Thanks to the shoddy drafting of the Obamacare law the DC federal appeals court has ruled that it's illegal to subsidize healthcare plans bought through the federal exchange. The law only authorizes subsidies for plans bought through state exchanges, not through the federal exchange that was created for states that decided not to create exchanges of their own. Obviously this was not the intent of the law, and under normal circumstances Congress would simply pass an update to the law to remove any grounds for controversy. Of course that's impossible due to the politics surrounding Obamacare, and now the whole scheme may be doomed unless the courts decide to apply the law as intended rather than as written. Which these judges, at least, have refused to do.

The 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia--not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov. The ruling relied on a close reading of language in the Affordable Care Act.

"Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states," wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph in his majority opinion in the case known as Halbig v. Burwell, where he was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith.

"We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly."

Obviously I think it would be best for the country for the whole law to collapse. The impossibility of properly fixing this "technical error" in the law is yet another example of how badly things can go when one party forces a bill into law against the will of the citizenry and with no support from the other party. Congress can't patch this mistake, and the courts shouldn't clean up Congress' mess.


Dr. Sebastian Gorka claims that there's a Christian Holocaust going on in Iraq now, with Christians being eradicated by Islamic terrorists across the region. The United States should act in some way to prevent or mitigate this religious cleansing. Fellow Christians should pray for safety for these brethren and pray that this adversity is an opportunity for the gospel to reach new corners of the world.

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000.

In a region where Christians predate Muslims by centuries, over one million Christians have been killed or have had to flee because of jihadi persecution, while America is basically standing by and watching. This is the sad news that Breitbart's National Security Editor and one of the world's leading experts on asymmetric warfare, Dr. Sebastian

Dr. Gorka explained that "in the last 48 hours, ISIS, which is now called the Islamic State in Mosul, has painted the letter "N" for Nazarene on the houses of all the surviving Christians in the city. ISIS has basically given an ultimatum to all the Christians left: You can either flee or convert to Islam, or we will kill you."


Charles Krauthammer proclaims Israel's moral superiority over Hamas, but it's important to note that the Palestinians in Gaza are victims as well as aggressors -- they're victims of Hamas just like Israel is. To the extent that the civilians support a murderous, self-destructive terrorist government like Hamas they bring destruction on themselves, but let's not forget who bears the bulk of the guilt.

Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.

"Here's the difference between us," explains the Israeli prime minister. "We're using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they're using their civilians to protect their missiles."

Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent "cycle of violence." This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d'etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.


Walter Russell Mead has some great thoughts on what happens if America reaches a deal with Iran that successfully limits their development of nuclear weapons and lifts sanctions. Rather than looking at whether or not such an agreement is possible, WRM points out that Iran doesn't need nuclear weapons to establish itself as a regional power and exert a lot of influence on the world's oil supply.

Thus, the people in Iran arguing for a nuclear deal could be making a very realpolitik, power-maximizing argument saying that Iran should prioritize establishing a regional hegemony over acquiring nuclear weapons. Then, when the regional hegemony is established, the U.S. will be even less willing or able to oppose Iran's nuclear drive than it is now, and a nuclear Iran that is also a regional hegemon would have immense power over the world's oil supply. Iran's dream of becoming a true global great power would have been reached.

What's extremely troubling and alarming about the establishment press debate over the nuclear agreement with Iran is that the deal's partisans by and large simply don't engage with this absolutely vital and indispensable question. This is the kind of silence that frequently occurs when a political establishment is about to make a truly monumental blunder; history's worst decisions are made by people with blinkers on, who ignore the wider implications of the choices they are making and concentrate of a limited and narrow set of considerations. To think about the Iran deal solely as a question of non-proliferation is to miss the essence of Iran's national strategy and its potential consequences for U.S. interests. Americans need to know whether the administration has really thought this issue through and, if it hasn't, there needs to be strong pressure from Congress and elsewhere for a serious and in depth reappraisal to begin.

So how does this play out well for America? I hope some smart people are figuring it out.


If we've learned anything from the mortgage lending debacle over the past five years it's that white collar crime pays off huge! Thanks to technology, however, low-skill crime is paying off worse than ever. McArdle wonders what would-be criminals will do when there isn't much profitable crime available, and I think I have the answer: live off the social welfare system.

The teenagers who used to boost cars, however, won't simply segue into new forms of crime. Hacking a credit card network is a different skillset from hot-wiring a car; the person who does one can't necessarily transition easily to the other. The low-skilled young men who choose crime as an alternative to low-wage work may simply find themselves with fewer viable ways to make money through criminal activity. So what happens to them?

No, I am not about to argue that we need some sort of social program for poor displaced criminals who are no longer able to practice their beautiful ancient craft. I'll be very happy if a lot of major forms of crime are thwarted. Yet I'm also interested in the empirical effects that this will have.

One of the primary reasons that the welfare system is expanding (including all sorts of programs that aren't typically included in "welfare", such as Social Security disability and unemployment insurance) is that many workers, not just criminals, are being displaced by technology. There appears to be an emerging class of people who are permanently displaced by technology and cannot contribute any economic value, and society will inevitably morph to care for them. The question is what the care will look like, especially as the productive proportion of the population shrinks.


The primary reason that teenagers should work is because it puts them in a position of having to win approval from adults rather than from other teenagers. The "real world" and the "school world" are completely different. The behaviors and attributes that win acclaim in the school world won't get you far in the real world, and most kids aren't wise enough to learn this just by hearing their parents repeat it. Teenagers who work at a real job earn far more than a few dollars per hour -- the experience they get will pay huge dividends for their whole lives.


It looks like an audacious plan to recover use of a 36-year-old satellite has ultimately failed as ISEE-3's thrusters have stopped responding to commands. Still, it's awesome that the attempt was made, and even cooler than it was done by a group of enthusiasts rather than a government team.

A team of space enthusiasts recently got permission from NASA to reconnect with the old spacecraft as it approached Earth. The idea was to put it on a new course so that it wouldn't just fly past. Instead, it would be commanded to go to a new orbit and join younger satellites in monitoring space weather.

On Tuesday, and then again Wednesday, the volunteer group sent commands to fire ISEE-3's engines again and again.

"And our first series of burns, we thought went OK," says Keith Cowing, a former NASA guy who is one of the leaders of the volunteer group -- the ISEE-3 Reboot Project. "And then when we went to the second set, pretty much nothing happened. And we tried it again, and nothing happened."


Instapundit posts a letter that echos stuff I've read based on early blood-type testing: around 16% of people have different fathers than their mothers told them. Men in our culture are so often portrayed as the bad guys (e.g., "deadbeat dads") that I think men as a gender should get some credit for being so trusting and accepting despite these high rates of false paternity.

I am familiar with a massive ongoing multi-generational genetic study. . . . (Please don't mention either it or my name.) The participants were predominantly "greatest generation" and their kids' generation. Middle-class and white a bit more than the general population. It was looking for hereditary cancers (not too common, maybe 10% or so, last time I checked).

But, of course, in the process of all this, they discovered so-called "false paternities". (Their rules prohibited them from divulging this info to participants.) Anyway, the overall false paternity rate for this bunch from the "Leave it to Beaver demographic" was about 16%.

16%. One in six. In middle America. Not your mom, of course, nor mine, but hey, that's going to be a lot of data to discuss around the dinner table.

I haven't been able to find the study data I've read in the past that showed similar results back when blood-typing was first discovered. From what I remember, the high paternal discrepancy rate actually led early researchers to doubt the accuracy of blood types.


Ali Khedery gives an insider's view of why Iraq is collapsing, and it's all because America stuck with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

It seems like it takes at least one generation of occupation to really tamp down the flames of religious/ethnic civil war. The victors' military presence needs to outlast the most violence-prone years of the men who fought against them (basically ages 20-50 or so).

I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki's government.

By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.


The Art of Manliness posts Aesop's "The Mischievous Dog":

A mischievous dog used to run quietly to the heels of every passer-by, and bite them without warning. So his master was obliged to tie a bell around his neck that he might give notice of his presence wherever he went. This the dog thought very fine indeed, and he went about tinkling it with pride all over town.

But an old Hound said: "Why do you make such a fool of yourself? That bell is not a mark of merit, but of disgrace."

Notoriety is often mistaken for fame.

A society that no longer shares a common understanding of merit and disgrace is no longer a single society, despite geographical proximity.


XKCD has a fantastic illustration of all the surface area available in our solar system. Let's fill it up with people!

space-without-space.png


So Detroit has fallen so far that the United Nations is stepping in to advocate access to clean water for residents. This is obviously ridiculous because the majority of delinquent utility accounts can certainly afford to pay their bills. However, despite my antipathy for the collection of despots and bureaucrats we call the UN, it's not clear whether they or Detroit comes out of this looking more foolish. Detroit is still a major city in the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the world, right?

WND has learned that after issuing a statement last week condemning Detroit's decision to send water shut-off notices to tens of thousands of customers behind in their payments, the U.N now plans to conduct confidential policy discussions with the Obama administration to be followed by a formal public report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

On Monday, the U.N. Human Rights Council's office in Geneva confirmed to WND that the U.N. plans to intervene directly in the Detroit water crisis, determined to apply international law to judge the U.S. in violation of human rights to safe water.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, DWSD, announced in March it would send shut-off notices to customers with balances more than $150 overdue or who are more than two months behind in their payments. The department, which said nearly half of the 324,000 water and sewerage accounts are overdue, has put out 46,000 notices since March. About 4,500 accounts have had their water shut off.


Does it appear to you that the AP might be biased in favor of "free" contraception?

The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

The justices' 5-4 decision Monday is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.

But of course there is no such thing as "free" contraception (except perhaps abstinence, which has its own opportunity cost). As for pharmaceutical contraception, someone has to pay for it even if the payer isn't the user. The Supreme Court has decided that corporations (really, their shareholders) can't be forced to pay something that violates their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion is protected by the Constitution, and getting someone else to pay for your contraception isn't. Seems simple to me.


If you haven't played Diplomacy then you aren't a serious board-gamer. Not to brag, but I've played a full game five times and been in the winning alliance three times. Since none of our players were proficient Diplomacy players my wins were probably due to luck and cunning more than skill. Diplomacy is a game I recommend for everyone to try, but it probably won't be a frequent selection for your game nights. Why? It requires seven players, it takes at least six hours to play and often more, and it is extremely emotional.

If you've ever heard of Diplomacy, chances are you know it as "the game that ruins friendships." It's also likely you've never finished an entire game. That's because Diplomacy requires seven players and seven or eight hours to complete. Games played by postal mail, the way most played for the first 30 years of its existence, could take longer than a year to finish. Despite this, Diplomacy is one of the most popular strategic board games in history. Since its invention in 1954 by Harvard grad Allan B. Calhamer, Diplomacy has sold over 300,000 copies and was inducted into Games Magazine's hall of fame alongside Monopoly, Clue, and Scrabble.

The game is incredibly simple. The game board is a map of 1914 Europe divided into 19 sea regions and 56 land regions, 34 of which contain what are known as "supply centers." Each player plays as a major power (Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Italy, England, France, Russia, Germany) with three pieces on the board (four for Russia) known as "home supply centers." Each piece can move one space at a time, and each piece has equal strength. When two pieces try to move to the same space, neither moves. If two pieces move to the same space but one of those pieces has "support" from a third piece, the piece with support will win the standoff and take the space. The goal is to control 18 supply centers, which rarely happens. What's more common is for two or more players to agree to end the game in a draw. Aside from a few other special situations, that's pretty much it for rules.

There are two things that make Diplomacy so unique and challenging. The first is that, unlike in most board games, players don't take turns moving. Everyone writes down their moves and puts them in a box. The moves are then read aloud, every piece on the board moving simultaneously. The second is that prior to each move the players are given time to negotiate with each other, as a group or privately. The result is something like a cross between Risk, poker, and Survivor -- with no dice or cards or cameras. There's no element of luck. The only variable factor in the game is each player's ability to convince others to do what they want. The core game mechanic, then, is negotiation. This is both what draws and repels people to Diplomacy in equal force; because when it comes to those negotiations, anything goes. And anything usually does.


Awesome. Why the heck am I buying nylon rope???

(HT: SPLOID.)


Cpl. Kyle Carpenter has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Afghanistan. My family, and our whole country, are grateful and humbled by the service and sacrifice of Cpl. Carpenter and his fellows who give so much on our behalf.

The President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an automatic rifleman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team One, 1st Marine Division (Forward), 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on 21 November, 2010.

Lance Corporal Carpenter was a member of a platoon-sized coalition force comprised of two reinforced Marine rifle squads, partnered with an Afghan National Army squad. The platoon had established Patrol Base Dakota two days earlier in a small village in the Marja District in order to disrupt enemy activity and provide security for the local Afghan population.

Lance Corporal Carpenter and a fellow Marine were manning a rooftop security position on the perimeter of Patrol Base Dakota when the enemy initiated a daylight attack with hand grenades, one of which landed inside their sandbagged position. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Carpenter moved towards the grenade in an attempt to shield his fellow Marine from the deadly blast. When the grenade detonated, his body absorbed the brunt of the blast, severely wounding him but saving the life of his fellow Marine.

By his undaunted courage, bold fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain death, Lance Corporal Carpenter reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


So all of Lois Lerner's emails from 2009-2011 were lost when her hard drive crashed, and now that hard drive has been destroyed. Anyone with any familiarity with enterprise IT systems will agree that this is a complete joke. Emails are easily, routinely backed up, and losing a client hard drive will have absolutely no impact on the availability of the backup sets.

I don't need to know the ins and outs of the IRS IT infrastructure to know that if Lerner's emails aren't available or don't exist it's because they were intentionally destroyed. To whose benefit?

This charade is a joke that shouldn't fool anyone. We know that the dog didn't eat your homework.


Glenn Reynolds suggests collective punishment for the IRS, which seems pretty close to what the Republicans in the House are planning with their 15% budget cut for the agency. Writes Reynolds:

For now, if I were a member of Congress I'd zero out the IRS's travel and conference budget -- the service spent tens of millions of dollars on videos spoofing Star Trek, Gilligan's Island, etc. in past years, for conferences held in cushy locations like Anaheim -- and look at other ways to make the agency pay.

Targeting Americans is unforgivable; covering it up is worse, and if the IRS has made it impossible to target the individuals responsible, then the IRS as a whole should pay the price. That's not an ideal solution, but such misbehavior should not go unpunished.

My view is different. I don't think the IRS or its employees need to be punished... bureaucracies are best understood as psychopaths whose fixations and behavior are inwardly focused and governed by their internal rules and culture. Like psychopaths, you can't really "reform" them. Fortunately, unlike human psychopaths, you can disband a harmful bureaucracy and start over. I've called this institutional capital punishment, and I think it's the only way to properly resolve the IRS debacle.

Obviously America needs an agency to collect tax revenue, but the IRS -- its rules, its internal culture -- are so broken that it can't be trusted to do the job any more. This doesn't mean that the employees are bad people, but they're working in a bad, broken system. Rather than trying to fix the psychopathic system, just "execute" it and start over from scratch with a new tax collection agency.


Jack Hamilton "defends" the Game of Thrones series from his own presumption that its "inauthenticity" should damn the show to unimportance. Is our culture such that every creation must conceal layers of ironic commentary about the real world in order to be valuable?

Game of Thrones is a terrifically fun and immensely popular show, but can a work so flagrantly inauthentic actually be important television?

The answer is yes, and precisely for its unreality, its joyful hostility toward anything like allegory, commentary, or social relevance. Much like Star Wars and Hogwarts and other great Neverlands, Game of Thrones doesn't hold a mirror to anything. It is aggressively false, a work of far-fetched imagination so intricate and finely realized it becomes compelling on its own terms, disorienting and dazzling us in the ways that only the best storytelling can. This is a show where we cheer on an adolescent girl's precocious transformation into a serial murderer; this is a show in which a character's desire to release people from slavery is convincingly rendered as a conundrum. The most recent episode ended with yet another shocking death, a character we're coming to hate killing a character we'd come to pity, to save the life of a character we've come to love. How are we even supposed to feel? Other than, yet again, totally thrilled.

The most surprising aspect of this essay is that the author apparently believes that Game of Thrones is "aggressively false" because the characters and their motivations are nuanced and complex -- there's no "good guy" and no "bad guy". This seems quite realistic to me, but the Hamilton's perspective on the show says a lot about his view of the world.

Finally, do you expect your entertainment to tell you how you're supposed to feel? Just feel.


Jean-Baptiste Quéru describes the depth and complexity of what happens when you visit a website -- there's a lot more going on that most people realize. I'll quote the very first bit, but read the rest if you're interested in getting a glimpse of the magic behind our technology. As Quéru writes, no one person or company can fully comprehend it.

You just went to the Google home page.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit of about how browsers work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play HTTP, HTML, CSS, ECMAscript, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

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