The meaning of Veterans Day is often lost today. Many people have a mistaken idea as to what this day signifies. Veterans Day is not only a day to remember those who have perished in the service of our nation but also a day to honor the living.R…
No one I know believes that statecraft is as easy as a walk in the park, but I do think that the United States of America has made it far more difficult than necessary. We should begin with our understanding that foreign relations are an interdisciplinary art and science. It involves a knowledge base in international law and policy, trade, history, culture, environment, and human rights. In the realm of diplomacy, I think there only two kinds of states: those that do negotiation well, and those that do not. It may be entirely fair to say that Thucydides would not be much impressed with Obama’s state department. I think this is true even if we ignore Obama’s initial apology tour in 2009, his speech in Cairo, and the disaster that we now refer to as the Arab Spring.
More recently, Prince Bandar bin Sultan (Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief) informed European diplomats that the kingdom will make a major shift in relations with the United States due to the incompetence and untrustworthiness of the Obama administration. Key to this turn of events is the manner in which Obama handled Syria, and his recent overtures to Iran. Not once did the Obama administration consult with its Middle Eastern partners before announcing a US policy shift. According to one Saudi source, “The kingdom does not want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent on the United States.”
What this shift may suggest is a transition away from the US as a military defense partner to other possibilities. At the present time, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spends 9.1% of its gross domestic product on defense, ranked fifth in the world in military spending. If the Saudis are not spending their money on F-15Es, to whom will they turn? There is already a robust spending program with European aerospace companies (British, Italian, and Pan-European), so it would not appear beyond the pale to imagine that they could also begin purchasing other weapon systems from the Europeans, as well.
Should I mention the impact on the cost of oil? Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of oil and invests much of its earnings into US assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought denominated in US dollars, and in US treasury bonds.
Needless to say, a Saudi shift away from the United States is a major one—one that we should anticipate will have enormous consequences. Prince Bandar claims that in his view, Washington has failed to act effectively on the Syrian crisis and in matters involving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States has had good diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saud since 1932, but Prince bin Sultan says that Obama has negated this relationship in order to pursue a closer relationship with Tehran.
Note: the relationship between Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been strained since the collapse of the Shah of Iran in 1979. In the post-Islamic Revolution period, Iran has adopted a neo-Marxist view of Islamic socialism, denouncing the monarchy of Saudi Arabia as an anachronism having no place in Islam. The Iranians must define caliphate differently than the rest of us. Moreover, the Iranians have long regarded Saudi Arabia as a agent of US policy in the Persian Gulf, which is undeniably true. Thus, it would appear as though the Saudis do not believe they are being properly rewarded for the loyalty to the United States.
The fact is that Barack Obama has a very long history of tossing friends and allies under the bus, so to speak. Obama’s shift away from the Saudis toward Iran no doubt reflects his pro-Marxist tendencies and the advice he routinely receives from his Moslem Brotherhood lackeys. For their part, the Saudis aren’t having any of it. I have little doubt that the Israelis are shaking their heads and muttering, “We told you so.”
Not only are the Saudis irritated with Barack Obama, they are also not interested in a second year term on the UN’s coveted security council. The Saudis must have finally gotten around to reading the Global Communist Charter.
Now we may begin to understand the complexities of good statecraft, and realize how Barack Obama’s incompetence has placed the security of the United States in grave danger —perhaps even more than during the Cold War. Saudi Arabia backs Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s mostly Sunni rebel forces. Al-Assad, however, is derived from the Shi’ a sect of Islam, and therefore has the backing of Iran, Lebanon (Hezbollah). Al-Assad claims that the Sunni groups include Al-Qaeda, the Saudis deny any such relationship. No one in Washington DC understands the difference.
Now might be a good time to ask, which side of this tiff will Bahrain align itself, and how will the US maintain security of the Strait of Hormuz if the US Navy is asked to vacate its base in Bahrain? No one in Washington DC knows where the Strait of Hormuz is located.
And then finally, we have to note that this the likely result of a situation in which the American people, not understanding one-tenth of what they learned in high school world history, voted for a man who understands even less about being an effective chief executive.
I can’t say that I’m surprised that science supports something I’ve always contended: reading literary classics, particularly works of fiction, has benefits beyond enjoying the plot and building vocabulary.
Why literary novels are better for you than Danielle Steel
By Science News and Reuters, Published: October 7
Reading good literature may help you socially, psychologists suggest
Think of it as the bookworm’s bonus: People who read first-rate fiction become more socially literate, at least briefly, a new study suggests.
Researchers randomly assigned nearly 700 volunteers to read excerpts of “literary” novels by recent National Book Award finalists and other celebrated authors, to read parts of fiction bestsellers, including one by Danielle Steel, or popular nonfiction books, or to not read anything. Those who read literary works then scored highest on several tests of the ability to decipher others’ motives and emotions, say David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York.
One test asked participants to describe the thoughts or feelings of one or two individuals shown surrounded by various items in a series of images, based on written and visual clues. In another test, participants tried to match emotion words to facial expressions shown for two seconds on a computer screen.
By prompting readers to ponder characters’ motives and emotions rather than just a fast-moving plot, literary fiction recruits mind-reading skills used in daily encounters, Kidd and Castano propose in the journal Science. The researchers don’t know whether regularly reading literary fiction yields mind-reading upgrades that would last.
Will Common Core take into account these findings? Common Core emphasizes reading more nonfiction and less fiction.
With thanks to Mustang, who emailed me the graphic below:The reality of the train wreck will not hit until people personally suffer via rape-rate premiums, high deductibles, no maximum-out-of-pocket limits, and reductions in network options.One example…
If you must have politics, please scroll down)Jen Nifer proposed this little project. Here is my narrow little nightstand, an antique made of black walnut, and it allows for no clutter:Mr. AOW’s nightstand is a lot more interesting than mine!
“If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”
From U.S. News and World Report:
Americans who sign up for Obamacare will be getting a big surprise if they expect to access premium health care that may have been previously covered under their personal policies. Most of the top hospitals will accept insurance from just one or two companies operating under Obamacare.
Chances are the individual plan you purchased outside Obamacare would allow you to go to these facilities….
Much more information at the link.
The loss of policies goes well beyond non-participating hospitals and the dumping of private health-insurance policies. Please see Mid-range estimate: 51% of employer-sponsored plans will get canceled.
WE THE PEOPLE have yet to plumb the full depths of the ObamaCare nightmare Meanwhile, most mainstream media network anchors continue to intone Obama’s very name in dulcet tones.
I used to drive my sensei to distraction, always asking about the suicide rate in Japan. What does it matter, she would ask. I would always argue, “It matters because young people are taking their own lives, rather than facing up to the challenges that everyone must face.” She persisted, “People who commit suicide are facing their challenges —and they are making a decision that is suitable to them. Plainly, this is none of your business —or mine.”
This was a conversation that took place in 1985. Since then, the suicide rate in Japan has only gotten worse. Every year, the suicide rate exceeds 34,000. Of these, 70% are men. Approximately 3,000 children commit suicide every year when they learn that they have failed their high school entrance examinations. Forty percent of suicides among men occur between the ages of 20—44. Suicide among Japanese women is the leading cause of death between the ages 15—34. One Japanese suicide every fifteen minutes is more than twice the frequency of suicide in the United States.
But why has the suicide rate in Japan increased since the mid-1980s? Historically, Japan is a male-dominated society with strong family ties and correlating social expectations. In the 1990s, Japan experienced a sharp economic downturn that brought an end to the “jobs-for-life” culture. Employment insecurity, and the stigma associated with unemployment left heads of families struggling with loss of face and mounting debt. In 2009, Japanese unemployment reached an unheard of 5.7%.
A related cause of suicide is the increased pressures associated with keeping one’s job. According to government analysis, fatigue from work and associated health problems, including work-related depression, were primary motives for suicide—accounting for 47% of the suicides among men in 2008. Another contributing factor is forced retirement, impacting those aged 50 or older.
One final concern is the debt of families when the primary earner has lost his job. In Japan, it is expected that one will repay his debts. It is a matter of honor. According to Japan’s National Police Agency, many suicides are inseki jisatsu (responsibility driven). When people cannot meet their obligations, they commit suicide to save face. The near-gangster like tactics used by loan companies to recoup their loans may have something to do with these high rates of suicide. It is felt that life insurance payout will help to pay off these high debts.
Here in America, the states with the lowest suicide rates are California, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Ohio. States with the highest suicide rates include West Virginia, Oregon, New Mexico, and Nevada. We struggle to understand why the variances in suicide rates in our states. For example, some argue that long, cold winters help to explain the high rates in Oregon, but no one understands why the rate in neighboring Washington is lower (although, not by much). Portland, Oregon enjoys an average of 30 days more sunshine than Seattle, but has a higher suicide rate. Moreover, some groups of Americans are more likely to commit suicide than others. Men, more than women; Protestants, wealthy people, and single people are more likely to commit suicide than are women, Catholics, Jews, the poor, and married people. Military veterans are twice more likely to commit suicide than civilians. But we do know that people with strong social ties have much lower suicide rates than people on the peripheral of mainstream society.
Returning to Japan, the number of suicides in 2012 dropped below 30,000 for the first time in fifteen years. Recall that 2012 was the year following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Everyone expected the suicide rate to skyrocket. So, what happened? For one thing, the Japanese people have finally forced their government to confront this issue. According to Professor Hisanaga Sasaki, the government is listening; they have prioritized their spending and elevated suicide prevention to a high priority. As a result, the Japanese have established co-operatives involving volunteer civic groups, health professionals, and local government officials to help reduce suicide.
I suspect that we Americans could reduce our suicide rates, as well. But no, we’ve decided to pursue a confusing, different path. Rather than finding ways to solve crises, our government has created even more stress by requiring people to enroll in a health care system that in some cases, doubles their costs. Rather than spending money to solve problems, we are spending money to create worse problems.
“Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured, but not everyone must provide they are a citizen. And now, any of those who refuse, or are unable to prove they are citizens will receive free insurance paid for by those who are forced to buy insurance because they are citizens.” —Ben Stein
…may not be what you get. When it comes to premiums quote on the ObamaCare web site, that is.The CBS News video “ObamaCare Website Dramatically Underestimating Costs For Consumers”:
(with thanks to FreeThinke, who emailed me the link below)Video of the only surviving, working automaton, 240 years old.The clockwork was created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz.
It’s been clear to anyone paying attention that the October “rollout” of Obamacare has been a turbulent, confusing disaster. Sloppy IT systems and technological failures combined to cripple Obamacare’s sign-up systems. Security flaws put Americans at risk for identity theft.
In an almost comical understatement, President Obama summarized these massive failures as “a few glitches.” I think that Luke Chung, IT expert and president of database solutions firm FMS, explained the situation much more accurately:
“What should clearly be an enterprise quality, highly scalable software application felt like it wouldn’t pass a basic code review. It appears the people who built the site don’t know what they’re doing, never used it and didn’t test it.”
Chung went on to call it a “technological disaster.”
Think about what this ineptitude means in the bigger debate about Obamacare. The administration spent 3½ years and $698 million of taxpayers’ money to develop this software. They’ve known since earlier this year that the system wasn’t ready to support the rollout of the exchanges. Yet they proceeded anyway, apparently unconcerned about their faulty software costing Americans millions of hours of frustration and lost productivity.
These same bureaucrats continue to assume more and more control of our medical care. What does their incompetence say about how they will handle making life-or-death medical care decisions?
Like a parasite taking over its host, Obamacare will commandeer almost 20% of our economy, crowding out private options. With 2014 fast approaching, what should we expect in its next phase?
Here’s my list Top Ten list for 2014:
1. The expansion of Medicaid, with increased cost burden for taxpayers.
Medicaid is a combined state-federal program initially designed to help the neediest among us. But it has burgeoned to cover medical costs for about one in every five people. Today, Medicaid pays for two of every five babies born in the United States, and three of every five people in long-term care facilities in the US.
Obamacare will add another 20 million new Medicaid dependents. According to the Kasier Family Foundation, that Medicaid expansion will add an average of 13% to state budgets in costs for 2014 alone.
Even though Medicaid was designed to help the poor, studies have consistently shown that Medicaid recipients receive worse medical care than people without any health insurance at all! Medicaid patients have longer waits to see a doctor, fewer specialists to choose from, and poorer medical outcomes overall. A particularly morbid piece of evidence is that on average, Medicaid patients die sooner after surgery than people who have no medical insurance.
Essentially, Obamacare is forcing 20 million more Americans into second-class medical care with Medicaid.
2. “Sticker shock” as the reality of higher health insurance premiums hits home.
The majority of Americans, especially those who are young and healthy and therefore have paid low premiums in the past, are seeing their health insurance premiums rise between 50% and 150%. Further, employers are cutting full-time workers back to part-time by reducing employees’ hours per week from 40 to 29 or less, to avoid having to provide those employees with expensive, Obamacare-compliant coverage.
The “Affordable Care Act” has become anything but affordable for most people.
3. Large and small employers are cutting health insurance benefits.
Obamacare expands the requirements for what all health insurance policies must cover. So it’s no mystery why premiums have risen: Americans now must pay for a host of features, whether they want to or not. For example, in my office, the women employees are all menopausal. Yet Obamacare requires our small-business health insurance policy to cover pregnancy and maternity care! That means our policy costs more.
These higher premiums force employers to pass on the costs to employees (in the form of higher co-pays and deductibles) and/or customers (in the form of higher product costs). 2014 will bring even higher premiums for most individuals and businesses.
To deal with this onslaught of rising costs, businesses have a series of bad options: fire or lay off workers, cut health insurance benefits for everyone in the company, or reduce full-time employees to part-time so they don’t qualify for health insurance benefits, as I mentioned above.
Unfortunately, some businesses will be forced into the worst option of all: going out of business.
4. The employer-based health insurance policies that remain will have higher out-of-pocket costs for employees.
Because businesses must pay more to purchase Obamacare-compliant plans, they will require employees to pay higher co-pays and deductibles before coverage begins.
5. Fewer types of health insurance policies can be offered under Obamacare.
Many small-business plans and existing physician networks are being terminated due to the expanded coverage requirements under Obamacare. We just received notice that our own small-business plan is being terminated.
Candidate and then President Obama promised, “You can keep your insurance plan.” Nope.
6. Many people cannot keep their doctors.
Candidate Obama promised, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” But many patients who like their doctors are being forced to find new ones due to changes in physician networks, as well as doctors leaving insurance plans to start fee-for-service or “concierge” practices.
Sadly, when a patient is pushed out of a long-standing relationship with a physician who understands their medical history, medical outcomes often deteriorate. This is especially true for special-needs patients, who often fall between the cracks when doctors are pressured to see 40 or 50 patients a day in five-minute visits.
7. Further destruction of Medicare.
In 2014, Medicare patients will discover several unwanted changes:
- higher premiums for their supplemental policies
- fewer types of Medicare supplement policies available
- more cutbacks in Medicare-covered services
- longer delays to see doctors, because many doctors are closing their doors to Medicare patients due to the cuts in reimbursements
- fewer cancer care specialists taking Medicare patients
- higher costs for hospital-based cancer treatments, as private offices with lower costs are closed due to reimbursement cutbacks
- fewer hospital-based surgeries being approved because as of October 2012, Obamacare rules incentivize hospitals (i.e., paid more by Medicare) to do fewer surgeries and procedures.
- Medicare patients who sign the Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN) agreeing to pay for services Medicare does not cover will find that they now have higher out-of-pocket costs to pay for these non-covered services.
- Patients over 80 are already finding reduced approvals for certain procedures and medicines. Expect to see more of this age-based rationing as the Medicare cuts increase over the next decade.
8. Loss of ownership of your medical records.
Your doctors, hospitals, and other health professionals are being pressured to adopt electronic medical record systems and send patient information to the federal government’s medical database by 2015. If they don’t comply, they’ll be penalized with reduced payments for services.
This means the government will own your personal, private information, and you have no say in the matter. I consider this a complete loss of your privacy, as well as a violation of the Constitution’s 5th Amendment “Takings” clause.
9. More waivers and exemptions for the political elites and Democrat cronies.
The Obama Administration and its political appointee, HHS Secretary Sibelius, have granted over 1,000 waivers and special exemptions to various Democrat donors, political allies, unions, and others. Obama’s politically connected friends are the only Americans who won’t suffer under Obamacare’s onerous regulations, ballooning costs, and 20 new taxes.
10. On January 1, 2014, the Individual Mandate to purchase Obamacare-compliant health insurance goes into effect.
“Mandate” may sound benign, but it carries the force of law. Those who do not comply face another Obamacare tax (as the Supreme Court defined it), though called a “penalty” by Democrats when they forced the healthcare law through Congress on a partisan vote.
At the end of the day, Obamacare shifts a bigger burden onto taxpayers and increases the number of people on the dole. In other words, it pushes the US in the exact opposite direction it needs to go to solve its massive debt problems.
The most serious problems of Obamacare, however, will be felt at the individual level. You’re going to wait longer to see a doctor, you’re going to pay more for fewer treatment options, and healthcare quality will deteriorate as doctors and hospitals go out of business.
Obamacare seeks to replace the adaptability and efficiency of our free markets with heavy-handed government control and micromanaging by bureaucrats who don’t have a clue about what really helps patients. We need the opposite: patient-centered, free-market reforms.
Such programs have been successfully implemented in states like Indiana and businesses like Whole Foods and Safeway. They used health savings accounts and other incentives to empower consumers to make their own medical spending decisions.
It’s possible to reform and improve the broken payment system while keeping our excellent medical care and innovative atmosphere that relieves suffering and improves quality of life. Unfortunately, Obamacare is pushing our country in the wrong direction.
Dr. Vliet writes as an independent practicing physician with medical practices in Tucson and Dallas focused on issues of endocrine aging in men and women from puberty to late life. Dr. Vliet is a registered political Independent, and is also medically independent of all health insurance contracts since 1986. Her allegiance is to and for patients. Dr. Vliet is the 2007 Voice of Women Honoree by the Arizona Foundation for Women for her pioneering work on the overlooked hormone connections in women’s health, and she is the author of six consumer books on health topics. She has appeared on nationally syndicated radio and TV shows discussing the healthcare law as well as a variety of health topics for women and men.
Dr. Vliet’s medical websites are www.herplace.com and www.InternationalHealthStrategiesLtd.com. Follow Dr. Vliet on twitter @healthandcents
Hat tip: Mustang and Jon Berg