Will the time ever come when we’ll need a political favor for a hip replacement? Will we have to pay a bribe, I mean make a campaign contribution to move up on the waiting list for an MRI, or to get treatment for late-stage cancer? I hope not but, if current trends continue the possibility isn’t far-fetched. Not only has Obamacare been a catastrophe only two-and-a-half months in, implementation has been riddled with unlawful edicts and political favoritism for Democrat constituents.
Taking the most recent example first: On Nov. 25 Obama exempted his union buddies from paying their share of the $12 billion “reinsurance tax” for 2014. Five weeks earlier, the liberal magazine Slate wrote: “Labor essentially asked the Obama administration to exempt their existing insurance plans from the fee. Since [their request] ... had no particular merits to it the administration declined.” That was then. This is now. Slate doesn’t even question whether a president has the constitutional authority to pick and choose what parts of legislation he’ll enforce and which he won’t.
Well he doesn’t have that authority. Article II requires him to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” He can’t change them anytime he feels like it, but that’s what he does. Earlier this year, he unconstitutionally put off Obamacare’s employer mandate for a year because he knew it would hurt Democrats in the 2014 election. He exempts Congressmen and their staffs who wrote the legislation. He doesn’t enforce immigration laws he doesn’t like either. When Congress didn’t pass an amnesty bill he wanted called the “Dream Act,” he issued an executive fiat instead. There are other examples too numerous to mention.
The bottom line is: when our president can decide for himself which laws he’ll enforce and which ones he won’t, we’re not a nation of laws anymore are we? Not when the president places himself above the law. When he took over General Motors and Chrysler, he stiffed bondholders, fired dealers, ordered GM to produce Chevy Volts nobody wants, bailed out the unions, and “stepp[ed] over the bright line between the rule of law and the arbitrary behavior . . .” according to an analysis by George Mason University’s Todd Zywicki called “The Auto Bailout and the Rule of Law.”
So far, Obama has gotten away with wielding unconstitutional power for political gain. Can he do that? Well, there’s can’t and there’s “ain’t supposta.” He’s isn’t supposed to do all this, but clearly he can because he’s doing it. Who’s going to stop him? Congress is supposed to check and balance the president, and the House of Representatives issues subpoenas for documents, information and witnesses, but when Obama stonewalls them, then what? Well, there’s impeachment.
The House has sole power of impeachment, but impeachment means “bring charges against.” The Senate has to decide guilt, and how likely is that while it’s under the control of Senator Harry Reid? And even if Obama were found guilty, the only remedy is to remove him from office. Who would take over then? Vice President Joe Biden, who more and more resembles a cast member from “Dumb and Dumber.” Politically speaking, impeachment isn’t a likely scenario — at this point at least. Unfortunately, that’s the only remedy Congress has to stop the president’s unconstitutional power-grabbing.
So now back to the original question. Will access to health care become completely politicized? Those signing up for Obamacare are overwhelmingly getting Medicaid — 1.46 million of the 1.6 million signed up so far. More and more doctors are refusing to take on Medicaid patients, so millions will be all dressed up in their new Obamacare policies with no place to go. Unless Obamacare is repealed, some expect the federal government to draft doctors. Kevin Williamson at National Review Online considers it almost inevitable.
Millions of others whose health insurance policies were cancelled will have spent weeks on healthcare.gov trying to sign up, think they have, and find out after Jan. 1 that they’re not because of still more healthcare.gov “glitches.” Nearly 100 million others who like their policies and whom Obama promised could keep them will get cancellation notices in 2014. Obamacare will collapse. Then what?
Never one to “let a crisis go to waste,” will Obama take it all over like he did with General Motors? He’s wanted a government, single-payer system all along. Will he appoint Kathleen Sebelius as Healthcare Czar? She who shakes down companies for cash? Can we trust the 16,000 new agents in Obama’s IRS not to harass conservatives as they “implement” Obama’s new health care policies? You may trust them. I do not. If Obamacare isn’t repealed early next year, kissing up to a politician for a new knee could be in our future.
Tom McLaughlin lives in Lovell, Maine. He can be reached on his website at tommclaughlin.blogspot.com.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 02:00
The annual state-by-state health rankings are in from the United Health Foundation. New Hampshire is in fifth place nationally when it comes to the overall health of its residents. This places New Hampshire in the middle of the top 10, which is surely nothing to sneer at. That’s the message in every N.H. mainstream media story about the health rankings thus far. What the N.H. media isn’t pointing out is that in 2012, New Hampshire was in third place. In 2011 we were in second place. Fifth place isn’t terrible, but to get there we had to drop two places, something that one might think is worthy of media mention.
That kind of slippage is the new normal in New Hampshire. Our health isn’t as good; our child poverty rate has risen at what should be considered an alarming pace. Our roads and bridges are in terrible condition, our state parks are in increasing disrepair, some of our highway rest stops are still closed, and our telecommunications infrastructure is an embarrassment. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness are on the rise. But hey, New Hampshire has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation and THAT, my friends, is what is really important. So important that at least a dozen gun bills have been filed for the 2014 legislative session. Perhaps if we all go out and wave our guns at one of the hundreds of red listed bridges in our state, they will magically repair themselves.
New Hampshire has never been a forward thinking state, and now we’re sliding backward. Today’s N.H. GOP has been taken over by Tea Partiers and libertarians, who think MOAR GUNZ is the answer to everything. They hate planning of any sort, and are actively trying to prevent it on county and regional levels. The libertarians don’t believe in public anything, or that the state should be in charge of roads and bridges. The private sector would do a better job. The Free Staters have yet to volunteer to fix a bridge or repair a highway to show us how well this will work in the future, when they succeed in transforming us into Aynrandshire. Surely a network of differently maintained toll roads will be a real asset when one is attempting to attract business to the state.
Tourism is the No. 2 business in New Hampshire. Our Fish and Game Department is in trouble financially because of our regressive tax structure. Rather than address that, Republican Senator Bob Odell has filed a bill that would require canoe and kayak owners to pay an annual $10 fee for using their non-polluting vessels on our rivers and lakes. The best part of this (from a GOP standpoint) is that the bill (sponsored by a Republican) is being blamed on Democrats. This is right up there with last session’s bill sponsored by GOP Senator Nancy Stiles that would have forced senior citizens to buy a season’s pass each year to use our state parks. Currently, N.H. residents over the age of 65 are granted free access to state parks. This bill would have initiated a $20 fee for a senior citizen pass. Unfortunately, the N.H. GOP is far from being ashamed of the lengths that they will go to (gouging old people and canoe owners) to prevent New Hampshire’s 27,000 millionaires from paying their fair share of taxes.
N.H. Republicans made sure that there would be no state exchange system set up to handle the Affordable Care Act. Now they complain about how things are working (or not working) without state exchanges. The states that created their own exchange networks early on are doing quite well with the ACA. N.H. Republicans also torpedoed the expansion of Medicaid that would have provided basic insurance coverage to some 50,000 low-wage workers in our state. This is the kind of thinking that caused New Hampshire to drop to fifth place nationally in terms of overall health. New Hampshire’s health ranking has always been a matter of pride for our state, and one that is used as an enticement for companies and families to move here. The Free Staters use it in their advertisements to entice more anarchists to move here to take over the state. Given how many states have embraced expanded Medicaid, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that New Hampshire’s numbers will continue to be on a downward spiral while other states will see improved health numbers.
We don’t care about the health of our residents. (Though to be fair, Representatives Neal Kurk and Laurie Sanborn do worry about subsidizing health care for New Hampshire’s substantial population of low-income yacht dwellers.) We don’t care about the health of our highways, roads, dams, and bridges. We don’t care about the health of our telecommunications infrastructure. We have a long history of not caring about education. New Hampshire ranks a firm 50th in the nation in state spending on our university system. What do we care about? Spending no money, and MOAR GUNZ!
Recent studies have also shown that New Hampshire is not bouncing back from the Great Recession as well or as quickly as our fellow New England states. We have no one but ourselves to blame. New Hampshire has failed to invest in the future for decades, and it’s begun to marginalize us and hurt our economy. Nothing short of a disaster is likely to turn that around. If one ever doubts the accuracy of the nickname “granite state” one has only to spend a Wednesday at the N.H. House of Representatives listening to floor speeches.
Susan Bruce is a writer and activist who lives in the Mount Washington Valley. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 02:00
By David F. Brochu
It's August 2019. Senator Elizabeth Warren announces her candidacy for the office of President of the United States of America. Backed by former President Barack Obama and First Lady, Obama's political action committee, Senator Warren immediately moves to the front of the pack.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 02:28
by David M. Shribman
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario — You can see the United States from here, over there across the raging Niagara River. But even if you couldn't, you could be sure that hardly anyone over there is making much of this week's bicentenary of an event that shattered this town, sowed bitterness that persisted for generations and shaped an entire continent.
Two centuries ago Tuesday, the American troops who had occupied this small community for seven months abandoned their snowy redoubt in a region then called Upper Canada, leaving the town — by that time occupied almost exclusively by women, the men having left to serve in the British army or in various militia — in flames and smoke. The War of 1812 produced several moments of unfettered brutality, none except perhaps for the burning of Washington, D.C., as piteous as this one.
On Dec. 10, 1813, the residents of this area — a Loyalist village, in American eyes — stood calf-deep in snow in a ruthless chill and watched their homes, shops, churches and schools lie smoldering in ruin, all their possessions, their clothes, their memories consumed by fire. It may have been this cruelty on the Niagara that prompted the British the following year to exercise no restraint in attacking Buffalo and other western New York communities, in filibustering throughout the American frontier and in burning the American capital.
At the distance of two centuries, confrontations like the War of 1812, itself a sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars, seem like quaint artifacts of another time, the hardships somehow more fabled than fearful, the human costs more anecdotal than actual.
Today, for Americans, the burning of the White House in August 1814 is a mere curiosity, an aside during tours of the executive mansion, little more. As for the victims of the earlier torching in what we now call Ontario, they are a historical trifle, bit players in someone else's story.
Not so, once you realize the importance of what happened here, in a country Americans mostly ignore, during a war Americans mostly have forgotten, in an episode Americans mostly have repressed.
We can't cure American historical amnesia in a newspaper column, but we can fill in the human dimensions of a war whose North American combatants, in the phrase of the great Canadian historian Pierre Berton, "did not invite the war, did not care about the issues and did not want to fight."
Like the French and Indian War a half-century earlier, this was a European struggle that -- messily, maddeningly and, ultimately, murderously — lapped up upon the eastern shores of the New World. In so doing, it forced men to fight a war whose causes they hardly understood even though the stakes could barely be larger -- control of the wild, rich and mostly unexplored land mass of North America.
One lesson of the episode might be that great sweeping historical forces brush aside small groups of individuals -- tragic figures of collateral damage during big shifts among great powers and even in small movements of military units. Units like those commanded by Brig. Gen. George McClure, which laid waste a place that Michael Smith, an American visitor, described in 1812 as "a beautiful and prosperous place of much trade inhabited by a civil and industrious people."
Capt. William Hamilton Merritt, who arrived in town a day after the fires were set, reported seeing "(n)othing but heaps of coals and the streets full of furniture that the inhabitants were fortunate enough to get out of their houses." Only one house, maybe two, stood undamaged.
Some of these victims come to life in historical documents preserved by the Niagara Historical Society, pointedly located here on Castlereagh Street, named for the foreign minister in office in London at the time.
They are people like Elizabeth Campbell, whose husband died in 1812 and whose home was destroyed in the burning of Newark, as Niagara-on-the-Lake was known then. One contemporary letter describes Campbell as having been "exposed for three days and nights upon the snow with only the canopy of Heaven for a covering, her house once the seat of hospitality and plenty, reduced to ashes before her face, a few valuables she had endeavored to save (torn) from her by a monster in human form and carried off and divided."
In the historical archives are scores of handwritten war claims like Campbell's, which in script barely legible today lists a mare, a wash kettle, an iron oven, 15 glass tumblers, a barrel of pork ("ditto beef"), shovels, a tea tray — and more.
Or consider the record of loss prepared by Alexander Cameron, who filed his claim "in consequence of the Capture of that place by the Forces of the United States" and lists, among other items, a cariole (carriage), a harness, a side saddle, a cow and a mahogany dining table.
It is hard to suppress the suspicion that the physical items listed in these claims are not all that these colonists lost. Nor is it possible to suppress the notion that equal hardship was faced on the American side of the border.
We Americans are paying almost no mind to any of this, but little of it is being ignored here, in Canada. The residents of this town — an art haven by virtue of its Shaw Festival theaters, an architectural attraction by virtue of its stately buildings, a tourist trap by virtue of its hokey bangers-and-mash Olde English air — are marking this historical moment with both commemoration and introspection.
The town is planning a torchlight cemetery procession, a candlelight service, a series of inspirational readings, musical performances, a commemorative bonfire, an outdoor flag ceremony — and, this being December, cups of hot cider. It is a moment of reflection and remembrance about a war of which so many have no memory.
McClure initiated the burning of Newark out of concern it could become a staging area for savage British attacks. Instead it became the pretext for savage British attacks. That is an irony of history, reminding us that in wars remembered as well as forgotten, there is nothing more ironic than history.
Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 00:23
The men were singing, and there were a lot of them. That’s unusual in my experience attending Mass at various Catholic Churches in Maine. Most men come to church because their wives pressure them to, I think. If they pray aloud in the pews it’s usually just a murmur. Several men there at St. Peter’s, however, spoke it like they meant it.
My wife and I have been checking out different parishes around the Portland/South Portland area when we find ourselves down there Sunday mornings and each has its own feel. St. Peter’s is a small church only a couple of blocks from Portland’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the flagship of the Portland Diocese near the bottom of Munjoy Hill. I wondered how it competed — being in the same neighborhood and almost in the shadow of the cathedral. Churches of many kinds are closing up and being sold in Maine and many other parts of the country. St. John the Evangelist in South Portland closed a few months ago and it’s rumored the building will soon be replaced by a Dunkin Donuts shop. More than a dozen Maine Catholic churches have closed since 2007. In 10 years, Maine’s Catholic population has declined from 234,000 to 187,000. So St. Peter’s is an anomaly. It’s self-supporting and the congregation seems to know that if it were not, it would soon follow the fate of the others.
St. Peter’s is a survivor with an enthusiastic choir. It’s filled to capacity on Sunday morning with lots of families — moms, dads and kids. Many of the singing men had short, military-style haircuts and I wondered if they were off-duty firemen or police. The congregation nearly drowned out the choir. I was one of very few who weren’t singing, having gotten out of the habit long ago. I would be a good singer if it wasn’t for my voice.
A few weeks ago I found myself in conversation with a young man who had been raised in a family that didn’t practice religion at all. He wasn’t atheist, but was suspicious of organized religion, especially the one I belonged to — Roman Catholic — the oldest, continuously-functioning institution on earth. He was especially skeptical after the homosexual-priest scandal of the late 20th century. That had knocked me for loop too, and I’ve only recently begun putting it into perspective as another way the Catholic Church has been corrupted in its long history and from which it must purge itself.
American Catholic Church influence seems to have peaked in the late 1950s or early 60s and it’s been in decline since. I don’t know if we’ve reached bottom yet, but I hope so. My home church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s in Fryeburg, has had several different priests assigned to it in recent years. At least once, none was available for Sunday mass and a communion service had to suffice. It’s part of a “cluster” of parishes because there just aren’t enough priests for each parish to have its own any more. Last summer two missionary priests from Nigeria were assigned to our Fryeburg-Bridgton-Norway cluster.
Ironic, no? A hundred years ago, the American church sent missionaries to Africa. Now they’re sending them to us. What’s up with that? Why is there such a shortage here and not there? They have more applicants than their seminaries can accommodate. A Dallas Morning News article put it this way: “‘The African church is in touch with the raw elements of humanity: birth, marriage, death, hunger, thirst,’ said Christopher Malloy, an assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas. ‘For me, in a comfortable house, it’s easy to think life is not dramatic. [African priests] bring the message to us with excitement.’”
How did Americans get so bored? All drama, whether in a novel, a movie, or in real life, is a struggle between good and evil. As C. S. Lewis put it: “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” Drama plays out everywhere and always, but Americans are increasingly blind to it. It’s unfashionable to acknowledge evil exists. Some of us are afraid even to say “Merry Christmas.” In Africa, though, evil is anything but subtle. Christians are routinely slaughtered by Muslim terrorists in Nigeria, Sudan and lately Egypt and Syria (nearby in Asia). Tribal massacres in the hundreds of thousands are still fresh in Rwandan minds. Evil is difficult to deny in Africa. When a young man joins the seminary there, it’s like volunteering for frontline combat.
Speaking of men strong in their faith, I watched a Youtube video taped Monday (see my blog for a link) in which they defended a cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina from assault. They locked arms and prayed as crazed, topless feminists spit at them, spray-painted their crotches and faces with swastikas, performed sex acts in front of them, and burned an effigy of Pope Francis I while dancing and shrieking in a bacchanalian “National Women’s Encounter.” It’s an annual event sponsored by the Argentine Department of Culture.
It’s inspiring to see strong men doing what’s right. There are good signs out there if we look for them.
Tom McLaughlin lives in Lovell, Maine. He can be reached on his website at tommclaughlin.blogspot.com.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 02:00