Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Point of Politics

It's said that "all politics is a struggle for power". And there's some truth to that, but that's not all there is to it. We human beings have two political drives... the drive to extend our sphere of control, and our desire to be free of the control of others. These actually look complementary at first glance. After all, don't we secure our freedom by extending our control? A man in the wilderness controls his own actions. But he then extends that to the world around him. He fells trees, clears fields, builds a house, plants a crop. His entire existence is one of extending his control as far as he can reach. In doing so he's gained freedom from hunger, from cold, and from predators. This urge to control is primal. It's what humans do.

That's all well and good until you get other people living in close proximity. Now there are limits to what one man can control if we allow that "all men are created equal" and thus have equal rights. My influence stops where another man's begins, but the desire to control doesn't go away. It's what we do.

So we invented politics. Politics is that struggle for power. At its best it's a struggle for equitability: the fair and reasonable exercise of freedom by everyone. At its worst, it's tyranny: the unbridled exercise of power by a few over many. Tyranny denies that all men are created equal, while quite often saying the opposite. But even at its best, politics reveals the adversarial nature of those drives I mentioned. With limited resources, in order to extend my sphere of control, I have infringe on someone else's. He's not going to like that. He'll push back. We can either escalate this into some kind of a fight, or we can come to an agreement.

A fight is risky. While there's a potential of gaining more control there's also a risk of losing everything. With agreement I might not get everything I could possibly get, but I get a lot more than nothing. If I can convince him to see things my way then the other guy comes to the same conclusion. And we find in the course of this that the two of us in cooperation are stronger than either one of us alone.

So while a tyrant would leave it at the unqualified, "all politics is a struggle for power," I would say that at its best, politics is the negotiation of agreeable limits of power. It means exactly the same thing as "Politics is the art of compromise," but oddly enough, Liberals hate one phrasing while Conservatives hate the other.


It's still a struggle for power. What's different is the application of force and the recognition of the rights of others. As a Libertarian I believe to my core that the rights of each individual person are inalienable. They didn't come from government, and government cannot justly take them away. There is no imaginable argument by which you can assert a moral right to control my life. And as one person among many, I believe that other people have as much right to the control of their lives as I do to control mine. It means that I have a right to keep what's mine. So does he... I have no right to steal from him simply because he's better at earning than I am. I have no right to tell him how to think or pray or not pray. I can't invade his privacy. I can't take his life. In short, as a general philosophical rule, I cannot use force against him.

Furthermore, I believe that our government is structured to be a "government by consent". Our Constitution is designed to limit the Federal government to enumerated powers, while granting to the People all of those powers not specifically granted to the Government. Now I didn't make that up. The Ninth Amendment flat out says, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The Tenth Amendment flat out says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People." 

By consent, the government has the powers specifically listed in that small document, and no others. By design we express that consent through consensus. And that means that the government is effectively controlled by those persons who can agree. In politics, perfectly applied, the type of force required to govern is persuasion, and the goal of that persuasion is agreement. To come to an agreement I first distinguish between my wants and needs. Then I have to recognize that I cannot have everything I want. I can get some of it, but to get everything I need I give up some of my wants so that others have what they need. We compromise, and in principle that's the only way that people can govern themselves without the threat of physical force.

In practice, I must limit myself to minimum necessary force. Not everybody plays by the rules. We have criminals, so we have police. We have exterior threats, so we have militia. Also.. in practice, this only works if everyone is respectful of the rights of others, and that means absolute strict adherence to the Constitution. Again, this requires agreement. The minute you lose that, the perfect system starts slipping away.

The tyrant doesn't give a damn about your rights. He wants to control you. And the sad part is he rarely if ever thinks he's a tyrant! If he's raised in a society where the rights of others are recognized, he will convince himself that he's exercising those rights on behalf of others. He will convince himself that he is smarter and more capable than other people and that he should therefore make their decisions for them. He can spend their money better. He can manage their health and education better. He can distinguish between saint and insane. He can defend individuals better than they can defend themselves. He will convince himself of these things by believing that all men are NOT created equal... it's self-evident that he is "better". He will justify his tyranny. He'll then act on that justification with whatever means he has. He will begin with intellectual force. He will pervert the tools of Democracy. He will persuade through lies and bribes. He will make promises and break them. He will gather power centrally, away from the people and their consent, because that's what tyrants do. And having gathered power, and denied t to others, he will then have a police force, and an army, and the ability to use them.

The sad news is that as soon a person or group of people discovers they can do that, it begins to happen. Always. The Greeks had democracies and lost them. The Romans had a Republic and lost it. Tyranny wins. It has always won in the end, and the only way back has been violent conflict. The "Great American Experiment" was conceived by a group of men who knew this and tried to construct a system that would prevent it, so they introduced a Constitution and agreed to write down the strict limits they placed on the powers of government so that everybody could see them. They made three branches of government co-equal so that no one of them could dominate the others. They warned us to be vigilant.


It happens when people are mis-informed and succumb to charismatic leaders and are talked into investing them with power that was deliberately denied them.
It happens when a Supreme Court decides that the Tenth Amendment is "just a truism" and can be ignored under the flimsiest of pretenses.
It happens when we allow other clauses and amendments to be discarded, ignored, and "re-interpreted" with no better excuse.
It happens when we allow the chambers of Congress ignore their assigned roles.
It happens when we allow Presidents to effectively initiate war prior to Congress declaring it.
It happens when we allow the government to completely ignore laws on immigration and naturalization, throwing open our borders to all comers, and patently refusing to allow our military to do the one thing they're actually supposed to do.
It happens when we allow the government to persecute journalists for exercising their First Amendment rights.
It happens when we allow illegal search and seizure.
It happens when we allow the government to steal from us.
It happens when we allow the government to restrict our right to defend our lives and liberty.

And it happens because people were persuaded to let all of this happen. They're told it's for safety, or security, or efficiency, or compassion. They were told that these things are more important than their Liberty. And they believed that lie.

So what's the point of politics?

All of this is to answer a question I was recently asked in the context of yesterday's post. The questioner wondered why I'm obsessed with "agreement".

I'm not. It's persuasion. I recognize that the root of political power is persuasion. There are exactly two ways to effect change in government, and that's by persuasion or by the sword. I prefer to save the sword for last resort. So persuasion through education and reasoned argument is my preferred tool. If you really want to make a change, you must must must adopt persuasion. And you cannot persuade anyone of anything if they're not listening. So to those folks who say they don't believe in persuasively gaining agreement, I say you'd better start. Your observations are just bitching if you're not trying to make a change for the better.

You may have a right to speak, but nobody is obligated to listen. To be heard, you must be reasoned and factual. You can be passionate, but not belligerent. You have to argue without being argumentative. Because this is the Internet. They will fact-check you. They'll block you, shut you off, shout you down, and leave.

Remember, all you have to offer is the truth. The supporters of tyranny are promising free magic candy that tastes delicious, costs nothing, won't rot your teeth, and won't make you fat. And they can be as belligerent as they like because HEY! FREE CANDY!  Then one day all the people wake up fat, with rotten teeth, an empty wallet, and a bad taste in their mouths. So I think we have a duty to persuade and educate, because otherwise they'll run to the free candy every time.

And lest someone misunderstand me, let me make it clear that the ultimate goal of political persuasion is not to win someone over on one topic, but on an ideology. Liberty. Is. Better. It is the very most valuable thing you have. Today people say they have a "right" to free education, free healthcare, even free Internet. But without Liberty, we have nothing. The Founders had volumes of disagreements, but the ONE thing they could all agree on is that we cannot give up our sovereignty over OURSELVES. It sounds obvious if you just say it.

I don't want "bipartisanship" as I don't care about parties. I want Liberty. I'd rather not get it with compromise. I'd rather get it by converting people into supporters of individual Liberty. But that's something for you and I to do, outside of Washington and we can't do it by shouting at them.

And I know... I just finished calling people supporters of tyranny. So where the heck do I get off doing that? It's to make a point that you can be civil without being wishy-washy. A tyrant is an absolute ruler who governs without restrictions. Historically, it's a ruler whose authority lacked the sanction of law or custom. When we ignore the Constitution, these both apply. But as I said, many people don't know that's what they're doing. A tyrant with good intentions is a tyrant.

I'm out of time.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On the Religious Use of Public Land

I like it when Penn Jillette and Glenn Beck get together and talk. It's always a textbook model of how to have a civil conversation. When you spend a bit of time listening to the two of them actually explaining their points of view, it pretty clear that Beck isn't the frothing conspiracy nut that he's often made out to be; and Jillette isn't the sort of anarchist that Libertarians are imagined to be, either. Both are reasonable, intelligent people.

At first it might seem like an odd friendship -- after all, Jillette is a skeptical Atheist Libertarian and Beck is a staunchly conservative Christian -- but it's clear that they have areas of agreement that overwhelm their differences. Chief among these is the firm belief that we are all free to have different opinions.

It's a difference of opinion that I'm writing about today. Penn Jillette's a Libertarian, as am I. But having the same political label doesn't mean that two people can't disagree. I happen to have a little disagreement with Jillette. Here's a bit of one of those Beck/Jillette conversations. At around 4:06, it gets to the part that I'm writing about.

Beck points out that Thomas Jefferson was proud that City Hall was used for religious purposes by a number of congregations; and, reminding Jillette that "it's not freedom from religion, it's freedom of," asks why atheists get so "pissy" about it.

From his point-of-view, Jillette describes it as "a conservative issue". Personally, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that he's addressing a conservative audience. I think of Libertarianism as "classical Liberalism", and in that sense it is in some ways more conservative that modern Conservatism and more liberal than modern Liberalism. I think of it as the politics of the American founding fathers, stripped of 200 years of hypocritical accretions. But I digress...

Jillette states, "a true Conservative believes that the government should be out of as much as possible, and there should be individual freedom." (emphasis his) So far, so good. But he continues, explaining that there are as many as 300 million different views of God in the United States of America. "You can't fit all of those in City Hall," he says, "so the best thing ... we should just keep the State out of it..." 

I happen to think Beck is right here. For one thing, Jillette has a very odd definition of keeping the State out of it, which I'll discuss below. But also, he's micro-examining, and missing a bigger picture. He's ignoring the fact that he's an Atheist sitting in a room with a Christian, in the presence of a Christmas tree, and he himself is not overcome with offense. Furthermore, he's ignoring the fact that those 300 million individually distinct visions are in broad agreement on many issues, and that this broad agreement overwhelms their differences, much as Penn's agreements with Beck overwhelm their differences. He himself is 'Exhibit A' for the refutation of his own statements. Rather than 300 million distinct views, we have some broad consensus that in almost every community is easily agreed to in a town meeting. (Note that in the story Beck quoted, the objection came from outside of the community.) We have to remember that there are over 300 million different views of how a government should be run, too, but that didn't stop us from agreeing on a Constitution.

But Jillette does have another objection, less philosophical. It's "because I'm paying for that". But so am I. And so is everyone else who wishes to use the property. All of them have an equal say in what's to be done. Jillette describes concern for "individual freedom" to be the overwhelming factor, so that if even "one person in a town of 20,000" objects, then that use is prohibited.  The problem here is that he's inconsistently applying the concept of "force". 

Force is a central concept in Libertarianism, which holds that our government governs "by consent". As Lincoln phrased it, it is "government of the People, by the People, for the People". It's in this context that Jillette says, "You want to use as little government force as possible. You want as much freedom as possible". Quite right. But a public square is maintained with government resources by public consent, and force has very little to do with it. Unless you were a town founder your involvement in that property is a minimally invasive drain on taxes for upkeep (that's the extent of the "force"), and if you were a town founder, you and your compatriots didn't set the land aside by force. Most public parks are actually donated to a town or city by civic-minded individuals. But however it's obtained, a public square or park is maintained for public use. Not any particular religion's, and not to their exclusion, either. It's for all of the public, regardless of their religion.. Most days, and at most times, it's put to purely secular use. His argument decries one day in which it's used by a group of religious people, ignoring the 364 days when it's not.  

The purpose of a "Commons" (be it a square, or park, or hall) is to provide a place for people to gather. This privilege isn't limited to people of a certain type, mentality, or philosophy. It doesn't mean that everybody has to gather at once. Most towns don't build them that big anyway. Now, if you object to the use of public land for one purpose purely because of the objections of that "one person" of Jillette's imagination, then that "one person" may prevent all manner of other public action by virtue of merely being offended. "We'd LIKE to manage the forest, but Clem is offended by the very idea. He thinks forests should be left to nature." And so on. Applied consistently, this principle yields complete inaction. Obviously, "Clem" has power far exceeding his due. Backed by the use of actual government force, he can single-handedly prevent 19,999 people from using that supposedly public land. That makes it Clem's land. The public has been evicted. This is an obviously silly position to take with regard to the forest, and it's equally silly when applied to the Commons.

The principle is so bad that it cannot be applied consistently. For if Clem can do that, so can I. I may object to Government state sponsorship of Atheism. Now Clem can't use it either. Get enough of that going on, and the only allowable use of public property is none whatsoever. Of course, Clem gets upset when he's treated the same as everybody else, and argues that it's not the same thing at all.

Except it IS.

And Jillette's "solution"... that the other 19,999 citizens should abandon the Commons to go off and buy some "private" property for everybody in the town BUT CLEM to use is, quite frankly, silly. It's the silliest thing I think I've ever heard him say. With all due respect to Penn Jillette, because I like most of what he says on the subject of Libertarianism, you do NOT get to be so restrictive to so many people, and then get a pat on the back over how you championed "freedom". 

The reality of things is that this is a case of the government exercising minimal necessary force to secure a freedom. That's government's only legitimate job. The First Amendment guarantees the public a right to speech, religion, press and assembly, and and a Commons provides a place for them to exercise all of those rights. Nobody voted for that square and contributed to it with the slightest intent that its use should be highly restrictive. They did so with a permissive attitude. Certainly no one imagined all of the potential uses to which it might be put, nor could they have been expected to. Thus there is a reasonable expectation of tolerance. You might not LIKE the fact that Druids gather in the park on Midsummer's Eve. You're even free to express your dismay at how the country's going to the dogs. But at the end of your bitching you man up and realize that they have a right to it, just as you do. That's grade-school Civics.

So here's what we do as a society... it's worked for a long time and it's a pretty good system. 
  • We buy public land for the use of the public
  • We put some reasonable restrictions on it to make sure that your use of it doesn't destroy it. "Clean up after yourself." "Don't set it on fire." "Use a toilet." That sort of thing. 
  • We put up a public calendar so that the use is orderly and you don't get a bunch of scheduling clashes. 
  • And then we allow you that use permissively. We issue permits not because you need "permission", but to get your name on that calendar and keep it orderly.
  • Finally... and this is very, very important... we don't much care why you're gathering so long as you're orderly and don't screw the place up. We tolerate the fact that as citizens you have a right to use public property, the same as everyone else.

You see how that works? And you can't be denied a permit because you're an Atheist or a Satanist or a Druid... OR A CHRISTIAN... because the government flatly isn't empowered to play favorites like that. They may "make no law" on the subject, according the First Amendment. That applies equally to exclusionary laws, and it well and truly shouldn't matter where you happen to be standing at the time.

And that's be cause a "true Libertarian" does want Government out of as many things as possible. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Promise Broken. Period.

"We will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period."
"If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period."

-- Barack Obama, June 15, 2009

Promise broken. Period.

I love my current plan. But it won't exist on January 1. Matt Walsh requested stories from his listeners about their experiences. He's published a few of them on his blog. Keep in mind that "a few" is a relative term. He didn't publish mine, because I didn't send it in. Don't read the blog unless you want to hear innumerable anecdotes from people who also had to give up their plans. Some of the "pain" is self-inflicted, but most of it isn't. Most of it is from people who have to give up plans that they like because that unqualified sales pitch was a lie.

Avik Roy writes the following article at
Obamacare's Website Is Crashing Because It Doesn't Want You To Know How Costly Its Plans Are
That's an "unfortunate" headline, because software, being non-sentient, never "wants" anything. It's the Obama administration that doesn't want you to know how much healthcare costs have risen due to this law. They'd rather bask in the fantasy that costs are "lower" because some people have their costs subsidized. Of course they're subsidized by people whose costs have risen. In order to keep up appearances, though, they need you to register first, to determine your subsidies. This way, you can be shown the subsidized cost rather than the real costs of the policies. But the headline is also "unfortunate" because that's not why it's crashing. This bottleneck, imposed at the last minute without adequate time for testing, is what "broke" the system. I'm certain that if the HHS hadn't insisted on performing systems integration on their own then this boondoggle wouldn't have happened. Meanwhile the contractors are getting blamed for a systems integration problem they weren't in charge of. But the text of the story adds to the myriad ways in which this administration has been untruthful about this law.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Censorship in Science reports that a new type of botulism toxin has been discovered. Botulinum is the product of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and as little as 13 billionths of a gram can kill an adult human.

However, what makes this story of immediate interest to me is the news that, in a first for science, the DNA sequence of the bacterium is being withheld "for security reasons" because there is no antidote at present.

I'm familiar with the argument. It's used all the time in computer security... mostly by people who aren't very good at computer security. The idea is that if you release the details of a security exploit or computer virus, then the "bad guys" will be able to wreak havok with it before the exploit is patched, and before antivirus software can detect it. The problem with the argument in computing is that it's shit. Publishing as many details as widely as possible means in practice that the maximum number of software vendors and security specialists can work on the problem of detection and patching the exploit as possible. Instead of one cloistered group, everyone with a security stake attacks the problem. And a "cure" is created that much faster. That is why open publication is a best practice in security, and why "security through obscurity" is roundly denounced in my industry as a very bad practice. 

And keep in mind, my industry is one in which a faithful copy of the dangerous code is only a few keystrokes, gestures, or mouse clicks away. We don't have "DNA printers". We can't yet enter a DNA sequence into a Star Trek replicator and magically materialize a Petri dish full of made-to-order bacteria. Those without detailed specialized knowledge who wish to mis-use this bacterium will need a physical sample. BUT... the equipment used in molecular biology is becoming sophisticated. 

But here's where it gets dicey. Botulism toxin doesn't have an antidote anyway. Even the ridiculously diluted variant Botox leaves damage that ranges from permanent, to requiring weeks or months for the body to repair. The very best we can do is administer antitoxins to slow or arrest the effects. And those antitoxins don't work on this new form of the protein. None of them do. And this is the most acutely deadly substance known.

Old science fiction movies often had the theme "there are some things that Man is not meant to know."  As late as in Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum's character, channeling that sentiment, questions whether you should do a thing just because you can

In this case, I find myself agreeing with him, and here's why. In computer science, you mess up, you lose some data, you lose some money. In this case, if you mess up you could lose a city. It being a living organism,  you could lose more than that.

I think it's worth pointing out here that the fact that these data are not published does not necessarily that they're not shared. There is nothing to prevent researchers from picking up a phone and calling Steve Arnon or the CDPH or the CDC and asking for that information. They then have the ability to choose who it goes to, confining it to (hopefully) those researchers who have the facilities and the expertise to prevent their experimentation from getting away from them. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Babies Don't Vote

I've written on the subject of abortion before (On the Subjects of Drugs, Suicide, and Abortion). I won't repeat that here because it hasn't been that long ago, and I think the previous post adequately describes the science, morality, and logic that all argue against abortion.

But there is a question remaining: knowing these things, why would someone willingly advocate this act? In pondering a different subject tonight, this line of thought came to me. It actually does tie in with the main thought I'm saving for later, which is why I want to put this out here first.

Children are a huge responsibility, and it's not always planned. My wife and I were faced with that. Twins. BAM! And after a few moments of "Holy shit, we can't afford this... what are we going to do?" we sucked it up and started re-arranging our lives.

But in that moment of shock, it's easy to understand why a pregnant woman might seek an abortion. She's suddenly faced with that huge responsibility. It may not be one she expected. She may have guarded against it with contraceptives. It may have been forced upon her. She may be scared, regretful, ashamed, and furious, possibly all at once. The father, if he's even moderately responsible, may dread that same responsibility. Together they may fear the future and their perceived loss of freedom. Or, they may actually believe that the new life isn't yet a distinct human being;  that it's a part of the mother alone that can be discarded like fingernails. I think that last possibility is a shame because it means they haven't really thought it through, as I discuss more fully in the previous post.

For whatever reason, though, their motivations are understandable, though their conclusions are not mine. But whatever the motivation, the end result is the termination of a human life. When that life is an innocent, clean slate, that's nothing to cheer about. The decision should be difficult. It should be serious.

For the politicians, a pro-Abortion stance is a lot tougher to justify than it is for the parents. A lawmaker is not caught in the immediacy of the moment, and should be able to weigh such issues more dispassionately and fairly. They have a broad constituency to think of... though not all of them voted for him, the politician is nonetheless charged with looking out for their interests once he takes office. Most politicians at a minimum pay lip-service to strict limits on the practice.

But those advocates of partial-birth abortions... any trimester, any means, give-me-an-excuse, do-what-you-want, "it's your body" politicians... how to explain that?

Here's how: babies don't vote.

That's not being cynical; it's realistic. a fetus can't vote, but the reluctant mother and father can. Furthermore, they can vote right now, this election. That baby, no matter his future political leanings, can't vote for another eighteen years at the earliest, and there are a lot of elections between now and then. Protecting the life of that infant has no immediate political payback. Even saving his life is no guarantee that he'll support you in the future. His parents are already considering killing him, so you're not going to get their support by siding with the baby.

Defending the child is something you must do for altruistic reasons, or you wouldn't do it at all. But siding with abortionists is something that has immediate political payback. When you are deep into the "team" mindset... that "us vs. them" political game where "winning" is the object, and power is the prize, pandering to pro-abortionists is a solid strategy. And if you're playing to win, you justify buying those votes however you can, even at the cost of a life.

Then you swear to Jeebus that you're defending the rights of individuals, though solid, consistent adherence to logic sweeps that poor excuse aside. But you're in luck, because a poor excuse is all you need to cater to their fears, regrets, and anger. To get their votes. To gain power.

Go team.

Those Leftists who would use the "right to choose" as an excuse to forcibly deprive another human being of Life are the glaring hypocrites in the room. They invoke "it's my body" only when convenient to their pre-packaged agenda, discarding the concept entirely when inconvenient. It's provably not your DNA... not your body. If you "follow the science" and you allow that this is another person, then as Barack Obama noted, that person would have rights. So it's very important to the ideology to maintain the conceit that it's "your body". But when the topic really is your body and you don't mind being fat or it's your body and you want to determine for yourself how to maintain it, then suddenly it's the world's business and you don't get much say in it. Hypocrisy? I wasn't pro-Life until I stopped being a hypocrite.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Leaning Hard on the Blameless Left

I  really thought I'd be burned out on this subject by now. And, to be honest with you, I thought that I'd have voiced more complaints about the Republicans than I have had. The thing about that is that I don't have to complain about the Republicans... the media marionettes of the Democratic Party are doing quite enough of that. The problem is they don't know when to shut up.

For the record, I've stated in previously here on Ruminations and elsewhere that there is plenty of blame to go around. My purpose today isn't to show that the Republicans aren't to blame, but to strengthen the case that they are not solely to blame, since that is the position held by the less enlightened and more partisan Leftists. And because they see themselves as being completely blameless, I have to come down hard. In truth, both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the latest impasse in Washington. Based on the feedback I've gotten, Republicans are, for the most part, quite happy to agree with me.

Democrats, however, are not. And their talking points have become more and more bizarre as the days wear on. A few recent examples:

  • Conservatives are "burning down the house to get what they want at gun point"
  • Republican opponents of the ACA are compared to terrorists with "a bomb strapped to their chest(that one came from a White House advisor)
  • Republicans are "100% responsible" for the government shutdown. 
  • The opponents of the ACA are a tiny minority, rather than the majority party the House.
  • The Conservatives' complaints about the ACA have nothing to do with the manner of its passing, though it violated both the Constitution and the established legislative process. 
  • The ACA is "settled law", and the House doesn't have the authority to defund it.

Each of these is factually incorrect, and the Leftists are relying on their control of the media to sway public opinion to believe the lies.
A quick refresher: the ACA (H.R.3590) was originally a House measure to provide tax breaks to military members who bought or sold a house. It had nothing whatsoever to do with healthcare. Under the pretense that the bill number (and the bill number alone) "originated in the House", the Senate Democrats stripped out every word of that original bill, replacing it with the huge and complicated legislation that is Obamacare. They even replaced the title. The American public, having been told by candidate Obama that the healthcare discussions in Congress would be open and televised, saw none of it. Instead, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the cameras that we'd have to pass the bill to see what's in it. Rather than do this in the normal Senate/House conference committee process, Democrats (and only Democrats) met with the President at the White House. Having told the American public that there would not be a single tax increase, Obamacare's "fines" were revealed to be new taxation by a Supreme Court opinion [PDF] that declared that unless it were taxation the bill must be declared unconstitutional, having violated the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. Thus, though these fines are never described as taxation and the Administration itself never argued that they were, the Court, in a split ruling, declared them to be such. In addition, the law itself explicitly places new taxation on things that can be construed to be "medical devices".  Further discussion and links supporting these facts are here.
THAT is the process followed by Democrats in the passing of this law. THAT is what they have described as "legitimate".

It is a fact that the Democrats lost their majority control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election immediately after the passage of this bill. It is a fact that they could not regain that control in 2012. It is a fact that the primary issue in both of these campaigns was the Affordable Care Act. It is a fact that the Republicans are now the majority party in the House.

AND, it is a fact that according to our Constitution, spending authorizations must originate in the House of Representatives and not the Senate or the Executive branch. There's a good reason for that. Representatives in the House have the shortest terms in office, and are elected by the smallest constituencies. They are the arm of the government that is closest to and most responsive to the will of the People. The fact that they hold the purse strings is by design. As James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper #58:
"The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government." ... "This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure." 
This response by the people through their Representatives is not a subversion of the process... it IS the process. The fact that not all of the People agree, and that there is significant media opposition is immaterial. For one thing, one party controls most of the media. For another, our system of government is such that it should be difficult to trample the rights of minorities... the individual being the smallest minority there is, by definition. In this case, a narrowly divided opinion is not sufficient to justify the extent of the intrusion into the wallets and privacy of the People by the Federal government. You may say that's debatable, and that's the point. It's a debate that should have happened in public in 2009 rather than in secret, behind closed doors, and only by the ones who supported the Act.

This IS what this partial government shutdown is about in great measure, and until you recognize the problem you cannot come to a lasting solution.

However, the Democrats don't listen to the people who are telling you what their beef is, instead shouting them down in public as "terrorists". Nor do many of them really give a shit about governing within a Constitutional framework, as we've seen from the way the ACA was passed... and as we've seen from their denial of the right of the House to control spending.

As I mentioned previously, the Leftists control most of the media, to providing them with their talking points. This is why you rarely hear the qualification that 85% of the government is already funded. And why you rarely hear the entirety of the Republicans' complaints rather than repeated charges that they are "unreasonable" and "partisan". It is from this quarter, as well as the White House itself, that we hear complaints about the "checks" within our system of "checks and balances". When faced with these checks, the Administration and its mouthpieces lament that the President doesn't have the authority to exert unilateral control.

To anyone wondering how a populace can willingly choose a dictator... take note. Bribery of the public. Lies and demonization of your opponents. Forced frustration. These are the methods historically employed. I don't like it when those same tactics are employed by here in the US. So while I'm perfectly willing at the start of the day to declare that the Republicans share responsibility for the partial shutdown, I find myself having to side with them, as the Leftists have talked WAY "past the close"...

CASE: By deliberate design, the House alone is empowered to originate spending bills, and may choose to withhold funding, as has been demonstrated by historical documentation. Yet Democrats hypocritically tout the "legitimacy" of a law that was formulated outside of both the Origination Clause AND the process for joint conference. If I were cynical I'd say that the Democrats want to hold the Republicans accountable to the due process they themselves shun because they know that Republicans are capable of the fair play that eludes Democrats. The one thing that keeps me from saying this is that it's not true. Republicans can be just as underhanded. Instead, I have to satisfy myself with the truth; they both cheat.

CASE: Democrats speak of the House passing numerous resolutions to fund absolutely everything but portions of that one questionable Act as the HOUSE shutting down the government. The facts speak otherwise. Government would be up and running but for BOTH parties' refusal to agree.

CASE: Tuesday the House floated a proposal to to fund all of the ACA save the medical device tax and government subsidies of top politicians' health benefits. This was decried as "partisan" though it would have saved money for the taxpayers who use those devices and would have affected all lawmakers equally. In fact it was "partisan" because the Republicans suggested it, and the Democrats have stubbornly clung to their "no negotiations" marching orders.

CASE: Democrats call their opponents "terrorists" while they themselves deliberately instill fear in the Public through the use of inflammatory rhetoric, claiming that those who legitimately disagree with them have "bombs strapped to their chests", and are "holding the country hostage".

CASE: Democrats insist that the House Republicans are "burning down the house to get what they want at gun point", as if that reasonable compromise is what they want, and as if "at gun point" is an apt or correct description of the House of Representatives exercising its enumerated Constitutional powers. Meanwhile, armed agents of the Federal government have forced people from their homes and off of public lands. They are literally attempting to get what they want -- Everything they want, no compromises -- at gun point.

Reasonable people can not hold views such as these. 

It is not possible to negotiate with unreasonable people. Whoever caves will be the reasonable ones. They will be the ones who have sacrificed for the sake of the country. And this is what needs to be remembered on election day.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Raise the Debt Ceiling Already.

"Odd words for a libertarian," I hear you say.

No, not really. I'm used to living in this warped reality built by the Republicans and Democrats. The plain fact of the matter is that it has to be raised. There really is not a viable option, and all of the negotiating parties know that for a fact... so the outcome is a foregone conclusion, and it is the discussion that's a farce.

Here are some facts:

FACT #1: You don't even need a source for this one. Just first-grade arithmetic. Unless we actually balance this year's budget... and by that I mean we reduce the number of dollars spent to be the same or less than the number of dollars actually raised through taxes, tariffs, and fees... then we are going to hit the debt ceiling. In other words, any discussion of the debt ceiling is useless until we first solve the problem of the deficit.

FACT #2: This should be obvious, but it is the deficit and not the debt ceiling that is our problem. There would be no discussion or even thought of the debt ceiling were it not for spending money we don't have. Some folks don't have a problem with deficit spending... they argue that the Federal government is effectively immortal and can run a deficit forever. They forget that outrunning our debts is a sucker's game. It assumes you're going to die before somebody comes to collect. And when you're immortal, somebody WILL come to collect.

FACT #3: Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have any proposal whatsoever that comes even remotely close to solving the deficit this year. Nobody in government has actually balanced the budget, and private attempts to do so are draconian. (Yes, back in March Paul Ryan declared on the House floor that the House of Representatives passed a balanced budget, but this is taking liberties with the truth. The plan is actually over a 10 year period... which does nothing about the debt ceiling this year.)

FACT #4: It is true, though, that so long as the debt of the US Government is issued in fiat currency... that is, dollars created by the US Government, then it is impossible for the US to default on its debts. ([source]... [source]... [source]... [source]... you get the idea). So don't stress over that... that's the problem either. If the government is pumping trillions into the economy, where is it going? The problem is what will happen should all that money that's being pumped into the system make it to general circulation. There's pressure for that to happen. The politics of envy are such that Americans look with disdain toward the broadening gap. Hamburger-flippers want $15 per hour because they can't tell the difference between an entry-level position and a career. Let that money into circulation and rampant inflation will result. A $10 gallon of milk could be cheap in the near future. But the government will still be able to pay on the debt. The problem then is that the currency will be so devalued that no one will want it, and those that invested in the US would find that they lost money on the gamble, even though they were repaid in full. Our economy would collapse, as has every undisciplined economy running under fiat currency since the time of the Caesars.

FACT #5:  Instantly balancing the budget would be disastrous. It would force the immediate closure of numerous government agencies. While I agree that they should not only be disbanded -- and go the extra step to say they shouldn't ever have been created in the first place -- I think it's pretty obvious what happens if you don't get rid of them in as orderly a fashion as you created them. Dumping millions of brand-new jobless people onto the open market at once isn't going to solve the problem. They'll just all wind up on the dole, and the system cannot handle it. Deficit spending would continue, to handle the load.

So stop pretending you have a choice. Just shut up and raise the debt limit. 

Then everybody sit down like adults and start reducing spending. Really reduce spending, and don't just play at being clever idiots with word games about how smaller increases are "cuts". They're not cuts.

Get rid of the waste, even the things you love. Some things are simple: get rid of spending for the arts. I love the arts. So do millions of people. They'll do fine without the government. The Native Americans will do fine without an Indian Arts and Crafts Board. "Big Bird" receives most of his funding from non-government sources. Cut it. Private donors will still contribute. States will still contribute. And unlike the Federal government, States must live within their means, as they don't have the power to speak money into existence.

Get rid of non-constitutional agencies. We honestly do not need a Federally-funded cabinet-level Department of Education. For one thing, it hasn't even done what it was supposed to. States are fully capable of handling education needs, and are also capable of forming National committees without Federal involvement. Let them do it. The Department of Energy needs to go. It's mission is to "advance energy technology and promote related innovation in the United States." In other words, they seek to re-invent the incentives that exist in the private sector completely independently of their existence. In OTHER words, it's the "Department of Useless Busy-work". Get rid of it. I would also lose the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Life in "the projects" has done as much damage to low-income Americans as any other cause. Vice President Al Gore, referring to public housing projects, declared that, "These crime-infested monuments to a failed policy are killing the neighborhoods around them." In 2006, The Village Voice called HUD "New York City's worst landlord" and "the #1 worst in the United States." "Lydia D." has dedicated an entire blog to demonstrating exactly why "HUD Sucks". Scale back military spending, not by reducing support of military members and their families, but by reducing foreign intervention. Military headcount is the easiest to reduce... first you send the National Guardsmen and Reservists home. They already have jobs. A great many of the rest will fall out as their enlistments are up. Stop wasting money in the War on Drugs. I mean that exactly as it's said. Look at what's valuable and what's a waste. Preventing the illegal sale of heavily addictive and destructive products? Check. Paying to incarcerate and feed casual marijuana users for years at a stretch? Waste.

Billions and billions of dollars can be saved by eliminating such wasteful spending. And YES, I count all of these as "wasteful" in that they either duplicate effort,  are ineffective, or are just plain unnecessary. Even where some value is realized... we're billions of dollars in the hole, folks, and some difficult choices have to be made. And that includes reforming and simplifying the tax code, and raising some taxes by eliminating some subsidies, deductions, and credits.

They're not "difficult choices" unless they're difficult. Get it?

But this shouldn't be done in a haphazard fashion.Scale back the missions of the departments and agencies, from aggressive spending, to monitoring and regulation, while reviewing all regulations, cutting out those that are non-essential, and transferring the oversight of those that are deemed essential to smaller agencies.  Reduce headcount through attrition and planned reductions.

Each reduction of Government scope will produce greater-than-expected economic gains. I believe that these people, moved to the private sector, will actually create new economic opportunities and raise the GDP, thus raising revenues for the government as these people become net producers, rather than net consumers, of tax revenue.

So do it, and do it right. But don't think for a minute that the debt ceiling is really at issue.

Here, have some fun:
warning: you cannot beat this thing by being a nice guy. Regardless of your ideology, you will have to make decisions you do not want to make.

Friday, October 11, 2013

School is ALWAYS in session.

Here's a recent headline from the New York Times:

In the article, Richard H. Thaler points out that 2 out of 3 adult Americans (over 50 years of age) could not correctly answer three simple questions dealing with interest, inflation, and diversification (and believe me, they're simple questions. Click through the headline and try them out).

He goes on to discuss how these issues may be addressed, with a lot of time spent on what is taught in high school.

That may be useful. I surely think that if more students understood finances, fewer would saddle themselves with onerous student debt to get a college degree that is of dubious value in their actual lives. And if more employers understood that lack of value, they would be insisting on hiring people who were gullible enough to do it. But that's another rant...

I'm a big fan of "just in time" education. When you know you're soon to face an important decision, you educate yourself on it. You have enough prior education to understand the basics, and hone yourself on the details when they matter. This has the benefit of keeping the education fresh in your mind. For another, things change. Options change. At 50+ years old it's just irresponsible to try to make life decisions based on the state of the world as you knew it in high school, more than 32 years ago.  It's ridiculous to expect people to do that. It's naive (at best) to pretend that you're preparing them for that.

If you're a teacher reading this, know that the ONE thing that you can do to most prepare your students for the future... any students, at any level, in any class... is to encourage in them a desire for continuing education.  They must be told over and over and over again that this is the most important thing they must learn in formal school. It's more important than getting the best grades; it's more important than going to college.

In my profession, technology consulting, you have to basically retrain yourself every three (3) years. It used to be five, but the pace has picked up a bit. This means that by the time you become a senior consultant, the things you learned in college are obsolete. You can build on them and use them as a foundation, but your entire focus will have changed. By the time you're managing it will have changed several times. And there is nothing that you learned then that you could not have otherwise picked up.

The point here isn't that college is unnecessary... it gives you a leg up if you can afford it, and places you under the tutelage of people who are willing to focus their attention on teaching you... but that continuing education is VASTLY MORE IMPORTANT. If when you leave school you think it's "over"... then it is. You will most probably fail. But if you are willing to continue to learn, you will succeed, regardless of your level of formal education.

I have a huge library acquired over the years. This is not an exaggeration: the weight of my books exceeds the weight of my other personal possessions combined. I acquired them over a period of many years, and I've read (almost) all of them. It was expensive to acquire and expensive to move from place to place, and worth every single solitary penny. These days we're so much more fortunate to have the Internet. We as individuals have access to the combined intellectual wealth of a PLANET. If you regularly employ it, and you can separate the succulent fruits from the pile of crap they grow in, and approach the information you find not as dogma but as topics to be considered and weighed, then you will have an education worth diamonds. And you get it for free.

You even have access to college courses through sites like Coursera, Open Culture, and MIT Open Courseware. Search Google for more... you'll be surprised.

Now sometimes you need to get a certification or a degree in order to pursue the career you want. Perfect! Do it! That's a prime example of targeted education for a tangible result. But here's the VERY most important thing. If you take absolutely NOTHING else from what I'm telling you, believe this... it's true 99.999% of the time: It doesn't matter what you get credit for... it matters what you KNOW. Your self-improvement is for your benefit. Don't waste a bunch of time seeking the validation of others when it is not important to do so. Learn for its own sake. School is ALWAYS in session.

Let's jog your memory some more

Every single time someone -- particularly the President of these United States -- tells you how the Affordable Care Act was passed by a majority, and that a small minority is  opposing it, I want you to remember how the bill was actually passed into law.

As I reminded folks in a previous post, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi advised the Public that "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of a controversy." I claimed in that post that her statement was a ploy to pass the bill sight unseen so that the voters wouldn't be able to complain before it was too late. Let's back that up with some history, shall we?

To what extent did the Democrats go to keep this "sight unseen"?  Well, Republicans weren't even part of the negotiations. Let's let CNN's Jack Cafferty explain it. As you watch this, I want you to keep in mind that Cafferty is a commentator on CNN; and that he's earned distinguished recognition in his career, including the Edward R. Murrow Award, an Emmy award and the New York Associated Press State Broadcasters Award. This is a snapshot in time, from 2010:

Cafferty's closing statement was prophetic.

Do you seriously have any question as to why the Democrats were voted out of power in the House of Representatives at the earliest possible opportunity? Do you seriously have a question as to why the Democrats could not regain power in the election following that? Do you seriously question why the Republicans are so hell-bent on reversing legislation over which they were shut out by ad-hoc tactics that flew in the face of all legislative precedent? Do you seriously wonder why this law has been opposed, not by a minority as the President's wishful thinking would have it, but by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives?

If you're a Democrat in Congress and you still question the why's of this situation, then you have a problem with your memory, you have a problem with your grasp of history, and you need to wake up to the realization that this is it the situation that you caused. You made this bed. It's your fault.

Yes, everyone gets their share. But I'm sick to death of the Democrats' pretense of lily-white innocence. It's a blatant, deliberate, premeditated lie formulated by the Democratic leaders who are now acting like their stubborn equine mascot, and repeated knowingly by their media minions. They know better than anyone that Republican intransigence isn't the cause of an unfair and warped legislative process, it's the result. What? You didn't think the voters would notice?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Who Watches the Watchmen?

"When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated." 
 --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Hammond, 1821
If I were influential enough to amend the US Constitution, it would be to establish additional checks and balances to prevent the Federal government from encroaching on the powers of the individual states. As it stands the 10th Amendment reserves to the States those powers that are not enumerated in the Constitution, but there is no mechanism for enforcement. As a result, the Constitution, while it has "checks and balances" to correct abuses committed by any particular branch ... Executive, Legslative, Judicial... it does not prevent collusion between those branches.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act is one such collusion, where the Supreme Court re-interpreted the plain language of the law specifically to save it from being struck down under the Commerce Clause. Other examples include the education, energy, and housing. The Constitution grants the Federal government dominion over none of those things. It is only through ignoring the 10th Amendment that they exist at all. Their functions are properly left to to the States, and to the People.

It really doesn't matter how "nice" something would be to have, nor whether I would personally agree with it, nor whether I would personally profit from it, nor whether it would be more efficiently run by a central "authority"; if it is not an enumerated power of the Federal Government, then we should provide it by other means or amend the Constitution to provide it. Having two perfectly reasonable courses of action, there's no amenable justification to ignore the Constitution. This simply leads to further usurpation. Yes, it's a slippery slope argument, but a valid one, as we have actually seen it at work. Once we allow that the Constitution may be ignored, then it is ignored on more and more issues, and the law becomes subject to whim and abuse.

However, the only redress of Federal abuses come within Federal courts, which don't exactly have a spotless track record.
Neither the Constitution, nor the rule of law can long endure the blight of a misinformed public. As friends of liberty, our eternally vigilant task must be an educational one. The people must ever remember the words of the founders, the wisdom of economists, and the lessons of history. Let us endeavor to turn back the regulatory lords in Washington, the twentieth-century pretenders to our property.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Ranting Part 2: Health Care vs. Auto Care

OK, I've got just a minor dilemma. Unless someone's a public figure I don't usually like posting direct quotes, etc. Sometimes it's necessary, though, to prevent the charge of twisting statements that would result from paraphrasing. So I'm going to do it today, with the understanding that I'm not naming anyone. He's free to self-identify in comments.

And when I say "a friend", I really do mean that. Despite the fact that we sometimes trade barbed language and disagree on political methods, I know him to be a genuinely good, charitable person. I believe he knows the same about me, as he has assisted me with one of the children's charities I work with.

In a response to my last post, a friend included the statement, "I also suspect that you understand why mandatory health coverage is no different than mandatory auto insurance for all drivers." Now, while I'm not an insurance specialist, I am a former part-owner of a medical information systems company, for which I personally wrote the software, a vital part of which was the filing of insurance claims to both government and private healthcare insurers. Our office was a functioning general practitioner's office, and my primary business partner was a practicing GP. I was the project manager in charge of HIPAA compliance for RBC Liberty Insurance, and personally oversaw that compliance project on behalf of RBC Liberty and their customers, Allstate and Pacific Life. I spent seven years working on various IT insurance-related projects for United Guaranty, a mortgage insurance subsidiary of AIG. I'm not a stranger to insurance concepts, be they for government Medicare, Medicaid, or private companies, or be they for medical or non-medical insurance.

While my specialty is IT, not insurance, I do have a dozen years of direct industry experience conceiving, creating, managing, and supervising projects directly related to various forms of insurance. So I believe I understand numerous reasons why mandatory auto insurance and mandatory healthcare insurance are not alike despite both being insurance:

Auto insurance is not mandatory. One can choose not to drive and thus avoid buying it. Healthcare insurance under Obamacare is mandatory. The only way one can "choose" not to buy it is to choose not to live... suicide.
Auto insurance is required when you engage in risky behavior... driving;  Healthcare insurance is required for the mere fact of your existence. To the extent that it is a tax, it is a tax on life itself.
Your auto insurance company bases your premiums on risk factors. Not your income.  Healthcare costs are subsidized, and risk pools are broadened, resulting in actual costs based on income. 
Auto insurance is required for anyone who drives.  Obamacare is limited to citizens. Now, it is true that non-citizens may buy health insurance, but it is not mandatory for them to do so, and we're only talking about "mandatory health coverage."
Penalties for lack of auto insurance are not collected by the IRS Penalties for the lack of Healthcare insurance are collected by the IRS. As such your insurance status is reported to the IRS.
Auto insurance is not Federally imposed. This would violate the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. Healthcare insurance IS Federally imposed. It DOES violate the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution... or would have if the Supreme Court had not declared its penalties to be taxes. This is not my conclusion... the Supreme Court states it outright in the same decision.
The laws mandating auto insurance do not originate in the Senate of the United States, and thus do not violate the Origination Clause of the US Constitution. The law mandating healthcare insurance legislation does originate in the Senate of the United States, thus violating the Origination Clause of the US Constitution. (this is being debated in court)
Auto insurance does not pay out for routine auto maintenance. Mandatory health insurance is actually a prepayment plan that does pay out for routine maintenance.

These should be sufficient differences to illustrate that these are not "no different", at least not from a standpoint of risk, payment, coverage, or imposition. They're not necessarily ways in which one is better or worse, but different.

Of these, I am concerned about constitutionality and the imposition on our liberties. For all that use of the word "mandatory," auto insurance isn't actually mandatory. You can choose not to drive. In urban locations that can be an advantage, not an imposition. For instance, I can't imagine the need for a car in Manhattan.

Nevertheless, my friend insisted, "Certainly there are differences, after all we are talking about driving versus living, but choosing to not have health insurance is not the same as choosing to not drive." Other than the blatantly obvious admission of differences between policies that supposedly have no differences, do you see the logical mistake? He's not comparing the insurance to the insurance, or the reason to the reason; rather, he's comparing the insurance on the one hand to the reason for it on the other. It's a bit mixed up, but you have to do that so that the logic will take you to a predisposed conclusion.

So, regarding the mandatory aspect of the insurance. I invited my friend to pretend it's math... eliminate the common denominator: insurance. Now you can make a fair comparison between living and driving. You can choose not to drive. You'll be inconvenienced to varying degree depending on your location. But choose not to live. and you're just dead. That's why Obamacare fails the Commerce Clause and auto insurance doesn't.

So now we're up to speed, and here's the response that got me to write this post:

I will accept your premise IF living doesn't require any medical care at all. This is one of the hypocritical about "pro-life" libertarians. If mothers and babies (and children) require medical care and are uninsured, who pays for it? Should uninsured folks not be admitted to the ER? Should uninsured mothers get no pre-natal or post-natal care? Show me the person who NEVER requires medical attention and I will agree with you, but otherwise there is no difference between mandatory auto insurance and mandatory health insurance. 
Think of it this way. Why do states require auto insurance for drivers? Because drivers might get into an accident and burden taxpayers for the cost of the accident. Why might the same person require medical insurance? Well, if you get into an auto accident, it's very likely that she may require medical attention. Furthermore, she might get cancer or get hit by random space junk. Whereas a non-driver WILL NOT get into a car accident (at least as the driver), there are no guarantees that she may not get sick, and then we ALL pay. Unless you're one of the libertarians who think we should leave uninsured people to die on the side of the highway, but that hardly seems sanitary or humane. . .

There are so much wrong here that I'm just going to have to go pick it apart, so please bear with me.
I will accept your premise IF living doesn't require any medical care at all.
Medical care is not the same as medical insurance, and medical insurance is not the same as affordable healthcare. For instance, if I go to the doctor and either pay him outright, or set up a payment plan with him, as I have done repeatedly, then there is no argument for insurance. The doctor was paid. No burden on Society. Furthermore, most medical care is self-care, involving over-the-counter medications, bandages, ointments and supplements. Barring "any medical care at all" simply ignores the fact that a great deal of medicine need have nothing to do with insurance.
This is one of the hypocritical about "pro-life" libertarians.
Really? Hypocritical? Libertarians believe that your liberties, including your right to life not be taken from you by force. Your right to Life is yours, as is your right to do what you want with your own Life: how to live it, how to maintain it, how to end it. I think it's completely consistent.

Those Leftists who would use the "right to choose" as an excuse to forcibly deprive another human being of Life are the glaring hypocrites in the room. They invoke "it's my body" only when convenient to their pre-packaged agenda, discarding the concept entirely when inconvenient. It's provably not your DNA... not your body. If you "follow the science" and you allow that this is another person, then as Barack Obama noted, that person would have rights. So it's very important to the ideology to maintain the conceit that it's "your body". But when the topic really is your body and you don't mind being fat or it's your body and you want to determine for yourself how to maintain it, then suddenly it's the world's business and you don't get much say in it. Hypocrisy? I wasn't pro-Life until I stopped being a hypocrite.
If mothers and babies (and children) require medical care and are uninsured, who pays for it?
This presumes that the ONLY means of payment for medical services is insurance. It implies a false dichotomy: either some insurance company pays for it, or it doesn't get paid. This is factually incorrect. He is actually talking about the poor.  Who pays the costs for poor people? Certainly not "everybody" because a lot of them are poor, too. Unless you make everybody buy insurance and thus spread the costs into the middle class and poor, then rich people pay the costs, as usual. The appropriate question is how?
Should uninsured folks not be admitted to the ER?
Uninsured people have been required to be admitted to emergency rooms since 1986 with a very few exceptions for specific specialty hospitals. Any American reading this can go to their ER and look at the wall near the entrance. It will contain a poster with the bold title "IT'S THE LAW" and in my area is accompanied by a similar poster in Spanish: "ES LA LEY". ERs are required to treat patients irrespective of their ability to pay. However, emergency rooms are exactly that; they provide emergency care only. So take care not to ask this question when you really want to know about office visits.
Should uninsured mothers get no pre-natal or post-natal care?
Of course they should. Healthcare should be affordable and available to all. But this still does not require insurance. It requires affordable healthcare, which is the one thing the "Affordable Healthcare Act" doesn't give us. Again we have the false dichotomy that you must either get your care through insurance or you don't get it at all.
Show me the person who NEVER requires medical attention and I will agree with you, but otherwise there is no difference between mandatory auto insurance and mandatory health insurance.
There is nothing in my friend's philosophy, thus far stated, that admits to solutions that involve anything but universal payment brokered by means of a prepay insurance plan, excluding whatever token co-pays may be allowed. And that includes your fiscal responsibility for someone else getting struck by "random space junk." The way insurance works is that people who don't use it pay premiums that are used to pay off the bets of the people who do. And if I prefer that people can decide whether to exercise personal sovereignty over their own bodies, then I must be in favor of leaving people to die on the highway. However, if I agree to these faulty premises and if I am sufficiently cowed by hypothetical character assassination to abandon logic in my desire to avoid being labeled, then I perceive he will be agreeable with me.

It's a comforting offer... but I'll pass. You see, his biggest fallacy has been his assumption that I'm interested in gaining his agreement. I could do that in a skinny minute by simply saying what I know he already agrees with. Rather, these are opportunities to make the case to OTHER people... the onlookers. He's not my audience; YOU are.

So having gotten past that let's get serious. I'm going to do that in the next post, because I really don't want the issues of the nature of insurance and coverage for the impoverished buried at the end of this long response.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Why They're Blocking Off Monuments

After hearing about such puzzling government actions as blocking off open-air monuments and trying to close the Bay of Florida; I, like a lot of citizens, found myself wondering what train of thought led them to that. After all, these monuments and properties are Public property. They belong to all citizens of the United States. We have no monarch, so they do not belong to "the Crown", nor does "the Government" own them apart from the People.

This is even more puzzling in the situation of a partial government "shutdown", since the conceit here is that the government doesn't have the money to manage people; so how could it have the money to post more people to block access? I assumed, like many, that the President ordered these closings. I assumed that such an order must come from the Office of the President, but I don't like assuming. I wanted to find out.

Fortunately, not every office is closed. The Office of the President is one of those functions that is exempt from this sort of thing. So the website is still up and running. If you visit you'll find that though it's exempt they put up a gimpy message like many non-exempt agencies.

This is sitting on the website, under the Office of Management and Budget (OMB):

The link is to a PDF file. Don't worry, it's not hacking and not infringement... it's a public document. Though documents can be classified, government documents are in the public domain.

This memorandum from the White House OMB was published Sept 17, 2013 (a couple of weeks before the partial government shutdown). It links to a circular (OMB Circular A-11 [PDF] ), a booklet called Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs from the Office of Personnel Management [PDF]. OMB Circular A-11 links to an opinion from the Justice Department dated 1995.

This document explains why we're seeing that gimpy message on government websites that could function perfectly normally during the shutdown. But it's Question 5 on page 14 of the memo that piqued my interest.
Q5. What if the cost of shutting down a website exceeds the cost of maintaining services? 
A5. The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services.
OK, so they don't care if it cost more to shutdown or not, but this doesn't say who decided to keep things open and where the money's coming from. More reading...

According to OMB Circular A-11:
"Each agency head must determine the specific actions that will be taken; however, all your actions must contribute to an orderly shutdown of the agency and give primary consideration to protecting life and safeguarding Government property and records."
According to the OMB memorandum:
"There are very limited circumstances under which such work may continue, notwithstanding the lapse in appropriations..."
under which is listed:
"1. An "orderly shutdown" when there has been a lapse in appropriations,"
Taken together, this would appear to me to mean that if some agency yahoo decides that paying cops to cordon off and guard monuments is part of an "orderly shutdown" because it is "safeguarding Government property", he can do that, and still incur the obligation to pay, though according to the memos he can't "disburse the funds" (write the check).

HOWEVER, the memorandum goes on to say,
"OMB Circular A-ll requires agencies to provide OMB with written justification for the conduct of orderly shutdown activities in excess of a half-day"
So while this isn't a smoking gun, according to the White House's published documents, it looks like the authorization for those ridiculous closing had to come from the White House. As to whether the idea came from the White House, that doesn't really matter. by authorizing it and being in charge, they own the idea. It also doesn't mean that the President personally made that decision; Sylvia M. Burwell issued the memo. However we can assume the President is briefed daily, and has access to the media like everyone else. If he didn't order it, he knows about it, and again, he's in charge of the directives that comes out of that building. It's one of those things that comes with being the boss.

As to the motivation... that's speculation. But we already know from the sequestration that the Administration wants people to feel the pain. I'm convinced they're deliberately making the closings as artificially inconvenient as they possibly can. Like a theme park closing for the Winter, they want to lock the gates and exclude the People.