Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Alternative Wikipedia

Over the years I have on various occasions attempted to make contributions to Wikipedia.  Whatever I put up there, however, gets wiped.  Wikipedia editors are clearly Left-leaning so I can understand that they wipe anything written from my libertarian/conservative viewpoint.  But even stuff with no obvious political slant disappears.

From what I can see, Wikipedia editors in fact spend most of their  day deleting what others have put up.  So there is clearly an informally-specified  Wikipedia culture that you have to conform to if you wish your writings to appear there.  It also seems likely that, once you have been identified as a bad egg, you are just totally black-banned, no matter how good what you want to post may be.

That is something of a pity as some of the information I try to put up is not found anywhere else in English. My major recreational interest these days is Austro/Hungarian operetta.  I spend a couple of hours nightly watching it.  Rather frivolous, I guess, but I have the privilege of reading and writing serious stuff all day so light relief has its place.

So I have come to know rather a lot about it.  Being the academic type, I also research the shows as well as watching them.  I look at who is singing, who the artistic director is and other details.  I try to accumulate biographical information about the singers, about the historical background, and information about particular notable performances.

Operetta does have a worldwide audience but it is almost all sung and written in German and the information about it, including libretti, is also mostly in German.  So if English Wikipedia does have any information at all about (say) a particular singer, it will mostly be pretty bare-bones.  Wikipedia in German, and sometimes in Italian, will have much more information.  And German Wikipedia is only a start. There are many music-oriented German-language sites that include operetta information.

Since I can read German and Italian (the latter with difficulty) I can however usually find out quite a lot more about a singer than most people in the English-speaking world would be able to. And I am inclined to pass on that information in English.  But Wikipedia won't let me.

So I have set up My Alternative Wikipedia to draw together my posts on matters that I think have reference interest.  It's not all operetta but mostly so.  And that may be a useful approach.  Most of the performers in operetta are from Europe and have European names -- such as Ingeborg Hallstein or Dagmar Schellenberger -- that would rarely be encountered in English-language sources.  So a Google search on those names should lead quickly to my site.

And having an operetta database can lead you to the unexpected. If, for instance, you Google the very popular "Ivan Rebroff", you will find a multitude of well-deserved references to him as a jolly Russian bass singer of both popular and operatic works. But without a comprehensive reference to operetta, you may not realize that he was also a brilliant comic actor.  His performance of red-faced rage at the rejection of his "daughter" in a 1970s performance of  Zigeunerbaron is far and away the best I have seen.  His whole life was an act, in fact.  He was a German, not a Russian.  And he died a Greek. As all conservatives know, reality is complicated.

First, however, we have to get Google to index my site.  They  do not so far appear to have done so.  So I would be much obliged if anybody reading this would put up a link to my new site on any site that they may run. The more links there are to it, the more likely it will appear in Google searches.

And I should perhaps note that Austro/Hungarian operetta is very politically incorrect these days.  It was written around 100 years ago so reflects a more natural set of values.  Membership of the military is, for instance, treated with great respect, and even is to some extent glorified.  No modern Leftist would applaud that.  But, as a former Sergeant in the Australian army, I do myself have every respect for the military.

And we also see monarchist sentiments at times -- but only inhabitants of a monarchy -- and I am one -- will understand that.


Minnesota Considers Scrapping Health Insurance Exchange

In King v. Burwell, the Court did not just ignore plain meaning of the words “established by the State,” but opened up a whole new can of worms as well.

After the King decision, states can now get rid of their health exchanges and move their citizens to the federal exchange without forcing them to give up their subsidies. Since insurance exchanges are costly and often more trouble for politicians than they are worth, states may now decide it is better just to shut down their own exchange. Minnesota is considering just this move.

Minnesota’s state exchange, MNsure, has faced billing problems and low enrollment numbers. After the King decision, Representative Matt Dean (R), calls MNsure an “unnecessary problem.”

It was recently announced that a software problem with MNsure forced 180,000 Minnesotans to have their MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance renewals delayed. This created a dilemma for politicians: deny coverage to people in need, or contribute to the insurance of some ineligible people, typically 5 to 10 percent of enrollees. Not surprisingly, the politicians choose the second route.

Another problem with MNsure is that 24,000 Minnesotans did not even receive a bill for a full half-year. This has created two problems. First, there is uncertainty over how much each individual should be required to pay. Second, many individuals that had to budget for each month’s premium will now be required to come up with a half-year’s worth of premiums.

MNsure is scheduled to cost $229.6 million through June 2017. However, most of this will be covered by the federal government, Minnesota will only pay $16.5 million. For this price, the state has received software that cannot update basic life changes such as marriage or birth of a child.

Minnesota has created a new 33-person task force, the MNsure Advisory Task Force, that will begin meeting this month to discuss the future on MNsure and MinnesotaCare. The task force is to make recommendations to make the health insurance exchange more efficient and sustainable, which are due January 15.

Republicans have been actively calling for the end of MNsure and a switch to the federal exchange. “We’ve had three years of failures, of failures with MNsure and sometimes in life you just have to admit it failed. It didn’t work,” stated Representative Greg Davids (R). He continued, “[w]e should get over to the federal exchange and stop wasting Minnesotans’ money.”

Members of the DFL have also acknowledged problems with the state exchange but are in less of a hurry to switch to the federal exchange. “To just say outright, ‘ok we’re going to the federal exchange’ is kind of premature. But [we] certainly wouldn’t take it off the table,” said Representative Tina Liebling (DFL). “Obviously it’s not working for the people it’s supposed to be working for and that’s really frustrating for everybody.”

It is not just Minnesota that is considering getting rid of their state health insurance exchange. Arkansas has already scrapped their partnership exchange in favor of dumping its citizens on the federal exchange. In addition, Vermont and Rhode Island are considering dropping their state exchanges in a post-King world.

The King decision was not only poor legal reasoning, it opened up the door for states to scrap their exchanges and move their citizens to the federal exchange. This is just another step towards a single-payer health care system.



Juvenile justice reforms would save money and spare nonviolent youths

In the 2013 documentary Kids for Cash, director Robert May told the stories of several young offenders from Pennsylvania whose lives were up-ended by the dysfunctional juvenile-justice system.

Presented in the young offenders’ own words, their stories are compelling.  They will also make your blood boil.

Judges, seemingly without much thought of the lifelong consequences, unnecessarily exposed these children to the system as adolescents, putting them at risk of being trapped in an endless cycle of crime.

Among the young offenders profiled in the documentary is Justin Bodnar. In December 2001, when he was 12-years-old, Bodnar got into trouble when he hurled obscenities at the mother of another student.

Despite his colorful language, which his mother tried hard to curb before this particular incident, Bodnar is an intelligent and talented young man. His mother consented to having him arrested in hopes that it would put a stop to his frequent profane speech and prevent any future embarrassing incidents.

To her surprise, Justin was charged with making “terroristic threats” and sentenced to a juvenile-detention facility. Over the next seven years, Bodnar would spend time inside the juvenile system, where he tried marijuana and heroin for the first time.

These are experiences he might have avoided had he not been exposed to the system at such an early age.

“[What] you see first is fences — 20-foot tall fences with rows of razor wire, like I’m a convicted criminal, like I’m a murderer. And that’s what it feels like. You feel like I’m now one of those people you see in the movies,” Bodnar said, recalling his first trip to a juvenile-detention facility.

“I woke up in a nice bed with my family, and I went to sleep with cockroaches and criminals. Every time you went into a room, you had to do a roach look, like to make sure there are no roaches anywhere. It’s dirty, and there are stains on the walls.”

Bodnar, who is struggling to put his life on the right track, and many of the other young people in the documentary were “status offenders” — adolescents charged with a crime that would not otherwise be a crime if they were adults.

Too often, judges, in closed-door hearings deemed necessary to protect the young offender, take tough stances in a purported attempt to scare them straight.

The good news is that the number of crimes committed by juveniles is at record lows. In 2012, about 1.3 million young people were arrested, down 40 percent from 2006.

For those who do make mistakes, however, any exposure to the justice system, including arrest, can actually increase the likelihood of a young person becoming a repeat offender. Residential placement is ineffective, and out-of-home placement is expensive and fails to produce better outcomes than alternatives.

The question policymakers should be asking is this: How can they effectively treat and rehabilitate young offenders and put them on a path to productive lives while cutting costs?

The answer can be found in different states.

Functional Family Therapy, an evidence-based, family-centered intervention program, has proven to be an effective alternative to placement in juvenile-detention facilities. At a cost of up to $4,000 per youth, this approach can reduce the chance of a young person from becoming a repeat offender by one-third.

States that have used evidence-based approaches have seen their juvenile-detention populations fall. Texas and Ohio, for instance, experienced declines of 80 percent and 70 percent, respectively, since 2006. Both states saw repeat-offender rates fall even while commitments to state facilities dwindled.

The savings from this innovative approach to juvenile justice allow states to focus on rehabilitation for higher-risk young people who remain in detention facilities.

Congress can also step up to protect young people who are unnecessarily caught up in the juvenile-justice system. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have already introduced legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 with a series of long-overdue reforms, including phasing out remaining situations in which a status offender can be detained.

Other efforts, such the Redeem Act, which would allow a young person to have their record expunged if they stay out of trouble, is an idea that lawmakers should explore as they seek to give offenders the opportunity to prosper in their adult lives.

The “scared straight” approach may’ve been attractive at one time, but it has proven to be a costly failure and one that deprives young people of opportunity, because it exposes them to the justice system before they’ve fully mentally developed.

With the approach to corrections changing for nonviolent offenders, there is a tremendous opportunity to put young lives on the right path, ending the cycle of crime before it starts.



Burt Prelutsky on "Cecil"

Finally, there’s no way that a Minnesota dentist is going to kill an African lion without my commenting on it. I’m not as outraged as most people seem to be. After all, it was a lion, even if someone decided to name it Cecil. It wasn’t someone’s pet. It wasn’t our dog Angel. It was a lion, for heaven’s sake, and five minutes before the dentist hired a couple of schmucks to lure it off a reserve so he could hit it with a spotlight and shoot it with an arrow, it was probably gnawing on Bambi.

Still, there is something comforting in the fact that a guy can blow $50,000 killing an animal in the most pathetic way imaginable and wind up, not with a lion’s head on his wall, but with his own dumb mug on the front page.

There is an old saying that doctors should cure themselves. In the case of this dentist, it seems that before packing for this safari, Walter Palmer should have paused to fill the cavity between his ears.

I understand that a lot of you are hunters, and regard yourselves as sportsmen and would never do the chickenshit stuff the dentist did, but, assuming you’re not hunting in order to feed your families, I confess I don’t grasp the appeal of getting the best of dumb animals. I admit that I don’t shy away from matching wits with liberals, but at least I don’t leave their bloody carcasses lying around to frighten their wives and children.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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)


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