Sunday, May 31, 2015
Thursday, May 28, 2015
It's in the dictionary now, so I guess I can use it.
In any case, that's pretty close to what my reaction was when I hit this story. The Obama White House is blaming the Iraqi army's failure to successfully defend Ramadi against the Islamic State (a.k.a. Son of al Qaeda, including significant leadership elements from Saddam Hussein's military and intelligence forces) on the army's lack of diversity, on Iraq's failure to integrate its armed forces.
On second thought, the claim actually makes sense. After all, the White House wouldn't want to put the blame on the current policies of President Barack Obama and on his abandonment of Ramadi (and Fallujah and Mosul and the rest of Iraq).
* short for an informal phrase that starts with “what the …” and is “used especially to express or describe outraged surprise, recklessness, confusion, or bemusement.”
So here's the current question: Is there anything Obama has been doing to protect Christians, Americans, or America? If there is, it's not evident.
Monday, May 25, 2015
There is a city named Urfa, a regional commercial center in southeast Turkey not far from the Syrian border. It seems an ordinary enough place for the Middle East. But it hides a secret history. And it hides it very well indeed.
The fact is that the town's appearance is an accident of history, created in the twelfth century when Turkish Moslems took the city, dispersed the Christian population, and wiped out every feature of Christian civilization. For below the tightly packed houses and shops that comprise modern Urfa, under the name Edessa, was one of the famed cities of Christendom. In those days it attracted Christian pilgrims from more than a thousand miles away. It bristled with some three hundred churches and monasteries. In its surrounding cave tombs, now dung-smelling and desolate, lived a population of thousands of hermits and monks, many shunning bread, meat, and wine and leading "so extraordinary a life that it can scarcely be described."
from The Shroud of Turin by Ian Wilson,
revised edition, 1979, page 127.
Does this sound familiar? The time was the twelfth century, but it's the same thing that's happening today. It's what ISIS the so-called Islamic State is doing now in the regions they have captured in Syria and Iraq. They are destroying Christian churches with dynamite and bulldozers. They are doing the same with the houses of worship belonging to Jews, Yazidis, and any other non-Muslim group. They are killing or enslaving everyone they can get their hands on that were associated with those places.
There is a common thread in these actions. The ISIS fanatics, like their ideological forbears, want to destroy anything and everything that came before them and their way of thinking and belief. Thus, they are destroying libraries and museums all over Iraq and Syria, including the large ones in Mosul. They are committing crimes against humanity, destroying historic sites including Nimrud (see here, too), Hatra, and Ninevah, as well as the Assyrian capital of Khorsabad. They have also destroyed Jonah's Tomb and a number of other religious tombs and shrines. The same things will probably now happen in Palmyra in Syria.
The ISIS destructive impulse is being applied to more than just pre-Muslim and non-Muslim sites. It also applies to anything that is not part of their particular flavor of Islam. That's because "ISIS is part of a puritanical strain of Islam that considers all religious shrines Islamic, Christian, Jewish, etc. idolatrous." So, in addition to anything non-Muslim, they are destroying sites belonging to every group except as I already noted their particular flavor of Islam, whether Sufi or Shia or Sunni or anything else. And it has bigger plans for the future Rome, of course, and the pyramids of Egypt (pre-Islam, non-Muslim) as well as Islam's most sacred mosque (and the Ka'aba) in Mecca. In essence, ISIS seems intent on demonstrating that its members are incapable of moving up to become members of the human race.
But this is not new. As the quotation at the top of this posting attests, Muslim groups have exhibited this kind of behavior for centuries, including the total destruction of Edessa and the ideology-based vandalism in the royal palace (dating from India's Mughal period) at Fatehpur Sikri in India to name just two. The current barbarian set the Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban, al Qaeda, and Islamic State are historically recent, but this kind of uncivilized Islamic behavior goes straight back to the time of Mohammed.
ISIS et al. proclaim themselves as fundamentalists. They say they are going back to the original Islam, but it seems to be more like Islam 2.0 the second version of Islam. The original Islam that Mohammed preached in Mecca was peaceful and tolerant. It was only later that the kind of violent and intolerant ideology characteristic of ISIS began to be preached. Did Mohammed succumb to temptation, as suggested here, and change the revelation given him by Allah's angel for an ideology that would bring him wealth and power? Or were the Mohammed of Islam version 1 and the Mohammed of Islam version 2 two different people? If so, that would make the original Mohammed an early victim of identity theft.
Either way, if ISIS really wants to go back to the original Islam, it and its adherents will have to return to Mohammed's original teachings in Mecca, and become civilized human beings instead of the monsters they are today.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
The official title of President Barack Obama's signature health care bill is a misnomer. It is called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
It was supposed to be a panacea. We were told it would bring health care insurance premiums down significantly. It didn't. We were told it would bring medical costs down, too. It didn't. It was supposed to help the poor most especially. It didn't.
The poor used to get their health care for free. They were uninsured, so they paid no insurance premiums. And because they were poor, the hospitals and doctors wrote off their medical care expenses.
No more. With the federal subsidies, they may not have to pay much for their medical insurance, but it's money they didn't pay before. And they are unlikely to get their costs written off when they do go to the doctor or the hospital because, after all, they have insurance. Worse, that insurance won't help them until rather late in the year because of its high deductibles.
So they get to pay for their health care, on their own, after paying for the insurance that's not helping them. The problem is severe enough that even Newsmax can see it.
After paying premiums, many low- and middle-income patients still face high costs when trying to use their coverage. There's growing concern that the value of a health insurance card is being eaten away by rising deductibles, the amount of actual medical costs that patients pay each year before coverage kicks in.How bad is it? A Families USA study cited in the Newsmax article found that "one-quarter of the people with individual health insurance policies went without care in 2014 because they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs. The study singled out high deductibles." A Commonwealth Fund study, also cited in the Newsmax article, notes that at least 15 million had problems with medical bills or medical debt and half of them were in this condition due to high deductibles alone.
That's bad. It's so bad that Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), one of the most liberal Democrats in the Congress, says
"We've got some 17 million more people covered ... but they can't access the care they seem to be entitled to. It costs too much to use the care. That's the deceptive part about it."There it is. Whatever anyone thought before the bill was passed, the promises of Obamacare have turned out to be deceptive. Obamacare is a failure at virtually everything that was claimed for it in advance. Now even the most liberal, Obamacare's biggest supporters, are being forced to admit its failings. That's a big downside to "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it." It got passed, we see what's in it, and we don't like it.
And note the figures. Advocates claim Obamacare has given insurance to 17 million more people. But at least 15 million can't afford to use it.
One more thing: The White House and its supporters are making mutually contradictory statements about health care costs. Through the White House-aligned Center for American Progress, as noted in that same Newsmax article, they claim a long-term pause in the rise of health care costs as a result of Obamacare, but at the same time they claim employers have been shifting their higher medical costs onto their employees. They say "employers have been shifting a disproportionate burden of healthcare costs onto workers" and "employees and their families have not shared in the benefits of a prolonged lull in medical inflation."
Long-term pause? Prolonged lull? That's not what we see in the news reports. We have seen continuing significant increases in health care costs, including the rising deductibles mentioned in the quotation above from that same Newsmax article. And it's getting worse. In fact, the latest Consumer Price Index reports identify for January 2015 this year the largest rise in its medical care index since January 2007. And if the claim about employers were true, the increases in employees' medical insurance costs would be higher than the increases for those with Obamacare insurance probably much higher. But the opposite is the case, according to the news stories. In fact, in many cases the Obamacare premiums look to be increasing at twice the rate of the employer-provided plans. (UPDATE: It's really even worse than that!) It's no wonder the White House and the Center for American Progress don't want to talk about that.
UPDATE: Investors Business Daily notes that "while ObamaCare promised access to insurance, it didn't promise access to health care." That health care is now less accessible and less affordable. In other words, you can get insurance (and you are required to do so) but it won't help.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
People are finding out they're paying more now that they're "insured", but are getting the same or less actual medical coverage than they were before Obamacare.
One-quarter of people with healthcare coverage are paying so much for deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that they are considered underinsured, according to a new study. An estimated 31 million insured people are not adequately protected against high medical costs, a figure that has doubled since 2003, according to the 2014 national health insurance survey by the Commonwealth Fund. Rising deductibles even under ObamaCare are the biggest problem for most people who are considered underinsured, according to the 22-page report.
Sarah Ferris, TheHill.com, May 20
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Talk about strange bedfellows!
President Barack Obama wants "fast track" trade promotion authority. That would give him greater freedom in negotiating trade agreements, limiting input by Congress to giving each an up or down vote no discussion or amendment or conditions allowed.
The strange bedfellows? Most of President Obama's fellow Democrats are opposing the "fast track" trade promotion authority. We're told that's because they're being paid by the unions (big labor) to oppose it. Most of the Republicans are supporting it. We're told that's because they're being paid by big business to support it.
The first thing President Obama wants to get passed after he gets his "fast track" authority is his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the largest trade deals in history. That's part of the problem as politicians' positions on the "fast track" bill are apparently driven perhaps entirely by their positions on the TPP bill.
Yes, President Obama already has a bill drafted for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In Obama's words, that bill is "the most progressive trade deal in history." Because of that, one would think the Democrats would support it and the Republicans would oppose it, while the opposite has turned out to be true.
Yes, President Obama has a bill drafted for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But I can't tell you what's in it. Even if I had read it, I wouldn't be able to tell you. That's because very few people have been allowed to read it under draconian conditions that allow no notes or other information to be taken from the basement reading room. Those who read it are not allowed to discuss the bill or even talk about it. As Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio says, "There is more access in most cases to CIA and Defense Department and Iran sanctions documents — better access to congressional staff and others — than for this trade agreement."
That's made a lot of folks wonder. Mostly they wonder "Under what authority can Obama keep his TPP trade deal secret?" This is a real case of "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it." Much more so than the case of Obamacare that produced this Nancy Pelosi quotation.
That's related to what I wonder. I wonder what in the bill is so bad that Obama is afraid to let anyone know about it. If the bill wasn't that bad, Obama would be spinning his heard out to get everyone to (at least) stay quiet as it gets passed.
All those limitations, on who can read the bill and what they can say about it afterward (nothing!) are where I begin and end. If the bill is so bad that Obama cannot allow it to be revealed and discussed, then it should never be considered by either house of Congress or any committee of either house of Congress. It should be dumped in the trash bin where it clearly belongs.
Indeed, in my view, NO bill that cannot be openly reported and discussed should ever be considered by the Congress.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
I am offended. Very offended.
A whole series of articles and TV reports described what was happening then (April 30) as commemorating the "end of the Viet Nam war" in 1975 (see PowerLine, for example, for one of the less objectionable items). But this is a case in which some improved definition is required.
The Viet Nam war ended supposedly in January of 1973 not 1975 with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. The last U.S. combat troops left the country less than two months later, in March of 1973. (See the timeline from PBS here.)
After the Paris Accords were signed, and after the end of the war, there were two major, critical violations of its terms.
- The Communists continued their conquest of South Viet Nam as if there were no agreement and no cease-fire.
- The U.S. Congress abdicated its responsibility, cut off the agreed aide to the Saigon government, and abandoned it to the Communist aggressors.
I am offended that the Media characterize this as the "end of the Viet Nam war." It was not the end of the the war or the end of American involvement. It was the "end of the Viet Nam war" only from the standpoint of the Communist North Vietnamese.