Tweet of the Day, #LAquake edition

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**Posted by Phineas

"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”

So, as you probably all heard, we had a light earthquake near Public Secrets Global HQ this morning (1). Not a bad one, though I was near the epicenter and upstairs, so it was still a good ride. But, if you’ve lived in California for your whole life, as I have, it’s also nothing you haven’t been through, before. A momentary “uh-oh” as you wonder if this is the lead in to The Big One, and then back to whatever you were doing as it fades away. And I figured my fellow Angelenos would feel the same way. After all, did we not laugh and point when D.C. had their quake?

Then I saw this (via Twitchy):


Really, people? “Hello? Operator? I’d like to report an earthquake. Would you please send someone out to arrest it?”

Tourists. Yeah, that’s it. It must be tourists.

PS: While we laugh at each other and ourselves, let’s remember that earthquakes are serious business, and it’s our own individual responsibility to be prepared for when a bad one hits; help from the government may take days to arrive, after all. Earthquake Country is a good site with before, during, and after advice.

Footnote:
(1) I deny any and all rumors that I was conducting below-ground atomic testing. Pay no attention to that small radioactive cloud…

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Another 2nd Amendment win in California

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**Posted by Phineas

"Crime stopper"

“Self-defense”

Okay, someone has put something in the water at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; this is the second ruling in a row where they’ve defended the right to bear arms in self defense against hyper-restrictive California laws. This time, they smacked down the Yolo County Sheriff:

Just weeks after striking down the San Diego County “good cause” requirement as burdensome to the exercise of the Second Amendment, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Yolo County, CA’s requirement that a concealed carry applicant “prove they face a threat of violence or robbery” before being allowed to carry a gun.

The Court in its new-found crush on the Bill of Rights found that the application of the “good cause” rule in Yolo “impermissibly” infringed the plaintiffs 2nd Amendment rights. While the ruling only applies to the county in question, it seems to me this is another wedge in the door that opens the way for a state-wide ruling.

Civil liberties — what a concept!

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Ninth Circuit overturns California gun law

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**Posted by Phineas

law constitution bill of rights

When even the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says progressive gun-grabbers have gone too far, it’s something to take note of:

The court concludes that California’s broad limits on both open and concealed carry of loaded guns — with no “shall-issue” licensing regime that assures law-abiding adults of a right to get licenses, but only a “good cause” regime under which no license need be given — “impermissibly infringe[] on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.” The Ninth Circuit thus joins the Seventh Circuit, and disagrees with the Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits. (State courts are also split on the subject.)

“Shall issue” vs. “may issue” has been a big bone of contention among gun rights advocates here in California, as high-handed county sheriffs and city police chiefs have used the distinction to deny otherwise law-abiding citizens their right to carry a weapon.

Given the differences between the various circuit courts, expect this one to go to the federal Supreme Court.

PS: The Washington Post genuinely upgraded the paper by letting Ezra Klein go and adding Prof. Eugene Volokh, founder of The Volokh Conspiracy.

via PJM.

RELATED: More analysis. What next?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#Obamacare: Los Angeles residents turned away at the doctor’s office

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

This is a story happening all across the country, and it is all due to the chaos caused by Democrats and their precious healthcare “reform:”

After overcoming website glitches (1) and long waits to get Obamacare, some patients are now running into frustrating new roadblocks at the doctor’s office.

A month into the most sweeping changes to healthcare in half a century, people are having trouble finding doctors at all, getting faulty information on which ones are covered and receiving little help from insurers swamped by new business.

Experts have warned for months that the logjam was inevitable. But the extent of the problems is taking by surprise many patients — and even doctors — as frustrations mount.

Aliso Viejo resident Danielle Nelson said Anthem Blue Cross promised half a dozen times that her oncologists would be covered under her new policy. She was diagnosed last year with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and discovered a suspicious lump near her jaw in early January.

But when she went to her oncologist’s office, she promptly encountered a bright orange sign saying that Covered California plans are not accepted.

“I’m a complete fan of the Affordable Care Act, but now I can’t sleep at night,” Nelson said. “I can’t imagine this is how President Obama wanted it to happen.”

That last reminds me of what peasants in Russia used to say about the Tsar: “It can’t be the Tsar’s will our lives are so bad; it must be his evil advisers! If only the Good Father knew, he’d fix everything!” Hopefully the scales of naivete will fall from Ms. Nelson’s eyes, soon.

It’s true there are serious problems with inaccurate information about which providers are in a given network, leading people to think the doctor they want will accept them, only to find out otherwise; that one I’ll lay at the insurers’ doorstep. (Unless someone knows better?)

But the shrinkage of provider networks, something the article and the state insurance people it quotes try to blame on insurance companies trying to save money is, well, less than half the story.

If Obamacare didn’t impose so many needless requirements and instead let insurers design plans to meet individuals’ specific needs, and if it didn’t mandate coverage for anyone regardless of preexisting conditions, expenses wouldn’t have grown to the point where limiting networks to contain costs became necessary.

In the end, the laws of economics win, no matter what Nancy Pelosi demands. When you mandate increased costs, the company has to cut expenses or raise prices, or, as we’re finding under Obamacare, do both.

Of course, when you have a problem caused by government interference, the solution is more government interference:

Looking to head off potential problems, government regulators and patient advocates are pushing for tougher rules to ensure health plans provide timely access to care.

Last week, the California Assembly approved legislation enabling people who lost coverage because of the overhaul to keep seeing their doctors if they’re pregnant or undergoing treatment for cancer or other conditions.

You know, I’m glad pregnant women can continue to see the doctor they like. Everyone should be able to — but they shouldn’t have to go crying for a special fix to take care of a problem caused by the Blind Idiot God “Government” in the first place!

There’s a day of reckoning coming for the Democrats. Bet on it.

via ST in email

RELATED: And speaking of increased costs and the laws of economics — “AOL CEO says ObamaCare adding $7 million to costs.” Gee, what do we think will happen to all those employer-based health plans?

Footnotes:

(1) “Glitches.” The LA Times must’ve gotten the DNC memo on proper spin. “Glitches” sounds so minor and temporary compared to the truth of a huge, honking, crashing failure.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Bad to worse: Fluke considering run for Waxman’s seat

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Sandra Fluke

Fluke for Congress??

The good news? Henry Waxman is retiring. The bad? Professional victimista Sandra Fluke may run for his seat. Via Politico:

Sandra Fluke, who became an instant celebrity when she was denied the opportunity to testify at a hearing on Obamacare’s contraception requirements, is “strongly considering” a bid for Rep. Henry Waxman’s congressional seat, according to KPCC, a Southern California radio station.

“I’m flattered that I’m being discussed as a potential candidate,” she told the station. “A number of folks I respect very deeply have reached out today and encouraged me to run. I am strongly considering running.”

Just what we need: another shameless pro-abort running around Congress masquerading as a “champion of women’s rights.” Ugh.

California: Jerry Brown’s high-speed payoff? #HSR

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**Posted by Phineas

Boondoggle

Uncle Jerry’s High-Speed Boondoggle

Oh, no. This doesn’t look bad at all. First the Tutor-Perini (1) construction company, whom we’ve met before, wins a huge contract to build California’s high-speed rail, even though their record is… not the best. Then, after two defeats in state courts that put the whole project in jeopardy, Brown demands the state supreme court take the cases and overturn them — NOW!!! (2)

And what came between the lower courts’ decisions and Brown’s running to the supreme court? Why, a maximum contribution to Brown’s reelection campaign.

From Tutor-Perini:

The timing of the campaign contribution doesn’t sit well with the state Legislature’s leading critic of the $68 billion high-speed rail project.

“Let’s connect the dots,” said Senator Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, who has introduced a package of legislation “aimed at driving a stake through the heart” of the state’s bullet train. “The HSR Authority’s apparent bid-rigging lands this company a $1 billion contract, then this company gives Brown a max campaign contribution, and then Brown sues to bail the company out?”

“In farm country, this is called ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,’” Vidak said.

If Michelle Malkin ever writes a second edition of “Culture of Corruption,” I have a suggested new chapter for her, titled “California’s High-Speed Rip-Off.”

PS: Yeah, I tweeted this article a few minutes ago, but it has me so ticked off, I had to write about it. Garbage like this is one of the poisoned fruits of decades of one-party rule.

Footnote:
(1) The principal owner of which is Senator Diane Feinstein’s husband, let us not forget. Apparently not true any longer, Blume having divested himself of Tutor-Perini stock around October, 2005. (h/t Brock Winstead)
(2) Where he was rebuffed, I’m happy to say. Even the governor doesn’t get to jump the line.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#Obamacare: California family finds “affordable care” to be neither

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

It’s becoming an all too common story: people who thought Obamacare would solve their healthcare-coverage problems find instead that, thanks to bigger premiums, higher deductibles, and shrinking provider networks, they’re arguably worse off than before.

In this case, the victims (1) are the family of German Campos and Andrea Redamonti, themselves and their children, who live in Chico, CA. Redamonti and one of her children have been denied insurance in the past, so, to them, Obamacare seemed like the answer to their prayers.

But, now that the PPACA has kicked in, Redamonti is learning her dream was just a delusion:

“I was so excited,” Redamonti said about Obamacare. “My son and I had both been denied coverage previously, and with the new Obamacare, they couldn’t refuse us.”

But since signing up for Covered California in October, she’s been going in circles with the health exchange.

Simply securing the coverage has been a major headache. Redamonti has spent hours navigating the frequently failing website and on the phone with her provider, only to be asked for income verification for her sons — ages 10 and 8, and repeated requests for payment, even though her check was sent in weeks earlier.

In addition, their new insurance — the minimum available — costs $800 per month instead of the $650 they were paying before and carries a $15,000 deductible.

“When it finally happened and we figured out what we’d be paying and what our benefits would be, our hearts sank,” Redamonti said.

Technically, she’s been covered since Jan. 1, but still waiting on her medical ID card, it’s been difficult to make doctor’s appointments or fill prescriptions.

“I feel like I have paid for coverage and I don’t have it,” Redamonti said.

This is a story being repeated over and over across California, which, God help us, has one of the better-functioning Obamacare sites, and the nation in general: people think they’ll at last have coverage, only to discover they’ve been sold a worthless bill of goods.

By the Democratic Party, let me remind you.

Normally, this is where I’d express minimal or no sympathy with people like Ms. Redamonti and her family, but I’m actually quite sympathetic to her predicament. Worried for her child who has a congenital heart condition, herself at high risk for breast cancer, both denied coverage… Well, one can understand why she and her husband would see Obamacare as the relief they needed and why they’d be eager to buy into the fairy tale that was sold to them.

By the Democratic Party, I’ll point out, again.

What was it Reagan once said? Oh, yeah:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

I hope, genuinely, that Ms. Redamonti and Mr. Campos learn from this a lesson about government control of the economy –it doesn’t work and it makes things worse– and vote accordingly in the next election.

Where I find my sympathy lacking, though, is for people who just don’t get it, such as one of the doctors interviewed for the article. Co-owner of the pediatrics clinic where Redamonti’s children were treated, Dr. Eliza Brown had to turn them away because the insurance company refused to reveal their reimbursement rates, which were likely to be lower than under the old system. They’re a business after all and they have to recover costs. But then she had this to say:

Brown loves the idea of providing basic affordable coverage for everyone, but said the reality proves to be “nebulous and fuzzy,” and be more of a hindrance to health care than a help.

“If I can’t prescribe medicine because it will be denied or can’t give a vaccine to prevent illness because it will be denied, how do you provide care?” Brown said. “Medical decision-making is being put into insurance companies’ hands. They say what they will and will not provide and what can be prescribed.”

Effective health care reform is not possible without health insurance reform, Sullivan said.

With today’s higher premiums and lower reimbursement rates, the extra profit must go “straight into the pockets of the insurance companies and their shareholders,” she said. Care providers and patients suffer as a result.

I have little but contempt for the big insurers, who saw Obamacare as a way to get guaranteed rents thanks to the individual mandate, but Dr. Brown is missing the root of the problem here: it’s not the insurance companies determining allowed care and reimbursement rates, but the government via the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB), Sarah Palin’s “death panel.” (2) The insurance companies are now little more than divisions of HHS. She needs to learn that government cannot provide “affordable coverage for everyone” without somehow rationing care: by curtailing reimbursements or limiting access, or, in the case of Ms. Redamonti and her children, both.

Of course, situations such as these are opportunities for advocates of free markets and limited government; it’s up to us to explain gently to people suffering the same travails why statist health care cannot work and that there is a better way., which starts by not voting for the Democratic Party.

Because we’re from the People, and we’re here to help.

RELATED: From Moe Lane, more on shrinking Medicare provider networks. The Democrats are so going to enjoy November.

Footnote:
(1) And I use that word deliberately; the whole nation is a victim of this bill.
(2) Oh, that dumb chill-billy. Right again.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

California: Governor Brown panicking over High-Speed Rail? Updated.

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**Posted by Phineas

Boondoggle

Boondoggle

From The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters. It looks like Governor Brown, faced with recent legal defeats for his “Train to Nowhere,” may be starting to panic:

Jerry Brown may be getting desperate about keeping the state’s increasingly unpopular – not to mention financially and legally challenged – bullet train project alive.

Faced with a judge’s insistence that the project follow the law about having its financial ducks lined up, Gov. Brown is now poised to shift money from the state’s “cap-and-trade” fees on greenhouse-gas emissions into the bullet train.

Brown, it’s been reported in The Bee and elsewhere, will propose in his 2014-15 budget that a portion of the fees being extracted from California business be committed to the bullet train.

Problem is, the money my fellow Californians allocated (1) to fight global warming climate change the evil demon threatening Gaea is “hardwired” by statute; the court may not accept that as a funding source sufficient to let construction go forward. Even if it does, the legislature, whose dominant leftist faction gets a lot of donation money from environmentalist groups, may not agree to reallocate the funds. But, if they do, and if the judge accepts this as a legal source of funds for Jerry’s Choo-Choo, it may still set up the mother of all Blue-on-Blue battles in Sacramento as environmentalist groups and their voters will likely raise an unholy stink over any money being diverted from their religious crusade.

And, when that happens, I’m doubling my popcorn order. smiley popcorn

Footnote:
(1) Passed in a fit of “It’s for the environment! It must be good!!” Look, I live in a beautiful state and consider myself a conservationist (But not an environmentalist. I don’t join cults.), but passing a crippling new tax to fight a problem that does not exist was stupid and self-destructive for the state. Unfortunately, that’s what you get when an electorate votes with less consideration of the issues than they give to buying a head of lettuce.

UPDATE: There is no way I’m taking Moe Lane’s bet. That’s a sucker’s bet if I ever saw one.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

CA High-Speed Rail Fail: Judge derails Gov. Brown’s choo-choo?

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**Posted by Phineas

"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Darn Judge Michael Kenny and his concern for the law! Doesn’t he know he’s standing in the way of the future?

A Sacramento judge put the brakes on California’s plans to build a bullet train after dual rulings Monday blocked the sale of $8 billion in bonds and ordered the rail authority to rewrite its funding plans for the huge project.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that there was “no evidence in the record” to support the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s request in March to sell the bonds from Proposition 1A, a $10 billion measure approved by voters in 2008 that allowed the bullet train project to move ahead.

In a separate but related case, the judge sided with the Kings County Board of Supervisors and two homeowners who sued the rail agency, saying it had failed to detail how the project will be financed, as legally required, before seeking bond money to begin construction.

The judge’s rulings leave the future of the $68 billion project in question. The state has been trying to get the first 130-mile segment in the Central Valley built using $3.24 billion in federal funds and $2.61 billion in Prop. 1A bond money. The rail authority has already signed a construction contract to build the first 29 miles of track from Madera to Fresno.

The judge rejected opponents’ calls for that contract to be rescinded.

The judge’s ruling seems a reasonable one, as he sticks to the question of CHSRA’s authority to sell bonds (1); the contract is a separate matter and, if the State can’t raise the money to pay for it, also moot.

Naturally, this ruling is going to get appealed by proponents of this boondoggle all the way to the State Supreme Court, if need be. Let’s hope they uphold Judge Kenny’s ruling; then maybe we can escape from this fiasco having wasted only $600 million.

I’m not, however, getting my hopes up. The legislature might try to rewrite the law to allow the bond sales. This would be difficult and subject to court challenges, as the original measure approving HSR was a public ballot initiative, and changing it might require another vote, something Brown opposes because the California public has turned against the project. He wouldn’t want to risk a public rejection that would definitively kill his 1930s retro-future dream. Whichever way this goes, it’s going to be a long fight.

As they say, “stay tuned!”

Footnote:
(1) I almost wrote “”bongs.” Fitting, seeing as this is California.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

CA High-Speed Rail Fail: $600 million spent, not a mile of track laid

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**Posted by Phineas

"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Because The Future! Or something:

The latest accounting by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to state lawmakers indicates that the agency has spent almost $600 million on engineering and environmental consultants — all without turning a shovelful of dirt on construction.

In the twice-a-year report (PDF) sent to legislative leaders on Friday, the agency is sticking to its estimated price tag of $68.3 billion to build its San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet-train line. The agency earlier this year approved a $987 million contract with a team of contractors to design and build the first 29-mile stretch of the line from Madera through Fresno.

But while contractors Tutor Perini Corp., Zachry Construction and Parsons Corp. have been given a green light for engineering and other pre-construction activities, the authority has offered no estimate of when ground may be broken .

If the name “Tutor-Perini” rings a bell, you’re not just hearing things. Tutor-Perini’s principle owner is Richard Blum. Blum has been mentioned before in this blog, and there have been allegations in the past of cronyism in the winning of government contracts by companies he’s involved with. By sheer coincidence, Blum is also the husband of Senator Diane Feinstein.

Fancy that.

But, back to the more than half-a-billion, this is money that has been spent before construction has even begun on the initial Fresno to Madera segment. The Fresno Bee article describes what we’ve gotten for our money, so far:

“The authority has made significant progress in its mission to plan, design, build and operate the nation’s first high-speed rail system as part of the statewide rail modernization program,” agency CEO Jeff Morales wrote in the report.

The report details a raft of administrative advances, including filling all of its executive management positions, developing a risk-management plan, issuing a report on greenhouse-gas emissions, and awarding the construction contracts for the Madera-Fresno stretch.

(I hope those executives got some nice chairs for that $600 million.)

There is still an environmental report –Yay! More consulting fees!– for the area around Chowchilla to be done, which is why this state version of a shovel-ready project hasn’t started. Already they’re two years behind schedule.

And the whole ball of wax (with attendant fees) has to be done for at least six other segments from San Francisco to Anaheim. Luckily, the High-Speed Rail Authority is allowed to spend up to $980 million on pre-construction “consulting contracts” through 2018. No way they’ll come asking for more public money (1). Nope. Nuh-uh.

I can’t wait to see what the costs come to once they actually start building this boondoggle.

Nice legacy ya got there, Governor.

Footnote:
(1) Funded by either public borrowing or higher taxes, of course.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)