Wednesday, February 29, 2012

At the Bottom of the Slope

    Both Powerline and James Taranto's Best of the Web drew attention today to a UK Telegraph article about a recent peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Medical Ethics advocating infanticide.  I don't mean some nuanced version of late-term abortion.   I mean real, flat-out infanticide, although they choose the euphemism "after-birth abortion."  The authors even explain why they choose that over "infanticide."  The full text of the article is here.  The writing is clinical and horrifying.  (Adding to the surreal atmosphere is the writers' insistence on using the feminine pronouns in place of the generic he/him of traditional grammar when referring to the unborn.)  Here are some excerpts:
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her. This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons. Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. 
If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one.  
A possible objection to our argument is that after-birth abortion should be practised just on potential people who could never have a life worth living.  Accordingly, healthy and potentially happy people should be given up for adoption if the family cannot raise them up.... On this perspective, the interests of the actual people involved matter, and among these interests, we also need to consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption.... after-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption.
[W]e do not put forward any claim about the moment at which after-birth abortion would no longer be permissible, and we do not think that in fact more than a few days would be necessary for doctors to detect any abnormality in the child. In cases where the after-birth abortion were requested for non-medical reasons, we do not suggest any threshold, as it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess.
The chilling realization that comes after reading the entire article is that none of the authors' reasoning conflicts with current pro-abortion rhetoric.  On the contrary, the outcome is the logical progression of such rhetoric.  Indeed, the authors note that the Netherlands already permit infanticide in some cases, just not to the extent that this article advocates.  And make no mistake, this is not just a theoretical exercise - as the abstract at the beginning of the article says, "the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled."
    The trump card of Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases has always been the "health of the mother."  This article unflinchingly and explicitly includes in the definition of "health of the mother" the phycological pain that may be experienced by a woman after giving up her child for adoption and justifies killing the child instead to spare her that pain.  Any hyperbole I could muster is inadequate to describe such a thought.
    So who will be the first courageous reporter to approach Planned Parenthood, Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, or any other champion of "women's health" to ask for a reaction to this article?  Is there any moral will left in the pro-abortion camp to finally draw a line at this travesty?  Or will they stand shoulder to shoulder with these two amoral ethicists at the bottom of the slippery slope?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Obvious Hoax

    From the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles:
NEWPORT BEACH (CBS) — A wealthy banker set off public outrage after he allegedly followed up a $133 meal by leaving his waitress a one percent tip and a personal tip – “Get a real job”. But the restaurant where it supposedly happened said it is all a hoax.
According to Huffington Post, CNN and several other news sites, a person claiming to be an employee of the “wealthy” banker took a photo of the receipt and posted it on a blog, “Future Ex-Banker”. The blogger paired the photo with their own caption:
 “Mention the ’99 percent’ in my boss’ presence and feel his wrath. So proudly does he wear his 1 percent badge of honor that he tips exactly 1 percent every time he feels the server doesn’t sufficiently bow down to his Holiness. Oh, and he always makes sure to include a ‘tip’ of his own.”
I knew immediately upon seeing the photo that this was obviously a hoax.  Whatever his other feelings might have been, the tip would have been $1.34.  Financial people don't view the rules of rounding as optional.

Most Likely to Impose

    Rick Santorum, despite clarifying his position of simply speaking out on social issues as opposed to enshrining them as public policy, is under assault for wanting to legislate morality and shred Constitutional rights.  On the other hand, President Obama is in the process of pushing back the boundaries of religious freedom.  After all, he did not admit being wrong with the initial HHS mandate rules on contraceptives and abortifacients.  The so-called compromise was basically: "OK, these religious folks are overreacting, but to show how reasonable I am, I will give some ground."  A fair question to ask the president would be "Did your original HHS mandate go just as far as the First Amendment permits?  Or could religious institutions be required to go even further?"
    We further know from the Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court case decided in January that President Obama's Justice Department was seeking to extend the reach of labor laws deeper into religious institutions and was soundly rebuked by a unanimous decision from the court.  This placed his administration to the left of even the most liberal members of the Supreme Court when it comes to religious freedom.  So what we really have is Santorum, who is publicly stating that he would not use the power of the presidency to impose on the country all of his beliefs on social issues, versus President Obama, who has already done just that.  Where is the more clear and present danger?

Monday, February 27, 2012


    While reading a Wall Street Journal article recently, I had an epiphany.  President Obama stated recently that there is no "silver bullet" to solve the problem of high gas prices and our energy costs in general.  Unfortunately, the President has not seemed willing to use any of the weapons in our arsenal (domestic drilling, ANWR, off-shore drilling, fracking, Keystone XL pipeline) to stand in for the mythical silver bullet.  Presently, the administration's energy policy seems to lack even a silver lining, much less a bullet.
     Here's where my epiphany comes in.  Let's have the Energy Department use its regulatory authority to require everyone to buy Energy Insurance.  And I'm not talking about insuring oil rigs or drilling platforms.  I'm talking about peace of mind for the energy consumer, which is, of course, everyone.  (We may have to convince Congress to pass a 2,500 page Commerce-Clause-inspired law first, but how difficult can that be in light of the crisis in which we find ourselves?) After all, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in the 21st century are empty platitudes without the Right to Energy.  And with the volatility of energy prices these days, household budgets are already overextended.  Now that ObamaCare has taken care of Americans' concerns about healthcare, EnergyCare is the next logical step.
    There is a slight glitch in this plan, that being that there are no consumer-oriented Energy Insurance companies.  But with a few well-placed subsidies, incentives, and a little corporate cronyism, no doubt a vibrant industry could be up and running in a few years.  (If there's one place the president likes to use magic bullets, it's subsidies for start-up industries.)  Once things are humming along nicely, my plan can be implemented.  Executives of the evil Energy Insurance corporations (it goes without saying that they will be evil) can be dragged before Congress and forced to testify about their plans to impoverish Americans. (The impoverishing part seems counterproductive, but it's a necessary step to gin up public support.)  EnergyCare will be the obvious solution.  Everyone will be covered, everyone will have the energy they need, and costs will finally be under control.  Who needs silver bullets?  (Oh, and we'll cut out waste, fraud, and abuse.)
    Now there are some on the left who oppose the use of fossil fuels (with an almost religious fervor) on environmental grounds.  These zealots would not want their money going to provide natural gas or other non-renewables to anyone.  In that case, the Energy Insurance companies would simply be mandated to provide those fuels free of charge to all comers to allow the environmentalists to have a green -- er, I mean clean -- conscience.  Compromise is a beautiful thing.
    Perhaps it is a stretch to call this idea an epiphany since it's a blatant rip-off of ObamaCare, but it works for healthcare, why wouldn't it work for energy?  The Commerce clause is still rather stretched out of shape after having ObamaCare crammed into it, so surely it can hold EnergyCare as well.  After all, health care expenditures make up one-sixth of the U.S. economy.  Energy is only half that.  Who knows what else a benevolent federal government might find room for in there.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Return of Al Gore?

    The last time we heard from Al Gore, he was continuing his quest to see the refining and production of carbon-based fuels replaced with cleaner, renewable sources of energy. According to a recent speech by President Obama, Gore (who at times has been characterized as "wooden") has decided to get more personally involved:
    We’re launching a program that will bring together the nation’s best scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs to figure out how more cars can be powered by natural gas, a fuel that’s cleaner and cheaper and more abundant than oil.  We’ve got more of that.  We don’t have to import it.  We may be exporting it soon.
    We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance -- Al G.

Hmmmmm. Maybe I'd better go back and check the transcript.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

PETA Versus PP

    The Daily Caller reports that documents obtained from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and published online by the Center for Consumer Freedom show that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in Norfolk, VA, euthanizes more than 95% of the animals that come into its care.
In a February 16 statement, the Center said PETA killed 1,911 cats and dogs last year, finding homes for only 24 pets.
This is still somewhat better than Planned Parenthood's abortion-to-adoption ratio.  I wonder which one bothers more people?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Matter of Life and Paper

    Once again the United States finds itself in a bizarre position in a Muslim country.  On one end of the scale, high in the air, are the lives of two American soldiers snuffed out by an Afghan soldier during a riot.  On the other side is the apparently far more weighty matter of some burned copies of the Koran, the reason for the riot.  But the apologies are flowing in one direction, and it's not towards the families of the dead soldiers.  Searching the news for "Obama apologizes" or "Obama apology" yields hundreds of results.  A similar search substituting "Karzai" for "Obama" returns none.  Instead, we are treated to this from the Taliban:
"Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the animal Americans, this is almost the 10th time that they have degraded the holiest values of Muslims," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an emailed statement.
As infuriating as the statement is, Mujahid is admitting that the USA has been in Afghanistan for more than a decade and hasn’t even hit double digits in degrading holy Muslim values?  A sitcom in this country can degrade holy Christian values 10 times in a half-hour, including commercials, and no one riots.  Sadly, few of us even bother to use our First Amendment rights to speak out against internal attacks on our culture and religion.  But as decadent as our country has become, we still value human life (post-birth, anyway) over a book.  Is our government's reaction to this latest travesty reflecting our values to a watching world?  Or are we showing weakness in the face of radicalism?  I fear it's the latter.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Occupy the Bastille

USA Today’s recent publication of a letter to the editor from Rich Latta of Austin, Texas has not gotten as much attention as seems warranted given his suggestion that “maybe [Occupy protestors] should take up their Second Amendment-sanctioned guns and storm Wall Street and our nation's capitals.”  It is unclear if Latta is a protestor himself, or just a supporter.  But a peek at his profile as a reviewer at Amazon.com gives some insight into his motives.  On the left side of the page under “Interests”:  
My personal obsession concerns exposing the fallicy [sic] and harm of deity-based religions. I believe our world can never hope to find peace until these religions are exposed and refuted by a courageous, truth-seeking public.
 Peace through atheism and violence against the aristocracy.  Didn’t the French already try that?

Yousef Nadarkhani

    Yousef Nadarkhani is under a death sentence in Iran merely for being a Christian.  Despite trumped up charges, even the Iranian courts have found the only legitimate charge against him is "apostasy."  Yousef was never a practicing Muslim, but simply having been born into a Muslim family was enough for the courts to uphold his conviction and sentence.

Notwithstanding complaints about the recent "assaults on religious freedom" in our own country (myself included,) this type of persecution is incomprehensible to Americans.
[Jesus said:]  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:10-12)
Iranian Christians can truly identify with the Apostle Paul.  "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."  (II Corinthians 4:8-9)  Christians certainly have an obligation to pray for Yousef, his family, and his persecutors, but all of us as Americans should decry this injustice and call for Yousef's release.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Theology in Politics

    Rick Santorum has taken some heat for his recent words regarding the theology of President Obama.  While Santorum has clarified that he was primarily focusing on President Obama's beliefs regarding climate change and radical environmentalism when he made his comments, it's worth asking the broader question, "What is President Obama's theology?"  Back in 2008, then-candidate Obama said the following regarding same-sex marriage and civil unions:
Obama said that while he does not believe in gay marriage, he does think the state should allow civil unions that allow a same-sex couples to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other.
"If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans," Obama said.
That "obscure passage in Romans" is in chapter 1 where the Apostle Paul begins to lay out the Biblical case for the fallen state of man that he builds upon to frame one of the most well known and time-tested Gospel presentations of salvation by grace through faith.  And Rick Santorum is the one with the theology problem?


    Republicans pining for another candidate to enter the race have got to face up to the fact that there is no Jeremy Lin sitting on the Republican bench, or if there is, he's not going to get any playing time this season.  Politics-as-sport analogies work great sometimes, but there is a limit.  Paul Ryan recently spoke sense to the matter, and Hugh Hewitt as well.  Not even rank and file Republicans think a "brokered convention" is either possible or a good idea.  Speculating about another candidate getting into the race now is just an armchair quarterback's pastime, like suggesting Hillary Clinton might replace Joe Biden on the Obama ticket for 2012.
    As one who sat the bench a lot in high school basketball, I know it's fun to dream about getting sent into the game with time ticking down and scoring the winning basket, but this is real life, not a movie.  We go with the team on the floor, and the winner will be well positioned to take on the real opponent in the fall.

Fun with Photos!

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the G20 meeting in Mexico.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

"Hey, let's all be like President Obama and try to block the face of the person behind us!"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

"Reverse high five!"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

"OK, maybe I missed the 'white shirts only' memo, but look who missed to 'no lanyards' memo!"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Monday, February 20, 2012

Occupy Reality

    Back on December 18, 2011, I wrote about the Occupy Wall Street movement's plans to occupy foreclosed homes.  One question I asked was "How long, once the attention dies down and the crowds move on, will these poor people be allowed to remain?"  There's a story at the New York Post (via Hot Air) that answers the question at least in one case (I have not linked directly to the NYP because I can't stand the trashy photos they put directly opposite their articles.)  Perhaps some investigative journalist could do a more comprehensive story to determine is this Brooklyn situation is typical or an anomaly.  My instincts say the former.

Turns Out There IS a Free Lunch

    Turns out there IS a free lunch.  It's just that it stinks.  So some Texas middle school students put some clothes on a new vocabulary word ("boycott") and brought lunches from home for four days to express their dissatisfaction with the free lunches offered in the cafeteria.  If only some students would bring phonics books from home to show their annoyance with the the reading curriculum, or perhaps bring in  some alternatives to typical public school sex-ed materials.
    And another thing. "Means testing"has gotten more attention in recent years as an idea to get runaway entitlement costs under control.  If 30 students can bring (apparently) healthier lunches from home than they can get free at school, perhaps the entire program needs to be reevaluated.  Now that would be a lesson worth teaching those activist-minded students.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Slippery Slope

    Just when you thought the push to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland was the latest blow to traditional values, a story like this comes along.  How far have we come down the slippery slope?  Or are we already laying dazed and prone at the bottom?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Taking the Fight Back to the Court?

    In January, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that federal discrimination laws do not impair the right of churches under the First Amendment to determine who may serve in ministerial positions.  This knockout punch to the Obama administration's position was met with fairly muted reaction from the left.  Without the support of even one of the court's liberal justices, there is little to be gained by publicly denouncing the outcome of the case.
    However, within two weeks of the court's decision, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that rules governing health insurance mandates would offer no accommodation to religious institutions.  The requirement that birth control, contraceptives, and abortifacients be provided at no cost by all insurance plans understandably created a conflict of Biblical proportions.  The forthcoming "compromise" was no such thing in the eyes of many, and one has only to look at the whole-hearted supporters of the "compromise" (Planned Parenthood, Nancy Pelosi, Al Sharpton) to confirm it was hollow.
    Much of the debate in recent weeks has centered around the application of the mandate being a violation of the freedom of religious institutions by compelling them to facilitate behaviors that violate their principles and pay for them as well.  The "compromise" purported to allay those concerns but largely failed to do so.  But a potentially equally serious conflict lurks in this HHS-provoked controversy as well.  As long as the "compromise" is in effect, religious institutions, at least from the administration's point of view, have technical deniability for "conscience" sake.  But suppose a religious institution fires or disciplines an employee for moral reasons for using an abortifacient drug to end a pregnancy?  After all, it's a drug that is covered by a health insurance plan that they are providing to the employee.  How will the institution justify their actions?  Aren't they being forced into the position of saying to their employees, "Here's a benefit, but don't use it or you're fired"?  If religious institutions are lumped into the same category as secular ones, more lawsuits for wrongful termination of employment are inevitable.
    Contained in Robert's opinion in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the following:
The case before us is an employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister, challenging her church's decision to fire her.  Today we hold only that the ministerial exception bars such a suit.  We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct by their religious employers.  There will be time enough to address the applicability of the exception to other circumstances if and when they arise.
The Obama administration apparently took that last sentence as a challenge.  Their broadside against religious freedom, barring a change in the Oval Office in November, has put the President and his policies on a collision course with the high court.  There will doubtless be skirmishes in the lower courts in the meantime, but it is difficult to imagine that ultimately a showdown revisiting the broader issues at stake in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC can be avoided.
    Although President Obama has been accused even by his supporters of backing down in various confrontations, this has not been the case in the realm euphemistically known as "women's health" even when religious liberties were at stake.  We can expect the President to have his game face on for this battle.  To paraphrase the President, a unanimous Supreme Court brought a knife to the fight.  President Obama will bring a gun.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Freedom Means

    The "What $40 Means" campaign by the White House originally caught my attention because of its misleading and manipulative nature.  Average citizens are being exploited by the leader of the free world for brazenly political purposes.  On the main page of Whitehouse.gov, the Executive Branch of the United States is broadcasting to the world the pitiful stories of Americans, like "J.T." from Minnesota, pleading with the government:  "$40 a week means everything to me."
    But today, another aspect of this hit me even harder:  Is this truly what America is about in 2012?  The government asking the people "what $40 means" to them?  America, the country of "Give me liberty or give me death!"  The country of "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  The country of "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."  The country that was "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." The country that has pledged to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."  And now: "$40 a week means everything to me."  We the People have come to this?
    Unquestionably Americans are suffering, some more than others.  Compared to the rest of the world, most of us are suffering far less than we think.  But this is America.  The land of the free and the home of the brave.  Must we grovel for our Social Security Tax cut?  Are we so dependent on government?  For some, the answer is yes.  And for far too long, the government has both encouraged and exploited that dependence.  The time has come to say "No more!"
    Forty dollars means nothing compared to freedom, freedom that is under assault from all levels of government, freedom that too many are too willing to surrender for nominal security.  It is time to tell a different story.  What Freedom Means:
  • Freedom means worshipping God and practicing religion without government interference.
  • Freedom means paying only what is absolutely necessary in taxes.
  • Freedom means teaching my children my own values.
  • Freedom means buying the health insurance plan that I choose -- or not buying it at all.
  • Freedom means taking care of myself and my family.
  • Freedom means being willing to die for freedom.
What about you?   Tell your story here, on Facebook, on Twitter (#whatfreedommeans), and wherever else you can.  Let's remind the President, the Congress, all of our elected officials, and the world What Freedom Means.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Extra money in paycheck: $40. Propaganda: priceless. [Updated]

    The new White House "What does $40 mean to you?" campaign is breathtaking in its cynicism and dishonesty.  When the payroll tax rate reduction of 2% was first proposed in December 2010, the President chose this illustration of the cut's impact in a Fact Sheet the White House issued:
Illustrative Family: A working family with three children making $20,000 ... would receive an additional $400 tax cut from the new payroll tax cut.
Now that the tax cut has been in place for almost 14 months and is due to expire, the Republicans insisted (until today) that the cut be paid for in some other way.  The President and the Democrats have said no, and have resorted to a brazen misrepresentation to bolster their case.
    At present, the main page of the Whitehouse.gov website is running excerpts of messages from Americans who have written to the President in response to the proposition "What $40 means."  And where does the White House come up with the $40?  Clicking through to the special page set up for this campaign, one finds this explanation:
If Congress doesn’t act, the payroll tax cut will expire at the end of February and taxes will go up on 160 million hardworking Americans. The typical family earning $50,000 a year will see about $40 less each paycheck. It’s that simple.
So our illustrative family has gone from $20,000 in 2010 to $50,000 in 2012.  (Not a bad improvement, considering the economy.)  But take special note of the way the $40 is characterized: $40 each paycheck. But how often do those paychecks come out?  To an accountant such as myself, it is readily apparent the White House is assuming bi-weekly paychecks.  (2% of $50,000 is $1,000; $1,000 divided by $40 = 25 paychecks, not 52.)  But what about the general public?  Well, just look at some of the heart-wrenching messages the White House is allowing to run on it's home page:
$40 a week is half of my family's grocery budget.
B.H., North Waterboro, ME 
$40 means that I can be able to help my mother pay for her prescriptions since she was denied medical assistance and is on SS.
E.M., Maplewood, MN 
$40 for me is about a week's grocery money!
S.Z, Cave Creek, AZ 
$40 a paycheck helps me pay for a week of lunch for my daughter at school.
E.D., Ranch Santa Margarita, CA 
$40 a paycheck covers the gas I use in only one week driving to and from work.
S.J., Haymarket, VA 
$40 less a week would have to come out of our food budget, we can not cut anything else back. We are struggling as it is now.
G.A., Kingston, NH 
$40 a week out of my husbands pay check would hurt us a lot. We both have medications to buy.
C.S., Fort Wayne, IN 
$40 represents 1 week worth of propane to heat water and my home in the winter.
B.T., Moriarty, NM 
$40 for me is about a week's grocery money!
S.Z, Cave Creek, AZ 
$40 less a week would have to come out of our food budget, we can not cut anything else back. We are struggling as it is now.
G.A., Kingston, NH 
40 a week means everything to me. Food on the table, gas in my tank, helps keep a roof over my head.
J.T., Plymouth, MN
We're not talking about one or two people.  Many of these people believe the President is talking about $40 per week for them.  This is wrong on so many levels!  I dare say a good number of these people are more like the original 2010 family making $20,000/year than the more well off $50,000 family of 2012.  And yet the President is allowing these people to jump to the totally false conclusion that possibly $2,000 of their hard earned money is in jeopardy.  Even non-accountants can (with maybe a pencil and a scrap of paper, if not in their heads) multiply $40 times 52 weeks and come up with more than $2,000 - that's a far cry from the $400 mentioned in the 2010 Fact Sheet.  Only someone making $100,000/year would see a $2,000 difference.  The family making $20,000?  Just $16/week.
    Worst of all, the White House is not content to let the deception just exist in peoples' minds - they are using these poignant stories for political ends to bully the Republicans.  Granted, when it comes to nerve, this administration makes superlatives sound cliched, but this is one of the most incredibly exploitive and manipulative operations launched by this President at the American people.  But sometime the bolder the lie, the more effective it is.  Propaganda may be despicable, but it works.

UPDATE:   This is remarkable.  On this page, the White House chose this story for an extended profile, even including a photo:

"$40 per paycheck means that I can take my 4 year old to the doctor when she gets sick ($25 copay), and maybe afford a prescription. Since I get paid biweekly as a Federal Government employee, the $40 comes from the second ." ---- Colleen from Florida
I'm not even sure I understand what "the $40 comes from the second" means.  I guess she is referring to the prescription?  But "I get paid bi-weekly"?  She actually seems to think she'd get $40 per paycheck if she were paid weekly instead of bi-weekly!  And she works for the federal government!  And the White House singled out her confused, misleading story for special attention.  How could this not be intentional?

Unilateral Disarmament - On Second Thought...

    When President Obama recently reversed course and decided to support the Super PACs that are working on behalf of his campaign, he defended his decision by pointing out that the Republicans have a great advantage over him because of their Super PACs:
"And what I've said consistently is, we're not going to just unilaterally disarm."

Now comes a report on the President's plans regarding the nuclear arsenal of the United States:
President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to consider cutting U.S. strategic nuclear forces to as low as 300 deployed warheads—below the number believed to be in China’s arsenal and far fewer than current Russian strategic warhead stocks.

I guess that shows Republicans where they rate on the enemies list.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Uptight Founders' Oversight

    Of all the blunders the founders made when establishing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, none is so glaring to liberals as the failure to include the most fundamental right of all, the Freedom of Sex Without Consequences.  The Supreme Court partially remedied this oversight in the 60's and 70's with Griswold v. Connecticut, Doe v. Bolton, and the capstone, Roe v. Wade.  But those other pesky rights the founders did include, such as Freedom of Religion, continue to be a source of irritation to today's enlightened ones.  The Obama administration's pronouncements concerning mandated coverage for birth control, contraceptives, and abortifacients are just the latest examples.
     A survey of the culture and public institutions demonstrates how ubiquitous  this new "right" has become.  The recent Komen-Planned Parenthood kerfuffle was a classic example.  Charitable organizations are constantly awarding grants and revoking others.  But when a miniscule portion of Planned Parenthood's annual budget was threatened, the reaction was outrage.  A quick review of Planned Parenthood's website is enough to reveal their primary mission is not "women's health," but Sex Without Consequences.
    In our public schools (at least in Florida), a nurse may not dispense an aspirin to a student without parental permission, just as minors are often prohibited from having their ears pierced without that permission.  And yet the schools can distribute condoms and birth control pills, and in some cases even facilitate abortions for those same children.  Schools do not encourage teens to "drink responsibly;" they bring in the state police to stage accident scenes to illustrate the dangers of drunk driving.  And teachers do not act as designated drivers.  But when it comes to sex, schools "provide information" (often graphic "sex education") so the children can make "responsible" decisions -- and the implicit message: it's your choice, but we've got you covered.
    AIDS is probably the greatest challenge to Sex Without Consequences in the last 30 years.  The disease is a horror wherever it strikes, but even more tragically, it has grown to affect many completely innocent children and spouses.  But the fact remains that it is still spread primarily through illicit sex (and drug use.)  Nevertheless, advocates place the funding for AIDS research on par with finding cures for cancer, heart disease, and other diseases with much less preventable causes than AIDS.  When Free Speech and Freedom of Religion is used to condemn the behaviors that are largely responsible for the spread of AIDS, the cudgel of "hate speech" is used to beat those rights back into submission.  In Canada and some countries in Europe, such speech is even criminalized.  There is little doubt liberals would emulate those nations here if they had free rein.
   Of course, the entertainment industry in this country barely even bothers trying to conceal its enthusiasm for Sex Without Consequences.  Any calls to dial back the torrent of increasingly explicit fare on TV, in movies, and in music is met with screams of "censorship!", as if government storm-troopers were already burning piles of DVDs in the streets.  It is only the most blatant examples (such as this year's Superbowl halftime show and Janet Jackson's 2004 halftime show) that even produce much of a blip on the radar.   And the Grammy's managed to top the Superbowl just this week.
     So where does this leave us?  The New York Times declared on Saturday: "[Obama] stood his ground on an essential principle--free access to birth control for any woman." An essential principle? As I mentioned at the outset, the Supreme Court paved the way with their landmark rulings 40 to 50 years ago.  But Sex Without Consequences faces one last obstacle.  Money.  Our current president is not afraid to "invest" tax dollars where necessary, or even conscript private insurance companies for the cause.  Now it is up to him to "secure the blessings" of this "essential" liberty, by making it free.  Can free-abortions-for-all be far behind?  How ironic then will the full statement from the Preamble become: "... to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."  At least the ones who survive.

UPDATE:  This post by Tina Korbe at Hotair.com contains some graphic details of Planned Parenthood's culpability in promoting the culture of Sex Without Consequences to minors.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fact-Check This!

    The White House put out a Fact Sheet on the new "compromise" HHS rule on insurance coverage mandates for religious institutions.  The document ends with this:
The new regulation will require insurance companies to cover contraception if the non-exempted religious organization chooses not to. Under the policy:
  • Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception. [Because the insurance company they pay to provide coverage will do these things.]
  • Religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception. [What cost? The same fact sheet says "One study found that covering contraception lowered premiums by 10 percent or more."  The insurance company comes out ahead!  Woohoo!]
  • Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.  [No role, except to continue to employ the women, since without that employment, she would not have the coverage in the first place.]
  • Insurance companies will be required to provide contraception coverage to these women free of charge. [Again.  As long as she's employed... by the religious institution... but it's none of their business anyway...]
Kinda makes you look at "facts" in a whole new light.

Friday, February 10, 2012

President Obama's Two-Pronged Assault on Religious Freedom

    The frontal assault on the freedom of religion that the new mandatory health insurance coverage rules from HHS represent is serious enough, but religious institutions find themselves in danger of a potential flanking attack as well.  Churches and their subsidiary institutions are right and justified in their opposition to the new rules which require violation of deeply held convictions regarding abortion and birth control.  Ironically, publicly expressing that opposition, normally considered a first amendment right to free speech, could place these institutions in further jeopardy from the government.
    Most religious institutions are by nature non-profit and thereby tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code.  One of the requirements to maintain this tax exempt status is to refrain from engaging in substantial political activity and attempting to influence legislation.  Churches and religious leaders must at least consider the effects of their words and actions in the political arena.  Sometimes the line is blurry and a decision must be made about whether the religious and moral principles involved justify the risks associated with public statements on legislation or the actions of politicians.
    What is unique in the current imbroglio is that the policy in question is not a broad cultural issue, but rather is aimed directly at the religious institutions themselves.  In order to fight back, these institutions will have to devote more time, energy and resources to be effective.  This will inevitably invite more attention from the IRS, especially since the "substantial" standard is undefined even by the courts.  The more vocal and persistent an organization is in opposition to the new HHS rules, the more it jeopardizing its tax exempt status, or at the very least is inviting increased scrutiny.
    In a perverse way, the Obama administration has every incentive to prolong the controversy, as the "accommodation" being announced today seems destined to do, because opposition groups will be in effect handing the IRS the rope on which to hang them by continuing their efforts to "influence legislation."  Religious institutions are finding themselves increasingly faced with a dilemma: acquiesce to the administration or endanger their tax exempt status.  This is an affront to the "free exercise" promised by the First Amendment, and should be an embarrassment to the President who swore to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Obamacare vs. the Sadder-but-Wiser States

  This spring, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in a suit brought by 27 of the 50 states.  While liberals are largely galvanized in their support for Obamacare, conservatives are not uniformly lining up behind the states' case.   Michael Greve of the American Enterprise Institute recently wrote about two primary issues on which the court will rule: the "individual mandate," a subject of increasing debate among conservatives, and the expansion of Medicaid.  While Mr. Greve is almost dismissive of the impact of the first issue either way it is decided, he is unequivocal about the latter:  "However, the states won’t prevail on their Medicaid claim.  Nor should they."  While conservatives might disagree about whether or not the states will prevail, we should be unanimous in our conviction that they should.
   Throughout Mr. Greve's essay is an undertone of you-asked-for-it relative to the states and the federalism balance.  While he makes a good case that foolish decisions have led to entanglements for the states that call their sincerity into question, his conclusions are less convincing.  He frames the plaintiffs' case this way: "Constitutionally, the states’ brief hangs its opposition on a single sentence in the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in South Dakota v. Dole...," and then proceeds to discuss how much money is involved, what constitutes coercion, and the states schizophrenic opposition to both funded and unfunded federal mandates.  But does past acquiescence to unconstitutional programs or statutes impair the right to contest the further expansion of those programs or statutes?  To look at it another way, should citizens on welfare, for example, be expected to have diminished rights to free speech or trial by jury because welfare programs over time have become "bigger and more generous?"  This is nothing more than a creeping tyranny by government largess on the installment plan.
   Perhaps he is just being pragmatic, but Mr. Greve even goes on to say that "...the states do not come to the table with clean hands."  But even a suspect with a long criminal record does not forfeit constitutional protection for lack of "clean hands."  Besides, the Supreme Court is not a "table" at which to plea-bargain.  It is a court of law.  Just as prosecutors are routinely barred from raising the issue of prior convictions of the defendant during a criminal trial, so the states checkered past should not tip the scales of justice.  In the Obamacare case, the states may be thought of as the sadder-but-wiser girl who wants a fair shake from the court despite her youthful indiscretions, and the court is obligated to grant just such an unbiased hearing.
    Conservatives must not continue to surrender to the Whisper-Down-the-Lane jurisprudence that has led to the caricature of constitutional law that currently dominates our legal system.  Precedent based on precedent based on precedent with a little legislative overreach thrown in for good measure, and soon any federal government program can be made to look reasonably constitutional.   But if the founding fathers had imagined that federal legislation with the breathtaking scope of Obamacare could someday be squared with their concept of limited government, they would have tossed their drafts of the Constitution in the bottom drawer with their old copies of the Articles of Confederation and sent James Madison back to Montpelier to try again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

If It's Halftime in America...

    Alternatives to the Clint Eastwood Superbowl half-time ad, which of course, many have taken as a proxy campaign ad for President Obama (and perhaps with good reason):

If it's halftime in America... then it's time to put in the first team.
If it's halftime in America... then let's hope the last 3 years have just been the halftime show.
If it's halftime in America... then China's got the ball and we're down by 15 trillion!  (OK, that was Jay Leno, but it's better than either of mine.)

Anybody else want to take a shot?

Term Limits! For Taxes...

    Today, Ben Bernanke addressed the Senate Budget Committee and urged them not to let the Bush tax cuts expire.  Sunday, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Meet the Press that the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire.  In mid-January, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger said that not only should the Bush tax cuts be allowed to expire, the Estate Tax rate should return to [higher] 2009 levels to where it was before it was cut on January 1, 2010.   And disagreement remains over whether or not the Social Security payroll tax cut should be extended or ended in 2012.  In earlier posts, I discussed the foolishness of monkeying around with the SS taxes rates mid-year or worse, mid-quarter.
    This time, however, I would like to address a different aspect of this tax issue.  Why do we rarely read of a "tax increase" expiring?  A Google News search for the exact phrase "tax increases expire" returns precisely three results.  And all three are referring to state taxes, not federal.  Aside from the seeming inability of Congress and the Executive Branch to control spending, could not this phenomenon be a large factor in explaining why reducing the size of government never seems to happen?  Would it not produce different results if Congress was forced to vote to extend tax increases instead of just passively allowing cuts to expire?  Any effort to reform the tax system should have a built-in requirement for term limits, not on Congress members, but on tax increases.

Al Gore's Current TV - The "Anti-Fox"?

    In a Newsweek piece at the Daily Beast reporting on Al Gore's struggles to keep his fledgling TV network alive, there is this paragraph:

Gore and partner Joel Hyatt, had finally come up with what could be a game-changing plan: to reinvent the station as a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week liberal cable-news outlet, a bastion for progressive ideas and politics on television, a way to harness and influence the Democratic Party—in short, as Hyatt says, the “anti-Fox.”

"We Decide, then Report."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Keeping Politics Out of Cancer Research

    I think all would agree that the Komen-Planned Parenthood spectacle this past week was a political battle the likes of which have not been seen since September 2011 when the Senate Appropriations committee voted to cut the National Institutes of Health budget by $190 million.  Much of the work of the NIH is funding cancer research.  The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network put out a statement immediately:
The bill that passed out of committee today could slow progress in the fight to defeat cancer by cutting federal funding for cancer research for the second straight year. The bill would cut the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by $190 million, reducing research grants and delaying the discovery of potential breakthroughs in new treatments for cancer....   Cancer still kills 1,500 Americans every day. Patients waiting for new treatments and therapies can’t afford to wait for a better budget environment, while potential discoveries are left to languish in the labs.
Reactions from other quarters were swift and unequivocal.  For instance, Planned Parenthood put out the following statement:
Similarly, Harry Reid had this to say:
In a joint statement, Patty Murray and Barbara Boxer declared:
 Nancy Pelosi was perhaps most eloquent:

There’s a cut in funding for the National Institutes of Health. This is not a healthy thing for our country because that research has answers. You know that every family in America is one telephone call, one diagnosis, one accident away from needing the kind of biomedical research that can cure--really have the biblical power to cure in a very, very special way and so to cut back on that research is wrong.
Oh, wait...

My bad.

    Pelosi's statement was from March 2011 when the House GOP passed a continuing resolution calling for $1 billion in NIH cuts.  In September, it was all 16 Democrats voting down all 14 Republicans on the Senate Appropriations committee to cut the NIH budget.   Never mind.  Nothing to see here.

Culture Malfunction

    Watching the NFL and NBC point fingers at one another today over the latest nationally televised obscenity is surreal.  The half-time show (which I intentionally skipped) featured Madonna, for crying out loud!  One could argue that most of her career has been obscene.  Some of the acts joining pre-Lady-Gaga have names that I will not even repeat on this page.  The NFL has demonstrated their willingness to bungee jump over the open sewer of pop culture for the sake of publicity in the past, and just like after the Janet Jackson episode in 2004, their forced indignation rings hollow.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Planned Politics

    "Politics!" was the predictable accusation from Planned Parenthood supporters in reaction to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization's announcement that they were ending their grant to Planned Parenthood.  In reality, the reaction itself heralded the introduction of politics to the controversy.  After all, it is not as if Komen planned to give the funds to National Right to Life or Concerned Women for America.  Komen's mission is about breast cancer - awareness, prevention, and research.  Doubtless the funds would have been redirected to other groups offering breast cancer screenings.  Nevertheless, 26 (Democratic) senators signed a letter to Komen which said in part:
“It would be tragic if any woman – let alone thousands of women – lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack,” the letter reads. “We earnestly hope that you will put women’s health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision for the sake of the women who depend on both your organizations for access to the health care they need.”
The letter went on to say: "This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-saving services."  Apparently a quarter of the US Senate found this move by Komen such a threat to the health of women that these politicians felt it was necessary to send a meddlesome letter decrying Komen's choice (choice!)  to reconfigure the way they distribute the charitable funds under their stewardship.
    If the loss of funds that paid for only about 4.3% of exams and mammography referrals by Planned Parenthood over the past five years (according to the Kansas City Star) is such a blow to women's health, the senators and like-minded Planned Parenthood supporters might want to investigate the 10% drop in "breast exams/breast care" figures in the organizations latest annual report.  In 2009, this figure was 830,312, but in 2010 dropped to 747,607.  (Total screening for all types of cancer dropped from 1,830,811 to 1,596,741, a 12% decrease.  Neither drop is reflective of a comparable decrease in total expenditures for Planned Parenthood which were $1,037.4 million in 2008-09 and $1,029.7 million in 2009-10.)  So in one year, life-saving screenings dropped at more than twice the rate that might have occurred from the loss of the Komen grant.  Doesn't Planned Parenthood have some explaining to do?  Did their priorities change?
    Of course, I am not suggesting a conspiracy by Planned Parenthood, although the logic of Komen's detractors would not only suggest it, but pronounce a guilty verdict.  I'm sure there are a variety of explanations as to why cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood may have dropped so significantly in 2010.  The point is, Planned Parenthood and Komen are both private organizations and make dozens of decisions about levels of service and use of funds based on varying criteria.  So the idea that a private charitable organization would be excoriated by 26 sitting senators for a relatively insignificant redirection of funds (Komen's grant represents less than one-tenth of one percent of Planned Parenthood's annual budget) when nearly half of Planned Parenthood's $1 billion in annual funding comes from the government is outrageous.
    And what of those same Senators that have been publicly agreeing with Warren Buffett that the "rich" could be paying billions more in taxes?  To hear them talk, one or two of these super rich millionaires or billionaires could make up Komen's $700,000 with the loose change in their couch cushions.  Come to think of it, since the estimated median net worth of current Senate members at about $2.5 million, perhaps one of those 26 senators themselves could have signed a check to Planned Parenthood instead of signing the querulous letter to Komen.  But pass up a chance to pummel a private sector charitable organization with the abortion cudgel?  Some pleasures are worth more than anything money can buy.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Silence of the Greens, Part II

    A post by Jazz Shaw at Hot Air reports on the recent revelation that Chesapeake Energy funneled $26 million to the Sierra Club to fund a campaign against coal-powered energy.  There is a quote from the original blogger at Time magazine (via the Daily Caller) that referenced the Sierra Club's deep concerns with hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking":
The Fracking Regulatory Action Center (or FRAC tracker) is a resource for activists to help secure strong safeguards for fracking. It tracks state efforts to update their rules to stay ahead of the fracking boom, and to blunt its most dangerous effects. It also collects a growing library of technical comments and reports on these rules, which activists can use in their own work.
The last time I wrote about fracking, it was in reference to the upcoming exploration at the dormant Newberry volcano in Oregon and the relative silence from the environmental movement and the media in general, despite the fact that a process similar to fracking was being used.  I speculated that since the Newberry volcano project involved "renewable" energy, the green movement might be giving it a pass.  At the time, I was unaware of the Sierra Club's FRAC tracker.  Now a general search of all Sierra Club websites for "fracking" returns 362 results.   But interestingly, although not surprisingly, conducting searches on the FRAC tracker for "Newberry" and "volcano" come up with zero results.
    A further internet search did yield some references to the project and the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club.  As far back as November 2007, the Juniper Group of the Oregon Sierra Club has been commenting on and opposing the Newberry project.  But in fact, it is only on the "oregon.sierraclub.org" portion of the Sierra Club's website where these references are found.  And despite the upcoming test this summer that will pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of the volcano, my research found that there have been no references to project on their website in at least a year.  Could it be that the Sierra Club's championing of geothermal energy is influencing its consistency on fracking?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Planned Parenthood -- Or Not

   Much attention has been focused on Planned Parenthood recently over the very public, albeit temporary, falling out with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization.  Komen's announcement that Planned Parenthood's grant for breast cancer screenings would not be renewed triggered a cacophony of criticism and charges of a conspiracy to harm women's health.  The grant amounted to only 0.07% of Planned Parenthood's annual budget, so the reaction that dominated the news cycle for nearly a week seemed wildly out of proportion.  But perhaps this is not just a knee-jerk response on their part, but rather part of their business model.   Planned Parenthood has certainly demonstrated its lack of balance in other ways as well.
    Pro-life groups often point out the lopsided statistics in Planned Parenthood's own reports showing abortions outnumbering adoptions by huge margins.  In 2010, they performed 391 abortions for every one adoption referral.  Planned Parenthood has downplayed the imbalance, even calling critics "misleading" in their use of numbers.  The organization portrays itself as simply an advocate for women's health, laying out all the options and allowing each individual to make her own decision.  Pro-lifers have forcefully disputed that assertion.   And a closer look at Planned Parenthood's own website supports the pro-lifers' contention.
   The main Planned Parenthood website contains a menu titled "Health Info and Services".  Under this menu, "Abortion" is clearly visible, but "Adoption" is nowhere to be seen:

"Pregnancy", however, appears further down the list, and selecting that option brings up a new page - but "adoption" is still absent:

The main categories, including "Abortion" and "Morning-After-Pill (Emergency Contraception)" remain on the left side of the screen.  In the center of the screen, one might notice "Pregnancy Options."  Clicking that link finally presents visitors with the word "Adoption" for the first time:

However, it is listed on the left side of the screen as "Thinking About Adoption" under "Pregnancy Options" and following - you guessed it - "Thinking About Abortion".  But, then again, "Abortion" comes before "Adoption" alphabetically; perhaps that is the reason for the order.  The third option is "Thinking About Parenting."
   This is where things begin to get mildly creepy.  Clicking on any of the three options brings up a new page that begins with this paragraph:
Millions of women face unplanned pregnancies every year. If you are deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, you have a lot to think about. You have three options — abortion, adoption, and parenting.
Then, in all three cases, the following paragraph is virtually identical, except for the words "abortion", "adoption", and "parenting.":
Whether you're thinking about having an abortion, you're helping a woman decide if abortion is right for her, or you're just curious about abortion, you may have many questions. Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask when considering abortion. We hope you find the answers helpful. 
Whether you're thinking about placing a child for adoption, you're helping a woman decide if adoption is right for her, or you're just curious about adoption, you may have many questions. Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask when considering adoption. We hope you find the answers helpful. 
Whether you're thinking about parenting, you're helping a woman decide if parenting is right for her, or you're just curious about parenting, you may have many questions. Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask when considering becoming a parent. We hope you find the answers helpful. 
Granted, the presentation is consistent with the moral equivalence one would expect from Planned Parenthood, but it is jarring nonetheless.
    Six questions follow under each of the three headings relating to further information on each topic.  I will not take the time to go through all 18 questions, but rather focus on the first question under Abortion and the first question under Adoption.  Clicking on "How Can I Know If Abortion Is the Right Option for Me?" presents the reader with some information on pregnancy and abortion, as well as a list of primary reasons women might choose abortion.  Clicking on "How Can I Know If Adoption Is the Right Option for Me?" brings up a very similar presentation on adoption, even using many of the same words and phrases.  Women choose abortion or adoption "because they care about themselves and their families or their future families."  Under Abortion, we are told: "In fact, about half of all women in the U.S. have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives. About 4 out of 10 women with unplanned pregnancies decide to have abortions. Overall, more than 1 out of 3 of all U.S. women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old."  The Adoption page repeats the "half of all women" statistic, but is silent about how common or rare adoption is.  Does this not appear to give women the "safety in numbers" argument about abortion?   After all, could that many women make the wrong choice?
    There is also a subtle difference in the reasons given for each pregnancy option.  Abortion is chosen because a woman "feels that having a baby now would make it too difficult to work, go to school, or care for her children."  The comparable item under Adoption leaves out the last phrase and says: "She feels that raising a baby now would make it too difficult to work or go to school."  The implication: women who choose abortion already have children, so they are mothers.  And mothers are not anti-baby, so abortion is not the choice of a selfish person - mothers choose it, for goodness sake!
     Further down each page is a box where more questions are posed: "Some Things to Ask Yourself If You Are Thinking About Abortion" and "Some Things to Ask Yourself If You Are Thinking About Adoption".  The Adoption list asks: "Does adoption feel like what I should do, not what I want to do?" There is no equivalent on the Abortion list.
    Perhaps most telling of all is one other question:  "Will I be able to cope with the feeling of loss that I may have?"  On which list does this question appear?  No, not the Abortion list.  The question in that case is simply: "Can I handle the experience of having an abortion?"   While the question is posed later "How Will I Feel After The Abortion/Adoption?," again only the Adoption answer refers to "loss."  There is no question women giving up a child for adoption would feel a sense of loss.  But surely a significant enough number of women would feel a sense of loss following an abortion to make it worth mentioning.   I am not suggesting post-abortion emotions are presented as insignificant, but Planned Parenthood is very careful to downplay the negatives.  The irony here is of course that adoption actually results in "parenthood"; abortion does not.
    In the interest of time, I have left a number of aspects of this issue unexplored (such as the parenting option.)  Planned Parenthood may cast itself as the Kris Kringle of women's health, cheerfully directing bewildered patrons to the best option, whether it be Macy's or Gimbels, or more to the point: abortion, adoption, or parenting.  But Planned Parenthood knows what it is selling, and much like the oft maligned corporations castigated by liberals for being greedy, they know what generates a profit.  Sadly, adoption referrals are irrelevant to their bottom line.

Common Sense Takes a Holiday

   Often a news story contains a piece of information that trumps the main point.  There is no better recent example than this CNNMoney story on the Social Security tax holiday that expires on the last day of this month.  The final two paragraphs of the story should have been the screaming headline:

As they were last year, payroll tax administrators are hoping Congress resolves the issue once and for all, according to Michael O'Toole, senior director of government relations of the American Payroll Association.
"Payroll systems and the federal payroll tax reporting scheme are not set up to accommodate more than one employee Social Security tax rate in a calendar year, let alone within the same quarter," he said.
To clarify the issue, when Congress first passed the Social Security tax holiday in late December 2010, it created a nightmare scenario for many businesses that received very little attention at the time.  The company for which I work does payroll for over 50 clients, and we were forced within the space of several weeks to find, purchase and implement new payroll software, because our old software was unable to handle the difference in the Social Security "contribution" rate and the reduced withholding rate.  This was well known among the industry at the time, but received little if any attention from the politicians whose puttering created the debacle.
    Now here we are a little more than a year later, and once again the politicians have businesses biting their nails.  While the main focus is on the $40/week difference the tax rate reduction means for the average worker, which is not insignificant in itself, some damage has already been done by allowing the issue to drag on this long.  Business must be able to plan ahead, and cannot do so in the current situation.  If the tax holiday ends, not only will millions of business suddenly be the proud owners of obsolete payroll software, but the IRS will need to redesign the quarterly 941 form in a way that has never even been contemplated.  To make provision for this possibility, software developers must already be working on these changes in order to allow for testing.  Payroll department managers must be formulating contingency plans as they await the outcome of Congressional action.  And all of this amounts to wasted productivity at a time the national economy can ill afford it.
    At this juncture, the wisdom of the tax holiday is a moot point.  The die has been cast, and to end the tax holiday on February 29th would be foolish.  An extension to March 31st would be at least a nod to businesses, but would still amount to a band-aid on a broken leg.  Politicians need to allow businesses to cross off "find new payroll software" from their list of 2012 concerns.
    In the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel speculates that the Republicans hold on the majority in the House is no sure thing.  The Republican party could win the gratitude if not electoral support of multitudes in the business community by taking seriously the chaos that is looming over this payroll tax holiday issue.  While it lacks the popular appeal of the tax reduction itself that affects all employees paychecks, eliminating uncertainty and ensuring stability in productivity affects everyone in ways that are ultimately comparable in significance to the immediate impact on take-home pay.  Republicans need to show the maturity and wisdom to challenge the President and the Democrats in Congress on this issue and come down on the side of common sense.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

President's Cars, Old and New, Fail to Sell

   Well, the eBay auction on President Obama's old Chrysler 300 ended with no bidders.  But the seller, Mr. O'Boyle, should not feel too bad.  The President's new cars are not exactly flying off the lots, either.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Our Dollars are Better Than Your Dollars

    Perhaps James Taranto ("First We Occupy the Town, Then We Paint It Red ") just could not bring himself to take seriously this Washington Post op-ed by Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher of The Nation magazine.  But with the beginning of spring training just weeks away, I could not resist taking a few swings at the softballs she lobbed.  Her premise is how people power can overcome the invidious, corrupting influence of money from corporations in politics:
There are few issues on the national landscape that concern me more than the impact of corporate money on our politics — its power to corrupt and distort, its power to change the outcomes of elections and legislation. We have seen much of that in the ongoing Republican primaries, just as we’ve seen it these past years in Washington and in every state. The truth is, there aren’t many things in our political system that are more powerful than corporate money.
But there are some. 
There are ideas — big, bold, meaningful ideas — and the movements that drive them. Ideas like ending income inequality, fought for by a 99 percent movement that has remade the national conversation. We’ve seen the power of bold ideas in Ohio, where citizens mobilized against a vicious proposal to gut union rights, overcoming at the ballot box the millions of corporate dollars spent to support it.
What Ms. vanden Heuvel chooses to overlook, however, is that something else besides "big, bold, meaningful ideas — and the movements that drive them" is "more powerful than corporate money."
And that is union money!  And more corporate money!  I have listed four of the examples vanden Heuvel uses with relevant, lightly-edited excerpts from linked new stories to illustrate my point:

  • Ohio labor union law referendum - "Campaign finance reports filed Friday with the state show that union-backed We Are Ohio raised almost $30 million and spent roughly $29 million in its successful effort to defeat the law..."
  • Recall elections in Wisconsin - "A review of total spending by the outside groups, candidates, state parties, recall committees and two legislative leadership committees found Democrats outspent Republicans $23.4 million to $20.5 million.  Outside special interest groups doled out a record $34.5 million in the races, mostly to buy negative broadcast advertising and mailings to trash the candidates. Groups backing Democrats spent an estimated $18.6 million and groups backing Republicans spent $15.9 million."
  • Walker recall election - "Lynn Freeman, communications director of the recall activist group United Wisconsin: “The speculation I’m hearing is two or three times what was spent last year.”   In other words, around $100 million, or possibly even more."
  • SOPA - "Media companies like Comcast, Viacom, News Corp., and Time Warner led the support of the bills, each spending millions of dollars on the issue.  Media lobbyists, including the motion picture, recording industry, cable, and broadcaster associations, also added millions of dollars to the fight, as did credit card firms Visa, MasterCard and American Express.  Loads of cash were spent by the opposition as well, but most of that came from Google. After the search giant's millions, there was a steep drop off in lobbying dollars, with Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and Microsoft lobbying in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each."

Ms. vanden Heuvel also referred to Occupy Wall Street (" 99 percent movement that has remade the national conversation",) but that movement is dying and only became part of the national conversation due to the cheerleading from the media.  Also, it is unclear to me that the "organized effort to reject an unjust mortgage settlement and investigate financial crimes" is really going to accomplish anything other than waste taxpayer money on a task force who may come up with recommendations that will prove as useless as do most governmental ad hoc committees' recommendation (e.g. Simpson-Bowles and the more recent Super Committee.)
    But the final fight that the people won according to vanden Heuvel was the Keystone XL pipeline: That was a "fight where the people stood up to the big oil companies and their money — and won." But irony of ironies, unions supported the pipeline! So while corporate money "lost", so did union money and everyone else, except the environmentalists. That's something of a pyrrhic victory for "the people."
    I am not naive enough to think that money cannot corrupt the political system, nor cynical enough to believe that "the people" cannot make a difference.  After all, "We the People" are the ones who established this country and its political system.  And we must guard against the corrupting influence of money while at the same time guard against the influence of those who are less concerned with money's corrupting effects and more concerned about which side of the political divide is spending it.