Good News for my Co-author!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15334459

Just in case she missed this news story, I’m passing it along as she has debilitating RA and a very sad prognosis past age 50 if she doesn’t figure out an effective manner of treatment.  Nothing is ready for her YET, but…we’re getting closer.

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Three-Second Thought of the Day

I would just like to propose the following two thoughts – just a little mind game for you all to puzzle over.

Who are the real racists here…the party that believes in a global free economy and thus doesn’t frown on outsourcing jobs where the market dictates?  Or the party that talks about Bain Capital’s record of outsourcing in this breathless shock and horror – those damn dirty brown and yellow people got our jobs! (please note – in case anyone wishes to call me a racist for using such phrases ironically…THIS IS CALLED SARCASM!)

Leftist populism would seem to have quite the strain of xenophobia and racism in it to me.

But what do I know?  I’m a racist by definition since I am conservative.

BTW…a second related thought…

Leftists always say things like “It’s a global market – acquiring new oil won’t help our economy for decades because it just goes to the global market!”  Yet these same people react as though we see no benefit at all when we send jobs overseas.  It doesn’t…oh…I don’t know…REDUCE THE COST OF THE STUFF WE BUY…or…KEEP AMERICAN-BORN COMPANIES HEALTHY AND HIRING HERE AT HOME TOO!…nope…because when it suits them to whip up racially-motivated nationalistic fear and paranoia about our jobs going overseas because heartlesss republicans want to let businesses get away with outsourcing…they’ll do that.  But when it serves them to argue that it’s a global community/global economy and we should be doing our part to improve the global economy (which outsourcing by definition does…LOL)…they’ll say that too,

Freedom…or no freedom.  You make the call.

Responding to Annoying Liberal Remarks on Facebook, XII: The "You Can’t Argue With What’s In My Heart" Edition

Okay — so here’s how the most recent bit of Facebook liberal idiocy went down:

First of all, one of my liberal friends posted a link to a CBO report estimating that Obamacare will lower federal costs by $84 billion over eleven years.

In response, one conservative “friend of a friend” observed, quite reasonably, that:

The cost has gone up. It saved $200 billion over ten years back in March of last year. And then there’s the poll released today that shows 10% of companies are thinking of dropping their health coverage since Obamacare will force them to buy more comprehensive coverage than what they currently do. That will drive up costs by a bunch and isn’t accounted for in the current CBO estimate.

The original poster’s reply?

So we’re back to “Let them die.” Great. Including the couple that was shot at the Colorado movie. I’m sorry, my right-wing friends, but there’s just nothing you guys can say that will convince me we should let millions of Americans die because of this. And wasn’t it your side complaining about (made up) “death panels?” And your side that talks incessantly about a “culture of life?” And yet who is it that screams “Let him die!” at debates and wants to deny working Americans health care? I’m sorry, gang, but there’s just no way I can get behind that kind of approach to life. No way. No matter how you dress it up in anti-big-gubment rhetoric and complain about “socialized” this and that, it just isn’t gonna fly here. Take it elsewhere, because all the argument in the world will not change my mind or, more importantly, my heart.

Let’s take apart this completely unhinged statement one step at a time, shall we?

So we’re back to “Let them die.” Great. Including the couple that was shot at the Colorado movie. I’m sorry, my right-wing friends, but there’s just nothing you guys can say that will convince me we should let millions of Americans die because of this.

My visceral reaction to this is unprintable on a family blog. How do we go from opposing the Affordable Care Act to “letting people die?” Once again, in typical liberal fashion, you are arguing with a straw man. There is no one – NO ONE – who believes that our health care system is perfectly fine the way it is. There is no one who does not worry about rising health care costs — or about those Americans who may be slipping through the cracks. Disagreement only arises when we get to specific policy proposals. Those who oppose PPACA do not do so because they malevolently wish to deny working Americans access to health care. Speaking for myself, I oppose PPACA because I believe it to be a ridiculously bureaucratic “solution” that erroneously conflates access to health care with access to health insurance. I was uninsured from 2004 to 2006, and at no time was I ever denied care. I was still able to see my primary care physician. I was still able to see my rheumatologist. And when I landed in the hospital several times in the summer and fall of 2006, said hospital wrote off 75% of my expenses.

To be sure, privately insured patients tend to see better medical outcomes when you look at the averages, but the same cannot be said for patients on, oh, Medicaid, which PPACA seeks to expand despite the program’s desperate need for reform. Further, putting undue emphasis on broadening access to comprehensive health insurance ignores other avenues for change. For example, instead of introducing more third-party payers into the system, why not return some of the responsibility for health care to the consumer? If healthy and employed Americans could actually see how much certain things cost, they might hold off on visiting their doctors for cases of the seasonal flu, thereby freeing up resources for those in more urgent need. We definitely don’t want somebody to go broke because they developed cancer – or some other serious chronic illness – but I think mandating insurance coverage for standard “oil changes” is going way overboard.

I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that PPACA is not the be-all and end-all of health care policy in America. There are other ideas out there — ideas that, in my opinion, are based on sound economics. Oppose them if you choose, but please don’t imply that they don’t exist.

And wasn’t it your side complaining about (made up) “death panels?”

And what of the Independent Payment Advisory Board? Isn’t that 15-member body empowered to cut payments to Medicare providers? Please explain how that will not result, ultimately, in health care rationing for seniors.

And your side that talks incessantly about a “culture of life?” And yet who is it that screams “Let him die!” at debates and wants to deny working Americans health care?

Ugh! This leftist urban legend again! I urge you to actually go back and watch the video of the debate in question. When the moderator asked Ron Paul if the uninsured American in his hypothetical should be left to die, only one or two assholes in the audience shouted “Yeah!” — and they were met with nervous titters here and there, not thunderous applause. Again, I ask that you stop spreading vicious falsehoods about your opposition. Try engaging us in good faith for a change.

I’m sorry, gang, but there’s just no way I can get behind that kind of approach to life. No way. No matter how you dress it up in anti-big-gubment rhetoric and complain about “socialized” this and that, it just isn’t gonna fly here. Take it elsewhere, because all the argument in the world will not change my mind or, more importantly, my heart.

And here, my Facebook friend finally reveals just how mired he is in emotional thinking. Obamacare is right in my heart! How dare anyone challenge it using inconvenient facts!   

Well, pardon me for bursting your bubble, but as your other friend’s comment reveals, there are legitimate reasons to doubt that Obama’s pet legislation will actually do anything to control health care costs or improve access. Stick your fingers in your ears and shout “La-la-la! Republicans are EVIL and want you to DIE!” all you want, but don’t be surprised if we conservatives then throw up our hands and drop you from our reading lists. Assuming ill motives where none exist is an excellent way to lose friends and antagonize people. Indeed, that attitude is likely to earn you a punch in the face.

Blog BUMP: You Go Bristol Pailn!

Do yourself a favor and check this gem out from Bristol’s blog…

Mind you, I am pretty reserved in my support of Sarah Palin as a political entity…but you really can’t beat this kind of grassroots campaign motto-generating conduit for the voice of the people.

I Built This, Mr. President!

Can you picture it now?  The blanketing of TV ads in October with Obama saying over and over again, “If you have a successful business, you didn’t get there on your own!” and then a handful from these testimonials showing us their thriving businesses and angrily proclaiming, “I Built This, Mr. President!”  Romney doesn’t even need to say much each time…just a little something like “I think small businesses are what drive this economy and propel our American dream.  Obama apparently believes you only deserve help if you are ‘too big to fail.’  We need someone in Washington who’ll get the government out of your way so that your small businesses can feel free to innovate and create jobs.”

This should be a brutal rout…we just need the right messaging at the right moment.

Feather Signs, Tanning Beds and Big Gulps, OH MY!

My girlfriend did me a bit of a favor last night.  She insisted on watching the local news (I hate television news and rarely force myself to watch it anymore)…but there were three ongoing stories from the NYC/Long Island region that fit beautifully into one bit of narrative.  New York is chasing California down the liberty sinkhole faster than you can say “Big Brother is Watching.”

It’s not happening in every township at the same speed, nor do any of these particular issues strike me as big deals in and of themselves.  But, little by little, they’re managing to make the legal books swell to levels last seen in top-heavy Rome under Nero.  We’ll go through the fun and joy one item at a time.

BIG SODA

This is actually rather old news, but it’s back in the headlines due to civil protests and a lawsuit recently entered by Coca Cola’s not-insignificant legal team.  Mayor Bloomberg – evidently not busy enough at his job of growing business in NYC, improving a frequently filthy and unreliable subway system, preventing crime and dealing with poverty, union contracts, and all other manner of real city business – has decided to make war on obesity.  By decreeing that no city business may sell soda in sizes larger than 16 fl. oz.  Never mind that his ban doesn’t apply to fruit drinks like Ocean Spray, which have more calories than soda.  Never mind that it doesn’t address the far more important weight-problem-causing factors like lack of exercise (although his failing subway system does that quite nicely by forcing everyone to walk more), sedentary jobs, or those $5 mocha lattes brimming with sugar and fat.  Never mind that a customer can simply buy TWO 16-ounce drinks if he wants 32 ounces of soda.  The biggest question on even most liberal democrats’ minds in the city is…what will he ban next?

TANNING BEDS

As of yesterday, it is now illegal for a teenager to get an artificial tan in the state of New York.  I share the common reaction to obsessive tanning going on among our teens – disgust.  They’re going to be leathery hags when they’re 50.  And many of them are going to get skin cancer, since chances are good that if they’re getting the fake tan, they’re not going to shy away from the beach and the lightest of SPF sunscreens, rather than getting the protection they need.  I have even been told that tanning beds are riskier than the sun because certain wavelengths of light are absent as compared to the sun and those are the ones that make your skin feel pain most acutely, meaning people are more likely to stay in there longer and get a worse dose of radiation.  But…how many potentially dangerous and even emotionally addictive things do we let kids do every…single…day?  And how many of those things will we ban (and at what cost to their development)?  I mean, sports can be addictive, kids even get severely injured on a regular basis playing them…and hey…a few even die on the field.  We let kids eat Big Macs…some people have claimed fast food addiction and I don’t see many towns banning McDonalds (and the ones that do have generally filled the same market demand with local restaurants just as unhealthy as the burger giants).  There is legitimate evidence that sugary food causes changes in your intestinal flora and fauna and can thus create a chemical addiction to more of the same sugars.  Shall we take away Frosted Flakes, birthday cakes and licorice snakes?

FEATHER SIGNS

For an example of what a feather sign looks like, go here.

Several towns on Long Island, including the most recent addition of Hempstead (not a town known for its rustic charm or upscale appeal – sorry guys, but your town is a dump), have moved to ban feather signs with their politicians making outlandish claims including: the signs cause drivers to become distracted trying to read them, the signs are an eyesore – somehow more intrusive than billboards or store front banners or those crazy “wacky-waving inflatable arm-flailing tube-men” you see in front of car dealerships, the signs promote additional advertising that would not otherwise occur, etc.  If you went to the site, you know that these signs are among the least annoying, most attractive signs around – very shapely and elegant as advertisements go.  I fail to see how such signs are any more dangerous for drivers than those electronic boards they use to create traffic jams to warn drivers of an upcoming traffic jam.  And frankly…PERISH THE THOUGHT that people might use their first amendment right to speak to…um…advertise things!  Oh the horror!!  But alas, I believe in Federalism, and thus I believe that towns should have a right to decide how they will look.  I just wish the folks in Hempstead would focus on something that matters – like their rapidly rising crime rate or the crumbling section eight housing or their insanely high property taxes.

But these news stories – all hitting the Long Island evening report on the same day – have one thing in common.  Governments – state, city and township – trying to extract a better result, stave off the negative, and FIX people with a blizzard of new laws.  In the case of tanning beds, the government is playing the role of father to the legions of girls who are growing up either with parents who haven’t grown up and are just as selfish, shallow and vain as their teenage daughters or without those role models entirely.  The parents have dropped the ball and government thinks the answer is to try to be the parents.  In the case of Bloomberg’s soda ban, the people are making bad choices and the Mayor thinks it’s his job to make them stop.  And in the case of the feather signs, town councils have decided for everyone what they think is the appropriate level of advertising that should be allowed, replacing the first amendment with the heavy hand of the taste police.

Where does it end?  When do we decide that the only way to fix our problems is to take control of our own destinies and work for what we want?  When will we stop looking to the law to save us from our failings and start looking to God?  Or if you’re an atheist…to your own judgment (not that I think personal judgment is an adequate replacement).

Funny thing…my girlfriend fervently defended the tanning bed ban.  I gave her a twenty minute sermon on the slippery slope of ever-increasing government intervention and she went off mumbling her basic agreement with me that most of these kinds of things are over-reaches, but insisting that tanning beds shouldn’t be allowed for the young and impressionable.  Baby steps, I suppose.

Dismantling the Warren/Obama Argument

There’s a line of argument that has really begun to irritate me, and Obama is only the most recent politician to promulgate it:

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own…

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen…

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.”

(Read more here.)

Allow me to call out the two ridiculous assumptions that lurk behind this rhetoric:

First of all, as I noted in Friday’s post, this is a reply to an argument no one has made. Everyone understands that a community can accomplish many things that a lone individual cannot. After all, why have people created publicly-traded corporations if not to access the resources of thousands of investors? Why do people band together in service organizations if not to maximize the impact of their generosity? Alexis de Tocqueville once observed in his famous description of the early American republic that:

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.

“I met with several kinds of associations in America of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object for the exertions of a great many men and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.”

And does the conservative movement discourage this activity — this spontaneous formation of associations for the purpose of accomplishing some larger public goal? Of course not. Indeed, de Tocqueville is fairly well revered on our side of the aisle.

No – the real difference between Obama’s ideology and ours is this: Obama emphasizes the role of the government – and only the government – in providing for the common good. We conservatives, on the other hand, believe the government should be our last resort — that the voluntary associations that were one of America’s key features in de Tocqueville’s time can often achieve superior results depending on the problem at issue. The conservative creed does not suppose an atomized society in which each individual must go it alone. Indeed, even your most radical libertarians understand the theoretical importance of a police force at the very least (even when they criticize its alleged excesses). And as for those of us on the socially conservative end of the spectrum, I recommend you read It Takes a Family, in which Rick Santorum spends almost 500 pages emphasizing the importance of rebuilding our civic capital. Santorum may be a little too reliant on government solutions for the average conservative’s taste, but I think we generally agree with the former senator’s larger point — that broken families and broken neighborhoods are what make big government so attractive to so many and that the government does have at least a minimal role in ensuring that our aforementioned voluntary associations can survive and thrive.

To put it simply: Do we conservatives acknowledge that some taxation is necessary if we are to have things like fire houses and policemen and an Air Force? Yes. But we also believe in the principle of subsidiarity — i.e., the idea that any problem must be tackled by the smallest group that is competent to do so. Military research is certainly the province of the federal government; bullying in the schoolyard, however, should be handled by the local principal and not by federal or state mandates. And as for all the issues that lie between? Well, unlike the left, we believe there is room for legitimate debate — that we should be allowed to examine the effectiveness of every government program without being vilified as puppy-kickers who wish to starve Grandma.  

Now to the second ludicrous assumption: When Obama and his supporters proclaim, repeatedly, that the rich must “give back” and “pay their fair share,” they are implying that the rich don’t do so already — a viewpoint that is so overwhelmingly false that it makes me laugh. Let’s destroy this pernicious claim, shall we?

  1. Since the age of the so-called “robber barons,” the rich have poured millions of dollars into various philanthropic causes. Name any art museum, theater, hospital, university, research facility, or homeless shelter, and I guarantee I can produce a list of very rich people who helped to make it happen without being forced to do so by the dead hand of the federal government.
  2. According to the CBO, the hated “one-percent” earned 13.4% of the total income generated in the US in 2009 and paid 22.3% of all the federal income taxes collected. What’s unfair about this exactly? It seems pretty proportional to me.
  3. More importantly, if a man has a lucrative business, he doesn’t dump all the money said business earns into a private pool to swim in it all day. Obviously, he pays taxes (see the second point above), but his prosperity travels even further than that. Number one, he pays his employees (thereby acknowledging their contribution to his success) and buys new materials and equipment (thereby funneling capital to other economic ventures). Number two, this business owner may use his take-home profits to buy a house (thereby giving money to a cadre of realtors, architects and construction workers), shop for groceries (thereby giving money to point-of-sale clerks and farmers), or hire a tutor for his children (thereby giving money to people like me). The upshot? This man may make a million dollars before taxes, but most of that money will not stay in his pocket. It will be spread throughout his community.
  4. Lastly, the aforementioned business owner cannot compel anyone to pay for his product or his services. Consequently, if he is making money hand over fist, we can rely on that as a signal that he is adding value to many people’s lives just by making a living. Let’s say I spend several hundred dollars on a new laptop. The lucky computer company may get my money, but guess what? I get a laptop in return — and my life is incontrovertibly enriched. Give back? No — I’m not going to demand that the CEO of Dell “give back” because, in making relatively affordable laptops available to people like me, he or she already has. Similarly, I’m not going to insist self-righteously that the CEO of Walmart pay his “fair share” because providing the rural and urban poor the opportunity to buy groceries and other consumer goods on the cheap is a contribution to society that is quite sufficient.          

Do I think it’s nice when wealthy people go above and beyond what is legally required when it comes to their giving? Yes. Do I hope that most wealthy people will be inspired to do so by the call of Christian charity? Of course. But Obama is not appealing to the teachings of Jesus Christ — or, at the very least, he is doing so inaccurately. What Obama and his ilk are proposing is that we take by force the fruits of other men’s success — and they are attempting to justify their outright denial of the rich man’s natural rights by misusing the concept of a social contract. It is vacuously true that no man can achieve success wholly on his own — but if the reality that we all have teachers to teach us, policemen and firemen to protect us, and highways on which to transport our goods is reason enough for “society” to confiscate a man’s wealth, no one’s property is safe.

Responding to Annoying Liberal Remarks on Facebook, XI: Drive-By Rejoinders

When it comes to the memes that are disseminated on Facebook, I think I’ve reached the final straw. Therefore, what follows is a series of brief – and cranky – replies to the oh-so-deep political thoughts my acquaintances have shared with me in the past week.

1.

Sayeth the first friend (with the help of Stephen King):

“Rich people should acknowledge that they wouldn’t have made it without America — that they should give back in proportion to what they’ve received.”

Wealth creation depends upon the rule of law, so yes — a rich man should thank America for his good fortune. The thing is, I don’t think there’s anyone on my side of the political aisle who doesn’t acknowledge the importance of infrastructure, police, fire, education, etc. — nor has any conservative ever proposed that being an American means being “on your own.” You – and Stephen King – are setting up a straw man instead of debating the real thing. Real conservatives agree that the government does and should have the power to tax the populace to arrange for the establishment of the aforementioned public goods. We merely insist that our money be fully accounted for.

Let me put it to you this way: Imagine your son fell into some financial difficulty and came to you for help paying his rent. Wouldn’t you resent it if he came back a few weeks later and asked for more because he was stupid and bought an X-Box instead of settling things with his landlord? That is how I feel about the government. It keeps asking me for more and more of my tax money without explaining where the last check went. Millions and millions of dollars are being pitched into circular files like Solyndra, and no apology is ever extended when these ventures are revealed to be colossal wastes. Personally, I think all Americans – rich and poor alike – should scream “Not one cent more!” until the entire federal government is audited and streamlined. It is frankly psychotic at this point to let out more rope when the nation is already hanging itself. What’s more, it’s immoral. We have a duty to ensure that our government spending is sustainable. To do otherwise is to countenance massive generational theft.

Oh, and by the way: The rich are already giving back in proportion to what they receive — and then some. According to the CBO, the top quintile makes 50.8% of the before-tax income generated in the United States and pays 67.9% of our federal income taxes. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

2.

 Sayeth another friend (this time with the help of Mark Ruffalo):

“Why is it that Americans question putting more money into health care but don’t question how much we spend on the military?”

Hmm. Could it be the fact that the federal government would still run at a deficit even if we zeroed out the entire defense budget tomorrow?  Or that providing for the nation’s defense is actually a Constitutionally-enumerated power of the federal government while providing for cradle-to-grave comprehensive health insurance is not? Or that the Affordable Care Act – popularly known as Obamacare – doesn’t actually fix the true problems with the health care delivery system in America?

Once again, I don’t know of any conservative who is satisfied with our health care status quo. What we object to is Obama’s top-down, bureaucratic nightmare of a solution. Health care costs are spiraling out of control in part because, in the health care market, the usual price signals have been completely obscured by our reliance on third-party payments. Then there are the trial lawyers, whose activities guarantee that doctors will overuse expensive tests and procedures to cover their own asses. Does Obamacare address either of these issues? And by the way, it also doesn’t help that this disaster of a law apparently empowers the HHS to infringe upon my conscience rights as a Catholic. To this, I say hell to the no.

3.
And finally, from the same friend who quoted Mark Ruffalo above:
“GOP: Choose between Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ. Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.”

Okay — how can you possibly be a professor of political science and not know how our two-party system works? Because our political infrastructure is not kind to third-party bids, both the GOP and the Democratic Party are forced to behave as coalitions in order to absorb as much of the electorate as possible. So yes — our tent houses both the Objectivists and the Christians, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize how such groups differ on the issues of the day. As a matter of fact, we argue quite fiercely amongst ourselves.

As for me, I choose Jesus Christ because I believe he is God. However, I don’t assume that living out the Gospel requires big government. I am called to care for the poor and vulnerable, yes — but the way I see it, that means I must support what truly works and not what makes us all feel good. The Great Society? Sorry, liberals, but multi-generational welfare dependency does not fit my definition of “working.” We need jobs, not an expansion of the dole.
*****
So yeah — every time I visit Facebook these days, I’m always all: