Despair, grace, new rockets, problem for Einsteinians, and other matters of interest

Mail 756 Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year.

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Still more ‘fun’ with deciphering the ACA

Jerry,

I trust you and yours have been enjoying the most delightful of holiday seasons (or more politically incorrectly: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)

I am a disabled Vietnam Vet and, as such, am eligible for medical coverage from both the Veteran’s Administration and from Medicare. I presumed that these coverages would insolate me from the requirements of the Individual Mandate of the ACA.

I noticed however, that there was never a direct statement that Medicare and VA Medical coverage made one immune to the requirements of Obamacare. From what I was able to discern, it is clear that neither of these government programs cover ALL of the 10 areas required as "essential health benefits" under Obamacare. I became concerned and attempted to find an official statement on this subject.

When I failed to find such a statement….lord knows it may well be hidden within the thousands of pages of the ACA….I decided to go to the source and called the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). I waded through their phone tree and eventually was placed on hold in queue waiting for a real live person. Eventually I got to speak with a real live person….but was unable to make them understand my question (disappointing!)

My next attempt was to call the office of US Senator Charles Schumer (known locally as "the Hon. Chucky Cheese Schumer". In spite of many attempts to both his D.C. office and to his local offices, I was never able to reach any of his staff nor even voice mail. Eventually, I sent email expressing my concerns. I have now been waiting a month for a response.

Next I attempted to contact my US Representative, Mr. Peter King. I succeeded in reaching one of his local staff to sent me to the voice mail of the DC staffer responsible for health care. Astonishingly, she called me back within the hour! She assured me that I WAS acceptably covered by Medicare and the VA. When I requested that she send me a clear statement of that coverage on the Representatives letter head, she said she would have to do some research but would get back to me shortly.

The following week I received a letter from Mr. King’s office which reiterated the fact I was covered. The relevant paragraph, however, reads a bit like it was taken from a draft of Through the Looking Glass!

It is a long paragraph so I will extract the relevant text:

"The Affordable Care Act requires that…policies….and plans cover a comprehensive package of 10 categories of items and services known as ‘essential health benefits.’ You expressed concern that certain government-sponsored programs…do not cover services in all ten specified catagories. This is correct; <emphasis added>…However, I can assure you that beneficiaries of these…plans will still meet the ‘minimum essential coverage’ requirement."

Hmmmm, sez I, plans that both do not meet the requirements and "…still meet the…requirement." and all at the same time! Mebbe the Red Queen can make sense of that, but not me!

Quite unsurprisingly, my follow-up request for clarification has gone unanswered!

I rather expect to have find the funds to purchase insurance from one of the ‘exchanges’!

Despair may be a sin, but are not all men sinners?

Warm and Holiday Regards,

Larry Cunningham

Welcome to the brave new world. Despair is a sin, but anyone can ask for grace.

 

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Is this a surprise?

 

Clemson University student Nathan Weaver just wanted to put together a project to help figure out the best way to assist turtles in crossing the road. But he also ended up with a peek into the dark souls of some human beings. Weaver put realistic-looking rubber turtles, no bigger than a saucer, in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched as over the next hour, seven drivers intentionally ran over the turtle, and several more appeared to try to hit the defenseless animal, but missed.

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http://www.heraldonline.com/2012/12/27/4507782/clemson-students-turtle-project.html

If the penalties weren’t so stiff, I’ll bet people would run over other people rather than slow down..

—–

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Not really. Of course I am from an older tradition, which accepted that mankind is in a fallen state and requires both effort and grace. Obligations are not a popular topic for thought and attention now.

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I’ve got a little list

Dear Jerry,

To the list of folks to fire (like "bunny inspectors") I propose we add "undercover kitty photographers".

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/us/cats-at-hemingway-museum-draw-a-legal-battle.html

Sincerely,

Calvin Dodge

Cutting government

Hello Jerry,

Maybe we should be careful what we wish for:

Bob Ludwick

A guy stopped at a local gas station & after filling his tank, he paid the bill and bought a soft drink. He stood by his car to drink his cola and watched a couple of men working along the roadside. One man would dig a hole two or three feet deep and then move on. The other man came along behind him and filled in the hole. While one was digging a new hole, the other was 25 feet behind filling in the hole. The men worked right past the guy with the soft drink and went on down the road.

"I can’t stand this," said the man tossing the can into a trash container and heading down the road toward the men. "Hold it, hold it," he said to the men. "Can you tell me what’s going on here with all this digging and refilling?"

"Well, we work for the government and we’re just doing our job," one of the men said.

"But one of you is digging a hole and the other fills it up. You’re not accomplishing anything. Aren’t you wasting the taxpayers’ money?"

"You don’t understand, mister," one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his brow. "Normally there’s three of us: Me, Elmer and Leroy. I dig the hole, Elmer sticks in the tree, and Leroy here puts the dirt back. Elmer’s job has been cut… so now it’s just me an’ Leroy. We’re saving the taxpayers money because now there’s only two people doing the job of three.”

Efficiency is important.

‘The Alabama prison system’s policy of segregating HIV-positive prisoners from other inmates violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson ruled this morning.’

<http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/12/us_district_court_judge_myron.html#incart_river_default>

Roland Dobbins

Clearly we have too many people working the judicial system.

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Bill Whittle doffs his suit and gets down to work spending an hour with a speech that sort of grew on him as he went on with it.

Bill Whittle "Where do we go now?"

http://youtu.be/TuL41ohlfZY

He explores options, even some ugly ones. He does not want to "Never Surrender" because it’s a slogan. He spends time to show WHY this is not a case to surrender even though times for surrender do exist, as General Lee understood at the end of the Civil War.

He explores the problem Romney had selling himself when he clearly had let the left set his definitions for him.

He explores the likely future starting with an explanation for why our revolution and the resulting Constitution reflected societal reality of the time. He explains that, yes, big monolithic government is the model for the industrial age with its big monolithic industries. The model for government follows, with a lag, the model for society as a whole.

Society has changed. It’s no longer monolithic when Fred can sit down to dinner, have an idea, pick up his smart phone, order 50,000 widgets from wherever, and resume eating all in the comfort of the new "Be Our Guest" restaurant/experience at Disney World. (Recommended for this who can make it there.)

The form of government will have to change to adapt to this ultimate decentralization. But it will take time. We’re now a minority. The last election proved that. We must do what minorities have always done in the past, look out for your own. Italians hired Italians.

Jews hired Jews. And so forth.

The video is long. It’s not fine tuned as most of his videos are. It is, I feel, worth the hour I spent watching it and the time I have spent since then thinking about it.

I am not sure he’s entirely correct. There are aspects of the Information Age he has not well considered. (One such is the utter lack of personal privacy that will exist shortly. The only privacy will be in being lost in the multitudes.) These may make his vision not work and the future different from what he’s expecting. BUT, the huge monolithic government model is, as he asserts, already DOA.

{^_^} Joanne

But smart people are not allowed to hire only smart people. What we need is equality. You must hire two incompetents for each competent, and you must pay them all the same. That is called fairness. Then you pay more taxes than those who hire no one. That is called your fair share.

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China’s Buying of U.S. Securities

As I may have mentioned, I’m studying for a couple FINRA exams.  During the course of my study, a thought occurred to me.  U.S. government securities are traded on the faith and credit of the United States government, which takes real power from the U.S. government’s ability to tax. 

Why would China buy U.S. securities in such great amounts?  Would it be to put pressure on government to raise taxes; thereby, reducing revenues and productivity as we experienced, historically?  I believe JFK lowered tax rates and found that revenue viz collected taxes and productivity both increased.  Certainly, economic policies in the United States proved this point again and again. 

If China continues to buy U.S. government securities based on the pressures created then China plays a shrewd game.  The hypothesis makes sense, in some sense.  It also, poetically, reminds me of the Opium Wars.  We get them addicted to opium and now they get us addicted to debt…  The more I think about it, the more I think I might be on to something. 

—–

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

An interesting interpretation. Of course the US can simply devalue the currency for paying debts abroad, while allowing inflation as a means of taxing those foolish enough to save money.

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Hm, nice idea that. But somebody’s already doing it less well,

Jerry

Here is a piece on “the increasing difficulty of actually deploying a new invention or innovation:”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/12/31/biz_guilds_crush_newcomers/

The title is “Hm, nice idea that. But somebody’s already doing it less well,” and it is a discourse on why when we have innovation we are seeing a slowing of economic growth around the world. He explores the hypothesis that the answer lies in “the increasing difficulty of actually deploying a new invention or innovation.”

Ed

Or “Better is the enemy of good enough”, and maybe even of not quite good enough.

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Be Careful Of That For Which You Wish

"Of course what most people want is another law. Once guns are banned, I presume we will have to worry about regulating hatchets and machetes."

Brits have been calling for a ban on pointed kitchen knives for years:

http://frontpagemag.com/2012/dgreenfield/british-doctors-call-for-ban-on-long-kitchen-knives-to-end-stabbings/

They’re hell-bent on turning the U.K. into the world’s largest group home for the developmentally disabled.

There is no shortage of people here with the same goal.

Chris Morton

Rocky River, Ohio

And when we disarmed they sold us,

And delivered us bound to our foes…

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SUBJ: TSA: They Steal Anything

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2210314/Ex-TSA-agent-reveals-epidemic-thefts-passengers.html

Now who would ever have suspected that?

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"Although we cannot rule out the possibility that our results are driven by misreporting, our results imply that over the very short run, the death rate may be highly elastic with respect to the inheritance tax rate."

<http://www.cnbc.com/id/100341727>

Roland Dobbins

For some reason, revenues are almost always lower than those who want to raise taxes to get more money predict they will be. One might think this a complicated affair given that legislatures never seem to know it.

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Life in the ‘world’s largest democracy’.

<http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/UP-rape-victim-raped-by-cops-probing-case/articleshow/17748777.cms>

Roland Dobbins

The framers never thought that democracy was a desirable form of government. We seem to be expierimenting with it now.

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“We should be upset. This is a terrible blow to general relativity.”

“In the absence of data, theorists thrive on paradox.”

<https://simonsfoundation.org/features/science-news/mathematics-and-physical-science/alice-and-bob-meet-the-wall-of-fire/>

Roland Dobbins

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Better Than Human

Jerry

This guy is looking ahead to robots replacing most people’s jobs:

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/12/ff-robots-will-take-our-jobs/

“To train the bot you simply grab its arms and guide them in the correct motions and sequence. It’s a kind of “watch me do this” routine.” Sound like the robots Robert predicted in Door Into Summer, long ago.

If the main prediction is correct, then shall we end up like the people in Fred Pohl’s “The Midas Plague?”

Ed

There are two aspects to economics, production and distribution. Distribution through sheer entitlement has plenty of problems, but if production is simple and efficient — of course so far it never is. But it’s a lot easier to distribute a big pie than a small one.

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‘Global warming’ strikes again.

<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2252180/US-Weather-White-Christmas-nearly-half-Americans-storm-rumbles-nation.html>

Roland Dobbins

I believe that despite the warnings about how hot it was, the actual temperature in 2012 was about the same as the previous year, and the long flat to cooling trend continues. Probably not for all that long. But the models won’t tell us. Russell Seitz points out that we are getting more reliable data as time goes by.

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SpaceX’s reusable rocket lifts cowboy into the air and lands back on its feet,

Jerry

Private industry in the guise of SpaceX has reinvented the reusable rocket hopper:

http://www.tweaktown.com/news/27458/spacex_s_reusable_rocket_lifts_cowboy_into_the_air_and_lands_back_on_its_feet/index.html

I liked your DC-X better, though. This one looks awfully tippy.

Ed

Dr Pournelle

DCX reborn. <http://www.newspacejournal.com/2012/12/24/grasshopper-hops-ever-higher/>

Merry Christmas.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

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Nine Carriers at Norfolk

Jerry,

Nine Carriers are at Norfolk. All I can say is wow!

<http://www.readability.com/read?url=http%3A//blogs.defensenews.com/intercepts/2012/12/home-for-christmas-9-flattops-at-norfolk-dec-20-2012/>

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE

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Over the cliff! They ain’t cuts. Soak the (salaried) rich. And Salve, Sclave

View 756 Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

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I don’t do topical news, and it’s just as well. After the President gave his smirking press conference to spike the ball on having forced a tax settlement without any spending reductions he then threw in more insults to Congress. If he intended to end negotiations he could not have done a better job. There are those who say this is exactly what he intended.

Of course there never was much chance of actual spending cuts: in Washington there is an automatic increase in spending unless some action is taken to “cut” the appropriation. Last February the House passed a bill to eliminate this feature, but it was never even voted on in the Senate, and would not have survived a veto from President Obama in any event. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/house-votes-eliminate-automatic-spending-increases-budget

In theory the sequestration will bring about an actual cut, but it’s not likely – mostly it’s a decrease in the increases that the different departments will get. But as I understand it, there may be some actual honest to God cuts in a few cases. One of those will be missile defenses, but there is considerable discretion in the military cuts of about $55 Billion in a base (note that the base has a built in rise) of about $550 Billion. This looks accomplishable: the US spends more on military power than the rest of the world combined, and I don’t see anyone planning an invasion of the United States. The military is not the first line of defense against another 9/11 style attack. It is in theory the first line of defense against activities like the Fort Hood massacre, but I don’t think military budget cuts or increases will have much effect there: what’s needed is a military attitude toward that threat, and that doesn’t cost much. Had all the officers and senior noncoms been armed, Major Nidal Hassan would have been shot down before he could kill and wound so many of his comrades. But the military apparently is being told to be more concerned about Hassan’s beard and with not offending the Muslim community.

We are going over the cliff, which means that each of us will owe about $2000 more in taxes than you planned to pay – assuming that you pay taxes, which I suspect that most non-student readers here do. Those who don’t wish they could. It is not clear whether we will have to actually pay that extra tax. The President keeps trooping up representatives of the middle class – I assume they are actually tax payers, although how he selects those who stand with him when he delivers his post campaign speeches is not known, and I haven’t been clever enough to find out through Google or Bing. Since there was cheering when he slammed the Republicans I presume this wasn’t an actual press conference with actual journalists, although there may have been bloggers. In any event I do not think that even those privileged to stand behind him as he read from the teleprompter would welcome the coming tax increases.

The cost of cutting back taxes to 2012 rates will be that there be no “tax cuts” for those making more than $200,000, and that the new higher rates on “the rich” will be permanent. This may bring in as much as $100 Billion over the next few years, although it’s unlikely – predictions of increased revenue do not take account of probable efforts to avoid those taxes through shifts on spending patterns. It may bring an increase in charitable donations. If your income is more than $200,000 this year this might be a good time to make charitable donations, particularly if there is any chance that the donation may influence school selection committees or have other such effects.

But the drama is not over.

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I note that there is frantic last minute activity in Congress, but I also note that it is more devoted to “turning off the sequester” which is the only real spending cut in the future. No one is looking at fraud and waste, bunny inspectors, government activities we would be better off without. Soak the rich is now the goal for a lot of Democrats. By “the rich” is generally meant those whose income is salaries and bonuses, people paid through stock options for engaging in high risk enterprises, etc. People who move money around in circles generally find ways to defer income in ways that don’t get hit with “income” taxes. And of course there are many perks that come with wealth but which don’t look like income.

The President wants to pound the rich. He doesn’t care what that does to investment climates. And no one is going to make any cuts to entitlements.

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At some point, one would suspect, the American people will have had enough; but that will take a while. And Congress gets a raise. Their staffers get a raise. Government employee pensions continue to rise, and the courts are now saying that cities can’t stop paying into pension funds even if they go bankrupt, and the idiots who bought city bonds have less claim on a bankrupt city’s money than the pensioned off employees. Salve Sclave.

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Happy New Year

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An example of modern political debate:

Demand a Plan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrJjlPH1dqo&feature=player_embedded

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Guns, wind, and fiscal cliffs.

View 755 Thursday, December 27, 2012

The media seem determined to mock the NRA for the view that “the main deterrent to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but I see no error in the statement. As to the suggestion of having armed personnel at the schools, surely that is a local matter. In Los Angeles the immediate policy reaction of the Mayor and Chief of Police was to instruct patrol officers to once a day at some random time go to each school campus in their patrol area. I don’t know if we have enough resources to implement this, but we can hope so, and it certainly seems like a reasonable idea.

I also note that had the active duty officers at Fort Hood been wearing sidearms, far fewer people would have been harmed when Major Hassan smuggled in a pistol and began firing randomly at his comrades in what is officially described as a work place incident rather than a terrorist act. I recall that my youth, officers and senior non-commission officers were always armed when they went out in public: it was just part of the uniform. In England the Sam Brown belt and Webley revolver were a common sight in the World War II era. Given the size and weight of the Webley the Sam Brown belt was very nearly necessary. Now one might limit this to combat branch officers and sergeants, in which case the argument is that if you trust these people to lead your kids into harm’s way you have no business saying they are not trustworthy enough to be armed in public.

When I was a University of Washington campus policeman for a short time, that officially made me a Washington State Policeman, and it was understood that even off duty we were law enforcement officers. We were permitted to carry weapons off duty although I did not. I don’t recall any untoward consequences of this policy (nor any advantages either). It does seem reasonable to find ways to put good guys with guns in places that bad guys might bring guns.

Of course what most people want is another law. Once guns are banned, I presume we will have to worry about regulating hatchets and machetes.

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We daily lurch toward the fiscal cliff, and no one makes any practical suggestions.

I know how we could save $12 Billion a year with a positive effect on the economy, without having to do a thing: let the subsidy to wind power generation expire. It was abolished ten years ago with 31 December 2012 as the expiration date. It costs $12 billion in direct subsidies. The amount of energy generated by wind is small, but letting the subsidy expire won’t cause any shut down of existing mills. Windmill operating costs are low enough that once built they can make some profit – but not enough to amortize the capital costs of building them in the first place. But the ones we have are already built. The end of the subsidy will actually bring about a drop in the costs of energy. Lower energy costs are always a better economic stimulus than any “stimulus program” ever has.

I have no predictions about what happens next. My guess is that Obama will allow us to go over the cliff, and thus expose every American family to a couple of thousand dollars tax hike; then he will come as the savior with the “Obama Tax Cut” which will be essentially the restoration of the expiring Bush Tax Cuts applied to 95% of the population. Everyone will cheer Obama and curse Bush.

I suspect though that we will get emergency legislation to restore the wind power subsidies as part of the Obama Tax Cut. I sure hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

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I have dental appointments. Managed to knock out a tooth when I fell and bashed myself a few days ago. All’s well, I am more embarrassed than hurt, and the swelling has gone away on my lip leaving me with no more than a magnificent black eye. And it’s lunch time.

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For those interested in more information on wind energy subsidies, former Senator Gramm has a Wall Street Journal article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324481204578179373031924936.html?mod=googlenews_wsj including some specific numbers.

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I have been looking for federal employees whose jobs should be redundant in that we don’t need done that which they are doing. Some are doubly redundant – we’d be better off if they weren’t doing it. One group are those who hounded Dr. Peter Gleason to his death over his peer-reviewed articles pointing out a useful off-label use for Xyrem, whose label use is for narcolepsy. The six federal agents who handcuffed him and the entire prosecutorial team involved might be better employed as bunny inspectors.

The government does a lot of expensive things that either don’t need doing or which actually cause more harm than good. It would make a certain amount of sense to identify these and leave them out of appropriation bills. The money saved might not be very great – although the wind energy subsidies certainly involve real money, a hundred billion here and a hundred billion there really does add up to real money – but even a few million saved is worth saving. Particularly if the effect is to stem the flow of information. As it happens I knew the Glendale dentist whose speculations about the effects of aspirin on his patients led to Big Medicine reconsidering aspirin’s use in heart cases; and I was witness to some of the humiliating treatment he received at medical conferences when he simply tried to get them to consider his theory.

In my judgment the FDA assumes that American citizens are dolts, not free citizens, and assumes powers it should not have. I can very well appreciate the usefulness of enforcing truth in labeling. I can defend the notion that the FDA can require drug dispensers to say “The use of this product for purposes other than those listed as approved is done at the risk of the patient, and we think this stuff is likely to kill you or do something awful to you. Just as I can accept that if a product advertises itself as genuine snake oil it ought to contain oil squeezed out of a snake. I have no objection to labels that say The FDA believes that if you take this stuff you are out of your ever-loving blue-eyed mind, and God have mercy on your soul. But to jail a doctor for telling a medical conference that he has evidence that the stuff is useful is a job not worth doing.

You can’t protect free people from everything. Attempts to do so can lead to bad results. But then science fiction readers have thought about this for a long time.

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