GOP no longer the Party of Lincoln – it’s the Party of…..

The Republican Party calls itself “the Party of Lincoln” because Abraham Lincoln was a leader in building the party after its creation in the 1850’s. But is calling the GOP the Party of Lincoln still warranted after the election of Trump? Let’s take a look at just one issue: Obamacare.

In 2010, Republicans in Washington D.C. said “we need control of the House to repeal Obamacare.” The voters gave them a majority in the House. The Republican politicians then said “we also need the Senate, then we can repeal it.” But when given the Senate, the D.C. Republicans said they dared not risk losing their grip on power, as their opponents had risked in 2010 when passing Obamacare in the face of impopularity among voters.

Sciophobic George McClelland

So finally D.C. Republicans said “we need the presidency, then we’ll repeal Obamacare. We mean it this time!” The voters obliged, electing Republican Donald Trump president. Trump ran on repealing Obamacare “on day one.”

The story of Union war general George McClellan is well-known: given command of the Union Army by president Abraham Lincoln, McClellan always found a reason to not act, no matter how many resources were at his disposal. After 15 months of inaction, Lincoln removed McClellan from Command in November, 1863.

McClellan went on to become the Democrat candidate for president in 1864, and lost to his former boss Lincoln in that election.

Given the inaction of congressional Republicans since the election of Trump, using the moniker “The Party of Lincoln” is simply false advertising. A better name would be “The Party of McClellan” because not only are they afraid to act, many “Republicans” in D.C. are actually Democrats. Just like George McClelland.

(Hat tip Drew Miller for inspiring the idea for this 276-word indictment)

History rhymes – so how many times can they use the same wind chimes?

Mark Twain is often quoted as having said that “history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” There’s no evidence that Twain said that, but it doesn’t matter who said it when any thinking student of history knows it to be true.

Today’s question: is there a rhyme for our time?

The Rhineland, as defined by the Versailles Treaty

After Germany violated the Versailles treaty by remilitarizing the Rhineland in March of 1936, the victors in World War could’ve taken decisive military action to enforce the peace treaty.  As you may know, the Rhineland is the German industrial heartland.

The German military was weak in 1936, so if the allies had taken action, the history books might have read “France and Britain invade Germany to enforce peace treaty, one million people perish, democratically elected German leader Adolf Hitler imprisoned.” 

But European “leaders” took no action. Three years later, war broke out anyway. Their inaction clearly emboldened Hitler. Instead of “just a million” dying, tens of millions of Europeans died, and tens of millions more from other parts of the world.

The above is an original thought I had years ago, and many others have surely had the same thought independently of me. And so when I think about Syria and North Korea and other geopolitical threats, and question the action taken against Syria last week, I also understand very clearly the risks of inaction. 

Reasonable people can and do reasonably disagree about Trump’s decision to launch a cruise missile strike against an air base in Syria. However, what bothers me is the breezy gung-ho-ho-ho (to coin a phrase) of the most strident supporters of military action in every situation. They speak with the same self-assured and misplaced bravado we have heard from them so many times since 2001.

These people speak as if US-created regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have all been a success. It has not. Remember also that the best laid plans of and intervention by the CIA in Iran during three decades led directly to the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. In the end, what did we get in Iran for all those efforts? An oppressive islamist government, increasingly dangerous to the US and its allies, that has now been in power for almost four decades.

Looking outside the Middle East for a moment: has our support for the overthrow of a corrupt but fairly elected Ukraine government been a success? Critically review events in the Ukraine over the last 4 years and then judge for yourself.

As events develop, remember that not all chimes are wind chimes. Anybody who tries to chime in with the wind chimes will only find themselves alone and confused as the wind speeds increase and the wind chimes of war are blown away.

Get your own foreign policy chime, keep it out of the wind and play it as you see fit. Support effective action for whatever outcome you desire, and be skeptical of policies that have already proven to be failures.

How I opted out of Obamacare, saved a lot of money and felt less stupid

In late 2016, Humana notified me that they were no longer offering the health insurance plan I had been purchasing from them for many years. The plan was “grandfathered in” under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), meaning that the plan did not have to comply with all the rules of the ACA (or “Obamacare”, as some call it). It was one of those plans that fell under “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” as president Obama famously claimed dozens of times.

In 10 years on this plan, not once did I reach the $2,500 a year deductible on my plan. In other words, the only cost that Humana has incurred on my behalf was the cost of processing paperwork. And yet  Humana was now dropping me like a bad habit.

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Although the monthly premium had increased from $88 per month in 2007 to $266 per month in 2016, the plan was still better than any ACA-compliant plan available. But now the only plan that Humana or anybody else could offer me was an ACA-compliant plan at $450 per month with a higher deductible and all around much worse coverage.

Obama must have meant to say “if you like your plan, you can keep it…for a while”. Politifact called his claim the “Lie of the Year” for 2013, more than 3 years after the ACA was made law. With intrepid fact checkers like Politifact, who needs enemies?

The entire process of being dumped into a  “crappy Obamacare bronze plan”, as leftist film-maker Michael Moore calls my plan, left me ill at ease. It felt like I’d been involuntarily conscripted into a scheme to provide “treatment” and “counseling” to alcoholics, drug users, and hypochondriacs, and also subsidies for people who simply don’t want to pay the true actuarial cost of providing health care. Furthermore, passage of the ACA has taken the pressure has off the health care governmental complex to address systemic waste, fraud and abuse.

Many decisions I’ve made in life are driven by a simple desire to avoid feeling stupid. No one likes participating in something, or interacting with someone, when the outcome is that they are left feel stupid for doing so. It was this reasoning that led me to cut off contact with my only sibling in 2008, as I was always being lied to and financially abused. It is also this reasoning that now caused me to drop my ACA plan and purchase a non-ACA compliant plan for $185 per month. I have been approved for this medically underwitten plan and coverage begins March 1st.

bastiat_fiction_quoteIt’s true that my new plan has a superhigh deductible and no “free preventive health care” for things like yoga, therapy animals or chocolate. But I’d rather have this plan than feel stupid and paying 140% more for an ACA-compliant plan. I just don’t want to participate in the ACA – exclamation mark!

“What about the THE PENALTY?” you ask in a whisper while glancing over your shoulder. That is: the penalty for not carrying “government approved” health care coverage. But any payment you might make to the IRS is pursuant to and allowed under the “Individual Shared Responsibility” provision in the ACA.

In summary: it’s not a penalty, it’s a “payment”….. all according to the IRS.

Secondly, the penalty is capped at $695 per person per year. My wife and children have always had better coverage than me, and theirs is a grandfathered Blue Cross / Blue Shield (BCBS) plan that costs $836 per month. My wife is often told at doctor’s office what a great plan it is, and how bad the plans of other patients are. But I digress: the point is that my wife and kids will not be subject to any penalty, only I would be.

This penalty…it kind of looks like a poll tax to me. But I digress again.

Their BCBS plan is medically underwitten, and while it is has also gone up sharply in price since I signed them up for it in 2004, it’s still a “good plan”….as explained above. Therefore, I tried to get on this plan, but BCBS rejected. Their factually correct reasons basically amounted to “you’re old and fat.”

Thirdly, on the day of his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order (EO) with the title “Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal”. One immediate and practical effect of Trump’s EO is that the IRS will no longer automatically reject your tax return if you fail to tell them whether or not you carry “government approved” health insurance on your tax return.

obamacare_overhaulThe appeal of “self-repeal” is thus multi-faceted: by opting out of the ACA, I have the plan I want and don’t feel abused. I save at least $2,500 per year, and probably $3,200 since there will likely be no IRS penalty. “Self-repealing” the ACA also means that I don’t need to wait for our feckless Congress to act. In fact, according to the former Republican speaker of the house, Congress will never repeal it. Sounds like “Donald Trump will never be president” to me, by why take any chances? Self-repeal!


Most importantly, by self-repealing I no longer feel stupid while paying for health insurance, and that has an “anti-serf”-like value all of its own.

If Donald Trump plans to repeal the ACA by a thousand paper cuts, then I’m all for it because the ACA is really ZeroCare. That’s what I call it, because that’s what it will bring us in the long run. Like all good socialists, ACA proponents ignore human nature and forget the people who they are expecting to pay for “da plan”. They forget the intransigent unwillingness of people like me to participate in their grand social engineering schemes.

If it makes sense for you, then self-repeal like I did. We can compare notes in the rice paddies of the “re-education” camp that our government sends us to.

repeal-aca_600x400

 

 

Swedish massage on President’s Day

As President’s Day draws to a close in the US, my mind is drawn to the butchered English spoken with a French accent in the 1980’s BBC comedy series ‘Allo ‘Allo! Like the police officer in that series, I also ‘ave a massage for you. In fact, I have a Swedish “massage” and I hope my message is clear to everyone.

On Saturday evening, US president Donald Trump made a remark about Sweden that the some media outlets immediately made in to a big story. As someone who was born Swedish, grew up in Sweden, and regularly returns to Sweden, I have an opinion about the remark. But I also have opinion about the reality on the ground in Sweden and in the US. When you have finished reading this article, I hope to have convinced you that the latter is more important than the former.

Trump said the following at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday evening:

donald_trump

Here’s the bottom line. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.

If you want more context, see the full transcript of Trump’s speech here.

Trump was referencing a TV program that had aired in the US the night before his speech, and he said so in a Tweet the following day. Clearly, Trump misspoke, and his manner of speaking in incomplete and disjointed sentences is hardly news.

But did Trump actually claim that a terror attack took place “last night” in Sweden? That is what some in the media wants you to believe. For example, Huffington Post led with “Trump falsely suggested at a Florida rally Saturday that Sweden had suffered a terror attack the previous night”. I don’t see that Trump did so, and more importantly: I don’t buy what the legacy media is trying to sell here.

obamaPlease recall Obama’s  “you didn’t build that” comment from 2012. I always thought it unfair to use it against Obama because it was clear from the context what he meant. In that faux pas, Obama’s mistake was that he used what grammarians called a “vague pronoun reference.” Obama’s grammatical mistake has been exploited by his opponents to this day to suggest that he is deeply ignorant about private enterprise.

The difference between how the media treated Obama’s faux pas and Trump’s is stark. In Obama’s case, the old-line media was either silent, or they came to Obama’s defense (as the New York Times did here). Yet now that same New York Times proclaims in their headline that “Trump’s Remark Baffles a Nation”. Their article begins with “Swedes reacted with confusion, anger and ridicule on Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump.”

Yes,  that’s exactly what I recall that my fellow Swedes and myself doing on Sunday mornings when I was a child growing up: reacting with “confusion, anger and ridicule” to a “vague remark” by a foreign head of state. Sure.

The dying portion of the media wants you be upset over Trump’s verbal faux pas, but not upset about a different faux pas by a different president. Instead, please cut the press out of your decision process on this and every issue, judge for yourself and focus on what matters. Trump’s remark is not really important because words are always less important than reality. And what is the reality in Sweden?

shill_media

During the last 4 months, we’ve had three couples from Sweden visit us. All live in different parts of Sweden, and all 40 years old or above. I asked them all the same question, indepedently of one another: in the area where you live, have people altered their normal patterns of behavior, for example in terms of when they go out, as a result of a perceived or real increase in crime.

All answered “yes”, and one gave an example of thieves running into his parents’ house and stealing items while they were out in their own yard.

Speaking of crime in Sweden, the New York Times wants you to think that Trump’s comments were only about crime. “Trump Pursues His Attack on Sweden, With Scant Evidence”, announces the NYT headline and reports how the crime rate is flat in Sweden. But no thinking person in Sweden (and many other Europeans countries) believes the official crime statistics because they have knowledge, sometimes personal knowledge, that the police actively discourage you from reporting crime.

desperate_times_politiciansMore importantly, the debate in Sweden isn’t just about crime, it’s about limited resources and how those resources are being used. The central government in Sweden is allowing large numbers of non-European migrants in to Sweden, immediately putting them on public assistance and labeling anyone who questions these policies as being “racist”, “islamophobic” or at the very least: simply wrong. This tactic has been used for 25 years or more, but the population is increasingly resistant to that particular tactic.

Swedish retirees are not getting the services they need, the health care system is under strain, housing shortages are worse than ever, and many school classrooms have a majority of children who don’t speak Swedish (every pupil suffers as a result). All this is happening because resources are being directed at “helping” migrants. The voters are also well aware that the politicians making these decisions are not exposed to the consequences of their own decisions. Hence the rise in this decade of the Sweden Democrats, a political party skeptical of immigration from outside of Europe and deeply skeptical of islam.

Many Swedish workers feel like fools going to work every day so that one more “unaccompanied minor” muslim, claiming to be a “refugee”, can live on public assistance. I personally know retirees in Sweden who have voted for the Swedish labor party for over 50 years….but not any more. These retirees feel like they are being treated like idiots by lecturing and hectoring  career politicians. Their vote for the Sweden Democrats is a loud protest vote…..but the establishment isn’t listening.

Many municipal pools  in Sweden are offering women-only swimming hours to accommodate new muslim arrivals. There is a general bowing down to islam in Sweden. Just 10 days ago, Swedish trade minister Ann Linde traveled to Iran with the prime minister. That is Linde in the picture below, speaking to Iranian prime minister Ali Khamenei, as the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven looks on.

lofven-iran

When a high level female Swedish government representative dons clothes she would never, ever wear, just so as to please the leaders of an islamic dictatorship, the message to the islamists is clear. That message is: you are stronger than us. Perhaps that is why German foreign minister Ursula van der Leyen didn’t wear a head covering when she visited Saudi Arabia last December. Yet the average establishment politician in Sweden sees no contradiction between being in favor of “women’s rights” while simultaneously submitting to people who seek to deny women those very rights.

Trump’s larger point about Sweden was correct. “Sweden, who would believe this,” Trump said. Well, I believe it, Donald, because I have been following immigration issues in Sweden for a long time. Already in 1994, I wrote to the Swedish minister for refugees and immigration and expressed reservations about government policies. The letter has been recorded in the Swedish national archives, but here is a copy of it.

In 1994, I asked for a reply to my respectful letter, but received none. The political establishment in Sweden didn’t listen then, and they aren’t listening now. Like some of their elitist counterparts in the US, they are of the opinion that democracy is sacred..unless the voters deliver the “wrong” outcome. Then the will of the people must be subverted. If your parents, retirees with decades of hard work and life experience behind them, should suffer real harm as a result of the government’s unicorn and rainbows policies, that’s just too bad. You’re still wrong….and a racist.

citizenship_swedish_retirement_1106405

Many Europeans don’t understand why many Americans stand by Trump no matter what he says. The reason is simple: they are more interested in what he does than what he says. Europeans should consider applying that same age-old “don’t listen to what they say, look at what they do” principle to their own politicians.

The volcanic eruptions in Iceland in 2010 actually increased tourism long-term for that island nation plagued by rotten weather. Maybe Trump’s remark will do the same for Sweden? Let’s hope so. And that is all I have to say about Trump’s remark on Sweden.

Do we have a “living constitution”? Look in your fridge for the answer

Some people, like this U of Chicago law school jurist, argue that the US has a “living Constitution.” By that they mean that the Constitution must change without formally amending it because society experiences great changes and “it is just not realistic to expect the cumbersome amendment process to keep up with these changes.”

The evidence that this argument is false can be found in the Constitution itself.  Article II, section 1 specifies the exact oath of office the president must swear before taking office. That oath is shown immediately below.

presidential_oath

Notice the word “preserve” in the oath.  When you think about the meaning of the word “preserve”, what do you think of? Consider for example your local historical preservation society, and what their mission is.

If you are still in doubt about what the word “preserve” means, open your fridge and consider the “preserves” in your fridge, and what the manufacturer of them means by the word “preserves”. Consider also that the meaning of the word “preserve” has not changed since the US Constitution became the law of our land.

Searching Google, I found nobody else making the above argument. So I did.

preserves

When pigs fly – a compromise on immigration terminology

In discussing the hot button topic of immigration, many on the right use the term “illegal immigrant”. On the other hand, many on the left use the term “undocumented immigrant”. As shown below, the groundwork has already been laid by others for a better term, a term that is hopefully a term that all can agree on. That term is “unlawful immigrant”.

Before you decide whether to continue reading, please note that the compromise term “unlawful immigrant” probably has zero chance of catching on. However, you might learn a fact or two by reading the rest of this short article.

usimmigrationpolicy

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word “illegal” as meaning “contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law.” In the word “especially” lies the problem: when people hear the term “illegal”, many will think that a criminal act has been committed. In fact, it isn’t a crime. As shown below, the Supreme Court expressly agrees that it is not a crime to “be here illegally”.

Being in the United States “illegally”  is neither a misdemeanor nor a felony. It is, however, an infraction, one which carries no fine. Should a person return after being deported, then they commit a felony under federal law (8 U.S.C. § 1326).

Now being in the United States “illegally” is a deportable infraction….but given that there is no fine associated with it, you could argue that a speeding ticket is worse. In my view, we should not use the term “illegal” because many will presume that a crime has been committed. Similarly, we should drop the term “undocumented” because that term incorrectly implies that the people in question are simply missing some documents that they somehow are legally entitled to.

Since both sides use the word “immigrant” in their respective terms, I respectfully submit that “unlawful” would be a better term than either “illegal” or “undocumented”. The term “unlawful” does not carry the implication that a crime has been committed.

The right should not object to the term “unlawful” because the Heritage Foundation already  uses the term “unlawful immigrant”. Libertarians should also not object because the  Cato Institute uses the term “unlawful immigration”.

Democrats have also used the term “unlawful”.  United States Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Lucille Roybal-Allar, to name just a couple, have used the term “unlawful” to describe immigrants in bills they submitted. See Shaheen’s bill here and Roybal-Allar’s bill here.

In Arizona v. United States, the hotly debated 2012 Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision, both liberal and conservative justices used the term “unlawful” in their opinions. The liberal majority talked about “unlawful immigration” and “unlawful presence”. Now the liberal justices also used the term “illegal immigration” in their opinion (!), but let’s focus on the fact that the term “unlawful” was used by both liberal and conservative justices in describing those unlawfully present in the US.

SCOTUS was very clear: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable [legalese for “deportable”] alien to remain in the United States.”. That is exactly the point I made above, and their statement isn’t exactly news. It has been the case for a long time, perhaps going all the way back to July 4, 1776.

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Because people are so divided on what they think government policy should be on immigration, there is little chance that the term “unlawful immigrant” will catch on. Both sides will fear that they lose an edge in the debate. But I for one do use the term “unlawful immigrant”.

League of Women Voters e-mail fingers “particularly resistant candidate”, falls silent when questioned

The League of Women Voters (LWV) claims to be fair and non-partisan in all that they do. Their local activities include organizing debates, putting together voter guides, performing voter registration drives, just to name a fee things. One of the local organizations that perform these allegedly “non-partisan” activities is League of Women Voters St. Peterburg Area (LWVSPA)

Yet despite their claims of being honest brokers, LWVSPA Voter Service Committee Chair Raechel Garafalo inadvertently referred to me (Tom Rask) as a “particularly resistant candidate”. This occurred in an e-mail accidentally sent to the me instead of its intended recipient.

Garafalo’s characterization was apparently based on a 2014 e-mail exchange between us when I ran for the Pinellas County Commission. There appears to be nothing in the exchange that would warrant such a negative characterization, but you be the judge.

Before publishing this article, I asked Garafalo these and other questions:

+ What does the LWV think I was “particularly resistant” to when I ran for office in 2014?
+ Does the LWVSPA have a list of “particularly  resistant” candidates? If so, please provide that list.
+ By which criteria does the LWV classify candidates in this fashion.
+ The person named Delia who you intended the e-mail for – is that Delia Miller? If not, who is it?
+ Do you intend to resign as Voter Service Committee Chair?

No response was received by the time of publication of this article. LWVSPA claims it “does not support or oppose any candidate for elective office”, but they seem to have a rather obvious internal bias towards some candidate(s).

The LWV of Florida has faced increasing criticism in Florida as they have advocated for Medicaid expansion and and opposed private school voucher expansion. They have similarly faced charges of having a leftist bias in Colorado.

LWV_parody

The League has also run ads attacking Republicans in tight races and Democrats in safe races, and called such criticism evidence of their non-partisan nature.

Some people think I see out controversy, but here I was just minding my own business on a Tuesday evening when the LWVSPA e-mail arrived about events more than two years in the past.  They may have the memory of an elephant, but elephants they are not, if you catch my drift.