Measles Infections in U.S. Up This Year

measles

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting
that the number of measles cases so far this year are running three
times higher than the recent average. As USA Today

reports
:

The USA is experiencing a spike in measles, with 175 confirmed
cases and 20 hospitalizations so far this year, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s about three times the usual number of cases of measles,
CDC Director Thomas Frieden said Thursday. The USA has seen nine
outbreaks this year, with the largest in New York, North Carolina
and Texas.

More than 98% of measles patients were unvaccinated, Frieden
said.

“This isn’t the failure of a vaccine; it’s the failure to
vaccinate,” Frieden said….

The country’s safety net has become more porous in recent years,
as like-minded parents who refuse vaccines have clustered in the
same communities.

In August, for example, a visitor who had traveled abroad
infected 15 people at a Texas megachurch. One of those infected was
a 4-month-old baby, too young to have received a first measles
shot.

For more background see my article, “Refusing
Vaccinations Puts Others At Risk
.”

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/06/measles-infections-in-us-up-this-year
via IFTTT

US Military Goes Silent on Guantanamo Hunger Strike Numbers

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp has
changed its protocol. Undeterred by criticism about transparency
and humans rights violations, officials at the camp will no longer
disclose information about detainees on hunger strike.

Despite bearing the
motto
“safe, humane, legal, transparent detention,” Guantanamo
Bay “officials have determined that it is no longer in their
interest to publicly disclose the information,” the Associated
Press reported on Tuesday.

Until then, the camp released daily information about the
detainees, many of whom have never
been charged
for crimes and are being held indefinitely without
trial. Others, as Reason‘s J.D. Tuccille
points out
, remain at the facility despite being cleared for
release years ago.

The AP points out the significance of the military’s new silence
on the matter, as hunger strikes have acted as an “unofficial
barometer of conditions at the secretive military outpost” and the
“number of hunger strikers” can be seen “as a measure of discontent
at the prison.”

“Guantanamo allows detainees to peacefully protest, but will not
further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public. The
release of this information serves no operational purpose and
detracts from the more important issues, which are the welfare of
detainees and the safety and security of our troops,” stated Navy
Cmdr. John Filostrat, who oversees the camp’s public relations.

Carol Rosenberg, who covered the number of hunger strikers daily
for the Miami Herald, reports that he asked
Filostrat to “elaborate on how the daily report interfered with
troop security and detainee welfare,” but Filostrat refused.

The most recent (and likely final) report stated that 15
prisoners were on strike. All of them were in poor enough condition
that they had to be force-fed, a process that has been
considered
a form of torture.

Earlier this year, in a mass protest the hunger strike reached

a peak participation rate
of 106 of the 166 being held at the
facility. The numbers dropped and officials declared the strike
over in July. This is not exactly accurate, though, as there was
never
a day
without multiple prisoners on strike.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/06/us-military-goes-silent-on-guantanamo-hu
via IFTTT

Hindenburg Omen Spotted

While not the end-of-the-world that its name indicates, the confusion (highs, lows, advancers, decliners, and momentum) required to create a “Hindenburg Omen” means markets are not as gung-ho as the headlines might suggest. The last 2 Hindenburg Omens this year saw notable corrections (of course only to be un-corrected higher on the waves of liquidity).

 

 

of course, each dip has been met by more flow from the Fed in the past…

 

Charts: Bloomberg


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/MAYriLSMkyM/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Car And Student Loans Account For 95% Of All Consumer Credit Issued In Past Year

Today’s consumer credit report did not tell us anything we didn’t already know: in October, total consumer credit rose by $18.2 billion, the most since May 2013, with the usual massive historical revisions. However, of this $18.2 billion, $13.9 billion was non-revolving credit, while revolving (credit card) debt rose by $4.3 billion. Which means revolving credit is still a woefully low $856.8 billion, or well below the $1.02 trillion when Lehman failed, even as credit issued mostly by Uncle Sam to fund car purchases and liberal educations, has exploded.

Total monthly consumer credit broken down by revolving and non-revolving.

Finally, and most troubling, in the past year over 95% of all consumer credit has been used
to purchase rapidly amortizing cars and even more rapidly amortizing
college educations. 

Finally, in the past year over 95% of all consumer credit has been used to purchase rapidly amortizing cars and even more rapidly amortizing college educations.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/8E8n8_L7Yn8/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Lefties Contemplate the Pain of “Cyberlibertarianism,” Wonder Where They’ll Ever Find a Centralized World to Manage Choice and Behavior

David Golumbia
writing at

Jacobin
is steamed at the supposed “deletion of the left”
by supposedly dominant “cyberlibertarians.”

He starts off going wrong with a rather gross misunderstanding
of what being “of the left” in American terms means these days:

The digital revolution, we are told everywhere today, produces
democracy. It gives “power to the people” and dethrones
authoritarians; it levels the playing field for distribution of
information critical to political engagement; it destabilizes
hierarchies, decentralizes what had been centralized, democratizes
what was the domain of elites.

Most on the Left would endorse these ends. The widespread
availability of tools whose uses are harmonious with leftist goals
would, one might think, accompany broad advancement of those goals
in some form. Yet the Left today is scattered, nearly toothless in
most advanced democracies. If digital communication technology
promotes leftist values, why has its spread coincided with such a
stark decline in the Left’s political fortunes?

What the left really wants is a centralized elite authority that
pursues particular ends it claims to desire, often allegedly on
behalf of “the people”; people who really want dethroned authority,
free flow of information, and decentralization are
libertarians.

Why would a left that wants to see a world shaped to its own
particular desires–about income distribution, market and personal
choice and behavior, and forced change in people’s transportation,
energy, and consumption choices, embrace a world of greater
decentralization and choice? 

Rather than engaging the real reasons why the mentality implied
by the “digital revolution” hasn’t lead to a resurgent leftist
world of policy, Golumbia decides to blame those who actually
recognize that there is a pretty natural connection between digital
practice and ideology and libertarianism. What’s more, he gets mad
at leftists in the digital realm who even hold any truck with
libertarians:

When computers are involved, otherwise brilliant leftists who
carefully examine the political commitments of most everyone they
side with suddenly throw their lot in with libertarians — even when
those libertarians explicitly disavow Left principles in their
work.

This, much more than overt digital libertarianism, should
concern the Left, and anyone who does not subscribe to libertarian
politics. It is the acceptance by leftists of the largely
rhetorical populist politics and explicitly pro-business thought of
figures like Clay Shirky (who repeatedly argues that representative
democratic and public bodies have no business administering public
resources but must defer to “disruptive” forces like Napster) and
Yochai Benkler (whose Wealth of Networks is
roundly celebrated as heralding an anticapitalist “sharing
economy,” yet remains firmly rooted in capitalist economics) that
should concern us….

The first line above is wonderful: markets and most especially
the Internet (where no one knows you are a dog, if you don’t want
them to) are wonderful realms for mutually pleasurable and valuable
interactions where, blessedly, ancient obsessions about agreement
on religions, or race or culture, are irrelevant. They are even
places where, to get to where what I’m implying will stop making
sense to many people even though the beautiful advantages for peace
and mutual advantage of just treating certain things as
irrelevent to civilized interaction
are the same as in the old
Enlightenment project of getting over race, religion, and gender,
and nationality in deciding who we’ll tolerate, political
belief
becomes relatively unimportant.

But to the leftist, one must “carefully examine the political
commitments of most everyone they side with….” and act
accordingly.

The rest of the essay goes on (among many other things,
including relying on
Philip Mirowski’s tendentious vision
of libertarianism’s dark
soul) to make typical category errors about what he’s speaking
about (no, libertarian belief in liberty and spontaneous order is
the very opposite of his claim that “cyberlibertarianism holds that
society’s problems can be solved by simply construing them as
engineering and software problems”); usual assumptions that
anything anyone might make a profit at is for that very reason
suspect and unsavory; and a core vagueness about
what exactly leftist goals are,
because sometimes just saying:
“managing everyone’s lives and a vast roundrobin distribution of
wealth in all directions via a massive national machinery of power
that we then hope will do the nice things we approve of with it”
can be a hard sell.

The digital revolution has given us 3D printers–which help
people
make guns regardless of regulation
. It has given us the means
to gamble
from our own homes
. It has given us an experimental
currency
outside government control and management. It has
allowed communities of affinity to discover facts and arguments
they would not have the means to encounter in a more centralized
world of news and communication, and propelled strange candidates
like
Ron Paul to prominence
.

All that has not been accident. It is inherent in a very
libertarian-at-heart “digital revolution.”

The Left alas, will have to invent its own institutions and
methods to get what it wants–like, say, an attempt to register and
restrict access to and prohibit tools of personal defense, picayune
shaping of people’s choices of fun, a huge central bank by which to
manage the currency for its elite needs and enrich the well
connected, and politicians who say only those things that near
majorities want to hear. Wherever will the Left find its dream
coming true? I feel for them.

I took on an earlier iteration of crummily argued attacks on
techno-libertarians back in 2000, in a review of Paulina
Boorsook’s crummy book
Cyberselfish.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/06/lefties-contemplate-the-pain-of-cyberlib
via IFTTT

Lefties Contemplate the Pain of "Cyberlibertarianism," Wonder Where They'll Ever Find a Centralized World to Manage Choice and Behavior

David Golumbia
writing at

Jacobin
is steamed at the supposed “deletion of the left”
by supposedly dominant “cyberlibertarians.”

He starts off going wrong with a rather gross misunderstanding
of what being “of the left” in American terms means these days:

The digital revolution, we are told everywhere today, produces
democracy. It gives “power to the people” and dethrones
authoritarians; it levels the playing field for distribution of
information critical to political engagement; it destabilizes
hierarchies, decentralizes what had been centralized, democratizes
what was the domain of elites.

Most on the Left would endorse these ends. The widespread
availability of tools whose uses are harmonious with leftist goals
would, one might think, accompany broad advancement of those goals
in some form. Yet the Left today is scattered, nearly toothless in
most advanced democracies. If digital communication technology
promotes leftist values, why has its spread coincided with such a
stark decline in the Left’s political fortunes?

What the left really wants is a centralized elite authority that
pursues particular ends it claims to desire, often allegedly on
behalf of “the people”; people who really want dethroned authority,
free flow of information, and decentralization are
libertarians.

Why would a left that wants to see a world shaped to its own
particular desires–about income distribution, market and personal
choice and behavior, and forced change in people’s transportation,
energy, and consumption choices, embrace a world of greater
decentralization and choice? 

Rather than engaging the real reasons why the mentality implied
by the “digital revolution” hasn’t lead to a resurgent leftist
world of policy, Golumbia decides to blame those who actually
recognize that there is a pretty natural connection between digital
practice and ideology and libertarianism. What’s more, he gets mad
at leftists in the digital realm who even hold any truck with
libertarians:

When computers are involved, otherwise brilliant leftists who
carefully examine the political commitments of most everyone they
side with suddenly throw their lot in with libertarians — even when
those libertarians explicitly disavow Left principles in their
work.

This, much more than overt digital libertarianism, should
concern the Left, and anyone who does not subscribe to libertarian
politics. It is the acceptance by leftists of the largely
rhetorical populist politics and explicitly pro-business thought of
figures like Clay Shirky (who repeatedly argues that representative
democratic and public bodies have no business administering public
resources but must defer to “disruptive” forces like Napster) and
Yochai Benkler (whose Wealth of Networks is
roundly celebrated as heralding an anticapitalist “sharing
economy,” yet remains firmly rooted in capitalist economics) that
should concern us….

The first line above is wonderful: markets and most especially
the Internet (where no one knows you are a dog, if you don’t want
them to) are wonderful realms for mutually pleasurable and valuable
interactions where, blessedly, ancient obsessions about agreement
on religions, or race or culture, are irrelevant. They are even
places where, to get to where what I’m implying will stop making
sense to many people even though the beautiful advantages for peace
and mutual advantage of just treating certain things as
irrelevent to civilized interaction
are the same as in the old
Enlightenment project of getting over race, religion, and gender,
and nationality in deciding who we’ll tolerate, political
belief
becomes relatively unimportant.

But to the leftist, one must “carefully examine the political
commitments of most everyone they side with….” and act
accordingly.

The rest of the essay goes on (among many other things,
including relying on
Philip Mirowski’s tendentious vision
of libertarianism’s dark
soul) to make typical category errors about what he’s speaking
about (no, libertarian belief in liberty and spontaneous order is
the very opposite of his claim that “cyberlibertarianism holds that
society’s problems can be solved by simply construing them as
engineering and software problems”); usual assumptions that
anything anyone might make a profit at is for that very reason
suspect and unsavory; and a core vagueness about
what exactly leftist goals are,
because sometimes just saying:
“managing everyone’s lives and a vast roundrobin distribution of
wealth in all directions via a massive national machinery of power
that we then hope will do the nice things we approve of with it”
can be a hard sell.

The digital revolution has given us 3D printers–which help
people
make guns regardless of regulation
. It has given us the means
to gamble
from our own homes
. It has given us an experimental
currency
outside government control and management. It has
allowed communities of affinity to discover facts and arguments
they would not have the means to encounter in a more centralized
world of news and communication, and propelled strange candidates
like
Ron Paul to prominence
.

All that has not been accident. It is inherent in a very
libertarian-at-heart “digital revolution.”

The Left alas, will have to invent its own institutions and
methods to get what it wants–like, say, an attempt to register and
restrict access to and prohibit tools of personal defense, picayune
shaping of people’s choices of fun, a huge central bank by which to
manage the currency for its elite needs and enrich the well
connected, and politicians who say only those things that near
majorities want to hear. Wherever will the Left find its dream
coming true? I feel for them.

I took on an earlier iteration of crummily argued attacks on
techno-libertarians back in 2000, in a review of Paulina
Boorsook’s crummy book
Cyberselfish.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/06/lefties-contemplate-the-pain-of-cyberlib
via IFTTT

Guest Post: Obamacare Is A Catastrophe That Cannot Be Fixed

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

Obamacare is a catastrophe that cannot be fixed, because it doesn't fix what's broken in American healthcare.

I just finished a detailed comparison of my current grandfathered health insurance plan from Kaiser Permanente (kp.org), a respected non-profit healthcare provider, and Kaiser's Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) options. I reviewed all the information and detailed tables of coverage and then called a Kaiser specialist to clarify a few questions.

First, the context of my analysis: we are self-employed, meaning there is no employer to pay our healthcare insurance. We pay the full market-rate cost of healthcare insurance. We have had a co-pay plan with kp.org for the past 20+ years that we pay in full because there's nobody else to pay it.

What we pay is pretty much what employers pay. In other words, if I went to work for a company that offered full healthcare coverage, that company would pay what we pay.

Kaiser Permanente (kp.org) is a non-profit. That doesn't mean it can lose money on providing healthcare; if it loses millions of dollars a year (and some years it does lose millions of dollars), eventually it goes broke. All non-profit means is that kp.org does not have to charge a premium to generate profits that flow to shareholders. But it must generate enough profit to maintain its hospitals, clinics, etc., build reserves against future losses, and have capital to reinvest in plant, equipment, training, etc.

As an employer in the 1980s, a manager in non-profit organizations in the early 1990s and self-employed for 20+ years, I have detailed knowledge of previous healthcare insurance costs and coverage. As an employer in the 1980s, I paid for standard 80/20 deductible healthcare insurance for my employees. The cost was about $50 per month per employee, who were mostly in their 20s and 30s. In today's money, that equals $108 per month.

In other words, I have 30+ years of knowledgeable experience with the full (real) costs of healthcare insurance and what is covered by that insurance.

Our grandfathered Kaiser Plan costs $1,217 per month. There is no coverage for medications, eyewear or dental. That is $14,604 per year for two 60-year old adults. We pay a $50 co-pay for any office visit and $10 for lab tests. Maximum out-of-pocket costs per person are $3,500, or $7,000 for the two of us.

We pay $500 per day for all hospital stays and related surgery; out-patient surgery has a $250 co-pay.

So if I suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized and required surgery, I would pay a maximum of $3,500 for services that would be billed out at $100,000 or more were Kaiser providing those services to Medicare.

(Yes, I know Medicare wouldn't pay the full charges, but if Medicare is billed $150,000–not uncommon for a few days in the hospital and surgery– it will pay $80,000+ for a few days in the hospital and related charges. All of this is opaque to the patient, so it's hard to know what's actually billed and paid.)

In other words, this plan offers excellent coverage of major catastrophic expenses and relatively affordable co-pays for all services.

The closest equivalent coverage under Obamacare is Kaiser's Gold Plan. The cost to us is $1,937 per month or $23,244 a year. The Gold Plan covers medications ($50 per prescription for name-brand, $19 for generics) and free preventive-health visits and tests, but otherwise the coverage is inferior: the out-of-pocket limits are $6,350 per person or $12,700 for the two of us. Lab tests are also more expensive, as are X-rays, emergency care co-pays and a host of other typical charges. Specialty doctor's visits have a $50 co-pay.

The Obamacare Gold Plan would cost us $8,640 more per year. This is a 60% increase. It could be argued that the meds coverage is worth more, but since we don't have any meds that cost more than $8 per bottle at Costco (i.e. generics), the coverage is meaningless to us.

The real unsubsidized cost of Obamacare for two healthy adults ($23,244 annually) exceeds the cost of rent or a mortgage for the vast majority of Americans. Please ponder this for a moment: buying healthcare insurance under Obamacare costs as much or more as buying a house.

A close examination of lower-cost Obamacare options (Bronze) reveals that they are simulacra of actual healthcare insurance, facsimiles of coverage rather than meaningful insurance. The coverage requires subscribers to pay 40% of costs after the deductible, which is $9,000 per family. Total maximum out-of-pocket expenses are $12,700 per family. This coverage would cost us $1,150 per month, and considerably less for younger people.

How many families in America have $9,000 in cash to pay the deductibles, plus the $13,800 annual insurance fees? That totals $22,800 per year. If some serious health issue arose, the family would have to come up with $12,700 (out-of-pocket maximum) and $13,800 (annual cost of insurance), or $26,500 annually.

Is healthcare that costs $26,500 per year truly "insurance"? I would say it is very expensive catastrophic insurance in a system with runaway costs.

The entire Obamacare scheme depends on somebody paying stupendous fees for coverage which then subsidizes the costs for lower-income families and individuals. How many households can afford $23,244 a year for Gold coverage plus $12,700 out-of-pocket for a total of $35,944 annually? How many can afford $26,500 for Bronze coverage?

Recall that the median household income in the U.S. is around $50,000.

How many companies can afford to pay almost $2,000 a month for healthcare insurance per employee? Even if employees pay a few hundred dollars a month, the employers are still paying $20,000 a year per (older) employee.

If an employer can hire someone in a country with considerably lower social-welfare/healthcare costs to do the same work as an American costing them $2,000 per month for healthcare insurance, they'd be crazy to keep the worker in America, unless the worker was so young that the Obamacare costs were low or the worker was a contract/free-lance employee who has to pay his own healthcare costs.

Uninformed "progressives" have suggested that "Medicare for all" is the answer. Their ignorance of exactly how Medicare functions is appalling; recall that Medicare is the system in which an estimated 40% of all expenditures are fraudulent, unneccessary or counter-productive, where a few days in the hospital is billed at $120,000 (first-hand knowledge) and a one-hour out-patient operation is billed at $12,000, along with a half-hour wait in a room that's billed at several thousand more dollars for "observation." (Also first-hand knowledge.)

Medicare is the acme of an out-of-control program that invites profiteering, fraud, billing for phantom services, services that add no value to care, and services designed to game the system's guidelines for maximum profit. If an evil genius set out to design a system that provided the least effective care for the highest possible cost while incentivizing the most egregious profiteering and fraud, he would come up with Medicare.

Does Medicare look remotely sustainable to you? Strip out inventory builds and adjustments from imports/exports and the real economy is growing at about 1.5% annually. As noted yesterday in What Does It Take To Be Middle Class?, the real income of the bottom 90% hasn't changed for 40 years, and has declined by 7% since 2000 when adjusted for inflation.

Here is Medicare's twin for under-age-65 care for low-income households, Medicaid:

As I have observed for years, Obamacare and Medicare/Medicaid do not tackle the underlying problems of Sickcare costs in America. If you haven't read these analyses, please have a look:

Why "Healthcare Reform" Is Not Reform, Part I (December 28, 2009)

Why "Healthcare Reform" Is Not Reform, Part II (December 29, 2009)

Type sickcare into the custom search box at the top of the left-hand column of the main blog page and you will find dozens of essays addressing what's broken with American healthcare.

Obamacare is a catastrophe that cannot be fixed, because it doesn't fix what's broken in American healthcare. It is a phony reform that extends everything that makes the U.S. healthcare unsustainable sickcare.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/f7JqdNMLWs0/story01.htm Tyler Durden

The holiday table

After witnessing the Thanksgiving meal last week, it was suggested that a review of table manners and place settings for the holidays are in order.

Not gonna tell you who suggested the review or what retired firefighter The Wife said needed the review, but I think you can guess correctly.

Many things have gone out of style since those seven years my three brothers, my sister, and I spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street. Unfortunately using correct table manners ain’t one of them.

read more

via The Citizen http://www.thecitizen.com/blogs/rick-ryckeley/12-06-2013/holiday-table