Monday, May 25, 2015

Battle Hymn of the Republic - Memorial Day

I hope you are enjoying Memorial Day.  Take a moment to read Mark Steyn's short history of the Battle Hymn of The Republic and enjoy this video from Judy Collins.  The Civil War imbued the ideals of America with deeper meaning that Lincoln summed in the Second Inaugural address.  This song is one of the great songs to come out of that conflict.





What You Should Be Reading

  • Mark Steyn, of course, because he nails the meaning of America in ways that we native born seem to miss.
  • If you are a Christian, Dalrock (this and this), who seems to stand almost alone in fighting the feminist assault on the church.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Insurance Costs, ER Visits Up Under ACA - Uninsured? Not So Much

As I have said before, that the left's "solutions" to problems only creates more problems for government to solve is just icing on the cake for them.  Today's Case: The ironically named Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposed to reign in medical costs, reduce emergency room use and end the tragedy of lack of coverage in America.  How are we doing?

First, health insurance costs (from the WSJ):
Health Insurers Seek Hefty Rate Boosts
Major insurers in some states are proposing hefty rate boosts for plans sold under the federal health law, setting the stage for an intense debate this summer over the law’s impact.
In New Mexico, market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average jump of 51.6% in premiums for 2016. The biggest insurer in Tennessee, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has requested an average 36.3% increase. In Maryland, market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to raise rates 30.4% across its products. Moda Health, the largest insurer on the Oregon health exchange, seeks an average boost of around 25%.
All of them cite high medical costs incurred by people newly enrolled under the Affordable Care Act.
Emergency Room Visit Reductions (from USA Today):
Contrary to goals, ER visits rise under ObamacareThree-quarters of emergency physicians say they've seen ER patient visits surge since Obamacare took effect — just the opposite of what many Americans expected would happen.
Ending the tragedy of lack of insurance?  According to the widely quoted Kaiser Family Foundation survey on the uninsured the rate of uninsured will go from 17.87% to 14.22%.  So we wrecked the entire insurance market in America for 3.66% of the population and still left four times that number uninsured?  Another way of saying it is that only about one in five uninsured got covered.  That's disgusting.  The whole bill is disgusting.

What You Should Be Reading:

  • CDR Salamander, because he takes on the Diversity Bullies every Thursday.  As he posts in that link, we are having some success.
  • The Rational Male, if you have young men you need to mentor about relationships.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gavin McInnes Nails It

Being interviewed in the Hollywood Reporter, Gavin McInnes nails my political philosophy (and I don't care if you think he's trolling):
"I am a socially liberal libertarian who is not for open borders," he says. "That's my only problem with libertarians. I want almost no laws, I want the smallest government possible. I don't want anyone telling anyone what to do. But I also see the merit in tradition and I think that women and men are different."
When THR pointed out that this sounds more like a socially conservative position, McInnes laughed. "Yeah, I guess so."
For those who misread yesterday's post, this is my philosophy as well.  We should be free to use social pressure to re-institute a conservative social order that will make the country prosper and become far happier.  But unlike, the left I don't care to impose such a social order through the government. Such a culture is robust and successful that it doesn't need government to impose it, unlike leftism.

If you don't think a lack of social cohesion and purpose is a destroyer of culture, I ask you to ponder this piece by Leon Wolf at RedState bookends quoted here:

There’s a very simple reason why extremist Islam – a culture that is unable on its own merits to progress scientifically beyond the beginning of the 18th century or so – is able in the modern world to consistently embarrass countries possessed of vastly superior military might. That reason is this: extremist Islam believes that it has a claim to a superior message for the world. Christendom no longer does.
. . .
There is a reason that every week brings a new story about a kid raised in comfort here in the West running off to join ISIS, to the shocked dismay of his/her parents. ISIS, at least, presents a front that says that the world and life has objective meaning and that they, ISIS, have a claim to that meaning. Here in the West, by way of contrast, we allow our kids to just float adrift on a sea of meaningless moral relativity and nihilism. As C.S. Lewis noted, the human psyche tends toward rejection of a meaningless explanation for existence – and if the West cannot offer such meaning, people will get it somewhere else.
Leftism is doomed, it will eat the societies it conquers.  The real question is whether we Americans can restore the sense of our exceptionalism based on a Christian culture.

What You Should Be Reading

Monday, May 18, 2015

How Your Support for Gay Marriage is a Threat to Craft Beer

Alternate title:
The Left and Government Sanctioned Destruction of the Culture

The key insight that brings conservatives and libertarians together in an alliance against the left is that liberty in a constitutional republic can only be predicated on a conservative culture. A conservative culture constrains the bounds of behavior so that government can exercise a light touch over a society that will still function properly. This is why the left is seeking to destroy the pillars of conservative culture in America; marriage and family, the Christian church, and the language. This is being accomplished through government aided destruction of those institutions; while simultaneously "solving" the problems so created and simultaneously growing government.  I am not making an accusation of conspiracy; merely stating that there is a shared realization on the part of the leaders of the left, whether intuitive or explicit, that traditional American culture is a bulwark against their desire for a socialist society.  Hence the movements to delegitimize the keepers of this cultural flame.

The Christian religion, and in particular, the Northern European interpretation of it, has led to a culture of individualism. In this interpretation, one's salvation is determined by an individual decision to follow Jesus. This relationship with God, an intensely personal one, without the benefit of an earthly mediator, leads directly to the conclusion that each man and woman is responsible for the ordering of his or her own life within the constraint of belief. This gives the individual the mental freedom to be entrepreneurial which is usually disruptive to the established order.  Further, within this theological understanding, the grace granted by God should lead to good works in this life as evidenced by one's hard work and frugality.  This idea of this Protestant work ethic being related to the rise and success of capitalism is not new, having been proposed by Max Weber in 1905.  There is a natural cultural pairing of Christianity and capitalism, especially in America. The left, which is nothing if not anti-capitalist, naturally views traditional Christian belief as embodied in the conservative church as an enemy.

This Christian culture is not going to survive without actual Christian belief, so the left seeks to attack both Christian belief and institutions at every opportunity.  Gay marriage is only the latest example.  The move to legalize gay marriage was followed without pause by a public campaign of persecution against those who have religious and moral objections to that outcome.  In some cases, the persecution has taken the form of state sanction against bakeries.  The seamless transition to persecution gave the lie to the notion that this was about equal rights. The gay marriage movement was clearly a ploy to delegitimize traditional Christian belief.  In the meantime, there is no parallel movements against Muslim belief, even though Islam is much more harsh in its treatment of gays than Christians. Why? Because the Left sees Muslims as potential allies to attack the traditional Christian culture.

Destroying traditional pillars of culture and morality results in the need for more government control to make up for the lack of self-control in the population. This is a feature, not a bug, of the process of destroying the culture and is embraced by the left. For example, rampant sex between undergraduates on college campuses is the norm today, or so we are led to believe. While perhaps that has always happened to some extent; it was far less in degree and done with far greater discretion in times past.  But since this behavior gives rise to sex under questionable circumstances, we have the California have the California State Legislature considering how to regulate sex on campus. Here is KTCat's take:
Of course, as we all know, freedom isn't free. No, there's a price to be paid for freedom. We must maintain eternal vigilance lest the dark powers of Christian morality and its wretched partner, chivalry, attempt to come back.
Well, vigilance and affirmative consent rules, ruthlessly enforced by the State, that is. After all, we need something to do the job of a national culture based on Judeo-Christian objective morality.
The same groups who demand that government, to include colleges acting in loco parentis, stop prohibiting sex are now those who demand that government become involved in sex at college.  Why the shift?  This has to do primarily with feminism, which seeks the destruction of traditional gender roles in society and is almost always allied with leftism for that reason.  The initial calls to deregulate sex allowed women more sexual freedom.  Coupled with the wide-spread introduction of no-fault divorce, and state support for single mothers; this shifted economic power away from bread-winning males to the state.  (Time precludes a full exposition of this theory, see Dalrock for more detail.) I note that the government has taken to jailing fathers who don't pay child support in fairly large numbers, further shifting power away from men to the government.  This is necessary because it is men who are likely to be the revolutionaries that rise up against state power.  Now, the new change in attitudes with regards to sex on college campuses is to make it easier for women to accuse men of rape and for consequences to be meted out, without the benefit of trial.  Again there is power shifting towards women, who can claim rape without having to go to trial. The shift of power to single women suits the left just fine, because they tend to be reliable supporters of left-wing candidates.  Married women are much more conservative, because the power of government robs their family of provisioning resources, since intact families are much more likely to be paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits from the state.

So how does the left act in power?  They seek to regulate all facets of society to shift ever more power to the government, in the name of protecting the ordinary worker and consumer, often harming those same groups in the process.  It is not a coincidence that the same political groups that set themselves against traditional culture are the ones who also argue for larger government.  I may add examples later, but the fight over uncontrolled illegal immigration has to do with how fast our society can today assimilate immigrants without damaging our current culture.  Those who favor amnesty and open borders that would inevitably bring in more immigrants call their opponents racist; claiming that is the only reason that traditionalists would wish to control immigration. But society can only assimilate immigrates so fast.  So the call for amnesty and open borders is a cal to subvert traditional American culture by overwhelming it with immigrants who have not had the time to assimilate.  For the most part, those supporting amnesty also support increased government spending and regulating, such as the Affordable Care Act. In turn, government spending and regulating is destructive of free markets.  The left consists of an alliance of groups such as union leaders, environmentalists, and feminists seeking to both increase the scope of government and undermine traditional society.  These goals are complimentary not separate.

Which brings me to craft beer.  My observation is that craft beer is largely a pursuit of white males who are just starting to disrupt the current market for beer dominated by large corporations like AB-InBev.  Budweiser's Super Bowl commercial was evidence that the big companies are taking notice.  AB InBev has a large contract with the Teamsters in North America.  If craft beer threatens union jobs, how long before craft brewers come under pressure?  There will be calls to raise wages, to increase regulatory scrutiny and to change alcohol distribution laws to protect the big boys and the union jobs.  (Look at what Walmart endures.)  Further, the whiteness and maleness of the industry will come under attack by the cultural marxists. (Don't believe me, perform a search on "San Diego Craft Brewers Guild" under images and look at the faces in the various pictures.) The guardians of political correctness will seek to make sure that craft beer will be seen as somehow racist or anti-feminist or some other pejorative.  When craft beer is seen as a threat, and that is just starting, then the persecution will begin.

So this is why your support for gay marriage threatens craft beer.  By supporting gay marriage you are joining an alliance that views entrepreneurs, such as craft brewers, as a threat and who wish to destroy the culture that allows free markets to thrive.  You are voting for socialism, whether you like it or not.

Yes, that's a picture of Jesus watching over my craft beer drinking.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Look Who is Opposed to Fracking

So you oppose fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to produce natural gas. Would it surprise you to know that you agree with Vladimir Putin? Just follow the money:
A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. . .
. . .
The foundation
[funded by the Bermuda company] passed those millions along to some of the nation’s most prominent and politically active environmentalist groups. The Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for American Progress were among the recipients of Sea Change’s $100 million in grants in 2010 and 2011.,
. . .
The Sierra Club, which received nearly $8.5 million from Sea Change in 2010 and 2011, launched its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign the following year. The effort has become one of the largest and best-funded environmentalist campaigns combating fracking and the extraction of natural gas in general.
Russia's interests are served by higher energy prices worldwide, so opposition to U.S. fracking by them is understandable.  All those years of using the KGB to foment propaganda against the West are still being put to use.

Getting beyond ad-hominem attack, I have always believed that environmentalists reflexive opposition to the new technology is based on a hatred of industrialization not a love for the environment. This is clearly the case with fracking and the increased production of natural gas.  Environmentalists should be ecstatic about the use of natural gas, instead we see the Sierra Club launching a campaign against it.  Last year, greenhouse gas emissions from the United States fell to their lowest levels since 1995.  It is well understood that increased use of natural gas to displace coal, has been a key factor in this reduction.   From the MIT Technology Review:
. . . the trend is largely the result of a rapid drop in coal-fired electricity, and a corresponding rise in electricity generated by cleaner fuels, especially natural gas.
You would think this would be cause for cheer amongst green groups. But then, you have to expect it will actual consistency from the environmentalists.


American Heroes, Engaged in Fracking Operations

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Obama: Black Father Absence to be Solved By...

... You guessed, it, taxes on the rich.  No kidding.  From Reuters:
At the panel discussion, the president defended his practice of encouraging young African American men to take responsibility for their children when they become parents.
. . .
He said policy makers had to budget for programs that helped impoverished youth, and he singled out changing tax loopholes such as one on "carried interest" enjoyed by fund managers as a way to help boost resources for such programs.
This is more evidence, as if we needed it, that Obama's approach makes race relations in America worse, not better. Today we see him stirring up class animosity, conflating the salaries of hedge fund managers with the death of black fathers in the home, as if 1 thing had anything to do with the other.   He is on to something as the absence of black fathers in the home is definitely a contributing factor to the rioting we have seen in the black community.  But, as I've said before, Obama should get a refund for any Economics classes he took at Harvard or Columbia.

Further, the last thing that black families need is more government intervention.  The war on poverty launched by Lyndon Johnson has turned out to be a war on black families. In typically racist fashion the Democrat party put into practice policies that undermined African-American families; substituting the government for fathers and ensuring that black men would be priced out of the labor market by a rising minimum wage.

The first black President could have been a god-send to this country's race relations, instead he has chosen to divide the nation on the basis of race and class. Thanks.

What You Should Be Reading:

  • Dalrock, because he breaks down family issues with a keen parsing of the statistics and the insight that comes with a true understanding of how evolutionary psychology is applied to interpersonal relations between the sexes.  His most recent post on black children living with their fathers is here.
  • The Scratching Post, because KTCat blogs everyday at a consistently high level.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Short Term Rentals and the Sharing Economy

Single family housing that used for short-term vacation rentals through web services such as Airbnb or VRBO have gotten negative attention here in San Diego of late.  Even though the complainants point to specific behaviors they dislike, the underlying tone of the discussion is that they don't like the sort of people who come America's Finest City to vacation.  I am probably not going to persuade those folks, because their argument is rooted in emotionalism to which they will not admit.  For the rest of us who realize that sometimes real problems arise from short term rentals, I think we need to propose a light regulatory touch that purges the worst abuses.  Technology, primarily the internet, is lowering the cost of bringing underutilized assets to market, whether its vehicles, homes or spare CPU cycles on our computers; these assets can return rents to the owners.  Unfortunately, we have a tax and regulatory environment that doesn't address the mixed use of assets very well.

I have engaged with a number of people on this issue and the key complaints can be boiled down to bad behavior by the renters, to include late night loud parties, not cleaning up trash and boorish behavior.  The answer is to hold the owners accountable, who can the hold the guests accountable.  Just as owners are rated on airbnb, so are guests.  Guests whose behavior threatens owners with loss of income will give guests bad reviews which in turn create a disincentive for the bad behavior.  For serious violations one might have to call the police, but that is always true.  In the past three years, I have had the police in my neighborhood in force on two different occasions that had nothing to do with short term rentals; there aren't any guarantees in life.

Consider this scenario. Two sets of parents from Fresno have students attending San Diego State. They want to visit their kids over a long weekend, enjoying a bit of San Diego, and also bringing a bit of home to their kids. By sharing a home, they keep down expenses, it costs less than renting three hotel rooms. They can also make their stay cheaper by buying groceries instead of going to restaurants and cooking them in the furnished house. They can relax more freely in the home atmosphere provided by the short term rental.

A policy of restricting short term rentals denies them this opportunity. Do we think that only the well off should visit our city? Wouldn't we want to welcome these fine folks to our city? This is why I would like to see a light and even-handed regulation of short-term rentals. It can be a source of joy for so many guests in our city.

Consider this too, people are having a hard time making ends meet.  Renting out their home helps.  "Elise Howell, who lives off a small pension and about $11,000 a year from substitute teaching, says she depends heavily on the money she makes from renting out a room in her two-bedroom Hillcrest condo for up to $79 a night."

In a 2007 analysis of the issue, the City Attorney stated that current regulations do not prohibit short term rentals.  However, the San Diego Vacation Rentals Manager's Alliance notes that owners who rent out room short term must collect the Total Occupancy Tax of 10.5%.  This is the position of the City Treasurer's office as reported in the U-T.

If the city is going to regulate short term rentals, I look forward to minimal regulations that allow neighbors to identify abusers, but allow owners to use their property as they see fit.  We should set a level playing field and welcome the additional visitors to America's Finest City.

Council Member Lorie Zapf (CD-2) recently posted proposed regulations that looked reasonable to me.  The key points were:

 Define the term “Short-term Vacation Rental” in the Municipal Code.
 Require a renewable permit for the operation of any short-term vacation rental city-wide.
 Determine permit fees that are cost recoverable and will be used towards the management and enforcement of the permit.
 Require a posted 24/7 contact with a name and phone number on the property as part of the permit.
 Enforcement process that includes fines and revocation of permit for repeat violators.
 Identify additional funding for the Community-Assisted Party Program (CAPP) to respond to citizen complaints.
 Require TOT collection and payment from short-term vacation rental hosts per Municipal Code. 
While this might lead to possible abuse by disgruntled neighbors, these proposals seem reasonable to solving the supposed problems of short term rentals.