VodkaPundit

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Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 30th, 2015 - 6:27 am

Scott Atlas reports that thanks to ♡bamaCare!!! over the next three years, Medicaid/Medicare “coverage” will grow three times faster than private insurance:

This will not improve American health care. Private insurance is superior for both access and quality of care. Reforms should therefore be focused on how to maximize the availability and affordability of private insurance for everyone, regardless of income or employment, rather than put more people into government insurance while causing private insurance to become unaffordable to all but the affluent.

Why is private health insurance so important? Insurance without access to medical care is a sham. And that is where the country is heading. According to a 2014 Merritt Hawkins survey, 55% of doctors in major metropolitan areas refuse new Medicaid patients. The harsh reality awaiting low-income Americans is dwindling access to quality doctors, hospitals and health care.

That Means It’s Working™

I’d add a couple of things.

By 2018, the Administration projects that 135 million Americans will receive Medicare or Medicaid’s questionable benefits. With a population of around 324 million, more than 40% of all Americans will be receiving their health benefits courtesy of the American taxpayer. With an expected 220 million taxpayers, that’s only 1.6 taxpayers per recipient. Of course, that’s assuming that every taxpayer has their own private health insurance — which simply isn’t true; lots of working poor are on Medicaid. They remain however a net drain on the system, meaning those of us taxpayers who aren’t net drain must make up an even greater difference.

And remember, that each one of those working taxpayers is also on the hook for their own health insurance, plus any dependents on their private plans.

Work, in other words, is for suckers.

Start Department Ejects Free Beacon

June 30th, 2015 - 5:48 am

The Most Transparent Administration in History™ is at it again:

Two State Department officials booted the Free Beacon from a room where Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, was talking to reporters, despite the Free Beacon’s being credentialed by the Austrian government for the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks.

Western observers present in Vienna for the talks linked the State Department’s behavior to jitters over media coverage revealing a still growing list of concessions being made to Iran by the Obama administration.

Melissa Turley, a State Department official, approached a Free Beacon reporter and demanded that he leave the room.

“You’re not registered with the U.S. press,” Turley said after being informed that the Free Beacon was attending the event.

“You have a press pass from the [European Union], not from me,” Turley said, after being informed that the Free Beacon was officially credentialed to cover the event.

The Free Beacon lately has been schooling (and scooping) the New York Times and Washington Post on matters embarrassing to the Administration, the Mainstream Media, and other Democratic organizations.

(Shutterstock photo)

(Shutterstock photo)

Now up at PJ Parenting: 4 (Nearly) Guaranteed Ways for Parents to Stay Sane.

The new Parenting site just went officially live today, and my lead column might involve strong drink — but only a little.

Back to the Future: 2015 via 2013 via 1993

June 29th, 2015 - 3:52 pm
(Image courtesy Business Insider)

(Image courtesy Business Insider)

With a big tip of the hat to Will Collier, take a gander at this two-year-old Business Insider piece by Joe Weisenthal:

Margaret Thatcher was an incredibly polarizing figure, but everyone should be able to agree that she was absolutely spot on about why the Euro would be such a disaster.

As Peter Oborne reported in the Telegraph In 2010, Thatcher’s two autobiographies, “The Downing Street Years” (1993) and “The Path To Power” (1995) discussed the tactics she would use to argue against the EMU (Economic and Monetary Union), which she wanted no part of.

Basically, she outlined the problems with the euro perfectly, that Germany would chafe at the inevitable need for greater inflation, and that the poorer countries would inevitably be uncompetitive and need bailouts that would not easily be forthcoming.

This story reminds me of an old Milton Friedman quote: “Everything we know in economics we teach in Econ 1, and everything else is made up.”

Thatcher knew her Econ 1, and applied it perfectly to her understanding of Continental politics.

Brady Center Takes a Hit

June 29th, 2015 - 2:22 pm

The Brady Center has been given a court order to pay the legal fees of the ammo dealer it took to court after the Aurora theater shooting:

The order, which was issued last week, comes after Judge Richard P. Matsch dismissed the gun control group’s suit that sought to hold Lucky Gunner legally responsible for the 2012 shooting. The Brady Center had argued in their suit that the way Lucky Gunner sells ammunition is “unreasonably dangerous and create a public nuisance.”

“A crazed, homicidal killer should not be able to amass a military arsenal, without showing his face or answering a single question, with the simple click of a mouse,” Brady Center’s Legal Action Project Director Jonathan Lowy said at the time. “If businesses choose to sell military-grade equipment online, they must screen purchasers to prevent arming people like James Holmes.”

Judge Matsch disagreed with the Brady Center’s argument. He said the suit was filed for propaganda purposes. “It is apparent that this case was filed to pursue the political purposes of the Brady Center and, given the failure to present any cognizable legal claim, bringing these defendants into the Colorado court where the prosecution of James Holmes was proceeding appears to be more of an opportunity to propagandize the public and stigmatize the defendants than to obtain a court order,” he said in his order.

It’s nice after this last week to see a judge acting rationally and in the public interest.

Pray They Don’t Alter it any Further

June 29th, 2015 - 2:00 pm

There She Goes Again

June 29th, 2015 - 1:00 pm
Always on the lookout for a scam. (AP photo)

Always on the lookout for a scam.
(AP photo)

I have so not missed the Clintons:

Hillary Clinton withheld Benghazi-related emails from the State Department that detailed her knowledge of the scramble for oil contracts in Libya and the shortcomings of the NATO-led military intervention for which she advocated.

Clinton removed specific portions of other emails she sent to State, suggesting the messages were screened closely enough to determine which paragraphs were unfit to be seen by the public.

For example, one email Clinton kept from the State Department indicates Libyan leaders were “well aware” of which “major oil companies and international banks” supported them during the rebellion, information they would “factor into decisions” about about who would be given access to the country’s rich oil reserves.

The email, which Clinton subsequently scrubbed from her server, indicated Clinton was aware that involvement in the controversial conflict could have a significant financial benefit to firms that were friendly to the Libyan rebels.

She ruined a country in an attempt to enrich her friends.

Hillary Clinton belongs in jail.

Elderly people, who usually get their pensions at the end of the month, wait outside a closed bank in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Monday, June 29, 2015. Greece's five-year financial crisis took its most dramatic turn yet, with the cabinet deciding that Greek banks would remain shut for six business days and restrictions would be imposed on cash withdrawals. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

Elderly people, who usually get their pensions at the end of the month, wait outside a closed bank in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Monday, June 29, 2015. Greece’s five-year financial crisis took its most dramatic turn yet, with the cabinet deciding that Greek banks would remain shut for six business days and restrictions would be imposed on cash withdrawals. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

From the WSJ’s report on the current state of the Greco-Euro Crisis:

Three-and-a-half billion euros. That is roughly how much cash Greece’s banks need to get through the week if each adult takes out the €60 ($67) they are allowed each day. It isn’t much for Greeks to live on, but it may be more than the banks have.

This is how close the Greek financial system is to collapse. If the European Central Bank demanded repayment of banks’ emergency funding, that would be the end. Fortunately, there is leeway to avoid this as long as the political will remains.

Beyond Greece, the rest of the eurozone must look to an acceleration of full banking union to protect weaker banks in Portugal, Austria and other countries.

The Journal buried the lede however, way down in the ninth graf:

Although Greece won’t make a payment to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday, ratings companies have said this doesn’t mean a wider default on government bonds, which the ECB accepts. July 20 is the next date for a bond repayment.

Boom. Greece is in partial default. The ratings companies can make all the soothing noises they want, but that doesn’t change the fact that Greek banks don’t have enough deposits to cover the grocery money for next month, much less the Visa payment.

Our domestic markets are “rattled” right now, but don’t be surprised if they’re buoyed by yet another influx of worried capital from abroad.

Assad’s Last Gasp

June 29th, 2015 - 10:23 am
A mother and father weep over their child's body who was killed in a suspected chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta Aftermath of Chemical Weapon Attacks in Damascus, Syria - 21 Aug 2013 (Rex Features via AP Images)

A mother and father weep over their child’s body who was killed in a suspected chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta Aftermath of Chemical Weapon Attacks in Damascus, Syria – 21 Aug 2013 (Rex Features via AP Images)

Here we go again:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said.

Analysts and policy makers have been poring over all available intelligence hoping to determine what types of chemical weapons the regime might be able to deploy and what event or events might trigger their use, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas.

Once again, Putin and Assad have played Obama and Kerry for chumps.

Puerto Rico to Tip Over

June 29th, 2015 - 9:08 am
A bridge to nowhere great. (Shutterstock image)

A bridge to nowhere great.
(Shutterstock image)

The Governor of Puerto Rico had a wee tiny thing to admit about his island’s municipal bond debts:

“The debt is not payable,” Mr. García Padilla said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math.”

It is a startling admission from the governor of an island of 3.6 million people, which has piled on more municipal bond debt per capita than any American state.

A broad restructuring by Puerto Rico sets the stage for an unprecedented test of the United States municipal bond market, which cities and states rely on to pay for their most basic needs, like road construction and public hospitals.

That market has already been shaken by municipal bankruptcies in Detroit; Stockton, Calif.; and elsewhere, which undercut assumptions that local governments in the United States would always pay back their debt.

Muni bonds have (almost) always promised low returns for investors — but safe and free from federal taxes. And state taxes are owed only on income from munis bought out of state. No taxes help keep rates low, allowing your city or state to borrow and make improvements relatively cheaply. Almost every time you see local road improvements or a new school being built, they were finances with muni bonds.

But if that feeling of safety goes away, if buyers feel like their returns are quite so guaranteed, then rates must go up to keep buyers buying. That means fewer road improvement or new schools, or waiting longer for them.

Considering the state of our roads and a lot of our schools, that’s a bad deal for everybody — and it only takes a few bad actors in local governments as diverse as Stockton, CA, Detroit, MI, and Puerto Rico.

Medical Science Goes to Pot

June 29th, 2015 - 7:50 am
Whoa, is this a sham? (Shutterstock photo)

Whoa, is this a sham?
(Shutterstock photo)

Medical marijuana might not be all that beneficial, medically speaking:

That’s the takeaway from a new JAMA assessment of 79 studies involving nearly 6,500 people that found little evidence the drug helps patients, including those suffering from depression and glaucoma, the AP and LiveScience report. The strongest evidence of marijuana’s positive effects came in those with chronic nerve or cancer pain. Patients who took cannabinoids like THC or CBD were 40% more likely to see at least a 30% reduction in pain compared to those using a placebo. Positive effects were also seen in those with muscle stiffness related to multiple sclerosis and in chemotherapy patients dealing with nausea and vomiting, but that’s not to say that marijuana treats those conditions only or at all, adds Reuters.

Some researchers argue too little is known about marijuana’s potential benefits because research is often hindered by governments against its use. The studies that do exist tend to be small and based on “low-quality scientific evidence, anecdotal reports, individual testimonials, legislative initiatives, and public opinion,” the study authors say. “Imagine if other drugs were approved through a similar approach.”

I always took “medical marijuana” for what I figured it was — stealth legalization. However, I also figured that any reduction in the Drug War’s lousy strictures was a good thing, even if the premise was a bit silly.

But it looks like these studies are just too small or too flawed to let us know either way.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 29th, 2015 - 6:15 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Gosh, some people just don’t know what’s best for them:

For millions, arranging treatment through cash, barter and charity is still better than paying for insurance. They include Lisa Khechoom of Glendale, Calif., who refuses to buy coverage. She says she pays a flat $35 for a doctor visit and often substitutes prescriptions with cheaper natural remedies for herself, her husband and their children.

“I’m spending money either way, but it’s going to be less,” says the 41-year-old, who runs a telecom-service business with her husband that brings them an annual income of around $77,000. “For the amount of office visits I do make, why pay $3,500 for insurance when I’m not even taking advantage of it? We go to the doctor and we pay for it. Usually I can get a better deal than if I had insurance.”

The law’s penalty for not carrying insurance grows to its maximum next year and will start at $695 for an individual, up from $325 this year. That isn’t enough to sway Ms. Khechoom, who says paying the penalty is still preferable to buying coverage.

Khechoom and her family are exactly the kind of people California’s coverage “exchange” needs more of if it’s ever going to become solvent, as this story from April reminds us:

Unlike some other state exchanges, Covered California hasn’t quite spent all its federal aid; $200 million is being set aside to cover its near-term deficit. But that money isn’t going to last long: The exchange is expecting to end up nearly $80 million in the red this year. According to the Orange County Register, “Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee acknowledged in December that there are questions about the ‘long-term sustainability of the organization.’”

Such questions are not new, the paper observed, pointing out that “a 2013 report by the state auditor … stated that, until the state’s health insurance exchange actually started enrolling Californians in health plans, its ‘future solvency’ was ‘uncertain.’ Thus, Covered California was listed as a ‘high-risk’ issue for the state.”

The Khechooms are healthy, so they won’t take much out of the system, and enjoy an upper-middle class income, so they won’t burden the system with large subsidy payments. Without customers like them, Covered California caters mostly to the older, sicker, and/or poorer — which is no way to get into the black. California has huge structural budget problems which aren’t going away, and ♡bamaCare!!! looks like more of the same for the beleaguered Golden State.

Now take a moment to remember that Covered California is considered by supporters to be one of ♡bamaCare!!!’s success stories.

I would just add that in his arrogance, ♡bamaCare!!! architect Jon Gruber thought he knew just the right carrots and just the right sticks to force square pegs like Khechoom into his one-size-fits-all round holes.

But the fact of the matter is that insurance is simply a bad deal for many families, and they won’t take it. And it just so happens that those are the very same people ♡bamaCare!!! requires to pay up, if it is to work at all.

The math, as I wrote in the comments to an earlier ♡bamaCare!!! post, is a harsh mistress — and nothing the Supreme Court does can change it.

News You Can Use

June 29th, 2015 - 5:16 am
(Image courtesy Deadline News/The Daily Mail)

(Image courtesy Deadline News/The Daily Mail)

So: A strawberry shaped like a chicken.

I think we can all agree that we’ve seen that now.

Friday Night Videos

June 26th, 2015 - 10:32 pm

Summer of Covers continues!

Last week we had Brian Setzer covering Steely Dan, and that got me to wondering who might have covered Setzer’s original band, The Stray Cats.

Stray Cats recorded bunches of their own covers, from Buddy Holly’s “Lonesome Tears,” to my all-time favorite Setzer guitar performance on their cover of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk.”

But who covered the band who did so many covers? Getting an answer to that one took some digging — some really entertaining digging.

One of the less likely bands I came across was Roadkill Rockers out of Sunne, Sweden, who promise to play their “own kind of rockabilly.” And sure enough, their sound is stripped down even for rockabilly, verging on punk. And if you’re going to go punk with The Stray Cats, then you’ve got to go with tonight’s cut, “Rumble In Brighton.”

Their first full album, Play It Loud, came out in Europe earlier this month, and it’s also available for download on the iTunes Store.

Nothing fancy but it is a fun take on a fun genre, so I downloaded a copy. And I am going to play it loud — but with my headphones on so I don’t wake the wife and kids.

Also Storified courtesy of Galt’s Girl if, like me, you hate the click-thrus.

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Thought for the Day

June 26th, 2015 - 11:18 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

I lost this story in yesterday’s Burwell Madness, but it remains relevant so long as Hillary Clinton remains a “candidate” for President:

The State Department said Thursday it cannot locate 15 work-related emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server released this week by the committee probing the 2012 Benghazi attacks — indicating she never turned them over, in a revelation the committee chairman described as “significant and troubling.”

The emails consist of more in a series of intelligence reports passed to her by longtime political confidant Sidney Blumenthal, officials told The Associated Press.

At the least, the existence of the emails turned over by Blumenthal but not by Clinton directly contradicts Clinton’s news conference in March in which she claimed that all work emails from her personal server were turned over to the State Department.

Hillary Clinton belongs in jail.

Maybe she’ll take some questions today about this, or about the current situation in Libya and neighboring Tunisia.

Ha-ha, no, of course I’m kidding.

Another Supreme Flub

June 26th, 2015 - 9:52 am

Am I pro-gay marriage? I officiated a gay wedding — not just before President Barack-Come-Lately “evolved” his position on the issue, but way back when Bill Clinton was still doing things like signing the Defense of Marriage Act.

So, yeah, you could say I’m invested in the issue.

But more than any single issue, or policy, or party, I’m invested in Constitutional government. Because without Constitutional government, the most pressing question anyone has doesn’t involve marriage or welfare benefits or defense spending — the most pressing question becomes, “Which group of thugs is going to take everything I have this week?”

When the thugs were a distant King and his Parliament in the days of slow communications, it was relatively easy to win our liberty. In these days of domestic spying (enhanced by Google-grade collation algorithms), dedicated SWAT teams for every government agency, and legislation-by-judicial-decree, winning our liberty back becomes that much more difficult.

So, yeah, I “celebrate” today’s win, but I fear the process used to secure it.

Combined with yesterday’s Burwell and FHA rulings, it’s safe to say that this week is overall the worst in the Supreme Court’s history. Other single decisions rank lower (Dred Scott, anyone?), but these three decisions have together undermined the Faithful Execution clause, again undermined 50 state governments, and empowered the federal bureaucracy to micromanage the property rights of tens of millions of American homeowners.

There’s no sugarcoating this, kids — I believe this is the worst week in American judicial history.

Required Reading

June 26th, 2015 - 8:44 am

George Will on the “durable damage” done by the Supreme Court in yesterday’s Burwell decision:

Thursday’s decision demonstrates how easily, indeed inevitably, judicial deference becomes judicial dereliction, with anticonstitutional consequences. We are, says William R. Maurer of the Institute for Justice, becoming “a country in which all the branches of government work in tandem to achieve policy outcomes, instead of checking one another to protect individual rights. Besides violating the separation of powers, this approach raises serious issues about whether litigants before the courts are receiving the process that is due to them under the Constitution.”

The Roberts Doctrine facilitates what has been for a century progressivism’s central objective, the overthrow of the Constitution’s architecture. The separation of powers impedes progressivism by preventing government from wielding uninhibited power. Such power would result if its branches behaved as partners in harness rather than as wary, balancing rivals maintaining constitutional equipoise.

But, hey, other than that, really solid work there, Chief Justice.

(Image courtesy Google Maps)

(Image courtesy Google Maps)

Good lord:

At least 27 people have been killed in an attack on a hotel in the Tunisian beach resort of Sousse, according to an interior ministry official.

The attack was on the Imperial Marhaba hotel, a source and local radio said.

A security source at the scene said the body of one gunman armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle lay where police had shot him dead. It was unclear whether there were other assailants.

Sousse, some 150 kilometres from Tunis, is a popular resort for both Tunisians and Europeans.

Al Qaeda remains degraded and on the run, comrades.

The link goes to a constantly-updated blog-style report from The Guardian, and here’s what the most current update says:

The attackers behind March’s attack on the National Bardo Museum were believed to have returned from fighting in neighbouring Libya.

According to some estimates there are more Tunisians fighting for Islamic State (Isis) than combatants from any other single country. In February, Tunisia arrested 32 would-be attackers, some of whom were returning from fighting in Syria, who planned “spectacular” attacks, officials said.

I’d add that Libya is Hillary Clinton’s baby, and ISIL’s continued success is due largely to Barack Obama’s passivity and his abandonment of Iraq in 2011. We’re “lucky” in that these Tunisian fighters chose to take home what they learned in Syria, rather than to take it to our shores.

Our luck will eventually run out.

UPDATE: France got “lucky” today, too.

Read:

One person was decapitated and two others wounded in an apparent terror attack on a U.S.-owned factory in France, President Francois Hollande said Friday.

A car crashed through the gates of the Air Products plant in Saint-Quentin Fallavier, southeastern France, shortly after 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET). It was followed by an explosion.

Hollande said a suspect had been arrested and there was “no doubt” that the attacker — possibly acting with an accomplice — intended to blow up the entire plant.

And they’re oh-so-lucky in Kuwait as well:

At least four people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack on a Shia mosque in the Kuwaiti capital.

Many people were injured, and unconfirmed reports put the death toll much higher.

The blast hit during Friday prayers at the Imam Sadiq Mosque in al-Sawaber, a busy area to the east of Kuwait City.

An Islamic State- (IS) affiliated group said it was behind the attack.

And they’re also feeling the luck in Somalia today:

Al Shabaab militants battled with African Union (AU) troops in Somalia on Friday after exploding a car bomb at a peacekeepers’ base south of Mogadishu at dawn, military officials and a rebel spokesman said.

The attack in Leego, some 130 km (80 miles) south of the Somali capital, came as residents gathered for morning prayers. It was the latest of several assaults since the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began a week ago.

We have legalized chaos here at home, and violent Islamic chaos abroad.

You get the feeling this is how the world ends?

Tanks for the Reminder

June 26th, 2015 - 6:22 am
T-14s on parade. (AP photo)

T-14s on parade.
(AP photo)

Russia is expected to produce 2,300 of its all-new T-14 Armata main battle tank between now and 2020, with its promise of better crew protection, increased lethality, anti-air capabilities, and supposed imperviousness to NATO antitank rounds.

However:

The marketing of military hardware should always be taken with a degree of skepticism, said Henry Boyd of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“Where this puts it in comparison with contemporary Western tank design is something I think we’ll have to wait some time to get a better sense of. It’s inevitably not going to end up with everything that is currently being advertised as possible to put on this platform, the ambition is just going to be too great. Cost will come in at some point,” he said.

The cost is estimated at up to $8 million per tank – the same as a light fighter jet. But Western sanctions over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, and the falling oil prices have hit the Russian economy hard.

“The nominal production process is [to begin in] 2018. Whether it even makes that is questionable,” said Boyd.

He said it’s unlikely the Armata T-14 tank would be seen on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine – even if the fighting escalated. But Boyd said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical doctrine would play a big part in the Armata’s development.

“It is not impossible that we will see T-14 being used at the front lines of Russian intervention or quasi-intervention in its near-abroad in the not too distant future,” he said.

I had to laugh at that $8 million figure for a “light fighter jet.” All $8 million will buy you in today’s market is a short-lived target.

But the important bit to remember is that the Russians have a long history of bluff and blunder when it comes to new military gear. The simple, rugged stuff — like the T-34 or the AK-47 or the MiG-21 in its time — the Russians tend to get right. Anything much more complicated than those tends to be hit or miss — with more misses than hits.

Let’s just wait and see.

Really Big Tent Conservatism

June 26th, 2015 - 5:11 am

TRIPLE

Part III of Scott Ott’s Trifecta Triple on the aftermath of the Charleston slaughter is for members only, but I promise you it is quite good.

If you were hesitating about ponying up the $5, now would be a good time to act.

Overreaction Much?

June 25th, 2015 - 3:34 pm

DRUDGE

Just a small sampling of today’s nuttiness, courtesy of Drudge.

And an unnecessary reminder from me that these are Heinlein’s Crazy Years — we just live in them.

Meanwhile, The Dukes of Hazard is still sold openly on the iTunes Store.

DUKES

Disgraceful, even if they were meanin’ no harm.

Putting King v. Burwell in Order

June 25th, 2015 - 2:22 pm

It took all day to wrap my head around the logical mess that is the King v. Burwell decision. So in bullet point form, here’s what happened:

• Three dozen states, despite the promise of subsidies on health insurance exchanges “established by the state,” chose not to establish their own exchanges.

• Another part of ♡bamaCare!!! allowed the federal government to establish Healthcare.gov for buyers in states without exchanges.

• The architect of ♡bamaCare!!!, Jon Gruber, publicly stated that the denial of subsidies was the “squeeze” to prompt the states “get their act together” and establish their own exchanges.

• However the Obama Administration realized that without subsidies, Healthcare.gov would never take off, resulting in huge political embarrassment.

• The White House instructed the IRS to ignore the plain language of the law and issue the subsidies anyway.

• The Obama Administration thereby created a mess, where people who weren’t entitled to subsides were given them — and couldn’t afford to lose them.

• King v. Burwell stipulated the constitutionality of ♡bamaCare!!!, and instead sued to get the executive branch to administer the law as written, and to pay out subsidies only where authorized by law.

• The Supreme Court, presented with the Administration’s lawlessness, decided indeed the Administration wasn’t following “the most natural reading” of the law.

• However, the Court also decided that it was better to “endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes” and to allow continued lawlessness than to send the issue back to Congress where it all began.

The importance of that last point cannot be overstated. Chief Justice Roberts has established a new precedent: That Executive lawlessness shouldn’t be undone if the result of it might politically inconvenient, and that it is the Supreme Court’s new job to determine what the Congress “really meant” in order to give the Executive whatever legal cover such convenience requires.

I can’t even begin to imagine what mischief future Presidents will stir up, empowered by the Roberts Court in this way.

Required Reading

June 25th, 2015 - 1:10 pm

Peter Wehner lists several reasons for the GOP 2016 contenders to get behind removing the Confederate Battle Flag from the SC statehouse:

As the old arguments in favor of allowing the Confederate flag to fly on state grounds crumble before our eyes — they already seem bizarrely antiquated — it’s worth recapitulating the reasons the debate has changed in such a decisive way. The first one has to do with the history of the Confederate flag. For all the talk from defenders of the flag who insist otherwise, it was a symbol of slavery, white supremacy, and the dissolution of the Union. The flag was fundamentally about hate, not heritage; about subjugation, not Southern ancestry. There is a reason white supremacist groups embrace the Confederate flag as their symbol, and it doesn’t have to do with its aesthetic appeal.

The second reason has to do with the history of the Republican Party. It was founded in the 1850s by anti-slavery activists and in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Its slogan in 1856 was “free labor, free land, free men.” The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, was America’s “great emancipator” who freed the slaves. So the Confederate flag was never a symbol associated with the Republican Party – including in South Carolina, where the flag was first flown over the statehouse in 1962, at the request of Democrats in the state like Governor Fritz Hollings and Representative John A. May. Yet the Republican Party has somehow found a way to get itself attached to this toxic symbol of division and repression.

The third reason it’s an obvious decision to call for the Confederate flag to come down is political. Among those who have a reaction to the flag, more than three times as many say they have a negative reaction as a positive reaction.

Beyond that, the United States is rapidly changing. It’s becoming increasingly non-white. One reason Republicans are consistently losing presidential elections is that they are doing dismally among minorities. For example, in 2012 the Republican nominee won just 17 percent of nonwhite voters. (The white share of the eligible voting population has been dropping by about two points every four years, and next year minorities may make up a record 30 percent of the vote.) Republicans are unlikely to endear themselves with this rising demographic if they refuse to take a stand against flying the Confederate flag.

Read the whole thing, of course.

I’m sympathetic to Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio’s apparent desire not to get involved in this — none of them are from South Carolina and all of them, to one degree or another, believe in a state’s power to decide these things for itself. There’s also, to address Wehner’s point about how the GOP got “itself attached to this toxic symbol,” the conservative tendency to defend something almost reflexively just because it’s been around a long time.

But for presidential wanna-bes, the issue boils down to two things: That flag isn’t worth defending and doing so bad politics anyway — and remaining silent can be read as a tacit defense.

The time to speak out has come.

Sergeants Not Wanted

June 25th, 2015 - 11:55 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

This is just dumb on the part of the USAF:

The U.S. Air Force recently reduced its UAV operations by eight percent because it was not unable to train enough new operators. Part of the problem is stress, as it has been discovered that the intensity of watching the ground constantly was more stressful to pilots (operators who control the UAV and fire weapons) and sensor operators (who constantly scour the ground below) than for their counterparts who go into the air than anticipated. Earlier in 2015 the air force sought to deal with problem by asking Congress for more money to pay bonuses to attract more UAV operators and keep the overworked ones it has. Most of the $35,000 a year in bonus money was to be “flight pay” for air force pilots who volunteer or are persuaded to serve as UAV operators. This was the solution that did not work and many in Congress were reluctant to just throw money at the problem when the air force had an easier and cheaper solution for this; allow enlisted (sergeants) airmen be used to operate UAVs and allow them to make a career out of it. The air force used to do this, during World War II when it was still part of the army. But that was changed during World War II and the air force refuses to consider going back to what worked in the past, even though it works fine for the other services and some other countries.

What a waste — there are plenty of talented, trained, and hardworking NCOs who could take the pressure off of these stressed and overworked Air Force officers.

Time to Impeach the IRS Chief?

June 25th, 2015 - 10:38 am
Not so honorable. (AP photo)

Not so honorable.
(AP photo)

Some House Republicans are considering impeaching IRS commissioner John Koskinen after this incident in the Lois Lerner investigation:

According to inspector general J. Russell George, IRS officials literally put Lerner’s hard drive through a shredder, destroying it without exhausting every means of attempting to recover her data. “IRS IT management determined the extra effort to recover data from Ms. Lerner’s hard drive was not worth the expense,” George says in his prepared testimony.

That decision was made even though a technician in the criminal investigations division of the agency had “noted some scoring on the top platter of the drive” while trying to assist the IT division in recovering the data. “He believed there were additional steps that could have been taken to attempt to recover data,” George says. That was in July of 2011, before Koskinen led the agency. The hard drive was destroyed in April of 2012, according to the inspector general’s best estimate.

George goes on to note that IRS employees also erased the backup tapes of the server that housed Lerner’s e-mails in 2010 and 2011, though he says he “did not uncover evidence” of any conspiracy to obstruct the investigation.

Don’t expect much to come of this, since the Supreme Court ruled today that the IRS doesn’t have to do what Congress tells it to do.

It’s Not a Mandate, It’s a Tax Subsidy

June 25th, 2015 - 8:38 am
(AP image)

(AP image)

So there you have it — under the Roberts Court, the law means what the IRS says it means.

We’re in dangerous territory with this one, and that’s on top of all of Washington’s other usurpations and predations too numerous to list.

UPDATE: It’s come to this, really.

Flash Springs Another Leak

June 25th, 2015 - 7:56 am

Unexpectedly:

Adobe has released an emergency software patch for Flash after it found a serious vulnerability being exploited by hackers.

The company said it had evidence of “limited, targeted attacks” and urged people to update their software immediately.

Flash is widely used across the web as a way of providing multimedia content.
This vulnerability – which enables hackers to take control of a computer – affects Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

I don’t have Flash installed on either my desktop or laptop, except for an “emergency” version built into Chrome — because there are still sites which rely on Flash, even though it’s practically malware.

I recommend you do the same.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 25th, 2015 - 6:45 am

♡bamaCare!!!’s highly-touted (by the Left) consumer co-ops are going bust:

Generous federal loans helped 23 cooperatives to get up and running. They have enrolled more than a million people, according to the National Alliance of State Health Co-ops. Their supporters believed that consumer cooperatives, which must meet the same regulatory requirements as private insurers, would provide better benefits and lower prices than commercial carriers.

In practice, most co-ops have significantly underpriced premiums and grossly underestimated medical claims. Many seek significant premium increases for 2016: 58% for individual plans in Utah, 38% in Oregon and 25% in Kentucky, for example.

Iowa’s CoOportunity Health, which operated in both Iowa and Nebraska, was the first to confront the hard reality of insurance economics as medical claims far outpaced premium income. After the co-op burned through $145 million in federal loans, an Iowa state court in February ordered the organization to be liquidated.

At least 120,000 members were forced to quickly find coverage elsewhere. The Iowa Insurance Division had this helpful advice: “Your coverage with CoOportunity Health will stop, and claims will not be paid after cancellation. If you do not purchase replacement insurance, you may be penalized by the federal government.”

That Means It’s Working™

It almost seems cruel to mention that the finances of Iowa’s busted co-op are actually in the middle of the pack — ten others have even worse loss ratios, and will likely need more tax dollars to remain solvent, or will go the same way as CoOportunity Health.