Too many places on the continent continue to ignore his message.
Last week, a radio talk show on WNYC (a member of NPR) in New York City encouraged listeners who were immigrants or visitors from Africa to call in and share their views on 'Nelson Mandela’s Pan-African impact'.
Before the calls came in, the host Brian Lehrer interviewed Jami Floyd (starts at 3:30 in the audio), a Clinton White House aide who had met Mandela in person. Floyd started out strongly and did a nice job conveying for the audience her sense of awe at meeting the great man. To her credit, she also stressed the importance of the South African constitution as "a fine document, a beacon to the world of democracies".
Lehrer then dipped briefly into a Chris Matthews-esque moment and wanted to know what it was like to be in the same room with Mandela. Floyd graciously gave him what he wanted by assuring him most emphatically that although she had met scores of "presidents, secretaries of states, leaders of other countries etc., luminaries from so many fields, I can honestly say that none of them compares to Nelson Mandela".
So far, the show was going as expected. Lehrer clearly thought so when he thanked her with: "What a great contribution to our show today."
Then followed the less great contributions.
Starting at minute 9:00, a handful of people called in. One was from Liberia and Kenya, another from Uganda, others from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. They all had warm words of praise for Mandela and were grateful on a personal level for the way he had inspired them and given them hope.
But about the 'Pan-African impact', the feedback was perhaps not what Lehrer was expecting. At minute 10:50, Audrey from Liberia said that "the model that Mr. Mandela set out for many African leaders has not been followed..." Lehrer interrupted her and dispatched her gently.
You can say that again, Audrey. Sudan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo and now the Central African Republic. And many others.
A caller from Ethiopia was even more vocal at minute 14:30. "Unfortunately", he said with palpable frustration, "Mandela’s preaching of reconciliation and forgiveness was not learned by African brutal dictators. All over the place…" and then he named the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur "during Mandela time", Somalia, Ethiopia.
Lehrer sounded crestfallen after this "reality bites" sort of tirade. In the closing comments, he rescued the show from its downward spiral by directing the audience to a column by a Malawi political activist which seems to have been the inspiration for the show's topic.
Clearly, there is some dissonance between the unqualified adoration coming from the American media, and the reality on the ground for a large majority of the African population. One wants to talk about feelings and symbolism and inspiring words. The other is distressed by continuing genocide, civil war, poverty and corruption.
Just last week, one day before Nelson Mandela's death, Christian fighters in the Central African Republic, wielding rifles and machetes, attacked Muslim neighborhoods in the capital Bangui and left nearly 100 dead. Muslim 'Seleka' rebels had previously gone "door to door with machetes, bludgeoning their victims and burning down scores of homes." (AP report)
For most Africans outside of South Africa, yes, Mandela was a great man but, so far, more an inspirational figure than an effective agent of change.
Yet, his impact on Africa may grow after his death. These are the words he spoke in 1964:
This is the struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But, if needs be, my Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
His message of freedom, tolerance and peace must be carried throughout Africa. His legacy will be measured not by the feel-good emotions his memory evokes on American campuses but by how quickly Africa improves in the decades ahead.
You can listen to the entire radio segment here.
(photo of Rwanda genocide victims by Adam Jones via Wikipedia)
The biggest problem for the Right is that we are, in general, horribly outdated in how we research and develop political efforts. We can't predict, a priori, what messages and tactics will work best. We need to use rigorous scientific research to discover best practices.
From a new article I have up at C&E:
Evolving Strategies and the Middle Resolution PAC conducted experimental research that suggests an aggressive attack on [Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry] McAuliffe for supporting ObamaCare was ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst. An attack on McAuliffe’s business record possibly helped, but was anemic.
What moved the voters most was an attack on McAuliffe’s positions on abortion; a single phone message emphasizing McAuliffe’s support for unrestricted, late-term, and taxpayer-funded abortions shifted support a net 13 to 15 points away from McAuliffe and toward [Republican candidate Ken] Cuccinelli. The cost per vote here was a remarkably cheap $0.50 per additional vote, and even less expensive still when targeting the most persuadable segment of the electorate.
A topic declared radioactive by nearly everyone, locked away in secure storage behind a blazing Hazmat warning by the Cuccinelli campaign, appears to have been a powerful weapon for the Republican ticket that could have substantially closed the gap, and possibly even won Cuccinelli the election.
Here is the fundamental lesson: We do not know what works until we test it, repeatedly, using experiments. Randomized-controlled experiments allow us to block out all the other noise and pinpoint precisely how a message or tactic changes voter behavior. This is key: rigorous experiments randomly assign voters to receive a treatment, or to a control group that receives nothing, or a placebo.
Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner — the politician most famous for thinking that James Brown's "Sex Machine" was written as a piece of moral exhortation — is receiving his criminal sentencing today for three counts of mistreating women. His punishment, according to the Los Angeles Times:
The judge is widely expected to approve a plea bargain that includes no jail time, three months of home confinement, a reduction in his city pension, mandatory mental health counseling and a bar against seeking public office.
Wait, that's an option? Good lord, judges should be handing that out like candy! Littering — can't run for office. Jaywalking — can't run for office. Driving your car off a bridge and leaving the passenger to die ... well, you get the point.
The US economy, as conventionally measured by GDP, has grown just over 2% annually over the course of the current recovery. That’s glacially and painfully slow by historic standards (although it might look pretty good if you are Europe.). At the same time, the share of Americans with a job has barely improved from its post-Great Recession low. Goldman Sachs offers its explanation for the Not-So-Great-Recovery:
The reasons for the long-lasting weakness resemble those of many other post-crisis episodes. They include excess supply of houses, pressure to deleverage consumer balance sheets, the global nature of the crisis, and the cyclically premature turn to fiscal retrenchment.
Indeed, these reasons are very much in keeping with the Reinhart-Rogoff thesis on how economies recover after a financial crisis. As an addendum I would point to The Recovery of Housing and the End of the Slow Recovery? by former Fed economist Michael Bordo, which finds the slow recovery largely attributable to the unprecedented housing bust that accompanied the financial crisis. But here is the really interesting bit from Goldman, a conclusion reflected in the above chart:
It would have taken a deeply negative real interest rate—or more broadly, a much bigger boost from conventional and unconventional monetary policy than the Fed managed to deliver—to offset these drags and return the economy more quickly to full employment. This is illustrated in simple terms in our GS Taylor rule in Exhibit 4, which suggests that the “appropriate” funds rate has been negative since 2008.
1. Yes — as market monetarists have been saying — had the Bernanke Fed been more aggressive the past five years, not only might the US have avoided as severe a downturn in 2008, but the recovery would have been far more vigorous. And had the Fed early on firmly committed to boosting total spending in the economy, it may have still done a quantitative easing program, but the bond buys may not have been as a large. In short, the US has experienced a minor replay of the Fed’s monetary mistakes during 1930s.
2. And if you accept the above thesis, it means you reject — as Goldman Sachs explicitly does — the “secular stagantion” thesis recently put forward by Larry Summers, which argued there are some deep seated problems — such as, perhaps, too little innovation, bad demographics — with the economy. Goldman sees the problems as more cyclical than secular. The Secular Stagnationists, by the way, seem to be arguing for a lot more government spending to boost demand.
3. So what role does Obamanomics play in all this? It certainly hasn’t been a plus.The 2013 tax hikes hurt growth (far more than the sequester), the stimulus could have been better designed, and policy uncertainty — whether about debt or Obamacare — may have some drag on growth. But what President Obama did or did not do with fiscal policy would seem to have been less important that (a) the nature of the recession and (b) the Fed’s response. Still it’s worth mentioning that over the longer-term, Obama’s push for higher tax rates and a more regulated economy and his decision to leaved entitlements unreformed hurts the US economy’s growth potential.
Just last month, economist Bob Aliber visited Cuba, keeping his eyes open and jotting down statistics and observations. Below, excerpts from the informal paper that Bob, a professor of international economics and finance at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, has circulated to a few of his friends. (Note that the topic headings are mine.)
Cuba, 50 years after the Revolution:
Honey, I Shrunk the Country
Cuba is shrinking; its revolution has hit the end of the road. Its population is growing at the rate of 0.1 percent a year, literally stagnation. The female reproduction rate is 1.7, or 0.5 percent below the rate necessary to maintain a stable population. In the next fifteen years, the number of women between age 15 and 40 will decline, and the number of births will decline further if the reproduction rate remains unchanged; the population will decline.
The best and the brightest vote with their feet, between thirty thousand and thirty five thousand people leave each year for the opportunities in Miami and Mexico and Spain and Venezuela. (For reference, if the Cuban population were more or less constant with zero growth, there would be one hundred twenty five thousand in each one-year age cohort--the ten year olds, the twenty year olds, the thirty year olds, etc; hence about twenty five percent of each age cohort leave. The intuition is that the proportion of university graduates and professionals who leave is higher.)
The dependency ratio of the number of retired to the number of workers will increase, as the number of seniors increases relative to those in the active labor force, living standards will decline. And the dynamic is that more people will leave….
Old Cars in Good Shape and Old Buildings in Bad Shape
The fleet of 1947 to 1959 Chevys that circulate in Havana is amusing. Many of these vehicles are well maintained, and their upholstery is in remarkably good shape….New vehicles are not available in Cuba or are prohibitively expensive, while the cost of repairs of the sixty year old Chevy is modest by American standards. My guess is that the repair labor earns US$3.00 to US$5.00 an hour.
The deferred maintenance in the housing stock and public buildings is depressing….Sections of older Havana are remindful of the bombed sites in London and in Berlin in the late 1940s and the early 1950s--or of some parts of Chicago that had been abandoned by stable families because of gang violence.
The contrast between the love and affection shown the older automobiles and the decay of the eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings in old Havana appears to parallel private ownership and public ownership.
There are now fifty years of data on the economic achievements of the Castro government. Its achievements in improving literacy and the health of the public--and especially the declines in infant mortality and the increase in longevity--are impressive. All of the deferred maintenance suggests a country in decline, one that has been "eating its capital." The public and private savings rates are among the lowest in the world. The low birth rate for a poor country is a vote by the young women of Cuba that the government has failed to deliver on promises of abundant food. The outmigration of the young is like a vote of no-confidence in the management of economic opportunities.
The failure of leadership to respond to daily evidence of mis-management is remarkable.
As Ronald Reagan remarked, Fidel Castro promised to create the greatest Hispanic city in the Western hemisphere, and he did just that—only it was Miami, not Havana.
Consultants for the Democratic Party predict that the people who won the election for Obama in 2012 aren’t going to show up in 2014. That could mean huge wins for the Republican Party.
In a recent report by the Voter Participation Center (formerly Women’s Voices. Women Vote, a non-profit research organization that was connected to the Tides Foundation), researchers have analyzed the impact of the Rising American Electorate (RAE) on elections and have found that 34 percent will stay home in 2014.
The RAE makes up 53.6 percent of the voting eligible population. This group includes unmarried women, Latinos, African-Americans, and those under the age of 30. Unmarried women are the largest segment of the RAE.
News that these groups will stay home in 2014 doesn’t bode well for Democrats because they vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. According to the Voter Participation Center, in 2012, 67 percent of the RAE went for Obama (32 percent to Romney).
Nationally, in 2012, the RAE made up 47.5% of those who voted ... Using a predictive methodology for population growth and likely turnout patterns ... it is predicted that the RAE will comprise 42.6% of those who will vote in November 2014. This means that more than one-in-three RAE voters who turned out in 2012 will NOT turnout in 2014 (34.5% of those who voted in 2012, or 21.8 million RAE voters, will stay home).
Certainly, the drop-off numbers are disappointing for all advocacy groups interested in a thriving American democracy, but the drop-off among the RAE is almost twice what it will be for the non-RAE and represents a difference of almost 10 million voters.
While this research spurs hope for Republicans in 2014 (just as it did in 2010 when these groups also failed to show up), it doesn’t guarantee that the same thing will happen in 2016. In fact, it probably won’t because the RAE is more likely to vote in national elections.
Republicans need to be aware that the Democrat Party is pushing hard not only to win over these voters with messaging but also to get them registered and out to the polls on election day. Democrats aren’t sitting idly back and waiting for this targeted population to come to them. They’re actively and strategically honing their messaging and getting boots on the ground to secure these people as reliable voters.
They’re conducting quarterly voter registration programs, reaching out to young people before they turn 18, using state voter registration forms instead of national forms, going door to door, and getting out to talk to people, connecting with them in personal ways.
They’re also approaching theses groups (especially unmarried women) directly at the places where they get their information. According to the Voter Participation Center, unmarried women are not watching political television channels, listening to political talk radio or reading political blogs. “More than seven in ten (72 percent) express moderate to no interest in politics – significantly higher than adults overall (61 percent).”
- The key to reaching unmarried women is reaching out to them through non-political channels and where they live and interact. The information has to reach them where they are, be local, and directly apply to their daily lives even more so than for other groups of voters.
- Unmarried women get news and information from local TV news, online weather, health and entertainment sites and from talking with others. Eight in ten unmarried women have gotten news in the last month from talking with others.
- Television, especially local television, remains a dominant source of news for these unmarried women.
- Cable television is also an effective way to reach these women. Some of their favorite shows air on Lifetime, TLC, TBS, TNT, A&E, and the Food Network. MTV is important for the never married women.
- There is a strong age difference in news gathering: younger unmarried women under 50 are much more likely to use the Internet to get news about the election than older women (34% to 9%); older unmarried women still tend to have regular news viewing habits, tuning in for regularly scheduled newscasts; younger unmarried women check in on the news on an irregular basis and are less likely to wait for the “News at 11.”
- Unmarried women tend to see the news on their customized home pages on the web.
- These women gravitate toward sites supplying weather, directions, and health information. They look for news they can use – including money saving tips and restaurant reviews. Unmarried women also like entertainment news and websites.
- All unmarried women rely on information received by word of mouth. Social media is a powerful way to trigger these in-person conversations for younger women; for older women, younger friends and family can spark this conversation.
- Two-thirds of unmarried women – like adults overall – use their cell phones for more than calls. But younger single women (under 50) are much more likely (81 percent) than older women (44%) to use their phones for other things than calls. Texting is a powerful and effective tool for communicating with younger unmarried women.
Democrats are highly motivated (and well funded) to reach these people because they know there is power in securing this growing population. “The RAE accounted for 81 percent of the growth between 2000 and 2010 and a jaw dropping 95 percent between 2008 and 2010. Unmarried women and Latinos drove the explosive growth of the RAE in the last decade, both growing by 8 million between 2000 and 2010.”
While these groups “are the most under-represented groups in the electorate, they make up the new majority in this country whose views are not being represented by their elected leaders.”
Republicans have a lot of work to do. The question is, are they up to the task, or are they going to bury their collective head in the sand and rely on dinosaur tactics that lose elections?
If you visited the Twitterverse on Thursday night or read any of the papers on Friday morning, you might have heard about the horrible crime committed on live national television - evidently some young lady from Muskogee, Oklahoma murdered an elderly, beloved English woman, beheaded her, sat on the body and ate her heart and liver. At least that's the emotional reaction to Carrie Underwood taking on the role of Maria in The Sound of Music.
Lost in all the fetishization of Dame Julie Elizabeth Andrews, DBE, as "the one and only" is the memory of the woman who actually originated the role in Rodgers and Hammerstein's last musical, Mary Martin.
Martin, who was three weeks short of her 46th birthday when she introduced the role of Maria von Trapp on Broadway, walked away with the third of four Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical in 1959. (Andrews was a spry 30 in the film. The stage is a lot more forgiving than film or video.)
Of all her legendary roles, only Peter Pan was preserved for the ages on television. Snippets of her stage work abound (She and Ezio Pinza sang "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific on The Ed Sullivan Show), but her early experiences in film convinced her she needed that immediate contact with an audience. Unfortunately, all that leaves us are reviews, a couple of cast albums and fading memories.
Recording technology is a glorious gift to the future and a curse to those who aspire to perform works for themselves. Definitive performances always haunt those that tackle them afterwards. It was amazing that anyone ever recorded White Christmas after Bing Crosby. Jeff Bridges received raves for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, but much of that could be part of a left-wing visceral dislike of John Wayne. Forget remakes, some can't even handle the concept of two Darrins on Bewitched.
We know names of great actors of the past - names like Richard Burbage, Edmund Kean, Edwin Booth and William Gillette. But we really know nothing of their skills. Could we travel back in time and put them on film they might come across as pompous and hammy. Perhaps they're luckier than we are.
On November 26, an Israeli special forces unit, acting together with the border police, killed three Palestinian Salafists in Kfar Yatta, a West Bank village south of Hebron. The three were heavily armed, and were planning attacks on both Israel and the Palestinian Authority during Chanukah. According to the IDF, Palestinian Salafists have recently expanded their terrorist infrastructure, which has entailed "preparing and manufacturing explosives, purchasing weapons and arranging an apartment for hiding."
It is not only the Israelis who are taking steps against the Salafists. On November 30, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank conducted a sweep of Salafist activists, with more than twenty arrested. And in Gaza, Hamas regularly arrests Salafist activists, whose contempt for Hamas's corrupt, small-time gangsterism and impure jihadist ideology poses a direct threat to its authority. The Salafists are also seriously complicating Hamas's already fraught relationship with the Egyptian army, which has declared Hamas an enemy. Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh needs Gazan Salafists to call for jihad against "the tyrant Sisi" like he needs a hole in the head.
The Salafists are thus opposed by Israel, the PA, and Hamas, putting those three actors -- probably for the first time -- on the same side of a strategic objective. (This is a tantalizing scenario -- enemies, enemies, friends and all that -- but we can't extrapolate too far. It's highly unlikely that these parties will cooperate to eradicate their common problem, if only because the leaderships of both the PA and Hamas are too blundering and short-sighted. Neither group even approaches a Saudi level of duplicity and diplomatic sleight of hand. They also despise each other as much if not more than they despise Israel, making tripartite cooperation a near impossibility.)
The rise of the West Bank Salafists, who are centered around Hebron (where the photo above was taken a few days ago), closely parallels that of Hamas, which also started out as a welfare and community organization:
The dawa [welfare organization] created by Hamas, just like the Salafists’ dawa, operated on the basis of religious principles that called for cleansing society of its ills; aiding the needy, the elderly, and the sick; and bringing them into the embrace of religion. Hamas emerged from Yassin’s Islamic Center and the dawa institutions of the Gaza Strip and became an armed movement that placed jihad against Israel at the top of its priorities.
With Hamas, the transition from dawa to jihad occurred in the late 1980s. The same process is taking place in the West Bank with the Salafists, but with one important difference: The Salafists dream of establishing an Islamic caliphate without any borders, headed by an emir who inherits the role of the Prophet Muhammad and restores the Golden Age of Islam. The current emir of the Salafists is Ata Abu Rashta, a native of Hebron, whose current place of residence is kept secret.
The Salafists boycott the Palestinian Authority because they regard it as a secular government with no religious authority to rule over Muslims. They believe it is incumbent on every Muslim to oppose this illegal rule. But they also consider the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip unsuitable, because the Salafists believe that Hamas has abandoned its objectives and ideological ideas, such as jihad against Israel, in favor of the benefits of power.
Al-Monitor asks what prompted the West Bank Salafists to transition away from welfare and toward violence. An unnamed official within the PA speculates that Hamas's current weakness has tempted the Salafists to attempt to replace Hamas as the Palestinians' jihadist spearhead. He also suggests that the rise of the Salafists in Egypt, who took almost a third of the votes in the last election, inspired the Palestinian Salafists to try their hand.
The dark silhouetted trees appeared illusory, as if in a dream through the light fog, their irregular heights capping the rolling Alabama landscape on I-85 north of Montgomery. The cab's interior was awash in the soft green glow of the gauges, gadgets and screens adorning the instrument panel. Sunrise was three hours away yet, leaving a bit of quiet time to negotiate an endless supply of construction zones, and avoid haphazardly placed orange barrels while sorting through competing waves of thought and reflection.
"Patience," as Ambrose Bierce flirtatiously advised us, is, "A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue." Indeed, there are times when the distinction between virtue and despair becomes as blurred as the trees in the misty night, leaving us in search of fixed postulates toward which to navigate. There is, for example, no known record of the stone tablets descending Mt. Sinai with fine print permitting the redistributionist to violate the 8th and 10th Commandments' prohibitions against theft or covetousness, yet there are those who don the cloak of morality to lecture us that the fruit of our labor belongs to someone else and that it is the manifest destiny of the moralist to determine who exactly owns our time, our property and our lives.
How does this happen? How did we go from the 17th century philosopher John Locke's observation that:
Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This nobody has any right to but himself. The "labor" of his body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, are properly his.
To an American President who just days ago said:
…[T]he basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed. In fact, this trend towards growing inequality is not unique to America's market economy. Across the developed world, inequality has increased. …But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.
It's easy enough to dismiss Barack Obama's economic diagnosis as sophistry on a banana peel, since income inequality is actually most pronounced in banana republics, most notably in Latin America and the southern tip of Africa where the law means whatever (insert name of authoritarian with funny looking outfit) says it means. But we are now on that same trajectory, having gone from James Madison's reminder that, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents," to President Obama's risible assertion that, "If you've got a business, -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
What explains preposterousness on a cosmic scale? It seems, to this observer at any rate, that, human pride being a constant, the tendency toward self righteousness lends itself to a dangerous insularity in which an oath to uphold the Constitution, or a professed allegiance to the very law of God, is replaced by self. I was recently instructed by a person of sturdy theological credentials, for example, that for one sibling to remind another that ignoring a grieving and grievously ill parent, particularly when everyone else in the family is knocking themselves out and could use a little help, is to "do evil" because such a reminder brings pain to the sibling who prefers to view a dying parent only briefly, through emotional binoculars, and then avert their gaze elsewhere. The standard of "Honor your father and your mother," is thus replaced with the standard of self, and any who trespass against it are guilty of assailing moral rectitude of the highest order, -- a rectitude, I've noticed, that generously dispenses admonishments to others but will not accept them.
Likewise, the President sets himself as the standard of that which is right and proper, just and fair, and to the extent the Constitution intrudes on his standard, the fault lies with the Constitution and its defenders. If the people, through their elected representatives, will not acquiesce to his prescriptions and attendant intrusions on their liberty, then he will simply act through executive order or pack the courts with unaccountable jurists with the help of Senate Bag Man, Harry Reid. For the objective is not liberty, but rather the utopian designs incubated in the insular confines of the First Ego and his administration.
Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 1.1 million fewer Americans are employed today than seven years ago, but that whopping number, which adds a little perspective to the lower unemployment rate, somehow missed Presidential attention. Surely income inequality is exacerbated when over a million people no longer hold down jobs, no? But empirical truth, which contradicts the supreme standard of the insular mind, must be avoided lest discomfort set in.
As the sun rises over the horizon, the fog lifts and much needed clarity returns. The President challenges us to address, "who we are as a people." Fine, then. We are a people that reversed the tide of history by declaring that free men tell the government what to do, not the other way around. Embracing the lessons of human experience, mindful of the fallen nature of all Adam's descendants, we chart our course toward the postulates of the collective wisdom of the ages, pledge our civic allegiance to our Founding principles, our ultimate allegiance to our Creator, and honor those who came before us. If that affronts the insular minds in our midst, they'll have to work that one out themselves.
Someday, when it comes to the rollout of Obamacare, I will assume that things cannot possibly get worse, and blessedly, I will be right.
Today, however, is not that day:
Raising concerns about consumer privacy, California’s health exchange has given insurance agents the names and contact information for tens of thousands of people who went online to check out coverage but didn’t ask to be contacted.
The Covered California exchange said it started handing out this consumer information this week as part of a pilot program to help people enroll ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.
State officials said they are only trying to help potential customers find insurance and sign up in time. But some insurance brokers and consumers who were contacted said they were astonished by the state’s move.
“I’m shocked and dumbfounded,” said Sam Smith, an Encino insurance broker and president of the California Assn. of Health Underwriters, an industry group.
Smith said he was under the impression from the exchange that these consumers had requested assistance. He received the names of two consumers this week but has not yet contacted them.
“These people would have a legitimate complaint,” Smith said.
The names provided include people who started an insurance application on the Covered California website since enrollment launched Oct. 1, but for whatever reason never picked a health plan or completed the sign-up process.
The state said it provided information on tens of thousands of people who logged into the state’s website, but it didn’t know the exact number.
The exchange said agents were given names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available.
Recall from yesterday’s post that Paul Krugman believes California shows us how Obamacare can be successfully implemented. I wonder what it takes to raise fears of an unsuccessful implementation. Riots in the streets? Dogs and cats living together, with a side order of mass hysteria?
Recall as well from yesterday’s post that people like Ezra Klein are trying to rewrite history when it comes to the president’s Obamacare-related promises. Klein is not alone in this dishonest endeavor:
If you want to keep your doctor, you might have to pay more for it, Obamacare architect Zeke Emanuel said today on Fox News Sunday:
The host, Chris Wallace, said: “President Obama famously promised, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Doesn’t that turn out to be just as false, just as misleading, as his promise about if you like your plan, you can keep your plan? Isn’t it a fact, sir, that a number, most, in fact, of the Obamacare health plans that are being offered on the exchanges exclude a number of doctors and hospitals to lower costs?”
“The president never said you were going to have unlimited choice of any doctor in the country you want to go to,” said the Obamacare architect.
“No. He asked a question. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Did he not say that, sir?”
“He didn’t say you could have unlimited choice.”
“It’s a simple yes or no question. Did he say if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?”
“Yes. But look, if you want to pay more for an insurance company that covers your doctor, you can do that. This is a matter of choice. We know in all sorts of places you pay more for certain — for a wider range of choices or wider range of benefits.The issue isn’t the selective networks. People keep saying, Oh, the problem is you’re going to have a selective network–”
Just to be clear on this issue, the president told us that if we wanted to keep our doctors or continue relationships with our hospitals, we could, “period.” He didn’t say “you can, but your premiums will go up.” He also didn’t say “you can, but you will have to pay more out of pocket,” or “you can, but you may be sans money,” or “you can, but forget about that new car.” He said “you can, period.” As with the case of Ezra Klein, I wonder whom Ezekiel Emanuel thinks he is fooling in this instance. Again, we have Google. We also have working long-term memories. We know what the president said and we can look it up in order to prove it. Attempts to brainwash the country by presenting some kind of alternative history are doomed to fail, and these particular attempts to brainwash the country by presenting some kind of alternative history aren’t even remotely convincing to begin with.
Remind me again how we are supposed to celebrate “improvements” in the implementation of Obamacare. Because somehow, I don’t feel like partying ’til the break of dawn over this issue.
Dennis Prager asked Paul Johnson this question, and he answered Job.
What do you think? On whatever terms you choose — whether literary, theological, poetic, moral instructional value or by any other criterion — what is your favorite book of the Bible and why?
If It's too hard to pick one book, you can limit yourself to one Old Testament book and one Gospel.
See? I knew it.
Dr. Ragini Verma, professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, has published a study in the Proceeedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which she mapped differences in the wiring of male and female brains, using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging. The study was conducted in order to provide better treatment for neurological disorders, but the findings are intriguing for another reason: they appear to confirm and explain stereotypes about the differences between men and women.
The study was conducted on 428 men and boys and 521 women and girls. The diagrams in the image above show an averaging of the "connection trends" in the participants' brains. (Men are on the left; women are on the right.) In the image, we see the connections in the cerebrum, which is above the cerebellum and toward the front. In men, these connections are primarily within hemispheres; in women, they are primarily across the hemispheres.
The connection trends in the cerebellum, which are not visible here since the cerebellum is underneath the cerebrum, are exactly the opposite of what we see in the image above: men's connections go across hemispheres while women's stay within hemispheres. The cerebrum is primarily responsible for thinking; the cerebellum is responsible for acting.
How should we interpret these patterns? Let's start with the cerebrum. The left side of the cerebrum is specialized to handle logical thought, while the right is devoted to intuitive thought. According to Dr. Verma, the "cross-talk" between the left and right sides of the cerebrum in women's brains explains why women tend to have better memories than men, and also why they are (generally) more socially adept, better able to multitask, and more verbal. (One might infer a superiority in matters of social politics and emotional intelligence, both of which require a linking of intuition and logic, although Dr Verma did not say this.)
Men, most of whose cerebrum connections stay within individual hemispheres, are generally superior to women at thinking tasks that "do not need complex inputs from both hemispheres" -- things like tracking prey, fighting predators, and finding the way home after tracking prey and fighting predators. Here too, one might infer -- as one blogger has done -- that the male's lesser dependence on the intuitive side of the cerebrum enables him to act "more rapidly and more decisively" than the female, making him a better, more focused fighter.
The cerebrum pattern, according to Dr. Verma, might explain not only female intuition but also the maternal instinct:
Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks...
“Intuition is thinking without thinking. It's what people call gut feelings. Women tend to be better than men at these kinds of skill which are linked with being good mothers,” Professor Verma said.
As to the heightened cross-talk in men's cerebellums -- the action center that lies under the thinking center -- it might explain why men tend to outperform women in motor and spatial relations tasks, have better muscle control, and are generally more coordinated than women.
Interestingly, it seems that we're not born this way. The study involved participants as young as eight, and the brains of boys and girls aged eight to 13 showed very similar connection patterns. The 13-17 age bracket showed more differences, and there were still more in young adults over 17. The differences appear to begin to manifest "mainly when sex itself begins to matter" -- i.e., when puberty hits.
These images make me curious: since men's cerebrum connection patterns run longitudinally, within the hemispheres, does that mean men are more likely than women to be strongly "right-brained" (intuitive) or "left-brained" (logical)? The cerebral cross-talk among women seems to indicate not that they are necessarily more intuitive, but that they are a) better able to harness their intuition to logic, and b) better able to express their intuition coherently. The study also doesn't draw any conclusions about why men dominate women in the sciences and in math, although there are obviously strong social dynamics at work there as well as neurological ones.
Yes, well, sort of.
I’m not here to defend it, mind you, just to explain it. How is it, Ricochet editor Troy Senik writes to ask, that an unarmed man can be charged with assault? He sent along a link to this story at the Reason website, in which is recounted an incident that occurred back in September in a busy Manhattan intersection. A man suffering from some mental disorder had begun acting strangely at 8th Avenue and 42nd Street, running amok and into the path of oncoming cars. This attracted a crowd which soon included several police officers, who tried without success to order him out of the street.
According to police, the man reached into his pocket and then appeared to draw a gun, taking a stance as if prepared to shoot. Officers fired, missing the man but striking two women who were among the onlookers. The man was soon arrested and charged with menacing, drug possession, and resisting arrest, but last week a Manhattan grand jury charged the man with assault, accepting prosecutors’ contention that it was the man’s actions that provoked the officers to shoot and thus cause the injuries to the two women.
Again, I’m not defending it, just explaining it. And to assist me in this explanation I turned to one more qualified than I to comment on legal matters, Los Angeles deputy district attorney Patrick Frey. Frey is the proprietor of his own website, one that I have written for and can commend to your attention.
Frey tells me that the man was charged under the “provocative act” theory, which in this case seems to be one that only a lawyer can appreciate. A more typical scenario for this theory would be one in which two men act together to commit a robbery. They point guns at the intended victim, who pulls his own gun and kills one of the robbers. The surviving robber can be charged with his partner’s death under the theory that his provocative act brought the deadly response from the intended victim.
Having explained it to me, Frey added the caveat that he would never take a case like the one in New York to trial, as no jury would ever return a guilty verdict. In obtaining the grand jury indictment, the prosecutors seem to be playing for a plea deal, hoping for a guilty plea which will in turn help in the city’s defense to the lawsuits sure to be filed by the two injured women.
After his arrest, the man informed police he was suicidal, and his apparent intent was to commit “suicide by cop.” Alas for him, and for the two unfortunate women, the officers’ marksmanship left much to be desired.
In the end, the city will surely pay out to the two women, as well they should. And as for the disturbed man, he will most likely spend some time in jail, and upon his release he will most likely repeat the behavior that started the mess in the first place. And so it goes.
I presume that this is the “new and improved” Obamacare that everyone is suddenly supposed to be enthusiastic about:
After refusing for weeks to detail the extent of back-end problems with healthcare.gov, the Obama administration on Friday said a technical bug affected approximately 25 percent of enrollments on the federal exchanges in October and November.
Those technical bugs, separate from the troubles consumers had experienced accessing information on the website during the first two months, are posing a significant new problem for those who signed up and are expecting insurance coverage come Jan. 1.
One in four of those applications either did not get transferred to insurers, were transferred in duplicate form, or had major errors in information shared.
Insurers are supposed to receive the 834 Forms from healthcare.gov. The forms, meant to be read by computers, provide insurers with information on enrollees and what plan they have chosen. Without the information, insurers have no way of knowing who has signed up on the Obamacare exchanges and what coverage they need.
Unresolved technical problems on HealthCare.gov could lead to a rude surprise at the doctor’s office next month for patients who think they successfully used the website to sign up for health insurance. They may find they’re not insured after all.
HealthCare.gov, the federal online portal for health-insurance shopping in more than 30 states, has improved after more than a month of intense fixes, and enrollment is accelerating. But insurance companies are still getting information on their would-be customers that is garbled and incomplete, and in some cases they are getting no information at all. President Barack Obama’s administration is scrambling to repair the faulty system, but scant time remains until the Dec. 23 deadline for consumers to choose a health plan that will be in place Jan. 1.
The result could be an untold number of consumers remaining uninsured despite completing the enrollment process — another embarrassing chapter in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature health care reform law.
The Obama administration insists the enrollment glitches will be fixed in time to prevent any troubles next month, but won’t disclose the extent of the problem. Nor will it guarantee that any patients who fall victim to these problems won’t be exposed to medical bills if they get sick or injured.
“I doubt very seriously the insurance company or the government is going to say, ‘Oh, don’t worry, We’ll take care of it.’ I think that’s going to fall solely on the patient,” said Reid Blackwelder, a doctor in Kingsport, Tenn., who is president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “I wouldn’t count on anybody else jumping in and bailing everybody out.”
To the extent that HealthCare.gov has “improved,” it is only because problems with the website could hardly get any worse. And even after the “improvements,” things remain horrible. I am, of course, not the first to make this point, but when one considers all of the traffic Amazon handled–without any problems whatsoever–once Black Friday and Cyber Monday arrived and the Christmas shopping season went into full swing, and when one compares that kind of near-flawless performance with the problems HealthCare.gov continues to have, one cannot help but be underwhelmed by HealthCare.gov’s performance, even in its “improved” state.
But never fear: David Plouffe says that by 2017, Obamacare “will work really well.” I presume that Team Obama is just itching to make campaign commercials based on that soundbite.
It should be noted that when it comes to technology in general, the federal government is behind the times, which makes one wonder why it was trusted to design and implement a health care website that would help enroll millions of Americans into regional exchanges. It should also be noted–again–that the problems with Obamacare go beyond the flaws of a website:
An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange and won’t participate, the head of the state’s largest medical association said.
“It doesn’t surprise me that there’s a high rate of nonparticipation,” said Dr. Richard Thorp, president of the California Medical Association.
Thorp has been a primary care doctor for 38 years in a small town 90 miles north of Sacramento. The CMA represents 38,000 of the roughly 104,000 doctors in California.
“We need some recognition that we’re doing a service to the community. But we can’t do it for free. And we can’t do it at a loss. No other business would do that,” he said.
Remember that according to Paul Krugman, “in California we can see what health reform will look like, beyond the glitches. And it’s going to work.” I don’t suppose that Krugman will have anything to say about the high rate of physician non-participation; it might undermine his narrative if he acknowledged the problem. And does anyone believe that physician non-participation is going to be restricted to California?
I am not the type of person who believes that the solution to a given problem necessarily involves having a lot of meetings about that problem. But what does it say about the Obama administration that it hardly did any legwork to ensure that its signature legislation would be implemented without too many problems?
Journalists and pundits have begun offering lengthy postmortems to explain the causes of the ruinous Obamacare rollout. The debacle’s scale has surprised even progressives who supported the Affordable Care Act. After all, surely three and a half years provided ample time to prepare for a program President Obama calls his “most important initiative.”
Six weeks ago, Obama privately conceded to his advisers, according to the New York Times, “we created this problem we didn’t need to create … and it’s of our own doing.”
So how did it happen? Here’s one theory, backed by new data: not enough meetings.
Amid the Obama administration’s endless rounds of finger-pointing and blame-shifting, scant if any attention has been paid to the amount of time and executive leadership the president personally devoted to implementing his signature legislative achievement.
“Nothing frustrates me more than when people aren’t doing their jobs,” Obama has said. So, with so much riding on the line, one would assume he held weekly, if not daily, one-on-one meetings with his Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to isolate problems, challenge assumptions, apply executive pressure where needed and successfully manage a project of scale.
That did not happen, at least not according to Obama’s own official White House calendar.
Be sure to read the whole thing, including the White House response to the story–which frankly raises more questions than it answers. The president, it would appear, has found yet another entity to blame for the whole debacle–his own government:
President Obama has found someone to blame for the Affordable Care Act’s rolling failures besides Republicans. ObamaCare is the government’s fault, not his.
On Thursday, Mr. Obama dropped by American University for a heart to heart with Chris Matthews, and the MSNBC host wondered who in the executive branch is responsible for the botched health-care rollout. Mr. Obama listed a few impersonal culprits including “cynicism,” “Washington gridlock” and “the management of government,” but he then drifted into another classic.
“The challenge, I think, that we have going forward is not so much my personal management style or particular issues around White House organization,” he said. “It actually has to do with what I referred to earlier, which is we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly. . . . The White House is just a tiny part of what is a huge, widespread organization with increasingly complex tasks in a complex world.”
So after five years, Mr. Obama has discovered government is inefficient and wasteful, or at least it is when he needs a political alibi.
You know that things are bad when Obamacare supporters believe that in order to save Obamacare, they have to change history. Ezra Klein attempts to do just that by claiming that Obamacare’s “real promise” is that “if you lose your health-care plan, you can get a new one.” Umm . . . no. Relatedly, someone should inform Klein that we have Google and we aren’t senile, which means that we aren’t going to fall for efforts to rewrite the past and to flush the actual promises made by the president and his supporters down the memory hole.
Klein’s efforts to alter the memories of the masses are only slightly more convincing and credible than the Obama administration’s efforts at damage control. As for the political fortunes of the Democratic party . . . well, anything can happen between now and the midterm elections next year. But right now, things don’t look good:
Most graphs of polling data show shifts that are very gradual. (Tracking real-time changes in poll results often is about as exciting as watching paint dry.) Recently, however, the HuffPostPollster website produced a graph of national polling on Congress that showed one of the most dramatic shifts I’ve ever seen in 40 years of involvement in politics. It charts responses to the question of whether voters would like Republicans or Democrats to control the House.
The year began with Democrats 8 points ahead of Republicans on the generic congressional ballot test, 46 percent to 38 percent. The GOP had come out of the 2012 elections licking its wounds, having lost a presidential election that, just a year earlier, appeared highly winnable. As the year progressed, the Democratic advantage gradually but consistently declined, paralleling a similar erosion of President Obama’s job-approval rating since his reelection. The drop in Democrats’ numbers leveled off in June, to a statistically insignificant 1 percentage point lead over Republicans. It is important to remember that there is a historic tendency for this poll question to skew by a couple of points in favor of Democrats, making that meager edge almost certainly an illusion.
Then, in August, statements started coming from some of the more exotic Republicans in the House and Senate that perhaps it was a good idea to shut down the government over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Notwithstanding warnings from House and Senate Republican leaders and experienced (and wiser) members that such an effort would be a disaster for the party, the Republicans in the “kamikaze caucus” barreled ahead, over the cliff, shutting down the government.
Sure enough, the Democratic numbers in the generic ballot began to pull dramatically ahead, resembling a steep ascent up the side of a mountain, ending about 7 points ahead of Republicans, 45 percent to 38 percent—an advantage that, were it to last until the election, would give Democrats a chance to recapture the House.
Then, in mid-October, the focus shifted from the government-shutdown fiasco to a different debacle, this time a Democratic disaster: the botched launch of the Obamacare website and subsequent implementation problems of the health care law, including termination notices going out to many people who had insurance coverage. The Democratic numbers from the generic-ballot test dropped from 45 percent to 37 percent, and Republicans moved up to 40 percent. This 10-point net shift from a Democratic advantage of 7 points to a GOP edge of 3 points in just over a month is breathtaking, perhaps an unprecedented swing in such a short period. Occurring around Election Day, such a shift would probably amount to the difference between Democrats picking up at least 10 House seats, possibly even the 17 needed for a majority, and instead losing a half-dozen or so seats.
Just when you think we have explored all of the policy consequences that attend the Obamacare implementation failure, along comes this to show us that the situation is even worse than we realize:
I owe Mitt Romney an apology.
During the 2012 Republican presidential primary season, I repeatedly criticized Romney — and personally challenged him during his editorial board meeting with the Washington Examiner — for promising that if elected, on day one of his presidency, he would grant Obamacare waivers to all 50 states.
As I reported, under the text of the law, the ability to offer waivers to states was subject to many restrictions and wouldn’t even be an option until 2017, four years after his hypothetical swearing in.
Though I still believe I was right about what the statute said, as it turns out, I was being old-fashioned by taking the letter of the law so literally.
Having watched President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius over the past several months unilaterally alter or outright ignore major portions of the law, I now believe that a future Republican president would have greater latitude to gut Obamacare than I once thought possible.
It ought to go without saying that if a future Republican president does what the current Democratic president is doing, cries of “imperial presidency” will be raised anew from people whose tongues currently appear to have been kidnapped by cats.
I recognize that this has been quite the depressing post, so let me close with this. You know, to cheer people up:
“And I will also note that there are 150,000 million different families that get their health care through their employees,” [Harry] Reid said. “So should all federal employees, although under Obamacare, my insurance costs me about $4,500 more that it did before. Yes, because it is age-related and it wasn’t like that before.”
(Emphasis mine.) Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
As we contemplate our forced national decline into distributionism , it is instructive to examine other major nations and what it might be like to live in them.
Venezuela won't quite do. Perhaps the U.K. or France---despite their demographic disorder? Switzerland does have more than chocolate and cuckoo clocks. Israel is heartening economically, but the Knesset is more discordant than the Congress.
Well, there are always the countries that have been through Marxist-Leninist "communism" and come out on the other side of that nightmare. So what's the picture from Moscow these days? David Satter, one of the best of the American "Russianists" is back there now and we have just posted our latest extended conversation with him in the new podcast.
Might that be a plausible place to spend a few years in active and promising political protest? Where (apart from here) does one find a more or less livable situation, but one messed up by politicians who can—because democracy might work there—be taken down and/or rendered responsive to what their publics require and deserve? And in what countries, despite the reports in the New York Times, the Nation or the Guardian, is it all over for the rest of the century?
Seventy-two years ago today, those words shattered the early morning quiet that blanketed Oahu. It was truly a day that will “forever live in infamy.”
Volumes have been written about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, the emphasis today—especially in schools and newspapers—seems to be more on the subsequent interment of Japanese on the West Coast than the horror of the sneak attack.
It is interesting that little is written about the tens of thousands of Japanese (Brazil had the biggest Japanese population outside of Japan back then) who were “relocated” or incarcerated in both Canada and much of Latin America.
And of course no one mentions the Italians (Joe DiMaggio’s father was forbidden to use his fishing boat and the family couldn’t run their restaurant—after dark, you know) who were incarcerated or the over 50 concentration camps which held German “Aliens.”
It is thought that though there were 120,000 Japanese relocated, some 35,000 Germans and Italians endured the same fate at the beginning of the war. Due to political clout, however, most of them were released fairly early.
It wasn’t many years ago that I learned that my daughter could speak of the internment, but had learned nothing in school about the horrors or the significance of December 7th.
It appears that each generation has its seminal event. Ours was November 22, 1963. The sun has never again shown as bright as it did that Friday morn in Dallas.
Those born after us know all too well what 9/11 means. Or if they don’t know what it means, at least they remember the horrors of that day.
So that my kids may always know what my parents could never forget, here’s a little reminder about what happened at 7:53 am, three score and 12 years ago.
As flight commander Mitsuo Fuchida (he later became a born-again Christian) shouted “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” 51 Val dive bombers, 49 Kate torpedo bombers, 50 high level bombers and 43 Zero fighters attacked air fields and battle ships docked in at Pearl. Through fluke (or, if you believe the conspiracy theorists, plan), our three aircraft carriers, the Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga were at sea, out of harm’s way.
The air raid lasted until 9:45 a.m. Eight battleships were damaged, five sunk. 2,335 servicemen were killed. 1,177 boys aboard the USS Arizona battleship were drowned and burned to death after a 1,760 pound bomb penetrated the forward magazine.
America was at war.
My father’s brother-in-law, John Charles Daly, came on CBS radio to announce to the world, "We interrupt this program to announce the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor by air"). By December 11th, Italy and Germany had declared war on us as well.
Now, many alledge that Roosevelt tricked us into war; that we forced Japan’s hand when we cut off her oil supplies from the East Indies. And the conspiracy theorists have fun because there is ample evidence that we had broken the Japanese Purple Code and that we knew that the words, “East winds rain”, were the signal for the attack to begin.
Still, no one bothered to tell Admiral Kimmel or Lt. General Short. Bob Ogg, (Seaman Z in John Toland’s book, Infamy) told me over lunch some years ago that he had intercepted the radio signals from Tankers north of Oahu, on Tuesday, and again on Saturday (the attack occurred on a Sunday). He was listening from a tower he’d built in El Cerrito. (Now that's really another column).
Short's predecessor, General Charles Herron, never feared sabotage from the locals, so he dispersed his assets. Many claim that had that policy been continued (rather than clustering assets) the devastation could have been greatly minimized.
Kimmel and Short were unfairly disgraced. Commissions investigated them. As commanders, they were ultimately responsible. However, given that Washington had crucial information that was not relayed to them, it was a bit disingenuous to destroy their reputations for events that were not wholly of their making.
In fact, in 1995 , The Dorn Commission wrote, "Responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster should not fall solely on the shoulders of Admiral Kimmel and General Short, it should be broadly shared."
A suprise? In 1908, when Macarthur was at West Point, students studied war games that featured the Japanese attacking the U. S. through Hawaii—and this was before anyone had heard of air craft carriers, let alone aircraft.
On December 7th, America was changed, utterly. My father was at Harvard Business School. He tried to enlist. They wouldn’t take him. Due to a football injury, his right arm wouldn’t straighten out. Finally, the Marines relented and he ended up on Saipan. He was headed for Japan when the bomb was dropped.
Like many young girls of that time, my mother married him in 1943 because he was going overseas and might not return. (When I took the kids to the Cal/Hawaii game a few Thanksgivings back, we ran into a classmate of my mom’s and her second husband as we were leaving the U.S.S. Arizona. They had just been visiting her first husband--up in the cemetery on the Pali with the other Pearl Harbor boys who died that day).
Everything we are today is because of what happened back then.This is not to point fingers. Decisions were made by combatants on both sides that caused death. All life is precious. We pray for all soldiers and civilians whose lives were wasted, regardless of which side they were on. In my family, however, our prejudice is focused one jarhead who suffered, daily, as a nameless cog in the Marines’ 3rd Division on Pacific Islands he couldn’t even pronounce. We cringe when we hear the well meaning, but uninformed revisionists who criticize Truman’s decision regarding the bomb. No bomb, odds are, no Jim Pop (my dad).
The innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not deserve to die anymore than the innocents in Nanking. Or anymore than the young boys sound asleep on the Arizona. War is hell. Bringing it to an end: heaven.
Nelson Mandela and the Caricature of Margaret ThatcherDecember 7, 2013
The only person as maligned as President Ronald Reagan over the last few days has of course been Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who joined Reagan in opposing economic sanctions against South Africa--because, you would be forced to conclude if you listened only to NPR and PBS, she, like Reagan, was some sort of morally obtuse throwback.
That was as completely untrue of Thatcher as it was of Reagan. Here, one page of a letter she sent in 1985 to South African President P.W. Botha.
At the beginning of the letter--which is very much worth reading in its entirety--Mrs. Thatcher explains that she opposes sanctions because she believes they would prove counterproductive. Here, as elsewhere in the letter, she all but demands that Botha pick up the pace of reform, and--note this well--urges Botha to release Nelson Mandela.
Far from being morally obtuse, Thatcher insisted on moral clarity--and toughness, and realistic, practical diplomacy. She believed implicitly in human liberty--and worked incessantly to expand it.
(With thanks to my friend Kevin Lucey for directing me to this marvelous document.)
Dead save for an unquenchable lust for power, they roam the halls of Congress, the White House and federal administrative agencies, a ghastly simulacrum of republican life. The Beltway Dead spend and regulate aimlessly, torpid unless aroused by the sound of representative democracy. Awakened, they move swiftly and as one, attacking with mindless savagery in the Alinsky style until the target is destroyed or, infected, joins in their statist pursuits.
The Dead were alive once but that was before—before the spread of the virus that robbed them of the faculties of constitutional perception and independent thought. While alive, Progressives among them established popular controls on private enterprise, promising a cleaner environment, safer automobiles, and affordable health insurance for all. Now, the Dead have turned these mechanisms against those they served in life, making energy and mobility and health care less available and less affordable. Insensate to grim reality, the rote goals issue from necrotic lips, the prompter swept by lifeless eyes.
Popular discontent, an animating concern for living officials, is beyond the ken of re-animated politicians of either party. Democrats robotically implement an unpopular law destroying health insurance for millions while Republicans mindlessly resurrect an illegal alien amnesty valued chiefly by corporate and political elites. The Dead refuse to heed the cries of the living.
If we can save one child’s health insurance ... the Beltway Dead do not care, because this does not advance evisceration of the Second Amendment. If we can protect the environment for millions of birds sentenced to death-by-wind-turbine ... the Beltway Dead cannot be stirred, because this does not hasten the arrival of energy utopia. If millions lose their healthcare ... the Beltway Dead would have them enroll in Medicaid, their new dependency infecting them with the Obama virus that caused the carnage in the first place.
And if the damage can be wrought swiftly enough, a zombie electorate will rise to entrench our zombie government.
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman: Are They Really Great?December 7, 2013
In my continuing efforts to become a kinder and gentler person, I am trying to learn how to appreciate poetry. I love the great epics of Homer, Virgil, and Dante, but I've never learned to love the less muscular types of poetry.
Which brings me to two nineteenth-century American poets: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. I like Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for death" poem, but (in my limited reading) I've found her other poems to be less than great (and why does she capitalize so many words?). My questions: What are some of her other great poems and why should I read them?
Then we have Whitman, who seems like a nineteenth-century version of Obama (I can see Obama writing a poem entitled "Song of Myself"). What little I've read of him and about him creates the impression self-absorption and bloated, over-the-top language. Question: Am I missing something? If so, what?
Barbara Walters has revealed nine of her most “fascinating people” of 2013, and they’re quite a mix.
- Twerk queen Miley Cryus
- Kimye (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West)
- Leak-Meister Edward Snowden
- America’s darling Jennifer Lawrence
- ABC anchor Robin Roberts
- The cast of Duck Dynasty
- Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad
- Little Prince George
- Pope Francis
Walters will reveal her top pick during her show on December 18. While most of us probably don’t care about this kind of celebrity glorification, the social implications of this list are fascinating. The Pope versus the Twerk Queen? If that doesn’t speak volumes about our culture, I don’t know what does.
It's not just driverless cars. In the latest Ricochet Money & Politics podcast, economist, transportation expert, and blogger David Levinson argues traffic is declining and will continue to decline dramatically in the coming decades. And that decline is not only the result of some deeper economic and technological trends, but will itself cause a radical restructuring of American society.
What happened to traffic? -- The Transportationist
So, I find at the Corner just now this item. Atheists are freaking out because embattled Democratic Senator Mark Pryor issued an ad saying that the Bible is his "North Star." OMG! Theocracy!
Annie Laurie Gaylor, a spokesperson for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, tells National Review Online that the spot is theocratic and disturbing, and that Pryor’s comments should raise questions about his policy views.
“For him to say that he’s going to make decisions based on the Bible for the people of the state of Arkansas is pretty scary,” she says, citing the plethora of sins for which Old Testament prescribes stoning, including homosexuality.
Because, if you look around at the millions of your fellow Americans whose consciences are formed by the Bible, the thing that mainly stands out about them is their desire to stone people to death for a host of crimes, including homosexuality, right?
Other parts of the Bible, like the part that says "do unto others as you would have others do to you," and "love your neighbor as yourself" and "forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times" and "whatever you do to the least of these, you do me" and "if you love me, feed my sheep", or that part that has Jesus being crucified for our sins and having among his last words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", or that part that says, "my kingdom is not of this world," and "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's"—all of that means nothing.
Also of no account is the fact that nearly all of America's founders and great leaders through her history have been open about their reliance on the Bible for moral guidance, including in their insistence on, say, religious liberty.
To be a Christian, according to these overwrought atheists—or even just to announce that you are guided by Christian principles—is to be a dangerous theocrat.
Are they really dumb or are they deliberately fomenting anti-Christian bigotry? That's what I'm wondering.
Some Republican insiders are likely patting themselves on the back today, as news broke Thursday that the GOP is training male candidates on how to speak to women. Eager to avoid another Todd Akin “legitimate rape” situation, the GOP is (at last) trying to get a hold of a real, problem reaching women voters. It’s certainly a step in the right direction; however, shrinking the gender gap and getting more women to value limited government is going to take more than polite talk.
The hideous comments made by Akin and others during the 2012 election cycle didn’t help anything; but they became front page news because of the GOP's general disconnect with – if not disregard for – women voters.
If the GOP hopes to win back women – and in 2010 the GOP closed the gender gap for the first time in two decades, setting off the "War on Women" narrative – they need to embrace gender differences and be prepared to respond to a robust Progressive “women’s agenda,” which includes universal pre-K, increasing the minimum wage, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.
I’m fairly confident most Republican candidates are not yet prepared to respond to these proposals – you’ll recall Gov. Romney tripping up terribly when asked about Lilly Ledbetter during the campaign – nor do they have a positive vision to put forth to women.
Bottom line: Republicans don’t just need etiquette training. They need to fundamentally understand and be able to communicate on a range of issues concerning women.
Take mandated leave time: If anyone values time off, it’s a working mother. She may need time off to have a baby, to attend to a sick child, or to care for an aging parent. The problem is that the FMLA – and Sen. Gillibrand’s proposed expansion – has serious problems. Contrary to what Democrats would have you believe, expanding FMLA creates inflexibility in the workplace and actually limits worker’s options.
But the GOP needs to say much more – it can’t just be the party of no. Discrimination exists and time off is necessary, but government is not best equipped to solve the problem. And trying to do so will ultimately hurt the economy, result in fewer jobs, generate more lawsuits, and create less flexibility for all workers. They might emphasize that businesses have an interest in creating fair workplace standards and that women – who are now outpacing men educationally and make up nearly 50 percent of the workforce – are an extremely valuable part of the labor market. (Also see experimental research related to the Paycheck Fairness Act here.)
Republicans should also consider that the message that moves a man on an issue is not alway the one that moves a woman. The Independent Women’s Voice conducted research on our serious national debt problem. A message focused on reforming entitlements was effective with women, while a message focused on spending increased support for broad budget constraints among both men and women.
Teaching candidates not to say stupid things might keep them out of the fire; but they need to do much more than simply avoid devastating gaffes. The GOP doesn’t have to sugar-coat things or use lavender print on all their mailings to reach women; but they do need to consider how men and women are different, and make use of the policies, messages, and messengers that they know appeal to women. That also means doing the kind of rigorous research the left has been engaged in for years in order to discover which tactics are most effective.
[Shameless plug: One group is trying to do this right now. The Independent Women’s Forum has launched an end-of-the-year campaign to push back on the War on Women narrative and change the conversation.]
Nelson Mandela and the Cheap Caricature of Ronald ReaganDecember 6, 2013
It started in the recent movie The Butler, in which President Reagan is portrayed as opposing sanctions against South Africa because--well, the movie leaves the audience to suppose he simply had a heart of stone--and now, in the coverage of the death of Nelson Mandela, Reagan is being mentioned—at least on NPR, to which I listened this morning—as if he were some kind of racist throwback.
A handful of facts:
1. Reagan opposed apartheid and said so, often and publicly. From his 1986 speech on South Africa:
The root cause of South Africa's disorder is apartheid, that rigid system of racial segregation wherein black people have been treated as third-class citizens in a nation they helped to build. America's view of apartheid has been, and remains, clear: apartheid is morally wrong and politically unacceptable. The United States cannot maintain cordial relations with a government whose power rests upon the denial of rights to a majority of its people, based on race.
If South Africa wishes to belong to the family of Western nations, an end to apartheid is a precondition.
2. Far from playing cozy with the Afrikaans government, as, for example, Bill Keller of the New York Times seemed to suggest on NPR this morning, Reagan himself imposed sanctions against the South African government, issuing an executive order that curtailed military and official relations between the U.S. and Pretoria. I repeat: Reagan himself imposed sanctions against South Africa.
3. Did Reagan oppose economic sanctions against South Africa? He did indeed. Because he had a heart of stone? Nonsense. "The primary victims of an economic boycott of South Africa," the President explained, "would be the very people we seek to help." Again, from his 1986 speech on the matter:
Most of the workers who would lose jobs because of sanctions would be black workers. We do not believe the way to help the people of South Africa is to cripple the economy upon which they and their families depend for survival.
Alan Paton, South Africa's great writer, for years the conscience of his country, has declared himself emphatically: ''I am totally opposed to disinvestment,'' he says. ''It is primarily for a moral reason. Those who will pay most grievously for disinvestment will be the black workers of South Africa. I take very seriously the teachings of the Gospels, in particular the parables about giving drink to the thirsty and the food to the hungry. I will not help to cause any such suffering to any black person.'' Nor will we.
Looking at a map, southern Africa is a single economic unit tied together by rails and roads. Zaire and its southern mining region depends upon South Africa for three-fourths of her food and petroleum. More than half the electric power that drives the capital of Mozambique comes from South Africa. Over one-third of the exports from Zambia and 65 percent of the exports of Zimbabwe leave the [continent through South Africa. Mines in South Africa employ] 13,000 workers from Swaziland, 19,000 from Botswana, 50,000 from Mozambique and 110,000 from the tiny landlocked country of Lesotho. Shut down these productive mines with sanctions and you have forced black mine workers out of their jobs and forced their families back in their home countries into destitution....
Reasonable people can certainly differ about Reagan's assertion that economic sanctions would do more harm than good. What is clear—what is a matter of public record so obvious that only the mainstream media could ignore it—is that his motives were high. Reagan had an argument. A humane one.
Human beings, pretty universally, strive for a sense of control over life. In moderation, this is a laudable tendency, nothing more than prudential planning for tomorrow. Taken to extremes--reversing the rise of the oceans, fine-tuning the earth's temperature, commanding the availability and price of health care—it becomes a laughable illusion.
In the sphere of economics, individual ingenuity, hard work, and the workings of free-market capitalism occasionally align to provide a dazzling display of the futility and negative consequences of centralized control. The latest rebuke to our over-educated masterminds: Peak Oil.
The green outfit Resilience.org provides a window into the zeitgeist:
1. Peak oil primer
What is peak oil?
Peak oil is the simplest label for the problem of energy resource depletion, or more specifically, the peak in global oil production. Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, one that has powered phenomenal economic and population growth over the last century and a half. The rate of oil 'production', meaning extraction and refining (currently about 85 million barrels/day), has grown almost every year of the last century. Once we have used up about half of the original reserves, oil production becomes ever more likely to stop growing and begin a terminal decline, hence 'peak'. The peak in oil production does not signify 'running out of oil', but it does mean the end of cheap oil, as we switch from a buyers' to a sellers' market. For economies leveraged on ever increasing quantities of cheap oil, the consequences may be dire. Without significant successful cultural reform, severe economic and social consequences seem inevitable.
There follows the usual graphs and charts that prove, absolutely prove, that we must immediately give up individual liberty and property rights and learn to live with less.
3. What can be done?
Many people are working on preparations for peak oil at various different levels, but there is probably no cluster of solutions which do not involve some major changes in lifestyles, especially for the global affluent. Peak oil presents the potential for quite catastrophic upheavals, but ultimately also some more hopeful possibilities: a chance to address many underlying societal problems, and the opportunity to return to simpler, healthier and more community oriented lifestyles.
And then there is this news from just beyond the present reach of our central planners:
U.S. Oil Prices Fall Sharply as Glut Forms on Gulf Coast
The U.S. Gulf Coast—home to the world's largest concentration of petroleum refineries—is suddenly awash in crude oil.
So much high-quality U.S. oil is flowing into the area that the price of crude there has dropped sharply in the past few weeks and is no longer in sync with global prices.
In fact, some experts believe a U.S. oil glut is coming. "We are moving toward a significant amount of domestic oversupply of light crude," says Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup.
Unthinkable five years ago, the abundance of petroleum reflects surging output from oil fields in West Texas and North Dakota, as well as new pipeline routes to move crude to the refining and petrochemical complexes that line the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
Horizontal drilling plus hydraulic fracturing—fracking—is rendering a lot of analysis, forecasting and Marxist longing obsolete, basically overnight. No wonder the planners are trying so hard to stop it—to save the planet, of course.
Statism means the death of surprise—positive surprise, anyway. Imagine what we will do to improve our medical system once Obamacare and other manage-the-decline policies are swept away.
At the center of the minimum wage debate are restaurant and fast-food workers. They're part of a collection of food service unions making the case to raise the federal minimum wage.
Now, whether that's a good idea or not, as a matter of pure power politics it doesn't look like they have much leverage to negotiate. From Tyler Durden's excellent blog, Zero Hedge:
It seems trying to persuade these minimum wage workers to enjoy what they have - nameley that corporations have all the leverage while unskilled, undereducated employees have none (the Service Employees International Union represents more than 2 million workers, on the other hand there are 91 million non-unionized workers out of the workforce) and that any increases in wages would simply be passed on to other consumers, and certainly result in broad terminations to keep the SG&A line flat - is probably a moot point.
Okay, that's nasty to think about, but it's a hard truth. So is this:
Earlier this week, restaurant chain Applebees unveiled what may soon be the "Waiter Terminator."
From the company's press release: "Applebee’s steps into the future to redefine and enhance the guest experience through the installation of 100,000 E la Carte Presto tablets, powered by Intel, on every table and multiple bar positions at more than 1,800 Applebee’s restaurants in the United States by the end of next year."
There's more in Restaurantnews.com:
In the pilot program, the Presto tablets not only significantly reduced transaction times for guests, but also provided them a better overall experience, based on their feedback. By simplifying the transaction process and allowing guests to control the timing, Team Members were able to provide better service and more attention to guest needs throughout the dining experience, rather than focusing on delivering a check.
As Durden sums it up:
In other words, a funny thing happened as fast food workers were striking across the land - they were all just made obsolete courtesy of iPads.
And that's what's so frustrating — and darkly hilarious — about the Age of Obama: liberals and progressives are convinced that it's somewhere around 1972, when Big Government bureaucracies and paleolithic labor movements really had some effectiveness. Who'd have imagined that it's the left that's living in the past? That it's the progressives who are standing athwart history, yelling "Stop!"
So the President has given permission for wind turbines - aka bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes - to do the only thing they do really well: killing lots of birds and bats, obviously.
Can anyone see what the problem is here? This article by Oxford ecologist Clive Hambler may give you a clue:
Every year in Spain alone — according to research by the conservation group SEO/Birdlife — between 6 and 18 million birds and bats are killed by wind farms. They kill roughly twice as many bats as birds. This breaks down as approximately 110–330 birds per turbine per year and 200–670 bats per year. And these figures may be conservative if you compare them to statistics published in December 2002 by the California Energy Commission: ‘In a summary of avian impacts at wind turbines by Benner et al (1993) bird deaths per turbine per year were as high as 309 in Germany and 895 in Sweden.’
Because wind farms tend to be built on uplands, where there are good thermals, they kill a disproportionate number of raptors. In Australia, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle is threatened with global extinction by wind farms. In north America, wind farms are killing tens of thousands of raptors including golden eagles and America’s national bird, the bald eagle. In Spain, the Egyptian vulture is threatened, as too is the Griffon vulture — 400 of which were killed in one year at Navarra alone. Norwegian wind farms kill over ten white-tailed eagles per year and the population of Smøla has been severely impacted by turbines built against the opposition of ornithologists.
Nor are many other avian species safe. In North America, for example, proposed wind farms on the Great Lakes would kill large numbers of migratory songbirds. In the Atlantic, seabirds such as the Manx Shearwater are threatened. Offshore wind farms are just as bad as onshore ones, posing a growing threat to seabirds and migratory birds, and reducing habitat availability for marine birds (such as common scoter and eider ducks).
In the US, according to some estimates, wind turbines are responsible for slaughtering between 13,000,000 and 39,000,000 birds and bats every year. And no, that is not a misprint.
Can you imagine the protests there'd be from the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society and the WWF if the oil industry or the fracking industry were involved in such carnage? Yet because it's "clean," "renewable" wind we hear barely a squeak. Indeed, as in the UK, the conservation bodies which ought to be campaigning against these monstrosities are instead arguing we should have more of them because - apparently - the unproven threat of "man-made global warming" is more compelling to them than the very real corpses thudding down from the sky every time a bird or a bat hits a turbine blade.
Now, whenever I write about the astonishing bird and bat morbidity rates resulting from wind farms, some greenie smartass will always come back with the line: "And you know how many birds and bats are killed every year by cats? How many by cars? How many flying into office buildings? You gonna ban those too?"
But there's a difference. Cats make nice pets. Office buildings are useful for working in? Cars get you places.
Wind farms on the other hand achieve absolutely zilch, other than allowing a subsidised few to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else, while despoiling the view for miles around.
If this kind of absurdity annoys you as much as it does me, you might be tempted to get my new book The Little Green Book of Eco Fascism (Regnery). It's the perfect Christmas present for greenies you want to annoy, or green-haters who need more ammunition in the ongoing war against environmentalist lunacy.
This bit of news from the AP probably shouldn't come as a surprise:
The White House says President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa next week to pay respects to Nelson Mandela.
White House press secretary Jay Carney says the Obamas will participate in memorial events, but didn't say specifically what day they planned to be in South Africa.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact, I like seeing my President, regardless of who he is, stepping out on the world stage to represent the nation at such moments. Mandela is worthy of that kind of tribute. But I couldn't read the announcement above without recalling this:
Friends and allies of Baroness Thatcher expressed 'surprise and disappointment' last night as it emerged President Obama is not planning to send any serving member of his administration to her funeral.
... a US embassy spokesman confirmed that no serving member of his administration would be present to pay their last respects, citing a busy week in US domestic politics.
And these days he's got nothing but time, because everything is going so swimmingly for the Administration.
It's a small point, I know, but still one that rankles. The difference between the Thatcher funeral and the Mandela commemoration isn't the president's schedule. It's whether he gave a damn in the first place.