Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Perspective of the Supreme Court Decision about the Affordable Healthcare Act

The Supreme Court Decision about the Affordable Healthcare Act requires reading the decision and the dissent. The News Media and Politicians are certainly avoiding the finer points of the ruling. They also are avoiding why Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the left leaning Justices.

It will surprise you that I agree with the decision. To be clear, I find the Law abhorrent and believe it to be ultimately harmful to many whom it claims to help. After reading the Decision it seems more hazardous to oppose the decision than to agree.

Justice Roberts rightly pointed out that it is not the duty of the Court to determine whether a Law is wise or "fair". The job of the Justices is to validate Constitutionality. Sadly, that duty relies more on Court precedent than the original Constitution. In this case the Ruling is based on the fact that no existing Federal activity have been found to be unconstitutional.

My suspicion based on the Roberts opinion and dissent is when the Conservative Justices wanted to strike the Law down the Chief Justice had determined for himself that he could not join with that idea because he had figured out that the Law was really using the Tax system to set different final amounts for those who have purchased health insurance and those who have not.

The fact is our country has convoluted tax laws that bill each person differently based on a multitude of variables, whether a person is single, married, have children, have a mortgage, buy their own health insurance, and a long list of other ways that decrease or increase one's tax liability. The Tax system has been used  for decades to reward some choices and discourage others.  Its spider web of complex rules set the stage a long time ago for a Law that rewards those who purchase Insurance and penalizes those who do not.

Despite what we have been told by the President, other Politicians, the media, and others the actual Law really uses the Tax system to work its magic. The Chief Justice and the rest of the Majority reached this conclusion by ignoring what they were told and reading the Law. Some argue that Chief Justice Roberts rewrote the Law to make it pass.  According to the Majority and Dissenting views the only thing that occurred is that the Chief Justice READ the Individual Mandate section and used both his knowledge of Law and previous decisions to determine that the words describe use of the Tax Code.  Could the fact that the reported requirement that everyone purchase or be covered by a Health Plan was called an "Individual Mandate" cause concern that the Law really was not intended to be a Tax on uninsured taxpayers?  

Those who dissent argue that the Law should be struck down because of the insistence of those who voted for and signed the Bill into Law that it is not a tax. Therefore since taxation was not intended the Law as written then only the Commerce Clause could be used to justify the Individual Mandate thus as agreed by the Majority, rendering the Law unconstitutional.   
I found it interesting that the Government argued in legal briefs that Federal taxation power "created a basis for upholding the Law" Source: LA Times.  In my perception the idea of judging intent is dangerous enough in cases like those judged by the Supreme Court.  Whether or not Legislators and the President were being incompetent or malicious when insisting to the public that the Individual Mandate was not a tax (Source: ABC News) is immaterial because of the legal briefs.

The question is whether the Supreme Court best serves the country by deeming a Law "broken" and striking it down OR determines how a Law actually functions and educating the public?  My position is that the Chief Justice's approach of focusing solely on the written law was the most non-partisan of the whole group.  How would it have been "conservative" if those who wanted to strike the Law did so because of their perception of what was intended?  I would like to understand what the Justices who trend liberal were thinking, were they looking for any reason to uphold it?  It appeared that the Liberal-leaning Justices mostly signed on to the Chief Justice's viewpoint with only limited commentary.  I would have preferred to see more from the majority than only the Chief Justice.

Now the the issue becomes whether the public will accept the Tax that was once called "The Individual Mandate". Will the public wonder about how many more creative ways the tax code can be used to coerce taxpayers that are worse than what already exists? It certainly changes the healthcare debate and places the issue front and center this November.
   I am relieved that the Chief Justice exposed the moral hazards of the Tax Code and believe that alternative ideas like a Flat or Consumption Tax may gain more traction in the coming months.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Will the coming heat wave smash records?

It is taking me a while to get back with the weather groove. Now that my transition to new duties has been complete for several weeks it seems that the love for weather and the urge to figure out what is happening is back. 

While my original summer forecast accurately predicted heat and tropical storms in a wild June the incoming heat ridge is OVER THE TOP. One NC Meteorologist is calling for a historic period of triple digit heat.  Weather Underground has been projecting Sunday highs at RDU (during Thurs 6/27/2012) to hit 108!!!  Take a look at the National Weather Service'e Heat Index forecast for Sunday.

When investigating some reasons for the obnoxious heat I found that the biggest driver has been a dive in Global Atmospheric Angular Momentum (AAM).  In its low state, weather is most like La Nina.  Here in the east it means heat and tropical storms. That does not necessarily mean heat 100% of the time but it does indicate dominance of ridging.   Here is the good news.  AAM is at or near a bottom.  The SOI has been in strong negatives (between -34 and -49) for the past 4 days.  This indicates the coming of a rising AAM trend and ultimately cooler summer weather.  I am still confident that the season will end in the normal range despite the torrid heat of the next several days.  Here is the Relative AAM Chart from the NOAA Earth Science Research Laboratory.

Keeping plenty of cool water available when driving would be a terrific idea.  Staying indoors when temps pass 100 is even better.  Be careful not to overwater your gardens.  A quart at the roots of most plants (every other day) + mulch heavily will give the best protection.  If we really hit 104, 108, and 106 (Sat-Sun - source Weather Underground from Wed 6/27) then I have no idea what can keep plants from taking damage other than building a Canopy.   SOAKING leaves invites disease!

Stay cool and please be safe.  Drink more water than you think you need, even indoors.  It is also advisable to run major appliances at night and keep the lights off as much as possible during the day to conserve power for AC use.  We definitely do not want to place Progress Energy in a bind.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Debby and companion frontal system in process of playing out split scenario

Florida is literally drowning in heavy rain from the frontal structure attached to TS Debby.  Fortunately that feature is in process of splitting away from Debby as it moves into the Atlantic.  This water vapor image from the University of Wisconsin SSEC shows the bulk of the water vapor aligned with the frontal structure and losing connectivity to the low-level "Debby" storm center:

Debby's fate remains unclear.  Normally storms in the NE Gulf tend not to intensify rapidly.  Even though the water is warm it does not run deep, therefore the heat content needed to power a tropical storm is limited,   My opinion is that she drifts north into the FL Panhandle due to being drawn in by strong convection there (falling pressure).

Our next big story here in NC and VA will be the big heat coming this weekend.... 
Dean Grubbs
The Dean Report

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tropical Storm Debby following a Hybrid Playbook

Tropical Storm Debby has surprised forecasters by moving toward the FL Panhandle and following more closely with the GFS Model solution than the usually more dependable ECMWF and HWRF.  While I am late to the Debby forecast track derby, it seems like my own philosophy regarding types of tropical storms may bear fruit in determining the ultimate outcome. Here are 3 observations that may explain the reason why the GFS has been more helpful.

  • Debby is a hybrid storm containing a tropical warm core and a baroclinic frontal structure.  The two structures do not appear very united which is good news.  The GFS manages baroclinic features in a more helpful manner than tropical.
  • Heat ridge centered over TX and AK might have been underestimated as an influence.
  • Disturbances that are diving into the Eastern Trough are stronger than I expect at this time of year.  A stronger trough pulls the tropical storm north into it.
This water vapor image  shows the poorly organized center of Debby and the expansive area of convection that is dousing Florida.  The hybrid structure is connected to a stream of moisture originating from the Pacific.   Take note that the energy is not building the center of Debby,
Image Source: Univ of Wisc SSEC
National Weather Service Radar shows rain bands moving inland over FL.  The question is whether the  stormy weather's destiny is different than the tropical storm center known as Debby.  Another issue is whether the non-tropical piece of the storm system affects Florida more greatly than the Debby storm center's destination.

My suspicion is that the hybrid structure will follow the GFS idea of the storm moving through Florida.The Debby storm center will most likely decouple completely from the baroclinic structure and drift west.   Whether the storm generates into a formidable system and impacts LA or TX, dies out, or spins down over land is the next question.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rainy, Stormy Weather to continue, glorious weekend is on the way

The Atlantic and Pacific tropics have joined forces to flood the east with humid unstable air leading to heavy rain.  This pattern appears set to continue for the next 36 hours before giving way to a glorious sunny weekend featuring highs in the low 80's, bright sun, and comfortable humidity levels.  Take note of the storm over LA and AR moving east that is dumping torrents of rain amid heavy thunderstorms.  Here is this morning's water vapor image from Univ of Wisconsin SSEC:

National Weather Service Radar shows the storm system moving east. I expect its flooding to be a newsmaker. It is well organized and the further saturation of the southeast that will come from this system stacks the odds even further AGAINST any sustained heat this summer.  A moist ground fails to heat as fast as dry and cools the air temperature by evaporative cooling and convective rain and thunderstorms.  The question for us in NC and VA is what role if any will the system play when it interacts with the cold front that advances into our region on Wednesday?