So those incriminating Facebook pictures that show you really aren't disabled are off-limits to federal investigating authorities. As are any other web resources.
This is abominable. We already knew this was a lawless administration, but must they provide even more examples? They have ZERO regard for the integrity of public expenditures.
This article from the Weekly Standard was very informative. It sheds lights on what the Supreme Court may be thinking and why Obamacare might be in serious judicial jeopardy. You will want to read it all.
As I posted earlier, I have bid farewell to overpriced cartridge razors and creams from a can that dry my face out and give skin problems. Or at least I tried.
When I last posted about this, I had acquired a new safety and razor some blades, but found the that shaving soap I tried was a terrible irritant to my wimpy skin. I also managed to break my shiny new safety razor after less than three weeks of use. (Note: shaving in the shower can cause you to drop your fancy razor and I no longer recommend it. I also find that having a surgically sharp blade freefall towards your feet isn't wise).
Finally I was able to acquire a replacement razor-- and another of different design. I also got to try two new shave lathers: Mitchell's Wool Fat shaving soap in a hard puck and Proraso shave cream in a tube. Here are my assessments of the three new products (one of the razors was just a replacement of the DE89 that worked so well).
In addition to replacing the DE89 that I broke, I acquired a Muhle R41. This razor is famous or infamous, depending on who tells the story. Unlike the DE89, the R41 is what's called an "open comb" design. How is this different?
A traditional safety razor like the DE89 uses a straight bar in front of the blade to protect your skin. You can see it here:
The blade protrudes between the top cap (crescent-shaped here) and the baseplate that incorporates the blade guard. Though there are little scallops in that blade guard, it is only on top; your skin sees a solid bar with no discontinuities.
Compare that to the open comb design of the R41, as illustrated in these excellent photos from www.thesuperiorshave.com:
Not only does the head have much more blade exposure, but the angle is more aggressive, too. Compare the R41 head on the left to the regular DE89 style on the right (pic from www.thesuperiorshave.com again):
The R41 is one seriously aggressive razor. There is not much "safety" to this "safety razor." Think of it as a handle that lets you get a better grip on an open razor blade, rather than actually protecting you from the blade.
I am starting to learn how to use it. This morning, however, I got a reminder just how a moment's carelessness can be punished. I was whisking away my chin and throat area, inwardly celebrating the fact that I seem to be mastering this challenging tool. Then I moved to my upper lip and, in a moment of distraction, pressed it into my face. Instantly I felt what I thought was a gash, but I saw no blood. Hmm, maybe I got away with one?
Nope. In 30 seconds a had a bloody line almost an inch wide on my upper lip. Like I said, there's very little "safety" in this razor. Still, I have fondness and most of all respect for this razor. It has the amazing ability to give you a close shave even if you only go with the grain, and can easily handle hair that grows really close to the skin that tends to lay over rather than get cut.
I like the R41 and will keep it. The R41 is NOT indicative of all safety razors. The DE89 I have, by contrast, took only three shaves before I could get an excellently close shave without a drop of blood, even on my rather imperfect skin.
The R41 was the most anticipated of my new purchases, but I was also eager to try the Mitchell's Wool Fat shave soap. This soap, as the name implies, has lanolin in it and is tallow-based. It is highly regarded amongst wet shavers, so I figured it had a low probability of irritating my face.
It comes in a nice ceramic soap dish, if you want. I was too cheap to pay the extra $20, so I just bought the $15 soap refill and used a ramekin that is the perfect size.
The soap is wonderful. It has a light, clean scent that is mild enough to be universally tolerated if not enjoyed. While it has a reputation as being somewhat difficult to lather, my softened water prevented any difficulties with generating mounds of lather. While it is a pleasant soap, it is not an especially slippery lather high in lubricity. If you dither while you shave, it may start to dry a bit and cause your razor to want to hang up if you go over an unlathered spot. If you stick to the proper technique of only shaving where there's lather, it works well enough.
Especially remarkably is the softening and soothing of the lanolin in this soap. I find that I really don't need an aftershave of any kind when using it. Just rinse with cool water and dab dry. Great stuff! It also seems to last a LONG time. I'm guessing I will get at least 6 months from this soap cake, maybe a year.
In addition to the soap, I decided to try a well-reputed non-aersol shave cream: the very popular Proraso in the tube:
This is good stuff. The smell is menthol and mild, the lather luxurious. It is a little slicker than the soap, but not as much with the softening and skin treatment. Still, there's no stinging or irritation for me. Like the soap, a tiny little bit goes a long way. With this cream, an amount the size of your thumbnail will suffice to lather your face three times and have plenty left.
Even the inexpensive Semogue 2000 brush I bought has no problems making excellent lather with either product. I'm happy to be learning the technique now that I don't have to focus on product acquisition as much.
Except for razor blades. That will be another post, though.
A while back I posted about how using a shaving brush is a great way to improve the quality of your shave, using the exact same razor and cream and such.
Recently my shaving brush started to shed like it had been slipping out for secret chemotherapy sessions. So I decided to replace it.
That means you end up finding vendors online that sell not only shave brushes, but all the 'old school' shave stuff: straight razors, safety razors, strops, mugs, soaps, etc.
So I looked at an old-school "safety" razor, like you might see here.
I was surprised to learn that double edge razor blades are cheap, yet very high quality. In fact, the sharpest blades on the market are only about $0.60 each! Could I replace my overpriced Gillette setup that retails for $4/cartridge with an effective razor that costs about 1/8th of that?
Since I was ordering a new brush anyway, I ordered a safety razor and some cheap shaving soap (Razorock brand).
Excited at my new goodies, I went full-tilt old school when they arrived. Fresh from a shower, I whipped that soap into lather that could pass for Cool Whip using my new brush and painted my face into a full snowman effect.
A felt a tingling from the soap as I reach for the brand new, surgically-sharp Feather blade and put it in the Edwin Jagger razor.
After a couple passes, I was amazed that I could barely feel the razor on my face. No pulling, just whiskers melting away. Cool!
That tingling had turned into stinging. Then into burning-- a fiery inferno. Uh oh. I didn't have any nicks either! They were all gashes that one could probably use to get into the ER ahead of the illegal and the uninsured. I took some serious doing to stop the bleeding. They weren't kidding about these feather blades being surgically sharp. It will gash you and you'll never feel it until you see it.
I was disappointed, I had such high hopes. Trying to disentangle the variables of new soap, brush, and razor to find which one was the main cause of the disaster, I went back to my regular blade/cream setup and slowly changed one variable at a time.
I first washed my face with the shaving soap, but didn't shave. Huge stinging. OK, I'm reacting to this Razorock soap-- that's one huge variable down. So what if I use my old cream with the new brush and "safety" (yeah right) razor?
Actually, it worked pretty well. My problems with the safety razor were entirely operator error. Using one of these things takes PRACTICE. You can't push the thing into your face, and you must be very careful to maintain an angle that's close to ideal.
I've now shaved with it four times, and aside from slicing off the top of a "blemish' (I love that euphemism!), I've not drawn blood.
Overall, the change of razor alone has given me better, closer shaves at much lower retail price. If you could cut your cost of shaving blades by 87%, would you?
There are lots of different brands of blades (which is why they are so cheap-- lots of competition) and double-edge safety razors are still rather popular in the rest of the world. The Feathers are the sharpest blades money can buy (the Japanese know blades, and this company makes scalpels and other surgical slicers). There are also popular Chinese, German, Israeli and British blades available as well.
When I find a shave soap that works well for me, I will post a follow up. For now, I'm sticking with the stuff in the can that dries out your face. Things will get better, but the switch to the double-edge (DE) razor is already a financial and shaving success, albeit with a mild and reasonable learning curve.
A useful fact of life is that there is no incentive to care about costs that are borne by someone else. If I am an American over age 65, I enjoy a medical benefit paid for by costs that I largely do not pay. Yes, seniors still have medical expenses-- but they don't have to pay Medicare taxes unless they are working. They will have co-pays and medigap insurance and the like to pay for, of course. But they don't pay for Medicare itself--just those things that Medicare doesn't cover.
This is a very different situation than a working-class American like me would have. I pay the 6.2% Medicare tax. I receive nothing in return--NOTHING. I pay my own health insurance premiums as well. But my insurance is only a catastrophic HSA-based plan, so I pay up to $12k/year out of pocket, and 6K before I get a penny of co-insurance. Other plans are better or worse, but my situation is not that uncommon.
What's even more unconscionable that older people are, on average, much wealthier than younger, working-class people. According to the 2010 Census, the median income for a householder aged 25-34 was only $50, 059. But the median income of those 55-64 years old was $56,575. This makes sense, as people have moved up to more senior positions based on greater experience or other attainment. By that same census, the poverty rate for those 25-34 was 15.2%, yet only 10.1% for those 55-64 and also those 45-54. For those over age 65 (who receive the Medicare benefit), it drops further to 9%.
Another illustration of the relationship between wealth and age can be found the Survey of Consumer Finances conducted by the Fed back in 1992. The median age of the top 1% is 59, with just 12.3% of the top 1% of richest Americans being under the age of 44. By contrast, the median age of the poorest quintile (bottom 20%) of Americans was just 35, with 68.4% of the poorest Americans being under the age of 44.
The numbers make astoundingly clear that the primary effect of Medicare is to tax poorer, younger Americans to subsidize the healthcare expenses of older, richer Americans. This makes Medicare an extremely regressive tax.
The Democrats like to claim that they are the party of the little guy, not the rich fatcats. But judging by the way the Democrats resist reforming such an extremely regressive program like Medicare, one can only conclude that they are the party of the older, richer folks-- not the younger working class.
Recently reading Henry Hazlitt's excellent booklet Economics in One Lesson, I particularly enjoyed his treatment of gov't price fixing schemes. He illustrates quite clearly that the inevitable result of such gov't meddling in the market produces a result directly opposite of the intended aim.
Here's how Hazlitt discusses the effect of a price control:
Now we cannot hold the price of any commodity below
its market level without in time bringing about two consequences.
The first is to increase the demand for that commodity.
Because the commodity is cheaper, people are both
tempted to buy, and can afford to buy, more of it. The
second consequence is to reduce the supply of that commodity.
Because people buy more, the accumulated supply
is more quickly taken from the shelves of merchants. But
in addition to this, production of that commodity is discouraged.
Profit margins are reduced or wiped out. The
marginal producers are driven out of business. Even the
most efficient producers may be called upon to turn out
their product at a loss. This happened in the war when
slaughter houses were required by the Office of Price Administration
to slaughter and process meat for less than
the cost to them of cattle on the hoof and the labor of
slaughter and processing
Interesting. What if we apply this to Medicare?
First, the effect on demand is that people consume more heathcare services. Because the cost to them is lower than the market value, the demand for it is increased. Since the price is FIXED also, the risk of an unanticipated cost increase is not a factor. Prices communicate in two dimensions: the absolute level, and the variability of it. Uncertainty commands a premium, and certainty therefore grants a discount. If you doubt this phenomenon-- ask yourself how your choice of vehicle selection might be influenced of you honestly believed gasoline might hit $7/gallon in the next year versus if you think prices can't get much higher.
Therefore, the effect of Medicare price fixing below the market value increases consumption two ways: it holds prices below the market value, and grants a further discount in the form of price certainty. But not only do these measures increase consumption (read: demand) of healthcare services in two ways, they also distort the supply of heathcare of it in two ways.
First, the total quantity of healthcare delivered is less because those producers of higher marginal cost will be unable to stay in business. That doctors office with the super fancy new CT scanner that they paid a half million bucks for? It's gone, because the "premium" providers like this are driven out; only those doctors who are cheapest (went to cheapest schools, have cheapest equipment, etc) will remain. In other words, only those whose "natural" price is at or below the fixed price. This leads us to the second kind of supply distortion: the KIND of supply, not just the QUANTITY.
Ask yourself what might happen to the automotive market if the gov't fixed the maximum price of a new automobile at $20K. Would there be a market for new Corvettes? Acuras? Mercedes? Not at all. All the cars which cannot be made and sold profitably for $20k will disappear from the market. But people will still need cars. All those buyers of premium autos will now be looking downscale. This means the demand that would have existed for the more expensive cars is pushed down into the range of the cheaper cars. Thus, the cars that would have sold for $12k or 15K will now sell for $20k because there's more demand for cars below the price limit. The result of the fixing or automobile prices is that the cheaper cars go up in price, the expensive cars disappear entirely, and the total quantity of cars supplied will be less, creating a supply that is is of inadequate quantity and of inadequate quality as well.
Do we want healthcare that is both of inadequate quality and of inadequate quantity? Certainly not! This is the stuff horror stories are made of. Yet this is the path Medicare is taking us along.
Medicare is the largest medical insurer in the US. The Medicare reimbursement rates serve as de facto price controls. If Medicare says an office visit is worth $30, then those on Medicare will not be supplied doctors worth $50 per visit. The quality of care delivered to Medicare patients is reduced, as is the quantity as well. This is why the so-called "doc fix" as been passed by Congress every year to cover the shortage between Medicare reimbursement rates and actual costs-- everyone knows that this "fix" is needed to keep doctors from dropping Medicare patients entirely.
But what about those who are not on Medicare? They will see costs go up. Since many doctors will not see Medicare patients, the fixed costs of their operations (equipment, staff, etc) must be distributed across a smaller number of consumers. Thus, each invididual now has a slightly larger burden because the economies of scale are reversed.
Converting Medicare to a voucher-based program solves almost all of these problems by 1) eliminating the price-fixing component of Medicare and 2) restoring competition in the healthcare market.
The Ryan plan is a great one and should be adopted with great haste. It will not only save Medicare for seniors, but it will save all of healthcare in general for the rest of us, because we cannot compartmentalize the damage being done by Medicare-- it will spill over into the non-Medicare part of the market and take down the whole ship.