried to keep civilian casualties low but the tribes would not show the same restraint.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Show me the money: Cost drivers of healthcare


Another useless chart on healthcare, one that just says, "We have a problem, maybe."

I tried to look into what is driving the cost inflation of health care services a long while back.

I submit that no one knows, except perhaps a few insurance industry professionals.

Despite government mandated statistics, we simply do not have enough data to pinpoint the sources of cost inflation.

I have yet to see a table that says, "Last year, we have 7% overall rise in insurance premia, 5% for government and 7.5% for private. Overall health costs themselves rose 6%, broken down into three main segments of 9%, 8%, and 4%, and 3%. Listed below, by segment are the details of which services prices rose the fastest. Regional cross-section is provided in table 2. Government crosstab is provided in table 3. Cost inflation related by disease management category are in the next section. Increased uptake/usage statistics and relevant changes in co-pays and other coverage are in the next section. Our analysis is in the next section, in which we isolate impact on price inflation of shifts in treatment types. et cetera."

I believe there is an aged McKinsey study that everyone points to, but that is not fine enough grain. It's private. Surprised?

Sullivan on healthcare

Always starting from the highly dubious Thatcherite proposition that all private wealth, by definition, is "other people's money", Andrew Sullivan appears to be wrestling anew with the morality of healthcare in society. He appears to have discovered, 15+ years on from the initial research, that a large chunk of Medicare/Medicaid costs are spent near end of life.

His proposal is for people to "voluntarily" forgo treatment, by empowering others to make the decisions.

Of course, there is another way, as this blog has long suggested: create a market for catastrophic health insurance.

Look at it this way. If you socked away $7,500 at age 20, it might cover $40,000 in real, current dollars of end-of-life or other catastrophic care. If you pool the risks, you might double or triple the amount of coverage that could be offered (and it might be much higher, because I'm not an expert health insurance actuary). So, private insurance might cover $100,000 of catastrophic care, say.

$7,500 is a lot of money at age 20, for most people, but it is less than the cost of a car. If an insurance company spread the cover cost out over ten years, it would be $750/yr over ten years. This is reachable, including with vouchers for the poor to help them buy and pay for these premiums. (It's even more reachable if a society chooses to cut out cost by using a single-payer system).

I'm not saying that the government needs to run such a program. It could simply offer a re-insurance plan, in order to get a catastrophic market up and running in America.

One of the things with catastrophic insurance is making sure that the insurer is around to pay off, so, yes, there would have to be regulation and transparency.

Tim Hetherington

ABC News has a long and riveting clip from Tim's Afghanistan coverage. (He was killed in Libya, during non-discriminate shelling with "NATO not in sight").

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Morally responsible speech

It's amazing the lengths that some will go to blur any moral responsibility for what people say. They invent alternative meanings in order to blur the obvious intent. Apparently "faggot" means "jerk" now ... how convenient.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


"Renanemesis" = Renaissance (man) Nemesis

It is good to live in the time of Colbert!

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Website That Tea Party Will Hate

Just the facts about on how your tax dollars are spent, finally in a form that is acessible to the average Joe.

Your Tax Dollars As Deployed

House GOP+Tea all snub Chris Christie, Goes for the Unicorn(s)

Remember when Chris Christie was all about supposed no nonsense talk, about showing the real budget without "accounting tricks"?

Well, today the House GOP voted almost to the man to pass Paul Ryan's plan (HR Con 34), which is based on ... accounting tricks. These tricks.

Parking, the Gay Way


The J. Crew Ad Controversy

There is something more to say on the J. Crew Ad that stirred up controversy with an image of a mom painting her todler's toenails pink, even after it's been tackled by Jon Stewart, et. al.

I know the controversy expressed itself in terms of the scare-tactic "transgender".

But I continue to suspect that what is really at issue is that religious-conservative parents simply do not have any (public? sanctioned?) "script" to use to handle how to raise or respond to gay kids (let alone transgender). It's outside their faith and their own experience.

No one is telling religious-conservative parents of gays that it is okay to reject the narrative "it's okay to be or do whatever you want sexually". If a religious-conservative parent wants to tell their kid that "gay is not for everyone" and you should "be gay" (i.e. commit to live your life openly and fully as a "gay") only if you truly and deeply feel that that is what is right for you (i.e. "what God intended"), that's a supportable message.

One suspects that kind of message would cut through a lot of the fear and anxiety that feeds the panic over "gay kids" and "what to teach the kids a about 'gay'".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

DOA: "Debt Failsafe"

A decade ago, Robert Rubin declared that systems to adjust current tax rates automatically based on fluctuations in revenues due to economic performance were bust, because they could be gamed.

So too, "Debt Failsafe".

Unless, maybe, the "failsafe" is to raise taxes. Why? Because everyone is incented, perhaps, to avoid that.

Otherwise, promising "across the board spending cuts"? That's not a "failsafe". That's a candy jar, to some...

The President's Vision of America

I listened to the speech. I think he forgot to use the word "Christian", as in, "it's the Christian thing to do." He seems to constantly forget who he's talking to that way ...

He really thinks that Republicans are earnestly pro patria. He doesn't remember Hoovervilles...and that quite a few are ready to let the devil take the hindmost, on principle.

The entire vision that he grew up accepting, apparently, that we care for each other, doesn't seem to also carry the sense that entire vision has historically been constantly against the rocks and not because of any need to "prove that we can afford it"...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mr. President, It might be nice to 'score some political points'

Just sayin'.

It is past halftime and all.

The rush of the first two years has left at least two key parts of the domestic agenda still behind the 8-ball in terms of what the public knows. There was no signature anything in the fiscal stimulus. There is a flop, if not a flip-flop, on a campaign pledge (taxes). On the #1 political hot issue of the day, you flew over Wisconsin, for good or for ill... Your Treasury Secretary seems to be behind dismantling FNMA and Freddie, which is ludicrous.

Alice in Wonderland 'Insoluble'?


So, does the pundit commentariat know enough (including me?) to find all the false assumptions in the 'insoluble' assertion of Andrew Sullivan (which is quite different than Kling's "Iron Trilemma")?

I used to be persuaded that "we" couldn't afford the best care for little Johnny. What if we had to do that for everyone? It'd be unsustainable.

Then Democrats had a healthcare debate among themselves and I changed my mind. (Republicans had a fit-to-be-tied, instead.)

Turns out that lifetime caps are not the big part of underwriting health risks as you'd think, even with today's advancements. (What amounts to something are "heroic" medical efforts at end-of-life).

How about "we have to ration, we just do"? How does one address that?

Well, you rework the insurance market, so that you 'compromise' on that by kicking the can down the road, until such time as we have the national wealth (hopefully) that it isn't a bother.

How? Create a private market for catastrophic health coverage. If "Ryan" wants to give vouchers to the poor to fund such coverage, then do it when they are young and the amounts can grow, in escrow, until they are needed in old age.

Last, you need the power of indexing of tax rates. Until the Republicans (and their Libertarian boosters) understand that taxes can and must go up sometimes, it doesn't matter what you say about any long-term (or short-term) fiscal challenge, they are ill equipped to handling it.

That disability is closer to the definition of "insoluble" in American politics.

So much so that Andrew's entire casting of the problem as one of rationing is mistaken. About 1/3 of the long-term fiscal problem is with simple aging of the population and another 1/3 with the high pace of health cost inflation. The wealthiest in America simply do not want to face the music that they can and should pay for that "bubble", in higher taxes over the next 20 years.

It's a question about who pays, not a "systemic design" question. Unless, of course, you think health cost inflation is structural. Who believes that?

Question of the Day

How many in the "Trump Organization" are busy dusting off their resumes?

I mean, how often do you get to see a Board Chairman go off the deep end on National Television?

Mort Zukerman is one of the very, very few who pull off a public figure, right?

If you are The Donald's son, right now, you are thinking, "OMG, how do we contain the old man?"

By the way, would you put war powers in the hands of a man like Trump, who has such a 'radical doubt' acquaintance with facts?

New Title: "20 Years of Afghan 'war', 18 months at a time"


"20 Years of Afghan 'war', 18 months at a time"

That about sums up what I heard briefly in testimony on war contracting about how NGO's view the need for development goals that are only sensibly implemented with time spans in the, you know, 5, 6, 7-year range...versus, you know, your estimate of the U.S. political cycle (e.g. 18 months).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quote of the Day

Rory McIlroy matched the greatest collapse in Masters history with a stretch of holes not even Greg Norman would want to watch.

And then there was McIlroy, whose 80 in the final round might be remembered as much for the classy way he handled it all.

Still leading by one shot as he headed to the back nine, McIlroy hit a tee shot next to the cabins left of the 10th fairway and twice hit a tree to make triple bogey. He three-putted from 7 feet for bogey on the 11th, four-putted from about 12 feet on the next hole and buried his head into his forearm as the shock began to settle in.

McIlroy had the highest final round by a 54-hole leader since Ken Venturi in 1956. Not since Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie had someone lost at least a four-shot lead going into the last round of the major.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Budget "Leadership": Americans working for the wealthiest, again

Months after the Senate Democrats (and Republicans) defeated any sensible fiscal policy in America, we find out today that, instead, $70B/yr in tax cuts for the wealthiest, passed as part of a "deal" last December, will be matched with roughly $79 billion in spending "cuts" for ... everyone else.

In an economy with horrible unemployment, the "leadership" response from Washington is to forget them and to ignore that getting people back to work is the #1 way to improve revenues to the government and fix near-term fiscal woes.