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Obama’s Final Disgrace

 

I have been unable to find any conversation on Ricochet about Obama’s commutation of the sentence of a terrorist, the FALN’s Oscar Lopez Rivera, which surprises me. (Perhaps the Search function has failed me.) I find the freeing of Lopez Rivera to be even more disgraceful than the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence.

In 1981, Lopez Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes, and he was sentenced to 55 years imprisonment. According to the pre-sentencing report, Lopez Rivera had been

personally involved in bombing and incendiary attacks across the country for at least five years prior to Méndez’s [sic] involvement and knowledge, has been a prime recruiter for members of the underground terrorist group, and has been a key trainer in bombing, sabotage and other techniques of guerilla warfare. He has set up a series of safehouses and bomb factories across the country, the searches of which have uncovered literally hundreds of pounds of dynamite and other forms of high explosive, blasting caps, timing devices, huge caches of weapons and stockpiles of ammunition, silencers, sawed-off shotguns, disguises, stolen and altered identity documents, and the proceeds of the armed robberies of locations such as a National Guard Armory, Chicago’s Carter-Mondale Re-Election headquarters, radio and communications companies, as well as a variety of stolen vehicles. [Source: Wikipedia.]

In 1988, he was convicted of conspiring to escape prison through violent means.

In 1999, he was offered conditional clemency by President Clinton. Lopez Rivera refused to accept it because it required him to renounce terrorism.

In short, he’s a dangerous character who is anti-American and will not renounce the use of terrorist violence against the U.S. For our esteemed president, the important part is that Lopez Rivera is anti-American – and that he is Puerto Rican. Just as the commutation of the sentence of Chelsea Manning was intended – bizarrely – as a favor to the LGBT community (would Manning have received clemency if he hadn’t started identifying as female?), the springing of Lopez Rivera from prison has succeeded in delighting Puerto Ricans such as Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Rivera, who has shared his ecstasy on Twitter.

In the early part of this century, I went to work for Barclays Capital in the shadow of the World Trade Center. I replaced a man named Tom Connor, who left to join another institution. After about a month, Tom returned to Barclays, after realizing that he wasn’t a good fit at that other bank. To my relief, he did not assume my responsibilities (i.e., his old ones) but rather assumed new ones. Our cubicles were next to each other, and Tom and I became friends. I became acquainted with his young family. I eventually learned that his father, Frank Connor, had been murdered in the FALN bombing of Fraunces Tavern in 1975, when Tom was a young child.

On 9/11/01, Tom and I were together when we saw the planes hit the Twin Towers. Before evacuating the building, I saw an expression on Tom’s face that I will never forget. To me, it said: “This will not happen again. I will not leave my children fatherless.” We evacuated to safety.

Lin-Manuel Miranda may be “sobbing with gratitude [that] OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA IS COMING HOME,” but I wish that the president had taken into account the fact that on January 24, 1975, Frank Connor never came home.

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The Deceitful Numbers – Great and Small – of the ACA

 

If you’re like me, and I know I am, you waste a lot of time at the office reading Ricochet and looking at your friends’ posts on Facebook. Wait, no boss, I’m not online at work at all. I’m reading Ricochet and Facebook at home! I made a joke about America’s unhealthy love of the internet! (Is he gone? Okay …)

For several days, at least since the new Congress began the repeal process for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), my liberal and Progressive friends on Facebook have been engaged in full bore linear conniption fits over the vote. It’s hard to sort through these because they are frequently nested within full bore linear conniption fits over cabinet member hearings in Congress, and so on.

The primary arguments against the action of Congress can usually be boiled down to three major points: that repeal will leave 20 million people without healthcare, that this one person here greatly benefited from the ACA, and that a black president passed the law.

Let’s start with the first, that 20 million people will lose their coverage. I’ve heard other numbers as well, 25 million, sometimes 30 million. The number tends to inflate with time which already raises alarm bells. I’ve also seen that repeal will leave 8.5 million children without health coverage. There we have it, the “do it for the children” argument.

The problem isn’t just the inflation, it’s that there’s no breakdown of this 20 million. The basic assumption made is that these consist of 20 million people that prior to the ACA, these people wanted health coverage but were unable to get it. This reflects arguments prior to passage, that there was something around 25-50 million people without health insurance, again spoken to imply that these poor people just couldn’t get it. Except that wasn’t the case…

That number broken down made all the difference. There were wealthy individuals who didn’t need it. There was a very large of number of young people who just didn’t see it as a necessary expense and so didn’t bother (many of these could get a major-medical plan for dirt cheap at the time), there were several who were eligible for Medicaid but for their own reasons chose not to, and then there were a large number of immigrants who entered the US illegally and thus had different barriers to coverage. Once you weeded out those numbers, the actual number of people who needed health coverage but were entirely unable was down under a million. Still large, but a less impressive number. Rather than find a way to help a million, the ACA was imposed on the entire population of 309 million.

The 20 million can likely be broken down similarly. For example, among those are people who had individual plans that were cancelled as non-compliant, and then had to go to the ACA to get a compliant plan. To Pres. Obama, those counted as “now getting insurance”. Those young people who didn’t think they needed insurance still aren’t getting insurance, at least not as a whole, so we can assume a fraction now have coverage they really didn’t plan to get. Also, there’s a not insignificant number that take advantage of the pre-existing rules to get a plan when a serious problem arises, then cancels the plan as soon as they don’t need it any more. They’re counted too. Let’s not ignore a large percentage of those who were just shuffled into Medicaid (a program that’s in financial trouble by the way). The problem is that the more we break down this number, the more likely we’re going to get around a million, and it will be increasingly difficult to condemn the 310 million to a bureaucratic morass to service that million.

The other argument, here’s someone who benefited from the ACA, is on the other side of the spectrum. Unfortunately, though the stories can be poignant, the evidence there is anecdotal. There’s one showing how his father had a prescription he paid three dollars for that the receipt shows the actual price was $1003. Thanks Obamacare! Clearly if you’re against the ACA, you want this man to suffer and die (actually this is a frequent theme with anti-repeal proponents).

The problem with anecdotal cases is that they can be countered by similar cases on the other side. In fact, there was a lot of this prior to the ACA’s passage. Proponents would wheel out people who needed help in some way, while opponents would wheel out cases where bad or fatal things happened to people under government run systems. Both sides were demonstrating valid cases, but neither really made the case definitively because of them.

And unfortunately, a lot of these cases need vetting. Much like the sudden rise of incidences of racism after Trump won – many of these proving to be hoaxes – the veracity of the claims remains indeterminate. The above example, for instance, shows on Facebook as a close-up of the two numbers, but we don’t see all that picture to get an idea of what went on.

Moreover, as Ricochet Moderator Midget Faded Rattlesnake points out, what you actually pay for medical care, what you’re billed, and what all this actually costs can be separate and wildly different things nowadays. Actual costs and benefits are obscured to hide the former and tout the latter. Yes, in this instance we can see benefit, but more information is needed and we need to be able to verify the story.

The last should be a trivial argument, but because it’s been ingrained for the duration of the Obama Administration, it needs be addressed. I mainly have seen a post from Black Lives Matter advocate, Shaun King, stating that when he talks to opponents of the ACA, they can’t list any reasons why they are against it other than it was designed by Pres. Obama. Thus, racism is why they support repeal. This really isn’t an old argument. Prior to passage, the ACA’s opponents were labelled racist. Tea Party protestors were pilloried in the mainstream media and social networks as unreasonably racist. This was never proven, other than the tautological reasoning of “only a racist would be against the ACA.”

This ignored any of the origins of the various Tea Party groups which began to spring up during the Bush administration as a protest against runaway government spending. The fear was that the ACA would bring about even more runaway spending. The CBO scored it as “budget neutral”, but when it was revealed that the ACA’s neutrality was based on ten years of funding stuffed into eight years of spending, it was clear the books were cooked and in fact we’re finding it was quite the case.

The arguments against it today are a-plenty. We were bald-faced lied about being able to keep the doctors we liked and the health plans we liked. We were bald-faced lied about rate increases. The president promised rates would go down, but they did the exact opposite of that. The entire act depends on national coercion – it requires you purchase a product. And not just that, it’s as if the government passed a law “everyone must buy a car every year. You can buy any car you like as long as it’s a Cadillac.” There’s no way such a plan could be sustained without serious pocket book trouble.

And they are not even honest about alternatives. Pres. Obama has defined health coverage as “anything that covers everything the ACA requires”. Thus, if a Republican alternative doesn’t, for example, require the elderly to cover maternity costs, it’s not counted as health coverage and he declares “they have no alternatives.” Using language this way has been a major theme of the Obama administration. You can win any argument if you change definitions of words mid-discussion to fit your purposes.

Oh, by the way, do you love giant corporations getting big favors from government? Well if you do you’ll love the ACA! The last several years have seen more and more smaller insurance companies falling under the wings of the giant health care companies. In five states, there’s only one insurance carrier available for anyone – thanks for all the competition, ACA! Because the government now determines what must be covered and by how much and how they can do it, smaller companies can longer operate. They can’t offer smaller, better products with better service, because they’re bogged down in red tape.

We can easily go on. The argument that there are no complaints against the ACA is either willfully ignorant or wholly dishonest. In either case, it’s not worthy of arguing. This is a microcosm, really, of most Progressive arguments today. They will never give the other side the benefit of doubt or assume we argue in good faith. It’s far easier for them to argue ad hominem.

It can be summed up like this, really. Recently my Progressive friends have been sharing an article saying that Trump got the most votes in states with the most people with Obamacare. It’s intended as a, “What’s the matter with Kansas?” piece – why did all these voters vote to screw themselves and their fellow man? If they could argue in good faith, they might see the other side’s perspective. Perhaps Trump got so many votes because these people know very well what the ACA is doing and they don’t like it.

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James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas Exposes Plot to Attack Donald Trump Inaugural Ball

 

Looks like James O’Keefe did it again:

Of course, the last set of undercover videos, which revealed that the Left was stalking Trump’s rally’s with the intent of disrupting them, went nowhere so I have little hope that these will gain traction either but we’ll see. James took his videos to the FBI this time and then published them. We’ll see.

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The Soul of Wit (and Context)

 

The average length of a network television news story is 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Amazingly that’s 3.5 times longer than the average story length on local newscasts. These facts gave birth to the phenomena known as “the sound bite.” The problem with that was two-fold: 1) As a speaker you had no control over the bite selected by the producer and 2) you couldn’t insure that the reporter would put it in its proper context.

In many ways the 140-character limitation of Twitter is an improvement. When critics reprint or retweet something from @RealDonaldTrump it’s there, for better or worse, in its entirety.

But even a Tweet taken in its entirety can suffer from context problems. For example:

There is probably not one issue that Bill Kristol and John Lewis agree on. Lewis is a partisan lefty who may be more of a dedicated Communist than Vladimir Putin.

Several years ago Lewis accused Tea Party protesters of spitting on him and calling him the “N-word” during a political stunt – the walk to the Capitol to vote for ObamaCare. There were cameras everywhere. The late Andrew Breitbart initially offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove it happened. There were no takers even when Breitbart upped the reward to $100,000. The reason Breitbart never payed out a dime is that John Lewis is a liar who’s reputation was built (and peaked) during the Civil Rights marches of the 1960’s.

And then there’s this reality, that while John Lewis may be a Civil Rights Icon™, Vladimir Putin is the head of a nation of 143 million with an estimated 7,000 nuclear weapons. And if Bill Kristol doesn’t respect that then who really has the problem?

Kristol fancied himself the savior of the nation. His fantasies gave us Evan McMullin. His Trump Derangement Syndrome could be an even bigger disaster.

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The Argument for Term Limits

 

President Elect Trump recently had an interesting idea: drain the swamp. Term limits for elected politicians would allow far more turnover, which would in turn allow for a greater diversity of politicians to be elected. It is almost a no-brainer when you consider how many benefits the incumbent politician has over the challenger.

If term limits are a no-brainer then why don’t we have them already? By far the most popular explanation is simply that politicians will not vote to term limit themselves; therefore we cannot get term limits. This is obviously an oversimplification, however. Surely if term limits are obviously good, then some ambitious politician would support them in order to build his or her reputation as a principled individual. This leads to the second explanation: term limits are actually bad.

A 2006 study conducted by the NCSL is often cited as a comprehensive discussion of the negative impact of term limits. It is a “study” that is conducted by a fancy sounding organization with a four-letter acronym. Furthermore, it comes in PDF; just like a real scientific article. Here is part of the introduction discussing their methodology,

To complete this project, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and a group of distinguished political scientists from universities around the country worked together for three years, conducting an in-depth study of the effects of legislative term limits. The findings of the study are based on the results of two major surveys; a collection of data on the individual characteristics of all state legislators; interviews with hundreds of legislators, legislative staff and other observers of the legislative process; and a large body of data on the legislative process compiled from nine states.

That certainly sounds official and “sciency!” How could we dirt farming plebes possibly argue with that? Except that it is totally questionable. This isn’t physics or chemistry where there were control groups and a concerted effort by many different research groups to refute the theory as occurs in real scientific practice. This is political science done with subjective interviews, “expert” opinions, and a couple of surveys. We shouldn’t pretend that this is Einstein proving gravitational lensing. It most definitely is not.

A cynical interpretation of this description is that the study was conducted and supported by technocrats, bureaucrats, and career politicians; all of which have reason to oppose term limits. Can we really trust the opinions of people like this? Obviously we should approach all information skeptically, but this smacks of opinion wrapped up in the garb of “science”. This group has the right to protect their positions just as we have the right to argue against it.

Let’s take a look at what it actually says in the study. I found two angles repeatedly used by the study that supposedly reveal negatives: (1) legislatures are too complicated for term limits because they make the learning curve too steep for newly elected politicians and (2) term limits encourages uncivil behavior between legislators. As we shall see, both of these are a matter of perspective.

The go-to criticism of term limits is that it leads to uninformed lawmakers. According to this criticism, lawmaking is like being a doctor or engineer in that it requires a form of expertise. You wouldn’t let just anyone perform heart surgery or fix your car’s engine, so why would you let just anyone participate in the legislature? They really want this to scare us, so they even go so far as to claim that new and ignorant lawmakers are easier to manipulate by the evil lobbyists.

However, is it really the case that we need experts to run our lives? That doesn’t sound right at all. As far as I am concerned, I am an expert on my own life. Being a lawmaker simply isn’t the same as being a doctor or an engineer. It’s a bad analogy. Similarly, what kind of legislative system do we have that requires such intense expertise? Is that really what the founders had in mind: a massively complex bureaucracy that can only be understood and operated by people who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of political power alone? I don’t think so. They even go so far as to claim that 12-year term limits are not enough time for lawmakers to become sufficiently acquainted with the process! 12 years is too short a time?!? If that’s true, the system is in need of an overhaul anyway.

The second criticism is that term limits make the legislators uncivil towards one another. There are two parts to this: (1) term limits make new lawmakers more likely to challenge their party elders for leadership and (2) term limits make bipartisan committees more political and partisan and prevent the different sides from working together to perform their legislative function. That sounds bad, right? I don’t think so.

Term limits remove the tenure system for leadership selection. Without term limits the lawmakers have to wait for their turn to be a leader. It also makes new lawmakers bolder in opposition to current leaders because they know that the leader cannot punish them down the line. Now think about that for a minute: is it really appropriate that there is a tenure system in the first place? Shouldn’t we want the best lawmaker to be the leader regardless of the amount of time he has put in? Tenure removes accountability, which is pretty much anti-merit. Also, wouldn’t fear of punishment down the line encourage our lawmakers to blindly follow the leader? How can that possibly be construed as a real benefit?

Term limits also supposedly make bipartisan committees less civil. Apparently, committees are supposed to be fun, safe spaces, where everyone works together to pass laws and grow the government. What about the duty of lawmakers to represent their constituents and oppose ideas that conflict with their stated ideology? It sounds like committees are currently places where everyone goes along to get along. That’s nice and all but… doesn’t that encourage groupthink? Isn’t that how we got our national debt so high in the first place? Personally, I want our lawmakers to fight in committees and stand on principle. Isn’t that how it is supposed to be? The system is rigged in a number of different ways, and term limits won’t fix all the problems. It is however a good start.

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On Collectivized Medical Progress

 

When it comes to fixing our healthcare system, there are several fundamental disconnects between progressivism and conservatism. One of these, perhaps the main one, relates to the advisability of collectivizing healthcare expenditures via taxpayer subsidization and debt accumulation. Conservatives tend to view the collectivization of healthcare financing as the root of the problem; whereas progressives tend to view it as the answer to the problem. (Obviously, for this to be true, among other things conservatives and progressives must be defining “the problem” differently.)

As a conservative I hold to the view that any real fix of our healthcare mess is going to require individuals to take on much more of the financial responsibility for their own health, and that doing so is both morally desirable and fiscally mandatory. I also believe it is going to be extraordinarily difficult to get a substantial proportion of the American public to accept personal responsibility for something that, they have been convinced, is and ought to be a right. I think most of us here understand how difficult that will be. But as we formulate our arguments in this regard, we are obligated to take a sober look at another major issue we face as we fight to individualize healthcare expenditures. It is an issue which, I fear, judging from the content of the debate, has not yet occurred to many of us.

While we conservatives (and especially libertarians) might like to think otherwise, when you look at the big picture it becomes apparent that collectivizing the bills has not been the unmitigated disaster we like to claim. There have been substantial benefits, and chief among these is the incredible progress we’ve made in medical learning and medical technology over the past half century or more. In fact, the taxpayer subsidization of healthcare has been the catalyst for an incredible golden age of medicine.

It turns out that, the moment everything that is deemed “healthcare” is “covered” by taxpayer-supplied or taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, and therefore payment is guaranteed for virtually any medical product by the full faith and credit of the United States government, a huge amount of investment money suddenly appears to fund research and development in every aspect of medicine you can imagine. And the next thing you know, you’ve got medical progress.

Medical entrepreneurs figured out in about a minute and a half that to be successful, all they had to do was to come up with a product that offered a measurable benefit to some group of people with some illness — no matter how marginal that benefit might be, or how expensive their product — and they were certain to have a ready market for their product, not to mention a customer who would pay the going rate without complaint (well, for at least the first several decades). The more products you could develop, the greater your profits. And so, especially beginning in the 1960s, R&D budgets went through the roof.

An utter explosion in medical progress, virtually all of it arising in the United States, began at that time. With a bit of sputtering, it continues until this day. Except for the Manhattan Project and the moon shot, the kind of concentrated scientific effort that was applied to advance the science of medicine during these few years is unsurpassed in human history. And like the Manhattan Project and the moon shot, it was ultimately funded by the taxpayer.

I am of course not arguing that everything that was developed and sold to the healthcare marketplace during this time has been non-crap. There has been plenty of crap to please anybody.

However, the medical technology that has been developed since the 1950s has done immeasurable good. Uncountable heart attacks and strokes have been prevented or aborted; cancers have been cured or beaten back; people who formerly would have been crippled can conduct normal daily activities without assistance; and some scourges of mankind (such as smallpox and polio) have been nearly vanquished altogether.

With all this good stuff, however, has come a big problem. We are spending ourselves into oblivion. For, as a side effect of this explosion in medical progress has come an explosion in medical spending, spending to such a degree that, unless we bring it under control, we are headed for societal chaos.

The point I am trying to make is that the rate and magnitude of medical progress we have enjoyed in our lifetimes has been financed by a collectivized, no-limits, ultimately disastrous payment system, and not by “natural” market forces.

It is certainly possible, in theory at least, to devise a more fiscally responsible payment system, based to a much greater extent on personal responsibility, while still allowing incentives to exist for medical progress to proceed. In fact, medical progress is poised for a major leap forward given today’s technological advances. But under a new, less collectivized system, the type of progress we see, its pace, and the way it becomes distributed across the population, will look a lot different than it does today — a lot different than we have all come to expect. We had better understand these changes, and manage expectations accordingly. If we are not prepared to do so, we will be vulnerable to withering attacks, for yet another reason, by the fairness mavens of the left.

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The DOJ’s Report on the Chicago Police Department Is Toxic

 
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

The DOJ released a report on the Chicago Police, which I take as the government’s response to our 20-year-high number of murders.

My great-aunt has been a Chicago city cop for 30 years and my best friend from high school will finish the academy next month. They are both Black women, even though the media and feds would like you to believe every city cop is some white guy that says “Da Bears” all the time. The toxic narrative report by the DOJ seems to me nothing more than the feds saying “well, Chicago is not our fault.”

Highlighting the mistakes of a few cops in America’s most violent city paints a broad-stroke picture that there is something wrong with the whole department. Good cops and bad cops make mistakes. Sure, there are bad cops who do bad things, but assuming that’s the case in all these instances is just poor judgment. For an Obama-led federal government to do this on the way out leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A young rapper gaining prominence recently challenged Obama on why he has allowed so much violence to occur in the city he claims to call home. There were 50+ shootings on the highway alone last year.

I can’t understand the benefit of bemoaning an already struggling police force as if the violence is their fault. It pains me to even attempt to discuss the numerous murders I am privy to just by association. When people refute or challenge the statistics showing how the number of black people murdered by other black people dwarfs the number of black people murdered by police, it baffles me. Here is the root problem clear as day: those few Black people, or any people for that matter, who might become the victims of a mistake made by officers are the unfortunate casualties of the criminal milieu in the city.

During an interview of another young Chicago rapper, I was reminded of a young man that I had played football against in high school. He was murdered by a gang member outside of a party in 2007. If that young man were alive today, he would be the same age as me. I remember the conviction the involved officers had for bringing those responsible to justice. That young man killed could’ve easily been me. The police in Chicago (or the surrounding areas for that matter) are not perfect but blaming them in any way will do little to help our problems.

R.I.P., Samuel Rogers. (Link below if you’d like to watch the interview.)

.

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Music, Milo, and Pin-Ups of the Heart

 

Conservatives are not exhibitionists. But real Americans value real-life experience. Which means, if you write, putting your real life on display. I was thinking this as I read @therightnurse’s recent, very frank post on fibromyalgia, written with a kind of directness I’m quite honestly not brave enough to attempt in front of a full audience.

Like many children with a musical ear, I used to improvise at the piano a lot. The impromptus weren’t technically brilliant – I was (and still am) clumsy at the keyboard – but you could always tell a piano what you really thought, and it wouldn’t judge you. Instead, it would make music for you, music which could be judged, if there was anyone around to judge it (and often there was not), for itself alone. Some found the music beautiful, some found it annoying, but in either case, the music could be valued for itself rather than for the experience of the one who made it. For a shy child, that was mostly an asset.

Shy people may remain shy even when they’ve disguised themselves with music, and for years I had horrible stage fright. I still do, I suppose, it’s just now I’m marginally better at managing ways around it. Some audiences are less scary than others, though. Friends’ families, babysitting charges… “Why are all the songs so sad?” one littler kid my older-kid self was babysitting once asked me. “Those aren’t sad, just minor. Minor is beautiful.” It wasn’t a lie. Minor is beautiful. Even for those who tend to live life in a minor key.

Pin-up art nostalgia is pretty common here at Ricochet. It’s not hard to get conservatives to hold forth on why pin-up art, which reveals a lot, but not everything, is superior to today’s exhibitionism. Where is the thrill of transgressing boundaries when there’s no longer a sense of boundaries to transgress, and so forth? Even Milo Yiannopoulos, who is an exhibitionist, displays this aesthetic. He quips gay is boring when it’s no longer transgressive. He’s Catholic and happy to be a bad Catholic, one who jokes about his latest shag and how he once seduced a parish priest as an underage teen. (NSFW) Exhibit. Exhibit. Exhibit. As long as there are boundaries. After all, there must be at least some fig leaf to distinguish us salt-of-the-earth folk from the exhibitionists we decry.

Gross exhibitionism, exhibitionism without reserve or regard for what others want to see, is not even seductive, we say. Either display less than is seductive, or seduce, but for heaven’s sake, don’t display more than that! Not that everyone wants to be seduced, either – a serial seductress is manipulative, and good Americans also hate being manipulated.

So, what do we choose to exhibit, and what do we choose to keep covered up?

I know when I write an essay, the more personal the topic, the more careful I am about what’s showing, for fear of immodesty. Many conservative women are happy to admit they have two reasons to fear bodily immodesty: virtue and vanity. Writing is the same. Expose what is flattering, cover what is not – not just for your own sake, but for the sake of the poor reader whose eye you have caught and who has to look at it. And if you feel silly displaying yourself as too much the protagonist when you know you’re not (a predicament I often find myself in), tell the same story, but about other people, or abstracted altogether.

Sure, not everyone claims to like the abstract, but that doesn’t mean the abstractions we assemble aren’t rooted in real experience. A musician talks to his instrument, using the abstraction of music to say the real things he couldn’t say otherwise. Nor is music the only abstraction we speak through, it’s merely one of the most abstract: music is an end in itself, can be judged for itself, and in that sense is intensely impersonal, although everyone knows how personal it can be.

Other times, maybe, the abstraction is just a personal mythology, not “high abstraction”. But we can’t get away from abstraction, nor should we if we wish to reveal our hearts without disgusting exhibitionism.

So sometimes we’re “artless” and “tell it like it is”. Other times, we artfully leave something (maybe a lot) up to the imagination. It’s a pin-up artistry of the heart, hopefully seductive enough to catch some reader’s fancy, but not the kind of shameless seduction that just makes people feel used.

In the past two years, there’s been a lot I found I just couldn’t talk about politely in public, and no, most of it hasn’t been about US politics. It would simply be too absurd if all told, and gross. Maybe cheaply manipulative, too. If acceptable revelation proceeds in true pin-up fashion, the license to bare one thing is purchased by deciding to cover something else. Which means, if you’re not sure what to keep covered, not baring in the first place. And even those of us bravely “baring it all” on one matter might be quite reticent on others.

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Trump and Cruz Are RINOs, McCain and Rubio Are Real Republicans

 

An interesting thing is happening. The senator that Donald Trump spent weeks vilifying as “Lyin’ Ted” has become one of the strongest and most forceful defenders of his administration as the President-elect’s cabinet choices face confirmation hearings. Here is what he said in support of Attorney-General nominee.

“Senator Sessions believes in the foundational idea that we are governed by objectively knowable, written rules, and that we should not be subject to the interpretive whims of unelected, power-hungry bureaucrats. Sessions will instill this belief at the Department of Justice.”

“The fact that this is controversial tells you all you need to know about the sorry intellectual state of our country’s elites, especially in the legal academy and federal bureaucracies.”

Not just a strong endorsement, but also a strong restatement of conservative principles. And an “in your face” to the outgoing administration, which has subverted immigration laws, the constitutional separation of powers, and generally treated the rule of law as an obstacle its political agenda.

Good going, Ted. Love you, Man.

Meanwhile, John McCain is undermining the Republican president-elect by passing on opposition research apparently sourced from 4Chan (from a firm with links to Planned Parenthood) containing salacious rumors to the FBI and offering an imprimatur of bipartisanship to Democrat Conspiracy Theories about Russia “hacking the election.” Marco Rubio went on the attack against the President-elect’s nominee for Secretary of State for not labeling the leader of a country the incoming administration will have to work with a war criminal. (Kind of baffled why so many people want to start a war with Russia, these days, but that’s the vibe.)

The thing is, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are both outsiders. Donald Trump is a populist, who ran under the Republican label perhaps because the Republican primary process isn’t rigged against outsiders to the degree that the Democrat primaries are. Ted Cruz is a conservative, not just a Republican who runs as one and then becomes a JV Democrat while in office. During the primaries, it was tough to decide which one the party establishment hated more.

John McCain and Marco Rubio represent the real Republican Party; a party that has refused every opportunity it has been given to reform and reduce Government, a party unwilling to stand up to their Democrat “friends,” a party cowed by a media complex that despises them and disloyal to the base that elects them. Trump and Cruz may wear the label of this party, but they are not really part of it.

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Media Management in the 21st Century

 

For all the hooforrah coming out about the Buzzfeed/CIA/John McCain/DNC/GOP Consultant/Media/Deep State/Russian Insult Comic attack attempt in the ongoing mediawar, I do have to wonder at the smart move by the Trump team on scheduling their first major press conference the morning after Obama Memorial to All Good Things Before The Disaster Comes event in Chicago.

It is as if they knew an attack would come from the other side, and used the timing to maximum advantage.

For years, even decades, some of us have wished for a GOP administration that understood a few things about the media.

  1. They are your enemy, always and forever. They are most dangerous when they act nice.
  2. The media cannot deal with complex stories. They will attempt to simplify everything to words they can have their talking heads say and pretend comprehension.
  3. The media is linear. One story breaking moves another story off the treadmill. They cannot multitask the narrative. When there are multiple news stories, they lose all ability to drive the message.
  4. The media are easily fooled. The layers of fact checkers retired long ago.

I await the first 100 days of the new administration with an expectation of their control of the message.

They need to create the impression of movement, action, achievement. The media will attempt to project a counter image.

My guess on the approach will be to attack the media where they are most vulnerable. Their linear restriction on narrative.

If there are four and five initiatives every day, on immigration, defense, foreign policy, veterans, IRS shakeups, EPA regulation rollback and so forth the media engine will be stuck trying to cover it all.

It means the media and their allies cannot have the simple, singular compelling narrative in opposition.

Expect twenty image focused Trump initiatives every week, more everyday

It will be the biggest attack on the media process ever. The Deep State will scramble to defend.

Trump will move like Patton, always advancing on new ground. He , like Patton, will get the headlines every day.

Congress will catch the fever as they need the spotlight also. If Trump gets the media and they do not, they will act much faster to grab their share.

I expect a pace and tempo that will be a media strategy of total offence on a broad front.

If you gore an ox every day, people get used to the cries of the oxen and no longer respond.

Or he could sit back and play golf.

That’s my guess.

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Fibromyalgia: My Story and AMA

 

It recently came up that many people seem to know someone with Fibromyalgia. From television ads for Lyrica, to personal experiences with patients, many people have some very interesting ideas about what the syndrome is and what it is not. I would like to counter these with a personal story about my experiences with my diagnosis and disease process.

After over ten years of crippling exhaustion, abnormal (but not too abnormal) test results, and multiple different referrals to varying specialists, I found myself in the office of a Rheumatologist. This man did a physical examination and said plainly, “You have fibromyalgia.” I was prescribed different supplements, told to get some rest, and to follow up in a period of weeks. I was told to take care of myself.

I hobbled out to my car and sat in the driver’s seat. I cried.

I sobbed like someone with a cancer diagnosis. More than sad, I was angry. I was angry and I was outraged. How is it not Lupus?! How is it not something actually real and treatable?!

I still wish it was Lupus.

(more…)

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Rubio and the Twitter Mentality

 

I haven’t been listening to any of the confirmation hearings, and I’ve only got a moment to give a quick opinion, but it’s one that has been irritating me for about an hour now. I heard a question that was asked by Marco Rubio to Rex Tillerson; it was played by @andrewklavan on his podcast this morning.

The question asked, essentially: “Is Putin a war criminal?”

What an amazingly absurd question. I’m not just ashamed of Rubio for asking such a stupid question, I’m ashamed at him for playing along with the popular demand for low-information knee-jerk Twitter condemnations or praises. On the one hand, it makes me think that this disposition would be terrible in a president (and, at one point, I supported Rubio); on the other hand, it is the disposition of our actual president-Elect.

So what is he expecting as a response? Does he seriously want for our Secretary of State to start throwing out inflammatory language and condemnations based on news reports before ever taking office? How many bridges would he like to see burned right at the outset? Does he think that a person who would give that question a full-throated “yes! He’s a war criminal, may he burn in hell, and we should try him immediately!!” would make for a good Secretary of State?

Vladimir Putin is a thug. He may even be a murderer. He is essentially a dictator, and it may very well be that he is a war criminal. I can say these things. But I’m not the flippin’ Secretary of State! I don’t have to recognize the legitimacy of his regime and actually go to work representing my country globally. Tillerson’s answer was perfectly appropriate, though perhaps not as indignant as mine would have been (any wonder I’m not on anyone’s list for … um … well … anything?). He said that there’s a lot of information out there. Absolutely. He said that there is a lot of public information out there, a lot of classified information out there. He didn’t say — over Rubio’s childish talking-over of his answer — that it would be foolish for a Secretary of State to go around throwing out statements like that unless he had a pretty darned good reason to do so. He didn’t mention that blasting insults on Twitter or that launching hashtag #bringbackourgirls campaigns may be all well and good for virtue signaling, but have not yet proven an effective foreign policy tactic. He didn’t discuss the fact that there are many ways to deal with a war criminal, especially when you’re in a position of power, and that beating your chest in confirmation hearings is but one strategy … and possibly not the best.

These hearings have become a sort of joke. They are designed for soundbites and 140 character duels of (somewhat limited) wit. They are good for memes and Facebook posts to gin up, over issues we don’t care about nearly enough to understand or even inform ourselves about, an anger so temporary that we can’t be bothered to pause the scrolling of the page long enough to do anything more than type in our own 140 characters of tribal affiliation.

That may work fine for a candidate who needed to run a celebrity campaign. It may work fine for a president who needs to circumvent a hostile media. But if that becomes the primary tactic of American politics, we haven’t just solidified ourselves as the stupid party, we’ve chosen for our country the path of knee-jerk emotional blinks, which exist for as long as the battery charge on our phones until the next fake outrage comes along to distract us from the hard work of living our actual lives.

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Government Cheese: Making America Grate Again

 

New Year’s Day, Simon Templar started a post “Blackeye Peas And Comfort Food”. There were 288 comments. Someone mentioned government cheese and I shoot my mouth off about someday doing a post about my experience making government cheese. As you may have realized my pen name is PHCheese which is a play on PhD. I acquired this moniker at a party on Bald Head Island, NC (alcohol was involved) where everyone except myself and my best friend were either MDs or PhDs or, in case of one fellow, both. My best friend was an owner of several car dealerships and probably had more money than everyone else combined. One of the more modest doctors (if there is such a thing) asked my friend a question on the economy. His answer was something like he just moves iron (cars) and he would demure to me because I had a PHCheese.

So I do not have a PHCheese. I have a BA in Political Science, Economics, and History. However, I did own a cheese business which, in part, made government cheese. This in no way makes me a cheese expert. I needed to understand and execute every phase of my company so please don’t hold me to the technical questions of cheese, farming, and cows etc. I hired people for the tough stuff.

First, a little history of government cheese and, with it, a little background on cows and farming. Cows give milk after giving birth. Their off spring are taken and the cow will continue to give milk for about a year. They are usually re-bred early in that time. In the old days (up until about 1940) this was done with the seasons, which meant that there was a glut of milk in late May and June that would drive prices down. As with all government programs, there were good intentions involved. The Commodity Credit Corporation was hatched to smooth-out supply and demand during the New Deal. It actually worked for a time: the CCC would buy the surplus and then sell it to the trade during short supply times. But after changes in animal husbandry and farming techniques, the milk supply became more constant and — with the growth of farmer co-ops — the government became the costumer-of-first-resort (instead of the last resort) for cheese. Mountains of surplus cheddar made in 40-lb. blocks were stored in warehouses and limestone mines all over the country, especially in Kansas City.

All of this cheese was inspected by the USDA prior to being purchased by the CCC; it was an excellent product, especially after being aged, some of it for four or five years. The CCC try to use-up these surpluses through school lunch program but, by 1980, that no longer kept up with purchases.

This is the beginning of what I call the dog chasing its tail. The CCC began giving the cheese to states who, in turn, gave it to the general public who, in turn, lowered demand in normal markets, thus causing the CCC to buy more surpluses. It is also where I got involved. I was one of two USDA-approved packaging plants in Pennsylvania at the time. The other plant either was not interested or didn’t know that PA had a let a bid to package 5 million lbs of 40-lb. cheddar in to five-lb. packages. At the same time, I also won a bid let by the USDA to package one million lbs. of cheddar to be sent to Egypt. Needless to say this, was huge for me at the time. I only had three months to do it all.

I got it done and took the considerable profits and bought equipment to process those same cheddar into 5-lb. process American cheese. This cheese also played a big part in the tail-chasing drama. Pallets of American cheese were dropped in some crazy places. Forget the phrase “process”: this was excellent product as well. First, I’ll explain what American cheese is and then explain how and with equipment is used. American cheese is basically just cooked cheddar cheese. To enable it to form back into a solid about 2 or 3 % of emulsifiers (sodium phosphate) are added, along with some salt. That is it.

So, why and how do you take perfectly good cheddar and make American out of it? Cheddar can be described as being alive. It starts life as a rubbery tasteless curd. As it ages, it takes on different characteristics, textures, and — more importantly — flavors. But here is the rub, time doesn’t stop the process and everyone has a different opinion what tastes good to them. So, different stages and ages and textures of cheddar are blended together so as to develop a consistent American cheese. The cooking stops the phases forever and also creates an indefinite self life as long as the packaging stays in intact. It actually does not really need refrigerated as long as the packaging keeps its integrity.

So, if you eyes haven’t glazed over now for the how. One thing I neglected to tell you is that cheddar also comes 500-lb. barrels. Yep 500 lbs., which is about 15% bigger than a 55 gal. drum. This is what we for the most part used to make American. I mentioned blending. First, we cut four 500 lb.-barrels into 25-lb. slabs by pushing them through wires using hydraulics. We had a two thousand-lb. capacity grinder that resembled what you might see at the butcher shop to make hamburger,except this was about as big as car and had a 100-hp electric motor. The slabs got mixed and ground at the same time and sent to the cooker, where the emulsifiers were added and salt and water to bring it to the required moisture content. We had a 1000 lb.-cooker that melted the cheddar using steam. We brought the temperature up to at least 168 degrees, or pasteurization temperature. The cooker had an auger that also mixed the blend. This was about a five-minute process.

All told, we averaged 10,000 lbs. an hour. The molten cheese then went into a heated surge tank with a 1500-lb. capacity. From there, it was pumped to a filling machine that measured 5 lbs. at a time and dropped it into a cardboard box, lined with a plastic pouch that self-sealed from the heat of the cheese. The boxes were synced with the filler on a conveyor, a lid was placed over the box, and six boxes were placed in a master box, finally, on a pallet sixty boxes, all told. This took sixteen people, many of whom could be eliminated with equipment I couldn’t afford. The pallets were taken to a blast cooler overnight to stop the cheese from continuing to cook in the pouch. If it didn’t cool quickly, it could discolor. For about five years, we proceed about 1.5 million lbs. of American cheese a month. Many times, it was shipped back to where the cheddar came from, the dog was still chasing its tail.

I hope this covers all you wanted to know ( probably some you didn’t) about Government Cheese. I can answer any questions in the comments. Remember I am not really a PHCheese, so take it easy on me.

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Black Clergy, Government Dependency, and Black Responsibility

 

Prior to November’s election, a group of black clergy led by Jackie Rivers — of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies — delivered a letter to Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters.

The letter questioned how Clinton might have addressed various problems within black communities — like abortion, police brutality, and poor education and economic opportunities.

The letter concluded by requesting a meeting with Hillary Clinton during her first 100 days in office to discuss these issues in more detail.

There will be no meeting with the Clinton administration because there will be no Clinton administration. Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States.

In trying to persuade Democrats to take black concerns seriously, black leaders, religious or not, are perpetuating the habit of outsourcing black responsibility. They’re also reinforcing the preoccupation with — and dependence on — government to find solutions to black adversity.

Encouraging politicians to pass legislation addressing education and economic issues is fine. But black religious leaders are wrong to plead with politicians to resolve black moral dysfunction that can and must be principally challenged by local churches in their respective communities.

For example, the letter condemns high abortion rates among blacks. Addressing the impact of abortion, it noted that, “Blacks account for roughly 38% of all abortions in the country though we represent only 13% of the population.”

The letter affirms that people are “created in God’s image,” and innocent human life deserves protection against the “deliberate destruction … in its most vulnerable state.”

Hillary Clinton would’ve facilitated more black abortion. She was the recipient of an award named after racial eugenicist Margaret Sanger. Clinton enthusiastically supports abortion up to the point of birth. Democrats are religiously devoted to abortion and that’s not changing.

Black church leaders are much better positioned to confront the destructive effects of black abortion because it’s a moral problem, and because of their proximity to the problem. The women having these abortions are members of their local communities, churches and religious institutions. The problem and solution of reducing black abortion comes down to moral redemption and black responsibility, which starts with local church leaders redeeming theologies of life that flatly denounce sexually-destructive behaviors (including abortion as birth control) and encouraging productive ones; not government intervention.

The same goes for black criminality, which the letter correctly labeled a “calamity,” which encourages police presence in black neighborhoods. But the letter sought action and resolution from the wrong person, party, and medium.

Effective policing and commensurate sentencing for criminality are needed. But black churches must repeatedly rebuke the depravity of behaviors that seeks death and destruction, or more blacks — particularly the innocent — will suffer predictable consequences. Black churches must reject the tradition of silence when it comes to condemning or excusing black criminality, which condones the very community-destroying behaviors these black Christians were spotlighting.

Black churches must also strongly repudiate the cultural disorders and criminal stereotypes that draw the eye and ire of law enforcement. Black churches should re-emphasize a Christian temperament that includes family stability, fatherhood, self-respect, personal responsibility, and the love of neighbor to lessen black criminality and tension-filled police responses.

We’re obligated to control the things that are within our power to control. This includes admitting that some blacks are sabotaging black society, but also that blacks can restore black society, which would demonstrate real black empowerment, improving America in the process.

Black churches need to emphasize the gospel- and other resources that are instrumental in changing lives and overcoming the negative aspects of black culture.

Blacks must stop preserving the posture of weakness and helplessness, and depending on politics to save us.

Black faith leaders have been called and entrusted to bear witness to the transformative nature of the Christian gospel. Petitioning the altar of government for restoration implies that the gospel of Christ is pragmatically insufficient when compared to the gospel of big government.

We must remember — salvation is from God, not the government.

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Example #1,456 of why Trump won the election

 

So….saw on twitter this weekend where a liberal CEO of some company I’ve never heard of (marketing company apparently) decided to give the rest of us advice on how to be less offensive to people like her.

First of all, how can anyone so devoid of self-awareness be any good at marketing? Secondly, I think I can speak for most Americans that don’t live in a progressive coastal Meccas and say that making our “town a place that people like us want to live in” is pretty much the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. We would in fact prefer that “people like you” keep your opinions to yourself and the progressive, “diverse”, cesspools you live in away from our tax dollars. You may be surprised to know that we don’t like “people like you” or your condescension, and that economically we are doing pretty damn well partly due to the companies fleeing your state in droves. So, thanks but no thanks for the advice. That and 3 bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. (I’m sure you hate that as well)

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Nat Hentoff, Rest in Peace

 

Nat Hentoff has died. As the New York Times reports,

“Nat Hentoff, the author, journalist, jazz critic and civil libertarian who called himself a troublemaker and proved it with a shelf of books and a mountain of essays on free speech, wayward politics, elegant riffs and the sweet harmonies of the Constitution, died on Saturday.”

He came to my campus while I was a college student and was shrieked at by a number of students, but he stood his ground even when a large rugby playing woman marched onto the stage and seized a piece of chalk to inscribe her outrage on the chalk board behind him. After she left, too enraged to even speak, Nat Hentoff continued peaceably with his talk on the injustice of abortion and his opposition to laws in its favor.

I worked for a time at the Human Life Review, which would frequently reprint Hentoff’s columns from The Village Voice in its Appendices section. Hentoff worked with the Review to put together a collection of his syndicated columns that appeared in the journal from 1984 to 2005, Insisting on Life. And they awarded him the “Great Defender of Life” award in 2005. He was an unlikely friend of John Cardinal O’Connor, the archbishop of New York, who quipped that he did not want to convert Hentoff, since a atheist pro-life Jew was too valuable a hook to get people to look at pro-life arguments.

May he rest in peace.