Archive for March 2017

Truth About Obamacare   1 comment

There’s a lot of misinformation floated about Obamacare repeal. For example, the hysteria over how “20 Million people will lose coverage” – absolutely not true.

These figures are from Forbes and the Heritage Foundation, taken from actual government statistics.

Obamacare Meme 1

Posted March 31, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, Uncategorized

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Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate | Jeffrey A. Tucker   3 comments

Gaining the right to be married is a win for liberty because it removes a barrier to free association. But how easily a movement for more freedom turns to the cause of taking away other freedoms!

Related imageFollowing the Supreme Court decision mandating legal same-sex marriage nationwide, the New York Times tells us that, “gay rights leaders have turned their sights to what they see as the next big battle: obtaining federal, state and local legal protections in employment, housing, commerce and other arenas.”

In other words, the state will erect new barriers to freedom of choice in place of the old ones that just came down!

To make the case against such laws, it ought to be enough to refer to the freedom to associate and the freedom to use your property as you see fit. These are fundamental principles of liberalism. A free society permits anything peaceful, and that includes the right to disassociate. Alas, such arguments seem dead on arrival today.

So let us dig a bit deeper to understand why anti-discrimination laws are not in the best interests of gay men and women, or anyone else. Preserving the ability to discriminate permits the market system to provide crucial information feedback to a community seeking to use its buying power to reward its friends and noncoercively, nonviolently punish those who do not share its values.

Ever more, consumers are making choices based on core values. Does this institution protect the environment, treat its workers fairly, support the right political causes? In order to make those choices — which is to say, in order to discriminate — consumers need information.

In the case of gay rights, consumers need to know who supports inclusion and who supports exclusion. Shutting down that information flow through anti-discrimination law robs people of crucial data to make intelligent buying decisions. Moreover, such laws remove the competitive pressure of businesses to prove (and improve) their commitment to community values, because all businesses are ostensibly bound by them.

A market that permits discrimination, even of the invidious sort, allows money and therefore success and profits to be directed toward those who think broadly, while denying money and profitability to those who do not. In this way, a free market nudges society toward ever more tolerant and inclusive attitudes. Money speaks far more persuasively than laws.

Notice that these proposed laws only pertain to the producer and not the consumer. But discrimination is a two-edged sword. The right can be exercised by those who do not like some groups, and it can be exercised by those groups against those who do not like them.

Both are necessary and serve an important social function. They represent peaceful ways of providing social and economic rewards to those who put aside biases in favor of inclusive decision making.

If I’m Catholic and want to support pro-Catholic businesses, I also need to know what businesses don’t like Catholics. If I’m Muslim and only want my dollars supporting my faith, I need to know who won’t serve Muslims (or who will put my dollars to bad use). If a law that prohibits business from refusing to serve or hire people based on religion, how am I supposed to know which businesses deserve my support?

It’s the same with many gay people. They don’t want to trade with companies that discriminate. To act out those values requires some knowledge of business behavior and, in turn, the freedom to discriminate. There is no gain for anyone by passing a universal law mandating only one way of doing business. Mandates drain the virtue out of good behavior and permit bad motivations to hide under the cover of law.

Here is an example from a recent experience. I was using AirBnB to find a place to stay for a friend. He needed a place for a full week, so $1,000 was at stake. The first potential provider I contacted hesitated and began to ask a series of questions that revolved around my friend’s country of origin, ethnicity, and religion. The rental owner was perfectly in his rights to do this. It is his home, and he faces no obligation to open it to all comers.

On the other hand, I found the questions annoying, even offensive. I decided that I didn’t want to do business with this person. I made a few more clicks, cancelled that query, and found another place within a few minutes. The new renter was overjoyed to take in my friend.

I was delighted for two reasons. First, my friend was going to stay at a home that truly wanted him there, and that’s important. Force is never a good basis for commercial relationships. Second, I was able to deny $1K to a man who was, at best, a risk averse and narrow thinker or, at worst, an outright bigot.

Declining to do business with him was my little protest, and it felt good. I wouldn’t want my friend staying with someone who didn’t really want him there, and I was happy not to see resources going toward someone whose values I distrusted.

In this transaction, I was able to provide a reward to the inclusive and broad-minded home owner. It really worked out too: the winning rental property turned out to be perfect for my friend.

This was only possible because the right to discriminate is protected in such transactions (for now). I like to think that the man who asked too many questions felt a bit of remorse after the fact (he lost a lot of money), and even perhaps is right now undergoing a reconsideration of his exclusionary attitudes. Through my own buyer decisions I was actually able to make a contribution toward improving cultural values.

What if anti-discrimination laws had pertained? The man would not have been allowed to ask about national origin, religion, and ethnicity. Presuming he kept his room on the open market, he would have been required under law to accept my bid, regardless of his own values.

As a result, my money would have gone to someone who didn’t have a high regard for my friend, my friend would have been denied crucial information about what he was getting into, and I would not be able to reward people for values I hold dear.

This is precisely why gay rights leaders should be for, not against, the right to discriminate. If you are seeking to create a more tolerant society, you need information that only a free society can provide.

You need to know who is ready to serve and hire gay men and women, so they can be rewarded for their liberality. You also need to know who is unwilling to hire and serve so that the loss part of profit-and-loss can be directed against ill-liberality. Potential employees and customers need to know how they are likely to be treated by a business. Potential new producers need to know about business opportunities in under-served niche markets.

If everyone is forced to serve and hire gays, society is denied important knowledge about who does and does not support enlightened thinking on this topic.

Consider the prototypical case of the baker who doesn’t want to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He is within his rights. His loss of a potential customer base is his own loss. It is also the right of the couple to refuse to give this baker business. The money he would have otherwise made can be redirected towards a baker who is willing to do this. It is equally true that some people would rather trade with a baker who is against gay marriage, and they are within their rights as well.

Every act of discrimination, provided it is open and legal, provides a business opportunity to someone else.

How does all this work itself out in the long run? Commerce tends toward rewarding inclusion, broadness, and liberality. Tribal loyalties, ethnic and religious bigotries, and irrational prejudices are bad for business. The merchant class has been conventionally distrusted by tribalist leaders — from the ancient to the modern world — precisely because merchantcraft tends to break down barriers between groups.

We can see this in American history following the end of slavery. Blacks and whites were ever more integrated through commercial exchange, especially with the advance of transportation technology and rising incomes. This is why the racists turned increasingly toward the state to forbid it. Zoning laws, minimum wage regulation, mandatory segregation, and occupational licensing were all strategies used to keep the races separate even as the market was working toward integration.

The overwhelming tendency of markets is to bring people together, break down prejudices, and persuade people of the benefits of cooperation regardless of class, race, religion, sex/gender, or other arbitrary distinctions. The same is obviously and especially true of sexual orientation. It is the market that rewards people who put aside their biases and seek gains through trade.

This is why states devoted to racialist and hateful policies always resort to violence in control of the marketplace. Ludwig von Mises, himself Jewish and very much the victim of discrimination his entire life, explained that this was the basis for Nazi economic policy. The market was the target of the Nazis because market forces know no race, religion, or nationality.

“Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda,” Mises  wrote in 1944, “did not succeed in preventing German ‘Aryans’ from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors.” So the racists turned to the totalitarian state — closing and confiscating Jewish business, turning out Jewish academics, and burning Jewish books — in order to severe the social and economic ties between races in Germany.

The biggest enemy of marginal and discriminated-against populations is and has always been the state. The best hope for promoting universal rights and a culture of tolerance is the market economy. The market is the greatest weapon ever devised against bigotry — but, in order to work properly, the market needs to signaling systems rooted in individuals’ freedom of choice to act on their values.

And, to be sure, the market can also provide an outlet for people who desire to push back for a different set of values, perhaps rooted in traditional religious concerns. Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A, In-and-Out Burger, among many others, openly push their religious mission alongside their business, and their customer base is drawn to them for this reason. This is also a good thing. It is far better for these struggles to take place in the market (where choice rules) rather than through politics (where force does).

Trying to game that market by taking away consumer and producer choice harms everyone. Anti-discrimination laws will provide more choices at the expense of more informed choices. Such laws force bigotry underground, shut down opportunities to provide special rewards for tolerance, and disable the social learning process that leads to an ever more inclusive society.

New laws do not fast-track fairness and justice; they take away opportunities to make the world a better place one step at a time.

Source: Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate | Jeffrey A. Tucker

An Affordable Health Insurance   1 comment

Amid rising hmedical insurance costs and the debate over reforming/replacing the ACA, it’s easy to miss that an alternative already exists and needs to be protected in any health care reform plan. As Obamacare has driven up the cost of insurance premiums, a growing number of consumers and employers have turned toward high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), often known as “catastrophic health insurance.”

Image result for image of the american health care billThese plans feature lower-than-average premiums in exchange for higher-than-average deductibles, and many on the market today are paired with tax-advantaged health savings accounts (HSAs).

This is as opposed to some small group and individual market policies where you pay high premiums, but you also have a high deductible as a cost-savings means.

Brad and I used to have one of these in the individual market before I accepted a job with medical insurance that covers the family … for a price. There were no attached Health Savings Accounts available in those days and we only satisfied the deductible when we had our daughter through midwife delivery. Prenatal and labor and delivery just topped over the deductible and because we had chosen a low-cost (and much healthier option for childbirth) the insurance company reimbursed the entire bill … a nice baby-warming gift.

We looked into it when Obamacare drove up my family premiums by more than 50% over two years, but we couldn’t find one that covered our family … only individuals. I’ve heard that’s changed, but we don’t need the coverage currently.

Under a high-deductible health plan, you pay for all your medical expenses, except for qualified preventive care (which the ACA made mandatory), up to the annual deductible. After that, some plans pay 100 percent of your covered medical expenses. Others initially pay a share of your medical bills (maybe 80 percent) before paying 100 percent when you reach an out-of-pocket maximum.

TRelated imagehese plans are sometimes referred to as catastrophic health insurance plans, but the name is not exactly accurate. Under health care reform, the plans must cover 100 percent of preventive care, even before you pay the deductible. Additionally, many of the plans cover a full range of health care services – not just hospital and emergency medical costs you might associate with catastrophic care. So, if you’re someone with a chronic disorder, you still might use health insurance coverage for regular doctors’ visits after the deductible is satisfied.

But how do you pay for the medical care you need before the deductible is satisfied? Often the HDHP is paired with a tax-advantaged Health Savings Account. HSA-qualified, high-deductible health plans have been covered by federal law since 2004. These plans are coupled with a health savings account that lets you set aside pre-tax money to use for medical care today. In recent years, these plans have been reformed to allow them to roll over from year to year and now you can even pass them to your heirs.

Consumers shopping for affordable individual health insurance were the first to gravitate toward HSA-eligible plans, followed by small employers, but larger businesses are now looking at them as well. In the latest data, nearly 17.4 million Americans were covered by “health savings account/high-deductible health plans” in 2014, which was a 12 percent increase over 2013. Since 2011, HSA plans have grown on average 15 percent annually.

Currently, not all high-deductible health plans can be paired with an HSA. To qualify for HDHP status in 2016, the plan must have a deductible of at least $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family. Out-of-pocket maximums can be no more than $6,550 for an individual and $13,100 for a family. My former small-group employer has employees paying $1000 a month for an “ordinary” insurance plan that has similar parameters, so they wouldn’t be losing much with an HDHP.

You can contribute up to $3,350 per year in pre-tax dollars to an HSA as an individual or up to $6,750 as a family. You can save an additional $1,000 in the account if you’re 55 or older.

The money in the account grows tax-free, and in some cases companies that service the accounts provide investment options, such as mutual funds to promote further savings growth.

When you withdraw the funds, you don’t have to pay taxes so long as the withdrawals you take are for qualified medical expenses, such as the HDHP’s deductible or medical costs not covered under the plan, including dental and vision care. You can even save for long-term care not covered by Medicare.

An HSA account is portable. Even if you switch to a different type of health plan or change employers, the money is still yours to spend on health care.

They’re a no-brainer for the young and healthy, but Rick believes they’re well-suited for all age- and health groups. There are currently 20 million active HSA accounts in the US, but expansion plans could increase the number significantly.

“I believe everyone should be in charge of their own health care decisions. These plans mean that consumers care how much medical care costs. It incentivizes them to make informed decisions. Last year, my son chose to forego expensive surgery in favor of physical therapy to correct an orthopedic injury. He’s back doing stupid athletic things in less time than the recovery from surgery would have been. He’s less likely to hurt himself in the future because he’s learned a great deal about body mechanics. If he’d been covered by “full-coverage” insurance, he would have been less conscious of the costs and asked fewer questions about the alternatives. Yes, he cost a surgeon a lot of money, but that money went to a physical therapist, a gym membership, and whatever investments his HSA is attached to. Yes, Lela, I read “The Broken Window” by Bastiat when you suggested it and I can apply it.” Rick (a doctor)

Rick supports the government funding HSA’s for lower-income people, paired with a HDHP, as an alternative to the one-size-fits-all (but it doesn’t) current medical insurance scheme. It would save the government money in the long run and it would force people to pay attention to their own medical care decisions and by the time someone turned 18 and was responsible for their own health care, they’d have plenty of money in the account to act as a cushion for any future medical expenses.

Stay Tuned for A Launch Party   Leave a comment

Across Spacetime Banner

My friend Angela Guidolin is launching her new book Across Spacetime this week and I’m doing an author spotlight Thursday, March 30 from 6:00-7:00 am Alaska Daylight Savings Time (who knows why, at over 12 hours of sun a day, we need to save daylight, but that’s the United States government in its infinite bureaucracy). There’s a link below if you want to know when that is in your time zone.

Across Spacetime Book Release Party

Several other authors are participating. I’m giving away a ebooks (first book in of both my series) and it looks like some of the other authors are also.

Lela Markham 3 pm-4 pm BST or 6 am -7 am Alaska Daylight Time
Tim Lewis 4 pm-5 pm BST or 11am-12pm EDT
Jessica Veter 5pm-6pm BST or 12pm-1pm EDT
Helena Trooperman 6pm-7pm BST or 1pm-2pm EDT
Angela Guidolin 7pm -8pm British Summer Time
Terence Mitford 8pm-9pm BST
Kal Uddin 9pm-10pm BST
Melissa Macfie 10pm-11pm BST or 5pm-6pm EDT

To find out the correspondent time in your timezone, just follow the link:http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/

Prizes:

By Lela Marham: The Willow Branch-Book 1 of The Daerman Cycle (Fantasy); and Life As We Knew It-Book 1 of the Transformation Project Series (Science Fiction)

By Tim Lewis: Timeshock: I Want My Life Back-Book 1 in the series (Science Fiction); and Magpies and Magic-Book 1 (Fantasy)

By Jessica S. Veter: The Eyes Have it (Science Fiction)

By Helena Trooperman: Good Fortune: A Futuristic Techno Thriller  (Thriller)
By Angela Guidolin: 2 copies of Across Spacetime (authorgraphed)

By Terence Mitford: The Scarlet Club, (Thriller)
By Kal Uddin: Rise of the Red Harbinger-Book 1 of The Drowned Realm (Fantasy)

By Melissa Macfie: Fate’s Hand– Book 1 of The Celtic Prophecy (Fantasy)

A Visit with Jane Bwye   4 comments

Today’s guest on the blog is Jane Bwye, a longtime friend and fellow writer. Welcome back to the blog, Jane.

Bwye Author PicLela, it’s good to be visiting you again. While browsing through your Writing Wednesday blogs, I discovered our interview way back in 2014. It was the very first one in your series. You mentioned that I might be following it up with an article. Well – here it is – three years later, on the eve of the launch of another book!

GRASS SHOOTS, the sequel to Breath of Africa, will be launched on Amazon on 30th March, 2017!

Caption: Elephants in Shaba Game Reserve

“More rocks had appeared on the near shore, captured by the sun. She glanced at the original clump, and back again. They had multiplied, and were covering the sand bar. They were moving…  ‘You’ve seen the elephants?’”

Bwye breath of africa - 902kbThis tender inter-racial love triangle concludes the saga of Caroline’s and Charles’s inter-racial families. Their children climb an erupting volcano, explore archaeological sites along the coast, and go on safari in Kenya’s exotic game reserves. The book pivots round the devastation in a highland village caused by the violence after the elections of 2007.  It touches upon present-day problems with foreign aid, beset by politics and corruption. It explores the possibility of alternative ways to help, which include input from the people on the ground – the ordinary villagers – and a burgeoning Kenyan middle class.

That’s sounds like a great book, Jane … one that really touches on the issues faced in Africa today.

The words I wrote in our previous interview have evolved into the main theme which is one of hope, and charity.

Faith and hope are strong among the poorest of its people, who exhibit a simplicity, happiness and gratitude for the smallest of mercies. Volunteers from churches overseas have had life-changing experiences when visiting to help communities in Africa, and I suspect the spiritual benefit received by those offering charity can be greater than that of the recipients. Africa can teach the rest of the world a thing or two about faith, forgiveness and the philosophy of life. I guess that is why I believe so firmly that there is a future in Africa – even though it may not be the same hope as understood by the rest of the world.

Bwye Kenya07 003 (2)Although I have no personally had the opportunity to do missions in Africa, I have friends who are involved in mission efforts in Tanzania and I think you’re probably right about the spiritual benefit accruing as much ot the missionaries as to the recipients. It’s my experience that Christians who live in difficult circumstances are much more reliant on God’s grace as exercised through faith than we are in the 1st world.

The name of my fictitious charity, which is founded in the United Kingdom, is Grass Shoots; and a significant part of the action takes place in the make-believe highland village of Amayoni, which – in Swahili – means birds.

Bwye I lift up my eyesTropical forest grew in great entanglements around her and its immensity engulfed her. It was denser than she could ever have imagined, with myriad shades of green and mystical shapes and forms, vibrant with life. Bursts of song filled her ears, yet she could see no birds in the thick foliage, which rocked and swished as the wind gusted through.

            Suddenly a branch bent over with a crack, and something large and blue flopped partially into view. Her senses were filled with the glorious sight of a large bird, a flash of yellow on its beak, its blue-green feathers melding into the background. It stayed, majestic, still, for a breath-taking second, then crouched forward and hopped in smooth bounds up the branch.

            “That’s a great blue,” a voice said at her shoulder.

            “A great blue?”

            “Turaco. You’re lucky. They’re a rare sight in this forest. The name of the village you’re going to visit tomorrow is Amayoni, which means birds.”

            They were standing on a closely-cropped lawn gazing over the carefully cultured flowerbeds at a dense wall of trees. A stream raced between them and the forest, its bank smooth and inviting. On the other side, a disarray of broken sticks and branches trailed in the water. A tumble of trunks growing at various angles dissolved into the mass of trees, blocking off the evening sun.

Bwye Grass RootsShe stooped to dip her finger in the torrent. It was icy cold. She straightened her back and pulled her cardigan round her shoulders before following the manager into the Kakamega Forest Lodge.

There is an enhanced Glossary of terms at the back of this book.

This sounds like another great book, an excellent follow-up to Breath of Africa.

Thank you for having me again, Lela. I will be happy to return the favour any time.

 

 

Jane lived in Kenya for over half a century, where she brought up her large family. An intermittent freelance journalist and business owner, she has written a cookbook, Museum Mixtures (1989) in aid of the National Museums of Kenya, and a History of her church in Eastbourne (2013).

Her first novel, Breath of Africa (2013) was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. It draws on her experiences growing up in the country she still calls her home. Grass Shoots, the sequel, completes a family saga through to modern day Kenya. The novella, I Lift Up My Eyes, (2015) is set in Sussex.

A world traveller, Jane has bought a bird book in every country she visited. Now living in the UK, she is a business mentor and dressage judge, while indulging her love for choral singing, tennis, and playing bridge.

Link’d In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jane-bwye-9866041b/

Facebook:  JLBwye

Amazon Author Profile.co.uk

Amazon Author Profile.com

Stay Tuned for Writing Wednesday   Leave a comment

I’m back with Writing Wednesday and revisiting with a long-time friend of mine, Jane Bwye, who is launching a new book this week.

So tune in and hear what she’s up to. My best guess — it’s Africa-related.

 

Posted March 28, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

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Make the Bouquet… Or Else! | Roger Pilon   1 comment

Image result for image of a wedding bouquetTo see how little is left of one of our most important rights, the freedom of association, look no further than to today’s unanimous decision by the Washington State Supreme Court upholding a lower court’s ruling that florist Baronelle Stutzman was guilty of violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) when she declined, on religious grounds, to provide floral arrangements for one of her regular customer’s same-sex wedding. The lower court had found Stutzman personally liable and had awarded the plaintiffs permanent injunctive relief, actual monetary damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

This breathtaking part of the Supreme Court’s conclusion is worth quoting in full:

We also hold that the WLAD may be enforced against Stutzman because it does not infringe any constitutional protection. As applied in this case, the WLAD does not compel speech or association. And assuming that it substantially burdens Stutzman’s religious free exercise, the WLAD does not violate her right to religious free exercise under either the First Amendment or article I, section 11 because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.

We have here yet another striking example of how modern state statutory anti-discrimination law has come to trump a host of federal constitutional rights, including speech, association, and religious free exercise. It’s not too much to say that the Constitution’s Faustian accommodation of slavery is today consuming the Constitution itself.

Such is the wrath of the crowd that wants our every act to be circumscribed by law—their law, of course.

Consider simply the freedom of association right. That liberty in a free society ensures the right of private parties to associate, as against third parties, and the right not to associate as well—that is, the right to discriminate for any reason, good or bad, or no reason at all. The exceptions at common law were for monopolies and common carriers. And if you held your business as “open to the public” you generally had to honor that, though you still could negotiate over services.

Slavery, of course, was a flat-out violation of freedom of association—indeed, it was the very essence of forced association. But Jim Crow was little better since it amounted to forced dis-association.  It was finally ended, legally, by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But that Act prohibited not simply public but private discrimination as well in a range of contexts and on a range of grounds, both of which have expanded over the years. The prohibition of private discrimination may have been helpful in breaking the back of institutionalized racism in the South, but its legacy has brought us to today’s decision, where florists, bakers, caterers, and even religious organizations can be forced to participate in events that offend their religious beliefs.

Court’s haven’t yet compelled pastors to officiate at ceremonies that are inconsistent with their beliefs, but we have heard calls for eliminating the tax-exempt status of their institutions. Such is the wrath of the crowd that wants our every act to be circumscribed by law—their law, of course. And they’re prepared, as here, to force their association on unwilling parties even when there are plenty of other businesses anxious to serve them. As I concluded a Wall Street Journal piece on this subject a while ago:

No one enjoys the sting of discrimination or rejection. But neither does anyone like to be forced into uncomfortable situations, especially those that offend deeply held religious beliefs. In the end, who here is forcing whom? A society that cannot tolerate differing views—and respect the live-and-let-live principle—will not long be free.

Amen.

A version of this article was first published by The Cato Institute.

Source: Make the Bouquet… Or Else! | Roger Pilon

 

There are larger questions here than can be considered in a single blog post, though the author touches on it. How long before pastors are compelled to officiate at same-sex ceremonies in violation of the clear commands of the Bible the pastor claims to believe? Can a doctor be forced to provide an abortion when he is morally opposed to abortion? Must Muslim restaurants sell pork and alcohol … and why would this exemption be any different than baking a wedding cake or making a floral arrangement for a same-sex couple? Lela

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