Westboro Baptist Church Leader Fred Phelps Dead

See you in hell, Freddie boy…

Council Nominations: March 19, 2014

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Honorable Mentions


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Meanwhile in the Communist Paradise Known as China…

Chinese property developer pays $2 million for puppy.

World’s most expensive pet or meal, for some it’s hard to decide which…

Putin’s Man in the White House

So this is what a weak America looks like. President Obama issues threats to the Russians over their takeover of the Crimea, and they respond with laughter. Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov tweets a picture of Obama wearing a Russian lieutenant’s uniform.

A Russian news anchor states, “Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash.” Pundits on the Left and Right, in Europe and the US see no way for the administration and its western allies to respond. Now Ukraine watches nervously with 60,000 Russian troops on its borders, awaiting Vladimir Putin’s next move. There is no downside to whatever it is. Putin can send the troops to take the Ukraine by force and nothing will stop him. The EU will fume, and the President will make another phone call, but nothing will stop him.

Putin has a once in a century shot at rebuilding the Russian empire at no cost. He’d be stupid to stop now. Not only Ukraine is at play, the entire former Warsaw Pact is now up for grabs. The Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia can’t resist Russian pressure, and neither can Poland. Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. The promise of 1989, of freedom and democracy for half a continent that had known nothing but war followed by repression, is threatened by a Russia that laughs at Western sanctions and posts photoshopped pictures of the American president. Oh, and one shouldn’t forget that it is also home to 4,500 nuclear warheads, so that comment about turning America into radioactive ash is not hyperbole.

For decades the Left has detested American exceptionalism. Starting after World War 2 and supported by the KGB, the Left has demanded America unilaterally disarm. Every movement the United States made to protect Europe was resisted by leftist parliamentarians, student protests and protestors chaining themselves to the gates of American military bases.  European bureaucrats condoned this anti-Americanism while at the same time relied upon the American soldiers stationed at these bases as well as the political leadership in Washington DC that was willing to use them.

Now one of those Leftists sits in the White House. He has unilaterally withdrawn American forces from Iraq and now does the same with Afghanistan. Around the world American forces are being cut back to pre-World War 2 levels, replacing American soldiers with rhetoric. He has led an administration that rewards American adversaries like Russia, Iran and China, and punishes its friends like the UK and Israel. In short he has acted like conservatives expected him to act: gutting the military, weakening America and its alliances, and encouraging its foes. Putin’s actions in the Ukraine merely reflect this new reality.

Some leftists, particularly the more ideologically pure, will see these events in a positive light. A humbled America is the final bulwark standing between transnational socialism so its demise at the hands of one of their own will usher in the the triumph of socialist intellectual thought over capitalist avarice. The fact that China and Russia, two of the largest remaining socialist powers on the planet, are preparing to reap the benefits of the end of Pax Americana is as it should be.

The problem with this train of thought, perhaps perceived clearly by the Leftists in Europe, is that neither Russia nor China are true socialist states. Russia is controlled by the basest form of crony capitalism, with the oligarchs siding with Vladimir Putin reaping the state’s largess at the expense of the masses, before shuttling it off to offshore banks in Switzerland. China too is not very socialist. The people do not own the means of production unless you specify the term “people” to mean the children of party leaders. In fact China today has one of the purest forms of capitalism around, more akin to Britain during the industrial revolution and America a century ago as opposed to some communist utopia. In fifty years it’s more likely to look like 20th century America than some sort of Marxist paradise.

Since World War 2 some European states like Sweden and Denmark  have crafted socialist paradises, and others like Germany, France and the UK have pursued socialist policies that now find themselves threatened by Russia. Russia controls 30% of the natural gas flowing to the continent, and has shown the willingness to use this resource as a weapon in the past. There is nothing to stop it from doing so in the future, which would destabilize these socialist-leaning European states through higher energy prices. With the Ukraine crisis proving NATO to be a paper-tiger, the continent lays ripe for the picking for Putin and his kleptocrats. The only realistic constraint on Russia is logistical: Putin doesn’t have enough men-at-arms or the ability to project force with lengthy supply lines.

In less than 3 years time America will replace the leftist in chief with another leader. Can Europe hold off Putin until then? The likely butt in the Oval Office chair will either belong to Hillary Clinton, a woman whose political experience helped create this problem with Russia in the first place, or Rand Paul, a neo-isolationist libertarian. Either case would mean the American Calvary wouldn’t be charging anytime soon to save Europe for a third time in a century.

Europe is on its own and will be for the foreseeable future. It will have to deal with Mr. Putin on his terms. For decades European lefties have dreamed of a weak America and it has succeeded. President Obama has taken a 300 lb man who was respected and feared and turned him into a 90lb weakling respected by no one, the laughing stock of the international community. It will be interested to watch how the Continent handles this blessing. At the very least, the Germans and Swedes better hope they don’t have any Russian-speaking minorities.

Update: Did Russian Intelligence Promote Obama from Lieutenant to Colonel? Personally I think his behavior warrants a promotion for the devotion he has shown to the Motherland.

 

 

Keep the Rainbow Flags Out of St. Patrick’s Day Parades

My support of gays has been pretty long-standing, but that isn’t to say the group, or more accurately strident members of a group, doesn’t annoy me at times. I get frustrated when the vision of gays becomes so narrow and they see everything through rainbow colored glasses as being all about their sexuality. Honestly as a straight guy I don’t see the world through the prism of my sexuality. I don’t walk around imagining bedding every female I meet or allowing my hormones to color my thinking at all times. In fact I don’t think much about my sexuality at all, and while I give them more leeway to define themselves more through their sexuality due to our culture’s historical antagonism towards homosexuality, it’s becoming time for gays to integrate more than bloviate about themselves. Freud believed homosexuality was an expression of narcissism, so actions like boycotting St. Patrick’s Day parades because gays can’t make the celebration of Irish heritage about them simply feeds negative stereotypes about them.

As an American of Irish ancestry who has been to Ireland and studied its rich history and culture, there is much for everyone to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day. Here you have a people who struggled for most of their history to survive and were nearly wiped-out by the British government’s genocidal policies during the 19th century. I’ve poured over ships manifests from the mid 19th century and seen the names of those refugees alongside their listed occupation as “laborer”, “servant” or “laundress.”  Many never even made it, having died aboard the disease-infested coffin ships, their names crossed out in the manifest. Those who survived arrived on foreign shores destitute, despised and often forced into bondage while their culture at home was under attack, their language banned, their Catholic religion preventing them from holding high office or even decent jobs.

Yet they endured. Today a quarter of Americans can claim these poor Micks as their ancestors and their struggle to survive, thrive and eventually succeed can be celebrated by members of all ethnic groups, even gay members of those groups.

St. Patrick’s Day is more than wearing green and drinking crappy American beer died green, neither things an Irishman would ever do. It is a remembrance and celebration of a unique voice in the chorus of our society, one that offers hope to today’s destitute and despised arrivals on foreign shores. By comparison, the rainbow flags and GLAAD signs pale in significance and make gays appear petty and self-centered.

Gays need to leave the rainbow flags at home, don the green and hoist a pint to the Irish who made our country, and this world, a better place. There will be other times, other parades, for gays to celebrate their sexuality, but the St. Patrick’s Day parade is not one of them.

 

The Ethics of Altered Time Perception

The Daily Mail has a thought provoking article on the use of drugs and other methods to prolong the sense of time for criminals, making their incarcerations seem longer than their actual sentences. While the article does a fair job of covering the morality of using such drugs on prisoners, it completely ignores uses of the technology for more benign purposes.

Imagine a drug one could take that could make a two day vacation feel like a month. Or prolonging those instants of joy that spontaneously arise in our lives into minutes, hours or perhaps even days. Would any of us not take a drug that would allow us mastery of time, to fight the inexorable rush forward, reducing it to a creep at certain times of our lives? There are moments we want to last forever. Soon there will be an app for that.

The article raises profound concerns about what justice means, and as the technology comes into existence we as a society should consider each of them carefully. But are we prepared at all for the opposite? Could there be a downside to stretching out those joyful moments artificially?

The Council Has Spoken: March 14, 2014

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Non-Council Winners


The Vanishing of Malaysian Air Flight 370

While the world wonders what happened to Malaysian Air Flight 370, a quote keeps recurring from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s unflappable Sherlock Holmes. “(W)hen you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth(.)” The longer this mystery continues it’s hard not to speculate and perhaps even engage in a conspiracy theory or two while remaining mindful of the fictional Holmes’s dedication to the evidence.


Unfortunately when it comes to that, we’re pretty screwed at this point. Six days after the plane disappeared we seem no closer to resolving the mystery. It is very difficult for us in the 21st century to imagine a plane full of 239 people simply vanishing. The longer the mystery remains the worse it will be. If in three months we have no further evidence of what happened to this plane, I have no doubt that it will become the most talked about disaster of all time, becoming the 21st century’s Titanic.


One of the most intriguing possibilities comes from the Wall Street Journal, that quotes US investigators theorizing that the plane’s transponders were turned off intentionally and the plane flown to an unknown airstrip. The map at the bottom of the article shows the range of the aircraft, covering some of the most rugged and isolated areas in the world. That’s a lot of area to land a plane in. And if this theory turns out true, there won’t be a kid on the planet who won’t know the name of the mastermind behind it.

Council Nominations: March 12, 2014

Council Submissions


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The Racist Roots of Progressive Thought

Zombie has a thought-provoking article on the racist origins of popular progressive dogma. In the article he presents the topic, a neutral description of the topic, the progressive justification for the topic, the conservative thought behind the progressive justification, and the true racist reason underlying the policy. While some of the racist reasons seem a bit over-the-top, most are spot on and worth considering. The best one by far is abortion. Zombie notes:

The movement to legalize abortion was from its inception intended as a way to decrease the black and minority population, and the statistics show that a highly disproportionate percentage of aborted babies are black. The desire to preserve “racial purity” and to prevent over-breeding of the “lower” races and classes was the overt and publicly pronounced goal of the pro-abortion progressive eugenics campaign in the early 20th century; only after eugenics fell from public favor did the leftists devise deceptive new narratives to justify abortion. White progressives still believe that blacks cannot control their sexuality and are too irresponsible to use birth control reliably, so the only way to keep them from overpopulating is to keep abortion legal and cheap or free.

Given that in abortions outnumber live birth in New York City and in the state of Mississippi for blacks, can one be racist for opposing a practice that reduces the African-American population? Margaret Sanger is considered a saint by progressives who vehemently defend her against her own deeds (speaking to the Ku Klux Klan about eugenics and abortion) and her own words supporting race-based eugenics. I in fact view Sanger as a product of her time who should not be judged by today’s standards. Eugenics was commonly accepted across the political spectrum at the time, and her racist attitude didn’t deviate from the norms of her era. But to accept such a notion flies in the face of liberal ideology that disparages historical people by judging them by contemporary liberal standards, outright condemning Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves instead of celebrating his achievement of advancing the cause of Democracy and free thought at a time when both were almost non-existent. So Sanger’s past must be re-written and the lies vigorously defended by all means fair and foul instead of judging her by the standards of her own era which, while nowhere near aa saintly are perhaps also not as diabolical as conservatives would like to believe.

It’s interesting that some people truly believe I am racist because I am troubled by these abortion statistics. I am racist because I believe blacks have the same abilities as I do. I am racist because I believe blacks can achieve more without being under the thumb of the government just as whites can. Even living with blacks in the South or working with them in Africa does not insulate me from the label “racist” tossed at me by people who send their children to private all-white schools and whose friends and neighbors are the same skin color. We truly live in paradoxical times.

The Painful Implications of Invertebrates Feeling Pain

Do invertebrates feel pain? Evidently some, like crustaceans do. “Brown crabs rubbed and picked at their wound when a claw was removed, as it is in fisheries. At times the prawns and crabs would contort their limbs into awkward positions to reach the injury…”

But the same article says we don’t have to feel guilty when we smash a stink bug. “Even in extreme cases, insects show no evidence of pain. Imagine a praying mantis eating a locust, [Wageningen University professor Hans] Smid says. With its abdomen opened up, the locust will still feed even while being eaten.” Good to know because I’ve become a regular American Psycho when it comes to stink bugs.

So Science has decided that animals as simple as hermit crabs feel pain. Yet we are led to believe that human embryos and fetuses prior to birth do not, and the research that states otherwise remains controversial. This isn’t a philosophical problem for me since I eat animals and oppose laws outlawing abortion in the first trimester. I accept both are murder. But it strikes me as a bit of a conflict when my liberal friends support abortion without restriction yet won’t touch an egg because of the suffering the hen went through making it.

I’ll start taking vegans seriously when I meet one who opposes abortion for the same reason they oppose consuming animal products.

Occupy Hollywood

Movie mogul and liberal advocate Harvey Weinstein thinks California tax payers should pony up to keep Hollywood moguls like him making movies in California as opposed to places like New Orleans.

Nothing is stopping him from keeping the movies that he funds shooting in Los Angeles. If he wanted to he could pay the higher salaries demanded by movie production teams in Hollywood and support the Californian economy. But to do that he’d lose a few percent of his profits. Weinstein doesn’t want to do that.  To keep his profits intact he wants Californian hairdressers, bus drivers, and office workers to pay up so that he can afford to live the life he’s become accustomed to.

Terms like “tax credits” and “tax breaks”  are used to soften the blow to taxpayers. They make it sound as if no one’s hurt, that they aren’t somehow “real” and that everyone wins. But what these payments are are bribes to do business in the state. Unlike the federal government states cannot print money to handle short-falls, and must either cut services to citizens or make them pay more for them. The pot of money is fixed. When Hollywood is provided a $100 million tax break, that $100 million must come from somewhere. Someone is going to get laid off; someone is going to have to pay more money come tax time to the State. Rest assured that someone is NOT Harvey Weinstein.

There is no doubt that states are engaged in bribing businesses to come to their state, and a good argument can be made that such bribes should be made illegal by federal law. The problem is that such behavior is so common and is not limited to Hollywood. NFL and MLB teams are wooed with tax payer “incentives” to build stadiums or move teams even though the benefit of such building or moves flows mostly to the Billionaires Club of team owners. States also compete against each other for factories and other economic “engines” from near or far abroad instead of investing in small businesses at home who are unlikely to pull-up stakes when the next big offer comes from a distant right-to-work state.

Weinstein won’t admit it, but the reason California has become uncompetitive to southern states like Georgia and Louisiana where Hollywood is outsourcing much of its production work has to do with the politics that he supports. Economic regulations beloved by liberals of Weinstein’s ilk have driven up the cost of doing business in California to the point where CEOs have ranked the state the worst to do business in – eight times in a row. Weinstein can’t blame Tea Partiers for this because they don’t exist in his state. He can’t blame the GOP because the state has been ruled by Democrats for almost a generation (Schwarzenegger was as much a Republican as Zell Miller was a Democrat).

As a former Californian I am disgusted by what has happened to the state under this political leadership. The state, once a land of opportunity, has become a feudal state of the super-wealthy and the serfs who support them. The middle class no longer exists. Add in the in-bred, monoculture of the leftist leadership of the state which celebrates diversity in everything but political thought, and it’s going to be a very long time before I return to a state that I once taught to foreigners as epitomizing America. Now it’s closer to Putin’s Russia in almost all areas except religion and attitudes towards gays.

I think it’s time  Hollywood paid its fare share, but it won’t. Governor Moonbeam will simply pass more taxpayer dosh to his political supporters like Weinstein from the public kitty, then conveniently forget about their cost the next time the state budget has a Arizona-sized hole in it. And liberals like Weinstein will keep spreading the progressive dream from his kingdom to the rest of the country.

The Council Has Spoken: March 7, 2014

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Life Lesson in 17 Minutes

A chat session between the Kid and me this morning.


8:32 am Kid: High school is in lockdown, teacher said this wasn’t planned. Probably just a drill though, don’t worry.


8:33 am Me: Are the doors locked?


8:37 am Kid: Yes


8:37 am Me: Are you near a window you can escape through?


8:39 am Kid: We’re in the corner but I can get out the window. I’m on the floor where the roof is right outside. I could get through the window and jump down to the patio area.


8:39 am Me: Ok, so you have an escape plan.  Good. Any unusual sounds?


8:41 am Kid: Drill sign hasn’t been given like it’s supposed to during a drill. And it’s been a bit long.


8:42 am Me: How is the teacher reacting?


8:44 am Kid: She’s actually pretty scared. I’m calm though. She said it could be a threatening parent in the office.


8:45 am Me: Does the door have a window in it? Is it possible to break the window and reach in to unlock the door?


8:49 am Kid: Door can be opened from the inside. All clear sign given. No one knew about this. Cops are here.


8:50 am Me: Good job keeping a cool head.


8:50 am Kid: They said it was a realistic drill. 5 cops with cars outside.


8:52 am Me: Always keep a cool head. First thing is to breath deeply to stay calm. Second thing is to figure out your escape route. You did both. Excellent job son.


9:01 am. Kid: Thanks dad.


What he doesn’t know is that at 8:45 I called the police department. No one answered. He also doesn’t know how close I was to heading to the school but I kept a cool head too.


I’m reminded of the Kipling poem, “If”


If…

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—-and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—-which is more—-you’ll be a Man, my son!
—Rudyard Kipling

ICD-10: An Acronym Everyone Will Know Soon

Stephen Hayes has a must read article about the coming implementation of new medical coding standards known as ICD-10. I have personally met doctors who promised to retire before these standards go live in October due to their complexity. Perhaps more will quit once they learn about ICD-10’s Kafka-esque logic. For example, code T63813A is “toxic effect of contact with venomous frog, assault, initial encounter.” There is not a single venomous species of frog on the planet at this time. Oh and you can see a doctor several times for the same malady and each can be considered an “initial encounter.” Last I checked a dictionary I’m pretty sure initial had a very strong connotation of “beginning,” because the adjective “subsequent” would be used to describe encounters coming after the initial one. Not according to the geniuses behind ICD-10.

The expectation is that insurers will reject all claims due to “incorrect coding” soon after implementation, forcing the smallest providers out of business. Larger providers are expected to survive. Thinking about this though, I’m not so negative. There are already hospital administration coding specialists. While healthcare providers enter the initial codes, these specialists are used to figure out better ways to code patient treatments and educate the providers on using better codes next time. ICD-10 implementation is guaranteed to thicken this relatively new layer of bureaucracy in the health care system, perhaps by having the health care providers document the patient encounter in a traditional way, leaving the coders to determine the proper ICD-10 code later. Eventually you will have a war between the ICD-10 specialists working for providers and those working for the insurers, including the federal government. As I’ve learned with the business of Medicine or any other extremely complex system, unintended consequences are the norm. It’s way too early to predict complete disaster.

That’s the optimistic view at least, and it’s only optimistic insofar as it decreases the burden on physicians and other providers. It will not save money; that layer of bureaucracy is going to become critical and expensive, meaning that health care costs will rise. Add in the disappearance of small practices who can’t afford to implement ICD-10, and you will have fewer providers competing with each other.

The pessimistic side of course is that providers like my wife will spend even more time on on unpaid documentation than she does now, and I remind her that whatever is free is abused. For example, today she spent an hour looking up formularies and speaking to an insurance company trying to find a patient a drug her patient’s insurance company would pay for. All that time was gratis. She is therefore considering her career options, as I’m sure many providers are. Medicine is a vast field with many different ways to earn a living, and the skills she has developed will serve her well. She loves treating the sick and she still shows the passion that I saw nearly 20 years ago in the African bush when she helped African villagers. But she didn’t go through medical training to spar with desk-jockies and the coding schemes they pulled out of their asses. Everyone’s favorite example? Code V9027XA: “Drowning and submersion due to falling or jumping from burning water-skis, initial encounter.”

Who will not be served well will be the patients of the providers who leave primary care because of ICD-10, on top of the already burdensome documentation requirements, buggy and poorly written EHR software (no fax capability within the system – so the providers have to print out the prescription and carry it over to the fax machine), declining reimbursement rates, and patients who are overmedicated, overweight and over-indulged.

Here’s a tip: Make sure you get sick before the end of the year, and hope you stay healthy afterward.