Friday, January 24, 2014

Cruising the Web

Megan McArdle recounts how she participated in debate on the Upper West Side on the proposition: “Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue.” And surprisingly, her side won convincing those New Yorkers of her position.

Reason Magazine has an interesting tutorial on the growing power of the presidency - just in time for the unit I'm teaching on the Executive Branch.

So which state is the most corrupt in America based on convicted public officials?

Will Americans ready to support a woman who gave up custody of her children to her ex-husband after having left them at ages 8 and 2 to go across the country to attend Harvard Law School? Naomi Schaefer Riley thinks not.

Jim Geraghty ponders what is really dividing our country. As he writes, half of us won't leave the other half alone.
But a big part of the problem is that we have an administration in Washington that is determined to stomp out the state policies it doesn’t like. The president doesn’t want there to be any right-to-work states. His Department of Justice is doing everything possible to obstruct Louisiana’s school-choice laws. They’re fighting state voter-ID laws in court, insisting that it violates the Constitution, even though the Supreme Court ruled, 6 to 3, that requiring the showing of an ID does not represent an undue burden on voters.

This you-must-comply attitude can be found in the states as well, of course. Hell, in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to drive pro-lifers, Second Amendment supporters, and what he labels “anti-gay” out of his state. Mayors decree that they won’t allow Chick-fil-A in their cities because of the opinions of the owners. In Oregon, state officials decreed that a baker must make a wedding cake for a gay wedding; the state decrees you are not permitted to turn down a work request that you believe violates your conscience or religious beliefs.

The country would be “torn apart” less if we were allowed to address more of our public-policy problems on a local or state basis. But anti-federalism is in the cellular structure of liberalism. All of their solutions are “universal,” “comprehensive,” or “sweeping.” Everything must be changed at once, for everyone, with no exceptions. Perhaps it’s a good approach for some other species, but not human beings.
And liberals could counter with conservative politicians who want to legislate their beliefs that would limit others' rights.

What a bizarre story about Dinesh D'Souza. Why violate campaign laws for a losing candidate? And why was the FBI even looking into a total of $20,000? How often do they do that and do they do it for every candidate of both parties?

Cheers to Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper. And how telling that Canadian liberals are cheering the Arab member of the Knesset who heckled him. Typical. But just think about it - there is an Arab member of the Knesset who was free to heckle an international visitor invited to address that body. Just try to imagine a Jewish member of any Islamic country's parliament. Then catch the coda to this story.
Netanyahu’s speech before Harper’s at the Knesset was also heckled by Tibi, who shouted that Abu Arar had no electricity and water in his village.

Netanyahu then posted a picture of Abu Arar’s three-story home on his Facebook page with proof that it has both electricity and water. Tibi responded on Netanyahu’s Facebook page that posting the picture was childish and intended to hide Israel’s embarrassment over the state of unrecognized Beduin villages.
See, an adherence to truth is childish. Got that?

Charles Krauthammer writes that it is time for President Obama to stop jerking Canada around by purposely delaying a decision on the XL pipeline.
If Obama wants to cave to his environmental left, fine. But why keep Canada in limbo? It’s a show of supreme and undeserved disrespect for yet another ally. It seems not enough to have given the back of the hand to Britain, Israel, Poland and the Czech Republic, and to have so enraged the Saudis that they actually rejected a U.N. Security Council seat — disgusted as they were with this administration’s remarkable combination of fecklessness and highhandedness. Must we crown this run of diplomatic malpractice with gratuitous injury to Canada, our most reliable, most congenial friend in the world?

And for what? This is not a close call. The Keystone case is almost absurdly open and shut.

Even if you swallow everything the environmentalists tell you about oil sands, the idea that blocking Keystone would prevent their development by Canada is ridiculous. Canada sees its oil sands as a natural bounty and key strategic asset. Canada will not leave it in the ground.

Where’s the environmental gain in blocking Keystone? The oil will be produced and the oil will be burned. If it goes to China, the Pacific pipeline will carry the same environmental risks as a U.S. pipeline.

And Alberta oil can still go to the United States, if not by pipeline then by rail, which requires no State Department approval. That would result in far more greenhouse gas emissions — exactly the opposite of what the environmentalists are seeking.

Moreover, rail can be exceedingly dangerous. Last year a tanker train derailed and exploded en route through Quebec. The fireball destroyed half of downtown Lac-Megantic, killing 47, many incinerated beyond recognition.

This isn’t theoretical environmentalism. This is not a decrease in the snail darter population. This is 47 dead human beings. More recently, we’ve had two rail-oil accidents within the United States, one near Philadelphia and one in North Dakota.

Add to this the slam-dunk strategic case for Keystone: Canadian oil reduces our dependence on the volatile Middle East, shifting petroleum power from OPEC and the killing zones of the Middle East to North America. What more reliable source of oil could we possibly have than Canada?
But what does logic have to do when there is moral posturing to be done?

John C. Goodman explains the perverse incentives that abound in Obamacare. He concludes,
In sum: A lot of high-cost patients are about to enroll through the exchanges. This will force up premiums further for all other buyers.

At some point, politicians of both parties will realize that we can do better than this. That will require a real market for health insurance with premiums that reflect real risks. There is a role for government in helping people with severe health problems. That is why risk pools exist. What we didn't need was to destroy the market for the many in order to give aid to the few.
The question now is whether the market will be destroyed entirely before it can be rescued by better designed policies. Will we have to wait for everyone who supported Obamacare to retire or be defeated and for a whole new generation of legislators who don't have to defend their wrong-headed vote in order for new policies to be put in place? And can our health care system survive in the meantime?

Moody's Investor Service is not optimistic and just issued a downgrade on the entire insurance industry. And guess what gets the blame?
“While all of these issues had been on our radar screen as we approached 2014, a new development and a key factor for the change in outlook is the unstable and evolving regulatory environment under which the sector is operating,” Moody's said. “Notably, new regulations and presidential announcements over the last several months with respect to the [Affordable Care Act] have imposed operational changes well after product and pricing decisions had been finalized.”
As Allahpundit writes,
They’ll probably delay or scale back the small-business cancellations too. Why wouldn’t they? Why play this shell game of moving around deadlines and granting exemptions in 2013 to protect the party if they’re going to sit idly by while millions upon millions of people are booted from their employer plans in an election year? This is the deeper point of the Moody’s downgrade: The insurance industry is now essentially a political creature, and politics can change quickly. How’s an investor supposed to assess risk if he or she can’t know whether the president might need to knock over the chessboard at any given moment for his own political interests? Even if you think Obama and the Democrats are so invested in O-Care’s success that they’ll find a way to keep federal money flowing to prop it up, the lingering bitterness after the law was passed on party lines and the recurring fact of potentially game-changing elections means it’ll be years before the industry enjoys real stability. And yet, in partnering with O on sweeping reform in the expectation that it would bring them millions of new customers, this is what insurers signed up for. They bought the ticket. Hope they’re enjoying the ride.