31 December 2013

Obligatory Year-End Post

Goodbye 2013! Good riddance!

Not quite fair. I got all new equipment and started to learn to ski. My Dear Wife got a new instrument and started to learn to play–and is doing quite well after only one lesson! We became much closer friends with someone we'd had a passing acquaintance with, and that has had multiple benefits. 

But on the whole, I won't be upset to see 2013 go the way of 1941 or 1978. 

Here's to a happy and profitable 2014! May Harry Reid retire while Gov. Sandoval is still in office; may the IRS blow its enforcement of the PPACA by focusing on people who actually make money; and may the GOP not shoot itself in the foot with Senate candidates.

Happy New Year, y'all.

17 December 2013

“You may need to talk with your doctor about your prescriptions.”

I recently received a letter from my prescription drug insurance administrator with that sentence in bold above the body. The letter explains that as of 01/01/2014, the plan’s coverage of this particular (name-brand) medication will change. The administrator and doctor together must review the prescription to ensure it falls within the plan’s rules.

There is nothing in the letter specifically mentioning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), although one sentence does mention information that is “FDA-approved”. The FDA is, according to Wikipedia, part of Secretary Sebelius’s DHHS. Nevertheless, the effective date of the new policy is, I am certain, no coincidence.

Fortunately for me–and I am a fortunate person–this medication was for a specific short-term purpose, and I am no longer using it. I empathize with those who may not be so lucky.

30 October 2013

Use the Power of Language, Part III

Well, Rhino-sized, anyway.
Apparently on Tuesday, the Senate Democrats decided to take the “SQUIRREL” of the poorly- or non-functioning HealthCare.gov site and inflate it to elephant proportions, to distract us from the story of millions of individual medical insurance policyholders having their policies cancelled because they do not meet the requirements of “Obamacare”, and this phenomenon being known to the Obama administration as early as 2010. This led to a whole bunch of tweets (on Twitter) that continually irritated me, because opponents of this law were using language promoted by proponents of it, rather than words that accurately describe what we’re talking about.

I sent out a few tweets about it, and I’ve decided to repeat and expand on those here.
  1. The law that has been dubbed “Obamacare” is not the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA). It is the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA). Please don’t forget both empty promises when writing or tweeting about it.
  2. What the law requires individuals to buy is not a “health plan”. It is a medical insurance policy.
    A health plan is a course of action intended to promote and maintain the health of an individual, created by that individual usually in cooperation with physicians and other advisors.
    A medical insurance policy is a contract wherein the buyer pays a premium in consideration of the risk that the insured will incur expenses due to certain treatments, which the insurance company will bear at least most of the cost of.
    The health coverage required by the PPACA is not so much a medical insurance policy as a pre-payment contract for scheduled services. Actually, many employer-sponsored “health insurance plans” are also that–especially the HMO type.
  3. The arrangement where all medical services are provided by the State is not “single payer”. It is an “everybody pays” arrangement. Except, of course, for those who do not pay in to the system. People who receive benefits paid for only by other people are called “Free Riders”.
    (In my tweet, I mistakenly attributed my awareness of this term to The Czar of Muscovy, of the Antient and Noble Order of the Gormogons. It was actually this entertaining and informative post by GhettoPuter. I apologize to ’Puter–and as appropriate, to the Czar–for this error.)
    Considering what employer-sponsored group health plans have become, each one is a sort of micro-everybody-pays system. Not so bad, as long as they are voluntary. But what if participation were mandatory, and everyone were forced to pay for everyone else’s pre-existing conditions and routine personal maintenance, like contraception? Welcome to the PPACA.
Addendum: I also saw some video and quotes from Barack Obama being shared where he said that nothing in this law will force people out of their current policies, with the claim that he was lying. Technically, though, it appears that his claims may be true; it was the rules and regulations written by the Department of Health and Human Services that forced insurers to cancel those policies, rather than having them grandfathered in as acceptable. However, this is just another case of lawyer-ese, saying something that is technically true, while knowing the end result will be different.

17 June 2013

Editors Wanted

An AP story today contained the following sentence fragment:

03 June 2013

Yet Another Reason to Dump the IRS

From a congratulatory email to me upon reaching an employment milestone:

In the United States, service awards are considered tax exempt and therefore can only be used for tangible awards. They cannot be redeemed for certain gift cards  or travel and tickets due to IRS restrictions.…
So if I win one of our contests, or get an award for performance, I can get a VISA® or Walmart* gift card (which is taxable), but as a reward for years of hard work, I get a golf bag†. And I don't even play golf!

Thanks, IRS!

For example.

05 May 2013

Use the Power of Language, Part II

Logo from Boston.com

Earlier today, Laura Walker tweeted a link to a post about forensic analysis of the bombs used at the Boston Marathon:
Excellent, detailed guide to analyzing the remnants of the IEDs used in the Boston Bombings: http://www.trackingterrorism.org/article/examining-improvised-explosive-devices-how-did-boston-bombers-do-it/introduction via @spearheadbroken
People in the media understand how subtle connotations can be used to shape opinion. Laura's tweet hit me today as an example of just that. The phrase “Improvised Explosive Device” and its abbreviation “IED” have become so commonplace that it seems any non-military explosive is designated as such. But is it accurate?

Are we using the word “improvised” to mean “home-built”? Because buying materials and learning methods to build a specific thing is not improvisation. In fact, the word “improvise” comes from a word that literally means “unforeseen”. Was McVeigh’s and Nichols’ truck bomb improvised? The materials they used were not designed to be an explosive, but they purchased those materials expressly to make an explosive. Hardly unforeseen. Acquiring skill and materials with intent to perform a specific action is not improvisation.

To me, this means that the term “Improvised Explosive Device” was invented, or at least more broadly applied, in order to disguise the fact that terrorist groups are at work. “Oh, he’s no terrorist! He just became angry at the US and threw together a little fireworks to express himself.”

Of course, the quick acceptance of the term may have had more to do with the catchy abbreviation and disregard for the actual meaning of the words, and no sinister plotting was involved. In fact, a variation on a theme admonishes us never to ascribe to malice what may be explained by mere stupidity. Ah, well, I guess I just wanted to rant.

25 April 2013

A Symptom of the Problem

The Nevada Assembly passed Tuesday, and sent to the Senate (who sent to committee on Wednesday), a bill requiring a “cooling-off” period between the time a State Legislator leaves office and the time said former legislator becomes a paid lobbyist.

It passed the Assembly 40-1 with 1 vacant seat.

As I tweeted last night, I oppose this measure on principle. The chief principle being, that if our legislators had principles, lobbyists would never exist.

I’ve written before (although I can’t find it now) that the way our Republic ideally should work is that each candidate should say, essentially, either “I want the Government to take care of you,” or “I want the Government to leave you alone.” Then the elected representatives would stick to that principle on all proposed laws and policies. Rather than a representative saying “you sent me here, what should I do?” they’d say “you sent me here to do this, and that is what I’ll do.” Therefore, lobbying would be ineffective.

Idealism aside, I oppose the idea of a “cooling-off” period. Either the practice should be banned outright, or it should be unrestricted. It is illogical to have people wait a few months. It is even more illogical to make exceptions such as those included in Amendment No. 565 (which partially appears as Subsection 2 of Section 1 of the bill as passed by the Assembly).

I was going to conclude with a comment about sending this post to my State Senator, but realized that was against my principles. HA!

18 March 2013

To Win the Heart

“Angel and devil” by Dreamambul

 The great Professor Mondo today has highlighted an article discussing how science is treated through moral filters on both the right and the left (perhaps among other things). The Professor’s conclusion is that in the left-right battle, each side is trying to impose its morality on the other (or on everyone).

One of the quotes within the quoted article has a leftist writer advocating policy to “minimize risk”. My takeaway from the paragraph was that to leftists, it is immoral to expose individuals to the risk of the consequences of their own actions. To me, it is immoral not to do so.

09 January 2013

Selected Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) Regarding Motor Vehicles

NRS Chapter 483, Section 230
Anyone who operates a motor vehicle on streets and highways in the State must be licensed as a driver.

NRS Chapter 483, Section 550
Anyone convicted of being a driver of a motor vehicle on a public street or highway in the State without a valid license shall be required by the court to obtain a valid license (or show reason for disqualification).

NRS Chapter 483, Section 620
Violation is a misdemeanor.

NRS Chapter 193, Section 120
A misdemeanor is “punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than 6 months”.

Nothing here precludes punishment for death, injury, or damage caused by irresponsible operation of a motor vehicle. Those crimes are defined and prohibited, and punishments proscribed, elsewhere in the law. Also, I expect there are plenty of people driving around without licenses. In fact, the practice is so widespread that our housing area put up a notice that drivers of work crews in the area must have a license, or the crew would be asked to leave. As long as they are responsible and don’t cause any damage, nobody (else) bothers them.

Now replace motor vehicle with firearm, and driver with shooter.

This would serve to “regulate the militia” by requiring licensees to demonstrate proper knowledge and skill, and yet not infringe on any citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. One could own and carry firearms in any responsible manner, which means keeping it concealed in most situations (because open carry tends to make people nervous).

Only when a person actually uses a firearm in public—where “in public” can be defined as narrowly as on a street, or as broadly as anywhere outside one’s home—would he or she be subject to having a license or committing a misdemeanor. The shooter would still be liable for any non-justifiable harm done to others or their property. (And, of course, a jury would have to decide what is justifiable.)

I’d rather not spend 6 months in the county jail, but I think $1,000 is a pretty cheap price to pay for saving a life.