Combs Spouts Off

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Archive for January, 2019

Polar vortex fun

Posted by Richard on January 31, 2019

CBS4 meteorologist Lauren Whitney (@LaurenCBS4) shared a cool photo from a viewer on Twitter today. It shows how much fun you can have blowing soap bubbles in Wisconsin when it’s -23°.

 

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Libertarian praise for Trump’s health care vision

Posted by Richard on January 30, 2019

The Independent Institute’s Dr. John C. Goodman has been called the father of Health Savings Accounts, and his two books and numerous articles and op-eds on health care make  a strong case for free-market reforms in health care and health insurance. In a new Forbes column, he notes that “the most serious problems in the health care marketplace are almost always the result of ill-conceived public policies” and has high praise for the Trump administration’s health care reform proposals:

For most of the past half century, health economics has been dominated by the idea that private sector medicine has numerous flaws – flaws that must be corrected by government.

Fortunately, the conversation is about to change.

The Trump administration has produced an astonishingly bold document:  Reforming America’s Healthcare System Through Choice and Competition.This is the first time any administration has explicitly acknowledged that the most serious problems in health economics arise not because of market failure, but because of government failure. It is also the first time the federal government has committed to the idea of liberating the medical marketplace. In many ways the document builds on and extends ideas I first discussed in Regulation of Medical Care (Cato) almost four decades ago and that Gerald Musgrave and I discussed in Patient Power (Cato) almost three decades ago.

Although cooperation from Congress and state governments is necessary and desirable, the Trump administration is accomplishing a lot through executive authority alone. I described some of the most important of these changes in a recent post.

The introductory letter from the cabinet secretaries is at the link Goodman provides, along with a link to the entire 120-page PDF. I’ve only read the introduction and dipped into a couple of topics that caught my interest, in particular “Governments and Market Failure in Healthcare,” which begins as follows (emphasis added):

It is a common refrain that healthcare is “unique,” and in some ways, it is. But “unique” is frequently used to imply that free-market principles that govern other major sectors of the economy cannot be applied to healthcare. The reasons given for the uniqueness of healthcare vary, but some of the most common are: the difficulties involved in shopping for services, the expertise gap between patients and healthcare professionals (asymmetric information), economies of scale intrinsic to the sector, and the predominant reliance on third-party payers. The merit of these commonly cited reasons for why healthcare is unique is considered below.

Notably, government policies promote some of these features, particularly third-party payment. While some of these features do limit the application of free-market principles, the common claim that the healthcare sector as a whole cannot function under free-market principles is not true. Notably, government policies promote many factors that prevent the free-market from operating. Specifically, government has encouraged excessive third-party payment, created counterproductive barriers to entry, incentivized opaque pricing practices, skewed innovation activity, and placed restrictions on the reimbursement policies of government programs. Overall, these practices have resulted in less choice, less competition, and sub-optimally functioning markets that deliver higher prices and lower quality.

Sounds pretty good to me.

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Cats may make you schizophrenic?

Posted by Richard on January 30, 2019

Eek!

In what researchers describe as the largest study of its kind, scientists have found new evidence of a link between infection with the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, and schizophrenia.

Causation remains very much disputable, but the brain-dwelling parasite – commonly carried by cats and present in their faeces – has been linked to a huge host of behaviour-altering effects.

Virtually all warm-blooded animals are capable of being infected, and when T. gondii gets inside them, unusual things happen.

What kind of unusual things? Well, infected rodents lose their inhibitions and their aversion to the odor of cats.

Mmm, cat odors.

In humans, T. gondii infections seem to be associated with risk-taking, suicide, and various neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. Of course, correlation is not causation. Maybe people who are prone to these effects for other reasons are also for some reason more inclined to have cats.

Still, there’s this new study by Danish researchers analyzing the blood of 80,000 Danes that suggests further research might be a good idea:

To ascertain links between mental disorders and infections with T. gondii and another common pathogen, the herpes virus cytomegalovirus (CMV), the researchers identified 2,591 individuals in the blood study who were registered with psychiatric conditions, and analysed their samples to look for traces of immunoglobulin antibodies indicative of the two infections.

In terms of T. gondii, compared to a control group, the blood work revealed individuals with the infection were almost 50 percent more likely (odds ratio 1.47) to be diagnosed with schizophrenia disorders compared to those without an infection.

As the researchers explain, the link became even more evident when they filtered the data to account for ‘temporality’ – which meant only looking at participants who hadn’t yet been diagnosed with schizophrenia when T. gondii was found in their blood.

According to the researchers, this “corroborates that Toxoplasma has a positive effect on the rate of schizophrenia and that T. gondii infection might be a contributing causal factor for schizophrenia.”

I know the voices aren’t real, but they have some really good ideas.

(HT: /.)

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Your tax dollars at work

Posted by Richard on January 14, 2019

Or to be more precise, your tax dollars and your children’s tax dollars and your grandchildren’s tax dollars. Caleb Hull, unhappy that Congress won’t fund a border wall/fence/whatever, went on a Twitter rant last week pointing out some of the absurd and outrageous things that Congress has funded. Twitchy, of course, collected his tweets for your easy perusal. Here are some of my favorites:

  • $765,828 on pancakes: tax dollars subsidized an IHOP in an “under-served” area of DC

Because making pancakes at home is so difficult and expensive. Can you even buy Bisquick and Mrs. Butterworth’s with a SNAP card? Plus, the obesity rate of the poor isn’t nearly high enough. (I’m guessing that the franchise owner of the IHOP in question has a friend at the Capitol.)

  • $442,340 studying behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam

No doubt the researchers who got this grant privately referred to it as “gaycation money.”

  • $2,000,000 for the Department of Agriculture to fund an internship program. The program hired ONE full-time intern.
  • $250M training 60 Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State

So funding a USDA intern costs $2 million, but funding a Syrian rebel costs over $4 million? I thought the cost of living was much lower in Syria than in D.C.

  • $10M on creating two video games aimed at fighting obesity (FOR REAL)

Um, doesn’t the very existence of video games contribute to obesity?

  • $5M on tweeting responses to pro-ISIS rhetoric

Hey, Congress, there are plenty of us who’d be happy to do this more cheaply. Put this out for competitive bidding!

  • $325,000 to build a robot squirrel

Ooh, I want one! My cats could have a great time with it. And keeping my cats amused should be considered an essential government service.

If you want to know more about how Congress is frittering away your hard-earned money (and your blood pressure can stand it), get to know Citizens Against Government Waste. Their 2018 Pig Book details the 232 pork projects (earmarks) funded last year at a cost more than double the cost of earmarks in 2017 (one contributor to the federal budget surging 13.4% over 2017).  But CAGW doesn’t just rail against pork. Their 2018 Prime Cuts makes 636 recommendations across virtually every department and agency for cutting spending. Those cuts would save more than $3 trillion over five years.

Updating the late Sen. Everett Dirksen to account for inflation, a trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon it adds up to real money.

 

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Latest PC euphemism worthy of The Onion

Posted by Richard on January 11, 2019

We’re not even halfway through January and we already have a strong candidate for the politically correct euphemism of the year. Via Twitchy:

Earlier this week, a New Jersey man shot and killed an armed intruder in his home.

Sorry, did we say “armed intruder”? Thanks to NBC New York, we now know that “unwanted house visitor” is the correct term:

Well, the PC crowd has already established that illegal aliens should be called undocumented immigrants. Calling a home invasion an unwanted house visit seems like a logical next step for them. Here are some other PC euphemisms for crimes that they may want to consider:

Murder: involuntary end-of-life services

Carjacking: impromptu ride sharing with extreme prejudice

Mugging: unauthorized wealth redistribution

Rape: unrequested sperm donation

Kidnapping: involuntary relocation

Counterfeiting: freelance fractional-reserve banking

 

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