Archive for October, 2013

A Couple of News Items

October 15, 2013

There were just a couple of news items that caught my eye today,so I decided just to combine them into one post. First up, there is an Alabama law-maker who wants to castrate child molesters. It is not clear whether he wants to have chemical castration, the offenders are forced to take drugs which deaden sexual desire, or the old-fashioned physical castration. Here is the story from the Atlanta CBS affiliate.

An Alabama legislator has re-introduced a bill to legalize castration of convicted child molesters if their victims were under the age of 12 – and make them pay for the procedure.

The Florence Times Daily reports that Rep. Steve Hurst (R-Munford) is proposing the bill for the 2014 legislative session, which begins in January. Hurst attempted to push this bill during the 2013 session, but it did not make it out of committee.

Under Rep. Hurst’s proposed legislation, convicted sex offenders over the age of 21 would be castrated prior to their release from prison if their victims were under the age of 12 years old. The castration would also be financed by the sex offender, and not by the correctional system, reports WFSB.

A CNN report from 2012 notes that at least nine states: including California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin already have versions of “chemical castration” in their laws. Such a process involves the administering of chemicals to take away sexual interest and make it impossible for the person to perform sexual acts.

The Alabama legislation does not detail the castration process to be used in the proposed bill.

The use of chemical castration remains controversial, with the practice being called “inhuman treatment” by Amnesty International.

“At first sight, forced chemical castration could be taken as a matter-of-course decision; however, it is incompatible with human rights, which are the foundation of any civilized democratic society,” Amnesty International wrote in its March statement.

Maybe it would be inhuman and in compatible with human rights, but then so is the crime these men committed. Actually, chemical castration may be more effective and less cruel than incarceration. Putting a child molester in prison has no effect on his desires and the nature of his crime will almost certainly single him out for harassment or violence from other inmates. I think the key here is whether the procedure will prevent recidivism. As for the old fashioned kind, that procedure is irreversible and it would be a shame if someone were discovered to be innocent after it was done. Besides, there is not much demand for harem guards these days.

Second, there is a grandmother who tried to hire a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law. Here is the story from Fox News.

A 70-year-old Florida grandmother is accused of hiring a hitman to murder her daughter-in-law. Diana Reaves Costarakis reportedly told an undercover agent that if he didn’t kill the woman, she would do it herself.

Florida police say that Costarakis claims her son’s wife is a drunk who was planning on leaving him and taking their child to Colorado. Angela Costarakis denies those allegations and said she had no idea her mother-in-law had it out for her. About three weeks ago, Angela said her mom-in-law gave her a hug and told her, “I’m so glad we’re great friends.”

Costarakis supposedly offered the undercover cop a $5,000 bounty. She was charged with criminal solicitation for conspiring with the officer at a Home Depot. Costarakis paid him $1,500 in cash and allegedly said he could take the jewelry off of the woman’s dead body for the rest of the bounty.

In every case like this that I have ever read about, the hitman always turns out to be an undercover policeman. I suppose there must be cases in which someone actually manages to contact a real hitman, but I never hear of them. Maybe a successful murder is never solved so the work of the hitman goes uncredited. I have a feeling, though, that real murders for hire tend to work for organized crime bosses and drug dealing cartels. I don’t imagine that many of them work free lance. I guess the lesson here is that if you want to kill someone, you had better do it yourself or get someone you already know and trust to do the job.

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Neville Chamberlain

October 14, 2013
Neville Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain (Photo credit: Irregular Shed)

 

If I mention the name Neville Chamberlain, chances are you will immediately form an image of a man holding aloft a piece of paper and proclaiming, “peace in our time” while Hitler was preparing for war. Chamberlain is generally regarded today as a dupe who foolishly believed that Hitler would keep his word and as a man who advocated appeasing an aggressor in order to keep the peace. I think this impression is just a little unfair. It is easy for us to condemn his actions. We know what happened next. Chamberlain did not have the advantage of our hindsight. A review of his career shows Chamberlain to be a capable politician and leader. He was not brilliant in the way his contemporary Churchill was, but he rose steadily and swiftly to Prime Minister.

 

Neville Chamberlain was born on March 18, 1869 in Birmingham. His father, Joseph Chamberlain, was a successful businessman and politician. Neville followed his father’s footsteps enter the worlds of business and politics. His party was the Liberal Unionist Party and then a Conservative when the parties merged. He was elected to the Birmingham city council in 1911 and became Lord Mayor in 1915. World War I had broken out and in 1916, Chamberlain was made the Director of National Service, which, among other duties, placed him in charge of conscription.

 

Neville Chamberlain then ran for Parliament and easily won election. He was a dutiful Member of Parliament, rarely missing debates or votes. He served terms as Minister of Health and Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Conservatives held a majority. In general, he was competent and was able to advance bills to reform the relief of the poor and help Britain pay off its war debts from World War I. As Exchequer, he cut the budget ruthlessly and by 1934 Britain had a surplus. His cuts included cuts in Britain’s defense, but Chamberlain was not clueless about the threat from Nazi Germany, and as Hitler began to rearm, Chamberlain increased defense spending again.

 

On May 28, 1937, Neville Chamberlain was named Prime Minister after the resignation of his predecessor. He became Prime Minister largely because he was next in line and it was his turn. He was not a very popular or inspiring figure in the Conservative Party and no one expected him to be anything but caretaker who hold the job until the next election. He was competent and might have been remembered as a good Prime Minister in more peaceful times. These  were  not peaceful times and Chamberlain was somehow not quite up to the task of managing the crises caused by Hitler’s increasing belligerence.

 

In March 1938, Hitler invaded and annexed Austria. Chamberlain denounced this violation of the Treaty of Versailles in Parliament, but there was nothing he could do about it. Judging from the cheering crowds that met the Wehrmacht as it marched into Vienna and from the results of the subsequent referendum, this seemed to be what most Austrians wanted. One could argue that since the Germans and Austrians were basically the same nationality, this union or Anschluss was simply an expression of Hitler’s nationalism. It didn’t mean, necessarily, that he wanted to conquer other nationalities. Next, Hitler demanded the sections of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland on the grounds that the German minorities in those regions were being persecuted. The fact that the Sudetenland happened to be a center of Czechoslovakian industry and an easily defensible border might have had something to do with Hitler’s demands. The Czechoslovakian government, knowing that without the Sudetenland their country would have little defense against Germany, resisted Hitler’s demands. Hitler threatened war.

 

So it was that in September, Chamberlain flew to Germany for a series of meetings with Hitler in order to resolve the crisis. Chamberlain may not have been as naive in these meetings as is generally supposed. He was not really impressed by his meetings with Hitler and was shocked by Hitler’s displays of temper. Still, Chamberlain was determined to keep the peace and at the last of these meetings, in Munich, he came to an agreement with Hitler to sacrifice the Sudetenland. The Czechoslovakian government was not consulted. Chamberlain flew back to London with that famous piece of paper. Hitler invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia the following March. 

 

It is easy to condemn Neville Chamberlain, in hindsight, but again, he could not know what the future held. He knew that Britain was not ready for war and he did not know that Germany wasn’t really prepared either, despite what Nazi propaganda asserted. One could even argue that Chamberlain’s actions bought valuable time for the allies. If so, Germany made better use of the time. Hitler made a formal alliance with Italy in May 1939, and negotiated a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in August. The agreement took the rest of the world by surprise since Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had been implacably hostile to one another. Stalin, however, had seen that the British and the French were interested only in appeasing Hitler, perhaps with the hope that Hitler’s attentions would be directed eastward against him. Stalin, therefore, was very receptive to the overtures made by Hitler. For his part, Hitler believed that by coming to such an agreement with Stalin, he would be able to avoid a two front war and would have a free hand against the west. The non-aggression pact also made it impossible for Britain and France to live up to their guarantees to protect the Poles from invasion. So, when the war came, Hitler was in a better position than he had been the year before.

 

I think that Chamberlain’s mistake was not that he was gullible or a fool. He knew Hitler was not very trustworthy. I think that Chamberlain’s mistake was in not realizing that Hitler was not playing by the same rules. He must have thought Hitler a German nationalist who wanted to expand Germany’s power, if it could be done without war. In other words, Hitler could be reasoned with. The idea that Hitler actually wanted war, that he glorified the struggle, may not have occurred to Chamberlain. He knew the contents of Hitler’s speeches, but perhaps he thought Hitler was only rallying his supporters.He didn’t really mean it, did he? He might have believed that Hitler might try to get around any treaty he signed, but surely he wouldn’t just openly violate an agreement he signed in less than a year, would he? Chamberlain was not the only one who underestimated Hitler. There were a good many German politicians who thought that once Hitler was brought into the government, he could be tamed. They couldn’t quite believe that he would overthrow the Weimar Republic as soon as he was made Chancellor and actually kill his opponents.

Perhaps the lesson of Munich is not that appeasement never works but that you should not take it for granted that your opponent is playing by the same rules or wants the same thing that you do. When dealing with countries like Iran or North Korea, it might be dangerous to assume that they are either crazy or rational in the same way we are. The leader of countries like these are not crazy and their behavior might be entirely rational, from their point of view. In any case, maybe it’s time to give Neville Chamberlain a break.

 

 

 

Columbus Day

October 14, 2013
Christopher Columbus, the subject of the book,...

Christopher Columbus, the subject of the book, was an explorer and one of the first European founders of the Americas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Columbus day in the United States, celebrating the day that Christopher Columbus reached the New World. In Berkeley and some other Leftist enclaves it is Indigenous People’s Day, in which Western Civilization is condemned for its many crimes against humanity. Columbus Day is no big deal, just a three day weekend for banks and such. Still, should we honor Christopher Columbus with a day?

I think we can absolve Columbus of the destruction of many Native American cultures and peoples. That was inevitable. Europe’s sailing and navigation techniques were advancing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before someone stumbled across the Americas. Since the natives were millenia behind in technology, they were doomed. They weren’t entirely helpless victims though. One of the first things that any Indian tribe did when they were contacted by Europeans was to arrange to trade for firearms to use against their traditional enemies. It does not seem to have occurred to them to form alliances against the European invaders until it was too late.

Still, Columbus did set the pattern by enslaving the natives of the islands he discovered.From the Wikipedia article there is this excerpt from his log.

From the 12 October 1492 entry in his journal he wrote of them, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.”[39] He remarked that their lack of modern weaponry and even metal-forged swords or pikes was a tactical vulnerability, writing, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”[40

He seems not to have been a very good governor of Isabella, the first Spanish colony in the New World. He was charged with excessive cruelty and sent back to Spain in chains. These charges might be false though, since Ferdinand and Isabella felt they had promised him too much reward for his discoveries. Before he set out, they had promised him governorship of the lands he discovered. As it became obvious to everyone but Columbus that he had discovered a whole continent, the king and queen wanted a bigger share.

Maybe the biggest reason not to celebrate is that he was wrong. The popular view is of Columbus bravely asserting that the Earth is round against the scholars and intellectuals of his time who “knew” the Earth was flat. Of course everyone knew the Earth was round. The scholars and intellectuals knew about how large the Earth actually was and they knew perfectly well that Columbus was fudging his calculations to make his voyage seem feasible. If the Americas hadn’t been in the way, his voyage would have ended in disaster.

For all that though, I like Christopher Columbus. Despite his flaws, and he was only a man of his time, he was brave and he had vision, two qualities that are rare enough in any time, especially our own. So, by all means, let’s celebrate this man and his deeds.

Lesus

October 13, 2013

Recently, the Vatican issued a commemorative coin to celebrate the accession of Pope Francis I, featuring the Latin phrase that inspired the new pope to become a priest. Unfortunately there was a minor error in the coins that required the Vatican to recall them. Here is an account in Yahoo News.

Copy editors the world over can empathize (and cringe) with this mistake.

The Vatican issued a recall this week because about 6,000 of commemorative coins spelled the name “Jesus” as “Lesus.”

The medallion celebrating Pope Francis, includes a Latin phrase that reportedly inspired the new pope to become a priest.

In English, the phrase reads: “Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, follow me.”

So it read, in Latin, “Lesus therefore…”. That isn’t too bad compared to other famous typos, and if you could acquire one of these defective coins they will no doubt become very valuable in coming years.

But as a coin dealer told The New York Times, the flawed coins could be highly sought after by collectors.

“Regardless of what the Vatican decides to do now, it’s an interesting purchase for a collector,” Francesco Santarossa, owner of a numismatic and philatelic shop near St. Peter’s Square in Rome, said in a phone interview. “I don’t think they ever made such a mistake in the 600-year-long history of papal medals.”

At least the mistake was only on a coin and not in a new edition of the Bible.

Of course, the Vatican copy editors aren’t the first to miss a typo. There are many other famous mistakes throughout the history of Christian printing.

For example, the 1631 printing of the King James Version Bible has been dubbed the “Wicked Bible.” As one peruses the 10 Commandments, one will notice that Exodus 20:14 reads “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

England’s King Charles 1 and the Archbishop of Canterbury were not amused. Most copies of that bible were burned. The printers were fined 300 pounds (a large sum at the time) and lost their printing license. Only 11 copies of the “Wicked Bible” are known to exist today. The New York Public Library and The British Library in London each have copies.

And there’s the 1612 King James edition of the “Printer’s Bible,” which famously rewrites Psalm 119: 161  “Printers have persecuted me without a cause” rather than “Princes have persecuted me…” Speculation is that a typesetter, disgruntled with his publisher, introduced this error.

There are many more examples of “bible errata,”often amusing in retrospect but scandalous in the day. For example, A KJV printing in 1611 became known as the “Judas Bible.” It replaced “Jesus” with “Judas” in the passage from Matthew 26:36 “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.”

I wonder if anyone with a copy of the Wicked Bible ever said to their spouse that they were required to commit adultery because the Bible told them so.

 

Redskins

October 9, 2013

Since President Obama has little of importance to do these days, he has decided to enter into a controversy over the name of the Washington football team, the Redskins. This name is reputed to be very offensive to our Native American population and changing this name, and other names of sports teams based on Native Americans is a top priority in the Native American community. Or is it? Actually, it seems that the great majority of Indians are not particularly offended by such names, and even if they are, most Native Americans have far more important things to worry about. I found this interesting story on the subject from the D. C. CBS affiliate, courtesy of the Drudge Report.

The name of a certain pro football team in Washington, D.C., has inspired protests, hearings, editorials, lawsuits, letters from Congress, even a presidential nudge. Yet behind the headlines, it’s unclear how many Native Americans think “Redskins” is a racial slur.

Perhaps this uncertainty shouldn’t matter — because the word has an undeniably racist history, or because the team says it uses the word with respect, or because in a truly decent society, some would argue, what hurts a few should be avoided by all.

But the thoughts and beliefs of native people are the basis of the debate over changing the team name. And looking across the breadth of Native America — with 2 million Indians enrolled in 566 federally recognized tribes, plus another 3.2 million who tell the Census they are Indian — it’s difficult to tell how many are opposed to the name.

The controversy has peaked in the last few days. President Barack Obama said Saturday he would consider getting rid of the name if he owned the team, and the NFL took the unprecedented step Monday of promising to meet with the Oneida Indian Nation, which is waging a national ad campaign against the league.

What gets far less attention, though, is this:

There are Native American schools that call their teams Redskins. The term is used affectionately by some natives, similar to the way the N-word is used by some African-Americans. In the only recent poll to ask native people about the subject, 90 percent of respondents did not consider the term offensive, although many question the cultural credentials of the respondents.

All of which underscores the oft-overlooked diversity within Native America.

I don’t think that I would be too upset by a team called the Whiteskins. I might even root for it, even though I am not much into sports.

Tommy Yazzie, superintendent of the Red Mesa school district on the Navajo Nation reservation, grew up when Navajo children were forced into boarding schools to disconnect them from their culture. Some were punished for speaking their native language. Today, he sees environmental issues as the biggest threat to his people.

The high school football team in his district is the Red Mesa Redskins.

“We just don’t think that (name) is an issue,” Yazzie said. “There are more important things like busing our kids to school, the water settlement, the land quality, the air that surrounds us. Those are issues we can take sides on.”

“Society, they think it’s more derogatory because of the recent discussions,” Yazzie said. “In its pure form, a lot of Native American men, you go into the sweat lodge with what you’ve got — your skin. I don’t see it as derogatory.”

Neither does Eunice Davidson, a Dakota Sioux who lives on the Spirit Lake reservation in North Dakota. “It more or less shows that they approve of our history,” she said.

Generally speaking, people name teams for people and things they admire. That is why you often see teams called Vikings or Bears but never Cockroaches or Liberals. The reason Indian names are used is because people admire the Native Americans as warriors and for their culture.

Redskins primary logo 1982

Offensive? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Native Americans are at the bottom in just about measure of social and economic progress. Most reservations are located on marginal land with few resources or job opportunities, unless the tribe can attract a casino. Poverty, crime and alcoholism are endemic to many Indian communities and they have to put up with an often corrupt and ineffective Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is likely that most Native Americans have more pressing issues to deal with. Of course solving these sorts of problems is difficult for activists. It is a lot easier to file lawsuits.

In 2004, the National Annenberg Election Survey asked 768 people who identified themselves as Indian whether they found the name “Washington Redskins” offensive. Almost 90 percent said it did not bother them.

But the Indian activist Suzan Shown Harjo, who has filed a lawsuit seeking to strip the “Redskins” trademark from the football team, said the poll neglected to ask some crucial questions.

“Are you a tribal person? What is your nation? What is your tribe? Would you say you are culturally or socially or politically native?” Harjo asked. Those without such connections cannot represent native opinions, she said.

Indian support for the name “is really a classic case of internalized oppression,” Harjo said. “People taking on what has been said about them, how they have been described, to such an extent that they don’t even notice.”

Harjo declines to estimate what percentage of native people oppose the name. But she notes that the many organizations supporting her lawsuit include the Cherokee, Comanche, Oneida and Seminole tribes, as well as the National Congress of American Indians, the largest intertribal organization, which represents more than 250 groups with a combined enrollment of 1.2 million.

I suppose that Suzan Shown Harjo has a better grasp of the concerns of her people than they do themselves. I think she should save for efforts for real concerns.

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Abandoning the Pretense

October 7, 2013

Nicholas Kristof writes in the New York Times that the media shouldn’t even bother to pretend to be objective since the Republicans are trying to blackmail the country. I don’t normally read the New York Times, so I have to thank Hotair.com for bringing his column to everyone’s attention. Here are some excerpts.

SUPPOSE President Obama announced:

Unless Republicans agree to my proposal for gun control, I will use my authority as commander in chief to scuttle one aircraft carrier a week in the bottom of the ocean.

I invite Republican leaders to come to the White House and negotiate a deal to preserve our military strength. I hope Republicans will work with me to prevent the loss of our carrier fleet.

If the Republicans refuse to negotiate, I will be compelled to begin by scuttling the U.S.S. George Washington in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, with 80 aircraft on board.

In that situation, we would all agree that Obama had gone nuts. Whatever his beefs with Republicans, it would be an inexcusable betrayal to try to get his way by destroying our national assets. That would be an abuse of power and the worst kind of blackmail.

And in that kind of situation, I would hope that we as journalists wouldn’t describe the resulting furor as a “political impasse” or “partisan gridlock.” I hope that we wouldn’t settle for quoting politicians on each side as blaming the other. It would be appropriate to point out the obvious: Our president had tumbled over the edge and was endangering the nation.

Today, we have a similar situation, except that it’s a band of extremist House Republicans who are deliberately sabotaging America’s economy and damaging our national security — all in hopes of gaining leverage on unrelated issues.

The shutdown of government by House Republicans has already cost at least $1.2 billion, with the tab increasing by $300 million a day. Some estimates are much higher than that.

The 1995 and 1996 shutdowns cost the country $2.1 billion at today’s value, and the current one is also likely to end up costing billions — a cost imposed on every citizen by House Republicans, even as members of Congress pay themselves.

The government shutdown and risk of default also undermine America’s strength around the world. It’s not just that 72 percent of the intelligence community’s civilian work force has been furloughed. It’s not simply that “the jeopardy to the safety and security of this country will increase” daily, according to James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

Nor is it just that the White House telephone number is now answered with a recording that says to call back when government is functioning again. It’s not simply that several countries have issued travel advisories about visiting America. It’s not just that we’re mocked worldwide, with the French newspaper Le Monde writing: “Jefferson, wake up! They’ve gone crazy!”

Rather, it’s that America’s strength and influence derive in part from the success of our political and economic model. When House Republicans shut our government down and leave us teetering on the abyss of default, we are a diminished nation. We have less influence. We have less raw power, as surely as if we had fewer aircraft carriers.

It is the executive branch that is making the decisions on what is deemed nonessential and it is the President who will not budge an inch on the implementation of Obamacare, even though its introduction has been fraught with glitches. It is the President who has decided to close down parks and monuments in order to make the shutdown hurt as much as possible. If we want to put things in terms of Kristof’s simile than it really is the President who is sinking aircraft carriers.

But this is beside the point. Here is the main point of the column.

Some Americans think that this crisis reflects typical partisan squabbling. No. Democrats and Republicans have always disagreed, sometimes ferociously, about what economic policy is best, but, in the past, it was not normal for either to sabotage the economy as a negotiating tactic.

The stakes rise as we approach the debt limit and the risk of default — which the Treasury Department notes could have an impact like that of the 2008 financial crisis and “has the potential to be catastrophic.” Astonishingly, Republican hard-liners see that potential catastrophe as a source of bargaining power in a game of extortion: We don’t want anything to happen to this fine American economy as we approach the debt limit, so you’d better meet our demands.

In this situation, it strikes a false note for us as journalists to cover the crisis simply by quoting each side as blaming the other. That’s a false equivalency.

So, journalists should not try to see both sides and report the facts so the reader can decide for himself. They should take the side of the Democrats because they are clearly in the right and the Republicans are clearly in the wrong. To be honest, I wish the mainstream media would abandon the pretense that they are objective. More and more they have become the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party and I wish they would just admit it.

 

Americans Love Obamacare

October 6, 2013

When I first saw the article titled The Truth is, Americans Love Obamacare in the Los Angeles Times, courtesy of Real Clear Politics, I thought that the author, Michael Hiltzik, must be delusional. After all, almost every poll has shown that Americans hate Obamacare, usually by fairly wide margins. As I read the article, I saw that Mr. Hiltzik is not delusional, but instead is displaying the sort of condescension often seen on the left when large numbers of Americans do not support their policies. This is the sort of attitude that leads them to write books called What’s the Matter with Kansas, in which they explain that the people who oppose them simply are too stupid to know what is good for them. Here is the article.

Among the many delusions guiding the Republican campaign against the Affordable Care Act, surely the most consistent is the idea that the public detests the law and is clamoring for repeal.

Here’s the truth: The American public loves Obamacare, with as many as 88% in favor, according to one survey.

How can that be, when polls regularly show a plurality of respondents with an “unfavorable” view of Obamacare? (In a September Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, the difference was 43% unfavorable to 39% favorable.)

The answer, of course, is that most Americans have no idea what’s in the law. In the Kaiser survey, 57% said they didn’t have enough information to know how it would affect them. When they’re asked how they feel about specific provisions, however, they’re almost always thunderously in favor.

Here are figures from Kaiser’s March 2013 poll:

Tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance: 88% in favor.

Closing the Medicare drug benefit doughnut hole: 81% in favor.

Extension of dependent coverage to offspring up to age 26: 76% in favor.

Expanding Medicaid: 71% in favor.

Ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions: 66% in favor.

Employer mandate: 57% in favor.

If you agree with those provisions, congratulations: You love Obamacare. Yet when respondents are asked how they feel about “Obamacare,” they’re against it.

The one provision that always polls negatively is the individual mandate. Unfortunately, the mandate is necessary if you’re going to outlaw exclusions for preexisting conditions. Without it, you’d bankrupt every health insurer in the country, because people wouldn’t enroll until they’re sick.

The only possible conclusion from all this is that the law’s opponents have succeeded brilliantly in marketing “Obamacare” as something it’s not, and its defenders have failed miserably at communicating what it is.

But that defines the history of Republican-versus-Democratic messaging over the last couple of decades. It’s the same stunt that brought us “death panels,” or that redefined the estate tax as the “death tax.”

The key moment was the 2010 midterm election, when Democrats ran away from their healthcare achievement as if it were poison, leaving it to their GOP opponents to place their own brand on the law; they should have stood up proudly for their handiwork.

The harvest is today’s government shutdown, which is predicated on the voters’ supposed hatred for a law they actually support.

See? Americans love Obamacare. They are all just too dumb to know it.

Mr. Hiltzik is correct in stating that without the individual mandate, none of the rest of Obamacace works. Insurers do not exclude people with preexisting conditions because they are run by mean people who like to torture puppies and kittens. They might very well be mean people who torture animals, but they know perfectly well that if they didn’t exclude preexisting conditions, no one would bother to get health insurance until they had such a condition. If you are going to make health insurance available to all, you are going to have to make people get it while they are healthy.

It is possible that rather than being fools who have been taken in by the Republican’s brand on the law, the Americans who oppose Obamacare may be quite reasonably concluding that however much they may like certain aspects of Obamacare, they are not willing to be compelled to purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not, in order to gain those parts they like. They may have all too clear an idea of what the law entails. The Democrats who ran away from their achievement might have known a thing or two about what the people thought that Hiltzik has been missing. After all, they jobs depend on how well they know what the voters want.

As for the death panels, I have stated before that death panels are going to have to be part of any healthcare system in which the government provides “free” healthcare. If Obamacare works out the way I think it will, it will not make healthcare more affordable. The combination of increasing demand and stable or decreasing supply will cause costs to skyrocket. If the free market is not used to balance supply and demand through pricing close to the actual costs, than healthcare will have to be rationed by the government or by the providers. This means that people will have to be refused treatments that are not deemed worthwhile, thus death panels. It doesn’t matter if Obama and every single Democrat supporting Obamacare have no intention of ever instituting death panels. The economics of the situation will ultimately demand it.

Who’s to Blame

October 4, 2013
James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ...

It’s all his fault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michael Barone has placed the blame for the current government shutdown and gridlock generally squarely where it belongs, on James Madison. He explains his reasoning in his column at Townhall.com.

The problem was caused by James Madison. And by the 39 other men who signed the Constitution in 1787.

The problem, of course, is the government shutdown. It was caused because the Framers of the Constitution wisely provided for separation of powers among the three branches of government.

The president would faithfully execute the laws and be commander in chief of the military, but both houses of Congress would have to approve of every penny the government could spend.

In the early republic, it was widely assumed that presidents could veto legislation only it was deemed unconstitutional. Disagreeing with policy was not enough.

That changed after Andrew Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1832 and was promptly reelected. Jackson claimed to act on constitutional grounds, but it came to be understood that presidents could veto laws they disagreed with.

That understanding, together with the constitutional structure, imposes something like a duty of consultation between the president and members of Congress. Otherwise — and you may have heard about this — the government will have to shut down.

Government shutdowns have occurred more frequently than the media is telling us.

Astonishingly, Obama said in a prepared statement that no president had negotiated ancillary issues with Congress when a shutdown was threatened. Four Pinocchios, said Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler.

The Post’s Wonkblog helpfully listed 17 government shutdowns since the late 1970s. Almost all involved legislative-executive disagreement over ancillary issues

Divided government is more the norm than the exception, and is likely to be a continuing feature of American politics.

Democratic voters — blacks, Hispanics, gentry liberals — are heavily clustered in certain central cities. They give Democrats an advantage in the Electoral College.

Republican voters are more evenly spread around beyond these Democratic bastions. That gives Republicans an advantage in the House of Representatives.

So both sides have a legitimate mandate — but not an unlimited one.

Republicans are furious that their members can’t defund or delay Obamacare. They want to see politicians stand up yelling, “No!” Theater has a function in politics.

But in fact, they’ve had a partial victory this year, a win that didn’t seem likely last December. By accepting the sequester despite its defense cuts, Republicans have actually dialed down domestic discretionary spending.

Democrats’ position now is essentially the sequester. They’re swallowing something they hate. No wonder Obama seems sullen.

So both sides will have frustratingly partial victories and not get everything they want. That’s how James Madison’s system is supposed to work in a closely divided country.

Darn those founding fathers. It almost seems that they were afraid that a government that was too centralized and powerful would devolve into tyranny so they placed all sorts of limits on the government. That’s just silly. Everybody knows that could never happen. The government is here to help us all and the best way to allow it to so it would be to get rid of all those pesky constitutional restrictions and allow the Light Worker to do his job. Right?

 

 

3-D Printer

October 4, 2013

I have been wondering what all the fuss is about 3-D printers and where I might be able to purchase one. Just today a got an e-mail from Hammacher Schlemmer showcasing their latest best and unexpected items for sale, including a 3-D printer.

The Desktop 3D Printer.

Winner of the Popular Mechanic’s Breakthrough Award, this is the printer that creates exact, three-dimensional reproductions of objects. Over a thousand free designs, such as an iPhone case, a bracelet, and the Sphinx of Hatshepsut can be downloaded from a website and the printer extrudes 1/125″-thin layers of warm, viscous thermoplastic that hardens within seconds, forming a solid, three-dimensional meticulous reproduction. Three-dimensional prints can measure up to 5 1/2″ cu. and for intricate designs that require reinforcement during printing, the device automatically incorporates plastic supports that can be removed when the print is finished. Design files are exported to the printer via Wi Fi or the included USB flash drive and the printer’s touchscreen control panel allows you to optimize print settings. Additional designs can be purchased and downloaded from the website or generated using three-dimensional modeling software (not included). Includes one cartridge of neon green plastic (additional colors available below) that yields up to 14 three-dimensional prints. Compatible with Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP and Mac OSX

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It looks great. This item can be mine for only $1300. I am going to have to order one quick before they run out.

I wonder if the design for the 3D printed gun is included.

 

 

 

The President is a Jerk

October 3, 2013

That’s the nicest thing I could call him for his present actions. What actions? President Obama is deliberately orchestrating the partial shutdown of the government in such a way as to inconvenience the greatest number of Americans possible. Read this article from the Daily Caller.

Although President Obama claims that he can’t avoid shutting down public sites and monuments, war memorials were in fact kept open during the 1995/1996 government shutdowns.  The administration’s decision to barricade the Lincoln Memorial marks the first time in its history the memorial has been totally off limits to visitors during a shutdown.

The administration has also balked at efforts by non-governmental groups to maintain access to public sites. (Related: RNC offers to pay to keep WWII memorial open)

But during the Clinton-era shutdown, World War II veterans kept the Pearl Harbor memorial open.

“Despite the federal government shutdown and an unrepaired sign that reads ‘Arizona Memorial closed,’ tourists are still getting expert commentary about the World War II memorial at Pearl Harbor,” wrote the Associated Press on January 1, 1996.

“It’s our way of helping to preserve the history of this place,” Bob Kinzler, president of the Aloha Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, told the AP.

Barricades went up in national parks across Washington, D.C. Wednesday, including the Lincoln Memorial. This, too, was unprecedented.

It is not clear how much taxpayer money the Obama administration is paying to ensure that government sites and services remain shuttered to taxpayers. Popular Washington spots such as the World War II memorial are now guarded by more security personnel than they are during normal operations, while federal employees have been dispatched to put up barricades on capital bike paths and other public grounds that are not usually patrolled at all.

Obama’s team has also been caught deliberately punishing World War II veterans trying to visit their own memorial, with one administration official telling a veteran’s supporter, “It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?” (Related: Obama admin. knew about WWII veterans’ request and rejected it)

The American people are currently paying for eight mounted cops to keep people out of the World War II memorial.

Daniel Burnett, a volunteer with Honor Flight, sent The Daily Caller FOAIed documents showing how much the Park Service is spending on the mounted police. To house, feed, and care for the horses it costs more than $41,000 year. Park police starting salary is $52,020, according to their website.

Another unprecedented aspect of the current shutdown is that the president has until Wednesday evening refused any discussions with the opposition leadership. In 1995 and 1996 President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich negotiated vigorously and struck several  compromises, such as 75-percent funding plan that lasted more than a month. (Related: US economy boomed during 1995/1996 shutdown)

I am positive that enough non-essential functions of government could be suspended in such a way that the average person might not even be aware of any shutdown at all. Instead, President Obama has decided to spend more money to make sure the public suffers from his tantrum.

Here is another one from PJMedia.

Most of the news about the “Shutdown Theater” — unnecessary closures ordered by the Obama administration to purposely maximize the pain of the government shutdown — has focused on the Washington, DC area, but the epidemic of artificial Potemkin Suffering has now struck the West Coast as well.

San Francisco’s Cliff House, a privately owned and very profitable restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean, was suddenly and unexpectedly ordered closed today, “because” the building sits on federal land. This, despite the fact that the Cliff House racks up $11.5 million in annual sales and is one of the most profitable independent restaurants in the nation.

How does the government save money by shuttering a profitable business? And a private one at that?

There are no federal employees at the Cliff House restaurant; a receptionist still manning the phones there today confirmed that all employees are paid by the restaurant’s owners, not by the government. As the Cliff House’s own Web site notes today, the restaurant is a “concessionaire” operating a business on Federal land — in this case, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which encompasses much of the Pacific shoreline along San Francisco and Marin counties — which means it is a private business which pays a fee to operate on government property:

Proof that this forced closure is only for political “optics” in an attempt by Obama to arouse public anger at the Republican controlled House of Representatives: While the waitresses and chefs were sent home today without paychecks, the restaurant’s managers continue to get paid as normal:

During the hiatus, servers and cooks will not get paid, according to a receptionist at the restaurant, though managers and receptionists — who will still be working — will continue to get paid.

If the restaurant was being closed because there was no money to pay employees due to the shutdown, then obviously everybody would get sent home. But no — as we have seen at various facilities around the country, only the employees who directly serve the public are being furloughed, because their absence causes inconvenience — while the behind-the-scenes managers and executives (and politicians) continue to draw their salaries as normal.

The absurdity is becoming more and more apparent every day as we learn that none of the closures are actually necessary at all, and didn’t happen during previous shutdowns.

The fact that the federal government twisted the arm of a private business to intentionally and unnecessarily inconvenience its customers (and lose money while doing so) proves that the Obama administration will stop at nothing to maximize the drama of its political brinksmanship.

I wish I could say this behavior was unexpected.

 

 


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