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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Best Line of the Day

Today's prize goes to Charles Krauthammer in response to president Obama's statement regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Obama said that he did not know who used the weapons, how much they had been used, or "the chain of custody" for the weapons.  All this is needed, according to Obama before the USA can respond.

Krauthammer just said this:  "Chain of custody?  What is this, CSI - Damascus?"



The Blindness of the Foreign Policy "Experts" regarding Syria

By most people's standards, George Friedman of Stratfor is considered a guru in the world of American foreign policy.  Today, he is out with an analysis of why the USA ought not intervene in Syria.  Simply put, Friedman argues convincingly that the United States will not be able to create a democracy in Syria absent enormous cost; nor will America be able to end the bloodshed of the innocents no matter what we do.  Nevertheless, the only coherent response to Friedman is one simple question:  Why are those the goals of American action?  It would be nice to see Syria develop into some nice democratic state, but given its history and its people, that is indeed unlikely.  It would be nice to see the civil war end and the sectarian violence at the core of that struggle likewise stop, but once more, that is unlikely.  So what?

Why would it not be a valid goal of American policy to see to it that the chemical weapons and the means to make more within Syria get destroyed without being used on the Syrian people, or, more important, the United States and its allies?  That goal does not require a long involvement by America in this civil war. That goal would not lead to enormous numbers of American casualties.  that goal is finite and could be kept so by preventing "mission creep".

A year and a half ago, the American government had a real opportunity to end the conflict in Syria and to prevent tens of thousands of deaths.  President Obama chose not to concern himself with the issue, and events in Syria spiraled out of control.  Now it is too late to achieve and easy end to conflict.  Nevertheless, there remain in Syrian hands enough chemical weapons to kill literally millions of people.  Sadly, it seems that many of those Syrian hands are connected to delusional or psychotic brains in their Syrian heads.  Should America not have the goal of preventing the use of chemical weapons because Obama chose earlier not to act to stop the fighting?  No, because the most likely targets outside of Syria itself are all in the USA. 

It will not be an easy mission to destroy all these chemical weapons.  That is something that everyone can agree upon.  Should we shy from a difficult mission if the alternative is a chemical attack on Chicago?  Without a doubt there will be losses in any action in Syria.  Should that dissuade us until such time as the crowd at the next Super Bowl gets sprayed with sarin gas?  In short, do we not defend ourselves and our interests because it might be hard to do or because it would result in substantial costs?

With all due respect to the foreign policy gurus of the world, sometimes actions is required and sometimes that action is messy.  That messiness, however, is not a reason for inaction.



Polling For An Outcome

In yet another example of a poll prepared to reach a particular result, the New York Times and CBS released the results of certain questions asked of Americans about Syria and North Korea.  The questions about Syria are the ones that most caught my attention.  Folks were not asked if they thought America should take any action with regard to Syria.  Instead, the question asked was whether or not the USA had a responsibility to end the fighting in Syria.

Let's stop there.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have strong feelings about the need for action in Syria to stop the ongoing slaughter or innocents.  Nevertheless, I do not think America has a responsibility to act; that would require some sort of legal obligation.  We need to act because it is in our own interest to do so.  We also need to act because it is the moral thing to do.  But responsibility -- we do not have that obligation.

In the days to come, the results of this poll will be discussed in general terms.  Hardly anyone will look at the wording of the questions to see that the deck was stacked by the polling organization.  The results will reinforce the view that by avoiding any response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad, that president Obama is carrying out the will of the people. 



18,000 Dead Is A Big Deal

Writing on the Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg argues today that late term abortion is a minor problem because only 1.5% of all abortions are of this type.  It was one of the more horrific arguments that I have seen in a long time.  To be clear, there were roughly 1.2 million abortions in America last year.  If Goldberg is correct with her 1.5% figure, that means that there were 18,000 late term abortions in the country in 2012.  Just think of the response to the Boston Bombing where three people were killed.  Or think about the response to the Newtown shootings where 20 children were killed.  Now think of the argument that 18,000 deaths of viable infants is no big deal.  Goldberg's argument is unbelievably ghoulish.

Goldberg tries to show her good faith by explaining that when she was pregnant, she actually referred to her fetus as her "baby" even though it had not yet been borm.  Oh bravo, Michelle!  Do you really think that this makes a difference?

Goldberg also argues that late term abortions are "necessary".  In her view, most of the problem comes from a healthcare system that fails expectant mothers.  Apparently, those mothers have nothing to do with the problem.  So, in Goldberg's view, if the expectant mother did not manage to have an abortion earlier, it is necessary for her to be able to do so once the fetus/baby is viable.  Well, Michelle, why not go all the way down that road.  I am sure that there are probably some expectant mothers who never get to have an abortion.  Why not let them deliver their babies, and then have the doctor kill the kid if he/she will be unwanted.  Why consider that the baby has a right to life?  After all, that life will be a burden on the mother, and we cannot have that.

There is a reason why in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court placed such stringent limitations on late term abortion.  These children do have the right to life; they can live outside the womb.  No argument from the left can change this. 



Monday, April 29, 2013

Benghazi is Back

Fox News is reporting some very disturbing developments about the attacks on the US embassy last September in Benghazi Libya that left four Americans dead.  First, a member of the special operations forces has come forward to confirm that, contrary to what the Obama administration has said, there were America forces that could have responded to the attacks within three hours.  This is critical information since the second part of the terror attack did not occur until nearly eight hours after the first onslaught.  Had American forces been given the green light to protect the embassy, at least two of the four dead could have been saved.  Second, there are at least three State Department employees and one more from the CIA who have sought approval to retain counsel so that they can testify to Congress about the Benghazi matter.  The Obama administration has so far prevented such testimony and it has warned the employees that their careers will be over if they speak out.  The attorney for one such unnamed employee has come forward to explain these events to the press.

Since the day after the attacks, it has always been a mystery as to why there was no attempt to send American forces to stop the terrorists.  It seemed that the folks at the embassy must have been told that American forces were on their way.  The last person killed by the terrorists was actually on the roof of the embassy annex using a laser to light up a target so that it could be hit by incoming smart bombs or missiles.  That victim was a trained navy seal; he knew that using the laser would reveal his position.  He also knew that using the laser was the only way to get the smart bombs on target.  There is no way he would have used the laser and exposed himself to attack unless he had been told that US forces were in the area and that air support would be on site imminently. 

The truth is that Benghazi was a failure of the State Department to protect its people.  All the coverups in the world cannot change that fact. 



Is This The Next Step In Syria?

Russian news agency RT is reporting that an airplane of Nordwind Airlines (a Russian charter service) was attacked by ground to air missiles as it flew through Syrian airspace today on a flight from Egypt to Russia.  According to the story, the pilots managed to evade the missiles.  There are a great many odd things about the report, but the main question raised by the news is whether or not this is a manufactured excuse for Russian armed forces to get involved in the fighting in Syria.

First of all, it is hard to imagine that and Airbus plane could avoid being hit by missiles fired at it.  Most likely, the pilots would not even be aware that the missiles were closing on their craft.

Second, it is more than strange to think that either side in Syria would be interested in firing at a plane flying at 35,000 feet.  At that height, there would be no easy way to know the identity of the aircraft, and firing blindly at an unidentified craft makes no sense.

Third, it is the Assad forces that have weapons like anti-aircraft missiles.  Russia has long been a friend of Syria and a supporter of Assad.  It seems extremely unlikely that the Assad forces would attack  a Russian plane.

In other words, the story just does not make sense; it seems patently phony.  Nevertheless, if one wanted to have a justification to use Russian planes to attack the rebels in Syria, claims that those rebels shot missiles at civilian Russian aircraft would work just fine.  Also, if one wanted to justify sending Russian troops to seize the port of Tartus where Russia has a naval base, then unprovoked attacks on Russian planes again work just fine.

I hope that we are not witnessing the opening of heavy Russian involvement in Syria.  It is imperative that the United States makes clear to the Russians in the clearest possible terms that we strongly oppose the introduction of any Russian troops into Syria.



A Glimpse of the Truth

All people in America who pay even the slightest attention to the news have heard that the world is warming due to increased carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by humanity.  This, we are told, is the scientific consensus.  Those who deny the validity of this "fact" are compared to those who say the earth is flat or who deny the Holocaust.  So, in that context, let me ask you a question.

What percentage of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in 2011 came from sources attributable to man?  Is it
(a) 81%
(b) 58%
(c) 34%
(d) 22%
(e) 3%

The correct answer is (e) 3%.  That's right, all human activity results in only 3% of all of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. 

This is an astounding number.  After years of listening to the global warming crowd talk about human caused climate change, I assumed that the human percentage would be something significant.  It is not.

Realize just what this means.  If the entire world spent trillions of dollars, cut economic growth dramatically and gave up all sorts of freedoms just to cut human production of carbon dioxide by 25%, it would not slow the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by even 1%.

The principal cause of increasing carbon dioxide, it seems, is release of the gas by the oceans.  The water of the oceans has been generally warming for the last 200 years since the end of the so called Little Ice Age that lasted from the 15th century to the start of the 19th century.  As the water warmed, it expelled more of the dissolved CO2 each year than the year before.  If the trend continues over the next decade, the oceans will release more additional carbon dioxide per year than the entire amount currently being added due to humanity.

Before you become alarmed about the continuing increase of carbon dioxide, you should know that over history, there appears to be no correlation between atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and global temperatures.  But that is not the point here.  No, the key point is the true cause of the increase in carbon dioxide.  It is not man. 



Chemical Weapons for al Qaeda

British newspapers are reporting that one of the main plants for production of sarin gas in Syria is in danger of falling to the rebels.  The rebel faction which is closing on that factory happens to al Nusrah, the local Syrian affiliate of al Qaeda.  Once that plant falls to the terrorists, events will have crossed not only the red line proclaimed by president Obama but also the blue, green, brown and orange lines.  Simply put, if the terrorists get a complete and operational chemical weapons plant, no one in the West will be safe.  The same people who brought us 9-11 will be able to send sarin gas to the USA or Western Europe to kill thousands or tens of thousands.  Just imagine what would have happened if the Boston Marathon bombers had put sarin in that pressure cooker rather than nails and ball bearings.  The explosion could have killed everyone within a 250 yards.  That would be over 1000 people.  Even worse, imagine another explosion dispersing sarin gas in a closed area like a subway tunnel or a basketball stadium or a local shopping mall.  That would bring death in even greater numbers.

The most alarming part of the scenario is that once the terrorists get chemical weapons, it will be almost impossible to take all of them away.  There has to be prompt and strong action by the United States to prevent chemical weapons from being used by either side in Syria.  President Obama has to stop reading polls and start taking the actions that are necessary to protect this country.  America needs an actual leader not just a celebrity in chief.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Pitfalls of Diversity

Is is acceptable in America to discriminate against a racial minority for reasons of quality?  This is a question which we all thought was answered in the negative long ago.

The Supreme Court will shortly issue a decision on a case which considers the acceptable use of race in college admissions.  The particular case arose when a white applicant was denied admission to the University of Texas even though her grades and test scores and other criteria used for admission were higher than some black applicants who were accepted.  The deciding factor in that admission decision was the race of the applicants.

Fifty years ago, there were many universities in Amerca that had long discriminated against African Americans.  In order to overcome that prior discrimination, affirmative action was born.  Separate criteria were used for black and whites in order to assure that more blacks would be admitted to these schools.  About twenty years after the practice began, it was curtailed a bit.  The Supreme Court ruled that there could not be quotas by race or religion used for admission, but that those factors could be considered in order to promote diversity on campus, a goal which the schools said would improve the educational experience of all students.

So where has that gotten us?  For one thing, the practice has made it much harder for Asian Americans to get into universities.  A recent study found that for Asian Americans to get into America's elite universities, their SAT scores had to be about 400 points higher than for AFrican Americans and about 140 points higher than for white students.  In other words, the current practices promote discrimination against Asian Americans in the name of diversity.  Even when comparing just whites and blacks, there is a major difference in the scores of the students who get admitted.

Does this make sense?  Remember, the current practice is supposedly not designed to remedy the discrimination felt by the grandparents of today's students.  That ended decades ago, at least according to the Supreme Court.  Today, the schools supposedly are striving for diversity in order just to improve the educational experience of their students.  Is it acceptable in America to discriminate against a racial minority in order to "improve" the quality of education?  Can public universities which, by the Constitution, must operate so as to give all citizens equal protection actually favor some groups over a minority racial group in order to promote diversity?

The answer to this quesion ought to be clear, but for decades, we have sat and watched the discrimination continue.  My prediction is that the Supreme Court will end that discrimination in its upcoming decision.

One last note:  for those of you who support the idea that public universities ought to be allowed to discriminate in admissions, please consider this.  How would you feel if the cafeterias in federal buildings decided to limit service to a racial group in order to improve the dining experience of those who are served?  Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.


The Impact of a Fall

Supreme Court Justice Breyer took a tumble off his bicycle and broke his shoulder the other day.  He was taken to the hospital and underwent a shoulder replacement surgery.  There is no clear word yet on how long it will be before he can return to his duties at the Court.

This does not sound like much of a news story.  Justice Breyer fell and got hurt and now he must recover.  The truth, however, is that this fall could be extremely important.  Justice Breyer is one of the reliable liberal votes on the Supreme Court.  As the Court continues its business, the absence of Breyer could determine the outcome of many cases. 

It is less than clear whether or not the Supreme Court will delay any votes or the issuance of any opinions while Breyer is healing.  It is also unclear whether the protocols of the Court would allow Breyer to participate from his home during that recovery.

Sometimes the smallest event can have the biggest ramifications.


Protecting Obama

It has become painfully clear that the federal government blew it when dealing with the Boston bombers.  Even after receiving multiple warnings from the Russians that the Tsarnaev family and Tamarlan Tsarnaev in particular were suspected Islamic terrorists, the FBI and other federal agencies did essentially nothing.  The government claims that the FBI checked out the Tsarnaevs but that claim is belied by the fact that the same FBI office that supposedly did a detailed check could not identify the Tsarnaev brothers from the photos taken at the Marathon.  This was a failure of federal law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence agencies.  The proper response from president Obama would be to admit that there was a failure and to take action to make sure that no more such failures occur.  That would protect Americans from future bombs.  But nothing of the sort has happened.  Instead, we get some really strange excuses and happenings designed to deflect criticism.

Sadly, the mainstream media is now getting in on that action.  This morning, the AP ran a story detailing that the Russians had recorded conversations in which Tamarlan and his mother discussed jihad and one in which the mother spoke to suspected terrorists in the Chechnya area.  This is important news.  After all, it reinforces the obvious conclusion that the Tsarnaevs were affiliated with Islamic terror groups and were not the so called "lone wolves" that some want them to be.  Without a doubt, it is a much bigger failure for the FBI to miss an attack by an arm of an Islamic terror group than a one off attack by some demented lone wolves.  But that is not the way that the AP reporters pose the story.  No, according to the AP, the big issue is why the Russians did not hand over the tapes of the phone conversations until after the bombing.  The AP reporters actually state it this way:

The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family.

Just to make sure that their readers do not blame the federal government for the failure to prevent the bombing, the reporters go on to say this: 

Even had the FBI received the information from the Russian wiretaps earlier, it's not clear that the government could have prevented the attack.

That's right.  Ignoring the warning from the Russians and the reality on the ground in Boston was no big deal.  The feds could not have stopped the bombing anyway -- at least according to the AP.

Even this bit of apology for the federal government's failures was not enough for the AP.  The reporters have to restate the story that explains why the FBI supposedly missed the Tsarnaev brothers.  Once again, here is how the AP poses it:

After receiving the narrow tip from Russia in March 2011, the FBI opened a preliminary investigation into Tamerlan and his mother. But the scope was extremely limited under the FBI's internal procedures.  After a few months, they found no evidence Tamerlan or his mother were involved in terrorism. The FBI asked Russia for more information. After hearing nothing, it closed the case in June 2011.  In the fall of 2011, the FSB contacted the CIA with the same information. Again the FBI asked Russia for more details and never heard back.....

Authorities have said they've seen no connection between the brothers and a foreign terrorist group. Dzhohkar told FBI interrogators that he and his brother were angry over wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the deaths of Muslim civilians there.

So there you have it.  The Russians only gave the feds a narrow tip, nothing big, nothing important.  The FBI only did a preliminary investigation which was extremely limited as a result.  The Russians were asked for more info and never responded, except when they did in the fall of 2011.  Oh, and there is no connection between the Tsarnaev and foreign terrorists.

The AP is playing politics with a tragedy and a failure of America's defenses.  We are seeing a zeal to protect president Obama from any negative fallout of this failure.  What we need is zeal to protect America, not Obama.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Foreign Policy Ideas Whose Time Has Passed

Reuters today published an article discussing how there are no acceptable military responses by the United States to the use of chemical weapons by Syria.  The bulk of the article considers what would be an appropriate proportional response to the use of sarin in only two isolated cases.

The article is an outrage.  The idea of seeking a proportional response to the use of a nerve agent like sarin for mass killing is simply insane.  Is it possible that one could over react to a government using weapons of mass destruction against its own people? The point of a military response is to be so overwhelming as to force the other side to concede.  Contrary to contemporary liberal thought, the idea is not to match one's response to what the other side has done.  If there is any doubt about that, just remember how the war in Vietnam was fought.  President Johnson insisted on a gradual "escalation" of American efforts to match what the North Vietnamese were doing.  As a result, the North never had to face the overwhelming force of the American armed forces.  The proportional response policy let the North survive until America gave up.  Meanwhile, over 50,000 Americans died in battle.  Just imagine what would have happened had Johnson ordered an all out assault on the North Vietnamese.  The war would have lasted only a short time and many fewer people would have died.  But it would not have been proportional (gasp)!

Both the Gulf War and the later invasion of Iraq were fought with overwhelming force by the USA.  The Gulf War lasted four days.  The initial invasion of Iraq did not take much longer.  Only when America proved incapable of dealing with the results of a quick victory did the fighting become a problem.

An attack on Syria's chemical storage depots does not come with the downside of the involvement in Iraq.  There is no need for America to stay in Syria once the chemical weapons are destroyed.  Our involvement could end in a short time and then we could just withdraw.  Sure, there would be chaos in Syria; well, guess what, there is chaos in Syria now.  Yes, people would still be dying in the Syrian civil war, but that is already happening.  Neither side, however, would have access to chemical weapons.

Part of the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons would involve the destruction of Syria's air defenses.  That would help the rebels.  So?  It would also mean that the bombing of civilian targets would end.  It would also mean that the need for so many refugees to flee Syria would be lessened. 

America does not have the responsibility to make sure that there is peace in Syria.  We should, however, do all we can to prevent the use of chemical weapons, particularly since those weapons could be trained on our cities in the future.



The Welfare State and the Destruction of Hope

Since the news came out that the Tsarnaev family spent years on welfare in Massachusetts, there have been a great many pundits lamenting the lack of gratitude shown by the bombing brothers for all the support they received from the government.  Other versions of the question why the brothers would attack a country that had shown them such friendship waft through the blogosphere and the mainstream media.  The religious influence on the brothers is one common answer, but it obviously is not a complete one.  After all, there are hundreds of thousands of other Moslem men of similar ages who live in America and who have not chosen to kill and maim their fellow countrymen through the use of terror bombs.  One factor which ought not be overlooked is the very welfare support which many argue should have pushed the brothers in the opposite direction. 

Welfare was originally supposed to be a short term assistance given to people who suffered unexpected misfortunes.  Unemployment insurance lasted for a few months while the wage earner found a new job.  Aid to single mothers helped them deal with the then rare and unfortunate event of an out of wedlock birth or the loss of a husband and father.  Over the years, the government has expanded the role of welfare ever larger.  Low income people can now get food, housing, medical care and even cell phones from the government.  All the basic necessities are there to be given out without any real limitations. 

In the worldview of the left, all of this government largesse ought to make for some rather satisfied and grateful welfare recipients.  But it just does not work that way.  Very few who receive welfare look at it as a gift from the government.  The payments are theirs by right.  They provide for an existence which can be endured, but which is far from luxurious.  The welfare payments provide no exit from the system; welfare becomes a lifestyle.  In short, the system removes all hope of a better life and all reason to struggle for self-improvement.

Under the American free enterprise system, those who achieved success were celebrated for a long, long time.  Big and successful companies were icons, but more than the companies, the entrepreneurs who achieved business success were lauded for their endeavors.  Calvin Coolidge famously said “the chief business of the American people is business.   After the Depression hit in the 1930s, those successful in commerce and industry lost their places on the public pedestal, but they were still there as examples of attainable success.  The spirit of Horatio Alger spoke to folks all across the income spectrum.  As the welfare state spread, however, those successful in business became targets rather than role models.  Large corporations were evil; they did not care about people, or so America was told.  Just think of the current view of any large oil company; ask people about them and you will hear that these companies want to rape the land, pollute the water, heat the atmosphere and kill folks as a result just to increase profits.  How many movies have told us that?  One can argue at length about the changing view of business in America culture, but there is no question that the idea of entering the business world to gain advancement has been tarnished for those who don’t really understand the dynamics of our society.  So for those on welfare, the idea of moving ahead through business has little alure.

Then one needs to add on to this fact, the reality that welfare itself offers no way out, no way to advance past dependence.  The old stories of success where a poor child makes it big in business are no longer told.  Now, the way to big success for poorer children is through professional sports, the music business, or crime.  None of those are reasonable alternatives to the old model.  There are around one hundred and fifty million people working in America, so there are literally millions of folks successful in business.  There are only a few thousand professional athletes in the country, and there are even fewer rock stars or successful actors, so the chance of achieving success in those fields is almost non-existent.  What all this means is that for those on welfare, there really is no way out, no exit, no pathway to success.

In years gone by, large numbers of people moved from low income to high income, and many moved the other way as well.  Welfare takes that opportunity for movement away to a great extent.  Millions of children grow up in homes where they get subsistence support from the government and second rate education from the local public schools, and they see no way to get past this life.  Our liberal culture teaches dependence not self-reliance.  The schools tell kids that their current culture is valuable and dissuades them from adopting the common culture of America, the most basic step required to gain success and to move up.  In short, the system takes all hope of a better life away from these children and young adults.  Gone are the days where children were told that with hard work they could succeed in America.  No, the schools cannot celebrate success because then those who do not succeed might feel bad.  The idea that failure might be a learning experience seems to have been lost in the mists of time.
It was this environment in which the Tsarnaev brothers were raised.  America gave them no hope.  America gave no meaning to their lives.  So they turned to another source for that meaning.  The end result was the Marathon bombing.


The New American Response

The response to the Boston Marathon bombing and other recent terrorist attacks and the reaction of president Obama to the use of chemical weapons like sarin gas on at least two occasions in Syria has got me thinking.  Today, the New York Times headline on Syria reads:  "Obama Not Rushing to Act on Signs Syria Used Chemical Arms".  Obama says he wants more proof that the chemicals were actually used; of course, the proof he wants is being withheld by the Syrians themselves.  Meanwhile, the media is continuing its efforts to paint the Tsarnaev brothers as acting alone; the new narrative in much of the mainstream media continues to be that they received no help despite the clear evidence to the contrary.  I wonder if these two responses are symptoms of a new structure to be used by the United States in times of peril.

In order to see just how effective the new response attitudes are, I tried to apply them to some historical events.  Here are the stories from the past reinvented to follow the new American response.

1)  December 8, 1941 -- Roosevelt Says Date May Live in Infamy Once All the Facts Are In.

2)  Paul Revere stays home; explains that despite uniforms he was not sure troops were British.

3)  Fort Sumter shelled -- lone wolf individuals suspected

4)  Lusitania sunk -- Wilson announces FBI will search for perpetrators to determine identity

5)  South Korea Invaders cross 38th parallel -- Truman considers moving border south to 37th parallel.

6)  Continental Congress not Rushing to Act on Signs British are Arresting all Rebels

7)  World Trade Center Towers Destroyed; Pentagon Attacked; Plane Crashes in Pennsylvania -- Bush Says It May Just Be Coincidence -- More Data Needed

And while we are at it, what about all the coverage of the mother of the two terrorist brothers?  In the past would that have spawned this headline:

Pearl Harbor Attacked -- Japanese Emperor says his Navy Wrongfully Accused!



Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Health Insurance is So Expensive

I have a chronic medical condition which requires that I take medication.  Today, I got a letter from my insurance carrier informing me that after July 1, one of my meds will no longer be “preferred”.  That means that in order for me to use that medicine, the insurance company has to precertify it annually as appropriate for me.  And to get precertification, my doctor has to send all sorts of records to the carrier.

This process is a pain to say the least, but that is not the point.  I began to write an email to my doctor only to discover that the insurance company said that the doctor must call them but gave no phone number.  So I did the logical thing.  I called the carrier to ask for the number.  The first call went through and I told the computer my name, date of birth and that it was really me.  I got transferred to a customer rep who just kept saying hello and finally said she could not hear me and that I should call back.  That took 4 minutes and 40 seconds.


I called again.  This time, I gave the computer my name, date of birth and confirmed that it was really me.  I got a customer service representative and, Hallelujah, she could hear me.  It was a miracle!  I told her that I needed the phone number in order for my doctor to call to get a precertification for a medicine.  She began by asking me my name, date of birth and to confirm that it was really me she was speaking to.  I asked her why we had to go through all that again.  She said that she did not want to give out my confidential info to a stranger.  I said, “All I want is a phone number.  Is that confidential?”  She said no but insisted that she had to get all my info again under their procedures.  I complied.


So now we get to the good part.  After all that, she told me that she could not find any number for the doctor to call.  She asked me to hold while she researched it.  Five minutes later she got on to tell me that she still did not have the number.  I asked her if it was “unlisted”.  She did not get the joke.  She asked me to hold again.  After another 8 minutes of holding, I just hung up.


My guess is that my doctor probably already knows the number to call.  At least, I sure hope so.   And, for those of you who were wondering, the insurance carrier is Oxford, which is part of United Healthcare.


The Arguments for Intervention in Syria

This afternoon, the website Real Clear World has published an article entitled "Four Bad Arguments Pushing the US into Syria's War."  According to the author Greg Scoblete, these arguments are:

1)  It is in America's national security interest.
2)  America has a moral obligation to stop the bloodshed.
3)  We need the "good guys" to win.
4)  They used chemical weapons.

It is nice to see that the war in Syria is finally drawing some attention in the media, but this article is the kind of nonsense which just assumes its conclusion.  Let me explain:

The author admits that the overthrow of the Assad regime will deprive Iran of its lone ally in the Arab world and that it will leave Hezbollah exposed and cut off.  This is all true, and it is a key reason why the USA should be working to see that Assad falls.  But then the article goes on:

But all of the benefits that supposedly accrue from toppling Assad only occur if Syria is able to reconstitute itself into a stable, secure government that rejects Iranian goals and prevents al-Qaeda cells from spawning in its midst. What are the odds of that?

The author just assumes that there is no benefit absent a stable, secure new Syrian government.  But that is not the case.  If the rebels take control in Syria, Hezbollah (which is fighting against them on the field of battle) will be cut off no matter what sort of Syrian government emerges.  Iran will lose its lone Arab ally no matter what sort of Syrian government emerges.  If the Assad government is overthrown and gets replaced by a chaotic al-Qaeda related ruling council, the Syrian army will crumble.  It will no longer be available to threaten chaos in the region.  Those are all important gains.

Now it is true that if al-Qaeda related rebels take control of the country, they will get access to Assad's chemical weapons unless those weapons are destroyed.  Beyond that, however, the region will have to deal with an evil and problematic regime in Syria.  That, however, is nothing new.

All of this brings us to the fourth argument listed above.  Syria has indeed used chemical weapons.  Here's how Scoblete puts it:

The administration was willing to let over 70,000 Syrians die by bullet and bomb without a direct intervention. Does a sarin gas attack really change the strategic calculus as far as American interests are concerned? Moreover, what is the administration supposed to do?

Scoblete goes on to talk about how a no fly zone, using special forces or arming the rebels will not work.  He raises the spectre of Iraq and Afghanistan and says intervention will not work.  Once again, he makes false assumptions; these are not the only choices.

Look, the author is correct when he says that Obama was prepared to sit still and do nothing while 70,000 Syrians were slaughtered.  Chemical weapons do not change this.  But they should.  That is the point; they should. 

And America has a clear option:  we can strike strong and fast against every chemical depot in the country.  We can send air power and special forces into Syria to destroy all traces of Assad's chemical arms.  If fighting continues, we can then just leave.  America is not the guarantor of peace in Syria.  But America needs to protect itself and its allies against chemical attacks. Do we want al Qaeda forces to gain control of chemical weapons?  Do we want Assad to give them to Hezbollah?  Wouldn't it be better just to destroy the weapons and be done with it?

This is not a perfect option, but none of them are perfect. 

The reasons for American involvement in Syria are now overwhelming.  Let's hope that at least for once, Obama makes the right decision.



Why Must The Debate Be Lies?

Human life is a serious subject. The issue of abortion, which is inextricably linked to the issue of life, has been a hot button subject for as long as I can remember.  Sadly, however, there is too little thought and too much dogma at work in that debate. 

Let's start at the beginning.  Most people would agree that the taking of human life except in response to the most heinous crimes is not something that either the state or any individual is allowed to do.  That is why there are laws against murder.  Let's also agree that people are entitled to both privacy and the right to control their own bodies in most cases.  Unfortunately, that seems to be where the agreement stops.

On the one side we have pro-life zealots who oppose abortion in all cases.  Some even oppose birth control.  These folks, however, cannot ever impose their will on the country unless the Constitution or its interpretation gets changed.  Fourty years ago, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that during the first third of pregnancy, the government was prohibited from interfering with abortion.  This pro-life folks are free to avoid abortions, but they cannot prevent others from getting them.  The Supreme Court also allowed abortion restrictions of certain kinds during the second three months of pregnancy and it also prohibited abortions during the last three months of pregnancy except in the rarest of instances where the life of the mother is threatened and the baby cannot be saved.

On the other side, we have the pro-choice zealots who fight against any restriction on abortion.  Those who support life over choice are described as neanderthals or bigots or worse by the pro-choice forces.  The pro-lifers seem incapable of discussing the issue without resorting to name calling and distortion.

Just last night, president Obama spoke to the biggest pro-choice group in the country (and the biggest abortionist) Planned Parenthood.  It seems that he just could not help himself.  He had to describe the pro-lifers as wanting to return the country to the 1950's.  He was describing new restrictions placed on abortion in North Dakota at the time.  Those restrictions, however, do not prohibit abortion; they just restrict them after a fetal heartbeat is detectable.  In the 1950's abortion was a crime in North Dakota; it was prohibited completely.  Obama could have said that he disagrees with the North Dakota legislation.  Obama could have said that he was authorizing the Justice Department to bring suit to overturn the statute as unconstitutional.  That would be fine.  But Obama could not help himself; he had to lie.  It is second nature to him.

Just think of the trial of Dr. Gosnell in Philadelphia.  Here is a man allegedly who delivered babies alive in the last three months of pregnancy and then killed these babies.  Under Roe v. Wade, what Gosnell allegedly did is murder.  There is no way to dispute that conclusion.  But none of the major pro-choice organizations can bring themselves to denounce these terrible crimes.  Instead, all we get is nonsense about how the murders allegedly committed by Dr. Gosnell were really the fault of pro-life forces.

Lying does not serve the pro-choice forces very well.  Obama would do well to tone down his rhetoric and try to do things that might actually bring America together rather than driving us farther and farther apart.