The receding safe harbor

March 31, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on The receding safe harbor 

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a trend, and I’m all but certain it’s because we have a Republican president and Congress once again. (At least in a nominal sense.)

It’s worth recalling the last time this situation was in force was the six years prior to the 2006 election. We spent the two years from 2007-2009 watching our economy go into the tank with a lame-duck GOP president and Democrats in charge of Congress, then eight years with a Democrat as president, although he only had his party in control of Congress for two years before people were fed up with his efforts.

But we are back to the theme – now expressed by many on social media as well as the prevailing mainstream media – regarding how heartless the government is, how people are suffering, and so forth. (It’s funny how a lot of us suffered for the last eight years but no one really noticed or cared.) They shriek that the government could throw people off their health insurance, or give tax cuts to the rich and their corporations, or allow polluters free reign over the countryside, and so forth. People who were complacent because their needs and desires were catered to in the last administration are bitching and complaining now, but their reasons have the depth of a cookie sheet.

It seems that more and more people have what could be called Linus syndrome, with the government acting as their security blanket. Apparently the blanket covers their eyes and ears because they’re not seeing nor hearing what has really been going on for the last many years. (Often you have a quote here, purportedly from Thomas Jefferson, that a government big enough to supply your needs is big enough to take it away. He never actually said that.) Thomas Jefferson did write that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” And it’s gained a heckuva lot of ground in my lifetime.

I think, though, that one casualty of that concession is the substitution of government for charity. In days long ago, there were provisions made in the community for widows and orphans who were left without their breadwinner through whatever tragic means. Now we have the situation where to live on the various forms of government assistance works out to the equivalent of wages from a working-class job in many states. Human nature is such that most will take the easy way out, live for today, and never have a second thought about it until the goose that laid the golden eggs keels over from exhaustion from keeping up with everyone’s needs.

On the other hand, my faith tells me that the Lord will provide. It may not be in the manner I would prefer or up to the standard where most in the world would equate with a comfortable living, but the needs are met and we find out that other needs were simply wants in disguise. To borrow an expression from Jesus, we have rendered far too much to Caesar and people grew accustomed to it. Luckily for them, there’s little danger of the system collapsing totally for the moment – but that peril is lurking in the distance.

Those who have put their faith in government seem to have the loudest voices now, and if you aren’t strong in faith in God you may believe they are the ones in the right.

It seems to me that rightsizing the federal government would have some significant benefits that far outweigh the costs. Yes, there would be a painful transition for many who are let go from their jobs and the state of Maryland would be hit hard because of it. Yet I believe charity giving would surge and perhaps people may begin to pay more attention to their own communities. Imagine having the freedom of more money in your paycheck, more choice on how to educate and raise your children, more input as more easily accessible local and state officials decide what government services are worth providing and what is kept in the private sector, and so forth.

Maybe it’s quaint, but I have a preference for faith and resourcefulness over dependence and lack of ambition.

A week ago I did a Patriot Post piece on happiness, whether measured by the government or expressed in a different survey. It was interesting that the government measured happiness by metrics while the other survey was more on emotional happiness. It turned out that the places which were most happy on an emotional level weren’t blessed with a lot of material wealth but were pleased with their lot in life nonetheless. (The happiest nation in terms of the survey was Paraguay, which isn’t known as an economic power.) It could be inferred that the Lord was providing their needs and their wants were minimized.

I know that I want to be free from worry in both an economic and lifestyle sense, and to me one key in getting to that direction is helping my fellow man understand that faith in government is faith misplaced. We have a safe harbor available to us but our national ship is steaming full speed in the wrong direction. A course correction is urgently required.

monoblogue music: “Empty Mansions” by C. K. Flach

March 25, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Empty Mansions” by C. K. Flach 

I’m here to tell you this is one of the most unusual releases I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.

While C. K. Flach is not a complete stranger to the music business – the New York-based singer/songwriter’s bio states he’s performed for a few years in a band called The Kindness, which put out an EP in 2015 – his first solo album is a nine-song, one-poem stream of consciousness about life. As he describes the recording process, Flach did most of it himself, but “recruited friends and family as needed to complete certain songs.” One of them is an unnamed female singer who provides harmony vocals on some of the tracks, but apparently he played most of the instruments.

In my mind’s eye I can picture Flach holed up in a little apartment/studio someplace in upstate New York, spending hours making sure every note is just so. If anything, the album seems to me a bit fussy. It starts out well enough with the song Lazurus, which let me know that Flach has a voice that reminds me of a country singer but plays songs that have an acoustic sensibility combined with a feel for the adult contemporary genre. In that same vein, he bills Boxcar Dancing as the single; a song that melds a nice lyric line with an almost contrived “sha-la-la” ending.

There are also songs on “Empty Mansions” though that make for hard listening – not hard in a musical sense or as terribly bad songs, but songs that make you wonder just what kind of upbringing and influence were there to drive him to write such music. These are songs with simple titles like Munich, Tranquilized, and Calamity. And besides the spoken word final track called Firmament, there are spoken word interludes in Munich and Queen Caroline, an almost bluesy ballad about a “sad, sad girl.” Flach definitely falls in the mold of one who believes lyrics are poetry, and sometimes music just gets in the way.

Flach shows some different sides on some of the songs – being quite sarcastic on The Officer, putting together an antiwar screed on Machine Gun, and revealing that’s he’s “sick of Elvis, sick of politics” on the title track. Empty Mansions is perhaps the most accessible song from a radio standpoint, but it falls in the midst of Flach’s social commentary side of the release. There may be listeners who don’t make it that far because there is a sameness to the songs that may turn off some who would check it out, and this may be a by-product of doing most of the work himself as opposed to having a band with several different opinions on how songs should be crafted.

This is an album that would appeal to people who like their music challenging and thought-provoking, as it’s 180 degrees away from most of the mindless pop that permeates the commercial airwaves. “Empty Mansions” is definitely an album that falls under the category of acquired taste, but if you want to listen for yourself, Flach has set up sites to do so.

A Van Hollen rant

March 22, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A Van Hollen rant 

On social media I have somehow found myself receiving a number of missives from our recently-elected (but not by me) Senator Chris Van Hollen. The other day he posted a link to a New York Times story about Trump budget cuts, and frankly I had to let him and his mindless minions have it, both barrels.

I notice not one of them has responded! Since I don’t think all that many people I know see Van Hollen’s leftist propaganda, these thoughts must have stunned those minions into silence.

**********

It’s interesting to me that the media didn’t go out and find “struggling Americans” during the last administration. (They could have interviewed me, since I was in the building industry and was laid off from it for several years – so I found my own work.)

But here’s my real point: these people who are whining about the Trump budget – which is still going to be deficit spending, although maybe not as much as we would have had – need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are so worried about government cuts. How did you manage to put yourselves in a position of dependence?

The way I look at it, the federal government has a limited number of core functions that are spelled out in the Constitution. That is what they are supposed to do, and nothing more. (The rest goes to the states, or the people – refer to the Tenth Amendment.) But over the years our nation has found that it’s good to be on the gravy train and politicians like Chris Van Hollen will pander to them over and over with posts like this. As long as they can buy votes with federal largesse, who cares whether our grandkids will have to pay the bill?

Well, I do. Let’s make a deal, Senator: you figure out a way to allow me to get back everything I put into the Ponzi scheme of Social Security and black hole of Medicaid over the last thirty years I’ve worked and I will figure out how to get through my golden years using that little nest egg without you parceling it out monthly. I can figure out a budget, unlike you guys and your continuing resolutions.

And if you say that the money I put into Social Security and Medicare is being set aside so I can use it later, well, perhaps my late brother could have used some of what he put in before he passed away with no wife or kids at the age of 47. Just give me a lump sum and let me walk away. Even President Trump isn’t saying that – in fact, he campaigned saying neither needed to be touched – but I think it’s necessary to deal with the bill we’re giving our kids.

Trump’s cuts are pocket change to where the federal government needs to be. And, just so you all know, I didn’t vote for him and I certainly wouldn’t have voted for Hillary even if you put a gun to my head. I chose a far better candidate, one who had he somehow won would have caught a tremendous amount of flack for doing what he said he would from everyone who has figured out a way to become dependent on Uncle Sugar.

So, Senator, if you and your supporters were looking for an “attaboy” for finding a story about Americans struggling under Trump, the only one I would have is for the young Tracy Spaulding:

“People get laid off every day. I’ll make it one way or another.”

I have been laid off four times in my life, and guess what? I made it one way or another. You all can survive a few government cuts, and you might just find it liberating. And to ask the government workers whose jobs are on the chopping block who read this: didn’t they say just a few years ago that unemployment was a great thing because there was all that extra free time you could enjoy?

Why yes they did.

Lucky for you people in the private sector are hiring.

**********

Callous? Perhaps. A little over the top? I don’t think so. And by the way, the Medicaid was a typo since I think it was mentioned in the story. Later I correctly stated Medicare.

I have grown weary of all the strife over the last 4 1/2 months since Donald Trump was elected, even though I wasn’t one who voted for him. Certainly I have my policy differences with him, although to be honest these are far fewer than the number I had with our last President. But I have to give Trump credit for following through on some of those things he promised, even as the Republican Congress goes seriously wobbly regarding all they pledged. (Case in point: I don’t recall anyone really talking about the “replace” with the “repeal” until Donald Trump came along. Just repeal it with an effective date of this time next year and states will have time to do what they wish to do in the interim.)

Once upon a time I used to put some of my best comments elsewhere into posts, as I believe in not letting good writing go to waste. This may be a feature to resurrect in the near future, but this one wasn’t going to wait for an editorial decision.

You know, I think I was blessed with a decent amount of intelligence – maybe not Mensa-grade, but I did all right in public school. I don’t think I’m that much smarter than the average bear, though, and maybe that’s why I can’t figure out how everyone can’t see what has been going on for the last thirty years – although I know some who would argue the timespan is far longer. We have put ourselves at the mercy of a lot of people and entities that, when push comes to shove, are going to think about themselves first and the rest of us not at all. Perhaps it’s always been like this, with some people destined to be the lords and kings and most destined to be the vassals and serfs. But as long as their chains rest lightly I suppose most of these people who wish for more and more government aren’t going to mind a little less freedom.

It wasn’t much more than a century ago that there were still places in continental America where you could live in an informally organized territory, and maybe there is still a real-life Galt’s Gulch here in America. But our people now seem to want America to be the land of the free stuff, and we need to remind them often that things don’t work that way.

With that my work is done here, at least for tonight.

How a hysterically funny family moment is changed by our PC culture

March 20, 2017 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics · 1 Comment 

By Cathy Keim

I saw the viral video of the professor doing a TV interview that was crashed by his daughter and then his infant son. His frantic wife swoops in to remove the children and the interview ends.  If you haven’t seen it already, then take a look. It is hilarious, especially because it just happened with no artifice involved.

After the clip went viral, the family was interviewed and all seemed well.

But the professor is somewhat concerned that his serious academic track might be hindered by his family’s moment of fame, as though having a family might be held against him. Does having young children mean that you are not serious in your studies? Forgetting to lock your door to prevent them from intruding means you are not a top-tier academic? Having your proud wife video the television interview, thus enabling the children to make good their intrusion, is a negative event?

As a mom of five, I thought the initial segment was delightful and the follow-up interview was a pleasant look into a happy family. The daughter was happy and wanted to be with her dad and little brother chugged right along behind sister because that is what little brothers do. Mom was intent on removing them expeditiously, but she was not harsh or mean. Dad was surprised and perhaps flustered by the unexpected visit, but he seemed to have a bit of a smile on his face.

Then I was sent the following video clip which is a comic remake of the event, substituting a mother in for the father.

The mother takes care of a variety of intrusions, including deactivating a bomb for the SWAT team without breaking a sweat. She concludes the interview with finding a matching sock for her hapless husband. I laughed at the absurdity of the video, but then I stopped. Why did the comedian feel the need to try and improve on an absolutely enjoyable true event by re-enacting it with a woman? Why was it assumed that a woman would have handled the original event better than the father did?

The concluding kick in the teeth for men was the pathetic dad interrupting the invincible woman asking for his sock. Most men I know would have taken whatever sock they could find (matching or not) and proceeded with their life without a second thought.

It is only in our PC world that men are stupid, clueless, hateful, cruel slobs. Personally, I am quite fond of men. My father, my husband, my sons, my sons-in-law, my brothers, uncles, etc. are a big part of my life and I am grateful for them.

As I mentioned in my previous blogpost, America needs strong families. We will not get strong families if we continue to denigrate men and exalt women. We are all created equal by God, but with different purposes. I realize this is dangerous ground to be treading in the PC world that we inhabit, but it has been self-evident that men and women are different. It is only in my lifetime that the fiction that women are superior to men has been foisted upon us.

The feminist movement has brought nothing but heartache to our society. We have them to thank for no-fault divorce, abortion on demand, sex on demand, and the general coarsening of our culture.

Christianity is derided by the Left as a patriarchal repressive religion. As a young girl, I was aware of Rahab, who saved her whole family from destruction in the city of Jericho when she helped the Hebrew spies sent by Joshua escape. She is listed in the lineage of King David and thus of Christ. Or how about Jael, who put a tent peg through Sisera’s head, thus delivering Israel from his might? Then we have Ruth, who was faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and became the great-grandmother of King David? Or Queen Esther, who risked her life to plead for her people and save them from the evil designs of Haman? These are just a few of the women of the Bible that stood bravely for their faith and families. They are hardly pathetic victims as the feminists try to portray women, and these noble women were my role models as I grew up.

Then in the New Testament we are taught: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28 KJV

This is not meant to eradicate our ethnic or gender roles, but to teach that we are all equal before God. While I have a different role to fulfill as a mother, I am not less than a father, but neither am I more.

Christian Western Civilization has produced the most female-friendly culture in the world, but the feminists prefer to tear it all down rather than appreciate what they have. Unfortunately, the propaganda of the last several decades is bearing evil fruit: male/female relationships are fraught with peril as every meeting could result in someone being victimized.

People need to toughen up just a bit. A wolf whistle while passing a construction site should not reduce a woman to panic. A man telling his female co-worker that he likes her new hairstyle should not be considered sexual harassment. The destruction of gender and etiquette have led us to a place where every word and gesture could bring a charge of rudeness or – worse – a lawsuit.

Wherever men and women are, there will be sexual tension, so we used to have rules in place to regulate how these interactions would be conducted. This protected both men and women from difficult situations. There have always been those people that would break the rules, but at least it was clear to them what they were breaking and the likely consequences.

The current lack of clear rules leaves everybody vulnerable. Is our contract for our night together enough to protect from a charge of rape if either person changes their mind the next morning? Some colleges instruct their students to make a written agreement for each step of a night out, but when one kiss can lead to other things in the heat of passion and/or under the influence of alcohol it’s unrealistic to believe this will all be documented.

Have we lost our collective minds? The answer appears to be yes.

Sadly, even those of us who cling to traditional thoughts on gender roles are constantly buffeted by the cultural attacks – hence my diatribe set loose by the remake of a gentle, funny family moment gone viral. The Left seeks to poison everything, including this humorous family video, by inserting their agenda of female superiority.

Gentlemen, act like gentlemen. Ladies, act like ladies. Teach your children to do the same.

Backtracking on fracking

Western Maryland is blessed with an enormous amount of cleaner burning natural gas and we need an all of the above approach to energy. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against affordable energy production in our state. Maryland is definitely behind the curve because this administration has decided to politicize the issue rather than take a balanced approach to ensuring we have access to clean and affordable energy sources to power our homes and businesses and grow our economy.

States throughout the country including our neighbors develop their natural gas resources safely and efficiently. Many of these states are realizing an economic boom through gas and oil exploration and are working in concert with groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council to harness these vast resources of domestic energy in an environmentally sensitive way.

Larry Hogan, in response to a WYPR-FM candidate survey, May 2014. (Emphasis mine.)

Three years later, western Maryland is still blessed with an enormous amount of cleaner-burning natural gas, but on Friday Governor Hogan decided it would be better to leave this valuable resource in the ground rather than create jobs and economic opportunities for a section of the state that lags behind the rest of Maryland when it comes to those two very things.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming, though: the temporary moratorium that was in place stemmed from a bill that Hogan allowed to become law without his signature rather than veto it back in 2015. The bill, which as originally introduced was laughably intended to “protect our health and communities,” was amended from a ban extending to 2023 to a prohibition intended to last until October of this year, when the Maryland Department of the Environment was to have regulations in place. But, as Governor Hogan noted in his press conference announcing the new fracking ban, Maryland envisioned the most stringent regulations in the nation – a roll of red tape that would have amounted to a de facto ban if enacted.

And to illustrate the political pressure Radical Green can put on wobbly members of the GOP, bear in mind that the original third reader vote on the 2015 House bill had 45 opposed, but that number whittled down to 33 once the Senate version passed and the House bill (as amended to match the Senate version) went to third reader. The wobblers who changed their votes were Delegates Anderton, Afzali, Beitzel, Carozza, Krebs, Malone, McComas, Miele, Shoemaker, and West. (This list is ten because two Delegates who voted “no” originally were absent the second time, but Afzali changed her vote after the fact to be truly gutless. Interestingly enough, Delegates Anderton, Carozza, Krebs, and Shoemaker all changed back three days later when the Senate third reader came to the House while Delegate Saab opted to join the dark side.) Conversely, the Senate only had two votes correctly in opposition all along, Senators Hough and Ready.

Now we can add Larry Hogan to the list that has wobbled and fallen – this despite a mountain of evidence that hydraulic fracturing, which has been ongoing for over six decades, is safe when done properly. Even the EPA, which put out a final report in the waning days of the Obama administration, noted they found scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances. Yet many of the circumstances they point out could occur at any chemical plant, and they note:

Data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA’s ability to fully assess the potential impacts on drinking water resources locally and nationally. Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.

So should I point out again that over 2 million wells have been hydraulically fractured over the last six decades without incident? It seems to me that past performance should be a very good predictor of future results, particularly as the technology advances. And if you read the report, you’ll note that the uncertainty of cause even extends to those limited, rare incidents blamed – many times falsely – on fracking and most publicized by Radical Green.

No one denies there is risk with hydraulic fracturing – just as there are documented issues with low-frequency noise and impacts on bat population with wind turbines and potential for environmental impact as more and more solar panels are spread over the landscape to significant effect – but the rewards from fracking, as measured by both local economic benefits and the lessening of reliance on foreign energy supplies, have been found to outweigh the risks in nearly every jurisdiction where fracking is possible, while the recalcitrant others (Maryland and New York) have believed the hype over the facts.

While Maryland is a small part of the Marcellus Shale formation that has produced the resurgent energy industry in a region that first benefitted over a century ago from an oil boom – there’s a reason we have motor oil from Pennzoil and Quaker State and it’s not because the brand names are cute – this is a time when the domestic oil and natural gas industry is in a holding pattern. Crude oil prices in the $40-50 a barrel range and a relatively constant balance of natural gas supply and demand means that Maryland missed the boat by about a half-decade in the current cycle, but an increased potential in natural gas exports – coupled with a multi-billion dollar investment in Maryland’s Cove Point facility for LNG exporting that’s slated to come online later this year – means our state would have been in good position to benefit in a few years’ time once natural gas exploration began and delivery infrastructure was put in place. (People tend to forget that part of the equation, too.) But politics, embodied in the baseless fear caused by a noisy environmental lobby, ruled the day Friday.

Allow me to let you in on a dose of common sense: there’s no way in hell Radical Green will give Larry Hogan any credit for what he did on fracking come election time. You can bet your bottom dollar that they will flock to whoever the Democrats end up anointing in their primary because their main goal isn’t a clean environment but to have statists in charge of government. Yes, the rank-and-file who might send a couple hundred dollars to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation every year may really care about the health of the bay, but when the people who benefit most from it are the ones who determine the annual “grade” for the cleanliness of the Bay one has to wonder how much of their thumb is placed on the scale. After all, if the Bay had a grade of A and was pristine H2O, what need would there be for a CBF?

The oil and gas industry doesn’t depend on a government subsidy – they just want a fair and predictable regulatory scheme. But a state which has no problem bending the energy trade by mandating a certain percentage of electricity comes from solar energy and demanding ratepayers subsidize an offshore wind farm seems to have an issue with the source that’s been proven reliable over time and is known as a job creator.

As a ratepayer and voter, I was willing to accept the slight environmental risk of fracking in return for a more prosperous state overall as well as more inexpensive and reliable energy. (And yes, I know that the area in question isn’t one where I live. But if I ever secure a piece of land nearby and someone wants to pay me for the right to use my land to explore for energy resources, I’m glad to oblige. No one has yet assessed the Delmarva Basins on which many of us live for their energy potential.)

In 2014, Allegany and Garrett counties provided almost 1/4 of Larry Hogan’s margin of victory as he carried the duo by 16,466 votes in an election he won by 65,510 votes. Add in adjacent Washington County and that number becomes 35,274 votes, or over half his victory margin. At the risk of losing thousands of votes in that region, Larry Hogan has acquiesced to an environmental lobby that’s not going to give him any credit, any dollars, or any votes for the decision he’s made.

I suppose Larry Hogan thinks he’s got an all-of-the-above electoral strategy, too. But at a time he could have changed Maryland for the better, he instead foolishly chose to surrender to the naysayers.

Make America Great Again, one family at a time

March 17, 2017 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics · 1 Comment 

By Cathy Keim

Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Deuteronomy 5:16 KJV

The political climate in our nation continues to be poisonous seven weeks after President Trump was inaugurated. The headlines, comedians, politicians, and protestors roil the country with venomous attacks including a postcard avalanche.

Trump supporters respond with their own postcards and hold rallies to support their man in the White House.

I do not have a problem with postcard avalanches or rallies.  Going to townhall meetings, writing opinion letters to newspapers, and calling your Congressman and Senators are all valid ways to participate in our political system.

However, if you really want to make a long-term difference in our nation you should start in the home. Our nation is built upon the foundation of our families, for they serve as the basic unit that everything else depends upon. It is glaringly apparent to me that the collapse of our families is resulting in the collapse of our societal structure.

The attack on the family has been going on for years. No-fault divorce was introduced in California in 1970 and spread throughout the country. Suddenly, one spouse could abrogate their marriage vows for any reason and the other spouse had no defense. Divorce was transformed from a failure and a tragedy for all involved, most especially the children, and became considered to be a liberating, good metamorphosis for all.

Unfortunately, the lives wrecked in the shattered marriages were not so easily put back together again. Once marriages were devalued we then moved to co-habitation. After all, why bother with getting married when either partner can abrogate the contract at will?

Then came the final blow: same-sex marriage. What had been a cultural institution for raising children conceived by the union of male and female as man and wife was now redefined as the joining of any two people that loved each other, thus completing the separation of marriage from its understood purpose of bearing and raising of children.

It is increasingly hard to “honor thy father and mother” (as is written in Ephesians 6:2 KJV) when you don’t know them since they divorced and moved on without you, or perhaps they never married in the first place, or now the child may not even have a father and mother but instead has two mothers or two fathers.

The family is the place where children learn how to behave, and they often model their parents’ behavior. The parents are the best people to teach their children how to live. Etiquette training in the home is the oil that smooths the rough spots of social interactions so that we can work and play together without coming to blows.

God ordained the family as the building block of society and He entrusted the parents with the responsibility to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)  The child will honor their parents if they’ve learned the rudiments of manners from their parents.

This concept extends beyond the family when the child understands how authority works. As he honors his parents, so he is to honor those in authority over him such as his teachers, his employer, or the policeman.

The child learns his place in society by living under the authority structure in a loving home with parents that guide him with age-appropriate boundaries.

The breakdown of the family is shockingly evident in the students at our universities that are unwilling to listen to any ideas conflicting with their own. My guess is that their parents did not teach these students that they are not the center of the universe, but that God is. (Chances are these parents were brought up in the same worldly manner.)

Men and women are afraid to trust one another, knowing that their pledge to love each other until death do us part has become, in modern practice, only until one of us gets bored. What woman wants to leave her career to raise children and risk being left impoverished if her husband decides to leave? What man wants to invest in a family if his wife can send him packing and refuse to let him see his children?

More government “help” is not what we need. No-fault divorce laws and welfare benefits removing the need for men to be fathers and providers have done enough damage. Instead, the great need is for people to choose to commit to their families no matter what the government tries to foist upon us.

The old Ozzie and Harriet model is widely derided as unworkable and undesirable. One can never promise perfection in human relationships, but we can present the model that has worked for cultures all over the world since the beginning of civilization: one man and one woman joining together – and staying together – to raise their children to grow up and become civilized adults that can repeat the cycle thus ensuring children that are able to live together in society.

This concept is quite revolutionary! It’s a concept along the lines of believing that our Constitution is an important document that is to be followed, not reinterpreted to say whatever the current batch of politicians wants it to say.

The Women’s March on the day after President Trump’s inauguration exposed the ridiculous positions that these silly women think are important, mainly the right to kill your own offspring before birth. How much more appealing is the idea of a woman who loves and nurtures her children?

And what is more masculine than a man that desires to care for the mother of his children and to love her for a lifetime?

This is not a quick fix, but it is something that everybody can support by nurturing their own families, by promoting family values, by helping their extended family members, and honoring their own parents as an example to their children of how life is to be lived.

We will not Make America Great Again without making our families strong again. So, send your postcards, attend your townhalls, and make your voice heard loud and clear about defunding Planned Parenthood and refusing “Death with Dignity” bills – as the Maryland General Assembly thankfully did this year – but work for the long-range goal of strengthening your family as your most important contribution to America.

P.S. For those families that have been broken and are hurting, know that God is the great healer. God will forgive and heal our families if we only ask for his help.

Some thoughts I have on Trumpcare

I don’t quite think I have to reintroduce myself to all of you, but it truly has been a long time since I sat down and wrote a piece for the consumption of my readers. (Editing Cathy’s last piece and writing two articles for the Patriot Post doesn’t really count for that purpose, nor does updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame page to add a couple player moves.) Unfortunately, things won’t improve on that front for some time, but the opportunity which presented itself to take my writing time was one I could not pass up.

But in this interregnum, we were given the bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and since we are told President Trump has threatened to find primary opponents for any Republican who opposes it, I think I’m safe in calling this package Trumpcare. It’s still a government entitlement because there was a replace added with the repeal, and that already put a strike against it in my book.

The document I am going to base my initial impressions on will be the “talking point” document put out by the House GOP. To be honest, I really don’t have time at this point to read the original 123-page bill in depth, although I downloaded it for future reference and glanced through it to help with this piece. I look at this website as what the House Republicans are using as their chief selling points to the bill, so presumably this is their vision for federally-sponsored health care going forward. We have lived under Obamacare for about three years (as I recall, the major provisions did not all take effect before 2014, although some were in place shortly after the bill passed in 2010) so we know its effects: sizable increases in insurance premiums, a massive expansion of Medicaid (paid for in large part by Uncle Sam) to ratchet up the number of people with health insurance, subsidies for those who have less than a certain income yet are forced onto or choose to partake in the individual insurance market, the reduction in the number of competing insurance companies in many areas of the nation (some have just one insurer available to them), and the virtual elimination of catastrophic health insurance plans as insufficient for the needs of those insured. There were also a number of regulations and restrictions on insurers put in place, key among them the requirement of children being covered under a parent’s policy through the age of 26 and the elimination of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

With this massive incursion into private industry, for the first time the federal government required purchase of a product under penalty of law – those who chose not to buy health insurance were subject to a “shared responsibility payment” collected by the Internal Revenue Service. Imagine if you had to buy a car every four years whether you were happy with the one you had or not, and you may have the idea of how people felt about this. Obviously the economics of it were to make everyone pay a little something, but that’s not the way a free country is supposed to work for something that’s not essential to core functions of government.

Here are some of the provisions within the American Health Care Act (AHCA):

  • It “dismantles” the Obamacare taxes on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health insurance premiums, and medical devices.

Okay, so far so good, although I suppose the definition of “dismantle” is in the eye of the beholder. I glanced through that section of the bill and it looks like this would not take effect immediately but at the end of this year. As a whole, individuals may see a little bit of savings but it won’t be something they will notice.

  • It eliminates the individual and employer mandate penalties.

This is perhaps the best news of all, but there is one huge catch to this: instead of paying this as a tax provision, you would have to pay a penalty to the insurance company in the form of a surcharge on premiums if you start up insurance again after not having it for a period of time. And that catch basically negates the whole benefit of removing the IRS from the equation, although I suppose an insurer could use the waiver of this surcharge as an incentive to bring people in.

  • It maintains the prohibition on charging more or denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions.

I have a big problem with this – not that it wouldn’t necessarily benefit me because I have asthma but because the idea for an insurance company is to make a profit by balancing the risks shared by the vast pool of policyholders with the expenses incurred by reimbursing those insured for loss. If someone is very likely to be a net loss to the insurer because they have a pre-existing condition, it should be the right of the insurer to refuse service. After all, banks don’t lend money at the prime interest rate to people who have poor credit records or no verifiable means of income because that would put their capital at too much risk for the return, so they either refuse the customer outright or charge an interest rate commensurate with the risk. That should be the right of a private insurer, too.

I was reading on social media that Maryland once had a high-risk pool for such patients, which was bankrolled by the state. While it’s not the use of taxpayer money that would be my most favorite, it is a state’s right to do so if they chose and there was nothing wrong with that system because it wasn’t directly competing with the private sector.

  • It keeps the provision of dependents being on their parents’ plan until they are 26.

This is another bad feature of Obamacare that should be buried with the rest of it. If you are 26 you should be able to stand on your own two feet and either be working for someone who offers insurance or be able to afford a plan on your own. (Or choose not to have insurance, which would be your right – although not necessarily recommended.)

  • AHCA also establishes what it calls a Patient and State Stability Fund.

Over the next nine years, the federal government will give out $100 billion to the states to assist them with their goals of insuring every citizen. I read quickly through this section and there are some provisions that give me heartburn: there are strings attached to the expenditure of the money and the states are required to come up with a larger and larger portion of matching funds for whatever they use the money for, up to 50 percent by the end of the program in 2026 – assuming, of course, this doesn’t become a more perpetual giveaway (which I’m convinced it will.) There is $15 billion allocated to this over the next two years and $10 billion per year after that, and I’m sure states will say this isn’t enough because they like that financial crack of Uncle Sugar’s money.

  • Modernize and strengthen Medicare by transitioning to a “per-capita allotment.”

The legalese on this one is beyond my scope of comprehension, but to me the idea of modernizing Medicare would be that of sunsetting it, not strengthening it.

  • Enhance and expand Health Savings Accounts.

One of the better features, although it would be even better with the free transfer of money between HSAs and other entities such as an IRA or 401 (k). If you needed more money in a particular year you should be able to move it without penalty.

  • A monthly tax credit for those who can’t afford insurance, up to $14,000 per year.

A subsidy under a different name. Basically they are replacing one tax scheme with another, still targeted to particular people.

All in all, I think the repeal should take place without the replace. It seems to me that we had a whole political movement and a bumper crop of angst spring up over the last eight years because people did not want any part of the government interference in their health care that Obamacare brought to us. Over that time, we lived with the disappointment of Republican excuses: “we’re only one half of one third of government,” “we have the House and Senate but the President won’t sign this,” “we can’t defund because there would be a government shutdown,” and so forth. After 2016, there was a Congress and President who campaigned on repeal, and yet you give us this?!?

A better alternative may be the plan presented by Senator Rand Paul, although it’s not perfect either. But it’s better than the GOP alternative, which is a great letdown for those of us who waited for the moment to eliminate the (not so) Affordable Care Act.

At throats: take two

By Cathy Keim

Michael mentioned a serious problem in his Monday post, “At throats“, which is that we are no longer able to talk to our fellow citizens if their political bent is different than ours. I have been pondering this problem for some time without coming to any conclusions as to how to fix the issue.

Two events Tuesday illustrated the problem. First, I received a phone call that evening from Congressman Andy Harris inviting me to a tele-townhall if I would just stay on the phone. I joined the teleconference and what I heard was interesting because of the shift from previous townhalls that I have attended. I’ll admit that I have not been to a townhall in a while, but they used to be similar in that the questions from the audience were directed at pushing Harris to the right on issues. The tele-townhall last night fielded questions that were decidedly geared towards pushing Harris to the left.

One lady flat out asked Rep. Harris when he was going to impeach President Trump. Others inquired about funding for Planned Parenthood, stating that they did not want it cut. Another questioned Trump’s connection to Russia and the election. Another question was about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and once again, the person asking was not in support of repealing it.

There was also the questioner who implied that Harris was dodging his duties by having tele-townhalls instead of holding in-person events. Andy explained once again, as he has repeatedly over the last few weeks, that he would resume holding townhalls in person once the GOP plan for repealing and replacing ACA was made public for discussion. (Editor’s note: one is tentatively scheduled for the Easton area on March 31.)

Rep. Harris patiently and competently fielded the questions. He explained that President Trump was the duly elected president with a large Electoral College majority and that a month into his administration was premature for discussing impeachment. He pointed out that Planned Parenthood (PP) provides only one item that other health care facilities do not provide and that is abortion. All the other functions of PP could be provided by existing health care facilities. He also pointed out that PP separates out each service that they provide so that they can appear to be doing much more health care than abortions. For example, if a woman comes in for an exam which includes a pap smear, a physical exam, and a prescription for birth control pills, this would be counted as three separate services even though it was all included in the one visit. This is how they inflate their record for health care services in comparison to the abortions they provide.

Finally, he explained that the false divide between giving government funds to PP that could only be used for health services, but not abortions, is obviously a sleight-of-hand trick. My explanation of this is: Anyone can see that if I give you money to spend on your gas bill, but not on your electric bill, that you will say fine, no problem. You can now use the money that you would have spent on your gas bill to pay your electric bill and I will be happy that you didn’t use my money on your electric bill. This robbing Peter to pay Paul does not sit well with citizens that do not want to pay for abortions.

One person stated quite bluntly that he preferred that abortions be subsidized because unwanted children would grow up to be in prison and that would cost him more to pay for 15 years of prison than the cost of an abortion. Congressman Harris made the case for life in the face of this common argument for death.

After the teleconference call concluded, I watched President Trump address Congress.

The women in white were grouped together to make their statement of disapproval for President Trump. While their stated reason for dressing in white was to align themselves with the suffragettes that fought for the right to vote, the real reason that the feminists are against Trump is because they are afraid that he will take away their ability to seek an abortion at any point in a pregnancy.

Even when he made statements that were appealing to a broad section of Americans to come together, the women in white sat on their hands. A few of them even made thumbs down gestures to show their disapproval for the president.

Overall, I felt that President Trump made an appeal to all sectors of our country to come together and work to make America a better place. If he is successful in his efforts to encourage the economy, then many will put aside their differences and be pleased that the nation’s economy is stronger.

This may buy the Trump administration some breathing room, but there is a strong contingent of unhappy people that will not be dissuaded from praying for the demise of Trump no matter how well the economy hums along. This anti-Trump group comes from both the left and the right, making for strange bedfellows indeed.

As a Tea Party participant, I can vouch for our desire to strengthen our nation, to protect and live by our Constitution, and to leave our nation strong for our children and grandchildren.

The forces that are gathering to oppose the Trump administration as evidenced in the Harris tele-townhall and the President’s address to Congress are being presented as a grassroots outpouring like the Tea Party, but are very different in their outlook. They are pro-big government, pro-death, pro-regulation, and pro-big spending.

To Michael’s point about being at each other’s throats, I don’t see any way to get these two groups together any time soon. Their visions of America are so different that they really cannot coexist, and the die is cast in a way that we will inexorably move toward one or the other. The Trump administration will have to fight for every inch of ground it seizes from the entrenched bureaucracy, and since the GOP elites have not shown the desire to fight for the win up to now it will be interesting to watch and see if they will finally join the struggle.

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