I call BS

January 12, 2014

The Denver Post, it seems, is happy to print Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) fevered imagination as fact:

More than two-thirds of the 250,000 people whose health policies the state Division of Insurance said last week were “terminated” have actually been offered renewals of existing plans through 2014, according to research by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s office. . .

Insurance companies have been sending out cancellation notices to consumers with plans that don’t meet minimum benefit levels required by the health care act. . . Many of the cancellation notices, however, also contain language allowing customers to renew their existing policies.

(Emphasis mine.) According to “research” by Udall, who previously tried unsuccessfully to pressure his state to fudge the cancellation numbers.

What would it even mean to send out a cancellation notice that allowed the customer to renew? That’s simply a contradiction in terms. I’ve looked at hundreds of cancellation notices at mycancellation.com and I’ve never seen anything that could possibly be described this way. We are asked to believe that there are hundreds of thousands of such self-contradictory letters in Colorado alone. Were that true, they could include at least one example.

(Previous post.) (Via Power Line.)

How to destroy health insurance

January 11, 2014

If you want to destroy a health insurance market, institute community rating (every customer pays about the same, regardless of risk) and guaranteed issue (no applicant can be turned down). That puts the market into a death spiral: prices soar, so the healthy flee, so the prices soar even more. New York showed how it’s done:

New York state’s guaranteed issue and community rating rules—the two regulations that limit how insurers can charge based on health history and require them to sell policies to all comers—took effect in 1994. At the time, there were about 752,000 policyholders in the state’s individual market, or about 4.7 percent of the non-Medicare population. But by 2009, according to a Manhattan Institute report by Stephen Parente and Tarren Bragdon, the state’s individual market had practically disappeared, leaving just 34,000 participants, or about 0.2 percent of the non-elderly population. Individual insurance premiums, meanwhile, were among the highest in the nation—about $388 on average in 2007, compared with just $151 in California, another big Democratic-leaning state. In New York City, the annualized premium cost for individuals was more than $9,300 and more than $26,400 for a family.

The median household income in New York City is $50,711, so health insurance is quite literally unaffordable, it would cost over half the typical family’s income.

Obamacare is different, as it includes an individual mandate. This is supposed to prevent the death spiral: prices soar (boy, do they), but the healthy aren’t allowed to flee, so prices don’t soar further. There’s a couple of problems with the theory though.

First, the individual mandate’s penalty isn’t really severe enough to force people into the market. Many people will pay the penalty rather than sign up for expensive insurance they don’t think they need. In fact, the fact that the penalty isn’t severe enough is part of why John Roberts was able to convince himself that it could be construed as a tax, not a penalty, and thus found constitutional. If the mandate actually worked, it would be unconstitutional.

Second, as I’ve noted before, the quality of health insurance is not uniform. Even if the mandate worked, it doesn’t force healthy people into good plans. Consequently, good plans will become unaffordable and cease to exist.

(Previous post.)

Writing on the walls

January 11, 2014

If it wasn’t clear that Democrats are running scared from Obamacare, check out this Star Tribune column explaining that Al Franken (D-MN) wasn’t really the 60th vote for Obamacare. In fact, no one was!

They’ve abandoned “Obamacare is good” and are now attempting “it’s not my fault.” I don’t think it will work any better.

(Previous post.)

Ha ha, good one!

January 10, 2014

The Obama administration says that people who have their personal information stolen through Obamacare should not be notified:

The Obama administration stopped short Thursday of threatening to veto House bills to require officials to tell people if their personal data has been compromised through ObamaCare, and to require weekly reports on the health law’s implementation.

The White House said in two Statements of Administration Policy that it opposed both bills, one of which is set for a Friday vote in the House. . .

In its second statement, the White House said officials are already working on security issues with the HealthCare.gov website. Additionally, it repeated that the legislation requiring reports on data breaches would create “costly paperwork requirements.”

Got that? They are against warning people who they have made vulnerable to identity theft, because — don’t drink a beverage right now! — it’s too expensive! They waste trillions on one boondoggle after another, but suddenly become miserly when it comes to notifying people that they screwed up and exposed them to identify theft.

(Via JammieWearingFool.)

UPDATE: Democrats broke ranks with President Obama to vote for this. Good. But get this:

The White House said it opposed the bill, arguing the government already has plans to tell people if their information has been compromised.

We oppose it because we plan to do it anyway. Pinky swear!

Sheesh. That’s so lame even his own party isn’t buying it.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)

As predicted

January 10, 2014

We’ve been talking for months about the disaster that is the Healthcare.gov back-end, and now, as predicted:

Record-keeping snags could complicate the start of insurance coverage this month as people begin using policies they purchased under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Insurance companies are still trying to sort out cases of so-called health insurance orphans, customers for whom the government has a record that they enrolled, but the insurer does not.

Government officials say the problem is real but under control, with orphan records being among the roughly 13,000 problem cases they are trying to resolve with insurers. But insurance companies are worried the process will grow more cumbersome as they deal with the flood of new customers who signed up in December as enrollment deadlines neared.

More than 1 million people have signed up through the federal insurance market that serves 36 states. Officials contend the error rate for new signups is close to zero.

Insurers, however, are less enthusiastic about the pace of the fixes. The companies also are seeing cases in which the government has assigned the same identification number to more than one person, as well as so-called “ghost” files in which the insurer has an enrollment record but the government does not.

Note that the 13,000 problem cases are only the ones they know about. Any “orphans” who haven’t come forward during the first ten days aren’t counted among the number.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)

Fox investigating chicken coop

January 9, 2014

So, they’re not even going to pretend to have a non-partisan investigation of the IRS scandal:

The Justice Department selected an avowed political supporter of President Obama to lead the criminal probe into the IRS targeting of tea party groups, according to top Republicans who said Wednesday that the move has ruined the entire investigation.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, and regulatory affairs subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said they have discovered that the head of the investigation is Barbara Kay Bosserman, a trial lawyer in the Justice Department who donated more than $6,000 to Mr. Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, as well as several hundred dollars to the national Democratic Party.

The Justice Department says it wasn’t allowed to prefer someone else who wanted a big Democratic supporter:

But the Justice Department said it isn’t allowed to consider a career lawyer’s political leanings when doling out assignments and that it would violate an employee’s constitutional rights if he were penalized on the job for making legal political contributions.

“It is contrary to department policy and a prohibited personnel practice under federal law to consider the political affiliation of career employees or other non-merit factors in making personnel decisions,” said spokeswoman Dena Iverson.

Frankly, even if that is the rule (I’ll take their word for it), I imagine that the Justice Department has some latitude in picking appropriate people for assignments. (For example, you don’t infiltrate Middle Eastern terrorist cells with Europeans, even if the rules prohibit considering race in assignment.)

But never mind all that, because it’s nonsense. The Obama/Holder Justice Department considers political affiliation in personnel decisions all the time. Indeed, it appears to be their primary consideration. For example, every single one of the people hired by the Civil Rights division was a leftist. No conservatives, no moderates. 113-0-0.

Now they’re going to pretend that they are so punctilious about ignoring politics that they couldn’t possibly choose an appropriate investigator? That doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)

If you don’t like the numbers, change them

January 9, 2014

Colorado senator Mark Udall (D) asked his state’s insurance regulators to cook its numbers to reduce the number of people receiving cancellations notices because of Obamacare. To their credit, Colorado’s regulators refused.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)

The model for the nation

January 9, 2014

Massachusetts’s health care system, which was loosely the model for Obamacare, is delivering the highest health care costs in the country.

(Previous post.)

Iowa resets

January 9, 2014

Everyone in Iowa who thought they signed up for health insurance on the Obamacare web site needs to sign up again. Every single person.

(Previous post.)

Obama releases domestic terrorist

January 9, 2014

Lynne Stewart, the lawyer who facilitated terrorist communications with Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, has been released by the Obama administration.

Naivete considered harmful

January 9, 2014

When I write about climate science, I take care to remember my limitations: As a computer scientist, not a climate scientist, I’m not really qualified to comment on the details of their work.

They would do well to do the same. Consider Gavin Schmidt’s naive remarks on programming:

when are scientists going to stop writing code in fortran?

as crimes go, using fortran is far worse than anything revealed in “climategate”…

[Response: You might think that, but it's just not true. Fortran is simple, it works well for these kinds of problems, it complies efficiently on everything from a laptop to massively parallel supercomputer, plus we have 100,000s of lines of code already. If we had to rewrite everything each time there was some new fad in computer science (you know, like 'C' or something ;) ), we'd never get anywhere. - gavin]

Fad? Structured programming has been the dominant paradigm since the late sixties. That’s only ten fewer years than programming languages have even existed. Back when structured programming was invented, climate scientists were still taking about global cooling!

Global warming review

January 9, 2014

In honor of the passing of the polar vortex, I’d like to review what I think we know about the state of climate science:

  1. The earth is warming, probably as a result of human carbon dioxide emissions.
  2. The amount the earth has warmed in modern times so far, although measurable, is negligible. The warming trend we see (as in the famous “hockey-stick” charts) uses a smoothing function, and is much, much smaller than the year-to-year variation.
  3. Thus, anyone who says this or that weather is the result of global warming, is a fool, a liar, or both. Generally climate scientists refrain from making such statements, but climate activists and politicians do not. (This problem seems particularly prevalent in Britain, where both parties’ leaders believe global warming is affecting current weather.)
  4. We can calculate the direct impact of increased carbon dioxide on the climate as a straightforward physics problem. The direct impact is small.
  5. Predictions of dire consequences are based on feedback loops. For example, warming causes ice to melt, which results in more clouds, which either increase or decrease warming depending on where and how they form. Climate scientists differ on whether positive or negative feedbacks will dominate, but the former camp (i.e., feedback leads to more warming) seems to be larger, and is certainly more influential and better funded.
  6. There is no way to test whether the positive or negative feedbacks dominate, and by how much, so climate scientists build models. Predictions of future climate are made on the basis of these models.
  7. Most climate scientists (at least the influential, well-funded ones) believe that the strong-positive-feedback models are more convincing.
  8. KEY POINT: However, there is no way actually to test the long-term predictions of these models without waiting for the long term. The short-term predictions of the models have generally not come true. (In fact, in 2005 Gavin Schmidt could only point to one instance in which a climate model made a prediction that was subsequently validated.)
  9. Consequently, we just don’t know what long-term effects increased carbon dioxide will have, scientifically speaking.
  10. However, we do know that cutting carbon dioxide emissions to a degree that would make a difference (according to the models) would not only be disastrous, it is literally impossible, barring an unforeseen technological advance.
  11. Thus, we ought to be looking at reasonable, cost-effective ways to limit CO2 emissions (e.g., nuclear energy, carbon sequestration), but not ridiculous ways (e.g., everything the left wants). We should also be looking at geoengineering in case the worst comes to pass.

Note that above I am not criticizing any of the work of any climate scientists. I simply don’t have the background to do it. Other people who do have the background have criticized their work (the media calls them “climate skeptics”), but I have no way to judge who is in the right. Thus, I’m relying on the consensus view (by which I mean actual consensus, not the consensus of just one side, which is how the media seems to use the term), and — in points 8 and 9 — my basic understanding of the scientific method.

One area in which I do have the background to criticize their work is in their programming. Much of climate science relies heavily on data sets that must be processed by computer. Unfortunately, it seems that their standards of programming is very low, at least if the story of HARRY_READ_ME.txt is typical. This means that the data they are using is suspect. (And, unfortunately, the raw data doesn’t exist any more!)

Worse, there is very good reason to worry that the academic process itself in climate science is badly broken:

  • Climate scientists refuse to share their data, and actually delete their data when they might be forced to release it. (They also lie about it, and even break the law.) From scientists this is astonishing and horrifying, and it tells us that we simply cannot believe their results.
  • Influential climate scientists have subverted the peer-review process. This corrupts their entire field, not just their own work.
  • On occasion, they tell outright lies.
  • Alas, there’s no indication that anything has improved in the field since all the above misconduct came to light.

So where does this leave us? Climate scientists have a tough job: they can’t run controlled experiments and their most important predictions can’t be tested. You can’t blame them for that. You can blame them for shoddy programming, and for academic misconduct.


January 9, 2014

In 1974, the polar vortex phenomenon was evidence of global cooling. Now it’s evidence of global warming.

(Via Best of the Web.)

Only the government can be trusted with guns

January 7, 2014

Maybe the reason New York state officials are so anti-gun is they think that gun owners are as irresponsible with them as they are:

Jerome M. Hauer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of homeland security, took out his handgun and used the laser sighting device attached to the barrel as a pointer in a presentation to a foreign delegation, according to public officials. . . These officials, one of whom claimed to be an eyewitness, said that three Swedish emergency managers in the delegation were rattled when the gun’s laser tracked across one of their heads before Hauer found the map of New York, at which he wanted to point.

[Hauer] isn’t a law enforcement official. He carries the loaded 9-millimeter Glock in a holster into state buildings, an apparent violation of state law barring state employees from bringing weapons to the workplace. . .

Appalling. He should be required to take an NRA gun safety class. Perhaps the version for kids.

(Via Instapundit.)

I got pinched!

January 7, 2014

It’s terrible how people are getting screwed by Obamacare. But, if anyone has it coming, it’s the people who fought for it when they thought someone else would pay, and are only now finding out they were the suckers:

One Oregon mother says that she is unable to afford health insurance for her and her 18-month-old son because it’s too expensive.

The woman — who wishes to remain anonymous — tells KOIN-TV that she originally championed President Barack Obama’s signature health care law because she thought it would help people in her situation.

“I’ve been a cheerleader for the Affordable Care Act since I heard about it and I assumed that it was designed for people in my situation,” she told KOIN. “I was planning on using the Affordable Care Act and I had done the online calculator in advance to make sure I was going to be able to afford it.”

ASIDE: What, the online calculator lied? Imagine that.

I’m reminded of an exchange from Firefly (from Ariel, one of my favorite episodes):

Mal: You called the Feds.
Jayne: I got pinched!
Mal: Which is what happens when you call the Feds.

She thought that the feds would help her profit at the expense of others, but it turns out all the got was skyrocketing premiums and no subsidy. Which is what happens when you call the Feds.

(Previous post.) (Via Vodkapundit.)

Why we fight

January 6, 2014

BBC reports:

A young Afghan girl has been detained wearing a suicide vest in southern Afghanistan, officials say. She was held on Sunday night in Helmand province, as she tried to carry out an attack on border police, an interior ministry spokesman told the BBC.

The girl, reported to be as young as eight and thought to be the sister of a prominent Taliban commander, is said to be in a state of shock and confusion. Police told the BBC she was encouraged to carry out the attack by her brother.

His own eight-year-old sister.

The next time we get the idiotic idea of trying to negotiate with these barbarians, we need to remember that they are pure evil.

You can’t expand Medicare

January 6, 2014

I frequently see it alleged by liberals that getting health universal coverage is as simple as expanding Medicare so that it covers everyone. Many of them probably actually believe it, so I want to explain some basic economics.

The reason Medicare’s cost to the government is as low as it is (which is not all that low, by the way) is because Medicare’s reimbursement rate is just barely above marginal cost. That means that it is barely profitable to treat them, given that — and this is the key point — all the fixed cost has already been paid for by other patients.

In other words, Medicare is cheap (that is, cheaper than it would otherwise be) because its share of the cost of all our health care infrastructure (hospitals, equipment, etc.) is shifted onto other patients.

But you cannot shift the fixed cost off of everyone! For Medicare to work, there need to be people left off of it to bear Medicare’s share of the fixed cost. Try to put everyone on Medicare and the whole thing collapses.

This is nothing more than elementary economics. Whenever you see a politician proclaim we should have “Medicare for all”, they are proclaiming that they don’t understand economics. Or, if they actually do (I’m looking at you, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich) then they’re engaging in pure demagoguery.

FBI changes primary mission from law enforcement

January 6, 2014

This is interesting:

The FBI’s creeping advance into the world of counterterrorism is nothing new. But quietly and without notice, the agency has finally decided to make it official in one of its organizational fact sheets. Instead of declaring “law enforcement” as its “primary function,” as it has for years, the FBI fact sheet now lists “national security” as its chief mission. The changes largely reflect the FBI reforms put in place after September 11, 2001. . .

After noticing the change, [lawyer Kel] McClanahan reviewed his records and saw that the revised fact sheets began going out this summer. “I think they’re trying to rebrand,” he said. “So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security.”

(Via Hot Air.)

Reid threatens the inevitable

January 6, 2014

Officially the filibuster is only partly dead, but Reid is hinting at changing that:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday said he was not currently considering an elimination of the filibuster for legislation, but he warned that the country could not remain “paralyzed” by Republican obstruction. . .

[Democrats] left in place a 60-vote threshold for legislation. But in a rare Sunday television interview, Reid stopped short of categorically ruling out such a move in the future.

What he’s trying to do is get the benefit of abolishing the filibuster without actually doing it, by pressuring the opposition into giving him what he wants in return for keeping the filibuster. That worked once last year (once more than it should have), but when Democrats kept doing it, Republicans caught on and declined to play along.

When the Democrats abolished the filibuster, they did it narrowly, for only the things (presidential nominations) they wanted to do that very day, and pretended to leave it in place for other things, such as legislation and Supreme Court nominations. No matter; the filibuster is dead now and everyone knows it. From now on, there will be a new exception whenever anything is filibustered.

What could go wrong?

January 6, 2014

This is just brilliant:

The Pentagon waived laws prohibiting Chinese-made parts on U.S. weapons repeatedly for Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter program in order to keep it on track, Reuters reports.

Chief Pentagon weapons buyer Frank Kendall allowed two subcontractors, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell International, to use Chinese magnets for the plane’s radar, landing gears and other hardware, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

Obama to weaken mental-health privacy

January 5, 2014

The Obama administration has announced that it will weaken the HIPAA rules that protect the privacy of individuals’ health records. They wants government bureaucrats to have access to mental health records so they can use them to deny patients permission to purchase firearms.

They claim that they will find a way to do this without compromising patients’ privacy, but it’s not true. Firstly, it’s not true because it’s impossible: the whole point is to give health information to government bureaucrats. Secondly, we know from experience that when it comes to gun-related records, the government will leak the information:

In 2003, under pressure from the gun lobby, Congress passed a law that hid from public view the government database that contained the gun tracing information.

The Washington Post has obtained the names of the gun dealers nationwide with the most traces over the past four years. In addition, The Post has uncovered the names of the dealers, all from border states, with the most traces from guns recovered in Mexico over the past two years.

It was illegal for the government to disclose the information, but they did it anyway. And this wasn’t just a few “bad apples”, either. There was never any investigation of the leak, so DOJ policy-setting officials were complicit, at least after the fact.

Struck down

January 5, 2014

In the same decision that struck down New York’s astonishingly stupid and pointless law banning more than seven rounds in a magazine, the federal judge also struck down three provisions as unconstitutionally vague:

  • A ban on “muzzle breaks”.  (There is no such thing. The state contends that the law was supposed to say “muzzle brakes”, which actually exist. But we-meant-to-say-X-instead-of-Y is not an accepted principle of statutory construction.)
  • A grammatically unintelligible provision limiting “large capacity” (i.e., normal capacity) magazines.
  • A ban on “semiautomatic version[s] of an automatic rifle, shotgun or firearm”. (The bill offers no rules to determine what firearm is or is not a “version” of another, leaving ordinary people with no way to obey the law, and encouraging “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement” — which may well have been the point.)

One thing this does make clear (particularly the first and third) is that the people who wrote the bill had no idea what they were talking about.

Blind spot

January 3, 2014

The Washington Post managed to write an entire article entitled “2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right” without ever once mentioning the IRS scandal.

NSA, EZ-Pass, even Area 51, but they managed to memory-hole the biggest political scandal in more than a generation.

(Via James Taranto.)

Obamacare can’t cope with babies

January 3, 2014

If you’re on the Obamacare exchanges, don’t have a baby. There’s no way to add a baby to your plan:

Insurers say computerized “change in circumstance” updates to deal with family and life developments were supposed to have been part of the federal system from the start.

But that feature got postponed as the government scrambled to fix technical problems that overwhelmed the health care website during its first couple of months.

Maybe this is why they are so concerned about contraception. . .

(Previous post.)

NYT on freedom of religion

January 3, 2014

The New York Times (writing on Justice Sotomayor’s “perplexing” decision that people are better equipped to judge what is a burden to their religion than the New York Times) also has this to say about the Hobby Lobby case:

In November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two challenges to the birth control mandate brought by secular, profit-making companies seeking to elevate the religious views of company owners over societal interests and the well-being of employees.

This makes clear what the NYT thinks of the matter, but really, how is this different from any freedom of religion case? Isn’t freedom of religion always about elevating religious freedom over the supposed societal interests that would be served by suppressing it?

From this, it’s not hard to infer the NYT’s opinion of religious freedom in general.

(Via Althouse.)

Arms cache found in Palestinian embassy

January 2, 2014

Maybe embassies for terrorist organizations isn’t such a great idea:

A large, illegal weapons stockpile was found Thursday at the home of the Palestinian ambassador in Prague, Jamel al-Jamal, Czech media reported, a day after al-Jamal was killed in an explosion there. Respekt, a Czech weekly newspaper, reported that the arsenal was enough to arm a unit of ten men. . .

Czech police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova confirmed that arms had been found in the ambassador’s residence, which is located within a newly constructed Palestinian diplomatic mission in the city.

Al-Jamal, 56, was killed Wednesday when a safe at his home exploded. . . Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, and claimed that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.

If you think that last sounds like a ridiculous lie, you’re right:

Later, however, El-Fahel told Czech radio that the safe had been in regular use. ”[The safe] was used on a daily basis at the embassy and it was opened and closed almost every day,” the embassy spokesman said.

Iraq crumbles

January 2, 2014

Fox News reports:

Violence in Iraq soared in 2013 to levels not seen in years, U.N. officials reported this week, stoking concerns that the country is descending into the kind of sectarian bloodshed that gripped the country before the U.S. troop surge.

The United Nations said 7,818 civilians were killed in 2013, a return to 2008 levels. The startling figure follows warnings from lawmakers and analysts that the violence threatens to undo hard-fought gains by the United States.

Worse still:

Al-Qaeda-affiliated gangs are fighting in the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi. This illustrates that the Sunnis of Anbar are so disillusioned with the Maliki government that the population is turning a blind eye to the presence of radicals. Terrorist gangs do not drive into cities unless they are confident that the residents will not betray or take up arms against them.

Remember that in 2010, Iraq was so quiet, the Obama administration was actually trying to take credit for it. But President Obama took steps to make sure that we have no influence there, and Iraq is now crumbling.

National security vs. female empowerment

January 2, 2014

Could there be any doubt which consideration would prevail?

More than half of female Marines in boot camp can’t do three pull-ups, the minimum standard that was supposed to take effect with the new year, prompting the Marine Corps to delay the requirement, part of the process of equalizing physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs. . .

The Marines had hoped to institute the pull-ups on the belief that pull-ups require the muscular strength necessary to perform common military tasks such as scaling a wall, climbing up a rope or lifting and carrying heavy munitions.

What business is the military in, anyway?

How to make people safer

January 2, 2014

According to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, make a new law that turns hitherto law-abiding persons into criminals, then arrest those people. Voila, people are safer!

Don’t ask whether there’s been any improvement in actual crime statistics. That would be rude.

Double standard

January 1, 2014

Here’s how NSA spying on Americans is reported during the Obama administration:

A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency’s hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft’s internal reporting system to spy on their targets.

I chose that article simply because it is ABC News’s most recently article on the topic. Now contrast how ABC News reported such things during the Bush administration:

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

See how ABC ties the NSA’s actions to the Bush administration in the very first phrase (and then again in the third paragraph). But ABC doesn’t use the word “Obama” in the other article at all.

At least we’re not in Europe

January 1, 2014

The EU is banning cinnamon rolls.

Struck down

December 31, 2013

When New York State passed its execrable gun law, limiting the number of bullets that may be loaded into a magazine, I wrote:

I defy anyone to name any constructive purpose served by such a rule. If you were to ban 10-round magazines outright, one might imagine — following the usual pattern of gun-controllists’ wishful thinking — that it would make them a little harder for criminals to obtain. But allowing the magazines eliminates even that highly-unlikely salutary purpose.

The sole consequence of this rule will be that law-abiding persons will have seven rounds, while having no effect on criminals whatsoever.

In other words, this law is not about stopping criminals, but about disarming innocents.

Now a federal court has ruled pretty much exactly that:

It stretches the bounds of this Court’s deference to the predictive judgments of the legislature to suppose that those intent on doing harm (whom, of course, the Act is aimed to stop) will load their weapon with only the permitted seven rounds. In this sense, the provision is not “substantially related” to the important government interest in public safety and crime prevention. . .

This Court has ruled that New York is entitled to regulate assault weapons and large-capacity magazines under the principal presumption that the law will reduce their prevalence and accessability in New York State, and thus, inversely, increase public safety. The ban on the number of rounds a gun owner is permitted to load into his 10-round magazine, however, will obviously have no such effect because 10-round magazines remain legal. As described above, the seven-round limit thus carries a much stronger possibility of disproportionately affecting law-abiding citizens.

UPDATE: Andrew Branca points out that the law was even worse than I thought. He points out that merely complying with the law is no protection, if an arresting officer miscounts the bullets in your magazine (inadvertently or not). The only way to protect yourself would be to use a magazine that could not be loaded with more than seven rounds, and for the most part those don’t exist. So among people who don’t trust New York police to treat gun owners fairly (which should be everyone) it’s a de facto ban on most semi-automatic pistols.

Struck down

December 31, 2013

In one day, four injunctions (1, 2, 3, 4) against the HHS mandate in four separate cases. (Via Instapundit.)

Cases like Hobby Lobby are difficult, since they raise the question of whether people have any right to practice their religion in the conduct of their business. (The answer certainly ought to be yes, but will it?) But cases like these, involving religious organizations, should be no-brainers. There’s no earthly way the HHS mandate can stand up under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

(Previous post.)

The human cost of Obamacare

December 31, 2013

Read this. Wow.

(Previous post.)

Surprise, surprise

December 31, 2013

Syria will miss the deadline to give up its chemical weapons, and will face no consequences as a result.

Anti-christians play at lamenting biblical illiteracy

December 28, 2013

One instance I would brush off — particularly coming from MSNBC — but when I see two in one day, I wonder if I’m seeing a new narrative from the anti-Christian left. That narrative is that Christians aren’t being true to the Bible, because of biblical illiteracy.

To be sure: it’s true that Christians, being sinners, are not true to the Bible. It’s also true that biblical literacy, even among Christians, is nowhere near where it ought to be. (I include myself in that generalization.) And it’s even true that Christians would be more true to the Bible if they were better familiar with it.

All that said, the thesis of these two pieces is that the practices and beliefs of Christians are contraindicated by the Bible, which Christians would know if they were only more biblically literate. That thesis is wholly unsupported by the evidence the two pieces are able to muster.

First, there’s MSNBC, which had a piece attacking Sarah Palin because she has a Christmas tree. (Seriously, you hate Sarah Palin so you go after her through her Christmas tree?! Bizarre.) Now it’s true that the Christmas tree, like many of our modern Christmas traditions, is not Biblical, and some Christians have chosen to eschew them for that reason. But MSNBC is trying to make a different point, claiming that the Bible actually forbids them.

As their proof text, MSNBC cites “Jeremiah 10-10″. So right off the bat, they’re doing a poor job at feigning biblical literacy; less significantly by using a hyphen in the scripture reference in place of a colon, but more significantly because the passage they go on to quote is actually Jeremiah 10:3-5, which begins:

For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because the cannot walk.

Superficially, this sounds sort of like a Christmas tree: a tree adorned with silver and gold. But to make that interpretation work, you have to ignore the part about shaping it with a chisel. That makes it clear that the passage is talking about fashioning a wooden idol, which the final sentence makes explicit. (Isaiah 40:20 has a similar description of a wooden idol.)

I hadn’t heard this particular notion before, but apparently it’s been out there for some time. Billy Graham even has a web page rebutting it. (Via Newsbusters.) As long as you’re not worshiping the tree as an idol, you’re okay, and the tree can even have some positive symbolism.

So MSNBC runs this piece attacking Sarah Palin’s religious practices — and, in passing, everyone who gets a Christmas tree — but doesn’t think to verify the Bible reference they cite, or do the slightest amount of research to determine if their thesis holds any water.

Second, is a piece at Alternet (a left-wing site similar to Daily Kos but with greater pretense to journalism and scholarship), the thesis of which is that “the right” (by which he apparently means Christian conservatives) are biblically illiterate, or they wouldn’t hold the views they do:

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly defended the Republican Party’s spending cuts for SNAP by effectively declaring Jesus would not support food stamps for the poor because most them are drug addicts. If his insensitive remark is inconsistent with Scripture, which it is, then the question becomes why do talking heads on the right get away with proclaiming what Jesus would or wouldn’t support?

The answer is simple: Conservatives have not read the Bible.

I don’t know what Bill O’Reilly actually said. The piece doesn’t link him, which is an indication that the author is probably not quoting him fairly. The weasel-word “effectively” is another indication. Moreover, O’Reilly is not known as a Christian conservative. So let’s leave O’Reilly out of it and focus on the evidence the piece manages to muster.

The piece rambles a lot. There’s some weak argument about how Jesus’s actual positions lend themselves more to liberalism than conservatism (he is entitled to his opinion). It quotes some some poll results, which, like all polls on questions of fact, are dismaying. But, being a poll of Americans in general, it doesn’t tell us much about the biblical illiteracy of Christian conservatives. There’s some general libel about how conservatives killed Jesus and are also like Nazis. And there’s an attack on the Koch brothers, which I guess is de rigeur for a leftist screed these days.

The meat of the argument, such as it is, is this:

For instance, when Republicans were justifying their cuts to the food stamp program, they quoted 2 Thessalonians: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” One poll showed that more than 90 percent of Christians believe this New Testament quote is attributed to Jesus. It’s not. This was taken from a letter written by Paul to his church in Thessalonica. Paul wrote to this specific congregation to remind them that if they didn’t help build the church in Thessalonica, they wouldn’t be paid. The letter also happens to be a fraud. Surprise! Biblical scholars agree it’s a forgery written by someone pretending to be Paul.

Let’s just take all this in order: I don’t know any Republican who actually said that in regard to food stamps, but never mind that. I don’t believe that 90% of Christians attribute that verse to Jesus, but I do believe that 90% of Christians view the New Testament as divinely inspired whether it’s in red letter or not (2Ti 3:16).

2 Thessalonians 3:7(b)-10 reads:

We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

There’s no textual support here whatsoever for the proposition that Paul was talking about paying for church construction.

And what about the supposed fakery of the book? The statement that biblical scholars agree it’s a forgery is simply a lie. In fact, although some have questioned Pauline authorship (due to differences in style and eschatology from Paul’s other writings), most agree that Paul did write it. (Certainly all don’t agree that he didn’t!)  And if he didn’t, it easily could have been written by Silas or Timothy, who are listed as the epistle’s co-authors.

Furthermore, note the construction: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule.” This is something Paul had already said before. Even if the book were a fake, it is quoting an earlier statement that Paul did make; if he hadn’t, the book never could have fooled the church at Thessalonica.

Moreover, even if we were to throw out 2 Thessalonians, what about 1 Thessalonians 4:11? It reads:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

This is a similar message to 2Th 3:7-10, and the authenticity of 1 Thessalonians is unquestioned even by progressives.

The piece is strange, and fundamentally dishonest, because the author (one CJ Werleman) feigns to decry biblical illiteracy, while in fact he hates the bible. He is a militant atheist with his very own book in the the-bible-is-full-of-lies-and-atrocities genre that is so popular with militant atheists. And he can’t hide his animus in the piece, producing bits like this:

The best argument against a historical Jesus is the fact that none of his disciples left us with a single record or document regarding Jesus or his teachings. So, who were the gospel writers? The short answer is we don’t know. What we do know is that not only had none of them met Jesus, but also they never met the people who had allegedly met Jesus.

This is entirely untrue. Matthew and John were Jesus’s disciples. Luke never met Jesus, but travelled with Paul, who did. The authorship of Mark is not certain, but the early church universally believed it was written by John Mark, an associate of Peter. Furthermore, many believe that the young man of Mark 14:51 was the author (otherwise its inclusion is hard to explain), which would make him an eyewitness. So at least two and possibly three of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses, and all four are written by people who met the apostles.

Of course, some of these facts are contested by progressive theologians, but adopting the well-supported, traditional view hardly constitutes biblical illiteracy.

In our modern political discourse, there are few things so tedious as people who don’t believe something (e.g., the truth of the Bible, or libertarianism), and don’t understand it, lecturing those who do believe on what that belief should imply. Not only do they fail to understand the nuances of those views, and they frequently fail to understand that there even are nuances.

But the point isn’t to convince the believers, it’s to attack them. Do they care if Sarah Palin has a Christmas tree? No. Do they care what Christian conservatives believe? Yes, but they don’t expect it to change, and they’re certainly not trying to change it here. But they do want people to hate Sarah Palin, and Christian conservatives, like they do.


December 27, 2013

This bridge looks totally impractical, but I still like it.

Why politics sucks

December 27, 2013

Answer: because of liberalism. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Item #1: The blogosphere is abuzz over this ad from Barack Obama’s twitter account:


As many have pointed out, this tells you a lot about this how they see their own followers. I think it’s even more insulting to Obama’s non-followers: the very idea that grown men and women with jobs and families are going to change their opinion of the government taking over health care, just because a spoiled man-child came home from college for the holidays carrying marching orders from the president to harangue his parents with hope, change, and ironic eyebrows.

More on this in a moment, but first, item #2: Americans are sorting themselves into red and blue communities:

Democrats and Republicans are much less likely to live among each other than they were a generation ago.

Back in 1976 — the year of a close presidential election — just over a quarter of the population lived in “landslide counties,” where the winning margin was greater than 20 percentage points. . . Last year, more than half the country lived in landslide counties. . .

States themselves have become more polarized, with most legislatures and governorships controlled entirely by one party. As a result, not only are blue and red states tracking different courses on just about every issue, but some people are seeking to escape their states.

But if Americans are sorting themselves into like-minded communities, are they doing so on purpose? In other words, are people voting with their feet by consciously moving to states or counties that reflect their own partisan preferences?

Researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Southern California suggest that, yes, they may be.

This comes as no surprise to me. The fact is, blue-state liberals are very frequently a pain in the neck to work with. (Or to live with, I would guess, but fortunately I don’t have pajama boy in my family.) Why? Because of the constant political harangues in what ought to be non-political contexts. Exactly the kind of harangues that President Obama is asking ironic pajama-clad children to inflict on their parents this Christmas.

Case in point: Years ago I related the story of how a discussion of candidates for an important position in my department was turned to a nonsensical slam on Sarah Palin, apropos of nothing at all.

Case in point: More recently, at a retirement party for a valued member of our faculty (who happened to be female), another faculty member launched into a speech about how the departing faculty member reminded him of Hillary Clinton who was then leaving her job as Secretary of State. This was intended as a high compliment. In fact, the comparison was absurd and insulting; the two women have nothing at all in common other than their gender, and the departing woman was quite accomplished, in contrast to Clinton’s complete lack of any accomplishments at the State Department (unless you count her courageous stand against security at overseas consulates).

Case in point: More recently still, a colleague sent me an essay he wrote on the government shutdown. It rambled a bit, but I can summarize its key points: (1) Republicans claim to oppose Obamacare. (2) Obamacare is obviously great; no one could honestly oppose it. (3) So why are Republicans really shutting down the government? (4) It must be because they’re racist. He asked me for my comments, which I duly provided him.

I could go on, but I won’t. (Indeed, I’m leaving out the more painful harangues I’ve received.) In short, if blue-state liberals in general are anything like the liberals I know in ultra-blue academia, it’s no wonder conservatives and libertarians prefer nothing to do with them.

For all I know, red-state conservatives are just as insufferable. To some extent, I’d be surprised if they weren’t. Nevertheless, it’s still the fault of liberalism. The phenomenon at work is the intrusion of politics into all aspects of life. To some extent that’s because of the liberal media and the president’s pajama-clad minions, but fundamentally it’s because of the intrusion of government into all aspects of life.

Liberalism is at war with civil society. Civil society is the collection of disparate institutions, independent of the government, that make society work. The problem with civil society, to liberals, is that independence. Liberals can’t control it, so sometimes it does things of which liberals don’t approve. In fact, it often does such unacceptable things, since civil society, being made up of churches, other civic organizations, and individuals, has a strongly conservative character.

As a result, liberals have been very deliberately trying to crowd out civil society with government, by replacing activities that people just did on their own — but sometimes in a fashion that didn’t comport with liberal preferences — with government programs that liberals can control.

For instance, in the Obamacare HHS mandate you see a very deliberate effort to get religious organizations out of the business of charity. For years, Democrats have been trying to raise taxes on charitable donations, since any monies spent by private charities would be better spent by the government.

As the government supplants more and more of civil society, and as it simultaneously takes increasing control of our individual lives, politics — which ought to be a sideshow — is becoming dreadfully relevant. We have to fight over it, because it affects us so much.

And that’s why politics sucks. In part it’s because of liberal jerks like Barack Obama’s pajama-clad harangue brigade, but in greater part it’s because of liberalism itself.

Government education

December 27, 2013

Ohio Democrats recently introduced a bill to make it very difficult for parents to homeschool their children — after all, outside the public school who knows what those kids will be learning! (The bill was quickly withdrawn in the face of public outrage.)

In the public schools, we can be sure that the kids are learning the right things, thanks to the new federal “Common Core” that teaches important truths like “government officials’ commands must be obeyed by all” and “an individual’s wants are less important than the nation’s well-being.”

POSTSCRIPT: We can be sure that Common Core isn’t offered in good faith. If it were, the Obama administration wouldn’t be making clumsy efforts to turn it into a racial wedge issue.

$10.5 billion

December 27, 2013

You can close the books on the GM bailout. All it took to rescue GM and give it to the unions, other than screwing all GM’s creditors, was $10.5 billion in taxpayer money.

MSNBC sees Christianity as homo-erotic

December 27, 2013

Because Christians are awfully into Jesus, dontcha know:

The same men who will stand up in the church of all men. “I put my God, Jesus, overall women. I love him more than I love her.”

Hmmm. Do you really? That sounds interestingly homoerotic to people who are outside your religious traditions. I’m not suggesting it is but I’m suggesting that there are some very interesting, subtle, narrative tensions within the Bible itself and within Christianity beyond that.

ASIDE: Don’t be distracted by the “I’m not suggesting it is”, since that’s exactly what he’s suggesting. Otherwise, why bring it up?

Now, this is so stupid, it’s hard to be offended by it. But I am a bit offended that this guy is teaching sociology at Georgetown University, which I thought was a respectable school. He teaches sociology and he’s ignorant of the very existence of non-sexual love? Yikes.

They don’t like the dog food

December 26, 2013

Even the well-implemented Obamacare exchanges aren’t winning customers:

Our state-based exchange has been hailed as one of the best in the country and yet signup numbers are low. “Why,” they queried? . . .

With all this and having already spent or committed well over 50 million dollars, the number of individual New Mexicans who have signed up for Obama’s health insurance is… 291.

The NM HIX did everything right to sell Obamacare. The people are not buying.

(Previous post.)

Judge rejects Obama’s “secret law”

December 26, 2013

Yep, they tried to do that.

Obamacare-compliant, non-functioning exchange

December 26, 2013

Even Massachusettsians who liked Romneycare generally oppose Obamacare. And for good reason, it turns out:

I live in Massachusetts, a state that had, under Governor Mitt Romney, pioneered the “individual mandate” and “universal coverage” that are at the center of Obamacare. You’d think they’d have a functioning Web site for health insurance. And they did, a year or so ago when I window-shopped for health insurance. Since then, however, to become compliant with Obamacare, the state scrapped the old RomneyCare web site and replaced it with a non-functioning Obamacare site.

By “non-functioning,” I mean, “non-functioning.” As in, it really doesn’t work.

They replaced their working exchange with an Obamacare-compliant broken exchange. Awesome.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)

All your assets are belong to Medicaid

December 26, 2013

One of the main ways that Obamacare is expanding health coverage is by expanding Medicaid. This is not only bad for the country as a whole, it’s bad for the recipients themselves. Medicaid is so bad, its recipients actually have worse health outcomes than if they had no health insurance at all.

Now comes a new revelation about how truly awful Medicaid is: Not only is it worse than nothing, it doesn’t even cost nothing. People think of Medicaid as a government entitlement, like Medicare, but it’s not. If you’re on Medicaid, the government reserves the right to seize any meager assets you might have, to pay for your worse-than-nothing Medicaid care.

(Previous post.)

“Leading by example”

December 24, 2013

Barack Obama has signed up for Obamacare:

President Barack Obama has signed up for health insurance through an Affordable Care Act exchange, the White House said Monday. In what an official acknowledged is a “symbolic” move since the president gets his medical care from the military, Obama selected a low-cost bronze plan through the District of Columbia exchange.

Obama gets free gold-plated personal care at an instant’s notice (he likes that plan and will keep it), but, as a PR gesture, he will throw a little money into a plan he doesn’t need. At least he’s suffering through Healthcare.gov with the common people. . .

Oh, wait:

But Obama did not directly sign up for insurance. Rather, his staff went in person to sign him up, an official told POLITICO. “Like some Americans, the complicated nature of the president’s case required an in-person sign-up,” the official said.

Figures. When the system didn’t work for him, he sent his flunkies to a back door that is not available to the common folk. So get this:

Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told American Urban Radio Networks that the president is “leading by example” . . .

Leading by example? I don’t think that means what you think it means.

(Previous post.)

The Sergeant Schultz administration

December 23, 2013


UPDATE: The Washington Post has its own version of this.

(Via Ed Driscoll.)

HHS won’t disclose security breaches

December 23, 2013

HHS, which under the execrable Obamacare law gets to make its own rules, has decided that it will not be required to disclose any security breaches, even to the people whose information is stolen.

And security breaches are a virtual certainty; recall that the system was deemed too insecure to go live, but went live anyway, in violation of government rules. Indeed, they’ve happened already.

(Previous post.)


December 21, 2013

Could an embattled spy agency possibly be more tone deaf than this?


This is the real mission patch for a NRO mission, tweeted out proudly by the Office of Director of National Intelligence.

(Via Instapundit.)

Potemkin investigation

December 21, 2013

Remember the how the FBI was going to investigate the IRS’s harassment of conservative groups?

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that he had ordered an FBI investigation to determine whether the Internal Revenue Service broke any laws when it targeted conservative groups for closer scrutiny of their tax-exempt status.

It turns out, the investigation never happened:

The Justice Department acknowledged the impropriety of what the IRS had done and promised a thorough FBI investigation.

It never happened. Last month, an attorney working for 41 of the targeted nonprofit groups said no one at any of the groups had ever been interviewed by federal investigators.

Last week, the Justice Department and the FBI refused requests from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to provide information on its investigation. FBI officials also canceled a previously scheduled meeting with committee members.

(Previous post.)


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