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October 2013 Archives

October 1, 2013

The Odds Obamacare Critics Face

Conservatives almost all oppose the misnamed Affordable Care Act (ACA)--Obamacare--but they are frustrated to distraction by their inability to get their points across to the public. The case against Obamacare is objectively clear and (to me) persuasive. The problem is, So What?

Facing media that are 80-90 percent unfriendly (about the odds faced by dissidents in Russia or Venezuela), conservatives in general and Republicans in particular cannot hope to explain a complicated story to the public and get support for a government shutdown as a solution. It's tactics that are driving the Republicans crazy.

Continue reading "The Odds Obamacare Critics Face" »

October 2, 2013

As Predicted, Media Blame the GOP

The new Affordable Care Act exchanges are not working at all well. Even where there is a great deal of attention to them, the number of people actually ordering insurance is not great.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration's use of the good old "Washington Monument syndrome"--closing down the most conspicuous services in order to convince the public that no money can be saved without dire results--has been taken to new extremes. We have the National Park Service, for example, blocking off open public monuments that don't require any government employees to operate, such at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. Some aging vets have "stormed" the police barricades, which is very colorful news, one would think, but not if your news outlet doesn't have such items in script for the shutdown. (Incidentally, while it takes no personnel to leave a public memorial alone, it took a crowd of government personnel to close down the site and police its periphery!)

Continue reading "As Predicted, Media Blame the GOP" »

The New Class of Poor--the Entitled Young?

Youth may be designated the newly fashionable poor--and what C.S. Lewis once called the
"willing slaves of the welfare state". Where we once had "welfare queens" in their 40s with several kids, we now may have welfare queens and kings in their twenties. Once they start looking into it, healthy young people can be seduced out of an ambition for getting ahead to one for getting enrolled in poverty programs. The latest, most clever opening may be through the door of Obamacare. But it by no means is the only route to serfdom for the Millennials.

There are "100 Unintended Consequences" of Obamacare, according to a resourceful article by Andrew Johnson at National Review Online. Prices for premiums aren't going down, he reports, they are going up. That includes steep rises for young working people. That might seem like bad news, and a surprise to those who believed the President's promises to "bend the cost curve down".

Continue reading "The New Class of Poor--the Entitled Young?" »

October 3, 2013

Discovery Institute is Not Shut Down--Yet

MtVernon Closed.jpg

Rumors to the contrary, Discovery Institute has not been closed by the federal shutdown. Any barriers put outside our door by officers of the government will be removed. I hope.

We know that they have closed open-air monuments and parks across the country that normally have few or no federal police on hand--but that they now have uniformed, paid workers present to make certain the public does not sneak off the sidewalk and take a peak at the Lincoln Memorial or Martin Luther King's statue or the names on the Vietnam memorial. The point is to show you, the public, how irresponsible the House is for trying to hold up funding for the National Parks--oops, wait, I mean for Obamacare.

How much is it costing to have all these police and other personnel busy making sure everything is closed down and the public punished? Past shutdowns weren't so draconian, but the new Administration is nothing if not thorough in ramming home its political points.

Continue reading "Discovery Institute is Not Shut Down--Yet" »

How to See Texas through Times' Spectacles

One shrugs on seeing a New York Times story about the Texas Board of Education and its science standards that support "critical thinking." Mustn't have any critical thinking in public schools, especially on science!

There are loving pictures of costumed members of the ACLU and the Sierra Club and the misnamed Texas Freedom Network. Still, it is worth recalling that the New York Times openly admits its unwillingness to cover this kind of story by what normally are considered fair standards.

Continue reading "How to See Texas through Times' Spectacles" »

October 5, 2013

India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies

Some women tell our Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith that they "would do anything for a baby." One feels sympathetic, at least until one considers what "anything" might entail.

Smith has an article at First Things today that describes some of the options.

Continue reading "India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies" »

October 4, 2013

The Maginot Line

Maginot Line.jpg

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one of the Feds effort to shut down the World War One memorial is a good example. (Hat tip for photo to the Weekly Standard).

October 6, 2013

The Wages of Socialism

Once you conclude that the problem with poverty is the "rich" not paying enough you get policies that take you to.....Venezuela.

Home to the late President Hugo Chavez and his imitator successor Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela should be studied by those who suppose that socialism and expropriation can make poor people well-off. Despite vast oil supplies new Venezuela tankers costing millions sit idle in their docks because of the corruption and incompetence of government officials who have muscled out the private operators.

Write Alasdair Bleaverstock and Hannah Strange in the London Telegraph:

Continue reading "The Wages of Socialism" »

October 15, 2013

For Ecumenism: Share the English Cathedrals


A dialogue during the past couple of decades between Roman Catholics and Anglicans ("ARCIC--the Anglican Roman Catholic International Consultation") has borne far more fruit than is widely recognized. In terms of unifying Christians, the theologians of the two communions have found common ground at every turn. Old wounds going back to the Reformation have been healed, at least in theology. The same can be said of a similar dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.

Now we have the leading Catholic in England involved with ARCIC, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, speculating on a date in the future when eucharistic union would be possible.

Continue reading "For Ecumenism: Share the English Cathedrals" »

October 7, 2013

The Liberal Wing of New Urbanism

This is my friend Neal Peirce, as he starts a new career. New urbanism has several faces and this is one of the most accomplished.

October 9, 2013

Are Slain Soldiers' Families Hostages, Too?

The President says the shutdown is Congress's fault (that is, the Republican House's fault) and that while he "will not negotiate," people are suffering. Since the Government still receives enough money during the supposed shutdown to finance most of its operations, the Executive Branch gets to pick where to spend and where to cut.

The latest is cuts in military benefits to families of soldiers killed in combat. It is hard to believe, but it's true. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is appropriately, if politely, appalled.

Putting the budget squeeze on the families of recently killed servicemen is a terrible mistake that should be corrected quickly--with apologies.

New Meaning for "Deadbeat Dad"

A man in Ohio who disappeared in 1986 and was declared legally dead in 1994, almost 20 years ago, has come to court to ask for his life back. Nothing doing. The Court said he remains legally dead.

You might feel sympathy for the judge, who after all is trying to protect the dead man's widow--er, wife--from repaying Social Security Survivors Benefits that she and their minor children received back in the 90s.

Nonetheless, here stands the man, one Donald Miller. He wants a Social Security number so he can work again, having put alcohol behind him (he says).

It's an amusing story (assuming you are not part of it, of course), but the most amusing thing is that a story in the Findlay, Ohio Courier yesterday has provoked scores of comments. Many are inane, naturally, offering political jibes and speculation about how wonderful it must be to exit outside the notice of the government.

But one comment is by someone who knows what he is talking about, "Joe":

Continue reading "New Meaning for "Deadbeat Dad"" »

October 10, 2013

National Parks System is Obama's Goat


I collected some things I wanted to say about the shutdown--and how it seems that the National Park Service was tasked with making things as unpleasant for the public as possible--and sent them to the American Spectator. They published them this morning.

The trouble is, new examples keep developing. Somehow there are funds even to pay guards to keep the public from going into paved public plazas, as in Philadelphia.

And yet the NPS does seem to be backing down in some cases, which means that the publicity has become negative for the White House.

Intentionally maximizing felt pain as a way to rouse the public against your budgetary opponents might make sense if the issue were Obamacare. One couldn't blame the White House for pushing those buttons. But the National Park Service?


Continue reading "National Parks System is Obama's Goat" »

October 11, 2013

The Debt that Devours the Economy

Major growth is the only solution to the economic woes of the country, but even with that--which George Gilder describes in Knowledge and Power--America's over-spending trajectory must be restrained.

The danger, as Discovery Sr. Fellow Scott Powell writes in USA Today this morning, is far greater and more intractable that the current default crisis that is absorbing the media's attention.

Continue reading "The Debt that Devours the Economy" »

Youth Team Defeats Adolescent Government

A federal court has called a foul on the Interior Department for closing down lacrosse practice fields that the National Park System doesn't even service. Well-to-do McLean, VA, across the Potomac from Washington, DC, is not populated by an easily cowed citizenry, so when the National Park Service forcibly closed the lacrosse fields that a youth league had rented from a local parks office that manages the facilities for the NPS, the team's lawyers took the government to court--and won at least a temporary victory.

It is significant that this story appeared in the Washington Post, not a conservative paper. Observed the reporter, Mark Zapotosky, "McLean Youth Lacrosse's lawsuit does not affect other closed national parks and monuments across the country. Still, it might be somewhat embarrassing to federal officials, who have been accused of closing facilities unnecessarily to exaggerate the shutdown's impact. And it might inspire similar legal actions."

Continue reading "Youth Team Defeats Adolescent Government" »

Uncle Sam in Philippines: "I Shall Return"

The lesson of our relationship with the Philippines: When a country asks the US to leave its premises, we should leave. By the early 90s, years of resentment had so built up over what was seen as a post-colonial presence that the US was forced to admit that its military bases no longer were welcome. So, we finally left.

Only now to be asked to return--in a fashion. It isn't getting much attention, but the Filipinos want us back as a safeguard against a more real concern: the expansionism of China. Felix K. Chang for the Foreign Policy Research Institute has a thoroughly useful paper on what is involved and the American military's relative popularity in the Philippines.

Continue reading "Uncle Sam in Philippines: "I Shall Return"" »

October 14, 2013

Open a Window in DC's House of Mirrors

Please remember that the current government shutdown was precipitated by concern over Obamacare. The political left and media subject has changed now to other things: the dangers of default, raising the debt limit and the Democratic desire to prevent the added and scheduled government spending cuts in the sequester law signed by the President two years ago.

But let's get back to to the beginning. Almost all Republicans wanted a year's delay in the insurance mandate for individuals like the one given to big business. They also wanted to lift the new tax on medical devices, since it slows US innovation in life-saving equipment. They further charged that the implementation of Obamacare was disorganized, an impending "train wreck".

The way things are turning out, the train wreck is happening. The start up problems of the exchanges in most cases are major. How did a crowd that prepared the most sophisticated high tech programs to get out the Democratic vote in 2012 come up--after three years' planning--with a health care signup program that doesn't sign people up?

Continue reading "Open a Window in DC's House of Mirrors" »

No Dissent, Please, We're the LA Times

Feel pity for the letters editor at the Los Angeles Times,Paul Thornton. He says he will not print letters that are skeptical of the human role in climate change because they are objectively wrong. He must rely on "experts" with "advanced degrees" to opine on this subject.

The hapless Mr. Thornton is proud of his self-limiting deference to experts. One wonders if his cap-doffing awe extends to fields such as finance (where he probably also is not an expert), military affairs (is he an expert on that?) or foreign relations. Do you have to have a doctorate to write a letter to the editor on those topics, too?

Or is only the field of science holy?

Leading critics of the current emphasis on a determinative human role in global warming also have advanced science degrees. But they won't get letters printed in the LA Times, either.

Continue reading "No Dissent, Please, We're the LA Times" »

October 18, 2013

Take a Tour of New Orleans

Thumbnail image for NEW ORLEANS.jpegA relatively quiet night in the French Quarter.

A visit to New Orleans today does not reveal many signs that the The Big Easy took such a hard blow from Hurricane Katrina eight years ago. Even the infamous Ward 9 now displays hundreds of new houses built by private and public money. There are only a few structures left that are so dilapidated that they are still set for destruction. However, yes, there are many vacant lots.

Meanwhile, the areas not hit hard--notably the French Quarter, the Garden District, Uptown--are as bright as ever, maybe better. The attitude of the locals is positive. Tourists are thanked "for coming to New Orleans."

Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded by Katrina, with certain neighborhoods under water for six weeks. Some one hundred and forty thousand of the residents who were evacuated or fled have not come back.

Continue reading "Take a Tour of New Orleans" »

October 22, 2013

The Power of Positive Science Thinking

The Bible, St. Ignatius and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale are among the famous advocates of positive thinking. Wrote St. Paul: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Personally, I suggest you think on these things just before bedtime. It will do wonders for your attitude.

In philosophy William James creditably expatiated on this worthy spiritual insight. But there are men and women in labcoats who believe it also can be turned into a hard "science"--and hard cash. You can invest it with complicated mathematical equations and psychological jargon, then create "models" on computers, whereupon it is able, like a neodymium magnet, to attract nearly infinite grants of tax dollars and still more monies from slack-jawed private foundations. Who could argue with such a powerful theory?

Continue reading "The Power of Positive Science Thinking" »

October 21, 2013

Nobody's Madder Than Obama

"Nobody's madder than me," says President Obama about the "glitches" that destroyed the Obamacare rollout. But who is he mad at?

He says that there are "no excuses" for the problems people have had with the new system. Great. Except, in the same press conference came a parade of excuses, blame for other people and distractions (think of the other, more successful features of the Obamacare already in place, he says).

Was it not just like this five months ago when the IRS scandal became public? At that time, the President stated, "Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I'm angry about it." Yes, and the "anger" lasted about as long as the press conference and then came the counter-attacks on the critics and investigators.

Continue reading "Nobody's Madder Than Obama" »

Largely Medicaid at Exchanges, Not Insurance Buyers

The bottom line on the Affordable Care Act: the healthy young adults aren't buying it.

There has been so much confusion over the numbers of people who are enrolling at the state and federal healthcare exchanges that the salient truth is not yet manifest to the media: the people who are needed to enroll to make Obamacare solvent are not there. That is true even in one of Obamacare's supposedly best performing states, Washington.

A lead front page story in the Seattle Times by Amy Snow Landa declared on Friday, "Obamacare: 'Great Start' Here, While Oregon Lags." It contrasts Oregon, whose exchange is still not functioning at all, with Washington, where "Nearly 25,000 have enrolled in health care coverage through (the state's) Healthplanfinder."

It is not until 29 paragraphs into the story that one learns, almost incidentally, that 22,000 of the 25,000 Washington State enrollees mentioned have signed up for Medicaid. Three thousand "enrolled in private health plans through the exchange which provides financial assistance to reduce the cost of coverage for those who qualify."

Continue reading "Largely Medicaid at Exchanges, Not Insurance Buyers" »

October 22, 2013

Yet Another Broken Promise on Health Care

"If you like your present health care plan, you can keep it."

Oh, sure.

Tell that to the 300,000 people in Florida just notified that because of the humorously titled "Affordable Care Act" their policies are being dropped.

October 23, 2013

Why Not Postpone the Whole Thing?

The Administration is moving to delay the penalty for not obeying the Obamacare individual mandate to buy insurance. This is further acknowledgement that the system is not working.

How many reporters and commentators do you think will use this moment to observe that only last week Republicans were calling to at least hold off the individual mandate? For this they were accused of wanting to shut down the government. They were called terrorists. Now it turns out that the breakdown of the exchanges and the wildly fluctuating insurances rates and the general confusion around the Affordable Care Act (which is not affordable unless you qualify for one of the big subsidies) are forcing the Administration itself to call a halt. Just a temporary delay--which may get extended.

Continue reading "Why Not Postpone the Whole Thing?" »

October 25, 2013

Darwinians' "Man Who Isn't There"

"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd go away..."

The child's poem by Hughes Mearns comes to mind as I follow the effort of Darwinians to wish away Darwin's doubt about the Cambrian Explosion--and therefore get rid of Darwin's Doubt, the book by Steve Meyer.

Continue reading "Darwinians' "Man Who Isn't There"" »

Snooping on Allies: Miller Saw it Coming

Discovery Sr. Fellow and former US Ambassador John R. Miller wrote with prescience back in July about the damage the Obama Administration's sweeping spy-net might cause. Since I neglected to pick it up when it appeared in the American Conservative, here it is.

Now here's my tasty follow-up question: who has not been spied on? Anyone?

How about Mitch McConnell? John Boehner?

October 26, 2013

How People Lose Their Health Plans

How many people thought that the Affordable Care Act might make health insurance, well, er, more affordable?

Our Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith has a blog post at The Corner (National Review) that, in turn, borrows on a blog post by his wife, San Francisco Chronicle writer, Debra Saunders. Wesley (and even his wife) think it is amusing that it was the piece he wrote, not hers, that got picked up by the Drudge Report today.

Continue reading "How People Lose Their Health Plans" »

Urban Farming's History is a P-Patch

A major player in the modern urban farming movement was enactment of the P-Patch program in Seattle in 1973. My former City Council colleague--and present Discovery Institute colleague--John R. Miller is hailed for his role in an article today in

Continue reading "Urban Farming's History is a P-Patch" »

October 29, 2013

The Catty Dr. Coyne

Blofeldpleasance67.jpgChalk up another one for the hidden hand of Discovery Institute. Through a pernicious web of connections in Indiana, including the Eli Lilly Foundation, we apparently persuaded the trustees of Ball State University in Muncie to show the door to President Jo Ann Gora. At least that is the fear of Professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, noted blogologist and rather-less-noted biologist.

The retirement of Dr. Gora has just been announced. Maybe she was pressured by the Trustees, who were pressured in turn by "donors," as Coyne suggests; but that seems unlikely. The 67-year-old administrator who decided recently that Ball State professors may not mention intelligent design (at least not favorably) has completed ten years at the university, accumulated a large salary (approaching a million dollars, all benefits included), and with winter coming, she may just want to join the other wealthy Hoosiers in Florida.

But Coyne, like Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice -- stroking his famous cat -- is suspicious. Didn't Bruce Chapman, founder of Discovery Institute, serve as a fellow of Hudson Institute (then in Indiana) less than 25 years ago? And wasn't the Eli Lilly Foundation a major funder of Hudson? Haven't Discovery fellows appeared at Hudson events and vice versa? Didn't Discovery foreign policy fellow John Wohlstetter serve on Hudson's board at one time? Doesn't Lilly, which gives grants to Ball State, have a program supporting various "religious" studies?

Image source: Wikipedia.

Continue reading "The Catty Dr. Coyne" »

Our Man Understands the "Stans"

John-C.-Wohlstetter.jpgJohn Wohlstetter, Discovery senior fellow, toured the various "-stans" of Central Asia and brought his reports home for The American Spectator to record.

October 30, 2013

While We're Not Looking: Iran

American news understandably is fascinated by the unfolding failures of Obamacare--the defective exchange website, the cancelled policies, the growing budget drain. But in the history of our time, the foreign policy of Obama may exceed Obamacare as a disaster. Right at the top of concern now should be the Iranians' proximity to a nuclear bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (where I once served as a U.S. ambassador) is holding talks again with the Iranians. But are the talks just a screen as the Iranians complete construction of a bomb? One former IAEA officlal thinks they are virtually ready now. Reports Jonathan Tobin in Commentary, "Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director of the IAEA, said that Iran has, 'in a certain way,' already reached the point of no return in its nuclear program. Heinonen confirmed the report released last week by the Institute for Science and International Security that said Iran could enrich enough weapons-grade uranium for a single bomb in about a month."

A month.

The US really does not stand in their way. Sanctions alone have not worked and the Obama Administration has no stomach for military confrontation. Everybody knows it, including the Iranians.

Says Discovery senior Fellow John Wohlstetter (author, Sleepwalking With the Bomb, Discovery Institute Press),


Continue reading "While We're Not Looking: Iran" »

October 31, 2013

"The New Adam Smith"

The number of hardcover book sales has not slackened much, and Kindle and other e-books are booming. What is not clear is whether the number of serious readers is growing or shrinking--people who not only buy a book, but invest the time needed to read it.

Steve Forbes took the time to read George Gilder's Knowledge and Power. He has reviewed it for The American Spectator and now, again, for Forbes. Why twice?

Because actually reading the book is an investment that pays off. If you take the time to read Knowledge and Power your understanding of economics--the topic in turmoil in America right now--will expand and change. Knowledge and Power, Forbes says, "will rank as one of the most influential works of our era, resetting the terms of the debate and changing how we judge the consequences of government actions on the economy." Gilder is "the new Adam Smith."

Continue reading ""The New Adam Smith"" »

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