Sunday, September 29, 2013

Guns, Jihadists and Starbucks

* It's certainly difficult keeping up with the religion of peace. On September 21, radical Islamists shot up a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. At least 68 people were killed with 205 injured (not the final count). Apparently, the al Shahaab terrorists were upset over the Kenyan government providing aid to the Somali government. The answer, of course, was to kill as many innocent people as possible. Actually, the goal was to kill innocent non-Muslims, as Muslims were allowed to leave. Just maybe the outcome would have been different if every adult shopping in that mall was armed. Let me repeat: the way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns.

* The radical Islamists were busy that week. In Pakistan, they shot up a church as the parishioners were leaving. There, at least 85 died, with over 120 wounded. Christians have not been doing well in Muslim countries. I would love to see a piece in one of the mainstream papers that discusses the lot of Christians in the Muslim world: from Pakistan to Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza to Sudan to Nigeria. But I guess that is not too likely as long as the mainstream media keeps treating Muslims as if they are the victims (of what, I'll never know).

* But the New York Times knows. In their 9/9/13 editorial they complain about the NYPD's designation of mosques as terrorist organizations allowing open-ended investigations. Complained the Times: "Plainclothes police officers were sent to restaurants, cafes and other spots where groups of Muslims get together." Hmmm. Radical Muslims carry out tens of thousands of terrorists attacks around the world. The worst terrorist attack on US soil was in the City of New York by radical Muslims. So the NYPD tries to gather intelligence that can be used to prevent further attacks in their city, and that's no good? How many morons does it take to write a New York Times editorial?

* Just this morning, I awoke to read that Islamic militants murdered dozens of students at a college in Nigeria. They were rather easy targets as the students were asleep in their dorms. According to Fox News, the victims were almost all Muslims. It is believed that the attack was carried out by Boko Haram, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria, but their efforts have been thwarted by the Nigerian military. The answer - attack innocent, sleeping students.

* Just a few days ago, the Indian government warned Jewish groups in that country, and especially in Mumbai, to tighten their security. We remember the brutal attack in Mumbai several years ago when Islamic terrorists killed over 160 people, including the rabbi and rebbetzin at the small Chabad House. Apparently, the Indian government has information that Islamic groups have been monitoring Jewish establishments, possibly in preparation for further attacks. One of the ways to tighten security, of course, is to have armed guards. You know - good guys with guns.

* Following the shooting at the Naval shipyard, a liberal friend and reader said he had three words for me: "guns, guns, guns." Never mind that the perpetrator had three run-ins with law enforcement. Never mind that one of those incidents caused the local police to report him to Naval authorities. No, the Navy went ahead and renewed his security clearance anyway. Here's a thought: if someone discharges a gun in public under questionable circumstances (as this man did), then even if the local prosecutor decides not to bring charges, maybe they should be allowed to order a mental health evaluation. Maybe that would have stopped this guy. Of course, the other thing that would have helped would be allowing the military to defend themselves on their own bases. (But in 1993, then President Bill Clinton issued an executive order barring military and civilian personnel on bases from being armed.) How many more shootings on bases do we need before people on bases can protect themselves?

* What's Starbucks got to do with this? On 9/18/13, the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, issued an open letter to all Starbucks customers. While not banning guns from Starbucks, he said he was "respectfully requesting" that customers not bring their guns into any Starbucks stores. Starbucks has over 11,000 stores in the US, and 29 states have no prohibition on openly carrying firearms, with another 15 allowing it with permits. Even California allows it in rural areas. The trend, in fact, has been to allow the "open carry" of guns. Mr. Schultz felt the need to take some action when gun rights advocates started holding "Starbucks Appreciation Days" across the country.

* When one such group decided to hold such a rally in Newtown, Connecticut (scene of the December, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings) it may have proven too much for Mr. Schultz to ignore. Frankly, I would have preferred that the group chose a different city for their pro-gun rally. It is not political correctness to acknowledge the feelings of those parents who lost their children at Newtown. It is common decency.

* In any event, Mr. Schultz was walking a fine line between the pro- and anti-gun advocates. Clearly, as a businessman, he does not wish to offend either side of his customer base. So, while not banning guns, he asked people to not carry them into Starbucks. An understandable, if misguided, position. If bad guys with guns enter a Starbucks, I'd feel a lot better knowing that the good guys are armed as well. It's ironic that people will feel safe and secure at a coffee shop or restaurant when armed police officers are there also. So why not armed civilians as well?

* Still, the Starbucks position did not satisfy everyone. One liberal indicated that if Schultz's request was not successful, they would seek to boycott Starbucks in order to force them to issue an outright ban on guns. That woman should have a sign on her front lawn that reads: "Come on in, no one here is armed." How do we stop bad buys with guns? Good guys with guns.

The Pros and Cons of Obamacare

* Con: According to Republicans, the Affordable Care Act threatens to "destroy the foundation of the 40 hour workweek." Well, maybe. But that quote is actually from a letter written by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, with two other unions joining in, to none other than Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. The unions have come to recognize what the Dems will not: employers are protecting themselves from Obamacare. Trader Joe's, among others, announced they will drop coverage for employees working under 30 hours. And numerous employers have announced they will cut employees' hours in order to keep them under the 30 hour threshold.

* Con: Republicans also claim that Obamacare will "end up forcing millions out of multi-employer plans." Sorry, that was actually another union complaint.

* Con: The IBD has been keeping track of employers who have cut jobs and/or employee hours in order to avoid the effects of Obamacare. As of 9/20/13, they report 62 private employers and a whopping 239 public sector employers have made these cuts. It appears that school districts and colleges and universities in particular are being affected. The same article notes that low wage earners are being hardest hit, with a record low 27.4 hour workweek in July.

* Con: The Republicans claim that the big insurance companies will have to limit the number (and quality) of doctors and hospitals available to patients in the new exchanges in order to keep costs down. That, in turn, may result in consumers having "long wait times, a scarcity of specialists and loss of their longtime doctor." Oops, wrong again. That information is actually from the 9/15/13 front page story in the liberal LA Times. Does this mean that the Times has actually learned how free markets operate when faced with undue government regulation? But not to worry. Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange - Covered California - says they can deal with companies that do not sufficiently serve their customers: "...if a plan can't serve patients, we'll close it down from taking new enrollment." Well, that should help.

* Con: Apparently, Health Net will be beating the other carriers in keeping the premium costs down by limiting the size of their networks. Essentially, they are emulating HMOs like Kaiser. Says one health insurance broker: "Health Net will get a lot of business with those rates...But no one mentions you might not be able to see your doctor." (Again, from the 9/15/13 LA Times.)

* Con: If you are in the middle class like I am, no worries. Your premiums may be going up substantially, but you also get to pay higher taxes to pay for those subsidies for those who cannot afford to pay for their own insurance. Don't you feel better already?

* Con: Again, Republicans are complaining that the taxes and fees mandated by Obamacare will "drive the costs of...union administered plans, and other plans that cover unionized workers, to unsupportable levels." But isn't that the idea; to make insurance so unaffordable that we have to end up with the single payer system. (Okay, you got me. The above quote is actually from a resolution passed by the AFL-CIO.)

* Con: While some insurers (as noted above) will be limiting the number of hospitals in their offerings, hospitals themselves have been forced to lay off employees and/or cut their hours, in order to compensate for the added costs of Obamacare. According to the 9/19/13 IBD, over a dozen hospitals have already announced cutbacks, including the well known Cleveland Clinic. So, less hospitals in certain plans, and less employees to staff those hospitals. What's the problem?

* What's the problem with those Republicans? Do they really want to shut down the government over Obamacare? Actually, their latest bill, passed last night, simply delays the implementation of Obamacare for a year, and also eliminates the 2.3% tax on medical device makers. Is not reasonable to think, even if you favor Obamacare, that a piece of legislation over 2000 pages in length, with over 15,000 pages of regs, might need some tinkering? Or, as lawyers would say, come "clean up" legislation.

* Obama gave a press conference on Friday explaining why, in our Constitutional democracy, one side does not get to shut the government down because they are unhappy with legislation passed by the other side. Actually, it was not a bad argument. Of course, Obama did not actually believe one word of what he said. If he believed in our Constitutional democracy he would not have already made 19 changes to Obamacare on his own - all without Congressional approval. Perhaps the most well known change was when he announced he would not enforce the employer mandate until January 1, 1915. Was that delay written into the law? No. Is Obama legally allowed to pick and choose which portions of a law passed by Congress he will enforce, and which he will delay or amend on his own? No, because the president does not get to write legislation. But it's good to be King.

* So what if some big donors got some delays or exemptions for their businesses. Although I have to admit that my favorite exemption was that given to the members of Congress and their staff. Obama wouldn't be trying to bribe Congress with such an exemption, would he? Not at all, it's just unfair to make Congress play by the same rules as the rest of us do. Does it matter that 92% of likely voters think the Congressional exemption is unfair? Why would it, when nearly 2/3 of Americans were opposed to Obamacare in the first place.