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What Obama Could Learn on Martha's Vineyard

August 11, 2014 at 10:06 pm

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If President Obama got out and explored Martha's Vineyard with his eyes open, he could get a real education in some of the policy issues that his administration and the country as a whole are struggling to deal with. That's the topic of my column this week — please check it out at Newsmax (here) or Reason (here).

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Maine Regulators Grant Reprieve To Boat-Based Business

August 11, 2014 at 9:59 pm

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Maine state health officials have given Reilly Harvey, the woman who operates a boat-based business selling brownies and lobsters, a temporary reprieve from requirements that would have shut her down for the season, the Portland Press Herald reports:

She said Friday that an inspector had issued the verbal go-ahead to go back out on the water, with a paper license good for 90 days to follow, as long as she equipped Mainstay with a stainless steel washing basin, a 5-gallon jug of town water (versus sea) and a bucket to drain the hot water into after she washes her hands.

She is also required to carry a thermometer to make sure her coolers stay at or below 40 degrees.

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William Kristol and Yuval Levin

August 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

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William Kristol has an excellent new series of video interviews (including Elliott Abrams' anecdote about George W. Bush hunting flies in the Oval Office with an old-fashioned flyswatter while on secure teleconferences with foreign leaders). The latest one is with Yuval Levin. Some highlights of Mr. Levin's comments:

On decentralization: American society is going through a kind of decentralization where if 40 years ago you would have thought of American society as governed by large institutions – big government, big business, big labor, big academic institutions, big media – working together. And great success meant navigating these institutions in a successful way.

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How Much Does an MRI Cost?

August 11, 2014 at 2:16 pm

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There's a pretty interesting blog post here on the wide variations in the prices quoted and charged for MRI scans in California:How much should you pay?

Well, one person was told the price is $1,850, but if you pay up front, you can save almost $1,300.

The note on our form, shared by our community member: "I was told procedure would be 1850. I have a 7500 deductible. So I talked to the office mgr who said if I paid upfront and agreed not to report the procedure to Blue Cross, that it would be $580."

On our Facebook page, one contributor wrote, "I was going to be billed $830 through my PPO for an MRI. The cash price? $500."

Plenty of other service providers negotiate discounts for individual clients. But the whole situation is a reminder of how hard it is for the government to cost health care cost inflation overall, or the health care part of the consumer price index. Which of the many prices should the government track?

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Maine Regulators Shutter Boat-Based Small Business

August 8, 2014 at 7:43 am

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On Wednesday, the food section of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald ran a friendly profile of a woman, Reilly Harvey, who runs a business selling pies, brownies, and cooked lobsters out of her small boat around "the anchorage between Dix and High Islands."

Today, the same newspaper reports that the state is shutting her down:

Harvey said she was contacted by a state health inspector and told she must pass health inspection standards for mobile vendors – think food trucks – and get her vintage 22-foot wooden launch, the Mainstay, fitted with sinks and hot and cold running water if she is going to continue to serve hot food.

That licensing would happen through the Division of Environmental Health's inspection program. If she wants to continue to serve desserts, she must pass an additional inspection by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

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Governor Patrick Office Renovation

August 7, 2014 at 6:26 am

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When Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain spent $1.2 million to renovate and redecorate his office, it caused a big furor. The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, just spent $11.3 million in taxpayer funds to renovate his office, an expenditure that has raised a few eyebrows but triggered less of a furor. Some of the difference is surely that Merrill was headed down the tubes, but otherwise it seems like an example of people in government getting away with something that people in the private sector would not get away with.

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How To Turn the Economy Around

August 6, 2014 at 2:01 pm

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Charles Koch has a USA Today op-ed under the headline "How to really turn the economy around."

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Obama's Dinner Guests

August 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm

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From the White House guest list from last night's dinner to mark the U.S.-Africa summit:

Mr. Muhtar Kent, President and CEO, Coca Cola Company, Atlanta, GA...Mr. Doug McMillon, President and CEO, Wal-Mart, Bentonville, AR...Mr. Douglas Oberhelman, CEO, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL...Mr. Stephen Schwarzman, President, Chief Executive Officer, and Co-Founder, The Blackstone Group, New York, NY...

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Delphi's Tax Inversion

August 6, 2014 at 1:39 pm

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Bloomberg News notices that early in the Obama administration, Delphi, the auto parts supplier that the administration helped rescue as part of the auto industry bailout, moved its official headquarters to England from Michigan to save on taxes. The article begins:

President Barack Obama says U.S. corporations that adopt foreign addresses to avoid taxes are unpatriotic. His own administration helped one $20 billion American company do just that.

As part of the bailout of the auto industry in 2009, Obama's Treasury Department authorized spending $1.7 billion of government funds to get a bankrupt Michigan parts-maker back on its feet -- as a British company. While executives continue to run Delphi Automotive Plc from a Detroit suburb, the paper headquarters in England potentially reduces the company's U.S. tax bill by as much as $110 million a year.

Bloomberg asked Obama auto tsar Steven Rattner about it:

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AEI Versus AP on Airfare Inflation

August 5, 2014 at 11:08 am

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The fight on the right over inflation has only heated up since I last wrote about it here. Among the other recent developments, the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis had an article in The Week under the headline "The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP." David Leonhardt weighed in in the New York Times on the side of Pethokoukis against Amity Shlaes.

In my view, though, the debate is far from resolved. Here's the latest good example of why. In a post at the American Enterprise Institute, Mark Perry listed airfare as one of the reasons "why Amity Shlaes is dead wrong about inflation." Not just wrong, mind you, but "dead wrong." Professor Perry writes:

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Richard Epstein and John F. Kennedy

August 5, 2014 at 10:04 am

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Richard Epstein's column this week discusses the "classical liberal" — the good kind of liberal — view of bottom-up wealth creation:

The initial assumption is that the state is not regarded as the creator of rights, but as their protector. Individual rights in labor and intelligence belong to an individual as a matter of birth, not via a grant from the state.

Professor Epstein doesn't mention it, but it reminded me of President Kennedy's inaugural address:

The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

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Who Stopped Immigration Reform?

August 5, 2014 at 7:46 am

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Why immigration reform didn't happen in Congress is the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at Reason (here) or the New York Sun (here).

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Obama and Congress

August 3, 2014 at 11:40 pm

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Glenn Harlan Reynolds, the law professor who blogs as Instapundit, has a column up at USA Today looking at Obama CIA director John Brennan's false denial to Congress on the question of whether the CIA had hacked into Senate computers. He writes:

The White House is hanging tough so far, but we're now hearing comparisons made to the speed with which Brennan's predecessor, Gen. David Petraeus, was cut loose over an extramarital affair. Does this mean that the White House views spying on, and lying to, members of Congress as less serious than an affair?

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Banning a Parking App in Boston

August 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

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On-street parking spots can be hard to find in Boston. An app called Haystack aims to solve that problem by helping drivers find parking spaces and, if the driver is desperate enough, even offer to pay someone to move an already-parked car and create a spot. Sure enough, the Boston City Council is ready with an ordinance to ban it, BetaBoston reports.

As in the case of Uber's disruption of the taxi industry, local politicians just can't stand the thought of a business using the city's streets to make money without first paying proper fealty to the politicians. It's the kind of attitude that drives tech firms away to Silicon Valley.

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Preet's Overreach, Again

July 31, 2014 at 2:40 pm

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Andrew Cuomo is not anywhere close to being on my list of favorite politicians, but even as someone who is not generally a fan of his I have to say I think it's a bit much for the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, to issue a letter to the governor warning him about how he treated an ethics commission he created: "we must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law."

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