It doesn’t matter whether Republicans can repeal Obamacare or not. The program as currently architected is going to fail. Humana just announced they are pulling out of all of the exchanges for 2018. Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini says that Obamacare is in a death spiral as healthier consumers are driven out of the exchanges by higher premiums, which in turn makes the premiums go up. For 2017, Aetna already scaled back the number of states where they are participating in the insurance exchanges. I expect that unless Congress implements a new plan, the insurance exchanges as currently architected will be toast by 2019. Seems like a long ways away, but since payers have long lead times to decide whether to participate, I expect we will know for sure sometime in the spring of 2018. That’s little more than a year away.
Vera Rubin first noticed the galaxy rotation problem, where the math that calculates the angular motion of galaxies does not match the observed path of those galaxies. After some modifications and alternatives to Newton’s laws did not fit the evidence, she developed the theory of dark matter. This theory describes many astronomical observations and is widely accepted by the astronomical community.
Vera Rubin passed away on Dec 25, 2016 at age 88.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging just released a report on drug pricing, which contains scathing criticism of the “hedge fund model of drug pricing”.
“The skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs affect every American family, particularly our seniors,” said Chairman Collins. “This report is the culmination of the Senate Aging Committee’s year-long, bipartisan investigation into the egregious price increases on a number of decades-old drugs acquired by pharmaceutical companies that act more like hedge funds. We must work to stop the bad actors who are driving up the prices of drugs that they did nothing to develop at the expense of patients just because, as one executive essentially said, “because I can.”
“The hedge fund model of drug pricing is predatory, and immoral for the patients and taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill—especially for generic drugs that can be made for pennies per dose,” Ranking Member McCaskill said. “We’ve got to find ways to increase competition for medicines and ensure that patients and their families aren’t being gouged.”
In fact, our esteemed Senators and Representatives have actually passed legislation that enables and encourages this behavior. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, who writes the checks for $646 billion dollars of annual Medicare spending, is prohibited by statute from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers. This means that whatever the drug company wants to charge, Uncle Sam and our seniors have to pay.
Chairman Collins of Maine and Ranking Member McCaskill of Missouri, instead of a meaningless press conference full of whining, how about you introduce bipartisan legislation to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices. They are the single largest purchaser of healthcare products and services in the country. If HHS were able to negotiate, then there would be no incentive for so-called bad actors (which are really just savvy business people) to play this game.
Loser: Big Donors. According to Federal Election Commission disclosures, Hillary’s committee raised twice as much as Trump’s committee. Outside money was tilted 3:1 in favor of Hillary. Clinton raised almost $12 million from pharmaceutical companies, Trump raised $163,876. Clinton raised $14 million from real estate firms, Trump raised $2.5 million. Hang on, I thought Trump was a real-estate tycoon! Clinton pulled $36 million from law firms, Trump got less than $1 million. Buckle up, it gets worse. Clinton received $56.6 million from hedge funds and private equity firms, and Donald Trump was only given $242,995. There were 10 other republican candidates who each received more from hedge funds than Donald Trump did. Big donors have less
influence over, oops, that’s illegal access to the president than they have had for a long time.
Loser: Hollywood. Apparently regular people don’t put much stock in what Hollywood thinks, even though we do like their sex and violence enough to buy lots of five dollar sodas. The list of stars who endorsed Clinton is very long, and includes: George Clooney, Kim and Kanye, Robert DeNiro, Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Harvey Weinstein, Lena Dunham, Lady Gaga, Jamie Foxx, Tom Hanks, Brittney Spears, Katy Perry, Amy Schumer, Demi Lovato, 50 Cent, Amy Poehler, J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Jeffery Katzenberg, and everyone else who lives in a mansion in the Los Angeles hills. Trump got a handful of C-list (because they couldn’t even make the B-list) celebrities like Mike Tyson, Kid Rock, Wayne Newton, Mike Ditka, and Jesse Ventura.
Loser: Democratic Party. One candidate is experienced, but unlikeable. Her family foundation took donations from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State which is at least unethical and probably illegal, and the FBI declared she was extremely careless in handling our nations’ secrets. The other presidential candidate from the party is a socialist. Trump’s stance on protectionism appears to have cost you the union vote. In 2012 Obama won every state in the rust belt except Indiana. In 2016, Clinton lost every state in the rust belt except Illinois. For only the second time since 1929, Republicans now control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. There is already one vacancy on the supreme court, with the potential for several others in the coming presidential term (Ginsburg is 83 years old, Kennedy is 80, Breyer is 78). There’s always the filibuster, but wait, in 2013, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exercised the nuclear option by changing the senate rules to eliminate filibusters for federal judicial nominees and executive office appointments. Doesn’t apply to the Supreme Court, but I’ll bet you wish you had that back now.
Winner: Mitch McConnell. In February 2016, the death of Anton Scalia left a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Within a week, Mitch McConnell made it clear that even though there were 11 months left in the Obama presidency, no hearings on nominees would be held until after the inauguration of the new President. A few weeks later, Obama tried to call McConnell’s bluff by nominating Merrick Garland, a centrist who is emminantly qualified for the job. McConnell didn’t blink, and has kept the Senate in session since then to prevent a recess appointment. There have been no hearings, and no backlash against Republicans.
Loser: Republican Party. Although Trump was on the Republican ticket, we just elected a guy who isn’t a Republican. He’s a Trumpist. Nobody really knows what this means yet, but I think it’s pretty hard to over-estimate the impact.
Winner and Loser: Twitter. Trump didn’t need to buy TV commercials, because every time he tweeted something it ended up on TV. Not only was it good for Trump, it’s amazing for Twitter. No other company in the history of the world, with the possible exception of Google, gets that kind of free brand awareness. Everybody else spends billions of dollars to build and maintain a brand. Even with all that wind in the sails, Twitter doesn’t have a viable business model and nobody wants to buy them.
Winner: Paul Ryan. The country’s wonkiest policy wonk is now working with a president with no policy experience. I fully expect Mr. Ryan to fill that empty vacuum with big policy initiatives like tax reform and entitlement reform, which he calls an anti-poverty initiative.
Loser: Clinton Foundation. One of the Foundation’s key products, political influence, has been rendered useless. I expect the
purchasers of that product donations to the foundation will dramatically shrink. Which is too bad, because the Foundation’s other product, charitable work, is pretty good. Hillary seems in the clear (for now) on the email scandal, but rumors are circulating the FBI was building a case against the Foundation and it was squashed by the Justice Department. I predict we will be hearing more about this after the inaguration and we get a new sheriff in town.
Complicated: Joe Arpiao. Sheriff Joe, the only nationally known sheriff, and certainly the most controversial, loses his bid for a 7th term. He has been in office since 1993. Styling himself as Americans toughest sheriff, he required inmates to wear pink underwear and broadcast opera music for the trustees enjoyment. In 2010 he agressively enforced Arizona’s SB1070 anti-illegal immigrant law, and continued enforcement after the Supreme Court struck the law down. He has been accused of abuse of power, improper clearance of cases, and unlawful enforcement of immigration laws. Maricopa County taxpayers have spent $142 million dollars on legal expenses, settlements, and court awards for cases involving Arpiao or his office. In addition to being supervised by a Federal Court monitor, criminal contempt of court charges were filed two weeks ago because Arpaio continues to violate court orders. Arpaio lost to Democrat Paul Penzone, but Maricopa County, which includes the entire Phoenix metro area, voted for Trump.
Loser: Newspapers and their endorsements. Of the top 100 newspapers (ranked by circulation) in the country, 15 didn’t endorse anybody. 71 endorsed Hillary Clinton, and another 5 endorsed “Not Donald Trump”. Gary Johnson got 5, and Trump brought up the rear with 3. Clearly these endorsements were out of touch with the newspapers’ subscribers, and they didn’t seem to influence anybody. Most current high school freshman, who will be eligible to vote in the next presidential election, have never read a newspaper and couldn’t name one if their life depended on it.
Loser: Pollsters. First a dumb question, are people who answer the phone at dinner time and spend 10 minutes talking with a stranger representative of all voters? Nevermind. Let’s continue to ignore methodology, oversampling, and margin of error. We didn’t care about any of that last week week, why should we start now? In the top 10 battleground states, the pollsters had the wrong winner in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Any idiot can predict who will win in California and Wyoming. For the close races, I can flip a coin and do as well as the pollsters. Nate Silver, who seems to have lost his gift for separating the signal from the noise, published a chart showing where polls missed the most. In only one out of sixteen states in Silver’s chart did Clinton outperform the polls. Trump outperformed in twelve. But hey, they got the popular vote right, does that make up for it?
Winner: Marijuana. California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada make it legal for anyone over 21 years old to smoke pot. Ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota pass making it legal for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients.
Most Suprising: Latino vote. Trump bloviated that he would build a wall between the US and Mexico and deport all undocumented immigrants. He made racist statements that a federal judge of Mexican heritage was not qualified to rule from the bench. In spite of all this, he received a larger share of Latino votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
Winners: Rudy Guliani, Newt Gingrich, and Jeff Sessions. These early Trump supporters seem certain to receive cabinet appointments.
Too early to call: Chris Christie. Probably broke the law in the New Jersey bridge scandal, the aftermath of which caused him to drop out of the presidential race. He threw his support behind Trump after the New Hampshire primary, and has been leading Trump’s transition team. Last week members of his staff were found guilty on multiple counts of conspiricy and fraud. During the trial, both the prosecution and the defense argued that Christie knew of his associates’ involvement in the plot. In the next few weeks, we’ll know how much scandal Trump wants to drag into the White House with him.
Big Winner: Populism. The most exciting candidate, Bernie Sanders, and the winning candidate, Donald Trump, both tapped into a populist vein of sentiment in the electorate. The establishment parties are in shambles. Populism is bigger than either Sanders or Trump, and it requires neither of them to continue growing. I’m sure both parties are headed to the Halloween store looking for populist costumes. The party willing to walk away from big banks, big donors, big everything, will be the party of the future.
Loser: Barack Obama. In the last few months, the President and First Lady both campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton. But what they were really campaigning for was their own legacy. Already in a death spiral of rapidly increasing premiums and now without veto protection, Obamacare will certainly be repealed or significantly overhauled. Since the president had no chance of getting two-thirds of the senate to go along with the Iranian nuclear treaty, he called it a “deal” and went ahead anyway using executive authority. Under the political arrangement, which also required us to give the Iranians an airplane full of cash, Obama suspended the economic sanctions which were approved by Congress in 1996 and strengthened in 2013. If Trump instructs his Department of State and Department of Treasury to begin enforcing those sanctions, which he has said he will do, the whole multi-lateral deal will likely fall apart. With Clinton in the White House, Obamacare and the Iran deal likely stand. Without Clinton, Obama’s major domestic and foreign policy accomplishments will not survive.
Too early to call: Trump. He won the election but campaigning and governing are very different. He had no experience with either, and his campaign was a disaster. On the other hand, everyone who has underestimated Trump has lost. Trump is a rabid dog who barks loudly while chasing the bus down the street. Last night the dog caught the bus and sunk his teeth into one of those tires. Now what?
Winner: Hillary. This morning in her painful and heart-felt concession speech, she said:
And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.
Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.
And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.
I’m going to show the video of this speech to my 13 year old daughter who wants to work at SpaceX. Hillary has inspired an entire generation of women.
Finally. The election is over. In spite of terrible candidates and a horrific campaign, two things happened this week that gave me hope.
On Friday, President Obama was speaking at a Hillary Clinton rally in North Carolina. During his speech, an older gentleman wearing a military uniform stood up and waved a big Trump sign. First of all, that’s pretty gutsy, and yes, security escorted him from the premises. The crowd booed and jeered so loudly that the President had to stop his speech, and it took him a couple of minutes to calm everybody down. Then he said:
First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like he maybe might have served in our military, and we gotta respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we gotta respect our elders. And fourth of all, don’t boo, vote.
Amidst all the rancor, a glimmer of civil discourse.
The second thing happened last night. Trump’s acceptance speech was markedly different than any other speech of his I’ve ever heard. He pledged to be the President for all Americans, and promised to work to bridge the divide between the parties. Let’s hold him to it.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu
Investor’s Business Daily says Apple grabs 104% of smartphone profits. How can someone get more than 100% of the profits? Many players lost money.
Strategy Analytics research shows Android capturing 88% of global smartphone shipments.
Apple and Google are the winners in the smartphone war. Samsung was a respectable competitor, but I’m not sure their brand will be able to recover from the Galaxy Note 7 debacle. Individuals are subject to criminal prosecution for bringing a Galaxy Note 7 on board an aircraft, and on flight attendants announce the devices are banned because they can catch fire.
Compare the current state with this chart from 5 years ago. Everyone else in this segment has failed, loses money, or is an insignificant player: Lenovo/Motorola, LG, HTC, Microsoft, Xaomi, Kyocera, HP/Palm, Nokia, Blackberry.
Scott Adams, the guy who writes Dilbert, writes a lot of political commentary on his blog. This post describing Scandal Poker – Trump vs. Clinton is hilarious and spot on.
Seth Godin nails it. Politics is Pro Wrestling
Apple finally announced new MacBook Pro’s, and everyone is talking about the new TouchBar. Apple has confirmed that the new chip, called the T1, that powers the TouchBar runs a variant of watchOS. Everyone is saying how this computer inside a computer approach provides better hardware security, by allowing the T1 to manage Touch ID and access to the camera. I’m sure that’s all true.
However, I don’t believe security is the only reason for a separate chip and OS running inside the MacBook Pro. If Apple ever wants to make the TouchBar available on an iMac, which I assume they do, it will have to be on an external device. The new T1 chip will live in that external device so it can drive the TouchBar display and manage the Touch ID functions. I expect it will also have to handle the cryptography necessary to securely transmit touch ID events over USB to the iMac.
My guess is that Apple designed the T1 for the external device, and then figured out how to package it inside of the MacBook Pro so they could use the same software architecture, and largely the same hardware architecture, to power this new functionality.
Over the last few years, the Veterans Affairs Health Care System has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Interminable wait times for vets seeking appointments, mold in VA hospitals, and drug dealing and abuse.
Today, I saw a bit of good news. Veterans in Northern California can now go to CVS Minute Clinics for urgent care treatment. No waiting, no appointments. Best thing the VA has done for a long time. I hope this pilot project in California works out well and gets extended nationwide.
Alexander Hamilton on presidential candidates in Federalist No. 68 published 1788.
The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.
If Donald Trump wins the election, the American people will get exactly what they deserve.