Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Copied My Homework

Remember the newsletter I told you about? Morning Jolt? Well, it was so good today that I am just going to lift some pieces out of it to share with those of you who have not gotten on the bandwagon and subscribed yourself (it's free!!!).

First, Geraghty shares chunks of the acceptance speech that Marco Rubio made last night. For those of you who don't know, Marco Rubio was elected to be Florida's Republican nominee for the US Senate for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Mel Martinez. He'll face the incumbent governor who, in a dazzling display of courage and integrity, became an independent when it was obvious that he would lose the Republican nomination to Rubio, and Kendrick Meek, the Democrat. Here is some of what he said last night:

"My parents grew up in a place like almost anywhere else in the world, where what you are going to accomplish in life and how far you can go is decided for you before you are even born. . . . In almost every other society in all of human history, how far you can go in life is not up to you. It's decided for you. And that's the way it still is almost everywhere else on this planet. Except for one place: the United State of America. A place where anyone from anywhere can accomplish almost anything. A place where it doesn't matter if you weren't born into a connected family. It doesn't matter if you don't run in the right social circles. If you have a good idea and the willingness to work in pursuit of it, you can accomplish anything.

"Sadly, I think sometimes those of us that are born in this country take that for granted. And we believe that that's the way it is almost everywhere else in the world. It's not. Now, maybe that's a lesson I learned young because I've been raised in a community of exiles, of men and women who know it is possible to lose your country, and everything you hold dear, a people who understand that this place, this nation is unique, that there has never been anything like this in the history of all of mankind. And even now, even today, with the challenges that we face, there is still no place on Earth that you would rather be, no country on Earth that you would trade places with. But what we must always remember is that this exceptional country of ours -- it didn't happen by accident. This extraordinary country we have didn't just happen 'because.' It happened because the people who were here before us did what they had to do to ensure that their children inherited a better life."

Pretty good, huh?

Next, Geraghty complains about an NPR story:

"Their headline? 'Rancor Over Mosque Could Fuel Islamic Extremists.' You know what else fuels Islamic extremists? Everything, it seems. We've been told extremists are motivated by the secular nature of our society; our notions of the rights of women; our belief in democracy and the idea that laws are written by elected representatives with the consent of the governed, not handed down on high from a religious authority; our foreign policy; our libertine pop culture; our 1980s support and assistance in Afghanistan; our late-80s abandonment of Afghanistan; our embrace of the Saudi rulers; our disrespect for Saudi customs; the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia; the departure of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia via Iraq; poverty; globalization; anti-Semitism; conspiracy theories; envy; sexual frustration; and Faisal Shahzad's inability to make his mortgage payments. Apparently al-Qaeda is motivated by everything except the Koran's more incendiary passages.

"Hey, you know what? Maybe they're just [bad word of your choice here]s. Abu Zarqawi always seemed like a guy who was just into it for the killing; having somebody tell him he was doing God's work was just a nice bonus."

If you'd like to get Jim Geraghty's newsletter sent to your mailbox (Monday through Friday; why he needs two days off is beyond me), go here.

And while I am just quoting other people, let me recommend this article by Christopher Hitchens. For those of you who don't know him, Hitchens is a positively loathsome man who has spent considerable time flaunting his atheism and explaining why those of us who believe in God are idiots. He is now dying of esophageal cancer, which is not a good way to go. He is brilliant and caustic and can sling words with the best of 'em. He was a darling of the liberals until he endorsed the Iraq war and more than anything else he wants this country to be safe. When he's not writing about God, he's worth reading.

More later...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PROOF That He Lied To You

This is the first article in a five-part series that my large (over 30,000 employees) employer sent to me to help prepare for the fall Open Enrollment period. The letter is italicized. I have added emphasis to certain parts of the letter. This isn't speculation. This is black and white proof that President Obama lied to us. If we like our existing plan, we will NOT, in fact, be able to keep it as it was.

Healthcare Reform WILL Affect Applejack Prophylactics' (AP) Medical Plan.
You have probably heard many different opinions and arguments related to healthcare reform. One thing that is hard to argue with is that more people will have access to healthcare. And, covering more people costs more money.

Those additional costs will affect everyone paying for healthcare coverage, and that includes our firm and our associates. The cost of the AP medical plan is shared by the firm and associates. The end result of healthcare reform provisions is simple: Both associates and the firm can expect higher healthcare-related costs in 2011 and beyond.

Here are just four examples of how healthcare reform will directly impact the AP plan:

Dependent Coverage for Adult Children: We anticipate several thousand additional dependents will be enrolled in our Plan due to the healthcare reform provision that extends coverage to children until age 26. More enrollees in the plan means more claims. We estimate that these new enrollees will raise plan costs by almost $3 million. This cost will be shared between the firm and associates in the form of higher premium contributions for those in family coverage. Our plan is self-insured which means the firm - not an insurance company - pays for the cost of all services covered by the plan. The firm will pick up $2.2 million of the additional expense.

Plan Flexibility: In prior years, the firm could make design changes to the medical plan that would help control expenses. As a result, we were able to identify efficiencies and trade-offs, manage costs and pass those savings along to associates by maintaining associate contribution rates that are significantly less than what other firms charge their associates.

The mandates associated with healthcare reform severely limit our ability to continue to find and share these efficiencies. Our costs will rise as our flexibility is reduced, and that impacts all of us.

Provider Taxes: There are literally billions of dollars in new taxes that will be levied on doctors, hospitals, and medical device and drug manufacturers. Those taxes will be passed onto consumers in the form of increased rates for medical products and services.

AP Plan claim costs could increase approximately $172 per associate per year as a result of this pass-through, according to estimates from the HR Policy Association. This would be on top of the ongoing inflation for medical professional, facility and prescription costs the nation is expected to experience.

Cost Shift from Medicare: With healthcare reform comes a dramatic cut in the Medicare budget. Historically, doctors and hospitals have made up for any Medicare payment shortfalls by raising prices to private payers. And it’s anticipated they will do so again but to a much larger degree. We estimate our plan could incur additional expenses of $219 per associate per year as a result of this cost shifting.

The Bottom Line:
Healthcare reform will increase the costs to our plan. And that impacts both the firm and associates. We'll all need to do all that we can to help manage costs.
The firm invests significantly in managing our health care plans and costs. This includes reviewing our plans every year, intensive data analysis of claims and usage by our associates, and working with our health plans to ensure we are getting the most value.

Did you catch that? Did you see what I highlighted? This wonderful universal coverage that limits our ability to be efficient and will cause prices to skyrocket is supposed to represent progress? Well, Nancy, you passed the bill and now we see what's in it. It's rotten and full of crap. Now what? Will you be just as forceful in repealing it as you were in cramming it down our throats before you knew the extent of the rot? Of course you won't admit the colossal error you made. We'll remind you in November, sugar-hiney.

A Harley Guy I Ain't. Not Yet Anyway.

I've put over 60,000 miles on my beloved Goldwing over the last 5 years or so and I must say, she'll be a tough old gal to replace. I am accustomed to hugging the road tightly as we lean hard into the curves, the surge of power just a slight twist of the grip away. Never a maintenance problem and as reliable as rain at a picnic.

Tonight, I put a good solid 40 miles on the conformists machine. The one that advertises "real good". My initial twist of the throttle gave me only two thirds of the horsies I am accustomed to but the power was still adequate to get me moving down the road and I must admit, the throaty growl was quite satisfying especially when I was getting on it pretty good. When I stopped for gas, I quickly found out you want to leave this puppy in gear when pointing even the slightest bit downhill because they have this unnerving propensity to roll forward off the side stand.

When I climbed back on, I found myself again slouched back in the "cool guy" stance and after just a few miles, realized I'd need a backrest if I were ever to own one of these scoots that everyone who doesn't ride thinks is the epitome of motorcycles. I also smelled oil several times. I have been assured that they don't mark territory like they used to, but my confidence level isn't all that high, cuz this old rider has a pretty loyal and accurate sniffer.

Cutting the windshield down a good three inches would also be a must on this Ultra bike I rode tonight because having the top of the windshield right in my line of site just won't cut it.

Now as for her handling, I was impressed. Of course it doesn't have nearly the lean angle of a Wing, so slower cornering is mandatory, but overall it was a much smoother ride than I had remembered. Riding hot into a corner is a little more thrilling on the Ultra than on the Wing when you hit a bumpy patch. The Wing confidently glides through such curves with a little laugh, but the Ultra got pretty twitchy. I really felt like I had to hang on to the front end to keep it from steering wherever the heck it wanted to.

Overall I finished my ride totally relaxed, as I am supposed to be after a nice peaceful night ride by myself. The thing that keeps nagging at me though, is that oil smell. And, that if someone I know sees me on one of these things they will know I've sold myself out. No friends, I haven't. But I will be test riding this one for a few more days to see if someday I want one as an amusing backup to my daily ride.

Oh! And why the heck would they put the horn button right where the high beam switch is supposed to be? I have no idea how many people I honked at tonight because I had my high beams on. That'll teach 'em. Oy yoy yoy. As I tucked this little gem in for the night, I was reminded of the pleasures of an air cooled engine, as my legs were quickly cooked to medium well by the oddly placed and searing hot pipes. Good night my conforming friend. Until tomorrow...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Non-Crisis In The Gulf

Oil rig explodes! Oil is gushing uncontrollably from the ocean floor! It is speculated that the oil will completely fill the Gulf of Mexico, displacing all the water. In fact, the oil is likely to cross completely over Florida and then begin making it's way up the east coast, not stopping until it reaches Nova Scotia. This is quite reminiscent of "The Blob" writ large. The scary part is that this is real. This is no horror movie, this is our reality. There are scientists that are speculating that the oil spill could be so severe that it could blot out the moon. We are hoping against hope that these predictions are premature.

The Obama administration has wisely chosen to reject all foreign aid in this matter. The last thing we want are foreigners snooping around in our oil. It's bad enough that they are snooping around our oil in Iraq. No ferners allowed. When this thing gets big enough that the Mexican Democrats can just walk across the Gulf into Louisiana, victory in 2010 will be assured. This thing might have a silver lining after all!

But wait. What's that? The oil seems to be dissipating. The massive underwater plumes of oil are simply gone. Only a few miles of beach are affected after all? What about all the fishermen who were put out of work? All the tourists that were scared away by the press? All the hotels now being foreclosed on? The mom and pop shops permanently out of business? It seems a quart of oil per square mile doesn't have quite the devastating effect Obama's scientists originally projected.

Hold the phone. Underwater Plumes of oil? Mr Obama, I am no whiz kid, but underwater oil plumes? I have seen what happens when you mix oil with water. In all scenarios the oil rises to the surface. Huh. The scientists seem to have forgotten that when they were projecting. In fact, the scientists have missed a few other details.

Details like the fact that the Gulf is well-known to have the ability to break down oil. The Gulf has, for all recorded time, been a warm, rich ecological soup of natural oil seeps, oil-eating bacteria, and marine life that depends on that bacteria for food. This spill represents fully four times as much oil as leaks into the Gulf naturally in a year. Wow. Four whole times more than usual. Hey, Mr Scientist, hey, Mr Obama, this doesn't exactly leave me quaking in my boots. In fact, WHAT IN THE HELL HAVE YOU MISMANAGING, MISREPORTING MORONS DONE?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why We Need To Let States Go Broke

This post is from Dick Morris. I don't always agree with everything he says but in this case, he is right on the money (no pun intended). We need to wake up, America! This unfunded spending CAN NOT CONTINUE. If you have the tiniest understanding of economics, you know this is a true statement. Here's Dick:

Federal Band-Aids won't cover the fiscal problems of such states as New York, California, Michigan and Connecticut forever. State bankruptcy and fundamental restructuring of state and local finance -- and labor relations -- is at hand.

Take Connecticut. In the current fiscal year, $2 billion in federal subsidies have helped tide it over the recession -- a hefty share of its $15 billion budget. But these infusions are one-shot grants, renewed only if Congress acts affirmatively to do so. Other states depend on similar manifestations of federal largess.

In Washington, the House is set to pass a $26 billion aid package this week -- fresh federal aid amounting to about 2 percent of state and local spending. But if the Republicans win control of Congress this fall, it is hard to see any legislative willingness to renew these subsidies.

Instead, GOP lawmakers will point to the examples of New Jersey, Virginia and Indiana -- where conservative governors have slashed spending to avoid tax hikes. In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell has reduced spending to pre-2006 levels.

If Congress fails to renew its subsidies, the more profligate states will face cash shortfalls in the current fiscal year. They'll threaten school closures, prison releases and all manner of mayhem if their subsidies aren't renewed. But the Republicans in Washington are likely to refuse -- asking why the responsible states should bail out the spendthrifts in Albany, Sacramento, Lansing and Hartford.

At that point, the bond markets will start eyeing state (and local) balance sheets more critically -- demanding higher rates or even refusing to lend. California won't be the only one trying to get by on IOUs.

But beyond this tale of woe lies a golden opportunity to reform state governments and redress the imbalance of power between elected officials and public-employee unions.

Absent endless federal subsidies, states will simply no longer be able to afford to give the unions everything that they want. And governors -- many of them newly elected Republicans -- will realize that they can't even afford to honor agreements their big-spending predecessors OK'd.

The GOP Congress should then amend the federal bankruptcy law to provide for a way -- now absent -- for states to declare bankruptcy. (Municipalities can do so under current law, but states have no such relief.)

Here's the key: The reforms must require that states abrogate their public-employee union agreements in the bankruptcy process, just as private corporations like Delta and Chrysler have done. The wage hikes, the work rules, the pension plans all go out the window.

Few states will have the starch to cut benefits for those now receiving them. But most will cut pensions for current workers and all will slice them for future employees. Even the threat will be a powerful bargaining tool.

And beyond the fiscal adjustments, the power of the municipal- and public-employee unions will be broken.

Voters throughout America will loudly applaud if Congress tells the profligate states, "Work it out on your own. Don't look to us for a bailout.

"President Obama could veto the bankruptcy reforms -- but a Republican Congress need do nothing to assist states in their plight until he relents. All of the political and financial leverage will be on Congress' side.

The result could be the greatest revolution in state and local governance since public-employee unions came on the scene. The public and the voters would get their local governments back, and the grip of public unions will be weakened. It would be the state and local equivalent of President Ronald Reagan's tough stand against the air-traffic controllers' strike.

Politically, the unions that fund and fuel the Democratic Party would be emasculated, dramatically shifting the national balance of power.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's prediction about socialism will have come true for America's states: "Sooner or later, they run out of other peoples' money."

Hat tip to DickMorris.com.