Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our Reps Don't Know The Law*

"No health information is required in the application and why is that? Because pre-existing conditions don't matter. So once again we have my Republican colleagues trying to scare everybody. ... HIPAA doesn't apply. There's no health information in the process. You're asked about your address, your date of birth, you're not asked health information so why are we going down this path?" - Rep. Frank Pallone (D - NJ)
Representative Pallone went on to call the PPACA Implementation Failures hearing by the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives a "monkey court."

Well, someone seems to have misinformed Rep. Pallone but you'll likely get no retraction from him because as I've said in a previous blog entry the truth doesn't matter to most leftist political leaders. His cause is the religion of collectivist utopia where the Machiavellian process is not only moral, it's an absolutely necessity.

So what's the truth? The Healthcare.gov site requires an individual to set up an account before they can browse health insurance plans. On the very first setup screen it asks the website user to enter the information in the picture below:
Note what's included: name, state and email address. It asks for additional information later, but rather than getting into the entire site let's examine page one. The HIPAA Privacy Rule clearly states that "'Individually identifiable health information" is information, including demographic data..." Trust me when I tell you that your state is demographic data. More importantly, it clearly says that the data also relates to information that:
"...identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual. Individually identifiable health information includes many common identifiers (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number)." (emphasis added)
Now I don't know about you, but if someone gives me their first, last and middle name, email address and state I can definitely find them. In fact, Facebook uses those elements in its primary search engine to look up users! In addition, as Rep. Pallone says "You're asked about your address, your date of birth..." HIPAA distinctly calls this "individually identifiable health information."

So Rep. Frank Pallone (D - NJ) was not just wrong. He was as Isaac Asimov put it "wronger than wrong":
"When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
I've tried calling his office to correct the record but they won't answer my questions because I'm not from his district. Maybe you can try.

Washington, DC Office
237 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4671

*CORRECTION: While I still believe that Rep. Barton was 100% incorrect about the personal data being provided on Healthcare website, there is a strong argument that Rep. Barton was also incorrect. Per HIPAA, the law only applies to "covered entities" and its not clear that CGI Federal is among that group. To be a covered entity you have to be either a Health Care Provider, Health Plan or Health Care Clearing House.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why I DON'T Believe The Climate Change Hysteria

I was having a Facebook debate with a meteorologist acquaintance of mine only a little while ago and the conversation got off on a tangent about Climate Change. He was making several very technical points about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) and how the lack of temperature increase over the past 15 years was explained in the data extracted from the Agro system for observing various metrics in the Earth's oceans. Yeah, I know. Really boring! I exited the debate with a reference to the CLOUD experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which attempts to discern a link between galactic cosmic rays and cloud formation. This point was not trivial because contrary to the level of discussion in the media about carbon dioxide, the biggest contributing gas to the Greenhouse effect is water vapor (up to 75%). Please note that clouds are merely visible water vapor.

Okay, there's the context. Here's the first point. I'm not a climatologist and neither is my co-debater. In fact, neither is Al Gore, Barack Obama, Rachel Maddow, Paul Krugman or any of the other very high profile provocateurs of Climate Change Hysteria (CCH.) Even in the case of Al Gore, he has no specific disciplinary certifications or peer reviewed scientific publications that make him a better arbiter of Global Warming Theory than you or me.

Notice how I switched from saying Climate Change to Global Warming Theory. That's because there is no single Climate Change Theory per se. That name is essentially a political creation due to the lack of actual warming of the climate. Like when liberals stopped calling themselves liberals and decided to go with "progressive" because the former moniker became a pejorative. There are at least 7 different theories on why the Earth's climate changes (the climate always changes): Global Warming, Bio-thermostat, Cloud formation and albedo, Human forcings besides greenhouse gases, Ocean currents, Planetary motion and Solar variability. But I digress.

It's very important to note that current Global Warming Theory has no experimental framework. In other words, there is absolutely no lab based experiment that can prove current Global Warming Theory. Almost everything is based on assumptions about the observed environmental impact of multiple climate variables. Those assumptions are documented by a Systems Analyst who writes a functional specification for a software engineer that subsequently converts that specification into programming code; a Climate Model application is born. So every IPCC assessment is essentially based on the output of a computer application, not a lab test. As the "scientific" observations mount and the data grows, the application is modified to incorporate the new model requirements. It's crucial to understand this, because the Climate Model application does exactly what the programmer tells it to do! So, if the programmer doesn't code for the other 6 climate theories then the model won't produce results supporting those theories.

The second point is, given a lack of special knowledge and understanding, those provocateurs can only logically believe in CCH because someone else told them to be concerned and they believed them. Yes, its a belief system my friends, no different than a religion. That's why they reference supporting data like the number of climatologists that concur with the theory. Scientific consensus they call it. Here's the thing though, there was "scientific consensus" that the universe was expanding at a decreasing rate. This was taken as dogma for decades until in 2001 three scientists proved that wrong. That's right only 3. They won the 2011 Noble Prize in Physics "for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae." This new theory of universe expansion has called into question our understanding of how gravity works!

Which brings us back to the CLOUD experiments at CERN. If, as preliminary results have indicated, cloud formation is greatly impacted by galactic cosmic rays then the outcome of these laboratory experiments may just turn modern Global Warming Theory on its head. Furthermore, it may better explain the lack of warming over the past 15 years given that solar variation has been limited in recent years. In other words, the science is not settled and never was.

However, policy makers are trying to force closure on this issue because they know as more research is done, the Global Warming Theory may fall apart. Hence the rush to enact those policies.

This directly leads to my final point. The policies mitigating Climate Change have been esposed by environmentalist, socialist, collectivist, Democratic policy makers and even PETA for a very long time. How amazingly convenient that they now have a cause célèbre to push those policies. To wit, if you don't follow what they've always wanted to do for decades, then the destruction of humankind is imminent. Wait, that sounds familiar. A book from 1968 called The Population Bomb predicted catastrophe for humankind because of population growth. It suggested many of the same policies. Guess what? The authors were wrong on all counts despite their continued insistence of the validity of their predictions to this day (liberals never give up.)

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

Future Healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand." ― Milton Friedman
The failures of the Healthcare.gov website were easier to predict than Alex Rodriguez using performance enhancing drugs. After 3 weeks of system failures, the Democratic apologists are out in full force. They have a unified message and they are sticking to it. It has four parts:
  1. Admit that the initial release of Healthcare.gov has its problems.
  2. Insist the problems will get fixed so there's nothing to worry about.
  3. Justify #2 by saying that several of the state exchanges work "just fine" and that fact will translate to the federal health insurance system working fine as well.
  4. These technical problems have nothing to do with the law. The Affordable Care Act is still a good law.
All of these excuses mask the real problem. In my opinion, the federal government has never successfully implemented and maintained an effective and efficient social program in the history of this Republic. Not one. There are and were dramatic flaws with every social problem ever implemented by the federal government. So much so that the three major ones - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all functionally insolvent.

I don't want to get bogged down in a discussion of those three programs, but I do need to provide some context. As the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds report says, "Neither Medicare nor Social Security can sustain projected long-run programs in full under currently scheduled financing." In addition, there is no actual money in the trust funds for those programs. As noted during the Clinton administration 13 years ago in 2000 in the FY 2000 Budget, Analytical Perspectives p. 337:
"These balances are available to finance future benefit payments and other trust fund expenditures — but only in a bookkeeping sense. These funds are not set up to be pension funds, like the funds of private pension plans. They do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures. (emphasis added)"
Medicaid doesn't even have a trust fund and has always been functionally insolvent, requiring greater and greater government borrowing to finance its expenditures each year. This is a major reason why the states don't want to expand their Medicaid rolls, because they know after 2019 they will be on the hook. Despite what Paul Krugman says, that additional cost would not be "trivial."

Other failed government social programs include Affirmative Action, Welfare, TANF, Unemployment Insurance and the war on drugs. Sure, they are popular. But an anti-poverty program of giving away $100,000 to every U.S. citizen with at least a high school degree would be an overwhelmingly popular program as well. That doesn't mean it would work.

And therein lays the problem. Because it doesn't matter if the Healthcare.gov or the Affordable Care Act ever works. They are subject to be judged by their intentions rather than their results as are all liberal programs. Eventually, the perception of these programs doing good obscures the reality of their failure.

As I said in a previous post, modern liberalism isn't just a set of political ideals; it's a religion as powerful as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The faithful will always believe that their programs work until they don't. When they don't they will blame the infidels, in this case conservative Republicans. In fact, in the coming weeks, watch for the blame game to start. Despite the tiny $93 million cost for this software project (in government terms) Democrats will blame a lack of funding and Republican obstruction. By the way, it's rare that a software development project's projected size is accurate. It's likely twice that and maybe more given the errors.

Also, look for this meme: if only we had gone to single payer by expanding Medicare this wouldn't have been a problem. This is of course the ultimate goal of ObamaCare; Total government control of the health care and health insurance industries.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Cognitive Bias of the Left

"A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own "subjective social reality" from their perception of the input. ... Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality."
I just finished reading an article entitled "Impeach Obama!" in The New Yorker. It suggests that president Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment's statement that "[T]he validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned" in order to unilaterally increase the debt limit. Despite my obsession with constitutional law I am not a legal scholar, so I won't spend a lot of time on the legality of this request. Furthermore, that is not my biggest problem with this article. However, a plain modern reading of the clause suggests that whenever the U.S. issues a debt instrument, if ever confronted in a court of law about whether a U.S. created debt instrument is valid, the answer must always be yes.

It takes a denial or complete misunderstanding of a hundred of years of legal precedent and wilful ignorance of the Liberty Bond Act of 1917 (law that established the statutory debt limit) to make this leap of logic. Or, per my opening quote, it just takes cognitive bias. But as anyone that holds general obligation bonds from the city of Detroit can tell you, just because its valid doesn't mean it will get paid.

A default, in very simple terms, is not getting back the money you were promised. In fact, since the ratification of the 14th Amendment the United States has defaulted not once, but twice! We defaulted in 1934, with Executive Order 6102 (and other legislative actions during the early 1930's), where FDR made it illegal to "hoard" gold and refused to honor gold contracts. The second time was in 1971 where President Nixon refused to exchange dollars for gold despite the language written right on all U.S. currency saying "...and is redeemable in lawful money at the United States Treasury, of at any Federal Reserve Bank." In case you didn't know, the bills you hold in your purses and wallets are not money, they are currency and there's a HUGE difference. But that's a completely different discussion.

So, no matter what president Obama says, defaulting on the U.S. debt would not be "the first time in history" that it has happened.

Sorry for that diversion, but it sets up my real concern. Leftist love a crisis, even a manufactured one, because they use the inherent irrationality of the public to institute policies that under normal conditions would unlikely be considered. In this case, the author Hendrik Hertzberg is requesting nothing short of an Obama dictatorship (yes, dictators are elected as well.) He openly suggests that Obama should subvert the Constitution because he can't be impeached for doing it. Of the many things Obama would have to ignore in the Constitution and the United States Code would be:

Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 1
"All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives"

Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 2
"The Congress shall have power ... To borrow money on the credit of the United States."

Article 2, Section 3, Paragraph 1
"...he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

United States Code Title 31, Section 3101, paragraph (b)
"The face amount of obligations issued under this chapter ... may not be more than $14,294,000,000,000, outstanding at one time, subject to changes periodically made in that amount as provided by law through the congressional budget process ...."

Hertzberg suggests that Obama would be greeted as a conquering hero because he'd only be guilty of "...saving the nation’s economy, and the world’s." You see, leftist don't intrinsically dislike dictatorships or totalitarian governments (Fidel Castro anyone?) They are unconcerned with John Dalberg-Acton's admonition that "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." As long as the dictator is benevolent, everything is fine. This can be seen in the socialist, politically pornographic, Pre-Code Hollywood era (1933) film "Gabriel Over the White House." As well as in a video by Kfir Alafia and Alan Davidson's video "Crashing the Protests" where they crash an A.N.S.W.E.R. anti-war rally and a woman actually says:
"If a dictator provides clean water for their people... if they provide free health care, I like that dictator. If he provides university and education for everyone, I like that dictator."
Some would say our American society would never allow a dictator to take control of our lives. I'm not so certain, especially if the economic conditions in America are bad enough. The movie mentioned above was created during the Great Depression and the heroic lead is modeled after FDR. This may seem small, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to outlawed the sale and distribution of all 32 ounce sugary beverages. He had overwhelming support from the liberal, Whole Foods, anti-GMO, Climate Change, anti-Fracking, Gaia hypothesis community of NYC. Of course the courts overturned his law unanimously. But we can't always rely on our court system to protect our freedoms (see Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.) Remember, judges are people and they have agendas too.

I'm reminded of a famous poem by Martin Niemöller that is on a large monolith at the end of the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston. I've taken some poetic license with it:
They came first for the 32 ounce sugary beverage drinkers,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a beverage drinker.
Then they came for the gun owners,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a gun owner.
Then they came for the health care free riders,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a health care free rider.
Then they came for the Republicans,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Democrat.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
I'm not suggesting that we are headed for a new holocaust. Nor do I think that Godwin's Law has been invoked here, but that's debatable. Rather, I'm suggesting that the road to serfdom is also paved with good intentions.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Affirmative Action: The Road To Hell

Four years ago I wrote my first post regarding affirmative action. In part, it was in response to a proposed Michigan law modifying their constitution and outlawing racial preferences.

Today, the federal constitutionality of that amendment was argued in front of the Supreme Court. As mentioned before, the law states the following:
"The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."
It's tragic that so-called civil rights groups are today arguing that the state SHALL discriminate on behalf of minorities. It makes me think of Fredrick Douglass's speech given at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Boston in 1865 entitled "What the Black Man Wants." The most relevant part in my mind is this:
"Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, 'What shall we do with the Negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall!"
Unfortunately, the mischief continues because of the good intentions of others. But remember, how that road to Hell is paved!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The "Affordable" Care Act

af·ford·a·ble

/əˈfôrdəbəl/
adjective

1. inexpensive; reasonably priced.
"affordable housing"
Affordable? Says who? Here's a tip when analysing statements made by politicians or anyone for that matter. As a Systems Analyst, I can't write a software specification that includes subjective, qualitative words. That's because there is absolutely no programming language that allows for subjective code to accomplish a task. For instance, when you're on a ticket purchasing website and you choose the "best available" seats, you can be assured that each seat has a numeric value defining how good the seat is that can be ordered with regard to all other seats. The program will sort the remaining available seats by this numeric value. There is also a mathematical algorithm use to calculate a seat's numeric value, likely some combination of distance from the activity being viewed and optimal viewing angle.

So when the Affordable Care Act was introduced my first question was how are they going to define affordable? How will they know what I think is affordable? That's the problem with quasi-socialists programs. They remove that decision from the individual and designate, via fiat, what is and isn't affordable regardless of whether we as citizens agree. In short, its affordable because we say so!

That's where socialist governments are efficient: they make the necessary long term investment which benefit the community not the individual profit. - Philippe Cl (in response to Solyndra failing because there isn't a viable solar energy market in the United States)
Look at all the squishy words is this statement. Efficient, necessary, long term, benefit, community. Each of these words are meaningless without details behind them. How do you define efficient? Who get to define what is and isn't necessary? What is long term? 10 years? 20 years? Who gets to define is something is a benefit or a detriment? Finally, what is the population of this community? All citizens? Only those without cheap energy? Only those that are poor?

Collectivist believe that elites know the answers to these questions and know what's best for us. In fact, they arrogantly say that anyone voting for anyone other than them are voting against their own self interest. The hubris is astounding, because of course they can't possibly know what's best of all 310 million Americans.

We are seeing now that the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable. But a little common sense and the mind of a Systems Analyst could have let you know from the beginning that their task was impossible.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What's In A Name? A Lot Shakespeare!

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Obama recently gave his opinion on the Washington Redskins suggest name change. I'm sure you know what he thinks, but what do I think? I totally agree. Coincidentally, my high school's sports mascot used to be the Rickards Redskins! It was changed in 2000 because of its racial overtone. It is now the Rickards Raiders.

If it had been the Rickards Niggers or Rickards Spear Chuckers it would have been changed long before that in my opinion. Washington will change their mascot eventually. They should have changed it a long time ago. Besides, I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan and have always disliked the Washington team, division rivals that they are. So there's that as well.

By the way, I've never liked how people use the phrase "the n-word" or "the c-word" for that matter. Not saying the word just gives it more power. It's just a word. What matters is the meaning the word implies.

Useful Idiots

I was working on a blog post a few days ago about the debt-to-GDP ratio and how useless it is as a debt service metric when I realized just how fucking boring it was! No doubt I'll eventually post it, but only 2% of the population will care and there's a good chance that none of my blog readers will.

It made me realize that I need to focus on the stuff that people might care about. That's going to be tough because most people just don't care about politics. For instance, I'm constantly reminded that there are millions of American's out there that are completely clueless about federal budgeting and the continuing resolution process given the current government shutdown. Instead, they treat the political process like a Red Sox versus Yankees rivalry rather than a substantive argumentative process meant to accomplish meaningful policy that will enhance the nation or at least move us forward as a nation.

Here are some basics that most American's don't seem to know.

  • All revenue generating bills must originate in the House of Representatives. (see Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution)
  • The Senate is required, by law, to create a budget each fiscal year (they haven't done it in 4 years)
  • The Federal Reserve Act prohibits the Federal Reserve Bank from lending directly to the U.S. Treasury

I don't expect everyone to be as passionate as I am about politics, or especially the outcome of the recent government shutdown. However, some talk the talk but can't walk the walk. I sometimes let myself get caught in conversations with these "useful idiots" until at some point I realize they have no idea what they are talking about. They are merely spouting cliché political phrases or rooting for what they consider to be the home team. I'd give examples but that's not important. What is important is that my time is precious and I can't waste it having meanless conversations with someone that has the intellectually curiosity of a 3 year old.

More importantly, what am I going to do with all this knowledge I'm accumulating. I haven't figured that out yet, but stay tuned! By the way, I'm a Red Sox fan and actually do care about them as well. Just not as much as politics.