Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A critique of Obamacare and Obama by a liberal columnist. Not very favorable.

Here's a devastating, even sarcastic critique of Obamacare and President Obama by Margaret Carlson with Bloomberg and formerly Time magazine.
Two statements explain the huge failure of Obamacare. One is by President Barack Obama, the other is about him. 
The first was made in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the end of the 2008 primary campaign, when candidate Obama predicted that generations would look back and see his nomination as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
Couple this with the assessment of his closest aide, Valerie Jarrett, about his exceptionalism. “He knows exactly how smart he is,” she told Obama biographer David Remnick. “And he knows that he has the ability -- the extraordinary, uncanny ability -- to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them.”

Obama “has never really been challenged intellectually,” she went on. “He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”  

Or what an ordinary president does, for that matter. A chief executive less bored than Obama would have stayed on top of his signature legislation. Those upset that he didn’t are bedwetters, the White House says, nervous Nellies who can’t comprehend the larger picture of health-care reform that will, in due time, emerge. White House spokesman Jay Carney intones the mantra that the president “is focused on delivering the access to quality and affordable health insurance” and isn’t concerned “about the politics of that.”
What's interesting is Carlson is not a conservative.  I think she sees that arrogance may destroy a singular goal of the liberal establishment: government run, single payer health care system.  For that she's not happy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Attacks on Christians for their faith are escalating around the world.

Here's an article highlighting the attacks on Christians for their faith.  The most violent attacks are obviously in Muslim countries but also many others.
This past month, I spent an afternoon at ACN headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the Maronite ordinary of Syria, Bishop Elias Sleman. He described the Muslim crimes against Christians that have driven members of his flock to mountain hiding places, where they are barely subsisting...
As for 21st century atrocities, we are fortunate to have the newly published, "The Global War on Christians: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution," by the Catholic reporter, John L. Allen, Jr.
Mr. Allen points out that the word “war” has in recent times been used too freely to promote various causes, i.e., war on women, war on Christmas. In his judgment the correct usage means, “facing [a] situation with the necessary sense of urgency.” And because 80 percent of acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians, Allen holds that there is a compelling urgency for talking about a war on Christians....
Since the turn of the century, advocacy groups have estimated that 100,000-150,000 Christians have been martyred annually. Other forms of harassment Christians must endure, particularly in countries where they are a minority population, include societal discrimination, employment discrimination, legal discrimination, as well as suppression of Christian missionary activity and worship, and forced conversions from Christianity.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that between 2006 and 2010 some form of harassments against Christians occurred in 139 nations — approximately three-quarters of the world’s countries. Thirty-seven percent of them have “high” or “very high” restrictions on Christian activities.
This year the Open Doors World Watch listed the “most hazardous nations on earth in which to be a Christian.” The number one nation on the list of 25 was North Korea, followed by Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Iran. Eighteen of the countries on the list are majority Muslim.
These are places were Christians are attacked physically, often facing prison or loss of life.  It doesn't touch on the growing attacks on religious freedoms of Christians in the West.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jon Stewart from The Daily Show and his double standard on wealth.

Jon Stewart, the host of the liberal comedy show, "The Daily Show" is known for bashing conservatives including those who are wealthy.  For instance he went after Romney for his wealth.  It turns out Stewart is also very wealthy and uses tricks of the trade to avoid paying taxes.  For instance, he holds some of his luxurious homes in trust so he can avoid paying higher taxes.
Comedy Central host Jon Stewart regularly bashes American multimillionaires for their wealth while ignoring the awkward fact that he’s one of them.

Though Stewart distances himself from the “one-percenters” and bellows over their extravagance, his bank accounts bear all the marks of the “multi, multi, multi, multi millionaires” he mocks. The 49-year-old Stewart, born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, makes more than 300 times the median American salary, owns three luxury homes and sometimes doesn’t pay his taxes.

In January Stewart exploded on-air over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s income level. “That’s almost — that’s almost $57,000 a day!” he gushed.

But Stewart’s own income level brings him and his wife Tracey approximately $41,000 a day. The celebrity income-handicapping website Celebrity Net Worth lists his annual salary as $15 million and estimates his net worth at $80 million.

And then there are the houses. When Arizona Sen. John McCain ran for president in 2008, he was criticized for not knowing how many houses he owned. (The answer: seven.) Stewart is well on his way to McCain country, with three opulent mansions whose combined value is $12.8 million.

\He doesn’t technically own those homes: Using a trick mastered by countless one-percenters, the properties were purchased by private trusts. Stewart’s trusts are named after his pets.

The super-wealthy often make big-ticket purchases through trusts in order to protect their other assets from lawsuits, diminish estate tax liability, and avoid public scrutiny.

The satirist started his real estate empire in 2005 when The Stanley Monkey Trust — named after his cat Stanley and one of his pit bull terriers, Monkey — purchased a two-story Manhattan penthouse for $5.8 million.

That deluxe apartment in the sky spans 6,000-square-feet and has 40 windows, a 600-foot terrace, and a 1,200-foot private roof, the New York Observer reported in 2005.

Another legal entity, The Shamsky Monkey Trust, purchased two more houses in 2009 and 2010. (Shamsky, named after 1969 “Miracle Mets” outfielder Art Shamsky, is Stewart’s other pit bull terrier.)

The lakefront mansions Stewart bought in 2009 and 2010 are in Red Bank, New Jersey. They cost him $3,800,000 and $3,200,000 and — for reasons TheDC was unable to determine — are next door to one another.

Online real estate search engines show that the Shamsky Monkey Trust also owns a $675,000 house in North Haven, New York. Public records indicate that Stewart’s older brother, Lawrence Leibowitz, lives there.
With serious wealth often come serious tax problems. In January the comedian blasted Romney for paying a 15-percent tax rate on his earnings, most of which come from capital gains on stocks and other securities.
 I guess when you avoid higher taxes it's OK but when you're a conservative and do it it's not OK.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Whether to with ObamaCare. A "death spiral"?

There's already talk about whether ObamaCare can be saved. Delaying it a year? Dropping penalty? Will those actions save it or end it? 

Here are some comments by Harvard Professor David Cutler who's viewed as one of the architect's of ObamaCare. He was interviewed on Fox. 
"So when you were on last week I asked you, if they don't get enough people in the exchanges, then what happens?" said host Megyn Kelly. "And you said then the premiums go up very, very high. Now, was that ball put in motion today?"

"We don't know yet," said Cutler. "So what the president is trying to do is to say the website is not working, the exchanges are not working. Let's try and slow the process down and delay it by a year. And if it turns out to be a delay of a year, then we can work through that. It would be uncomfortable as it has been for the past month, but it will turn out okay. If it becomes a permanent situation that people who are healthier stay away and people who are sicker go into the exchanges, that becomes a very big problem."

"Is that the beginning of the so-called death spiral?"

"That could be the beginning of a death spiral," said Cutler. "That is, you could have a situation where the only people in the exchanges are very unhealthy people with very high premiums."
ObamaCare is another example of how the world does not work.  Government wasn't designed to make people's health care decisions.  Any more it can run an economy or the food industry.  It's an example of ideology run amok.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dayton donates only $1,000 of income to charities. Commentary on personal values and priorities in life.

Some of the gubernatorial candidates released their 2012 tax return information. While Dayton is an heir of the Dayton department store fortune it's not surprising the bulk of his 2012 income came from capital gains and dividends.  What was a bit of an eye opener was of his $343,234 income he donated only $1,000 to charity
Gov. Mark Dayton had $343,234 in income last year, with his earnings from capital gains and dividends exceeding the income from his state salary of $116,125.

Dayton received $92,381 from a family trust, more than double what he received from the Bruce Dayton trust the year before. He also earned $130,291 from capital gains, down from the $190,998 he received in 2011. According to his tax return, Dayton donated $1,000 to charity.
Only $1,000? That speaks volumes about his personal values and priorities. The fact that he fought so vociferously so he and other higher income folks would pay more in taxes says the government is the source of good in society. It's the answer to what ails us. Not the spiritual message of churches and other groups. Not charities which seek to meet the spiritual and material needs of people.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Issue of gender and gender confusion - responding pastorally.

The linked post highlights the need for Christians to recover their voice not only on the nature of marriage but also gender.  Gender in today's culture is viewed as a personal choice rather something given by God, wired into our genes.  This post doesn't answer the question as much as point out the unusual questions poised by issues in our culture and challenges the church to come up with compassionate responses based on truth found in the Scriptures.
At the conclusion of my talk, a youth minister from a small church in the area approached me for advice on how to deal with a perplexing pastoral situation he was facing. A young girl in his youth group had recently decided she wanted to become a boy. My usual reaction to a conundrum like this would be to advise the girl of what the Bible teaches about how God created us as male and female, how Christians must embrace what God made us to be, and how God has a design for her life as a female. But there was more to this young girl's story than a spontaneous desire to change genders. There was an additional detail that would turn my usual response on its head.

This particular girl had been born with a rare biological condition that made it difficult at birth to determine whether she was a girl or a boy. The condition is known as "intersex," and intersexed persons are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical pattern for female or male. Until relatively recently, the most common medical treatment for intersex has been for doctors to recommend a gender, to encourage the parents to embrace that gender, to surgically reshape the genitals and reproductive organs accordingly, and to advise parents not to express any ambiguity to the child about their selected gender. The young woman in question had undergone such surgery as an infant but now as a teen felt she wasn't really a girl after all. She felt her parents had made the wrong choice about what sex she was, and now she was in the midst of an identity crisis. She wanted to become what she felt she was born to be. She wanted to be a boy.

So the youth minister asked me, "What should I say to them? How do I minister to this student and her family?" I confess I was at a bit of a loss to answer his question. Not because I didn't know what the Bible teaches, but because I didn't know what intersex was. As I struggled to apply Scripture to a condition I'd never even heard of, it occurred to me that at the heart of this minister's query was a question about sex—not sex narrowly conceived as sexual acts, but more broadly conceived as gender and sexuality. At the root of his difficulty was a desire to know how the Bible's normative teaching about manhood and womanhood speaks to this difficult situation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More pot incidents in Colorado middle schools after legalization.

Not surprisingly, there are more reports of pot showing up in middle schools in Colorado after that state's voters voted to legalize marijuana.
In two years of work as an undercover officer with a drug task force, Mike Dillon encountered plenty of drugs. But nothing has surprised him as much as what he has seen in schools lately.

Dillon, who is now a school resource officer with the Mesa County Sheriff's Department, said he is seeing more and younger kids bringing marijuana to schools, in sometimes-surprising quantities.

"When we have middle school kids show up with a half an ounce, that is shocking to me," Dillon said.

The same phenomenon is being reported around Colorado after the 2010 regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries and the 2012 vote to legalize recreational marijuana.
The road to legalization was greased with "medical" marijuana legalization. 
Krueger said school officials believe the jump is linked to the message that legalization (even though it is still prohibited for anyone under 21) is sending to kids: that marijuana is a medicine and a safe and accepted recreational activity. It is also believed to be more available.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Boys and young men doing poorly? Look to fathers and the ultimate Father.

Here's an interesting opinion piece in the Star Tribune by Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute.  She points out the growing concern with the poor outcomes afflicting boys.
When I started following the research on child well-being about two decades ago, the focus was almost always girls’ problems — low self-esteem, lax ambitions, eating disorders and high rates of teen pregnancy.

Now, though, with teen births down more than 50 percent from their 1991 peak and girls dominating classrooms and graduation ceremonies, boys and men are increasingly the ones under examination. Their high school grades and college attendance rates have remained stalled for decades. Among poor and working-class boys, the chances of climbing out of the low-end labor market — and of becoming reliable husbands and fathers — are looking worse and worse.

This spring, MIT economist David Autor and coauthor Melanie Wasserman suggested a reason for this: the growing number of fatherless homes. Boys and young men weren’t behaving rationally, they suggested, because their family situations had left them without the necessary attitudes and skills to adapt to changing social and economic conditions. Anyone interested in the plight of poor and working-class men — and, more broadly, mobility and the American dream — should hope this research, and the considerable biological and psychological evidence behind it, become part of the public debate.
 At the end she points out this problem is more than just a political question.
But the truth is, we don’t know for sure what will help. It just may be that boys growing up where fathers — and men more generally — appear superfluous confront an existential problem: Where do I fit in? Who needs me, anyway? Boys see that men have become extras in the lives of many families and communities, and it can’t help but depress their aspirations. Solving that problem will take something much bigger than a good literacy program.
I think a good place to look for wisdom is the Bible and the prophet Malachi who addressed a crisis facing ancient Israel in exile.  He talked about God sending another prophet like Elijah who would "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6.  Turning back to God and fathers is essential for restoring boys and young men.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Religion should be welcome in the public square.

Secularism seeks to marginalize religion and faith in our public life.  However, that's neither good nor possible.  Here's an insight interview with historian and legal scholar John Witte from Emory University.  He points out the myths and confusion rampant on the separation of church and state issue.

He notes that Christianity is of the backbones of our legal, political and social institutions.
Certainly in the Western legal tradition, Christianity was one of the backbones of many legal, political and social institutions that we take for granted today. At least from the 5th to the 18th century, Christianity provided many of the ideas and institutions of marriage and family, human rights and constitutionalism and more on which the Enlightenment and modern liberalism continued to build.

Our starting assumption is the opposite: that religion is often a permanent part of the infrastructure of modern law, politics and society.
The contemporary separation of church and state notion is a myth.
...the 1970s understanding of separation of church and state that said, “Religion is private; religion is dying; religion has nothing useful to say and is an illegitimate conversation partner in modern law, politics and society.”

That’s not what the Constitution demands, it’s not what the culture needs, and it’s ultimately not where religion should settle.

We need both public and private expressions of religion in all peaceable forms. Religious views should be welcomed into public life, because they provide leaven for the polity to improve, and valuable examples and practices of how to organize our lives and laws in a better way. Religions should be part of deep political conversation, and they should be taken into account as we craft our state laws and policies.
He believes the church has an important role to play in society.  A moral, ethical role.  And interestingly, the changes coming to our welfare state's approach to social concerns are inevitable - our current welfare system isn't sustainable.  The church will have to step up to the plate.
First, the church has always had the power of prophecy. The church and its clerical leadership are responsible for speaking truth to power -- enduring truths as communicated in Scripture and tradition. That prophetic role is particularly necessary during crisis moments.

Second, the church has a pedagogical role in teaching society by example, and sometimes by instruction, how to live the moral life and how to live fully in conformity with the wisdom of Scripture and the tradition.

And at least on issues of marriage and family and sexuality, on issues of charity, on education, religious freedom and human rights, the church’s record is checkered. It’s important that the church provide an alternative example of what the prophets and what Christ himself offered us and instructed us to do.

Third, the church and its leadership have a unique opportunity to play a critical role to fill in the gaps that are increasingly beginning to show in the social welfare net.

We have to recognize that in the 21st century, and into the 22nd, the social welfare state as we know it today will be no more. The capacity of the West -- even the affluent West -- to maintain the system of support that we have given to “the least of these” is going to diminish severely, if not evaporate.
The church is going to have to be one of many voluntary associations that step into the traditional role it has always played in serving, protecting, nurturing and providing for the least in society, and not relying upon the state to do that work.
Fourth, the church has in the Scriptures, and in the life of Christ, a perfect example of how to live by the letter and the spirit of the law.
One thing that the church can do is to teach society what it means to live fully and honorably by the first and the greatest commandment, which is to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself, and exemplify what that means in concrete legal, political and social terms.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Evangelical Al Mohler speaks to Mormons at Brigham Young University

A few weeks ago Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville spoke at Brigham Young University
 I deeply appreciate your invitation to speak at Brigham Young University and to address the faculty at this greatly respected center of learning. I am so glad to be on this campus, filled with so many gracious people, such admirable students, and so many committed scholars on the faculty.  To many people, shaped in their worldview by the modern age and its constant mandate to accommodate, it will seem very odd that a Baptist theologian and seminary president would be invited to speak at the central institution of intellectual life among the Latter-Day Saints.

But here I am, and I am thankful for the invitation. The wonderfully prophetic Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor rightly warned that we must “push back against the age as hard as it is pressing you.” I have come to Brigham Young University because I intend with you to push back against the modernist notion that only the accommodated can converse. There are those who sincerely believe that meaningful and respectful conversation can take place only among those who believe the least—that only those who believe the least and thus may disagree the least can engage one another in the kind of conversation that matters. I reject that notion, and I reject it forcefully. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, that is the kind of idea that must not be cast aside lightly, but thrown with full force.
Then he concludes with
The conflict of liberties we are now experiencing is unprecedented and ominous. Forced to choose between erotic liberty and religious liberty, many Americans would clearly sacrifice freedom of religion. How long will it be until many becomes most?

This is what brings me to Brigham Young University today. I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.

I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together. I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences. Your faith has held high the importance of marriage and family. Your theology requires such an affirmation, and it is lovingly lived out by millions of Mormon families. That is why I and my evangelical brothers and sisters are so glad to have Mormon neighbors. We stand together for the natural family, for natural marriage, for the integrity of sexuality within marriage alone, and for the hope of human flourishing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kudlow hits the name on the head about Obamacare - costs, consequences, and untruths.

The costs, consequences, and untruths (Being told one could keep their health insurance when it was known that wasn't the case.) of Obamacare are being exposed daily.  It's not a pretty picture. Larry Kudlow hits the nail on the head in this column.  It comes down to one of freedom and the ability of people to flourish and care for themselves and their families.
May I ask this question? Why is it that Americans don't have the freedom to choose their own health insurance? I just don't get it. Why must the liberal nanny state make decisions for us? We can make them ourselves, thank you very much. It's like choosing a car, buying a home or investing in a stock. We can handle it.
So why must the government tell me and everyone else what we can and cannot buy?

...Here's what else I don't want: As a 60-something, relatively healthy person, I don't want lactation and maternity services, abortion services, speech therapy, mammograms, fertility treatments or Viagra. I don't want it. So why should I have to tear up my existing health-care plan, and then buy a plan with far more expensive premiums and deductibles, and with services I don't need or want?
On top of all of the above, Obamacare attempts to defy reality.  It's unsustainable.
Of course, there are other structural problems to Obamacare that are both unfair and unaffordable. Mainly, younger healthy people are not going to subsidize older sicker folks. We should take care of the latter with transparent government subsidies, and not by trying to redistribute resources (again) from the young to the old.
Or then there's the Medicaid entitlement. It's already out of control and close to bankruptcy. But in the early days of Obamacare, Medicaid sign-ups are exploding, all while sign-ups for private plans on the new exchanges are minuscule.
Between the president's broken promises, the millions of policy cancellations, the continued website breakdowns and the unaffordable, unfair con game between the healthy young and the sicker old, this Obamacare monster is well on its way to collapsing of its own weight.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A culture of death for young children?

Here's an ominous story coming out of Belgium.  They're now considering extending euthanasia to children.
In Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering extending it to children — something that no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.
 I guess one shouldn't be surpised because it's a logical extension of the their current practice.
Belgium is already a euthanasia pioneer; it legalized the practice for adults in 2002. In the last decade, the number of reported cases per year has risen from 235 deaths in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. Doctors typically give patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart.
Only a few countries have legalized euthanasia or anything approaching it.
More bitter fruit from the radical individualism and secularism infecting the West.