Predictable chaos

From The Wall Street Journal:

Rule Change on Health Insurance Rattles Industry
Consumers Rush to Sign Up for Coverage to Take Effect in New Year
By Elizabeth Williamson and Louise Radnofsky | Updated Dec. 22, 2013 9:01 p.m. ET

Monday is the final day for consumers to get new health coverage that takes effect when the new year arrives, leaving thousands of people racing to sign up in time—and health insurers trying to figure out whether the federal health law will work in the way they had hoped.

Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive officer of America’s Health Insurance Plans, at a conference on the Affordable Care Act in 2012. (Photo: Bloomberg News)

The number of Americans enrolling continues to fall short of the goals the Obama administration has laid out, which is a problem for the White House.

It also represents a problem for the insurance industry, which calculated that the prospect of millions of new customers brought their way by the Affordable Care Act and its coverage requirements would make up for any disruption that came along with the law. Karen Ignagni, the industry’s top representative in Washington, spent the weekend managing the fallout after the administration overhauled its approach to people who buy coverage on the individual market.

The insurers Ms. Ignagni represents as head of the industry’s main lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, got late notice Thursday night of the new rules: People dumped by their insurers could buy bare-bones “catastrophic” plans or get a hardship exemption from having to buy health insurance at all. Those were customers Ms. Ignagni’s members were counting on to buy fuller coverage.

More at the link.

Make no mistake about it: the private health insurance industry loves the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. They are having some difficulties with implementation during the initial start-up period, but the PP&ACA should guarantee them an increase in business, as millions of people who did not have health insurance previously will be forced to buy health insurance. More, since most of the people who did not have health insurance previously were uninsured because they couldn’t afford insurance, and the federal government is not going to subsidize their premiums, the insurance industry isn’t as concerned as it might otherwise have been about people not paying for their health insurance. From the industry’s perspective, there are problems which need to be solved with the roll-out, and some help from the government in easing the transition would be useful, but they believe that the problems are all solvable. The article continued to note the industry’s real concern:

In an interview Friday at AHIP’s offices, Ms. Ignagni expressed concern about any erosion of the “individual mandate” requiring most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty.

That is the rock to which Ms. Ignagni’s members have clung these past four years because it would bring new customers to her industry’s product.

Well, of course they are concerned about the individual mandate. The supporters of the PP&ACA made the conservative-sounding argument that the addition of thirty to forty million new customers would lead to increased competition among insurance companies for those customers, pushing premiums lower. But it was always a specious argument, made by people who either did not or chose not to understand competition. Everything offered for sale has a limiting factor to its price: the ability of the potential buyer to choose not to buy at all, the ability of the customer to say, “I might want this, but I am unwilling to pay this much for it.” Once the customer has no choice but to buy, competition may occur between different suppliers, but there is no competition with choosing not to buy at all; look at the ridiculous rates charged for automobile insurance — a mandatory purchase for automobile owners — and ask yourself if competition has held down prices there.1 And when you underpin that requirement with government subsidies to buy what is otherwise beyond your ability to pay, there is little reason for insurance companies to compete at all.2

The article in the Journal is primarily about the insurance industry itself, and Mrs Ignagni personally. Your Editor, on the other hand, believes that the real problems with the PP&ACA are not on the insurance industry end, but on the consumers’ side. Allow me to be blunt here: the people who previously lacked health insurance are heavily skewed to the less educated and less intelligent segment of our population. They lacked insurance because they had fewer skills which won them employment in better paying jobs, jobs which were with employers who provided health insurance. In an environment in which individuals are being required to search for and purchase health insurance on their own, we are putting the greatest burdens on the people least equipped to bear such burdens. What could possibly go wrong?

This is a common problem for the left. They decide that there is a problem which needs to be solved, and design what they believe is a solution to the problem. But, quite naturally, they are all highly educated people who work for a living — normally, a pretty good living — and they are simply unable to understand the culture and the problems of people who are not like themselves, not educated, often not terribly intelligent, and who don’t have the same work ethic. What they design would (often) work absolutely fine for people like themselves, who might be temporarily down on their luck, but is completely unsuited to dealing with people not like themselves. In a country where a huge number of people have to go to H&R Block just to file a Form 1040EZ,3 how can we expect every citizen to be able to go to a (poorly functioning) government website, be able to sort through various health insurance possibilities, and take a reasoned decision, in a time-limited manner, with the possibility of a government penalty looming for those who are unable to complete the task?

It isn’t amazing that this whole thing is FUBAR; it would be amazing if it were not.
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  1. There are a few discount automobile insurers, who provide the absolute least coverage required by law. The recent decision by the federal government to allow people to carry only “catastrophic” might allow some low-end competition.
  2. Ask any MBA: price is normally a far larger component to profit than is volume.
  3. I have known, personally, several people who are just unable, partially due to fear, to do their taxes themselves, even though they are 1040EZ filers.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

My wife, younger daughter and I went to see the second of the three-part Hobbit movie series, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.1 As we emerged from the theater, I said to my family, “Well, I’ve now seen a Peter Jackson movie which departs from the book even more than The Two Towers from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.2

The first of the three movies in the Hobbit series, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 3 had some serious departures from the original novel, primarily in the addition of some characters from Lord of the Rings who had not appeared in the first book: Galadriel, the elven queen of Lothlorian, Saruman the White, the head of the White Council and Gandalf’s wizardly order, and Radagast the Brown, another wizard from the trilogy, but the story was at least reasonably close to that in the book the book. In this second movie, the departures from the book are numerous and varied. The movie was still enjoyable enough, but all of these movies are examples of the real difficulties involved in making movies from the books. The movies are all action/adventure flicks, which they pretty much have to be to generate the size audiences that the movies need. The novels, on the other hand, are storytelling, as though you were sitting around the campfire, listening, listening to Strider tell the tales.4

The movies are worthwhile, but the books are much better.
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  1. This link goes to the Amazon.com sale of the movie, once it becomes available on Blu-Ray. Purchase of this movie, when it becomes available, through this link returns a small commission to your Editor.
  2. Purchase of this set through this link returns a small commission to your Editor.
  3. Purchase of this movie through this link returns a small commission to your Editor.
  4. In case you hadn’t guessed, the Editor and his entire family have read the books several times each.

Rule 5 Blogging: Estonia

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of January Jones in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude. This week: soldiers from Estonia! Click any photo to enlarge.

military_woman_estonia_army_000002

Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: Estonia’ »

From Around the Blogroll

From The Victory Girls:

Bounty Offered for Biometric Data of Spy Chiefs
by KIT LANGE on DECEMBER 20, 2013

Privacy expert Simon Davies, owner of the blog Privacy Surgeon, has decided to turn the tables on the governments who make up FIVE EYES, the alliance of intelligence agencies from the US, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.  He has offered a reward of $1000 to anyone who provides him with biometric data (such as a used water glass with fingerprints and DNA, or a strand of hair) from any senior intelligence officials in those agencies.

Davies claims that his objective is not to use the data for anything, but simply to “send a potent message to intelligence chiefs that personal information must be treated with respect. The aim is to raise their level of awareness and sensitivity, not to exploit the data. Indeed, once the acquisition has been fully verified, the data – and the associated receptacle – will be publicly destroyed.”

More at the link.  Interesting way of making a point!

The Lonely Conservative: Judge Rules In Favor Of Catholic Groups Over Obamacare.

A truly disgusting story from Patterico: Woman Who Leaves Small Children Alone In House, Which Catches Fire, Expresses Concern . . . About Her Food Stamp Card

Robert Stacey Stacey McCain is aghast: MSNBC OMFG: @ChrisLHayes and Guest @RichardKimNYC Talk About Butt Sex

Sister Toldjah is amused: Bizarre: Massachusetts traffic stop leads to heroin found labeled “#Obamacare”. Sounds reasonable to me, because Obamacare wil mess with your mind.

The Pirate’s Cove: NY Times: Say, This Obamacare Thing Isn’t Such A Great Deal For The Middle Class. Conservative bloggers had been telling people that for years; why did it take so long for the oh-so-highly-edumacated and sophisticated editors of the Times so long to notice?

Hube wrote about comic books pushing “Muslim” superheroes.

Political Realities: President Obama Refuses To Negotiate On Debt Ceiling – Again!

Le*gal In*sur*rec*tion: Thanks to Legal Insurrection readers for leading fight against Israel boycott

Protein Wisdom: Ohio Democrats: “If you like your children, you can keep your children …”

The success of socialism

We recently noted the decision of the voters in Chilé to elect a socialist to become that country’s next President, saying:

(F)ollowing the center-right presidency of Mr Piñera, under which Chile’s economy has prospered, the voters have decided to change things. The lure of socialism has always been strong amongst poorer people, who see socialism as a way in which their station in life can be improved. Of course, the promises of socialism as far as economic development and raising the lifestyles of the lower classes have never been kept. Income inequality has often been addressed, but rather than leading to a wider sharing of prosperity, such normally makes the wealthier people — except for the connected class — poorer, but doesn’t make the poor concomitantly richer. The rewards of socialism are best exemplified by Venezuela, an oil-rich nation which is nevertheless an economic basket case.

Now, from The Wall Street Journal:

Ford Expects Major Venezuelan Devaluation in 2014
By Vipal Monga, Senior Editor, CFO Journal. | December 18, 2013, 1:53 PM ET

Ford Motor Co. expects Venezuela’s currency to lose almost half its value next year and could take a $350 million financial hit as a result.

The automotive company on Wednesday released its outlook for next year and said it expects the exchange rate to fall to 12 bolivars to the U.S. dollar from 6.3 currently.

Ford had $802 million in investments in Venezuela at the end of September, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company lost $186 million in February, when Venezuela devalued the bolivar to 6.3 from 4.3.

Ford had previously expected to turn a profit in South America but now expects to only break even in the region as a result of the difficulties in Venezuela.

General Motors Co., Ford’s rival, reported earlier this year that the devaluation cost it $200 million in the first quarter.

More at the link.

We don’t hear much about Venezuela these days, now that firebrand socialist President Hugo Chavez has gone to his eternal reward,1 but the state socialist system installed by Señor Chávez remains in place, and its economic results have been nothing short of disastrous.2

Maduro’s balancing act
Adjustment and reform are economically essential but politically impossible
September 28th 2013 | CARACAS | From the print edition

It is a remarkable achievement. Amid the longest oil boom in history Venezuela has in many respects the worst-performing economy in the Americas, even though it has (it claims) the world’s biggest reserves of the black stuff and gets 94% of its export earnings from it. That is the legacy of 14 years of “21st-century socialism” under the late Hugo Chávez. Inflation is over 45% a year and supermarket shelves are bare of many staple goods. Even Nelson Merentes, the finance minister, concedes that Mr Chávez’s revolution has yet to achieve economic success. But oil revenues of $90 billion a year allow Nicolás Maduro, Mr Chávez’s successor as president, the luxury of debating whether or not to change course.

After contracting for several months, the economy grew in the second quarter. August’s inflation of 3% was half the monthly rate in May. But most economists do not believe a sustainable recovery has begun. The growth spurt appears to come from a fiscal splurge; the budget deficit is probably around 10% of GDP. A decade and a half of hyper-regulation, including ever more stringent price and exchange controls, has inflicted “terrible distortions” which will be hard to correct, even given the political will, says José Manuel Puente of IESA, a business school in Caracas.

Foreign exchange has been largely allocated by government fiat since 2003. On the black market, the dollar commands more than six times the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivares. The government handed out more hard currency in the second quarter, which may have boosted growth. Mr Merentes is more pragmatic than his predecessor Jorge Giordani, a Utopian Marxist. Following a 32% devaluation in January there is talk of another, or even of floating the bolívar, though Mr Giordani, who is now planning minister, opposes this. Opportunists who delight in the profits to be made from graft and arbitrage, are happy to go along with him.

The government’s main response to the scarcity of food and other staples, such as toilet paper and toothpaste, is a conspiracy theory. It blames an “economic war” waged by the United States and its “fascist” allies in the Venezuelan opposition. On September 20th it sent the national guard to occupy a big toilet-paper factory. Officials said the “temporary” takeover was needed to check for irregularities in production and distribution.

More at the link. But when the Venezuelan economy, bolstered by huge oil sale revenues, still has trouble providing food and basic necessities, something is very, very wrong. The country’s huge petroleum reserves and production enable Venezuela to, in effect, import the wealth production of people outside of the country, making — in theory — Venezuela wealthier than it should be based on its own productivity.

Your Editor looks around, and he sees what the other oil exporting countries have achieved in terms of wealth. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have become fabulously wealthy, seemingly having more money than they know what to do with, and having absolutely no pretensions to socialism to weigh them down. Other oil exporting countries, like Mexico, are weighed down by more or less socialist and corrupt governments, and despite raking in billions of other people’s production, remain mired in poverty. The United States became wealthy in no small part due to the production of oil and an economy based on capitalism.

Socialism, regardless of the variations made to Karl Marx’ formulae, has produced not the sharing of wealth and productivity promised for it, but a sharing of the poverty it created. Capitalism has not made every poor person living under it prosperous, but has enabled most people to achieve a decent standard of living; socialism takes prosperity and converts it into poverty.
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  1. Perhaps Señor Chávez might have chosen more wisely than the medical care system of Communist Cuba.
  2. The last link is from the far-left The Guardian, telling readers how Venezuela is doing just fine.

Frank Schaefer, Phil Robertson and the First Amendment

The Bill of Rights in the National Archives

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Minister defrocked over same-sex marriage, will appeal
Tricia L. Nadolny, Inquirer Staff Writer | Last updated: Friday, December 20, 2013, 2:01 AM | Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013, 10:35 AM

The Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked Thursday for refusing to abide by the United Methodist Church’s policies on homosexuality, writing another chapter in a case that stirred a wider call for social change when he was put on trial for officiating at his son’s gay wedding.

Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pa., had hoped that the church’s Board of Ordained Ministers would allow him to keep his credentials, effectively letting him stand as a voice for gay rights in a church deeply divided over its ban on same-sex weddings and gay clergy.

That group met for just 15 minutes at the Norristown offices of the church’s Eastern Pennsylvania conference before making its decision.

“I said to myself, ‘I just cannot see them take my credentials.’ I mean, what I did was an act of love for my son,” Schaefer said Thursday at a news conference at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

More at the link. The Reverend Mr Schafer had been tried by the Methodist Church’s jury, which had ordered him to either reaffirm his commitment to Church doctrine or step down; the former minister declined to do either. Mr Schaefer will appeal, trying to use some sort of loophole, but the instructions in the Bible, the book Mr Schaefer professes to believe, are completely clear: homosexual activity is a violation of God’s law, and a bar to the gates of heaven.

Now, Mr Schaefer has an absolute right to believe whatever he wishes and say whatever he desires, and the Bill of Rights absolutely protects that from all government interference or penalties. But the United Methodist Church is not the government, and it has every right to choose whom it will or will not credential as ministers, and whom it will or will not have preach in its churches.

In related news:

‘Duck Dynasty’ family stands by suspended patriarch
By Holly Yan and Dana Ford, CNN | updated 12:50 AM EST, Fri December 20, 2013

(CNN) — The family behind A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” rallied around its patriarch Thursday, one day after the network suspended Phil Robertson over controversial remarks he made about gays and blacks in a magazine interview.

“While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Phil would never incite or encourage hate,” the Robertsons said in a statement.

The family called into question the future of the show.

“We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty,” it said.

In the January issue of GQ, Robertson said homosexuality is a sin and puts it in the same category as bestiality and promiscuity.

More at the link. Mr Robertson was basically paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. A&E network has suspended Mr Robertson from the show Duck Dynasty. Like Mr Schaefer above, Mr Robertson has the right to say anything he wishes, without any interference from the government, and like the United Methodist Church, A&E has the right to cablecast or not cablecast anything it wishes. And free people have a right to either attend or not attend the Methodist Church, or watch or not watch A&E network. There are no First Amendment issues in either case, because the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and of religion from abridgement by the government.
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Related Articles:

 

ARMY’s Inside Foe is Killing It – Army to Cut Up to 4,000 Captains and Majors

Army to Cut Up to 4,000 Captains and Majors
18 December 2013

The U.S. Army is sending roughly 19,000 active-duty captains and majors to a screening board for early separation this spring, the Army Times reported. Up to 20 percent of those screened — approximately 3,800 officers — could be scheduled to leave the service by the Officer Separation Board and Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board.

Officers with fewer than 18 years of federal active service will have their screening process done by OSB, and those with more than 18 years of service will see the E-SERB, according to the Army Times.

Read more at http://minutemennews.com/2013/12/army-cut-4000-captains-majors/#OAAG8mZ5HKsohKeB.99

Attack of the Heterophobes!

Gretchen referenced1 this one for me:

Former Gay Activist Marries Woman; Addresses Critics Who Condemn His New Heterosexual Lifestyle
By Jessica Martinez, CP Reporter | December 13, 2013|2:10 pm

Michael Glatze married girlfriend Rebekah in October 2013 (Photo: Truth Wins Out)

An ex-prominent gay activist and former editor of a San Francisco-based, youth-focused homosexual magazine penned an open letter about his recent heterosexual marriage addressed to “angry homosexuals” who have criticized him for leaving his past and finding God.Michael Glatze stepped down as co-founder of XY Magazine in 2007 where he walked out by leaving a note on his computer that read, “Homosexuality is death, and I choose life.” His transformation from gay to straight began after he started to question his lifestyle following a health scare and with no one to turn to, Glatze decided to seek help in God. Now, he lives life as a straight man and recently married a woman, Rebekah, who critics are referring to as his “prop.”

“I want to make a little ‘shout out’ to all of the angry homosexuals in our country who are currently spreading all sorts of hate and aggression on pro-homosexual blogs,” wrote Glatze, in an op-ed on WND.com. “Look, I am not interested in defending myself. I don’t really need to do that. I understand your plight, your point-of-view. I understand the desire to want me to be crazy, or lost in my head and mind, or confused. I understand that it would be just easier if I didn’t exist, or I would just crawl into a hole somewhere and die. But I’m not going to do that.”

He says his intentions are not to rub his marriage in anyone’s face, but to make his critics understand that he stands by his opinion about homosexuality as a flawed and mistaken lifestyle, and that he has a right to his opposing view the same way that they do.

More at the link.

Mr Glatze is easily attacked by the homosexual activists, because he is a Christian (Horrors!) and a political conservative. The activists are holding, essentially, that he couldn’t really have “converted” to normal sexuality,2 and that his poor new wife might not realize “what she’s getting into,” referring to her as a “prop.” Mr Glatze stands as an obvious example: maybe homosexuals really weren’t “born that way.”

But, what interests me is the contrast between the vitriol being heaped on Mr Glatze and the complete absence of (publicly expressed) malice toward Chirlane McCray:

This is an amazing flip-flop: Chirlane McCray, wife of likely Democratic3 New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, was forced to release a statement yesterday admitting that, yes, she was a lesbian before she met her husband, currently the city’s public advocate.

“[I] identified as a lesbian and wrote about it,” she said after Hunter Walker at The Observer dug up a 1979 Essence magazine article Ms. McCray wrote called “I Am a Lesbian.”

“I survived the tears, the isolation and the feeling that something was terribly wrong with me for loving another woman,” she wrote. “Coming to terms with my life as a lesbian has been easier for me than it has been for many. Since I don’t look or dress like the typical bulldagger, I have a choice as to whether my sexual preference is known.”

Then, a sentence that she could never have known could complicate a future husband’s political career: “I have also been fortunate because I discovered my preference for women early, before getting locked into a traditional marriage and having children.”

Reacting to the story yesterday, McCray said that meeting Bill in 1991 changed everything: “In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him, and together we’ve raised two amazing kids. I’m reminded every day how lucky I am to have met my soul mate.”

More at the link. A Google search for de blasio wife former lesbian returned 80,600 results, and I certainly couldn’t check them all, but in the pages I did check, I found nothing at all along the lines of the vitriol expressed toward Mr Glatze. The de Blasios have been married for 19 years now, so it’s a slightly different situation — people like the distinguished Wayne Besen will have a more difficult time referring to a husband of almost two decades as a “prop” — but, despite thousands of stories referring to Mrs McCray as a “former lesbian,” I didn’t find a single attack or claim that she couldn’t really have changed her sexual orientation. Surely, surely! the fact that her husband, the incoming Mayor of New York City, is a far left liberal cannot have anything to do with the apparent reticence of the homosexual activists to attack his wife and claim that she just couldn’t have changed, could it?

After all, to have been just so upset by Mr Glatze converting to Christianity and abandoning his previous minority sexual orientation, while apparently so blasé about Mrs de Blasio’s, would seem to me to by hypocritical.

Of course, there is a difference. Mr Glatze wrote:

I do believe that homosexuality is a flaw, a mistake, a distortion and something from which one can be completely restored.

That is one part that the homosexual activists just can’t stand, and have attempted to get states to pass laws banning homosexual conversion therapy; New Jersey and California have such laws in cases where minors are involved. If such therapies cannot work, as the activists claim, then they shouldn’t worry about them; they’d be nothing but a waste of time and money. What they are really worried about is two fold:

  1. The underlying concept that homosexuality is not normal, and that the existence of such therapies reinforces the idea that homosexuality is not normal; and
  2. It just might work.

As we have noted previously, the entire push for same-sex “marriage” has not been one for hospital visitation rights or certain financial advantages, but one to say that homosexual relationships are just as good, just as wholesome, just as normal, as heterosexual ones. Tolerance of diversity was never really the issue; compulsory acceptance always was. People like Mr Glatze are a challenge to that meme, a walking, talking, living and loving example which proves that changing from one’s initial inclinations might be difficult, but is possible and is better. And that the activists simply cannot stand.

  1. Gretchen used the term “heterophobic,” and so she gets credit for the title. It is a perfect word. :)
  2. The choice of the word “normal” to refer to heterosexuality was consciously and deliberately chosen.
  3. The original has Republican Democratic. Given that no one paying any attention at all could have mistaken Mr de Blasio as a Republican, I assumed that was a correction rather than intentional snarkiness, and deleted the struck out Republican reference.