Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And we wonder why health care is so expensive?

In the days when insurance companies pay for most treatments, and called "greedy" and "profit-hungry" for trying to pass on the higher costs to its policyholders, why shouldn't a doctor want only the most expensive treatments that he can provide?

This M.D. himself admitted, "A one-year experiment with expanded competitive bidding that was recently conducted by Medicare yielded cost savings of 42 percent, without reducing the quality of care, and was hailed as a great success." Naturally, competitive bidding can't be permitted at all in what he deals with.

Manny Pacquiao now learns that liberals' "tolerance" is only if you agree with them

He's been banned from Los Angeles' Grove mall, after an AP reporter (edit: I was incorrect to say it was Mario Lopez) goaded him into talking about gay marriage. Note that Pacquiao did not even quote the Old Testament, so he never actually suggested we execute homosexuals. It was actually the reporter who included the Leviticus passage, then later clarified that Pacquiao never quoted it. How typical of the liberal media.

The Grove's statement said, "The Grove is a gathering place for all Angelenos and not a place for intolerance." It's a perfect example of liberals' innate hypocrisy: their "tolerance" is hardly as "tolerant" as they'd have the rest of us think. While they demand everyone else "tolerates" and "respects" their opinions, they are intolerant of opinions they don't like. If the Grove weren't so intolerant of dissent, they would have tolerated Pacquiao's statement while offering a friendly gesture: "Please come and mingle with our many customers and visitors, whose sexual orientation doesn't matter in this wonderful place of commerce." What's more, the Grove's statement is itself intolerant by singling out "Angelenos" -- are they saying it's a place for just non-locals?

I once took an English Literature class in which a cross-dresser (mascara, blouse, skirt, and combat boots) constantly turned it into his forum to bash "right-wing, hate-spouting Christians." I didn't care how he dressed, or his orientation, but his off-topic vitriolic diatribes weren't anything but attempts to provoke, and a complete waste of our time. He was tolerated by the professor, though, maybe welcomed silently. If anyone had objected that we needed to get back to discussing literature, we'd have been thrown out for intolerance, if not "hate speech."

The gay marriage issue is still entirely a red herring. It's about some people using force ("government") to make others dispose of their property as the first group wants, nothing more. If your employer won't extend benefits to you and your same-sex (or opposite-sex non-married partner), then go work somewhere else that will, or start your own business. If you don't like that your employer extends those benefits, then go work somewhere else that doesn't.

But these are the days when the Obama regime is forcing Catholic schools and other institutions to offer insurance plans with contraceptive and abortion "benefits." This was completely unthinkable until the last couple of years. Soon enough, churches will be required to offer same-sex marriages, under penalty of losing tax-exempt status, or a Justice Department investigation. So much for tolerance of others' different opinions.

Then you have the usual drivel of the New York Slimes, who evidently thinks "general" means "always," and insults a young woman for her boyfriend getting her inebriated and pregnant. "I hesitated before picking on Bristol because she’s an easy target. It’s like shooting moose from a helicopter flying low over the tundra." This twit himself used the term "date rapist" -- how would liberals react if he used his insults toward rape victims in general? He'd probably be decried as a closet conservative.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Putting JPMorgan Chase's losses in perspective

Financial news has been ablaze since the announcement Thursday evening. While $2 billion is a lot of money, it's not the end of the world, and far from the end of JPMorgan Chase. So, some perspective:

It could exceed $3 brillion as JPM unwinds the positions (and until we know the specifics of what the investments were, who's to say the losses wouldn't recover some, given time?), but it was in a $100 billion portfolio. Stocks, especially indices, can see that kind of percentage swing daily. Meanwhile, JPM manages $1.4 trillion in assets.

The loss in JPM's market capitalization are purely paper. The only people affected are the shareholders who cash out for less than what they bought for, so in anticipation of this as a one-time loss, the prudent thing is to hold onto JPM stock. Personally I see this as a great value opportunity. (Disclosure: this is not a recommendation to buy. You do this at your own risk, and as always, I'm speaking for myself and am distancing my personal opinion from my employer.)

Many are calling for heads to roll, especially Jamie Dimon's. The only people with that right are the investors affected and shareholders. Cash in bank accounts is safe, so pure banking customers . Since JPM repaid its TARP loans in 2009, taxpayers aren't on the hook here. And to stop concerns immediately about taxpayers having to cover losses, it's very simple: don't bail them out! Then JPM can take care of its own losses, which will be booked as a one-time event (affecting profit only in the current quarter, so following quarters will be unaffected).

Meanwhile, among the same people who want Dimon to resign, are they so actively criticizing that taxpayers have poured billions into Fannie Mae (which finally showed its first profit since 2008) and Freddie Mac's continued losses? For 2010 and 2011, taxpayers gave over $20 billion just to Freddie Mac, which means taxpayers have been covering every few months what JPM lost as a one-time thing. These are losses every taxpayer is participating in, while JPM's losses affect only its clients.

Then consider that with Obama's budget deficits, taxpayers are losing over $3 billion each day. Where are the calls for the Borrower-in-Chief's resignation?

But Obama always heeds Rahm Emanuel's advice: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Already this is touted as justification for even more federal regulation. The only thing the regulations do, at current levels or more severe ones, is to cause all financial institutions to spend money chasing ghosts, and hinder profits with forced "decreased risk." These regulations can do nothing to prevent losses. Less risk doesn't mean less lost money, but less risk can easily mean less profit.

There are calls for reinstating Glass-Steagall, which would also have done nothing. If JPM had been separate investment banking and consumer banking entities, the investment banking side would have still suffered these losses. Glass-Steagall is a favorite talking point of the financially ignorant, that it enabled "too big to fail," and that we didn't have such a big crisis while it was in effect. Actually, had the Act not been repealed, the crisis would have still happened. Note that the crisis didn't happen for ten years after repeal, because it wasn't the Act: it was a "perfect storm" of events that built up even while the Act was in force. Not repealing Glass-Steagall would have simply meant more institutions for the contagion to spread among, but the same amounts of assets and losses. There would have still been failed commercial banks that approved bad mortgages, and failed portfolios as investment banks put clients into bad Mortgage-Backed Securities.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is it any wonder government-run education is such a failure?

So this high school student is unable to pass a final math competency test, but because he's "autistic," he should just be allowed to graduate? Then why not give out diplomas upon request, and further cheapen their value? As Judge Smails said, "Well, the world needs ditch diggers too." This kid's big enough. He can get a construction job -- if he can get enough of a hold on himself to keep the job. Is his mother going to watch over his shoulder for the rest of her life? What will he do after she dies? He dreams of film school, but his pattern of speech is appropriate to someone about 10 years old.

In my father's day, a high school diploma was deemed evidence of basic academic competency. It was the difference between working on a farm and working indoors. Now government schools hand them out to just about everyone for merely showing up, and to weed out those who were handed diplomas, employers have to require bachelor's degree for clerical jobs that hardly need a degree. It won't be long before a B.S. or B.A. is so common, so easily obtainable, that a master's degree will be required. Like welfare, food stamps and other "social services," the particular government entity wants to hand out as much as possible. High percentages make it look good, and they also justify the budget for next year. It can be the projected percentage of "people going hungry" who receive food stamps, or the percentage of students graduating. In New York State, the Regents exams have been notoriously dumbed down over the years. I forget which happened first, but I think it was lowering the percentage required to pass, and when that wasn't enough, questions were made easier. Children are passed on to the next grades so they can have "self esteem," not learning a damn thing except for this: they don't need to work at or for something, because the government is all too happy to give it to them.

Now add the great medical hoax of the last two decades: psychiatrists and pharmaceutical manufacturers, enabled by government and lazy parents, make money giving drugs for children who are acting like children. I've never believed this "autism" hogwash, when some kid isn't smart enough or dedicated enough to put in the effort to learn, the lazy parents, unwilling to consider they did nothing to push the desire to learn. I knew someone whose 10-year-old son never learned to read, so of course he must be "autistic." In my father's day, the would-be high school graduate would have been called an idiot, and accepted as someone who wouldn't amount to anything. Parents are told their children have ADHD and are handed a prescription for Ritalin, when all that should be needed is for the children to be told to sit down, be quiet and pay attention. My second grade teacher's solution to a problem student was putting him in a corner, with a screen around him to isolate us. He was still held back that year, but it was effective at keeping him from disrupting the class.

My Macroeconomics I class was popular with non-econ students who needed a statistics or similar class as a general graduation requirement. The class wasn't what those students expected, and most dropped out after the first midterm. The professor ran his class as a serious gateway to an economics degree, not a one-time fling. There was one who kept on till the end, always asking rather stupid questions, which exasperated the professor to no end. Over lunch one day, a friend said, "Did you notice ____'s stupid question today?" So I wasn't the only one to notice the guy's inanity, his irregular shaving of facial hair, or his body odor. One morning, I had to stifle a laugh when he and a couple of others raised theirs hands with questions. The professor wanted to get to the serious students and said to him, "You, shut up." I refuse to call him "autistic" or having "Asperger's Syndrome." He was just an idiot in the literal sense.

With no ability to make logical correlations, how on earth did he get into college? It's unimaginable that he'd score decently on an entrance exam, or get decent grades in high school. I mentioned the "weird guy in my econ class" to another friend, who suggested that there might be some program allowing people of lesser intelligence to attend college. So, I said, what happens when this idiot is given credits just because and winds up with a degree? Aw, my friend replied, let the guy get his degree. But, I protested, what does that do for the degree that we were earning? The more are handed out to people who haven't earned one, the more employers can't trust that our degrees actually mean anything.

This seems what will happen with this latest "autistic" kid in the news. Wait for the "civil rights leaders" to levy charges of racism, and after the boy gets a diploma, he'll wind up at some college. Maybe he'll annoy the professors and dean enough that they'll give him a degree to get out. Film school is highly unlikely. Does his mother think she can help him with his projects?

Somewhere in the comments, someone quoted Albert Einstein: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Except that Einstein didn't say that. There's no chapter and verse that can be cited, only some schmuck's book that can't point to anything concrete. In other words, Einstein said it as much as George Washington said "I cannot tell a lie" after chopping down a cherry tree. It's also a myth that Einstein failed math. Such stories are fabricated by people who don't want to believe they're less. There's comparative advantage in everyone, but not "genius."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Congratulations, "lady," now we know you're a disgusting boor

There was a time a woman of the lowest class still wouldn't do this.

Back when there was real singing of real words and real music

There was the beautiful Jo Stafford, with Tommy Dorsey and his band.

Our kiss was a sky-ride to the highest star
We made it without touching a handlebar
And I gave you my love
To the melody of the music, the madness
That made our Manhattan serenade

I remembered the music from its expansion in the classic "Mouse in Manhattan" cartoon, but I didn't remember the words. Were my dad still alive, he'd say, "Don't you remember any of the music I taught you?"

Friday, May 04, 2012

Thanks for another screwup, Netflix

After reporting our umpteenth cracked disc a few days ago, I checked the following day to see that nothing was happening in our queue. Normally Netflix sends out the next disc, whether a replacement or the next item in your queue. Did Netflix intentionally stop the next items because I've reported so many cracked discs? Then Netflix can do something and stop sending out so many. I've called their hotline to tell them that it's always the same pattern, so it's either their machines or the local post office.

Our queue still wasn't moving yesterday, so I finally called to see what was going on. Not only did the agent seem disinterested, I saw this morning she did not follow through with her offer of an extra rental to make up for the cracked disc.

Good job, Netflix. It's not the price hike per se that caused you to lose millions of customers customers. It's the insult of a price hike when service quality is going down. We're probably done at the end of this month.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Chuck Norris fact you've never heard before

(By yours truly)

Chuck Norris did in fact cry once. Thousands of years ago, God showed him how wicked and corrupt mankind had become. Chuck Norris cried for 40 days and 40 nights, causing the Flood, and the rainbow is God's promise to never make Chuck Norris cry again.

Now check out the trailer for Expendables 2, which will supplant the original as Greatest Action Movie of All Time.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Were you bribed, Tim Welke, or are you just that stupid?

Just tell us, man, how could you have blown this call?

"Wait a minute, he wasn't even close to being on the bag!"

The lesson of the Bronx River Parkway tragedy: speed does kill

It's all over the news here, and probably mentioned around the country. A woman was driving 68 in a 50-mph zone on an elevated stretch of the Bronx River Parkway, hit the concrete divider and veered back across the lanes, with the SUV then going over the guard rail and falling several stories. All seven vehicle occupants died.

Already politicians are calling to improve "safety" on the road, but there was a simple thing the driver could have done to prevent the accident entirely: slow down. This Daily News op-ed calls for "better driver training," but all Gonzalez needed to do was not speed. I intentionally avoid the BRP when possible, instead taking the "Hutch" and Cross County Parkway if I can. The added miles and time are worth an easier and safer drive. The BRP's turns and narrow lanes (which are in fact wider where this accident happened!) are dangerous enough at posted speed limits. Now add in lots of crazy drivers who can't handle the lanes, drifting over the lines -- especially those who think their SUVs can maneuver like a Mini Cooper, going 15-20 over the limit in blatant disregard for the safety of their passengers and everyone else.

Of course, government officials must try to look good, offering solutions that might sound good but will in fact just make things worse. If there had been a high edge wall, as the Bronx Borough President is now proposing, here's what would have happened: the SUV would have hit the right wall and not gone over, but it would have caused a worse accident with heaven-only-knows how many cars behind them. Cars would have slammed into the stopped Pilot, and many more people would have died in the resulting pile-up. As cold as it sounds to say, at least Gonzalez killed only herself and six of her family without taking others with them.

Only years later could I understand the times my father would tell us to be quiet in the car. Besides being obnoxious as children are wont to be, we were distracting him and could well get us all killed. The old man once mentioned a good friend who died in a tragic accident. He was driving his family back from a trip, and they weren't very far from home when it happened. It was his friend's fault, and as my father figured, everyone was excited at getting home, and the father was distracted. I suspect this is what happened to Gonzalez, who with her family members were headed to a reunion.