Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Obama silent as Venezuelan government violently represses democratic opposition

Socialism in Venezuela

Socialism in Venezuela

From the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpt:

Thousands of supporters and opponents of Venezuela’s socialist government have taken to the streets this past week. Initiated by student groups, the protestors are voicing their grievances against soaring crime rates, high inflation, a shortage of basic goods, and a lack of political and economic freedom.

All the while, the Obama Administration has been relatively silent. The occasional press release from the State Department uses the same recycled lines of “deep concern” that we’ve come to expect from an indifferent Administration. Not even the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats Sunday evening could elicit a stronger statement.

So far, three people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested and tortured. Some even disappeared thanks to government security forces. Videos, pictures, and eyewitness testimony blame the governing regime for the deaths of two of the victims. Armed with automatic weapons, tear gas, grenades and even tanks, the military and police are using all means to silence the democratic opposition.

Much like the Arab Spring, demonstrators have taken to social media—mainly Twitter—to relay information to the international community.

Yet a few days into the demonstrations, the Venezuelan government shut down Twitter and one of the last private cable broadcasters, Colombia’s NTN24. The government has even called for the arrest of leading opposition figurehead Leopoldo Lopez.

At the helm of this sinking ship is Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro. The former union leader and bus driver-turned-ordained president, he was handpicked by his successor Hugo Chavez.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, CNS News reported on the latest developments.

Excerpt:

Violent clashes flared up across Venezuela on Wednesday as the nation waited to learn what charges jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez will face for organizing mass protests that have breathed new life into the movement challenging socialist rule in the oil-rich nation.

[...]There was no immediate word on whether there were any new casualties, after a week of demonstrations and clashes that have resulted in at least six deaths and more than 100 injuries.

[...]The president also said he would take harsh measures in Tachira, an opposition stronghold on the western border with Colombia where there have been fierce clashes between National Guard troops and opposition protesters. Maduro said he is prepared to declare a “state of exception,” a form of martial law.

“If I have to decree a state of exception for Tachira and send in the tanks, I am ready to do it,” he said.

[...][I]n Valencia, the third largest city… National Guard troops fired rubber bullets and unknown gunman on motorcycles fired live rounds at protesters. Genesis Carmona, a 22-year-old university student who had been Miss Tourism 2013 for the state of Carabobo, was struck in the head and killed by a bullet, a death that reverberated in a country that prizes beauty queens.

You can always count on big government socialists to resort to violence when their communist policies fail.

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How well are Democrat economic policies working in Venezuela and Argentina?

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

I have been reflecting sorrowfully on some of the outright lies spoken by the President in his recent State of the Union address. I am thinking specifically of lies that are almost universally rejected by economists across the ideological spectrum – lies so obvious that you would have to be an illiterate peasant living in a village in Venezuela or Argentina in order to believe it.

Three of his lies stand out – the minimum wage lie, the global warming lie and women pay gap lie. Each of these lies is as false as saying that the Sun goes around the Earth, or that the Earth is flat. What bothers me is not that the President spoke them, because I expect someone with no scientific background and no private sector experience to say things that are not true. But what bothers me is that the American electorate is now incapable of identifying such obvious lies.

Let’s take a look at this article from the leftist Washington Post.

Excerpt:

On aisle seven, among the diapers and fabric softener, the socialist dreams of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez looked as ragged as the toilet paper display.

Employees at the Excelsior Gama supermarket had set out a load of extra-soft six-roll packs so large that it nearly blocked the aisle. To stock the shelves with it would have been pointless. Soon word spread that the long-awaited rolls had arrived, and despite a government-imposed limit of one package per person, the checkout lines stretched all the way to the decimated dairy case in the back of the store.

[...]Pathetic, in a country with the world’s largest petroleum reserves and oil prices at nearly $95 a barrel, yet unable to supply basic goods because of its crumbling local currency and a shortage of U.S. dollars.

[...]Nearly a year after Chávez’s death of complications from cancer at age 58, his hand­picked successor, Nicolás Maduro, is struggling to contain food shortages, spiraling inflation and rampant crime.

The arrival of basic staples such as cooking oil, chicken, flour or milk brings Venezuelans running to supermarkets and touches off surreal mob scenes, even as the government imposes price caps and rationing to prevent hoarding.

Maduro squeaked past opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in April’s presidential election, and Maduro’s United Socialist Party won enough races in Dec. 8 local elections to push back against perceptions that Chávez loyalists were deserting him. Just before the vote, with television cameras rolling, he sent soldiers into an appliance store accused of price gouging and ordered huge markdowns on televisions and microwaves. Apparently it gave his party a final boost at the polls.

There’s not a dime worth of difference in terms of vision between the Democrats in the USA and the socialists in Venezuela. The same people who think that sending armed troops to nationalize industry in Venezuela are nationalizing health care in this country right now. We will eventually see the same lines for health care that form in Canada and the UK. When you tax, regulate, and even attack those who provide services and products, you get shortages. Period. And yet big government redistribution of wealth seems to be winning over low-information voters in Venezuela and in the United States.

Are Barack Obama and Cristina Kirchner very different?

Are Barack Obama and Cristina Kirchner very different?

Venezuela has 56% currency inflation right now thanks to “stimulus” spending, but that is not the only place where Democrat policies are in force. Consider this article from the leftist Guardian about Argentina, where Democrat “stimulus” spending policies have led to rising prices of consumer goods.

Excerpt:

Every morning around 8am, the stern-faced cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich stands behind a podium at the Casa Rosada presidential palace for a televised verbal blast at the perceived enemies of the “victorious decade” presided over by the current president and her husband, the late Nestor Kirchner. Without naming them, Capitanich lashes out against the “visible and invisible” politicians, labour representatives, businessmen and journalists he blames for the sudden collapse of the peso and the explosive price increases that followed the forced devaluation.

Argentina’s economic earthquake has placed a huge question mark over the political future of the stateswoman so powerful she is referred to as Queen Cristina by both the opposition press and her supporters. In the past week, Capitanich has attempted to pin the price lurch on faceless foreign speculators, whom he accuses of a “strategy of domination” to gain control of Argentina’s oil and freshwater reserves, pandering to the widespread belief here, often underlined by the president in her speeches, that “vultures” of the leading industrial countries harbour secret plans to siphon off natural reserves from this resource-rich South American nation.

Capitanich has also blamed “anti-patriotic” farmers and large retailers, allegedly in league with independent, corruption-probing journalists, of fuelling price rises by “generating psychological action of permanent destabilisation” against Fernández de Kirchner.

But critics of the government point to inept administration and populist spending by a government that considers itself to be leading a revolution against Argentina’s erstwhile oligarchy.

Just like Obama, the socialists in Argentina are always looking to blame others for the problems they cause with their own policies. The problem is never bad policies that attack job creating businesses, it’s always a lack of loyalty and patriotism. We are disloyal to our economically-illiterate elites who only want to help us, they say. Leftist economic policies can work if we just believe in the leader, they say. And many ignorant peasants believe that, even when the failure is right in front of them.

Not just in Venezuela and Argentina

Of course in America, we have a different kind of policy failure. We have Obamacare. Conservatives warned the public about it for years, but our peasants went ahead and voted for it anyway when we re-elected a know-nothing in 2012. He said that we could keep our health care plans and that we could keep our doctors. He said he would reduce the cost of health care. And we believed him. We believed him because the uneducated stand-up comedians we watched on the Comedy Channel made us believe him.

Take a look at the peasants realizing that not every piece of happy talk read from a teleprompter by a celebrity is automatically true:

Human Events explains the story behind that video.

Excerpt:

All of Barack Obama’s phony rhetoric about how wonderfully the Affordable Care Act is chugging along means less than nothing compared to the cold reality that awaited the employees of a Pennsylvania company, as a local news station captured their stunned reactions to ObamaCare price hikes in real time.

[...][They] learned they’d be facing premium hikes of over 30 percent, with higher deductibles.  Even their co-payments for doctor visits have doubled.  And the numbers hitting these good people aren’t as bad as the premiums and deductibles slamming into other ObamaCare victims around the country.  The great second wave of damage in the larger group insurance market is about to get under way.

“I don’t know how President Obama thinks he’s helping us,” one employee sighs, “because we can’t afford this, we can’t afford to pay these co-pays, to pay these deductibles on what we’re making.”

Another repeats the sarcastic but accurate observation made by ObamaCare critics since day one: “there’s nothing affordable” about the Affordable Care Act.  It is observed that average people can’t just cough up three hundred dollars a month, because that’s a big chunk of a rent check or mortgage payment.  One shell-shocked woman, looking at a $400 monthly premium increase plus a $4000 deductible, confesses she has no idea how she’s going to pay it.

[...]Needless to say, none of these people will be invited to come on stage with President Obama and talk about their ACA experiences.  They’re learning the hard way that political control of an industry means distant commissars picking winners and losers.  You can do everything right and still get socked by the biggest middle-class tax increase in history, because the imperial President and his court have decided other people need lower premiums, and you must be squeezed to pay for it.

We have a generation of people who have been educated to value rhetoric from celebrities over the Constitution and sound economics in general. We must not think that we can be as ignorant as South American peasants now and avoid the consequences of that ignorance. We need to turn off the TV and pick up the Thomas Sowell book.

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Federal court approves taxpayer-funded sex change for man convicted of murdering his wife

Fox News reports.

Excerpt:

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered state prison officials to provide taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate serving life in prison for murder.

[...]Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and now lives as a woman in an all-male prison. Robert Kosilek was convicted of murder in the killing of his wife in 1990.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf is believed to be the first federal judge to order prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate.

Kosilek first sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction 12 years ago. Two years later, Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender-identity disorder but stopped short of ordering surgery. Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the surgery is a medical necessity.

In his ruling Tuesday, Wolf found that surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek’s “serious medical need.”

“The court finds that there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care,” Wolf wrote in his 126-page ruling.

[...]In a telephone interview last year with The Associated Press, Kosilek said the surgery is a medical necessity, not a frivolous desire to change his appearance.

“Everybody has the right to have their health care needs met, whether they are in prison or out on the streets,” Kosilek said. “People in the prisons who have bad hearts, hips or knees have surgery to repair those things. My medical needs are no less important or more important than the person in the cell next to me.”

[...]Kosilek’s lawsuit has become fodder for radio talk shows and lawmakers who say the state should not be forced to pay for a convicted murderer’s sex-change operation — which can cost up to $20,000 — especially since many insurance companies reject the surgery as elective.

The Boston Globe had this to say:

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders issued a statement hailing the ruling.

“Like the district court before it, the First Circuit has affirmed that constitutional rights belong to everyone,” said Jenifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project. “The Appeals Court affirmed that the District Court properly found that Michelle Kosilek needed this lifesaving medical care. If she needed treatment for cancer or heart disease, this case would never have wound up in court. If we are to call ourselves a civilized society, there is a baseline of care that has to be provided to all prisoners, including prisoners who are transgender.”

The man is now 64 years old. He strangled his wife to death  in 1990.

My personal opinion on this man is that he should have been executed by the state a few minutes after he was convicted.

Sarcastic WK

We have a lot of people in this country who are very compassionate handing out other people’s money. They don’t like discipline, judging or obedience to the law. They keep on voting for bigger government and more government spending to enable people avoid the consequences of their own actions. They believe that nothing we do is our fault, because we are all victims. They believe that nothing you earn is really yours, because everyone just gets up and does what they like every day.

If a musician gets up and does what he likes and a surgeon wakes up and does what he likes, why should they be paid differently? Work is meant to be fun and fulfilling, so we should resdistribute wealth from the surgeon to the musician, so they can both have sex changes, if they want them. People need money for free condoms, or a free abortion, or free breast implants, or free IVF, or free sex changes, or free health care for STDs. We should just take money from people who have it and give the other people whatever they want.

That’s why I go to work, you know, so that I can pay the government elected by the compassionate, non-judgmental people to give convicted murderers sex changes. It’s not like I need the money I earned for anything, like funding opportunities for Christians scholars to defend God’s reputation. At one point, I planned to get married and have children, too. What a waste of money my plans are – the government is right to take my money and use it on “compassion”. And when we have single payer health care, sex changes will be free for everyone, just like in Ontario, Canada and the UK. In the UK, you can even get breast implants for “free”. Isn’t that more compassionate and non-judgmental?

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Bailout for health insurers? Less than 25% of Obamacare sign-ups under age 34

The Wall Street Journal reports.

Excerpt:

One-third of health plan enrollees in new insurance marketplaces are 55 or older, the Obama administration said Monday, a figure that insurers said makes the pool older than they would need to sustain their coverage at current premiums.

Administration officials said they are pushing to enroll more young people before a March 31 deadline for most people to get coverage for this year, and some cushions built into the law mean it won’t necessarily face trouble right away even if the 2014 pool of enrollees skews older.

Still, the release of the data, showing for the first time the age breakdown of people who had signed up for coverage through December, highlighted the challenge in persuading younger people who may not have a pressing need for health coverage to sign up for policies that can cost about $200 a month before subsidies.

“This is concerning to us that we’re seeing this portion come in so old,” said Marty Anderson, marketing director for the Wisconsin-based Security Health Plan, which serves rural counties in the state.

Just under a quarter of the roughly 2.2 million people who signed up for private plans nationwide by Dec. 28 were between the ages of 18 and 34, while one-third were in the 55-to-64 range, just short of the age at which most qualify for Medicare, the federal government program for the elderly.

[...]Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, consumers no longer pay premiums based on their health risks. To prevent a sharp rise in premiums in 2015 and beyond, carriers say they need strong enrollment from younger people who are likely to be healthier. That would balance out the bills racked up by sicker and older people.

[...]“There’s no way to spin it: Youth enrollment has been a bust so far,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio). “When they see that Obamacare offers high costs for limited access to doctors—if the enrollment goes through at all—it’s no surprise that young people aren’t rushing to sign up.”

So who is going to be on the hook when the insurance companies take far higher losses than the Democrats estimated?

YOU ARE. The Weekly Standard explains why in this article.

Excerpt:

Robert Laszewski—a prominent consultant to health insurance companies—recently wrote in a remarkably candid blog post that, while Obamacare is almost certain to cause insurance costs to skyrocket even higher than it already has, “insurers won’t be losing a lot of sleep over it.”  How can this be?  Because insurance companies won’t bear the cost of their own losses—at least not more than about a quarter of them.  The other three-quarters will be borne by American taxpayers.

[...]As Laszewski explains, Obamacare contains a “Reinsurance Program that caps big claim costs for insurers (individual plans only).”  He writes that “in 2014, 80% of individual costs between $45,000 and $250,000 are paid by the government [read: by taxpayers], for example.” 

In other words, insurance purchased through Obamacare’s government-run exchanges isn’t even full-fledged private insurance; rather, it’s a sort of private-public hybrid.  Private insurance companies pay for costs below $45,000, then taxpayers generously pick up the tab—a tab that their president hasn’t ever bothered to tell them he has opened up on their behalf—for four-fifths of the next $200,000-plus worth of costs.  In this way, and so many others, Obamacare takes a major step toward the government monopoly over American medicine (“single payer”) that liberals drool about in their sleep.

Laszewski adds, “The reinsurance program has done and will continue to do what it was intended to do; help attract and keep more carriers in Obamacare than might have otherwise come.”  Thus, Obamacare is being aided by having taxpayers subsidize big insurance companies’ business expenses.  (Who could ever have guessed that big government and big business might be natural allies?)

But, amazingly, it doesn’t stop there.  Laszewski writes that Obamacare also contains a “Risk Corridor Program that limits overall losses for insurers.”  So insurers not only don’t have to pay out all of their costs; they also don’t have to swallow all of their losses. 

Laszewski explains that if an insurance company expects its costs in a given year to be X, and those costs end up being more than X plus 2 percent, taxpayers will come to that insurance company’s rescue—thanks to Obamacare.  In fact, once an insurance company covers that initial 2 percent in unexpected costs, taxpayers will cover at least 80 percent of any additional costs the insurer accrues.

Does this sound familiar? Yes – this is exactly what caused the mortgage lending crisis and bailout in 2008. Democrats were very anxious to guarantee the bad loans of mortgage lenders with taxpayer money supplied through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And they are doing it again with health insurers. (And they’ll do it again with student loans, just wait)

The best way to stop this madness is by electing Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections. And then electing a conservative as President in 2016. Evict the children from the White House and Congress.

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Walmart’s health care plans are cheaper and offer more coverage than Obamacare plans

The Washington Examiner takes a look at the numbers.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Walmart offers its employees two standard plans, a Health Reimbursement Account and an alternative it calls “HRA High” that costs more out of employees’ pockets but has lower deductibles. Blue Cross Blue Shield manages both plans nationally.

Also offered is a Health Savings Account plan that includes high deductibles but allows tax-free dollars to be used for coverage.

For a monthly premium as low as roughly $40, an individual who is a Walmart HRA plan enrollee can obtain full-service coverage through a Blue Cross Blue Shield preferred provider organization. A family can get coverage for about $160 per month.

Unlike Obamacare, there are no income eligibility requirements. Age and gender do not alter premium rates. The company plan is the same for all of Walmart’s 1.1 million enrolled employees and their dependents, from its cashiers to its CEO.

A Journal of the American Medical Association analysis from September showed that unsubsidized Obamacare enrollees will face monthly premiums that are five to nine times higher than Walmart premiums.

JAMA found the unsubsidized premium for a nonsmoking gouple age 60 can cost $1,365 per month versus the Walmart cost of about $134 for the same couple.

The medical journal reported a 30-year-old smoker would pay up to $428 per month, in contrast to roughly $70 each month for a Walmart employee.

A family of four could pay a $962 premium, but the same Walmart family member would pay about $160.

Low premiums are not the only distinguishing feature of the Walmart plan. The retailer’s employees can use eight of the country’s most prestigious medical facilities, including the Mayo Clinic, Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic.

At these institutions, which Walmart calls “Centers of Excellence,” Walmart employees and their dependents can get free heart or spinal surgery. They can also get free knee and hip replacements at four hospitals nationwide.

Many top-rated Walmart hospitals — such as the Mayo and Cleveland clinics — are left out of most Obamacare exchange plans.

But the real difference between Obamacare and Walmart can be seen in the levels of day-to-day access to doctors and hospitals.

Robert Slayton, a practicing Chicago independent insurance agent for 11 years and the former president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, described to the Examiner the differences between Walmart and Obamacare provider networks.

Slayton said the BlueChoice exchange network for President Obama’s hometown has very limited hospital participation. “In downtown Chicago, the key is the number of hospitals: 28,” he said.

“Now we’re going to the national network — this is what the Walmart network would most likely be — and you have 54 hospitals. That’s a big difference,” he said.

[...]Slayton said the gap between doctor availability in Chicago under the Obamacare and Walmart plans is dramatic.

“You will notice there are 9,837 doctors [under Obamacare]. But the larger network is 24,904 doctors. Huge, huge difference,” he said.

Walmart also offers a free preventive health plan that mirrors the Obamacare plan. Its employees can take advantage of a wide range of free exams and counseling, including screenings for colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, chlamydia, diabetes, depression and special counseling for diet and obesity.

Their children can get more than 20 free preventive services, ranging including screenings for genetic disorders, autism and developmental problems to obesity, lead poisoning exposure and tuberculosis. There are also 12 free vaccinations, and free hearing and vision testing.

Walmart employees pay as little as $4 for a 30-day supply of generic drugs and only $10 for eye exams through a separate vision plan.

And Wal-Mart didn’t need to waste $600 million of taxpayer money on the web site. See why we need to led the private sector handle these things? Obamacare sucks, and that’s why the Democrats voted to exempt themselves and all their staff from it.

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