Odd Citizen

Odd Citizen
An Odd Citizen’s Search For Vanishing Freedoms

Czars — Tools of Tyranny

July 30th, 2009

Our country’s president, Obama the Sun God, has embarked on an ambitious program to reform and remake all of America. He knows what is best for children, for sick people, for the retired, for the “working class,” and for the economy as a whole. Bankers’ salaries, California water allocation, the welfare of the fishes, frogs and birds and the design of cars. What a guy, this SUN GOD RA — Obama!

But how can he do all this GOOD when limited by the old-fashioned U.S. Constitution? Simple, says the Sun God. I’ll just appoint Czars who don’t have to be confirmed by Congress and whose activities are not authorized by Congress nor supervised by Congress. Congress? What Congress? I got Czars.

Here is Taxpayers for Common Sense‘s list of Obama’s Czars 36 and counting.

Without opining on the need for or wisdom of what these Czars are appointed to do, it is abundantly clear that these powerful offices are unconstitutional delegations of power to executive officers not confirmed by Congress to perform duties not authorized by Congress or the Constitution, and without Congressional oversight. (I know, Nancy, you don’t care, but there are others who do.)

The Supreme Court needs to step in and do its duty as a co-equal branch of government. It needs to rule on the constitutionality of executive branch Czars.

Stop the Czars before it’s too late!

Rhetorical Tactics of the Left

July 30th, 2009

In the previous post I discussed Coyote Blog’s observation about the liberal pattern of diverting the conversation. Now, here’s a
perfect example of diversion from a blog discussing Glen Beck’s rhetoric about President Obama’s attitude toward white people.

The author, Scott Gibbs, complains:

On Tuesday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends guest Beck makes the declaration that Barack Obama, legally elected President of the United States, is a racist who “hates white people.”

He then goes on to give reasons why, in his opinion, Beck’s charges are untrue. But then comes the diversion:

But, before we watch Beck, let’s take a quick one-question quiz.

Circle the more reckless statement:

A. “The Cambridge Police acted stupidly.”

B. “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

But anywho, here’s the clip:

He then showed the Glen Beck clip from Fox. The clip is unremarkable and not really the subject of this post.

I then came across a video clip in which MSNBC jumps in with an attack on Glen Beck. The rhetoric of the attack itself was, again, unremarkable. However, on the screen as a block-subtitle the whole time was the following text:

Do you think right wing’s verbal attacks on Pres. Obama are:
A. Free Speech B. Hate Speech

This diversion sends chills down my spine. Free speech is free speech. “Hate Speech” IS free speech, no matter how offensive you may think it is.

If we ever get to the point of truly differentiating free speech from “hate speech” we’ve turned a corner and given up our most precious freedom.

Political Opinions: Made or Taken?

July 29th, 2009

A very interesting and on-point article appeared a few days ago in Coyote Blog: “Things I Have Learned as a Libertarian. In his posting, “coyote” observes a pattern of argument that characterizes discussions between liberals and others, an opening observation (“socialized health care is costly”), the liberal response parrying with an attack not responding to the original subject (“Don’t you know how evil Cheney was?”), all resulting in a complete change of subject, the original subject (“government health care”) forgotten.

This pattern reminds me of my experience as a software developer/publisher when success or failure depended to a large degree on the opinions published in computer magazine reviews. A favorable review could launch a product, an unfavorable one could sink it. So the reviewer’s opinion was vitally important.

Inevitably, the first question the reviewer would ask is “What is your software like?” to which I would respond, “It is original, not like anything else on the market.” I really hoped that the reviewer would judge the product on its unique merits and benefits, rather than a checklist feature-by-feature comparisons of something it was “like.” But no. It further became apparent that the real motivation for the “What is it like?” question was that, knowing what it was like would also provide the reviewer a reference to a ready-made opinion. The reviewers would do almost anything to avoid forming an original opinion on anything. I realized then that the reviewers, like most of the world’s people are in fact herd social animals.

In an earlier post (here) I observed that the press has adopted by conventon “a decision was taken” over the previously more common “a decision was made” and observed that the latter form is more comfortable to those avoiding responsibility. And similarly, like decisions, opinions can be “made” or “taken” depending on one’s ability or willingness to do his own original thinking.

With this in mind, the pattern of political dialog discussed in the Coyote Blog post, most probably results from a group-think mentality from which opinions are “taken.” Thus, absent a pre-made opinion the only alternative for the group-think arguer is to change the subject so as to steer the conversation into his group’s territory of pre-defined opinions. consideration of anything else is out of the question.

In essence, then, conversations within these bounds are meaningless and unproductive. So how is democracy achieved under such circumstances? One can only hope that a few good ideas become embedded in the group-think, and these “groups” will gain following and momentum so that we can prosper in spite of it all.

Fortunately, the only people who actually generate ideas, good or bad, are true individuals, libertarians and conservatives among them.

Congressionally Stupid and Proud of It!

July 28th, 2009

Congressman Conyers, Chairman of House Judiciary Committee – Incredibly Stupid and Proud of it.

“What good is reading the bill,” says Conyers, “if it’s 1,000 pages and … you don’t have two lawyers to find out what it means after you’ve read the bill?”

He sees nothing odd or wrong about the Congress passing one thousand page bills that require two lawyers to understand. He sees nothing wrong with congress voting on laws they don’t know anything about and don’t understand. This is, if not criminal negligence and malpractice, at least the epitome of stupidity.

And these guys actually get elected! And made chairman of the Judiciary Committee? What does this say about the voters?

Bring back the poll tax. Throw the bums out.

ObamaCare – Practice Run Needed First

July 25th, 2009

Listening to the Sun God’s bloviations on government run health care some thoughts (other than puking) come to mind.

The Sun God proclaims that there are millions of dollars wasted in health care administration. So what about first applying his efficiency genius to the operation of Medicare, Medicade and other government run health programs. Wouldn’t it be useful and revelatory to see if the “reforms” the Sun God’s minions belch about actually work before applying them to the whole of the health care sector?

Since when has any government program cost less and been more efficient than an equivalent private enterprise? Let the lefty bureaucrats and politicians demonstrate that their methods actually save money and are more efficient using the 45% of the health care sector the government already controls?

When the Sun God talks about paperwork efficiency what comes to mind is Medicare’s byzantine, intricate, confusing coding and payment bureaucracy. Before Medicare things could not have been worse than that, and they might have been better. Let the Sun God fix that first!

Best practices. What best practices? Continual reports emanate from the VA Hospitals about contaminated colonoscopies, mistreatment of helpless patients, incompetent foreign staffers, etc. And these practices persist for months and sometimes years at a time without correction. The Sun God’s mouthpieces echo glowing reports about the efficiency of the VA. I’m eligible for VA care but don’t believe a word they say, so I don’t use it. Let them prove their claims system wide before testing this mess on the whole country.

Hey, Obama, practice makes perfect. You need to practice first. Or better yet, for the good of the country, resign.

We neither want nor need a national community organizer.

Efficient Health Care

July 15th, 2009

Do you really want to have your health care delivered through this bureaucratic monstrosity?

More Ugly Stuff

July 11th, 2009

This discussion by an undercover agent who infiltrated Bill Ayers’ Weather Underground terrorist organization is extremely ugly. To those who don’t recognize Ayers, he’s a good buddy and collaborator with the Sun God during his “community organizer” days in Chicago. Play it.

The company he keeps.

You Still Don’t Believe Obama is Socialist?

July 11th, 2009

Today I stumbled across the work of zombietime.com, through a reference by michellemalkin.com and was truly dumbstruck. It was hard to belive that what I was reading could be true — “must be the rantings of some mad conspiracy type,” I thought. But no, there is is in plain detail and context, the words and work of John Holdren, President Obama’s Science “Czar”.

In his 1977 book, EcoScience co-authored with Paul & Anne Ehrlich, Holdren advocates forced abortions, control of population by international police forces and mass sterilizations.

As an example, Dr. Holdren holds forth on page 787-788:

Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control. Indeed, this would pose some very difficult political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems. No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements: it must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals; it must be free of dangerous or unpleasant side effects; and it must have no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets, or livestock.

Be sure to read the original source linked above. It will chill you to the bone! But as early as March, 2009 warnings were going out about Holdren’s radical credentials. (Why am I not surprised that this is the first peep I’ve heard about how radical this guy is? I do read the newspapers.)

There are two lessons to be taken from this:

The first is that our Sun God president has surrounded himself with truly dangerous radicals. A man is known by the company he keeps, and when this company includes Jeremiah Wright (“God Damn America”), William Ayers (“I only wish we [the Weathermen] had set off more bombs.”), Carol Browner (member of Socialist International), and now John Holdren (advocating “a Planetary Regime—sort of an international superagency for population, resources, and environment. Such a comprehensive Planetary Regime could control the development, administration, conservation, and distribution of all natural resources, renewable or nonrenewable“) — how then can you not conclude that the man is a radical socialist?

The second lesson is that, to the true believer, the cause is interchangeable. (See my earlier article.) Today’s mania about global warming is the mirror image of the “population explosion crisis” of the 1970’s when the Ehrlichs and Club of Rome promoted universal panic about a “scientific consensus” that the world would run out of resources due to overpopulation. Politicians made speaches, wrung their hands and spent money for the cause, books were published, and critics were castigated. Of course now we realize that the population of the western countries is declining — oops! So onward to the next crisis that justifies the takeover of the world by the ever-brainy, oh-so-wise, so worldly academics of the left — Obama and Holdren among them.

This is truly sick, and truly dangerous.

Honduras – The Big Lie

July 10th, 2009

The former president of Honduras was constitutionally removed according to the L.A. Times article (Via Hugh Hewitt) by distinguished American lawyer Miguel A. Estrada, who emigrated from Honduras. Estrada was nominated to the U.S. Federal bench by President George W. Bush, but his confirmation was blocked by Democrats in congress.

This article provides Estrada’s analysis of the Honduran laws pertinent to the removal of President Zelaya and the transfer of power to now President Micheletti. Zelaya’s arrest was legal (not a Coup d’Etat as the press echos) although Estrada admits there may be some doubt about his exile prior to judicial proceedings.

So now we have Hillary Clinton entertaining Zelaya and a delegation from Honduras and calling for Zelaya’s restoral to power. It is reminiscent to her husband, Bill’s role in re-installing the vile crook Bertrand Aristide to power in Haiti. Of course, in this instance Bill and Hillary had cronies skimming millions of dollars from the Haitian telephone monopoly, so it made sense to them.

What makes the Honduran case so disgusting is the speed (hours) with which Zelaya’s ouster was branded as a military coup, and for tyrants like Hugo Chavez (who was, himself involved in Zelayas’s Honduran criminality), Fidel Castro, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Rafael Correa — leftists all and all involved in extra-constitutional mischief to install themselves as tyrants — to loudly support Zelaya.

That this incident should be so mendaciously reported in the U.S. and world press, and that our own government personified by Obama (the Sun God) and Hillary (the fluff) would mindlessly buy into what is a completely false notion, and fall in line with a bunch of dictator or dictator wannabees — this is the reason I write this blog.

Just because “people say it” or “the press reports it” doesn’t mean it’s true. Quite often it is a big lie. In this case it’s an obvious one.

We should be better than that.

Irrational Exuberance — Medical Style

July 10th, 2009

My wife has a friend (we’ll call her Maple) who lives in Canada. Maple has nothing but exuberant praise for the Canadian socialized medical system. Her story makes me question the rationality of people who think government provided medicine is a good thing.

Maple goes on and on about having had heart bypass surgery — all free of charge as she puts it. To her that makes the system wonderful.

Recently, however, Maple was admitted to a run-down, substandard provincial hospital for a routine procedure. While there she contracted a severe infection. The doctors then amputated her infected leg.

You’d think she would be a bit put-off by the quality of the government run dump where she contracted the infection. But Maple still has nothing but praise for the free care she received and gushes about the free wheelchair that has been provided for her.

Lesson: Ignorant voters can make dumb things happen. So look out for your wallet. And when government runs health care like they run Amtrak and the Post Office, look out for your limbs!

Obsolete Downtowns Chasing Rainbows

July 9th, 2009

Amidst all the political craziness at the national level it pays once in a while to pause and think about what crazy ideas local pols are promoting. Among the dumbest, in my opinion, is the “revitalize downtown” theme. I believe it is time to ask ourselves, isn’t “downtown” an obsolete concept? Why should local governments concentrate civic resources downtown instead of out where the people are? Shouldn’t civic amenities such as libraries, parks, government offices and such be located out in the neighborhoods where people live and work? I lived in Tucson for a year before even realizing that it had a downtown — which impressed on me how unimportant downtowns actually are.

Why did downtown happen in the first place? Simple, it was spontaneously created as a way for people to work and live without traveling long distances. But then, along came urban planners, who dictated that people should work here and live there. This wasn’t so bad as long the roads could keep up with the traffic, and it’s still how most of us choose to live now.

Meanwhile, downtown became obsolete and run-down. Buildings were old and needed a lot of work and money to maintain, not to mention the hassles of high taxes and expensive mandated code upgrades. Nobody wants to go where they have to circle the block a dozen times then park in a garage costing $5.00 or more per half hour. Few people really like filthy streets and bum infested alleys. Multi-story department stores became obsolete. Public transit broke down. Downtown is where nobody wanted to go anymore if there was an alternative. Only government offices remained downtown and it became a government ghetto. It became obsolete.

A few years back the city fathers of San Antonio decided to dress up a trash and weed-filled river bank with a “river walk” that would attract tourists, restaurants, and gift shops. The thing they had going for them was that the river walk originated at the Alamo – a premier tourist attraction. It was a nationally recognized success noticed and celebrated by urban planning types and local pols everywhere. And soon there sprung up a series of downtown renewal projects like those of Denver, Co., Long Beach, Ca. and Portland, Oregon. These focused on making streets into pedestrian malls, adding lighting and flower boxes and in some cases (Long Beach and Portland) light rail services. What all these projects had in common was that they were expensive, especially if they involved light rail. And although the projects are judged by most observers to be popular, and thus successful, they don’t necessarily make downtowns any less obsolete. These downtowns simply mimic shopping malls, but without convenient parking.

A good case study in downtown revitalization is Tucson, Arizona. Here, the city fathers were so bedazzled with the potential grandiosity of downtown that they persuaded the state government go loan them several billion dollars, to be partially repaid with a special taxing district — which they gerrymandered several miles up a main street to take in several distant shopping centers.

Tucson’s downtown plan, called Rio Nuevo, anticipated a “Disneyland” scenario involving a hotel, an event center to host cultural events (like motocross and demolition derby), a reconstruction of Spanish and American Indian settlements, an aquarium, and to top it off a university science center suspended over a freeway by a “rainbow bridge.” You can see it here. This bridge, whose cost estimates eventually exceeded $350 Million eventually broke the back of the whole project which was still-borne after 3 years and millions of dollars spent on planning. As a symptom of bureaucratic and political psychosis, this is textbook.

So what was the motivation for Tucson’s downtown plan? In my opinion it was, at its heart, a desire to glorify Tucson and by reflection the politicians in charge. It had little appeal to the citizens of the town. Now Tucson is back to square one and should never have left it.

The same “glory to the politicians” motivation applies to other cities, as it does to Tucson. Notwithstanding the “energy crisis” mania and the lobbying by politicians and enviro-nuts for public transit and compact development, downtowns are obsolete and nothing is likely to bring them back.

RIP Downtown.

Chinese Communist Suicide Bomb

July 8th, 2009

More Communist Chinese Brutality: Tienanmin – unknown number killed by Chinese government forces, Tibet – unknown number killed by Chinese Government forces, Xinjiang province, Uighurs protest Chinese government brutality and at least 150 are gunned down by Chinese government forces. Thousands of troops are sent in to quell the native Uighur population. Local communist party boss says they’ll execute those responsible — for what?

Meanwhile, the U.S. is worried about whether the Communist leaders intend to continue buying U.S. Treasury Bond debt. U.S. businesses continue to export manufacturing to be done with slave labor in China. All this talk and worry about China’s economy is utterly naive. While in China itself, a small minority of its citizens are enriching themselves, and the vast majority of the people are shoeless and starving. The Communist government is no less despotic and corrupt now than it was earlier, at the cost of millions of lives. This is not a picture of an emerging world power, economic or otherwise. It is the picture of a disaster waiting to happen. China is a suicide bomb ready to explode. Unless the west wises up to the fact that Communism is and always has been a brutal, completely ugly and fundamentally evil governmental system, we’re at risk to be blown up along with China when it explodes, as it will inevitably do.

People do yearn for and need freedom. The Chinese people will achieve it only by massive violence to blow off the lid of Communist oppression. We need to get out of the way.

More Insurance – More Costly Medical Care

July 2nd, 2009

Coyote Blog published a very interesting chart showing the relationship between medical costs and the amount patients actually pay out of pocket for treatment. The essence of this is that people are careful with their own money, but when they perceive that someone else (insurance company) is paying the bill they don’t react to price, so price rises.

Another factor that enters into this is that, once upon a time, doctors were largely self-employed entrepreneurs. As it is with all business people, they had to be sensitive to their patients’ ability to pay, so charges were moderated. A doctor might even recommend to a patient a more economical medicine or treatment. Also, patients, knowing that their doctors ran their own businesses were not so shy in inquiring about prices and asking about costs of alternative treatments.

I remember vividly the Hillary-Care episode during the early Clinton years. Hillary was going to nationalize all health care through government run HMO’s. At the time I had a business partner who was a successful, self-employed physician. He, like most of his fellow physicians saw the handwriting on the wall from Hillary-care. They reasoned that they would have to band together into medical groups as employees, rather than sole-operators, so as to have enhanced bargaining power with the all-powerful government HMO. By the time Hillary-care died they had all become employees of organizations. They now sold their services to groups of HMO patients for a package fee ($/per thousand patients) rather than individuals. This was the perverse and unintended consequence of the last spate of federal government meddling in health care.

The problem is not too little insurance, but too much.

Healthcare: About Blue-Dog Public Option

July 2nd, 2009

The so-called Blue-Dog public option sounds a lot like a private option. So what is the difference? The difference is that, like Amtrak or Fannie Mae, no matter what they say in the beginning, it has the backing and potential to be micro-managed by politicians and bureaucrats.

Arizona has a limited public option called “Healthcare Group of Arizona” designed to insure self-employed and small businesss. It operates, in most respects, like a private entity and was “financially stable” and “actuarily sound” in the words of the Blue Dog proposal. At one point the plan became financially unstable and the staff made reforms including rate increases that brought it back into balance. But then, having done so, it began to expand services and coverage, which again got it into trouble. Non-profits tend to measure success by size because profits are nonexistent. Profits require efficiency, size does not.

Quoting from a recent article in Tucson Weekly

Subsequently, the program’s “community-rated” approach was nearly its undoing. The lack of pre-screening, combined with a period of explosive growth–from around 16,000 members at the end of 2005 to almost 27,000 two years later–left Healthcare Group unaware that a storm of claims was brewing.

That enabled critical lawmakers to force a temporary cap on enrollment, driving down membership by about 7,000.

For this fiscal year, Healthcare Group was slated to receive a $5 million subsidy. But that money was cut when it was deemed unnecessary. While that’s not a victory for expanded coverage, it does demonstrate a continued ability for Healthcare Group to operate in the black.

What’s not said is that the financial squeeze resulted in rationing.

I was a beneficiary of this program for several years, during which I observed that:
a) It was not as expensive as private insurance programs, but operated with little or no subsidy. Nonetheless, it wasn’t cheap.
b) The insurance part was poorly managed — nice people, but not very efficient.
c) The quality and quantity of medical services provided via University Physicians, which contracted to operate the program, was excellent.
d) I sincerely doubt it had any influence on medical service price inflation, though I can’t prove it.

So what prevented a private firm from offering a similar service?
For one thing, the market (27,000 customers at the peak) was small. Operating such a business across state lines might make a lot of sense, but that’s proscribed by law — why?

As I see it, the idea of any government run/subsidized health insurance plan as a model or competitive incentive for private insurance makes little sense. What does make sense is:

1) Medical malpractice tort reform
2) Make Medicare truly optional
3) Remove barriers to interstate insurance businesses
4) Reign in state regulation and micro-management of insurance companies and their offerings
5) Encourage physicians to, once again, become entrepreneurs and independent businessmen rather than employees of managed care plans

Stand back and wait for the above to have a beneficial effect on the cost of medicine before proposing more grandiose reform plans, national or otherwise.