Not Far From The Tree

Everybody knows I’m a great fan of Texas senator Ted Cruz. It’s not that I agree with his politics or his thinking, it’s just that he makes really great copy and keeps me in material for this blog when the well runs a little dry. Such as today.

This meme was not created by some Facebook wonk, but is the work of cartoonist Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It invokes the theme of the Gadsden Flag from the Revolutionary War. The original showed a coiled rattlesnake, as does this cartoon, only the caption on the original flag was “Don’t Tread On Me.” In modern times we might say instead, “Don’t mess with me, Bro.”

The Tea Party movement also invokes a theme from the time of the Revolutionary War, the Boston Tea Party incident, and the name is meant to call up a supposed lost sense of patriotism and thirst for liberty. The cartoon speaks to how the modern Tea Party movement has blighted this once-proud symbol. In the past few weeks the Tea Party has acquired the ridicule not only of its principle opposition, the Democratic Party and America’s liberal faction, but also of its own foster parent, the Republican Party. And the principal author of this ridicule has been none other than our own Senator Ted Cruz from Texas.

However, this post is not about Senator Cruz. The topic today is Rafael Cruz, the father of the Texas senator.

Cruz senior is not a public figure in that he does not hold public office. He is however, the pastor of a Dallas-area church, and he has often spoken in behalf of the Senator in matters political. The Dallas Morning News reports on a story from Mother Jones.

Rafael Cruz, senator’s dad: send Obama “back to Kenya”

By Todd J. Gillman 10:06 am on October 31, 2013

WASHINGTON — Rafael Cruz, a Dallas-area pastor whose son was born in Canada and may run for president, apparently is a birther when it comes to President Barack Obama.

In September 2012, stumping for Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign, the elder Cruz spoke of sending Obama “back to Kenya.” That’s the land of birth for Obama’s father, though by every authoritative account, the 44th president was born in Hawaii, making him American two ways — by birth on American soil, and because his mother was a natural-born American from Kansas.

Ted Cruz’s own claim to eligibility is slightly more complicated.

Like Obama, he had one American citizen parent at the time of his birth (dad was still a Cuban citizen at the time) but unlike Obama, it’s unquestioned that he was actually born outside the United States.

That makes Rafael Cruz’s comments somewhat cheeky.

It’s also an indication of where Senator Cruz gets a lot of his crazy ideas—apparently not far from the tree.

The Grand Alliance

I’m back to reading Churchill again. The book is his The Second World War, which is in six volumes (four volumes in some editions). I have picked up again the third volume, The Grand Alliance.

War started with Germany when Hitler’s army invaded Poland in 1939. England and France had committed to war against Germany in that event, and hostilities commenced on 3 September. By June 1940 the German army had overrun and occupied also Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium, and France had surrendered to the conquering foe. England stood alone against Germany and its new partner in aggression, Italy, for many months after, with only its colonies and dominions for assistance. American neutrality was enforced by a staunchly anti-war Congress all this time, although President Roosevelt wrangled through agreements that allowed the United States to supply ships and war materials to England and ultimately to press a naval threat on German submarine patrols in the North Atlantic and elsewhere. England had won the Battle of Britain by successfully fighting off German air attacks in the latter part of 1940, but 1941 was to be England’s darkest time in the war.

England’s only recourse, its only means for countering the German and Italian forces was to attack the Italian army that was making war in North Africa and then resisting the German army that came to the Italian’s assistance when Mussolini’s forces faltered. Still, for most of the year 1941 was very bleak.

Some relief came when Hitler switched his attentions from England and attacked the Soviet Union in June. The story of Churchill and Stalin at this juncture would make a novel on its own, but for another time.

Toward the end of the year a new threat for England loomed as the Japanese Empire began to assume a more aggressive posture. Japan had for years been waging an war of aggression against China, and England and the United States were for once united in resistance to this threat. Churchill and Roosevelt collaborated closely on how to deal with the Japanese menace in the Western Pacific region. The Dutch, though defeated in their own country, maintained a government in exile and still managed their own colonial interests in what is now Indonesia. They threw in their lot with the British and the Americans.

In his book Churchill gives a brief review of the Japanese Empire and the transformation of the Japanese from a feudal society to a modern industrial power in the span of about two generations. By the beginning of the 20th century Japan was a major world naval force. Militaristic interests in the country saw military expansion as Japan’s manifest destiny, its right and obligation.

England, the United States, and the Netherlands government in exile resisted this Japanese expansion by embargoing critical material to Japan. Look at a map. Japan is an island nation of mostly volcanic mountainous geography. It has no petroleum of its own and scarce other mineral resources. Everything must be imported, and the three Western powers determined to strangle the Japanese war effort. On 10 November Churchill gave a talk that included the following remarks:

Viewing the vast, sombre scene as dispassionately as possible, it would seem a very hazardous adventure for the Japanese people to plunge quite needlessly into a world struggle in which they may well find themselves opposed in the Pacific by States whose populations comprise nearly three-quarters of the human race. If steel is the basic foundation of modern war, it would be rather dangerous for a Power like Japan, whose steel production is only about seven million tons a year, to provoke quite gratuitously a struggle with the United States, whose steel production is now about ninety millions; and this would take no account of the powerful contribution which the British Empire can make. I hope therefore that the peace of the Pacific will be preserved in accordance with the known wishes of Japan’s wisest statesmen. But every preparation to defend British interests in the Far East, and to defend the common cause now at stake, has been and is being made.

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). The Grand Alliance (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 9496-9502). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

In Japan there was a divergence of world view between the army and the navy. Until 100 years prior to World War II Japan had been a closed society, suffering few interactions with the remainder of the planet. In the 20th century Japan’s naval forces sailed the world’s oceans and visited foreign ports. Naval commanders, including Admiral Yamamoto, acquired a knowledge of what lay outside the home islands. The Japanese army had no such opportunity and possessed an unrealistic view of other cultures. While naval commanders were wary of challenging other world powers, in 1941 the army generals came to dominate Japanese politics and began to steer the country toward war. Churchill and Roosevelt soon came to the correct conclusion that Japan would initiate war against the Wester powers, and quite soon.

While Churchill dreaded conflict with Japan in this, its darkest year, he also saw that such an event would turn the Congress on its ear, and the United States, with its vast industrial resources, would enter the war and tilt the balance for good. Churchill promised President Roosevelt that in the event the United States went to war with Japan, England would have a declaration within the hour. He was good to his word.

In England Churchill was entertaining American ambassadors John Gilbert Winant and Averell Harriman at his home on a Sunday evening. He switched on his radio and caught a brief mention of Japanese attacks on American interests. A butler came in and confirmed the news. Japan had initiated a war with the United States and England.

From that moment, Churchill has stated, he foresaw the final outcome. With four fifths of the world’s population and maybe 90% of its industrial capacity pitted against the Axis powers, within a matter of a few years the people who had initiated this global conflagration would be standing with ropes around their necks.

Churchill gained the Nobel Prize in literature for this work, but it is not considered a definitive piece of history. Churchill was not a historian by profession, and he was not in a position to do the comprehensive research to produce a major historical work. He was, however, a master of language, and that’s what shows in his public life and in this work.

The War Cabinet authorised the immediate declaration of war upon Japan, for which all formal arrangements had been made. As Eden had already started on his journey to Moscow and I was in charge of the Foreign Office I sent the following letter to the Japanese Ambassador:

Foreign Office, December 8th
Sir,

On the evening of December 7th His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom learned that Japanese forces without previous warning either in the form of a declaration of war or of an ultimatum with a conditional declaration of war had attempted a landing on the coast of Malaya and bombed Singapore and Hong Kong.

In view of these wanton acts of unprovoked aggression committed in flagrant violation of International Law and particularly of Article 1 of the Third Hague Convention relative to the opening of hostilities, to which both Japan and the United Kingdom are parties, His Majesty’s Ambassador at Tokyo has been instructed to inform the Imperial Japanese Government in the name of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom that a state of war exists between our two countries.

I have the honour to be, with high consideration,

Sir,
Your obedient servant,
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL

Some people did not like this ceremonial style. But after all when you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). The Grand Alliance (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 9758-9770). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

It requires a Churchill to issue a death warrant with such panache and style.

Bad Movie of the Week

I seem to be putting these out on a less than once a week schedule. Maybe I should change the theme to “Bad Movie of the Month.” Nah. There are enough bad movies to have a Bad Movie of the Day.

Walter Pidgeon plays pat a cake with Joyce Compton

This one is Sky Murder, starring Walter Pidgeon in a Nick Carter detective role. It’s got everything going for it, star power and some presentable acting, and also one of the most absurd story lines to come out of MGM. Here’s the setting:

The United States has not entered World War II (the film was released in 1940) but Nazi agents are gearing up to wreak havoc. In the opening frames we see them at work with typical Nazi efficiency. A printer’s delivery truck is making its rounds at high speed. You have to ask why. At a signal along the way somebody throws a bundle of print off the back of the truck to be picked up by somebody waiting. This repeats until the high speed of the truck causes a crash when a tire blows. This is Nazi efficiency?

One of the truck’s occupants is severely injured. He cannot escape the crash scene (somewhere out in the country). The police are coming. I can’t figure out why. They cannot have known about the crash. They were too far away when the accident occurred. Anyhow the cops are coming on their motorcycles. The ambulatory survivor, in typical Nazi fashion, kills his injured cohort with a pistol shot and runs away. There must be nobody left at the scene who can talk.

The cops arrive at the crash and discover subversive propaganda leaflets scattered all around the crash site. Obviously fifth columnists are at work here. This is the kind of language that was popular 70 years ago.

Anyhow, this provides an opportunity for detective Nick Carter to be called in, and the story line follows a path that is so predictable, but with some hideous plot twists.

The wealthy business man hosting the investigating Senator Monrose is actually the ring leader of the subversives. Among the gaggle of absolutely stunning females who are also guests at the soirée is a woman with a past. Another male guest is an obvious Nazi sympathizer, who makes advances of the political kind on the troubled chick.

Then all are aboard the host’s private plane, where the Nazi sympathizer is murdered, and Nick sets out to figure out who and how. He has abundant help from his wacky side-kick Bartholomew, AKA “Beeswax.” Bartholomew is played by Donald Meek, who comes up to about the arm pit of a standard detective, but is extremely wiley and able to handle the bad guys mano-a-mano or even with a gun. Carter also has the assistance of daffy detective Christine Cross, played by Joyce Compton. Both are enough to keep Nick Carter on his toes and also to lend assistance in mauling this plot into submission.

Texas-born Chill Wills plays a New York sheriff, giving that official an accent that’s hard to figure out.

This is your movie if you enjoy improbable plot twists and dead ends. Spoiler alert: They capture all the Nazis, and there is a patriotic tip of the hat to the United States Army Air Corps, called in by the senator to help corral the Nazi leader’s plane.

Libertarian Liberty

Once again I have Facebook to thank. Somebody posted another cute meme that reminded me about an on-going political campaign:

Rand Paul stumps with Ken Cuccinelli

By JAMES HOHMANN | 10/28/13 2:31 PM EDT

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Michael Bloomberg has become the Republicans’ favorite punching bag in the closing days of the Virginia gubernatorial race.

Rand Paul seized on the New York City mayor’s new $1.1 million TV ad buy, which attacks Republican Ken Cuccinelli for opposing gun control, during a Monday afternoon rally here.

“Once he takes your guns, he’s coming after your Big Gulp,” the Kentucky senator said.

First the Big Gulp, then the guns. Senator Paul didn’t explain how that would work. For example, if people still have guns, then how are your going to be able to take away their Big Gulp? Work that one through for me, please.

You may know that Rand Paul is not what you would call a true Republican. He’s a Libertarian. Someone has described a Libertarian as a Republican with a bong. Libertarians are for all the liberties espoused by Republicans, only without the associated lifestyle restrictions.

Here’s where the cute meme comes in:

I hope the irony is apparent. Cuccinelli is a True Republican, seeking to ban homosexual marriage, contraception, oral sex, abortion, no-fault divorce plus possibly various liberties too obscure to be listed.

So, is Rand Paul a True Libertarian, or is he a True Republican seeking to garner the votes of conservative-minded free-thinkers? Senator, when you stand that close to a True Republican it becomes hard not to paint you both with the same brush.

The Comical Conservative

Apologies again, but I have to keep coming back to this. It’s The Comical Conservative, and I like it because it’s so conservative. Comical also, as you will see.

Somebody posted this on Facebook. It’s from The Comical Conservative. People post stuff from The Comical Conservative a lot, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Maybe not in the way that was intended, but enjoyment anyhow. Maybe that’s the perverse side of me. So, here’s the meme posted from The Comical Conservative. Ironically, it’s a comic:

Forget for a moment this strip is a rip from a very respected cartoonist who likely would not have shared the views expressed. Here’s what’s going on. Republicans have sidled up to a racist segment of society in order to garner votes and win elections, and with this contact some of the gloss has worn off the Republican brand. What this strip is attempting to do is to unload this Republican baggage onto the other major party. Here’s how it works, and also here is what has been left unsaid.

The story line is accurate as far as it goes. Historically in the 1850s the major political party in the United States was the Democratic Party, founded just a few years previous by Andrew Jackson, no friend of racial equality, but he got his picture on the $20 bill. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by people seeking to abolish slavery. The Democratic Party at the time and for the next 100 years opposed the abolition of slavery in the beginning and equal rights for former slaves and descendants of slaves following that. The Democratic Party’s base during the first half of the 20th century was the American Deep South—the region of the former Confederacy.

Then something happened. In 1960 a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts was elected president, and his vice president was a former senator from Texas. Together they fostered a new era of liberalism, with the Southern senator carrying on the movement after the president was murdered. Under the Democratic Party leadership in the 1960s enormous gains were made in voting and other rights for descendants of black slaves. Then something happened.

The Democratic Party’s former base, the conservative, racist Southern Whites deserted the Democratic Party en masse. Voters, politicians, some already holding elected office, they bailed out. And they went… Where?

They went to the Republican Party, of course. Unfortunately today the former party of racial equality can’t survive without the votes of this racist contingent, so election after election they drag this baggage, left over from the century before the previous, to the polls with half-spoken promises and soothing words of comfort. Not fully endorsing the darker side of humanity, the GOP soldiers on, too fearful to publicly denounce this putrid corpse. What conservatives do, instead, is attempt to slough off some of the stench onto the opposition. Not always well-played. As in the following:

The latest piece of dead weight to attach itself to the GOP has been the Tea Party movement, leading to some considerable embarrassment:

Republican protesters sing, ‘Bye Bye Black Sheep’, hold racist signs ‘Impeach the half-white Muslim’

Protesters gathered from both sides of the political spectrum outside of the venue where President Obama was speaking in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday. While the crowd was populated largely with Obama supporters, his opponents yelled out racially charged derogatory statements. While their racism was on display for the world to witness, one woman actually blamed President Obama for racial tensions.

In today’s political climate, you don’t have to go far to find remnants of the old Confederacy. Just head over to the next Tea Party function.

Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”

Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.

“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.

You’re a good man, Charlie Brown. Just be careful and don’t stand too close to those Tea Baggers. Some of that stuff might rub off.

Liberal Left Watch

I can’t get enough of these. I set out yesterday to demonstrate that liberals are just too uninteresting. I like to post memes I’ve picked up on conservative sites. They’re meaty, and they challenge the imagination. The ones I’ve been finding on sites such as Americans Against the Republican Party are too factual or else too obvious to be of interest to all but the most perverted minds. Take this one:

All right, here’s a crusty old white man (actually a white man this time), and he has something to say. The first thing I find wrong is what he has to say is actually humorous. He’s trying to make a joke, and it was all I could do to keep from laughing.

But here’s what’s so bad about this one. It almost contains an element of truth. No, no. Cute political memes are best when real truth is totally absent.

Try harder next time, Americans Against the Republican Party.

Liberal Left Watch

Recently I’ve been making a lot of fun of conservatives by posting stuff on this blog that conservatives previously posted somewhere else. I’ve found that an excellent way to make fun of conservatives is to repeat out loud things they among themselves. My apologies.

As I mentioned before I like to pick on conservatives, because they are just a lot of fun. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to be deadly dull. Who wants to be told stuff you already believe, and who wants to be told things you already know? Anyhow, I’m going to illustrate just how deadly dull these liberals can be. To start with I went to a Facebook site called

Americans Against The Republican Party and pulled out this meme:
People, what’s the point of this? Where’s the interest? Where’s the controversy? Where’s the outrage? Can you imagine my trying to make a story out of this?
No way! Give me a Republican blog post any day of the week. Now there’s a story in the making. Come back often. See more.

Baa baa Black Sheep, have you any wool?

It’s from a very old nursery rhyme:

Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full;
One for the master,
And one for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

This seems to be the inspiration for a story from last August. The story came with this screen shot:

Sorry, conservatives, but if you guys stand too close together it’s going to be hard to keep from painting you all with the same brush.

Republican protesters sing, ‘Bye Bye Black Sheep’, hold racist signs ‘Impeach the half-white Muslim’

Protesters gathered from both sides of the political spectrum outside of the venue where President Obama was speaking in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday. While the crowd was populated largely with Obama supporters, his opponents yelled out racially charged derogatory statements. While their racism was on display for the world to witness, one woman actually blamed President Obama for racial tensions.

The story is posted on FreakOutNation and cites a couple of news sources. The Arizona Republic reported:

Obama foes at one point sang, “Bye Bye Black Sheep,” a derogatory reference to the president’s skin color, while protesters like Deanne Bartram raised a sign saying, “Impeach the Half-White Muslim!”

Half-white? Does this make the protester half-racist? And “Muslim?” This person is serious. It’s a great opportunity when we find somebody who is both a racial and a religious discriminator.

I have previously noted the fascination white and religious supremacists hold for the Republican Party and the Tea Party faction, in particular:

A CPAC session sponsored by Tea Party Patriots and billed as a primer on teaching activists how to court black voters devolved into a shouting match as some attendees demanded justice for white voters and others shouted down a black woman who reacted in horror.

The session, entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” was led by K. Carl Smith, a black conservative who mostly urged attendees to deflect racism charges by calling themselves “Frederick Douglass Republicans.”

That was back in July. Apparently the hurt feelings of these white folks did not get soothed during the intervening month, and I expect they are going to stay sharp for the foreseeable future. Apparently this is built into us.

Obamascare

I mentioned before I mined a number of cute memes from sites such as The Comical Conservative. Memes are used by conservatives and liberals alike to express political ideas sharply and concisely so their thoughts can be easily grasped and bounced around from user to user. Of course it helps when a meme is not only to the point but is also contains an accurate message. When the message misses the mark it makes fun for me and an opportunity for a new post on Skeptical Analysis. Here is one such:

The point of this seems to be the president’s administration has created an unusable Web site, and you are going to fined if you cannot use it to purchase insurance. This message is more accurate than most in that the healthcare.gov site was dead on arrival when it opened the first of this month. That’s a good point. However, for the person who created this meme there is not much gain left over after after the reader gets past that point. It would have been better if the entire message were true, but it falls short in that respect. Often ultimate truth is not the point in these messages.

The entire truth is that alternate methods exist for obtaining health care in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, and these pathways are open and workable to all who need to acquire insurance in order to comply with the law. This small point blunts the point of the message ultimately, but in the mean time conservatives who pass this along get a short flash of enjoyment.

The irony, and people know I am a great fan of irony, is that a great number of those who traditionally vote conservative are currently without health insurance and can obtain coverage for themselves and their families through the act that they would previously have had difficulty obtaining. A number of these people, who voted against this president, will now obtain medical insurance and enjoy the benefit while still grumbling about other aspects of the administration. That’s the American way.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

A guy has a job as a conductor. One day he is backing up the train and hears a lady scream. He checks and sure enough, he backed over her. She dies. He is found guilty of homicide.

He gets sentenced to death by electric chair. He is asked what he wants for his final meal: he requests a purple banana. He explains in order to get a purple banana one must travel past the African plains, through the African jungle and descend into the deepest valley.

His request must be met, so the judge orders a team to travel past the African plains, through the African jungle and descend into the deepest valley. They return with a purple banana. The guy eats it. They throw the lever to the electric chair and nothing happens.

The judge decides this is divine intervention and sets the man free. The man leaves prison with only one employment experience. So he lands a job as a conductor. The next day he is backing up the train and hears a lady scream. He checks and sure enough, he backed over her. She dies. He is found guilty of homicide. He gets sentenced to death by electric chair.

He is asked what he wants for his final meal: he requests a purple banana. Again, the judge orders a team to travel past the African plains, through the African jungle and descend into the deepest valley. They return with a purple banana. The guy eats it. They throw the lever to the electric chair and nothing happens. The judge decides this is divine intervention and sets the man free.

The man leaves prison with only one employment experience. So he lands a job as a conductor. The next day he is backing up the train and hears a lady scream. He checks and sure enough, he backed over her. She dies.

He is found guilty of homicide. He gets sentenced to death by electric chair, but this time the judge decides to execute another prisoner first, just to make sure the chair works. Well, it works just fine. They bring in the conductor. He eats his purple banana. Nothing happens. The judge is furious and demands to know the magical explanation behind these purple bananas.

The man says “there’s nothing magic about the purple bananas, I’m just a really bad conductor.”

Truth and Action

I typically don’t go to liberal sources for my stories. Liberals are so deadly dull. They are always trying to tell me what I want to believe. Conservative sources are a lot more fun. This blog is, after all, Skeptical Analysis, so I need something to analyze. Conservative sources provide a rich field for analysis. Take this story from the Truth and Action site. It was posted by “Mr. X”:

Obama Fires 9 Top Military Commanders: First Time In History

Never before in American history has so many of our top commanders been fired!

The reasons given are, of course, complete fabrications. We do not fire our highest commanders for playing poker with fake chips or adultery.

Do you know what it takes to become a top commander in charge of our commanding forces and our nuclear arsenal? Your character has to be impeccable.

This is most alarming and tells us where we are in the game.

Was it because these men opposed military action against the American people?

Or, did Obama fear a coup from these individuals? Neither scenario is good for us.

This is an amazing story. Of course we have all been following this on the news for the past few days. Here’s what Fox News had to say:

The two-star general in charge of all Air Force nuclear missiles was fired Friday following a probe into alleged personal misbehavior — just days after another key official overseeing U.S. nuclear power was relieved of duty.

The Air Force announced Friday that Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was removed from command of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for three wings of intercontinental ballistic missiles — a total of 450 missiles at three bases across the country.

The circumstances of Carey’s firing were unclear. Two officials told the Associated Press it had to do with alcohol use.

A senior U.S. Defense official said he was fired over “conduct.” Officials said that it did not have to do with gambling, or the loss of a nuclear weapon, or sexual misconduct.

Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, made the decision based on details from an inspector general probe into Carey’s behavior on a “temporary duty assignment,” according to the Air Force.

“20th AF continues to execute its mission of around-the-clock nuclear deterrence in a safe, secure and effective manner,” Kowalski said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to relieve an officer who’s had an otherwise distinctive career spanning 35 years of commendable service.”

Earlier in the week, the Navy announced that the deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, was relieved of duty amid a military investigation of allegations that he used counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino.

Going back to the Truth and Action post: “We do not fire our highest commanders for playing poker with fake chips or adultery.” “Do you know what it takes to become a top commander in charge of our commanding forces and our nuclear arsenal? Your character has to be impeccable.” The juxtaposition of these two statements exposes a wealth of irony. If your character has to be impeccable to hold the job, and you gamble with fake poker chips, then your character is definitely not impeccable, and you do not get to keep your job. Also it is possible that Mr. X has never served in the military, else he would already be aware that committing adultery is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice under Article 134. I personally hold provisions such as this to be archaic in these modern times, but the UCMJ was drawn up when moral conduct was more strictly regulated.

But I have to wonder what Mr. X was thinking when he wrote this. X gives us one clue in a couple of sentences: “Was it because these men opposed military action against the American people? Or, did Obama fear a coup from these individuals? Neither scenario is good for us.”

This wording explains a lot—especially about Mr. X’s mindset. X’s post quotes without citation another post that is supposed to flesh out the story. A Google search brings up this, apparently posted originally by Brandon Walker on The Free Patriot Web site:

On October 12, 2013, ABC’s Dianne Sawyer brought us a video of a 9th, yes 9th, General fired from the military this week.It’s even reaching some of the more liberal stations and begging them to ask the question, “What is going on?”

It seems President Obama is preparing what he calls “my military” for his version of the final solution. With all the documentation we have, it looks as though he is purging the military for the next step.

We have now seen this official President Obama temper-tantrum in action this week. But is it a temper-tantrum or is there a method to his madness?

We have been warned by a Pentagon Official to expect radical changes.

You heard of our dire warnings of Chinese Economists planning to foreclose and forming the TPP Treaty that could set a global economy in motion. We have the very real possibility of 16 U.S. States being shutdown and handed over due to debt in this mess.

We even have a CIA whistle blower warning us that President Obama wants to radically take over power. People are crying out, where is our military in this mess?

Well, there seems to be some very credible evidence that since last year and through this year that there has been a “litmus test” given to American Military Officers. The Main point of that test, “Would you fire on an American Citizen?”

If you say no, then as Donald Trump would say, “Your fired!” Since the beginning of the year these retired officer’s have came forward with “President Obama is preparing for war against the U.S.”. We even know Dr. Garrow and others confirmed this litmus test. Then we have heard President Obama himself talk about “My Military”.

There is a term used in legal circles, res ipsa loquitur. It’s Latin, and it’s usually translated as “the thing speaks for itself.” Following certain preliminary findings, nothing more needs to be demonstrated. This appears to be one of those circumstances.

Obamascare

I’m going to start a new series of posts with a common theme. I call it “Obamascare,” because the name is sort of a take-off on Obamacare, and it also alludes to the anti-Obama and anti-Obamacare hype that’s going around. Once again I have Mark Zuckerberg to thank for all of this. If it weren’t for Facebook I would have to look all over the Internet for these cute memes that I use for inspiration. In fact, without Facebook a lot of them would not have been created in the first place. People, lacking a better way to express their ideas, create these or else copy and paste them from other sources to make a point. A great source is The Comical Conservative Facebook page, which seems to live off of these. Here’s one:

This one features Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and I’m going to start with him, because he has a lot to say about President Obama and Obamacare, and he is also a great source of comedy. Don’t take my word for it about the comedy. Just ask some Republicans.

Anyhow, here Senator Cruz is saying, “If Americans really wanted Obamacare, you wouldn’t need a law to make them buy it.”

Now that is funny.

The senator’s point is well taken. I mean here’s something that’s supposed to be so good for people, yet if you are required to sign up for it (Obamacare) and you do not, then the government will levy a fine. Why does the government need to threaten people with a fine if the product is so good?

Of course the senator completely misconstrues the whole concept of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). It’s not Obamacare that people need. Obamacare is just another name for the ACA, and the ACA is not a product. The ACA is just a law requiring people to purchase another product, and that product is medical insurance. I’m not going to get into the details of the rationale behind forcing people to purchase medical insurance, because that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is the irony behind Senator Cruz’s comment. And here’s the irony.

Ted Cruz, like a lot of people, including me, do not need “Obamacare.” We already have medical insurance. The ACA was set up to provide affordable (hence the name) medical insurance. And the irony for Senator Cruz is double. First, Senator Cruz does not need the ACA, because he is eligible for medical insurance under his current employer, the United States government. Wait, there’s more. Senator Cruz does not take advantage of the government-subsidized plan, because he does not need to. He is already covered by an even better medical insurance plan:;

Ted Cruz Gets His Health Insurance Through Goldman Sachs, His Wife Confirms

The wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) confirmed in an interview with The New York Times what the tea party star’s opponents have insinuated gleefully for weeks: The most vocal opponent of Obamacare enjoys a high-priced health plan through investment bank Goldman Sachs.

“Ted is on my health care plan,” Heidi Nelson Cruz, who has worked in the firm’s management division for eight years, told the paper in a story published Wednesday.

Cruz’s plan through Goldman appeared to be an uncomfortable fact for the conservative senator as he lambasted the health care reform law and helped drive what would become a two-week government shutdown. In an exchange during Cruz’s 20-hour anti-Obamacare marathon on the Senate floor in September, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) tried unsuccessfully to get Cruz to admit where he gets his own coverage.

“Will the senator from Texas for the record tell us now — and those who watched this debate — whether he is protected and his family’s protected?” Durbin asked.

Cruz deflected the discussion toward an uninsured diabetic woman that Durbin had been talking about earlier.

A spokeswoman for Cruz confirmed to the Times that the senator gets his coverage through Goldman. The Wall Street bank told the paper the coverage is worth at least $20,000 a year. “The senator is on his wife’s plan, which comes at no cost to the taxpayer and reflects a personal decision about what works best for their family,” the spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, said.

As a HuffPost reader noted, it’s debatable whether such a plan comes at no cost to the taxpayer. Employer-sponsored health plans are generally tax-deductible for companies, so the Cruz family’s expensive health plan presumably reduces Goldman’s tax liability.

In a previous post I touched on “Cadillac health plans.” A $20,000 (per person) plan would marginally qualify as a Cadillac plan. A few days ago I had a round-about with the wife mate over the cost of medical insurance. I quoted her a figure that came up a few years back when I was fully employed by a large, multi-national corporation. To purchase the kind of medical plan we were getting through my employer would cost about $10,000 per person per year if bought on the open market. Things have not gotten cheaper in the intervening years.

Senator Cruz has been in the spotlight for weeks as the government budget crisis and partial government shutdown charade played out. Given the opportunity he is quick to remind all that he’s standing up for his Texas constituents, who are being grievously injured by this ill-conceived legislation. In the mean time his own state suffers from having the greatest number of people without medical insurance with no explanation from the senator as to how plans to remedy the situation. In the mean time, many in the state look forward to getting insurance through the ACA.

Stacy Anderson, from Fort Worth, runs her own business selling sweaters online. She says she has not had health insurance for the past seven years because the sweater business is not too lucrative. “It cost more than I made some months,” she says. Anderson says she was just diagnosed with skin cancer, though it is not life-threatening. “I’ve had it, apparently, for the entire seven years I’ve been uninsured,” she says. “It will be nice if I can buy health insurance and get it treated.”

Jeffrey Coffey is a 49-year-old from Austin who earns a living as a musician. He says [he] has insurance, but notes that the $361 monthly premium is “way expensive” on his $22,000 salary; he says he pays more because he has asthma. Coffey says he applied for cheaper plans numerous times this year, but was turned down. “Getting rejection letters is depressing,” he says. When Coffey buys insurance on the exchange, he estimates he will [be] able to get coverage for $160 a month, a $200 savings. “But so far I haven’t been able to log on to the website,” he adds.

Mr. Coffey’s dilemma is one remaining weapon in Senator Cruz’s arsenal in his war against the ACA. The Web portal for signing up is dismally deficient, and the senator is having a joyous time with the president’s predicament. This likely helps the senator side step the irony surrounding his own medical insurance posture.

All that aside, this story is meant to introduce you to The Comical Conservative. If you have not already, please log on and share my amazement. More about Obamascare will be coming in future posts.

Memories are made of this.

I just love old songs. They bring back memories of the fine days of innocence. Here’s one made famous by Dean Martin:

With his blessings from above
Serve it generously with love
One man, one wife
One love through life

Memories are made of this
Memories are made of this

Ah, such memories. Were our memories only that good. Take this one, for example.

Here’s a better one:

Of course, we all remember this. This is the way it is. This is the way it’s always been. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Just as we remember.

Except our memories tend to be short-sighted. Like mine, for example. I got confused and posted the wrong image. Here’s the way it’s always been, until recently:

Now, this is more like it. This is the way God intended it to be:

Abraham’s wives were Sarah, Hagar (Gen 16:3, 21:1-13), Keturah (Gen 25:1), and concubines (who are referred to as “wives” in other parts of the Bible) (Gen 25:6). Jacob’s four wives are Leah and Rachel (Gen 29:28) and despite an oath with their father Laban to not take any additional wives (Gen 31:48-54), Jacob took Bilhah (Gen 30:4) and Zilpah (Gen 30:9). Moses’ two wives were Zipporah (Ex 2:21, Ex 18:1-6) and an Ethiopian woman (Num 12:1). Interestingly enough, Aaron and Miriam were punished for disapproving of Moses’ forbidden marriage. Gideon “had many wives” (Judges 8:29-32). Elkanah, Samuel’s father, had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:1-2). An accurate list of David’s wives would include at least five named wives: Michal (1 Sam 18:27, 19:11-18, 25:44; 2 Sam 3:13-14, 6:20-23), Abigail of Carmel (1 Sam 25:39, 1 Chr 3), Ahinoam of Jezreel (1 Sam 25:43, 1 Chr 3), Eglah (2 Sam 3:4-5, 1 Chr 3) and Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:24). David also took “more wives and concubines” in 2 Sam 5:13, 12:7-8, 1 Chr 14:3. Three additional women are mentioned, but we are not told if they are wives or concubines: Maacah (2 Sam 3:3, 1 Chr 3), Abital (2 Sam 3:3-4, 1 Chr 3) and Haggith (2 Sam 3:3, 1 Chr 3). Lastly, there are the ten concubines, or wives as they are referred to in 2 Sam 5:13, 15:16, 16:21-23, 1 Chr 14:3, bringing David’s total to at least 22+ “wives/concubines”. According to 1 Kings 11:3, David’s son Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Why can’t liberals let well enough alone and recognize God’s plan for marriage?

Obamacrash

Those who know me also know I’m a great fan of the sitting president. I voted for him twice, and I generally think he’s doing what I elected him to do. And doing it well. Except…

Except, being human, I enjoy watching a train wreck as much as the rest of you. And here’s one even the Republicans enjoy watching.

The Affordable Care Act, now permanently to be known as Obamacare, has been the president’s keystone accomplishment. In 2008 he campaigned on this piece of legislation, and he was elected. Less than two years later he got it passed. Republicans tried many times to unseat the law by legislative means. All such attempts were pieces of political show with no prospect of success. A legal challenge went to the Supreme Court, where the act’s legality was reaffirmed by a margin of one vote. That one vote came from Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by Republican president George W. Bush. Last year the president again campaigned on this legislation and won big. Next the Republican House of Representatives attempted to kill the law by shutting down the government—a piece of folly that resulted in additional damage to the Republican brand.

Now came time to put the law to work.

Contrary to a lot of verbiage flying about the Internet, the ACA is not about social medicine. It’s about the health insurance industry. The law places some stringent rules on the industry, forcing them to provide health insurance to unhealthy markets. In return, the law rewards the industry by forcing people who do not have insurance to purchase it from the industry. That’s where President Obama’s first fiasco hit the fan this week.

People without insurance are required to sign up by March of next year, else pay a fine. There are multiple ways to sign up, but the signature method is a special Web site set up by the government. This is healthcare.gov. On October first, the day the government shut down, the Web site became active. People wanting (needing?) to comply with the law logged on. Crash!

It was immediately obvious that this product was not ready for prime time. A CNN reporter filed her daily narrative detailing lack of success. Of course I’m thinking why does a person working for CNN not already have health insurance through her employer, but I’m also thinking a reporter’s job is to go where she needs to go and do what she needs to do. Anyhow, repeated attempts to complete the process encountered endless waits and failures to create an account. Some lucky few customers were able to set up accounts the first day, but the reporter’s experience was typical.

As CNN continued to report we learned additional details. The cost to the government so far for setting up the Web site exceeds $500 million. That’s a lot of scratch even for something that works. It’s a bit overpriced for something that does not work. Some suggested the entire project should be scrapped and implementation should start over from scratch.

Well, maybe not. Having spent a few decades developing computer software, I have a little insight into these products. The first thing I noticed is that some users had success. This indicates that all the components are functional. The components do not seem to communicate reliably with each other, but they are there. At their base, computer systems are extreme implementations of Isaac Newton’s hypothetical clockwork universe. If such a system is started twice from the same initial state, it will progress along identical paths in both cases. The same goes for any number of starts from the same, identical state.

Real life is different. I also know that, except in cases of pathological design, computer software does not break. If it works on Monday it will work the same on Tuesday. Computers and other hardware are not like that. They wear out, and they break. And people break them. People replace disk drives, they unplug communication cables, they power down servers. The software environment on Tuesday is not the same as it was on Monday. More deadly, at one instance two people can vie for a given resource on Monday, and on Tuesday two million people can vie for the same resource. Identical initial states are an idealization and not a reality. A software design that cannot accommodate this fact are doomed to failure. The time for the ACA site came on October first.

It’s even a bit worse than that. We now know that the design and implementation of the ACA Web site was of necessity time-critical. Republicans are now calling for a postponement of the roll out of the ACA, but the administration and others recognize this is another aspect of their ploy to stall the implementation of the ACA along the road to killing it all together. So, ready or not, on the scheduled date the not ready for prime time system went on-line with the result seen.

We also learn of a system test prior to launch. This test involved only about 100 users. This test failed. Now here’s the real problem. This fact was not disclosed to the chain of command. Especially the president did not know. Either he was not informed or he chose not to ask. This is a big oops in any organization.

As an engineer I have worked on a number of projects, and some of them have been absolute disasters. One thing that came quickly apparent to me is that my first loyalty is to the person who signs my paychecks, and if things are not going well I need to tell this person and let the chips fall where they will. This apparently did not happen.

The person ultimately in charge is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. I am now hearing that Sebelius knew in advance of the Web site failures, and apparently this information was not communicated up to the person who signs her paycheck, the President of the United States. Failing to come up with a workable Web site for the ACA is excusable. You just tell the president, “We hired the best people we could get, and they have not been able accomplish the task.” Apparently she did not do that.

Others are jumping with joy. In particular Texas Senator Ted Cruz, no stranger to debacle himself, is having a field day.

Ted Cruz: Nigerian emailers run Affordable Care Act site

At a well-received “Welcome Home” speech in Houston on Monday night, Sen. Ted Cruz managed to find a silver lining in the problems with the Affordable Care Act exchange website.

“You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately,” Cruz joked, according to the Houston Chronicle. “They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website.”

Gosh, Ted. Maybe we should have hired the Nigerians to do the site.

Instead, we hired a Canadian company, and some are saying even they were not up to the job. Again an industry expert being interviewed on CNN this morning recounted the government’s purchasing policies can prevent hiring the best and the brightest. He mentioned the wisdom we have known for decades: “An astronaut flying to the moon knows that his trip home depends on a rocket motor built by the lowest bidder.”

I’ve seen Senator Cruz on TV a lot recently, likening the ACA to an attack on his Texas constituents. There has been some come back on this:

Hey, Ted Cruz! These Texans Say Obamacare Is Helping Them
But the Affordable Care Act could still fail if the federal government doesn’t get its act together.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has compared his fight to defund the Affordable Care Act to the fight against Nazi Germany. He sees it as his duty to provide “relief to the millions of people who are hurting because of Obamacare.” The uninsured in his own state will tell you a different story.

Stacy Anderson, from Fort Worth, runs her own business selling sweaters online. She says she has not had health insurance for the past seven years because the sweater business is not too lucrative. “It cost more than I made some months,” she says. Anderson says she was just diagnosed with skin cancer, though it is not life-threatening. “I’ve had it, apparently, for the entire seven years I’ve been uninsured,” she says. “It will be nice if I can buy health insurance and get it treated.”

Jeffrey Coffey is a 49-year-old from Austin who earns a living as a musician. He says has insurance, but notes that the $361 monthly premium is “way expensive” on his $22,000 salary; he says he pays more because he has asthma. Coffey says he applied for cheaper plans numerous times this year, but was turned down. “Getting rejection letters is depressing,” he says. When Coffey buys insurance on the exchange, he estimates he will able to get coverage for $160 a month, a $200 savings. “But so far I haven’t been able to log on to the website,” he adds.

Cruz, and others, have linked the Web interface to the life of the ACA. These people may be a little off base. The Web interface is not the ACA, and it is not the only means for obtaining insurance and complying with the law. Fortunately for our 21st century world we still have some 20th century technology left over. You can get insurance by picking up the phone and placing a toll-free call. Wait times have been just a few minutes, and it takes a 25-minute interview to obtain insurance for one person, 45 minutes for a family. For people without a computer this is going to have to be the way. There is also the Post Office. It’s one part of the government that was not shut down by the Republicans, and all you need to do is obtain a form and mail it in. Uh, you get the form as a PDF on-line, and that part works.

A number of commentators point out a significant danger of the Web site’s failing. The danger is that millennials are inclined to use the latest technology, and doing business by phone, let alone by mail, is going to turn them off. The ACA needs these people to purchase insurance, and the problem is these people tend to be young and healthy, and they do not need insurance to the extent baby boomers do. The ACA works like employer-provided coverage in that everybody is in the same group, and the healthy pay in more than they get out, while the unhealthy reap the benefit of paying the same and getting more. Young and healthy people can just opt to pay the fine. They don’t get any health insurance, but the fine does not completely make up for the premiums lost to the system.

Anyhow, the Republicans are continuing their move to kill the ACA and are using the disastrous Web site roll-out as a lever. The administration is playing damage control, striving mightily to get the site working to acceptable standards in time to capture their needed market of healthy users. And I am wondering if Sebelius is going to keep her job.

Also, I am not personally concerned about the ACA Web site. The ACA does not affect me, because I already have health insurance subsidized by the tax payers. In the mean time I have a message to all the president’s Republican detractors:

Thank you all very much, and may Jesus have mercy on your souls.

Alliance Defending Freedom

I apologize for being repetitious, but I feel I need to mine this resource while it’s still fresh. Alliance Defending Freedom is a Facebook site with a catchy name and a decidedly boisterous claim on righteousness. I go there, and I see a relentless current of implication that religion is under attack, not just from individuals who have no use for it, but also from governmental authority. There is also continual praise for prayer and defense of prayer, as though prayer needed some sort of defense. Which maybe it does.

I see this a lot:

Here is a bunch of rough and ready football players, and they are all kneeling together, members of opposing teams, hands locked together, obviously in prayer. I am guessing only Christian prayer, but it may be hard to tell. Obviously this is a religiously-driven site, but there never seems to be a sign of any other religion besides Christian. It’s likely that Jews, Muslims, Hindus and such need to go elsewhere.

All right, the site promotes prayer. Other than just this image, people are encouraged to pray. People are encouraged to rely on prayer. People are advised that prayer is good for them. Of course I am extrapolating what I see on surface examination, and I await any rebuttal from supporters of this site.

Then I have to ask: Why?

Why really should people pray? What is the real benefit and what is to be gained? Let’s assume for the moment that nothing material is to be gained—that prayer is only an expression of religious faith. Now let’s forget that assumption and go with the notion that something material is to be gained. Both have a comment element. That element is communication.

Prayer, at its base, is a communication. A conversation, albeit a bit one-sided. And that conversation is with? There’s the rub. Supposedly the conversation is with God. By that I mean the God of Abraham and none other. People of like faith also pray to Jesus, who is supposed to be a stand in for God or even a personification of God. Some prayers are directed at Mary, the mother of Jesus. That’s an even longer stretch, taking the idea that a prayer to Mary is a prayer to Jesus—a prayer to God.

So this is a conversation with either one or more dead people or else with a magical, invisible, inaudible spirit being that from all evidence has no interaction with the physical world, including our own selves. We have a term for such a being, and that term is “a figment of the imagination.” People are engaging in (one-sided) conversations with a non-existent being. Let me crystallize this concept with a humorous example. A joke. It goes like this:

A Muslim merchant in Jerusalem sells religious trinkets near the famous Holy Wall. Year after year he occupies the same spot, selling his wares. And observing.

He observes an old Jew who comes daily to pray at the wall. He observes, but he never strikes up a conversation. Finally, as he nears retirement and makes plans to turn over the business to one of his sons, he speaks up. The old Jew comes over and they talk.

“You come every day to pray. What do you pray for?” the Muslim asks.

“It varies,” the Jew replies. “Sometimes I pray for peace. Sometimes I pray for an end to world hunger. Sometimes I pray for understanding. It varies.”

“So,” the Muslim asks. “This praying year after year, what’s it like?”

The old Jew responds, “It’s like talking to the wall.”

My impression of prayer is a lot like that, only without the wall.

I’m going to go further than that. Talking to imaginary entities is a manifestation of a mental lapse of some sort. If you don’t know you’re talking to a wall, so to speak, then you are ignorant. If you do know, but you do it anyhow, then you are mentally abusing yourself. If you consider yourself a thoughtful person, then praying should be nothing to be proud of.

The ADF presents us with a number of examples of people praying, such as this group of tough football players, and represents this as exemplary conduct. Were the truth be wrung out of this exercise we would see it for what it really is. Private, silent prayer is at best an exercise in self-delusion. Public prayer goes beyond that. It is the intellectual equivalent of picking your nose in public. And this is what ADF expects of us.

May Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Irony Alert

In a previous post I promised a whiff of irony. Here it is.

This I got from the Facebook site Alliance Defending Freedom. I should have mentioned the ADF is very big on praying. It may only be my imagination, but nearly half the themes touch on praying (good for you, fun, must be protected). And there was this one.

For those of you who were not around the day this photo was taken it shows American troops wading ashore on the Normandy coast to chase the Germans out of France. It was a very hazardous and scary operation. Several thousands of our guys never saw another sunset.

But look at the slogan. “On this day we all prayed.” Ignore for a moment that not everybody wading ashore that day prayed. What does this say? It says this was a hazardous operation, and in times like this people invoke prayer to give themselves an little extra edge. If you pray the bullet may pass a little further to the left, and you will live. Sounds like a good bargain. It costs nothing (except for a little loss of concentration) to pray, and you can save you life. Prayer is good. Right?

Now read the word you may have missed. “All” the people prayed. If the Americans were praying, then the Germans were praying, as well. And here’s the kicker. The Germans lost. As it turns out, prayer and overwhelming military might get more results than prayer alone.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Alliance Defending Freedom

A Facebook friend keeps posting memes with a recurring message. Today I decided to check this out, and I discovered a thread. It’s a Facebook entry calling itself Alliance Defending Freedom. You go there, and there’s a wealth of like themes for you to link to, and this all makes for some fun Facebook reading. Like this one:

Now that’s an interesting thought. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has brought suit over a church that posted crosses on its own property. That’s an obvious violation, not only of First Amendment rights of religious liberty but also of various personal rights and property rights, as well. Plus it’s a damn fool waste of judicial resources. So, what’s going on?

Naturally I was suspicious. Some have even called me skeptical. The ACLU is a mature (nearly 100 years) and responsible organization dedicated to protecting people from the powers of government. It would be uncharacteristic of them to oppose this kind use of one’s own property. So I decided to investigate. That’s why this blog is called Skeptical Analysis. Here’s what I found:

Judge Rules Against 10 Churches Seeking Cross Display on Ind. Waterfront Property

A United States district court judge has ruled against a group of churches that wanted to build a temporary cross display on some public waterfront property in Indiana.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled Wednesday that the proposed display at Evansville would be a government endorsement of Christianity, thus violating the First Amendment.

Wait! Therein is the problem. It’s not the church’s property. The photo, which subscribers are expected to link to on their Facebook page, shows a cross on church property. But the church wanted to post crosses on other people’s property without their permission.

I’m not even going to read the court arguments. I’m going to guess how the church argued.

They were going to say this was public property, owned by all the people, and they, being some of the people, could make use of this property as they saw fit. Besides, fans of the cross are in the majority, are they not? And in this country the majority rules. Right?

No, that’s not right. This is what the First Amendment is all about. The First Amendment was put in place to protect us from the majority (the government). And two people sued to protect their right. And apparently they won. The judge ruled (my wording) that placing crosses on public property amounts to religious proselytizing at public expense. That is something we agreed we would never do. Over two hundred years ago.

And now it’s time to say some more about the Alliance Defending Freedom. I took a look at a number of the memes on their Facebook page, and a couple of common issues emerged. First, the group seems to have an obsession with a particular religious belief, apparently to the exclusion of all others. This is OK. We can squint an eye at somebody’s extreme philosophy, but people should be and will be allowed to advocate to the limit of their abilities.

Except that ADF goes a step further. From time to time, as in this case, they dip a toe into the dark pool of deception. That’s when my fun begins, because I enjoy draining this dark pool when the opportunity presents.

Besides all that, I enjoy the occasional irony manifested in some of the ADF’s memes. Besides being a tad skeptical, I am also a great fan of irony, and I’m going to post some, courtesy of the ADF, in the near future. Keep reading, my friend.

Gypsy Girl

This story popped up on the TV news.

Greek authorities are asking for help in identifying a young girl found in a raid on a Roma camp last week.

ATHENS — An unknown little blond girl found living in a Roma camp with a couple who are not her parents has opened an international hunt for her real mother and father and sparked age-old anger against the Roma who are among the poorest people in Europe.

Police in Greece have released photographs of a couple charged with abducting a girl known “Maria” and taken them into pre-trial custody.

An international search for the young girl’s parents has intensified.

A 39-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman, identified as Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, were detained Monday on charges of abduction and document fraud following their arrest last week. Police raided a Roma encampment near the central Greek town of Farsala and found the girl, who a DNA test has shown is not the couple’s child.

I knew what I was looking at. I had seen it before.

It was years back. Barbara Jean and I were on vacation. We were in Athens, sitting in a McDonalds. Three small children came in. They went around to tables begging for money. The manager chased them out of the store. I was angry.

I wasn’t angry at the manager. He knew as well as I did what we were seeing, and it’s an old story. These children were pawns, managed by adults. The adults were not the parents of these children. These adults were exploiting the children for profit. They most likely kept the children in near poverty conditions and daily put them out on the street with instructions to bring back money. The adults did not live in poverty.

I was angry because I understood more deeply what was happening. These children were being robbed of their childhood. They were not going to school. They were being used by adults who would ultimately dump them when they were no longer young and pitiful looking. Or else they would continue to exploit the children, especially the girls, after they grew older and became interesting to older men. And nobody was putting a stop to it.

I did not arrive at my conclusions entirely on my own. I had been pre-warned.

Previously I worked for a boss who had a Ph.D. in mathematics, and when he was in Warsaw for a conference he encountered a similar situation. He was at the railway station, and he saw a family, a man and a woman with some small children. The family was moving off, leaving a small child behind. When the child tried to follow the adults motioned the child away.

When my boss tried to intervene a policeman nearby dissuaded him. The cop explained these were Gypsies, and they were abandoning the child, who was no longer of any use to them. The Polish authorities would now take charge of the abandoned child.

The Roma, Gypsies, are thought to have originated from the Khyber Pass region of what is now Pakistan, but they do not keep written records, so their true origins are hard to know. They are ethnically very recluse, not mixing or intermarrying with indigenous populations. Gypsies are known to consider other ethnic groups inferior to themselves and to disdain participation in normal society, except when business matters make interaction necessary or convenient. This aloofness has earned the Gypsies a bad reputation, causing them to be, in turn, spurned by normal society. In Nazi Germany Gypsies were one of the groups sent to the gas chambers.

Police allege the woman said she gave birth to six children in less than 10 months, while 10 of the 14 children the couple had registered as their own were not found. Investigators said it is unclear whether all the children exist or were falsified to qualify for child care payments from the Greek welfare system.

Police say the two suspects received about $3,420 a month in subsidies from three different cities where they had registered the children.

The couple has been charged with illegally obtaining official documents such as birth records. The man also faces separate charges, together with other people from the settlement, for allegedly possessing an illegal firearm and drug-related offenses.

The local Roma community is attempting to distance itself from incidents such as this one and the one we witnessed that day in the restaurant.

“After what transpired with the kidnapping of Maria if you are not a racist sometimes you want to be a racist,” said Chara Kokkinopoulou, 21, a university student in Athens. “These people do not have feelings and they do anything for money.”

But some of the Roma in Greece are worried that they will be blamed for allegations they say they knew nothing about.

The case “doesn’t reflect on all of us,” said Babis Dimitriou, president of the local Roma community.

This is something that people like Dimitriou and other leaders of the community need to address. If the Roma society will not fix the problem the pressure will be on for government authorities to fix it for them.

Insurance Explained

Smile, you have Medicare.

Occasionally I take a little time off to explain stuff that everybody already knows. This is one of those.

Over the past three weeks (actually the past four weeks) there’s been a lot of swirl over Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. Lots of Republicans don’t like it. Maybe I could be safe to say that all Republicans don’t like it. Well, it’s here now, regardless of who doesn’t like it. And I am not going to discuss it. Just now. I figure I first need to explain insurance before getting even close to explaining Obamacare. Here’s insurance.

A little personal history. I am dead sure that when I was born at home in a small house (shack) in Tolar, Texas, my father, barely employed, had to personally pay the doctor, who drove the nine miles from the county seat to attend my birth. There was no health care insurance.

In fact, I never became aware of health care insurance until quite late in life. I will get to that.

Seven years later, when my father went to work at a defense plant, we likely had health insurance provided through the defense contractor. That’s where health insurance really took hold in this country.

This started during World War II. The United States came out of its worst economic depression and straight into a major war. Unemployment, which had peaked at 25% during the depression, now reversed. The United States government committed to building 50,000 airplanes (they ultimately built a multiple of that number) and to building thousands of ships. Plus there was ammunition, uniforms, mess kits, the whole works for an armed force of millions. And there were men disappearing off the unemployment lines and into uniform. Defense employers were competing for workers.

Except, the government, in its great wisdom, foresaw this. The government was not prepared to pay inflated prices for war materials, and it put caps on the wages defense employers could pay. Still the employers had to compete for the few available workers. But what else could they offer besides wages? They could offer health insurance, which was not restricted. And they did, and defense employees got insurance paid by the defense contractors.

Except… Except what? Except that employers never pay for employees’ insurance. The employee always pays. In this case employees were receiving insurance (not capped) instead of higher wages (capped by the government). Nothing changed after the war was over and won.

Employers still provided health insurance, and employees still paid the premiums. Which they do today, those who can get health insurance through their employers.

Back to my personal history.

I never noticed health insurance. As I passed through childhood I suffered a number of self-inflicted prangs that resulted in trips to the doctor or to the hospital, just a block from my house. I never paid.

Then I graduated from high school and started my active duty in the Navy Reserve. The Navy has doctors, even aboard ship, and the eye doctor on my ship decided I needed eye surgery. He scheduled me for a visit to a Navy hospital ashore. Later that year I took a few days off from my ship and checked into a Navy hospital, where a Navy doctor performed the eye surgery. I did not pay. And all this time I was getting medical checkups and immunization shots. And I did not pay.

Off active duty and on to college, and I had to pay a health center fee. My first week at college, when I bent my ankle during a college prank, the health center fixed it up and gave me crutches. I did not pay. I already had through my health center fee.

Off a summer from college I had no health insurance, and when the emergency workers scraped me off the street one sunny afternoon and rushed me to the hospital I still did not pay. The woman driving the car that collided with my motorcycle paid. Rather, her insurance company paid.

Out of college and married and looking for a job, I had no health insurance. Fortunately no accidents. Immediately I went to work for the same university I had just graduated from, and my wife said I should definitely check “yes” and sign up for the health insurance. And that was my first real encounter with traditional health care insurance. I was paying premiums, and the university was paying premiums, and we had health coverage.

So it worked thereafter. When I worked for an employer, health insurance was available through the employer.

So, why not just go out and buy insurance on my own? A real problem here. You walk into an insurance company’s office (figuratively) and ask to sign up for insurance. They’re going to look at you. Really hard. There’s an adage in the industry. You never insure a burning house.

Insurance companies make their money the same way a bookie makes his money. They play the losers off against the winners. You know some people are not going to need health care, yet they pay premiums (suckers). Others are going to pay the same premiums, and they are going to cost the insurance company thousands. They are the real winners. If you can consider having major surgery of other life-saving procedures performed to be some kind of winning.

Insurance companies are going to make these kinds of arrangements with employers, especially with large employers, because they know you are getting the insurance because your employer is offering it and not because you’re already sick (in most cases). You’re not going to get any kind of deal like that on your own with an insurance company, for two reasons.

First, the insurance company is going to look you (and your family) over very closely, and they’re going to sell you insurance only if you don’t need it.

Second, when you walk into an insurance company office on your own you’re already costing the company more than the group policy member. Having to deal one-on-one costs insurance companies more, and they are going to charge more.

I have not yet explained what insurance is. Although the concept of insurance as a form of risk management traces back thousands of years, I like to cite Lloyd’s of London as the founding model for modern insurance:

Some forms of insurance had developed in London by the early decades of the 17th century. For example, the will of the English colonist Robert Hayman mentions two “policies of insurance” taken out with the diocesan Chancellor of London, Arthur Duck. Of the value of £100 each, one relates to the safe arrival of Hayman’s ship in Guyana and the other is in regard to “one hundred pounds assured by the said Doctor Arthur Ducke on my life”. Hayman’s will was signed and sealed on 17 November 1628 but not proved until 1633. Toward the end of the seventeenth century, London’s growing importance as a centre for trade increased demand for marine insurance. In the late 1680s, Edward Lloyd opened a coffee house that became a popular haunt of ship owners, merchants, and ships’ captains, and thereby a reliable source of the latest shipping news. It became the meeting place for parties wishing to insure cargoes and ships, and those willing to underwrite such ventures. Today, Lloyd’s of London remains the leading market (note that it is an insurance market rather than a company) for marine and other specialist types of insurance, but it operates rather differently than the more familiar kinds of insurance.

When Benjamin Franklin initially proposed insurance in colonial America, the religious colonists opposed the idea as a form of gambling. As mentioned previously, gambling is exactly what insurance is—as in a casino, with the odds stacked in favor of the house.

So, why and when should you acquire insurance? My answer is you should only insure against monetary losses, and then only against ruinous losses. You might not carry theft and collision insurance on your car if you can afford to replace it. Not the case with your house. If you have a mortgage on your house, the holder of your loan will insist you maintain casualty insurance, at your expense of course. If you do not have a mortgage, you would be unwise to drop casualty insurance, since the cost of rebuilding would likely be financially crippling.

How about insuring your life? You’re never going to collect. You should purchase life insurance only if you have people financially dependent on you. Beyond that life insurance is absurd. However, insurance companies, for mendacious purposes of profit only, will write life insurance policies on children. Examples: Years back a Texas dentist took out a life insurance policy on his son, then murdered his son with poisoned Halloween candy. The insurance company refused to pay, and the dentist was executed. A Texas mother took out life insurance policies on two pre-school children and knifed them to death. Again the insurance company declined to pay.

So, what should you pay for a health insurance policy? If I were running the insurance company I would carefully examine the life style and health history of each prospective insured and set the premium to match my expected loss. Of course with some margin of profit for me. Once again, insurance companies take on group plans, and for these plans they set premiums based on expected claims from the group demographics. They generally do not look at individual histories.

Health insurance premiums have been on a steady march upward for years. Why? Three things:

1. Health care costs are increasing. There are procedures now that did not exist before, and these new procedures, e.g., MRI, are expensive.

2. People are living less healthy life styles. We have grown immensely fat in the past 50 years, and this has precipitated health conditions requiring more and more expensive treatment.

3. We are living longer. See item 2 above. We are smoking less and living longer. Typically you cease to incur health expenses when you die, so if you previously died in six weeks after developing cancer, new treatments now allow you to live six more years, all the while receiving pricey treatments for your cancer. Truthfully, your insurance company would prefer you died after a couple of days. I have long suspected that’s why some carriers will cover “alternative medicine.” People receiving these treatments based on pseudo science are not likely to live so long.

What is a Cadillac plan? I’ll answer that. Suppose you make $500,000 a year. You have to pay a lot of taxes (or not). You can afford it, and you purchase a Cadillac plan. All of this has caused you a lot of stress. Your plan covers means to manage this stress, including a week off in Hawaii. You spend a week in Hawaii, paid for by your Cadillac plan. But you paid premiums to cover this type of treatment. What have you gained? The premiums are tax-deductible. You have just taken a Hawaiian vacation and written the expense off on your tax return. You have received a vacation discount, and other tax payers have made up the tax shortfall. Pretty neat.

All of this leads to the ACA, which is all about insurance and not about health care. Check back next week when I cover Obamacare.