Combs Spouts Off

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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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Merry Christmas!

Posted by Richard on December 25, 2018

Have you watched Die Hard yet? It’s 30 years old now, and still the best ever Christmas movie.

I’m feeling festive, so here are some Christmas cats.


[YouTube link]

UPDATE: I’m looking at Dish Network’s on-demand menu, and Die Hard is one of the Trending Now entries. Woohoo!

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Sen. Hirono: “We Democrats know so much”

Posted by Richard on December 6, 2018

Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

Sen. Mazie Hirono suggested Tuesday that Democrats have a hard time connecting with voters because their breadth of knowledge tends to turn people off.

The Hawaii Democrat made the comment during a discussion at the “Bend Towards Justice” conference in Washington when she was asked by Slate editor Dahlia Lithwick how to make the judicial system a top campaign issue for voters.

“One of the things that we Democrats have a really hard time is connecting to people’s hearts instead of here,” Ms. Hirono responded, pointing at her head, according to a clip flagged by the Republic National Committee. “We’re really good at shoving out all the information that touch people here [points to the brain] but not here [points to the heart].”

R-i-ight. Because calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist or fascist is such a cerebral way to resolve policy disagreements. Because shouting “you’re starving children” and “you’re killing old people” is such a cerebral way to resolve budget battles involving less than 1/2% of federal spending. Because fleeing to safe spaces with coloring books, rainbows, and unicorns is such a cerebral way for college students and faculty to cope with the threat of hearing ideas that challenge them. Because trotting out “victims” with tear-jerking tales of woe is such a cerebral way of debating the merits of proposed legislation.

“We have to kind of tell everyone how smart we are, and so we have a tendency to be very left-brain,” the senator added.

Add Ms. Hirono: “We Democrats know so much” it can alienate voters.

I turn to the wisdom of Ronaldus Magnus:

It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.

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Global warming: what can’t it do?

Posted by Richard on December 5, 2018

For several decades, climate scientists dependent on government grants for a living have been warning us of all the dire consequences of anthropogenic global warming (AGW; recently rechristened climate change, presumably based on focus group research). It appears to me that they’re doing this to justify massive global wealth redistribution and greatly increased government control of the economy, which is what the people controlling the flow of money to those climate scientists want.

Those climate experts, along with people like Al Gore (whose only expertise is in hucksterism), have argued that AGW will melt the ice caps and raise sea levels, drown Manhattan, Florida, and countless islands, cause droughts, cause flooding, increase the number and intensity of hurricanes, destroy the ski industry, create horrific winter storms (“snowmageddon”), threaten coffee production, bring forth plagues of locusts, and countless other harms.

The odd thing is that they (or their predecessors) have been sounding the alarm since the late 70s, and virtually every time with an ominous warning of the dire consequences of inaction within ten years. And yet, each decade has passed without those dire consequences coming to pass. Makes you wonder about the accuracy of those computer models on which all their predictions are based, doesn’t it?

But the scientists who feed at the public trough (and that’s a lot of them) aren’t going to give up trying to please their statist masters. So we’ll keep seeing new studies like the one showing that milder winters (brought about, of course, by AGW … oops, climate change) cause increased crime.

What a revelation! The scumbags who can’t bring themselves to do an honest day’s work are more likely to break into your car or home when it’s mild outside than when it’s friggin’ cold and snowing to beat the band. Criminals spend more time out and about when it’s comfortable outside than when it’s miserable. Just like the rest of us.

During certain seasons, namely winter, milder weather conditions increase the likelihood … that violent and property crimes will take place, according to the new study. Unexpectedly, warmer summer temperatures were not linked with higher crime rates.

The new research abates existing theories that hot temperatures drive aggressive motivation and behavior, according to the study’s authors. Instead, the new research suggests crime is related to the way climate alters people’s daily activities.

“We were expecting to find a more consistent relationship between temperature and crime, but we weren’t really expecting that relationship to be changing over the course of the year,” said Ryan Harp, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. “That ended up being a pretty big revelation for us.”

Understanding how climate affects crime rates could expand the boundaries of what scientists would consider to be a climate and health connection, Harp said.

Health connection? Yep, that’s what he said. Crime is now a public health issue. We’re way past the days when “public health” had to do with communicable diseases, where the government used its power to prevent innocent people from being exposed against their will to those diseases. Now, “public health” is anything that “will have an impact on people’s wellbeing.” So drug use became a public health issue, smoking became a public health issue, obesity became a public health issue. Why not crime?

At least this study throws cold water on the idea that hotter summers increase crime. But what about the possibility that beyond a certain point, hotter temperatures reduce crime? Sure, the average worthless slimeball who breaks into cars, homes, and stores, or who mugs pedestrians or rapes women, is just as likely to be out and about whether it’s 70°. 80°. or 90°. But what about when it’s 100°, or 110°? I’m guessing that there’s a point where the criminal element would rather stay in their air-conditioned domicile doing some TV binge-watching. Just like the rest of us.

I suspect that if the globe is actually in a long-term warming trend for whatever reason (and keep in mind that it hasn’t even come close to what the computer models predicted, and we’re overdue for an ice age), the effect on crime may be a wash, with more in the winter and less in the summer.

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The worst beverage idea in the world

Posted by Richard on November 29, 2018

I’ve always thought that “near beer” and decaf coffee were the dumbest ideas for beverages, but I was wrong. That distinction has to go to alcohol-free whisky. And vodka, gin, rum, brandy, … well, the folks at ArKay Beverages have a whole slew of alcohol-free liquors. And they assure us that every one of them tastes just like the real thing. Yeah, right.

Let’s see, I can spend $40 for a bottle of what I’m sure is the Velveeta of whisk(e)ys or I can spend about $22 for a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon. Decisions, decisions… Yeah, I’m going with the Buffalo Trace.

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Things to be thankful for: Pilgrims, property rights, and technology

Posted by Richard on November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy your turkey (or ham) dinner and the company of family or friends. Yes, even that crazy aunt or uncle. But please shut down any family member who starts spouting Tom Steyer’s talking points about the “Need to Impeach.”

On this Thanksgiving, Veronique de Rugy suggests being grateful for all the technological advancements that have improved our lives and the new ones that are on the horizon, such as air taxis (if the feds don’t stifle them with onerous regulations).

John Stossel, meanwhile, looks backward and is thankful for William Bradford and the Pilgrims’ “early correction” from collective ownership to private property rights.

For much more about the Pilgrims, see this old post of mine about the real story of Thanksgiving.

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Thank you, veterans

Posted by Richard on November 11, 2018

On this Veterans Day, please make a contribution to an organization (or two or three!) that supports veterans or active-duty military personnel.

Salute

To those who have served, and to those who serve today:

Thank you.


It Is The Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005

http://www.pattonhq.com/koreamemorial.html

The Signaleer has a nice history of Remembrance Day, which begat Armistice Day, which begat Veterans Day, and he includes the classic World War I poem, In Flanders Fields. Well worth a visit.

 

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Hitting the Stoly pretty hard

Posted by Richard on November 7, 2018

It’s not a good night for small-government advocates (e.g., libertarians) in Colorado. Admittedly, Republicans haven’t been very good proponents of small government, but they’re still far better than Democrats. And Republicans have been routed in this state. At this time, it looks like Democrats may win every state-wide office (the AG race is still too close to call, but Dem Phil Weiser, a far-left law school professor with no prosecutorial experience, leads).

The Dems have flipped three state senate seats to take control of that body, while expanding their lead in the state house. So the entirety of Colorado government is going to be in control of Democrats. People who support “single-payer” (i.e., government-run) health care, more gun control, more money “for the children,” more “affordable housing,” more “multimodal transportation,” etc., etc.

In Denver, it looks like voters have approved tax increases for parks and recreation, “mental health” and housing, the “Urban an Flood Control District,” and a proposal to increase the sales tax to “provide food and education about food to young people in need.” Also passing is a measure to fund election campaigns with tax dollars, giving each candidate $9 for each $1 they raise within the rules.

I. Am. Bummed.

True, some of the ballot initiatives and proposals offer some more optimistic interpretation.

  • Voters rejected 112, which would have essentially ended oil and gas drilling in Colorado.
  • Voters rejected 73, a massive tax increase “for the children,” which would have mainly increased funding for education administrators.
  • Voters rejected 110, which would have allocated tons of new tax dollars to “transportation,” including lots of money for “multimodal” nonsensense plus lots of grants to local governments to do whatever they want.
  • They also rejected 109, the Independence Institute’s proposal to fund specific road projects from existing revenues without tax increases.

Overall, it looks like a massive blue wave, with the caveat that voters don’t want taxes to go up.

I’m thinking that I should seriously think about moving back to  Tennessee.

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Montana LP Senate candidate decides not to help Tester get re-elected

Posted by Richard on November 2, 2018

Rick Breckenridge, the Libertarian candidate for Montana Senator Jon Tester’s seat, may have just ensured that Tester is finally retired:

Ever wonder how Senator Jon Tester, a Beltway swamp creature who voted against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and famously stays in lockstep with his fellow Democrats on immigration and gun control, keeps getting elected in a state like Montana? The answer is simple: the Libertarian Party usually nominates a spoiler who siphons enough votes from Tester’s GOP challengers that he wins by the skin of his teeth.

In 2012, for example, Libertarian Dan Cox garnered enough of the vote to allow Tester to eke out a 4 percent win. This year was no different — until yesterday — when Libertarian Rick Breckenridge decided to endorse Republican Matt Rosendale. The Libertarian has been pulling enough support in the polls to enable Tester to slither back to the swamp again. …

Breckenridge endorsed Rosendale in response to a “dark money group” mailer aimed at persuading conservatives to vote for the Libertarian. I guess he didn’t like feeling like he’s being used.

Tester’s re-election chances were also hurt recently due to a self-inflicted wound:

This is not Tester’s only PR problem. Having sent out mailers to voters suggesting that he was an avid hunter, it was recently discovered that he hasn’t had a hunting license in years. This damaged Tester’s credibility and made him the butt of more than one joke. Donald Trump, Jr. recently quipped, “That Senator won’t hunt.” …

So Montanans now know that Sen. Tester is either a liar or a poacher.

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A surprising revelation by Walker Stapleton

Posted by Richard on November 1, 2018

The other night, Next on 9News played an excerpt from Kyle Clark’s 13-minute interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton in which he revealed something that surprised me. Here’s the full interview, which is pretty interesting. The surprising revelation is in response to Kyle Clark’s last question at 11:37.

He’s got my vote. Low taxes and jam bands!

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If you aren’t watching SEAL Team, you’re really missing out

Posted by Richard on October 31, 2018

The CBS series SEAL Team is in its second season. If you haven’t been watching it, you’ve been missing some of the finest TV drama in many years, IMHO the best since the ’90s series Homicide: Life on the Street. It’s realistic, believable, and compelling. For me, tonight’s episode (S2E5, “Say Again Your Last”) was gut-wrenching to watch, but oh so worthwhile. I agree completely with David Hookstead:

As I’ve said many times before, “SEAL Team” is one of the greatest shows ever made, and an absolute home run for CBS(RELATED: One Of The Best Military Shows Ever Made Returns Tonight. Here’s What You Need To Know)

It’s not about a bunch of mindless guys in uniforms running around shooting people. It’s just as much about the home life as it is the action of combat.

Plus, the SEALs come off as very real, honest, authentic and believable. That’s not the easiest thing to pull of in a military drama, but “SEAL Team” did it without a problem.

Team leader Jason Hayes is the role David Boreanaz was born to play, and the rest of the cast is also outstanding. If you haven’t seen the show, and if past episodes are available from your cable/satellite provider or streaming service, I strongly suggest watching all of Season 1 so you really get to know the characters, not to mention seeing some great stories. But if that’s not an option, just dive in now. On the show’s CBS home page linked above, it looks like they’ll let you watch the first five episodes of Season 2 for free.

If at all possible, watch it on a big screen, not your 13″ laptop or (heaven forbid) phone. The videography is excellent and deserves all the screen real estate you can give it.

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Not The Onion: Young people explain why they don’t vote

Posted by Richard on October 30, 2018

Like all generations, millenials are a pretty diverse group. When it comes to voting, some of them fill out their absentee ballot at a forward operating base in Kandahar province after a day of locating IEDs, fighting off Taliban rebels, or helping villagers rebuild a bombed-out school. Others (probably living in their parents’ basement) can’t bring themselves to vote because mailing things causes them anxiety.

IMHO, this is a good thing. If you can’t deal with the post office or you need someone to print the registration form for you and provide you with stamps, then I’d rather you didn’t vote. Heck, I’d rather you didn’t drive a car or operate machinery.

But it’s only a matter of time until Schumer, Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez, et al, complain that not allowing people to vote via Snapchat is another example of Republican voter suppression.

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