Archive for the ‘#commonsense’ Tag

Recovering Stone-Chucker   4 comments

Feb 18, 2019

What was your best drop the mic moment?

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I guess it depends on how you define a “mic drop moment.”

Those who have followed my discussions on Facebook know that I don’t advocate for shutting down conversations, so quite often, when I could have a “mic drop”, I choose to let it go. I think mic drops are (mostly) arrogantly executed by people who believe they’re right and are unwilling to hear any evidence to the contrary. That’s not me (most of the time). I do believe I know some things a lot of people don’t know (and, I’ve tested that theory a bunch, so I have evidence to support my suspicion I’m right), but I like seeing a broad range of discussions and points of view. Sometimes they change my mind, mostly I’m hoping I can change their minds. If I do a mic drop, I’m shutting down that conversation and that rarely, if ever, changes anyone’s mind.

But I do have them occasionally. Often it’s not intentional. I’m a quippy person in my everyday life and I’ve gotten into some verbal sword-play and I’ve said something that caused the other person to go – “hmm, I can’t think of a comeback”. Since it’s not intentional, I don’t keep track. I don’t glory in it. I kind of think it was a failure because it stopped the discussion. A few times, though, I’ve had that person come back to me and say “You had a point and I changed my mind.” Good, but half the time, I can’t even remember what I said.

I had one to share with people on gun control (it really was a glory moment), but I changed my mind this morning after my pastor’s sermon mic-dropped a bunch of people in the congregation and I thought, yeah, there’s my topic.

The Bible is unequivocally clear that Christians aren’t supposed to participate in sin and I try to live my life accordingly. It’s been 27 years ago in December since I’ve drunk alcohol – not because I have a problem with alcohol. I’ve always been able to stop at one beer, wine, whatever and I’ve never really needed it to have a good time. But I take seriously that if I cause my brother (or husband) to stumble, I am as guilty of his sin as he is, and so, I chose to give it up and I don’t regret that. I don’t judge anyone for their ability to handle an adult beverage or two, it’s just that someone in my household can’t, so I judge myself accordingly. It certainly wasn’t a sin when Jesus turned water in REALLY GOOD wine, but it would be a sin for me to drink it because it stands a good chance of dragging my husband into what is truly a sin for him.

I also don’t cheat on my husband and that includes reading (or writing) books that have detailed sexual encounters in them because I take seriously Jesus’ admonition that if you commit a sin in your head, you’re as guilty as if you committed it with your body. I don’t judge you if you can read (or write) such books and feel fine in your marriage. It would be a sin for me. It might not be a sin for you. If you’re worried about it, consult your Maker, not me.

Lest you think I’m as pure as the fresh-driven snow, I’m not, and I don’t pretend to be. I slammed a lot of caffeine before writing this article, for example, and my heartrate informs me that is not treating the temple of God (my body) with the respect it deserves. I also still have some weight I’m trying to lose and that too is a desolation of God’s temple (my body). My lack of self-control assures me I am a sinner just like everyone else. My sins are just more socially acceptable than some people’s sins, but God isn’t a socialite, so I am without excuse.

Romans 2:1-11 is an interesting passage – I won’t post the whole thing here because it’s long, but it basically says (after talking about non-Christians in Chapter 1) – “Christians, you are sinners too, and you have no excuse for judging those who are non-Christians because God doesn’t see shades of grey when it comes to sin. And you will be judged if you treat non-Christians as if you are better than them because you’re not.”

My overindulgence in caffeine is not better than my husband’s past overindulgence in alcohol … just as an example. The teller of “white lies” is as much a sinner as the murderer. In God’s eyes, we’re the same, sinners one and all. The only thing that separates Christian sinners from non-Christian sinners is that Christians have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf as salvation. He bought out our slave contract, in essence. WE didn’t do that. He did and He did it for the whole world, we’re just the ones who have accepted it. Anyone else wanting to join us is welcome … by me anways and certainly by Jesus … but more on that in subsequent paragraphs.

Now, understand, paired with other passages of the Bible, this passage is not saying Christians are supposed to join the non-Christians in their sin. No, we absolutely are called to be a counter-cultural movement within society. But we are absolutely wrong if we think that makes us better than those who compose the cultural tide we’re swimming against. We’re all wading through the same cesspool, it’s just Christians have heard that rescue is upstream, not down.

The mic drop here is that many many conservative Christians are judgmental stone-chuckers and I’m not really innocent of this charge. I’m a recovering stone-chucker. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can look at people who commit sins, clearly know that they are committing sins, commit to not joining them, and just say “Yeah, your choice, I’ll pray for you.” This doesn’t mean I condone their sins by any stretch of the imagination. Just as I am still working on learning not to make excuses for my own failures, I am not going to white-wash the world around me. There is a lot of crap in my culture that I know makes God’s heart bleed for my fellow humans and so I (try to) refrain from those activities because I don’t want to embarrass my Heavenly Father, but there were a lot of people in the congregation this morning who walked out trying to justify their own stone-chucker behavior. I could see it in their eyes. They were a little pissed at the pastor, but in reality, they were more than a little pissed at the word of God, and that’s on them – that’s their sin and I’m called to not join my fellow Christians in their immorality either.

So, I didn’t do that. It was done to me and to the people sitting around me by a man (our pastor) with an incredibly tender heart and a son sitting in SuperMax lockup. Do I think my pastor might be a recovering stone-chucker? Oh, yeah! And, I know people in my congregation who are WAY bigger stone-chuckers than I am (some of them have recently written letters to the editor so that we know how judgmental they are) — but God doesn’t see it that way. In His eyes, my little tiny pebbles of judgment are the same as the meteors some of my fellow church-goers hail down on secular society. There is a fine line between recognizing that something is a sin that Christians shouldn’t participate in (and choosing not to participate even when there are big consequences for our refusal to comply) and using that knowledge as a bludgeon against an unbelieving world. I AM CALLED to NOT PARTICIPATE in the world’s folly, but I am NOT called to try to make the world conform to my morality. I’m supposed to be a spiritual salmon, swimming upriver, but not trying to change the river’s course. Let the river go where it will. I know my destination.

So, the mic got dropped on me this morning and I am without excuse. And, as with all mic drops, now that I’ve been rendered without defense, I get to decide what I’m going to do about it. Not “What am I going to do to other people about it”. Judgment of others is always the temptation, right? No, I must decide “What am I myself going to do with this knowledge?”

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Posted February 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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She’s No Hamilton   Leave a comment

by Randal OToole 02/15/2019

http://www.newgeography.com/content/006224-she-s-no-alexander-hamilton

The Antiplanner might be behind the times, but has anyone else noticed that it is the Democrats who are playing the role of Alexander Hamilton — the conservative who wanted to centralize government and concentrate power in New York banks — while the Republicans are playing the role of Thomas Jefferson — the civil libertarian who wanted to keep economic and political power decentralized? I always wondered why Lin-Manuel Miranda picked such a conservative historical figure to be the hero of his left-leaning musical.

Now we know. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is going to cost tens of trillions of dollars, but she just blithely says we’ll pay for it “the same way we paid for World War II”: “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit.”

The complete article is available at the link above.

Posted February 15, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide

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Creative Destruction   4 comments

Are humans better at creating or destroying?

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What an amazing topic!

As with so many things, I don’t see this in black and white terms. Without a doubt, human beings have a history of destructive behavior. Wars, environmental damage, genocides, infanticide – God must weep to see His creation being so absolutely stupid. He created us to be nurturing and we spit in His face and put ourselves on His throne and started smashing the china.

It would be easy to look around our planet and judge, as some people do, human beings as destructive beyond redemption.

And yet we are the most creative species. No other species creates art like we do. Amazing paintings, music that takes our souls to the heights of heaven and the depths of hell, books that speak words that break our hearts and put them back together again … there’s just so much that shows how incredibly creative we are. We were created by the ultimate Creator, and a part of being made in His image is that we hold an incredible capacity for creation.

Image result for image of creative destruction economics

And then there’s this little-recognized and largely not understood concept of Creative Destruction. It’s an economic term. It means that as new technologies and economic sectors are created, old ones are often destroyed, but in the process of the destruction, the people displaced by that transformation end up with improved lives.

This has application in so many areas, including as a writer. I am currently happily wrestling with my perennial work in progress, “What If Wasn’t.” I think I am on Complete Rewrite #3 and it’s starting to look like a series (no real surprise there, I guess). I’ve killed a lot of darlings in the process – but in the debris of each editing, I find gems worth keeping and making better. Destruction and creativity are symbiotic processes.

I think humans are naturally better at destruction than we are at creativity because, since the Fall, we’re bent and we struggle to access the nature God created us to have. At best, creativity is a vestigial talent left over from when we were whole and complete, in full contact with the Creator. Destruction became our legacy when we divorced from His guidance. But because we are both, we live through this endless cycle of destruction and creativity, using the debris of our destruction as building blocks for our creativity, even as our creativity powers us forward into a future that leaves behind the technologies of the past.

It’s fascinating to view the cycle. In economics, it’s wonderful to see how the process of creative destruction has lifted so many people out of poverty. In history, it is stunning to see civilizations that have risen from the debris of prior civilizations. And, yet, there remains that destructive bent that believes that we must strangle others in order to get ahead. Whether we do the strangling in the board room or the capitol, we so often refuse to see that there is a better way based on individual striving in a society that allows both competition (which makes us strong) and cooperation (which allows for support where we’re weak). I see a lot of my daughter’s generation who are beginning to understand this and adopt a live-and-let-life strategy to live, but there are so many voices today that couch destructive messages in touchy-feely rhetoric. It is hard sometimes to know whether we are improving or devolving, but that too may be a cycle of creative destruction.

And now we should head off to see what my fellow authors think on this subject.

Posted January 28, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Handling Trolls You Know   1 comment

A while ago, an author I work with regularly took exception with my stance on prison reform. She — who has probably never met a felon — trolled me on Twitter and told me she wouldn’t work with me in the future until I changed my INFORMED opinion to match her feelings agenda.

Because I’d entered an obligation, I’ve continued to share her articles so long as they weren’t so far off the mark that I couldn’t agree with them in the slightest and then I just didn’t make a deal out of it.

But last week, I did an inventory to see if she had shared anything of mine since she’d decided she could ignore her obligation. I found no evidence that she had, so I informed her that I was no longer supporting her. That’s not entirely true. I would still support her if I found a redeeming comment there, but I don’t feel like I’m under obligation to support someone who is not keeping her commitments.

This isn’t about agreeing or disagreeing on topics. It’s about a verbal contract that was made to support one another through a blog. I welcome all debate, but when someone violates a contract with me, they can’t expect me to uphold my end of the contract.

Posted January 25, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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A Possible Solution   Leave a comment

Freedom is an amazing thing because people who are free are able to think for themselves and come up with innovative solutions to the problems as those circumstances affect them.

The answer to America’s medical care crisis is not direction from Washington – which has already screwed up the best medical care system in the world. It is also not European-style universal care.

When I developed appendicitis while on a medical exchange in France several years ago, I dosed myself with antibiotics and painkillers and got on a plane to the United States. I risked a ruptured appendix over the Atlantic rather than use the medical care system operated by colleagues I respected. That should tell you something about my experience with European-style universal coverage. I was not putting my life in their hands and I still wouldn’t even though I am not running a fever at the moment.

So, what is the answer? Well, how about choice and innovation? How about putting doctors and the patients in the driver’s seat? How about taking the exact opposite approach from what broke the system in the first place?

Thinks about this. There are plenty of industries where businesses compete against one another without undue government regulation. Choices and innovation increase while prices and other barriers to access decrease. Why do we assume that a similar approach to reforming our medical care system wouldn’t also result in similar outcomes? No, it wouldn’t happen overnight, but it might well push the momentum in the right direction.

Obamacare’s rigid and centralized federal regulation of the nongroup market has failed. Premiums rose at unsustainable levels, choices dried up and enrollment in the individual policies continues to decline. Seven states were granted waivers from Obamacare mandates giving them the freedom to try new approaches. Significantly, states are achieving these favorable outcomes without the expenditure of additional federal funds. Instead, under their 1332 waivers, they re-purpose federal money that would have been paid directly to insurance companies in the form of premium subsidies, using it instead to directly pay medical bills for residents in poor health. These findings suggest that the most effective means of undoing the detrimental effect of Obamacare’s federal regime of subsidies, penalties, and regulations while ensuring that everyone can access private coverage is to provide states with the resources and flexibility to achieve that goal, rather than lashing them to a failing Washington-dominated system.

How do we do that? Well, Lela is down with just ending Obamacare tomorrow, but I’m more in favor of graduated measures like the Heath Care Choices Proposal. Under the proposal, current federal entitlement spending on Obamacare’s rigid structure of insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion would be reprogrammed into state block grants, with broad flexibility for states to develop more consumer-centered approaches to meeting the needs of the poor and the sick, while keeping coverage affordable for other enrollees.

June 2018, a group of state and national think tanks, grassroots organizations, and health policy experts developed a proposal to enable and encourage state innovation. The Health Care Choices Proposal would reverse the Obamacare polarity. In place of rigid federal constraints from which waivers could provide limited relief, the proposal would rely on states to devise ways to assist the sick and needy, without pricing coverage out of the reach of healthy and middle-income families. The proposal would repeal Obamacare’s federal entitlements to premium assistance and Medicaid expansion and replace them with grants to states to stand up consumer-centered programs. Instead of asking Washington’s permission for some limited flexibility, states would use federal resources to finance approaches that best serve the needs of their residents.

The proposal would put in place some conditions for the grants. First, every individual who receives subsidies from the federal government (including Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program), would be given new freedom to spend that money on the coverage arrangement of their choice— vastly expanding their options. States, additionally, would have to use a portion of their federal allotment to establish risk-mitigation programs. The proposal would also require states to spend a specified portion of their federal grants on subsidizing private, commercially available insurance coverage for people with low incomes. States could not use the money to expand Medicaid or consign low-income people to state-contracted managed care plans.

The proposal would release states from Obamacare requirements on essential health benefits, single-risk pools, medical loss ratio, and the 3:1 limit on age rating. Nullifying these mandates and providing states with new flexibility would reduce premiums, allow premiums to more accurately reflect medical risk, and, in combination with risk mitigation, assure that the sick get the coverage they need without saddling the healthy with unfairly high premiums.

Most important, the proposal would replace the Washington-knows-best approach to health policy with one that invests states with the policy initiative, something the section 1332 waiver process cannot accomplish. The block grant approach provides certainty for state (and federal) governments by putting spending on a budget that can’t be increased, as is the case today, if a state or insurer decides to spend more money. The block grant also gives states greater certainty in projecting the amount of federal funding that will be available to them over time. And it helps consumers because it gives new freedom to people to control their federal subsidy and direct it to their choice of a wide range of private coverage arrangements. Regardless of the approach a state chooses to implement, an individual can claim the value of the benefits and use it on the private coverage arrangement of their choice.

States have shown they can take steps under Section 1332 to stabilize their markets without new federal money. It is utterly unnecessary to spend new federal money in the name of market stabilization.

Instead of providing new federal money or creating new federal programs, policymakers should revise the section 1332 waiver process. This would allow policymakers to make incremental progress toward the goal of transitioning from Obamacare’s Washington-centric approach to state-based health care reform. Obama Administration limits and statutory limits on the section 1332 process should be relaxed or removed during that transition. There already are a variety of proposals to do just that, including one from Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander. CMS should start by rescinding the December 2015 guidance, which imposes restrictions on state innovation that go beyond the already excessive statutory restrictions, creating burdens that are costly and time-consuming. In many cases, states have withdrawn their applications rather than see the process through to its conclusion. CMS should replace this process with a streamlined approach and develop model waivers organized around the principle of reducing premiums for private coverage in the broader non-group market, increasing choices for consumers. Such changes—while insufficient to the larger task of needed reform—would support states’ near-term efforts to address Obamacare’s damage to their broken private markets as part of a transition to the broader solution.

Posted January 4, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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Not A Solution   Leave a comment

So, the United States has a problem with a dysfunctional medical insurance system and a broken government-medical care system. So what is the solution. Well, it’s not becoming Canada.

The Frasier Institute recently undertook a research project to see how Canada’s medical care system stacks up to the rest of the world. When compared to 11 similar countries, including the United States, a recent study shows that whether it’s emergency room visits, same- or next-day appointments, seeing a specialist or getting elective surgery, Canada’s wait times are the worst.

In fact, in 2016, Canadians waited an average of five months for medically necessary specialist treatments. As a specialist working in a field where delay of treatment turns a manageable condition into a death sentence, that concerns me. Apparently it concerns Canadians as well because almost 60,000 of them visit the US and other countries for medical care each year.

Speaking of other countries, over in the United Kingdom, where they’ve had 70 years to figure out how to run a government-controlled health care system, over 80 percent of doctors say their workplaces are understaffed and the NHS reports a 45 percent higher hospital death rate than the US, which might explain why over 50,000 “non-urgent” surgeries were canceled in 2018 when their system was overwhelmed by flu season.

In Canada, apologists for the universal medical care system there (where private doctors are outlawed) claim the wait times remain a small price to pay for universal medicare care, but then why don’t we see similar issues in other countries with universal health care systems? Frasier’s research examined eleven other countries. While you could argue that the US doesn’t have a universal system (I wouldn’t argue that at this point), the other countries. Generally, they allow the private sector to provide core health-care insurance and services in which patients share in the cost of treatment and they fund hospitals based on activity. Canada funds most hospitals from a global budget.

You can look at the Netherlands, which was the top performer in the ability to see a doctor on the same or next day. Individuals are required a standard insurance package from private insurers in a regulated, but competitive market. A for-profit company is the market leader.

France has universally accessible hospital care delivered by public, not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals. In fact, about one-third of all French hospitals are operated on a for-profit basis.

Switzerland ensures universality in an environment of managed competition among insurance companies and medical-care providers. Cost sharing is a central feature. Individuals are expected to pay a deductible before insurance kicks in, and then there is a 10-20 percent insurance copayment, up to a annual maximum.

Germans use social/statutory or private insurance to a access public or private hospital care. Forty-two percent of hospitals are operated on a for-profit basis, but almost all hospitals are accessible by patients with the social/statutory coverage.

So, I believe there is a solution to the medical-care crisis in America, but I think other countries don’t have that solution.

The Problem   Leave a comment

Less than half of the 24 million proponents of Obamacare who said they would sign up during the legislative process in 2010 actually did so in the last eight years.

Why?

Well, they ran up against the cost of socialized healthcare.
Premiums doubled in the first four years of Obamacare. Last year, the average monthly premium for individual insurance was $476 per person per month in the 39 states participating in HealthCare.gov.

Here is Alaska, premiums in the individual and small-group markets doubled in those first four years and have tripled in the three years since. Alaskans in the small-group markets pay an average premium in excess of $1000 a month.

It gets worse than that, however. As premiums have gone up, choices have gone down. In more than 80 percent of counties across the US, there are only one or two health care plans available on the Obamacare exchange. That means millions of Americans now have far fewer choices when it comes to their doctor and health care network.

For the 11 million who did sign up for Obamacare, over 86 percent of them were enrolled in Medicaid. That didn’t ensure they have access to medical care because increasing numbers of doctors and other medical providers are no longer accepting Medicaid because they are reimbursed at an unsustainable level for the amount of staff required to handle all the related paperwork.

Medicaid is notorious for long wait times and poor health outcomes. It is a costly and unsustainable welfare entitlement program that delivers low-quality medical care to many of its enrollees. Because most doctors don’t accept Medicaid, recipients have little choice but to seek non-urgent care in expensive and overcrowded hospital emergency rooms where they often receive inferior medical treatment. When they do need to seek urgent care, they are routinely assigned to less-skilled surgeons, receive poorer post-op instructions, and often suffer worse outcomes for identical procedures than similar patients both with and without medical insurance.

Medicaid has become too large to provide good services to people who genuinely need public assistance. Eligibility expansions have crowded out those who need care and can’t afford it because taxpayer funds are being spent on individuals who could afford private insurance coverage. This diverts resources from the genuinely needy populations of the program.

You could perhaps make an argument for this if states that have expanded Medicaid had experienced better health outcomes for their poorer populations, but there’s no evidence that has happened. While most of those enrolled in Medicaid are relatively healthy children and their mothers, a small subset of enrollees have serious diseases like diabetes, HIV, anemia, or psychosis. These Medicaid patients are typically in worse condition at the time of their diagnosis than either the insured or the uninsured. They also typically have worse average health outcomes after treatment than either of those two demographics.

Compared to the privately insured, Medicaid patients have a 22 percent great chance of complications and a 57 percent greater change of dying following colon cancer surgery. They are more likely to die in the hospital than the uninsured. That’s right – the uninsured. That statistic comes courtesy of the University of Virginia, by the way.

Medicaid patients typically spend longer in the hospital (10.5 days) than both the insured (7.4 days) and the uninsured (7 days). This is because they are more likely to experience complications and that might explain why Medicaid patients have a 21% higher cost for hospitalization than the uninsured and and a 26% higher cost for hospitalization than the privately insured.

These sad statistics are not limited to adults with cancer, but also show up in stroke recovery and in pediatrics. The vast majority of children in and out of Medicaid enrollment are healthy, but of course that’s not always the case. Researchers have found that a child with asthma is five times more likely to see an asthma specialist if she has private coverage rather than Medicaid. Children with Medicaid are 50% more likely to be seen by an emergency room doctor, in large part because of the dearth of private doctors who will accept Medicaid patients. Those same doctors will accept someone paying case, so uninsured patients actually have more access to medical treatment than those insured under the Medicaid system.

The worst part of all of this is that Obamacare’s shifting of lower-income coverage to Medicaid has resulted in a crowd-out of private insurance and patients it used to cover. Yes, some few uninsured who were not previously covered by Medicaid may now have insurance (with no assurance of actual medical treatment), but even for the previously-insured, getting into see a doctor is now much more difficult, resulting in higher prices and longer wait times. Obamacare’s paperwork requirements on doctors have reduced the amount of time they can spend with patients, increasing diagnosis and treatment errors.

And, none of it was necessary. There are better solutions.

Cousin Rick is a world-renown research doctor who works for a major medical center and    would like not to identify himself, as that would likely ruin his career under the current tyrannical environment of the medical community. He is a frequent guest on my blog whenever the current  medical insurance stupidity becomes so great that he feels it necessary to vent.

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