2008 Democratic Debates

I’d just like to point out that I didn’t blog on the subject of the Democratic debates, even though they were in Austin, and even though I watched some of the program, and I didn’t blog on it for several very good reasons.

First off, that wasn’t a debate. It was a town hall meeting. I’ll talk about these things when we actually see a debate again. Secondly, Barack Obama cleaned the floor with Hillary Clinton from my perspective, and there was little need to talk about it during the viewing. Third, I still don’t like Hillary Clinton as a politician. I don’t trust her after her husband’s presidency and I don’t like political dynasties of any stripe. The trend is downward when you get on that course. So it was just a chance to see Obama shine one more time, not that I’m planning on voting for him in the general, mind you.

The best coverage on the non-debate could be found on KLBJ AM; specifically the lampooning they got on Jeff Ward’s show. You can still get Thursday’s and Friday’s episodes on i-Tunes for a bit longer. Thursday’s show featured an interview with Kinky Friedman. Friday’s postmortem ended with an hour long tribute to this stunning endorsement of Obama:

Can we not all just agree that, not only were the wrong Kennedy’s assassinated, but that the wrong person climbed out of the Chappaquiddick that cold night in 1969? The video at least asks that question.


Mea culpa review 2017. I just experienced another moment of existential pain in leaving that joke on this post. Oh, My. God. I think to myself, and I’m not even religious to start with, how crass can I get? In addition to leaving that atrocious joke in the entry, I took out the thought bubble below and instead listed the beliefs I held at the time. Beliefs I had for my hatred of Hillary Clinton. It’s not that I thought about anything that deeply then other than World of Warcraft and finding a new purpose in life, but I did have my reasons and I still don’t like her.

However. I started to delete the following thought I had imposed in the middle of the article, but then I realized I needed to save this most of all. I needed to preserve it as an example of just how blind the average person can be to their own biases.

Hillary’s mouth opens, fast forward till it closes. Listen to Barack Obama talk. Repeat process. The ‘debate’ was a remarkably one sided victory for Obama when viewed that way

This. This is misogyny in a nutshell, and I would have told you at the time that I didn’t hate Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. That is how subtle this crap is in our heads. Just more food for thought and one more post in the errata label series.

The Health care Problem

Health care. Again.

I got slapped so hard by people who just love the idea of Single Payer Health care systems (and I don’t care what the Wiki article says on the subject. Tax funded health care is socialized medicine. Calling it anything else is attempting to sugarcoat the pill) when I sent out my Sicko comments the other day, I decided to do a little digging and see if I could find some hard evidence on the subject. Luckily I didn’t have to look too far.

CATO just happened to sponsor Health Care University 2007 about a month ago. If you listen to the podcasts, you might be shocked to learn a few things. Arnold Kling visits his article Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and discusses what does and doesn’t work in currently instituted government programs.

Suppose that instead of looking at health care policy as a means to push an ideology or score political points, we examine it from a pragmatic American vantage point. What works? What does not work? What backfires? Those are the good, the bad, and the ugly, respectively. The table below summarizes our experience in terms of three goals of health care policy: improving access to care; improving the quality of care; and lowering the cost of our health care system.

Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

A CATO scholar that thinks government can contribute positively to the health care problem? Shocking! But oddly, making very good arguments.

Michael D. Tanner
talks about what doesn’t work in the health care systems around the world. Things like innovation that isn’t available anywhere else but here. That there aren’t any single payer systems that work;

When you look at single payer systems, you can divide them into two categories, those that work, and those that are actually single payer systems.

In Canada, 800,000 people are on the waiting list for treatment. In the UK today, 40% of all cancer patients never get to see an oncologist (because they die before seeing them) (The UK NHS Wiki article shows the same heavy handed bias as the other article I linked to above. I’m thinking theres a gov’t employee who is paid specifically to insure that the wiki article on NHS stays pro-NHS. If everything is so good, why are there so many articles on NHS problems on the web?) in terms of survival rates, the US ranks number one in cancer survival, the UK ranks 16th.

The government health care systems that equate to the quality of the U.S. health care systems, like in France, feature co-payment plans with co-pays as high as 40%. This is not a single payer system. In fact, it’s not much different from the system we find ourselves in here in the U.S.

The problems with the U.S. system are problems that have been beaten to death already, as far as discussion goes. Mandates don’t work (Massachusetts is a stellar example of this) percentages of uninsured motorists exceed the percentages of those people who have no health insurance, in areas where automobile insurance is mandated.

Employer provided health insurance doesn’t work. It has given rise to the problems we currently have.

Just paying for the insurance has the same problems as employer provided insurance. Those who use the service do not have to pay the costs of the service. (and will be indistinguishable from any other gov’t welfare system; e.g. demand will far exceed supply, costs will spiral, and rationing will once again be necessary) This is also not a solution.

So, what is the solution? Well, Health Care University 2007 didn’t offer one (at least in the podcasts) but I would think that for the U.S., the solution is obvious. Get the government out of health care as much as possible. At least provide tax incentives for individuals to purchase their own health care, with plenty of choices; in other words, not just incentives for health insurance, but incentives for health savings accounts. (HSA’s are extremely unpopular with insurance companies, and insurance companies are active lobbyists. Consequently, you won’t hear about them during the evening news soundbites) Remove regulations that strangle the insurance industry. If you want more, visit CATO’s voluminous Research Areas on the subject.

As someone who pays for his (and most of his families) health care costs out of pocket, I have to say that it isn’t the day to day costs that are a problem; it isn’t even the “what if you child breaks a bone?” type accidents that are a problem.

No, the problem arises when you have a chronic ailment that requires costly procedures, and most of the time these types of ailments will get your insurance (under the current system) canceled. Of what use were those $300 a month family health care coverage payments worth then?

HSA, HSA, HSA. I don’t think I can repeat that enough. Let me save that money myself, and after a few years, I won’t even need insurance coverage other than catastrophic care (which I dare you to find these days. Seriously, have you seen one?) so why would I need government assistance at all?


Editor’s note, 2019. Health Savings Accounts were a chimera.

Critics contend that low-income people, who are more likely to be uninsured, do not earn enough to benefit from the tax breaks offered by health savings accounts. These tax breaks are too modest, when compared to the actual cost of insurance, to persuade significant numbers to buy this coverage.

Wikipedia

The writing on the wall is and will always be that the cost of healthcare is more than anyone not in the 1% can afford. That is, if you live long enough to get cancer or a chronic illness. Someone has to pay for the professionals to research and create cures for the health ills of every human being, and the healthy simply don’t care about the cost of maintaining their health until they become ill. Then they go bankrupt trying to repair something that would have been more cheaply fixed had they not ignorantly broken it.

…things like, sleeping only four hours a night because insomnia keeps you awake for most of the night anyway, so why bother going to bed unless you are so tired that you almost doze off while chewing your dinner? Had I thought to look into sleep deprivation or sleep problems sooner, I might have worked a lot later in life. Believing I didn’t need a doctor to tell me what my problems were was my fool for a patient moment without having to go through all those years of residency and schooling.

To use the phrase socialized medicine is to repeat oneself needlessly. All medicine contains costs borne by the public at large. All of it. It is a classic case of an economic externality, which is why businesses toss the cost of healthcare around like a hot potato. No one wants to foot the bill, therefore everyone must be forced to foot the bill. How that cost is paid equitably, while providing access to limited facilities equitably? That is the really hard and important question. One that I am finally fully cognizant of lacking the knowledge and expertise to solve. It’s about fucking time, if I do say so myself.

Three Generations of “America to the Rescue”

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, referencing the predicament in Iraq.

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART 
BILLIONS AND BILLIONS 
Season 12 Ep 110 08/22/07 

The best line from the clip?

“Oh billions of dollars… Is there no dispute you can’t settle?”

The picture of Cheney as Secretary of Defense staring over Jon’s shoulder as he discusses the wisdom of not invading Iraq during Gulf War I, using Cheney’s own words at the time (“it would be a morass”) also priceless.


Mea culpa review 2017. For the record, Comedy Central‘s handling of the transition from Jon Stewart to the current (extremely capable if simply not so widely appealing) Trevor Noah leaves a ton of things to be desired. One of the most obvious things is not being able to find the old shows featuring Jon simply for purposes of reference and historical documentation. After about an hour of searching, I discovered the title had been changed. Finally. Watch through to the next clip which is an excellent interview with an incredibly young-looking Barack Obama.

Oh, We’ve Got Trouble

This teaser caught my eye the other day while I was browsing over at the Daily Reckoning:

Today, reports show that foreclosures nationwide have gone up 93% when compared with July of last year. Almost every state in the country showed a significant bump in the rise of foreclosures, but California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Georgia take the cake.

The Daily Reckoning, Bailing Out the American Debt Business (fixed link)

The [Digg.com] article itself points to another article on Rude Awakening, which (regrettably) doesn’t actually cover the factual details of the foreclosure problem either. If, however, the numbers are accurate (and I have no reason to doubt that they are) then there is a financial disaster that dwarfs everything since the Great Depression looming on the horizon.


Editor’s note: Historically there were links to Digg.com articles in most of these blog entries. Digg was an early competitor to Reddit but never as popular. It has since been sold and repurposed as a raw aggregator and a clickbait spam source. I really don’t see the purpose in leaving these old bad links in the articles, so I’m pulling them out. Where possible I will reconstruct a link to the current home of the information, along with a label that actually communicates where it is the link sends you so that the next time the links break, at least a title search will be possible.

Major thanks to the Wayback Machine. Drop by and give them a contribution if you agree.

Wal-mart begins selling DRM-free MP3s

The DRM dominos continue to fall with Wal-mart joining the DRM-free for all.

Engadget, Wal-mart begins selling DRM-free MP3s

From the Reuters story on the subject (also found on Yahoo):

Wal-Mart’s move into DRM-free downloads comes as major record labels debate whether dropping DRM will hurt digital music sales or encourage piracy. Copy protection software prevents unauthorized copying of a digital song bought from an online store, but it also limits where an owner can listen to it.

Apple founder and Chief Executive Steve Jobs has called on the music industry to allow online retailers like iTunes to sell songs without restrictions to give the digital music sector a boost and to give consumers what they want.

Universal, the world’s largest music label, said earlier this month that it was testing the sale of songs without copy-protection software and said vendors including Google Inc., Wal-Mart and Amazon.com Inc., would participate in the DRM-free trial.

EMI has also agreed to drop DRM, but the Sony BMG Music Entertainment venture of Sony Corp and Bertelsmann AG and Warner Music Group Corp are still testing the impact of such a move on digital music sales.


Mea culpa review 2017. Seriously, old self? What the heavenly fuck were you thinking? I need something for the blog just pretend you wrote the opening line? Listen you lazy old bastard, write or don’t post. That’s it, end of discussion. 

The Dirty Dozen Credit Card Traps

Credit cards are the most lucrative segment of banking, and not just because of the interest charges. Everyone in the industry wants to sell you a credit card. Don’t be fooled by the offers. We present a dirty dozen traps and tricks used by credit card peddlers to fill their pockets and empty yours.

here is a summary of the dirty dozen credit card traps:

The 0% APR is a marketing technique to gain new customers. It is temporary and often part of a bait and switch scheme in which you apply for the 0% APR credit card and are given a card with a much higher interest rate. Even if you do receive the 0% APR, the lender’s strict terms and conditions increase the likelihood of you losing the rate before the introductory term expires.

The default APR is the lender’s highest interest rate. An increasing number of good credit customers are being charged this penalty rate, at the whim of the creditor.

A fixed APR is a meaningless term. Credit card providers can change the interest they charge to lend you money at any time, for any reason. The fixed APR simply gives the consumer the right to be notified if the lender changes the interest rate for reasons other than those specified in the contract terms (i.e., any reason at all). A variable APR can also be changed at any time by the provider, but in addition it varies according to a national index, such as the Wall Street Journal’s survey of prime interest rates among U.S. banks.

Listing several APRs on credit card offers is a technique to confuse customers and prevent them from comparison shopping. It also makes it easier for a credit card provider to defend itself against lawsuits, since its advertising does not make a specific promise or claim to provide a certain interest rate.

Late fees are much higher than they used to be (currently around $40 or a percentage of the loan balance), and are imposed much sooner than in the past (payment must be received before close of business on the due date). Late fees are just one of a raft of financial penalties that credit card providers are using to increase their profits

Borrowing cash via your credit card is much more expensive than making a purchase, in terms of a higher interest rate and a cash advance fee. The cash advance loan remains on your unpaid credit card balance the longest in order to maximize the creditor’s interest rate profits.

Credit cards that have added value for the holder have annual fees, some of which are quite expensive. For the wealthy consumer, added value can mean exclusive concierge and personal shopper services; for the consumer with damaged credit it can mean obtaining and rebuilding access to credit. For those in between, added value can mean accumulated rewards such as free airline tickets. In all cases, the consumer should evaluate the annual cost of the card in relation to its value-added reward.

Charity affinity cards are frequently a deceptive marketing technique, designed to appeal to the consumer’s heart in hopes she will forget to use her head. Suspiciously, many charity credit cards do not disclose the amount that is donated to the charity, and when they do, the percentage is infinitesimal.

Two-cycle balance computation is a method of computing finance charges that is more costly to the consumer than the average daily balance method. Because there is no specific number (as with an APR or a fee) listed in the credit card offer disclosures, it is easy to overlook this trap, which could be an expensive mistake for those who do not pay their credit card balances in full every month.

Some credit card providers charge non-usage or inactivity fees. Although this is not an issue for most credit card holders, since we use our credit cards daily, it is important to be aware of in certain cases. For example, you may be trying to improve your credit score by paying off a credit card and not using it.

Foreign transaction fees are another invention of credit card providers to diversify and increase their profit-making activities. Purchases and cash advances from foreign countries are charged a fee that is frequently 3% of the purchase price.

Setting the minimum monthly credit card payment at a very low percentage of the loan balance is a practice that seems to be friendly to the consumer. It is not. Making low payments increases the cost of the loan and lengthens the time needed to pay off that loan.

www.careonecredit.com

I, for one, have sworn never to carry another credit card. They are worse than matches and gasoline. Best to never combine the two unless you like being burned.


Editor’s note: 2017. I wrote two sentences of this. Two sentences. My apologies to the writer at Careone Credit for this bit of copy and paste. However, in light of the fact that the Wayback Machine is the only place this can be found now, I see no reason to remove it.

Historically there were links to Digg.com articles in most of these blog entries. Digg was an early competitor to Reddit but never as popular. It has since been sold and repurposed as a raw aggregator and a clickbait spam source. I really don’t see the purpose in leaving these old bad links in the articles, so I’m pulling them out. Where possible I will reconstruct a link to the current home of the information, along with a label that actually communicates where it is the link sends you so that the next time the links break, at least a title search will be possible.

Major thanks to the Wayback Machine. Drop by and give them a contribution if you agree.

I haven’t had a credit account since writing this. I’m not planning on ever having one again. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend the money. Easier to say than to do, but it seems to be the only way to keep from having to default on credit card debt.

Curtailing Jobs for the Young and the Poor

A minimum wage hike will only help the Democrat union buddies whose constituents have incomes keyed to the minimum wage.

Minimum wage in large cities is already over the proposed national minimum wage, and raising the price of employment in areas that have not exceeded it will simply drive more poor people into the unemployment line.

There really is very little debate about this among economists. The empirical evidence is also pretty clear. Increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment among the young and the poor and the disabled. As recently as a few years ago this was a “settled issue,” even in the minds of the editorial board of the “New York Times,” which argued strongly against the minimum wage.

This is bad law, and should be resisted at all costs.


Mea culpa review 2017. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. Another post I would just delete if I had a choice. I’ll just point you to Robert Reich’s Big Picture for Fixing the Economy dear reader. Yes, my views have changed quite a bit. 

Shut up and Sing

I’m not a Country Music fan (My profile should show that pretty clearly) but I’m interested in the Dixie Chicks movie, Shut up and Sing all the same.

When the Dixie Chicks dared to criticise President Bush a few years back, I was actually more outraged at the response of their fans, and the media outlets that egged on the boycott, than I was at them.

With the mid-term elections now behind us, their opinions have been vindicated by a (slim) majority of the voting public. The war in Iraq is going badly, the economy is in a rut, and ‘W’ and his advisors are to blame for it.

Of course, those of us who understand economics realize that no one president and his policies are to blame for the state of the United States economy. In fact, while the Federal Reserve bears direct blame for most of the problem, it is the government-addicted average american, the person who just wants his benefits and a tax cut too, who enables the draining of the US economy. But it is pretty hard to point fingers in any other direction when it comes to the state of affairs in the Middle East. ‘W’ wanted his war in Iraq, he worked hard to get us involved in hostilities over there, and he is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. There really isn’t any one else to blame for the situation.

To take a country singing group to task for saying what the rest of the country is now saying, that many people outside of country music were saying long before them, is offensive. It is an insult to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and the First Amendment to the Constitution. They spoke their minds and were figuratively dragged through the mud for it.

I’ll probably ante up to see the film, even if I don’t listen to their music. I’m just curious enough to see what they might have to say now.



Mea culpa review 2017. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. I never did see the movie, largely because I don’t think it ever made it to the Austin market.

Another instance of me spouting off about subjects I only vaguely understood at the time. Probably the biggest reason I hesitate to continue the EPHN posts. I seem to know just enough to make myself dangerous on a whole host of subjects. Still, I have to follow where the logic takes me. I’ll get around to it eventually.

The Vote

Took the time to go out and vote today, just like I always do. I generally ignore the comments from some of my Anarcho-Capitalists friends, the types of comments that amount to “Voting is two wolves and a sheep deciding on what’s for dinner.” Not that I disagree with the sentiment concerning voting. It’s just that I’m a realist (unlike most of them) and I play the hand that has been dealt to me. Part of playing that hand is participation in the process. If you don’t participate, you really don’t have any room to bitch about the outcome.

Case in point, these Anarcho-Capitalists who don’t vote, who go to great pains to not vote, who spend a lot of energy convincing others of the futility of voting; these self same Anarcho-Capitalists will proceed to laugh at the sorry returns for Libertarian candidates (or mainstream candidates and issues that they might be in agreement with) and say, “see how pointless it all is”. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

I’m sorry, but that minuscule return is there to ridicule because people like me haul our sorry butts out on election day and cast ballots for the candidates and issues that conscience dictates we support. If we relied on your holier-than-thou selves, there wouldn’t be any candidates, or any numbers to ridicule, at all. The truism “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing” can’t be shown any clearer.

Not that I want to force them to vote. I just wish they’d think before spouting off about how pointless it all is. It’s real easy to sit on your hands and moan about how helpless you are; it’s another thing to expend your best effort in defiance of the naysayers, committing yourself to an effort that you essentially know is hopeless, but you would kick yourself if you didn’t at least try.

My hat goes off to all the Libertarian Party (and other third party) candidates and their staff tonight, for putting themselves through hell, and then some, for nothing more than the simple need to see something better than “politics as usual” on the ballot. For supporting people that they believed in, no matter what the odds were.

And the odds were pretty insurmountable. I can say, in Texas, that we didn’t win any major victories, although it looks like we may have squeaked out the percentage needed to stay on the ballot for another 4 years. (Texas election Returns) That, in itself, is quite a victory. Getting back on the ballot is an expensive process that should be avoided if possible.

Someone noted, during the last election, that the Libertarian candidates in most races had vote totals larger than the number of votes separating the winner and the looser of that race; the observation still seems to be true. More than that can be said, though. The Republicans lost the house and Senate because they betrayed the small government conservatives who make up a good portion of the libertarians out there. And many of the small gov’t social liberals consciously shifted their votes to Democrat (there was a lot of talk about this on CATO unbound and CATO podcast recently, as well as on Daily Kos) as the founding of Democratic Freedom Caucus (the Democrat version of the Republican Liberty Caucus) should have signaled to anyone who was paying attention.

[For more on this, check out the Op. Ed. Examining the Libertarian Vote in Depth by David Boaz and David Kirby]

So there were a few beacons of hope out there, if you were looking.

However, property owners in Austin (the sheep in the scenario above) once again were shafted on all 7 propositions put before voters this year; all of which passed, and all of which will raise property taxes.

Those of us who were cheering for a return to divided gov’t have reason to celebrate. The two parties will at least have to pretend to hate each others ideas for the next two years. It should slow down the juggernaut that the federal deficit has become. I doubt that anything is going to save the economy, though. And if the economy goes South, there’s only one possible outcome…

Hillary in 2008. Now that’s a nightmare.

But, that nightmare is two years away. Now is the time to get back to building the Libertarian party, fixing the defaced platform, and the hundred other thankless tasks that need to be done behind the scenes; just so that our erstwhile brothers in the libertarian movement can cast aspersions on our (in their very vocal opinion) hopeless efforts.

Here’s to making them eat their words next time around.


Editor’s note, 2017. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. The wife of the blowjob president was the nominee for the Democratic party and I voted for her. Donald Trump holds the office of president. I refer to him as His Electoral Highness, The Orange Hate-Monkey. It is a weird world we live in. I still have libertarian delusions but I have medications that keep those in check.

I have become a supporter of mandatory voting and mandatory service.  I blame the people who delude themselves into thinking they are sovereign and don’t need other people to survive. Sociopathy appears to be running rampant on the internet. 

Quiz Across Texas

So I finished hanging the last of 900 of the little beauties at left today, in a 4 hour marathon walk that might have been a marathon in length. Frankly I lost track of how far I walked. I found myself wondering several times “just how many of these things do I have left?”

In the end I ran out of door hangers before I ran out of doors to hang them on.

The important part of the Quiz across Texas (a statewide effort to distribute 250,000 door hangers and other campaign materials) the part that makes it worth my time to participate, is the quiz itself.

Changing politics as usual in the United States means redefining what politics means; and that starts with education. The left-right line that has traditionally been used to illustrate political thought is completely inadequate for the task. The Nolan Chart, and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz that has evolved from it, is one of the best ways to illustrate the real range of political opinion that can be found in society.

Getting the quiz into the hands of people who have never seen it before, is a good place to start the education process. I’m proud to have been a part of this.


For those people (and I know you are out there) who wonder about the origins of the Nolan Chart and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, Check out the Wiki entry on the subject.

And for those other people (I’ve run across a few of you, too) who think that the WSPQ is too simplistic, check out this enhanced version of the quiz (with go fast stripes even) authored by an LP activist in North Carolina.

The Enhanced-Precision Political Quiz

Funny, I’m a Libertarian on that quiz, too.


Mea culpa review 2017. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. As this is a Nolan chart entry I will take a bit of time to explain the problems that arise with the second metric for measuring political orientation in the chart as it was conceived.

The problem is quite easy to expose. The first metric is social freedom. A solid majority of people agree with most of the questions involving social freedom. Nearly everyone who claims conservatism publicly is someone who is careful to say they are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. This is where the problem lies. The second metric is economic freedom. What, exactly, is economic freedom and how is it achieved? Every question on the World’s Smallest Political Quiz comes at this question as if money was archetypal, foundational, a recognizable concrete that we can all agree on.

However, money is nothing of the sort and the origin of money is not what most people think it is. Value is not found in commodities because they exist; rather value is subjectively assigned to commodities based on the desire of the individual and so varies based on subjective factors such as hunger, rest, thirst, security, etc. If you are dying of thirst everything you have is what that drink of water is worth. That is hardly the basis for measuring economic freedom.

More to come when I get around to writing the EPHN dealing with money and economics.