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Self-Evident

Monthly Archives: February 2014

I know little besides “the fruit was so big,” the summers beautiful,” but Rostov-Don holds a significant grasp on my pride — it was written in large letters on a placard in my grandparents’ house, the placard sent to them by the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in the mid-’80s. They put it in wrought iron as well — on Ellis Island for a school field trip, I stepped away from the group and found “Elizabeth Resnitsky — Rostov-Don” on a plaque beside the seawater. Our blood, some of it, is from there, and when it’s safer I’ll bring the kids and a video camera.

“When it’s safer” — did Great-Grandma Lizzy think that when she fled in 1912 at age 16, or did she know the currents well enough that her great-great-grandchildren would see the same pedigree of bastard running the place?

Would she want us to visit, even with the specter of Yanukovich, the latest in a century of faceless, interchangable thugs, dampening the city’s spirit?

This morning, angry Viktor so-and-so ranted about his blah-blah, whatever, “banality of evil.” I didn’t watch it. Same speech — Grandma Lizzy could have filled us in. Yanukovich will spend much of the rest of his life in exile, maybe in a spider hole, or a gold-leafed chalet, thinking great things of himself. He doesn’t matter, and is not fit to clean the shoes of the people he chases away. Brooklyn took them in 100 years ago. We’re doing just fine without his centralized planning; Grandma Lizzy and Hyman Wigodsky, without a hammer and sickle, started a Brooklyn family that turned into several doctors and lawyers and teachers, a bunch of millionaires and graduate degrees. A tax base Yanukovich would love to plunder but will never have the chance to.

I’m sure plenty of Rostov Don citizens will be pleased to see Yanukovich leave town soon, especially the 10,000 or so Jews who survive there today. Imagine — a whole century of these men disturbing yet another lovely corner of the globe, keeping eager visitors at a distance.

Today, in the soon-to-be-Arab-Springed kingdom of Jordan, ten gay men and women were arrested for being gay in the same room. While Jordan does not have any laws on the books regarding homosexuality, the government does give leeway to local administrators to … kinda do whatever they wish with gays. For example, it appears gays could be placed underneath the prison indefinitely. Call it Jordan’s Elastic Clause“:

 “The administrative governor of the Marka area, Adnan Qatarneh, ordered the arrest of the 10 gays and lesbians after they held a reception at a party hall on Wednesday to get to know each other,” he told AFP.

“The arrests were made to prevent a disturbance of the peace,” he added, without elaborating.

Homosexuality is not illegal in the conservative desert kingdom, although it is widely seen to be unacceptable.

“There are no laws in Jordan to deal with homosexuality cases,” another security official said. ”It is up to administrative governors to decide how to handle such issues, including any period of detention.”

Despite Jordan being a brutal, lawless administration in terms of homosexuality, Jordan is not considered a particularly dangerous locale for gays, and does not draw much international attention or condemnation for this behavior. And frankly it shouldn’t, according to the strategy of targeting the worst offenders first.

Nevertheless, Newsweek writer Max Strasser — chasing traffic with a poorly researched, unscientific list post — saw fit to include the United States ahead of Jordan among his “Top Twelve Most Homophobic Nations.”

Strasser, presumably suspecting that even Newsweek wouldn’t allow him to place the U.S. in his top 12, essentially placed the United States at number 13, the lone member of a category skin-crawlingly titled “Bubbling Under.” According to him, the United States is not an official Nation of Most Concern, but any day now a gathering of ten Louisiana gays might get rounded up and left to the whims of a Louisiana mayor, and this fate is objectively worse than being left to the whims of a Sunni Islamist.

However, the Times of Israel article reporting on the Jordanian arrest mentions — Strasser should probably take a look-see — that his dangerously homophobic United States has in fact issued a human rights report concerned about Jordan’s treatment of gays, a homophobic movement ominously raising even our bubbles.

Here’s Strasser’s list:

1. Nigeria

2. Uganda

3. Zimbabwe

4. Saudi Arabia

5. India

6. Honduras

7. Jamaica

8. Senegal

9. Afghanistan

10. Iran

11. Lithuania

12. Sudan

“Bubbling Under”: United States

Strasser’s actual criteria for the list aren’t specified, a shame because a list of the countries statistically most dangerous to gay residents or travelers would be a valuable piece of journalism. I can only assume, but Strasser’s criteria — considering his exclusion of Jordan and most of the other nations of Earth, present and past, in favor of the United States for his cop-out number 13 — likely consisted of “Strasser’s feelings” and “Strasser’s agenda.” Why else would he compile this useless, unscientific list if not for the purpose of smearing the United States with it? 

If Strasser truly cared about the safety and security of gays worldwide, he would have compiled a legitimate report that would be of some use to them. This list is about Strasser’s ego and Newsweek‘s traffic. Nothing else.

GOP Pundits Take On Ted Cruz, Logic

February 27th, 2014 - 10:17 am

Thomas SowellAnn Coulter, and Kim Strassel all took exception last week to the conservative movement — nominally led by Ted Cruz – which intends to primary GOP incumbents who do not align as strongly as Cruz does with conservatism. This appears to be, or at least felt like, the first such anti-conservative stance taken by Sowell, making it the most jarring of the three. Wrote Sowell:

The basic, brutal reality is that the federal government can do whatever it wants to do, if nobody stops it. The Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision shows that we cannot depend on it to protect our freedom. Nor will Congress, as long as the Democrats control the Senate.
The most charitable interpretation of Ted Cruz and his supporters is that they are willing to see the Republican party weakened in the short run, in hopes that they will be able to take it over in the long run, and set it on a different path as a more purified conservative party.

Neglecting the remainder of the passage for the moment, note that Sowell’s first sentence above is factually correct, and is also the pivotal information required for this debate. The sentence is not Sowell’s opinion, but a truth about men governing men: no document and no legislature can ever function as a fail-safe defense of the individual’s rights. Whether in the “state of nature” or under a “consent of the governed” state, one group of folks can always do “whatever it wants to do if nobody stops it.” Your best hope, the strongest safeguard of your rights — superseding even the bearing of arms — that could ever exist falls to the culture you live within. If the citizens report being ever-ready to “stop it,” your rights stand a better chance of remaining secured.

Presently, the United States does not have a strong enough culture to uphold the individual’s life, liberty, and property as the highest feature of government. The decline of America — economically, and in regards to respect for the rule of law as based on the individual’s rights — has occurred because the countrymen allowed for a decline.

The citizens are not producing the pressure necessary for a turnaround. Yet the establishment GOP’s strategy for returning the country to prosperity is to work with the culture as it is. This path relies on a boggling number of troubling or irrational assumptions, considering the confidence with which its advocates present their arguments.

If the GOP members being primaried are uncomfortable being associated with Ted Cruz, presumably they are comfortable being considered less conservative than Cruz. These incumbents may be hiding their conservatism based on some calculation only they understand, and surely a legislator who consistently measures how close he can safely stand to the Constitution is not someone committed to the rule of law. On the other hand, these incumbents may honestly believe in maintaining a distance from conservatism, and thus are comfortable with the current culture which has led us to a potential American nadir.

They are a lose-lose, and that’s before taking a measure of the opponent. Eric Holder has on more than one occasion instructed state attorneys general to ignore the law. The president has unilaterally changed Obamacare eighteen times. When the adversary is lawless, a GOP-controlled Senate of the calculating or the less-adhered to the Constitution is just another bump in the road. Sowell, Strassel, and Coulter, as pessimistic as they all might be regarding the country’s odds for recovery, are still irrationally positive on the nation’s prospects without a slate of Constitutionally committed oath-takers.

I wish the national resurrection were as simple as “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.” But culture trumps legislature.

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Liberal failures always trace back to having glossed over the biggest problems, the showstoppers that should kill bad ideas before they get out of committee. Instead, an unfounded trust in the power of technology, the future, or in the sense of being on the cutting edge of everything gets these manic ideas passed and signed.

During the Bush era, I heard plenty of appeals to a futuristic savior as a means for avoiding war:

Dude, it’s 2005. You’re telling me they can’t come up with a better strategy for Iraq than shooting the bad guys some more?

Yes. I was correct; our shiny new 2005 thinking could not halt the advancement of al-Qaeda on its own.

C’mon. It’s 2014. Our cars should be electric.

Yet the Chevy Volt, known to be unaffordable and requiring of a subsidy prior to construction, did not become either economical or desirable in practice. The Tesla, considered a viable product, actually is sustained by subsidy. No, “2014″ was not a rational argument for manufacturing electric cars.

Then we have the most damaging current appeal to futurism, an idea which has managed to retain its cutting-edge persona despite being a near-century old:

C’mon. The richest country in the world can get everyone health insurance.

Back in 2008 — and also back during the working years of Adam Smith — rational folks knew the showstopper flaw with such a statement: artificially lowering a price means that someone not party to the transaction has to pay for the alteration. Besides the alteration being immoral and illegal, the price point arrived upon in transactions between Party A and Party B cannot be altered without requiring a Party C to make A or B whole again.

Now, four years into the problem created by the “Cmon, man” crowd, the Obama administration is hysterically begging America’s young to register for Obamacare, the people statistically likely to lose money on the deal. They’re treating it as a messaging problem, or as a “maturity” issue; as anything but the humiliating truth: after thousands of pages written and calculations tortured out by the cleverest, most-credentialed folks in the country, after rewriting the law 35 times after passage, the liberals in charge couldn’t lower the price point between Parties A and B without needing a bystander C to provide glorified charity.

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On Friday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke and took questions on Obamacare in an online forum sponsored by Voto Latino. This group primarily exists for the purpose of encouraging Hispanics to register to vote, but it additionally advocates for leftist causes. From their website:

In 10 years and with your support, we have engaged and developed the leadership skills of Latino Millennials; registered nearly a quarter million voters; rallied for immigration reform; ensured our community got counted in the 2010 Census and enrolled in the new healthcare law; and together, we have fought against laws that would make it harder for Latinos to vote.

By “laws that would make it harder for Latinos to vote,” they are referring to Voter ID laws.

We have previously reported here on various elements of Obamacare that serve no purpose beyond encouraging the registration of likely Democratic voters; Obamacare is deliberately designed to serve this secondary goal. Yet this event with Voto Latino is a new development — the push to use Obamacare as an implement for Democratic Party election victory now is occuring transparently.

A. Eighteen times

It’s the law, you see.

The Galen Institute has compiled a list of all of the post-Thor’s gavel changes to the Affordable Care Act — there have been 35 legislative changes in total; 18 of these have occurred without the input of the, uh, legislative branch. It’s like someone there thinks elections should matter less or something.

Read the Galen Institute’s list of 18 changes below — important stuff, so I’m including the entire list here. But be sure to click on their link for the other 17. And note this key — obvious, but key — quote: “Even this large number of changes hasn’t stopped the cascade of failures we are seeing today in the implementation of the law.”

——————–

1. Medicare Advantage patch: The administration ordered an advance draw on funds from a Medicare bonus program in order to provide extra payments to Medicare Advantage plans, in an effort to temporarily forestall cuts in benefits and therefore delay early exodus of MA plans from the program. (April 19, 2011)

2. Employee reporting: The administration, contrary to the Obamacare legislation, instituted a one-year delay of the requirement that employers must report to their employees on their W-2 forms the full cost of their employer-provided health insurance. (January 1, 2012)

3. Subsidies may flow through federal exchanges: The IRS issued a rule that allows premium assistance tax credits to be available in federal exchanges although the law only specified that they would be available “through an Exchange established by the State under Section 1311.” (May 23, 2012)

4. Closing the high-risk pool: The administration decided to halt enrollment in transitional federal high-risk pools created by the law, blocking coverage for an estimated 40,000 new applicants, citing a lack of funds. The administration had money from a fund under Secretary Sebelius’s control to extend the pools, but instead used the money to pay for advertising for Obamacare enrollment and other purposes. (February 15, 2013)

5. Doubling allowed deductibles: Because some group health plans use more than one benefits administrator, plans are allowed to apply separate patient cost-sharing limits to different services, such as doctor/hospital and prescription drugs, allowing maximum out-of-pocket costs to be twice as high as the law intended. (February 20, 2013)

6. Small businesses on hold: The administration has said that the federal exchanges for small businesses will not be ready by the 2014 statutory deadline, and instead delayed until 2015 the provision of SHOP (Small-Employer Health Option Program) that requires the exchanges to offer a choice of qualified health plans. (March 11, 2013)

7. Delaying a low-income plan: The administration delayed implementation of the Basic Health Program until 2015. It would have provided more-affordable health coverage for certain low-income individuals not eligible for Medicaid. (March 22, 2013)

8. Employer-mandate delay: By an administrative action that’s contrary to statutory language in the ACA, the reporting requirements for employers were delayed by one year. (July 2, 2013)

9. Self-attestation: Because of the difficulty of verifying income after the employer-reporting requirement was delayed, the administration decided it would allow “self-attestation” of income by applicants for health insurance in the exchanges. This was later partially retracted after congressional and public outcry over the likelihood of fraud. (July 15, 2013)

10. Delaying the online SHOP exchange: The administration first delayed for a month and later for a year until November 2014 the launch of the online insurance marketplace for small businesses. The exchange was originally scheduled to launch on October 1, 2013. (September 26, 2013) (November 27, 2013)

11. Congressional opt-out: The administration decided to offer employer contributions to members of Congress and their staffs when they purchase insurance on the exchanges created by the ACA, a subsidy the law doesn’t provide. (September 30, 2013)

12. Delaying the individual mandate: The administration changed the deadline for the individual mandate, by declaring that customers who have purchased insurance by March 31, 2014 will avoid the tax penalty. Previously, they would have had to purchase a plan by mid-February. (October 23, 2013)

13. Insurance companies may offer canceled plans: The administration announced that insurance companies may reoffer plans that previous regulations forced them to cancel. (November 14, 2013)

14. Exempting unions from reinsurance fee: The administration gave unions an exemption from the reinsurance fee (one of ObamaCare’s many new taxes). To make up for this exemption, non-exempt plans will have to pay a higher fee, which will likely be passed onto consumers in the form of higher premiums and deductibles. (December 2, 2013)

15. Extending Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan: The administration extended the federal high risk pool until January 31, 2014 and again until March 15, 2014 to prevent a coverage gap for the most vulnerable. The plans were scheduled to expire on December 31, but were extended because it has been impossible for some to sign up for new coverage on healthcare.gov. (December 12, 2013) (January 14, 2014)

16. Expanding catastrophic hardship waiver to those with canceled plans: The administration expanded the hardship waiver, which allows some people to purchase catastrophic health insurance, to people who have had their plans canceled because of ObamaCare regulations. This is only a temporary fix so these plans will again be illegal in 2015, conveniently after the November 2014 elections. (December 19, 2013)

17. Equal employer coverage delayed: Tax officials will not be enforcing in 2014 the mandate requiring employers to offer equal coverage to all their employees. This provision of the law was supposed to go into effect in 2010, but IRS officials have “yet to issue regulations for employers to follow.” (January 18, 2013)

18. Employer-mandate delayed again: The administration delayed for an additional year provisions of the employer mandate, postponing enforcement of the requirement for medium-size employers until 2016 and relaxing some requirements for larger employers. Businesses with 100 or more employees must offer coverage to 70% of their full-time employees in 2015 and 95% in 2016 and beyond. (February 10, 2014)

Vile: The Atlantic Smears James Taranto

February 11th, 2014 - 2:14 pm

Today, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal published his thoughts on the issue of campus sexual assault; Taranto noted that often a male is assumed to have committed criminal act when both he and the woman involved are intoxicated during the incident in question.

Shamelessly, Mr. Bump twisted Taranto’s words to imply that he wrote an intoxicated woman resisting the advances of an intoxicated man might be at fault. Of course Taranto, not a psychopath, said no such thing.

Here is Taranto’s passage:

If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn’t determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver’s sex. But when two drunken college students “collide,” the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault.

And here is Bump’s analysis of the above passage, under the execrable headline “James Taranto Will Tell You When You’ve Been Raped, Ladies”:

In other words, if a man and a woman are both drinking, and the man sexually assaults the woman, if he rapes her, they’re kind of both at fault, really. That’s Taranto’s argument.

No, it isn’t.

Taranto deserves an apology and a retraction.

Once again, the executive branch has unilaterally announced a change to the Affordable Care Act, this time by granting yet another delay to the mandate requiring certain-sized employers to offer health insurance. Per the Wall Street Journal:

Under the new Treasury rule, firms with 50 to 99 full-time workers are free from the mandate until 2016. And firms with 100 or more workers now also only need cover 70% of full-time workers in 2015 and 95% in 2016 and after, not the 100% specified in the law.

The new rule also relaxes the mandate for certain occupations and industries that were at particular risk for disruption, like volunteer firefighters, teachers, adjunct faculty members and seasonal employees. Oh, and the Treasury also notes that, “As these limited transition rules take effect, we will consider whether it is necessary to further extend any of them beyond 2015.”

Quite simply, the Treasury cannot do this. Most citizens of the libertarian or conservative persuasion do not need to be informed that this is the case, knowing that the legislative branch is granted the ability to legislate. The Founders were clear on this — it’s not just the ambiguously purposed “Congress,” but “the legislative branch.” Accordingly, the uproar has been steady from the right regarding each one of the president’s issuances that have successfully changed the enforcement of the ACA.

But citizens of a leftist slant — and most importantly, this population includes the majority of what we refer to as popular culture, in addition to the executive Branch and the Senate — have responded to the lawlessness based on whether or not the decrees appear sensible. Note the latest from Ron Fournier of the National Journal, an ACA cheerleader:

Advocates for a strong executive branch, including me, have given the White House a pass on its rule-making authority, because implementing such a complicated law requires flexibility. But the law may be getting stretched to the point of breaking. Think of the ACA as a game of Jenga: Adjust one piece and the rest are affected; adjust too many and it falls.

If not illegal, the changes are fueling suspicion among Obama-loathing conservatives, and confusion among the rest of us. Even the law’s most fervent supporters are frustrated.

How could Mr. Fournier believe that the involvement of the legislative branch in the changing of a law is dependent on whether or not the bill is “complicated”? To whom? It’s an illogical, irrational stance.

“The law may be getting stretched to the point of breaking”? Huh? To Mr. Fournier, the enforcement of our nation’s laws — all of which should exist to defend the individual’s life, liberty, and property — do not commence until a critical of mass of leftists say: “Dude. Enough already.”

Culture encompasses more than entertainment. Obama has successfully altered a law without a congressional vote and without fear of judicial action because our culture cannot produce the will to secure the individual’s rights in these instances. Law enforcement is hamstrung by culture and always will be; the only solution is to foster a culture of laws, not men.

Tell Your Kids About This U.S. Olympian

February 11th, 2014 - 11:44 am

Colorado’s Noah Hoffman competed in the skiathlon event this weekend, a new event consisting of 15K of classic cross-country skiing technique and 15K of freestyle. All told, it’s just over an hour of pain for world-class skiers.

Hoffman looked strong during the classic portion, staying just a few seconds behind the lead pace, until he crashed on a curve — and broke one of his poles. He eventually received a replacement, but he had lost too much time to compete for a medal.

The fall was the last a television viewer would see of Hoffman for about 45 minutes, until a huffing, driving, navy blue Team U.S.A. uniform made the turn for the final 100-meter stretch to the finish. Below, about 15 feet from the line, that blurred figure is Hoffman, giving it everything he’s got to pass one more not-as-driven competitor:

noahhoffman

 

Hoffman pushed himself right to the finish line … so he could finish 35th instead of 36th. No one else in that picture had as much heart in the game as he did.

Hoffman caught them all after skiing part of the race with one pole, for goodness sake, and I can’t even figure how that worked. Maybe he held it with two hands and pushed between his legs, or something.

Coloradoans: when Hoffman gets back home, see to it that he doesn’t pay for his own beer.

(Published 1/13/14)

The Obama administration’s interest in creating a streamlined application process for Medicaid, CHIP, and subsidized health insurance via the state Obamacare exchanges has come at the expense of effective security and fraud prevention.

As of January 1, 2014, this easing of requirements now includes the mandate that states accept applications completed entirely via telephone. Rather than require such applications be later accompanied by the electronic or mailed transmission of a signed document, HHS instead requires states to accept a spoken assent on a telephone call as the equivalent of an actual signature.

Says J. Christian Adams, PJ Media legal editor and former DOJ attorney:

Perjury prosecutions are impaired by telephone signups. Signing on a dotted line has been the core means of assent for hundreds of years, and even computerized signatures have a means of verifying that the person signing is real.

This is the administration inviting fraud.

The Affordable Care Act, as passed, does not mandate the acceptance of “telephonic signature.” The relevant passage – Section 1413(b)(1)(a) – only requires that applications “may be filed online, in-person, by mail, or by telephone.” Relevant regulations issued by HHS did not initially mandate telephonic signature, either. See 42 CFR 435.907, which only required “a written application from the applicant, an authorized representative, or, if the applicant is incompetent or incapacitated, someone acting responsibly for the applicant.”

However, on March 23, 2012, Section 435.907 was revised. This revised section went into effect on January 1, 2014. It included the new part (f):

(f) The agency must require that all initial applications are signed under penalty of perjury. Electronic, including telephonically recordedsignatures and handwritten signatures transmitted via any other electronic transmission must be accepted.

The comment-and-response process which resulted in the new part (f) is available here. Note that the comments include scant discussion regarding any expressed need or desire for the mandated acceptance of telephonic signatures. Part (f) simply appears later in the document, and is now in effect …

(Click here for original post and remainder of article)