Saturday, July 20, 2013


Today is my Sabbath so no postings on any of my blogs

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Modest Agenda for the GOP

Republicans should focus on serious tax reform and insist on real border control

By Charles Krauthammer

The conventional wisdom evolves. Yesterday, Washington was merely broken, gridlocked, dysfunctional. The passive voice spread the blame evenly. Today it’s agreed that Republican obstructionism is the root of all evil — GOP resistance having now escalated to nihilism and indeed sabotage.

Sabotage carries a fine whiff of extralegal, anti-constitutional vandalism. This from media mandarins who barely bat an eyelash when President Obama unilaterally suspends parts of his own health-care law — just as he unilaterally stopped enforcing current immigration laws for 1.7 million young illegal immigrants, thereby enacting by executive order legislation that had failed in Congress. So much for faithfully executing the laws (Article II).

The new conventional wisdom knowingly deplores the 113th Congress for having passed the fewest pieces of legislation in at least four decades. Why, they were sneering, it couldn’t even pass the farm bill, the essence of bipartisanship for oh-so-many years.

Which is the perfect example of the fatuousness of measuring legislative success by volume, as if every new law represents an advance of civilization. The farm bill is the quintessence of congressional log-rolling, trade-offs, and kickbacks — in which the public interest is systematically trumped by some moneyed and entrenched special interest. Its death (lamentably temporary — it was partly resurrected on Thursday) was well-deserved.

Opposition to Obama’s entitlement-state agenda — beginning with Obamacare, long before it began falling apart before our eyes — should be a source of pride for Republicans. Nevertheless, they shouldn’t stop there. They should advance a reform agenda of their own.

The major thrust should be tax reform. The time could not be more ripe. The public is understandably agitated by an IRS scandal that showed not just the agency’s usual arrogance and highhandedness but also its talent for waste, abuse, corruption, and an overt favoritism that even Obama called outrageous.

Support for tax reform is already bipartisan. Its chief advocates are Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Dave Camp, respectively Senate and House chairs of the tax-writing committees. Their objective is the replication of President Reagan’s 1986 bipartisan tax-reform triumph: closing loopholes and using that revenue to lower rates across the board, which helped propel two decades of near-uninterrupted economic growth.

Tax reform is the ultimate win-win. It levels the playing field by removing the advantage of lawyered, lobbied interests. It eliminates myriad distortions in capital allocation and lowers marginal rates — both of which spur economic growth. And it simplifies the code, thereby reducing the arbitrary and unaccountable discretion of IRS bureaucrats.

The House Republicans are preparing a 25 percent cut in the IRS budget. This is silly and small. It will change nothing. Radical simplification of the tax code will change everything.

Second, the GOP should take a clear position on immigration reform. “Comprehensive” or piecemeal matters not. What matters is to stick to the essential principle: legalization in return for real border control — so that this is the last amnesty we will have to grant.

Any law containing both deserves support. The current Senate bill does not. Setting soft goals for border enforcement is an invitation to this and future administrations to fudge and fake.

Be clear. Be principled. Be unafraid. The country wants legalization and border control. Show that only the GOP is fighting for both.

Third, on the policy front, demand from the president a clear policy on Afghanistan. After highly acrimonious exchanges with President Hamid Karzai, Obama is openly considering a complete pullout next year.

U.S. national interests cannot hinge on personal piques. Karzai is both deeply unreliable and terminally ungrateful. But he will be gone one day, as will Obama. The terrorist breeding grounds of Afghanistan and Pakistan will remain.

For four years, the president argued that our strategic interests require a residual presence in Afghanistan in order to prevent a reestablishment of terrorist safe havens in the region.

Does he still believe this? Enough with the agonized ambivalence. Obama must be made to argue the case one way or the other.

It’s a modest agenda, although true tax reform would be an achievement of historic dimensions. But it should by no means diminish rigorous GOP efforts to stop an Obama program that aggrandizes government in every sphere (education, health care, energy, finance) and passes monstrous thousand-page bills that not only effectively delegate unlimited power to the unelected bureaucracy but, like Obamacare, are so unworkable that the administration itself has to jettison one piece after another.

Oppose further expansion of the entitlement state, reform the tax code, secure the border, demand clarity on Afghanistan. A modest, doable, responsible agenda for 2013.



Leftist hatred of Wal Mart still simmering

The Left hate success

DC has just become the latest battleground over Walmart’s business practices. The retailer recently announced plans to open a number of stores in the city, but the District government has been throwing obstacles in its path. On Wednesday, the city council approved the Large Retailer Accountability Act by an 8 to 5 vote. The bill would force any non-unionized retailer with more than $1 billion in revenue and more than 75,000 square feet of retail space (read: Walmart) to pay employees at least $12.50 an hour. Minimum wage in DC is $8.25.

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray now has ten days to veto the bill. On the eve of the vote, Walmart executive Alex Barron wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the retailer would cancel its current plans to build three locations in the District if the law passed.

If the bill stands—or if the Walmart opponents manage to override a Mayoral veto—it’s the city’s residents who will ultimately suffer. Democratic Councilman-at-Large Vincent Orange, a key backer of the legislation, argued that, “The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Wal-Mart comes or stays….We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.”

Mr. Orange is dead wrong. The three stores Walmart is threatening to cancel are all badly needed retail and grocery options in underserved and poorer areas of DC that don’t have many options. As Ezra Klein, no lover of Walmart, writes:

    [S]everal of the locations where Wal-Mart has committed to open have very little in the way of retail around them, and Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning has emphasized that small businesses in the vicinity should be able to prepare for it. Currently, many District residents are skipping over those small stores anyway on their way out to suburban Wal-Marts; keeping them in the neighborhood might open up opportunities for complementary businesses – such as restaurants or auto-repair shops — to open around them. Finally, many of the developments had been searching for anchor tenants for years; it’s unclear that Wal-Mart could be easily replaced, leaving the sites fallow.

DC is already an incredibly expensive place to live, and a lack of outlets for affordable basic commodities makes scrimping that much harder for middle class and poor residents. Cheaper prices at Walmart mean that in terms of purchasing power everybody in DC gets an immediate pay boost.

Blue politicians who oppose Walmart in DC—and in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles before it—do so with good intentions to help low-paid hourly workers afford life in their overpriced metropolises. Blue-model economic governance has often looked for ways to increase prices for certain producers through things like farm subsidies, taxes, regulation and construction controls. For those that can’t pay, they provide offset subsidies like food stamps.

So one of the main reasons there’s a case for living wage laws at all is that a combination of bad urban policy, overstuffed bureaucracies, excessive regulation and government-endorsed economic cartels have all driven up the cost of living so much that people can’t afford to live on the national minimum wage.

Instead of raising the minimum wage or fighting discount retailers—steps sure to make everything more expensive and create further problems—cities like DC should be working aggressively to bring down the cost of living so that more people can live on the wages they earn.



Prosperity through higher costs (?)

Here’s another letter to the Washington Post on Prof. Massengill’s piece on Wal-Mart.  Letter by economist Donald J. Boudreaux

    Rebekah Peeples Massengill argues that low-income families are harmed by Wal-Mart’s “relentless cost-cutting” (“Five myths about Wal-Mart,” July 12).  But because retailers from the earliest times have competed for customers by cutting costs (a result of what Prof. Massengill calls “prioritizing consumption”), her complaint isn’t with Wal-Mart so much as it is with retailing itself.  Therefore, the only real solution to this scourge of ever-less-costly access to consumer goods is a strict prohibition on retailing.

    Only by outlawing retailing can we ensure that no retailer will ever again weaken the economy by cutting costs.  Only by outlawing retailing can we finally maximize the amount of resources used to bring consumer goods from farms and factories to individual homes.  (Think of the countless hours that every one of us will spend driving from farm to farm and from factory to factory to buy food, clothing, and other consumer goods!)  With retailing outlawed, the costs that we’ll incur – that is, the amount of resources that households will be obliged to spend – to bring each consumer good from farm or factory into a home will be multiple times greater than the puny amount of resources spent today to make each consumer good accessible for purchase.

    And when the Commerce Dep’t. calculates the enormous monetary value of the resources that households spend to acquire consumer goods in this retailer-less world, we’ll discover just how prosperous we are without the likes of Wal-Mart and other greedy cost-cutting corporations.



The Nation’s Librarians Are All In to Support Obamacare

Wounded by the lukewarm reception the administration got from the National Football League and Major League Baseball when it asked them to help sell the public on all things wonderful about “Obamacare,” President Obama has announced that America’s librarians will step into the void.

Let me add, they will do so enthusiastically.

On June 26, I flew to Chicago for the annual American Library Association conference, a seemingly innocent gathering of thousands of library professionals.

As a veteran of many rousing political conferences, I expected a relatively quiet four days, showcasing Independent Institute books, such as John C. Goodman’s recently published “Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis.” I was unprepared for the floundering health care law to become central to the agenda.

On the third day of conference, however, it was announced that the American Library Association planned to partner with the White House to tout the benefits of Obamacare. As Fox News reported on July 1, “Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to spread the word about the health care law, while giving the public access to their computers. The government-librarian team-up is one of a number of partnerships—some more controversial than others—that the administration is trying to build in order to promote the law ahead of an Oct. 1 kick-off.”

The library association announcement came as a surprise to many of the conference attendees, but for many if not most, it must have been a pleasant surprise.

For example, several panel discussions included intense, uninformed diatribes against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Heritage Foundation, and libraries’ responsibility to counter their influence. One of the conference’s keynote speakers angrily called on libraries to lead the charge against the NRA’s evil agenda. The following day, a group of librarians from both public and private institutions brainstormed about how library computers could be rigged to censor or possibly omit information. As one librarian irritably recounted, she was directed by Google to a “horrendous” Heritage Foundation study challenging global warming theory. “We know [such studies] to be complete junk and need to figure out how to keep people from reading such despicable material,” she resolved.

These statements, not surprisingly, came after the same group spent the first half of the session lamenting that Ward Churchill—the former University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor who claimed that the United States deserved the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 because of “ongoing genocidal American imperialism”—was not asked to return to the classroom. It seems the principle of academic freedom is only laudable when everyone agrees that the left is right. Now, the left is right on Obamacare and America’s librarians are in lockstep with the mission to resuscitate public support for the limping legislation.

Indeed, Obamacare has become increasingly unpopular across the country, even causing some within Mr. Obama’s own ranks to suggest that Obamacare is plagued with problems.

Senior Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who, as Senate Finance Committee chairman helped the president craft the health care law, said that the reforms are “a huge train wreck coming down.”

Several recent polls, including a new Rasmussen Reports national survey—which found that just 41 percent of likely voters favor their governor supporting implementation of the law—have shown clearly that Obamacare is just as unpopular today as it was when it was passed. The president and his allies understand that they need to turn public opinion around or they could suffer the consequences in the 2014 midterm elections. That’s why they recently took evasive action on the health care law’s employer mandate, giving companies with 50 or more employees until 2015 rather than 2014 to provide insurance to their employees.

With both Mr. Obama and Obamacare slipping in public opinion, the White House is looking for help. They found it at the American Library Association.

Librarians seem to be “all in” with the White House agenda: a dangerous marriage.

If librarians are advocates, what assurance do we have that they won’t block access to information—such as another “despicable” study from the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute or my own institution—critical of the health care act?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL 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, July 18, 2013


I have a heavy cold at the moment so don't feel up to blogging
Maybe back Friday

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is This Still America?

Thomas Sowell

There are no winners in the trial of George Zimmerman. The only question is whether the damage that has been done has been transient or irreparable.

Legally speaking, Zimmerman has won his freedom. But he can still be sued in a civil case, and he will probably never be safe to live his life in peace, as he could have before this case made him the focus of national attention and orchestrated hate.

More important than the fate of George Zimmerman, however, is the fate of the American justice system and of the public's faith in that system and their country. People who have increasingly asked, during the lawlessness of the Obama administration, "Is this still America?" may feel some measure of relief.

But the very fact that this case was brought in the first place, in an absence of serious evidence -- which became painfully more obvious as the prosecution strained to try to come up with anything worthy of a murder trial -- will be of limited encouragement as to how long this will remain America.

The political perversion of the criminal justice system began early and at the top, with the President of the United States. Unlike other public officials who decline to comment on criminal cases that have not yet been tried in court, Barack Obama chose to say, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

It was a clever way to play the race card, as he had done before, when Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard was arrested.

But it did not stop there. After the local police in Florida found insufficient evidence to ask for Zimmerman to be prosecuted, the Obama administration sent Justice Department investigators to Sanford, Florida, and also used the taxpayers' money to finance local activists who agitated for Zimmerman to be arrested.

Political intervention did not end with the federal government. The city manager in Sanford intervened to prevent the usual police procedures from being followed.

When the question arose of identifying the voice of whoever was calling for help during the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, the normal police procedure would have been to let individuals hear the recording separately, rather than have a whole family hear it together.

If you want to get each individual's honest opinion, you don't want that opinion to be influenced by others who are present, much less allow a group to coordinate what they are going to say.

When the city manager took this out of the hands of the police, and had Trayvon Martin's family, plus Rachel Jeantel, all hear the recording together, that's politics, not law.

This was just one of the ways that this case looked like something out of "Alice in Wonderland." Both in the courtroom and in the media, educated and apparently intelligent people repeatedly said things that they seemed sincerely, and even fervently, to believe, but which were unprovable and often even unknowable.

In addition, the testimonies of the prosecution's witness after witness undermined its own case. Some critics faulted the attorneys. But the prosecutors had to work with what they had, and they had no hard evidence that would back up a murder charge or even a manslaughter charge.

You don't send people to prison on the basis of what other people imagine, or on the basis of media sound bites like "shooting an unarmed child," when that "child" was beating him bloody.

The jury indicated, early on as their deliberations began, that they wanted to compare hard evidence, when they asked for a complete list of the testimony on both sides.

Once the issue boiled down to hard, provable facts, the prosecutors' loud histrionic assertions and sweeping innuendos were just not going to cut it.

Nor was repeatedly calling Zimmerman a liar effective, especially when the prosecution misquoted what Zimmerman said, as an examination of the record would show.

The only real heroes in this trial were the jurors. They showed that this is still America -- at least for now -- despite politicians who try to cheapen or corrupt the law, as if this were some banana republic. Some are already calling for a federal indictment of George Zimmerman, after he has been acquitted.

Will this still be America then?



The Election of a Black President Has Meant Nothing

Dennis Prager

The greatest hope most Americans -- including Republicans -- had when Barack Obama was elected president was that the election of a black person as the country's president would reduce, if not come close to eliminating, the racial tensions that have plagued America for generations.

This has not happened. The election, and even the re-election, of a black man as president, in a country that is 87 percent non-black -- a first in human history -- has had no impact on what are called "racial tensions."

In case there was any doubt about this, the reactions to the George Zimmerman trial have made it clear. The talk about "open season" on blacks, about blacks like Trayvon Martin being victims of nothing more than racial profiling and about a racist criminal justice system, has permeated black life and the left-wing mainstream media.

I put quotation marks around the term "racial tensions" because the term is a falsehood.

This term is stated as if whites and blacks are equally responsible for these tensions, as if the mistrust is morally and factually equivalent.

But this is not at all the case.  "Racial tensions" is a lie perpetrated by the left. A superb example is when the New York Times described the 1991 black anti-Semitic riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn as "racial tensions."

For those who do not recall, or who only read, viewed or listened to mainstream media reports, what happened was that mobs of blacks attacked Jews for three days after a black boy was accidentally hit and killed by a car driven by a Chasidic Jew.

A Brandeis University historian, Edward S. Shapiro, who wrote a book on the events, described those black attacks on innocent Jews as "the most serious anti-Semitic incident in American history."

Blacks stabbed a Jewish student to death, injured other Jews, and screamed, "Heil Hitler!" and "Death to the Jews!" while carrying signs with messages such as "Hitler didn't finish the job."

And how did the New York Times report the most serious anti-Semitic incident in American history?  As racial tensions.

One of the Times reporters who covered those riots was Ari Goldman, now a professor of journalism at Columbia University. Last year, eleven years after the riots, this is how Goldman described his former newspaper's reporting of the events:

"In all my reporting during the riots, I never saw -- or heard of -- any violence by Jews against blacks. But the Times was dedicated to this version of events: Blacks and Jews clashing amid racial tensions."

As a New York Times editorial described the black attacks: "The violence following an auto accident in Crown Heights reminds all New Yorkers that the city's race relations remain dangerously strained."

That was the entire left's take: "strained relations" between blacks and Jews. "Racial tensions." Both sides equally at fault.

Once one understands that "racial tensions" is a euphemism for a black animosity toward whites and a left-wing construct, one begins to understand why the election of a black president has had no impact on most blacks or on the left.

Since neither black animosity nor the left's falsehood of "racial tensions" is based on the actual behavior of the vast majority of white Americans, nothing white America could do will affect either many blacks' perceptions or the leftist libel.

That is why hopes that the election of black president would reduce "racial tensions" were naive. Though a white person is far more likely to be murdered by a black person than vice versa, all it took was one tragic death of a black kid to reignite the hatred that many blacks and virtually all black leaders have toward white America.

Let's put this in perspective. Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Al Sharpton of MSNBC, Jesse Jackson, and the left-wing media compete to incite hatred of America generally and white America specifically. Over what? A tragic incident in which a Hispanic man (regularly labeled "white") said, with all physical evidence to support him, that fearing for his life, he killed a black 17-year-old (regularly labeled "a child").

The very fact that George Zimmerman -- who is as white as Barack Obama -- is labeled "white" bears testimony to the left-wing agenda of blaming white America and to the desire of many blacks to vent anger at whites.

And that is why the election of a black president has meant nothing. Indeed, to those whose lives and/or ideologies are predicated on labeling America and its white population as racist, it wouldn't matter if half the Senate, half the House and half the governors were black.



Labor versus Obama

Major fault lines have suddenly appeared in the formerly dependable Big Labor/Democratic Party coalition, and the earthquake that follows could have major future electoral ramifications.

Labor unions are one of the primary funders of Democratic and far left politics.  The hundreds of millions of dollars they contribute into the Democratic machine gives them clout that far exceeds what one would expect given unions represent fewer than seven percent of privately employed workers.

Now, private employer unions are running headlong into the realities of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and are shocked that it threatens to destroy one of their only membership recruitment selling point.

Back in the halcyon days when the promise that an employee would be able to keep his/her health insurance if they liked it, big labor unions like the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE Here loved the new health care law.

Now, four years later as the law is on the verge of being implemented, the consequences are becoming clear.  Those labor union negotiated Cadillac health insurance programs are not likely to be sustainable due to government penalties imposed upon them, and employers read the law and discovered that it no longer makes sense to employ low wage employees for more than 30 hours a week due to the resulting health care costs.

Somewhat incredibly, last week Big Labor cracked, attacking Obamacare with language that one has come to expect from Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter writing to Senator Harry Reid,

“Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

It went on to state, “We can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”

Signed by the Teamsters James Hoffa, Jr, United Food and Commercial Workers head Joseph Hanson and UNITE Here’s D. Taylor, the letter changes the politics of Obamacare and may just force the Democrat-controlled Senate to suspend implementation the law, before it dooms their close political allies.

One can imagine the political ads targeting private employee union members attacking Democrat opposition to Obamacare changes using the very accusations levied by these Big Labor leaders.

This fissure comes on top of the already tense relationship between the Obama Administration and labor unions which try to build or mine due to the undue influence of environmental extremists throughout the Administration, who are charged with carrying out Obama’s war on coal and other fossil fuels.

The four year delay in the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline has drawn the ire of various construction unions with a leader of the Laborers International Union of North America testifying before Congress that,

“For many members of the Laborers, this project is not just a pipeline; it is in fact, a life line. The construction sector has been particularly hit hard by the economic recession. The unemployment rate in the construction industry reached over 27 percent in 2010, and joblessness in construction remains far higher than any industry or sector, with over 1 million construction workers currently unemployed in the United States. Too many hard-working Americans are out of work, and the Keystone XL Pipeline will change that dire situation for thousands of them.”

In the 2012 elections, the United Mine Workers refused to endorse Obama’s re-election bid due to his Administrations regulatory attack on coal and mining as a whole.

Now that Big Labor has discovered that not only does Obama’s environmental policy kill their jobs, but his health care law destroys their member’s health care coverage, it is not a question of if, but when, the private sector unions stop funding the politicians on the left.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL 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, July 16, 2013

Obama Big Loser in Zimmerman Trial

”You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”  -- Barack Obama. Like an aggressive thug?  Could well be -- JR

Forget the over-zealous prosecutors and the repellent state attorney Angela Corey (who should be immediately disbarred or, my wife said sarcastically, elevated to director of Homeland Security) and even the unfortunate Trayvon Martin family (although it is certainly hard to forget them — they have our profound sympathies), the true loser at the Zimmerman trial was Barack Obama.

By injecting himself in a minor Florida criminal case by implying Martin could be his son, the president of the United States — a onetime law lecturer, of all things — disgraced himself and his office, made a mockery of our legal system and exacerbated racial tensions in our country, making them worse than they have been in years. This is the work of a reactionary, someone who consciously/unconsciously wants to push our nation back to the 1950s.

It is also the work of a narcissist who thinks of himself first, of his image, not of black, white or any other kind of people. It’s no accident that race relations in our country have gone backwards during his stewardship.

Congratulations to the jury for not acceding to this tremendous pressure and delivering the only conceivable honest verdict. This case should never have been brought to trial. It was, quite literally, the first American Stalinist “show trial.” There was, virtually, no evidence to convict George Zimmerman. It was a great day for justice that this travesty was finally brought to a halt.

We all know Al Sharpton, the execrable race baiter of Tawana Brawley and Crown Heights, agitated publicly for this trial more than anyone else. But he most likely would not have succeeded had it not been for Obama’s tacit support. As far as I know this is unprecedented in our history (a president involving himself in a trial of this nature).

The media also followed Obama (as they always do) by enabling the demagogue Sharpton, as if he were a serious person. The media, as I wrote before, treated this case like pornography, something to be exploited, giving it all sorts of racial import it didn’t have. The New York Times, acting like true reactionaries of the Obama era (how can we use the word “liberal” with these people?), even went so far as to invent the term “white Hispanic” to fit the case. The National Enquirer couldn’t have done it better. (I take it back. The Enquirer behaves more ethically.)

The irony is that the people who suffer most from the media behaving in this manner are black people who are manipulated into acting as an interest group when they have no interest. They are literally victims of the media and of Obama.

Of course, they aren’t the only ones. Almost everyone is a victim in in this case that should never have been tried. George Zimmerman will never live a normal life. The American public has been polarized with emotions stirred up for absolutely no reason. Racism is essentially manufactured, as if it were a commodity.

A further irony is that recent polls have shown racism in our culture at all-time lows. You don’t hear that from the media or from our administration, however. This knowledge is not to their advantage.

As I type this article, I am listening to Geraldo, on the post-verdict show, nattering on about the possibility of the Justice Department initiating a civil rights prosecution of Zimmerman. If that happens, the Obama administration will have outdone itself in the creation of racism. The shame continues.



American philanthropy

by Jeff Jacoby

DO YOU GIVE money to charity? You do if you're a typical American. More than 70 percent of US families contribute every year, and the average household gives at least $1,000. Charitable donations in America add up to about $300 billion annually — which is more, as Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute points out, than the entire gross national product of Finland, Portugal, or Peru. Americans give 12 times as much to charity each year as they spend on professional sports, and almost 30 times as much as they spend going to the movies. By any yardstick, America is one of the most generous nations on earth.

And who, in the annals of this greatly philanthropic country, have been the greatest philanthropists?

The Philanthropy Roundtable, a 25-year-old network of charitable donors that promotes innovative and effective giving, takes up that question in a remarkable and inspiring new project: The Philanthropy Hall of Fame. The online gallery, at, recounts the achievements of 54 American men and women who "changed the nation and the world through their charitable giving." The philanthropists are profiled in absorbing biographical sketches that give a sense of their character and upbringing and that describe the "tactics and results of their philanthropy." Excerpts of the profiles were also published in a recent issue of Philanthropy, the Roundtable's quarterly magazine.

Greatness in philanthropy isn't easy to define. In compiling the inaugural class of charitable hall of famers, the Roundtable's editors wrestled with judgment calls. How do you measure a philanthropist's effectiveness, for example? Is it a function of "the number of individuals served, or the degree of innovation achieved, or the years of lasting influence?" But this much is clear: The donors chosen to inaugurate the Philanthropy Hall of Fame reflect the Roundtable's conviction that excellence can take many forms.

It's an extraordinary assemblage. Some of the philanthropists are among the most famous Americans in history. Everyone has heard of Benjamin Franklin, but how many of us know that in addition to being a renowned diplomat, scientist, printer, and intellectual, he was also one of the most significant givers of his day? He was a charitable dynamo, responsible for the creation of the first public library in North America, the first volunteer fire brigade in Pennsylvania, the academy that later became the University of Pennsylvania, and the nation's first hospital. One of his last gifts, a £1,000 bequest to the city he was born in, lives on to this day as the Franklin Institute of Boston.

Not nearly as renowned is Nicholas Longworth, who grew up poor, earned a fortune in real estate and winemaking, then gave away most of his riches to what he called "the devil's poor." These, one historian explained, were "vagabonds, drunkards, fallen women, those who had gone far into the depths of misery and wretchedness, and from whom respectable people shrank in disgust." He distributed bread for free to anyone who asked, giving away hundreds of loaves weekly. He housed destitute families in a four-story boarding house that he built over his winery. When he died in 1863, his biographical profile notes, Longworth's funeral was attended by "thousands of outcasts — drunkards and prostitutes, beggars and criminals — sobbing at the loss of this, their one true friend."

Not all of the givers highlighted in the Hall of Fame were wealthy. Oseola McCarty was a lifelong laundress, a black woman reared in Jim Crow Mississippi, who washed other people's clothes by hand until arthritis forced her to stop working at 87. She never went to high school, never drove a car. Yet like many philanthropists of immensely greater means, she was a religious believer whose faith inspired her to help others, and a scrupulous saver who unfailingly set aside a few cents from every dollar she earned. In 1995, soon after retiring, McCarty donated $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi to fund scholarships for poor but deserving students. Her munificence triggered an outpouring of praise — and of giving by others. CNN founder Ted Turner pledged $1 billion to the United Nations Foundation. "If that little woman can give away everything she has," he said, "then I can give a billion."

It is no exaggeration to suggest that charitable giving may be our nation's most quintessential character trait. Franklin, Longworth, and McCarty, like so many others in the new Philanthropy Hall of Fame, had virtually nothing in common. Except, that is, for the astonishing generosity that from the very outset has been such a hallmark of American life.



Obamacare: Large Grocery Chain Drops Coverage for Part-time Workers

    Et tu, Wegmans? The Rochester-based grocer that has been continually lauded for providing health insurance to its part-time workers will no longer offer that benefit. Until recently, the company voluntarily offered health insurance to employees who worked 20 hours per week or more. Companies are required by law to offer health insurance only to full-time employees who work 30 hours or more per week. Several Wegmans employees confirmed part-time health benefits had been cut and said the company said the decision was related to changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act.

The Buffalo News helpfully tracked down an "expert" who explained why the dropped coverage is a "win-win" for everyone involved:

    "Part-time employees may actually benefit from Wegmans’ decision, according to Brian Murphy, a partner at Lawley Benefits Group, an insurance brokerage firm in Buffalo. “If you have an employee that qualifies for subsidized coverage, they might be better off going with that than a limited part-time benefit,” Murphy said. That’s because subsidized coverage can have a lower out-of-pocket cost for the insured employee while also providing better benefits than an employer-paid plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, part-time employees are not eligible for health insurance subsidies if their employer offers insurance. “It’s a win-win. The employee gets subsidized coverage, and the employer gets to lower costs,” Murphy said."

First of all, the American people were made a solemn promise, over and over again:"If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”  Many part-time employees at Wegmans may have been very rather pleased with their existing coverage, which will no longer exist because of the new law.  So much for "no matter what."  That's not a win, that's a broken promise.

Secondly, thanks to the administration's outrageous anti-fraud verification delay, anyone can claim that they qualify for Obamacare subsidies.  Correctly determining eligibility is essential to maintain any prayer of marginal cost containment, but that process is proving logistically problematic -- so the administration is simply going full speed ahead without that key safeguard in place.

Third, notice the hedging on claims that Obamacare will lower costs for these employees.  "Might, can," etc.  The fact is that many people who will receive subsidies (with an intended cut-off at relatively low income levels) will still pay more than they currently do.   This is especially true for younger, healthier people.  Say, who tends to work at grocery stores?

Wegmans' young employees -- stripped of their previous coverage -- now have plenty of incentive to forgo expensive insurance costs and just pay the lower mandate tax.  If enough young, healthy people go this route, the Obamacare completely collapses.

For more on those dynamics, read this.  Meanwhile, here's a local news report from Pennsylvania, highlighting the trend of businesses reducing hours and opting to hire temporary workers to avoid Obamacare's (recently postponed) employer mandate:

One last Obamacare "bonus:"  An Iowa insurance branch is shutting down after six decades of operation because of Obamacare, taking more than 100 jobs with it.



Food stamps

More than 47 million people in the United States now rely on food stamps. That’s about 15 percent of the population, or one in seven Americans. Of those, 47 percent are children under 18, and 8 percent are seniors, according to the USDA.

The number of eligible people who have actually applied for benefits has grown steadily in the past decade after declining throughout the 1990s.

Opposition to the House bill was led by the Congressional Black Caucus; 22 percent of food stamp recipients are African American, although African Americans make up 13 percent of the general population. Thirty-six percent of food stamp users are white, 10 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Native American, 2 percent are Asian.

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to report ever using food stamps, according to a Pew Research Center survey last December.

Why are food stamps in the Farm Bill anyway?

Politics. In the 1960s, food stamps were combined with the Farm Bill as a way to win urban Democratic votes for farm legislation that helped a declining rural population. (An earlier food stamp program, begun in 1939, died a few years later.) That’s been the alliance ever since. As Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said in April: “[Food stamps] should continue to be included purely from a political perspective. It helps get the Farm Bill passed.”

Why were they cut out?

Disagreement over cuts and restrictions to food stamps is what killed the bill last month. The initial bill cut food stamp spending by $20.5 billion over the next 10 years. Conservatives said it wasn’t enough and voted no; Democrats said it was too much and also voted no. In the wake of that failure, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) desperately needed to show that House Republicans could pass something. While conservatives would still like to see more cuts to the rest of the farm package, fiscal hawks are happy to see food and farm spending separate.

What happens now?

Food stamps won’t disappear. If the House legislation became law, they would have to be funded separately through appropriations bills. Historically, the pairing of food stamps with the rest of the Farm Bill has brought the program support from the agriculture industry and from Republicans in rural states. That protection would be lost. House Republicans would be looking to make deeper cuts in the program.

But for that to happen, the Senate would have to accept the House legislation and President Obama would have to sign it. In fact, the White House has threatened to veto a farm bill without food stamps. And the Senate already passed legislation with more modest food stamp cuts. So we’ll have to see what happens when the two chambers try to reconcile their legislation, as Brad Plumer explains.

What do people actually want?

Nearly seven in 10 Americans, 69 percent, are open to at least minor reductions to food stamp programs, according to a January poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. That means more people would accept food stamp cuts than would support slashing education spending, Medicare or Social Security. But only 28 percent of poll respondents supported “major” cuts to food stamps, while 29 percent opposed all reductions.

Democrats, Republicans and independents are generally all open to some cuts, but Democrats are far more likely to oppose any cuts to the program than Republicans, at 43 to 13 percent. Independents are in between, unsurprisingly, at 24 percent


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, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL 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, July 15, 2013

Amusingly ...

A publisher recently asked me to write a blurb for the dustjacket of a book they are bringing out.  They will probably use only a small part of my blurb so I thought I might present the whole thing here.

I know it is quite strange but I am going to present the review without mentioning the name of the book or the name of the author.  When you read the review I think you will see why.  If they get wind of the book, the Left are highly likely to move heaven and earth to get it canned.  Chris Brand's book on IQ was withdrawn even after distribution of it had started.

My reaction to this careful and thorough book was a good chuckle.  X has in effect caught the political left with their pants down.  Leftist pretensions of tolerance and good will rapidly fall by the wayside when they are dealing with conservative Christians.  We know that from the outpouring of hate speech towards Christians we regularly see in the media.  X verifies that by way of careful survey research.  Progressives seem to have more fear and loathing towards Christians than Christians have fear and loathing towards the Devil!

X is primarily interested in the concept of authoritarianism so he looks at how people want to treat members of other groups.  Do they want to use force to suppress members of groups that they disagree with?  Given the way progressives froth at the mouth about Christians, one would expect that all sorts of suppressive  actions towards Christians would be supported by progressives.  And they are. The old Voltairian attitude "I disagree with what you say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it" is conspicuously absent.  It is clear that, given their way, progressives would treat Christians as harshly as Stalin did the kulaks.

No observer of history should be surprised by any of that.  From the French revolution on,  the political left has always striven to gain control over other people and impose on other people what the Leftist thinks is a good thing.  Obamacare, for instance,  imposes a vast regulatory and bureaucratic apparatus on American healthcare that will undoubtedly  reduce services and increase costs but "It's for your own good" we are told.  Or for the good of somebody anyway.

Where X innovates is that he has highlighted Leftist hate by using the conventional methods of psychological research.  Psychologists such as Altemeyer use questionnaire surveys to "prove" that conservatives are a bad lot.  X returns the compliment by using the same methods to show that progressives are a bad lot.  After 20 years of doing such research myself, I don't think it proves much either way but X's demonstration that it can just as easily be used to shoot down progressives is at least amusing.

I will of course notify readers when the book becomes available for sale.  Worth waiting for


Hate Thought

Victor Davis Hanson

When do insensitive words destroy reputations?

It all depends. Celebrity chef Paula Deen was dropped by her TV network, her publisher and many of her corporate partners after she testified in a legal deposition that she used the N-word some 30 years ago. The deposition was filed in a lawsuit against Deen and her brother over allegations of sexual and racial harassment.

Actor Alec Baldwin just recently let loose with a slur of homophobic crudities. Unlike Deen, Baldwin spewed his epithets in the present. He tweeted them publicly, along with threats of physical violence. So far he has avoided Paula Dean's ignominious fate.

Does race determine whether a perceived slur is an actual slur?

It depends.

Some blacks use the N-word in ways supposedly different from those of ill-intentioned white racists. Testimony revealed that the late Trayvon Martin had used the N-word in reference to George Zimmerman and had also referred to Zimmerman as a "creepy-ass cracker" who was following him.

Some members of the media have suggested that we should ignore such inflammatory words and instead focus on whether Zimmerman, who has been described as a "white Hispanic," used coded racist language during his 911 call.

Actor Jamie Foxx offers nonstop racialist speech of the sort that a white counterpart would not dare. At the recent NAACP Image Awards (of all places), Foxx gushed: "Black people are the most talented people in the world." Earlier, on Saturday Night Live, Foxx had joked of his recent role in a Quentin Tarantino movie: "I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that?"

Foxx has not suffered the fate of Paula Deen. He certainly has not incurred the odium accorded comedian Michael Richards, who crudely used the N-word in 2006 toward two African-American hecklers of his stand-up routine.

Yet whites at times seem exempt from any fallout over the slurring of blacks. Democratic Minnesota state representative Ryan Winkler recently tweeted of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's vote to update the Voting Rights Act: "VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas." Winkler's implication was that four of the jurists were veritable racists, while Thomas was a sellout. After a meek apology, nothing much happened to Winkler.

Winkler's "Uncle Thomas" racial slur was mild in comparison to the smear of Justice Thomas by MSNBC talking head and African-American professor Michael Eric Dyson, who made incendiary on-air comments invoking Hitler and the holocaust.

Does profanity against women destroy celebrity careers?

Not really.

TV talk-show host Bill Maher used two vulgar female slang terms to reference Sarah Palin, without any major consequences.

Those Palin slurs were mild in comparison to late-night television icon David Letterman's crude riff that Palin's then-14-year old daughter was impregnated by baseball star Alex Rodriguez.

In contrast, when talk-show host Rush Limbaugh demeaned activist Sandra Fluke as a "slut," outrage followed. Sponsors were pressured to drop Limbaugh. Some did. Unlike the targeted Palin, Fluke became a national icon of popular feminist resistance.

So how do we sort out all these slurs and the contradictory consequences that follow them?

Apparently, racist, sexist or homophobic words themselves do not necessarily earn any rebuke. Nor is the race or gender of the speaker always a clue to the degree of outrage that follows.

Instead, the perceived ideology of the perpetrator is what matters most. Maher and Letterman, being good liberals, could hardly be crude sexists. But when the conservative Limbaugh uses similar terms, it must be a window into his dark heart.

It's apparently OK for whites or blacks to slur conservative Clarence Thomas in racist terms. Saying anything similar of the late liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall would have been blasphemous.

In short, we are dealing not with actual word crimes, but with supposed thought crimes.

The liberal media and popular culture have become our self-appointed thought police. Politics determines whether hate speech is a reflection of real hate or just an inadvertent slip, a risqué joke or an anguished reaction to years of oppression.

Poor Paula Deen. She may protest accusations of racism by noting that she supported Barack Obama's presidential campaigns. But the media instead fixates on her deep Southern accent and demeanor, which supposedly prove her speech was racist in a way that left-wing and cool Jamie Foxx purportedly could never be.

We cannot forgive conservative Mel Gibson for his despicable, drunken anti-Semitic rants. But it appears we can pardon liberal Alec Baldwin for his vicious homophobic outbursts. The former smears are judged by the thought police to be typical, but the latter slurs are surely aberrant.

The crime is not hate speech, but hate thought -- a state of mind that apparently only self-appointed liberal referees can sort out.



Obamacare Is Coming Undone

Obamacare is coming undone. You can see it happening day by day, provision by provision, as the administration postpones or scales back key parts of the law, and other signs continue to suggest that the law as written simply won’t work.

Last Tuesday, in what was apparently intended to be a pre-July 4 holiday news dump, the administration made the embarrassing announcement that it would delay by a year the health law’s requirement that employers with 50 or more workers offer health coverage or pay a penalty. The administration also said it would delay the law’s reporting requirements for employers who offer health coverage.

That raised a major operational question about the law’s health insurance exchanges. How would those exchanges be able to determine whether someone applying for subsidies to buy individual coverage on an exchange already had access to employer coverage? The law says that people whose employers provide coverage aren’t allowed to get subsidies.

Late on Friday, we get another news dump—and an answer. The 16 exchanges run by states won’t have to verify an individual’s health insurance status at all. Nor will the state-run exchanges have to verify an individual’s income level.

Instead, they’ll rely on “self-reported” information. And then subsidies will be available to anyone who simply attests that they do not get qualifying, affordable health insurance from work, and that their household income is low enough to be eligible for subsidies.

As Ben Domenech writes in this morning’s Transom, what this means is that “the most significant entitlement increase since the Great Society will be operating on the honor system.” And as Yuval Levin says, it may turn out to be “an open invitation to fraud.” Even if outright fraud does not become a major issue, the combination of the delays may increase the cost of the law relative to what it would have been: No employer penalty, and no health status or income verification, means that more people will end up on the exchanges, receiving subsidies. And more subsidies means a more expensive law. The deficit reduction it was supposed to have achieved, already significantly reduced, is almost certainly reduced further—and perhaps gone entirely.

The delays also constitute an admission that the administration simply could not make the law’s verification technology—the infrastructure that is arguably the core functionality for the exchanges—work properly before the October 2013 launch of the exchanges. Doing so, according to the rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services last Friday, “would involve a large amount of systems development on both the state and federal side, which cannot occur in time for October 1, 2013.”

The postponements were unexpected—even, apparently, to the officials running the exchanges at the state level. But trouble with the verification technology should not have come as a surprise. Obamacare's critics have warned about the potential difficulties practically since the law was passed. In my October 2010 feature on implementating the law, for example, I noted that “fast, accurate income verification presents a particularly serious difficulty,” and spoke to several health policy experts who warned of difficulties ahead. Nor were critics the only ones seeing trouble. It’s been clear from the reporting for over a year now that officials in charge of implementing the law were having serious problems making the exchange technology work. By the time that the official in charge of the exchange technology told insurers that he was “pretty nervous” and had resorted to working to “make sure it’s not a third-world experience,” it was pretty clear that the project was a mess.

The delays aren’t only recent sign that Obamacare is struggling.

Just a few days before the employer mandate was postponed, Bloomberg News reported that a third of the hospitals involved in a high-level test of the law’s most vaunted health care savings programs—its Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program—are threatening to cease participation. The 16 hospitals were part of the ACO “pioneer” program, which was intended to show off how some of the law’s most ambitious health care payment reforms would work. Right now, however, it looks suspiciously like they aren’t.

The same goes for a lot of Obamacare. Earlier this year, officials in charge of the law delayed the essential functionality of the law’s small business exchanges. The law’s early retirement program ran out of money and shut down early. The law’s high-risk pool program signed up far fewer people than anyone predicted—and yet, thanks to unexpectedly high per-beneficiary costs—still had to cut payments to providers and cease enrollment in order to stay afloat. The availability of national health plans that were supposed to be part of the exchanges is in doubt, probably because of insurer reticence. Large swaths of rural, low-income Mississipi may end up with no insurers at all to choose from in the exchange. Officials in states that are building their own exchanges continue to say they are struggling to meet deadlines. The list goes on.

None of this means that Obamacare will collapse under its own weight. The most likely scenario at this point (though not the only one) is that the exchanges will still open on time, enrolling all who claim eligibility in subsidies. But the law’s rocky implementation continues to reveal the significant flaws in both the law’s legislative design and management. There’s still much that’s unclear about the inner workings of the exchange-creation process, but the fact that the administration is jettisoning key provisions this late in the implementation calendar suggests that it is not going well, and it is reasonable to suspect that the bad news for the law will continue. The big question, then, is which piece of the law will come undone next?



A hollow victory for Zimmerman

As predicted, many blacks are not satisfied with the acquittal of George Zimmerman.  He will be pursued by black racists for the rest of his life.  He may have to emigrate to achieve any degree of personal safety.  It is no wonder that he looked only barely pleased by the verdict.  He is now under a life sentence, just not one in jail.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL 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, July 14, 2013

Bill Quick is a little slow on the uptake

Wiliam T. Quick, also known as Margaret Allan, is an elderly  California science fiction novelist who is also "a gullible, credulous, junk-science guzzling idiot".  That's what he called me anyway so I guess that I am entitled to return the compliment.

Bill has fallen for the popular fad of taking vitamin and mineral pills to improve his health.  Epidemiologists have known for years that life-style changes, including "supplement" intake, give no improvement in longevity and may even shorten lifespans.  But people want to believe that they can put something in their mouth that will improve their health so the practice will continue.  The witch doctors of old did a good trade with their pills and potions too.

So I endeavoured to point out to Bill that it might be beneficial to his health to review his "supplement" habit.  But he would have none of it. I immediately suspected that he was too old and set in his ways to change anything in his life but I persisted anyway.  I sent him a whole bunch of links to epidemiological and experimental articles which found at least no benefit and sometimes harm from consuming "supplements".  See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here, for instance.

Bill is a libertarian/conservative blogger so I thought he might be interested in looking at the facts.  But he showed no sign of having read any of the links and made only abusive replies  -- culminating in the insult I have mentioned above.  He would make a good Leftist.  He seems a very angry man who  "just knows" what the truth is and answers rational argument with abuse.  But libertarians are a lot like Leftists sometimes so that may be it


Strange doings at the Gettysburg re-enactment

Barry Rubin is something of a hero of mine.  When rubbish is printed about Israel it is often Rubin who replies, setting out the facts of the matter in reply to lies and distortions.  It is an Augean task but he continues.

For some reason, however, he took part in the recent Gettysburg re-enactment, despite a lot of complaints from him about the inconvenience of it.  I gather that the re-enactment was an interest of his son and he went along with it in the name of family solidarity  -- a good Jewish value, I would think.

Anyway, the following is a little tale about it that he put up on Facebook:

Finally, before we leave the topic of Gettysburg, I have an exclusive for you--I have no idea where I would publish it--just on this Facebook. I hope you enjoy it.

The Visit

We were sitting in the enlisted “fly,” the social area in the Federal headquarters camp at Gettysburg. We were all wearing period uniforms from the Civil War and keeping in historical era. Suddenly, the Captain, Willard Longnecker, walked up. “We have to mount an honor guard because the prime minister of Israel is about to visit the camp.”

“What?” I said. “That’s not possible.”

”That’s what they told me.”

“It can’t be. He’s not even in the country!”

“Well that’s what the staff is saying.”

“If you are teasing me,” I told Willard, I’ll never let you forget it!” But he really did seem serious. Clearly, he himself believed it was true.

Since I and my son, the unit’s drummer boy, are Israeli of course that would be amazing. But it can’t be. We scrambled to the tent and put on our equipment: musket with fixed bayonet, canteen, cartridge box with the bullets and cap box with the mercury caps that set off the spark for firing. Our unit then got back fast and were positioned around the headquarters tent.

A few minutes later, a group came in, with bodyguards, families, and perhaps some journalists. Of course it wasn’t Bibi, who as I knew was in Jerusalem meeting Secretary of State John Kerry for the sixth time.
“Who is it?” I said in Hebrew to a woman.

“The ambassador, Michael Oren, and my husband, the military attaché.”
She seemed unsurprised that the Union sentry spoke Hebrew, which I thought delightful. Perhaps the entire Union Army did so and we were just keeping in character.

I asked, “Where are you from?”


“I’m from Tel Aviv.” Then she realized that she had come perhaps across the only Israelis among about 13,000 re-enactors there. She took my picture.

Then the general began his welcoming speech. “We are glad to welcome Israel’s prime minister to the camp…” Oren broke out in a grin but as a good diplomat issued no correction.

Two soldiers—Sergeant Ross and Private Joshua Withrow--then gave a demonstration of “loading in nine times,” the way a musket is fired. To be taken into the army you had to have your teeth, explained the colonel, to tear the cartridge.

The soldiers stand the musket on the ground, pull a cartridge out of the leather case on their belt, tear the paper that wraps the black powder with their teeth, and pour it down the barrel, they then put it under their right arm in position, cock the hammer back and fish out the cap to put it on the small nipple. Then they go to full cock along with the order ready, aim, fire. A bright flash and loud sound, followed by white smoke erupts.

The audience applauded and laughed.

“Now you try it,” said the colonel. The soldiers turned over their muskets to the real major general and ambassador. “Wait!” said the colonel. He ran the few steps to his tent and got an over-fancy officers’ hat with plumes and gold braid and put it on Oren’s head.

They actually did pretty well.

Then the (real IDF) general was handed a Henry cavalry semi-automatic carbine and fired off shot after shot like an old pro, smiling in delight.

Now, of course, privates are totally unimportant but I leaned over to an officer and asked if I could say hello to Oren since I knew him personally.

The officer nicely agreed quickly, though he told me to wait just before Oren’s party left, not knowing the protocol and figuring there was no harm in it.

So when he signaled I could step out of line I went over and introduced myself. Oren’s eyes opened wide and asked me to repeat who I was. My forage cap was pulled down low and I was, of course, wearing Civil War gear and carrying an 1862 Springfield musket.

Figuring out that it really was me, the ambassador threw his arms around me, said he reads my articles and several other nice things, and brought his family over to meet me. High-ranking officers in the Union or other armies are not pleased to be upstaged but were also partly baffled.

What are the odds?

My son, Daniel, was very pleased at noting that one of the embassy kids his age looked at him enviously.


You're Too 'Cynical'

The President rolls out another plan for 'smarter government.'

President Obama gave a speech Monday instructing Americans not to be so "cynical" about government. This is not a setup for a punch line. He then explained that the major problem with government is that it does not run as efficiently as "one of the most inclusive and most successful campaigns in American history." His own.

It was unclear if Mr. Obama was referring to his 2008 political operation or the 2012 reprise, but in any case he said he is developing a new "management agenda" to deliver a "smarter and more accountable" government, "just like we did on that campaign." Call us cynical, but is there an American outside of Washington nostalgic for the last election?

"What matters in the end is completion. Performance. Results. Not just making promises, but making good on promises," Mr. Obama continued. Sorry, that was George W. Bush in 2001 debuting what he also called a new "management agenda." Perhaps Mr. Obama's version is an homage, though he didn't acknowledge the debt, nor did he mention Al Gore's "reinventing government" program of the 1990s.

President Obama's management agenda is also indebted to President Obama's 2011 call for a scrubdown of the regulatory state for duplicative rules, as well as President Obama's 2012 proposal to consolidate and reorganize the executive branch. The authorities have since issued Amber Alerts for both projects.

Presidents always summon such initiatives that go nowhere when the polls show the public distrusts government, which is usually when it is largest and most activist, and no more so than the present moment. But it's especially rich for Mr. Obama to try to ride this painted pony one more time, as government is dumber and less accountable than ever.

The President actually cited the Affordable Care Act as an example of his idea of more user-friendly government: People will be able to shop for insurance, he said, "like you go online and compare the best deal on cars." Yet the unfortunate government official charged with designing this online tool declared in March that his team had given up on creating "a world-class user experience," adding, "Let's just make sure it's not a third-world experience."

Amid what has recently become a full regulatory panic, ObamaCare will be lucky to rise to third-world standards though it isn't the only part of government Mr. Obama has expanded that could use a "management agenda." Three years after passage, regulators still haven't written the Volcker Rule or other parts of Dodd-Frank financial re-regulation. The stimulus cost a lot but never did kickstart a real recovery. And where was "smarter government" when Mr. Obama told his agencies to administer this year's 5% sequester cuts as painfully as possible so voters would force Congress to oppose any cuts?

Americans might be less cynical about government if Mr. Obama's real preference wasn't for the government status quo, only much more of it.



What ObamaCare Is Going To Do To Your Doctor

You should care a lot about how health reform will affect your doctor. The reason: it will also affect you.

Here's what's happening: hospitals are merging and they are acquiring doctors. In the process, they are making the market less competitive, gaming third-party payment formulas and doing other things that make our health insurance premiums and our taxes higher than they otherwise would be.

None of this is the result of any plan the administration ever announced, however. What did the Obama administration intend to happen? The clearest explanation of their vision of health reform comes from Harvard Medical School Professor Atul Gawande, who thinks that medicine should be more like engineering — with all doctors following the same script, rather than exercising their individual judgments:

"This can no longer be a profession of craftsmen individually brewing plans for whatever patient comes through the door. We have to be more like engineers building a mechanism whose parts actually fit together, whose workings are ever more finely tuned and tweaked for ever better performance in providing aid and comfort to human beings."

Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, explains what this will mean for the organization of medical practice:

"The legislation also includes physician payment reforms that encourage physicians, hospitals, and other providers to join together to form accountable care organizations [ACOs] to gain efficiencies and improve quality of care. Those that meet quality-of-care targets and reduce costs relative to a spending benchmark can share in the savings they generate for Medicare."

To assist in this effort, millions of dollars have been spent on pilot programs and demonstration projects to find about "what works" so the ACOs can go copy them. We've had demonstration projects for coordinated care, integrated care, medical homes, electronic medical records, pay-for-performance and just about every other faddish idea. Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office has found in three separate reports that that none of this is working (see here, here and here.)

When I say that none of these techniques work, what I really mean is that projects designed, approved and paid for by the demand side for the market aren't working. Many of these techniques actually do work when they are instituted by entrepreneurs on the supply side. But these innovations have nothing to do with ObamaCare. They are happening in spite of ObamaCare.

[Oops, there was one demo project that actually worked and worked well. The government is shutting it down.]

Meanwhile, more than half the doctors are working for hospitals and other institutions, rather than working in private practice. And hospitals are using their new doctor employees to get more money out of Medicare. Even the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPac), the federal agency responsible for overseeing Medicare fees, has noticed — although belatedly — that hospitals can charge Medicare more for the same services than doctors can charge if they bill Medicare as an independent practitioner. As reported in The New York Times:

"Medicare pays $58 for a 15-minute visit to a doctor's office and 70 percent more — $98.70 — for the same consultation in the outpatient department of a hospital. The patient also pays more: $24.68, rather than $14.50.

Likewise, the commission said, when a Medicare beneficiary receives a certain type of echocardiogram in a doctor’s office, the government and the patient together pay a total of $188. They pay more than twice as much — $452 — for the same test in the outpatient department of a hospital. (The test is used to evaluate the functioning of the heart.)

…From 2010 to 2011, the commission said, the number of echocardiograms provided to Medicare beneficiaries in doctors' offices declined by 6 percent, but the number in hospital outpatient clinics increased by nearly 18 percent."

On the positive side, a major unintended consequence of health reform is the boost to consumer directed health care. In the health insurance exchanges, the cheapest plans are going to have deductibles of $5,000 or more. And lots and lots of people are going to choose the cheapest plans. Avik Roy reports that employers are going for Health Savings Accounts (or Health Reimbursement Arrangements) in a big way. Bottom line: millions of patients are going to be buying care with their own money, rather than with a third-party payer's money.

I'm sure this thought is causing heartburn for those on the left who view high deductible plans as "under-insurance." But this development is viewed as opportunity by health care entrepreneurs.

One study is predicting that the number of walk-in clinics is going to double in the next few years. The Obama administration doesn't like them because they are not part of integrated care/coordinated care/medical homes/etc., etc., etc. Even so, they are doing what the ACOs are unlikely to do: lowering costs, increasing quality and improving access to care.



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