Thursday, March 31, 2016

High School Track Meet: Heart and Effort Count

I went to a high school track meet recently to watch my niece compete. It's not only fun but inspiring to see these youngsters put forward effort with lots of heart.

This was a preliminary track meet so the kids will get better. My niece has already cut 5 seconds off her 100 yard dash from 20 seconds to 15 seconds.

One of the wonderful things in sports or any measurable activity is to see how practice, learning and reaching deep for more effort can improve outcome. There are very few things in which we can't grow given desire and effort.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ben Carson's Slide Into Inanity Continues

It just keeps coming. Those who speak for Donald Trump have to make absurd statements to cover Trump's personal and policy errors.

Ben Carson on why Donald Trump had to immediately take back his statement on punishing women who have abortions: "I don't believe that he was warned that that question was coming."

Apparently, Dr. Carson thinks the President of the United States will have plenty of time to think of good answers because there will be no 3 am calls.

On The View, Carson again defending Trump's treatment of women:
In the second part of the interview, Goldberg continued to challenge Carson for his support of Trump. "If he had spoken to your wife the way he had spoken to some of these women, would you take that, sir?" she asked.
“Let me tell you something. When you’re very nice, when you’re very respectful, you talk about the real issues and not get into all of these issues, where does it get you? It gets you where it got me. Nowhere," Carson replied.
"Is that what this is about?" Goldberg asked, adding, "It can't be about that."
Carson then remarked that politicians like Trump "say what people want to hear."
“That’s how Hitler got in, sir. That’s how Hitler got in," Goldberg said. "But you were a voice."
Apparently accepting that premise, Carson said people have to "work with what we have, not necessarily what we ideally would want, and we the people are largely responsible, we have to be willing to stand up for what we believe ... because the politicians of the United States will respond to that."
(emphasis added)
So, Ben Carson believes that we have to stand up for what we believe, but doing that got him nowhere so now Carson is now supporting someone who does what Carson is against.  Right.

Live Eagle Cam of the Raising of Two Eaglets

From the USDA:
In 2014, a pair of mated Bald Eagles chose the most idyllic of nest sites within the United States’ National Capital (Washington, DC), nestled high in a Tulip Poplar tree amongst the Azalea Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum, which is operated by the United States Department of Agriculture. This is the first Bald Eagle pair to nest in this location since 1947.
The first chick hatched "at 8:27 a.m. March 18, 2016 Eastern Daylight Time." The second chick "followed 2 days later, hatching March 20 at about 3:00 a.m. EDT."

The eagle cam has two views with infrared to allow viewing at night.
The light you see is an infrared light that the Eagles cannot see. To the eagles, the nest is dark at night. We've installed low power IR illumination devices that are 7-10 feet from the nest. They do not emit heat, dangerous radiation, or noise. A small chip inside the camera does the job of converting the IR image into visible light through tiny electric charges. Images coming from IR cams will be in monochrome since the chip does not detect color. Here's a link that may help to understand more about IR cams.
It's fun to watch though bad things can happen. The USDA warns:
This is a wild eagle nest and anything can happen. While we hope that two healthy juvenile eagles will end up fledging from the nest this summer, things like sibling rivalry, predators, and natural disaster can affect this eagle family and may be difficult to watch.
One of my screen shots:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

He who believes in Him is not judged

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:16-18


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Poor Melania Trump Married to Such a Vile Clod

Imagine for a moment that you are a beautiful woman who is intelligent and talented. Your husband thinks it is a compliment to you to show a picture of you in comparison to a picture of someone who looks a little witchy. Kind of like the picture below.

So, what does he think of you on the days when you look a little witchy. Every woman does--every person does. When we're tired, out of sorts, sick, angry, or just caught at the wrong moment by the camera. Not to mention as we age.

You don't believe me? Just look up photos of Sarah Palin. There's one Andrew Sullivan used in an April, 2014, column hawked on the Getty Images site (along with others both attractive and unattractive). I won't show it. But, everyone knows Sarah Palin is a beautiful woman. Well, sometimes not so beautiful even in public with all her makeup on and dressed very attractively.

Now imagine how shallow Donald Trump is to think the comparison to the left shows his wife in a positive light.

Further, think how vile Trump is to show another man's wife in an unattractive photo. Heidi Cruz has never done anything to Donald Trump or Melania Trump. But, because she is married to an opponent, he feels justified in presenting Heidi Cruz in a savage light.

Donald Trump is so base that I feel a few twinges of pity for him. All of his "charm" and civility are only a veneer. Even worse he has never felt the need to ask God's forgiveness. Donald Trump has never felt shame for his actions. Not in ditching two wives. Not in committing adultery with other women. Certainly not in his companies going bankrupt on other people's money four times.

Heidi Cruz goes home to a husband who will love her for better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health. She goes home to children she is teaching how to love others first by respecting those others and then maybe even by sacrificing for them.

Poor Melania Trump what does she go home to?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Just When You Thought Ben Carson Couldn't Get More Absurd

Dr. Ben Carson thinks trying to destroy the personal reputation of another person should not be adamantly fought against "[p]articularly when the person has admitted they were doing it for political reasons and that of course they didn't believe that nor does anyone else." This after Carson asserted that a lot of people believed the slanders Donald Trump made against Carson. "And you have to admit to some degree that it did work. A lot of people believed him."
Bianna Golodryga: Should that become status quo. Should I teach my four year old son that if he calls somebody a child molester or says they’re not intelligent just because they want to even when that’s not the case that it’s okay. 
Ben Carson: No it shouldn’t be status quo. But nor should status quo be always be retaliating and fighting back against something like that. Particularly when the person has admitted that they were doing it for political reasons and that of course they didn’t believe that nor does anyone else.
Of course, Donald Trump has never publicly said he was lying or even just kidding about Ben Carson being like a child molester and stupid. Only that “I fought back and I hit him hard, which is politics and Ben understands that."

Ben Carson is becoming an apologist for the politics of personal destruction. It's not only absurd but repulsive.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Has Ben Carson in One of His Bizarre Comments Given Us the Answer to Why Normally Lucid People Support Trump?

Ben Carson today:
"Even if Donald Trump turns out not to be such a great president, which I don't think is the case, I think he's going to surround himself with really good people, but even if he didn't, we're only looking at four years as opposed to multiple generations and perhaps the loss of the American dream forever." (emphasis added)
This fits with Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s comment:
I think this time evangelicals are looking at different issues than they have in the past because they are trying to save the country. I think the security of the country, the economy, maybe next time they will be looking at social issues more like they did in the past. But I think this time, I heard a very prominent pastor . . . tell me just this week that if we don’t save the country then abortion, traditional marriage, all those social issues are going to be a moot point. We’ve got to save the country first. And I believe and many evangelicals, a majority of evangelicals, believe that Donald Trump is best equipped to save the country in those areas. (emphasis added)
Trump is their Hail Mary pass. They feel they're going to lose the game anyway, so why not do something really crazy just in case it works.

The rest of us feel that the game can be won. We want to choose someone who will try to fix things in a reasonable, constitutional way. We don't understand continual throwing of Hail Mary passes from what seems to us the middle of the third quarter. Yes, we may be down 21-0, but there's time to play a smart game and win.

At any rate, it seems slightly more plausible than Jonah Goldberg's body snatcher theory.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is Fox News Headed for a Fall?

This is completely anecdotal, but my parents who get cable precisely to get Fox News are for the first Sunday in more than a decade watching ABC national news! They do sometimes watch local news, but never national.

The older folks are so tired of Fox's continual coverage of Trump that they have been driven to network news for relief. To be sure, ABC talks about Trump but shows blessedly little footage of him.

I'm just wondering if there is a broader swath of such people out there.

Partial Text of Rubio's Warning that the Country Is in Danger from Uncontrolled Rhetoric

Part of Senator Marco Rubio's remarks:
I also think we have to look at the rhetoric coming from the frontrunner in the presidential campaign. This is a man who in rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people who are in the crowd, and he’ll pay their legal fees. Someone who has encouraged people in the audience to rough up anyone who stands up and says something he doesn’t like.
And I think the media has to bear some responsibility. For too long those comments were ignored. Some people thought they’re cute, and he’s gotten an extraordinary amount of coverage for all the stuff he says that’s outrageous. Every time Donald Trump offends someone, says something ridiculous, says something offensive its wall to wall coverage, and its only elevated him even more. And so I think we all look at this and say everyone bears responsibility for what’s happening.
But the result is this is what a culture and a society looks like when everybody says whatever the heck they want. When everyone just goes around saying I’m just gonna speak my mind. If I’m angry it gives me the right to say or do anything I want. Well there are other people that are angry too. And if they speak out and say whatever they want the result is that it all breaks down. It’s called chaos. It’s called anarchy. And that’s what we’re careening towards in our political process.
The great thing about our republic is that we settle our differences in this country at the ballot box. Not with guns or bayonets or violence. And you wonder whether we’re headed in a different direction today. Where we’re no longer able or capable of having differences of opinion, but in fact now protests become a license to take violence to take on your opponents physically.
Forget about the election for a moment, there’s a broader issue in our political culture in this country. And this is what happens when a leading presidential candidate goes around feeding into a narrative of anger and bitterness and frustration, and I think we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves are we contributing to this. Because if this continues this country will continue to be ripped apart at the seams, and we will be incapable of solving any of the major issues that we have.
Q. Senator, what do you think this means for the future of the Republican party?
I think the question is what does it mean to the future of America not just the Republican party. Look Barack Obama has used divisive language as well. I will admit he hasn’t called on people in the crowd to beat people up but he has divided Americans up among, you know, class warfare and things of this nature. I don’t think he bears any responsibility for last night. There’s real frustration in America. There are people in this country who are angry because they are working really hard and their jobs are gone. There are people in this country that are angry because they feel disenfranchised from the American dream. But, the job of a leader is not to stoke that anger. The job of a leader is to address the causes of that anger and try to solve it. Not try to stoke that anger so that they vote for you. And this in many ways, not just Chicago, put that aside for a moment, the broader anger that now exists in the American political discourse is a direct result of the fact that words have consequences. That when you run for president of the United States or if you are president of the United States, which everyone is endeavoring to be, you can’t just take on the attitude that I’m going to say whatever I want. You can’t say whatever you want. It has real life consequences for people in this country and all over the world.  And we’re starting to see it bear out. You saw those images last night of people getting in their face often divided up among racial lines in many cases. Police officers bleeding from the head reminiscent of images from the ‘60's. I mean we’re going backwards here. This is a frightening, grotesque and disturbing development in American politics.
. . .
But it’s not just about Chicago. It happened in St. Louis. It happened earlier this week. Allegedly his campaign manager has roughed up a reporter at an event. This has happened repeatedly now. This is not new. This is a pattern of the idea that we are angry and since we are angry we can say or do whatever we want. We are tired of being constrained by civility. Tired of being constrained by rules of cultural engagement. And I get it people are frustrated at the direction of our country. But leaders cannot say whatever they want because words have consequences. They lead to actions that others take. And when the person you’re supporting for president is going around saying things like go ahead and slap ‘em around, I’ll pay your legal fees. What do you think’s going to happen next? Someone’s going to actually literally believe it and take it upon themselves. And when you have someone sucker punch a guy at an event and then the day after he’s released from jail talking about the next time we may have to kill him. That’s just one person. But I guarantee you there are others that felt the same way.
(emphasis added)

Trump May Pay Sucker Puncher's Legal Fees

See, if you provoke other people to anger, it might be right for them to hit you, kill you or, much less painfully, shut down your campaign appearance.

H/T RedState

Saturday, March 12, 2016

One of the All Time Great American Political Speeches: Marco Rubio - Words Have Consequences

Senator Marco Rubio on consequences:
“But you mark my words,” he added, his voice growing sharper. “There will be prominent people in American politics who will spend years explaining to people how they fell into this.”

Jonah Goldberg on Conservatism's Trump Crisis

Jonah Goldberg writes a beautiful, extended column on the jaw-dropping division that is fracturing the conservative movement. I tried to lay out some grounds of the division in my post Constitutional Conservatives vs. Common Sense Conservatives.

Here's part of Jonah's take:
Among the commentariat, the first signs of creeping Trumpodism take the form of anti-anti-Trumpism. The argument usually starts off by grudgingly and bloodlessly conceding that Trump is imperfect — who isn’t? Wink wink. Then comes the extended and passionate diatribe about how the real nuts are the ones who are making a big fuss about how awful he is. Sometimes, they talk of “Trumpophobia” without the slightest acknowledgement they are buying into the left-wing crutch of attaching the suffix “phobia” to delegitimize arguments they can’t or won’t deal with. 
Politically, anti-anti-Trumpism, as Orwell could have told you, amounts to being objectively pro-Trump, even if it doesn’t sound like it. 
Often, the next stage is to lock into a face-palmingly stupid logical fallacy: People said Reagan was awful, therefore people who say Trump is awful must be wrong, too.
. . .
The really infuriating part is the hidden bait-and-switch buried in this fallacy. The people who said that Reagan was a dunce, a fool, or fraud were liberals. The alleged “Trumpophobes” the Trumpods are aiming their fire at are actually conservatives. It’s a weird kind of stupid to say that Trump is like Reagan because liberals said Reagan was a fool — in response to conservatives who say Trump is a fool.
. . .
And here’s just a few things that I would have thought the author [Bill Bennett] of these books would find disqualifying for a president of the United States and de facto standard-bearer of conservatism. 
-Trump said it doesn’t matter what the media writes about you “as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
-Trump boasted that his ordeal of avoiding the clap while sleeping around so much amounted to his own “personal Vietnam.”
-He said that John McCain’s ordeal avoiding dying at the hands of his torturers wasn’t heroic.
-As for everyone else’s Vietnam, Trump got out of that by claiming to have a medical condition that instantly healed when hostilities ended.
-He bragged — in print! — about bedding married women and has admitted to cheating on at least two of his wives.
-He boasted that he “whines until I win.”
-He’s condemned Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and many other friends of Bill’s (including yours truly) with far, far more vitriol than he condemns Vladimir Putin, the butchers of Tiananmen, and David Duke.
-The man is so lacking in moral clarity that he dismissed Vladimir Putin’s murdering of journalists by saying, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”
-This is a man who expresses a passionate desire to change the First Amendment so he can punish journalists who don’t kowtow to him.
-This is a man who praised the mass murder at Tiananmen and criticized Gorbachev for not being as tough-minded.
-This is a man who says he “reads the Bible more than anybody” but can’t — after months of opportunities — speak intelligently about it for 30 seconds.
-This is a man who, by any objective measure, lies nearly as much as Bill Clinton but with a tenth of the skill.
-He lacks the patriotic seriousness to do minimal homework, even when his ignorance has been pointed out time and again. (Bill’s colleague Hugh Hewitt asked Trump about the nuclear triad in August. Several months later, when the question came up again Trump was, if anything, more ignorant.)
-This is a man whose business dealings have been shot through with shady practices, mob ties, and fraudulent claims (also known as “lies”).
-This is a man with a totally thumbless grasp of what the Constitution is about or what conservatism is (“Conservatism means,” according to Trump, “to conserve our money”).
-This is a man who boasted for months that he will torture our enemies and indiscriminately murder their children as a matter of policy.
-This is a man who says that the last Republican president deliberately lied us into war and plays coy about whether 9/11 was an inside job.
. . .
And, bear in mind, I haven’t even talked about Trump’s “policies.”
. . .
I hate this. I hate it. I hate attacking people I respect. I hate hearing from former fans who say they’re ashamed to have ever admired me or my writing. I hate being unable to meet fellow conservatives half-way. One of the things I love about conservatism is that we argue about our principles; as I’ve written 8 billion times — more or less — we debate our dogma. I love our principled disagreements. But I honestly and sincerely don’t see this as a mere principled disagreement. I see this as an argument about whether or not we should set fire to some principles in a foolish desire to get on the right side of some “movement.” I have never been more depressed about the state of American politics or the health of the conservative movement. I hate the idea that political disagreements will poison friendships — in no small part because as a conservative I think friendship should be immune to politics. I certainly hate having to tell my wife that my political views may negatively affect our income. But I truly fear that this is an existential crisis for the conservative movement I’ve known my whole life. And all I can do is say what I believe. If Donald Trump is elected president, I sincerely and passionately hope I will be proven wrong about all of this. But I just as sincerely and passionately believe I won’t be.
(emphasis added)
Thank you, Jonah, for expressing some of the ache in my own heart about the support for a man like Trump from people I've admired and supported (e.g., Sarah Palin).

It doesn't make me care less about them. But, it does make me a hundred times less likely to ever work with them in a context where anything I value greatly will be at risk.

Like a trampled spring and a polluted well Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. 
(Proverbs 25:26)

Andrew Klavan: I'm Angry! So I'm Voting for Donald Trump

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ben Carson Not Ready for Prime Time - part 2

I wrote on some of Dr. Ben Carson's failings back in early February. I felt the need to do so because I had said in August of 2015 that I was one of Carson's supporters.

Today Dr. Carson endorsed Donald Trump. The content of Carson's endorsement was itself another proof of why Carson is not ready for high political leadership.

Here's some of what Carson said*:
"There are two different Donald Trumps. There's the one you see on the stage and there's the one who's very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully. You can have a very good conversation with him. And that's the Donald Trump that you're going to start seeing more and more of right now."
One hears from other supporters** the feeling that personal interaction with Donald Trump makes people believe in him. This is the basis for the two Trumps observation. Carson clearly thinks the public Trump is not someone he would support. That's why Carson makes the contrast. The public Donald Trump isn't cerebral and doesn't consider things carefully. But, it is the public Trump that we are considering. His role is to be supremely public. What a President does in his private life does not matter. It is his public life, his public policy, his public decisions and pronouncements that matter. One is at a loss in how to rationally respond to someone who calls for political support for a candidate who is two different people.

Second, it is amazing to hear Ben Carson imply that the politics of personal destruction has to be accepted.
"And some people said but well you know he said terrible things about you how can you support him. Well, first of all, we buried the hatchet. That was political stuff. And you know that happens in American politics. The politics of personal destruction. All that is not something that I particularly believe in or anything that I get involved in. But, I do recognize that it is a part of the process."
The politics of personal destruction is a horrendous cancer on our republic and political process. In not standing against it, Carson is undercutting his main theme of bringing decency to the political process and fighting the sort of politics that divides and foments strife.
"You know we have to start working together. We cannot allow the agents of division to continue to separate us. As a nation our strength is our unity. And we just have to sort of ignore those people who are always trying to stir up strife. And I’m appealing to some degree to the media as well.  You know you’re part of America too and should be interested in strengthening our nation not in creating divisions, not in creating conflicts all the time."
By endorsing Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson has undercut much of what he has stood for in this campaign. People who are not authentic and the politics of personal destruction, division and strife.

*Carson: I want the voice of the people to be heard.

I’ve come to know Donald Trump over the last few years. He’s actually a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America. There are two different Donald Trumps. There’s the one you see on the stage and there’s the one who’s very cerebral,  sits there and considers things very carefully. You can have a very good conversation with him. And that’s the Donald Trump that you’re going to start seeing more and more of right now.

And some people said but well you know he said terrible things about you how can you support him. Well, first of all, we buried the hatchet. That was political stuff. And you know that happens in American politics. The politics of personal destruction. All that is not something that I particularly believe in or anything that I get involved in. But, I do recognize that it is a part of the process.  We move on because it’s not about me. It’s not about Mr. Trump. It’s about America. And this is what we have to be thinking about.

I have found that in talking with him that you know there’s a lot more alignment philosophically and spiritually than I ever thought that there was. He will speak to that but you know that actually surprised me more than anything. Because I do recognize how a person’s image can be greatly distorted having been the victim of that. I probably understand it better than anybody. And I think as the American people who we are focusing on as they begin to see the real individual there and those who are helping that individual I think we’re going to be comforted as a nation.

You know we have to start working together. We cannot allow the agents of division to continue to separate us. As a nation our strength is our unity. And we just have to sort of ignore those people who are always trying to stir up strife. And I’m appealing to some degree to the media as well.  You know you’re part of America too and should be interested in strengthening our nation not in creating divisions, not in creating conflicts all the time. If we start having that American attitude that American spirit that made us great that took us to the pinnacle in no time at all, believe me, everybody will benefit from that.

We’re also talking about how can we make America a place that’s successful for everybody. You know we have 330 million people. We’re going to be competing with China with 1.4 billion, India 1.1 billion. We have to develop all of our people. You know the people who are the downtrodden in our society. We’re not doing those people any favor by patting them on the head and saying “There, there, you poor little thing. I’m going to take care of all your needs.”

What we need to be doing instead is concentrating on mechanisms to allow those people to climb out of a state of dependency and become part of the strength and fabric of this nation. That’s what America is about. It’s not about dependency. And it certainly isn’t about socialism.

You know socialism is seen as the panacea by some who don’t really understand it. I think a lot of young people think socialism is just being concerned about other people. That’s not what it is. You know it’s cradle to grave government. And you let them take care of you, but you give them all of your money. You give them control of your life. They all end up looking the same way. A small group of elites at the top controlling everything. A rampantly diminishing middle class and a vastly expanded dependent class. That is not what made America great.

Donald Trump talks a lot about making America great, but it’s not just talk. He means it. I’m going to helping him, others are going to be helping him.

You know one of the things that I’ve discovered in this country is we have some incredibly smart people. None of us knows everything. But when we begin to use those smart people effectively to accomplish the goals of America. You’re going to see us once again begin to ascend to the pinnacle to a much higher pinnacle than we’ve ever achieved before. And that’s where America should be.

Thank you so much.

**Pastor Robert Jeffress: "And I have met — I have met with Mr. Trump on several occasions, and I can tell you from personal experience, if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, we who are evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House. God bless Donald Trump!" Jeffress declared at the rally." (emphasis added)

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Cruz Spends $1,112 on Ads (1/3 cent per vote) to Win 2nd in Michigan

Talk about knowing how to turn straw into gold.

The Cruz campaign spent $1,112 in Michigan on tv ads. With 97% of the vote counted Cruz has 324,526 votes. That averages out to about 1/3 cent per vote. By contrast :

1. Donald Trump spent $184,636 for 474,674 votes. That's about 39 cents per vote. Despite that reasonable showing, Trump has been snookered in his ad buys in Ohio paying significantly more than Hillary, Bernie or Kasich.
For instance on the ABC-affiliate in Cleveland, Trump is paying a rate around three times higher than Bernie Sanders for orders placed on the same day and for the same three time slots: the 6 p.m. news, ABC’s World News, and Good Morning America. Trump is paying $1,500 to Sanders’s $400 for 6 p.m., $2,000 to Sanders’s $600 for ABC’s World News, and $1,400 to Sanders’s $550 for Good Morning America.
. . .
On that same Cleveland station, in the 6 p.m. news slot and World News, the Trump campaign is paying double the rate of John Kasich’s super PAC, even though by law federal candidates have access to the lowest unit rate available, giving them an upper hand in negotiations over so-called issue advertisers.
On the CBS-affiliate, also in Cleveland, Trump is paying hundreds more for ads than both Sanders and Clinton in three time slots. In Cincinnati, on the ABC station there, Trump is paying a significantly higher rate for ads in the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news slots than Clinton and Sanders.
Trump is paying $705 for 5 p.m. and $930 for 6 p.m. Sanders and Clinton are paying $440 and $580 for those same time slots.
The rate discrepancy is not isolated to broadcast. In one local cable buy on CNN in Cleveland, Trump paid hundreds more for ads throughout daytime and primetime than a similar buy from the Sanders campaign.
2. John Kasich supporters spent $770,353 for 316,387 votes. Spending about $2.43 per vote.

3. Marco Rubio supporters spent $1.2 million for 121,358 votes. Yikes. That's about $9.89 per vote.

Cruz may be just the guy to tame the $19 trillion U.S. debt.

H/T David Shor

Monday, March 07, 2016

Health Insurance Industry Struggling under Obamacare

An Investor's Business Daily editorial lays out how poorly the industry is doing.
Fitch Ratings looked at nearly three dozen [Blue Cross Blue Shield] companies and found that 23 saw a decline in earnings that totaled $1.9 billion in the first nine months of last year, while 16 had net losses.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan lost $622 million from January through September last year. Blue Cross plans in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Montana lost $442 billion. And those in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia lost $266 million.
The only glimmer of hope is that these health insurance companies have raised their premiums significantly. (Well, "hope" for the companies; not for the public paying the premiums.) This gives them a dollar cushion to ease the losses they are incurring from Obamacare mandates.

The only mandate in Obamacare that has worked is that the insurance companies now have to cover everyone for the same cost.* So the very sick pay the same as the very healthy.

The mandate that has failed is the young and healthy have to sign up and pay the same as the weak and sickly. It isn't working. Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers are feeling the pain of not enough "young and healthy" signing up:
Given their size, these [Blue Cross Blue Shield] insurers should have had the broadest and most stable insurance pools in ObamaCare. What they found instead was that the young and healthy are avoiding ObamaCare’s overpriced insurance. If the Blues are struggling, how likely is it that the smaller insurers can succeed?
(emphasis added)
There you have it in a nutshell. The big, stable guys are having trouble keeping upright under Obamacare. The whole industry is in danger.

Not the rosy picture the Obama administration painted back in 2009 or Donald Trump painted a week and a half ago.
The insurance companies are making a fortune on every single thing they do. . . . Right now they are making a fortune. . . . I know the insurance companies. They’re friends of mine. The top guys they’re friends of mine. . . . The insurance companies are making an absolute fortune.”
*The only caveat being that those who smoke could have to pay up to 50% more whether they are sick or healthy.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Trump Steps Back a Bit from Authoritarianism, But Wants to Legalize Waterboarding at Minimum and Torture If Possible

At Thursday's debate, Donald Trump was asked what he would do if the military refused to obey illegal orders to intentionally kill families of terrorists. Trump responded:
“They won’t refuse, they’re not going to refuse me — believe me.” “You look at the Middle East, they’re chopping off heads,” Trump said, before turning to water-boarding. “If we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too. Frankly, that’s the way I feel.”
Trump followed up with his view of Presidential leadership: "I'm a leader. I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they're going to do it. That's what leadership is all about."

It's clear that Trump is an authoritarian leader. His gut response is that executive commands are more important than Congressional or Constitutional laws.

After the debate Trump partly stepped back from saying the military will obey him no matter what he orders.
"We have an enemy that doesn't play by the laws. You could say laws, and they're laughing. They're laughing at us right now. I would like to strengthen the laws so that we can better compete."
"You know, it's very tough to beat enemies that don't have any, that don't have any restrictions, all right? We have these massive restrictions. Now, I will always abide by the law, but I would like to have the law expanded," Trump said
"I happen to think that when you're fighting an enemy that chops off heads, I happen to think that we should use something that's stronger than we have right now. Right now, basically, waterboarding is essentially not allowed, as I understand it. ... I would certainly like it to be, at a minimum, at a minimum to allow that."
. . .
When Dickerson asked if rules are what "separates us from the savages," Trump said he didn't think so.
"We have to beat the savages," he said.
Dickerson asked if that would require throwing all the rules out.
"You have to play the game the way they're playing the game," Trump asserted. "You're not going to win if we're soft and they're, they have no rules. Now, I want to stay within the laws, I want to do all of that, but I think we have to increase the laws."
This is a retreat from Trump's previous clear support of authoritarianism. But the mindset is still there. One has to win at all costs. Government is basically involved in competition. That's his view of economics as well. "You have to play the game the way they're playing the game." So, what matters is not the Constitution, not law, not Supreme Court decisions, not the Bill of Rights, not even God's laws, but how the other side plays the game.

Be prepared for a President Trump to propose something like a bill of attainder with more punishment than just deprivation of property being applied in the U.S. as well as on foreign battlefields. Because, of course, the U.S. is also a battlefield with ISIS. Think of the San Bernardino massacre. Trump has said we should go after the terrorist couple's family members with no proviso that it should be based on evidence that would stand up in a court of law.*
*Full disclosure: Someone close to me was questioned by the FBI about a family member building a possible bomb. It turned out to be a legal explosive. The family knew nothing about the explosives involved.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Cruz Wins 28% More Delegates than Trump Tonight

Update: Washington Post delegate chart (even though it doesn't include 8 delegates for Cruz and 6 or 7 delegates for Trump):

Ted Cruz won more delegates tonight than Donald Trump. Cruz got 68 delegates tonight. Trump only won 53 delegates. Cruz won 28% more delegates tonight than Trump. Even with two other candidates Cruz is catching Trump.

At tonight's speech Donald Trump said he wanted Marco Rubio to get out of the race so Trump could face Cruz head on. As usual Trump bragged about himself and his "strong second" in Maine and Kansas. But Cruz more than doubled Trump's votes in Kansas and won by 13 points in Maine. By contrast Cruz lost by less than 5% in Louisiana and Kentucky.

Is Trump inhaling his own hype?

The numbers for tonight:

Cruz 48.2% - 24 delegates
Trump 23.3% - 9 delegates

Cruz 45.9% - 12 delegates
Trump 32.6% - 9 delegates 

Cruz 37.8% - 17 delegates
Trump 41.4% - 18 delegates

Cruz 31.6% - 15 - delegates
Trump 35.9% - 17 delegates

If Rubio drops out, Cruz will undoubtedly get more than 50% of Rubio's votes compared with Trump. So, Trump is setting himself up for more losses and bigger losses.

Trump doesn't seem to be aware of the strong negative reaction he is causing in the Republican party and among conservatives and moderates. Mitt Romney's speech should have given him a clue. Lindsey Graham's comments on supporting Ted Cruz should have been another clue. And the #nevertrump movement is an additional clue. But, Trump seems utterly clueless.

One hopes Trump gets his wish for a two man race and that the proverb "Pride goes before a fall." proves apt. We shall see.

I can't imagine enduring the mental exhaustion of listening to Trump brag about himself for the next 5 years.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Constitutional Conservatives vs. Common Sense Conservatives

We are facing a bigger divide in conservatism than we have seen in decades.

Though a lot of voters like or dislike a candidate on the basis of emotion, there is a core of people who normally think about issues and values.

Ted Cruz
In the current election, we are seeing the splintering of conservatism. Those who are Constitutional conservatives (CCs) believe in limited government as set out in the text of the Constitution and in human rights that government cannot infringe mostly set out in the Bill of Rights. Ted Cruz is the major politician carrying the banner for this view.

Donald Trump
Common Sense conservatives (CSs), on the other hand, are more concerned with outcome. They have a picture of how society should operate, and they are not that concerned about how one gets to that picture. Donald Trump is the major politician carrying the banner for this view.

Here are some differences between the two camps on how to achieve specific ends.

1. Defending the nation. CSs like Trump suggest torture, which is against the Eighth Amendment, and killing the families of terrorists especially going after their wives, which is against the prohibition of bills of attainder in Article I, Section 9, Clause 3,

CCs are outraged at the prospect of disobeying any major Constitutional provision especially those that have to do with human rights. So, CCs are adamantly against using torture to defend the country or bill of attainder tactics that target relatives of traitors.

2. Wanting jobs to remain in America. To keep jobs in America, Trump threatens Carrier, a company that is moving production facilities to Mexico, with punitive taxes.

CCs want American jobs to remain in America and thus propose cutting business taxes to entice businesses to stay but not punishing businesses from leaving the U.S. CCs are against a Berlin Wall tax that keeps people from freely leaving the country (whether companies or individuals).

3. Media fairness. Trump thinks the way to make that happen is to strengthen libel laws so that negative articles against politicians are subject to lawsuit and financial and punitive damages. Of course, that would apply not only big media, but bloggers who publish online. CCs also want the media to be fair but reject the idea that politicians need more shelter from public, media or opposing candidate criticism. CCs want a strong First Amendment.

Is there a way to bridge the gap? There seemed to be when Sarah Palin was carrying the Common Sense conservative banner. She didn't suggest unconstitutional means to get to her ends. But, now that Trump is its poster boy, aside from accepting a trashing of the Constitution and its values, there doesn't seem to be a path to get Constitutional conservatives to agree to Trump's Common Sense conservative means.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Trump Threatens Paul Ryan

Donald Trump
Trump works by intimidation. His supporters, like Jeff Lord on CNN, claimed Trump was presidential and calm in his press conference last night. But, David Axelrod pointed out that Trump threatened Speaker Paul Ryan.
I’m going to get along great with Congress, okay?
Paul Ryan, I don’t know him well. But, I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him.
And if I don’t he’s going to have to pay a big price, okay?
(23 minute mark)
More Mafia-like than Presidential.

Paul Ryan
Not only that, but Trump also asked who a reporter was when the reporter asked the uncomfortable question based on Paul Ryan's criticism of Trump's 'equivocating" about "hate groups": "Who are you, by the way? Who are you with?" Trump didn't ask that of any other reporter. It's like Trump is keeping score about who asks him uncomfortable questions. Trump did follow with: "Okay, very good. Good job." But, the irritation in his voice when asking the reporter's name and organization was clear.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Trump, David Duke and Dementia

Jake Tapper questioning Donald Trump Sunday
When Donald Trump claimed not to know anything about David Duke a mere two days after disavowing him, everyone including Trump was scrambling for an explanation.

Trump said it was a bad earpiece so he didn't hear the question right. But, Trump repeated the relevant parts of the question including "David Duke" three times and said four times he didn't know anything about Duke.
Well just so you understand I don’t know anything about David Duke. Okay. I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I mean I don’t know. Did he endorse me? Or what’s going on. Because you know I nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about. . . . I don’t know, honestly I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.
Others say Trump was pandering to those with anti-black sentiment in the South because of the primaries today in old Confederate states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Still others counter that Trump has never shown racist tendencies.

What to make of this? It's clear by Trump's response that if he had a bad earpiece he still clearly heard David Duke's name and the terms "white supremacy" and "white supremacists". And he distinctly said he didn't know anything about David Duke--who two days before he knew enough about to give a curt disavowal to.

What would explain all these factors if he wasn't pandering to white supremacist voters? How about early signs of dementia? Maybe with Jake Tapper he had really forgotten who David Duke was and even the Ku Klux Klan. Trump is 69.

Trump often has problems remembering things. But these are mostly inconvenient facts. So, one assumes he is just lying. For example, Trump claims he was always against the Iraq war and the taking down of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi. But, tapes have surfaced of him applauding the success in the Iraq invasion and supporting taking Quaddafi out.

But this David Duke thing is not an inconvenient fact. Trump seems really to have not remembered who David Duke was when he was talking with Jake Tapper.