The John Batchelor Show

Friday 25 October 2013

Air Date: 
October 25, 2013

Photo, above: the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a federal, constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.  See: Gregory Copley, on Nigeria's turbulent politics  and kleptocracy; its dissatisfied junior officers. (Also, Erdogan leads Turkey to the abyss;  the Saudis, facing an existential threat from Iran, turn their back on the US - while hamhandedly offending Russia.)


Hour One

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 1, Block A:  Daniel Henninger, WSJ WONDER LAND, in re: Obamacare and policy makers.   Obama's Credibility Is Melting

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 1, Block B:  Henry I Miller, M.D., Hoover &, in re: Bioengineering. "Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Oz are rubbish."  Junk Science Attacks on Important Products and Technologies Diminish Us All.

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: David Henderson, Hoover, in re:  Nobelist economists. ". . . Fama, one of the Nobel Prize winners, believes that free markets are better than government at allocating resources. He strongly opposed the 2008 selective bailout of Wall Street firms, arguing that, without it, financial markets would have sorted themselves out within 'a week or two.' He also pointed out, 'if it becomes the accepted norm that the government steps in every time things go bad, we’ve got a terrible adverse selection problem' . . .

Some years, the Nobel Committee’s choice of recipients seems to make a partly political statement. That didn’t happen this time. To the Committee’s credit, the prizes were based primarily on the importance of the three economists’ work. 

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 1, Block D: Brendan Greeley, Bloomberg Businessweek, in re: Bonnie & Clyde stealing banks; Louisiana banking: better-protected than the majors, with some mishaps.

Hour Two

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  Chris Gadomski, Bloomberg nuclear, in re: Fukishima plant and toxic waters.

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  Sebastian Gorka, FDD, in re: recent trip to Egypt, visit with al Sisi.  US policy falls down a crack. The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to put out the spin that the military is failing to protect Christians.  Egypt intercepts huge weapons shipments from Libya.

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution (Defining Ideas), Chicago Law, in re:  EPA: regulations and deregulations. Greenhouse gasses.  The EPA Gets High on Greenhouse Gases

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 2, Block D: Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution, Chicago Law, continued.  (article)

Hour Three

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Francis Rose, Federal News Radio, and Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re: Issa’s Committee; Obamacare delay.

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White House Publishes Final Regulations for Obamacare's Individual Mandate -- Seven Things You Need to Know

On Tuesday, the Obama administration released the final regulations for Obamacare’s notorious individual mandate—the provision in the health care law that requires most Americans to purchase health insurance, or pay a fine. Tuesday’s entry in the Federal Register, spanning 75 pages, contains all of the fine print related to the individual mandate: who it applies to, who is exempted, and what kinds of insurance satisfy the government’s rules. Here are seven things you need to know about the mandate, what the law calls your “Shared Responsibility Payment for Not Maintaining Minimum Essential Coverage.”

1. You pay a fine if your spouse and kids are uninsured   If you claim dependents on your tax return, you’re responsible for paying the mandate fines if your dependents don’t have health insurance. “A taxpayer is liable for the shared responsibility payment for an individual without minimum essential coverage if the individual is the taxpayer’s dependent,” write the authors of the new regulation, Heather Maloy, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enrollment at the Treasury Department; and Mark Mazur, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy.

This provision takes on special importance because of its interaction with Obamacare’s employer mandate. Under the health law, employers with more than 50 full-time-equivalent workers are required to offer health coverage to their employees and employees’ dependents under the age of 26. Employers are not required to offer coverage to employees’ spouses. Hence, a worker who gets coverage through his job will be forced, under the individual mandate, to purchase coverage on his own for his spouse, if he or she doesn’t have other sources of coverage. A worker who doesn’t get coverage through his job will need to purchase coverage not only for himself, but also his dependents.

2. Pretty much any employer-sponsored plan meets the mandate’s requirements  In order to meet the mandate’s requirement, you have to have “minimum essential coverage.” That is a key term in the context of Obamacare. Medicare and Medicaid count as minimum essential coverage, as do plans purchased in the Obamacare exchanges. As for employer-sponsored coverage, pretty much any plan offered by an employer counts as meeting Obamacare’s requirements.

Paragraph 2 of Section 5000(A)(f) of the Internal Revenue Code defines employer-sponsored minimum essential coverage as “a group health plan or group health insurance coverage offered by an employer to the employee which is [either a government-sponsored plan] or “any other plan or coverage offered in the small or large group market within a State.”

In other words, any health insurance plan that is legally sold within a state’s boundaries counts as an “eligible employer-sponsored plan.” In many states, insurers market inexpensive plans that cover a limited range of services. According to Obamacare, employers can offer these inexpensive plans to their workers and thereby avoid the employer mandate’s strong penalty. Indeed, as I detailed in May, many employers will have a strong incentive to offer these “skinny” plans, and some are already starting to do so.

3. The mandate fine is small, and will have even less impact over time   In 2014, the fine for not carrying insurance is the higher of $95 per person or 1.0 percent of taxable income. In 2015, the fine is the higher of $325 per person, or 2.0 percent of taxable income. In 2016, it’s $695 per person or 2.5 percent of taxable income. You’re liable for up to 2 additional dependents, fine-wise.

A number of people have remarked upon the obvious fact that a several-hundred-dollar fine is nothing, compared to spending several thousand dollars on overly costly health insurance. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that, after 2016, the size of the fine is adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases. But historically, the cost of insurance has gone up every year at rates far exceeding normal inflation.

If that trend continues, the gap between the mandate fine and the cost of health insurance will continue to widen, incentivizing more people to go without coverage.

4. The IRS can’t go after you if you don’t pay the fine  Section 1501(g)(2) of the Affordable Care Act specifies that the IRS cannot subject taxpayers to “any criminal prosecution or penalty” for refusing to pay the mandate fine. Also, in contrast to normal tax levies, the IRS cannot “file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section.”

Basically, the only thing the IRS can do to make you pay the mandate fine is to take it out of your withholding, or withhold it from your tax refund, if you’re due one. So if you don’t participate in the withholding process, the IRS has no way to collect the mandate fine.

5. Many older individuals will be exempt from the mandate  If you need to buy insurance on your own, you’re exempt from the individual mandate if the cost of your coverage is more than 8 percent of your household income. (The percentage is adjusted, over time, using a somewhat complex formula.) This means many older people—who pay higher premiums than younger people—will be exempt from the mandate altogether.

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Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  Elizabeth Rosenthal, NYT, in re: Canadian borders and pharmaceutical drug prices. As the new affordable healthcare law goes into effect. people are very confused about what's legal and safe when it comes to prescription drugs. Many Americans are going overseas to buy prescription meds because of the high prices in the U.S., even though that is technically illegal.  This story begins with a lovely, 71-year-old grandmother in Idaho, whose meds were seized at the LA airport after she mail-ordered them from Canada. 

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 3, Block C:   Sid Perkins, Science magazine, in re: Mysterious 19th-century glacial meltback in the Alps explained (by soot)?    Marine creatures’ migration determined by climate after all. Bird flies 10,000 kilometers without stopping (Alpine swifts can remain airborne for more than 6 months) 

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 3, Block D:  Ken Croswell, Nature, and, in re: Our galaxy, distant galaxies. The newly-found solar system is "out of whack" -  ours is less than 7.2 degrees off the plane of our Sun – but now finding wildly-tilted, and even travelling the opposite direction. Finally, a two-planet (found so far) solar system at a steep angle to their sun.  Gravity causing their orbits to tilt away from their sun's equator; and the inner planet completes two orbits while the outer planet completes one – so their orbit are aligned with each other.  / The earliest-formed galaxy we've found so far: it’s creating stars really fast. It’s the farthest galaxy whose distance we've measured, 13.1 billion light years from Earth. Since the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we see this newly-found galaxy when it was only 700 million years old.

Hour Four

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  Gregory Copley, author, in re:  Nigeria's turbulent politics; kleptocracy; dissatisfied junior officers. Erdogan leads Turkey to the abyss;  the Saudis, facing an existential threat from Iran, turn their back on the US - while hamhandedly offending Russia.)

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  Gregory Copley, author, continued.

Will Turkey Survive to the Mid-21st Century? / Can the Turkish state survive until the mid-21st Century within its present boundaries, and with its present identity?

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Trends of the two decades post-Cold War are now crystallizing rapidly to show that Turkey (a) is moving further away from becoming part of the European Union; (b) is unable to find acceptance from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization alliance; (c) is increasingly isolated from all of its regional neighbors with the possible exception of Qatar; (d) is now de facto in a state of hostility with its major competitor, Iran, which has effectively declared a covert war against it; (e) is moving toward growing internal ethnic and cultural factionalism which shows the Turkic Sunni population increasingly as just one of a number of minorities; (f) is becoming increasingly alienated from its principal alliance structure, NATO, and perceived as hostile to its major power ally, the US; (g) is becoming economically unstable (with a reduction of net foreign direct investment and an outflow of domestic investment) and with a GDP only half that of Australia yet with treble its population; (h) is reinforcing its discreet historical moves toward acquisition of nuclear weapons; (i) has reignited a conflict with its internal — and externally supported — Kurdish popula- tion just when it thought it had achieved a modus vivendi; (j) has moved off the Western identity impressed upon it by Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, without coherently creat- ing a new form of (Islamist, anti-Western) identity acceptable to the majority of its population ... History demonstrates that total societal transformation (cratometamorphosis) occurs either incrementally or with the total collapse of a society. Turkey’s present leadership under Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) led by Prime Minister Reçep Tayyip Erdoðan, has attempted to make the transformation within a period of perceived democratic man- date, but failed to allow for (i) the decline and perceived unreliability of its major ally and protector, the US; (ii) the failure of regional initiatives creating an encirclement of hostile states; and (iii) the internal backlash against change, leading to domestic security issues and a flight of capital.

Turkey is still perceived to have geopolitical significance by the West and by Russia and the Peo- ple’s Republic of China, but its fulcrum geographic position at the nexus of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East is not regarded as greater than that of Iran, which is now perceived as being on the military-strategic and (potentially) economic upswing.

The key question facing Ankara now is whether to seek safety and stability by stepping back from its present path, or whether to risk all in inevitable domestic and regional confrontations now that it has lost its initial battle with Iran via the Syrian proxy war? There are mixed signals: the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (Milli Ýstihbarat Teskilatý: MÝT) decision, apparently, to leak information to Iran on Israeli intelligence assets in Iran was perceived as Ankara moving to punish Israel and demonstrate that it was an ally of Iran. The reality is that the gesture — which is as-yet still unclear — was almost certainly to appease Iran, given the knowledge in Ankara that Turkish actions in Syria had angered Tehran to the point of an Iranian decision to unleash full- scale proxy war against Turkey, inside Turkish borders.

Turkey has few options remaining, and for the past few years it has chosen those options most likely to lead to its own isolation. Even its nominally Turkic ally, Azerbaijan, increasingly seeks to identify with Europe and away from Turkish Islamism and neo-Ottomanism.

It is by no means clear that Turkey can survive intact until 2050.

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Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Nina Martin, ProPublica, in re: Catholic Hospitals Grow, and with Them Questions of Care

Over the past few years, Washington state's liberal voters have been on quite a roll. Same-sex marriage? Approved. Assisted suicide? Check. Legalized pot? That too. Strong abortion protections? Those have been in place for decades.

But now, ProPublica's Nina Martin reports, the state finds itself in the middle of a trend that hardly anyone there ever saw coming: a wave of mergers and alliances between Catholic hospital chains and secular, taxpayer-supported community hospitals. By the end of this year, the ACLU estimates, nearly half of Washington's hospital beds could be under Catholic influence or outright control. 

Among Martin's findings:

•   In some places in Washington state, Catholic providers are becoming the only source of health care for an entire region. Nationally, about 8 percent of what the federal government calls "sole community hospitals" are Catholic, though they are sustained by taxpayers and funded by Medicare, Medicaid, and other government subsidies.

•   The tension over the increase in Catholic hospitals -- there are 630 or so in the United States, representing 15 percent of all admissions every year -- arises from their adherence to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which restricts birth control, sterilization and abortion, fertility treatments, genetic testing, and assisted suicide.

•   Many of the deals have been reached in near secrecy, with minimal scrutiny by regulators, because they have been structured as "affiliations," "partnerships" or "collaborations." Washington's process for scrutinizing hospital mergers is spurred by a sale, purchase or lease of an existing hospital, but most of the recent agreements have stopped short of that line.

Friday  25 October 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:  Sarah Frier, Bloomberg News, in re: Twitter IPO: Twitter IPO as Economical as Its Tweets with 27% Discount – Twitter Inc.’s $10.9 billion initial public offering valuation is as economical as its 140-character tweets. The San Francisco-based company is seeking a valuation of 9.5 times 2014 sales in its IPO next month, according to data released in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday and analyst projections compiled by Bloomberg. That’s 27 percent cheaper than the 12.9 times 2014 sales that Facebook Inc. currently trades at, and 29 percent lower than LinkedIn Corp.’s multiple of 13.4 times sales, the data show.  


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Hour 1: Mark Twain. Inception. Centurion

Hour 2: Captain Phillips. Hatfields & McCoys

Hour 3: Mark Twain. Transformers

Hour 4: Greenzone. Dark Knight Rises. Total Recall.