Archive for February, 2012


On Contraception

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

I know that the idea that the federal government should mandate paying for contraception by means of health insurance seems odd to many of you. Indeed it is odd, and were it not for the fact that I’ve spent most of my life in deep blue enclaves, I too may find myself perplexed by the notion. And while I avowedly disagree with the idea, I am not perplexed by the notion. It’s something I’ve heard liberal women screech about for about a decade or so. So allow me to share with you my understanding.

The first part is that leftists have this fantasy that they will be able to walk into a clinic or pharmacy and get whatever they need in a timely fashion and just walk out, without thinking about it and more importantly, WITHOUT PAYING. This is a fantasy, and free stuff ultimately doesn’t work as a public policy (see Free Stuff vs. Freedom). And in light of that fantasy, contraception is just one more health related thing they want for free.

But ultimately, it’s more than that. It’s tit for tat sexism, coupled with an utter lack of understanding as to what insurance actually is. I want to show you a tweet that someone in my timeline retweeted. It’s been retweeted over 50 times, which is a fair number for an individual tweet. But it’s a meme I’ve heard from women around blue parts for some time now:

Why aren’t erectile dysfunction drugs as controversial as contraceptives? If God wanted you to have that erection, He’d give it to you.
Joy Castro

The meme is offensive on a number of different levels. First up is the God reference. Certainly, few Christians believe in faith healing (though I wonder if those who do, such as Christian Scientists, get waivers from the penalties Obamacare imposes on the uninsured). And more importantly, few people who oppose Obamacare or even the contraception mandate do so on specifically Christian grounds. It is fascinating to me that the author should feel the need to load her comment with the reference to God at all.

And of course, the author completely misunderstands what insurance is. Insurance is a bet you make that something bad might happen to you. Obviously, you hope to lose the bet. The insurance company (or cooperative) charges based on the likelihood of the bad thing occurring and the cost of dealing with the bad thing when it does occur. Any extra money is either profit to the company or a dividend to the cooperative shareholders.

But what you can’t do is insure against an eventuality. All that amounts to is a weird kind of financing scheme. Even life insurance isn’t insuring against one’s death (a certainty) but against the timing of one’s death (an uncertainty). By way of example, imagine going to your insurance company to obtain toilet paper. Literally, everyone poops, on a more or less predictable schedule. Therefore. there’s literally nothing to insure. You’d be paying a premium to a company to handle your money and give it back to you in the form of toilet paper. Such a scheme can’t possibly make sense, and can only run up the cost of toilet paper for everyone involved. (Conversely, if for some reason you stopped pooping, then that would be an insurable event.)

But the real reason for the Obama administration mandating that contraception be covered by insurance is that they perceive men getting sex pills paid for, and so they feel their sex pills should be free too. Never mind that one is for a disfunction, and the other is for a normal, properly functioning body. It’s tit for tat over minutiae of the sort that plagues child siblings and those stuck in dysfunctional marriages. “Dad, he got more french fries that me!” “Mom, he’s played with it for 5 minutes, it’s MY TURN!!!” It’s the sort of attitude that causes a parent to yell at their child, to tell them to zip it. Life isn’t precisely fair, and attempts to make it so are futile and distracting. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous:

God, Give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, Courage
to change the things which should be changed,
And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Now one may argue that erectile dysfunction in men above a certain age is so common that it shouldn’t be covered by insurance. But that is a dangerous argument if you believe in the likes of Obamacare. That is an argument for catastrophic coverage, as opposed to comprehensive coverage. And in that kind of world, the sort I argue for in my Grand Plan, anything short of cancer would likely be paid for out of pocket. I would argue that such a setup would result in health care costs coming down dramatically. But such a setup would not be in keeping with the “get my healthcare for free” fantasy. Not that leftists won’t make the argument. Consistency has never been one of the left’s strong suits.

I’ve become convinced that a fair amount of modern leftist ideology is little more than thinly veiled man hatred. Count this argument as one more data point in favor of that argument.


A Repeat of 2006 – Mitt Romney is NOT Electable

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Mitt Romney has been running on the idea that he is “electable”. The idea is that he’s so clean cut and well spoken that he was able to win the governorship in one of the most liberal states in the country. And while his narrative has taken a bruising lately, it still holds because he’s claiming to just be more electable than the other candidates. This is utter nonsense, and the notion needs to be dispelled.

Mitt Romney is in fact the least electable candidate in the race. His past performance in Massachusetts indicates as much. The only thing required to understand this is a touch of knowledge about Massachusetts political history.

When Mike Dukakis left government after attempting to run for President, he left state government in shambles. He lied about having balanced the budget, and the people of Massachusetts were fed up with him and the Democrats. Into this environment, the people of Massachusetts elected Republican Bill Weld as governor, and gave him enough of a minority in the legislature so as to be able to sustain a veto. That was in 1990. Bill Weld was re-elected in 1994, and grew bored with being governor, and resigned in 1997, leaving the office to his Lt. Governor Paul Cellucci. Cellucci was a real local (locals would call his sort a “townie”), who ran up an extraordinary amount of personal credit card debt, calling into his question his ability to be a good manager. Nevertheless, he managed to get elected to the governorship in his own right in 1998. Cellucci resigned in 2001 to become the US ambassador to Canada, leaving the office to Jane Swift, who gave birth to twins while serving as acting governor, and chose not to run for the office herself.

It was into this string of Republican wins that Mitt Romney threw his hat into the ring. In other words, he was the third Republican governor in 12 years of continuous Republican governors in the state. So his win was not nearly as impressive as he made it sound. Massachusetts had Republican governors for 12 years running before he showed up. So they were used to it.

But really, he provided no reason for people to vote for him in 2002. He ran a similar campaign to what he’s running now, that he’s a good manager who can help fix problems. The real reason why he won was because his opponent, Shannon O’Brien imploded after likening teenage abortions to getting a tattoo, and then tried to make light of it by offering to show her tattoos on the campaign trail. In light of such rank idiocy, Massachusetts opted for Romney.

I’m going to skip over how he governed, except to point out that Romney made a real effort to get Republicans elected to the state legislature, and his effort was a complete and utter failure. Republicans lost seats while he was governor.

After being governor for four years, Romney could see the writing on the wall. he would lose re-election. And so he made the preposterous argument that he’d accomplished everything he’d wanted to accomplish as governor and that as a result he was going to go. And he set up his Lt. Governor to be the next Republican nominee, a woman named Kerry Healey.

Now Kerry Healey was someone few had heard of prior to Romney picking her to be his Lt. Governor. She’d never held political office before, but she’d had a good showing in some race or another before Romney tapped her. She held a PhD in criminology and married a centimillionaire. She was a caricature of herself and of a pearl wearing country club Republican. In fact, she was such a caricature that she was donned the nickname “Muffy”, not from her adversaries, but from the state’s premier right-of-center columnist, Howie Carr.

But that is not all, oh no that is not all. See Muffy had what would have been a primary challenger, a man by the name of Christie Mihos. Mihos was a self made businessman in Massachusetts, having started a chain of convenience stores from scratch. And he had been active in Republican politics for some time. He deserved a spot on the primary ballot. but Romney’s henchmen played games with the Massachusetts State Republican convention, refusing to let Mihos’ supporters in. As a result, he didn’t get the requisite 15% of the vote required to get on the ballot. In response, Mihos went apoplectic.

But before we get to Mihos’ response, let us recall that much the same thing has been happening in this current race. Romney’s cronies got the FLorida primary moved up in contravention of Republican Party rules, as a firewall of sorts to stop any possible challengers. And they are rumored to have had a hand in keeping Perry and Gingrich off the ballot in Virginia.

When you win a primary legitimately, opposing candidates tend to get in line and endorse you. But when you win by dirty tricks, you engender permanent opposition. Which brings us to Christie Mihos’ justified jihad against Mitt Romney.

Mihos ran an independent candidacy, running exclusively against Muffy, ignoring the Democrat in the race (whom we’ll get back to). Mihos ran what has to be one of the most outrageous ad campaigns in the history of televised politics. His ad literally depicted Beacon Hill politicians sticking their heads up their own asses, in cartoon form. And not just generic representations of politicians, literally, Mitt Romney and Muffy. See for yourself:

I shudder to think what newt Gingrich is going to do to this man in the general election once he has nothing left to lose.

So back to our story. Muffy’s real opponent in the general election was a man named Deval Patrick. He was a well spoken black lawyer, who had served on some major corporate boards and has been in Clinton’s justice department for a period of time. He ran on a theme of “Yes We Can!” If that sounds familiar, it should. His campaign manager was David Axelrod and the campaign he ran for Deval Patrick was a dry run for the one he would eventually run for Barack Obama. Which is to say, 2012 will not be the first time that the Romney and Obama teams will have faced off. They faced off in 2006, and the result was NOT pretty.

The key to understanding Massachusetts politics is to know how much of the vote is really up for grabs in any election. In Massachusetts, 30% of the voters will vote for the Republican candidate no matter what, and 40% for the Democrat. This leaves 30% up for grabs, the independent vote so to speak. While at first glance it doesn’t seem like that big of a difference, if you do the math you will see that a Republican needs to win 2/3 of the independent vote to win an election. This is what Scott Brown did. So that fact that Muffy lost and Deval won shouldn’t be a serious concern, at least if the independent vote was reasonably split.

But it wasn’t.

Here’s how the vote broke down:

  • Muffy: 779,807 35%
  • Mihos: 161,012 7%
  • Patrick: 1,230,065 56%
  • Green: 43,032 2%

Let’s translate this. Assume that Mihos’ votes were really republican votes, and the Green Party’s votes were Democrats and run the percentages. We get:

  • Muffy/Mihos: 42.5%
  • Patrick/Green: 57.5%

And to get the independent vote breakdown, we subtract 30% from the right and 40% from the left:

  • Independents voting right: 12.5%
  • Independents voting left: 17.5%

Or put differently, the independent voters split as follows:

  • Independents voting right: 41.6%
  • Independents voting left: 58.3%

If Republicans lose the independent vote 58% to 42%, they will lose. And that’s not even considering the fact that Mihos in fact took 7% of the vote for himself. I think we could expect similar results if Gingrich goes rogue and runs third party.

So I hope you’re a bit more informed about Mitt Romney’s electability now. Nominating Mitt Romney will, I believe, lead to a massive loss in November. My hope is that is doesn’t have an effect down ticket.


Les Trois Mousquetaires Baltic Porter

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

from Instagram:

Free Stuff vs. Freedom

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

So I’ve been waiting for someone to write the definitive piece on this whole Obamacare/Catholic/contraception kerfluffle. There is much to write about it, but to date I have yet to see anyone spell out the central lesson that needs to be learned. So here, in a nutshell, is that lesson:

Free stuff and freedom are inherently incompatible concepts. You can choose the free stuff, or you can choose the freedom, but if you choose the free stuff, you will eventually lose the freedom. Here’s why:

  1. As any economist can tell you, appetites are unlimited, but means are not. Which is to say, we all can consume unlimited amounts of stuff, but we don’t because we don’t have the money. Thus when you tell somebody that you’re not going to interfere with their freedom to consume, you’re just going to foot the bill, it should come as no surprise that they gorge like pigs at the trough. When the bill comes due, you are then forced to make a choice: curtail the freedom or the free stuff. Either you end the subsidy or you put all sorts of limits on how it can be used. Or, I suppose, you go bankrupt like Europe is doing now, and like the US is about to do soon, in which case the free stuff will go away.
  2. Even if the people consuming the free stuff don’t gorge at the trough, even if they are limited in the amount of free stuff they’re given, eventually the choices they make in consuming their free stuff will offend somebody. And because it’s their tax money, indeed everyone’s tax money, that is paying for the free stuff, those people will seek redress that their tax dollars not go to fund the free stuff that so offends them. Likewise, others will believe that because some free stuff is funded that they for some reason or another cannot put to use, that their other free stuff must also be funded in order for things to be fair. This creates endless conflicts and fights. One may think that these fights are mostly between prudes and libertines. Yet one can easily imagine passionate fights between vegetarians and Atkins dieters, or between Mayor Bloomberg and anyone who enjoys anything whatsoever. Literally, the available permutations are endless.

    Moreover, there will invariably be people whose economic interests are at stake as well. They want the stuff they produce available to be purchased as free stuff, and the stuff their competitors make eliminated. This means that they too will lobby, and adopt the arguments of their idealogical brethren mentioned in the preceding paragraph as their own.

    Eventually, someone wins out. That someone is either the lobby with the most to gain financially or the lowest common denominator amongst public opinion. But whatever it is, the freedom to choose for the person receiving the free stuff has been curtailed.

If you want to see this work in a concrete way, find a teenager at the mall and hand him your credit card. Tell him he can do with it what he wants for the time he is at the mall. By the time the bill comes due, the teenager will undoubtedly have spent more than you would have foreseen, and would have spent it on items that you would not likely have approved of. The same thing happens in the public sphere.

You can see these forces play out whenever some politician calls for banning the use of food stamps for candy and cigarettes. But food stamps are a program for the poor only. Obamacare, by contrast, is designed to manage everybody’s health care. The goal is for everybody, or at least most people, to be able to get whatever health care they need without paying for it themselves. The bill is picked up by the employer or the state. And because every decision you make in your life has an impact on your health, and the state is paying your health bill, the state will presume to have a say on those decisions. Put aside the specific reasons why the Obama administration wants contraception covered by insurance (a subject for a later blog post). The fact is that these kinds of fights and loss of freedoms will become a normal part of our life under a state run health care system. The loss of our personal freedoms, religious included, is inevitable. Just wait until the state starts monitoring your daily routines with technology like this. It will happen, it’s only a matter of time.

So apparently the Catholic Church were big boosters for Obamacare when it was being passed, being fans of free stuff for the poor and all. One should hope that they have learned something from this episode about the incompatibility of free stuff and freedom. Though I’m not holding my breath. But perhaps the rest of us might learn something instead.

Again, I’m not holding my breath.


Home made pretzels for Super Bowl

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

from Instagram: