Latest high court ruling shows a problem with health insurance tied to work…

June 30, 2014

Note: I’ve dashed this off without really knowing the full extent of the latest high court ruling on Obamacare, that is exactly who it applies to, but I can revise later. The points I have below would apply anyway I think. Okay, now I’m reading that this was a narrow ruling that only applies to certain for-profit religious run or connected corporations. I’ll take the easy way out here and add this partially explanatory excerpt from an NBC News story: The U.S. Supreme Court, in a limited decision, ruled Monday that closely held, for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption to the Obamacare requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

For-profit corporations — including Conestoga Wood of Pennsylvania, owned by a family of Mennonite Christians, and Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of arts and crafts stores founded on Biblical principles — had challenged a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

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Now back to my own words:

For most working people it is a somewhat uncomfortable but accepted fact that employers pretty much run their lives — even more than government maybe.

They determine what days you work and how much you work, either not enough or too much, and how much you will get paid and therefore what kind of lifestyle you can live.

Now with the latest ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, employers have even more control, especially if you are female. Since so many people have their health insurance through their employment, employers can now decide whether you will have access to birth control. The court has in effect revised an Obamacare  provision requiring employer health plans to provide birth control provisions — in some cases (some) it can be ignored on religious grounds.

The controversy arises from the objection of employers who have religious convictions against birth control, as in God wants you to be fruitful and multiply.

I’m not sure but what I don’t agree with the court on this one — well actually now I have just hurriedly scanned the opinion and may change my mind. I mean you can’t just not follow the law of the land by claiming religious exemptions for things you don’t agree with, such as paying taxes. Anyway this all demonstrates a problem with having your health care dependent upon your place of work. Health care has come to be seen as a right and Obamacare seeks to implement that right. But why should employers be able to mess with that right? But then again why should employers be in the health care business anyway? I know it all began after World War II when employers in boom times were adding incentives to attract workers and health care was one of them.

But these days the world is more complex and health care has expanded so much and the costs are so high and the work place has changed — so many more women in the workplace for one thing — and the nature of work has changed. People are often forced to move from one job to another and unemployment runs high. It sometimes is difficult to have continuous health care coverage on the health insurance attached to work scheme of things.

And now if the employer can determine what you will be covered for and what not — really that is not practical or even right. But I agree I think that an employer should not have to violate religious convictions, except that maybe that is what the employer takes on when the employer hires from the general public who have First Amendment rights on religion.

And are we talking about employers as individual real people or the imaginary personhood of corporations? That is another subject. But from my limited understanding of constitutional law the personhood of corporations is merely a legal device to confer certain rights and protections in business dealings and should not be construed to confer all the rights upon a corporation  — which is nothing but a set of legal documents — that a real live human being has (except the majority on the high court and Mitt Romney believe corporations are “people too”). But like I say, that is another subject.

So to sum it up, I think health insurance tied to one’s work can be problematic.

P.s.

Here is a link to the ruling: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf

 

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Is the current IRS scandal biggest political one ever?

June 26, 2014

Syndicated radio talk show host Tom Sullivan thinks the current IRS controversy over alleged targeting of primarily conservative groups is maybe the biggest scandal ever. He likens it to Watergate.

A little early to tell, but I doubt it. Sullivan does point out that it took a year or more for the Watergate scandal to take off.

Probably by the time this one got anywhere President Obama will be out of office, having served two full terms.

There is a striking similarity in the two scandals. President Richard Nixon attempted to use the power of the IRS go after his political enemies, but the IRS balked at that (actually I had not realized the IRS did not cooperate before refreshing myself on the facts as they are known). In the current scandal is appears the IRS actually did go after conservative groups, and to be fair, even some progressive or liberal groups, but seemed to zero in more on the conservative groups. It involved tax-exempt status.

In the Watergate scandal there were the infamous, and most convenient, missing tapes from the oval office. In the current IRS case there are the missing e-mails and the mysterious and too coincidental “crashing” of computer hard drives, destroying or obstructing possible evidence of possible IRS wrongdoing. The IRS of course is not supposed to carry out its tax-collecting work based on politics.

If it could be proved that the IRS did go after people based on their opposition to the current administration, and furthermore if it were shown this was directed or even known about from on high (the oval office), then surely this would have the potential of being one of the biggest scandals ever.

Sullivan and others seem to think a too-friendly-to-the-White House media is ignoring the story for the most part. Well there is no such thing, especially these days with the internet, as one solid group called the media that supposedly controls the message. But I do notice it is not getting as much play as one might suppose in what is still called the mainstream press. But again, Watergate took quite awhile to get anywhere. But Nixon had another term to deal with. He ended up resigning the presidency after a landslide win against one of the weakest characters, in terms of politics and leadership potential, ever to run for president — George McGovern. But Obama is already in his second and by law final term.

In the case of Nixon, we probably knew then and certainly know now that much of the Watergate evidence has been made fully public, that he had an evil, vindictive personality that made him quite capable of employing every trick in the book (Tricky Dick they called him) against his opponents. With Obama, we really don’t have that background on him. It seems unlikely that he would have personally directed a campaign by the IRS against political enemies (did he know about it?).

Sullivan claimed that former IRS official Lois Lerner bragged about going after conservative groups, at least that was the message I got from the way he described it. But in the story I just now looked up in the Washington Post, it seems that Lerner did admit the targeting did take place but in typical bureaucratic ambiguity she claimed there was no partisan effort there — it was just that they were flooded with applications from advocacy groups for tax-exempt status and needed a way of sorting them out. Whatever.

So was it rogue agents in the IRS or a plot by the administration?

Certainly this has the potential for biggest ever scandal but somehow I think events will push it aside.

Obama is now faced with the legacy of the president who lost Iraq after nearly 5,000 U.S. soldiers gave their lives in the effort (started by George W. Bush and then given up by Obama, but really a no-win situation from the beginning).


Chief Justice Roberts right (conservative right) on in cell phone ruling…

June 25, 2014

While I probably would not agree with much of what Chief Justice Roberts concludes in cases before the high court I thought his wording and thoughts were right on and clever in a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court that your cell phone data is protected and requires authorities to get a search warrant to view it:

The old rules, Chief Justice Roberts said, cannot be applied to “modern cellphones, which are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.” (Quote out of the New York Times)

We often think of conservatives as always being on the side of the police, that is to allow them to do anything they think they need to do to go after bad actors, even if it calls into question protecting the rights of all citizens from harassment and witch hunts and so on. But conservatives would tell you they are for upholding the fundamentals of our constitution.

Way to go conservatives (and progressives/liberals/moderates too).

And I think in the near future babies will be born with a chip inside them that is a combination cell phone and computer with access to the internet.


Poor little Hillary, Clinton fatigue (Bush fatigue), we need new faces…

June 24, 2014

Poor little Hillary. Her and her husband settled into the White House with no money and left there with no money (maybe some of the furnishings, but no money). They struggled with “mortgages” (notice the plural) and putting their daughter through college.

There could be an element of truth there somewhere, but basically they have come out quite nicely after all of that with millions of dollars to their name. I have no idea and don’t care what their actual net worth is but I understand for one thing that she gets $200,000 a pop for speaking engagements.

Actually she is a highly intelligent woman and I think she has good intentions (I don’t know that for sure, but I would think so). One of her big liabilities is that she is married to Bill. Now he is highly intelligent as well and probably did a fairly good job as president, but he has no morals and self-respect whatsoever and put a shame on the institution of the presidency and deeply injured the Democratic Party with all of his sexual shenanigans.

And besides that, a lot of people I would think are just plain tired of the Clintons. For that matter we are tired of the Bushes.

We need new blood, new faces in this game.

And back to Hillary Clinton. She seems so cold and calculating. She puts on the faux folksiness sometimes, but it is so transparent that she is suffering fools. Now probably she feels she has to be tough as a woman in a what is still man’s world, but transparent insincerity as I would call it is a turn off to me.

She is touted as a likely candidate and likely winner for and of the presidency in the next election. But really, what are her accomplishments? She is the wife of a president, served a relative short stint as a senator and as Secretary of State, and she supported the Iraq War.

Hillary once pushed for universal health care, but as I recall she made it sound so complicated that is sounded scary (and I am not at all against universal health care, but I think the jury is still out on Obamacare).

I have not written anything substantively here. I’m just fatigued with the same old faces.

One thing, though, let’s go with experience next time.

Obama came out of nowhere and seems to be getting nowhere. Foreign policy is his definite weakness. He found he is in over his head.

You can’t always just do what seems reasonable and expect others will too. You’ll be disappointed if you do. Ask Jimmy Carter.

I’m thinking maybe presidents should have some age on them (not so old that you’re afraid they’ll croak at any moment) and some relevant and documented experience.

With the tug of the extreme right and extreme left in politics, the voters usually prefer middle of the road.

I’m not sure a lot of people even want to be president.

Maybe that is what we need. Someone who does not want to be president. But someone who is willing and able to lead if he or she gets the mission.

 

 


The Middle East is not worth another American life

June 22, 2014

Our focus in the Middle East has to be on protecting America. Sen. Rand Paul says he questions the wisdom of helping the Iraqi army who seems not to have the will to fight. Just as Lyndon Johnson said he would not send American boys to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing (but he did) we should not send in Americans to do what Iraqis should be doing. But we were not in Vietnam to help Vietnam. We were there, rightly or wrongly, to protect our own global interests as we saw them at the time, and at that time we were trying to thwart the spread of communist domination. This time we are trying to counter the terrorists who might eventually strike us at home or strike us again if you look at 9/11. But conventional war does not seem to work for us these days. Nation building in theory might work but in practice it is too difficult and is really not our responsibility. Part of what is going on, in Iraq for instance, is civil war with outside influence, just as was the case in Vietnam, from which we have seemed to learn little.

Oil is and continues to be the reason we are so interested in the area but this has brought us into conflict with terrorists, that is not to say that one day those terrorists might have attacked us anyway once they had their hold on the Middle East.

And it is disgusting how religion seems only to support war. If you are not of my religion or not of my particular brand of religion I must fight you.

It is said that money is the root of all evil. In the Middle East, religion seems to be the root of all evil. Of course even in this case it all comes back to money. For conflicts are virtually always over the control of power and resources or the power over resources. One tribe or one religious sect wants to control the resources.

We must protect ourselves against terrorism, but:

Not another American life should be lost in this ongoing tribal warfare of the Middle East.

 

 


Iraq crisis is shades of Vietnam…

June 19, 2014

 

UPDATE: Since first posting this it has now been announced that the U.S. will be sending in 300 military advisors in the current Iraqi crisis, and it looks like it has been concluded by the Obama administration that the current Iraqi leader, Maliki, cannot be the person to head a new unity government.

Also, President Obama now has repeated that he has no intention of sending in combat troops (beyond the advisors). But President Lyndon Johnson vowed not to send in American boys to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing. And then he sent in a half million troops. We have already lost 4,500 of our own in the Iraq War and thousands more were gravely wounded. We had declared it over (for us). The pressure will be intense on Obama not to make it a lost cause.

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Shades of Vietnam, kind of. We have a corrupt and non-representative government in Iraq we have supported. Meanwhile, the enemy is at the gates, and we don’t want to send in ground troops but it looks like we will send in military advisors. And what comes next? Well of course the enemy will shoot back and we will then send in more troops. Unlike Vietnam we have already fought this war. We just did not finish it — oh, like Vietnam. Over simplistic analysis and not right on I know. But on enough I think. I’ll try to write more later.

…Well jus time to add this: now there are reports that some factions within the Iraqi government have asked U.S. support to oust their present leader Maliki. Hope this does not turn out to be like the time we backed the murder of the head of the South Vietnamese government, Diem. But on the other hand, Maliki needs to go. He seems to be the cause of the current crisis.

The United States should have not got into the mess of nation building but we did, we just did not stick with it. What to do now? Whatever we do, half measures will not work. We either need to write the whole thing off or on the other hand be prepared to do it right.

Geesh terrorists taking over a major oil supply. That is not good.


Time to remind ourselves why we went to the Middle East in the first place…

June 14, 2014

As the Sunni militants close in on the capital of  Iraq, this headline: Iraqi General Insists Baghdad is Safe From Insurgents — that’s from the New York Times (not the Times itself claiming that). Is Baghdad Bob back? The guy who made a fool out of himself saying the forces of Saddam Hussein were prevailing against the U.S. even as they were obviously crumbling. Now the tables seem to be turned and the government we reluctantly back is in danger of being ousted by Islamic terrorists. Reports differ. Some say there is an indication the government is beginning to hold its own — but up to now the security forces we trained have just thrown down their weapons and ran away.

 

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It might just be time that the United States stepped back and took another look at why it got involved in the Middle East in the first place.

I mean let’s be honest. We did not go in there to free people from ruthless dictators. We did not go in there with the specific or primary intent of making their lives better, although certainly we would want that.

We went in there originally to keep our oil supply chain open (the first Gulf War). Anything positive besides that, such as creating freer societies and more equal economic opportunity for all, were just side benefits.

I recall during the first Iraq War or maybe the second a young person I know (who I will not name) looked at me seriously when I made the remark while filling my gas tank of my car that this is what our soldiers were dying for. This young person questioned what I meant by that. The indoctrination via our own government/political propaganda plus the accepted narrative from the main stream media was that we were going in there to save people from the ruthless dictator Saddam Hussein and to keep Al Qaeda from bringing its war to America and other parts of the free world.

(9/11 played into this all, but certainly we did not wage all the wars to go after one man, Osama Bin Laden and a band of terrorists, and the first Gulf War was before 9/11 course, and 9/11 did not come out of Iraq, even though in reaction to it we went to war with Iraq — you know, how is this all going to be taught in history? It makes no sense.)

But oil is what is was always about. Well that and the ongoing and age-old struggle between Eastern and Western cultures, perhaps.

Make no mistake about it, there are elements in the societies of that part of the world who would rather more closely emulate what we have in the West, although they would likely want to do so while retaining much of their own culture.

Unfortunately religion and tribal rivalries seem to be the dividing factor in these societies. Its bad enough that Muslims often hate Christians or Jews or others who are not of their religion, but they can’t even get along with each other, being divided in various sects (and I admittedly don’t understand all of that, except they don’t get along). In Iraq the division between Sunni and Shia seems to cause the most strife (and that is a fact elsewhere too). When Saddam Hussein was in charge the Sunni minority controlled things. And now under the present leader, Nuri al-Maliki, the reverse is true. It seems to not have occurred to these people that religion should be kept out of government, just as it has not occurred to some in our own country, now that I think about it.

Of course those hungry for power exploit ignorance and do their best to maintain ignorance in order to set people against each other and in the meantime gather all the goodies from society themselves (the way of the world, really).

But back to why we are there.

It was primarily oil all the time.

Well as I understand it the United States is now energy independent. We are willing to put up with the possible ill effects of fracking and oil train wrecks and potential environmental problems caused by the proposed Keystone pipeline to be energy independent.

(A government report claims that the pipeline would cut down on the potential of oil train wrecks.)

So why are we fighting wars in the Middle East?

Yes, Islamic terrorists probably do pose a threat to the whole world, but they are going to have a hard time financing themselves without oil to hold us hostage over.

We can and must defend ourselves, but maybe getting sucked into no-win wars in the Middle East is not the answer.

And anyway, like I repeat like a stuck record, the only justified war can be one that is fought to win.

It’s shameful how we send people to die and people to be maimed for life in causes we can’t seem to get fully committed to.

If it is deemed we have to go back to Iraq, it better be to win. And what is winning? Winning is vanquishing the enemy and taking control of the area ourselves for a time and gradually turning it back to those who live there once they can learn to govern themselves.

If all that is not possible, well so be it. Forget it. We can now do without their precious oil.

If they are willing to kill each other over religion I’m sorry for that, just leave us out of it.

P.s.

I don’t minimize the threat of so-called Islamic terrorism on the whole world. The latest seems to be that a group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) now poses a more serious threat than Al Qaeda, the latter group now parting ways from it, supposedly because the former is too ruthless. But I think a strong and prosperous Western society not bogged down in costly no-win wars over oil will be better able to protect itself.

P.s. P.s.

Adding to the confusion, Iran sees ISIS as a threat and backs the current Iraqi government. I just read that Maliki might use the threat of Iran, our arch enemy, coming to his aid as a wedge to get U.S. help to save him. Oh what a tangled web…