Friday, April 18, 2014

How Sharpton got his Gig

Many people are wondering how a person like Al Sharpton was given the lead off to MSNBC's nightly programming, but it makes perfect sense when you hear the whole story.  Here is how it was told to me by someone in the know:

Several Years ago Al Sharpton's limousine was on teh way back from a Union rally in Western Maryland when the engine started having trouble. The limousine was forced to pull off on to the back streets to find a garage.

Not long after getting off the main road the drive was hopelessly lost and, eventually, the limousine was forced to stop as smoke began to billow from the engine.

The driver instructed Sharpton to stay put as he went to look for help. Sharpton sat in his car playing Candy Crush his way. He would just sit staring at the array of brightly colored candies on his screen trying to see if he could come up with racist patterns. "Why are their so many blues and so few yellows? Why is chocolate an obstacle!" he would bellow and the begin meticulously destroying whichever candy was in the majority. He could do this for hours.

But not long after he had begun to uncover a conspiracy in the green candies he heard something from the nearby woods. He peered into the growing fog but could see nothing, writing it off to probably Some poor homeless man, not really worth his time.

But soon he heard the sound again, this time it was maybe two or three somethings in the fog... maybe its some ecologists fighting the global warming. Good for them, but not really worth his time.

A third time he heard the noise, now it sounded like crowds of people. Maybe, he thought, there was a rally going on. With this thought he exited the limousine excitedly and carefully, alertly began to walk into the woods in search of his audience.

The deeper in the woods he traveled the more people he began to hear and the more excited he got, but it was not long before Sharpton had decided that he wasn't hearing a friendly crowd... he thought now that he might have been approaching a tea bagger rally. Unfortunately he was now too deep in the woods to be able to see the car through the fog, no matter where he turned all he could see was fog. With this realization Sharpton panicked and began running in a direction, any direction, in order to escape his imagined foe.

He quickly ran out of energy and had to stop, gasping for breath, no clearer on where he was then he had been befo.. he stopped. Gazing straight ahead of him he could make out the faintest light in the inky blackness. With that his adrenaline kicked in and he began running again. As he ran the light in the distance came in to focus. It appeared to be a small shack. With his last energy Sharpton stumbled to the shack and collapsed at the threshold and passed out.

When he came to he found himself sitting in a chair in the shack, across from him was what appeared to be an old woman . Sharpton found himself at a loss for what to say because the old woman's face and exposed skin were of indeterminate race.. could be white, oriental... jew or light skin black. He couldn't be sure.

"Welcome Al Sharpton" the lady rasped "I'm so glad you found me"

"Who are you? Black?" was all he could think to say

"My race is unimportant. What I have to offer you, is very important."

He had to ponder this. Race unimportant? Obviously this is a crazy lad. Probably conservative. He proceeded with caution.

"You are a white, tea bagger, Israel-loving papist... why should I trust you?" he said, measuring his words diplomatically.

"Al, let me be honest, I'm a witch. I have been trapped in this hovel for centuries. The fog outside this door was put there by powers greater than mine to keep me here. Your stumbling run into my home has been a great boon to me. I simply wish to reward you."

"You're not Tea bagger?" he asked, intrigued

"A what?"

"... What do you think of Israel?"

"I think Roman rule has been good for them."

"The Pope?"

"Not a fan"

"What color are you?"

"I can't even remember, my mind and body have long since been consumed in black magic"

"Oh, Black Magic? I like the sound of that!" he said excitedly

"Oh good, glad to hear it" the witch hissed through a gravely smile "So.. your reward. For giving me a human trail that I can now track out of this accursed wood I will grant you one wish. But only one."

Sharpton pondered his choice. His lifelong goal was to be in front of people, to get in their face, to root out racism everywhere it was and wasn't. He was tired of the whistle stop tours, though. He wanted to mass communicate!

"I want a TV show" he said

The Witch paused, smiling. "I will give you this.."

"But wait, I'm not done with my wish! I want this show to be on a news Network, I want creative control. Because But resist, we much… we must… and we will much… about… that… be committed..."

"Huh?" the Witch asked, puzzled.

"GIVE ME MY GODDAM SHOW WITCH!" Sharpton clarified

"Ah yes. Al Sharpton, you shall have your show...."


"You will have a prime time slot..."

"Awe give it!"


"... well... I guess that is OK"

"Then with that, Al Sharpton, I must bid you adieu." the witch said as Sharpton's eyes began to blur "When you wake up you will be back in your limo, just as your driver arrives with a tow truck. Good luck to you.... anchor man! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!"

Days later Al was contacted by MSNBC and the rest is history.

Oh, and the witch also cursed Al so he is slowly turning into a bobble head.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Big Idea: Healthcare Reform

As the PPACA groans and lurches forward towards collapse, many of it's supporters defend the bill with a simple, valid (albeit ignorant) question:  Well, what would you offer in return?

Well, ignoring the long list of counter proposals offered before and after the passage of PPACA that already exist, I decided to think about this a bit myself and try and pull together some of the best of the existing counter proposals as well as a few big ideas of my own (which very well might also have been proposed before... there are a lot of counter proposals out there!)

My goal was to tackle the two big problems that PPACA was -- in theory -- designed to fix, but that in practice have proven unworkable or made things worse.  Those two problems are:  Affordability and coverage for those with per-existing conditions.  

In general the balance has to be struck in creating such a plan that meets those two goals while not increasing cost to insurers and not opening the system to fraud. I think my 6 point proposal pretty well covers all of those bases.  The critical piece of my plan that I separates in from the critically flawed PPACA is that it functions on incentives rather than mandates and tax penalties.

Here are the bare bones of my proposal:

1) End the employer based insurance model. Make insurance a commodity that people shop for on their own. Employers can choose to give employees a flat pre-tax bonus for paying for insurance (this is mainly to accommodate those who live pay check to paycheck and can't really wait for an annual recoup of costs on their taxes)

2) Open up interstate commerce for health insurance. This will have limited effect, admittedly, since each state will still regulate coverage levels in their own state, but if states enter into coalitions to set minimum insurance levels in common it will allow insurers to market insurance plans to larger pools of customers.

3) The Big Idea #1: Allow insurers to prorate payouts based on the percentage of the previous year that a customer was insured. Allow the insurer to enforce this for 3 months. The full cost of expenses incurred in these three months would apply to the plan's OOPM, however.

4) The Big Idea #2: If a customer cancels their plan in the first two years they will be required to pay back all of the money paid out by the insurer on their behalf minus 85% of the premium paid. So if a person incurs $10,000 in medical expenses and pays $10,000 in premiums then the cancellation fee would be $1,500.

5) The Big Idea #3: Applicants who spent two or more years without insurance prior to application must spend at least 1 year on a healthcare plan purchased from the state high risk pool. This plan can be a catastrophic coverage plan.

6) The Big Idea #4: Allow an unlimited roll-over of Healthcare Savings plans (HSP) in perpetuity, with balances of such plans being transferable upon death to another person at a 20% tax rate if transferred to that person's HSP, or at a 50% tax rate if withdrawn as cash. The tax penalty can be reduced at a rate of 5% annually for every year the deceased paid into a high risk insurance plan.

The practical upshot of these 6 reforms is to make insurance mobile, more competitive, and to incentivize healthy middle and upper-middle class customers to invest in their state's high risk pools for tax reasons all while giving the uninsured a pathway to full coverage and providing systemic protections to insurers against people who look to game the system.

I could just as easily add a seventh point that would include tort reform, but I think any such reform should stand on its own merits rather than be lumped in with a more universal reform.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Reid's Criminal Conspiracy

Harry Reid, the featherweight politician and boxer has announced this week that he has a "source" that has proven that Romney has not paid taxes for a decade.

I would like to float out there the fact that IRS tax filings are private and legally protected from disclosure by Federal Law.  Not being a legal scholar I can not say whether Reid's third party recount of Romney's taxes constitutes a violation of those laws, or not, but if this "source" actually exists and is actually disclosing Romney's tax documents to Reid then that source is very likely in violation of federal law.

Therefor, I demand that Harry Reid immediately disclose his source or be guilty of aiding in the violation of federal law.  He is not a journalist so he can't claim any special protection.  In fact, as a Senator he is tasked with upholding the letter of the law.

So spill it, Mr. Reid.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Tale of Two Statements

As study in tone and message I have taken Romney's speech to Olympians and substituted entrepreneurs and job creators... now tell me, had Obama said the following would he have angered anyone?
“Tonight we cheer the young business owners and job creators, who only yesterday were children themselves,” Obama said. “As we watch them grow their business, we affirm that our aspirations, and those of our children and grandchildren, can become reality. We salute you job creators – both because you dreamed and because you paid the price to make your dreams real. You guys pushed yourself, drove yourself, sacrificed, studied and came back time and again, winning and losing.
“You business owners, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power,” said Obama “For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, mentors guided, communities built infrastructure in order to promote business. All business owners stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the business owners, let’s also cheer the parents, mentors, and communities. All right! [pumps fist].”

I think not.

Now do the same exercise but substitute business owners with Olympians and imagine Romney saying this:

"If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so talented. There are a lot of talented people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you're an Olympian, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Olympic team didn't get built on its own. Government funding created the collegiate athletics so that all the Olympians could go to the Olympics."

Would Romney have been excoriated for such a finger pointing and admonishing message to the Olympic hopefuls?

You bet he would.

Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Presidential and Congressional predictions, Hot off the Presses!!!

As a frequent doubter of Nate Silver's Five-Thirty-Eight statistics blog I have decided that what I should do is enter into a bit of a competition with Nate Silver regarding the 2012 election.  Here is my predition:

Senate:  All candidates with a 5+% lead in the polls the Friday before the election will win, the rest will split.

Congress:  All candidates with a 5+% lead in the polls the Friday before the election will win, the rest will split.

President:  The candidate with a 5+% lead in the polls the Friday before the election will take that state, while the rest will split.

Shew!  That was tough!  This is, in essence, where Nate Silver will fall on the Friday before the election, and both of us will be off by 1 or 2 seats/states on Wednesday the following week.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Sense of Cloture

I have been hearing for years now about how the Republicans have been obstructionists in the face of progress in Congress. There have been numerous reports in blogs and seemingly reputable news sources that the Republicans in the Senate have had a record number of filibusters since they became the minority party. The claims that "80% of the bills were filibustered", and the like, have been a constant drum beat by the left. But does it hold up to scrutiny?

Well, no. Of course it doesn't. To begin with the civics challenged news media has made the very basic failure of equating cloture votes with filibusters. Cloture is a vote on a bill in which, with a super majority, the Senate agrees to cease debate on a bill and bring it to a vote. Filibusters are, in simple terms, a indefinite extension of debate following a failed vote on cloture. Cloture kills a filibuster.

Following so far? Good. Well, cloture is not just to end a filibuster. Cloture is also enacted when there is such an overwhelming support for a bill that the mandatory debate time is pointless. In these cases there is a cloture vote just to shorten the debate on the floor even though there is no standing or serious threat of filibuster -- the opposition being far fewer than the 40 needed to break a cloture vote.

So right off the bat there is a serious flaw in the Cloture=Filibuster argument. If votes for cloture were made with no looming threat of a filibuster, then those votes can't really be counted as filibusters. In fact, since a filibuster requires a FAILED cloture vote, we can only really count FAILED cloture votes as potential filibusters.

But I decided to check the numbers myself and set the following ground rules for evaluating filibusters, filibuster threats, and non-filibuster cloture votes:

Filibusters - These are the bills that were successfully killed by an actual filibuster, or tabled to avoid the imminent threat of a filibuster. Regardless of the actual debate on a bill, any bill that fails cloture and is then tabled, will be considered a successful filibuster.

This is giving the Democrat claim a lot of leeway, however, since technically there have been no actual filibusters in any of these Congressional sessions.

Filibuster Threats - Any cloture vote in which there are greater than 30 nay votes, but where the bill passed anyway. "Close, but no cigar".

Non-Filibuster Clotures - These would be any cloture vote in which 30 or fewer Senators voted against cloture, or bills in which cloture was withdrawn and the bill was voted on(no filibuster) . When the Nays fall so short that there was never a credible threat of an actual filibuster then these votes were simply to skip the needless debate in the face of overwhelming support.

OK, with that ground work in place, lets look at the numbers for the 110th, 111th and 112th Congress. These are the Congresses in which the Republicans were supposed to be playing obstructionists. The numbers:

110th Congress
Total Cloture votes- 139
Filibusters - 20 (14%)
Filibuster Threats - 33 (24%)
Non-Filibuster Cloture - 86 (62%)

111th Congress
Total Cloture votes- 136
Filibusters - 11 (8%)
Filibuster Threats - 40 (29%)
Non-Filibuster Cloture - 85 (63%)

112th Congress (to date)

Total Cloture votes- 25
Filibusters - 0 (0%)
Filibuster Threats - 8 (32%)
Non-Filibuster Cloture - 17 (68%)

And here are the total figures:

Total Cloture votes- 300
Filibusters - 31 (10%)
Filibuster Threats - 81 (27%)
Non-Filibuster Cloture - 188 (63%)

So, in these two and a half congresses, by my very forgiving statistical method, we have 63% of the total cloture votes that were past in landslides, so no filibuster was even threatened. In fact, between the 110th congress and 111th congress we see a slight downturn in potential filibusters from 53 to 51, and the "successful" filibusters cut nearly in half. This is to be expected given the fat that the Senate was essentially filibuster proof for part of the 111th Congress.

So how does this stand up to previous Senates? Well, let's do the same evaluation for the 109th Congress:

109th Congress
Total Cloture votes-
Filibusters - 11 (16%)
Filibuster Threats - 14 (21%)
Non-Filibuster Cloture - 43 (63%)

Well, that is interesting. The Non-Filibuster Cloture vote rates remained steady, and while the total cloture votes did double, the biggest change in that time was the number of successful "filibusters" by my admittedly stretched definition of the word. Well, obviously something is up. Total cloture going into the 110th congress shot way up in all categories, while their success rate fluctuated from 16% to 20% and down to 10%.. this is easily explained by the simple fact that a more evenly divided Senate is prone to more successful filibusters.

But these statistics don't really play to the Democrats narrative. If it were the Republicans acting as the stalling party and obstructionists then we would expect to see a jump in the Filibuster and filibuster threat numbers (which we do) with no increase in the procedural non-filibuster cloture votes, which we don't. In this case what we see is that the 110th, 111th and 112th Senates just went cloture crazy across the board. There was no significant change in the AMOUNT of legislation introduced across the Congressional sessions, and certianly not a doubling.

So, here is another interesting statistic to point us to the cause of the spike in cloture votes starting in the 110th Senate:

109th Senate, cloture requests by Senator:
Frist - 50
McConnell - 12
Bennett - 2
Sessions - 1
Reid - 1
Domenici - 1
Mikulski - 1

110th Senate, cloture requests by Senator:
Reid - 123
McConnell - 12
Whitehouse - 1
Dodd - 1
Casey - 1
Bingaman - 1

111th Senate, cloture requests by Senator:
Reid - 130
McConnell - 2
Dodd - 2
Durbin - 2

Huh, It would appear that Harry Reid is simply cloture happy. He is calling more cloture votes than any Senate leader in history, and getting roughly the same mix of results as previous Senate leaders.

Finally, on the "80% of legislation in 2009 was filibustered" remark that I see so often thrown out in left wing articles. It is used as if it is so undeniable that there is no need to show the math. I have to do one last quick throttling of this lie that won't die.

When these claims of filibuster -- that is the failed "cloture=filibuster" argument -- come up, the speakers are quick to point out that in the 111th Congress there were 136 "filibusters". Well, while that number is certainly higher than years past, does it equate to 80% of all legislation? No. It isn't even 80% of bills passed:

Bills Passed: 1047
Cloture votes: 136
Ratio: 12%

.. and if you go by my accounting of actual filibusters and threats then only 5% of those votes were actually in danger of a filibuster. I have no idea what kind of math they use to reach that 80%, and nobody seems all that interested in showing their work. So please, when you hear anyone spout this bit of nonsense out, ask them to show their work.

The War on Economy

It's about time. We as Americans have sat back and simply allowed the threat of prosperity to grow across this great land for far too long.

Where once we were a happy country of modest means, now we see people with more money than they need, flaunting it in our very faces! I'm sick of it! I would have thought that when a group of rich people built some sky scrapers in New York that this country would have said "Enough!"... but alas we have short memories. How we can see those buildings standing their every day and FORGET what kind of wanton prosperity raised them in the first place is beyond me...

Those rich people... they don't want to live in America.. OUR America. They have their own stores, their own restaurants, neighborhoods. What happened to the melting pot?

I used to fear that one day my children would grow up in a country where they would be tempted to become wealthy. I am so glad that we finally have an administration in place to make sure that wealth will be something my kids only read about in textbooks.