Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Coos Bay World Half-Truths Put Obamacare in Good Light

As he often does, MaxRedline shines the light on some interesting half-truths that newspapers publish. This one is from the Coos Bay World on the benefits of Obamacare.
We wonder if opponents to the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — saw this one coming.
Last week in Salem, Andy Davidson, the president of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, told The Associated Press that hospitals in the state are spending far less on uncompensated charity care since more Oregonians signed up for health insurance — Obamacare.
“The ACA has been so successful, and the uptick happened so quickly that charity care has really dropped significantly,” Davidson said.
. . .
According to the Oregon Health Authority, hospitals spent more than $400 million on charity care in 2013. All but two of Oregon’s hospitals are nonprofit enterprises, and those nonprofits are required to benefit the community to retain tax-exempt status.
Last year Obamacare was overall good for hospitals because they can now charge a good chunk of their individual and commercial payers higher rates to cover their expenses (and losses). Lots more money is rolling in due to Obamacare. The net patient revenue in Oregon rose about 7.25% last year (through the 2nd quarter). To put that in perspective, the previous year's raise (2012 to 2013) was 2.38%. The year before that (2011 to 2012) it was 5%. So the boost in 2014 was about equal to the combined raise of the previous two years.

That means that hospitals are making more money. Statewide as of quarter 2 in 2013 hospitals were just slightly in the red (-0.4%). In 2014 the average is +3.5%. That's about a 4% jump.

But that's only part of the story the Coos Bay World did not tell. The positive benefit was carefully phrased. It applies to "charity care".

The other two loss categories for hospitals come in uncompensated care due to bad debt and uncompensated care due to Medicaid and Medicare underpayment.

Medicaid and Medicare underpayment poses a significant problem. In 2013 it amounted to $1.2 billion (vs. $1.3 billion from charity and bad debt combined).

In 2014 Oregon's hospitals saw a 38.6% jump in Medicaid payers (from 15.5% of the total to 21.5% of the total). Medicare saw a small drop--0.7%. But, together they are dwarfing the other pools of "full payment" (self pay and commercial pay). Just last year Medicaid and Medicare payers rose to 63.5% of the total payer mix (see 3rd chart). That's almost an 8% increase over the 58.9% in 2013 and closing in on becoming 2/3rds of all payers.

Under Obamacare Medicaid and Medicare are even bigger payment losers than before.
Hospitals in Oregon and nationwide agreed to cuts in Medicare payments to help fund expansion of Medicaid: $150 billion over the next decade across the U.S., $1.6 billion in Oregon.
Medicare pays about 78 cents for every dollar a hospital spends for the patient and Medicaid only 67 cents on the dollar.

Who pays the rest? Those who pay their own premiums and workers whose employer pays it in lieu of giving them higher take home pay. And there's no way to stop the rise since it's the law that you have to buy government mandated medical insurance plans.

That's why your insurance premiums have gone up and not down $2,500 a year as President Obama promised.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cruz for President

Just made my first donation for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Ted Cruz! It would be great to have such a smart, principled guy be the first Hispanic* U. S. president.

There are a number of possible candidates I like. Cruz is the first one to make me dip into my wallet. Heh!
*As much as the  left is trying to deny Cruz is Hispanic. By definition women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and gays can only be Democrats. Those who seem to fit the physical profile and are Republicans or conservatives are just pretenders. "White" Hispanics, "white" African-Americans, "straight" gays. One supposes "white male" women.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Great Divorce: A Thought Provoking Play

Michael Frederic, Christa Scott-Reed and Joel Rainwater
The Great Divorce played in Portland Friday and Saturday at the Newmark Theatre.

The play is based on the C. S. Lewis novel of the same name and is presented by the Fellowship for Performing Arts (FPA).

A three person cast (Michael Frederic, Joel Rainwater and Christa Scott-Reed) play 19 differenct characters as the scenes change. Their acting is first rate, and the actors' changes from one character to another flow smoothly and naturally as the scenes shift.

The sets are digitally produced and projected. The digital projection isn't overdone (in the sense of making the play more like a movie), and not only doesn't detract from the stage play atmosphere, but enhances the flow of the story by eliminating the usual need for end of scene delays while the set is being changed.

The storyline is of a man who dreams he is in a rainy, gray, dingy city and finds himself at a bus stop that is the beginning of a trip to the outskirts of Heaven.

The bus passengers have the opportunity to stay, but all except one find reasons to prefer their own pet vice to humbling themselves and enjoying the beauty and bounty of the grass, apples, river and hills they find around them. The passengers are enmeshed in self-righteousness, pride, possessiveness, inveterate grumbling and lust. They struggle with desiring some of the sweetness that Heaven offers (sometimes being reunited with a loved one) and the need to change into a being that really desires at least a little bit of good more than getting their own way.

Max McLean, founder and artistic director of FPA, led a 15 minute discussion after the play for any who wanted to stay. Most of the 800 in the audience stayed and were rewarded with interesting questions and illuminating answers by McLean. One he declined to answer about the meaning/impact of the play, but asked the questioner what she thought. Her answer was succinct and worth hearing. It made me wish for that kind of format after every good play or movie. (But, then I like to discuss movies and plays with whoever I go with and usually am still ready to keep going when their energy and/or interest flags.)

McLean talked about how dense the novel is and how important it is in the play to keep a line of interest that draws the audience through to the end.

Max McLean in after play discussion
The ideas in The Great Divorce are sometimes easy, but many are complex in the sense that just hearing them said once is not enough. You need to think about them. When you read a book, you can stop and think about what you just read. Or you can go back and reread a passage. Not in a play. You have one shot at the words, unless they are repeated through rephrasing.

Thus, difficult concepts, or substantial concepts strung together, can easily become a weight that stops the playgoer from being able to smoothly follow the story line. The humor Lewis wrote into the book is a big aid and gives relief from the denseness of the ideas. The play script makes good use of that humor. But this play has important ideas to think about. So, because the play was only here for two days and three performances and is not available for reviewing on dvd or video on demand, I recommend reading the book.

I also recommend seeing the play when it comes to Portland on its next tour.

Max McLean and FPA are enriching theater going life and thoughtful reflection on important human issues.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Republicans More Supportive of Free Press Rights for Adults than Democrats

The Pew Research Center (PRC) finds that Republicans are much stronger supporters of a free press for adult readers than Democrats are.

In January, 2015, PRC polled Americans on the Charlie Hebdo case.
About three-in-four Americans (76%) have heard at least a little about the attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, conducted January 22-25 among 1,003 adults. Of these, a majority (60%) says that it was okay for Charlie Hebdo to have published cartoons that depict the Prophet Muhammad, but nearly three-in-ten (28%) do not support the magazine’s decision to publish this material – saying it was not okay.
The main reason stated against free press rights in the Hebdo case was that religious beliefs should be respected (35%) and second that the cartoons were "offensive/politically incorrect/not appropriate" (31%).

Groups most likely to support free press rights in affirming that publishing the cartoons was okay: White Republicans (74%), White mainline Protestants (72%), white Catholics (71%), white Non-Hispanics (70%), college grad+ (69%).

Those least likely to support free press rights by denying that publishing the cartoons was okay: Non-White Democrats (49%), Non-Whites (48%), high school or less (36%), 18-29 year olds (35%), Democrats (35%),

a public school library
Interesting that PRC has run polls on free press rights in public school libraries since 1987. Americans were polled on whether books that contain dangerous ideas should be banned from public school libraries.

In 2012 59% of Democrats and Independents were opposed to banning books compared to 49% of Republicans who were opposed.

In 2012 72% of 18-29 years olds were against banning books in public school libraries. In the 50-64 age group 54% disagreed with banning library books.

Whites have been the racial group with the highest opposition to banning books in public school libraries from 1987 to 2012 (61% in 2012). Blacks 41% in 2012. Hispanics 36% in 2012.

In terms of educational groups, college graduates have always been the group most against banning public school library books (75% in 2012). The least likely are high school graduate or less (40% in 2012).

In 2012 60% of White mainline Protestants were against banning books with dangerous ideas from public school libraries. Religiously unaffiliated Americans have been the strongest opponents of banning books since 1987 (80% in 2012).

Comparing the two sets of surveys (2012 anti-book banning from public school libraries and 2015 right of publishing Charlie Hebdo cartoons) gives an interesting summary of Americans' support for free press for adults (Charlie Hebdo) versus free press for children (public school library books).

- Democrats are a little less likely to support free press rights for adults than for children (55% to 59%)
- Republicans are very much more likely to support free press rights for adults than for children (70% to 49%)

- Those 18-29 years old are much less likely to support free press rights for adults than free press rights for children (54% to 72%)
50-64 year olds are much more likely to support free press rights for adults rather than for children (67% to 54%)

- Whites are more likely to support free press rights for adults than for children (70% to 61%)
- Non-Whites are a little less likely to support free press rights for adults than for children (37% to 39%)

- College graduates are less likely to support free press rights for adults than for children (69% to 75%)
- High school graduates or less are more likely to support free press rights for adults than for children (48% to 40%)

- White mainline Protestants are much more likely to support free press for adults (72%) than for children (60%)
- Religiously Unaffiliated Americans are much less likely to support free press rights for adults than for children (62% to 80%)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Emails: Sarah Palin Shines vs. Hillary Clinton

Sarah Palin had all her official emails released. Not only was there not a breath of scandal or poor decision making, but she was shown to be a hardworking, competent governor.

8 Heroes Who Died October 1, 2014 to March 8, 2015

October 1 - Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, 21, of Memphis, Indiana, was lost at sea while conducting flight operations in the North Arabian Gulf. He was initially classified as a non-global war on terrorism casualty.

November 14 - Sgt. 1st Class Michael A. Cathcart, 31, of Bay City, Michigan, died in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, of wounds received from small arms fire while on dismounted combat operations.

November 24 - They died in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked their vehicle with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device.  Killed were:
Sgt. Maj. Wardell B. Turner, 48, of Nanticoke, Maryland.
Spc. Joseph W. Riley, 27, of Grove City, Ohio.

December 1 - Capt. William H. DuBois, 30, of New Castle, Colorado, died when his F-16 aircraft crashed near a coalition air base in the Middle East.

December 3 - Staff Sgt. Matthew R. Ammerman, 29, of Noblesville, Indiana, died in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from small arms fire while conducting a clearing operation.

December 12 - They died in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Killed were:
Sgt. 1st Class Ramon S. Morris, 37, of New York, New York; and
Spc. Wyatt J. Martin, 22, of Mesa, Arizona.

There have been no U.S. military casualties in 2015 to March 8.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Hobby Lobby Case Relevant to Sweet Cakes by Melissa Case?

Melissa and Aaron Klein
The Oregonian reports that the Sweet Cakes by Melissa case is going to the penalty phase.

The couple running the business refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because their Christian beliefs include the belief that same-sex marriage is morally wrong.

The Supreme Court rightly ruled that Hobby Lobby does not have to provide certain kinds of contraceptive methods that are against the Christian beliefs of its owners. In that case the Court decided that "closely held" corporation owners have religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Further, the government claim that Hobby Lobby has to follow government directives on providing contraceptive methods does not hold because the government has found a "least-restrictive-means" that it has used for religious and non-profit organizations but did not offer to "closely held" corporations.
"(c) (2) The Government has failed to satisfy RFRA’s least-restrictive-means standard. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to no-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it sill serves HHS’s states interests." (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., pp. 40-45)
Using the same logic, the State of Oregon has found a "least-restrictive-means" in regard to requiring churches, synagogues, mosques and non-profit organizations to perform same-sex marriages or allow their facilities to be used for same-sex marriages (or even marriages of those not of the faith* of the religious body owning the facilities).

The State of Oregon's "least-restrictive-means" for those bodies is that they are not required to perform weddings contrary to their beliefs or allow their facilities to be used for such weddings.

Hobby Lobby is a lot bigger than Sweet Cakes by Melissa, so Sweet Cakes by Melissa certainly falls into the "closely held" corporation category. It seems that the State of Oregon should be required to offer Sweet Cakes by Melissa the same "least-restrictive-means" that it offers to churches, synagogues, mosques and non-profit organizations.
*Discrimination on the basis of religion is also prohibited under Oregon Statutes.

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Archive.org is saving old software. DOS games, Windows games, utilities and lots more. They have more than 95,000 programs listed in various categories. Screen shot below of some of the utilities.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Federal Judge Learns that Obama Administration Hid Special Immigration Privileges for 100,000 Illegals

Judge Andrew S. Hanen
Byron York reports that Federal attorneys misled U. S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen about implementation of the immigration rules the Department of Homeland Security changed by administrative order.

In mid-January at the time of the hearing before Hanan, Federal attorneys claimed there was no problem with waiting until mid-February for his ruling since nothing would be done to implement the Department of Homeland Security orders before February 18, 
"In that [motion] we reiterated that no applications for the revised DACA — this is not even DAPA — revised DACA would be accepted until the 18th of February," [Justice Department lawyer Kathleen] Hartnett told the judge, "and that no action would be taken on any of those applications until March the 4th."
A moment later, just to be sure, Hanen said to Hartnett, "But as far as you know, nothing is going to happen in the next three weeks?"
"No, your honor," Hartnett said.
"OK," Hanen answered. "On either?"
"In terms of accepting applications or granting any up-or-down applications," Hartnett said.
"OK," said Hanen.
"For revised DACA, just to be totally clear," Hartnett said.
But, Hartnett was not telling the whole truth. Work permits had already been granted to 100,000 illegal immigrants. The government issued a "defendant's advisory" on Tuesday in Hanen's court noting that 100,000 "individuals" had already been granted "relief" between November 24, 2014 days after the Secretary of Homeland Security's orders were issued and the time of Hanen's ruling February 16, 2015.
Out of an abundance of caution, however, Defendants wish to bring one issue to the Court's attention. Specifically, between November 24, 2014 and the issuance of the Court's Order, USCIS granted three-year periods of deferred action to approximately 100,000 individuals who had requested deferred action under the original 2012 DACA guidelines (and were otherwise determined to warrant such relief), including the issuance of three-year Employment Authorization Documents for those 2012 DACA recipients who were eligible for renewal. These pre-injunction grants of three-year periods of deferred action to those already eligible for 2012 DACA were consistent with the terms of the November Guidance…Defendants nevertheless recognize that their identification of February 18, 2015, as the date by which USCIS planned to accept requests for deferred action under the new and expanded DACA eligibility guidelines, and their identification of March 4, 2015, as the earliest date by which USCIS would make final decisions on such expanded DACA requests, may have led to confusion about when USCIS had begun providing three-year terms of deferred action to individuals already eligible for deferred action under 2012 DACA. (emphasis added)
One wonders if Judge Hanen is accustomed to being misled and what he will do about it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Derbyshire's Smack and Rubble Strategy the Way to Beat ISIS?

How about a smack-and-rubble approach for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?

ISIS beheads 21 Egyptian Christians - February, 2015
Something has to be done. ISIS keeps taking hostages (including Americans) and killing them in horrific ways or enslaving them. ISIS attacks on U.S. embassies and citizens in Europe are bound to come since there is no clear strategy (let alone a winning strategy) in Europe to deal with the continuing string of radical Islamist attacks there. Strikes in the US are likely either via ISIS agents traveling to the U.S. with passports or illegally through our porous southern border, not to mention sleeper cells already established in the U.S.

In 2006 commentator John Derbyshire wrote the following about the Iraq war:
 [M]y attitude to the war is really just punitive, and Iraq was a target of opportunity. I am not a Wilsonian nation-builder. I don’t want to “bring democracy to Iraq.” I don’t, in fact, give a fig about the Iraqis. I am happy to leave barbarians alone to practice their unspeakable folkways, so long as they do not bother civilized peoples. When they do bother us, though, I want them smacked down with great ferocity. Saddam Hussein had been scoffing for years at the very concept of international order, in the belief that we would never pass from words to deeds. I wanted to see that belief confounded, and I am pleased that it has been. If the civilized world is never willing to back up its agreements, resolutions, and communiqu├ęs with force, then those fine documents are all worthless and civilization is impotent against its enemies. I am very glad to know that we have not yet reached that sorry pass.
ISIS burns Jordanian pilot alive - February, 2015
. . .
So why am I eating crow? Because I think it was foolish of me to suppose that the administration would act with the punitive ruthlessness I hoped to see. The rubble-and-out approach was not one that this administration, or perhaps any administration in the present state of our culture, would be willing to pursue. The universalist dogmas that rule unchallenged in our media and educational institutions have fixed their grip on our foreign policy, too. When the Founders of our nation said “all men” they had in mind Christian Anglo-Saxon men. Our leaders, though, want to bring the whole world under the scope of those grand Lockeian principles. (emphasis added)
The two greatest American war presidents** Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt had "unconditional surrender" war policies. This did not mean destruction of the enemy population but utter abandonment of the policies/beliefs which had instigated the wars. President Franklin Roosevelt explained:
"The elimination of German, Japanese and Italian war power means the unconditional surrender by Germany, Japan and Italy. This means a reasonable assurance of future world peace. It does not mean the destruction of the population of Germany, Italy or Japan, but it does mean the destruction of the philosophies in those countries which are based on conquest and the subjugation of other peoples.”
Given the lack of victory in the American "limited war" strategy of the last 65 years (Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan), something other than modern American political/military tactics need to be tried,  Truces and containment haven't worked (Korea). A prolonged war and withdrawing cost hundreds of thousands of lives including 58,000 American lives (Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos). Nation building and/or stabilizing is not succeeding (Iraq and Afghanistan). Maybe it's time to use the smack "with great ferocity" and "rubble-and-out" approach of Derbyshire.

Send massive American force in (including troops) to crush ISIS and then withdraw. If they, or someone else rises again and kills Americans or threatens genocide, send massive American troops in and crush whoever does that and then withdraw.

President Obama's bomb strikes have not been much more useful than hand wringing and have cost a whole lot more. If we are to be shackled by a limited war strategy, why not try the smack and rubble approach?

*At the time I took Derbyshire to task for his assertion that the Founders thought "all men are created equal" referred only to "Christian Anglo-Saxon men". The idea that "all men" meant "Christian British men" was, you might say, "smacked down" long ago by Abraham Lincoln.

Unfortunately, I thought "nation building" was a workable strategy. I have changed my mind on that in part due to what the Founders wrote as well as the practical results in Iraq.

Benjamin Franklin on being asked what the outcome of the Constitutional Convention was, said: "A Republic, if you can keep it." A democratic republic is not easy to sustain.  Read The Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers. You will see how often our Founding Fathers based their political theory of separation of powers and the protections of a bill of rights on the wrecks (and few successes) of previous republics.

Sarah Palin, in America by Heart, draws attention to some of the difficult requirements for keeping a democratic republic:
“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families.” (by John Adams, p. 112,)

“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (by George Washington, p. 194-195)
The import is that those who do not build a society where families effectively teach a self-imposed morality to their children and a culture which does not inculcate religious principles and character that causes men to out of fear of (or love for) God voluntarily restrict their passions and respect their neighbors' rights, will need harsh laws and/or tyranny to control the people.

**leaving out Reagan as no military force was used in his spectacular Cold War win