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Archive for May 18th, 2010

Hurricane forecasters at the U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been wrong three out of the last four years, and 7 out of the last 11 years. And now the National Center for Public Policy Research has come up with a better way to predict the number of Atlantic hurricanes.

The DC-based think tank calls NOAA’s track record in predicting hurricanes abysmal, claiming a trained chimp could do better. The think tank has commissioned a forecast from its own distinguished climate expert “Dr. James Hansimian.” The esteemed author of The Banana Curve offers his 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Forecast along with his methodology in the following 1:47 video.  

Check back with this YouTube Channel at the end of the hurricane season to find out who had the better forecast.

I.M. Kane


 

Dr. Hansimian’s Hurricane Forecast 1:47 Video

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“[T]he Medicare system is beginning to implode. If Congress doesn’t fix Medicare soon, there’ll be more and more doctors dropping out …”—Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association.

Nearly half of Texas doctors aren’t taking new Medicare patients, more than 300 doctors have dropped the program in the last two years, including 50 in the first three months of this year, and 100 to 200 a year are now leaving the program altogether.

“Texas Medicare opt-outs began in earnest in 2007, when 70 doctors notified Trailblazer Health Enterprises, the state’s Medicare carrier, they would no longer participate, up from seven in 2006. The numbers jumped to 151 in 2008, fell back to 135 in 2009 and are on pace for 200 in 2010. From 1998 to 2002, by contrast, no more than three a year opted out.”—Todd Ackerman

Doctors are opting out because of increasing Medicare reimbursement cuts. With a severe 21 percent cut set to take effect June 1, participation in the government-funded health care of seniors will become unaffordable.

“The only way to provide cost-effective care is outside the Medicare system, a system without constant paperwork and headaches and inadequate reimbursement.”—Dr. Guy Culpepper, a Dallas-area family practice doctor

I.M. Kane


 

Texas doctors opting out of Medicare at alarming rate

By Todd Ackerman

Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare at alarming rates, frustrated by reimbursement cuts they say make participation in government-funded care of seniors unaffordable.

Two years after a survey found nearly half of Texas doctors weren’t taking some new Medicare patients, new data shows 100 to 200 a year are now ending all involvement with the program. Before 2007, the number of doctors opting out averaged less than a handful a year.

“This new data shows the Medicare system is beginning to implode,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association. “If Congress doesn’t fix Medicare soon, there’ll be more and more doctors dropping out and Congress’ promise to provide medical care to seniors will be broken.”

More than 300 doctors have dropped the program in the last two years, including 50 in the first three months of 2010, according to data compiled by the Houston Chronicle. Texas Medical Association officials, who conducted the 2008 survey, said the numbers far exceeded their assumptions.

The largest number of doctors opting out comes from primary care, a field already short of practitioners nationally and especially in Texas. Psychiatrists also make up a large share of the pie, causing one Texas leader to say, “God forbid that a senior has dementia.”

The opt-outs follow years of declining Medicare reimbursement that culminated in a looming 21 percent cut in 2010. Congress has voted three times to postpone the cut, which was originally to take effect Jan. 1. It is now set to take effect June 1.

Not cost-effective

The uncertainty proved too much for Dr. Guy Culpepper, a Dallas-area family practice doctor who says he wrestled with his decision for years before opting out in March. It was, he said, the only way “he could stop getting bullied and take control of his practice.”

“You do Medicare for God and country because you lose money on it,” said Culpepper, a graduate of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “The only way to provide cost-effective care is outside the Medicare system, a system without constant paperwork and headaches and inadequate reimbursement.”

Ending Medicare participation is just one consequence of the system’s funding problems. In a new Texas Medical Association survey, opting out was one of the least common options doctors have taken or are planning as a result of declining Medicare funding — behind increasing fees, reducing staff wages and benefits, reducing charity care and not accepting new Medicare patients.

In 2008, 42 percent of Texas doctors participating in the survey said they were no longer accepting all new Medicare patients. Among primary-care doctors, the percentage was 62 percent.

The impact on doctors has not been lost on their patients. Kathy Sweeney, a Houston retiree, twice has been turned away by specialists because they weren’t accepting new Medicare patients. She worries her doctors might have to drop her if Medicare cuts go through and they can’t afford to continue in the program.

“I’ve talked to them about the possibility,” said Sweeney, who sent her legislators a letter calling on them to fix Medicare. “They’re hanging in there as long as there’s not a severe cut, but just thinking I couldn’t continue doctor-patient relationships I built up over years is disturbing. Seniors should be able to see the doctors they want.”

The problem dates back to 1997, when Congress passed a balanced budget law that included a Medicare payment formula aimed at reining in spending. The formula, which assumed low growth rates, called for payment cuts if spending exceeded goals, a scenario that occurred year after year as health care costs grew. The scheduled cuts, expected to be modest, turned out to be large.

Congress would overturn the cuts, but their short-term fixes didn’t keep up with inflation. The Texas Medical Association says the cumulative effect since 2001 already amounts to an inflation-adjusted cut of 20.9 percent. In 2001, doctors receiving a $1,000 Medicare payment made roughly $410, after taking out operating expenses. In 2010, they’ll net $290. If the scheduled 21.2 percent cut goes through, they’d net $72, effectively an 83 percent cut since 2001.

The issue caused the Texas Medical Association to break ranks with the American Medical Association and oppose health care reform efforts throughout 2009. Then TMA President Dr. William Fleming said “reform is doomed to failure” without Medicare reform and called Congress’ failure to devise a rational payment plan “an insult to seniors, people with disabilities and military families.”

No surprise to senator

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he isn’t surprised by the new opt-out numbers, allowing that Congress’ inability to reform Medicare is leaving “seniors without access and breaking the promise we made to them.”

“The problem has been how to eliminate the cuts without running up the deficit,” said Cornyn, responding to blame U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, placed on the Senate for not passing a House bill that would have provided a longer-term Medicare fix. “There hasn’t been the political will, but we really have no choice but to fix it.”

Cornyn acknowledged the task is daunting. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that eliminating scheduled Medicare payment cuts through 2020 would cost $276 billion.

The growth in Texas Medicare opt-outs began in earnest in 2007, when 70 doctors notified Trailblazer Health Enterprises, the state’s Medicare carrier, they would no longer participate, up from seven in 2006. The numbers jumped to 151 in 2008, fell back to 135 in 2009 and are on pace for 200 in 2010. From 1998 to 2002, by contrast, no more than three a year opted out.

Now, according to a Texas Medical Association new poll, more than four in 10 doctors are considering the move.

“I’ve been in practice 24 years, and a lot of my patients got old right along with me,” Culpepper said. “It’s stressful to tell them you’re leaving Medicare and they’re responsible for payments if they want to stay with you. You feel like you’re abandoning them.”

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“Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It’s everything people ever have found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity. There can’t be any such thing as civilization unless people have a conscience, because if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience? And what is anybody’s conscience except a little piece of the conscience of all men that ever lived?”The Ox-Bow Incident

Dale McAlpine was handing out leaflets and talking with shoppers when he was arrested by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community outreach officer. McAlpine said homosexuality is a sin and was arrested by the homosexual outreach officer for causing him distress.

Even though nobody complained, McAlpine was also charged with causing distress to the general public; i.e., he was talking “in a loud voice” that might be “overheard by others.” The police fingerprinted McAlpine, took a DNA sample, and locked him in a cell for seven hours.

In merry old England, homosexuals, blacks, Muslims, and environmental activists are more equal in the eyes of the law than are heterosexuals, whites, Christians, and businessmen. Police officers and jurists apply the laws arbitrarily to protect politically-favored groups and to persecute politically unfavorable groups.

Once the state has been given the right to police ideas, all ideas will be in jeopardy of being subjected to irrational, divisive, capricious, and arbitrary laws; and the people will live in constant fear that sooner or later one of their ideas will attract the watchful eye of the state.

“The more you haul nobodies off to the cells for putting up a poster or quoting the Bible, the more a timid conformist populace will keep its head down, mind its own business, and avoid broader social engagement …”—Mark Steyn

Political correctness is in fact dismantling Western civilization.

“Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete.”The Obsolete Man

I.M. Kane


 

A slow-burn bonfire of liberties

By Mark Steyn

Here’s what you get when the state hauls nobodies off to jail for quoting the Bible

At the time of writing, I have no idea who’s won the British general election. At the time of reading, you probably have. But, whatever the result, I doubt it will make much difference to the fate of the United Kingdom, which is in the fast lane of the not-so-slow-burn bonfire of the liberties consuming much of the Western world.

The official “defining moment” of the campaign was Gordon Brown’s unguarded post-photo-op dismissal of Gillian Duffy as a “bigoted woman.” Mrs. Duffy, a plain-spoken working-class granny and lifelong Labour voter, had made the mistake of asking Mr. Brown, her party leader, a very mild question about immigrants from eastern Europe. He got back in his car and wrote her off, forgetting he was still miked. So she’s a “bigot.” He’s not. That’s why he makes all the decisions for her, and she just makes the best of them. What part of that don’t you understand?

The other “defining moment” got less coverage. Another “pensioner,” 74-year-old Roy Newman, got sick of the various party hacks knocking on his door and put a sign up in his front window: “GET THE LOT OUT.” Ninety minutes later, two police officers arrived at his home to arrest him for “racism.”

Racism? Why, yes. His sign was a piece of white card with red and blue lettering. Red-white-and-blue, geddit? The colours of the Union Jack. If using the same colour scheme as the national flag isn’t coded racism, I don’t know what is. Mr. Newman was prevailed upon to alter some of the letters to yellow, thereby diminishing the racist subtext.

With bigotry and racism running rampant, it was inevitable that homophobia would raise its ugly head. Dale McAlpine, a practising (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the town of Workington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a “public order” charge by police officer Sam Adams (no relation), a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community outreach officer. Mr. McAlpine said homosexuality is a sin. “I’m gay,” said Officer Adams. Well, it’s still a sin, said Mr. McAlpine. So Officer Adams arrested him for causing distress to Officer Adams.

In fairness, I should add that Mr. McAlpine was also arrested for causing distress to members of the public more generally, rather than just the aggrieved gay constable. No member of the public actually complained, but, as Officer Adams pointed out, Mr. McAlpine was talking “in a loud voice” that might be “overheard by others.” And we can’t have that, can we? So he was fingerprinted, DNA-sampled and tossed in the cells for seven hours.

The other day, upholding the sacking of a black Christian for declining to provide “sex therapy lessons” to gay couples, Lord Justice Laws ruled that “law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds is irrational, divisive, capricious, arbitrary.” Actually it’s the law of Lord Justice Laws that is increasingly “irrational, divisive, capricious, arbitrary.” Or as George Orwell, in Animal Farm, formulated it: all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. In the land of Laws, a gay is more equal than a Christian. A Muslim is more equal than anybody. A black man is more equal than a white man, unless the white man is gay and the black man a Christian. An eco-zealot is more equal than an Anglican. Not long before Lord Justice Laws’ decision on the “irrationality” of legal protection for Christianity, Tim Nicholson, a “Head of Sustainability” fired for questioning his property management group’s environmental policies, sued for wrongful dismissal under “Employment Equality (Religion And Beliefs) Regulations.” He wound up with the best part of one hundred thousand pounds after Mr. Justice Burton ruled that Mr. Nicholson’s faith in anthropogenic global warming was a “philosophical belief” on a par with religion. So the Employment Equality (Religion And Beliefs) Law protects belief in apocalyptic “climate change” but not in Jesus.

As for Muslims, in December Tohseef Shah sprayed the words “KILL GORDON BROWN,” “OSAMA IS ON HIS WAY” and “ISLAM WILL DOMINATE THE WORLD” on the war memorial at Burton-upon-Trent. But the Crown Prosecution Service decided his words were not “religiously motivated.” Phew! Thank goodness for that, eh? So a week or so back he walked out of court a free man, except for £500 in compensation to the municipal council for cleaning off his non-religiously motivated “ISLAM WILL DOMINATE THE WORLD” graffito.

I am currently slogging my way through a rather stodgy 650-page tome called Extreme Speech And Democracy. On the back is a question from Christopher McCrudden, professor of human rights law at Oxford: “What are the appropriate limits to freedom of expression in societies that wish to be democratic, multicultural, and committed to the human rights of all?”

Whether or not you regard that as a legitimate query, it’s certainly an irrelevant one. Because whatever you decide are the “appropriate” limits, by the time they percolate down to the transgendered liaison officer patrolling Workington shopping centre they’ll be reliably inappropriate. As I always point out in retailing the latest idiocy from Canada’s “human rights” fanatics, none of the above are “right-wing” in any sense that Steyn or Rumsfeld or Cheney would recognize the term. Mrs. Duffy is a lifelong Labour voter; Mr. Newman is one of those pox-on-all-their-houses types; the property company that fired Mr. Nicholson is so wretchedly politically correct it employed him as “Head of Sustainability,” a title of near parodic bogusness. Yet all fell afoul of Lord Justice Laws’ “irrational, divisive, capricious, arbitrary” laws. Because it’s hard not to. Because once you establish the principle that the state has the right to police ideas, sooner or later one of yours will catch their eye. I say “principle,” but that’s not really the word. The spirit is more aptly caught by a new joint initiative by the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission, the Manitoba “Human Rights” Commission and the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba to “promote and enhance the learning experience relative to human and treaty rights for all people living in Canada and around the world.” No idea what that means, but, as the CHRC press release says, this is the first time that these three useless taxpayer-funded sinecures have come together to “further their cause.” Since when do government agencies have ideological “causes”? And what happens if you disagree with their “cause”?

Professor McCrudden’s question on “appropriate” limits is very adroitly formulated: in today’s advanced Western society, there are no absolute rights—for all individual freedoms must be “balanced” against the state’s commitment to “multiculturalism” or “equality” or whatever other modish conceit tickles its fancy. Everybody talks like this now: for Canada’s Chief Censor, Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., freedom of expression is just one menu item in the great Canadian salad bar of rights, so don’t be surprised if we’re occasionally out of stock. Instead, why not try one of our tasty nutritious rights du jour? Like the human right to a transsexual labiaplasty, or (per a recent Quebec ruling) the human right to non-Eurocentric table manners. Real “rights” are restraints upon the state—“negative” rights, as constitutionalists have it; they delineate the limits of the sovereign’s power. But in the modern era “rights” are baubles in the state’s gift, and the sovereign confers them at the expense of individual liberty. Truly, this is an Orwellian assault on the very foundations of freedom.

The statists justify this on the grounds of what Lord Justice Laws calls “public tranquility”—a phrase that rings very hollow in contemporary Britain. In his last years of office, Tony Blair used to fret about “social disintegration.” You can see what he means in the Hogarthian depravity of not just decayed urban centres but leafy villages and prosperous suburbs. His response, of course, was the effete smack of socially progressive authoritarianism: ever more government micro-regulation of public discourse, until we reach the surreal point where the gay outreach officer arrests the Christian for causing distress to the gay outreach officer. In truth, the Big Blairite Brother, like Nanny Lynch in Canada, incentivizes identity-group grievance, frivolous victimhood, and social atomization. Meanwhile, aggressive, confident identities can drive a coach-and-horses through the PC flower beds: the remorseless feasting of Islamic polygamy on the Eurowelfare gravy train is only one example of how feeble “rational” secular statism proves in the face of a minority that has its number.

As for the “balancing act” that Professor McCrudden urges between individual rights and broader responsibilities, only a truly free people have the incentive even to seek it. The more you haul nobodies off to the cells for putting up a poster or quoting the Bible, the more a timid conformist populace will keep its head down, mind its own business, and avoid broader social engagement—or at any rate non-alcohol-fuelled engagement. Big Government is dismantling civic identity, and the slow-burn bonfire of liberties in Europe and North America will eventually consume us all.


 

Henry Fonda: The Ox-Bow Incident (“Conscience”) Monologue 3:08 Clip

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“Don’t think Washington would never wreck private pensions in the name of the collective good. It happened in Argentina, and if the same group that’s determined to take over the U.S. health care system stays in power long enough, it could happen here.”—Investors Business Daily

Brother O and the Democrat Party want to do away with the private-sector’s 401(k) system and replace it with a government-run investment plan. Under the plan, the government would seize the retirement savings of Americans in exchange for a promissory monthly benefit check during their retirement years, i.e., the government plan would treat private retirement savings the same way it has treated Social Security.

Although the government does have a moral obligation to pay Social Security benefits, it does not have a legal obligation to do so. In 1960, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a person does not have a “contractual earned right” to receive Social Security benefits.

The Democrats plan to loot America’s retirement savings to fund their government programs and Marxist schemes.

If the Democrat Party’s plan to seize private 401(k)s for government disbursement is another example of the “change” the American electorate voted for in the 2008 general election, then the November midterm elections will most assuredly bear that out.

The Democrat Party leaves little room for doubt that it is the archenemy of America’s constitutional republic and free market economic system.

I.M. Kane


 

Federal Mutual Fund

From Investors Business Daily

Government Retirement: Democrats have obliquely admitted they covet Americans’ pensions. Last week, congressional Republicans told them to stay away. The shame is that they had to do anything at all.

The first rumblings were heard in the 1990s, when Democrats were said to be coming after our retirement accounts. Back then, the warnings were easy to pass off as hyperbole or a cranky conspiracy theory. Today, they pass as prescient.

In January, Bloomberg reported the “U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and individual retirement accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams, according to Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Mark Iwry.”

Alarms went off. In February, former House Speaker New Gingrich and policy analyst Peter Ferrara warned in our “On The Right” column that “Washington is developing plans for your retirement savings.”

“The idea,” they said, “is for the government to take your retirement savings in return for a promise to pay you some monthly benefit in your retirement years.

“They will tell you that you are ‘investing’ your money. … But they will use your money immediately to pay for their unprecedented trillion-dollar budget deficits, leaving nothing to back up their political promises, just as they have raided the Social Security trust funds.”

Last week, Connie Hair wrote the following in Human Events about the Annual Report of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class released in February:

“The radical solution most favored by Big Labor is the seizure of private 401(k) plans for government disbursement — which lets them off the hook for their collapsing retirement scheme. And, of course, the Obama administration is eager to accommodate their buddies.”

Hair says a “backdoor bull’s-eye is on your 401(k) plan and trillions of dollars the government would control through seizure, regulation and federal disbursement of mandatory retirement accounts.”

Republican lawmakers are taking the threat seriously. They have expressed to the administration through a letter their “strong opposition to any proposal to eliminate or federalize private-sector defined contribution pension plans.” These congressmen know that among their Beltway brethren there exists an eagerness to “essentially dismantle the present private-sector 401(k) system, replacing it instead with a government-run investment plan.”

This isn’t the first time Democrats have eyed Americans’ retirements. In 1993 the Washington Post reported that the Clinton administration considered an “unprecedented effort by the federal government to deal with its budget woes by turning to the more than $4 trillion in cash, stocks and other investments held by pension funds.”

They made another pass in 2008, when Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at the New School of Social Research who was invited by Democrats to testify, brought the idea of government “guaranteed retirement accounts” to the House subcommittee on income security and family support. Such accounts would be administered by the Social Security Administration. “Contributions” would be required and the payout would be a lean 3%.

Ghilarducci didn’t suggest that 401(k)s be eliminated, but she didn’t have to. She supports removing the favorable tax treatment they receive, which would virtually destroy their reason to exist.

To close the loop, we refer back to the White House’s middle-class task force report. It mentions guaranteed retirement accounts as a way to “give workers a simple way to invest a portion of their retirement savings in an account that was free of inflation and market risk and, in some versions under discussion, would guarantee a specified real return above the rate of inflation.”

Or, as Gingrich and Ferrara say, the government would treat ostensibly private retirement savings the same negligent way it’s treated Social Security. Let’s not forget: The courts have ruled that Washington isn’t obligated to pay back a dime it’s seized from paychecks to fund Social Security.

Don’t think Washington would never wreck private pensions in the name of the collective good. It happened in Argentina, and if the same group that’s determined to take over the U.S. health care system stays in power long enough, it could happen here.

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