Archive for November, 2012

Back with more topics than I’ve ever squeezed into 10 minutes or less, “Consider This!” is back with a new episode.

A friend of mine posted a graphic of Sen. Bernie Sanders with a  quote from him extolling the results of Social Security, with the tag, “Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do.” Well sure, in the short term, big government social programs always look good. Think of how Social Security looked in the first 5 or 10 years. People who had paid little or nothing into it got monthly checks from the government. Wonderful.

John Hawkins at the blog Right Wing News polled conservative bloggers on who the GOP should choose at their 2016 nominee. The short answer? Marco Rubio was the clear winner. He was followed by Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan. The two who topped the list of those they least wanted to see on the ticket were Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Then John asked, want to see something scary?

The government recently modified its determination of which states have the worst poverty rates. The new measure incorporates a controversial calculation of relative equality that demotes states that have wide gaps between wealthy people and people with less than one-third of state residents’ average income. This income gap is something that liberals have spoken out against, and believe they have an answer to. But with this new measure included, it’s interesting to see what state dropped to the rock bottom of the survey; California.

A government report released Monday warned that a sudden increase in taxes would result in lower consumer spending next year, and some analysts wondered if the concerns about what could happen might crimp spending throughout the rest of the holiday season. Um, yeah. The Obama administration is just now figuring out what conservatives have been saying, well, pretty much for a generation. In other news, the sky is indeed blue, and math still works.

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    The War on Religion

    (Hey, if Democrats can invent a war, so can I.)

    Hobby Lobby had filed suit to block the ObamaCare contraception mandate. They lost round 1.

    As a “secular” corporation, they have no rights to use the religious beliefs of their ownership as a justification not to abide by the contraception mandate. This decision is inconsistent with the Tyndale House one you may have heard about. So apparently being a Bible publisher does make you religious, but being a Bible seller doesn’t.

    The argument the administration advanced successfully in the Hobby Lobby case is a particularly troublesome one for believers of all faiths who operate under the assumption that they can use their moral principles to guide the way their place of business spends money. According to the administration’s legal arguments, the family that owns Hobby Lobby is not protected by the First Amendment’s "free exercise" clause because “Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion.”

    Hobby Lobby is an all-American success story if there ever was one. Read the whole thing for their history. But now, with ObamaCare breathing down our collective necks, you lose your religious freedom the minute you start a company.

    The company remained all privately owned, with no franchising. Their statement of purposes and various commitments all begin with Bible verses, commitments to honor the Lord. The Hobby Lobby folks pay well above minimum wage and have increased salaries four years in a row despite the recession. They are teetotalers of the old Oral Roberts variety, refusing to stock shot glasses, don’t sell any of their store locations with liquor stores, don’t allow backhauling of beer shipments – all things that could make them money, but they just bear the costs. Every Christmas and Easter, the Hobby Lobby folks advertise a free Bible and spiritual counseling. They are closed every Sunday. The family also signed the giving pledge, committing to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

    So: I doubt this is the type of company to spend one dime on this contraception mandate. They will just drop coverage, and pay employees the difference, shifting them onto the exchanges or the taxpayer, rather than compromise their beliefs. It’s logical, it’s more predictable as a budgeting choice, and it will save them tens of millions in the long run versus retaining coverage and paying the fine.

    I have to wonder if this wasn’t part of the plan all along; a self-fulfilling prophesy of the need for state insurance exchanges by forcing, in part, religious people who happened to have started a business to join them. That’s a little cynical, I’ll agree, but it’s tough to understand this blatant contravening of freedoms in the very first Amendment.

    Arguing that a corporation isn’t a person is one thing. Arguing that you stop being one when you create one is another one entirely.

      The Most Bibles

      Which country produces the most Bibles? I thought this would be a simple question; the United States, the most capitalist country around. Lots of people, and a jillion different translations, paraphrases and parallel versions would make for a big market.

      Not so. This may surprise you, until you think about it a bit.

      When one thinks of China, Christianity and the Bible are likely two of the furthest things that come to mind. “Communism,” “forced abortions,” one-child policy” and other terms are, more generally, what’s the nation is known for. But now, a shocking new development has come to the forefront: China, a country that makes many products consumed in the U.S. and abroad, is now also the world’s largest Bible producer.

      Amity Printing Company is the only outfit in China that is permitted to produce Christian Bibles. While the Chinese government doesn’t have the most stellar record when it comes to religious freedom, Amity Printing has been fast at work, with the company’s chairman, Qiu Zhonghui, announcing that the business published its 100 millionth Bible in July.

      According to a report by Christian Today [Ed.: not "Christianity Today"], the Amity has printed 60 million Bibles, including nine ethnic minority editions in various languages. Additionally, 40 million copies were printed in more than 90 languages and sent to about 70 nations and regions across the globe.

      Not bad for a printing company founded in 1988.

        An "Occupier" Gets a Wake-up Call

        The Occupy Wall Street crowd, upset that government power was being overly wielded by bankers, suggested, as the solution, we give government more power. The funny thing was, they took up other causes themselves (feeding people, protesting bank fees by not doing business with those banks) that were successful because it was individuals meeting a need rather than government imposing a one-size-fits-all solution. The market worked, and people were helped. Churches and conservatives have been doing it for a long time; it was nice to see these kids get a feel for individual charity and individual choices.

        Another Occupier has been given a grim remind that government can’t be everywhere, but individuals can be.

        The situation in public housing projects in Coney Island, Brooklyn remains a "humanitarian crisis" in which the government and the Red Cross have been nearly completely absent, according to Eric Moed, a volunteer aid worker with Occupy Sandy.

        Friday is Moed’s fifth day volunteering with Occupy Sandy, an ad hoc hurricane relief group formed by former Occupy Wall Street activists. Moed, an architect from Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, goes door to door in the 30-40 public housing buildings in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn to distribute food, water and supplies, and help address sanitation and medical needs. The projects in Coney Island remain without power, and often without water and necessities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Accounts of these conditions have been corroborated in the New York Daily News.

        Moed says all of the supermarkets on Coney Island have been flooded or looted.

        The result is what Moed describes as a "humanitarian crisis." Sick or older people may be vulnerable to death without heat, or food and water.

        He’s there. He’s helping. As I’ve noted before, people who do not believe it’s the government’s job to help people generally are more willing to help people themselves.  Moed’s comments suggest he’s not one of those types, but good on him for helping out anyway.

        Whatever response there has been from the government — city, state, or federal — or the Red Cross, Moed says their presence in and around the Coney Island projects is non-existent, inadequate, or counterproductive. FEMA has set up a solitary aid trailer on what Moed calls the "sexy area" of Coney Island — near the famous amusement park and Nathan’s — which was not hit very hard. It awaits people seeking help, when those who most need it are stranded in high-rise buildings a few blocks away.

        Moed insists that he does not assume anything about the government and Red Cross’s lack of a response, but says their absence is indisputable. "They’re literally not there. It’s not a criticism, it’s literally a fact," he said. "I’ve been on the ground here for four days. I’ve seen zero FEMA people. Occasionally a Red Cross truck will come through with hot meals. But there’ll be one truck for 15-20 buildings."

        Moed reserves perhaps his greatest scorn for NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) the city government body in charge of the projects where Moed does his rounds. Moed says NYCHA has been focused exclusively on restoring power and after ten days, they have failed even to complete that task. "People have claimed that they are still being asked to pay rent, despite the lack of power and water," Moed Says.

        This is one kid learning that, when things are worst, our best bet is to rely on each other, not the government. Some may suggest that "each other" includes the government, but a bureaucracy hundreds of miles away will not be as reliable as the guy down the street. Or you. The federal government ceased being a good representative of "each other" a long time ago. Some are being helped, to be sure, but if you rely first on government, you are likely to be disappointed.

        And even though Moed said that his acknowledging of a lack of government response was not a criticism, as time dragged on, it became that.

        Moed has also used social media to express frustration with the inadequate response of the government. On Thursday Moed tweeted:

        WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU @barackobama? Citizen here, been in Coney Island Projects FEEDING ppl ALONE no FEMA or Red Cross. People are dying.

        — Eric J Moed (@rickersteen) November 8, 2012

        He tweeted the same thing to NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

        In the near future, however, Moed does not plan to go beyond his remarks on social media to campaign the government for help. "I’ve decided to devote my energies to actually helping people who are in life or death situations, as opposed to demanding things," Moed said. "I see the need to demand that Mayor Bloomberg and NYCHA and Red Cross and FEMA get out there and really start canvassing and doing things from the ground up, but the needs are so dire and so desperate at this point that we’ve just been down there trying to get that stuff documented and taken care of."

        Don’t wait on government. Don’t rely on government. It is not omnipotent nor omnipresent. Devote your energies "to actually helping people who are in life or death situations, as opposed to demanding things".

        Democrats would try to portray Moed’s attitude as one of some sort of social Darwinism, the way they portray Republicans. But it’s not political. It’s literally a fact.

          Election Post-mortem; The New Normal?

          Same-sex marriage is approved in Maine. Colorado legalizes recreational marijuana. And (not, I think, coincidentally) Barack Obama wins re-election.

          Is this the new normal?

          ObamaCare will not be repealed, with its requirement that employers, even those that disagree on moral and religious ground, provide for abortions. And if we lose any Supreme Court justices, there’s no doubt that we’ll get replacements with the same disregard for the least of "the least of these".

          In addition, ObamaCare comes with, using the term of one former Illinois Senator’, "massive, job-killing tax increases". In the short term I’m sure the folks will love it. So did the folks in the countries of Europe, where they’re going broke, running out of money to pay for the same sorts of things. Ask Germany, who will have to bail them all out, how much health care costs when it’s "free". Anyone in the US thinking "but this time it’ll be different" has their eyes tightly shut to their surroundings.

          Financial guru Dave Ramsey tweeted this: "Expect the rich to dig in to survive big taxes rather than invest in the economy. Hope I am wrong. Good luck on new jobs."

          And to my Christian friends who voted for Obama, this whole appeal to short-term thinking is, I believe, part and parcel to how the social issues came out in the election. How many of you really believe that abortion is what amounts to a civil right, and endorse same-sex marriage in spite of a clear Biblical definition of it? If you do, we have a whole set of other issues between us, but if you don’t, why would you vote for a party that does? If you believe charity is an issue of personal responsibility, why would you vote for an ideology that eschews person giving for the power and inefficiency of taxation? Did you buy into the lie that Republicans want to do away with the societal safety net?

          A friend of mine tweeted, "Has it ever occurred to u that our party platform endorses the protection of innocent life & Dems end up demonizing us w/ impunity on issue?" And I would add, "and some Christians support such anti-life Democrats?"

          My questions are not ones of frustration so much as they are out of confusion.

          But Barack Obama did indeed get out the vote, with a good ground game (as I hear) and the American people have spoken. They also spoke and put Republicans back in charge of the House of Representatives, so I’m not sure exactly what they were trying to say. Essentially, we got the same government we had yesterday.

          So "Forward!". Or something.

            Friday Link Wrap-up

            Death panels. "A 29-year-old woman will die without a new drug that the NHS is refusing to provide despite the manufacturer offering it to her for free, it emerged today." When Sarah Palin talked about death panels under ObamaCare, it wasn’t a prediction; it was a description of socialized medicine.

            Extremism on abortion. "Obama and his party this fall are waging a political culture war, tagging Mitt Romney and his party as scary radicals on abortion and women’s issues. But for more than a decade in public office, Obama has fought a legislative culture war, holding abortion in higher regard than freedom of conscience or even basic respect for human dignity." Who’s the extremist, again?

            Watching the polls, or not. "I think Mitt Romney is likely to win next Tuesday. For two reasons:  (1) Romney leads among voters on trust to get the economy going again.  (2) Romney leads among independents." Jay Cost looks at history and the independents; he doesn’t just number-crunch.

            Unions.  "[Utility] Crews from Huntsville [Alabama], as well as Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler out of Trinity headed up there this week, but Derrick Moore, one of the Decatur workers, said they were told by crews in New Jersey that they can’t do any work there since they’re not union employees." When membership means more than helping people.

            And another reminder that you can give to the Salvation Army for Sandy disaster relief.