Arthur in the Dumps

I had previously, via facebook, this blog, and another blog, lauded the fact that Arthur magazine was coming back. The original (first?) version of it lives in infamy on various torrent sites and usenet back alleys and it was worth a read. Even if you didn’t agree with it, you could understand the reasoning for how they got there. It was sort of like what Rolling Stone should have been if it was more interested in cultural movements than making a point.

The problem is, the new Arthur (weirdly edited by Jay Babcock) wants to make a political point. I never remember it being like this. It’s so retarded I had to actually google make sure it wasn’t another Jay Babcock with the same name. It’s not. He’s just another washed up living corpse on the shores of lake LSD with no braincells capable of reason anymore. The post which had me remove Arthur from my RSS, facebook and two blogs was Repeal the Second Amendment. The original magazine was witty and funny and had this Mad sort of illustration. It toured music and culture.

Jay Babcock weirdly tries to pull an appeal to authority by saying “Well I edited SWAT magazine”. Well here’s an issue (GET IT?) – he never edited SWAT magazine. I’m not a huge fan of SWAT magazine, I can safely say I never knew it existed. On the other hand, I can google, and no-where is Jay Babcock credited as an editor of SWAT magazine. Modern Gun? Nope. He didn’t do that one either. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say maybe he edited under some sort of pen name but neither magazine turned up any references to him as an editor.

Now this gives us a particularly interesting problem – if he’s not being truthful about his editing of the firearms magazines, how can we trust him as a cultural commentator? We can’t. More importantly there’s now a serious issue where not only is he lying, but if someone submitting content to a magazine which “has no gatekeepers” and it doesn’t toe his line, we can expect it to be removed. This isn’t about free speech, Jay Babcock is just a huge a nazi as the “publishing gatekeepers” he claims to “destroy”.

More on the point, a magazine is just a thing, it’s a medium. He should be able to publish what he wants, just like SWAT should be able to publish what it wants. It’s sort of this live and let live environment where he claims professional and mutual respect. The problem is that instead of then condemning murder as wrong and recognizing that there is evil in the hearts of men (incredibly ironic given his “insider position” in “that culture”), he claims we should repeal the second amendment. He doesn’t, of course, suggest that freedom of speech and a culture of violence (teen slasher movies, violent TV, making the killers a household name on the news and magazines) influence people more than actually holding and owning a gun. Far be it from him to ask we repeal the first amendment to prevent the glorification of violence than to repeal the second amendment which somehow would prevent people from just reaching for their kitchen knife, or truck full of fertilizer, lime and diesel fuel.

Between Babcock being a liar and the new, low standard of content on Arthur, I’m sorry to see it’s back. I can’t help but shake my head at the terrible irony of a culture commentary magazine that doesn’t recognize print’s contribution to culture. Adios, Arthur.

Four More Years of Half Assing Everything

We now have four more years of half assing everything. Seeing how I had plenty of time to ruminate on this topic sitting in the dark in the storm battered northeast, this has been rattling around in my head for quite a bit. Like many voters, I’m socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Both candidates fit (and didn’t fit) my bias in wholly opposite but mostly related ways. There’s very few differences between Romney and Obama. The problem, I think, is that the average American voter just didn’t give a shit about either one. What pushed me to Romney wasn’t so much encouragement from him, but rather that I feel Obama does everything half assed. If he’s thinking more than a year out, I would be surprised. More on the point Obama frames everything in us-against-them, whereas Romney frames most of his stuff in “common sense math”. Obama and his base tend to turn me off with the divisiveness, so I expect this to be a lame duck four years. No-one is really interested in working across the aisle with a guy who says “Voting is the best revenge” instead of “we can compromise”. I was somewhat surprised at the election results, but it was narrow enough with each candidate getting 50%-ish of the vote that I think I probably am in tune with the majority of America. The problem which no-one is pointing out at the moment is that each candidate also received only 25%-ish of the possible votes. That means 50% of America simply doesn’t care. This is bad. That idea alone should really raise your hackles, that means 75% of America doesn’t want what the other guy is doing (or said he would do). If “your guy” won, it does not mean you’re in a majority. There is no mandate here.

What is the mandate for then? Since neither party has 2/3rds majority required to force things through, the mandate is for Obama to actually work across the aisle. If you’re someone who feels like he does this and does it well, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you’re someone who noticed nothing has been happening (judging from the blame game of “obstructionist Republicans”, “yes”), I expect at least two more years of lame ducking, if not an entire term of it.

Cries of the “culture war” being over and other such nonsense will be laughed off the blog.

Lets take a look at what we can expect:

Obamacare Raising Taxes - This went from being “interesting” to “WTF” when the Supreme Court decided the election for us. Romney stumped on Obamacare rather than other issues, but the elephant in the room was that Romney couldn’t implement Romneycare as he did in his home state because of the Supreme Court ruling that you can’t fine people for not buying something. The individual mandate we upheld as a tax penalty. Obama therefore did raise taxes on us, and Romney really couldn’t run against Obamacare aside of it being way too complicated.

Obamacare on employement – This is one of two places I wish it was repealed and didn’t get brought up in the debates. The IRS counts “part time” as 39 hours a week. Obamacare counts “part time” as 30 hours a week. Obviously this doesn’t quite add up nicely, so businesses are running split shifts now where people are being cut to 20 hours a week to make the scheduling line up nicely. One of my buddies commented that more businesses are hiring more people for less hours. This isn’t actually how that works. More businesses are hiring the same people to work the finite amount of hours. If there’s 40 hours worth of work to do something, and your business doesn’t want to pay the health insurance fees, you just cut those 40 hours a week in half. Really the net result here is that people who were comfortable with their earnings now have the headache of balancing split shift schedules for their two (or three) jobs who hardly give them any hours. The implementation in Obamacare sucks and could be solved by…

Obamacare single payer – This was never actually on the table, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have merit. If we had single payer (something I strongly object to if Medicare/Medicade services are any indication of how it works), then people working 60 hours a week at their now 20 hours a week jobs would have healthcare. This would have been an expansion of medicare/medicade but since Obama is some sort of egoistic toolbox he had to come up with a separate government body to administer this stuff. It just doesn’t make sense.

Obamacare on Gay Marriage - or just gay marriage in general. Obamacare still has strong gender typing in the language (“bride and groom” language). Obama is in a particularly weird position where he now has to run against his own legislation in order to legalize gay marriage if this is even on his bill. The terribly irony here is that Romney’s position of states-rights is actually whats happening for both legalizing marijuana and gay marriage. Again, this is a place where Romney might actually have done better making this a states-rights issue and repealing Obamacare versus having a guy in office who has to defend his own train wreck. I suspect Obama’s ego is way too huge to fix this. Romney’s own position on it was actually the most flexible – if we define “marriage” as “between a man and a woman” and “gay marriage” as “domestic partnership”, then we can simply amend Obamacare to include domestic partnership if Romney failed to repeal Obamacare. This is roughly how Joe Biden deals with abortion, which he is “100% opposed to” and the whole Catholic Social Doctrine comment.

(GM) Bailouts - GM is insolvent again. While it’s Just Wrong to bailout a company, this is what Bain Capitol was doing to a T. Instead of Chapter 11, they would loan the company money and be the co-signer. Either people like the bailout and then should accept Bain or people object to Bain and should see the bailout as a trap. As it stands, GM didn’t produce anything that anyone was interested in buying, so they’re insolvent again. Could there have been another way? Yes. Obama should have put import tariffs on cars and paid for the bailout with that while increasing competition. One of my coworkers I was discussing this with said that “But cars are made from all over!” Well that’s sort of the point. We’re not tariffing parts (people have to maintain their crapmobiles in this economy, after all), we’re tariffing where the cars are assembled. All the Japanese made Toyotas would become more expensive. All the American made Toyotas wouldn’t get hit with it. Either Toyota creates more jobs here by expanding it’s plant or it has to pay the price. GM’s bailout gets offset by the tariff until they catch up. Companies like Mitsubishi making their cars in Mexico pay the tariff on 100% of all their stuff. And what about GM making cars in Mexico? They probably should expand their local plant and make some jobs. It’s a win-win.

Four more years of half assed status quo. The upside is that with re-election, Obama can’t blame the last term’s policy.

Morality in Religious Asceticism

The American Thinker was better when he was less personally invested in things but he still posts strong and interesting arguments. His post on Bidens Abortion Blarney is interesting to read but I would have actually called it Morality in Religious Asceticism.

I try to cut Biden a break with the Grain of Salt the size of a truck. He’s got mental issues. He’s clearly had a stroke or some sort of neurological problem recently. His kid had a stroke, and we know Joe Biden had an aneurysm, so we know the family isn’t running on all eight. We don’t know if he has had any subsequent health issues but judging from the uneven smile and the personality change in the middle of the debate (not the laughing, but the tone) I think it’s extremely likely. The sad part is that Obama (black, middle-aged, high stress job) is three for three for “likely to have a heart attack or stroke” so we could end up with two guys in office with brain damage.

That being said, Biden is pretty much the king of contradicting himself in the same breath, and you can hit up numerous political commentary websites for that. What particularly bothers me isn’t politicians being politicians but politicians ignoring morality. I think the American Thinkers post on Biden on Abortion sums it up nicely. Freedom is about maximizing the rights of the minority while preserving the rights of the majority. Liberty is about keeping to yourself and doing what you want so long as it doesn’t end up on the next guys lawn. Not only are these two distinct concepts, but they are inseparable in the vast majority of cases. It is freedom which would allow gays to marry, it is liberty when they get married. See what’s going on here? It doesn’t infringe on the rights of the typical Christian to allow gays to marry because the typical Christian isn’t gay. It doesn’t affect the liberty of the typical Christian when gays marry except in one very small instance – the official marrying the gays is party to the liberty of the gay marriage. See what Biden did? He’s claiming he’s a Catholic and following social doctrine but not “telling people what to do”. The problem is, if you’re gay, and you’re a Christian, the church isn’t going to marry you.

So lets apply this to a more extreme example per the American Thinker. If you’re a racist, you have the freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. You have the liberty to say it – these are synonymous, but you do not have the liberty to discriminate. There are people in a purely libertarian environment who would argue that liberty = freedom and therefor they own a private business and they can tell whoever they want to fuck off. In some cases, this is actually true. You cannot sell a car to a 10 year old.

“Sure, because it’s codified in the law!”

Well that’s sort of the point. When it comes to abortion it’s not enough to say, “blah blah Catholic Social Doctrine” while discreetly beating off to a picture of Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Ryan’s answer is The Correct Answer. “This is the law and this the application of the law”.

What happens when we have an excess of freedom or liberty is injustice. Ironically, Obama sued Citibank for this very situation – he played the race card and while Citibank wanted the liberty to give everyone a shitty loan, it did not have the freedom to hand out loans under terrible conditions. Citibank drops the idea that things would be “more fair” if it was somehow compelled to hand out more loans and make more money and suddenly it’s vogue to make sure “everyone gets a loan”. Predictably, people who shouldn’t ever have gotten a loan are now given a loan in our “more fair” society and the whole machine explodes years later. Not hard to see why Obama was quick to shovel money into the bailout machine, it looks extremely bad to sue to compel a company to do something and then have that very something explode. It’s hush money. Rewinding the topic – why then should we compel the catholic church to marry gays? Gays have a freedom to get married, they are at liberty to be married, they do not have the right to be married in a church. That being said, there’s churches that will do it and honestly I think the message in the Bible to love one another and so these churches should do it – but that’s a personal view and probably more fit for another blog. The takeaway here is that it’s entirely up to the church, but they can’t bitch about gay marriage if we entirely secularize it. And we should, if not for the tax revenue.

Liberty stems from freedom, but where does freedom come from?

Freedom comes from protecting the rights of the few in the face of the rights of the many. The collective argument for this is “your right to throw a punch ends at my face”. The problem when you stop believing in the worth of individuals is that freedom suddenly stems from the whims of the majority. It’s dead simple.

That’s really what Biden is saying – “I don’t know where freedom comes from, so it’s just whatever most people want”. It’s a terrible way to run a country.

Joe Biden Undresses Paul Ryan (With His Eyes)

Random debate notes. I started playing the drinking game and it hit hard early.

I’ve pretty much decided by the end of the debate that Joe Biden was coached to laugh at whatever Paul Ryan said.

Here’s the problem: He’s laughing at the moderator, he’s laughing when Ryan is talking about foreign policy. Ryan says “Americans are dying” and Biden is smiling. Not a good place to chuckle.

I was particularly curious as to how people interpreted the phenomenon, so I started a poll. Go ahead and take it.

I was actually sort of worried that the moderator (who’s spouse works for Obama) wouldn’t be fair, I actually think she did a really good job.

I also think age is catching up with Biden – on the question of the “Bush Tax Cuts” (why not? we call the healthcare package “Obamacare”) Biden said he was not going to continue the cuts. While this makes economic sense in terms of reducing the debt and deficit, this doesn’t jive with the whole “save the middle class” message Obama is trodding. Then Biden points out “the opposition” is trying to “have a vote for the middle class tax cuts and have a vote for the upper class tax cuts”. Why not break it out to a separate vote?

One of the things that pissed me off about Ryan was he should have pressed the two level flat tax he proposed but it didn’t come up. It’s an interesting solution – if we make everyone decide what’s fair for everyone and fucking stick to it, things might be vastly different.

Also Biden just equated the turks with the saudis and jordanians. Some idiot is going to paste that into the foreign policy question. Ryan called him on it by pointing out who’s committed state sponsored genocide, but on the other hand Turkey provides the air corridor to the gulf. I happen to like Ryans stance in putting boots on the ground (“Only in the national security interests of the American people”).

The abortion question was a stinger for Biden – Biden had previously said he was 100% against abortion and justified that with the obvious “but it’s not my place to tell people what to do” (he is only the vise president after all). Delaware gets a C from NARAL, which gives it a firmly middle ground performance. Massachusetts gets a B. Biden listened to Ryan (again, whats with the laugh?), tries to frame Ryan for being against abortion (which he isn’t), then comes up with a bizarre quit about not telling Jews and Muslims what to do. Islam holds the same beliefs the Catholics (Christians) do. Jews are split down the middle as there’s no rabbinic guidelines on when life begins. As per usual, there’s no mention of third party religions or the “nones.”

The hilarious question at the end was “are you embarrassed at the tone of the debates?” Biden completely dodged it and jumped to closing statements, which is a reasonably solid plan for the debate structure but does nothing for his position. Ryan didn’t call Biden on the laughing, although I think I would have. Ryans closing statements (oops, I mean “tone of the debate”) summed the position up nicely, which was a Clintonesque “It’s the economy, stupid”.

Closing remarks were roughly the same as the tone of the debate question, clearly neither side was particularly interested in discussing it.

The Party of God

This is one of these things which is righteous and interesting, but not for the reasons I think people bandy it around for. The Republican convention had a Seikh open with a prayer.

Think about that for a moment – that is a huge gesture. The prayer wasn’t Christianized either, it was probably how a seikh would pray. (I suspect most seikhs meditate, but whatever). The detraction is “Oh ok that’s a nice gesture, because that temple just got shot up”. No it’s much bigger than that, it’s the problems the Democrats have had for the longest time. The Republicans have the three Gs cornered (Gold, God, Guns). When you ask what the Democrats have in terms of religion – well, they don’t. Dolan is offering the closing prayer but frankly he should have told both parties to go fuck themselves with the moderate stance on abortion. Biden is anti-abortion, but being VP it doesn’t really matter. Romney is a rule-of-law person (he has to be since he lives and dies by tax code) so he’s a RvW guy. Both of these positions are offensive to the Catholic church. The Mormons go slightly easier on the topic and say:

In 1973, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement regarding abortion, which is still applicable today:

The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.

That’s a fairly centrist position as far as the religious go. But it’s also an important point: Romney is a Mormon.

What the Republicans are doing, very clandestinely, is becoming not the party of Christ, but the party of the spiritual. Some of them might even be religious. Sure there’s going to be fringe objections to this – the Republicans have to deal with the collapse and re-integration of the Tea Party the same way the Democrats have to deal with their fringe Green elements – but they split off before and they can split off again. From the sound of the Ron Paul supporters at the RNC, I suspect it’ll happen. That being said, we’re actually watching an interesting paradigm shift. Will the elections after this one be held on spiritual grounds rather than economics?

Update – Now With Video:

Obama Care Part Deuce

The American Thinker has up what he thinks will happen on the July 9th(?) vote – Republicans could repeal obamacare as a de-facto tax. If the argument is that it’s not a de-facto tax, then it’s subject to the Commerce Clause, which would make it unconstitutional. If it is a defacto tax, it’s subject to recall, which is simple majority.

Anyway that aside, what has my head scratching is what the heck Romney is waiting for. Obama has obamacare, which is a huge debacle. The original draft of the bill defrayed costs to health insurance companies by having them receive the “penalty money”. In fact, it’s worth discussing Romneycare, because it’s how this sort of thing is done correctly. Under Romneycare, both individuals and businesses had to pay a penalty for not having insurance. Individuals could receive an exemption to this for earning less than $50,000. That’s not a typo, that’s the number (this is roughly twice whats in Obamacare but the value depends on the federal poverty definition among other things). Businesses would pay the fine if they didn’t make “reasonable insurance” available if they had more than 10 employees. In every way, these make better talking points than Obama even has. Weirdly enough Huffington Post either is “pro Romneycare” when talking about Obama or anti-Romneycare when going back to 2006, speaking of talking points. If I were Romney I would be pointing all this out.

Where did all these fines go?

Romney set up a fund to expand medicare in his state. If you went to the ER without insurance, it paid the hospital. If you took the fine, it went into the slush fund. If you needed help affording insurance, it was a tax credit.

I know what you’re saying “But that IS Obamacare!”

No, it’s not. It required a mandate from the federal government to expand medicare which administered the plan. While I object to the expansion of the government, the one place the money wasn’t going was the insurance companies. The fine went into social programs, the money which left the social programs went to the hospitals. Medicare has price controls built in – when they’re involved, they dictate the price of what they’re paying for. This works really well. The higher the insurance companies jack up the prices, the more people end up on Medicare, the more they dictate the cost of what they’re paying for. The insurance companies either had to play ball or they had to withdrawal from the state.

What we’re critically missing from the Obamacare plan is the authority to regulate the insurance companies. The one line item requires insurance companies to spend 80% of their take on premiums, but now we have another interesting problem: With no authority from the commerce clause per the supreme court (which is why this is a tax and administered by the IRS in the first place), there’s really no defined oversight here. The argument I would make if I were Obama would be that health insurance companies pay 100% tax on everything they make over 80% of the premiums they put out, but the traditional stance taken by the government is that diversified companies pay only what their business units take in. LOLWUT?

Take Toll Brothers, which is vertically integrated. The company doesn’t pay logging fees based on profits from the entire company, nor does the land ownership division pay capital gains based on the value of land changing. They are governed by separate bodies of law. Similarly the business as a whole make or loses money, but it’s governed by individual laws for individual business functions. To put this in perspective, a commercial driver carries insurance for his own personal vehicle, but he also carries a bond and a professional insurance policy. My wife (a nurse) carries personal insurance for her life and injury, but we also carry professional insurance for malpractice along with malpractice insurance for the hospital at large.

Why is this important? The insurance companies already offer consulting services for things like minimizing workplace injury, passing OSHA exams, legal consulting, etc. If the insurance companies suddenly decide the take from premiums goes into the individual business units, it’s really not that hard to spend 100% (or more) of the funds which go into the “medical care” pot versus something like consulting which is obviously not a medical function and then not governed by the law. Remember, no commerce clause means this is virtually unenforceable and the IRS already exempts businesses which operate at a loss. The whole thing is hollywood accounting at it’s finest and the IRS has been giving it a pass for years in the movie and music industry. Why not the insurance industry now? Its one of the things that really pisses me off come tax time – people who are consultants and operate their own company (on paper) claim a loss on their taxes from a consulting company which doesn’t reimburse them for computers and such and taxpayers foot the itemized deductions.

All this being said, I don’t see there being a mass of insurance companies dumping people for two reasons: rescission has been illegal since 1996 in almost every state and without the expansion of medicare per romneycare, obamacare has nowhere to put people. I do see our healthcare generally going to shit – Europe has had a serious problem with complex, long term care like cancer and I expect the US going over to this sort of system will encourage this.