Friday, May 29, 2015

Obamacare raised costs. McDermott is on the case

Baghdad Jim McDermott suddenly realized that Obamacare (he was a big cheerleader for it) raised the cost of medical care. Obama named it Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But naming it affordable didn’t make it so. Duh!

Last week, IBD reported that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee wants to jack up its ObamaCare premiums by more than 36%; CareFirst in Maryland by close to 30%; and Moda Health in Oregon by almost 50%.Since then, North Dakota has reported rate hike requests of 43%, Kansas 38% and Iowa 18%. 
Even the ObamaCare-loving Huffington Post is admitting that one reason for the hikes could be that "healthy people aren't lining up for coverage in the numbers that either the industry or outside analysts had hoped."
Baghdad Jim:
None of this is good news for all those ObamaCare "death spiral" deniers, who said that the law would never produce such results.
But rather than face this reality, Democrats have decided to decry the alleged problem of the "underinsured," and call for more cost-spiraling mandates. 
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., for example, complains that "we've got some 17 million more people covered" with ObamaCare, "but they can't access the care they seem to be entitled to."
What could have gone wrong? Could it be Nancy Pelosi’s and Honorable Harry Reid's design?
First, ObamaCare imposes a pile of costly rules and regulations on the insurance industry — mandating generous coverage, outlawing risk rating, and so on.
Then, to cope with these costs, insurance companies employ large deductibles and co-pays to keep premiums within the realm of reasonable. 
Now, the same Democrats who created this problem want to force insurers to lower deductibles and co-pays so health care will be more "affordable."
Never mind that this would, if enacted, produce yet another round of [mandates which would, as always result in] massive premium hikes.
Hey, Rep. Jim! There is no such thing as a free lunch. Not even when you pass a law saying there is.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Venezuela versus what Ecuador learned

Steve Hanke in GlobeAsia PDF re Venezuela

First, basics of rule of law including sound currency:
The rule of law subjects the State to a fixed set of rules that limits the scope of its coercive powers. Individuals and their property are protected from the arbitrary, ad hoc actions of the State and other individu- als. In consequence, individuals can plan their activities within the confines of known, fixed “rules of the game.” This allows people to pursue their personal ends, as long as their actions do not infringe on the broadly-defined property rights of their fellow citizens. 
When properly applied, the rule of law guarantees freedoms in the economic, political, intellectual and moral spheres. In the economic sphere, money constitutes an important element. The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises dealt at length with this issue in The Theory of Money and Credit, which was published originally in 1912: 
“It is impossible to grasp the meaning of the idea of sound money if one does not realize that it was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments. Ideologically it belongs in the same class with political constitutions and bills of rights. The demand for constitutional guarantees and for bills of rights was a reaction against arbitrary rule and the non- observance of old customs by kings. The postulate of sound money was first brought up as a response to the princely practice of debasing the coinage. It was later carefully elaborated and perfected in the age which—through the experience of the American Continental Currency, the paper money of the French Revolution and the British Restriction period—had learned what a government can do to a nation’s currency system.”
Then the mess of Venezuela.
Today, Venezuela has at best a tenuous grip on the rule of law. This is nowhere more visible than in the monetary sphere. The country’s foreign exchange reserves are falling like a stone (see the accompanying chart).
Relative to the mighty U.S. dollar, Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, is also falling like a stone. Indeed, it has lost 47% against the greenback just since the start of the year (see the accompanying chart). [Written in May.] 
As night follows day, inflation has soared as the bolivar has plunged. I estimate Venezuela’s annual inflation rate at 335%. That’s the highest rate in the world. For those holding bolivars, it amounts to: “no rule of law, bad money.” It is worth noting that currency debasement and inflation robbery were not always the order of the day in Caracas. During the decade of the 1950s, the average annual inflation rate was only 1.7% -- not much above Switzerland’s...
Meanwhile, in Ecuador most people suffered decades of impoverishment for the benefit of the elite. There were even laws to benefit the rich.
Ecuador represented a prime example of a country that was incapable of imposing the rule of law and safeguarding the value of its currency, the sucre. The Banco Central del Ecuador was established in 1927, with a sucre-U.S. dollar exchange rate of 5. Until the 1980s, the central bank periodically devalued the sucre against the dollar, violating the rule of law. In 1982, the central bank began to exercise its devaluation option with abandon. From 1982 until 2000, the sucre was devalued against the dollar each year. The sucre traded at 6,825 per dollar at the end of 1998, and by the end of 1999 the sucre-dollar rate was 20,243. During the first week of January 2000, the sucre rate soared to 28,000 per dollar. 
In the case of Ecuador, the inability of the government to abide by the rule of law was, in part, a consequence of traditions and moral beliefs. Ecuadorian politics have traditionally been dominated by elites (interest groups) that are uninhibited in their predatory and parochial demands on the State. With the lack of virtually any moral inhibitions, special interest legislation was the order of the day. For example, during the rout of the sucre in 1999, laws were passed that allowed bankers to make loans to themselves. 
Then Ecuador implemented a policy of sound money and stuck with it. They got rid of their own currency and adopted the US dollar in 2000 and gained stability.
… the critics of dollarization condemned it as something akin to voodoo economics. Well, the critics have been predictably proven wrong. 
The misery index is an objective measure of just how well dollarization has worked. The index is equal to the sum of the inflation rate (end of year), bank’s lending interest rates and the unemployment rate, minus the actual percentage change in GDP per capita. Simply put, a high index means higher misery. 
In Ecuador, prior to the implementation of dollarization in 2000, the country sustained a misery index of over 120. The public suffered greatly from inflation, but after dollarization was implemented, high inflation was stifled and misery drastically fell. The accom- panying chart shows the direct link between dollarization and the immedi- ate and sustained decrease in misery. From 2003 through 2014, the misery index in Ecuador has been remarkably constant at around 20 – one of the lowest in Latin America. 
Ecuadorians know that dollarization has allowed them to import a vital element of the rule of law – one that protects them from the grabbing hand of the State. That’s why recent polling results show that dollarization is embraced by 85% of the population. It’s time for Venezuelans, as well as many others, to take note and dollarize.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Today we remember those who died to protect us

Punch bowl craterPunchbowl memorial distant

Punchbowl visual history

On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives to preserve our liberty.

Hawaii for Visitors has a page on war memorials in Hawaii; they all are on Oahu.

One of my favorite places in the world is National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific in the center of Honolulu, Hawaii.  It is known as The Punchbowl for its unique shape: it is a volcano crater of just the right size.

The photos: Aerial view by Hawaii Visitors.

The central structure of the cemetary: on the sides are the names of men and a few women who died in the Pacific whose remains were never found. Along its top are a series of panels that tell the story of the Pacific War with maps done as beautiful mosaics. Photos from a defunct site called The World Tourist.

Krugman caught cherry picking data

FRED housing starts vs interest rates

Prof. Paul Krugman - did you know he got the Nobel Prize? - goes to extremes to present his arguments for more, more government control.

This week he pulled a trick he would not allow a sophomore to do. The data on housing starts vs. interest rates only supported his thesis for a range of years, but not for the other years the data are available. So he took out his scissors and very carefully cut off the first years - about 1958 to 1965 - and the last - from 2000 to 2014.

Then he shouts “The data prove it! Look!"

See Thomas Lifson at American Thinker for the full explanation.

Graph: The full data set from FRED.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mike Banner's 50 years to the top of Mt Rainier

ST Mike Banner summit of Mt Rainier
Mike Banner, my long-time coworker is featured in the Seattle Times this weekend, because last year he accomplished ascending Mt. Rainier fifty years in a row. 50!

You would think he would be single-minded to get to the top. No. He invites rookie climbers, non-climbers, on his ascents. He takes them up - often to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet on Rainier - for a  mini-course in glacier climbing. Of course having inexperienced people on the climb lowers the chances of success. Extra care must be taken on the glaciers in the presence of crevasses, they have less awareness of what they can and cannot do and therefore expend more energy than those experienced. Furthermore weather often  slows or cancels a climb. Of course he does not take them on the more difficult routes, like Liberty Ridge or Kautz icefall.

In 1979 I joined him on the climb for my second time to the top. We had a party of six; I believe two were rookies, not sure. We left Paradise, 5700 feet, at sunset. We were blesses because the nearly full Moon rose and hour later and lighted our path. After reaching Camp Muir toward midnight (as best I recall) we rested for about an hour as people in other parties who had spent “the night” there were getting up and going. We took the Muir-Disappointment Cleaver route, the standard, and got to the summit after sunrise. From reaching the summit crater to cross the crater and ascend Columbia Crest, the highest point, is about a half mile. At 14,411 feet it is real work. So half our party were satisfied to stay at the rim; the other three of us went ahead. Then at the very summit Mike opened his pack and pulled out a full-size watermelon!  Then I got sick, but not before I reached the summit. (My previous climb was in 1964 with the Seattle Mountaineers climbing course.)

I wish I had good photos of that climb, because that year there was an unusual condition in the ice called nieves penitente, that usually happens much closer to the equator in the Andes. Nieves penitente (means praying snow) is little towers of ice - an expanse of them - in our case, one to three feet high. It’s unreal to realize you are walking among miniature ice towers! See Wikipedia.

Mike has introduced many people to the mountains. Congratulations to a gentleman.

Seattle Times honors Mike. But they didn’t print the photo of Mike, Clay and myself holding up the watermelon atop Columbia Crest! (He still has it.)

Sen. Hatch blocks disclosing text of TPP before it is voted on

Sen. Hatch blocks disclosing text of TPP before it is voted on Even Hatch doesn’t know what’s in it. Duh.

I have a revolutionary idea: Congress should see every word of every bill and whatever else they vote on. The text should be - must be - disclosed and they should READ every word. To not know what they are passing is irresponsible.

I am looking forward to Honorable Mr. Hatch explaining why it is reasonable, even conceivable, for him to vote on secret text.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How much is enough?

The Washington Education Association is demanding more money in the state budget - and going on strike for it - every day in a different school district. But they never say how much. How much is enough?
Briefly, the current budgets being considered in Olympia add a LOT of money to k-12 education:
"All three budget proposals for 2015-17 — by Gov. Jay Inslee, the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate — give teachers an overdue cost-of-living raise. All three reduce class sizes for grades K-3. All three drop at least $1.3 billion more into basic education funding to comply with the state Supreme Court’s landmark McCleary decision.” - Seattle Times
$1.3 billion is real money to me. How much are they asking for?
Second, these strikes are illegal. Is the WEA telling teachers they are being asked to break well established state law? Not the few I talked to.  See Sound Politics.
Third, consequences: Why can teachers walk off the job and not lose one penny of pay? They have no consequences for breaking the law.
But you and I are not so blessed. If I did a taxpayer strike and didn’t pay my property taxes the county would seize our house, sell it and give us a pittance. A strike by me would have huge consequences. (If I only went out for one day the cost would be less than $100; not a lot, you may say, but it's cash out of my pocket. 
In 2015 when I pay my property taxes on our suburban split-level I am paying over $2,000 to the local school district. $2,000 is real money to me. How much do they expect me to pay?
(We have no kids in school; our youngest child graduated years ago.)

Teacher strikes are illegal

Day by day the teachers in a school district are walking off the job on strike. For only one day, but on strike nevertheless. But strikes by public employees are illegal.
Strikes are illegal, but there are no consequences. If I went on strike I would have lost a day’s pay for each day, but the teachers - they don't.

Freedom Foundation says it succinctly:
  • The law which authorizes collective bargaining for teachers specifically provides that, "Nothing contained in this chapter shall permit or grant any public employee the right to strike or refuse to perform his or her official duties" (RCW 41.56.120).
  • In 2006, the State Attorney General's Office issued an opinion on the legality of public employee strikes, concluding that: "In Washington, state and local public employees do not have a legally protected right to strike.  No such right existed at common law, and none has been granted by statute.” See AGO 2006 No. 3
  • The website for the State Office of Financial Management bluntly notes that state employees "are not permitted or granted the right to strike or refuse to perform their official duties."
Furthermore, Washington Courts have a long history of declaring teacher strikes illegal and ordering educators to return to work, in some cases fining teachers who refused.
  • 2011: Tacoma teachers strike. Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chuschcoff ordered teachers to return to work and threatened to fine them if they failed to comply.
  • 2009: Kent teachers strike. King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas issued an injunction to end the strike. The strike continued until Darvas threatened to begin fining teachers and union officials. [Link no longer works.]
  • 2003: Marysville teachers strike. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese orders the strike to end, noting that "Public employee strikes are illegal under the common law of Washington. The [Marysville Education Association] strike violates the prohibition on public-employee strikes and is an illegal strike."
  • 2002: Issaquah teachers strike. King County Superior Court Judge Joan Dubuque declares the strike illegal and threatens to fine teachers who continue to strike.
  • Prior to 2002, state courts issued 24 injunctions against striking teachers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Obama approves Shell Arctic oil drilling

ADN Pew Arctic seasonal drilling limits

Seattle’s greenies are in full panic over Royal Dutch Shell drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic. No, Shell does not want to drill in Elliott Bay or Puget Sound, but in the Arctic. But they are certain this is apocalyptic, so they are training to try to get someone to injure them by getting in the way of legal operations. Seattle Times - and with kayaks

But President Obama has approved Shell’s oil exploration in the Arctic. He upheld a 2008 lease sale on Monday.


Graphic: Seasonal limits for Arctic drilling. Pew Charitable Trush and Alaska Dispatch News

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Debate? No. Students try to cancel senator's degree

Students are Western Washington University are upset that state Sen. Douglas Erickson is not chanting the AlGore global warming, no, climate change, chant. So they will use their skills in research and presentation to debate him. Right? No. They want to be radical. Radicals! So they are petitioning WWU to cancel Sen. Ericsson’s Masters in political science and environmental policy.

Bellingham Herald

But their claim that he denies human-caused climate change is annulled by the wording of SB 5735 inserted by his amendment:

“The Legislature finds that climate change is real and that human activity may contribute to climate change.

Bellingham Herald again

Found at Hot Air.

Read annually - Steven Hayward

Steven Hayward, now of American Enterprise Institute, formerly Visiting Prof at University of Colorado, recommends regular reading of:

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

F.A. Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society"

CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man

— Links and more, especially about dogmatism at Powerline Blog

Monday, May 11, 2015

Middle East running out of water

Crisis in Iran

- Lake Urmia in NE Iran - from 90 km long to less than 20%. LA Times

- The river that runs through Isfahan now dried up.

...Two decades ago, Lake Urmia was still a popular destination for vacationers. Tourists marveled at the flocks of flamingos, pelicans and other bird life that gathered on its shores. Bathers immersed themselves in the saline waters and smeared their bodies with its legendary black mud, said to help heal stiff joints. Some called it Iran's version of the Dead Sea.

"I remember how my late grandmother told us that nobody was in danger of drowning as you couldn't sink in the salty water," recalled Ameneh Saeedi, 33, a secretary in Tehran, who vacationed at the lake regularly with her family. "We used to stay up until the small hours laughing and swimming."

Today vehicles can reach many of the lake's more than 100 small islands that were once a signature feature, havens for wildlife and humans on holiday.

- And -

And the entire Middle East, except Israel. See Daniel Pipes Wash Times

… Israel provides the sole exception to this regional tale of woe. It too, as recently as the 1990s, suffered water shortages; but now, thanks to a combination of conservation, recycling, innovative agricultural techniques, and high-tech desalination, the country is awash in H2O (Israel’s Water Authority: “We have all the water we need”). I find particularly striking that Israel can desalinate about 17 liters of water for one U.S. penny; and that it recycles about five times more water than does second-ranked Spain.

Liberation Theology born in Khrushchev's KGB

Liberation Theology was born in Khrushchev's KGB. The Soviet leader intended to infiltrate Central and South America. His way to do so was to recruit church leaders to his Communist ideology by cloaking it in a class warfare that appealed to them.

His effort was successful until Karol Wojtyla was elevated to Pope John Paul II in 1978. He selected Bishops who would oppose Communism.

Ion Mihai Pacepa was a Romanian 3-star general who defected says he was a key player in the plan. (Romania is a Latin country, they say.)

New American

By the way, a Peruvian poet Gustavo GutiĆ©rrez has always been credited with the inception of LT. But Pacepa says GutiĆ©rrez’ book A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation reads like it was written in KGB headquarters at Lubyanka Square in Moscow.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Activities in the PNW

Actively Northwest shows links to fifteen sites showing activities. The list is family oriented, but not just for going with kids. Lots of ideas.

Highlights from their list:

  • Adventure Awaits - Washington State Parks posts an active idea - highlights a park - sometimes weekly, sometimes not.
  • NW Trip Finder - Camping and non camping ideas from BC to Oregon. Small Towns - Lots on camping - Oregon Coast and Wine tasting.

Seattle Times

Regional Guides hosted by Seattle Times. They are very rich with recent and relevant features:

Update: May, 2015

Ten free things/ideas to do = Seattle Times

Shakespeare in the parks summer 2015:

  • Greenstage July 10 to Aug 15. Most, but not all, are in Seattle parks.
  • Wooden O of Seattle Shakespeare, July 9 to Aug 9. Seattle east to Issaquah and north to Lynnwood.

Year-round - Festal at Seattle Center has over 20 ethnic festivals. Plus the big one: Folklife Festival every Memorial Day weekend from noon Friday till Monday evening

Drama teacher Reuben Van Kempen is retiring

Drama teacher Reuben Van Kempen is retiring from Roosevelt High School. He leaves a huge legacy of accomplishment.

Seattle Times

… “One of the many things that made Ruben a special drama teacher was his vision,” comments Berryman. “This vision created an environment for students like myself to explore, grow, imagine and discover the wonder of theater.”

Van Kempen has also been celebrated by his peers. He was inducted into the Educational Theatre Association’s Hall of Fame, and received a Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award from Theatre Puget Sound, among other honors.

But the ongoing friendships with former students have been especially rewarding for Van Kempen, who was born in The Netherlands but grew up in Seattle. After graduating from the University of Washington and briefly pursuing a career as a performer, he began teaching drama in the late 1970s.

Chad Kimball, a 2010 Tony Award nominee who returned to Seattle to attend the April 23 retirement bash, still relies on his former teacher for advice and support.


Reuben is a friend since before he taught at Roosevelt. And Myrnie.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Mayor Murray plans trip to Israel

Mayor Murray is planning to travel to Israel. To promote gay-queer-etc issues. Oh.

Why is that news? Because the Palestinian hear-no-evil shouters don’t want anyone saying anything at all, even slightly positive about Israel. Murray says he is going to support the LGBQTx community there and because he support Israel’s right to exist. Seems reasonable.

A leader is Seattle U law prof Dean Spade who says Murray is going “to be part of a propaganda conference that promotes Israel as a gay-rights haven in order to cover up the realities of apartheid.” And Spade is promoting a movie that he calls a documentary, but sure sounds like propaganda, "Pinkwashing."

There are defenders. Arthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge, said, “We hope that having this conference in Israel will begin to move our global LGBTQ community away from the self-defeating strategy advocated by those who insist that we need to shut down the voices of those with whom we may disagree,”

Good for Murray.

Source: Seattle Times

(I add the x to the term LGBQTx because another group will be added to the chain; we just don’t yet know which.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Good mobility for kids raised here

A study on upward mobility found good results for King and Snohomish Counties. Every year a kid lives in Snohomish County adds .72% to his earnings at age 26. That is a small number, but, since it is per year, it adds up for a kid raised there from birth to age 20. It means an added $3740 per year over the national average - per year! The numbers for King County are .57% and $2960. That puts them at #2 and #7 of 100 urban counties.

On the other end of the scale Baltimore (an independent city which is treated as a county) the kid has a loss every year; he loses .86% per year growing up for a loss of $4510 per year at age 26 as a result of growing up there. That is very sad.

Washington Research Council reporting on a study by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren at Harvard.

Update: I added words to emphasize that both the growth and income gains are per year.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Socialist success - Venezuelans leaving for other countries AND Award from UN

Another demonstrations of socialist success in Venezuelans.

Venezuelans are giving up and leaving for other countries. But few can do this because 80 per cent of the country cannot afford to feed themselves!

El Universal, Caracas (in English)


The United Nations is recognizing a country for fighting hunger… Which one?... You can’t make this up… Venezuela

President Nicolas Maduro announced Thursday that he would be traveling to Italy to receive an award for Venezuela's "food missions," according to El Universal.

Investors Business Daily

… Currency controls, expropriations and state corruption have left Venezuelans standing in multiple lines for much of the day just to get access to basic foodstuffs. The last official data, issued two years ago, show supplies of basic foodstuffs are 28% below 2004 levels.

Fights are now commonplace in food lines. Medical shortages are so severe that the country has resorted to fingerprinting to catch thieves, and Maduro blames "hoarders" and "CIA plots" for the failures. With scapegoats aplenty, don't expect him to fix the problems soon.

At last month's Summit of the Americas in Panama, there was open talk from Latin American leaders of sending food-aid caravans to ease the hunger.

Yes, this catastrophic situation calls for awards to the leaders who caused. Only at the UN.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Chipotle announces they did, but did not, remove GMO foods

Chipotle announced they removed at GMO foods from their men. They did except for .. a lot of exceptions!

Chipotle gives away their lie, you know, untruth, way at the bottom of their proud statement:

But it is important to note that most animal feed in the U.S. is genetically modified, which means that the meat and dairy served at Chipotle are likely to come from animals given at least some GMO feed. We are working hard on this challenge, and have made substantial progress: for example, the 100% grass-fed beef served in many Chipotle restaurants was not fed GMO grain—or any grain, for that matter.

Many of the beverages sold in our restaurants contain genetically modified ingredients, including those containing corn syrup, which is almost always made from GMO corn.

So you are safe from GMO foods at Chipotle unless your food contains beef, chicken, milk or other dairy product, or any soft drink. That is what GMO-free means to Chipotle??

Read more about the science at National Review Online.

Helping home buying intended to reduce income inequaility - opposite effect

Good intentions, but...

Helping home buying intended to reduce income inequality, but had the opposite effect.

USA Today


Friday, May 01, 2015

Underwater Axial Volcano erupted last week

ST Axial Volcano map

Axial Volcano (or Seamount) is the only active underwater volcano that is “being watched.” Scientists have placed instruments to measure movement, tilt, temperature, etc., and 600 miles of coaxial cable. It rises about 3,000 feet above the ocean floor and is about a mile below the surface; 300 miles offshore of Washington.

Thursday, April 23, there was a major event. Excited scientists!

Seattle Times