Eric Garner Did Not Die From The Chokehold

I watched the videos several times and I am convinced that the cause of Eric Garner’s death was not from the chokehold. The officer brought Eric Garner down to the ground with a chokehold but it does not look like he maintains it when the other officers assist in subduing Mr. Garner. It looks like the chokehold has been released when Mr. Garner is alive and saying I cannot breath. A likely scenario is that the officers knees in the back put enough pressure on Mr. Garner’s back to suffocate him. So now we are confronted with the situation that all of the officers assisting in the arrest share some of the blame for Mr. Garner’s death. Although I agree that this was an unnecessary death, I do not think the grand jury could recommend prosecution when multiple people were likely at fault.

Cooking T-Bones With The Anova Sous-Vide Cooker

IMG_20141115_155829My Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker arrived last week. I had already decided that I wanted to cook a steak in it as my first test so I was pretty lucky that I found T-Bone steaks on sale at Jungle Jim’s. The first problem I ran into was figuring why it was beeping at me and would not start circulating water. Then I noticed that there was a minimum water level etched on the base. With a little bit more water the I was able to set the temperature and water started circulating. When the temperature got up to 131°, I put the steaks in. A hour and a half later, I took it out of the water bath and prepped it with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. I let it sit while I finished preparing the side dishes. I seared the steaks on a pre-heated the cast iron skillet. Everything worked like a charm. The steaks had a nice sear and the inside of the steak was medium rare pink. The wife was impressed.

Pint Night at Jungle Jim’s

IMG_20141114_184018Here is my latest addition to my pint beer glass collection. It was christened at Jungle Jim’s pint night with Victory’s DirtWolf Double IPA. It was a fine beer but I am still not fond of Double IPA’s.  I enjoy dropping in for Jungles pint night and a little bit of last minute grocery shopping. In this case I found some nice T-Bone steaks for $6.99 a pound. The trip home was long enough for my palate to return so I finished off the last of my Dogfish Head Punkin Ale in the glass.

2014 Version Of The Nine Most Terrifying Words In The English language

The 2014 version of the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I am Professor Gruber and am here to help.”

I’m sorry I could not resist poking a little fun at Professor Gruber. I tend to agree with Ron Fournier who said that the combination of the Administration’s mistakes with Jonathan Gruber’s embarrassing comments have done more to undermine the Affordable Care Act than all of the efforts by conservatives combined. The Administration is probably thinking that with Professor Gruber as our “friend”, who needs enemies?

Keystone Pipeline Vote Is About Growing The Economy

BarrelOilI am getting increasingly annoyed with the President saying that the Keystone pipeline will allow Canada to send their oil through our land where it will be sold elsewhere. Here is an example from a yahoo news story, Keystone Pipeline vote isn’t about energy.

In a press conference last week in Asia, Obama remarked that the pipeline wouldn’t add anything to the U.S. energy economy and would allow Canada to, “pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else.”

As a guy who lived in Houston for 18 years the idea that the oil will be sold elsewhere is very unlikely. What is likely is:

  1. Refiners along the Gulf coast will see lower prices for all of their feedstocks. Most of the refiners can handle a variety of feedstocks and will switch to the feedstock that makes them the most money.
  2. Refiners will convert every barrel coming out of the pipeline into high valued products like gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and the chemicals used to make plastics and fibers. The Gulf coast already has an intricate web of product pipelines for the building blocks of plastics.
  3. The United States oil and chemical industries are very, very good at capturing as much value as possible out each barrel of oil. That is what they have been doing for over 100 years. It is unlikely that Canada will get a better price exporting crude.
  4. Almost all of these high valued products will be consumed within the United States. The State of Texas has this great summary on crude and it echoes what Keystone Pipeline folks say on the Myths & Facts page.
  5. Lower feedstock prices will translate into higher profits and potentially into a combination of higher profits and sales since the Gulf coast will now have a competitive advantage over other countries. It is the ripple effect from lower feedstock prices that may be the most significant contributor to economic growth. If you are the low cost producer then selling value added products overseas becomes feasible again. If we continue to focus on infrastructure policies that improve productivity then we should see the result in real growth in the business sector and eventually in middle class disposable incomes.

Can We Have A Cheaper, Simpler Health Care Without A Change To The Political Process?

Megan McArdle offers several ideas for cheaper, simpler health care alternatives in her article, A Cheaper, Simpler Obamacare Plan, while pointing out that passing any of these alternatives is unlikely because it is not “what progressives wanted”. Frankly I do know what progressives want anymore. They were successful at confusing the American people with the details of the Affordable Care Act and may still be successful at confusing law makers and the courts on the question of subsidies. All of this deception implies that progressives favor a “make it up as we go approach” to health care reform. It is safe to say that approach did not work. If deception about wealth redistribution is all the progressives are bringing to the table I think we can safely return to the old political process and let the states resume their rightful place as the engine of health care reform. Wealth redistribution is just a shell game in health care reform. If you wanted health care to be affordable then Massachusetts was the wrong state to model a national plan after. Maybe this time a state with a greater interest in health care that is truly affordable will adopt a variation of one Megan’s ideas but the Affordable Care Act experiment is dead. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

I Wonder If Mr. Gruber Thinks The Supreme Court Justices Are Stupid

JonathanGruberIf Mr. Gruber thinks that Americans are stupid, I wonder if his opinion extends to those Americans who serve as Supreme Court justices? I am really looking forward to hearing the questions from the Supreme Court justices in the King v. Burwell case. Let’s see if I understand the question correctly. At the same time the writers of the bill were deliberately looking for ways to make the bill confusing and hard to understand by the American people, it was an accidental and unintended deception of Congress and the court that the Affordable Care Act was written in a way that prevents issuing subsidies to people buying health insurance from the federal exchange.  Yeah! That’s the ticket!

What Is A “Radically Decentralized Federalism”?

I was reading Bill Gardner’s article on The Incidental Economist, Prediction: SCOTUS will find for the King plaintiffs, and I was perplexed by this statement.

The constitutional outcome of a victory for the King plaintiffs would be a radically decentralized federalism.

Since we already have existing state exchanges I am not sure how “radical” of a change this would be. Then I stumbled over the words “decentralized federalism”. Wikipedia defines federalism as,

The term “federalism” is also used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (such as states or provinces)

I suspect Bill is complaining over the perceived change from a centralized form of federalism to a more decentralized form. Since the states and and the federal government are already using a form of this decentralized federalism in running Medicaid, I do not see a problem if the Affordable Care Act respects the constitutional limits assigned to it. Since no one has attempted to make the case that the federal government has an overriding constitutional issue that requires them to regulate state health insurance, I find it fascinating that Bill was naïve enough to think anything other than decentralized federalism would be constitutionally acceptable. Congress knew that the Affordable Care Act was stuck with state exchanges with some type of federal support and no amount of wishful thinking was going to change that. The federal exchange would be created as a convenience to those states that could not afford to create and manage their own exchange. It was to be the exception and not the rule. The requirement of state exchanges is not a new argument. It was one of the points being made by Senator Baucus in this CNN clip, “Senate Hearing: Tax Credits are available for State Exchanges Only. Senator Baucus explains how The Affordable Care Act sets conditions where Tax Credits are available for State Exchanges Only.

Since I would like to see major changes in the Affordable Care Act in 2015 rather than 2017, I hope SCOTUS rules in favor of the plaintiffs. The King is dead, long live The King!

Is The Affordable Care Act Fundamentally Evil?

My insurance premium for January 2015 will be $479. This is up 18% from my 2014 insurance premium of $407 and up 54% from my 2011 premium of $311. Your mileage may vary but this is the good news! If I was foolish enough to purchase health insurance from the exchange in 2015 the lowest cost bronze plan will cost $923 and my potential out of pocket costs zoomed up from $5,000 to $12,000. For a person who has not made a claim against my health insurance since the mid 1990s, the idea of paying $479 a month is revolting. The idea of paying $923 a month is beyond comprehension. I was the perfect health insurance customer. I was happy even though I was arguably getting ripped off. My existing health insurance plan was being paid by my employer and even though this was not the perfect situation, my employer was happy and my family was happy. In those days my life was simple. I could spend my waking hours on the important things in life. Not surprisingly this situation was not that different from 1976 when  health insurance was simple, transparent, and well understood. Boy, have we screwed up a good thing! In those day health insurance was the ultimate no-brainer and everyone signed up. Now we ponder to what happened to the Do No Harm philosophy to health insurance? Today I feel that I have been drug into a fight I never supposed to be fighting. Courtesy of the Affordable Care Act my employer cannot use the Health Reimbursement Act to pay for my health insurance with pre-tax money. It is just another one of those unintended ACA consequences. My employer is trying to be compassionate in a difficult business environment and will give me a bonus in 2014 to try to overcome the dysfunctionality of the Affordable Care Act. Recently I was reminded by Professor Gruber that Affordable Care Act supporters have always been negotiating in bad faith with the healthy people who were supporting the health care system. Quite succinctly he reminded us that the Affordable Care Act was never about health care reform, it was about politics. Six years later and 21,000 pages later we are still trying to figure out how to bend the health care cost curve. If increased federalism cannot reduce health care costs in six years, we have to conclude it will never reduce health care costs. Now the healthy crowd is stuck with a “fool me one, shame on me” mentality. If repeating the same old thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a sign of insanity, what can we do to reform the Affordable Care Act except to let it suffer through a slow, miserable death? Are we doomed to re-live the TennCare debacle all over again. Our health care system was better six years ago and even better 30 years ago. We are going in the wrong direction. I can see a trend and the Affordable Care Act is fundamentally evil.