[As most RR readers have seen, the sandbox 'all topics welcome' forums (fora?) in these pages have been more than well received - their comment streams quickly fill with multiple topic threads discussed among multiple participants. Recently these sandboxes have begun 'filling' more rapidly - e.g. the 1jun15 sandbox garnered over 200 comments in three days. This has given rise to a growing concern of mine about the readability of very long comment streams containing several live threads. Fortunately, most commenters have started using name/time tag referents to point readers to which of the preceding comments their current comment addresses. (However, some still believe that their particular thread is being so closely followed by everyone that no such provenance pointers are needed - hubris?)
So I wonder if perhaps readability would be enhanced were RR to implement categorical sandboxes - national policy, local issues, foreign policy, climate change, science, education, ... ?? While that approach MAY focus discussions and make them more readable, it would also detract from the apparently pleasant melee or potpourri of thoughts that readers now experience as they revisit the comment stream to have their interest piqued by some new comment/er. Easiest would be not to 'fix' what seems to work, and to just open new sandboxes whenever the comment streams grow beyond a hundred or so. Anyway, I invite a discussion and your thoughts on the matter. gjr]
[This is the transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 3 June 2015.]
For weeks now we have been hearing about the need to renew the Patriot Act that has authorized the federal government to collect data on literally every phone call made in the United States. No probable cause was needed. Who you are, who and when you called, and how long you talked were all being recorded and stored by the National Security Agency. This made more than a few Americans nervous about Big Brother listening in to their private conversations. And since the government habitually lies, few believed that the actual voice content of the conversations was not also surreptitiously recorded.
Then yesterday the Associated Press announced the results of an investigation (here) they have been conducting over the last year to find out what are all those antenna and camera laden small aircraft doing circling over our cities and towns. Well, it turns out that the FBI operates its own secret air force of hundreds of light planes whose ownership is shielded under innocent looking private company names. It’s as if they don’t want you to find out that they also are recording your phone conversations and taking very high definition pictures of people from a mile up; whoda thought of that?
But the FBI is not alone. It turns out that the Drug Enforcement Agency and the US Marshalls Service have and operate their own fleets of aircraft with similarly obscured ownership. It’s a wonder that with so many hundreds of peeping toms up there, that they don’t bump into each other as they’re trying to get a better look. Now if you think that’s bad enough, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Here come the drones, small remotely operated quad-rotors and fixed wing aircraft that can be bought and flown on the cheap, each carrying appropriate sensors to see and hear what we are doing. We have become the most watched and worried over citizens of any country in the world.
[New month, new sandbox. The 30may15 sandbox seems to have turned into a kitty litter box with all the congealed poop balls flying back and forth. Perhaps the participants there will want to retain that venue for continuing those enthusiastic labors and use this new one for more edifying discourse. I for one am interested in what readers think about the Patriot Act's renewal and the trade-offs between our liberties and security. gjr]
[This article was published in the June 2015 issue of The Nugget of the Nevada County Republican Women Federated, and is reprinted here with permission. Its author is the Legislative Chair and 2nd VP of that organization.]
Jo Ann Rebane
Medicaid today has been described as a costly medical insurance financing scheme jointly funded by federal and state government general funds that delivers poor quality care to “qualifying” low income people.
A little background: In 1965 a Democratic Congress created the Medicare parts A and B and Medicaid programs in response to President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty”. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid does not have any independent revenue source or trust fund, enjoying open ended access to the federal government’s general fund with no defined limits. Over the years Medicaid eligibility standards have loosened and enrollment numbers have increased. And philosophically Medicaid has been viewed by some as a first step in government supplied universal healthcare that establishes a “right” to healthcare.
Medicaid is a means-tested program which in 2013 paid for medical and long-term care for some 72 million low income individuals, children, disabled, and elderly - one fifth of the US population. All states have elected to participate in Medicaid, have established and administer their own programs, agree to pay for services provided to enrollees and thereby have a legal right to federal matching payments for those medical services with no upper limit. Federal reimbursement rates to the states are a percentage tied to state per capita income. California enjoys a 50% reimbursement rate and in 2011 received more than 12% of all federal Medicaid spending. With enactment of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand Medicaid to all US citizens and legal residents with income up to 138% of the poverty line, with the federal government covering all expansion costs only through 2016.
Lowell Robinson RIP. A sad email from a friend this morning reported the passing last night of Lowell Robinson, one of the giants of our community. Lowell was the founder of what today we know as Robinson Enterprises, a multi-faceted business that has served Nevada County for decades. He also put his money where his mouth was as a prominent supporter of uncounted philanthropies, local educational programs, and political causes. We will miss his good humor, wisdom, and generosity.
IQ scores have been rising for decades. So we learn from the work of James Flynn, a social scientist at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Since IQ is a relative or a ‘normed measure’ of intelligence represented by the bell curve in which 100 is set so as to indicate the average or mean IQ, and every ten point difference from 100 is one standard deviation, your 80 or 120 IQ respectively says that about 2.5% of the population scores lower than you, or the same percentage scores higher. But Dr Flynn reports that IQ tests have had to be made tougher over the course of the last century in order to keep the mean at 100.
IQ scores shot up in the 1920s after WW1, then plateaued, and then shot up again after WW2. Scores plateaued again in the 1970s (coincident with when Great Society education started kicking in). After picking up for a quarter century, the recent rise has again slowed down. One of the several theories to account for this ‘Flynn Effect’ is that childhoods have become longer as countries became richer during the last hundred years or so.
Several people are beginning to notice Jonathan Rauch’s (Political Realism, 2015) development of what he has labeled “transactional politics”. The left-leaning political commentator sounds almost like a conservative when he defends ‘political machines’ as the grease that keeps the wheels of government turning, and not grinding to a halt as seems to be the current propensity of Washington. He observes that “American government may be less corrupt. But it also has more difficulty getting anything done.” One of his nostrums includes reinstatement of ‘earmarks’ as the currency which allowed (motivated?) politicians to wheel and deal and then compromise in getting major legislation through Congress. I’ll have more to say about Rauch’s thoughts in a future post on our government’s sclerotic corruption, a dysfunction that is now beyond the tipping point as also analyzed by Charles Murray (By the People, 2015).
[Well, all the liberal palaber about Common Core being just standards and not specific requirements for curricula is just so much BS as states are now beginning to find out. Climate change propaganda has been inserted as a required topic ranging from grade through middle to high school. Students will have AGW drilled into their heads without debate, much like the Catholics and Calvinists ran their religious schools. See 'Schoolroom Climate Change Indoctrination' by Paul Tice in the 28may15 WSJ. gjr]
We again gratefully contemplate the terrible price paid by those who gave their all so that America may remain the land of opportunity and the home of the free. The words and photo from Memorial Day - 30 May 2011 still apply.
From the pantheon of America’s richest and wisest, we hear that Warren Buffett has now discovered systemic unemployment, especially of the kind that no amount of education spending will cure. And the man has also concluded that some form of Guaranteed National Income is required to keep blood out of the gutters. A couple of days ago he wrote a piece – ‘Better than Raising the Minimum Wage’ – that was picked up by a number of media outlets. I guess that makes official what we on RR have been discussing and debating for years.
Mr Buffett presents a sensible case for a more robust Earned Income Tax Credit to bring low earning workers up to a comfortable living standard. He correctly tells readers “In recent decades, our country’s rising tide has not lifted the boats of the poor. … No conspiracy lies behind this depressing fact: The poor are most definitely not poor because the rich are rich. Nor are the rich undeserving. Most of them have contributed brilliant innovations or managerial expertise to America’s well-being. We all live far better because of Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Sam Walton and the like.”
Using many words and numbers, he makes the case that technology is moving employable human skill sets to ever higher levels that are simply not accessible to people in the lower cognitive classes. The whole concept was illustrated graphically in the nearby ‘thousand word picture’ (from ‘edX Meets the Workforce’). The problem of using such graphics to vividly illustrate our systemic unemployment is that the overwhelming number of our citizens don’t do graphics, neither do they do numbers. But my oh my, do they do soundbites that promise more.
The above figure shows two overlapping distributions in the form of histograms. The green one indicates how many jobs are available at various levels of worker productivity. Of course, the higher the productivity level, the higher the required worker skill level. The red distribution shows the availability of workers at skill levels able to staff jobs at the indicated productivity levels. Where the green bars are higher than the red, we have jobs that the current workforce, represented by the red bars, cannot fill. And in the lower productivity jobs area, where the red bars stick up higher than the green bars, we have the systemically unemployed workers.
The problem is that new technologies cause the green distribution (bars) to migrate to the right. But the only thing that will increase the skill levels of workers, and therefore help the red distribution to also migrate to the right, is education/training. Unfortunately all those workers at the lower end of the productivity scale are not sufficiently educable. To keep blood out of the gutters, it is these people who must receive a GNI. (Long time RR readers may recall that I have recommended that a half-way route to GNI could be had through the Non-profit Service Corporations established under a dramatically reformed tax code.)
Before finishing, I want to remind readers the difference between welfare, as we know it today, and GNI. To receive some form of welfare you have to qualify under divers regulations, codes, and laws. And you will be vetted by endless bureaucrats to see for how much of this or that program you qualify. GNI, especially the outright grant type, requires very few people to administer, simply because it just pays you the difference between what you are able to earn yourself (maybe zilch) and what the law says you should as a minimum be able to spend every year.
And this brings us to a question asked by a liberal commenter under the previous GNI post – how would you decide which government workers are superfluous or not? From the commenter this came across as a gotcha question to rebut a proposal to save gazillions (for GNI) by reducing government workers. Well, to answer that requires no learning in rocket science or neuro surgery – just start by eliminating the non-performing bureaucracies that serve to dispense corporate and union welfare programs. Examples of these are Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, and ‘administrations’ too numerous to list (others to follow after some consolidation of the few necessary functions they do perform). However, as more people like Buffett are now beginning to realize, we will need to establish something like the FTA, a somewhat lean, mean, and very focused bureaucracy to administer any future version of the GNI (FTA?, that would be the Federal Tit Administration).
[There was a request in the rapidly filling old sandbox for a new one that could launch a discussion on 'what does it take to be an American' and 'who are our warriors', and, of course, divers other topics of interest. gjr]
[23may15]Download NevCityPlan_150527 Here are some ideas (starts on page 31) that Nevada City has for using the $500K grant to our ERC for economic development planning.