Friday, August 23, 2013

A germane comment on the  British Labour party

Inside Ed Miliband’s Labour Party it’s perfectly acceptable to express dissent. So long as it’s the correct form of dissent. Debate is tolerated, so long as the debate is scripted. Disloyalty is fine, so long as it’s the right sort of people who are being disloyal.

The “correct form” of dissent is basically any dissent that originates from the Left. So Tom Watson gets a pass, because he’s something of a darling of the Left, and anyway, he’s sticking up for the unions. Len McCluskey is someone else who gets a pass. He can attack any member of the shadow cabinet he sees fit, but that’s not disloyal. It’s a constructive contribution.

In fact, just about anyone can attack Ed Miliband, so long as they stick to the party line. That’s the line that basically states Ed Miliband’s main problem is he isn’t quite Left-wing enough. He was OK in the beginning (mustn’t embarrass those trade union leaders and Left-wing commentators who told everyone he was one of their own), but since then he’s lost his way a bit. Miliband’s head’s been turned by those nasty New Labourites. So, he can be criticised for not standing up to the Tories strongly on welfare, for the odd ill-timed immigration intervention, for not pledging to renationalise enough things (doesn’t really matter what), for not supporting the unions when they call a strike (doesn’t really matter what the strike’s about), and for not sacking Liam Byrne. All of these attacks are permissible.

What is not permissible is any sort of attack from the Right. You say Labour’s not tough enough on welfare? Traitor. Not tough enough on immigration? Racist traitor. Not tough enough on fiscal responsibility? Progress member.

Interventions from the Right, cannot, by definition, be the intervention of a loyal comrade. At best they represent the brain-dead wail of the Blairite zombie; at worst, the malign whisper of the Tory fifth columnist.

Is it any wonder Labour is in such a mess? Ed Miliband’s party isn’t embarked on a program of renewal, it’s staging a revival of “Animal Farm”. The Blairites strangled debate and neutered dissent, the Left argues. So to ensure that doesn’t happen again, we must strangle debate and neuter dissent ourselves. Only until everyone who disagrees with us is dealt with, you understand. Than we can all go back to disagreeing again.

When the Labour Left calls for “loyalty”, what it’s really calling for is silence. When it demands Ed Miliband “listens”, what its really demanding is his and his party’s acquiescence.

Orwell was right. All Labour loyalists are equal. But some are more equal than others.



Rule of Lawlessness

For four and a half abominably long years, we have recounted Barack Obama's lawlessness. He makes his own laws and ignores others, consistently showing an intractable contempt for Rule of Law. In a rebuke to the president, however, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last week issued a writ of mandamus, an unusual direct judicial order for the government to satisfy its legal obligation.

The matter at hand is Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. Long story short, candidate Obama promised to close the facility, and after he was elected his Energy Department attempted to revoke the Yucca Mountain license application. A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety board ruled unanimously that he couldn't do that -- so Obama stacked the NRC with appointees who shared his opposition to Yucca. The NRC then refused to conduct a review of the facility for licensing, despite a 1983 law requiring the review and Congress appropriating money for said review.

Writing for the DC Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said that "the Commission is simply flouting the law." Hence the writ of mandamus. Not only that, wrote Kavanaugh, but the case "raises significant questions about the scope of the Executive's authority to disregard federal statutes." While a president may choose not to enforce laws on constitutional grounds, Kavanaugh added that "the president and federal agencies may not ignore statutory mandates or prohibitions merely because of policy disagreement with Congress."

Obama enacted DREAM immigration policy without Congress, he delayed major aspects of his own health care law without Congress, he declared Congress in recess so as to appoint people to the National Labor Relations Board -- and that's not to mention his other "phony scandals." We're glad to see that, at least in this case, the Founders' system of constitutional checks and balances is still active.



Absurd Government Law Enforcement: The Great Organic Blackberry Raid

Government officials do some really crazy things in the name of law enforcement.  I recently wrote about an armed raid on an animal shelter in order to execute a baby deer.

That was paramilitary overkill (pun intended), though it probably didn’t waste as many tax dollars as the regulatory overkill of the year-long sting operation by the Food and Drug Administration against an Amish farm for the horrible crime of selling unpasteurized milk to consenting adults who prefer unpasteurized milk.

And let’s not forget Robert Norlander, the thuggish, dumpster-diving IRS agent, who sought to ruin the life of an innocent man because…well, for no reason.

Well, we now have something that may be even more absurd.

Radley Balko reports in the Huffington Post about “a massive police action last week that included aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid and a 10-hour search.”

Sounds like the cops must have been up against the mafia. Or a bunch of bank robbers, right?  Not exactly. They raided an organic farm.

    "…the real reason for the law enforcement exercise appears to have been code enforcement. The police seized “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants … native grasses and sunflowers,” after holding residents inside at gunpoint for at least a half-hour, property owner Shellie Smith said in a statement."

The cops claimed that they were looking for marijuana. Even if that was the actual goal, why not just send a couple of cops to the door? We’re talking about an organic farm, after all, not a crack house run by the Hell’s Angels.

But let’s at least be thankful the cops seized okra plants. The people of Arlington, Texas, can now walk the streets safely, freed from the danger of vegetables running amok.

So what triggered this raid?

    "…authorities had cited the Garden of Eden in recent weeks for code violations, including “grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, a couch and piano in the yard, chopped wood that was not properly stacked, a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house, and generally unclean premises,” Smith’s statement said. She said the police didn’t produce a warrant until two hours after the raid began, and officers shielded their name tags so they couldn’t be identified."

Oh. My. God. These criminals had improperly stacked wood? And insufficiently mowed grass? No wonder they needed a SWAT team!

If you read Radley’s entire story, it seems clear that the real issue is that neighbors didn’t like the messy conditions of the farm and they pressured the local government to do something about it.

I probably wouldn’t like living next door to somebody who kept a piano in their yard, so I’m sympathetic to their concerns.

And even though I’m libertarian and much prefer that neighborhood standards be determined by private agreements, even I’m not going to get overly agitated by zoning rules about couches in the front yard.

But why deal with this trivial conflict by ordering “aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid and a 10-hour search”?

Sounds like the local police force has a bloated budget and tries to justify its wasteful practices by concocting needlessly risky operations.



Study: Obamacare ‘Death Spiral’ Inevitable as Young People Forgo Insurance To Save Money

 A new study predicts that implementation of Obamacare’s individual mandate will result in a “death spiral” for the program because it incentivizes young people to skip purchasing health insurance in favor of paying a penalty that leaves them better off financially.

The 18-34 age group “must purchase health insurance on the exchanges in order to ‘cross-subsidize’ people who are older and sicker,” according to David Hogberg, health care policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Without the young and healthy, the exchanges will enter a ‘death spiral’ where only the older and sicker participate and [the] price of insurance premiums will increase precipitously.”

The study, released this month entitled, “Why the ‘Young Invincibles’ Won’t Participate In The ObamaCare Exchanges and Why It Matters,” finds that next year, single young people without children who “tend to be healthier and use less medical care," will have a financial incentive to opt out of buying health insurance on the exchanges.

They will save money by paying the resulting penalty, “$95 or one percent of income in 2014, $325 or two percent of income in 2015, and $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016 and thereafter,” whichever is greater.

“Over 3.7 million individuals will pay at least $595 out-of-pocket for a Bronze plan, meaning that they will save at least $500 if they decline insurance and pay the fine. About 3 million individuals will save at least $1,000 if they go the same route,” the study says.

The “death spiral” is the result of young people leaving the Obamacare insurance pool, which would lead to “‘adverse selection’ in which insurance is only attractive to those who are generally older and sicker.”

“Insurance prices will rise to cover their costs,” insurers will close down their business due to lack of profit, and the decrease in competition will lead to “even higher insurance premiums,” the study predicts.

The catalysts, according to Hogberg, include Obamacare's community rating, in which “young people have a reduced incentive to buy insurance since they will pay a premium that is above the market rate,” and its guaranteed issue, in which “an insurer must sell a policy to a consumer anytime.”

As a result, “those most likely to have small claims amounts – men – comprise a much larger percentage of those with substantial financial incentive to avoid the exchanges,” Hogberg reports, adding that young people’s savings from opting out of healthcare could then be used to pay for rent, groceries and transportation.

The study cites Kaiser Family Foundation data that shows “16 states and Washington, D.C. are setting up their own exchanges, 27 states have decided to let the federal government run their exchange, and seven states are setting up a ‘hybrid’ exchange in which the state and federal government share authority.”

“The irony is that one of the purported goals of Obamacare was to reduce the amount of people who are uninsured. The exchanges, though, may only increase their number,” Hogberg concludes.



Four Months After Their Abduction, Fate of Syrian Bishops Unknown

Orthodox Christians in Syria’s second city on Thursday will mark four months since their bishops went missing, their fate no clearer now than at any time since they were abducted by armed men and their driver shot dead near the Syria-Turkey border on April 22.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both based in Aleppo, are among at least five Christian leaders kidnapped this year in the Syrian civil war, in which minority Christians have been targeted by anti-Assad Sunni rebels who consider them to be supporters of the regime.

An Armenian Catholic priest, Michael Kayyal, and a Greek Orthodox priest, and Maher Mahfouz, were abducted when gunmen stopped the public bus they were traveling on near Aleppo on February 9; and an Italian Jesuit priest, Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing on July 29 in a rebel-held city about 100 miles east of Aleppo.

Greek and Syriac Orthodox officials have expressed frustration at the failure of attempts to find out where the bishops are, who is holding them, and for what purpose – or even if they are still alive.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population. Main denominations include Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Maronite.

Religious freedom advocates say hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled their homes to escape the fighting and harassment and worse by jihadist rebels. From Aleppo and Homs in particular, Christians have moved in large number to Damascus or across the border into Lebanon.



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