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Monday
Jul142014

The VA Scandal: Bizarre Excuses

When an intellectual’s worldview is smashing to bits against the hard facts of reality, expect a lot of excuse making, some of it bizarre.

As I’ve pointed out here, Phillip Longman’s book Best Care Anywhere: Why The VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours was in part responsible for the Veteran Administration’s wait time crisis.  As you can imagine, he’s been scrambling a bit since the scandal burst onto the scene.

In a post on June 5, he went so far as to lay the blame at the feet of the American people.  After reiterating his dismissal of the wait-times scandal as largely limited to Sun Belt areas (wrong), he then changes the subject:

“Now let’s consider another, more serious, and often conflated wait time issue surrounding the VA—one that also been bringing forth all kinds of claims and accusations that are in desperate need of being put into context. I’m talking about the huge backlog of vets caught in the often protracted process of just trying to establish their eligibility for VA care.

“This issue is confusing to most people, including many in the military, because they assume that vets are legally entitled to VA care, just like most seniors are entitled to Medicare or Social Security. But VA care is not an entitlement. Rather, reflecting the public’s deeply conflicted and often changing views about veterans, access to VA care is limited to vets who can establish that are ‘deserving’ according to convoluted, arcane, and often impossible-to-prove sets of ever evolving metrics and standards.”

This, of course, has nothing to do with the wait times scandal.  As the VA’s audit fact sheet noted: “Nationwide, there are roughly 57,436 Veterans who are waiting to be scheduled for care and another 63,869 who over the past ten years have enrolled in our healthcare system and have not been seen for an appointment.” (Italics added). So, whatever hurdles veterans must go through to get care (and I’m not dismissing them—there is a claims backlog of about 270,000), the veterans suffering from wait times apparently surmounted those hurdles.

After going relating a horror story of a vet struggling with establishing his eligibility for the VA and noting, Longman writes this whopper:

“It wasn’t always so. As I describe in my book, the Clinton Administration opened the doors to the VA in 1996 to anyone with an honorable discharge, and many folks who got in then remain grandfathered. But the Bush Administration slammed that door shut again in 2003, and while it has reopened a bit under Obama, we are still spending enormous resources enforcing policies designed to exclude most vets from VA care.

“If you don’t think most vets deserve any better, then fine. You are hardly alone. But don’t imagine that the VA’s bureaucracy should be blamed for carrying out laws and policies that reflect your views.”

But the bureaucracy clearly isn’t carrying out the policy if it has such a huge backlog.  The takeaway from this isn’t that the American people are at fault, but that the VA is just as inefficient at establishing eligibility as it is getting veterans timely appointments for medical care.  After all, what is the VA’s incentive to find more efficient methods for establishing eligibility?  Certainly not the threat that if veterans are upset with it, they’ll take there money elsewhere.

Finally, let’s not kid ourselves that the open policies of the Clinton Administration didn’t have problems of their own.  For example, consider the case of Larry Porter who was supposedly in the Navy and needed mental health benefits due to psychological trauma he suffered there.  From 1999-2006 he received $134,000 in VA disability benefits. But his story turned out to be false, and he served a three-year jail sentence for fraud.

Apparently “VA fakers” was a widespread problem.

Diminishing the wait time scandal, changing the subject, and then saying it’s not the fault of the bureaucracy but the American people—the things intellectuals resort to when their theories don’t work out in a very public way.

Monday
Jul142014

Holder’s Perception of “Racial Animus” Rebutted

Don’t be shocked, but Attorney General Eric Holder is playing the race card again.

On the 7/13/14 edition of the ABC News program “This Week,” Holder said he and President Barack Obama are being criticized those who hold a “racial animus” toward them.

Holder stated: “You know, people talking about taking their country back… There’s a certain racial component to this for some people.  I don’t think this is the thing that is the main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus.”

Admitting that his being the first black Attorney General for the first popularly-elected (and re-elected) black president helps show “[w]e’ve made lots of progress,” he nonetheless sought to qualify his judgment with the assertion that “there’s still more we have to travel along this road so we get to the place that is consistent with our founding ideals.”

Coming from an Attorney General who advised his state-level colleagues to consider not enforcing laws they disagree with, it’s rich to bring up our nation’s founding ideals.

Later, Holder also kept up his attack on commonsense polling place protections such as voter ID, saying those who want to protect against ghost voting that steals the law-abiding votes of others are really trying make it “more difficult” for blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, the poor and young people — people he called “groups that are not supportive of those in power” — from “hav[ing] access to the ballot.”

Members of the Project 21 black leadership network, people who are vocal proponents of voter ID protections and critics of the constant use of racial politics by the Obama Administration and its supporters to fend of all means of legitimate complaints about White House policies and practices, are speaking out about Holder’s inappropriate comments.

For example, Project 21 member Chelsi Henry, an attorney, said:

The Attorney General continues to insult African-Americans and increase the racial divide in America by saying that voter ID laws are infringing on minority rights.

It is simple — you should need an ID to vote regardless of your race, socioeconomic level, education, gender or religion.  Everyone should need an ID to vote.

The Attorney General and President could be better leaders by helping ensure that all Americans, especially minorities, receive an ID.  They should stop the outrageous cry of racism and politics when it is their actions that continue to cripple the advancement of African-Americans.

Project 21 Darryn “Dutch” Martin, a former member of the American diplomatic corps, added:

The animus shown toward Attorney General Holder and President Obama has nothing to do with racial animus and everything to do with their poor performance at their respective jobs.

Although he is correct about the progress our country has made over the years — given the state of our union under the Obama Administration, I would say that said progress has come to a screeching halt at the very least.

Stacy Washington, a Project 21 member and talk radio host, said:

Attorney General Holder’s specious comments alleging racial animus as the basis for the opposition to the policies advanced by himself and the President are a crystalline example of narcissism.  

Holder simply cannot believe that he or President Obama are ever wrong about anything!

Instead of touting legal wins in his job as chief law enforcement officer of the United States, Holder deflects to playing the race card against Americans who simply want him and the President to do their jobs: execute the laws of this land faithfully within the constraints of the Constitution.

Project 21 member Christopher Arps, the founder of the Move-On-Up.org black conservative social networking web site, was less taken aback than his colleagues.  He remarked:

This is an administration that is dropping in the polls, has literally a scandal a week and has never taken responsibility for anything in the six years they’ve been in office.

Desperate times requires desperate measures, so the Attorney General using the race card should really surprise no one.

Sunday
Jul132014

Crisis on the Border: Where are Zuckerberg, Trumka and Bloomberg Now?

Facebook and immigrationShare this meme on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere if you agree.

Victor Davis Hanson is hitting some of the same points I made last weekend, specifically, the moral obligation of wealthy amnesty-advocates to help the kids who are crossing our southern border.

I spoke of Big Business, specifically, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, and Big Labor, specifically, the AFL-CIO.

Hanson also addressed Zuckerberg, but added Michael Bloomberg, and other rich amnesty-advocates generally:

"...the CEOs of Silicon Valley and Wall Street who want cheap labor from south of the border assume that their own offspring’s private academies will not be affected by thousands of undocumented immigrants, that their own neighborhoods will remain non-integrated, and that their own medical services and specialists’ waiting rooms will not be made available to the poor arrivals.

Have immigration-reform advocates such as Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Bloomberg offered one of their mansions as a temporary shelter for needy Central American immigrants? Couldn’t Yale or Stanford welcome homeless immigrants into their now under-occupied summertime dorms? Why aren’t elite academies such as Sidwell Friends or the Menlo School offering their gymnasia as places of refuge for tens of thousands of school-age Central Americans?

AFL-CIO on immigrationShare this meme on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere if you agree.

Hanson concluded,

What a strange, selfish, and callous alliance of rich corporate grandees, cynical left-wing politicians, and ethnic chauvinists who have conspired to erode U.S. law for their own narrow interests, all the while smearing those who object as xenophobes, racists, and nativists.

How did such immoral special interests hijack U.S. immigration law and arbitrarily decide for 300 million Americans who earns entry into America, under what conditions, and from where?"

There's a lot more in Hanson's piece, which is worth reading.

In the meantime, last I heard, the Facebook campus still had 11 restaurants capable of feeding kids and plenty of yard room for pitching tents, and the AFL-CIO has an apparently empty campus in Silver Spring, MD with dorms, dining facilities, a 72,000 square foot conference center and nearly 47 acres of additional space for tents.

I wonder how many cots could fit in a 72,000 square foot conference center...

Thursday
Jul102014

How Selfish Can a Labor Union Be? AFSCME Drops Partnership with United Negro College Fund for Accepting Donation from Conservatives

Black college studentAFSCME is protesting a donation to a black students' scholarship charity by people who believe in limited government.

It turns out, VERY selfish.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also known as AFSCME, has dropped a student work scholarship partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) because the UNCF accepted a $25 million donation from Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation and a UNCF leader spoke at an event organized by the Kochs.

AFSCME does not like the Kochs because they believe in a more limited government than the one we currently have, which could mean fewer public labor union members, which means less money for the union.

Even given AFSCME's long history of an unseemly desire for money, I'm bewildered that one of the leading unions thinks attacking support for education for young black men and women is an appropriate activity -- or even one that is in the union's self-interest. Labor unions generally have a very racist and sexist history, and actions like this bring that sordid history back into everyone's memory.

According to Jacob Fischler of BuzzFeed, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, who is very, very leftist, wrote that accepting funds to help educate young black students from the limited-government Kochs is a "profound betrayal of the ideals of the civil rights movement."

I suppose he thinks the civil rights movement was about keeping people stupid. Good way to keep them in unions?

Unitednegrocollegefund logoIn response, as reported by Sean Sullivan in the Washington Post, UNCF President and CEO Michael Lomaz said, "UNCF has over 100,000 donors with a wide range of views, but they all have one thing in common: They believe in helping young students of color realize their dreams of a college education. For over 70 years we have never had a litmus test and we have asked all Americans to support our cause."

Conservatives don't have cooties, as far as he's concerned. And he's right, we don't. He's also right to stick to his educational mission no matter whose nose gets out of joint.

AFSCME has 1.5 million members, most of whom are public employees (are employed by the taxpayers). I suggest that some of those 1.5 million members might want to start asking some questions about where their dues are going and why their leadership doesn't like black institutions of higher learning.

And the taxpayers ought to be asking a few questions, too - like why we allow our government agencies to negotiate with disgraceful unions like this one.

One of the Kochs donated $100 million to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History recently. Will AFSCME do us all a favor and refuse to organize federal government employees in protest? Nope, because that would cost them a lot of money. But protest black kids getting help with their education, now that's something AFSCME is willing to do.

By the way, once upon a time, one of the students who received a scholarship from the United Negro College Fund was a young man by the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. Eat the UNCF's dust, AFSCME!

Thursday
Jul102014

Health Care Odds & Ends: Death Spiral Edition

The evidence is slowly building up that the ObamaCare exchange are heading for a death spiral.  Below is more evidence of that people on the exchanges are sicker than average and, in one state, of people dropping out of the exchange.  Also, this post ends with a discussion of why the heavy enrollment in silver plans may mean something other than the exchanges are attracting sick people.

1. Survey shows people on the exchanges are in poorer health.  A recently released survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation examined the health status of people in exchange plans and non-exchange plans:

 

Those in fair or poor health comprise 20 percent of those in exchange plans while they are no more than 9 percent in other plans.  This strongly suggests that those with the most health problems are joining the exchange. That is the first step in a death spiral.

2. Colorado’s estimate of exchange dropouts increases. Back in April officials at the Colorado exchange predicted that about 13 percent of enrollees in their exchange would drop their insurance or never pay their premium.  They recently increased that estimate to 24 percent.  ”According to the revised estimates, Connect for Health expects 35,800 of its 152,200 individuals covered with exchange policies this fiscal year to drop coverage.” More here.

We don’t have any data on the health status of those who are leaving, but if a person really needed insurance—that is, they had considerable medical problems—what are the chances he or she would drop out?  The smart money is on most of the dropouts being people whose health is good enough that they can afford to dump their plans. Thus, those left in the Colorado exchange pool will likely be much sicker than average.

Also, remember when insurers were saying only 10 to 20 percent of enrollees were not paying their premiums? Wonder what they’d say today?  Also, if this is going on in Colorado, what’s going on in the rest of the exchanges? Maybe the Obama Administration will release another enrollment report in a month or so to let us know. Hold your breath!

3. Silver plans: death spiral alert or just good deal?  About two weeks ago the Dept. of Health and Human Services released a report on premiums and premium subsidies on the exchanges.  At the time I argued that the inordinate number of people who signed up for silver plans and the fact that the highest average subsidy was among the silver plans suggested that a lot of sick people were signing up for the exchange.  My reasoning was that people get a cost-sharing subsidy to help pay for deductibles and co-pays if they make 250 percent of federal poverty level or less and choose a silver plan.  People choosing such plans are likely anticipating high medical costs in the future.

Well, some colleagues of mine have pointed out another explanation for the enrollment in silver plans.  Look at Table 2 of the report and focus on the column “Average Premium After Tax Credit.” 

 

You’ll notice that the premium for silver is only $1 higher than the bronze plan.  Thus, it appears that the tax credits may have made silver plans look like a very good bargain compared to bronze plans.  And if one also qualifies for the cost-sharing subsidy, the silver plan becomes a good bargain even for someone in good health. Even a very healthy person would think that getting a cost-sharing subsidy is a good deal if he only has to pay a few dollars more than he would for a bronze plan. 

So, based on the HHS report we don’t know if people are choosing the silver plan because they have a lot of health expenses or because the premiums subsidies make those plans a good deal.  Of course, it could be some of both.  But, at this point, one can’t say either way.  

Let’s hope that the next KFF survey breaks down health status on the exchange by plan type. That would give us a better idea if, indeed, sicker people are signing up for silver plans.

Tuesday
Jul082014

Three Reasons Americans Aren't Buying the Left-Wing's Excuses for Obama's Constitutional Violations

ConstitutionTelePrompTerBlueT ShirtWLefties including MSNBC's Ed Schultz, PBS NewsHour, the Washington Post's Wonkblog and PostPartisan columns, Newsweek and others have ludicrously been trying to defend all of Obama's unconstitutional actions by saying Obama has issued fewer executive orders than Bush.

This is a red herring, because the number of executive orders President Obama has signed is irrelevant.

This is what is relevant:

  • Obama is using authority he doesn't have to impose "laws" Congress never passed;

  • Obama is failing to use authority he does have to enforce laws Congress has passed, as is his duty as the head of the executive branch.

The man is doing his job backward.

Here are three reasons why the American public won't buy the left-wing excuse that the number of executive orders issued is the key issue here:

ONE: Many executive orders are no big deal and no one objects to them, regardless of who is in office. In February, for example, Obama issued an executive order changing the name of the "National Security Staff" to "National Security Council Staff." No one cares how many meaningless executive orders Obama or Bush issued.

TWO: Obama doesn't need to issue an executive order to seize power he doesn't have or to fail to enforce the laws he swore an oath to uphold. A few examples:

  • Obama's unconstitutional appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, struck down 9-0 last month as a separation of powers violation by the Supreme Court in NLRB v. Noel Canning. Even Obama's two appointees to the high court couldn't stomach that one.

  • Or Obama's many changes to ObamaCare. The President delayed the exchanges for small businesses, delayed the employer mandate, delayed the individual mandate (after shutting down the government to fight such a delay), exempted unions from some ObamaCare taxes, delayed the ObamaCare sign-up deadline and much more, all without issuing executive orders and all to change a law he fought for in the first place.

  • Obama freed Taliban prisoners without informing Congress, in violation of a law he signed.

THREE: The president and his allies have threatened to continue circumventing the law of the land. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), an Obama ally, has threatened that the president "will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration," raising suspicions that the president is about to violate the Constitution again.

The Constitution has no "borrow power" provision, and in any case, with a 17.5 trillion dollar debt, Obama's done enough borrowing.

The American public is too smart to accept the left-wing claim that Obama can violate the Constitution and his oath of office anytime he pleases, just as long as he issues fewer executive orders overall than did George W. Bush.

The wonder isn't that the Speaker of the House is planning to sue; the sick wonder is that so many left-wing Americans don't give a darn about the Constitution. One wonders what sort of government it is that the left would prefer to live with.

Monday
Jul072014

Doug Chase Meet Brian Booy: Not So Great Moments In Socialized Medicine

Doug Chase, a Vietnam veteran, died of brain cancer almost two years ago.  According to ABCNews, his wife Suzanne, in 2012, “attempted to move his care in Boston to a nearby veteran’s hospital in Bedford. She said they waited for four months with no reply” before Doug passed away.

It’s sad that the moral to this story can’t be “better late than never”:

Just two weeks ago, Chase received a letter from the VA finally responding to her appointment request.

“The letter invited him to make an appointment with primary care at the VA, if he so desired. Then at the bottom they said they wanted a quick response,” Chase told ABC’s Boston affiliate WCVB.

Perhaps the Chases can commiserate with the family of Brian Booy.  Booy lived in Bristol and was “covered” under the British National Health Service.  In 2000, BBC News reported:

When [Booy] died of a heart attack in January 1999 he had been waiting for triple heart by-pass surgery for 18 months.

Days before the first anniversary of his death, his widow Pat received a letter from Bristol Royal Infirmary’s cardiac unit saying that her husband could have the operation this Friday.

The revelation comes days after the cardiac unit’s clinical director Dr Peter Wilde said 10 patients may have died because they had to wait too long for operations.

A socialized system of medicine in this country has similar problems to those in a socialized system in another country. Must be a coincidence.

Monday
Jul072014

The Three Stupidest News Reports About Changes in Congressional Travel Disclosure Reporting Requirements

Many people seemingly are confused about actions taken by the U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee in regard to travel disclosures, possibly due to ridiculously misleading news reports. Because mendacity and/or stupidity this accomplished deserves recognition, I've singled out the top three most stupid, defined as the three that will leave their readers the most grossly uninformed.

The third most stupid...

#3 Susie Madrak of the Crooks and Liars blog lived up to at least half her blog's name by writing on July 1, "Congress is so corrupted by money that at this point, I shouldn't even be surprised. After all, the Republicans are in charge of the House!," which ran under this misleading headline: "House Ethics Committee Now Hides Congressional Trip Disclosures: Sneaky! When the Republican-controlled committee takes such pains to hide it, they already know it's wrong."

Fact: The House Ethics Committee is not controlled by either party; its membership is 50-50, and travel information remained easily accessible to the public and the news media, including bloggers, under the change. 0-2 for Ms. Madrak.

The second most stupid...

#2 Daniel Wright, writing on FireDogLake July 2, said, "Congress seems intent on getting its public approval rating even lower and destroying what little trust it has left. ...those guardians of the republic have decided to remove the rule that requires publicly disclosing privately funded trips."

Fact: Except under the change, Members of Congress still had to disclose publicly-funded trips, and the information disclosed was promptly put on the Internet in a publicly-available, convenient, searchable form. 100% incorrect, Mr. Wright.

And the most stupid of all...

#1 John Aravosis, writing on Americablog July 1, "In a stunning reversal after three decades of public reporting, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives will no longer require members of Congress to disclose lavish foreign trips paid for by special interests. For three decades, the House has publicly disclosed such travel. That rule has now changed under John Boehner..."

Completely false, which is ironic given this blog's motto, "A great nation deserves the truth."

Facts:

The House Ethics Committee, a bi-partisan body, approved a rule change that removed the requirement for travel disclosure on annual disclosure forms, deeming it duplicative, as Members of Congress and staff must report all such travel within 15 days of any trip, and those reports are promptly placed online by the House Clerk's office.

Here's how easy it is to read the reports.

Search for the House Clerk on Google and click where indicated:

HouseClerkGoogleSearch070614

Then click where indicated:

HouseClerkPublicDisclosurePage070614

Look on the left side of the page if you want to download the reports chronologically:

HouseClerkTravelFilingsByYear070614

Or look on the right side if you prefer to contact the office directly or search for specific Members of Congress, specific travel destinations, specific sponsors or specific travel dates:

HouseClerkVisitorSearchTravel070614

Easier than waiting for an annual report, wouldn't you say? And the data is hardly hidden. Bellyaching reporters complaining that the change "made it harder" for reporters to find travel disclosure data were essentially complaining about a URL change, and even then, what sort of reporter doesn't even know to check the House Clerk's website? Or to Google something like "House of Representatives travel disclosure information"?

I doubt many people are more in favor of travel disclosure reporting than I am. In both 2002 and 2003, a Member of Congress took a trip and falsely reported that this organization paid for it. We had no idea. In those days learning about Congressional travel required going to the Capitol and looking through paper forms, and who goes to the Capitol to see if a Member of Congress or two that one has never even met has put you down as a travel sponsor? The resulting legal fees were astronomical. What limited Congressional travel we’ve sponsored has all been properly disclosed, and even then, it was subject to gross misreporting (by journalists, yes, but not exclusively: the minority staff of the Senate Finance Committee, directed by Max Baucus (D-MT), told the IRS it should audit us to see if we were more properly classified as a travel agency than a think-tank because we’d sponsored two Congressional trips, one Member each, in our then-24-year history; the subsequent IRS audit, which cleared us, took four years). So I’m in the perhaps unusual position of supporting disclosure because the more of it there is, the more honest people will be protected from bad journalists and other miscreants.

But back to current events. Prompted, no doubt, by the hysterical and misleading reporting about what its rule change really was, the House Ethics Committee announced on July 3 that it was reversing the rule change. People who want to go to the House Clerk's office or website and get the information soon after each trip ends will still be able to do so -- but those reporters who want to wait for annual disclosures so they don't have to change a URL in their browser's bookmarks will still be able to do it the old way. Just a bit later than everybody else.

Sunday
Jul062014

How Mrs. John Witherspoon Was Persuaded to Come to America

Joanne Butler has an article, "John Witherspoon's Presbyterian Rebellion," in the Daily Caller on founding father John Witherspoon, in which she wonders a bit about the circumstances that caused him to emigrate to America.

As the question intersects with some of my family's history on my mother's side, and I have a few moments free on a Sunday evening, I can fill in some blanks for her.

In 1766, my gggggg-uncle, Rev. Samuel Finley, age 51, passed away in Philadelphia of what apparently was some form of abdominal cancer. At the time of his death, Finley was president of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University.

ALT TAG

Rev. Samuel Finley, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Rev. John Witherspoon

Finley's death created a vacancy at the college that the trustees naturally were keen to fill, not least because at that time the president personally taught a substantial number of the classes. Rev. Witherspoon, who then lived in Scotland, was invited by the trustees to take the position. Despite his own personal interest, he declined, citing his wife Elizabeth's deathly fear of a transatlantic crossing.

Finley's nephew and ward, a young man named Benjamin Rush who had been raised by the Finleys jointly with his widowed mother since the death of Rush's father when he was six, and a student of Finley's both at Nottingham Academy and the College of New Jersey, felt called to assist. He borrowed money from Benjamin Franklin, an acquaintance or possibly even a friend of the family,* and went to Scotland, where Rush took up studies at the University of Edinburgh and, in a joint effort with a gentleman of historical note named Richard Stockton (whose daughter Julia Rush would later marry), sent letters to Witherspoon urging him to change his mind.

Witherspoon continued to decline the college's appointment, citing the same reason: his wife's fear of the Atlantic crossing. Rush then travelled to the Witherspoon home in Paisley (near Glasgow, Scotland) to convince Mrs. Witherspoon to emigrate. He succeeded. At the end of four days, a friend of Rev. Witherspoon wrote to Stockton in Princeton that, "to Mr. Witherspoon's great satisfaction, his wife has at last given a calm hearing to Mr. Rush, argued the Matter with him, and received a satisfying Answer to all her objections; so that now she is willing if the Doctor is rechosen... to go with him without Grudge."

The trustees then voted once again to elect Witherspoon the president of what would become Princeton University, and the rest, as they say, is history.

* Benjamin Franklin had published Samuel Finley's sermons in the 1740s. There is surviving correspondence (example here) between Franklin and Finley as well as between Franklin and Finley's brother, James, as well as a letter from Deborah Franklin to her husband in 1766 informing him that "Mr. Finley is near his end and has bin as dead for several days." As late as 1774 Franklin, in a letter to Joseph Priestly, quoted a passage from an old letter of Finley's to Samuel Chandler of the Royal Society about an experiment involving inflammable air (methane escaping from the earth).
Saturday
Jul052014

Big Labor Helped Create Border Crisis; AFL-CIO Should Step Up to Help

AFLCIOLaborCollegeFacility070514

Just about a month ago, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called upon President Obama to issue green cards to everyone eligible for citizenship under the Senate immigration bill, which gives legal status to illegal aliens already here:

...the executive branch must provide all those who would qualify for citizenship under the bipartisan Senate Bill affirmative status with work authorization... - Richard Trumka, May 28, 2014

The AFL-CIO has made three immigration policy recommendations to the federal government:

1) Give legal status with work authorization to everyone who is a "low priority for removal" or "eligible for prosecutorial discretion under existing [Department of Homeland Security] policies;

2) The Department of Homeland Security should attempt to block state and local enforcement of immigration laws;

3) The Department of Homeland Security should stop "criminalizing" immigrant communities and ensure that no one in recommendation #1 (almost every illegal alien) is deported.

DHS, of course, does not create laws, so it "criminalizes" no one. Breaking the law does that.

The AFL-CIO claims it supports citizenship for 11 million (most likely more) illegal aliens because illegal workers can be abused by unscrupulous employers, but one does not have to be a citizen to be a legal resident with a green card. If the AFL-CIO's true interest was as it claims, it would focus on green cards and not citizenship. If, on the other hand, the AFL-CIO is looking to recruit new voters...

The AFL-CIO has explicitly rejected a plan to allow illegal aliens to stay here and work legally, and Trumka has said legislation of that sort would not only fail to receive union support, but would be aggressively fought by the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO is contributing to the impression that anyone who makes it to the United States, and soon, may get citizenship. If it is as humanitarian as it claims to be, it will step up and help some of the innocent children who came here because they, or more likely their parents, believe that.

Big Labor and Big Business have contributed to the humanitarian crisis affecting children on our border. As long as government agencies are overwhelmed, business and labor should step up to help by temporarily contributing food and shelter to those who need it.

Saturday
Jul052014

Hillary Clinton is "Sick and Tired" of Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton, April 2003: "I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you're not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration!"

Here's Barack Obama, July 1, taking a very different view:

Partial transcript, starting at 1:58:

"...We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people.

Obama hugs Hillary Clinton

Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let's make sure they're paying their fair share of taxes, let's reward American workers and businesses that hire them. Let's put people to work rebuilding America. Let's invest in manufacturing, so the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are right here, made in the USA. That would be something to celebrate on the 4th of July.

Economic patriotism says that instead of stacking the deck in the favor of folks just at the top, let's harness the talents and ingenuity of every American and give every child access to quality education, and make sure that if your job was stamped obsolete or shipped overseas, you're going to get retrained for an even better job.

Economic patriotism says that instead of making it tougher for middle-class families to get ahead, let's reward hard work for every American. Let's make sure women earn pay that's equal to their efforts. Let's make sure families can make ends meet if their child gets sick and they need to take a day off. Let's make sure no American who works full-time ever has to live in poverty..."

(Hat tip to White House Dossier for transcript and link to video.)

Are you still sick and tired, Hillary?

Reporters should ask her about this.

Friday
Jul042014

What, to Black Americans, is the 4th of July?

The following New Visions Commentary from Project 21 member Stacy Swimp was originally published in July of 2012:

On July 5, 1852, the famous black abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered a stinging indictment of American independence.  He did so because it was not yet realized for black Americans.

At Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, Douglass declared: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”  To his hosts, he asked: “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?”

Douglass continued, explaining:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?  I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.  To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.  There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Today, however, Douglass would undoubtedly think differently.  He would more likely be proud of how far America has come in ensuring equal protection under the law.  There are now many reasons to celebrate Independence Day.

Now, for example, under our Constitution, everyone enjoys the guarantee of individual freedom.

Douglass would probably also appeal to modern blacks to remember their predecessors who contributed to American independence.  It is these people, who surely envisioned the America we now live in, who deserve tribute and are a reason to celebrate the 4th of July now with pride and dignity.

It is important to share — especially with our youth — the stories of black patriots such as Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem and Salem Poor.

Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave, was an early casualty of the American Revolution when he was killed by British troops in the Boston Massacre.  He became a martyr during the Revolutionary War and was later a symbol of liberty in fight against slavery.  In spite of restrictions related to the burial of blacks at that time, Attucks was nonetheless buried at the Granary Burial Ground beside other honored dead such as Paul Revere.

Peter Salem and Salem Poor exhibited bravery at battles such as Bunker Hill.  Salem shot and killed British Major John Pitcairn as Pitcairn rallied his troops. His fellow soldiers later presented Salem to General George Washington as a hero.

Poor, who earlier bought his freedom, joined a Massachusetts militia company in part to promote black liberty.  For killing a high-ranking British officer, Lt. Col. James Abercrombie, Poor’s heroism was noted in a petition signed by fourteen of his officers:

We declare that a negro man, called Salem Poor… in the late Battle at Charlestown, behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier.  To set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious, we would only beg leave to say in the person of this said negro centers a brave and gallant soldier.

It’s obvious that lack men of that era believed the Revolutionary War was a fight for everyone’s liberty.  Their loyalty was to the American principle of individual freedom.  Over 5,000 black men fought for the Continental Army. Many black women served as nurses, laundresses and cooks.  They all played a vital role in winning the independence we are all now privileged to enjoy.

Responding to Douglass today about the meaning of and reason to celebrate Independence Day, we ought to proudly stand tall and respond: We have everything to celebrate — for we played a big part in the independence in this great nation.

Friday
Jul042014

Big Business and Big Labor Deserve Partial Responsibility for Dangers Faced by Children Crossing the Border

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Facebook founder and CEO Jeff Zuckerberg founded FWD.us, a group that lobbies Congress for "a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants."

Hopes of U.S. citizenship, or legal status, is a key factor spurring parents south of the border to send their unaccompanied minor children on the dangerous trip across the border. Some children have died; others have been assaulted. Many are traumatized.

According to Moni Basu, reporting for CNN, the influx of children, which may rise to 130,000 more next year, has

"...overwhelmed U.S. facilities along the border and forced federal authorities to scramble to find viable solutions.

They've had to open temporary shelters because the existing ones are filled to capacity. Journalists are not allowed inside, but leaked photographs of a Border Patrol holding facility in Nogales, Arizona, show cramped cells without enough food, beds, toilets or showers. They seem more befitting of refugee camps Americans hear of in war-ravaged regions of the developing world than right here at home.

From those less-than-ideal conditions have risen allegations of sexual abuse, threats of violence, strip searches and filthy conditions.

A complaint filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and four immigrant rights groups lists accusations made by 116 children. Half described a lack of medical care. Others describe ice-cold holding cells in which bright fluorescent lights were kept switched on day and night. About 70 percent of these children said they were held by the Border Patrol longer than the statutory limit of 72 hours."

Big Business and Big Labor should accept that they are contributors to this crisis, and act accordingly.

Friday
Jul042014

Project 21’s Derryck Green on the Price of, Threat to Freedom

On the occasion of Independence Day, Project 21 member Derryck Green reflects on the sacrifices made in the name of freedom, the current state of that liberty in our nation and what might be done to improve the future.

Our nation is facing many problems on the anniversary of its independence.

Based on historical recovery scenarios, the American economy is nowhere near where it’s supposed to be.  Quality jobs are scarce.  Job creation isn’t maintaining pace with population growth.  Wages are stagnant.  Government dependency has increased.  Confidence is waning.

Much of this is the likely result of imprudent economic and political policies that lead us to sustained apathy and diminished optimism.

Our borders are largely porous — some claim they are left that way on purpose.  Our Border Patrol agents are increasingly overwhelmed by the numbers of illegal immigrants confidently flooding into our nation without much apparent fear of imprisonment or deportation.  As they contemplate their journey, they obviously see a federal government in the United States whose leadership stubbornly refuses to properly enforce its own immigration laws and fights states that attempt to do so in their place. 

Average Americans have a growing distaste and a distrust of the insulated political class in Washington.  Approval ratings for politicians are at an all-time low, as they are seen as more interested in the desires of the bureaucrats and favored elites before the rest of the population’s own pressing kitchen-table concerns.

Internationally, our nation’s reputation — the prestige of our military force, our diplomatic honesty and faith in a trustworthy follow-through on our word appears impressively diminished.  For our friends and allies, what confidence there is in continued cooperation and protection seems weak.  Our enemies seem emboldened as they detect a reluctance to acknowledge and confront the evil they represent.  They undoubtedly take this reliance as a sign of weakness. 

Much of this, obviously, is the result of the agenda put forth by President Barack Obama.

At the same time, however, we must remember that Obama is an emblem.  He is a mascot of sorts for the body politic — a reflection of those who placed him in office and, in this case, a culmination of a cancerous strain of thought.  He is the personification of a poisonous ideology seeking to take full advantage of the opportunities America provides while simultaneously seeking to destroy or, in Obama’s own words, “fundamentally transform” that very system that provides the blessings he enjoys, takes for granted and sometimes even attempts to prevent others from enjoying.

Obama is most closely representative of those convinced by their own arrogance.  They express themselves and their beliefs in a healthy and robust naïveté — ignorance borne in conceit — and are an antithesis to that which is great about America.

Once again, it isn’t just Obama — though he does bear considerable responsibility.  It’s political leftism in general that seeks to devour the cultural norms and the traditions of Western civilization.

Obama is the catalyst for this attempt to change America, seeking to recreate it in a way that’s failed everywhere else it’s been tried.  The fact that such altruism failed before, time and again, seems of no concern to Obama and his ideological acolytes.  In their perceived wisdom, these true believers appear to believe that they know better.  They are so fully convinced of their ability, intellectual prowess and good intentions that they believe themselves able to perfect the problems of the past and faithfully trust in themselves that it will work this time simply because they are in charge. 

But left unaided, they too will fail.  Like the failures of the past, Obama and his supporters lack the ability, foresight, wisdom and intellectual maturity to think out their grand idea to its logical conclusion.  In the end, as history shows, the system they lust after always implodes.  They still haven’t fully learned this certainty.

Patriotic Americans cannot passively watch our self-destruction at the hands of a bunch of narcissistic and naïve fools.  They may not acknowledge and appreciate the God-given blessing that is America, but good portions of us do.

God gave us this gift of America for a reason, and we also owe the signers, framers and others who sacrificed and risked considerable amounts to create this nation and the potential it offers its lawful citizenry.  We owe it to ourselves to do our part to seek its preservation for our progeny and for those willing to take on the responsibility of its perpetuation.  Lastly, we owe it to the world to continue this fight because, as imperfect as we may be, we have been a reservoir of goodness in many forms to countless beneficiaries across the globe who would otherwise not have enjoyed food, safety, education and our protection of their freedoms.

America has fought and sacrificed to overcome the forces of evil that would no doubt proliferate in our absence, already evidenced in the wake of our self-imposed international withdrawal during this presidency.

Much of the calamity is the result of those who refuse to respect freedom as much as they revere government growth and coercion.  It is aided by those in politics who have more interest in feuding amongst themselves for alleged ideological purity or possess a considerable lack of testicular fortitude, an atrophied spinal column or outright lack strength and courage when it comes to confronting and limiting the status quo of leftism.

For many, the cultural and political fight to redeem the country isn’t over.  For others, the fight hasn’t begun.  Whether one is ready to continue the fight or ready to join up lies among the individual.  One can be part of the decline or part of the redemption.  It’s a simple choice.

On this Fourth of July, the anniversary of our forefathers’ declaration of independence, keep in mind why that independence was declared, what it meant to them and what it cost them.

May God continue to bless America and continue to bless the world through America.

Thursday
Jul032014

Hat-Trick! Obama Leaves Labor Participation Stagnant for Three Months Straight

It’s customary for the previous month’s unemployment numbers to be released on the first Friday of the successive month.  With the first Friday of July being a federal holiday, the government’s release of new jobless data was moved up by a day.

That’s good news for President Obama even though the numbers that were released were not.  Coming at such a time, it becomes part of the post-holiday news dump.  It’s a common tactic in which news that is bad but cannot be avoided is released at a time when most people aren’t going to be paying attention — such as just before the weekend or before a major holiday.

Today’s jobless numbers certainly fall into the category of something that the White House probably won’t want repeated by newscasters and analyzed by commentators.

The overall unemployment rate, as calculated by the federal government, is 6.1 percent.  The numbers are much higher for demographic groups such as blacks, black teens, Hispanics and the more inclusive unemployment rate that measures those looking along with those who have given up.  That last rate was regrettable at 12.1 percent.

While the official unemployment rate went down slightly, the devil is in the details.  For the past three months — a quarter of a year — the workforce participation rate has remained at an unacceptably low 62.8 percent.  The rate that includes those out of the job search is relatively unchanged, but just under twice the official rate that was fed to the public with great rejoicing.

In short, it would seem that the jobless outlook is a house of cards waiting to tumble.  It’s just a matter of time before the bubble bursts.

Derryck Green, a member of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, is a regular commenter on the state of the Obama economy.  In his monthly analysis of the federal jobless report, Derryck sees a lot of talk — but not a lot of proof — of a working Obama economic recovery:

Any pain that President Obama may be experiencing right now as a result of recent economic news is purely self-inflicted.

Pain felt by the American people?  It doesn’t seem deserved.

Last month’s news of a revision of the first quarter’s gross domestic product figures — the best indicator of national economic growth through goods and services — showed an economic contraction to a degree that seemed like great news when compared to the next revision from a few days ago.  This second revision showed the first quarter’s GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 2.9 percent — the fastest pace at six years.

Mainstream media outlets largely dismissed this unsettling news rather than sounded alarm bells.  They continued to blame a harsh winter for the contraction while, at the same time (and at the same time as they repeat warnings about global warming), they seem to try to manufacture confidence by offering better-than-expected projections regarding future economic growth.  They’ve also taken to celebrating that fact the economy recovered all the jobs it lost in the recession that allegedly ended in the summer of 2009 — even though that alleged recovery took almost six years to happen.

There are a lot of aspects of the Obama-administered economic recovery that fail to impress — or even convince — many of the experts.

There are certainly not that many average Americans who won’t take the bait anymore because everything around us at this time points to the unfortunate reality that the economy won’t meet the rosy expectations they read or hear in the media.

Though the unemployment rate dropped slightly, the number of Americans who continue to see themselves outside of the economy looking in, continues to grow.  About 288,000 jobs were created last month, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  ADP, an alternative to government job estimates, similarly said private payrolls added 281,000 private sector jobs last month.

Yet the current official percentage of unemployed Americans is 6.1 percent, (a decrease from the previous month).  For blacks, it’s down slightly to 10.7 percent.  For black teenagers, however, it’s rocketed up to 33.4 percent.  For Latinos, it’s up to 7.8 percent.

The labor force participation rate is 62.8 percent that harkens back to the Carter Administration.  And the rate has remained unchanged over the past three months!

The alternative U-6 unemployment rate — the measurement of unemployed, underemployed and able-but-despondent who have given up looking for a job — fell a little to 12.1 percent.  Many observers of jobless figures consider this rate the best indicator of the true extent of Obama’s financial and joblessness crisis.  This rate is almost double the official rate promoted to the media.

It bears repeating that the unemployment rate — the official one that most of the media reports on — is artificially low because more Americans are leaving the workforce and not because there’s any substantial evidence of an economically robust pattern of job creation or hiring patterns by employers. Those who regained the jobs that are celebrating by the media aren’t really much to crow about when considering there are millions of Americans who were been added to the labor force during the same time span (which means it’s more than 7 million jobs behind where it needs to be) or the fact that the quality of jobs gained doesn’t match the quality of jobs lost.

Furthermore, a recent report by the Center of Immigration Studies claims that all job growth since 2000 has effectively gone to immigrants even though native-born Americans account for two-thirds of the labor force.

Here are some other economic clues that the economy is nowhere near where it needs to be right now for this alleged economic recovery the media and the White House talk about to be working:

  • Unemployment rates of people aged 20-24 and 25-34 — college graduates and young adults — has long been higher than the national average;
  • Median household income is roughly $53,000, representing a seven percent drop from where it was in 2000;
  • Generation X households have less wealth than their parents did at comparative ages, indicating stalled careers and less advancement — an effect that essentially redefines what it means to be middle class.  It also means that Gen Xers will have to work longer while trying to overcome the difficulties of having to save more money later in the game.  Add to all this the uncertain future of Social Security.  It means the age at which Generation X retires (and opens up jobs for younger Americans) is in serious question;
  • Inflation is occurring.  The price of meat, poultry, fish and eggs recently hit an all-time high;
  • The average national price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.68, which is a six-year high.  Though many will blame this increase on the chaos in Iraq, a reason only partly at fault, it should be noted (again) that Barack Obama’s energy policy deserves blame.  Blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, reducing offshore drilling and increasing regulation on coal plants while subsidizing (at taxpayer expense) an economically and practically inefficient “green energy” industry only increases the costs struggling Americans have to pay at the pump and other energy needs;
  • Americans who have money saved for emergencies has sharply declined.  Close to two-thirds of Americans don’t have at least six months of expenses saved.  Income stagnation, combined with the increased costs of goods and services, inhibits working Americans from creating and sustaining their own personal economic safety nets;
  • And, speaking of safety nets, beneficiaries of federal disability has topped 11 million for the first time.

President Obama bears an overwhelming responsibility for these perpetually pathetic statistics.  To look at his recent poll numbers, people are finally acknowledging the President’s culpability for our economic inertia.

But Obama isn’t alone in being to blame for the economy.  The job approval rating for Congress is at an all-time low.  Ninety-three percent of people polled expressed little or no confidence in Congress as American institution — a number very well-deserved.

It’s time, for instance, for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to clean off Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk and put some of those bills from the House of Representatives that he’s been holding on to up for a vote.

Thursday
Jul032014

Harry Reid Meet Linda Rolain

Actually, the illustrious Senate Majority Leader would have to meet the family of Linda Rolain since Mrs. Rolain is, sadly, dead.

Rolain was unable to get treatment for a brain tumor as she did not have coverage under the Nevada exchange—even though she had signed up for it:

Rolain’s husband, Robert, said the couple began trying to sign up in November, well ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline for January coverage. After wrestling with repeated sign-up problems, the Rolains bought a plan that took effect in March. But they said Xerox staffers miscommunicated the policy’s effective date, so they didn’t know until May that they had coverage.

Linda Rolain was first diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 2014, after a seizure in late 2013. Robert Rolain said in a June 19 news conference at the downtown Las Vegas offices of Callister, Immerman and Associates that his wife’s care was delayed for months because of their insurance troubles.

Robert Rolain alleges his wife’s tumor went from treatable in winter to fatal in spring as the couple fought for coverage.

Linda was “one of about 150 Nevadans suing Nevada Health Link contractor Xerox for enrollment mix-ups that left them without the health insurance they paid for.” She is the first of those 150 to die.

It’s not clear if Gary Smith is among those 150, although he too was unable to get his diabetes medication because of similar incompetence by Xerox.  I wrote about him back in March when all manner of left-wing pundits were promoting the “No Obamacare Horror Stories” Fairy Tale.  Wonder if any of them will write about Mrs. Rolain.  Don’t hold your breath.

It’s probably just as futile to hope that Senator Reid has any second thoughts about this:

Wednesday
Jul022014

Dishonest Leftists Use Whoppers to Spin Followers Against Supreme Court Decisions

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Monday's two pro-freedom decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court has the anti-freedom totalitarian left up in arms, but that's no excuse for lying.

Here's a sample of just a few of the whoppers just one of the leftist groups, ThinkProgress, published yesterday, along with a correction added by me:

ThinkProgress: "In Harris v. Quinn, the five conservative justices undermined public sector unions by barring homecare workers in Illinois from collecting fair share fees to ensure that everyone shares in the cost of bargaining."

Truth: Homecare workers in Illinois were being forced to pay (not collect) fair share fees to the SEIU, which used the fees to lobby for the expansion of Medicaid. There was no "bargaining" in the conventional sense. These are workers who help disabled people, usually family members who are Medicaid recipients, in their own home. They do not work for the government and should never have been required to send fees of any kind to a government union.

ThinkProgress: "The plaintiffs in [the Hobby Lobby] suit took the unscientific stance that pregnancy begins at fertilization..."

Truth: It is not "unscientific" to believe pregnancy begins at conception. Pro-abortion activists find it convenient to say pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants on the uterine wall, as this helps them keep the action of preventing implantation legal, even subsidized by the taxpayers, even though such action kills the new human life. Their definition is not binding on the morality of others, nor is it a matter of science. It is simply a definition. It's no coincidence, I'm sure ,that ThinkProgress cited the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood, and not a dictionary, as a source for its definition.

Speaking of dictionaries, a glance at the Free Dictionary shows pregnancy defined as "the period from conception to childbirth" and "the condition of carrying developing offspring within the body." Or choose Merriam-Webster: "The condition of a woman or female animal that is going to have a baby or babies." Collins, for pregnant: "having (an) offspring developing in the uterus; that has conceived; with young or with child." Online Etymology Dictionary, for pregnant: "with child," early 15c., from Latin praegnantem (nominative praegnans, originally praegnas) "with child," literally "before birth," probably from prae- "before" (see pre-) + root of gnasci "be born" (see genus)."

ThinkProgress: "...99 percent of U.S. women... use contraception at some point in their lives."

Truth: By age 44, only 86.8 percent of American women have ever had vaginal intercourse, even one time, so that's 13.2 percent right there who don't need birth control, even if we assume (ridiculously) that every American woman who has ever had vaginal intercourse used birth control. Inasmuch as contraceptive use for other health care purposes is not covered by the HHS mandate, was not addressed in the Hobby Lobby case and is not objected to by anyone active in the debate (including the Catholic Church), ThinkProgress cannot honestly claim contraceptive use for non-contraceptive purposes is affected.

Part of the hysteria from the left about Monday's two Supreme Court decisions is entirely under false pretenses. Too bad many leftist leaders don't seem willing to ask themselves why they need to mislead their followers, and too many leftist followers accept what they are told without critical thinking.

Wednesday
Jul022014

Veterans Will Suffer Another Scandal As Long As Bureaucracy Runs Their Health Care

Why did VA employees manipulate wait time data, resulting in thousands of Veterans lingering on wait lists for care and at least 23 veterans dying because they had to wait too long?

Phillip Longman, author of the Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours—which, I’ve argued elsewhere, is partially responsible for the scandal—blames it on veterans migrating to states in the “Sun Belt” area. `The Sun Belt is roughly the strip of states running from Nevada and Southern California all they way over to Florida and then up into South and North Carolina.  Longman claims so many veterans moved to these areas in recent years that the VA facilities there were overwhelmed, leading to long wait times.

In my latest National Policy Analysis, “Veterans Will Suffer Another Scandal As Long As Bureaucracy Runs Their Health Care,” I find the evidence does not support the Sun Belt theory.  The VA’s recent audit of the scandal listed 81 facilities needing “further review ” (see pages 38-40). Of those 41 are in the Sun Belt, while the other 40 are not. review of Government Accountability Office and VA Office of the Inspector General reports that examine wait times shows a similar pattern. Examining reports from 2000-2014 that contained wait-time data on specific locales reveals 21 in the Sun Belt and 22 located elsewhere.

Clearly, this is not a scandal limited to a specific geographic location.  Rather, the explanation is to be found in the incentives and constraints that a bureaucracy like the VA faces.  Here’s one:

[One] problem with bureaucracies is they don’t get their funding from the people who are seeking their services. In the private sector, those people are generally called “customers,” although in the healthcare sector they are usually referred to as “patients.” If customers have to wait too long to receive a service from “Business A,” they will take their money to businesses that offer shorter wait times. Business A will see its revenues decline and either have to shape up or go under. Like most bureaucracies, the VA has no such “feedback loop,” since the people seeking their services aren’t the same ones paying for it. In short, there is no financial consequence for poor customer service.

For the other problems, read the NPA or the version at the Federalist.

Tuesday
Jul012014

On 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act, Crazed Anti-Hobby Lobby Activists Claim it is a Civil Rights Act Violation to Not Give Women Something that is Not Being Given to Men

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Left-wing opponents of yesterday's Hobby Lobby decision are suggesting that companies that decline for religious reasons to provide early abortion drugs and devices could be sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, or religion:

The New Republic: "There has been speculation that if Hobby Lobby did win, employees could file a Civil Rights Act Title VII complaint, claiming that the company is treating female employees differently than men."

Think Progress: "There’s been some speculation that Hobby Lobby employees may be able file a Civil Rights Act Title VII complaint, on the grounds that the company is treating female employees differently than male employees..."

The HHS mandate requires that employers provide female employees with coverage, without co-pays, for contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs and devices.

Hobby LobbyThe HHS mandate is sexist. The left loves it.

Now obviously males can't have abortions, so it is impossible for employers to cover this for males and not females, but they can use contraception and they can get sterilized. The HHS mandate does not cover males for any of this. Under the mandate, for example, a (female) tubal ligation is covered, while a (male) vasectomy is not.

Birth control pills are covered, but condoms (despite their significant side benefit in helping to prevent the spread of disease) are not.

If anything or anyone in this situation is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it is the HHS mandate itself and its backers, such as President Obama and the left-wing groups, not those who wished to receive a partial exemption from it.

Even if that were not so, the Civil Rights Act's Section VII says, flat-out, "This subsection shall not require an employer to pay for health insurance benefits for abortion..."

And yet another cog in the left's scheme: case law saying businesses can't be required to provide abortion services against their sincerely-held religious beliefs. The cite on that? A case called Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc...

Tuesday
Jul012014

Does Burger King Fund ThinkProgress? And Other Questions

1. Hat tip to Kevin Williamson for linking to this year-old post from ThinkProgress.  In support of a “living wage” of $15 per hour for fast-food workers, ThinkProgress cites research from a University of Kansas graduates student saying that McDonald’s would only have to increase the price of Big Mac 68 cents to double the pay of most of McDonald’s workers.

After I picked myself up off the floor in hysterics, I listened very carefully.  I could hear not only the chorus of lefties chanting, “McDonald’s raise your prices 68 cents!,” but also owners of Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell….

2. Here is a little logic quiz for you.  Say you have a job that pays you $30,000.  Over the next ten years your income doesn’t fall below that and, by the end of that ten years, you are making $40,000.  If that was the case, could you reasonably say that by year ten you’ve recovered to the level of income you had in year one?  I suspect most of you would say “No” since you can’t recover to a level of income if you never dropped below that level in the first place.

Thankfully, we have left-wing journalists to set us straight on this. Angelo Young of the International Business Times writes a story with the headline: “Wealthiest US Households Are Worth More Than They Were In 2003; Everyone Else Is Still Trying To Recover.”  The piece begins, “While investors have been enjoying solid gains since the end of the Great Recession five years ago this month, a new study shows just how much wealth most American households have yet to recover. For the poorest households, debt has increased threefold since 2003, with recessionary effects lingering.”

And here is the supporting evidence Angelo provides:

 

You’ll notice that those in the 90th and 95th percentiles haven’t recovered to 2003 levels since they never slipped below them in the first place.  You’ll also notice that the data doesn’t seem to support Angelo’s claim that “investors have been enjoying solid gains since the end of the Great Recession five years.”  If so, why is their household wealth still lower than it was in 2007 or 2009?

3. The take away from this Sally Kohn column on the Hobby Lobby case is that freedom of religion means that owners of companies must be forced by the government to provide their employees with birth control.  That’s not what she writes, but there is no other way to explain nonsense like this:

Moreover, as I have written previously, freedom of religion explicitly includes not only the freedom to practice one’s religion but to be free from the imposition of someone else’s religion. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cannot be allowed to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

How does refusing to pay for birth control impose a religious belief on anyone?  It doesn’t, of course.  But never underestimate a feminist’s ability to twist words away from any sensible meaning in order to achieve her political goals.

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