This Week’s Climate News

A month into Spring, and whaddyaknow: the Great Lakes are still 37 percent frozen over—the second highest level since precise satellite measurements began in 1973.  NOAA posted this satellite photo a couple days ago:

NOAA Ice copy

And Environment Canada offers this bar chart of ice levels as of this date for every year back to 1980:

Canada Ice copy

But who knows: maybe this will front-fire for the Climatistas.  As Clive Crook argues cogently at Bloomberg, global warming scare tactics have backfired badly.  Maybe the Climatistas should shoot the moon and go back to an ice age scare.  A lot more people would buy it.

The Growing Financial Disaster of Obamacare

President Obama asserts that 8 million people have signed up for Obamacare, as though that were something to be proud of. In fact, Obamacare has always been a fiasco from a fiscal perspective–a black hole of subsidies and expanded Medicaid, with largely fictitious mechanisms in place to pay for it. As the number of subsidized participants grows, the disaster gets worse. Charles Blahous explains:

Our national discussion…is missing the truly significant story here; what is unfolding before our eyes is a colossal fiscal disaster, poised to haunt legislators and taxpayers for decades to come.

It is quite possible that the ACA is shaping up as the greatest act of fiscal irresponsibility ever committed by federal legislators. … [T]he ACA is a commitment to permanently subsidize comprehensive health insurance for millions who could not otherwise afford it, which the federal government has no viable plan to finance. Moreover, experience shows that it is very difficult to scale back such spending once large numbers of Americans have been made dependent on it.

Assuming that all of its provisions were enforced, Obamacare stood to add $340 billion to the U.S. deficit over its first 10 years. But as we all know, the administration has “amended” the law on the fly, and Congress, too, has backed away from some of its provisions. As a result, the intended financing scheme to support a vast expansion of subsidized health care has largely been dismantled:

Where will the money come from to finance the ACA’s health exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansion? No one knows. We do know that the ACA’s financing mechanisms are already falling apart. The ACA’s much-reported website glitches and enrollment shortfalls had actually suggested an upside; if enrollment continued to fall short of previous projections, it was possible that some of the fiscal damage could be contained. But if enrollment has picked up as the law’s financing mechanisms disintegrate, the fiscal damage will be worse than anticipated. Consider the following:

CLASS: The ACA’s “CLASS” long-term care provisions were originally projected to generate $37 billion in net premiums through 2015 ($86 billion over ten years). CLASS was later suspended due to its long-term financial unworkability, meaning these revenues have not materialized and will not.

Employer/individual mandate penalties: These were supposed to have brought in $12 billion through 2015, $101 billion over the first ten years. Because the Obama Administration has repeatedly delayed their enforcement, to date they haven’t brought in much of anything. Some ACA advocates are even beginning to downplay the significance of possibly ditching these mandates altogether, though they were central to the law’s financing scheme.

Medicare Advantage: The ACA was supposed to be financed in part by cuts to Medicare Advantage (MA) totaling $31 billion through FY2015, $128 billion over the first ten years. The White House recently announced that planned MA cuts will not go into effect after all.

Other controversial provisions: The ACA’s most controversial savings provisions – among them its ambitious Medicare provider payment reductions, the tax on so-called “Cadillac” health plans, and cost-saving decisions of the Independent Payment Advisory Board–have yet to be tested. Given that less-controversial provisions have failed to meet their savings targets, there is little basis for confidence that these more controversial ones will do so.

Blahous concludes:

When new enrollment figures were released last week, the national discussion focused on whether the ACA is fulfilling its coverage expansion goals. The largely unwritten and more important story, however, is that the ACA is rapidly becoming a colossal fiscal disaster as enrollment proceeds heedless of the concurrent collapse of the law’s financing structure.

It is deeply ironic that the White House has embarked on its ACA spending spree at the same time it assures its press auxiliary that the federal deficit is no longer an issue. We are $17 trillion in debt and counting, and the Democrats have no plan other than to spend the nation in to bankruptcy.

Birth of the VRWC

Politico draws attention to the release yesterday in the latest tranche of papers from the Clinton library of what it refers to as the conspiracy commerce memo.”

The memo appears to be undated; Politico assigns it to 1995, contemporaneous with the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton but predating the Lewinsky affair. It was at the outset of the disclosure of the Lewinksy affair that Hillary attributed the story to “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” The memo had come into its own, proving the the uses of meticulous research.

Authorship of the memo is not apparent on its face. Who came up with this stuff on the White House payroll? The Politico article links to a 1997 Washington Post story by John Harris and Peter Baker that credits authorship to a “young White House aide toiling in an obscure corner of the Old Executive Office Building.” Toward the bottom of the story they identify the aide as Chris Lehane.

Chris Lehane: where is he now?

Clinton’s White House press flacks circulated Lehane’s 1995 memo to the administration’s friends in the mainstream media, who were to use it to expand their understanding of wild stories about “Whitewater, the suicide of White House aide Vincent Foster, and other matters that seemed to be spinning out of their control.”

Ah, the good old days.

Politico’s mention of Richard Mellon Scaife really brings back the feeling of a walk down memory lane: “A great deal of the memo is devoted to Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire newspaper publisher and heir to the Mellon fortune. The memo accuses Scaife of fueling speculation surrounding Foster’s death and funding Newt Gingrich, who would conveniently question the circumstances of Foster’s death.”

For those of us with short memories, Politico adds this helpful parenthetical: “Scaife would change his tune on the Clintons years later, supporting Hillary’s 2008 run for president and donating to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.”

The Week in Pictures: Royal Baby Edition

I assume you heard the news: a new royal baby is on the way, perfectly timed for the 2016 campaign. No—I’m not talking about Will and Kate: I’m talking about the announcement of the newest member of the House of Clinton, as revealed this week by Princess Chelsea. A perfect prop for the campaign trail.  The media will surely take up a collection to buy some celebratory baby shoes, but remember not to throw them.  But let’s start with the selfie of the week year:

The ultimate selfie. . .

The ultimate selfie. . .

Hillary Shoe copy

Obama Psych ward copy

Invade Nevada copy

Nukes v Cows copy

Desert Tortoise copy

Bundy Resistance copy

Reid Terrorists copy

Obamacare Miracle copy

Keystone Politics copy

Debate Over copy

Left Thought Police copy

Not Your Dad copy

Race Card 2 copy

Maslow Reimagined copy

Marshamallow Bunny copy

Adult Easter Egg Hunt copy

Epic fail. . .

Epic fail. . .

Pollen v Death Star copy

New Californias copy

And finally. . .

Hot 150 copy

 

The War On Standards Comes to College Debate [with comment by Paul]

shutterstock_153531818Paul has been writing about the war on standards in various aspects of our society, generally as a means of advancing the interests of minorities (or purporting to advance them, anyway). Now it appears that the decline of standards–indeed, the abolition of any standards at all–has come to the world of college debate. The Atlantic reports:

These days, an increasingly diverse group of participants has transformed debate competitions, mounting challenges to traditional form and content by incorporating personal experience, performance, and radical politics. These “alternative-style” debaters have achieved success, too, taking top honors at national collegiate tournaments over the past few years. …

On March 24, 2014 at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) Championships at Indiana University, two Towson University students, Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, became the first African-American women to win a national college debate tournament, for which the resolution asked whether the U.S. president’s war powers should be restricted. Rather than address the resolution straight on, Ruffin and Johnson, along with other teams of African-Americans, attacked its premise. The more pressing issue, they argued, is how the U.S. government is at war with poor black communities.

In the final round, Ruffin and Johnson squared off against Rashid Campbell and George Lee from the University of Oklahoma, two highly accomplished African-American debaters with distinctive dreadlocks and dashikis. Over four hours, the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like “nigga authenticity” and performed hip-hop and spoken-word poetry in the traditional timed format. At one point during Lee’s rebuttal, the clock ran out but he refused to yield the floor. “Fuck the time!” he yelled.

It sounds as though academic debating has come to an end. Debating is all about logic, and what these folks are doing is not logical. In some instances, new-style participants reject the proposition that they are supposed to be debating:

In the 2013 championship, two men from Emporia State University, Ryan Walsh and Elijah Smith, employed a similar style and became the first African-Americans to win two national debate tournaments. Many of their arguments, based on personal memoir and rap music, completely ignored the stated resolution, and instead asserted that the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students.

It is hard to believe that such tired cliches could win anything, but when you abandon normal standards of judgment, I suppose anything is possible.

The assertion that “the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students” is puzzling. By “privileged,” the writer apparently means that these are the people who have been good at it. Historically, most college students have of course been white and middle-class, but so what?

When Paul and I were debating in the late 60s and early 70s, all kinds of people were good at the activity. There were not a lot of African-Americans on the circuit, but there were a few, some of whom excelled. There were, of course, lots of women. Most of us were “middle-class,” but some were rich and some were poor. One prominent West Coast debater was the son of a pornographer who claimed that his summer job was writing one-paragraph descriptions of pornographic books for his father’s company’s catalogue. One of our Dartmouth teammates worked in sewers during the summer; his only prosperous relative was in the Mafia. Another of our teammates had returned to college after being shot up in Vietnam. Was everybody straight? Hmm, no one made an issue of it at the time, but I doubt it. So–in short–the world, including the college debate world, has always been a more interesting and diverse place than these obtuse kids realize.

One of the nice things about debate was that anyone who had talent and worked hard could succeed. I was a nerdy kid from a small town in South Dakota, but I was pretty good, so no one cared. My partner and I won the Northeastern intercollegiate championship twice.

College debate has always been an eccentric activity, and it attracted a lot of eccentric people. The activity did most of its participants a lot of good, I think. But that value apparently is now being lost, as standards have disappeared, logic is out the window, and bullshit about race is replacing actual argumentation. The loss of college debate is relatively minor, I suppose, compared to other assaults on our culture. But for those of us who laid the foundations of our careers in the rigorous give and take of debate, it is sad to see the activity come to an end.

The lights of our culture are going out, one after another, under the attacks of the know-nothings. This one is a relatively small loss, perhaps, but it hits close to home for Paul and me.

PAUL ADDS: The subtext here is the same as the subtext for much of the war on standards. College debating, it seems, has been radically transformed in ways that make it easier for African-Americans to succeed at it.

As for the notion of “privilege,” it is now clear that the debaters of our era were privileged in a limited but important sense. We were required to take the activity seriously and to meet high standards in order to succeed. For example, we did not have the privilege of ignoring the time limits on speeches, much less of blowing them off with obscenities. We took this for granted at the time, but it turns out to have been a privilege.

We had a debate coach, Herb James, who wanted us to obtain the full benefit of the activity and, through hard work and respect for the activity, become the best debaters we could be. As a college student in a tumultuous era full of distractions, I sometimes disappointed my coach. But we were privileged to have a coach who held us accountable and whom we could disappoint.

We were also privileged to be judged by adults who held us to knowable standards, and we were privileged to debate serious opponents. Not all of our opponents fit this description, but at least we could count on them not to break into song or inject their alleged “personal stories” into the proceedings.

I think John would agree that our efforts to meet the standards applicable to debating during our era helped us later on to meet the standards applicable to successfully litigating law suits. Will meeting the standards, if any, that apply to debating as performed by the showmen whose exploits are described above help them succeed in any serious profession outside of the entertainment industry? Will meeting these “standards” help them become serious adults?

The legal profession is changing; so is the concept of a serious adult. But they aren’t changing nearly fast enough to make debating as practiced by these showmen an experience with meaningful carryover benefits in the real world.

Keystone: The Fierce Urgency of Delay

It’s not just any old Friday afternoon, but Good Friday, and so why are we surprised that the Obama Administration chooses late in the day today to make this announcement:

Administration Again Delays Keystone Pipeline Decision

The Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps pushing back a final decision on the disputed project until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a tweet that officials are reviewing some 2.5 million public comments, and that agencies need to more time to assess the impact of a pending lawsuit in Nebraska over the pipeline route.

Republicans (and some Democrats) who support the pipeline denounced the delay — placing the blame on President Obama — while environmental groups hailed it as a sign that the project will not move forward. . .

Tom Steyer is clearly getting his money’s worth.  (Or more likely the fear that Steyer will cut off campaign money before November is a main factor in this decision.)

Keystone Thoughts copy

Move On? Not Just Yet

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama accused Republicans of being obsessed with Obamacare. He said the law is here to stay, and it is time to “move on.” This is silly on a number of levels, some of which Paul pointed out this morning. I want to add just one more.

It is absurd for the Democrats to say that Obamacare is secure and we should stop talking about it, when the law has not even been fully implemented. The employer mandate, in particular, has been put off to 2015. Why do you think the Obama administration unlawfully deferred implementation of various major portions of the ACA? Obviously, because they knew the effects of those provisions would be unpopular.

There is no way anyone can assess the impacts of Obamacare, let alone declare it a success, when an element of the law as important as the employer mandate has not even taken effect. In 2010, the Obama administration predicted that the employer mandate, on account of its restrictive grandfather clause, would cause more than one-half of all employer-sponsored group health insurance plans to terminate. Such plans are, of course, the most common way Americans get health insurance. When half or more of all employer-sponsored plans become illegal under Obamacare, the effects will be felt by tens of millions of people. One of two things will happen: either the employer will simply terminate the plan, pay a much less expensive penalty, and dump employees onto the Obamacare exchanges; or the employer will adopt a new, Obamacare-compliant plan. Such a plan will be more expensive than the prior, non-conforming plan because it will include all ACA-mandated coverages.

So, beginning in late 2014 and continuing through 2015 and 2016, tens of millions of Americans will lose their group health insurance entirely, or else see it become more expensive. Millions will be thrown onto the exchanges, which the Obama administration will no doubt trumpet as another great victory. Whether the millions whose health care arrangements have been disrupted will share that view is doubtful.

So, to those who say Obamacare is riding low in the polls, I say: you ain’t seen nothing yet.