Random thoughts, 22 July 2009

2009/07/22

Perhaps the most notable domestic development today is, of course, the President’s campaign speech, er, press conference [1] this evening, delivered in support of “his” plan for curbing healthcare costs…by creating a massive new Fedgov entitlement program! Apparently, he didn’t learn the word “irony” in his fancy education. Okay, all joking aside, while it is clear that the President wants some form of a bill providing a Fedgov-funded (and possibly controlled?) option, what is noticeably less clear is how he’d like it accomplished. I understand the rationale that the bill should be one crafted by Congress, [2] but at the same time, it sounds like a dressed-up dodge to mask his S.O.P., namely, marketing grandiose notions without bothering to, you know. Go through the trouble of actually providing details for how these plans should work. Understandably, this approach has left even his allies in Congress somewhat befuddled. [3] Now, given my take on the separation of powers as mandated by the Federal Constitution, I don’t mind that the President has not meddled overmuch with the Congressional discussions, but on the other hand, this being a central issue to his pre-election campaign (and, for that matter, his post-election one), it does seem a bit odd that he has not taken a more active role in providing some direction to his Congressional allies. Of course, the cynical side of me also wonders if this is merely a face-saving effort on his part, as a hedge against the possibility that the entire process fails. No, that couldn’t be it, right?

What also surprises me about the current healthcare reform debate is how quickly the various proposals went to an extreme position, i.e., adding a massive new entitlement program to Fedgov’s already bloated entitlement buffet, rather than considering true alternative ideas. Why is it that all of the plans currently under consideration feature a Fedgov-funded plan? Why are we not debating means of reforming the entitlement programs already in existence to provide more coverage than they currently do, while cutting down on the costs associated with the inefficiencies of these programs? Are there no other options besides yet another Fedgov entitlement program? One also wonders if the intense focus on speedy crafting and passage of the intended bill is a wise course of action. After all, haste is generally not conducive to generating well-thought-out plans, or, for that matter, determining if the idea itself is the wisest course of action. [4] Of course, all of this is merely idle speculation, at this point; one way or another, Congress is likely to churn out a massive, thousand page bill (that nobody’s bothered to read), and send it to vote. I can only hope that what we get is the best of the various proposals currently being considered; whether or not this proposal will be the best one for our Republic is likely to be another matter entirely, but alas. One wonders if anyone in Congress even remembers that they are supposed to work towards that which is in the best interests of our Republic as a whole, and not just their own self-aggrandizement.

Meanwhile, the House has quietly passed a bill aimed at reinstituting a “pay-as-you-go” scheme for funding various Fedgov programs. [5] While this is welcome news from a financial standpoint, it is also, as Representative Ryan points out, somewhat disingenuous, as the rules do not apply to appropriations bills, only those aimed at creating new programs. Granted, some fiscal restraint is better than none, but obviously, this will do little to cut out waste and inefficiency in programs that already exist. Unless, of course, one believes that Fedgov’s current programs need no fiscal reform, in which case, I’ve got some lovely oceanfront property to sell you…honest…

In other news, while the situation in Honduras has been festering for a few weeks now, it has taken me this long to track down just what the hell happened over there to precipitate the “coup” that removed their President from power. Even now, I’m still not entirely sure about the exact sequence of events, or, for that matter, the details of those events. [6] If the secondary sources are to be believed, [7][8][9], then it appears that, at the very least, the situation is not a military coup in the traditional sense, [10] as Zelaya and his allies (apparently, most of the world) claim. What struck me as confusing when this situation first became known was how quickly the various world governments, and indeed, the U.N. itself, lined up behind Zelaya and decried the actions of the Honduran legislature, supreme court, and military. One should note that in our own Republic, there are, in fact, two legitimate means of instituting a legal coup: impeachment via Article I, Section 3 of the Federal Constitution, and via the 25th Amendment; while there is some debate as to how the Honduran legislature conducted their efforts to remove Zelaya, if the Honduran Constitution has similar provisions as our own (and I would not be surprised if it does), then it would appear that we (and most of the world) are on the wrong side of this particular dispute.

Our actions in this case make me wonder just what about “Democracy” we are committed to defending: is it the institution itself, or the men who are elected by these institutions. It would seem, from our response that our current efforts primarily revolve around the latter. One wonders if this is the correct approach; should we not direct our efforts towards preserving the rule of law, even if it means that we must accept the removal of democratically-elected official? Again, I point out that by the laws of our own Republic, our government may remove any of its own members – all of whom are democratically-elected. Has our understanding of the rule of law “evolved” to such a point that we cannot see past the men (and/or women) who currently occupy the positions of power within the government, and beyond to the noble concept of the supremacy of law? This is a far cry, indeed, from the concepts that Thomas Paine found so noble at the birth of our Republic. [11] There is, indeed, a difference between the position itself, and the man who currently occupies it; one can be critical of the man, while still maintaining respect for the institution. And while the individuals who briefly occupy the position have their flaws, the institution itself transcends them all – and thus far, there seems to be little to criticize about the latter. Unless, of course, you think that all 200+ years of the history of our Republic have been a complete farce.

Finally, the FDA has announced that electronic cigarettes may also be hazardous to one’s health. [12] I must confess that I am not so very surprised by this announcement. I am, however, a bit surprised by the manufacturers’ claims that these e-cigarettes constitute a healthier option to actual smoking…considering what the FDA found inside the cartridges used by some of these products, one wonders if these manufacturers are clear about what “healthy” really means. While I am a smoker myself, I have never been particularly interested in these sorts of products since I first heard about them a few years ago; I am, of course, fully cognizant of the health hazards involved in my habit, but well. I just don’t care, and I’d rather enjoy the real thing than use some fancy piece of technology that may or may not be marginally healthier than the former. But that’s just me, and I really don’t have much of an understanding about the concept of long-term planning, so this will almost certainly come back to bite me later on in life. Assuming I live that long, of course!

Notes:

[1]: Reuters article, 22 July 2009. Eventually, I may attempt to read the actual transcript of the press conference, but given my experience with his previous speeches, I’ll probably get bored about half a paragraph into it, and give up. My brainpower is limited like that.

[2]: This is, after all, the primary role of the legislature in our Republic.

[3]: CNN article, 21 July 2009.

[4]: “Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it.” – Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, delivered 04 March 1861.

[5]: New York Times article, 22 July 2009.

[6]: I have been trying (in vain) to track down original sources for Zelaya’s referendum and the Honduran Constitution, so that I could better understand the sequence of events that led to the current state of affairs. Alas, I was entirely unable to find more than passing references to Zelaya’s intended referendum, and while I did find the full text of the Honduran Constitution, it was in Spanish (and no, before any smartasses out there suggest it, I’m not going to learn Spanish just to read the text).

[7]: Granma.cu article, 25 June 2009.

[8]: Washington Post commentary, Alvara Vargas Llosa, 01 July 2009.

[9]: Washington Post article, 03 July 2009.

[10]: As in a situation where a country’s military forces take it upon themselves to overthrow the existing government and institute one of their own choosing. It appears, in this case, that the Honduran military was merely complying with an order issued by the Honduran legislature; while I am not sure if their constitution permits the military to be used in such a manner, it should be noted, nonetheless, that the military did not take it upon itself to remove Zelaya.

[*]: Special thanks to my brother for pointing out to me the equivalence between impeachment/removal and coups.

[11]: “But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havock [sic]of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries, the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense, January 1776. Note that the emphasis is present in Paine’s original writing, but were it not, I would have added it at precisely the points where he does.

[12]: CNN article, 22 July 2009.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Random thoughts, 22 July 2009”

  1. James Says:

    Hey, I use E-Cigs. Which one of the “BIg Two” is toxic? They don’t tell us that! I wanna know. It’s like watching a blurb for the evening news with these people. “Hey, what ya’ll are smoking, some of those guys include carcinogens like you are trying to avoid.” It would be nice to have been given a real warning instead of a pseudo warning like we have been given. Do you think you could find this out for me? Thanks, See Ya

    • seeker312 Says:

      Sorry, but I don’t take requests for research; I have enough to do with my current slate of responsibilities. That said, I’m sure there’s an official release from the FDA on their website; there may be more information available there that was not included in the news release. I suspect that there won’t be, however; as the article points out, the manufacturers did not submit the products to the FDA for review, so the latter may not be at liberty to divulge the details of their investigation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: