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January 2014 Archives

January 1, 2014

Lead Lawsuit of 2014

Could you imagine any lawsuit more revealing in its mere title than "Little Sisters of the Poor versus Obama'? Of course, it won't be titled exactly that, but the stay issued (interestingly) by Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor on New Year's Eve opens the way for a legal battle that definitely will excite wide interest. Meanwhile, it temporarily will stop the federal government from enforcing the Obamacare provision that requires Catholic and other religious organizations to fund insurance for employees' birth control.

Continue reading "Lead Lawsuit of 2014" »

January 2, 2014

A New Year's Thoughts about a New Economy

The following article by Bret Swanson, founder of Entropy Economics, ran on the excellent Forbes site on Christmas Eve. Since you probably were otherwise occupied that day, it is both saluted and reproduced here. These are excellent insights into George Gilder's new book, Knowledge and Power that should be kept in mind during the current economic debate:

In three short months, Obamacare has exposed, with 200 proof concentration, the fundamental mismatch between government's limited knowledge and its unattenuated power.

The Administration is now "discovering . . . that insurance is complicated to buy" - and to assemble, price, purvey, and regulate. Many health care experts predicted Obamacare's failures with amazing specificity. But why did the Administration's claim that is now "operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness" prove such a deep self-indictment?

In his latest book, Knowledge and Power, George Gilder shows -- fundamentally -- why enterprise excels, and government often fails, at these complex tasks. From top to bottom, foundation to spire, atom to bit, Gilder has integrated economics with the most powerful force of our time -- the science and technology of information.

Continue reading "A New Year's Thoughts about a New Economy" »

January 4, 2014

Sudden Insight on Health Economics

Science magazine reports a study that people who go on Medicaid, make more trips, not fewer, to hospital emergency rooms for health care services. Forty percent more.

Yet another Obamacare theory is upset by experience.

Continue reading "Sudden Insight on Health Economics" »

January 5, 2014

Is the Body Nobody's Business?

David Gelertner, Yale professor of computer science, has taken on those in science, technology and journalism who want to undermine the sense of what Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley Smith calls "human exceptionalism".

I especially like Gelertner's sense of the importance of the BODY.

It surprises me as a Christian to see how many Christian intellectuals, in particular, try to downplay the importance of the body. A key case is the attempt to dodge the theology of creation of the first man as a BODY--infused from the start with a soul, not just a body that evolved by an unguided process over millions of years and then had a soul dropped into it. The human body, from a theological standpoint, was unique at the very beginning and expressed with a soul.

The sacred physicality of life is supposed to be Christian orthodoxy. Christ ("the second Adam") was flesh and blood, not just spirit. His BODY went straight to heaven. According to Catholic dogma, so did Mary's. So someday will the BODIES of those he saves. For Catholics, at least, Christ's BODY is presented in the "real presence" of the eucharist. The moment of conception is sacred because the BODY and spirit are fused from the beginning. (That is one reason why a miscarriage is so grieved.) When we die, our spirit departs, but the BODY still is treated with great respect. In life we are admonished to show respect for the BODY and not to disfigure it.

Continue reading "Is the Body Nobody's Business?" »

January 7, 2014

Little Sisters of the Poor versus Big Brother

Of the 91 lawsuits over ObamaCare's alleged violations of religious liberty, the one that has made it to the Supreme Court most conspicuously is that of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Becket Fund has had this case in hand for a long time and should be credited with bringing it home.

All the groups suing the Administration over the religious liberty issue deserve attention, but the Little Sisters of the Poor perhaps most of all. In a follow-up report, Becket Fund links to the remarkable work of the Little Sisters--the kind of charitable vocations that illustrate how religious orders still have an important role in society.

Continue reading "Little Sisters of the Poor versus Big Brother" »

January 9, 2014

Why Aren't Youth Even More Miserable?

A conservative college group has put out a "Youth Misery Index" that uses a combination of youth unemployment rates, college loan burden and share of the national debt to show that youth misery has been increasing under President Obama. It's an interesting ploy, borrowing on Jimmy Carter's famous "Misery Index" that combined the rate of unemployment with the rate of inflation to charge that President Gerald Ford, against whom he was running in 1976, was on the wrong track. Ronald Reagan brought the Index back and threw it at the Carter Administration in 1980, and later enjoyed noting the decline of the Misery Index under his own policies.

Continue reading "Why Aren't Youth Even More Miserable?" »

January 13, 2014

Homeschooler Protection Act Needed

Memo to the likes of Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul: A Legislative Opportunity.

In Germany it is against the law to homeschool one's children. Indeed, in the name of making sure that children grow up to appreciate a "tolerant" society (!) they may be taken away from their parents and made wards of the State. A recent court case demonstrates the folly of such an inhuman--but fully statist--mentality. Unfortunately, it feels very much a throwback to the totalitarian mindset of an earlier German era.

But in the United States, homeschoolers also are at risk. In another case from Germany, a family emigrated from Germany to the U.S. largely to be able to educate their children outside state schools (does this not also remind you of many of our ancestors who came here for similar reasons?)--and the Obama Administration, in thrall as usual to the teachers' unions--wants to deport them back to Germany!

Continue reading "Homeschooler Protection Act Needed" »

Youth Consciousness Raised--But Not Enough

As I wrote a few days ago, the surprise is not that young people are becoming more "miserable" about politics and turned off by the Obama Administration, but that they are not not far more so. A story by Matt Viser in the Boston Globe, reporting from the University of New Hampshire, indicates that the mood developing on campus is probably even sterner news for Democrats than the numbers show.

Continue reading "Youth Consciousness Raised--But Not Enough" »

January 14, 2014

Can You Beat Beets for De-Icing Roads?

Sugar Beet.JPG

David Hatch of Citiscope alerts us to a CBC story on alternatives communities are using for de-icing roads in winter. Sand clogs drains and can pile up in cities that have lots of snowfall each year. By March a place making repeated use of sand is a mess. Salt is better for a city like Seattle where the salty water runs down to an already salty sea. But salt also affects dry land vegetation adversely, and some think it can hurt pets who lick at it.

So inventive Americans and Canadians, among others, have devised alternative ways of coping with the slippery winter stuff--from molasses to beet juice to solar panels.

However, the question left hanging is, how much does all this cost?

Maryland and Washington are among the states employing molasses to get the salt they do use to adhere longer to road surfaces instead of running off into ditches and gutters. Since molasses is relatively abundant and biodegradable, it's a winner. But who knows how much it costs the taxpayers?


Continue reading "Can You Beat Beets for De-Icing Roads?" »

January 15, 2014

Charter Schools Continue to Advance

President Obama recently decided to showcase charter school development in Harlem, even as progressives, dominated by the teachers unions, continue to campaign against this or any other reform movement that threatens their hold. Democrats, as well as Republicans, however, realize that they represent parents and kids, as well as ordinary teachers, not just union chiefs.

Dangers to teachers union power in politics include declining school enrollments that shrink the need for public schools, , especially in the union-friendly Northeast, passage of legislation in Wisconsin and Michigan that obviates the need for teachers to join the union (and therefore reduces the pool of available political money at the discretion of unions), and most of all, the worsening fiscal problems of states that limit the option of school improvement based simply on more money.

Continue reading "Charter Schools Continue to Advance" »

January 16, 2014

Another School Mismatch: MSNBC v. Obama

It is not surprising that conservatives might scorn President Obama's speech today calling for more students to go to college, especially when he misuses statistics to back up the increasingly tenuous claim that a college degree--by itself-- is the path to financial well-being. But it is a surprise--a nice one--that MSNBC has joined the critics of this conventional assertion.

As the MSNBC report points out, the problem is not the need for more and larger loans--debts to keep students in hock to government during their startup careers and to give them another reason to postpone marriage and add to the birth dearth. The problem is that the very years of loan increases, the tuition and other college cost burden on students and their parents has grown.

Consider this fact from the report: ""From 1950 to 1970, sending a member of your family to a public university cost you four percent of your family's income; in 2010, that number nearly tripled to eleven percent."

Continue reading "Another School Mismatch: MSNBC v. Obama" »

French Scandal Beats Out Policy News

French President.jpeg

The US and other media cannot get enough of Francois Hollande's sex scandal. Over and over we have to be told that the French don't care about wayward husbands, except, of course, when they do--such as now.

Meanwhile, however, for those of us supposedly sex-crazed Americans who in reality do not care much about Mr. Hollande's love life, the real news is that the Socialist leader of the second largest economy in Europe is proposing to extricate his country from its current slump through tax cuts for business and spending cuts. A Socialist! A French President who came to office talking about the need for huge tax increases!

Continue reading "French Scandal Beats Out Policy News" »

January 17, 2014

Government Attempts to Strangle Free Speech

Laws at the state level that let publicly appointed panels decide the truth or falsity of political speech have the result of stifling dissent and undermining democracy. So do new IRS rules at the federal level to sic regulators onto conservative opponents of big government.

Continue reading "Government Attempts to Strangle Free Speech" »

January 19, 2014

A German Genocide Before the Nazis

Call it a "distortion" of Darwinian theory if you like, as does author John Lewis-Stempel, but the patent genocide of Germany against its African conquests a quarter century before Hitler's regime has all the marks of eugenics science policy.

The German atrocities under The Second Reich a little over a century ago have not been well-covered in contemporary literature, perhaps because the numbers involved were small compared to the killings that took place later in Europe under The Third Reich. But the genocidal policies were notable for two things, as Lewis-Stempel's article makes clear: 1) their sadistic cruelty; and 2) the explicit racism tied to evolution that inspired them.

"The Lebensraum policy of expansion was advocated by the 19th-century German geographer Friedrich Ratzel, who distorted Darwin's theory of evolution to proclaim that migration was necessary for a race's survival," Lewis-Stempel writes in The Sunday Express.

Continue reading "A German Genocide Before the Nazis" »

January 20, 2014

Honors for Accomplished Friend of DI

Pat Herbold.jpeg

Pat Herbold, a long time friend of Discovery Institute and a former Board member, has been honored with the Horatio Alger award--that we learned about from an article by Nicole Brodeur of The Seattle Times.

Continue reading "Honors for Accomplished Friend of DI" »

January 21, 2014

It Starts as a Murmur in the Heart

The FDA can affect your life in ways you don't even suspect. Critics say that bureaucratic fear of mistakes--ones that may affect a few people--too often delay approval of procedures, medical devices and pharmaceuticals that could help many. The trouble is that the bureaucracy knows that the few people who suffer from mistakes will get lots of attention, while the many whose care is delayed will seldom even know it, let alone organize and complain.

I tend to side with the critics.

At the same time, I am an enthusiast for modern medicine and the freedoms, training and technology that enable it. Let's remember our era's debt to those who have gone before.

I'm scheduled for surgery tomorrow to replace my heart's aortic valve. All else in my heart and elsewhere seems to be in good shape, so I qualify to have a "minimally invasive" operation. (That, nonetheless, is "invasive" enough as far as I'm concerned.) It involves a five inch cut through the sternum and maybe an hour when the heart is stopped and a heart/lung machine takes over. I'll also be given a relatively new kind of treated bovine valve that requires only three sutures, enabling a shorter operation and, therefore, one hopes, a somewhat shorter convalescence. The upper body gets beaten up in any case, so I figure that recovery time is about the same as from an auto accident--six weeks. But success is likely (95%).

Continue reading "It Starts as a Murmur in the Heart" »

January 31, 2014

Guest Article: My Predictions in Bioethics Right Again!


By: Wesley J. Smith

Can you believe a year has come and gone since I last told you what would happen, before it happened, in bioethics? Maybe it's my increasing age, but time is passing too fast!

So, how did I do? Not as well as in years past, but still an A-. Let's take a look:

Continue reading "Guest Article: My Predictions in Bioethics Right Again!" »

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