WorldNetDaily and the right-wing fringe are very excited about their scoop that Orly Taitz has “released a copy of what purports to be a Kenyan certification of birth” for President Obama. According to WND, “Taitz told WND that the document came from an anonymous source who doesn’t want his name known because ‘he’s afraid for his life.’ ” So in order to believe Taitz and WND, one would have to assume that this document was requested 45 years ago, preserved that entire time, withheld through the entire election and transition period, and yet somehow ended up in the hands of someone sympathetic to Orly Taitz.
DailyKos’ David Waldman has identified what appears to be an even more glaring problem with WND’s latest smoking gun. The document posted by WND purports to have been produced by the “Republic of Kenya” on February 17, 1964. But Kenya didn’t even become a republic until December 12, 1964.
The House hearings on rescission – the retroactive cancellation of individual health insurance policies – were over a month ago, but after its initial run through Daily Kos it seems to have waited a bit before popping up on Baseline and Slate. James Kwak at Baseline described the practice as rare, affecting only 0.5% of the population. The faint light bulb above my head began to flicker: could that be true…that’s not rare – that is amazingly common.
It is. In fact, from Don Hamm’s (CEO of Assurant) prepared testimony, with the company logo nicely on the front of it in the original:
Rescission is rare. It affects less than one-half of one percent of people we cover. Yet, it is one of many protections supporting the affordability and viability of individual health insurance in the United States under our current system.
What tangled webs we weave…
To understand why 0.5% of the people Assurant covers is a lot of people – a jarring, terrifying, probably criminal lot – you need to understand a little bit of math.
It should be fairly clear that the people who do not file insurance claims do not face rescission. The insurance companies will happily deposit their checks. Indeed, even for someone in the 95th percentile, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the insurance company to take the nuclear option of blowing up the policy. $11,487 in claims is less than two years’ premium; less than one if the individual has family coverage in the $12,000 price range. But that top one percent, the folks responsible for more than $35,000 of costs – sometimes far, far more – well there, ladies and gentlemen, is where the money comes in. Once an insurance company knows that Sally has breast cancer, it has already seen the goat; it knows it wants nothing to do with Sally.
If the top 5% is the absolute largest population for whom rescission would make sense, the probability of having your policy cancelled given that you have filed a claim is fully 10% (0.5% rescission/5.0% of the population). If you take the LA Times estimate that $300mm was saved by abrogating 20,000 policies in California ($15,000/policy), you are somewhere in the 15% zone, depending on the convexity of the top section of population. If, as I suspect, rescission is targeted toward the truly bankrupting cases – the top 1%, the folks with over $35,000 of annual claims who could never be profitable for the carrier – then the probability of having your policy torn up given a massively expensive condition is pushing 50%. One in two. You have three times better odds playing Russian Roulette.
Since Mr Obama took office, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush, according to Ronald Kessler, author of In the President’s Secret Service.
Some threats to Mr Obama, whose Secret Service codename is Renegade, have been publicised, including an alleged plot by white supremacists in Tennessee late last year to rob a gun store, shoot 88 black people, decapitate another 14 and then assassinate the first black president in American history.
Most however, are kept under wraps because the Secret Service fears that revealing details of them would only increase the number of copycat attempts. Although most threats are not credible, each one has to be investigated meticulously.
The Associated Press has become so deranged, so disconnected from reality, that it will sell you a “license” to quote words it didn’t write and doesn’t own.
Americans are angry at Wall Street, and rightly so. First the financial industry plunged us into economic crisis, then it was bailed out at taxpayer expense. And now, with the economy still deeply depressed, the industry is paying itself gigantic bonuses. If you aren’t outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.
Just to be clear: financial speculation can serve a useful purpose. It’s good, for example, that futures markets provide an incentive to stockpile heating oil before the weather gets cold and stockpile gasoline ahead of the summer driving season.
But speculation based on information not available to the public at large is a very different matter. As the U.C.L.A. economist Jack Hirshleifer showed back in 1971, such speculation often combines “private profitability” with “social uselessness.”
It’s hard to imagine a better illustration than high-frequency trading. The stock market is supposed to allocate capital to its most productive uses, for example by helping companies with good ideas raise money. But it’s hard to see how traders who place their orders one-thirtieth of a second faster than anyone else do anything to improve that social function.
What about Mr. Hall? The Times report suggests that he makes money mainly by outsmarting other investors, rather than by directing resources to where they’re needed. Again, it’s hard to see the social value of what he does.
And there’s a good case that such activities are actually harmful. For example, high-frequency trading probably degrades the stock market’s function, because it’s a kind of tax on investors who lack access to those superfast computers — which means that the money Goldman spends on those computers has a negative effect on national wealth. As the great Stanford economist Kenneth Arrow put it in 1973, speculation based on private information imposes a “double social loss”: it uses up resources and undermines markets.
Anyway, Linder set up all three recorders next to each other, and talked and then played guitar into the built-in microphones. Then he posted the audio from the three recorders, for his readers to audition.
Overall, the commenters opined that the H4 was OK, the H4n was better, and the PCM-D50 was best. They were pretty much unanimous that the difference between the H4 and the Sony was as plain as day – compared with the Sony, the H4 was “muddy” or “muddled”, “disjointed”, “scrambled”, or slightly noisier; one commenter called it “not even worth talking about”. One guy even said he heard wow and flutter. There was general agreement that the Sony was clearly superior.
The only problem with all this – which another commenter soon discovered – was that Brad actually screwed up. Instead of pasting in the embed code for all three recorders, he pasted in the H4 code, then the H4n code… and then the H4 code again. He just labelled it as the Sony PCM-D50.
So the first, and the third, sound clips were precisely identical. On account of being the same sound clip twice. But the one that was labelled Samson Zoom H4 sounded lousy, and the one that was labelled Sony PCM-D50 sounded great.
Psychoacoustics: It ain’t just a river in Egypt.