Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Charles Martin Smith, 60. The Toad. Also directed "Welcome to the Hellmouth," for which, as long-time readers might remember, he earned an appearance in my epic Reagan thing (which I do try to link back to every once in a while. I like it).

Well, whether you're in the mood for Reagan or not, surely you want some good stuff:

1. The Wall Street Journal really, really, really, shouldn't run op-eds by "expert" Suzanne Somers. Alex Seitz-Wald explains.

2. I think Andrew Sullivan basically gets it right on surveillance, including Obama's role to date -- although my view would be that all of it exploding on him this year suggests that he should have been more aggressive on it early, despite the likely short-term political fallout. In other words, while I have a fair amount of sympathy for a president who ducks an issue for (electoral) political reasons, I think the answer here is that the best political play was to find a way to take it on.

3. Marc Ambinder is also very good on intelligence, although I'm not really buying his Bill Clinton hook -- the rest of the column though is excellent.

4. The latest 2014 forecast from Alan Abramowitz.

5. An explainer about insurance cancellations, from Sarah Kliff.

6. And Chris Cillizza backs off his earlier comments about redistricting when presented with evidence. Excellent!


  1. I had been thinking about Sarah Kliff's piece in conjunction with the earlier one by Ross Douthat. Douthat made a valid point that a certain number of people in about the median income bracket, right above the level that gets subsidies, are going to face higher insurance costs, whether they prefer to get better insurance or not. (We can be kind for the sake of argument and assume that premiums would not have gone up in the absence of Obamacare, even though that's a pretty weird assumption.) I then tried to put that together with Kliff's numbers.

    Kliff says 5% of the population has some connection with the individual private insurance market. But most of them spend very little time in that market. About 17% are in the market with the same plan for more than one year, so those are really the only ones affected by changing rates for any given plan. So 17% of 5% is 0.85% of the population. Some of those people, estimated at 50% to 75% of the 0.85% (0.425% to 0.6375%) will have their policies discontinued due to Obamacare. Now the new policies will have to cover more, which tends to drive prices up, but Obamacare drives more people into the market, which tends to drive prices down, and most of those people will qualify for subsidies. Still, there will be some unknown percentage (a minority of the 0.435%-0.637%) who are people in the median-income bracket whose premiums will rise by a still unknown amount that is probably different (higher or lower) from the amount they would have risen anyhow. So, the question arises, shall we abandon the project for everyone in order keep their premium increases to the amount that they would have been otherwise? Or could some other accommodation possibly be found for those people that doesn't involve destroying the whole program? (I suppose the answer to the second question is: not as long as the GOP is running the House.)

  2. The link to Ambinder's piece goes to one of your pieces at Post Partisan.

    1. Thanks, fixed -- that really shouldn't be happening as often as it does, should it?

      Sorry everyone.

  3. Sullivan suggests that spying on foreign leaders began in 2002 under Bush and Cheney. It's just as likely that Merkel was added to an existing list in 2002, not because the White House decided to start spying on allies at that point but because she had recently risen to the level of being surveillance-worthy. On the other hand, I find it odd that commentators keep saying Obama must have known about this because he gets an intelligence briefing every day, as if someone is going to tell him, "We listened to the German chancellor's cell phone again, and again nothing of interest came out of it." I suspect we could probably drop that particular practice--and just ask Merkel what she's been up to lately--without doing excessive damage to the national security. I'm less convinced that vacuuming up metadata and throwing it into a database for later reference is that big of a problem, but I'm willing to listen to arguments.

  4. The way I see it, the NSA has two central tasks. #1 is to gather intelligence around the world, by any means necessary. #2 is to be very secretive about it.

    They appear to be very good at #1 and very poor at #2.

    1. I'd say the NSA is very extensive and thorough at gathering *data,* but that doesn't mean necessarily that it is good at gathering intelligence. Those are potentially two different things, and it'd take a bigger expert in the NSA than I to figure out where how well they're doing.

      However, it's worth noting that they've typically been very good at #2. I mean, we didn't hear about this through Bush/Cheney, and only now due to Snowden's leaks are we hearing about it. They've been pretty effective at secrecy, but had one and only one bad leak.

  5. Scott, let ignore the fact that scarfing up metadata breaks the Constitution. And let's be ridiculous and trust that the NSA will only use it "for good". It was still a bad idea. Think of the opportunities fo blackmail in this data - obvious example being a Customs Official who calls a woman, not his wife, too often. Now think what will happen when this data gets into the hands of bad guys. It's a security nightmare and disaster.

    As for tapping Merkel's phone, knowing if or when she might take actions on the Euro crisis could net a speculator millions, maybe billions, e.g. buying or shorting Greek equities. I can only hope the NSA actuall did this to help with our deficit. :-)

    Seriously, all the PBAP commenters who give the NSA such a free pass are shortsighted, unimaginative, and foolish.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?