Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Cruising the Web

The Hillary campaign is seeking to both raise and lower expectations. They don't want her campaign to seem like a coronation. As the Washington Post reports, they are concerned that reporters will continually note low turnout at her events. But of course, they also want to use the illusion of her inevitability so as to prevent any reasonable candidate from getting in. Apparently, they're not all that concerned about Martin O'Malley. And they don't really have a lot to worry about from Bernie Sanders despite the appearance of Berniementum coming out of the numbers showing up at his recent rallies. Brian Beutler of the New Republic tries to put Sanders' poll numbers in context compared to Hillary's huge lead.

I'm thinking that Democratic voters want another option to Hillary, whoever it might be. So Bernie Sanders is a placeholder for those objections to Hillary. It is rather like the 2012 GOP primaries where one candidate after another would rise up as the recipient of all the dislike of Mitt Romney. Supporting Sanders is a way of objecting to Hillary. As it is now, Sanders can't win the nomination, but it will be interesting to see how large a vote total he can garner of those Democratic voters who are not enamored of the Queen who has come to save them.

Mary Katharine Ham has some fun with the Clinton campaign's attempt to downplay expectations.
The Clinton campaign is walking that often comical campaign trail line— How do we say, ‘This is the most awesomest, qualified person (and WOMAN!) to ever walk the face of the earth. Hear her ROAAARRRR!” but also say, “Please don’t make fun of us if she utterly underwhelms people as she parades the dead zone that is her charisma around the Heartland and early voting states.”

So TSA misses weapons and explosives in 95% of the tests done in internal investigations. Their defense is that these failures of security are being taken out of context. It's hard to see how the context would make stories like these any better.
In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down....

In a 2013 hearing on Capitol Hill, then-TSA administrator John Pistole, described the Red Team as “super terrorists,” who know precisely which weaknesses to exploit.

“[Testers] know exactly what our protocols are. They can create and devise and conceal items that … not even the best terrorists would be able to do,” Pistole told lawmakers at a House hearing.

More recently, the DHS inspector general’s office concluded a series of undercover tests targeting checked baggage screening at airports across the country.

That review found “vulnerabilities” throughout the system, attributing them to human error and technological failures, according to a three-paragraph summary of the review released in September.

In addition, the review determined that despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since a previous review in 2009, the TSA failed to make any noticeable improvements in that time.

Jack Shafer argues in Politico that the media swoon over Obama has ended.

S.E. Cupp notes that liberals have reversed themselves and now oppose the idea of making birth control pills available over the counter. Why should that be since that would lower costs for the consumer and make them much easier to purchase.
Why the about-face? Well, the story the libs are going with is that the bill will actually make the pill more expensive once it's no longer prescription (and therefore not covered by insurance). Which would be a fair point if it were true.

The actual text of the bill just became public late yesterday, but that hasn't prevented hyperventilating condemnation for what it was presumed to do.

An op-ed by Planned Parenthood's Jennifer Frizzell said women would be "forced to pay several hundred dollars more out of pocket each year" and "pay twice for their birth control -- first they'll pay for insurance coverage that includes birth control coverage, and then they'll pay out of pocket for it, too."

Of course, some women would rather not pay as much as $300 in monthly premiums for Obamacare when they can buy birth control a la carte from $10 to $30 a month. But more importantly, there's nothing in the Gardner-Ayotte bill that says all forms of birth control must be made available OTC. Some may remain prescription only. Furthermore, the Obama administration already mandates that Plan B, emergency contraception that is OTC, be covered by insurance, and it could require the same of birth control.

As Sen. Ayotte told me in an email:

"Those who are falsely saying our legislation would eliminate insurance coverage apparently haven't read the bill -- nothing in our bill changes current insurance coverage for contraceptives or prevents insurance companies from continuing to cover contraceptive costs."

Beneath the fear-mongering lies the more likely reason for the change of heart on the left. The bill was simply introduced by the wrong party.
Bingo! They can't have Republicans be the ones to push a move that would help women and remove the canard that, somehow, Republicans oppose contraception.

David Hogberg argues that Obamacare's death spiral is inevitable.
A death spiral occurs when not enough young and healthy people sign up for health insurance. Thanks to Obamacare’s design, a death spiral is inevitable. Here’s why.

Obamacare’s community rating results in insurance prices that are higher for younger people than they would be in a free market, and its guaranteed issue allows people to sign up for insurance even if they get sick, so young and healthy people have ample incentive to forgo insurance. This leaves the insurance “risk pool” older and sicker and, hence, more costly to insure. Premiums will have to rise to cover those costs, leading some of the younger and healthier people who did initially sign up to then drop out. The risk pool then becomes even older and sicker, premiums rise again, and the process repeats.

A study by the late Conrad Meier examining the effect of these laws on eight states shows that premium hikes of at least 20 percent (and usually higher) are the canary in the coal mine for a death spiral.
The law's supporters such as Paul Krugman and Rachel Maddow think the threat of a death spiral is a myth. Not so fast.
Well, who says a death spiral prediction is completely wrong if a death spiral doesn’t occur immediately? Indeed, while I personally expected the death spiral to begin in 2015, there is no rule saying it always happens right away. Sometimes it does. Premiums in New York’s small group and individual health insurance markets began skyrocketing about one month after the state legislature imposed guaranteed issue and community rating on those markets in 1993.

Other times, it can take a few years. New Jersey passed similar laws in 1992, yet the death spiral didn’t begin there until 1996 because New Jersey’s law contained a mechanism whereby insurance companies could pool their losses.

Obamacare exchanges have a mechanism similar to New Jersey’s, known as the “risk corridor.” The risk corridor is a three-year program under which insurers on the exchanges who make a profit are required to share some of those profits with insurers who took losses on the exchanges. However, if there are not enough profit-makers to cover the losses, then the taxpayers would step in to cover the difference. This program likely checked large premium increases heading in the second year on the exchange.

A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report from July of last year noted that only one insurer on the exchange was anticipating a profit the first year. The other insurers expected risk corridor “payments of about $725 million directly from taxpayers in 2014.” However, not all insurers gave the committee estimates on what they expected from the risk corridors. “Extrapolating these estimates for the entire population enrolled in ObamaCare-compliant exchange plans means that taxpayers may be on the hook for upwards of $1 billion in 2014 alone,” the report noted.

It’s understandable that insurers would feel far less pressure to increase their rates if most of their losses were covered. What will happen after three years, when the risk corridor program ends, is unclear and should be of more concern. Presumably, Obamacare proponents apparently believe that after three years, insurers will figure out how to make a profit (or at least break even) on the exchanges. How this is supposed to happen wasn’t entirely clear, as the mix of people in the risk pools probably wouldn’t be that much different in 2017 as it was in 2014.

Well, that's a dismal choice for the Winter Olympics. The only two places that are bidding to host the Winter Olympics are Almati, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China. Countries are realizing that it is not worth it economically to host the event. So, in Beijing the problem is that there is not enough snow for the competition and artificial snow could hurt the water supply in the area. And then there is the pollution problem. Almati doesn't have enough hotels, venues, or security to host the event. And the government's economy doesn't encourage belief that they can pay for the changes necessary.

Emily Ekins argues that Marco Rubio and Rand Paul are the only two Republican candidates who stand a chance of defeating Hillary Clinton. If so, then Rubio is clearly preferable. I don't think Paul wears well. He just had to apologize for accusing those who disagree with him over the NSA metadata gathering are secretly rooting for a terrorist attack so they can prove him wrong. Later he apologized saying that he just got hyperbolic in the midst of debate. Well, Republicans have spent the past six years being demonized by the occupant of the White House. They aren't going to choose a Republican who is likely to do the same thing.

Thomas Sowell explains the inevitable result of public anti-police campaigns.
Attacking the police makes sense in terms of politicians' personal interests, and often in terms of the media's personal interests or ideological leanings, even if what they say bears little or no resemblance to the facts.

Of course, all these benefits have costs. There is no free lunch. But the costs are paid by others, including men, women and children who are paying with their lives in ghettos around the country, as politicians think of ever more ways they can restrict or scapegoat the police.

The Supreme Court ruled 8:1 yesterday in a case involving a Muslim girl who applied for a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a black headdress to the interview. My AP Government and Politics class did Supreme Court moot court simulations last week using this case so my students were very interested in how this turned out. Interestingly, in my three classes, one ruled as the actual Supreme Court did in favor of the EEOC and the girl. One ruled in favor of the store saying that the burden should be on the job applicant to let the employer know their dress policy would put a burden on her religious beliefs. And one class tied which left the lower court decision in favor of the store in place.