Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brief and Direct: Public Program vs. Private Product

A thought experiment.

What would have happened a few weeks ago had Obamacare been a product offered for sale by a private company, rather than by the government? I don't mean 'who would be fired,' although we could ask that, too. I mean, what would the company have done in the face of an obviously disastrous rollout? And how does it differ from what the Obama administration has done?

First difference: It would not have been rolled out with so many known problems. That's one reason companies don't announce big new product introductions or upgrades months in advance. They announce them officially as they roll them out. The Obama administration in contrast continued headlong over the cliff.

Second, had major problems been discovered after rollout, the product would have been pulled back immediately, and the website access to it would have been closed for remodeling. Obama chose to keep it open and insist it just has a few "glitches."

Third, the questions being asked would not have stopped with "Whose fault is it," but would have included "Why has so much gone wrong so fast? What do we have to CHANGE to fix the problems? Are the factors behind the problems incidental, or intrinsic to the product?" The Obama administration's response has been to assume they are incidental problems that can be solved by 'more of the same' and working harder and longer. No thought has been given to intrinsic problems with the underlying product. 

Finally, there would be an all-out attempt to fix what went wrong, no matter what it was, and a decision would be made to make small changes, big changes, or to scrap the product.  With Obamacare, the only object of attention has been the website and its developers and the Secretary of HHS.  No attention has been directed at whether the program itself is ever going to be workable, or whether it even can be workable.

Think back to the introduction of New Coke, and the Edsel, and bacon added to almost anything. The first two were launched with every expectation of success, yet they failed rather quickly and were cancelled because consumers weren't receptive. The third just sort of snuck up on us, and in the face of all the fear of fattening, 'bacon-y goodness' caught on and spread. Now there are even bacon-maple donuts and bacon-flavored ice cream, with their own fans.

The point: Private enterprise can react quickly in the face of adverse customer reaction. Government enterprises are authorized by legislation and funded by more legislation. They are extremely slow to change. They are staffed by (sometimes) huge bureaucracies that have a vested interest in keeping the program alive, and a significant ability to affect the 'keep or kill' decision, if such a decision can even be considered.

A private firm can react quickly. Governments can't. The private firm has one goal--to be financially successful. When a new product has trouble, the trouble isn't just blamed on the delivery method--the product itself is examined. The government has many conflicting goals. There is a strong incentive to find a simple, impersonal aspect of the product and blame everything wrong on that, and there is practically no incentive to examine the program itself. The result is slow and ineffective reaction to both adversity and success. The Obamacare website is still in the same state of disarray it was weeks ago, and now the promised November 30 fix deadline is expected to be adjusted backward.  But the website is just the delivery vehicle; the real problem lies within the product that defines the size and shape of the box.

Obamacare is a perfect example of why government enterprise is an oxymoron, and it's a perfect illustration of why most all parts of American life and business should be left in the private sector. The public sector, by it's very nature, can't avoid doing it worse.

Cross-posted at RedState

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When a President Lies

How can we have confidence anything else he says is true?

At this point, although they are very bad spots on Obama's record, the IRS, Benghazi, NSA internal spying, interfering with local authorities and state authorities, Fast and Furious, Egypt, Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, border control, green energy cronyism, Obamacare, incompetence in general, inability to develop a website for $600,000,000, and all the rest of it, are all beside the point.

We have a president who stood in front of us, looked us in the eye, and lied to us. The way he phrased the lie left no doubt that he intended to convince us that his law would be beneficial, by his very sincerity in taking care of our misgivings. We had no reason to fear his giant new law, because we would be protected from its possible side effects.

There is no reasonable doubt that he knew he was lying, unless one believes he was simply being directed by his staff to follow the script without knowing whether it was accurate or not. (If that is true, we have an even bigger problem than a lying President--we have a Robot-in-Chief.) He didn't just make a misstatement once while speaking extemporaneously, he lied from a prepared script, repeatedly.

Claims that it was just 'political spin' or 'accurate but not precise enough' are nonsense, in the strictest meaning of nonsense. It was a direct, clear, unambiguous statement, a personal promise from him to each of us, to You, individually, that you "could keep your insurance and your doctors. Period."

We have a president who lied to us. He lied multiple times. He lied with a purpose. He lied in order to pass a law that would not have passed without the lie.

President Nixon was drummed from office for the same transgression. Essentially, President Clinton was impeached for it. President George H. W. Bush didn't even need to lie; he was not re-elected simply because he changed his mind during his only term and didn't veto a tax increase.  But they, too, are irrelevant.

Our current President lied to us, personally. The words amounted to, "I promise You." Multiple times. How many times does it take before we remember that it's not just a rhetorical tactic, it's a character flaw? It's part of a personality. It may be the most important thing we can know about anybody--is he honest? Can we trust his word? It is the most important thing we can know about a politician.

The MSM has done all it can to protect him, and it may work. But would you buy a used car from the man? He has already lied to us many times. Why should we believe anything he says or has said; future, present, or past? Why trust him about anything?

"Once a liar, always a liar." What more do we need to know?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9/11/2012 -- One Year Later, Still No Answers

September 11, 2013

One year ago today, an organized mob of terrorists attacked a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  The Ambassador had previously asked for increased security, and it was denied.  The attack lasted for about six hours.  The Ambassador and Sean Smith were killed in the "safe room" soon after the attack began; security operatives Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed on the rooftop of one of the buildings in the compound by enemy mortar fire several hours later, near the end of the attack.  

Almost immediately, the Obama Administration's official position was that the attack grew out of a demonstration against the existence of an internet-based video that appeared to demean the prophet Mohammed.  The maker of the video was arrested and jailed in Los Angeles, ostensibly for a parole violation.  President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton pointedly promised to bring the actual killers to justice.  Some days or weeks later the Administration announced that the video was not to blame, but that a terrorist attack was.  More than thirty other American State Department employees and American operatives were present during the attack, and they escaped with injuries of varying severity.  The video maker was recently released from jail.

These are almost the only aspects of the incident that everyone agrees on, even though there have been several Congressional hearings attempting to learn more about what happened, and an Accountability Review Board investigation was commissioned by the Administration to look into the matter as well.

Doesn't the fact that all these investigations can't fill in the rest of the picture tell us that something is very wrong?

The unanswered questions boil down to these:  

  • Who refused to provide more security when the Ambassador insisted it was needed.  Why was his request denied?  
  • Who carried out the attack?  What was the reason behind it?  
  • Who was tracking the incident in the White House?  
  • Who was making decisions and giving orders throughout the night, and who was carrying them out?  
  • Why was there no significant attempt to make any kind of response to the attack when it began?  
  • Where was the President during the attack?  What was he doing? 
  • Why did he not think an attack on a diplomatic post required some of his personal attention?
  • Who decided to blame the attack on the video, when the evidence is that everybody involved knew that wasn't the case?  And why?
  • Who ordered that the survivors be kept away from the Congressional investigators, even keeping their names secret, and why?

These questions have all been asked by various people in various venues, some of them many times, but none of them have been answered credibly by those who know the answers.

And three questions unasked by the traditional media:

  • Why was the Ambassador put in that position in the first place?  
  • How can anyone look at this list of unanswered questions and not conclude that the Obama Administration is executing a cover-up of something by stonewall?  
  • What is being covered up?

The primary question in every case starts with "Who?"  Until that's answered, the rest remain speculation.  "Who" can tell us "why," and nobody else.

President Obama has called this a "phony scandal."  His surrogates appear on television regularly to repeat that claim, and if they want to engage at all on the subject, they fall back to the law-enforcement approach--"We are working every day to identify who the killers are and to bring them to justice," as if that were the only fact and action yet to be known and taken, as if the only reason to ask questions is to "make sure it never happens again."  But in the greater scheme of things, the much more important questions all have to do with actions in Washington, not in Libya.  And because of that, the next favorite statement from those surrogates is "Republicans are just on a witch hunt to get dirt on the President."

But wasn't that exactly the motivation behind the 1973 Watergate hearings?  Certainly they weren't held just to make sure another hotel room break-in would never happen.  Even if placing blame is the motive this time, the best response is to show the dirt is not to be found at the President's door.

The President has told us that he wants to get to the bottom of things, but today we still have most of the same questions we had a year ago.  And supporting the suspicion of a stonewall cover-up is the fact that almost all of those questions could be answered easily with three short sentences from the President to his immediate subordinates--"Answer the committee's questions and tell the truth.  If you don't know the answers, find them.  If you can't do that, please find another line of work."

I wonder why he hasn't spoken them.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What Will President Obama Do About Syria?

Why does the Syrian situation seem so much more difficult than that of Libya, for instance, or than Egypt was?  Why didn't Obama just handle it the same way, instead of making threats to attack Syria unilaterally?  Syria comes with some built in problems that didn't apply to those two countries and their uprisings and revolutions.

The Practical Problems

We have problems with our intelligence. That is, the people whom we count on to give us accurate information don't seem to be in agreement about the situation in Syria. We don't know the makeup of the anti-Assad groups, for instance. We may not truly know whom to support against Bashar al-Assad, although they claim they do.

Even with perfect intelligence, the future isn't just unknowable, its degree of uncertainty is extremely high and many-faceted. Among other things, we don't know how our action or inaction will affect the civil war, or how it will be perceived by either our adversaries or our friends. We don't know what the consequences will be, intended or unintended. We don't know who will end up controlling the ChemWeapons, nor how we can insure the threat level will be lower after an attack than it is now. How can it be better if they remain in the hands of ANY Syrians? How can we get them out of their hands without putting our soldiers into the action on the ground?

We don't know how big our involvement will eventually become. Will it stop with the "shot across the bow," or will it by necessity of circumstance grow into a full invasion?

What is our objective? Is it to deter future use of ChemW's on the part of Syria, or of other countries? Is it to affect the course of the war itself? Do we take different actions for one that we wouldn't take for the other? Some "experts" tell us that it will be unacceptable for Assad and his Hezbollah supporters to eventually prevail, creating a situation ripe for Iranian hegemony in the Middle East, at Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia's (and our) peril. That tight connection with a much stronger nation, Iran, was missing from the other revolutions, and it matters a lot.  Yet that doesn't seem to be what the President is talking about.

And we can't forget both the cost of the operation and the drain on our military resources.  We have been stretching the limits of our capabilities for ten years, and the Obama Administration has been quietly cutting the Pentagon's budget for several years now.  We have less capacity to engage in foreign wars now than we did in 2003.  If we were to put the burden of a new campaign on our military, it might have a tremendously demoralizing effect in all the services, which would in turn further degrade our ability to fight, which is ironically one of the objectives President Obama has laid out for the attack--only he says his intention is to degrade Assad's capabilities, not ours.  Consequently, any attack at all should be one that is absolutely necessary for our own national security.

An operation with so many unknowns and such a high degree of uncertainty is simply begging to either go wrong (the Carter debacle in the desert) or more properly, be canceled.

The Political Problems

We are told that we MUST react to the use of ChemW because we (President Obama) said we would, and/or because if we don't, we're inviting the next use of it. That our threat of force followed up by our use of force gives credibility to the policy of deterrence. If we don't follow up on our warnings, that policy will be nullified.

Our President is in an unenviable position. He has essentially made threats that he doesn't seem now to want to carry out. Does he need to do something just to maintain some measure of credibility?

Congress has been asked to pass judgment on the military option. If it says "No," should the President back off, and if so, should it be philosophically or acrimoniously? Or if he goes ahead with an air strike, what will that do to his relationship with Congress, and how will the people take it politically?

The people are overwhelmingly against attacking Syria. This is a political problem for some of those in Congress who believe a strike is necessary to maintain the credibility of the US in the world community of civilized nations. Simultaneously, the people don't have access to all the facts about the situation. Maybe we, the people, shouldn't have the last word. Or maybe we should be told more of the facts so that our last word is more likely to be right.

A different type of political problem is faced by the President. His approval ratings have recently been at low tide so he doesn't want to take any political chances, yet he is already on record as favoring an action the electorate dislikes. He isn't up for re-election, but he needs his popularity to help him get more of his policies in place. Yet if he backs out of the strike, he looks weak on the world stage, which also hurts him politically at home.

The Presidential Problems

The President isn't getting much traction for several reasons. He isn't really out there selling his program. He talks about it, but he doesn't say enough about why it's better than some other program, or even about why it's necessary. He can send out his emissaries to talk to us, and John Kerry could be effective at it, but the President undercut his Secretary of State last week, and that cost Kerry a lot of credibility on his own right.

The President's indecisiveness hurts him tremendously. He says he doesn't need Congress and he will strike quickly. Then he thinks it over, and decides to ask for the blessing of Congress.  This in turn makes him seem to be too quick to threaten and too slow to act.

He can't convince our traditional good allies to help him with the job. Why?

He has no personal credibility with about half of the population, and about half of the rest are skeptical. He said he intended to make just a one-day air strike. Senator John McCain also assures us there will be no "boots on the ground." But the Pentagon has estimated it would take 150,000 boots on the ground (75,000 troops) to secure Assad's ChemW's. And he can't honestly rule out the possibility of the need for those soldiers, because he hasn't convinced anybody that he doesn't really want to remove Assad and secure the ChemW's.

He compounded his credibility problem by claiming that HE didn't draw any red lines, everybody else did, even though the video is right up there for everybody to see. That's inexplicable, because it's unnecessary.

He announced his battle strategy two weeks ago (firing a warning shot), which made it immediately ineffective and meaningless. His eagerness to tell us the good ideas he has leads him to tell everybody everything about them. This trait doesn't inspire confidence in his judgment.

He has no experience as a leader of large operations, and he doesn't project the image of a man who can do it the first time he tries. He is looked upon as particularly unsuited for the task he is setting up for himself. In fact, there may be a majority of Americans who think he's incapable of pulling it off, and they don't want to have a military operation that is destined to fail from the start, costing us even more lives.

And finally, among and beyond those who don't believe in the President's ability to successfully lead our military in battle, there are more than a few who don't trust the man, Obama.  They don't trust his words, they don't trust his motives, and they don't trust his wisdom. They may not be a majority, but their numbers aren't small and they are vocal, and they are gaining adherents. It behooves this President to give them nothing to hang their suspicions on.

Putting it together

We have a situation with a great number of unknowns and very few knowns. The situation may be critical, but it hasn't been convincingly explained as to why it's critical.

Absent the explanation, there is little public support for the action.

Absent a track record on the President's part, with a widespread lack of confidence in his military leadership abilities, and without a pressing need for immediate action, this operation seems unlikely to proceed.

I believe it's much more likely that the President will change direction again before Tuesday, September 10, 2013, and that he will start a new initiative of some kind, perhaps diplomatic, perhaps through the U.N., and he will tone the belligerent rhetoric way, way down.  The speech Tuesday night could kick that off.

Cross-posted at RedState.

Brief and Direct: Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood

From the morning paper--Eugene Robinson of the WaPo Writers Group, regarding Egyptian turmoil:
The interior minister's claim that soldiers did not use live ammunition was the kind of bald-faced lie that only repressive governments think they can get away with; Western correspondents described seeing protesters cut down by sniper fire....
I say a regime with the press in its pocket thinks the same way. If those correspondents didn't report it, they would get away with it. How about the following gems from somewhere closer than Egypt? Is the government that issued these bald-faced lies "repressive"? I think it's getting there:

Black Panthers with clubs outside polling places? Nothing to see there. No prosecution necessary.

We have to give millions of dollars to companies like Solyndra to "jump start" the Green industry.

The Keystone pipeline would only create 50 permanent jobs.

The border has never been as secure as it is today.

The shooting at Fort Hood is an example of "workplace violence."

It's Bush's fault.

The president was closely involved in the capture/killing of bin Laden.

We've created 9 million new jobs.

The attack at Benghazi was caused by an objectionable video posted on the Internet.

The decision to sidetrack Tea Party groups' legal applications for educational tax status was made by "rogue agents" in a regional office.

Liberal groups were targeted by the IRS just as Tea Party groups were.

The President can't comment on the attempts to deport a family who had been granted asylum from German religious persecution. This isn't the seventeenth century.

We had to tell the judge that James Rosen was suspected of being a conspirator to leak secrets. Otherwise, he wouldn't have granted the warrant to tap Rosen's phones and emails. But we "never intended to prosecute him for being a reporter."

We are storing pictures of every piece of mail sent in the US, and we retain copies of the metadata associated with every phone call made and every email sent, and we can access the contents of many or all of them, but we would never look at any of them without a properly executed and justified warrant.

Spending hundreds of millions of dollars for the President and his family to vacation in Europe, Africa, and Asia is completely justified by his position.

We have a deficit because too many people are not paying their fair share of taxes.
It's Bush's fault.

I have doubled the national debt because Congress wouldn't cooperate with me.

We think the actions of the perpetrators of (Benghazi, Ft. Hood, Fast and Furious, IRS malfeasance, GSA overspending, NSA privacy and procedure violations) are unconscionable and unacceptable.

We won't stop until we bring the perpetrators of (Benghazi, Ft. Hood, Fast and Furious, IRS malfeasance, GSA overspending, NSA privacy and procedure violations) to justice.

Benghazi, Ft. Hood, Fast and Furious, IRS malfeasance, GSA overspending, NSA privacy and procedure violations are phony scandals.

Republicans want to deny health care to the poor.

It's ok for the President to enforce only the parts of laws that he likes. That's what we call "faithfully executing" the law. He can delay the parts of Obamacare that are inconvenient politically, because he's the President.

Congress will be covered by Obamacare, just like everybody else.

Congress and its staff can't afford to participate in Obamacare unless the government picks up 75% of the tab.

We can cover the health needs of 30 million additional non-paying individuals, and it won't cost one thin dime more than it does now. (And the quantity and quality of care won't suffer, either.)

You'll be able to keep your present health insurance if you want to.

The government won't restrict access to health care for the elderly or anybody else.

Income tax information is completely secure. It is never disclosed to anyone without a court order.

The privacy and integrity of your health records will be safe with us.

It's still Bush's fault.

Heck, this regime can even get away with telling the painful truth without being called on it:

I'm in favor of wealth re-distribution.

When we pass this Cap and Trade legislation, it will cause energy prices to skyrocket.

What I want in the end is a single-payer health insurance program.

The elderly may have to accept pain killers instead of surgery.

I won.

Previously published at RedState.com.

Brief and Direct: How Can Our Favorites Fall from Grace So Fast?

From an answer to another RedState poster (with an edit at the end):

To answer you straight, a reason conservatives have a hair trigger when it comes to their elected favorites is that it matters so much. If you are a member of a sizable majority, the occasional defection for whatever reason can make no difference at all; it can be understood as a tactical move prior to an election, important to the defector but not to the final outcome.

The same is true if you are part of a hopeless minority. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins were acceptable for that reason, for a while. They usually voted the right way, seldom made any difference. The most important thing they did was fill Senate seats as Republicans, giving the 'Pubs two vote closer to a majority for CONTROL OF THE SENATE or to block Democrats as a significant minority.

When legislative things get close, then individual votes start to matter more. In those situations, Democrats seem to understand and they toe the line. Republicans don't, perhaps because they haven't had enough experience as a majority. Bart Stupak was the poster boy for being "persuadable." He and his constituents were anti-OCare-abortions, so he was promised there would be none, and his vote pushed OCare over the top (IIRC). It turned out that his constituents were simply anti-OCare. He declined to run for re-election in 2010, and in gratitude his constituents elected a Republican to replace him. So toeing the line can have its price, as can broken promises. And now we have an OCare that includes abortion funding in some cases.

But I digress. Mis-steps by Rubio and Rand Paul and anybody else are magnified in importance because of the size of their footprints. To use Rubio as an example, he was elected by a popular groundswell in reaction to obvious dissembling by Charlie Crist. He was, and IS, a solid conservative--about everything but the immigration issue. Therefore, I could forgive his position on it, even his participation in the Gang of 8, UP TO A POINT.

As long as he was steadfast in his demand for sensible sequencing, for border security before amnesty (let's just use the word instead of being nit-picky about whether it's the "right" word or not), as long as he was truthful, he got a pass from me because of his unique situation. Once he started backing off of security-first, claiming that a plan is as good as a deed, accommodating Chuck Schumer in back-room deals, he lost my support. As I have stated here more than once, he can regain it only by renouncing the Go8 deal and removing his name from it.

Face it. If Rubio's name were not on this abomination of an immigration disaster, it wouldn't have much of a chance of getting out of the Senate, let alone passing in the House. His support for it is crucial. And his opposition would be crucial as well.

So let that be an answer to your unasked question--Why are conservatives so quick to denounce their former favorites? Because they're so important, but only as long as they remain conservative on critical issues.

Previously published at RedState.com.

Brief and Direct: How Can We Know the News Is True?

There's only one way to decide.

Every bit of news must be weighed against common sense, not cynically, but clinically. Does what is being reported make good sense? Does it describe the way real people act? Remember that "real people" include dishonest people, uninformed people, good people, evil people, people with a different outlook on problems than you do, and people who may have MORE information than you have. Do the reports cover relevant issues, or do they emphasize sensationalism, speculation, and assign arcane motives to random actions that could well be meaningless?

Then ask, are the reports complete? Do they attempt to describe the entire event or issue, or is the report incomplete without explanation? Do they leave obvious questions unanswered or even unasked? Do they accept unlikely, illogical explanations from official sources without questioning them? Some of these questions can only be answered definitively by prior knowledge of the event or issue, or in retrospect; others answer themselves as you realize that you have questions the reporter hasn't tried to answer.

For example, we have been told that President Obama was briefed at 5 pm about the attack on Benghazi, he observed some of the attack in the White House situation room, he then told the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense to "take care of it" or something like that, and then he went to bed and wasn't involved at all in any subsequent activity. There doesn't seem to be any dispute--that is what happened.  It also seems indisputable that there are many unasked and unanswered questions in that timeline. Two simple ones are Where was the President during that time, and What was he doing?

And we must ask ourselves, What would cause a President to abdicate his authority to subordinates at a time when our country's sovereign soil (a consulate, we've been told), is under attack, (especially a President who was so visibly involved in the situation room during the Osama bin Laden capture and killing, all the way to the end)?

We must ask, Why was the Ambassador in that situation to begin with?

We must ask, Why wasn't an (official) attempt made to thwart the attacks?

We must ask, Why was an obviously false story about an offensive video put forth as a prime cause for the attack?

We must ask, Why have the survivors of the attack been essentially hidden away from Congressional investigators?

We must ask, Why do senior government officials believe they need both legal counsel and Congressional protection to tell their stories to the House committee investigating the attack?

Now that more information is coming to light, we must ask Why are only Republicans asking questions about the facts of what happened, and why are Democrats doing everything they can to prevent those questions from being answered and to marginalize the answers that emerge?

And no matter what eventually comes out, we must ask, Why did the MSM decide that it wasn't important to find out the answers to any of these questions before the national elections in November, 2012?

After all the questions like that are asked, it's up to us, ourselves, to answer them.

Those were examples, so I'll give one example of a possible answer we can figure out for ourselves. In answer to the question, Why would a President delegate his authority to his underlings (he is stuck with the responsibility, at least President Truman would have been)?  My belief is that he wanted to be able to distance himself from whatever developed. He never seems to want his name on the line until the results are in. If it turned out well, he could claim to be instrumental in that success. If not, as was the case, it wasn't his fault.  He wasn't even there. "He didn't build it."

You can figure out your own answers.  Try it.

Edited and expanded from an article previously published at RedState.com.

Brief and Direct: The Benefits of Obamacare

April 30, 2013--Washington, DC--The White House

In a news conference this morning, President Obama was asked a question about the Affordable Health Care Act by reporter Chuck Todd: "Why does Senator [Max] Baucus... believe that this is going to be [a train wreck], and why do you believe he's wrong?"  The President's answer is enlightening.

"...A huge chunk of it's already been implemented. And for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they're already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don't know it. Their insurance is more secure, insurance companies can't drop them, uh, for bad reasons, their kids are able to stay on their health insurance until they're 26 years old, ahh, they're getting free preventive care. ...this thing's already happened, and their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That's it. Now, they don't have to worry about anything else."

That's all?  He forgot these "benefits":
  • Many workers are in danger of losing their existing insurance as it becomes too expensive for their employers to carry.
  • Premium costs for the self-insured are already much higher
  • The government is the 'decider' about what is a 'bad reason' for termination or a good enough one
  • We get to pay extra for those 25-year-old 'children'
  • The 'free' preventive care comes with strings, and surely somebody is paying for it
  • A real unmentioned impact is that the cost of all health insurance is already skyrocketing
  • People are being forced to carry insurance they don't want, or with more coverage than they want
  • Payments to health care providers are being drastically cut to help offset the higher cost of administration of the new bureaucracy
  • Taxes will go up to pay for the rest of the new bureaucracy and increased use of medical facilities
  • One result: Doctors are already leaving their practices (I received a letter from mine today informing me she is retiring) which will mean a scarcity of care, whether there is 'coverage' or not
  • Taxes will have to go up to pay premiums for all the newly covered indigent patients
  • The 85 to 90 percent figure is made up out of whole cloth; there is no basis for it in reality
  • Insurance premium costs are forecast to rise in future years to an unsustainable figure; the eventual result will be lower quality care, from less-qualified providers, less innovation in treatments, equipment, and medicine, and long waiting periods for much care
  • The Administration is already talking about withholding certain treatments for patients beyond certain cutoff ages
  • The AHCA is so onerous that businesses by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, are asking for exemptions to be excluded from it
  • Even unions, Obama supporters, who wanted it before it passed are calling it a disaster in the making, as does Senator Baucus--"a train wreck." They have the resources to study, understand, and reject it
  • Workers in some industries are having their hours cut back to keep businesses under the 50 full-time employee threshold
  • Perhaps worst of all, it does nothing it was promised to do--it doesn't reduce or hold down costs, it will not end up with more people able to receive care in the end, and the quality of the care they do receive will be compromised
They might be worrying about those issues. They're already experiencing that "benefit," too.

Does the President not know these facts, or does he simply think that we don't know them? And why does it have to be reported in a blog, rather than in the MSM?

Originally published at RedState.com

Monday, April 22, 2013

Senator Jeff Flake Sets Record for Drowning in the Potomac Waters

Sens. McCain, Graham, Rubio complicit, lured Flake in over his head

I'll try to remain respectful toward the office, but it'll be hard.  After all, the man is either lying to our faces or under the influence of Potomac Fever. He went from conservative Congressman to fellow-traveler in about three months. My statement is provoked by a column, supposedly written by Senator Jeff Flake, which appeared April 20 in the National Review Online, titled "The Conservative Case for Immigration Reform." In it, Flake attempts to explain his immigration bill and assuage our fears about it.  I suppose it goes without saying that I think he fails miserably. In fact, it reads like the junior high team got trounced by the senior varsity players (Sens. Schumer and Durbin). The perhaps worse alternative is that Rubio and Flake actually believe they've come up with a good bill. I'll provide you point-and-counterpoint to the end.
Senator Flake, this is really for your benefit, so I address my comments to you.

First paragraph:
"What I never expected was that Senator Rubio and I would be working on immigration-reform legislation with liberals like Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (D., Ill.)."

Neither did we, Senator, neither did we. It's not what we elected you to do.

"While conservatives are justified in their skepticism of any legislation that Senators Schumer and Durbin sign off on, I hope we don’t let their association with the bill that is now before the Senate overshadow the conservative elements that Republicans have included."

Gee, do you think so? Do you realize you just said our skepticism is justified? That may be the most completely honest statement in the column. Maybe you should be a little more skeptical. And it doesn't really matter that there may be some "conservative elements" in the bill, because it is loaded with anti-conservative elements.

"It requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a “Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy” and appropriates $3 billion to implement the plan.... DHS is also required to develop the “Southern Border Fencing Strategy,” with $1.5 billion.... if they do not achieve a 90 percent effectiveness rate within five years (meaning that 9 of every 10 illegal border crossers is apprehended), another $2 billion will be spent to implement recommendations from a commission of border stakeholders, who, for the first time, will have meaningful authority to increase border security."

So, now we know it requires that a lot of money be spent ($4.5B), and if it doesn't work at "a 90 percent effectiveness rate within five years," even more will be spent ($2B) to ask somebody called "border stakeholders" what they think should be done. Here's a suggestion.  Why don't you ask them first, and save five years? And shouldn't the DHS already have a comprehensive strategy to protect our southern border? Isn't that already the law? Isn't that part of their job?

And just how do we determine that we are catching 9 out of 10 illegal border crossers? Do they check out of Mexico as they leave, so that we have a count of the total number and can thereby tell when we've caught 90% of them? Seems to me that otherwise, by definition, if we don't catch them, we don't know how many we didn't catch, which would mean we can't calculate the percentage caught. (I have a degree in physics, so I know how math and percentages work. You need both a numerator and a denominator.)

Or do we just use the same people who tell us that the census is x% undercounted in urban Hispanics and y% undercounted in rural Chechnyans, and therefore another Democrat Congressman was cheated out of his seat? Is that the "border security" you have so sincerely promised we would have before there is "no" amnesty?  And I thought Barack Obama was the expert on smoke and mirrors.

Whew.  Almost halfway through. Let's continue.

"This bill ensures that no illegal immigrant will be given amnesty or rewarded for illegal behavior. In fact, no illegal immigrant will be “given” anything.
Before any illegal immigrant can adjust to a non-citizenship provisional status, DHS must have submitted the border-security and border-fencing strategies."

Did you actually write that?  After the strategies have been submitted, then the change in status (called Registered Provisional Immigrant, or RPI) can occur?  Not after the border is secure, but only after DHS has submitted a "strategy," which probably won't even work? And they are definitely "given" the right to stay here legally, which is exactly what they crossed the border illegally to get in the first place (did I get that right, Associated Press?). Can it be any clearer that this is a complete renunciation of your promise of Border Security First, then legalization? (These issues have been covered in more detail by Daniel Horowitz here and here and here.)

"Only then will these immigrants be able to legally work in the country — but they will not be eligible for government assistance (unemployment, welfare, Obamacare, etc.)."

Just one sentence here to point out that this prohibition will last just long enough for the first RPI status immigrant's ACLU lawyer to get his briefs to the right federal courthouse, where a sympathetic judge will declare that it mandates "unequal treatment under the law" and is therefore a no-no to be ignored. To continue--

"Moreover, to be eligible for this non-citizenship provisional status, illegal immigrants must pay a $500 fine, pass a background check, and pay fees."

As almost anybody might say, Big Whoop. In fact, total fines under the bill are only $2000. Considering that some of the RPI's will have been here perhaps twenty years, that isn't much. And about the background check--we are told that we don't have the resources to deport any of these people, yet we do have the resources to carry out background checks on all of them? Are they going to work for the FBI? Give me a break! This is unworkable on its face, especially given that there will be millions more streaming over the border with false documents to "prove" they were already here in 2011.

Furthermore, we are told (when it's convenient) that "half of the illegally overstaying foreigners came in on student visas." Will they get to apply for RPI status, too? Why? What do you plan to do with those of any stripe who don't apply for RPI status at all?

"Only after ten years can these provisional-status immigrants apply for a green card (which is still short of U.S. citizenship). In order to earn a green card, they will have to pay all back taxes, maintain employment in the U.S., learn English and civics, and wait until everyone who applied for a green card before them has been processed. It will likely be close to 13 years before current illegal immigrants begin to become eligible for citizenship."

It sounds draconian, until you realize that all these poor, unfortunate RPI's will have spent those years waiting and working here in the US of A, which, I repeat, is exactly what they crossed the border illegally to do in the first place. And they get to do it legally, neither of which the prospective immigrants who followed the law could do, because they are still where they started, not here.

"Conservatives worried that President Obama or Secretary Napolitano will be able to expedite the legalization sections of the bill while dragging their feet on border security should consider that the border-security measures come first, while the status-adjustment portions of the bill will take many years. It’s also worth noting that it’s likely that this process will occur under both Democratic and Republican administrations."

But we have just shown that the only border security measures the bill demands before legalization are strategies, not real security-creating actions. And there is absolutely nothing that will make a President Obama enforce the parts of the law he doesn't like (he isn't enforcing those parts now), nor is there anything that would keep a future Democrat President and Congress from changing the law, either.  Of course that is true of any law, but if the physical border security infrastructure is already installed before amnesty, it will be harder for them to say, "We just don't have the resources to secure the borders now, but we can do the status adjustments," because the physical barriers will already be in place. Unfortunately, technological fences can be dismantled with an order or a flip of a switch.

"I think we can all agree that the status quo is unacceptable, and I’m convinced that this legislation moves us in a positive direction."

Again, Senator, no. The only thing wrong with the status quo is that the Democrats beat you like a drum with it, because like a drum, you are flat on your backs. That, and the fact that the border is too sieve-like to protect us from any serious foreign threat carrying a small nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon. And it doesn't keep out drug cartels or illegally-crossing foreigners, either. So fix that part, then come back to ask what you should do about "status adjustments." That's why those of us who are serious about solving the problem, not placating a pressure group, have insisted from the first that we shouldn't even talk about anything else until the border is truly secure. This bill is NOT an improvement.

ps. I'm insulted that you think we are stupid enough to think this is good law. Today, your credibility level stands at zero. IF you and Senator Rubio were to renounce this bill today and remove your names from it, admitting you were turned every which way but loose by the other six Senators in your gang, and pledge to fight its passage, you MIGHT have a SLIM chance to redeem yourselves. Forget about the top of the ticket, but you MIGHT get re-elected to the Senate. If the bill passes, no chance at all. That may turn out to be wrong, but it's honest advice.

Cross-posted at RedState.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Brief and Direct: Is Marriage a Right or a Rite?

How can a right require the continuing agreement and support of another person?

Another in a sporadic series of short commentaries on current events

Marriage Equality?

"Marriage Equality" is a recently-coined euphemism for "gay marriage," which is itself a euphemism as well. Our tender psyches apparently don't respond well to euphemisms that get too close to saying what they mean, especially in advocacy advertising. Still, it's a great phrase that conveys exactly what its proponents want to convey--that everybody has a right to marry the spouse of his or her choice, gay or straight: marriage equality! The advertisements are superbly crafted.

I won't go into the arguments that support that position; you've heard them all before. But all those arguments apply equally well to numbers greater than two. And if you believe that there is a Constitutionally protected "right" to marry  whomever you choose, you must also agree that the same right applies to marriages between more than two people. Logically, the connection is undeniable. If the right exists, to restrict it to two people we would have to find specific language in the Constitution that does so, and there is no such language.

So is it a right?

An argument can be made that marriage is NOT a right because it imposes a burden on someone else to fulfill it, not just one time but on a continuing basis; that is, the other partner has to be willing to marry also. If we had a right to marry, we could just pick out a spouse and say, "Tag, you're it," and it certainly wouldn't require approval from a government to do so. A right either exists or it doesn't; it can't depend on the continuing agreement and support of another person to exist, as does a "right to marry." I believe that argument is a compelling one, but a court might disagree.

I believe what we really have is a right to remain single, and a process exists to enter into marriage if we can find a qualifying and willing spouse. That the government has butted into the process is just a complication, but it's a big one, because it has granted many special privileges, and some penalties, to people who are married.

What does "marriage" mean?

Or perhaps, why does marriage mean what it means, and who gets to change the definition? Or more specifically, who gets to decide who qualifies as a spouse? Is it a court? A statewide initiative? A legislature? A church?

Those questions have been all tangled up by our over-reaching government which has created onerous laws and wants to mitigate their effects on married couples, and those laws use the terms "husband," "wife," "spouse," and "marriage" in legal definitions, mostly in tax law, but in contract and business law as well, and in the most obvious case--in insurance and employment benefit plans. Thus, calls to "get the government out of the marriage business," are way too simplistic to provide a real resolution to our current debate. The legal changes required are probably even greater than those that would be needed to overturn ObamaCare. But it's hard to argue that anybody but the government gets to define what a legal marriage is, and that includes setting rules as to what minimally constitutes a qualified spouse. Setting a minimum age for marital consent is one example that varies among states.

The societal changes might require even more effort, if decreed by the government, because marriage is more than a legal state, it's a social institution, a moral convention, a state of being. People who are married are expected both by society and by the law to behave in certain minimal ways. Sometimes people are treated, even legally, as if they had been formally married simply because they behave that way. And there is probably plenty of societal support for the legal concept of civil unions, because they attempt to bring some order and fairness to the chaos created by governmental marriage privileges. But the social definition of marriage is defined primarily by societal norms and common usage. Its history is thousands of years old, so naturally there is resistance to change, even resistance to changing a legal definition. And there isn't a requirement that it have the same definition as the legal one.


If marriage is determined by the Supreme Court to be a "right" rather than a "rite," many unwanted consequences will logically follow. Courts will have more and more decisions they won't want to make, and it will never be resolved. But if it bypasses that trap and allows the decision to remain in state hands (overturning the 9th Circuit and lower federal courts at the same time), without creating a right to marry, it eliminates it as a federal judicial problem. Still a federal legislative and executive problem, perhaps, but it will be clear that there is no Constitutional requirement to federally define or even deal with marriage at all.

This doesn't solve the Defense of Marriage Act quandary (that's a separate issue, and it's either Constitutional or not), but it would allow states to define a marriage as they see fit, as could the US Congress, to apply to laws where it is necessary. But the definition could be anything that makes sense, for the state or for the US.

Naturally, this won't satisfy many people. The demand for "Marriage Equality" isn't a logical one, it's a legal and emotional one. But civil unions could and should be readily available in all states, legal constructs that should confer the same legal rights on the participants that marriages do, for more reasons than those put forth by gay-marriage proponents. What is the demand that they be called "marriages" about, anyway? An emotional, subjective, and extra-Constitutional plea for "fairness." Without a justifiable civil right to marry, we are left with only a demand that society change its opinion, and that can't be decreed by a court.

What a court decision affirming California's Proposition 8 will do is allow the voice of the people to count, and for other voices to be heard either directly or through their representatives, and it will mean the final decision is a popular one rather  than one decreed by a court of nine judges.  If "marriage" is not a "right," there will be far fewer reasons for federal courts to intervene in state business.  Better for the Court, and better for the unruly civil union called The United States of America.

A shorter version of this argument is posted at RedState.