Thursday, May 04, 2017

Cruising the Web

As so many presidents before him, Trump is now talking about playing a role to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Yesterday Mahmoud Abbas came to the WHite House and lied to Trump and the media.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday during a joint press conference with President Donald Trump that his government is raising its youth in a "culture of peace."

"Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace," Abbas said. "And we are endeavoring to bringing about security, freedom, and peace for our children to live like the other children in the world along with the Israeli children in peace, freedom, and security."

Abbas' comments are contrary to reports about Palestinian children being recruited to carry out terrorist acts. One report detailed at least 36 incidents when Palestinian children have attempted to carry out terrorist attacks.

"The preferred method of murder and attempted murder by Palestinian child terrorists are stabbings or knifings, the modus operandi in 34 of the 36 attacks," according to the report authored by a United Nations watchdog group.

Another report showed Palestinian Authority teoks advocating violence against Jews in Israel, and a Palestinian child television show depicted Jews as "evil," "filth," and "barbaric monkeys."

Abbas reportedly said in September 2015 that "every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure" amid clashes between police and Arab protesters at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
Remember that the Palestinian Authority gives rewards to the families of suicide terrorists who kill Israelis. So spare us these lies about how Abbas' government is raising Palestinian children in a "culture of peace." Given the reality of what the Palestinian government does to encourage violence against Israeli civilians, how can they be a reliable partner for peace with Israel?

Douglas J. Feith and Sander Gerber recommend that Congress pas the proposed Taylor Force Act.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is considering the Taylor Force Act, which would require Abbas to either dismantle his government’s system of rewards for terrorists or forfeit American financial aid. The proposed law is controversial largely because the PA presents a confusing picture of itself....

Though it helps Israel fight those terrorists who oppose both Israel and the PA, it actively foments anti-Israel terrorism in its own domain through its formal legislative and bureaucratic system of professional and cash benefits for Palestinians who commit knifings, axe-murders, shootings, and car-rammings.

Abbas was elected to a four-year presidential term in 2005. Popular dissatisfaction with the PA’s pervasive corruption put his reelection in doubt, so no new elections were scheduled. He simply remains in power.

Abbas says that he supports peace, but the Israeli government offered him a generous deal in 2008. The Israelis had just handed all of Gaza over to the PA. They offered him virtually all the West Bank, with unprecedented concessions on Jerusalem. He nevertheless scorned the deal.

Abbas and his PA colleagues are bound and determined to perpetuate the conflict with Israel. Their personal interests require it. If the conflict ended, they would lose foreign aid, which makes their lucrative corruption possible. They would stop receiving invitations to the White House and other gratifying diplomatic attention. They would cease to be the leaders of a long-standing and proudly uncompromising national struggle, forfeiting their self-respect and prestige, especially in the Arab and Muslim worlds. For them, peace would be hell.

But peace could enormously benefit the Palestinian people. It could open a path to greater freedom and prosperity for them and save their children from the fatal lure of “martyrdom.” Those interests, alas, don’t influence PA policy.
As long as there are incentives for Palestinian leaders to block peace with Israel, we can just forget about any peace accord.

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So FBI director testified yesterday about why he issued the notice before the election. He announced that Huma Abedin had a habit of sending classified information to her laptop that she shared with ANthony Weiner so that he could print them out. He stated that they didn't recommend criminal charges because they decided there was no criminal intent. As Andrew McCarthy has repeatedly pointed out the actual text of the law in question doesn't require "criminal intent." This is what the law says.
Subsection (f) of the pertinent statute (the Espionage Act, codified at Section 793 of Title 18, U.S. Code) makes it a felony to mishandle classified information “through gross negligence” — i.e., proving Clinton was sloppy or careless (or “extremely careless,” to use Comey’s own description) could have been sufficient. But beyond that, Clinton willfully set up a private network for the systematic handling of her State Department-related communications, in violation of federal record-keeping requirements of which she was well aware, and under circumstances in which she (a former senator who served for years on the intelligence Armed Services committee) was a sophisticated longtime consumer of classified information. She was keenly aware that her responsibilities as secretary of state would heavily involve classified information — whether it was “marked” classified or “born classified” because of the subject matter.

It is irrelevant whether Clinton’s purpose was to transmit or store classified information on the private, non-secure server; prosecutors are not required to prove motive. The question is whether she knew classified information would end up on the server, and her set-up made that inevitable.

That is, Clinton could have been prosecuted either for willfully mishandling classified information or for doing so through gross negligence....

Patently, Hillary Clinton was well aware of (a) the highly classified subject matter of communications that would inevitably be passing through the private e-mail system she set up for State Department business, in violation of statutes and government rules; (b) the fact that e-mails are stored on servers; (c) the fact that the communications facilities and devices used by State Department officials are routinely targeted in cyberattacks by foreign intelligence services and other hostile actors; and (d) the rules for the proper handling of classified information (and potential penalties for mishandling it). Consequently, her mishandling of classified information was knowing and intentional, as well as grossly negligent. Many reasonable prosecutors would salivate at the prospect of taking such a case to court, especially if they knew that Clinton was going to run with a “lack of intent” defense.
Huma Abedin's constant use of a non-secure laptop to send classified emails also violates the law. As David French points out, if Hillary or Huma had been in the military, they would be in jail.
Here’s what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt — if a soldier had sent classified documents to his wife “to print out,” his best legal outcome would be a one-way ticket to a dishonorable discharge. His worst outcome would be jail.
Ted Cruz's questioning of Comey yesterday explored the point that the statute doesn't require criminal intent. Comey answers that the practice has been to interpret that statute requires criminal intent. How convenient to not interpret the actual text of the law for what it clearly says.

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Betsy McCaughey fights bac
k against the Democrats' accusation that the GOP Obamacare repeal bill removes protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
. There is a consensus that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get insurance. The issue is who pays the hefty price tag. ObamaCare forced healthy buyers in the individual market to foot the entire bill. That's why their premiums have doubled since the law went into effect.

The new House bill sets up a fairer way: a $130 billion pot of money, federally funded, to pay for people with pre-existing conditions. The entire nation chips in, not just people stuck in the individual market.

Under ObamaCare, the healthy and the chronically ill paid the same premiums. It's called community pricing. Healthy people would never meet their sky-high deductibles. Instead the premiums extorted from them would be used to cover huge medical bills for the chronically ill, who consume 10 times as much medical care.

In fact, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini reports that less than 5 percent of ObamaCare enrollees consume over half of the health care.

Most healthy people saw that being charged the same as these sick people was fundamentally unfair and refused to sign up.

The GOP bill offers a solution. States can choose to get a waiver from ObamaCare's community pricing rule, so that insurers can sell to healthy people at a far lower cost. States that get the waiver should see double-digit premium decreases for the healthy almost immediately.

ObamaCare's community pricing was the single biggest reason premiums have doubled since 2013, according to actuarial consultants at Milliman.

Naysayers claim the federal fund to subsidize people with pre-existing conditions won't be adequate. Nonsense.

How many people will need help? Not as many as Democrats claim. Before ObamaCare, 250,000 people a year with pre-existing conditions were denied coverage for health reasons by major insurers. In 2010, when the ACA established a temporary program for people not being served by state high-risk programs, another 115,000 got help. Adding the two figures together, count on 365,000 people to need help paying for their premiums because of their medical histories. To be safe, call it 400,000.

Based on the $32,000 per person the ACA's temporary program spent insuring people with pre-existing conditions, the federal fund will need $128 billion a year. So the $130 billion a year the GOP bill provides is likely adequate.

The WSJ has more on the freakout over helping those with pre-existing conditions.
Pre-existing conditions are an understandable concern, but the critics traffick in demagoguery, not substance. Their opposition has less to do with vulnerable patients than preserving ObamaCare. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed that risk pools are “like administering cough medicine to someone with stage 4 cancer,” which exploits cancer victims and shows he knows nothing about risk pools.

By targeting funds at the sickest patients, states can make insurance markets more affordable and stable. These subsidies siphon off some of the costs that contribute to rising premiums in the overall market, and the idea is that the resulting cheaper plans for everyone else will encourage more people to enroll.

In Alaska, ObamaCare premiums rose 40% annually over multiple years, one of the two participating insurers exited the business, and the other was on the brink. So the state received a federal waiver last year to create a risk pool. Premiums rose 7.3% on average for 2017.

Opponents say risk pools are underfunded, but the Alaska rescue mission cost merely $55 million (albeit in a low-population state). The results came despite ObamaCare’s restraints, and the GOP’s American Health Care Act promises more regulatory flexibility to experiment. Opponents also argue that risk pools are ghettos for the sick, but the Alaska payments are “invisible,” meaning that all consumers use regular insurance.

We’ll learn soon if risk pools are enough to win over GOP moderates, but they should know that Democrats will demagogue the pre-existing conditions issue in the 2018 election whether the bill passes or not. Better to pass the bill, and explain to their voters why their reform is better for patients, than defend a failure. HillaryCare’s crash didn’t save vulnerable Democrats in 1994—though unlike Democrats, this time Republicans have a good product to sell.

Here's some good news for restaurant owners as the Trump administration applies some common sense to one of the sillier and more burdensome Obamacare regulations.
The Food and Drug Administration announced on Monday that the agency would delay a May 5 enforcement date for a rule that requires restaurants with more than 20 locations to post calorie counts on menu boards, ostensibly to encourage healthy choices and prevent a patchwork of state labeling schemes. The mandate was included in the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

But the resulting regulation has been thrice delayed because it required pizza chains to display per slice ranges for an estimated 34 million topping combinations. Imagine a sign that reads “200-800 calories per slice of one-topping medium pizza” with lists of individual accoutrements that span from 0-400 calories, with each one varying based on whether you add other toppings. Do you feel edified about your food choices?

The displays would be ripped up and replaced for every limited-time special. Franchisees—that is, local business owners, not Mr. Moneybags—would sign affidavits that “reasonable” efforts were made to ensure the accuracy of the placards. That’s an invitation for trial lawyers to drag every last pizza to a lab for verification. The penalties for noncompliance include a year in jail, and who knew that a job at Papa John’s could lead to a life of crime.

A bill in the House would eliminate the fines and hard time, as well as allow pizza places to display information online, where customers can already find it. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who deserves credit for the stroke of common sense, voted for an earlier version of the legislation. Congress should move on it before next year’s new enforcement date arrives, though the FDA could also revise the rule.

The FDA’s final guidance is riddled with amusing introspections on what constitutes a “combination meal” or how to label pumpkin lattes, but the less funny reality is that the pizza industry has spent years and millions of dollars fighting this insane rule-making. The Trump Administration is right to put those resources back in the productive economy.

Here are some facts
that should clarify how Obamacare works in California in case you were moved by Jimmy Kimmel's story about his baby son's heart surgery to think that Obamacare is what would make the difference in caring for sick newborns.
What Kimmel left out of the story is the fact that most people on ObamaCare — in California and the rest of the country — are in highly restrictive HMO-type plans that wouldn't let them go the hospitals or doctors he used.

Kimmel's wife gave birth at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a top-rated hospital in California with, as he noted, very attentive nurses and an outstanding pediatric emergency team.

But only two ObamaCare plans include Cedars-Sinai in their provider networks — Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross. As the hospital website explains, only those enrolled in one of these two ObamaCare plans get "full coverage for care from Cedars-Sinai."

Data from Covered California — the state-run ObamaCare exchange — show that of the 1.3 million enrollees statewide, only about half signed up with one of these two plans. The rest would likely find Cedars-Sinai — where a maternity room can cost $4,000 a day — well out of their price range.

Nor does every plan include Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, where Kimmel's baby was rushed to for open-heart surgery. Two, Molina and LA Care, didn't list it on their websites.

What's more, a search of health plans offered through Covered California plans found only three that listed Dr. Vaughn Starnes — the cardiac surgeon whom Kimmel described as "world renowned" — on their provider networks. And one didn't include him on the list of providers for their HMO plan. (These provider lists do, admittedly, have a tendency to be inaccurate.)

This is the problem with ObamaCare that its backers — and everyone eagerly sharing Kimmel's story — keep ignoring.

In order to keep costs down in the midst of ObamaCare's overwhelming number of regulations and benefit mandates, insurers drastically tightened up their provider networks. By January of last year, half of ObamaCare plans were HMO plans or "exclusive provider networks." This year, 75% of ObamaCare plans in 18 states have narrow networks.

As the New York Times explains, one way plans can save money is to "make it harder for patients to get care — so that they get less of it. Narrow network plans may do this if they don't cover enough nearby providers, with the ones they do cover too busy to take new patients in a timely fashion."

"Clearly this would be especially problematic if appointments with one's preferred primary-care doctor are hard to obtain," the story noted.

Which is precisely what's been going on in ObamaCare. A study published in Health Affairs last year found that just 30% of the "secret shoppers" it enlisted for the study were able to get an appointment with their first pick of doctor through an ObamaCare plan in California.

Despite these narrow networks, insurers still have had to impose substantial deductibles and jack up premiums by double digits, and are still losing money on ObamaCare. Having an ObamaCare card, in other words, is no guarantee that health care will be affordable or high quality.

Would Billy Kimmel have fared as well had his parents been stuck in one of these ObamaCare HMO plans? Maybe, maybe not.

The point is that, even if your goal is to guarantee coverage to everyone with pre-existing conditions, which was Kimmel's plea, ObamaCare's approach is clearly not working. It is destabilizing individual insurance markets across the country and providing mediocre insurance benefits to the very people who need it most, and insurance companies continue to bail on the program leaving consumers with little or no choice of plans. It is unsustainable in its current form. There aren't even many Democrats who would disagree with that.
And here is another fact-check for Jimmy Kimmel.
"Before 2014," he claimed, "if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you'd never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition, you were born with a pre-existing condition."

This is false. If parents had health insurance, the child would have been covered under the parents' policy whether or not the child had a health problem.

Kimmel continued: "And if your parents didn't have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition."

The term "pre-existing condition" is used to describe uninsured chronically ill people who apply for insurance coverage, not for a child in need of immediate care. Moreover, in the U.S., virtually all hospitals are legally obligated to provide emergency treatment to every patient who urgently requires emergency medical care regardless of the patient's insurance status. This would include a newborn with an urgent heart condition. This requirement does not apply only to patients who enter an emergency room. It applies to all patients who set foot on a hospital's property.

Kimmel then dramatically asserted: "If your baby is going to die, and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make."

I repeat: It does not matter if you are rich are poor or if you are uninsured. If your baby is in the hospital, he or she will receive emergency care no matter what.

"This isn't football," Kimmel implored. "There are no teams. We are the team, it's the United States. Don't let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants."

Kimmel implies that opposition to Obamacare-style insurance mandates is both un-American and indecent. Had he been less hysterical, he would have acknowledged that different health care systems have pros and cons -- and decent Americans can have legitimate differences of opinion on such matters.

In the land of make-believe, it would be wonderful if everyone had free access to the same high-quality care Kimmel and his family did at Cedars-Sinai and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

In the real world, Obamacare plans have severely curtailed the number of doctors and hospitals that customers can use. Command-and-control regulations on guaranteed issue, community rating and pre-existing conditions favored by Kimmel and company are driving up costs for everyone. Limited access to specialists and long waits have become the increasing norm -- just like that other model of government-run health care, the Veterans Affairs system, where the despicable practice of "death by queuing" spiked under Obama.
Perhaps we shouldn't be taking public policy advice from entertainers.

While there has been a lot of smoke about covering pre-existing conditions, this is still a bad practice and the sort that the Republicans had pledged to change when they regained control of the House.
Leadership’s decision to press ahead with the floor action means lawmakers will be voting on the bill without updated figures from their nonpartisan scorekeeper on how many people would lose coverage under the bill or how much it would cost.

Some lawmakers acknowledged that it would be helpful to have an analysis, known as a “score,” from the CBO, but said they could not wait for it.

When asked why the vote would not wait for the score, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) -- the lead sponsor of a new amendment to the bill that might push it over the finish line -- said “because I don’t expect it probably for a couple weeks.”
“I wish that we had it, alright?” Upton added. “I wish that we had had it in committee, I said so at the time.”

The lack of a score comes despite years of GOP attacks on Democrats for what Republicans argued was a rushed process that rammed through ObamaCare in 2010.

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Last week was the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots after the acquittal of the policemen in the Rodney King beating. Heather MacDonald observes how the events are being portrayed along with the argument being made that all matters racial are just as bad today as they were back then.
A friend of Watson’s, Nathan Smith, who was on parole in 1992, predicts that another riot is likely. Back then, Smith says, “We all felt like, ‘We’ve been telling you we’re angry and you’re not listening, so now we’re going to show you.” “Showing you” consisted of burning down businesses that have struggled to survive constant robberies and assaults on their employees and have only succeeded due to a fierce work ethic. “Showing you” also consisted of pulling drivers from their cars and mutilating them. Even if there were some legitimate “you” that is responsible for the social chaos of the ghetto, it is certainly not a Korean convenience store owner or a construction worker returning from work.

The familiar “nothing has changed” complaint embodies the entitlement mentality. Its logic is the following: “We destroy the businesses that have served us for decades; we unleash savage violence against every ethnic group other than our own. So why aren’t things better now in our neighborhoods? Government and society owe us reparations in response to our feral rage against other people’s livelihoods and lives.” But a riot is inevitably going to make the local situation worse. Mainstream businesses will be even less willing to move into a riot zone; property values, already depressed by high crime, will plummet further. Though governments usually do respond to riots with cash and programs, such intervention is not going to make any difference unless individuals in the community make better personal choices: paying attention in class, doing homework, not committing crime, staying in a job, and not having children out-of-wedlock.

Kevin Williamson spent a day in eviction court and was struck by how no one seemed to take responsibility for their actions. Life is what happens to them and they don't recognize that they have agency in their own lives. It's all very depressing.
She is not the only person whose check didn’t come. The passivity and subjectlessness of these narratives is striking, and strikingly consistent. Domestic events happen. Checks come or don’t come. (Mostly they don’t.) Husbands are sent to jail, children are taken away by the clipboard-toting minions of Authority, disease descends. The money isn’t there. And, in the end, they are evicted. Bad things just happen,...

Of course, that’s never really that. Many people who have been evicted simply refuse to leave after being ordered to, which means that they will in the end be visited by constables who remove them and their belongings from the property, often to a chorus of wailing and lamentation. And another bad thing just happens to people who, for whatever reason, have no sense of agency in their own lives.
But some people can take responsibility for the trajectories of their own lives.
“I’ll give you a break on my rate,” says my lawyer, looking at his watch. He is the son of Mexican-American farm laborers, who learned at least one thing from his hard and poor childhood: Don’t be a farm laborer. Law looked like a pretty good alternative, and it seems to be working out pretty well for him. The idiomatic English would be, “He became a lawyer.” The better English would be, “He made himself a lawyer.” How did that happen? It must have begun with decisions he made as a child or as a very young man: A leads to B leads to C leads to a good income and a nice house and a bass boat.

A few months ago, I recounted the story of Preston Smith, a man from a very poor background (think outhouses and bare feet) who walked across a wide stretch of Texas to attend college at the beginning of a career that would see him become (make himself) a successful businessman and, later, governor of Texas. He and a friend made a living in college by opening up what at the time would have been called a “filling station,” a gas station/convenience store. By the time he was out of school, he had a few of them, and a movie theater, too. The reaction to that column surprised me: “That’s great,” critics wrote, “but he lived at a time when someone in his circumstances could open a gas station without backing and financing, and without all the taxes and regulation we have now.” As though the Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi immigrants who operate convenience stores from coast to coast show up in the United States with a $1 million line of business credit from Chase, an MBA, and a gas station waiting for them in Oklahoma. Next time you’re filling up in some country location late at night, take a peek around the back of the place, and see how many of those immigrants are quietly living in the gas stations they operate. It is not uncommon, for a time. But they don’t stay there long.

And while I am not much of a hard-ass on these kinds of questions (we have a positive moral obligation to help the poor, and not just the “deserving” poor), I cannot help but think of those hustling immigrants when I encounter the native-born sons and daughters of this sweet land of liberty who, if it were raining jobs and opportunity, would find a way to walk between the raindrops.

“My check didn’t come.” “Did you pay any rent in January?” “The factory closed down.” “The textile jobs moved to Thailand and Vietnam.” “My little town is dying.” “My check didn’t come.” “Did you pay any rent in February? In March?”

“My check didn’t come.”

Your check didn’t come. It’s never coming.

Now what?

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Harvard has decided to coddle
their poor, stressed-out students even more.
Harvard libraries will no longer charge 50 cent per day fees on overdue books.

The change, one of several detailed in a post on the Harvard Library system’s website, went into effect on April 1. Though standard fees have been eliminated, fees for overdue recalled material have been raised from two dollars a day to three dollars a day, with a 45 dollar maximum.

“The goals of these changes are to improve the student experience and embrace a ‘One Harvard’ approach for borrowing material across Harvard Library,” wrote Steven Beardsley, Harvard's associate director for access services administrative operations and special projects, in an email.

"We have witnessed firsthand the stress that overdue fines can cause for students,” Beardsley continued. “Eliminating standard overdue fines and standardizing loan periods across Harvard’s libraries should help students focus on their scholarship, rather than worrying about renewing library books every 28 days in order to avoid fines.”
Gee, I hope these students never get a job when they have to meet deadlines. And if turning in a book when it's due is too stressful, what about finishing papers by their due date? Isn't that stressful and distracting them from simply learning the material?