Friday, December 13, 2013

A stylish Danish blonde upsets a few applecarts

It would probably need a strong man to resist the opportunity of some fun with Helle Thorning-Schmidt.  She may be the Prime Minister of Denmark but she is also one attractive lady.  And as you can see from the photos, Mrs Obama was intensely unamused.  In fact she later swapped places with Mr Obama to separate him from the blonde.  Mr Obama no doubt felt he had a Republican in bed with him that night.

And the British Prime Minister copped a bit of flak too.  It is not known what Samantha Cameron said to him that night but he was chipped in Parliament and came out with the lamest of excuses.  See below.  He professed respect for Neil Kinnock.

Hopefully it was a joke.  Known in his day as the "Welsh Windbag", Neil Kinnock lost the "unloseable" 1992 British general election to the Conservative but soppy John Major, an event that generated immense soul-searching in the British Labour party. I remember at the time saying to a British Labour Party supporter:  "Your lot couldn't even beat John Major!"  The agony on his face was a graphic reply. Some Labour party people still profess respect for Kinnock but there must be very few others who profess any.

The upshot of that agony was the installation of Tony Blair  -- a man who was clever enough to use a lot of conservative talk while doing socialist things.  Mr Obama has clearly learnt from him the usefulness of words entirely unconnected to deeds.

Both Cameron and Obama have been criticised for their disrespectful behaviour at the funeral but when I heard that they were sitting through a 4-hour ceremony, I couldn't condemn them.

DAVID Cameron yesterday tried to defend his decision to pose for a light-hearted ‘selfie’ in the middle of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service – by claiming he was only being polite.

The Prime Minister attempted to laugh off the storm of criticism he provoked after larking around with Barack Obama and Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

He joked he was being ‘polite’ by agreeing to pose for a picture with Miss Thorning-Schmidt, the glamorous daughter-in-law of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock.


One wonders a little how it all went down in Denmark.  I imagine the Danes would be both amused and pleased.  If Denmark ever wants anything of either the USA or the UK, their Prime Minister is obviously in an extremely good position to make the request!  Any phone calls from Helle Thorning-Schmidt would obviously be put through straight to the top!  -- JR


A heartbreaking story

A woman who just wants to live is being killed by Obamacare


Everyone now is clamoring about Affordable Care Act winners and losers. I am one of the losers.

My grievance is not political; all my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics. For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.

My choice is to get coverage through the government health exchange and lose access to my cancer doctors, or pay much more for insurance outside the exchange (the quotes average 40% to 50% more) for the privilege of starting over with an unfamiliar insurance company and impaired benefits.

Countless hours searching for non-exchange plans have uncovered nothing that compares well with my existing coverage. But the greatest source of frustration is Covered California, the state's Affordable Care Act health-insurance exchange and, by some reports, one of the best such exchanges in the country. After four weeks of researching plans on the website, talking directly to government exchange counselors, insurance companies and medical providers, my insurance broker and I are as confused as ever. Time is running out and we still don't have a clue how to best proceed.

Two things have been essential in my fight to survive stage-4 cancer. The first are doctors and health teams in California and Texas: at the medical center of the University of California, San Diego, and its Moores Cancer Center; Stanford University's Cancer Institute; and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The second element essential to my fight is a United Healthcare PPO (preferred provider organization) health-insurance policy.

Since March 2007 United Healthcare has paid $1.2 million to help keep me alive, and it has never once questioned any treatment or procedure recommended by my medical team. The company pays a fair price to the doctors and hospitals, on time, and is responsive to the emergency treatment requirements of late-stage cancer. Its caring people in the claims office have been readily available to talk to me and my providers.

But in January, United Healthcare sent me a letter announcing that they were pulling out of the individual California market. The company suggested I look to Covered California starting in October.

You would think it would be simple to find a health-exchange plan that allows me, living in San Diego, to continue to see my primary oncologist at Stanford University and my primary care doctors at the University of California, San Diego. Not so. UCSD has agreed to accept only one Covered California plan—a very restrictive Anthem EPO Plan. EPO stands for exclusive provider organization, which means the plan has a small network of doctors and facilities and no out-of-network coverage (as in a preferred-provider organization plan) except for emergencies. Stanford accepts an Anthem PPO plan but it is not available for purchase in San Diego (only Anthem HMO and EPO plans are available in San Diego).

So if I go with a health-exchange plan, I must choose between Stanford and UCSD. Stanford has kept me alive—but UCSD has provided emergency and local treatment support during wretched periods of this disease, and it is where my primary-care doctors are.

Before the Affordable Care Act, health-insurance policies could not be sold across state lines; now policies sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges may not be offered across county lines.

What happened to the president's promise, "You can keep your health plan"? Or to the promise that "You can keep your doctor"? Thanks to the law, I have been forced to give up a world-class health plan. The exchange would force me to give up a world-class physician.

For a cancer patient, medical coverage is a matter of life and death. Take away people's ability to control their medical-coverage choices and they may die. I guess that's a highly effective way to control medical costs. Perhaps that's the point.



Celebrity Hypocrites

John Stossel

I'm annoyed that so many Hollywood celebrities hate the system that made them rich.

Actor/comedian Russell Brand told the BBC he wants "a socialist, egalitarian system based on the massive redistribution of wealth."

Director George Lucas got rich not just from movies but also by selling Star Wars merchandise. Yet he says he believes in democracy but "not capitalist democracy."

Actor Martin Sheen says, "That's where the problem lies ... It's corporate America."  ...  And so on.

On my TV show, actor/author Kevin Sorbo pointed out that such sentiments make little sense coming from entertainers. "It's a very entrepreneurial business. You have to work very hard to get lucky, mixed with any kind of talent to get a break in this business. I told Clooney, George, you're worth $100 million -- of course you can afford to be a socialist!"

It's bad enough that celebrities trash the only economic system that makes poor people's lives better.  What's worse is that many are hypocrites.

Celebrities who support big-government politicians routinely take advantage of tax breaks, which reduce the amount they contribute to that government.

It's nice that Obama supporter Bon Jovi has a foundation that builds houses for poor people, but at tax time, the musician labels himself a "farmer." He pays only $100 in state property tax. And his tax dodge gimmick: raising honeybees.

Bruce Springsteen sings about factories closing down but pays little tax on the hundreds of acres of land he owns. His dodge: An organic farmer works his land.

Hollywood's campaign to "save the earth" brings out the most hypocrisy. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio recently announced, "I will fly around the world doing good for the environment." Really? Flying around the world? I'm amazed they're not embarrassed by what they say.

Maybe they don't know how clueless they are because reporters rarely confront them about their hypocrisy. Hollywood reporters want access to celebrities, and posing uncomfortable questions reduces that access.

To fill the gap, Jason Mattera, author of "Hollywood Hypocrites," confronts hypocritical celebrities.

He and his cameraman located Harrison Ford after the actor had himself filmed getting his chest hair waxed. Ford said the pain of ripping out his chest hair should make us think about the pain the earth feels when trees in a rainforest are cut down. Chest hair, rain forest -- get it? But that environmental message came from a celebrity who owns (SET ITAL) seven (END ITAL) airplanes. Ford once even flew his private jet to get a cheeseburger!

"I don't care that he owns seven airplanes," said Mattera, "but do not lecture the rest of us that we're on the precipice of global warming Armageddon while you have a sasquatch-sized carbon footprint." Even though Ford ignored Mattera when confronted by him, at least he was forced to listen to someone questioning his positions.

Some actors wake up to the burden of big government when they try doing something outside acting. Actors usually collect a paycheck. They rarely deal with government regulation; their agent handles the details.

When actor and lifelong Democrat Rob Schneider tried launching a business, he was so offended by California's burdensome regulation that he left the state and changed political parties.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was enthusiastic about free markets when he owned a bricklaying business. But, unfortunately, during his time as California governor, he started to act more like a supporter of big government. Being a politician has that effect on people, especially in California.

Actors Drew Carey and Vince Vaughn are among the few others who've seen the light. On ReasonTV, Carey said, "We don't need a centralized government to tell us what to do all the time."

On a radio show, Vaughn recently said, "I'm very supportive of Ron Paul ... As you get older ... you just get less trust in the government running anything. If you look at the Constitution and the principles of liberty, the real purpose of government is to protect the individual's right."

Hooray for Carey and Vaughn. Maybe they'll convince their colleagues.



Income Redistribution: Last GM Shares Sold

More than four years after U.S. taxpayers bailed out a flailing General Motors, the government sold its remaining shares in the company this week, leading Barack Obama to announce, “GM has now repaid every taxpayer dollar my administration committed to its rescue, plus billions invested by the previous administration.” There's just one problem: it isn't true. Shocking, we know.

When the Obama administration put taxpayers on the hook for $49.5 billion to prop up the auto giant, the government received in return a 60.8% stake, or 912 million shares, in GM. With the sale of the remaining shares, the government recovered $39 billion of the bailout. For those in the administration who can't apply basic math, that's a $10.5 billion difference – a far cry from Obama's “every taxpayer dollar” repaid claim.

Naturally, the president omitted this small fact in his announcement, instead touting his refusal to let GM fail and bragging that his administration “bet on what was true” and “that bet has paid off.” In no other arena – indeed, in no sane reasoning anywhere – would a 21%, $10.5 billion loss be called a payoff. Indeed, it certainly didn't pay off for the American taxpayer. But then again, none of Obama's policies have, so why would we expect this one to be any different?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mandela's motives

If you read conservative blogs, you will be aware by now that the idolatry of Nelson Mandela that you see in the mainstream media is far from universally shared.  The fact is that Mandela was always a Communist and was a very active terrorist in his youth  -- which is why the Boer regime imprisoned him in a high security prison for 27 years.  A relatively mild "alternative" account of Mandela is here.  And even after he became President, he maintained cordial relations with such charmers as Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro.

So how come he managed the transition from white rule to black rule so peacefully?  Why did he not act out the hostility which he expressed for all his life?  Nobody seems to answer that.  They just see the years of his Presidency as the manifestation of a "great soul", which he clearly was not.  A great hater, maybe.

I think the answer is obvious and I am a little bemused that it once again seems to fall to me to identify the elephant in the room.  The answer is that he knew what a tough lot the Boers are and was afraid of them.  After what the Boers did to the British Empire, a rabble of blacks would have been a snack for them.  After all in the Apartheid years the South African police force was quite small relative to population.  The Boers did not need much to suppress back discontent.

And Mandela was right to fear the Boers.  They still held all the levers of power in South Africa  -- police, army, bureaucracy, media etc.  Had they been energized to act in response to extensive violence encouraged by the new black regime, there can be no doubt that the violence would have been decisively crushed and only a semblance of black rule would have continued.

The peaceful Mandela was a coward, not a great soul.  But cowardice was probably wise in the circumstances


Gun charges against George Zimmerman dropped, media hardest hit

It was reported almost from the very beginning that George Zimmerman’s most recent girlfriend was just as erratic as the previous women in his life, and the Daily Mail now confirms it:

    George Zimmerman’s girlfriend has dropped charges against him just weeks after she claimed he pointed a shotgun at her and smashed her stuff, and now she even wants him back, it has emerged.

    Samantha Scheibe called 911 in November, telling operators Zimmerman was brandishing a weapon during an argument and that she feared for her life. He was charged with a felony aggravated assault charge among other charges.

    He is now asking to have conditions of his bail modified so he can resume contact with Scheibe, who, according to court documents filed by Zimmerman’s attorney, gave a sworn statement that read: ‘I do not want George Zimmerman charged.’

    Zimmerman, 30, had been barred from contacting the 27-year-old blonde after he posted $9,000 bond. He was also forced to give up his guns and wear a GPS monitor.

    According to ABC News, Scheibe says in a new affidavit, dated December 6, ‘When I was being questioned by police I felt very intimidated…I believe that the police misinterpreted me and that I may have misspoken about certain facts in my statement to police.’

    Scheibe went on to say in the statement that Zimmerman ‘never pointed a gun at or toward my face in a threatening manner’ and that ‘I want to be with George.’

Tomorrow, I’ll be expecting a revelation that Zimmerman is actually a Koch Brothers-created cyborg designed to cause Piers Morgan to have a stroke, which Morgan will likely have once he discovers that Zimmerman will soon have his trio of handguns, his Kel-Tec KSG shotgun, and his AR-15 in his posession.



More Physicians Are Refusing to Accept Any Third Party payment

A small but growing number of physicians are not accepting government insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and are even refusing to accept patients’ private insurance, according to Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

Orient says the transition to a business model in which patients agree to pay doctors directly for the health care services they provide started before Obamacare was passed, but that the new law has accelerated the trend, especially among AAPS’ 4,000 or so members.

AAPS is the conservative alternative to the much larger American Medical Association (AMA), which endorsed Obamacare while AAPS opposed it.

“They like the freedom,” Orient, a Tucson-based internist, told “They don’t like third parties telling them why they can’t do what’s best for their patients. They’re tired of the constant threats of audits and prosecution, and they don’t like being owed money by government programs and many insurance programs.

“But the biggest complaint I hear is that they are tired of fighting people who don’t have a clue, and don’t even know how to spell the procedure they want to perform,” Orient added. “It just devours time and sometimes puts the patient’s life at risk.”

Some physicians never signed up with managed care insurance plans in the first place because the reimbursement levels didn’t cover their costs, she said.

But now even doctors who “agreed to accept the crumbs, whatever compensation the government or the insurance companies decide to send them,” are having second thoughts as the costs of practicing medicine continues to climb and government regulations become even more onerous.

“I get several calls a week from doctors seeking advice on how to opt out,” Orient told “They tell me that they either have to go out of business or go back to the old-fashioned practice of charging for their services.”

At least 100 physicians attend workshops and seminars AAPS sponsors twice a year on the subject. Former AAPS president Dr. Juliette Madrigal-Dersch, who started her cash-only practice in Texas 11 years ago, tells fellow physicians that she has more time and flexibility to spend with patients and is actually better compensated for it, even after offering a discount for “teachers and preachers” and free care for cancer patients.

“I see billionaires and migrant workers, and everybody gets the same care,” she says.

She charges $15 for a CBC (complete blood count), while the tax-subsidized “charity hospital” down the street charges $79. Medicare reimbursement is just $3.50 for the same test.

Madrigal-Dersch says that by not having to deal with third-party payers, she is able to establish “a true doctor-patient relationship,” enabling her to provide better care. For example, she says one of her patients would probably have died waiting for the Veteran’s Administration to approve an MRI for her brain tumor.

In June, the association’s website added a sample document AAPS members can use to opt out of Medicare.

“Once CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] unleashes its dreaded new program of ‘private auditors’ to shake down physicians in the Medicare program, far more physicians will likely opt out – and even more will wish they had,” the AAPS website states. It also includes a state-by-state list of physicians who have already done so.

Doctors who stop accepting insurance typically lose patients and experience a drop in income, Orient said. Some never recover the revenue, but because they don’t have to pay people to process insurance claims, their overhead costs also decrease.  “Before too long, they often find the move very positive financially as well as professionally because they are working less and making more money,” she pointed out.

“I hope that this will spread,” she added. “Obamacare is turning the nation’s health care system into a Third World experience, just like the website. It doesn’t have to be this way.”



Knockout Game Goes right

In an apparent case of the “Knockout Game” gone wrong, new video shows a man attempting to hit a girl and knock her down, but his plan backfires when the woman hits him back.

The incident, which reportedly happened in a Las Vegas shopping mall, shows the woman retaliate as soon as she is hit by the man. She starts to beat him on the head when another man, who is reported to be her boyfriend, runs back to try to break it up when he realizes that the guy hit her.

“You hit a girl?” the apparent boyfriend asks before springing into defense mode and helping the woman beat the man. People are watching the incident unfold, asking what happened, before the woman and her boyfriend angrily walk away.

The man who had originally hit the woman is seen, at the end of the video, lying on the ground in the fetal position with a bloody nose. Since being posted to World Star Hip Hop yesterday, the video has already garnered over a million views and about 4,300 comments.



Obama’s class warfare claptrap

On Dec. 4, President Barack Obama in a major speech on economic policy spoke of “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain.”

He thinks it is income inequality that is holding back regular Americans. But for that to even be a problem, many Americans would first need an income.

Yet according to the latest job numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, folks are not even entering the labor force (i.e. looking for work), let alone finding jobs at the rate needed to significantly improve labor market conditions.

That is the real problem with the Obama economy. Not fairness, but simply the lack of opportunity.

Since 2009, the civilian non-institutional population aged 25 to 64 has increased by 4.2 million. The workforce, however, has not grown to match the population increase. Those working or looking for work shrank by 165,000.

For that reason, the so-called unemployment rate for that age category has dropped from 7.4 percent to 5.7 percent, and yet the participation rate in the workforce has dropped from 79.1 percent to 76.9 percent.

Mind you, this excludes those over the age of 65 to eliminate any doubt that declining labor participation is because of Baby Boomers retiring en masse. They are not.

If anything, seniors are working longer.

Labor participation (i.e. working or looking for work) among those 65 years and older has increased from 17.3 percent to 18.6 percent, meaning seniors are actually working longer, a theme certainly borne out by data.

There are 1.7 million more seniors are working today than in 2009, a 27 percent increase. For comparison, those working aged 25 to 64 increased by just 2 million, a 1.75 percent increase.

While the fact that 2 million aged 25 to 64 found jobs may seem like good news, relative to 2009’s 73.2 percent employment population ratio, it should have more like 3 million found jobs.

In simple terms, these means almost 1 million people in their prime earning years are not participating in the economy.

That is an alarming statement on current labor market conditions.

So, with all due respect to Obama’s screed against income inequality, that is not what is wrong with the economy. It is his assault on America’s private job-creation engine, and the failure to recover from the financial crisis.

Between Obamacare, the EPA, and bailing out financial institutions, Obama has done more to destroy middle income jobs while protecting the super wealthy than anyone and now wants to everyone to believe has a solution to the very inequality for which he is responsible.

If Obama truly wants to jumpstart an economy that will create jobs at all, he should immediately rescind those same EPA regulations, Obamacare mandates, and job-killing bailouts that divert resources from productive activities to government bonds.

In short, he should get the government out of the way and out of the class warfare business.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Little Change in Small-Town Life

When the family of seven sitting near the front of Connie's Corner restaurant discreetly held hands and bowed their heads in prayer before their meal, no one in the bustling diner seemed surprised.
At the same moment, 400 miles east at Sotheby's auction house in New York City, "Saying Grace" sold for $46 million. The painting by Norman Rockwell vividly depicts a crowded restaurant (not so unlike Connie's Corner) where a grandmother and her grandson pray at a table as truck drivers watch.

In the 62 years since Rockwell brought a family in prayer to life on canvas, some aspects of how Americans conduct their lives have remained the same - such as a family praying before dinner in this northern panhandle town.

"I love that about Chester and small-town American cities," said Scott Paulsen about the family giving thanks for their food. The 54-year-old WDVE morning radio host in Pittsburgh spent his childhood here, exploring the nearby woods and finding adventure along the train tracks.

Connie's Corner was Allison's Restaurant when Paulsen moved here from Baltimore as a seventh-grader. Connie Hissam was a waitress then; today she owns the restaurant. "What a great American success story," Paulsen said of her rise from employee to employer.

When Paulsen's family moved to Chester for his father's management job in the steel industry, a red-and-white building in the shape of a teapot sat across the street from their new home; attached to a pottery outlet, it was used to sell trinkets and hot dogs to travelers. Today, after the town rallied to save the 1930s roadside relic, it sits proudly on a corner of the Lincoln Highway, a beacon to locals and visitors.

In the beginning, Chester's prosperity depended on the very soil upon which it rested and the river that curved around it; the clay and the water were ideal for making pottery. The town rose and fell with both the pottery and steel industries.

"We do fine here," said Hissam, who has owned the restaurant for nearly 10 years. The Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort and the Homer Laughlin factory are the area's biggest local employers, she said.n her diner, brightly colored Fiestaware dishes and platters made a mile away at the Homer Laughlin factory are filled with eggs and bacon, turkey and stuffing, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Homer Laughlin employed more than 3,500 locals in its heyday in 1929, but the decline in American-made pottery already had begun when tariffs were removed from pottery imports in 1910.
This is a slice of America that has ebbed and flourished over the years. Yet, for the most part, the people who live here remain the same; they still go to the same church on Sundays, still walk "up the street" to pick up milk and eggs, and still go hunting with friends and family.

What they don't do is protest for higher wages outside a small business like Connie's Corner; they don't feel entitled to much of anything - other than some peace and quiet to watch a football game or a boxing match - and they find irony in President Obama speaking about economic inequality while standing on one of the wealthiest patches of real estate in the country.

Most of all, they enjoy hard work and being part of a community. Just ask a woman named Irene, who retired from Homer Laughlin after 42 years as a brusher in the decorating department; she returned to the plant less than two years later, she said, because she missed both of those things.

Rockwell's "Saying Grace," played out in real life here, gives an observer the emotional tug of roots and continuity; it makes you feel good about yourself, your community and your relationships, and it provides a texture that is sometimes missing in our daily lives.

Our constant news cycle and the politics of Washington tend to make us believe that we live in a nation filled with self-indulgence and hatred. But most folks don't see it that way. The truth is, we are surrounded by good deeds. They are not exceptional, newsworthy moments, but they are there - and all you have to do is look up from your iPhone to see them.



The Liberal God Dies Again

The god of liberalism is an idea and ideas are notoriously fragile things. They fall apart once they make the transition from the ivory tower of the mind to the mud and dross of reality. Every writer and artist has had the experience of holding a perfect ideal in his mind only to lose it as he struggles to set it down on canvas or paper. The creative process is that recognition that the ideal cannot be made real.

Liberalism, progressivism and the various names by which the modern left identifies and is identified is the belief that the ideal can and must be made real. That anything short of the ideal is a savage state of repression, tyranny, patriarchy, fascism and the whole litany of crimes against ideal humanity.

The liberal god rises as an idea and dies again. And rises again. No matter how many times the whole thing ends in blood and bankruptcy, the worshipers return to worship the coming of the god again.

"People in every corner of the globe who saw in him a hope for the future and a chance for mankind. We weep for our children and their children and everyone's children: For he was charting their destinies as he was charting ours," Art Buchwald wrote in the International Herald-Tribune after the assassination of JFK.

In Buchwald's crude Stalinist panegyric, JFK was a deity who charted the destinies of the whole world. "He cared about all of us," he writes. No sparrow could fall but that JFK would see it. JFK would help the "Negro", the "working man", "the artist, the writer and the poet",  "teachers and pupils" and even "old people".

But John F. Kennedy the man with flaws and strengths is not present in the North Korean scale orgy of leader worship because it isn't really him that Buchwald is mourning. It isn't Kennedy the man that liberals weep for every year. It is liberalism.

Camelot is liberalism. The death of Kennedy was the death of the idea. Liberalism didn't die, but its best avatar did. The ideal became the real with a magic bullet. The man who was supposed to chart the destiny of the world couldn't save himself from a "single lousy Communist" who killed the hope that he was supposed to represent.

The god of liberalism vests in an avatar like Kennedy or Obama. The avatar is messianic. It is superhuman. Its empathy is unlimited. Its liberal godhood elevates us all by merely being in its presence, hearing it speak or reading one of its speeches. It is the idea made flesh. The secular god.

But the god of the left must die. It is a mad illusion to think that any man can chart the destinies of the world. Buchwald put far too great a burden on JFK. Had a lousy Communist not killed him, then, like Obama, he would have lived to disappoint and infuriate his followers.

The Russians went mad when Stalin died. The North Korean weeping was equally insecure. When you believe that your destiny is charted by a man who is the only hope for your future; what can you do but weep, not for him, but as Buchwald writes, "We weep for the millions of people who are weeping for him."

The ideas of the left always fail because the avatars and muses always fail. The ideas that seem so bright in theory fail when confronted with the actual task of charting human lives and the unpleasant reality that the Negro, the working man, the old people and the students may not want the same things that the idealists want for them.

For a golden moment, the avatar of liberalism makes it seem as if all things are possible, he weaves an enchanting spell of transcendence that promises that paradoxes can be reconciled and that people will set aside their "selfish" needs and interests. They will stop thinking of themselves and start thinking of what they can do for their country. They will become the change they were waiting for.

The progressive ideal is that all men and women will become avatars of the liberal god in the same way that what we think of as Communism was only meant as a temporary system of rule that would give way to the true Communism in which there would be no more need for rulers and secret police because each man would be a true Communist with no need for external pressure and coercion.

Instead of this golden age, the tyranny of the avatar grows, coercion increases, protests spread and the project decays into a totalitarian state or is overthrown. The golden age never arrives. The ideal is slain by the real. And the true believers go into mourning for what might have been.

The tyranny of the ideal is the most brutal of all tyrannies for men and women are not ideal; they are real. Its plans are bound to fail and yet it has such a passionate grip on the minds of its believers that it is bound to rise again and again.

And so this cycle of the liberal god who dies and rises again, dies and rises, keeps repeating. As long as the tyranny of the ideal remains a rallying cry, as long as men and women choose to believe that a better world can be created through central planning, forcible redistribution and mass reeducation then the cycle will continue. No matter how often the liberal god dies, he will rise again.

The secular god of the progressive ideal has become an entity of life, death and rebirth. Its failures only incite its followers to believe that it will come again. It does not matter how many gulags and mass graves lie in its wake. It is a matter of faith. And in a secular world, there is nothing left to believe in except a better world.

Obama is dying now. ObamaCare, his great work, has failed. Like Ra and all the others, he will pass into the darkness and the ideas will reemerge again in a new avatar. Perhaps it will be Elizabeth Warren. Or someone else. And it will not be remembered that health care nationalization does not work. Like Communism, it will only be another experiment that was carried out incorrectly.

Men are flesh and blood. They are born and they die. But ideas appear to transcend them. That is what attracts men to ideas. Even the worst of them carry the taste of immortality on their lips.

"Alone--free--the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he IS the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal," O'Brien declares in Orwell's 1984.

And so the messiahs come offering transcendence through submission to the Party. But they die and they fail, and the Party, that ugly confused creature with a million mindless heads, a trillion talking points, and no soul, looks around for a new avatar to embody its secular religion.

A man who will call for the submission of the world so that the world may become the Party and the Party may become the world.

"'We are the priests of power, god is power," Orwell tells Winston. This is the liberal priesthood of community organizers and activists, NGO chiefs and talking heads, senate aides and prattling pundits who wait for a god who will justify their power and their cruelty, who will convince them that their immortality within the body of the Party is within reach.

And then he dies and they appoint another avatar to embody the progressive godhood and wait again for their community organizer god to be born anew.

This liberal avatar will care for the Negro, the working man, the artist, the poet and writer, the teacher and the pupil, he will "save us from war", "command" us and "chart the destinies" of the whole world. He will do what he was unable to do in any of his prior reincarnations-- he will make the ideal into the real, he will make the impossible ideas of the left finally work.



ATF Ruins the Lives of Disabled Teenagers to make themselves look good

If you don't already know by now, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms can't even run a store without royally screwing up. Nearly one year ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on an ATF sting gone bad when the bureau tried to catch bad guys by setting up a store. The sting ended in a damaged rent space, $35,000 in stolen goods and with a fully automatic machine gun lost on the city streets.

Now it appears ATF failed during another store front sting and is punishing teenagers they convinced to help them by throwing them in jail. We're talking about ATF agents convincing mentally disabled kids to get giant squid neck tattoos, having them participate in a sting operation, arresting them for participating and then calling it a success. You can't make this up:

Aaron Key wasn't sure he wanted a tattoo on his neck. Especially one of a giant squid smoking a joint.  But the guys running Squid's Smoke Shop in Portland, Ore., convinced him: It would be a perfect way to promote their store.

They would even pay him and a friend $150 apiece if they agreed to turn their bodies into walking billboards. Key, who is mentally disabled, was swayed.

He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid's. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, "Squid," and the store clerks.

So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collarbones.

It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid's were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.

The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.  The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.

In an effort to cover their behind for this insane and reckless behavior, ATF has tried to pin failed storefront incidents and the abuse of the disabled on the "this was an isolated incident," argument. The Sentinel further reports these kinds of incidents are hardly isolated and are happening all over the country.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

More on Pope Francis

I have to conclude that Evangelii gaudium is a failure as a policy document.  It has been extensively misunderstood.  As I think I showed yesterday, a careful reading of it favours neither Left nor Right in politics.  Francis identifies what he sees as a raft of social problems and many of those problems are ones that Leftists dine out on. But he does not call for political action to remedy those problems .  He recommends prayer and personal compassion as the response to such problems.

But just about nobody seems to have noticed that. The Left think he has come down firmly on their side and conservatives  see him as pro-Left  too.  See for instance here for a conservative critique.

The problem as I see it is that people on both sides of politics in the Western world see a statement of social grievances as a call for political action.  So Francis has misjudged his audience.  He is politically naive: Rather surprising in a Jesuit.

Past Popes in their encyclicals have taken care to remain in the middle ground of politics.  John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus annus is a good example of that.  Fortunately, Evangelii gaudium is an informal document so is not binding in any way.  So Francis should move soon to issue an encyclical which cancels out the naive political views that are expressed in Evangelii gaudium.  He will lose a lot of conservative Catholics otherwise.  And Leftists are not conspicuous as churchgoers.  His good intentions may be bad for his church.  Pius XII came quite unfairly to be called "Hitler's Pope".  Will Francis come to be known as "Stalin's Pope"?  -- JR


Another senseless shooting of an American white by American blacks

Though it obviously made sense to the limited minds of the blacks concerned

An Iraq veteran who thought he was buying an iPad as a Christmas present after responding to a Craigslist posting, has been shot dead in an Indianapolis parking lot by the fake sellers.

New-dad Jim Vester, 32, was lured to an address on Wednesday in the west side of the city and brothers Tyron Kincade, 19, and Tyshaune Kincade, 18, have been arrested after Vester was shot dead leaving behind his one-year-old son, Gavin and wife, Jamie.

In the wake of the senseless murder, nearly 1,500 people have donated $58,000 to a fundraiser set up by Vester's family for the man described as a 'great cook, loving father and faithful man.'

'He would drop everything and cross town to help you and your family,' friend Master Sgt. Jerry Wurm said.

Vester was a career military man, with 12 years of service in the Indiana National Guard, including a year-long tour of duty in Iraq in 2006.


More documentation of black on white violence here.


In Government We Trust: The Progressive Religion

With a storied history of attacking people of faith as extremists, radicals and the greatest threat this nation faces, it seems odd to see progressives embrace religion in their “advance the agenda at any and all costs” march. But they are, with vigor.

The wheels are coming off the progressives’ dream of a cradle-to-grave entitlements, amnesty-ridden nanny state. Their wish list for complete government control – and their predictions the government shutdown would be the end of the GOP have been sacrificed to an Obamacare rollout that has enjoyed all the success of the Hindenburg (except on MSNBC, of course, where the Earth remains flat).

Since the government reopened on Oct. 17th, the American people have had an unfiltered look at what progressive policy means to them, and they don’t like it. Not only have President Obama’s approval ratings tanked since Americans got a look at his “signature legislation,” the generic ballot for control of the House of Representatives has gone through a dramatic flip. The chances of Congressional Democrats retaking the House have sunk lower than that of a hooker with an open cold sore getting a date at a eunuch convention before the bars open.

As such, desperate times require desperate measures. Enter the religious appeal.

It’s not overt, for the most part, and it’s certainly not well thought out. But when the ship starts to sink you grab whatever you can to bail it out, bucket or coffee mug.

What has happened is Democrats’ previously uncheckable lies are now fully checkable. It’s real now. You can’t keep your doctor or insurance, no matter how much you like them. And this hurts in the wallet – a lot. Now that we know this does not qualify as a practical solution, certainly not to health care anyway, Democrats –with all the credibility of a used-Pinto salesman – now embrace “morality” as the reason to embrace Obamacare.

In a column reeking of desperation on par with a kid hoping for a unicorn under his Christmas tree, the Washington Post’s Ryan Cooper complied a list of reasons “Why millennials will come around on Obamacare.” Aside from a desperate lack of understanding of health policy and how people work, the second reason Cooper lists stands out. He writes, “Going without health insurance is morally wrong.”

I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.

This pathetic attempt to manipulate the unthinking into an overwhelming sense of guilt that forces them to capitulate may work on those with fewer IQ points than fingers, but it won’t work on those with a third-grade education.

Cooper explains, “The only way insurance can work for everyone is if everyone is in the system so risk can be pooled. This one doesn’t carry much weight yet, since the system isn’t even operating. But as time passes, this will become an important norm — and for young people, the norm has outsized importance (older people already have a reason to get coverage; they get sick more easily). Getting insurance will be part of living in a decent society where everyone chips in when they can afford it, and free-riding is frowned upon — and over time, young people will come to see this as part of being a responsible citizen.”

Those 108 words are an incredibly inefficient way of rephrasing “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Cooper’s appeal wouldn’t be noteworthy were it a lone cactus in the desert, but it’s not.

Also this week the buffoonish Ed Schultz, MSNBC’s angry Fred Flintstone clone, mused about how God would feel about Obamacare. “I'll tell you what I think God thinks of the Affordable Care Act. It's a big amen!”

Not to be outdone in the office pool of idiocy, Charlie Brown’s illegitimate child, Chris Matthews, had an offering on this theme. Matthews temporarily snapped out of his loving gaze while interviewing the president Thursday and put the cherry on top of one of this planet’s worst displays of sycophantism to utter what was supposed to be a question: “You know, Mr. President, your — your remarks the other day on economic justice to me, as a Roman Catholic, was so resonant with what the Holy Father, Francis, has been saying. Talk about that common Judeo-Christian or, even further, Muslim background to the belief we have a social responsibility, a moral responsibility to look out for people who haven't made it in this country.”

The one thing missing from these transparent attempts at manipulation is a basic understanding of morality. Morality is not set by government, laws are. Morality, like it or not atheists, stems from religion. It’s not exclusive to it, but religion is the soil in which the seeds of morality were planted. And nowhere in the Bible or Qur’an does it say government should confiscate the fruits of one man’s labor for the benefit of another.

True, the texts of our major religions do call for aiding our fellow man, but they do so as part of the religion, not a mandate for every human being.

Setting aside the gross bastardization of religion through the integration of communist tenets by these progressives, the most striking part of their appeal is its hypocrisy. These are the same people who spent the better part of the last half-century proclaiming “government can’t legislate morality” on any issue remotely moral. Perhaps Chris “Roman Catholic” Matthews can explain where the Vatican changed its views on, say, abortion to dovetail with the progressive agenda? Probably not.

In nearly every way government has replaced religion in the progressive sphere. It is the grantor of rights, the arbiter of morality, the moderator of justice, the compass of true north. Government is the religion, and the agenda is God.

Any act done in service to the agenda is justified; the end is what matters, the means are irrelevant. That’s how you rationalize selling big lies, known lies, to a public wanting to believe your snake oil is the cure for what ails them.
Perhaps progressives were correct in their charge that religious zealots are the greatest threat to our liberty today. And if they want to see one of those zealots, they need only look in the nearest reflective surface.



Coming to Grips with Rise of The Machines

Jonah Goldberg

After you heard President Obama's call for a hike in the minimum wage, you probably wondered the same thing I did: Was Obama sent from the future by Skynet to prepare humanity for its ultimate dominion by robots?

But just in case the question didn't occur to you, let me explain. On Tuesday, the day before Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, the restaurant chain Applebee's announced that it will install iPad-like tablets at every table. Chili's already made this move earlier this year.

With these consoles customers will be able to order their meals and pay their checks without dealing with a waiter or waitress. Both companies insist that they won't be changing their staffing levels, but if you've read any science fiction, you know that's what the masterminds of every robot takeover say: "We're here to help. We're not a threat."

But the fact is, the tablets are a threat. In 2011, Annie Lowrey wrote about the burgeoning tablet-as-waiter business. She focused on a startup firm called E La Carte, which makes a table tablet called Presto. "Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table -- making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter. Moreover, no manager needs to train it, replace it if it quits, or offer it sick days. And it doesn't forget to take off the cheese, walk off for 20 minutes, or accidentally offend with small talk, either."

Applebee's is using the Presto. Are we really supposed to believe that the chain will keep thousands of redundant human staffers on the payroll forever?

People don't go into business to create jobs; they go into business to make money. Labor is a cost. The more expensive labor is, the more attractive nonhuman replacements for labor become. The minimum wage makes labor more expensive. Obama knows this, which is why he so often demonizes ATM machine as job-killers.

Just a few days before Obama's big speech on income inequality, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launched a media frenzy by revealing on "60 Minutes" that he's working on the idea of having a fleet of robot drones deliver products straight to your door. I can only imagine the discomfort this caused for any UPS or FedEx delivery guys watching the show. There are still a lot of bugs to be worked out, but does anyone doubt that this is coming?

You might take solace in the fact that there will still be a need for truck drivers to deliver the really big stuff and to supply the warehouses where the drones come and go like worker bees. The only hitch is that technology for driverless cars is already here, it just hasn't been deployed -- yet.

None of this is necessarily bad. Machines make us a more productive society, and a more productive society is a richer society. They also free us up for more rewarding work. As Wired's Kevin Kelly notes, "Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines."

While some hippies and agrarian poets may disagree, most people wouldn't say we'd be better off if 7 out of 10 people still did back-breaking labor on farms.

That doesn't mean the transition to a society fueled by robot slaves won't be painful. The Luddites destroyed cotton mills for a reason. Figuring out ways to get the young and the poor into the job market really is a vital political, economic and moral challenge. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, James Pethokoukis, argues that one partial solution might have to be wage subsidies that defray the costs of labor, tipping the calculus in favor of humans at least for a while.

"Of course," Pethokoukis notes, "wage subsidies are an on-budget, transparent cost -- which politicians hate -- while the costs of the minimum wage are shifted onto business and hidden. But the costs exist just the same."

The robot future is coming no matter what, and it will require some truly creative responses by policymakers. I don't know what those are, but I'm pretty sure antiquated ideas that were bad policy 100 years ago aren't going to be of much use. Maybe the answers will come when artificial intelligence finally comes online and we can replace the policymakers with machines, too.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, December 09, 2013

Is the Pope a Protestant?

I want to devote some time today to discussing the first major document issued by the new Pope  -- EVANGELII GAUDIUM.  It is "merely" an Apostolic Exhortation, which is a long way from an Encyclical, but it clearly sets out what Francis hopes will be a new direction for the church. Like its author, the document has attracted a lot of attention so it is surely desirable that we know something about it, whether we agree with it or not.

And I can't see that even evangelical Protestants will find much to disagree with in it.  In fact, of all people, evangelical Protestants should find most to agree with in it. He has to a considerable degree stolen their clothes. The Preface to the document is actually a good refresher course in most of what they believe. It would sound good from any Protestant pulpit and its focus  -- on evangelism  -- sounds very Protestant.  The title of the document translates as "The joy of evangelism", which is something of a departure from church history  -- which might be summarized as Evangelii Gladius (the sword of evangelism).

Even in small ways we see evidence of a Protestantized Pope.  He refers, for instance, to the last book of the Bible as "Revelations", rather than the traditional Catholic title of "Apocalypse".

Some instructive excerpts below with my comments in italics:

Francis thinks that the church at the moment is pretty dead:

"We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.

Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach."

The church needs to stop talking about homosexuality etc. and start talking about salvation

"34. If we attempt to put all things in a missionary key, this will also affect the way we communicate the message. In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects. In this way certain issues which are part of the Church’s moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning. The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message. We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness.

35. Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed. When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing."

In the next excerpt I think Francis is absolutely wrong.  Philosophy, theology and social sciences DESTROY faith.  Faith is emotional, not intellectual.  Francis is a great optimist to think it will work the way he thinks

"40. The Church is herself a missionary disciple; she needs to grow in her interpretation of the revealed word and in her understanding of truth. It is the task of exegetes and theologians to help “the judgment of the Church to mature”.[42] The other sciences also help to accomplish this, each in its own way. With reference to the social sciences, for example, John Paul II said that the Church values their research, which helps her “to derive concrete indications helpful for her magisterial mission”.[43] Within the Church countless issues are being studied and reflected upon with great freedom. Differing currents of thought in philosophy, theology and pastoral practice, if open to being reconciled by the Spirit in respect and love, can enable the Church to grow, since all of them help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word. For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel.[44]"

Now for the first "socialist" bit in the document.  Francis is taking the side of the "Down and out" people.  But note that he deplores that only.  He is telling the clergy and laity of the church to be compassionate, not telling politicians to enact redistribution.  And note that he rejects an economic focus ("Exploitation") for his comments and suggests a different, more sociological focus, marginalization.

"Masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

I like this bit

"47. The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door."

This is where Francis is different.  He says "No" to grandeur.  And he is surely right.  The wealth of the church offends many.  It's almost a Salvation Army doctrine that he is voicing

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

Again comes a "socialist" bit.  But note again that he does not say that equality is possible.  His Lord and Master after all said it is not:  "The poor ye have always with you". It is religion and individual action that Francis sees as the solution.  See the quote following the one immediately below

"The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident."

"And not our own"

"We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own"

He goes on to condemn the idolatry of money and consumerism but so does the Primate of the Church of England and so do many others.  (I myself think consumerism is great but only some libertarians seem to share that view).  The rest of the document is religious up until paragraph 183 and could have been written by many Christian leaders. But in 183 we see a "desire to change the world", which is of course the essence of Leftism

183 "An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it."

But how is that to be implemented?  By political campaigns?  No.  "Concern" is what is needed.  Again his emphasis is on the personal:

"All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world."

Note that the following paragraph is about what "We desire"  -- to which a reasonable response might be"  "Who doesn't?".  Desiring and attaining can be very distant from one another

"192. Yet we desire even more than this; our dream soars higher. We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity”. This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use."

But in para. 204 he shows his South American roots by becoming explicitly Leftist.  He clearly knows no economics

"204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality."

But again his solution is religious

"205. I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.[174] We need to be convinced that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)”. I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare. Why not turn to God and ask him to inspire their plans?"

The rest of the document is either conventionally religious or simply conventional. Like notable encyclicals of the past such as De Rerum Novarum and Centesimus Annus, the Pope has a politically naive and hence Left-leaning view of the world's problems but avoids support for any sort of reform or revolutionary politics.  He has ZERO political prescriptions, only personal and religious ones.  I think he is right to say that the church should put evangelism first and he would hardly be a responsible Christian leader if he did not deplore the pain and suffering in the world.  

And as a religious document, I can see nothing in it that Protestants would object to -- excepting perhaps a few incidental references to the authority of the church.  Am I right about that?  Others will have to answer that.  But at least I have read the document, which seems to be more than some critics have done  -- JR


Obama Worship Syndrome

Ben Shapiro

When George W. Bush was president of the United States, many of the left fell prey to what columnist Charles Krauthammer called "Bush Derangement Syndrome": "the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush." With Bush out of office, BDS has waned somewhat. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by a converse condition, just as grave and dangerous to the mental stability of its victims: "Obama Worship Syndrome." Primarily affecting low-information voters and members of the mainstream media, Obama Worship Syndrome attributes impossible capabilities to Obama's political opponents, finds excuses for every Obama failure in everyone around him and praises the president as the finest politician -- nay, human being -- of our time.

On Monday evening, for example, CNN's Piers Morgan considered whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could run for president as an overweight man. Morgan, with stars in his eyes, asked crisis-management expert Judy Smith, "After the perfect Barack Obama -- who's a perfect physical specimen to many people's eyes -- does it matter?" After toweling himself off, Morgan then asked whether Americans could even stomach "a regular kind of guy who likes cheeseburgers and beer, but appears to be a straight talker?"

Morgan's OWS pales in comparison to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who infamously declared that Obama made his leg tingle. But that's just the first symptom of Matthews' OWS: He's also declared Obama "the perfect father, the perfect husband, the perfect American," explaining that Obama has "never done anything wrong in his life, legally, ethically, whatever"; he's blamed the sun for Obama's pathetic June 2013 speech in Berlin (it glared off his teleprompter, Matthews insisted); and he's compared Obama to Henry V among others.

Morgan and Matthews are extreme cases for sure. But the most widespread symptom of OWS lately is the media's bizarre insistence that Republican opposition to Obamacare is responsible for the botched rollout. "You could argue that there are some Republicans that are trying to sabotage the law," NBC's White House correspondent Chuck Todd said back in July. The Washington Post did a full story quoting members of the Obama administration blaming Republicans for Obamacare's rolling record of epic failure. Jamelle Bouie of The Daily Beast wrote that the "Affordable Care Act needed GOP cooperation to succeed."

This is idiotic. Obama rammed through Obamacare legislation without a single Republican vote. As he has repeatedly stated, it is "the law." It is his job to implement the law, given that he runs the executive branch. Yet his media defenders continue to maintain that Republicans, who unsuccessfully attempted to defund Obamacare, somehow bear blame for Obamacare's slow-motion collapse.

It's not just Obamacare. After spending years trumpeting Obama's supposed hardheadedness on Iran, the media has now performed a complete about-face on the issue: Iran has suddenly become a potential peace partner, and Obama is a historic peacemaker. Sure, Iran has already declared its intention to continue enriching uranium, has said it will continue building the Arak nuclear reactor and has never backed off its stated intention to destroy Israel. But "The One" must be defended.

Obama Worship Syndrome is far more dangerous than Bush Derangement Syndrome. Speaking truth to power is often worthwhile, even when such action springs from personal dislike. But drool-cup god-worship is never worthwhile, especially with such a power-hungry commander in chief.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Apologia of a "Heartless Hypocrite"

A thoroughly enraged reader took exception to my Thanksgiving entry, claiming that the meal portrayed was inaccessible to most Americans. Here's the meal that caused the apoplectic reader to label me heartless because "most Americans" couldn't possibly have this home-made meal:

I decided to fact-test the enraged reader's claim of general inaccessibility of a home-cooked potluck dinner. First, how many meals did this dinner provide, including the soup that was made with the turkey carcass? This potluck dinner served a crowd on Thanksgiving, 6 more friends the following day, neighbors whom we delivered food to, and multiple meals of leftovers for the three of us. It has already made 40 adult servings of a bountiful multi-course meal, and counting the many meals remaining in leftovers and the soup, the total adult servings will be more like 50.

Our cost of ingredients for the traditional meal was less than $80, or roughly $2 per serving. The cost of all the potluck dishes brought by others was less than $30. The sparkling wine, ginger ale and red wines (all bought on sale) was about $20.

Total cost of the meal: $130, or $3.25 per serving, less than a "value meal" at a fast food outlet. If we add in meals made from leftovers (the turkey soup, etc.), the cost per serving drops to less than $3.

Are the "poor" really too poor to buy fresh ingredients that add up to $3 per serving? Let's start with the fact that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49% of Americans Get Gov't Benefits; 82 million in Households on Medicaid. That means roughly 156 million Americans out of 317 million total population are receiving cash benefits (i.e. direct transfers) from the Federal government. Approximately 57 million receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Over 47.6 million people get SNAP food stamps, a non-cash benefit that acts just like cash at the grocery store. Clearly, the vast majority of those with low incomes receive government cash or equivalent benefits.

How many "poor" people routinely buy fast food meals that cost $3 or more? How many buy frozen waffles, chips, snacks, frozen pizzas, etc. with food stamps, purchases that add up to way more money than the ingredients of the Thanksgiving dinner that so enraged the reader? How many households would it take to pool some food stamps to spend $130 to make 40-50 servings of a great, healthy home-cooked meal?

This kind of refutation of victimhood enrages the excusers, enablers and guilt-trippers because it demolishes the primary claim of victimhood: that people have no other choices--in other words, denying that the vast majority of situations offer a range of choices, and that choices have consequences.

The basic assumption of excusers, enablers and guilt-trippers is that victimhood arises not from choices but from Fate or the heartlessness of those with "more."

Can we deny that most people have choices, even in poverty? Can we plausibly claim that poverty is all Fate and choice is inconsequential? If choice is inconsequential, then isn't our entire system of government and all major religions completely false, because they are all based on human will and choice being consequential?

If low-income (i.e. poverty) is fated, or the result of institutional forces that cannot be overcome, then how do we explain the multitudes of immigrants from every continent who arrive in America essentially penniless and who somehow manage to improve their lives despite low income, unfamiliarity with English, a dearth of institutional or family connections, etc. etc. etc.?

How is a low-income immigrant family able to pay off the mortgage on the family home in a few years while others blame the system for their heavy debt loads?

This kind of refutation of victimhood enrages the excusers, enablers and guilt-trippers for another reason: we know from psychology that two primary psychological defenses against accepting responsibility are transference and projection: if we can project our own ills onto others, we feel justified in our self-pitying victimhood.

If we can transfer the source of our problems (i.e. our own issues and failures) onto someone else, then we feel blameless for our own difficulties, i.e. being a victim.

This is the root psychology of the permanently-enraged excusers, enablers and guilt-trippers, i.e. those who have memorized entire chapters of the Book of Excuses: people are victims not from their own choices or a combination of choice and the fate that everyone is exposed to just by being alive, but because the non-victims are heartless hypocrites clinging greedily to everything that victims don't have access to, for example, a potluck Thanksgiving meal that costs $3.25 a serving.

Stripped to its essence, the outrage of excusers, enablers and guilt-trippers is phony and self-righteous, a classic psychological defense against having to accept responsibility: blame the heartless who "should" be giving their own meal away (if you don't, you're a heartless hypocrite, you heartless hypocrite!), blame Fate or something/somebody, do anything but accept that there are choices and that choices have consequences, both short and long-term.

I have a number of disabilities that are "good enough" to claim membership in the victimhood class (one famously "owned" by a Steinbeck character) but they are none of anyone else's business. I think it's self-evident that victimhood and the sense of enraged, self-pitying entitlement it fosters is a dead-end, ethically, spiritually, psychologically, politically and financially.

According to Social Security, I have earned $543,718 in 43 years of ceaseless toil (2013 is not yet included, of course, so I have been working for 44 years), generally working 50-60 hours a week in multiple endeavors. That is $12,644 per year. That was a decent wage in 1977, now, not so much. Inflation makes it difficult to adjust previous years' income into "today's dollars," but however you figure it, it isn't the lifetime earnings of a "wealthy" person. And no, I have never received an inheritance or made a fortune in capital gains or made a ton of unreported income in the black market, nor did my wife have any advantages or unearned wealth.

(In fact, she dropped out of college to spend three years working 60+ workweeks in low-paying jobs to save the money to buy her single-parent mother a modest home. In other words, clearly she too is a heartless hypocrite for daring to spend hours preparing a meal from scratch for family, friends and neighbors.)

Thank goodness some people are so saintly and godlike that they can discern heartless hypocrites without knowing a darn thing about the people they so assuredly toss into the heartless hypocrite class. Now I know how the Inquisition worked: the saintly sinless fingered the heartless without needing any facts.

In 14 of the past 20 years, my net taxable wages were less than $10,000 a year.  In other words, by official measures, I have been "poor" for much of my working life.

For the vast majority of those who choose to write for money (as opposed to pursuing an unpaid hobby), one consequence of that choice is a low income. Choices have consequences; there is nothing mysterious about this causal link. If you want another consequence, fire up your will and make another choice.

Improving one's circumstances (health, mindset, spiritual attainment, financial security, networks of colleagues, circles of friends, etc. etc. etc.) is the same process as getting good enough at something that people will pay you to perform that service or make that good for them.

Sometimes it requires moving to a new locale, changing careers, studying hard, and distinguishing between conveniences that are assumed to be essentials but that are actually luxuries that can be sacrificed for thrift in service of long-term goals. In all cases, it requires accepting risks: risks of failure, risk that the study might not pay off, risk that some accident could derail your plans, and so on.

Victimhood is not just a rejection of choice and consequence, but of risk--yet risk is ever-present and cannot be disappeared. Risk can only be managed and hedged, and only imperfectly at best.

Alas, earning a modest income doesn't preclude one from being tossed into the "heartless hypocrite" class if your ceaseless toil includes being extremely thrifty and making your own Thanksgiving meals with family, friends and neighbors. That you have have something others do not makes you a heartless hypocrite, regardless of your own frailties, disabilities, income or indeed, any other fact.

Sadly, there are consequences to the pursuit of victimhood and the denial of will, choice, consequence, risk and fact, and they will be consequential indeed.



Obama’s inequality hypocrisy

Directing attention to the “defining issue of our time,” Barack Obama recently warned the American people of the “fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.” The President wasn’t referring to terrorism, an economic crisis, the presently occurring healthcare disaster, or human rights violations. Rather, he was talking about the trends of wealth  inequality and decreasing economic mobility in the United States.

Curiously, he made this speech in reference to a nation that has suffered under his administration’s policies for half a decade and is only beginning to feel the repercussions.  In fact, the income gap is actually deeper under the Obama administration that it was during the eight years of his predecessor. Now, as his empty words navigate the airwaves, Barack Obama’s stint in the Oval Office has done more to accelerate the “threats” of wealth inequality and decreased economic mobility than any other identifiable variable.

Wealth is a fairly simple concept. It is created by the mutual exchange of goods and services–and created in greatest scale by those with the most resources to risk and leverage in the market. When resources are invested into the marketplace, jobs are filled, wealth is created, and the standard of living increases for everyone.  A stable economy where enterprise is free to operate makes economic growth a simple, natural phenomenon: when quality jobs are abundant, lower-to-middle-income Americans thrive.

The past five years of tax increases and industry-killing regulations have been anything but stable.

Conversely, the government, having raised about zero dollars of revenue not forcibly poached from private sector pockets, creates no wealth. It plunders wealth and moves it around as it chooses. The more wealth taken, the less there is to create more wealth.

Perhaps, if Obama is so intent on shrinking the American income gap, he should look to places like North Dakota where regulators like the EPA have not yet killed economic expansion through oil and natural gas refinement. There, infrastructure is being built and blue-collar workers without a college degree commonly make six figures.

Obama’s words from the same speech addressing decreased economic mobility for American children born into poverty are actually startlingly accurate.

“[T]he idea that a child may never be able to escape [a life of poverty] because she lacks a decent education . . . should offend all of us.”

Indeed, children forced to attend to attend failing schools because of their zip code and family  income should be offensive to each American. Each illiterate child given a high school diploma or who joins a gang after being trapped in a dropout factory is a national embarrassment and a failure to the American principle of equal opportunity. But as the words left the President’s mouth, his budget plan for this very year cuts Washington D.C.’s remarkably successful school choice program in its entirety. His actions defy his every word.

This speech accomplished nothing but shine a harsh light on the negative effects of Obama’s own record to date.

There is indeed a present and fundamental threat to the American dream and way of life, but it’s been grossly misidentified by Mr. Obama. Low-income earners have fewer opportunities because job creators don’t trust the economy he’s sabotaging. His budget would again condemn low-income children to failing schools, crippling them from the opportunity to rise from poverty.

The fundamental threat is the President’s agenda and the policies of his allies.



Family of Six-Year-Old Cancer Patient Loses Coverage, Now Faces Soaring Premiums

A stark and searing reminder that's ongoing struggles and security vulnerabilities are only a small component of Obamacare's comprehensive failure. After the website's myriad technical difficulties are at long last sorted out, mass cancellations, rising premiums and doc shock will remain as the devastating residual legacy of President Obama's top legislative "accomplishment." Every one of those consequences represents a broken White House promise. Meet young Ellie Porter and her family, who've experienced the new law's affects firsthand. Heartbreaking:

"Having a child diagnosed with cancer is an unimaginable ordeal for any family, and adding any challenges on top of it can seem overwhelming. Paul and Jami Porter of Kaysville learned last week their insurance plan was terminated under the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 1/2 months into their daughter's fight with undifferentiated sarcoma began. Six-year-old Ellie Porter, who has had one kidney removed, just wrapped up her radiation treatments and is expected to be done with chemotherapy around the first of the year. "You're getting used to what's going on; and then all of a sudden having something like this thrown in is definitely challenging and frustrating at the same time," Paul Porter said. He and his wife are now in the middle of shopping for a new plan that complies with the Affordable Care Act. He said the old plan didn't meet some of the requirements, according to a letter from the insurer. The options the family is weighing have premiums that are more than double the premiums under their previous plan, Paul Porter said. Additionally, the Porters said they had limited time to sign up for a new plan and didn't have all the information they felt they needed to make an informed decision. Like many others across the nation, they were also struggling to simply enroll through the federal website,"

Ellie isn't an "anecdote." She's a little girl who's very sick:

"This poor family hit the Obamacare trifecta: (1) They've been dropped off of their existing insurance plan -- which they were counting on to help pay for their cancer-stricken daughter's treatments -- because Beltway Democrats decreed that their coverage was "substandard." (2) Their efforts to obtain new coverage in time for 2014 were hampered terribly by Obamacare's broken website. (3) Their options for new coverage entail premiums twice as high as what they were previously paying.



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