Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NBC - "Charity is Bad"

Apparently, to the intellectual vapor-weights at NBC, Government Welfare is good, but private charity is bad.  That is the only take-away I can get from this piece about the West, TX fertilizer plant explosion.  You see, since Texas is a low tax, low spending, low regulation state, most of the victims of the blast are having to *gasp* rely on relatives, friends, and their community to get back on their feet.

Some of them -prepare yourselves, this is shocking- may even receive charitable (that is: "free") health care.

If only there were some way that taxpayers could involuntarily be put on the hook for... these things... that... they're already getting?

Seriously, I don't get what NBC (or the "experts" they sought out) thinks is wrong here.  Why should people in Beaumont or Amarillo be on the hook (involuntarily) for a fertilizer plant explosion in West?  Charitable contributions are pouring in.  Even NBC acknowledges that.  No one is going to the State with their hand out and being turned away- no one is going to the State with their hand out.  By way of example:
“I haven’t had any calls requesting assistance,” said Eva Cruz Hamby, who heads health services for McLennan County.

No.  Calls. For.  Assistance.

And somehow this is bad?

Of course it is.  If the nation heard about this in a positive light- a community, state, and nation coming together without any appreciable government assistance, people might get the idea that the Government shouldn't be in the charity business.  We can't let the Knights of Columbus and the Red Cross take care of everything; people might decide that those taxes that are going to various offices of emergency management, or paying for FEMA might be being wasted or something.  Heaven forbid that the American people be self-reliant and able to take care of their own affairs without Government intervention.

In its breathless reporting that nearly 1/4 of Texans don't have health insurance, it simply glosses over the fact that 100% of them have access to health care.  Every county has a county hospital which will provide care regardless of ability to pay.  Even most private hospitals (not-for-profit or otherwise) will do the same.  For the times when that isn't enough, other charities pay for people, neighbors help neighbors.

But to the idiots at NBC, this is a bad thing.  Because it proves the lie that the Government must be responsible for taking care of you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The God Who Weeps

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord” they replied
Jesus wept.
-John 11:33-35

This has been a tough week.  From the explosion at the Boston Marathon on Monday to the explosion in West, TX last night, it has been reminder after reminder that life sucks.  From the marathon, families are mourning.  As far as I know there are none missing.  From West, as of the last information I have, there are still people missing- and probably dead.  The nation stands in shock and mourning.

It is at times like this that people search for answers.  They want to know “why?”  And while they focus on the worldly “why” - “Why would someone bomb the Boston Marathon?”  “How did the fire start at the fertilizer plant?” – most people really want to know the cosmic “why?”  Why is the universe so fundamentally unfair?  Among those dead in Boston are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and an 8 year old boy.  Among those dead in West are (almost certainly- see also: some not accounted for) some of the emergency responders who were trying to combat the blaze in the first place.  None of these people deserved to die.

Now, part of me says, as Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven so famously did: “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”  That’s a cold and clinical part.  Maybe it’s because I’m a guy.  Maybe it’s because I’m not “all there” emotionally.  Whatever the reason, I understand that bad things happen to good people, and we just have to deal with it.  The only answer is an early exit- and that’s no answer at all.

But part of me says, “God, why?” 

And God answers, “Because the world is fallen.  Because you have chosen Sin over Righteousness.  Because the Prince of the World is defeated, but not powerless.”

And when I hear that answer, it is no comfort.  But then I remember something, something that makes that answer bring comfort.  I remember a man- middle aged for his day, a young man by today’s standards, standing on a road in Bethany- just over two miles from where he would die- crying like a baby because one of his best friends was dead.  Jesus would raise Lazarus in just a little bit- probably about an hour, when all was said and done- yet “Jesus wept.”

I have a God who weeps.  I have a God who knows “it’s not fair.”  I have a God whose Mercy cries out to just make all the bad go away- but holds itself in check so that just a few more might be Saved and live with Him forever.  I have a God who I can cling to and cry like a baby when the world is too much.

And that brings me comfort.  I hope it brings you some, too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

This is Capitalism

And Corporations hate Capitalism

Some time ago, I cut my cable (well, for TV) and started using a service called "PlayOn" which allows me to watch internet TV.  It serves all my needs (I only watch OTA broadcasts for sports anyway) quite well.  However, many people do not like such services (PlayOn is not the only one), because they do not provide live TV.  If you want live TV, you're limited to what's available with your antenna, or you have to keep cable (or satellite, or whatever).

Or, rather, you did.

Let me introduce you to a cool company of which few (if any) of you have heard: Aero.  It seems the minds behind Aero were also rather distressed at the idea live sports were only available if you had cable, satellite, or if they were OTA in your area.  So they did something about it.  They capture the OTA signal, digitize it (well, it's already digital now- maybe I'll get into the irony of that later), and pipe it through the internet into your home.

Now, right-thinking, entrepreneurial types look at that idea and say, "Why didn't I think of that?"  The big Media Corporations look at it, and say "No!  Thou shalt not!"

At the root of their argument is the idea that they, and only they, should be allowed to transmit their content outside a given viewing area.  Their argument fails, unless they want to take PlayOn, AppleTV, GoogleTV, Hulu, and a host of other groups to court.  See, these other groups have been doing exactly what Aero will be doing, with the exception of sporting events and with the exception of "live," for quite some time.

Now, I don't want to get too far into the weeds about the legal argument here, but it is important background information.  In fact, the Media Corporations have made exactly this argument, and so far no court has agreed with them.  They don't have to broadcast OTA.  Given that they broadcast OTA, that content is "free."  The media company's only option (currently) is to stop broadcasting over the air.  They could move to a subscription only model.

However, Big Corporations are actually anti-capitalist.  Well, many Big Corps are.  Using Government interference, they force competitors out of business.  It's true all the time.  If you ever hear of GE or P&G or Exxon or whoever "supporting" new regulation, the reason is that regulation will be difficult for them to follow, but it will be impossible (or near enough so) for smaller competitors to follow.

And the same is true here.  News Corp is threatening to take all their content to subscription only.  That would be dumb, but it's their right (I like Bones; I don't like it enough to subscribe to cable for it.  I like NFL football; I don't like it enough to subscribe to cable for it.)  Most other companies, however, are threatening something much more ominous:
“If Aereo’s model is ultimately upheld,” Stifel Nicolaus analysts Christopher King and David Kaut wrote in a recent note, it could force “the broadcast/content companies to seek Congressional relief.”

Yes, you read that correctly: rather than compete with new services, rather than find some way to offer the same service at a price people are willing to pay, the media companies will "seek Congressional relief."  That is, they will seek to change the law in a way that benefits them and hurts its competition- not to mention consumers.

As of now, there is no legislation that I know of about this.  But it's something to keep an eye on.  Competition is good for consumers.  Big Corporations are not.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Nature Takes Its Course- CNN Money Astonished

CNN Money has an article today (probably "yesterday" by the time you read this) about Doctors increasingly seeking the dubious protection of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  Most of the piece is largely fluff- all emotion and "analysis" without ever really touching on the subject.  I will leave the speculation of why that's so to others, but I think I have some hints.

Here's the first one:
Five years ago, Plantation, Fla.-based bankruptcy attorney David Langley didn't have a single doctor as a client. Since then he's handled at least six bankruptcy cases involving doctors. Two current clients -- an orthopedic surgeon and an OB/GYN -- also are in bankruptcy. 

Hmmm... What could possibly have happened between 5 years ago and today?  I got nothin'.

Now, don't pay attention to this, as it's a Red Herring:
The weak economy has taken a toll on doctors' revenue, as consumers cut back on office visits and lucrative elective procedures, said Guy, a bankruptcy attorney in Nashville with Frost Brown Todd LLC. 

Why do I say it's a Red Herring?  Because all of the actual doctors cited in the article are doctors not known for their "lucrative elective procedures."  Mentioned are: an orthopedic sugeon, an OB/GYN, an Oncologist, and "Primary doctors."  Not listed?  Cosmetic/Bariatric sugeons.  If "cut[ting] back on... lucrative elective procedures" had anything to do with it, don't you think people who specialize in "lucrative elective procedures" would be at the forefront of bankruptcy filings?

So, back to finding hints about why CNN Money might have written a piece which was largely "human interest" and very light on actual facts.

Hint number 2 is here:
Doctors also blame shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, and the rising costs of malpractice insurance, drugs and other business necessities for making it harder to keep their practices afloat. 

I should note that in the linked article, those words "insurance reimbursements" (meant to make you think BlueCross, Aetna, and United are paying your doctor less) are a hyperlink to an article titled: "Medicare doctors' pay to be cut."  That article blames the (by then already) largely averted Sequester.  In reality, you can blame lower Medicare reimbursements on ObamaCare.

Wait, I said I wasn't going to speculate.  Whoops.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Beware the Trojan Horse

 Or... "Those aren't spending cuts, Jim."

Jim Kunhenn with the AP doesn't even realize his own bias.  Most people don't, but the AP would have you believe the are not biased, so it is important to realize they are.  It is also important to spot the bias before you fully read an article, so that you can know the author's starting position.

For instance, Jim gets this part right:
"President Barack Obama's proposed budget will call for reductions in the growth of Social Security and other benefit programs while still insisting on more taxes from the wealthy..."  
President SCOAMT's current plan does call for "reductions in growth."

But then he gets this part wrong:
"Obama has also called for limits on tax deductions by the wealthy, a proposal that could generate about $580 billion in revenue over 10 years."  
First off, the limits he's calling for (last time I heard, maybe the new proposal is different), are not "on the wealthy," but rather are on deductions that SCOAMT would you to to believe only the wealthy take.  I have discussed before that this is simply not accurate.  There is no deduction that only kicks in when you're a millionaire.  Rather, there are deductions that people who run their own businesses can take, and (on paper at least) many of the "wealthy" do run their own businesses.  The "Corporate Jet Deduction" is exactly the same deduction that small businesses get to take for their commercial trucks or vans.  It's the same deduction that an IT business gets to take for the computers it buys.

The first part is said because it sounds good for SCOAMT- that is, it makes him sound "reasonable"- and therefore attempts to paint any opposition to the President's proposal as "unreasonable."  The second part was said because it also sounds good for the President, it makes him sound like he out "for the little guy," and therefore any opposition must be out "for the rich."

So, now that we have the issue of his unacknowledged bias out of the way, we can proceed with the rest of the article.  Click over and read it, but here is the main highlight:

A key feature of the plan Obama now is submitting for the federal budget year beginning Oct. 1 is a revised inflation adjustment called "chained CPI." This new formula would effectively curb annual increases in a broad swath of government programs, but would have its biggest impact on Social Security. By encompassing Obama's offer to Boehner, R-Ohio, the plan will also include reductions in Medicare spending, much of it by targeting payments to health care providers and drug companies.

By changing Chained CPI, the President a) gets to monkey (yet again) with the inflation numbers to hide actual inflation, and b) hurt Social Security recipients (the blame for which he would then lay at the feet of Republicans).  The sensible, reasonable way to "fix" Social Security is to cut the bureaucracy, and ruthlessly cut out anyone on SSDI who is capable of any work whatsoever.  I was laid up with back-pain so bad it made me immobile for most of a month recently- I still worked.  Not everyone can do that, but most people who are "disabled" aren't really- they could do work, they just couldn't work that construction job they've had their entire working lives.  It sucks, but that's not really the Government's job to fix.  Don't even get me started on people who are "disabled" because of depression.

Then note the changes to medicare- all in benefits (that is: payments to doctors and pharmacies).  Not even lip-service toward "waste, fraud, and abuse." 

This budget is designed to be a poison pill.  For the SCOAMT, it is a win-win-win.  If the Republicans uniformly (or nearly uniformly) oppose it, then he can blame the "obstructionist Republicans," for four more years.  If some Republicans oppose it, and others support it, he gets to further deepen the divide between the Conservative and Moderate factions of the Republican Party.  If Republicans agree, he gets to hasten the destruction of the political party he views as his enemy, and deepen the mistrust between Republican officials and grass-roots conservatives.

The only way Republicans have any chance of "winning" is not to play.  Remind people that Obama campaigned on 3:1 cuts to taxes, then moved the goal-posts to 2:1 cuts to taxes, and then moved them again to 1:1 cuts to taxes.  Tell people this is unacceptable; that the first might have been agreeable, but that you cannot negotiate with someone who refuses to negotiate in good faith.  Then point out- relentlessly- every chance you get that SCOAMT's cuts are all in services, he never once proposes to cut Government.

The rules of the current game are rigged.  Play a new game.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Refreshing Honesty

Here, go read this.  No, really, go read it.  I'll wait.


Nope, I'm still here.  You finish it.


Okay, back?  Good.

Now, I could go on all day about "well of course insurers are finding ways to avoid the costly increases in Obamacare."  I could even point out that that was the point of Obamacare (as it was advertised)- to make insurers do things to keep costs down.  It's just that in this case what they're "doing to keep costs down" is engaging in a little creative problem solving and avoiding the very law that was supposed to make things so super-duper inexpensive (but which is really making insurance rates explode).

But I won't.

I wanted to point out these little nuggets:
That may offer a short-term benefit for certain consumers and shield some of those individual policyholders from potentially steep rate increases. But critics say this maneuver could undermine government efforts to remake the insurance market next year and keep premiums affordable overall.

Wait... what?  I thought we were told that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan."  "Government efforts to remake the insurance market" sure doesn't sound like "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan," to me.  Well, maybe I'm missing something.  Let's keep looking.

Some policy experts are expressing concern about this practice for fear that insurers will focus on renewing younger and healthier policyholders and hold them out of the broader insurance pool next year. Their absence could leave a sicker and older population in new government insurance exchanges, driving up medical costs and premiums there.

Wait... what?  I thought the people who couldn't afford insurance coverage were the "younger" crowd.  Isn't that why my insurance now has to offer coverage to my "dependents" until they're 26?  Because somehow this "younger and healthier" set couldn't get insurance.  I was told that they wouldn't really be subsidizing the sick and elderly, because the sick would go on exchanges, and the elderly were going to get Medicare anyway.  You mean that isn't happening?

"This could undermine the Affordable Care Act, and it opens the door for exacerbating potential rate shock in the exchanges," said Christine Monahan, a senior analyst at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "The health insurers can cherry-pick some healthy people and it raises prices for everyone else."

You mean those exchanges that don't exist?  Yeah, I can see this being terrible for them.  Moreover, "cherry-pick[ing] some healthy people" does not "[raise] prices for everyone else."  Healthy people do not cause insurance rates to rise.  Sick ones do.

Beyond that, why should we be concerned about "undermining" any Federal Law?  Isn't the Federal Government supposed to serve us?  Shouldn't they be more concerned about undermining our Liberty?  It seems not.

Now, I could go on, but the real "problem" that's being danced around here is this one:
"We want to get as many people as possible into the exchange," Savage said. "I think having renewals go deep into 2014 is counterproductive to the goals of the federal healthcare law."

That's some refreshing honesty right there.  They want to destroy private insurance.  They want Government to run insurance   And once Government decides what care you can receive- far more pervasively than any private insurer could- Government owns you.

I don't feel like being owned.