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Monday, November 11, 2013

Its basic economics

Oh the ignorance of a friendly facebook-shared article

President Obama is doing his best to stop insurance companies from taking advantage of the public by charging astronomical fees and finding any way possible to get out of their responsibility of covering their customers.

The fee’s are a natural response to the way the regulation has been set out in front of them for years. The new ACA regulation isn’t going to change that in the end.  Of course if you really wanted to fix prices, you just go all Venezuela on them.

and there is this bit on SNAP

Every dollar that was given to SNAP beneficiaries multiplies throughout communities.  A dollar spent at a local grocer, becomes an employee’s pay, which is spent on goods, that helps pay another employee’s salary, and so on.

Except you forgot to mention that the same dollar was taken from the local grocer in the first place. But its not $1.00, it’s a $1.50 because we need to pay for the people and infrastructure to run the SNAP program in the first place. So lets take that buck fifty, shave off the fifty and then feed it back into the economy.

And don’t get all “but I created a job with that fifty cents!” because you cant justify a government program because it creates jobs. It is inherently overhead. Let the grocer keep his fifty cents and put that directly into the economy where the would-be SNAP employee can get a job instead.

Republicans have the spine of a jellyfish.  They stand for absolutely nothing.  The only platform they seem to be able to get behind is their hatred of President Obama and all things Democratic

Wow. Just wow. Coming off of the “Its all Bush’s fault” era its hard to believe he can say that with a straight face.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Don’t arm people, let them arm themselves

We should arm …the teachers!
We should arm …the TSA agents!
There is a straw man argument that comes up every time someone mentions allowing citizens to protect themselves. That argument is something along the lines of “we shouldn’t require people of job XXX to carry handguns” because either we don’t trust them, or they don’t want to, or its expensive (guns polus training, etc.) or its just scary.
No one is saying that anyone should be forced to carry a weapon as part of their daily duties in order to “protect the children.” What they are saying is to just lift the restriction that prevents people from carrying a weapon. That’s a very important distinction. If you are not comfortable bearing that kind of responsibility, fine – we understand. If you don’t trust yourself with a gun, fine – we understand. But don’t project those self realizations onto others. For those who can take that burden on, let them.
Right now there are plenty of people who work in places that legally prohibited them from protecting themselves with the most effective tool for the job. If you just let them, you put the would be attackers on notice that they can no longer consider those places a safe haven to rampage during the time it takes for the local police to arrive.
Maybe then some of these murder/suicide plans just become suicide plans.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

“Hundreds of problems” means they have no idea how many

Yesterday in a Congressional hearing

Ms. Sebelius said officials had a list of “a couple of hundred functional fixes” that had to be made so the website,, would work smoothly for most users by Nov. 30, a deadline set by the administration.

This is likely utter nonsense. In software projects, especially large ones, one problem can easily mask others (and often does).

This is not a simple matter of having a list of all the known things that are wrong. Remember when the site first went online? People couldn’t register. Registration is required for everything else. That means they couldn’t even begin to figure out what else might be wrong until people started registering successfully. Now we are starting to see as they get that first part fixed.

As soon as we heard that they weren’t beginning to test things until it was way to late, I knew this was going to be a giant fiasco. Large government project? Check. Large complicated software project? Check? Doing testing all along? uh… wait… awwww crap!

This is very much a scenario of the “unknown unknowns”. We still have no idea how far down this rabbit hole goes.

If you tell me there are a handful of problems, I might believe you. If you tell me there are hundreds, you just admitted that you have no idea what is going on.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Regulation of E-Cigarette Stores

E-Cigarettes are sending the would-be regulators into fits. “It looks like a cigarette, so we must treat it like one!” they cry. The jury is out on whether they are good or bad for the person who uses them (or whether it should be allowed as a stealth pot delivery device) But do they fit into existing local smoking regulations? I should think not. Ostensibly, we have draconian no-smoking zones mandated by the local city council because it’s a nuisance and a health risk to everyone nearby. E Cigarettes are neither, unless you want to ban anything that can create water vapor in tiny amounts – like pots of water in the kitchens, or puddles on a warm day.

One local city in north Texas is wrestling with this false emergency right now

Eventually, the FDA will come out with rules governing the labeling and distribution of e-cigarettes, but cities will still be left to decide things like whether regulations like indoor smoking bans apply to vaping as well.

The answer is here a “no” but I’m only a little surprised that there is actually any debate for what is clearly a simple answer.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hide the Incline! Why HealthCare.Gov doesn’t just show you the money.


imageWhen the site went live, I was curious how much health plans might be so I tried to log in and browse the options. Of course, you cannot just do that. You have to create an account. Creating the account requires extensive personal information that I am unwilling to put into the system at this time (I already have a plan thank-you-very-much and there is only so much I’m willing to give up to satisfy curiosity). So that’s where I bailed out.

It turns out that was a deliberate decision and not just the boneheaded oversight that I assumed it was.

“ was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” (Emphasis added.)

So yes, prices are going up. And going up so much that they are concerned that without a federal handout, it will immediately scare everyone away.

Taking a cue from the global warming guys, how about we call this “Hide the incline!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Real time news edits

Its interesting to note how the internet saves stuff for us. I was looking for news on the Navy Yard shooting and Bing popped this up.image

I clicked through and noticed a slight wording change in the first sentence.image

I wonder what the editorial conversation was that prompted the language change from “assault rifle” to “semiautomatic rifle” and not to “assault weapon”.

“Assault rifle” is clearly wrong if it was indeed a semi-automatic. But most media coverage these days likes to describe any scary-looking-black-modern-rifle as an “assault weapon”

Update (11:14 am): Looks like I spoke to soon. There was another edit!


So by my count, it was assault rifle, changed to semiautomatic rifle, and then changed back to assault rifle.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Presidential mailbox: Make school affordable! edition

So I got a new email from Mr. Obama. Lets review it.

Michelle and I wouldn't be in the White House today if it weren't for our college educations.
It wasn't cheap. We didn't finish paying off our student loans until about nine years ago.

You graduated from Harvard in 1991, finished paying off school debts 2004. That’s 13 years. Of course, a Harvard law school debt is a large one. And working as a Lecturer and author until 2004 probably didn’t help paying off that large debt.

That's why it's been a personal mission of mine to make higher education more affordable for more Americans -- and starting today, I'm hitting the road to talk about real reforms to fundamentally rethink how we pay for college in this country.

Do tell.

Right now, the average student who takes out loans to pay for school graduates with more than $26,000 in debt. Something's got to change -- it's not enough just to tinker around the edges. We've got to shake up the current system.

Agreed. Let’s shake it up. But the question is, how?

My plan won't be popular with everybody, especially those who profit from the way things are. But we owe it to our students to make sure that our colleges are working for them.
While we'll need Congress' help to get some of this done, my administration will continue to do what we can to make sure quality, affordable higher education is in reach for millions more young Americans.

Like what?

So far, we've taken some good steps forward. We've published college scorecards to ensure that families are getting the best information as they pick a school, doubled funding for Pell grants, and established a college tax credit. And thanks to the income-based repayment program, which caps student loan payments based on new graduates' incomes, 1.6 million young Americans can keep more money in their pockets.

You mean you’ve made it easier to take on more debt and are giving away more money? Awesome. I’m sure that is going to bring down the cost of college everywhere. Its just basic economics: Free Money = Lower Prices. Everybody knows that.

But there's much more we can and should do -- this is key to creating a better bargain for the middle class.
That's something I've talked a lot about -- every day, I think about what I can do to live up to it.
That's why I'm calling on Congress to tackle rising tuition costs and pass reforms, so families can get a better bargain when it comes to getting a world-class education.
I'm counting on OFA supporters to be part of this fight. Not much gets done in Washington without the voices of people like you.
Add your name:

HOW?!?!! “Tackle rising tuition costs” sounds like price controls to me. And we all know how well that works. But since not much gets done without my voice, I better go sign my name to this vague policy-less policy on your website. (I’ll be right back!)

PS – Shaking the system up does not mean allowing more debt. It means doing drastic things to reduce the actual cost of college… like saying “Hey Dude, maybe you don’t need to go to college”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

“He should have stayed in the car”

I keep seeing this come up in the discussion regarding the George Zimmerman case - “He should have stayed in the car.” That line sums up the totality of the liberal mindset. This is a bigger thing than one altercation that the media blew way out of proportion (given the scale of more clear cut murders happening elsewhere in the country but I digress). The mindset believes that the state is the ultimate authority, that the state is there to take care of us, and therefore we need to concede all authority to the state. In other words

Go home, cower in your closet and we will tell you when its safe to come out (if ever). Then go back to your closet until we call you again.

I just don’t understand the mindset that if anyone sees something out of the ordinary that we should avoid interaction at all costs and wait for the cavalry to come. Most of the time its nothing and no harm no foul. When its not nothing, maybe you can help mitigate the situation before the police show up after their average response time elapses – like scaring off the burglar instead of just describing to the police what your TV used to look like. That is not vigilantism, its awareness and being visible.

Bad guys, for the most part, like to do their thing when no one is around. If we all hide in the closet, they will think no one is around.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The homemade plastic gun has arrived

Defense Distributed has hand fired the first ever 3-D printed plastic gun. And the politicians are having a fit. The entire point of the project is an exercise to prove that technology makes certain classes of laws moot over time.

The irony is thick in Rep Steve Israel’s reaction to the news. He wants to extend the existing limitations on homemade weapons

Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home [my emphasis]

Did you catch that? We have to tell criminals not to print plastic firearms because otherwise the gun regulations will not work. Doh!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

91% support background checks? Yes, but why?

You always have to look at the whole data set from multiple angles. Lets take

Do you support or oppose - requiring background checks for all gun buyers? 91% said yes, 8% said no

and compose that with

Do you believe that if there are background checks for all gun purchases the government will or will not use that information in the future to confiscate legally-owned guns? 48% said confiscate, 38% said will not

Lets put those two things together.

Even if we assumed that all the people against background checks believed they would lead to confiscation, and peel them off the list, that still leaves 40% of the people polled who are both in favor of checks and also believe it will lead to confiscation.

If you think that checks will lead (not might lead, will lead) to confiscation, why would you be for checks… because you want the guns confiscated.

If they think the guns should be confiscated, why are we even debating them about background checks. They don’t care about background checks. Those people are not trying to keep guns out of criminals hands, they are trying to keep guns out of everyone's hands. So this 91% stat is misleading at best, and useless at worst.

Either that, or there is some serious cognitive dissonance going on and if that’s the case, the poll is invalid on its face.

In the spirit of “trust but verify” here is the original poll that everyone is citing.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Occupy court verdicts a mostly positive thing

A friend posted on facebook a list of 5 recent court verdicts for the Occupy folks. I agree with 4 of these. Can you guess which 4?

  1. Not Guilty: the jury agreed with the protesters that the message of the protest was important enough to override the trespassing charges
  2. Not Guilty: Independent video footage showed the arresting officer lied after the police claimed no police footage existed.
  3. Not Guilty: three undercover Austin police officers had infiltrated the Occupy group and goaded the protesters into this act
  4. Not Guilty: the park’s supposed curfew law was enforced rarely and inconsistently, meaning the police’s crackdown was a targeted attempt to infringe on First Amendment Rights
  5. Not Guilty: basically the same as #4

Now 2-5 all make sense. Inconsistent laws and overzealous (to be generous) police need to be held in check. But personal property rights do not. Does #1 mean that I can now go Occupy the Occupier’s home’s living room because I disagree with him?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Feinstein’s justification is also a sham

I know it is but I have a hard time believing this is the whole of her justification for instituting a new weapons ban (or actually that anyone buys it). From her summary

A Justice Department study of the assault weapons ban found that it was responsible for a 6.7% decrease in total gun murders, holding all other factors equal.

This looks like a very good “hard fact” but the very next line in the exact same study says

However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban.

Get that? It says, there was a decrease in gun murders (note: not in overall murders) but its possible it just normal variation because its so small. She cites a study that is wishy-washy on its face because they are showing a trend with a single data point (1 year). You can’t show a trend with a single data point. Especially one small enough to be natural variation.

Don’t you think if there was a better study to cite, she would?

I’m not going to bother to quote the rest of her reasons that she claims “Assault weapon bans have been proven to be effective” I’ll summarize:

When we banned these guns, these guns were seen to be used less in the crimes we were concerned about. The police also noticed a drop in the rate that these guns were confiscated from criminals. We do not have any data that the crimes we were concerned with happened any less frequently or lessened their impact on civil society. The crimes still happened, they just didn’t happen with these specific guns anymore.

All of the data they show is that they took away the guns. Hey look! We banned them! Then we found people used them less! Huzzah!

They don’t have any data (because there isn't any) that shows that banning guns is effective for anything except banning guns.

Monday, January 21, 2013

If you think this way, how could you possibly give anyone a weapon?

  • Man tells city council not to ban his gun.
  • Man tells city council he has a carry permit
  • Councilman asks if man is carrying
  • Man says yes
  • Councilman makes a motion to (illegally) remove the man from the meeting
  • Motion fails
  • Councilman immediately excuses himself out of fear of being in a room with a gun.
  • Mayor apologizes to man for councilman’s attempt to restrict his 2nd amendment rights

Kudos to the mayor, but the most interesting thing here is that the councilman appears to be making a hasty retreat in the politest fashion out of fear that a firearm exists in his vicinity.
The fact that the council man immediately gets up and leaves the meeting before it is over betrays the thinking behind most gun control legislators. They believe that the average man is an animal. That he is subservient to his basest instincts and has no self control or morality. That he is eventually going to get hopping mad and use it in a fit of rage.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The 40% background check stat a sham

Words are important.

You may see a number of people (including the White House) stating that 40% of gun sales are done without a background check. That is not quite true. The number seems to come from a 20 year old study which was a phone survey to determine what and how people acquired their weapons. What it actually said was

About 60 percent of gun acquisitions involved federally licensed dealers [my emphasis]

“Acquisitions” not “Sales.” Why is this important? Because 29% of the acquisitions were gifts, inheritance, etc. Not sales.

Only 7% of total acquisitions were done mail order or at a gun show. Of those 7%, many were dealers (who do background checks) and some were not.

There is no giant sales loophole.

And all of this is inferred from the type of acquisition. They didn’t ask “when you got your gun, did you pass a background check?”

(for completeness there is some 4% “other store” category that for some reason doesn’t fit into the 60% they assume does background checks. I’m not sure how any store can legally sell a gun without being a licensed dealer who does background checks)

Gun control metaphor fail

“Shouting fire in a crowded theater” is not the same as “Possessing a gun in a crowded theater”

“Possessing a mouth in a crowded theater” is the same as “Possessing a gun in a crowded theater”

“Shouting fire in a crowded theater” is the same as “Waving a gun around in a crowded theater”

But then again, we already have laws against that so what’s a pent-up-frustrated-politician-who-hasn’t-increased-the-police-state-recently to do?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fully licensed strippers?

State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, has filed a bill to require employees at sexually oriented businesses - including dancers - to get a license and display it while working.

Most licensing done by the state is ostensibly to protect the public from quackery. I’m not really sure there is a problem here. Is there an epidemic of subpar pole dancing and lap dances being delivered to unsatisfied customers?

No, this is much more insidious and Rep. Zedler is even quite upfront about it. He wants to institute a licensing scheme as a public shaming record.

"They won't want to get a license as a stripper from the state of Texas," Zedler said of his legislation. "I think it would keep a lot of girls from getting involved in that lifestyle and basically wrecking their lives.

Or as I interpreted it “If you want to engage in behavior I don’t approve of, I’m going to tell your mother.”

Oh, and they would have to wear their license while they work.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It doesn't matter what I need.

The conversation keeps coming back around to "who needs a gun that can do X?" The gun control crowd wants the conversation to be framed in a mode that you have to defend your choice to exercise your rights. That is the wrong conversation. The real conversation (and backed by case law) is "what justification do you have for taking away my rights?"

I don't NEED to be able to blog.
I don't NEED to have lunch with my friends every single day.
I don't NEED to own a rifle.

...right now.

All of the things above are freedoms (speech, assembly, arms) I am assumed to have just by the mere fact that I am a human being. I don't need to justify them. To anyone.

US case law history demonstrates this and states that if you want to curb one of these rights, restrict it in some way, the burden is on you to provide a really good reason. A really good reason. And that restriction has to be narrowly tailored, very specific, and address some imminent threat to the general public.

Shouting fire in a theater, directly calling for and inciting a riot, or waving a gun in a crowd do create an imminent threat. Merely owning a firearm does not.

You can talk all you want about whether I may or may not need something right now, but if you plan to tell me I actually can not have that something, you had better have a solid fact based reasoning behind your supposed "sensible and common sense" proposal. Otherwise just walk away and have a nice day.