We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, March 31. 2010
Some day, in years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process.
Posted by Opie in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 15:11 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
One never knows where Lent will take you. A month or two ago, I was fairly certain that I knew what painful, self-flagellating things I needed this Lent for, but it has led me in another direction entirely, and a direction which offers more joy than pain.
It has led me to another level of the relational aspect of faith, as my posts during this Lent have indicated. It crystallized in my mind when I was contemplating my relationship with dogs during a recent night-time post-prandial dog-walk with my pal with ceegars. I generally connect with dogs pretty well, and think I have a good idea of how much of the bond is real and how much is imaginary.
Everything we experience in life is relational, in a sense - including to inanimate things and abstract things. It's how we are constructed. If I can delight in the slobbering kisses of a dog, what is it in me that prevents me from fully delighting in the (not-slobbering) kisses of God?
I won't go on with this because it's too personal and probably boring for anybody who isn't exactly where I am, but maybe you can get my drift. I am a work in progress.
Saturday evening, out the car window en route to the theater -
Posted by Bird Dog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 12:16 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
I guess you could also call it a Redneck TelePrompter.
Posted by Gwynnie in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 10:59 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
The vile Al Sharpton
The O plays the long game
The imperial history of the Middle East in 90 seconds
Teach them young, Part 2: Colleges Help Big Government Expand Food Stamp Rolls
Obama Steps Up Confrontation - White House Seeks to Rally Supporters With Aggressive Tone Against Opponents
Insty: Waxman's war on accounting
Drill, drill, drill. Something good from the O
Shelby Steele: Barack the Good
Tuesday, March 30. 2010
In the rush to enact ObamaCare, the uproar from Democrats should not be surprising over the few announcements so far by major corporations of billions of dollars of charges for the elimination of part of the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage subsidy to employers.
Indeed, the Senate Republicans had not featured this explosion in employer costs before the corporations began announcing the charges, nor had the corporations (except Caterpillar).
The Democrats’ motivation to be quiet is evident. The Republicans had a hard enough time exposing the many real direct federal budget impacts. Major corporations are not, despite liberal assertions, conservative nor brave, probably avoiding the pillorying of them that is now happening from Democrats, heads in the sand when it may have helped avoid the ill consequences to them and their retirees by ObamaCare.
Now, corporations, already under severe pressure from retiree medical plan costs, have to face the music and have further justification and impetus to reduce or abandon their retiree Rx programs. They are imploring Congress to repeal this portion of ObamaCare, but receiving back Obama administration opposition to repeal.
Prescription benefits to employer plan retirees is broader than from Part D. The Part D subsidy to corporations is to encourage corporations to continue their benefits, at a savings to the federal budget and to retirees.
The subsidy will continue. However, after 2012 corporations will no longer be able to deduct against income that portion of their Rx plans that are subsidized. The Congressional Joint Committee On Taxation’s (JCT) March 20 calculation (page 2) estimates that $4.5 billion higher federal taxes will be paid by corporations between 2013-2019, rising from $400 million to $1 billion a year over that period.
Let’s look deeper into the numbers.
According to the 2009 Medicare Trustees Report, about 19% of those covered by Part D are in the plans of former private employers (excludes TRICARE, VA and FEHB for military and former federal employees), or 6.3 million out of 33.2 million beneficiaries. (page 160) The employer subsidy amounts to an average $594.54 per enrollee. (page 163) The subsidy is about 28% of employer retiree plan drug expenses. So, the total 2009 employer retiree Rx cost in 2009 is about $2123.36 per covered retiree, or $13.4 billion.
Congressionally mandated accounting rules require employers to take current charges for the future actuarial costs of their retirement programs. Depending on the employer’s present and forecast tax bracket, each employer offering a retiree Rx program must add up to 35% or more to their tax liability for the program for the future years. Hence the charge that employers must now take and fund is cumulatively many multiples of the $4.5 billion initial eight year increased taxes that proponents of passing ObamaCare depended upon. The exact amount will not emerge until all companies finish their calculations, but the $1 billion charge to AT&T alone gives us some idea of the cumulative effect.
Now, let’s look at the impact on the federal budget if all the corporations now offering retiree Rx coverage abandon their program. They should be expected to be looking at that, even more favorably now than before ObamaCare.
According to the 2009 Medicare Trustees Report, total benefit payments, including the employer subsidy, was $50 billion in 2008 (expected to increase to $140 billion in 2018). Subtracting the entire $3.7 billion subsidy, that leaves $46.3 billion. Divide that by the 26.9 million Part D beneficiaries not covered by a subsidized employer retiree Rx plan, and you get $1721.19 budget cost per enrollee. Let’s subtract 10% from that as a guesstimate that retirees from employers may be healthier than the other average Part D beneficiaries, and that Medicare Part D benefits are lower (though increased by ObamaCare in future years to nearer parity), and you get $1549.07. That is $954.53 higher than the subsidy, or would have meant $6 billion increased federal budget expense in 2008, an increase of 12% if private employers had abandoned their retiree Rx programs in 2008.
Multiply that $6 billion and increase it for an average annual 7% increase in prescription costs, 7% being the Medicare estimate, and you have literally hundreds of billions of dollars of increased federal expenses, further deepening the already intolerable projected budget deficits.
The CBO estimate of ObamaCare depended upon the JCT estimate for the initial costs of ObamaCare, and did not take into account employers consequently being motivated to cease their retiree Rx programs.
Corporate, Medicare and other actuaries will be working and reworking the actual figures as this debacle unfolds. Actual impacts may well be less than the above worst case, but the dimensions are clear.
As we can see with regards to Part D as well as most other portions of ObamaCare, to believe in the incomplete CBO forecasts or the Democrats’ thinly veiled promises deserves a big Part D for Dummy.
P.P.S.: The New York Times editorializes that the eliminated Part D tax break is "double dipping." The NYTs conveniently, totally ignores that it saves the federal budget many tens of billions of dollars, while helping to continue better retiree Rx benefits. The NYTs asserts that, after all, " If some retirees do lose their company drug benefits, they can buy government-subsidized coverage in Medicare..." and the added cost to taxpayers is irrelevant to the NYTs.
Economics for Dummies: Weekly Standard
I think it's a useful concept. Here's how these folks define it.
The great ocean currents are an interesting tangle, global cooling aside. Our Gulf Stream is just one segment of this thing:
- "Authentic" classical music, with original instruments and strict constructionists directing (eg John Eliot Gardiner) was popular over the past couple of decades. Interesting too. But is it time to Forsake Authenticity?
- I am having a good time going through Jacquetta Hawkes' The Atlas of Early Man: The Rise of Man Across the Globe, From 35,000 B.C. to A.D. 500 With Over 1,000 Maps And Illustrations. It is structured like a timeline so you can see what was going on across the globe with civilization and pre-civilization during different periods.
- No Christian heroes, please.
- I have been advised to watch Ridley Scott's 2005 Kingdom of Heaven. Anybody seen it?
Posted by Bird Dog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 12:06 | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)
Firearms deaths fall as millions obtain permits. Related: The UN's Worldwide Anti-Gun Agenda Aims at the USA
Irony Meter Explodes: Global Warming Activist Freezes to Death in Antarctica
Related: Weathermen are climate skeptics
Brit Libs: What special relationship?
Obama surrenders gulf oil to Moscow: The Russians are coming - to drill in our own backyard
Pro-Life speech is traumatizing? Who knew Feminazis were so delicate?
Am Thinker: Sucking the Blood of the Ambitious
Social Justice? Blech
Rasmussen: 54% Favor Repeal of Healthcare
Monday, March 29. 2010
"I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."
"I have a feeling..."!?!? Well, I have a feeling too, and it is that such people give me the creeps.
I like the look of David's new place (Never Yet Melted). Sort of a Virginia version of Maggie's Farm.
Posted by Bird Dog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Cruel but amusing: tons of photos from WalMart, America's favorite store, here.
Wide Load below -
Posted by Bird Dog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:04 | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)
Jay Schalin at The Pope Center
Posted by The Barrister in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 15:43 | Comment (1) | Trackbacks (0)
Healthcare, via Powerline:
How much of what shapes our lives is luck and serendipity? Most of us have met our spouse by chance, and many even have their jobs or even their careers by stumbling onto something.
On Maggie's Farm, we like to view life optimistically as an endless conveyor belt of opportunities, but with few of them passing by more than once. Thus do we necessarily accumulate regrets over time.
But what is luck made of? What is Fate made of? In part (and only in part), it is made of these ingredients:
"Character is destiny." - Sigmund Freud
"Chance favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur
"You make your own luck." - Ernest Hemingway
"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." -Thomas Jefferson
"I've found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often." - Brian Tracy
"Suit up, show up, and shut up." - AA aphorism, and the closely related Woody Allen quote: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."
This topic came to mind as I reflected on our corny but deeply true QQQs on persistence. Persistence tends to work because it works on a statistical basis. If a fellow hits on enough gals in the pub, he'll eventually get lucky.
Of course, knowing when to fold 'em is part of wisdom too. Sometimes sunny optimism is plain stupid.
Joshua and Caleb are the only Jews from the original exodus from
At the Passover Seder tonight traditional prayers and foods remind us of the trials and purpose of the exodus. The centrality of Jerusalem to Jews across the millennium is seen at the conclusion of the Seder when we all say “Next Year In Jerusalem,” as in every removal of the Torah from the ark we sing, “For from Zion [Israel] shall come forth Torah and the Word of Hashem [G-d] from Jerusalem.”
The manner in which the Seder is conducted is intended to educate the children, a wise one, a wicked one, a simple one, and one who doesn’t know to ask, as are all adults whether Jewish or other. Hence, we begin the narrative of Exodus (Haggadah) with the Four Sons.
The Torah refers to four sons: One wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question. What does the wise son say? "What are the testimonials, statutes and laws Hashem our G-d commanded you?" You should tell him about the laws of Pesach, that one may eat no dessert after eating the Pesach offering.
What does the wicked son say? "What does this drudgery mean to you?" To you and not to him. Since he excludes himself from the community, he has denied a basic principle of Judaism. You should blunt his teeth by saying to him: "It is for the sake of this that Hashem did for me when I left
What does the simple son say? "What's this?" You should say to him "With a strong hand Hashem took me out of
And the one who does not know how to ask, you start for him, as the Torah says: "And you should tell your son on that day, saying 'It is for the sake of this that Hashem did for me when I left
The passage of the four sons raises many questions:
Continue reading "Passover Lessons: Joshua, Caleb and the Four Sons"
Here. Wholesome indeed. Heads up, as it were, Boy Scouts.
Posted by Gwynnie in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 10:12 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
Helping the poor one lie at a time
Specter of Doctor Shortage Looms Over Obamacare. Maybe we need millions of barefoot doctors with bags of herbs like they had in China.
Sunday, March 28. 2010
When Christ rode into Jerusalem down from the Mount of Olives on a colt (or small horse, or donkey - whatever) on Palm Sunday, he was greeted with Hosannas by excited crowds who believed him to be the Messiah.
His teachings and his miracles had become famous. People threw their cloaks on the road and, presumably, palm leaves, for his horse to walk on.
Much of their enthusiasm was unwarranted, however: the Jews were hoping for a political messiah (using the word "king"), more than they were hoping for the messiah who came to tell them that much of what they believed about being in relationship with God was wrong - and claiming that he had the authority to say so.
"Salvation," for the crowds, meant salvation from the Romans, and "the kingdom of God," in the Hebrew Bible, referred to the literal restoration of a nation of Israel under God, as had been promised to David. There was no concept at the time, I believe, of the now-Christian idea of salvation or the Christian idea of "the kingdom of God." Furthermore, Jesus had no interest I am aware of in politics or governance and had no beef with the Romans.
A radical for sure, in his apparent renunciation of the ordinary world.
There is plenty of discussion about what is understood by the kingdom of God.
My own view is that it refers to God's domain, ie the universe of those souls who seek relationship with God - not any literal kingdom but a "spiritual" (I hate that word), unworldly kingdom. Maybe "transcendent" is a better word.
I suspect that the Jews who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem were deeply disappointed to discover that Jesus' mission was not worldly, but other-worldly: only a few handfuls of people remained to constitute what the scholars term the "Christ cult" after the crucifixion. It took Paul's inspired work to rebuild on the foundation.
(That's just my amateur take on it all. I am no expert.)
Image: Fra Angelico's Entry into Jerusalem
In the wake of Obamacare, the MSM has been busy this week reinventing a partisan myth - the myth that Conservatives and "regular Americans" are violent, white, chronically angry, racist, homophobic, greedy, selfish, mouth-breathing troglodytes.
Shrinks know all about myth creation, because most peoples' life stories are personal myths. These political myths, however, are deliberately constructed, mass ad hominen smears on millions - including me. I do not mind non-violent political anger at all, but I do mind smears.
Just a few posts on the recent propaganda I noticed today:
- The Washington Post Reminds You, All Criticism of the President Is Racist
- Powerline: More Thoughts On Liberal Political Violence
- "Dozens" show up at Nevada Tea Party
- Jammie: Frank Rich Loses Me at Kristallnacht
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