"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, February 28, 2014

The College Scam

As a parent of a 17 year-old high-school junior, this pretty much sums up how I think about the current state of "higher" education:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Double Standard Alert

The concept of a double standard used to be taught in our schools, but now apparently no one can even notice, not even in supposedly "intellectual" circles like The Huffington Post.   Here's an article from today:

Scott Walker Caught Breaking Campaign Rules While Running For College President In 1988
... Walker breaking the rules while campaigning goes back even further, to his time as a college student at Marquette University, which the Democratic super PAC American Bridge is trying to remind people.... In 1988, Walker wanted to become president of the school's student government, known as the Associated Students at Marquette University. He was running against John Quigley, a liberal student, in a race that became incredibly contentious. Election rules said that presidential candidates could not begin campaigning until after they registered, which started on Feb. 3.  
Walker, however, was caught campaigning on Jan. 24. As the Marquette Tribune reported on Feb. 2, 1988:  
Potential ASMU presidential candidate Scott Walker was found guilty of illegal campaigning in a grievance hearing before members of the elections commission Monday night.  
By speaking before a meeting of the Delta Chi fraternity Jan. 24, Walker, an arts and sciences sophomore, violated the rule which states, "No campaigning may begin before a candidate is registered," the committee ruled.
At the meeting, according to a student in attendance, Walker asked the fraternity members, "What can ASMU do for the Inter-Fraternity council?" and told them he intended to run for president of ASMU in a few weeks.  
As punishment, the campus elections commission prohibited Walker from campaigning until Feb. 4, 7:00 p.m. -- 24 hours after other candidates were officially allowed to begin. In response, Walker said, "I found no fault in their decision. ... All it does is limit me for one day."

But, of course, no one is supposed to ask about where Barack Obama was born, who he associated with as a young man, how he got into Columbia, how he got into Harvard Law School, what his grades were there, who he associated with starting out in Chicago, where he got the money for his house, where he got the backing for his first campaign, etc., etc., etc.   That's all off limits.  

But Scott Walker, a Republican, got a wrist slap during an election for student government 26 years ago?   That's news!

I. Can't. Wait.

First Spring Training game for Cardinals is Friday.

Propaganda Alert

Look for a lot of this sort of thing over the next two years as we run up to the coronation of President Hillary Clinton in 2016:

This is a big casting coup right off the bat this pilot casting season. CBS has set Tea Leoni as the lead in drama pilot Madam Secretary, from Joan Of Arcadia creator Barbara Hall and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman. The drama, written by Hall, explores the personal and professional life of a maverick female Secretary of State (Leoni) as she drives international diplomacy, wrangles office politics and balances a complex family life. CBS TV Studios is producing with Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment, with the company’s Freeman, Lori McCreary and Tracy Mercer executive producing alongside Hall.
Leoni, of course, looks like this:

And not like this:

Joseph Goebbels, eat your heart out.

Women in Combat - An Update

File this under the "not all that surprising" category:

AP Exclusive: Few Army women want combat jobs

FORT EUSTIS, Va. (AP) -- Only a small fraction of Army women say they'd like to move into one of the newly opening combat jobs.... 
That survey and others across the Army, publicly disclosed for the first time to The Associated Press, also revealed that soldiers of both genders are nervous about women entering combat jobs but say they are determined to do it fairly. Men are worried about losing their jobs to women; women are worried they will be seen as getting jobs because of their gender and not their qualifications. Both are emphatic that the Army must not lower standards to accommodate women. 
Less than 8 percent of Army women who responded to the survey said they wanted a combat job.
Well, I have some questions.
1. Are we really going to have an Army where women alone get to decide whether they "want" a combat job?   Could men just say... "you know what, sir, I'd just rather not be in a job where I have to actually fight"?  
2. Can the women (1 in 12) who say that they want a combat job rescind that decision if it turns out that combat is... well, icky?   See, because if men try to get out of combat because it's icky or scary or dangerous or just not their cup of tea, they are committing a CRIME.   It's called DESERTION or COWARDICE UNDER FIRE.   And, historically anyway, it's been punishable by DEATH.   So, if we're going to have women in combat, will the rules governing how combat soldiers are supposed to behave apply to them?  
3. Finally, I know it's fashionable to think that women can do anything a man can do.   But if more than 90% of women in the Army -- who are, safe to say, already self-selected to have more "martial" personalities than the average woman -- still don't want to be in combat, is it still too politically incorrect to believe that maybe, just maybe, women in combat is a bad idea?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Boy of the Day!

A change of pace.   It's the Regular Son's 17th birthday!

Any parent's hope is that their children will grow up to be good people.   Many parents hope that their children will grow up to be better people than they are themselves.   In my case, my son has fulfilled all of my hopes.   He is brilliant, talented, funny, occasionally sweet, and tough as nails.   Most importantly, he has a faith as strong as any I've ever encountered.   If it were not for him, I would never have become Catholic, and I am more proud of his faith (and confident in what it means for his future happiness) than anything else.   All in all, he's a better man than I, Gunga Din.

And, if anything, he's an even more psychotic Cardinals fan than I am!

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Girls of the Day - Retro!

The Regular Son lambasted me for the swimsuit picture below, so I'm going retro with today's girls:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Girls of the Day - Why Not?


A Trivial Accomplishment for Obamacare

The Obama administration this week released the January figures for enrollment in Obamacare through the state and federal exchanges.   The figure?   3.3 million enrolled through January 31st.  

Some in the media crowed that this proved that Obamacare is "working."   Well, not so fast.   Put aside that it's well under the 7 million by March that the administration estimated the program needed to reach solvency.   Even the 3.3 million is highly suspect.   Consider:

  • The Obama administration does not divulge how many of these "enrollees" have actually paid the first month's premium, i.e., who actually have obtained health insurance coverage.   The amount of non-payers may be as high as 20%, which would reduce the "enrolled" figure to something more like 2.6 million.   Which, not incidentally, wouldn't look as good given the administration's prior forecasts of the minimum they needed for solvency.*

  • The administration also doesn't divulge how many of these "enrollees" are actually people who had lost coverage because of the strictures of Obamacare, and who are now enrolling to get replacement coverage.   Given the numbers in the many millions who lost coverage, it is logical to suspect that there are a non-trivial percentage of the "enrollees" who were not previously uninsured, but who had insurance, lost insurance, and now are simply getting new insurance, i.e., they are simply being "churned" in the numbers to make Obamacare look better.    In fact, a McKinsey survey suggests that fully 89% of the enrollees are people who previously had insurance.

So, if you subtract the people who haven't paid yet (20%), and you subtract the people who are simply replacing prior coverage that Obamacare caused them to lose (89% of the remainder), you are getting down to something around 250,000 people who are getting new insurance because of Obamacare.... in a country where there are ostensibly nearly 50 million uninsured!

Was it worth it?   Throwing the economy and the healthcare industry into chaos in order to insure <1% of the uninsured?   That seems like a pretty trivial accomplishment for Obama's "signature" program.  

* The administration also doesn't divulge the ages of the non-paying "enrollees". Since it's fair to guess that younger people will be less able and less willing to pay health insurance premiums, it's logical that the non-payers will skew young. Which is bad, since the solvency of the program depends on signing up young healthy "invincibles" to pay for health insurance they don't need in order to subsidize the older, less healthy insureds. (The program is already running well behind in the number of young people it needs to enroll.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Girl of the Day - Justin Verlander's Girlfriend

Pitchers and catchers reporting and only a week until the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.   It's an opportune time to feature the girlfriend of perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, Detroit's Justin Verlander:

Lucky guy.

If a Republican President Had Done X...

Charles Cooke at NRO has a terrific new entry in the "what if a Republican President had done X" genre, this time poking fun at the Obama Administration's unilateral and lawless decision to delay the employer mandate for another year:

In a move certain to please his conservative supporters and infuriate his critics, President Romney announced this afternoon that his administration would make yet another change to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In a terse release, posted without fanfare to the Department of Health and Human Services website, officials revealed that the law’s employer mandate would be suspended until 2016 for all businesses that employ between 50 and 99 people.
The move comes hot on the heels of news that the agency would not be enforcing the provisions in the law that require Americans to buy approved health insurance until after the next election. Now, as then, a simple explanation was forthcoming. “The president won,” a White House aide told National Review Online. “His disdain for the law was ratified by the people. Now he’s going to fundamentally transform it.”
“This is an utter disgrace,” griped Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). “This law was passed through Congress, signed by the previous president, and upheld by the Supreme Court.”
Schumer’s colleague, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, described the Romney administration’s behavior as “the nuclear option.” “This abuse of executive discretion is beyond the pale,” Reid fumed. “I’m a lawyer, I know.”...
Others went further. “It’s. The. Law,” animated Democratic spokesman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters at a hastily assembled press conference in Miami, barking out each monosyllable and pounding her fist on her desk. “The terrorist, anarchist, hostage-taking neo-Confederates in the Republican party tried for years to delay this in the legislature and now, simply because they have a Senate they dislike, they are trying to do so with the executive branch. It’s a disgrace to the memory of our Founding Persons and it will not stand.”... 
At the time of writing, MSNBC was in the 67th day of a special series, “Is Mitt Romney the Most Monarchical President in American History?”

Just so.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Obamacare's Catch-22

In Joseph Heller's novel, Catch-22, the absurdity of much of wartime bureaucracy was captured in the unwritten rule of the title:  "Catch-22 states that agents enforcing Catch-22 need not prove that Catch-22 actually contains whatever provision the accused violator is accused of violating."

Well, consider this little nugget about Obamacare:
Treasury officials said Monday that businesses will be told to "certify" that they are not shedding full-time workers simply to avoid the mandate. Officials said employers will be told to sign a "self-attestation" on their tax forms affirming this, under penalty of perjury.
WTF?   It is perfectly legal to make business decisions, including hiring and firing decisions of at-will employees, based on rational calculations of the cost of complying with federal law.   It literally happens every day, for instance, when a company decides not to open a new factory to manufacture a new product because the cost of complying with federal EPA rules is too high.   But now employers will have to "certify" that they are not firing employees to stay under the 50 (or is it 100?) employee threshold where the employer mandate under Obamacare kicks in.   They can fire employees, but they just can't think the wrong thoughts while firing them.  

Essentially, what this does is that every employer who makes that rational (and, repeat, legal) decision to fire employees (or to decide not to hire new employees) because of the Obamacare mandate is now subject to a perjury trap.   The federal government could get a judge to issue a warrant based on the probable cause that they lied on their federal tax forms, and come in to a company and begin searching its email records and files for any evidence that they had thought the unthinkable thought.... that the Obamacare mandate would not be affordable for the company.  

Is this really the American we want to live in?

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Deadly, Hypocritical and Incoherent Lawlessness

President Obama today once again delayed the implementation of a key provision of Obamacare -- the requirement that employers with 50 or more employees provide them health insurance.   You'll recall that he had previously delayed the same provision from the statutory start date of January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2015.   Now employers with under 100 employees will not have to meet the requirement until January 1, 2016, and employers with 100+ employees will only have to insure 70% of their employees to be in compliance.   The obvious reasoning is that enforcing the requirement will cause employers to cut jobs and/or not create new jobs in order to avoid the requirement.

An obvious response would be... huh?   The incoherence of the move is patent... if employers will cut jobs to stay under the 50 employee threshold, they'll also cut jobs to stay under the 100 employee threshold.   And how exactly is a larger company to determine which of its employees will fall into the lucky 70% who have health insurance and which do not?   That sounds like a recipe for lawsuits to me.  

Another obvious response is to note the hypocrisy.  For years, and even before the legislation was passed, Republicans said Obamacare would be a job killer.   Now Obama is essentially conceding the point... sure, it will kill jobs, but we are going to put off its job-killing effects until after the 2014 mid-terms.   After that, the recession that ensues will be Hillary Clinton's problem or, better still, a Republican President's.  

Still another obvious response is to note the lawlessness.   By what authority does Obama use executive rule-making, not to implement a law, but to change its effective date for preferred citizen groups (employers) but not for other citizens (individuals who purchase insurance themselves)?   The Constitution tasks him with taking care to see that the laws are enforced.   When a President can essentially unilaterally decide which laws to enforce and which not to enforce, we no longer live in a Constitutional democracy.

But to me the thing that sticks out is this:   Remember what the premise of Obamacare was?   People were uninsured, and the lack of insurance meant that they didn't get necessary health care, and the lack of that necessary health care meant that people died.   Democrats sold the program on humanitarian grounds, and lambasted Republicans who opposed it as people who didn't "care," who were content to see people die.   Using their own logic, how many people will die in 2014 and 2015 waiting for the health insurance that Obama promised them?  

If even one child dies who could be saved.... well, you know the liberal mantra.

Two Stories, One Story.- Marcus Smart and Michael Sam

Two young college athletes were in the news over the weekend.  

Marcus Smart, a star guard for the Oklahoma State basketball team, would have been one of the top draft choices in the NBA had he come out after his freshman year.   But he returned to school for his sophomore year.   He still will undoubtedly be a lottery pick in the NBA, but I imagine the decision has been frustrating for him -- OK State has been a disappointment in the Big 12, other players (freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle) have eclipsed him.   His team had lost two straight games, and was poised to lose a third on Saturday, when Smart, chasing down a play from behind, fell into the stands.   Two fans (both, incidentally, white) helped him up.   All seemed normal.   But apparently another fan (also white) in the same section said something (the "N" word?   "Go back to Africa"?   "You're a piece of crap"?), and Smart accosted him and gave him a two-handed shove.   The fan was not injured at all, and has since apologized for his own behavior, which was reprehensible -- a grown man shouting at a 19 year-old young man, whatever he said, is pretty grotesque.   But the video became the main topic of conversation on Sunday (no football, no baseball, regular season NBA, regular season NCAA, lots of time to fill on the sports shows, you get the picture).   Smart has now been suspended for 3 games, which OK State will likely lose, and thus will likely miss the NCAA tournament.  I tend to think that's a bit heavy... Smart was clearly provoked, and a little two-handed shove in the chest of a fairly large man (the fellow probably outweighs Smart by 50 pounds) is not that big of a deal.   Should Smart have walked away?   Sure.   Would you have walked away?   I doubt it.  

Also, a minor point... Smart chases down the play, tries to block the Texas Tech player's shot, and hurtles into the stands.   The chairs are hard, the steps in arenas are typically concrete, there are things to fall on or against... how did the jackass yelling at Smart know he wasn't hurt?   You have to be a real moron to be yelling at a young man at a moment when he might have injured himself.   So I'm not sympathetic at all to the fan, and I'm fairly sympathetic toward Smart.   Heck, if I'd been next to the guy in the stands, I'd probably have had to chastise him earlier in the game for swearing... I've done that before at sporting events, and a guy like that seems like the type.  

Meanwhile, another Big 12 team in another sport, the Missouri Tigers, had their star defensive end, Michael Sam, announce that he was gay.   Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year, is likely to go in the 3rd or 4th round of the NFL draft, and, again, the media frenzy ensued.   Sam's teammates and coaches at Mizzou apparently had no problem with Sam's sexual identity, he was a great teammate and a great player, the team had a great season, etc.   But apparently this is a big story because Sam will be the first openly gay player in the NFL.   So the talking heads have to hyperventilate about whether locker rooms will accept him (hint:  if he plays well, they will), will his draft status suffer (hint:  probably not, if teams like what they see on film), etc.   In short, the media seems to be fighting battles that haven't mattered for many years... no one cares very much about gay men or gay women being out in the workplace or openly gay in society... some do have legitimate concerns about the issue of gay marriage in the context of the general erosion of marriage as the bedrock institution of civil society, while others (like me) observe that intolerance in society often seems to be directed, not at gays, but, for instance, at believing Christians and, especially, Catholics.   But pretending that there will somehow be a wave of intolerance in an NFL locker room is, frankly, just a bunch of over-dramatic hype.     

So why are these two stories really just one story?

Marcus Smart is a college kid and, apparently, a nice guy.   Michael Sam is a college kid and, apparently, a nice guy.   Their coaches like them, their teammates like them.   Smart has a bit of a temper... lots of 19 year old boys do.   Sam is gay... lots of 21 year-old boys are.    The only reason these are big stories at all is because they play NCAA sports at Division 1 schools and BECAUSE WE ALL TAKE NCAA SPORTS WAY, WAY, WAY TOO SERIOUSLY BECAUSE THERE IS WAY, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH MONEY INVOLVED IN BIG-TIME SPORTS.  

Young men who are barely old enough to vote ought not to have to live their lives under a microscope.  

In other words, there's nothing much wrong with Smart or Sam... but there's a lot wrong with the rest of us who live vicariously through college sports.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Girl of the Day - Annet Mahendru

Just warming up for the premiere of The Americans in a couple of weeks:

Obama on the Run?

The great Michael Ramirez apparently thinks so:

Me, I'm not so sure.   The media propaganda machine will do anything to protect the First Black President, just like they'll do anything to ensure the First Woman President (Hillary).   If that means promoting the Big Lie... well, you have to break a few eggs, no?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Sochi Winter Olympics

Since the Regular Son was little, I've preached the value of knowing geography to him, and over the years we spent a lot of time looking at globes and maps.   It's hard to understand the world if you don't understand where things are.   For instance, people may wonder why there is a concern about terrorism at the Sochi Winter Olympics.   A casual glance at a map would probably tell you everything you need to know:

Sochi is at the "A" on this Google Map.   As you can see, it's on the border of Georgia, and much closer to Turkey and Syria and Iraq and Iran than it is to Moscow or Leningrad or the "European" parts of Russia.   In essence, Sochi is our first Middle Eastern Olympics.   I hope it goes well, but you can understand the trepidation.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bewildered Europeans

Victor Davis Hanson has another great new column up at NRO:

Europeans are increasingly bewildered if not a little anxious. They cannot reduce Obama, a man of the Left, to a caricatured Texan who often misunderstands the world, because Obama is an Ivy Leaguer who has never yet understood it.  
They cannot whine about American ubiquity, because Obama agrees with their rhetoric that the U.S. should recede from the world stage. They cannot out-left America, because Obama is to the left of almost all the European leaders. And they cannot offer any more sermons about being patient with the world’s aggressors, because Obama is not so much patient as uninterested. Without an engaged U.S., Bashar Assad, Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Communists, Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych, the unhinged North Koreans, and radical Islamists could not care less about what the E.U. thinks or about the consequences of its much-hyped soft power.  
In sum, Europe cannot play Athens when there is no longer a Rome to back it up. The result is a sort of sad update of Stalin’s thuggish but instructive rhetorical question to French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval when the latter in 1935 suggested that the Soviets reach out to the Catholic hierarchy in order to thwart Hitler: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”

Best (and Snarkiest) Headline of the Day

Woman Who Can’t Afford Her Own Birth Control Scrapes Up Money to File for Congressional Run

Posted by on Feb 04, 2014 at 8:11 am
Gee, we hope this won’t have an adverse affect on her birth control budget. Well, California’s known for some of the dumbest women in Congress, so why not? Besides, she needs the attention.
Women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke appears to be moving forward with a run for Congress.
Fluke has filed with the California state Democratic Party to seek its endorsement in the race for retiring Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) seat, according to the state party Web site.

Girl of the Day - House of Cards (Kate Mara)

We just finished watching Sherlock, and it didn't disappoint.   Very, very clever stuff, with great and very funny acting by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson.   So now we've got a lull until the next  show we're interested in comes on, House of Cards (2/14).  Looking forward to it, and particularly to the fact that, on Netflix, you can watch the whole thing back to back to back if you want to.

Anyway, here is a nice picture of Kate Mara, who plays the ingenue of the show and, I suppose, the heroine, if the show (which is very dark and cynical) has a heroine:

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

You may have noticed I haven't blogged for the past three weeks.   I can't point to a single reason.   I've been fairly busy at work, with a number of depositions that required travel out of town.   I've also been fairly immersed reading spy novels (12 books by Daniel Silva) and murder mysteries (8 books and counting by C.J. Box).   Then, too, I've been painting and generally fixing up our kitchen, so there's been tasks to do around the house and trips to the hardware store.  

It's also been a very cold winter here in Milwaukee, which for some reason has made me lethargic.

Most of all, I guess the lack of blogging must signify some fundamental disconnect from politics.   Obamacare is a disaster -- here's today's big news, about a new CBO report that predicts more than 2 million jobs lost over the next decade because of Obamacare -- but we all know this and it still doesn't seem that anyone is going to be unable to unring that bell.   The economy muddles along and employment is flat, flatter, flattest, no matter what Obama says...

... and yet no one has any real chance of unringing that bell either.   (You would have to unwind the regulatory state, especially the EPA, then unleash the frackers to give us a cheap energy-driven boom.   But that's easier said than done with a Democratic Party in thrall to the idiocy of the global warming fanatics.)   People claim you are a racist if you note that the breakdown of the black family has been a bad thing for blacks, or if you cite the truism that raising the minimum wage will harm young blacks looking for their first job.   People claim you are a misogynistic woman-hater if you note that women are fully capable of buying their own contraception, or have the temerity to believe that killing babies is a bad thing too.   People claim you are an anti-science Neanderthal if you observe that the world doesn't seem to be getting warmer over the past 15 years.   People claim you are evil and beyond civilized society's contempt if you hold the same position on gay marriage President Obama held less than two years ago.   Etc.  

What on earth is the use of arguing with people anymore?

Anyway, I'm back, for now at least.   But my mood persists.   Politics in America right now is a lot less interesting that figuring out how to fix the backsplash behind the stove.  

Philip Seymour Hoffman, RIP

I confess to mixed thoughts about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.   I have seen only a handful of his films -- Scent of a Woman, Twister, The Big Lebowski, Magnolia, Almost Famous, Mission Impossible III, and Moneyball.    He was memorable as a spoiled rich kid in Scent of a Woman and great in small but pivotal roles in Magnolia and Almost Famous.   His villain in MI III and his old-school manager in Moneyball were, to my eye, roles that could have been done by a lot of actors, but he brought a ton of charisma to them.   I never saw him in his Academy Award-winning role in Capote, and I never saw him in the more recent The Master, but I have heard that his performances were terrific.   I never saw him on the stage, although the fact that a few years ago he was picked to star in and apparently was wonderful in perhaps the King Lear of the American theater, Death of a Salesman, tells me a lot.   So while I'm not totally sold on the idea that he was the great American actor of his generation, I respect the voices -- like David Mamet -- who are saying that he was a great actor.

On the other hand, I generallly don't buy into and don't credit the "tortured artist" narrative that we're hearing.   There is nothing about being a great artist that requires you to destroy yourself or to damage the lives of people around you who care about you.   Lest we forget, Hoffman had three children ages 10, 7 and 5.   Without putting too mean a point on it, responsible adult men do not permit themselves self-indulgences that would leave their children orphaned.   Responsible adult men do not end up on the floor of their bathroom with a needle in their arm and 50 heroin packets scattered about.   And there are many, many great artists who don't end up that way.   He didn't suffer because of his art, he suffered because he was an addict, and in that he had less in common with great artists and more in common with junkies whose names you have never heard and whose lives were lived in anonymous and pathetic desperation.

That being said... a man who had gifts, a man who had success, a man who had friends, a man who had three children.   Addiction must be a horrible thing, a horrible torment for a man like that to let himself succumb to it.   He must have known that he was doing something evil, something that would leave his children bereft.   It must have embarrassed him, which may be why he apparently had no one at the end whom he could ask for help.   What power heroin must have had over him.   It isn't sad that a great artist, a great actor, has died.   It is simply sad that a human being fell off the edge of life and into the pit of despair, and gave up God's greatest gift, life, before his time.   May perpetual light shine upon him.